AN: Today is New Years eve for me, and I figured I will celebrate by posting a brand new story in the Hitter and Hunter's verse. This is number four in the series and is set after Escaping Ways. Just like in Leaves of Trust the first chapter will be from Parker's point of view and the others will be Eliot's PoV. In total this will have nine chapters and since the whole piece is already written I hope to post chapters every other day.

.oOo.

"…only two ends on a rope you know, so while the others got tied in I was starting the campfire. I was facing the lake so I didn't really see, I just heard this noise and when I turned around they were already dead. God, there was so much blood. And then the wolf was coming for me but the impact sent us over the cliff and into the lake."

The sound of voices makes Eliot slow down, just out of view from Josh's porch. He has no idea who the kid might be telling his story to this time, and as such it feels appropriate to give him time to finish before barging in. At least Eliot is bringing good news; they've finally managed to finish the job and transferred the insurance money Josh is entitled to into his account.

"I think the cold water startled the wolf worse than it did me. I don't know, it took off swimming for the shore and disappeared up into the forest. The adrenaline got me back up the cliff to camp. I didn't realize I'd been hurt until I was on the phone with 911." There are still traces of shock in Josh's voice, Eliot doubts they will be gone anytime soon.

"This…" There's a small hesitation. "…wolf, how would you describe it?" Suddenly Eliot's certain he knows who this second voice belongs to.

"It was huge, dark grey I think; the memories are sort of foggy. The teeth and eyes took my focus from the rest I guess." Josh's voice has a distant tone.

"I get the teeth, but the eyes?" The question sounds innocent enough but Eliot is certain it's not.

"Yeah. There was this weird thing with the light. I mean don't get me wrong; I know the sun was setting behind me and I was terrified and whatever, but to me they looked red." Silence falls for a second. "Maybe you can leave that out? Makes me sound like a nutcase."

"Sure man, I'll only publish what's okay with you." Eliot needs to hit something soon, preferably Dean bloody Winchester.

.oOo.

They turn off the highway nine minutes and forty-two seconds after Alec managed to get a lock on the GPS in Dean's phone. Eliot's behind the wheel. If Parker had been driving she estimates they would have been here one minute eight seconds ago. She hopes the slow ride doesn't mean Dean's already gone.

The case they've just finished off has taken them away from Portland to some back-water town that Parker never manages to remember the name of. She does know that the only bank office is ridiculously easy to break into; she estimates she could do the entire job in thirty-eight seconds. Not that she will of course, there'd be no fun in it.

Only one interesting thing had happened in this speck-on-the-map and that was half an hour ago. Eliot had been back to Josh's to tell him they'd worked it out with his insurance company. There, in one of the wicker armchairs on Josh's porch, Eliot had found Dean Winchester.

Eliot had been annoyed, Parker had been elated, and Hardison; well he'd been too focused on his computer for Parker to know what he'd been. Apparently Dean's phone was extra tricky to track or something.

The parking lot they're turning in to is the preferred trailhead for people going up to the cliffs where Josh was attacked. Parker wonders what Dean could possibly want up there, why he doesn't let the park rangers deal with the wolves. Eliot parks their rental three squares away from the Impala and they step out into the afternoon sunlight. The air still has the chill of early spring to it.

"Isn't this a swell reunion." Dean statement is dry and watchful, spoken with his arm crossed over his chest as he leans against his car.

"It is." Parker agrees, and she honestly means it.

Parker might only have met him twice, but to Parker Dean has become and will always be family. She can't say she knows a lot about the concept, given her life before Leverage, but Parker knows this. It is simple. When Eliot was in trouble they'd asked Dean for help, and he never questioned why, only where. What else could she need to know?

Dean sighs. "So what? You're here to nag me about lying to your client? Tell me I've been mean and have to apologize?"

"Actually…" Hardison starts but Eliot cuts him off before he gets a chance to say whatever it is.

"You're going up there." It's not a question, and Eliot doesn't even try to pretend it is. Parker believes that's a good sign since she's noticed that Eliot mostly pretends with people he doesn't like.

"And?"

Eliot makes a point of studying the other man from head to feet, and then back up to meet green eyes. He raises an eyebrow. Parker's seen him do almost exactly the same thing in bars, with girls. It makes her want to laugh.

Here and now it's a clear enough hint about what Eliot thinks about Dean's gear. Parker agrees, jeans and a cotton shirt are no clothes to be hiking in. The duffel only further proves Dean's not really planned this excursion. The stony look on Dean's face deepens.

"The sun sets in five hours and 48 minutes." Parker provides. She says it because it's true, but also to diffuse the situation. She's still learning the finer nuances of human interaction, but even she can tell things might get ugly fast between her two friends. "It will be dark hours before you get there." Parker continues and looks at Dean.

"Darling." Dean gives Parker a Cheshire smile. "Don't you know all the really good things in life happen after bedtime?" It can be incredibly annoying how he keeps shoving them away with witty responses and fake grins.

"Like dying?" Parker sings back, big happy smile in place. The difference is she's completely serious in her wording.

"Look." Dean sounds more tired than anything. At least he's dropped the act. "There's something up there ripping humans to shreds. It needs to be dealt with."

"But not tonight." Parker's softening too now, smelling victory. Remote locations, bad gear, falling darkness, erratic spring weather and rabid wolves aren't a combination to be taken lightly. She wonders how she can make him see that he's family now. That he can't go out on suicide missions in front of her and think she'll accept it.

"Wait 'til tomorrow morning and I'll come with you." Eliot speaks up beside her. "It's not the terrain or the time of year to be hiking alone." Parker has no idea if it is Eliot's intention, but she realizes this is how you do it. This is how Dean can know they've got his back just as much as he had theirs.

Dean's eyeing the hitter carefully, and Parker's watching Dean. She's trying to figure out if Eliot's doing this to repay his debt since the last time or because Dean's part of his family to.

"Fine." Dean concedes and Parker sees an opportunity.

"I want to come!" She's practically bouncing at the idea, it's amazing in so many ways. "I want to climb in the mountains! Are you coming too?" She turns to Hardison but before he can answer Dean cuts in.

"No." He says. "And neither are you." He gives Parker a steely look.

"Why? If Eliot can then why can't I?" She asks the question even if she thinks she knows the answer already.

"Cause you can't defend yourself." As she thought.

Parker feels like a five year old. "Yes I can." She says, but she knows it's a modified truth. Eliot has taught them self defense, armed her with the tazer, and then told them to always run or hide as their first choice.

There's a glint in Dean's eyes just then, and he drops his duffel to the ground with the clang of weapons. Parker glances at Eliot to see what he'll do, but he remains impassive. He feels coiled though, and she trusts he's prepared to intervene.

Dean unzips the duffel and draws out a saved-off shotgun with one hand and two shells with the other. He throws the weapon to Parker who catches it with what she suspects is an undignified "umph". The piece feels strange in her hands, heavy and cold.

Juggling the shotgun Parker only manages to catch the first shell, the other lands in a patch of grass behind her. She stands still, hands full, with absolutely no idea what to do next.

"Come on then missy." Dean's tone is close to mocking. "That tree right there, is about to attack and rip your throat out." Dean points to a lonely birch 30 feet to Parker's left.

The thief turns to look at Eliot but he simply shrugs. It's up to her. She doesn't know what to do.

"You can't…" Hardison seems to have found his voice again but Eliot shuts him up with a look.

Parker gets it. Dean and Eliot have a point and they've made it. The main concern isn't just that she and Alec aren't physically capable, it's the hesitation. This, right here is what will kill them. It is what makes Eliot and Dean different.

For a second she thinks that it shouldn't be impossible, maybe not even hard, to wash the hesitant stage away. To learn to react on instinct the way they do. Then she glances at Eliot again and realizes that if she does it might be the worst day of his life.

Interaction might never be Parker's strong suit, but she has always been able to read people and Eliot shows their team so much. That's why she knows that he hates the violence, even as he loves it. She's seen him shine after a good brawl, but she's also seen him come back with dark eyes and a heavy soul.

Like during the whole mess with Moreau, when she'd hardly been able to recognize him. He'd come back from that warehouse with wet stains from the knees down and the smell of fire in his clothes, and it had been weeks before he jokingly threatened them again.

Not one to back down from a challenge Parker peers down on the shotgun. It looks pretty self-explanatory. She has to put the shell she's holding down on the ground to get the double barrels open, but once that's done the shells go in easily enough. On the first try she misjudges the force it takes to close the barrels, but then they're closed and she lifts the firearm as she swings toward the tree.

"Stop." Eliot says, the second before she fires. Since it's Eliot she listens. "Your stance is all wrong; you'll hurt yourself with the recoil." He steps up behind her, moves her foot back and makes sure the butt of the rifle rests firmly against her shoulder.

"Only if you want to." Eliot reassures her. Parker answers by pulling the trigger, twice.

Whatever the shells were loaded with it's not lead, and Eliot looks over to Dean as he pry the weapon from Parker's hands. She does her best to appear calm and cool but knows she crackles of adrenaline. It's the first time she's actually fired a weapon and it's a rush alright. Not as good as jumping of buildings, but she can see the appeal none the less.

"Salt rounds." Dean answers Eliot's unvoiced question while Eliot in one smooth move cracks the shotgun open, removes the empty casings, closes the barrels again and tosses the weapon back to Dean. Or at Dean, Parker's not really sure.

"You're an ass." Hardison points at Dean.

"Maybe." Dean agrees. "But I believe I'm an ass who made his point." He looks at Parker and she nods in answer.

"Can I learn to shoot though?" She looks expectantly at Eliot. "So I can come next time?"

"No." He simply says, not that Parker is surprised.

"Why not?" She can't help but question and Eliot sighs.

"Because." He says but doesn't elaborate. She doesn't know where his extreme aversion to guns comes from, and she doesn't think it's a good idea to press further.

Eliot and Dean decide to meet up again the next morning. Nine AM is a much more reasonable time to set out on a hunting trip. The car ride home is filled with Hardison's slightly hysterical chatter about the event and Parker still on a buzz from firing her first weapon.