Dawn has just broken through the night sky as Eliot pulls into his spot in the lot of the brew pub. The morning sky is a bright burst of heavenly colors as he puts the car in park. Eliot always rises with the sun since it is his favorite time of day next to dusk. There has always been something about the blackness in contrast to the brilliance that soothes him. Eliot allows the car to idle for a moment before he turns the key as he takes in the familiar truck a few spots away. A smile crosses his face with recognition of the visitor waiting for him. Eliot gets out of his car to see Vance is leaning against the hood of his pickup truck a few spots down.
As Eliot approaches and upon closer inspection, Eliot can see the disheveled look of Vance which worries him. Something is not quite right with his friend.
"Colonel, what brings you to town?" Eliot extends his hand toward Vance on his approach. Upon receiving Vance's hand into his own, Vance pulls Eliot in for a shoulder to shoulder hug. Eliot leads Vance nods his head for Vance to follow him into the brew pub through the rear door.
Eliot puts on a pot of coffee as Vance takes a seat on the edge of a stainless steel table. Eliot knows that there is something on Vance's mind, something important. Eliot has a nagging feeling he knows the reason for the visit but will allow his friend space to tell him in his own time and in his own way. They make small talk about the wife and kids for a few moments as the coffee brews.
Eliot hands Vance a cup as he leads the way to a table in the pub. It is unusual for Vance to be so quiet but given his appearance, Eliot will indulge him. Vance places the cup in front of him on the table. He runs his hands over his tired features following through the sides of his hair. Eliot remains quietly sipping his coffee. Vance will tell him what is going on soon enough.
Vance looks up at Eliot. "I am assuming that you have seen the news." Vance's statement is pointed and clear. He knew the answer to the question before he asked it of Eliot. Eliot has seen the news. Eliot's suspicions behind the reason for the visit are confirmed. Eliot saw the news at the airport on their way back from a job. It was on the screen, every screen as he got off the plane, the embassy burning in the back ground of the headlines. Eliot remembers it vividly. Eliot nods an affirmation to Vance so that he will continue . "Have you…" Eliot pauses. "When did you get back?" Eliot watches Vance's changing expression. "Not long ago." The flashes of the debriefing trace through Vance's mind. Sitting in the center of the room with the panel before him. Vance shakes off the memory, as he relaxes back into his seat taking a long drag from the cup. "Are you going to Mick's…" Vance's words trail off with the pain that it takes to say them. The meaning is clear. Eliot knows what Vance is asking.
Eliot nods. "You did not drive all the way to Oregon to ask me if I needed a ride. Let me grab a bag." Eliot gently pushes on Vance's shoulder as he passes by him, heading toward the backroom. Vance shakes his head in affirmation and gratitude. He came for the company. Vance needs Eliot to get through this because he is one of the few who would understand. For what Vance has done for him over the years, this is a small payback on a huge debt.
At this point in the morning, Sophie , Parker and Hardison have arrived at the brew pub. They saw Eliot sitting in the pub when they walked in which was odd since he almost never sits out among the tables, curiosity crepted in and they have gone to spy to see who Eliot's visitor is. Upon realizing it is Vance, all realize the tip off should have been the truck with Virginia plates and DOD stickers next to Eliot's car in the parking lot. Nothing affirms quite like a firm grasp of the obvious.
Sophie quietly observes the somber and pained expressions crossing Vance's features as he speaks to Eliot. She observes Eliot from the back as he walks into the back room. Sophie watches to see if there is a tell as to the content of this conversation. Eliot walks back to the closet where he keeps a go bag. Sophie lingers behind Eliot in silence, she is aware that Eliot knows she is there.
"Everything, okay?" Sophie circles closer to Eliot so that the conversation is private. Eliot looks up into Sophie's eyes realizing the intensity of Sophie's gaze. "Vance needs a friend. I owe it to him." Eliot tries to play it off with his bravado taking over the interaction with Sophie. Sophie places her hand on Eliot's forearm in the way that Sophie always does when she knows Eliot is lying to her. Eliot accepts that Sophie knows that he is lying and she is going to let him lie to her.
Eliot gathers his things along with the thoughts running through his head. After seeing the monitor in the airport, Eliot had gone directly to the brew pub with Hardison in tow. Eliot instinctively knows who was sent in to deal with that situation. Eliot knows the players and those players are some of his brothers from others. Eliot had been following the story since the first chatter. That night, Hardison did his thing to find the information that Eliot asked for as it lit up their backroom like their own private situation room. Eliot knew what the mass media was broadcasting would be in total in contrast to what Hardison was able to find. Eliot knew the truth behind the lies and Hardison knews how to access the truth behind the lies.
Hardison cannot take his eyes off of Vance. The image of Vance on the screens from that night, the memory is instantly pulled back with the turn of Vance's head in Hardison's direction from the adjacent room. Hardison remembers that night with Eliot not so very long ago. Hardison remembers what he saw with Vance having a starring role in the secured footage that he had managed to hack from the State Department. Hardison remembers Eliot sitting on the table fixated by the screens. Eliot sat in the same position, motionless for hours. Eliot's expression contorted with the horror playing on a loop on the screen in front of them. That night, Hardison dare not say a word, even if he knew what words to say, he would not have been able to manifest them from his lips all he could do is replay the loop as many times as Eliot could bare to watch it.
Parker knows something is going on from her observation of Hardison as he watches Vance. She has become in tune with Hardison. She actually understands him. Her world has been growing. This process has not without pain but Parker is learning from Sophie. Sophie does not even realize that she is teaching Parker everything that Archie could not. Parker can see Vance's pain fill the deep lines etched on his face and she can feel Eliot's concern for his friend. Parker knows the man that Vance is. He is as strong as Eliot, perhaps even stronger. He is a friend who Eliot would do anything for. Vance, in many ways is Eliot's mentor, his Archie. Hardison was haunted by that night. Hardison never told her much about that night but she knows, she knows why Vance is here. Hardison would not tell her what he and Eliot did that night but she knows. Parker saw the monitors in the airport. It was impossible to not notice images. The sanitized mass media images stopped people in their tracks.
Eliot gently removes Sophie's hand from his arm with a soft smile. Eliot holds her hand within his own for the briefest of moments. It is his way to tell Sophie that he will be okay. This is something that he must do. It is a duty and an obligation of honor though he has no way to articulate it into words that Sophie would understand. Those men, they were his brothers. They were his family. He had already planned to leave in the next few days. Fate in the form a friend just came a few days earlier than expected.
Eliot returns to Vance, who had remained at the table staring into his coffee cup in a meditation of sorts. Eliot circles back to the table with a single phrase. "You ready?" Vance's expression instantly softens as Eliot loops his bag over his shoulder. "Yeah, I am ready." The pair head toward the back door.
Parker, Hardison and Sophie gather together to watch them depart. Hardison knows the questions are coming. It will only be a moment before Sophie turns towards him with that smile and asks him what this is about. He knows that he will crumble like a house of cards in a hurricane the moment she turns around. He actually has already started booting up the screens.