Eliot wasn't sure when this movie that Hardison had picked was going to end but he really hoped it would be soon. He couldn't decide if Hardison had picked this movie just to bug him or if he thought it might be something that Parker would like. Moody sullen vampires, angsty teenagers, lovesick werewolves, this movie had everything that Eliot could love to hate.
Parker had her legs propped up on Eliot and her head and shoulders in Hardison's lap. Her popcorn bowl was balanced on the arm of the couch above her head and Hardison was balancing a bowl of popcorn on her hip between him and Eliot.
"Nate, why don't you and Sophie come and join us. This train wreck of a movie is almost over anyway." Eliot called out without looking over his shoulder or giving any other indication that he'd known they were there. He'd heard Nate's key in the lock and smelled the two of them when they were in the entryway.
Hardison spun around in his seat and knocked Parker's popcorn bowl off the arm of the couch. Parker sat up just as quickly and would have dumped the other popcorn bowl, but Eliot caught it and lunging forward at super-human speed he managed to catch the other bowl as well. "Geeze you two. Next time I'll let 'em drop and you can pick up the mess." Eliot growled as he set the bowls on the coffee table.
"Nate! Sophie!" Parker leapt over the back of the couch but waited to wrap her arms around Hardison so that they could greet the older couple together.
"Hey guys! What are you doin' in town?" Hardison reached out and pulled Nate and then Sophie into a one-armed hug since Parker was still tucked under his other arm.
Eliot snorted and rolled his eyes. He knew why they had come. It hadn't been that long ago that Parker and Hardison had told them that he was a werewolf. He knew they had come to see for themselves. He could smell Nate's excitement and Sophie's nervous fear. It made him a little sad that she was scared of him now.
"We just wanted to stop in. We hadn't been here since Christmas and after Eliot's big news we just had come and see you all." Nate didn't see any point in lying about their reason for visiting. He knew how smart these three were and he respected them too much to try and hide behind a generic excuse.
"Can't we just come by?" Sophie looked past Hardison's shoulder at Eliot who still hadn't joined them. She seemed to be analyzing him and it made Eliot uncomfortable.
"Of course! Anytime! You guys know that." Hardison assured them but at this point even he could tell that something was wrong. "What's up E?" Hardison looked between Eliot and Nate.
"It's fine Hardison. Let things be." Eliot wouldn't meet their eyes as he took the popcorn bowls to the kitchen.
"You know we're glad to see you right?" Sophie said as she turned toward him as he crossed to the kitchen.
"Nate's glad to be here but you're scared. You are scared of me." Eliot spoke to the cupboards as he started pulling out ingredients for dinner.
"No. Why would I be scared of you?" Shophie's voice came out a purr.
"There's that voice. Your grifter voice." Parker's eyes went big, and round and she pulled herself tighter into Hardison's side.
"No, I wouldn't….I mean I didn't mean…" Sophie looked around at them all.
"Soph we can all recognize that voice by now and besides here's something you should know. I can smell how scared you are. I can hear your heart rate and smell the change in your emotions." Eliot hated that Shophie was scared of him now, but frankly he was amazed that the others weren't scared too.
"Seriously? So, is that something you can tune in and out on or how does that work exactly?" Nate was already in fact-finding-mode and that was exactly what Eliot had expected from him. They had talked briefly on the phone after Eliot had received the box of dog treats that Nate had sent, but Eliot always found it harder to judge things over the phone.
"It's just like anything else. If you don't pay attention, you miss things." Eliot vary rarely failed to pay attention and that meant that there was very little that he missed. Eliot took out a saucepan and a cutting board and set them on the counter.
"So what? That's it? We all just have to accept this. It's all okay. No explanation. We can't hide anything but it's okay that you lied to us for all these years?" Sophie was feeling defensive after she'd been called out for trying to grift the situation. She wasn't going to admit that she wasn't comfortable at all with this news about Eliot when everyone else seemed to be taking it in stride. But it hadn't really been real until she'd seen him move so fast to save the popcorn bowls.
Something settled in Eliot's chest when he heard Sophie trying to defend herself. He thought there might be a hope of saving things if he gave her an explanation. He took a deep breath. "No Soph it's not okay that I lied to you all and you deserve an explanation." Eliot tied on an apron and a bandana. "Come 'ere and I'll tell you what I've already told them." Eliot nodded at Hardison and Parker. "And I'll answer all your questions." He had that same patient tone he used when he was trying to teach one of them something.
. ͽϿ Ѻ Ͼͼ .
Eliot had made them all spaghetti and meat balls with homemade sauce and homemade garlic bread. He had talked the whole time he'd cooked. He told the story of how he was turned and how he learned to control what he was. He told his side of the story on how Parker and Hardison had found out and they had jumped in adding their own take on things. Nate was rapt throughout the whole telling but Sophie still seemed to be having trouble with things.
"Go ahead. I told you that you could ask your questions." Eliot prompted her as he set the bowl of spaghetti in the middle of the table.
"So why didn't you tell us before?" Sophie sat between Nate and Parker.
"Would you have believed me?" Eliot knew that none of them would have.
"You know I've always been open minded…" Sophie was interrupted by Nate's snort. "And what's that supposed to mean?" She turned a glare on Nate.
"Sophie, even if you had been open minded enough to not laugh in my face it wouldn't have been safe for you. And you know that I have always done my best to keep you all safe." Eliot looked around at all of them and couldn't help the quick flash of yellow in his eyes as his gaze passed over Parker and Hardison. No one missed Sophie's flinch when she noticed the quick change of color.
"It's okay Sophie. He's still our Eliot he won't eat you." Parker obviously meant well but Hardison choked on his bite of spaghetti.
"So, um…why wouldn't it have been safe? And what's changed now?" Sophie patted Parker's arm and decided to ignore her comment.
"It's still not safe, but now you all know, so now there is no choice. There are a lot of other werewolves out there and all of them guard this secret. Humanity has never been kind to things they don't understand. Especially when those things are scary and dangerous. Think of the inquisition and the witch hunts. No one wants something like that to happen again so if they think you are going to draw attention to the wolves well…"
"It's best if we keep this to ourselves. We understand." Nate held Sophie's hand.
"You said that silver burns you and that you have to become a wolf during the full moon but is that it? Or is there other stuff we ought to know about?" Sophie sounded a little peevish.
"You should know that I'm still the same person you've known for years. Anything else doesn't really matter. I will do everything I can to keep you all safe." Eliot couldn't keep the corner of his mouth from quirking up in an affectionate half-smile.
"Will you show us? I gather that Parker and Hardison have already seen you transform. Is it 'transform'?" Nate glanced at Eliot but was making definite inroads on his plate of spaghetti.
"If that's something you really want to see." It made Eliot feel a little bit like a circus spectacle, but he understood. "And mostly you can call it whatever you want. I'm not too hung up on terminology."
"Oh! Oh! Tell them the pack thing!" Parker still seemed enchanted with the idea although Eliot wasn't sure why.
"Pack thing?" Nate raised a questioning eyebrow.
Eliot rumbled a growl at Parker in jest, but when he noticed Sophie flinch the sound cut off immediately. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you again." Eliot fixed his gaze on his plate for a moment.
"It's okay El! We told you that we didn't want you to hide, and we meant it." Hardison was holding Parker's hand.
"I'm sorry too Eliot. I'll try to do better." Sophie held her hand out to him across the table. Eliot grabbed her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.
"So, pack thing?" Nate brought the question back up.
"We're his pack." Parker gestured around the table.
"What does that mean exactly? How is that different than family or friends?" Nate grabbed another slice of garlic bread.
"The magic that allows a wolf to change shape also bonds a wolf to his pack. That allows wolves in the same pack to draw on each other for power, to speed up a change, or for faster healing, and well, all sorts of things like that. It also means that if a wolf belongs to a pack, they are safer. It's hard to break pack ties so it is hard to force your will on a wolf that belongs to a pack and it's almost impossible to force a wolf to bond with a pack if they are already a part of a different pack." Eliot looked at Nate's calculating-mastermind-face and could see him slotting the information into place in the mental files he kept on everyone.
"But we aren't werewolves so how does that work?" Nate passed the bread to Hardison.
"I guess it doesn't matter if you are wolves or not. The magic that makes me a wolf has bonded me to you guys. I don't think it really has any effect on you guys at all. For me it's an extra protection. It means that I can't be forced into some other pack. And since I'm tied to you, I'm no longer a lone wolf so other wolves wouldn't feel the urge to force me into their pack anyway."
"You said something about drawing power from us? How does that work?" Sophie hadn't touched much of her food yet.
"No, it's not like that for me. You aren't wolves so I don't think it would work. Besides, I wouldn't want to try it. I don't need to take anything from any of you. You all have already given me what I needed most. You are my family." Eliot looked around the table and Hardison grabbed Eliot's shoulder for a moment.
"What exactly did Hardison mean about not hiding?" Sophie took a big bite of her spaghetti. Eliot could smell a change in her emotions, but she hadn't settled on what she felt so he couldn't tell either.
"Hardison and Parker asked me to not hide the things I can do from them. Out there," Eliot nodded to indicate the world outside. "I still make sure that I pass as completely human. But here, with them, I'm completely me. I don't slow down to strictly human speed if I don't want to, or hide my eyes, or my strength, or well anything really. It took a little while, but I feel more comfortable about it and they've been great about accepting the things that are different." Eliot took another bite of his own dinner.
"Eyes? And the growl?" Nate thought he understood but clarity never hurt.
Instead of answering Nate directly Eliot chose to talk to Sophie since she seemed to be having the most trouble with him at the moment. "It took me a little while after I was turned to be able to control when my eyes flash or turn yellow. It's not always something I can feel so it required a lot more effort to make sure it never happened where anyone could see. So, when you saw my eyes change color a minute ago it wasn't meant to scare you, it's just a part of who I am when I'm not trying to pass for human. And when I growled at Parker before,"
"You didn't sound human. You sounded like…" Sophie realized what she was about to say and looked away for a moment.
"It's okay Soph. I know it sounded like an animal and while I… well it's just…" Eliot felt at a loss to explain.
"It's just a part of who you are man. We get it." Hardison smiled. "So how long are you guys staying for?" Hardison figured that changing the subject a little might give Nate, Sophie, and Eliot a minute to process things.
. ͽϿ Ѻ Ͼͼ .
After dinner Nate, Parker, and Hardison started talking jobs and Eliot started cleaning up. Eliot had just set several glasses in the sink when Sophie stepped up beside him with a stack of plates.
"Thanks Soph. You don't have to ya know." Eliot took the plates from her.
"I know but I just wanted to take the opportunity to say I'm sorry for earlier. I know I made you uncomfortable this evening, but I really didn't mean to." She leaned back against the counter and watched him load the dishwasher.
"It's okay. It's a lot to have to deal with." Eliot could tell that she really was more relaxed and at ease with him and that it wasn't just a show.
"I wonder if the wolf thing, the need to be in a pack, is why you seem to be more susceptible to the neuro-linguistic programing."
Eliot snorted and rolled his eyes. "Probably."
"So will you let us see you change into a wolf?"
"Are you sure that's really something you want to see? It might be a little scary. It's definitely scarier than seeing my eyes change color." Eliot let his eyes go yellow and stay yellow. To his surprise she didn't smell scared or shocked. Instead, he could tell she was curious.
She set her hand on his face, cupping his cheek, and stared at his face in detail. When their gazes locked, she smiled at him right before she hugged him. "You really haven't changed, have you? It's still really you."
"Who'd you think it was gonna be?" He couldn't help the sarcasm as he patted her back.
She pulled back and smiled at him again. "Okay then. Let's see it shall we."
"Alright." He smiled at her. "Parker!" Eliot took a couple steps closer to the stairs that lead to the bedrooms.
Parker looked up at him from over Nate's shoulder. "What?"
Eliot held his hand out low in front of him, palm up. Parker's face split into a huge smile and she ran towards him. When she got close, she hopped up onto his hand and he tossed her up to the landing at the top of the stairs. "Get my robe for me would ya."
"Sure thing. Are you gonna be a wolfy?" Parker didn't wait for his answer as she disappeared through the doorway.
"She gets you to do that all the time doesn't she?" Sophie tried to hide her smile.
"Like a freakin' amusement park ride." Eliot rolled his eyes as he pulled off his bandana and apron. Despite the grumble of annoyance Sophie could tell that Eliot didn't really mind.
Ziiiip. Parker landed at the bottom of the stairs and unclipped herself from her harness that was attached to the rope she'd come down on. "Here." She practically shoved the robe into Eliot's face. Eliot growled at her and snatched the robe. He noticed that Sophie didn't react to his growling at Parker.
"Be right back." Eliot headed for the gym. He was back a moment later barefoot and in his robe.
Everyone gathered around and Eliot felt a little awkward with them all staring at him. "Um okay. So, it'll take just a minute for me to change."
Sophie grabbed Nate's hand. "It doesn't hurt, does it?"
"He said it's like pinching your finger." Parker answered for him.
"Just don't touch me while I'm in the middle of the change okay. It really stings if you do and it's harder to control my reactions when I'm in the middle like that." Eliot paused for a second. "Okay." He started his change and as soon as he could feel it ripple through his skin, he dropped the robe and pushed the change to go faster. In no time he was a wolf. He shook to rid himself of the last tingles from the change and turned to look at his pack.
"Oh, Eliot you're really beautiful." Sophie was surprised to see what amounted to an unnaturally large wolf sitting in front of her. She had expected a slavering monster like the ones portrayed in all the horror films. She hadn't expected him to look beautiful, and powerful.
"And you can understand us, right?" Nate just wanted to check.
Eliot rolled his eyes and sneezed at Nate. Eliot looked at them all for a moment and trotted over to the couches. Hopping up he settled himself in the middle of the largest couch. Hardison and Parker followed him over. Parker settled in and Eliot laid his head in her lap. Hardison grabbed the remote for the TV and flopped down at the other end of the couch.
"So who wants to watch the next movie in the saga?" Hardison started queuing up the movie. Eliot growled and gave Hardison a shove with a back leg.
Nate laughed. "I'm pretty sure that's a vote against."
"How about American Werewolf in Paris?" Sophie offered.
"I like how you think." Hardison started moving through menus.
Eliot whined and with a deep sigh of resignation he settled in to watch an old werewolf movie with his pack.