AN: Here I am, publishing again. While working with Breathe I realized the value of having everything done beforehand to prevent writers block and bad conscience. So now, as I publish this prologue, I already have the other four chapters of this story finished. Therefore I can guarantee regular updates of this story, one part every day of Easter is the plan (as long as the internet is willing to cooperate).
Apart from the prologue this story will be exclusively from Eliot's point of view. It will focus on Eliot and Dean bonding and as such I had to take Sam and Cas out of the picture, just so you know they won't appear in this story.
It's set in October -13, meaning after season 5 for Leverage and after an AU season eight ending of Supernatural. Exactly what makes it AU will be explained in the story.
Eliot is wearing his ear bud. Of course he is, he hasn't taken it out more than a few seconds at a time in the last ten months. Not since Nate and Sophie left. It's almost only transmitting when he's active on a case, but it's always receiving, guaranteeing that Parker and Hardison can reach him at a moment's notice. Keep them safe; that was his promise, and he'll make sure to keep it.
If Eliot feels a little embarrassed when the thing comes alive in the changing room at his gym he studiously ignores it. Just as he ignores the strange looks he gets from the other guy in there when he starts a dialogue with an invisible friend. As it turns out Parker has gotten herself in trouble, just not the dangerous kind. Parker has managed to break her car.
It's not that Eliot is worried per se - Parker can take care of herself, using her military grade taser – but he knows something about what kind of people crawls the earth. As such he's desperate to not have anyone with a connection to him left a sitting duck. None of his adversaries might have the balls enough to take him on, but several of them are low enough to go for his friends.
Neither of Alec's three cars has a towing hook, something that Parker finds utterly stupid. She only has one car herself (because she might like cars but she loves cash) and off course it has a towing hook. What if one needs to build a quick anchor point for rappelling down a cliff or something? Fat load of help it is giving her now though, when it is her car that needs towing.
At least it's a beautiful day, and apparently the others have rubbed off on her since she can't remember thinking about weather in such a way a few years ago. Orange leaves cover the sides of the road and the sun make them glister after the latest rain. It is a bit on the chilly side but the engine block's still warm as she leans against the popped hood.
Both of the boys are coming to save their damsel in distress. Eliot because he has the pickup to tow her back into town and Alec because Eliot had been at the gym without said pickup. Apparently leaving her alone on an empty stretch of road for forty minutes isn't the way her computer geek treats the ladies. Not that he will be around until after the twenty minute mark anyway. Parker has a very hard time deciding whether it's cute or annoying to have someone care so much for her.
Ten minutes later Parker is bored and cold and definitely leaning towards cute, and awesome, and a multitude of other grateful things. Thank God Alec will soon be around with a warm car to wait in.
Only a single car has passed her by on the small road, not even slowing down at the sight of her, when a second car rolls into sight. It's a black Impala, slightly dusty but in mint condition. Could probably be fenced for over 20 k. Easy money considering how little electronics were built into cars that old.
As the approaching car slows down Parker discreetly resets her ear bud to transmitting. "Guys, someone's stopping." She tries to ensure her lip movements go unseen. Before any of the others have time to answer Parker turns her attention to the newcomer.
"Need some help?" The man gestures at the engine. "A pretty girl like yourself shouldn't be stranded out here all alone, who knows what might happen?"
He says it with a grin and Parker thinks he's going for flirty but she's seen too many of those smiles before. It looks more like a shark, a show of teeth that never reaches the eyes. She has always wondered how anyone can fall for smiles like that. Who is that innocent? For the thief the expression has meant pain more than once, and she hopes that this isn't one of those times.
Parker regains her focus and answers the question. "I don't know. It just started smoking and now it won't start again. My boyfriend will be here any minute though." Good work, she mentally tells herself. A clear warning that she won't be alone for long. Hopefully that will keep him from doing anything bad.
"Want me to take a look at it? Might not be able to fix it out here but it could be worth a shot." He stops at a decent distance and Parker is grateful to be out of reach. The green eyes that are watching her takes on a contemplating gaze and she gets a feeling he is reading her in much the same ways as she is reading him.
"Look," he says, holding out his arms with his palms visible. "I'm not here to hurt you. I just don't like the thought of leaving you here stranded and alone, seen too much shit happen for that. If you want I'll just go back and sit in my car until your boyfriend gets here."
The shark look is gone, and Parker feels stupid for being so damn suspicious all the time. Her brain warns her that this might still be a trap, but Sophie used to tell her she has to stop assuming everybody wants to hurt her. Gripping the taser in her pocket she decides to go for it.
"It's okay." She concedes, but vows to herself to keep out of reach at all times. "You know anything about cars?"
"A little." The man says and lets out a small chuckle that seems real enough. "My dad was a mechanic, he taught me how to keep this baby running." he gestures to his car. "I'm Dean."
"Parker." She doesn't offer her hand but moves out of the way instead, granting him access to the car.
Dean is bent over the engine, poking at parts that Parker has no idea what they're for when she hears Alec's voice in her ear. Maybe he's been talking the whole time, she's gotten pretty good at ignoring the babble from the ear piece.
"Hey girl, you good? Who is this guy? He's a threat? What's…" It's too many questions to even begin answering, especially as she doesn't want Dean to know she's communicating with someone.
"Dammit Hardison!" Eliot growls to her rescue. "How is she supposed to answer all that, huh? Parker: Cough once if you're okay, twice if you're not."
Parker takes the time for a small upward twist of her lips before she coughs once. They might be a strange family, but a family none the less, and more than she ever thought she would get.
"Ok, good." Eliot's still in command, as he should be in any potentially threatening situation. "Hardison: How far out are you?"
"Five minutes, tops. Faster if I floor it."
"Ok, no need to rush unless Parker coughs twice. I'll be there in a little over ten minutes." Eliot's time estimation suggests that he is definitely rushing. Not that Parker can say anything about it without alerting Dean to her ear piece.
"Parker?" Dean's obviously been trying for her attention from the engine.
"Hm?" She answers, eyebrows raised. After all her mentor once taught her that saying nothing is better than saying the wrong thing.
"Your water pump broke. The engine got overheated and I guess you didn't notice until it started smoking?" Apparently Parker's blush is all the answer he needs. "Anyway; the pump needs fixing, you should switch the head gasket, a few of the pistons is probably cracked and it's hard to tell how much damage the thinning of the oil has caused without more time."
"Eh?" Parker tried to wrap her head around what he's telling her. "Is that mechanic speech for 'scrap it and buy a new one'?" Dean actually breaks into a real smile at her confusion. Small, but real.
"Depends, it's fixable but a lot of work. You could also get a whole new engine to replace this one, it might be cheaper."
"Could you do it for me?" Parker asks on a whim. She doesn't like to hire unknowns and although she just met Dean he's sort of growing on her. She could probably trust him with her car. "I'd pay you of course."
"Nah, sorry, I'm just passing through. You'd have to find someone local who'll stick around for the time it takes." Dean looks at the car and something tells Parker he would like to fix it, that repairing cars is what he'd do if he had a choice. She wonders what's keeping him away from it.
"Scrap it is then." Parker states, it's not like she can't afford a new car.
The rumble of an engine reaches the pair and they look towards the bend of the road. "Guess your boyfriend's here." Dean points out, quite unnecessarily. The black car's already around the bend and Parker can tell straight away it's Alec's.
"Yep, that's him. Thanks for the help." Hardison's pulling over to the side and the road starts feeling crowded with so many cars parked on such a short stretch.
"You're welcome," Dean replies. "Not that I could do anyth…" His voice falls quiet, and for a millisecond he simply stares at Hardison who's now walking towards them. The next moment Dean has whipped out a freaking gun and is pointing it at the dark skinned man.
The universe comes to an abrupt halt. Parker's pretty sure even her heart has gone still. This is not supposed to happen. Hardison can't leave like this. Nate and Sophie are already mostly gone and she can't bear loosing anyone else right now, especially not Alec. This is exactly why she is always suspicious of new people.
Parker, the girl who didn't do commitment, who always worked alone and never had to fear losing anyone. Well, she's afraid now. Terrified. It's not that they haven't been in life or death situations together before, but it's always been on the job. Never like this, unprovoked and without being prepared for the risks.
Everything suddenly starts moving again, and Parker can hear Alec's startled exclamation at the sudden threat. Getting her brain back in order Parker coughs, twice, and hopes that Eliot is listening. "Gun." She grinds out, voice close to a whisper but Dean seems focused on nothing but Alec.
"Parker, did you say gun?" Eliot stresses and Parker makes an agreeing noise. "Dammit! I'm coming as fast as I can, try to stall." In the background Parker can hear Eliot's engine revving. She hopes he doesn't run into the police. "And Parker: Don't do anything stupid, if you zap him the muscle spasms will probably make the gun go off. Just stall."
"Mhm." Parker agrees before she turns her attention fully back on the chaos around her.
"How did you get back up? I watched you die, we burned your body. Hell and heaven are locked down. So how?" Dean's voice is hard as diamonds, all sharp edges and smooth surfaces. There's a hatred there that Parker can't imagine Hardison being able to bring out of a man.
"Get back from where?" Alec's voice shakes ever so slightly. It's no problem for Parker to see he's scared and confused, and she wonders if Dean doesn't see it too.
"Stop pretending Talley, you don't think I recognize you? Just stop this stupid charade."
"Honestly dude, I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm Alec Hardison. Whoever you think I am you're wrong!" Dean huffs, clearly not believing him.
"No, I'm not. I'll make you talk Jake, one way or another. So why not spare yourself the pain and tell me now? How, did, you, get, out?"
This is obviously personal between Dean and whoever this Jake Talley is. Hoping it won't prove fatal (literally) Parker decides to take a chance. Stall, Eliot had said, and so she will.
Dean looks surprised for a second as she steps between him and his mark. Then the murderous look is back, now directed at her. "Move!" He barks. "This has nothing to do with you, and I don't want to hurt you so step away!"
"No." Parker says, much calmer than she really feels.
"I'll shoot you if I have to." Dean is still angry but Parker can tell he wants nobody's blood on his hands except Hardison's. "And if you try anything I'll kill her." The last part is directed at Alec and Parker can practically feel his nod against her neck.
"He's not who you think he is." She says, trying to placate, to slow the situation down enough for Eliot to get there. Eliot will save them, he always does. "He's Alec Hardison, just like he said. I know him, he's a good guy."
"How long have you known him?" Dean's voice is still hard and unrelenting, but things are slowing down, Eliot will be there.
"Uhm, five years? Five and a half maybe?" It's really five years, six weeks, and two days, Parker's keeping count, but she's supposed to stall so that's what she does.
"Yeah, so for all you know he could very well have been Jake Talley in May 2007. Now move!" Dean makes a shooing motion with the weapon but Parker stubbornly remains put. If he was going to shoot her he probably would have already.
"I won't." The refusal sends a chill down her spine. What if she doesn't get away with it? "What's it to you anyway? Hardison couldn't have done anything to warrant you waving a gun at him, I know him." Keeping herself calm is getting progressively harder Parker notices.
"He killed my brother. Stabbed him in the back really." The anger has returned with new force, but there's something else mixed in now as well. Desperation maybe, or grief. It's hard to tell.
Hardison makes a strangled noise behind Parker's back. Clearly biting back a protest to keep from getting in the spotlight again.
"Hardison would never kill anyone. Unless in his computer games but that don't count, he would never kill a living human." Playing for time again Parker prolongs her defense.
"Keep going Parker, I'm almost there. You're doing it just right." Eliot's confirmation feels good. She can hear him panting and she guesses he's running the last bit so he won't be heard. "Whatever you two do, don't look at me. I will come at him from behind Parker's car, when I tackle him you throw yourself to your left. Go for the ditch and then behind the cars. I don't want any stray bullet to hit you." Hardison makes an agreeing sound that will have to stand for the two of them.
Dean's said something, Parker suddenly realizes, and she missed it. Now what? She's supposed to stall and that means keep him talking and how is she supposed to do that when she doesn't listen? Mentally berating herself Parker once again focuses on her inner Sophie. The English woman may no longer be in her ear but is always available in her mind.
'Change the subject.' Sophie tells her. 'Make it about you and you control the conversation. Be dramatic, feel, express your desperation…' Even in Parker's head the grifter has a way of going overboard. At least it's easier to cut her off there than in real life.
"Dean, please…" Parker is begging now, and if she's honest it's far more real than anyone will ever find out. "Please put the gun down. We'll figure this out, just… I know you think Alec's this Jake or whoever but he's not. Let us prove it to you. I'll do anything, just please…" Rambling she discovers is actually a great way of stalling.
The look in the green eyes is almost apologetic as Dean speaks. "I'm sorry Parker, but I just can't trust y…" He breaks off suddenly, quickly turning around to meet the oncoming freight train that is Eliot Spencer. Even Parker who knows the hitter is coming is slower to react. Then she throws herself to her left, mindlessly following Eliot's instructions even as she hears the gun go off. She prays to God that bullet didn't hit anyone.
AN: There it is; the prologue. Please let me know what you think.