Paddy takes a seat in an Adirondack chair on the rear porch as he pulls out a flask from the pocket of his flannel shirt. Paddy offers Eliot a bit of the hair of the dog as he pours a splash of whiskey into his coffee. Eliot offers up his cup for a hit from the flask as he takes a seat upon the railing. The bracing cold of the morning air feels good on his skin and his shoulder. Eliot has missed regular seasonal weather with too much time in the South and the West Coast, there is nothing like the East Coast. "For medicinal purposes only." Paddy motions towards Eliot's shoulder with a raise of his mug as he continues. "So a misadventure with the Colonel or your new friends?" Paddy takes a swig directly from the flask before placing it back in his pocket. Eliot gives Paddy a confirming roll of his eyes, he knows Paddy can see right through him. "A bit of both." Eliot offers with a smirk and a glance to the barns and the corrals.
"From the way you have been moving…thinking two shots with a nine…" Paddy lays his head back and closes his eyes to shield his brain from the morning sun. "You should have them looked at bro." Eliot appreciates the candor and the care. Eliot knows that Paddy will keep an eye on him but will let him be. Just as he would do for Paddy. "Eh… Just merely fatigued." Eliot brushes off the suggestion though he realizes that Paddy may be on to something. These wounds should be further along in the healing process perhaps he is beginning to feel his age, Eliot laughs to himself. He is not as young as he used to be.
"She is still here, Eliot." Paddy rests his coffee cup on his forehead for warmth without opening his eyes to check Eliot's reaction. Paddy doesn't need to, he already knows what it will be and that Eliot would have noticed that the horses have been fed. Eliot could not resist the invitation for that very reason, the chance that Tess was still here.
Eliot knows that there is only one she that Paddy would be referring to in this context. The she that was once the reason Eliot found himself in this town every chance he could break away from the military. Every pass, every leave, Eliot was in route to this little town. Eliot casts his eyes out towards the barns. Tess has never been far from Eliot's thoughts. Eliot is also quite aware that he does not yet have a plan for when he sees Tess again. Eliot never thought he would see her again. He never thought he would find himself back here again. Yet, here he is and now it is only a matter of time until he will see Tess.
Eliot is happy to see Mickey and Connie joining them on the porch, Eliot needs the distraction to get out of his own head since is not quite ready for the history lesson that a round with Tesla Baines will bring. There will be plenty of time to think about Tess a bit later. The conversations from the night before pick up where they had left off as they now linger over coffee. The conversations are only broken up by the arrival of the Gunnery Sargent calling on the widow Hannigan.
"Eliot Spencer, what a surprise, looks like the band of misfits is back together." The Gunny slaps Eliot on the shoulder, the wrong shoulder, with enthusiasm appropriate to their time apart and their history. Eliot knows that he cannot react despite the desire to yell out in pain. He would rather not explain his current life to someone who may not quite understand the winding path to the present.
Mrs. Hannigan brings out a cup of coffee for the Gunny with a nod and an affectionate smile at seeing this particular group assembled on her porch. The Gunny talks the lot of them into a bit of hunting since it is early enough and he was sure that Mrs. Hannigan would love a fresh turkey for dinner. With this crew, it would be just like old times from a simpler time. To Eliot it is like winding the clock back to some of his very favorite times. He went hunting with the Gunny on his very first visit to this town, the return from that trip was also the first time he met Tess.
The men head to their rooms to gather warm clothes as the Gunny and Paddy gather the supplies to accompany this adventure. In his room, Eliot pulls out some warmer clothes from his bags as Mrs. Hannigan stops by with a pair of lined overalls to protect him from the cold ground. Mrs Hannigan gives Eliot a smile and a wink as she closes the door behind her. "It's good to have you home, Eliot." Mrs Hannigan stills considers Eliot to be one of her sons and he is not even her prodigal son.
Mrs. Hannigan hands Eliot a bag of sandwiches and thermos filled with hot chocolate for their outing as he passes through the kitchen on the way out of the Inn to join the others at the trucks. The men file into several pick up trunks to head further into the country to the Gunny's farm. They park and prepare for the hunt before heading into the back woods of the property.
Eliot enjoys the quiet of the woods and the cooler late autumn air. He is happy that he is paired with Mickey. Eliot loves all of these men without condition. Gunnery Sargent Binks is one of his favorite people in the world but he needs to wade slowly back into these waters. A chance meeting on a mission in Iraq changed his life for ever but at this moment, Eliot needs to ease into his past and time alone with the Gunny would be a cannonball in. Other than Paddy, none of them know who Eliot became after he left the service. They are blissfully unaware of the darkness that consumed his life. Eliot watches the Gunny, Paddy and Connie positioned a bit further down thinking back to when they met.
Eliot's unit was assigned to a forward position with a number of Marines to secure a hole in the perimeter. It is a small world in these parts, Paddy's family and the Gunny's were longtime friends. Paddy was the wayward soldier son of one of the Gunny's best childhood friends from this very town. Eliot's tightest relationships had been born of lesser circumstances. Eliot's thoughts drift back to time spent in combat with all of these men. They shared experiences born of combat and military life that changed them from friends to brothers. As the relationship with his own father fell apart, the Gunny became the closest thing Eliot had to a father.
Mickey has managed to drift off into a deep sleep, snuggling with his gun as only a former solider can as they stalk the local turkey population. Eliot makes himself comfortable against a nearby tree with the sun on his face a short distance away from Mickey. This is a moment of peace and of heaven for Eliot in the stillness of a cold New England afternoon. In a short while, Eliot is joined by the Gunny. "I'm glad you're here, Eliot. It's been too long since you've been home, son." The Gunny takes a seat leaning up against a fallen log. "Pass me some of that hot chocolate, would ya, Eliot." Eliot obliges the request and pours them each some of the hot chocolate. His senses are instantly tantalized by the scent of the drink. Mrs. Hannigan's famous hot chocolate with a ample pouring of Bailey's. If he stays here, he is going to gain twenty pounds, needing both weight watchers and AA. The smell of the hot chocolate revives Mickey from his coma and the hunting rapidly devolves into another BS session in the woods as Paddy and Connie wander over for some of the hot chocolate.
Back in town:
"You know he is going to kill us dead if he finds out that we followed Eliot here, Parker." Hardison trails behind Parker as they walk through the quaint town. "He came here because it means something to him. I want to know what it means plus he is hurt. I want to make sure Eliot is okay." Parker takes in the gently falling snow mixed with the sunlight and a twirl to face Hardison. Parker eyes the shops as the walk down the small town street. "Sophie would totally dig this place. It's like… you took a snow globe and just... just." She raises her arms in the air and spins around again in a dramatic gesture. Hardison gets it, this place is so damn wholesome. It is like you dropped it out of a storybook.
Hardison looks up at Parker with a smile and an appreciation of the innocence that Parker exudes at will. She is like a kid in this town. The whole town is elegant and peaceful very traditional and old fashioned way. The town looks like something he remembers from a Norman Rockwell painting with the evergreen everywhere and the scent of fir mixed with the cold air wood smoke and the rustle of the leaves. Parker's joy takes a blissful turn as she spies a small bakery a bit further down the main street. "Oooh… in here." Parker physically grabs Hardison by the collar as she pulls him into the store.
Parker's eyes grow wide at the array of sweets in the shop. The display cases are a sugar filled fantasy for Parker. Sophie would adore this town. New England is true to its name and heritage. Within a few moments, Parker and Hardison are greeted by the shop's owner. As they browse the cases, Parker instantly strikes up a conversation with the woman behind the counter who introduces herself as Tess. Parker and Tess fall into a conversation about the confections with Parker asking endless questions as she chooses her vices with care. As they pay, Hardison asks about local accommodations. Tess offers for Parker and Hardison to follow her to the local inn. Tess mentions that she is stopping there any way and it's the best accommodations for 30 miles. Tess boxes up some additional treats as she prepares to close up her shop for the evening. Hardison and Parker grab the van to follow behind Tess' Jeep.
Parker's eyes dart from window to window of the van taking in the street lights illuminating in the setting sun as they drive to the outskirts of town. They make the turn to the country road ending at the inn. "This is like something out of a storybook." Parker's joy is evident which makes Hardison smile, he could not agree more.
Hardison and Parker follow Tess into the Inn. Tess calls for Mrs Hannigan who appears from the kitchen. Mrs. Hannigan enters the room answering Tess' summons. She no sooner crosses the threshold of the reception area when they are all joined by the Gunny and the boys in the foyer returning from their trip to the woods. The moment is punctuated by the unfolding scene of Tess turning around inches from Eliot and Eliot seeing Tess in the company of Parker and Hardison. The attention of the room is now centered on the shock and awe of this unplanned moment.
"Eliot?" The pitch and tone of Tess' voice is all the evidence needed to gauge the level of surprise. The true depth of the shock is clearly illustrated on Tess' face. The random encounter took a lot less time than Paddy expected and he knows Tess is pissed from the daggers that Tess is throwing in his direction. Paddy had given it at least another day in his head. Parker notices the odd expression on Eliot's face as he tries to speak to Tess. Parker is not quite sure how to read it but this is someone who has managed to shock Eliot and that is worthy of exploration. This would have been an ideal moment to have Sophie around. Nobody reads Eliot like Sophie.
Tess' expression tells Parker and Hardison Eliot's sudden appearance is a surprise but Tess restores her bravado while shooting a look at Paddy. Tess knows that Paddy is the reason that Eliot has suddenly reappeared where she least expected him. Tess musters her swagger to contend with the situation. This is one where she is not letting Paddy or Eliot get the better of her... no way in hell.
After seeing the change in Tess' expression, Mrs Hannigan decides to quickly take control of the room with a big warm greeting for Parker and Hardison as Eliot announces that the pair are his friends and makes the required introductions. Eliot tries to make the introductions quickly to catch Tess but Tess took the moment of Mrs Hannigan's introduction as a moment to pull a Houdini and has evaporated out of the room.