AN: I've gotten several questions regarding Castiel after yesterday's chapter. In this AU Cas managed his trials, and was never tricked regarding what they would lead to. As such heaven is locked down with Castiel and all the other angels inside.
Now to the last chapter:
While they wait for Charlie's call Eliot cooks. Chicken drumsticks in lemon and rosemary, rice cooked in bouillon with a touch of white wine, a simple salad with tomatoes and vinaigrette. It gives him something to focus his anxious energy on until the verdict of this stupid debacle.
Because Eliot can't see how this can ever end well. Best case scenario is that Dean stops being a threat to Hardison. Yet even then it's the matter of trusting things to remain that way, not to mention the little fact that Dean's been topping the FBI's most wanted list. Spree killer and grave robber sounds bad even in this crowd.
Parker and Hardison had fled the room as soon as the phone call ended. Having made sure to pick a room out of ear's reach from the living room they are now sifting through Dean's rather extensive FBI file. Eliot can hear them trying to piece all the contradicting facts together, but he's got his transmitter turned off to spare them the noise of the kitchen appliances.
It's closing in on half an hour after the phone call when Dean finally moves away from the window. When he steps into the kitchen Eliot is weary for a split second, but after all he's the one holding a knife.
"So what, the love birds sneak away to a bedroom somewhere and you cook for them in the meantime? You're whipped dude." Dean fires of a huge but obviously fake smile in Eliot's direction. It's an offer of an easy banter, a way to release some of the tension.
Eliot almost answers in kind. He wants to forget their current predicament just as much as Dean, but he finds he can't. There are too many questions to be answered first.
"In fact, they're in the next room going over your file. It's quite contradicting regarding your date of death you know." It's said harshly, and Eliot should really be more polite but he doesn't have the energy. Polite is what he does towards potential dates, elders and marks. Dean is none of these things.
"Amazing isn't it? I should have my own tv show; Dean Winchester – the man who refuses to stay dead." Dean draws an arc in the air to accentuate the title.
"Do you want me to hit you again?" Eliot raises his eyebrows in question as he puts the salad bowl on the table.
"Whatever makes you happy. Just mind the teeth though, dental care is way overpriced."
The drumsticks are in the oven, the rice boiling and the dishes done. With nothing to occupy him for the moment Eliot leans against the counter, turning towards Dean. He's too fed up with the meaningless conversation to bother anymore. Instead he studies the other man, waiting for him to crack. It doesn't take long.
"What?" Dean's annoyed too now but Eliot remains impassive. "Dude, there's something wrong with you."
When Dean makes for the living room Eliot hears a noise from the hallway. He turns around to find Hardison and Parker standing there, looking at them with huge eyes.
"Did he just say…?" Parker confirms with Alec, who nods.
"Yeah." As if on cue the pair starts laughing. "Man, are you two peas in a pot or what?" Alec's directing his question at Eliot and he can't help the small twitch of his lips.
Dean's stopped in the middle of the living room and is watching them, confused. No one explains to him that he just stole Eliot's line. That the hitter has said exactly that to Hardison and Parker so many times that it's stopped being an insult and become something of an endearment.
"Shut up, sit down and eat." Eliot feels every inch the older brother, especially as only the last two demands are met. He checks the rice, put it on the table and bring out the chicken. It smells heavenly.
"Aren't you going to eat?" Parker's words are slurred around a mouthful of chicken but Dean's able to translate them.
"Nah, I'm good." There's hesitation in his voice, and Eliot wonders why. Any fear of poisoning should be calmed after the beer, but maybe Dean's just nauseous from the concussion.
"Eliot's an awesome chef, and lunch was a long time ago. Try some." Parker scoops up one of her drumsticks with buttery fingers and dumps it on Dean's plate.
The man sighs, and takes his seat in resignation. The descent onto the chair is slow, mindful of broken ribs, but done in ease all things considered. Maybe Dean has broken his ribs just as often as Eliot, after a few times the movement pattern for reducing the pain is well rehearsed. When Dean picks up the chicken Parker coups and fills his plate with more drumsticks, as well as rice, sauce and salad. Dean shoots her an annoyed glance but give in and start eating.
It's almost funny, after Dean's initial reluctance, the sheer amount of food the man's going through. As he's filling his plate for the third time Hardison's voice breaks the silence around the table.
"Someone could get the impression you haven't had a decent meal in weeks." Dean's hand wavers for a moment before continuing his path but whatever he's feeling is lost behind one of his huge grins.
"Well, in my line of work homemade food is a bit of a rarity. Again, I think you've missed the memo on how to treat hostages." The last part is directed at Eliot.
"Guess it depends on if you want to break someone or win him over, and I still haven't totaled your car." The reference to their earlier conversation seems lost on Eliot's teammates.
"Guess it does." Something about the statement tells Eliot that Dean's as unused to that scenario as he is. During all the previous times he's taken someone, or been taken himself, it's always been about pain and humiliation and breakage. No matter how he feels about it Eliot is good at that, and he can bet Dean is too. When it comes to this though, they both seem to be stumbling around in the dark.
ACDC blare through the room, and Eliot is relieved. This is not a topic he wants to delve further into right now, or ever. Hardison reaches for his ever present computer and Dean throws him a dirty look. When he answers he puts the phone on speaker.
"Hiya Charlie. Got anything for me?"
"Hello, and yes, obviously. I'm on speaker?" She doesn't sound surprised.
"Yeah, they'd be listening in anyhow." Another sour look is directed at Hardison.
"Okay. Well, being the wonderful queen I am I present to you a result of my relentless search."
Dean smiles at Charlie's antics. "Shoot."
"Alec Hardison seems legit. Very legit. Actually, I've got a friend who battled him in Starcraft at this tournament at the same time that Jake Talley was with Sam in Cold Oak. The geek community's not that big you know. Not at our level." Eliot wonders what level she's referring to. He has a sneaking suspicion that Dean is talking to his own, female, version of Hardison.
"You sure it was him?" There's still doubt in Dean's voice.
"As sure as anyone is ever gonna get." Hardison looks hopeful at her response.
"Okay." Dean's answer settles at least some of the turmoil in Eliot's stomach.
"I also took the liberty to find out who you're dealing with. Hardison's their hacker, a really good one I can tell you. Parker's a thief, top of the line, accused of several museum heists. I couldn't find out if Parker's her first or last name though. However I did notice she's one good looking lady."
"Down girl." Dean sounds amused. "She's taken. You should see the looks Hardison is giving the phone." Eliot almost smiles at that, before realizing that his profile is up next.
"Eliot is Eliot Spencer. Hitter extraordinaire, retrieval specialist, former special ops and mercenary. I'm slightly surprised that you're still alive if you threatened his friend." When Charlie don't bring up anymore of his past Eliot realize he got away easy.
"He's not all they make him out to be." The cocky tone makes Eliot want to punch Dean again. He did knock the guy out after all.
"Maybe you just have a different frame of reference? Besides, he obviously took you down." Eliot silently thanks the girl. He also wonders what Dean's used to for him to be so casually cast aside.
"That's not fair." Dean's jokingly indignant. "I had just finished a job and had three cracked ribs."
"You keep telling yourself that. To get back to business these three along with a grifter and an insurance investigator has been running an operation called Leverage. As far as I can tell they step in to protect the little man from the big companies when the law doesn't. Not very popular in some circles which is why they've gone underground. Since I tracked your phone to Portland I guess they're based there now."
Dean's watching his three hosts with interest after the latest revelation.
"Where did the other two go?" It's not a question to Charlie as much as it is to them.
"They got married." Parker doesn't elaborate but Dean seems fine with that.
"So…" Charlie drags the word. "Will you let Dean go now that he knows Hardison's not Talley?" There is a hesitation in her voice that indicates she knows it's more complicated than that.
"It's not that easy anymore." Hardison says. "We pulled his FBI file, and, well…" Not inclined to outright call Dean a psychopath murderer Hardison trails off.
"Oh come on. Haven't you read it?" Charlie sounds annoyed.
"I think that's their problem you know." Dean tells his friend. "I've only got a glance at it a few years ago but I can imagine, I lived it after all."
"Yeah, but Dean: It wasn't like that. Almost none of it happened like that, definitely not the big stuff. I mean the thing's got more holes than a Swiss cheese."
"We've been noticing." Hardison must mean him and Parker because Eliot sure hasn't noticed. He has tuned most of their conversations about the file out, knowing that the feds aren't always the best judges of character. Or circumstances for that matter.
"In every single one of those cases the shit started before any of the Winchester's were in town, and it always ended right before they left. You do the math."
"Charlie." There's a warning in Dean's tone that Eliot can't interpret the reason for. Why is he warning his friend when she's defending him? What is he afraid she might say?
Hardison is scrolling through the file, confirming Charlie's finding.
"As far as I can see she's telling the truth." Hardison's voice is still doubtful.
"I am. Dean's not a cold-blooded murderer." Charlie speaks with conviction.
For a second Dean looks as if he might disagree with her, but out of necessity he decides not to voice it. Eliot knows the feeling; he wants to argue every time someone in his team says something like that about him. He doubts his teammates has seen Dean's struggle though, and he lets it slide. A favor, one cold-blooded murderer to another.
"I believe her." Parker declares before focusing at Hardison.
"Damn girl." Hardison looks unsettled. "Fine, whatever, I'm with Parker." Eliot wants to call him out on being a wus, but before he gets the chance he feels the attention shifting. They are all waiting for him to give the verdict of their mock court.
"Not like I'm in any position to judge." Because he really isn't, not when his file would look about the same as Dean's.
Promising to be in touch more often, Dean ends the call. Charlie seems to accept that he probably won't. The three knives are placed on the table, hilt towards Dean, and he pockets them. Not a word has to be said for Eliot to know the raised eyebrow is about the gun.
"Floor behind the passenger seat." Eliot offers and Dean gives off something close to a laugh.
"You're weird, you know that?" The question isn't asked with malice. "You could've just used it. It's not the palm print coded MI6 issue, although that would be awesome." Again, Dean doesn't sound like he would have minded much if Eliot had shot him. A slight death wish is obviously an occupational hazard for men like them.
"I don't like guns." It's all Eliot has ever offered on the subject, and it's not a habit he intends on breaking anytime soon. He is relieved when Dean drops the subject and stands. The man offers his hand to Hardison who rises to take it with a wary look.
"Sorry 'bout the misunderstanding." Dean's apology sends Hardison's eyebrows to his hairline.
"Misunde… Dude, you almost killed me. That's not a 'misunderstanding', that's fucked up." How Hardison and his big mouth have managed to stay alive this long is a mystery to Eliot.
"Well, to you maybe. For me, this is just another day in the Wonderful World of Winchester." Dean gives Hardison a blinding smile and turn to Eliot. "Going to let me out of your garage?"
Eliot wants to tell him 'no' and instead offer Dean a room for tonight. Thanks to him the man has broken ribs and a concussion; he's not in any condition to drive. There's also always the risk of the head injury being worse than it looks, and it is recommended that someone keep track of the concussed for at least twenty four hours. Not that Eliot himself tends to allow people to monitor him in similar situations.
Instead of saying any of those things Eliot complies and activate the app to open the door. Dean tells them goodbye and drives off in the gray dusk. With his back to the others Eliot allows himself a second of worry. Hopefully he won't have to read in tomorrow's paper about Dean Winchester being found dead (again). He doesn't need another life on his conscience.
It's not until the Impala's disappeared behind a bend that Eliot realizes there are so many things they never cleared up. Like how Dean could find it more plausible to be talking to a dead man than a lookalike. What the ramblings of heaven and hell and getting back up had meant as the man was convinced he was speaking to Talley. Who the brother was that Talley had killed. Not to mention how he'd faked his death so many times. Those questions will probably never be answered now.
Herding his team back into the kitchen Eliot muses that he needs to drive them home soon. He just wants to go to bed, fall asleep and pretend this day never happened. Not that he thinks he stands a chance of forgetting Dean Winchester anytime soon.
AN: There it is, the last chapter. I already have one (or two) sequels planned for this. Hopefully the first one will be out soon, I just have to survive an exam first. Thank you for reading this, every review, follow and favorite means a lot to me. /ThosePreciousWalls
Added AN for clarification: I will NOT update this story when the sequels come out. If you wish to get messages when I post a new work in this series make sure to follow me as an AUTHOR. At the moment I'm not posting anything else so you won't be spammed or anything. /ThosePreciousWalls