A/N: Okay, here we are at the promised Leverage Christmas fic. I hope its everything that you guys want it to be...
(Disclaimer: All recognisable characters belong to John Rogers & Chris Downey and other folks that aren't me... and possibly I stole from Charles Dickens too, a little bit.)
Eliot was the only one who didn't follow Parker out into the snow when it started up outside of McRorys. He already knew it was going to be fake, he smelt the chemicals on the way in - it was a very distinctive smell. It was all just another of Hardison's geek tricks to try and win the little thief over. He really was dumb enough to think he could still do that apparently. Eliot Spencer wanted no part of it, nor their childish Christmas crap. It wasn't that he hated the Holiday season exactly, it was just... well, he kinda hated it actually.
The sword was very cool, he hadn't lied when he told Nate and Sophie how grateful he was for his gift, but now he just really wanted to get out of here. All the cooing and awing over fake snow and the sugar-coated family togetherness crap was starting to get real old real fast.
"I'm heading out" he called to the four backs beyond the glass.
It seemed only Sophie cared enough to turn around.
"Don't leave yet" she urged him as she stepped back inside, wrapping her arms around herself, "In fact, the rest of us were staying over to spend tomorrow together. We thought you might want to..."
"What? Cook dinner? Play Santa? Any other happy family Christmas crap you all feel like recreating from your happy little childhoods?" he asked, perhaps a little more harshly than he should but he'd really had just about as much Christmas cheer as he could take today.
"We didn't all have happy childhoods, man" said Hardison with a pointed look and a nod of his head toward Parker.
Eliot might have felt at least a little guilty, if the woman in question hadn't turned and bounded at him then, practically launching herself at his Santa-suited self.
"Stop being a Mr Grumpy-Pants Santa Man!" she urged him, either trying to hug him or dance with him, the hitter couldn't be sure, and he wasn't amenable to either plan right now.
"Dammit, Parker!" he complained, "Get offa me!" he told her, shoving her away, not least because he was afraid he was going to accidentally run her through with the Samurai sword still attached at his waist.
"Hey, there's no need for hostility" said Nate, not amused by Eliot dampening the mood, especially when Parker had been so excited before, "It's Christmas" he reminded them all.
"Yeah, 'cause that automatically means the world's a beautiful place" the hitter grumbled, rolling his eyes as he moved to the bar and downed the shot that sat there waiting, "If it wasn't already clear, I don't like the Holidays and I ain't celebratin' 'em here or anywhere, you got that?" he told them all, practically seething as he turned and strode away towards the back door.
"You'll be sorry!" Parker called after him, her tone less threatening than one might expect.
Eliot waved a hand over his hand, a gesture of not caring or just goodbye, it was hard to tell, and then he was gone, the door slamming in his wake.
"Well" Sophie huffed, blowing her bangs off her forehead, "isn't he just a little ray of sunshine?" she said, sarcasm evident.
"Man, I can't believe he actin' like that" Hardison shook his head, "You'd think the dude would have just a little Christmas spirit" he said, showing a small amount with his thumb and index finger.
"I guess the Holidays aren't always a happy time for everybody" Nate shrugged, knowing from experience how true that could be.
They couldn't know what might've happened in Eliot's past that made this time of year hard for him. Still, it might've been nice if he kept a lid on it for the sake of the others, just for a little while longer. Parker, in particular, got so very into the Holidays, and yet she didn't exactly look heart-broken over the outburst and storming out that had gone before.
"Are you okay, sweetie?" Sophie asked her, putting a hand on her shoulder.
"Uh-huh, yeah" the thief agreed as she turned to smile widely at her friends.
The team expected her to be so much more upset by Eliot's outburst, but they were glad enough that she was okay, even if they did wonder what the almost wicked smirk she was sporting was really all about. Maybe she just didn't care about Eliot's presence in her Christmas as much as they thought she might, or perhaps she was happy enough to believe that he would learn his lesson for being so mean. Either way, she was smiling, and that was better than some had managed tonight.
Eliot hadn't lied when he told the team he only slept ninety minutes a day. When they were on a job, he usually didn't get much more shut-eye than that, and he could deal. Of course, eventually he did have to catch up and tonight it seemed like a solid plan to do just that. There would be no job for a few days, not with it being the Holidays and all. The team would want to enjoy themselves with silliness and frippery that Eliot could live without being a part of. Not long after eleven, he was showered and changed and tucked up in bed, happy to sleep til New Years. Unfortunately, someone else seemed to have other ideas.
The alarm clock went off at midnight, startling Eliot awake. The alarm never went off because he simply never set it. His own internal clock served him well and he really never needed the help of an electronic device. If nothing else, the sun would wake him when dawn broke, he certainly had not expected a rude awakening in the middle of the night, less than an hour since he dropped off.
Sitting up fast, he was battle ready the moment he realised there was someone by the open bedroom door that had definitely been closed when he got into bed. The figure of a woman was backlit by the window in the hall but Eliot was smart enough to know even those who appeared harmless at first could be deadly. His hand moved back towards the night-stand, reaching for a weapon he soon realised he didn't need as the light came on overhead and the woman at his door became very clear.
"Wow" said Parker with a smile that could not be repressed, "Looks like I owe Hardison five bucks"
"Dammit, Parker!" Eliot complained as he let his fight stance go and sat down heavily on the end of the bed, "What the hell?" he added with frustration, pushing his hand back through his hair.
"He said you'd wear boxers. I figured you were more of a commando kinda guy" she shrugged as she wandered into and around his bedroom, "I like your house" she said then, off at a tangent as ever as her eyes shifted around the room and were on Eliot's mostly naked self more often than he was quite comfortable with.
"You come for a real reason or just for the view?" he smirked in spite of himself, wondering now that he looked at her why she seemed to be dressed up like Tinkerbell or similar.
Of course, Parker being Parker, it seemed pointless even asking why she was all frills and glitter, and legs that went on for miles...
"You're staring" she told him as she suddenly turned around and caught him with his head practically sideways and eyes trained on her lower half, "Naughty boys don't get on Santa's good list" she reminded him, shaking a finger as if to scold him - well, that just made her hotter, but nonetheless annoying.
"Parker..." he sighed, having had enough of this already, "It's past midnight"
"I know" she nodded once, "Which means in less than one hour, the first ghost will appear, and then there'll be two more..."
"Wait a second, what?" Eliot interrupted her then, waving his hands in a 'hold it' motion, "Ghosts are comin'? Where'd you even get this crap?"
"It's not crap, Eliot" said Parker definitely, arms folded over her chest crossly, "You've lost the Christmas spirit, and the ghosts are coming to help you get it back. You have to believe" she told him desperately, looking more upset with him for not taking her seriously than angry about it.
He almost wanted to agree with her, to let her have her little weird daydream, make-believe fairytale if it made her happy. He did feel just a little guilty about maybe hurting her before. It wasn't what he meant to do, he just wasn't into all the Holiday family fun stuff that the rest of the team seemed so eager to throw themselves into. It wasn't him, he had his reasons, and he didn't have to explain himself to anyone.
"You're wrong" she told him suddenly, making him look up fast, "Your reasons aren't reasons anymore, and you will have to explain" she told him, apparently having read his mind somehow.
Eliot knew it was impossible, but it was still a little freaky, even for Parker. Frowning hard he stood up from the bed and stared at her a moment before making a decision. This had to end now.
"Okay, nice try, Parker" he told her, "This is all a fun little game, making out like I'm Eberneezer Scrooge or whatever..."
"Well, you do have the same initials" she noted, even as he advanced on her looking kinda mad.
"Time to leave now. Off ya go, bye-bye" he told her, reaching out to put his hands to her shoulders and steer her towards the door - that was when he realised things were not quite all they seemed.
"That tickles" Parker giggled like a kid as Eliot's hands passed through her body and met each other in the middle, "Mmm, do it again" she urged him, all trace of the child gone in an instant as she looked at him in such a way as to make a man lose his mind.
Of course, Eliot was already pretty sure he was going crazy since his hands just passed through a person! This was Parker, she wasn't a ghost or a dream or anything. No, he was sure he was awake, but this couldn't be real.
"This is a trick" he said as he stared at her, "Hardison is doin' this, some kinda hologram or..." he shook his head, no easy explanation coming to mind and the look on Parker's face suggesting she was very serious about this.
"It's not a trick" she said definitely, reaching out a hand as if to touch his face and then pulling her arm down clean through his body.
Eliot's eyes were wide as saucers as he watched her do it. This was crazy, totally and completely impossible. Maybe he was asleep. Hell, maybe somebody fed him drugs or clocked him on the head and he just didn't know about it yet. Something was really not right here.
"I don't..." he began, but just as soon as he moved his eyes to meet Parker's again he realised she was gone, nothing left of her but a feint haze of glitter in the air where she'd been stood a moment before.
Dropping back down to sit on the edge of the bed a second time, Eliot put both hands over his face and then pushed his fingers through the length of his hair.
"This ain't happening" he told himself definitely, crawling back under the covers and wishing the world away.
He didn't believe this ghost crap, and he wasn't in A Christmas Carol, even if he did share the E.S. initials of its anti-hero. This was all some kind of stupid-ass prank and he wasn't buying. Still, as he closed his eyes and willed sleep to come he could've sworn he heard Parker's voice in the sound of the wind blowing outside his window.
"Expect the first ghost when the bell tolls one!"
To Be Continued...