A/N: hey y'all, I'm back again. I said it would be quick! For all of you who don't know or haven't read, this is the third story in what I call a happy ending for Eliot.
Disclaimer: I own nothing recognizable.
Eliot backed his way through the double kitchen doors of the Brew Pub, turning as they snapped closed behind him. He made his way around the bar and into the noisy main room. He was headed for the back room and "Leverage Portland Branch Headquarters" as Hardison called it. A tray of food and drinks rested in his hands, a dark blue bandana wrapped around his head over a ponytail. He wore it today so he wouldn't get hair in the lunch he'd just prepared for everyone. It was a new dish he'd made to accompany Hardison's latest brew.
Six days ago, they finished up the job for a local commercial fisherman framed for running drugs up the Oregon coast. Eliot still had a twinge in his left side and a plethora of fading bruises for his efforts. Nate had announced afterward they were going to take a week or so off. They almost always took time off after the bigger, more violent jobs. This one hadn't been bad, but they had gone from one job to the next over the last few months, so a break was in order. Eliot had literally been home two days before this last one.
He needed a break.
After he returned from Oklahoma several weeks ago, he hadn't wanted one. The easiest way for him to deal with what he had found there was just let life go on as usual. But when Nate said they were taking a break, Eliot had discovered he was ready for some quiet time. He wondered if that wasn't partly because of seeing A.B again. Maybe not her specifically, but what she represented. That day at the farmers market, she talked about her grandfather, and she had worked for his dad at one point. If he was honest, he had enjoyed that couple of hours they'd spent together way more than we probably should have.
He used some of the downtime to do something he wanted to do since the team relocated to Portland. Steelhead fishing on the upper Columbia River. He drove over near La Grande, backpacked up the Columbia, and spent four days fishing and sleeping under the stars. He loved it, and part of him hadn't wanted to come back, but it had also been bittersweet. His father was an avid outdoorsman when Eliot was young, and fishing had been one of his favorite pastimes. He had always talked about wanting to fish steelhead on the Columbia River; it was one of the top-rated fly fishing rivers in the world. A love of fishing was one of the things Eliot had inherited from his dad, along with his blue eyes and a stubborn temperament.
He would like to think his father had made it out here to fish the Columbia, but Eliot highly doubted it. For all of his talk about it, Jack Spencer had never been more than a state away from Oklahoma before Eliot left other than Vietnam. He highly doubted that his father traveled any further after he was gone. That was a part of the issue between them. Eliot had wanted to see the world, and the army had seemed like the right way for a small-town boy from western Oklahoma to do it. His father had wanted him to stay. He'd even gone so far as to tell Eliot his mother wouldn't want him to go. That comment had angered Eliot more than anything else his father could have said, and they had both said words you couldn't easily take back. Eliot had enlisted the next day.
He'd spent so much time being angry with his father. He hadn't realized his old man wasn't trying to control him and that his mother wouldn't have wanted him to enlist. It had taken Eliot even longer still to realize that he was way more like his dad than he was like his mother. That made it impossible for him to see his father was only trying to protect him.
If Sarah Spencer had lived, she would have made him see that and most likely pointed out how much alike they were.
Eliot couldn't help but wonder if he had swallowed his pride and gone back sooner if he could have mended fences and maybe taken that trip with his dad. Instead of alone and when it was too late. He shoved the thoughts aside and the feeling of regret that came with them.
It was one of those in-between times of the day. The one between lunch and dinner, so the customers were sparse. Even so, there were far more people present now than in the first few months after Hardison first opened, at this time of day. Just to irritate him, Eliot told Hardison the reason the place had picked up business in the last few months was solely because of the menu he had personally designed. He stuck firmly to that, just to ruffle Hardison's tail feather, but that wasn't exactly true. His friend had some odd ideas about flavor pairings in general. However, people seemed to like whatever off the wall thing Hardison decided to try. Like his latest concoction.
Jicama Plum Stout.
When Hardison had first started going on about his latest brew Eliot had thought for sure he'd heard him wrong. A jicama was a Mexican radish. He knew there was a vodka made from radishes but who in the hell would put radish into any kind of ale or lager, let alone plums and radishes into the same beverage. Unfortunately, he had heard Hardison right. And honestly, he wasn't surprised.
It hadn't been easy, but he had finally come up with food that would complement the stout and would sell on the menu.
Grilled corn and mango salsa, served over flank steak, with red quinoa, and that's what he carried into the backroom, minus the stout. He knew the Brew Pub customers seemed to like it, but Eliot personally couldn't stomach the stuff. As Sophie had said, it was an acquired taste.
Eliot turned, pushing the door to the backroom open with his shoulder. His attention moved the glassed-in room the team used as headquarters. It was an event room when Hardison bought the brewery.
Hardison and Parker were huddled together at a workbench across the space.
"Hey, " Eliot said.
Parker looked over her shoulder at him, but that was it.
"What's that?" Eliot asked, lifting his chin toward the papers scattered across the table as he drew closer.
"Expansion plans, bro," Hardison said, not even looking up.
Eliot set the tray down on the table. "What expansion plans?" he asked, already wary of what the younger man had in mind. Some of his ideas were questionable in Eliot's opinion. Actually, a lot of his ideas were questionable in Eliot's opinion.
"We're going organic."
There was the throbbing pulse between his eyes. "You mean food or beer?"
"Beer, but now that you mention it, we should do an organic food menu," the Hacker said with a nod.
"That..you're... That's stupid, Hardison, " Eliot Spencer ground out through clenched teeth, his nose scrunching up like it usually did when he was irritated.
Completely unfazed by the shorter man's glare and tone, Hardison assured, "Nah, nah, it makes sense."
Scowl growing, The Hitter folded his arms over his chest and stared. "Organic beer.. You're gonna start brewing organic beer?"
"Yeah, I mean, organic sells, man," Hardison said, eyes trained on the research information, spread out across the table they used for team meetings.
The throbbing in Eliot's temples picked up. "We're not just talking chickens here, Hardison. You're gonna double the cost of production."
Hardison finally looked up, but only for a second. "Come on, man, you just don't got no vision.."
"I don't.. What..You.." he began, tripping over each word before he settled on, "maybe you should learn to brew the other stuff first."
"Wha...Nope... Nevermind. That's just cruel, man. Just cruel."
He added moments later: "Your girl don't think it's dumb."
"Wha….Shut up, Hardison."
Eliot knew exactly to whom Hardison referred.
"I like her face." Parker said happily. "I just want to pinch her cheeks," the thief added less than two seconds later, earning her a disgusted glare from Eliot.
"She likes my Jicama Plum Stout."
"She's just being nice."
"Nah, man. While you were off finding yourself or whatever, her work picked us up as a supplier." Hardison paused for a moment holding his gaze. Eliot didn't say anything. Hardison did. "She used terms like niche market and hipsters. 'Organic's where it's at,' baby. Her words, not mine."
Thanks for reading!
Another Authors Note: so if the last part feels familiar, it was posted on its own a year ago, but I wanted to incorporate it, and this was the easiest way.