AN: Leverage isn't mine no matter how much fun that would be. This is just a quick one shot.
It wasn't truly late so far as Nate was concerned, just after eleven at night. Parker wanted to wait up for Santa and Hardison had gotten roped into helping set up security to try and get a picture of the Jolly Old Elf. Sophie had said that she wanted to stay up a little longer and enjoy the lights and the tree. Nate decided to head down and grab a bottle from the pub before joining Sophie to enjoy the holiday atmosphere.
They had spent their first Christmas after he and Sophie officially retired, in London. He thought it would be a romantic holiday just between him and Sophie but on Christmas eve the team had arrived. Parker had announced that Christmas was a holiday that you spent with family. At her uncertain tone and Eliot's protective and hopeful glare and Hardison's smile, neither he nor Sophie had had the heart to tell them no. Every year now they made sure to spend Christmas together.
This year they had come to Portland. There was more room for everyone here and it really didn't matter where they spent the holiday as long as they were all together. As Nate was musing over these thoughts and perusing the bottles behind the counter something outside caught his attention. Turning his full attention to the distraction Nate realized it was Eliot. Eliot had just walked past the front windows of the pub. Nate watched as Eliot crossed the street and headed down the block. On a whim Nate decided to follow.
Grabbing his coat from the rack by the door Nate headed out into the chill night air. The streetlights had a halo to them that added a pretty quality to the light on the street and told Nate that another round of snow wasn't far off. Eliot was almost an entire block a head of him by now and he was keeping up a brisk pace. Nate considered heading back but he just couldn't help wondering where Eliot would be headed just before midnight on Christmas eve.
After a couple of blocks Eliot turned in at a small parking lot at the end of the block. As Nate rounded the corner of the building where he had seen Eliot turn, he was surprised to see an old store front that had been converted into a small church. Nate couldn't believe that Eliot had gone into the church and stood in the lot for a moment looking around but there didn't seem to be anywhere else that Eliot would have gone.
"What the hell." Nate muttered to himself as he headed for the front door. He planned to just take a quick peek and see for himself that Eliot wasn't there. Once his suspicions were confirmed he'd head back to the pub. Eliot must have caught him following him and decided that this would be a good place to lose him.
Nate stepped in and a man near the door handed him a candle and gestured for him to find his own seat. The candlelight service was already started, and Nate really didn't want to disturb it. He was about to head back out when he saw Eliot standing at the end of a row of folding chairs at the back of the room. Eliot glanced his way but left it to Nate to stay or go.
Nate walked over and Eliot waited until Nate stepped past him into the row of chairs before he moved to stand in front of the chair on the aisle. Nate couldn't help noting that even in a church Eliot picked the most defensible seat. Nate had grown up Catholic and had even studied to become a Jesuit Priest so he couldn't help feeling like he was at a midnight mass. The carols were the same and the nativity scene up front was basically the same if a little shabbier. The pastor preached a message of salvation, forgiveness, and the real gift of Christmas, Jesus Christ, and his love for all. Nate couldn't help the reflex that made him give the sign of the cross at the beginning of the prayer. He noticed the old woman in the row across the aisle giving him a censorious look and he was now considering genuflecting just to see if he could get a rise out of her. Eliot must have noticed the by play because Nate received a sharp elbow to the ribs. A few moments later the Pastor was about to dismiss the congregation when Nate felt a tug at his sleeve a second before Eliot rose and headed to the door. Eliot obviously didn't want to stay for the end and get caught up in chit-chat with the parishioners and Nate was grateful for that.
Eliot kept a slower pace as they headed across the parking lot. The anticipated snow was falling gently, and Nate hoped that Parker was seeing it. "Ask." Eliot's growled word brought Nate's attention back.
"Church? When…is this like a regular thing?"
"It just felt right. I don't know it's…" Eliot's words trailed off for a moment. "No, it's not a regular thing. I haven't 'found religion' or whatever."
Nate kept silent as they walked a little farther and his patience was rewarded.
"My gramma was a Baptist, and so was my momma. Used to get dressed up in our best every Sunday and go to church. After momma died, well daddy always made sure we were there for Christmas and Easter at least."
Nate had so many questions and a bigger number of assumptions, but he respected the man next to him and didn't want to push. Eliot had become one of his best friends over the years and that left room for the privacy that Eliot so often clung to.
"Watching everybody tonight and having family to spend the holiday with well… I knew Hardison would be keeping Parker busy tracking Santa on one of his gadgets and frankly I figured you and Sophie would still be too busy making eyes at each other to notice I was missing. 'Sides I knew I wouldn't be gone long."
"I was downstairs when I noticed you walk past the windows." Nate didn't want Eliot to think he'd been spying on him even though that was kind of how things had played out.
"Yah I figured when I heard you following me."
"Oh come on. I know I wasn't making any noise." Nate protested.
"I could hear your heartbeat as soon as you stepped out of the pub. Between that and the cadence of your footsteps, I knew it was you." Eliot let a half a smile cross his face. It felt good to not hide things and to know that Nate would believe him.
"Seriously?" Nate chuckled. "So what about the werewolf thing?"
Eliot glanced at Nate but he wasn't sure what Nate had meant with his question. Maybe it was a mastermind thing that caused Nate and Parker to sometimes skip ahead in a conversation without telling anyone else how they'd gotten there. He wasn't even sure if it was something Nate knew that he did. "Are you asking if being a werewolf is why I stopped going to church?" A few more silent steps and Eliot answered his own question. "Nah. I told you I didn't go to church regular after momma died but I still believed. But after the military…after some of the things I'd done," Flashes of some of the more horrible things flitted past his mind's eye. "I figured that if there was a god that he wouldn't want anything to do with me."
"And things have changed?" Nate hoped that Eliot was finally finding a way to forgive himself for his past.
"Yes and no. I still haven't seen that kid I was in the mirror since way before all this began but I'm pretty content with the man I've become." Eliot couldn't hide the small grin at the thought of his family. This small band of broken people that had become his family, that had become his pack. "I don't know if god can forgive me but…" Eliot's words trailed off again and they walked a little farther in silence.
"I know he can." Nate shrugged deeper into his coat and was glad to see the lights of the pub up ahead.
"Is that the Jesuit talking?" Eliot couldn't help teasing just a little.
"No. I know God can forgive you, 'cause we already have." Nate's words seemed to float between the snowflakes for a moment.
"Thanks." Eliot pulled his beanie a little lower over his ears and picked up the pace a bit in anticipation of the warmth that home and family offered just a few yards ahead.