AN: So this is the last chapter of this story. It's gone on longer than I thought it would. Thank you to all of you that have stuck with it and are still reading! THANK YOU GUYS!
Bet's a Bet
Very early the next day, before first light, four of Reese's pack arrived at the back side of McDonough Playground where Madison St. passed under the Crescent City Connection Bridge. Eliot and Hardison were already waiting there in Lucille with Yellott's guys tied up in the back. When Eliot saw the van coming up the street he stepped out of the passenger seat and waited by the side door. Reese's van pulled to a stop right next to Lucille and their side door slid open revealing Cleo and two others in the back.
"Cleo." Eliot didn't really expect an acknowledgement from Reese's second and didn't wait for one as he slid open the side door in Lucille.
"Spencer." Cleo's deep voice rumbled from just outside the van. Eliot had to check the urge to spin around at the unexpected sound.
"I'm sure Reese told you. Got one wolf here and two norms." Eliot stepped to the side so that Cleo and his guys could transfer the captives.
Cleo snapped his fingers and the other two that had gotten out of the van made fast work of the transfer. "Wha' deed you giv' da' wolf?" Cleo's heavy accent sounded strange to Eliot's ears but then again hearing the man talk at all was strange.
"Hellebore. Dosed him an hour ago. He oughta be out of it for another couple hours." Eliot slid Lucille's side door closed.
"And de 'umans?"
"Chloroform. You might have another ten minutes before you have to worry about them." Eliot was about to step up into the passenger seat when Cleo put a hand on his arm.
"I wan' to thank you fo' what you an' your pack deed fo' my people." Cleo looked solemnly at Eliot.
"I'm glad we could help. How is Reese taking things?" Eliot turned to face Cleo.
"He ees grieving. But now with da pack be'ind 'im again tings will be better." A small smile passed across Cleo's face.
"Let him know that we'll be turning the information we discussed over to the FBI today. You'll want to make sure your people are done with clean up before the end of the day." Eliot stepped up into Lucille. "Be seeing you Cleo." Eliot patted the door of the van and Hardison pulled away from the curb.
"Norms?" Hardison asked when they were a couple of blocks away.
"Regular humans. Normals." Eliot enjoyed the view across the river of New Orleans waking up to a new day. In ones and twos the street lights were turning off in the rising light, and the sun was sparking off of windows here and there.
"So you really think we helped the wolves?" Hardison sounded cheerful and even hopeful.
"You heard Cleo. He is grateful and believe me if the people below him weren't happy with the recent changes he wouldn't have been so happy either."
"You call that happy? Man sounded like he was speaking at a funeral."
"I've never actually heard him speak that much before so yah for him that was ecstatic." Eliot chuckled.
Eliot didn't comment when Hardison parked right in front of Ms. Teo's. Eliot closed his eyes and let a smile cross his lips.
"You fixin' pancakes this morning? You know Parker will want pancakes." Hardison got out and stretched.
"And you don't?" Eliot cast a watchful look up and down the street.
"Well, I never said that." Hardison's smile was as bright as the dawning day as he came around the front of Lucille.
"Well I aint makin' pancakes. But you're in for a treat." Eliot had been able to smell the breakfast Ms. Teo was cooking from two blocks away. Waffles, calas, and grits. He loved Ms. Teo's calas. Maybe this time she'd give him the recipe.
They walked up the front steps and into the house without knocking. Hardison made a bee line for the kitchen and the sumptuous smells coming from within. Eliot followed at a slightly slower pace. Just as Hardison made it into the kitchen the younger Teo stepped around the corner into the dining room.
She had obviously been waiting for Eliot but she couldn't seem to meet his eyes and she was nervously playing with her ring.
"Did you need something Teo?" Eliot waited patiently.
"Um, well, I. I just wanted to say sorry." She glanced at him but looked away again.
"You've got nothing to be sorry for."
"But I burned your hand and I …" She seemed to be having trouble finishing her thought.
Eliot showed her the unmarred back of his hand. "No harm done. I'm sorry if I scared you last night. I just wanted to make sure you were okay after everything that happened yesterday."
"Yah I'm okay. Gran and I talked about a lot of stuff last night and it turns out mom knew this whole time and never told me. How lame is that?!" She turned and headed back into the kitchen.
Eliot smiled at the whimsical nature of teenagers and went to get his breakfast.
Parker and Hardison made the arrangements with Special Agent McSweeten. Ever since they had helped him find closure with the D. B. Cooper case, he had known that they weren't fellow FBI agents, but he had never brought it up. He accepted the files that Hardison slid onto his hard drive without question and wrote the whole thing up as an anonymous tip. He gave them a rough ETA on when the FBI would be in Thibodeaux with the unspoken implication that it would be best if they were gone before then.
Eliot arranged with a local furniture store to have replacements for Ms. Teo's furniture delivered and the broken items hauled away. He made sure that the movers would come when he was too far away for Ms. Teo to argue with. A smile crossed his face as he included a flat screen TV for Miss Teo in the order with the rest. He'd see what Hardison thought about setting up some kind of wifi, techno-thingy, wireless service. He knew Hardison would know what it was the kid had wanted when she was complaining about having to use data to play games on her phone.
Finally the team made sure it was safe to take the Youngs home. Hardison arranged to have a new security system installed and Eliot made arrangements with Reese to have the Youngs watched, discreetly, until the dust settled in Thibodeaux.
Standing in their front yard the Youngs were bidding farewell to the team. "Thanks for what you did for my family and for cleaning things up at work. I don't know how to tell you how much it means to me." Toby hugged each of them briefly.
"I'm so sorry for all the trouble I caused. I had no idea." Tami hugged each of them as well "Thank you for everything!"
Trenton hung on tightly to the hem of Toby's shirt and watched the whole exchange with a wary eye. Kamee was perched happily on her mother's arm and was still holding Sparky the wolf under one chubby little arm.
"Hey baby girl. What do you think of this?" Eliot held up a brand new wolf toy and made it dance in front of her and nudged the toys nose against her nose making a kissing sound. While Kamee was entranced with this performance Parker slipped the old toy out from under her arm without Kamee's notice. On the front left foot of the new toy the name 'Sparky' had been embroidered in blue thread.
Hardison crouched down in front of Trenton. "Don't worry, we didn't forget you, little man." Hardison held out a box containing a Big Block Lego set. Trenton's face lit up and he gave Hardison a slightly sticky kiss on the cheek when he took the box.
Despite McSweeten's suggestion the team stuck around town long enough to see the FBI slap cuffs on most of the people the team had tipped them off to. The few that the FBI hadn't found yet Hardison would find for them, and the ones that Reese's pack had deemed too big a threat, no one would ever find. Eliot enjoyed seeing the feds drag Kroiner out of his car and into the back of their van but it still felt a little anticlimactic.
"Don't worry man. Parker and I found the perfect door prize for Kroiner." Hardison grasped Eliot's shoulder for a moment in a show of solidarity.
"Look what we found." Parker slid a paper into Eliot's hand.
Reading over it quickly he could see that they had arranged to have Kroiner sent to the same facility where one of his victim's father was being held. Kroiner would have been charged with statutory rape of a fourteen year old girl but Tinsley and his friends had found a way to sweep it under the rug. Now the girl's father would be able to dispense, if not justice, at least retribution. Eliot smiled and tucked the paper into his pocket.
Eliot walked into the back of the brew pub and dropped his go-bag by the door. He walked through to the team's private kitchen and opened the fridge door. He was about to grab a beer when he felt the slight tingling sensation at the back of his neck. He closed the door to the fridge and scratched at his neck for a moment. Usually they liked to hang out together for a little while after a successful job, but it was getting late and he would need to go soon.
Hardison and Parker came into the room arm in arm and positively bubbling with noise and motion, dropping gear as they went. Eliot shook his head.
"Guys I know we normally hang out for a bit, but can I catch you guys tomorrow?" Eliot scratched at the back of his neck again.
"Why don't you stay. We can have a movie night!" Parker bounced past him and pulled a bottle of fruit punch out of the fridge.
"I can't. Not tonight." Eliot rolled his shoulders as if he had tight muscles but it was really an attempt to relieve the itchy feeling between his shoulder blades.
"Come on man I got a great one picked out for you." Hardison walked over to the couch and started looking for the TV remote. "American Werewolf in London." Eliot could hear the teasing smile even though Hardison's back was to him.
"Not tonight." Eliot turned for the door.
"Come on man. You'll never make it to your houseboat let alone your cabin before moon rise. Not with the traffic we already saw on the way back here from the airport. What are you gonna do? Try ta hide in the floor of your truck all night and hope state patrol don't find you?" Hardison turned a serious look on Eliot.
"How did you…" Eliot stood frozen for a moment.
"What? How did I know what time moon rise is? They got an app for that. Or did you mean how did I know you were tryin' to leave before the moon makes you go all wolfy?" Hardison crossed his arms with smug smile.
Eliot shook his head. Of course Hardison would know why he was trying to leave. "I've only got…" Eliot pulled out his cell phone to check the time but Hardison beat him to it.
"An hour and a few minutes before moon rise."
"Right. But this time when I change I won't be able to change back until after sunrise tomorrow."
"So? You can't enjoy a classic movie just cuz you've gone fuzzy?"
"Please, please, please. Besides, we got you a present." Parker wheedled from just behind him.
"We? Woman!" Hardison rolled his eyes and started walking for his desk where all manner of things was stacked. He was back a moment later with a long cardboard tube.
"What's this about?" Eliot looked back and forth between them.
"So we had a bet. I started counting how many things on a job that you said were distinctive, just for fun, and Parker asked what I was doin'…"
"So I bet him that you say 'Dammit Hardison'" She growled her best impersonation of Eliot. "more than you think things are distinctive." Parker smiled and skipped to Hardison's side.
"So since we were using you for our bet we decided that either way we'd get you something and the loser had to pay for it." Hardison held out the cardboard tube. Eliot knew that it was the act of buying the present instead of stealing it that was what had made the competition so fierce.
"Seriously? That's what you two were doing the whole time, with the tally marks and the dollar bills? How many points did Parker win by?" Eliot shook his head and smiled. Over the years he'd become suspicious of the motives of anyone that offered him something, let alone bought him a gift. But the years spent with the team had given him back the joy in giving and receiving gifts, knowing that there wouldn't be strings attached.
"Just one!" Parker tried to fake a pout that the score wasn't higher but she was smiling too hard to make it believable.
Eliot opened the end of the tube and pulled out a long thin item wrapped in brown paper. Eliot dropped the tube and a smile came to his face. From the heft of it through the paper he could tell it was a sword. Carefully pulling the paper from the hilt and scabbard Eliot stared at it almost breathless.
"It's a…" Hardison didn't get to finish the sentence.
"Hanzo blade, a Wakizashi that is the match to my Hanzo Katana." Eliot's eyes shined as he pulled his two best friends into a hug.
"Thank you guys!"