CHAPTER 7

Have Your Dessert

After the first block Hardison started to relax and enjoy the crisp spring morning. Parker even held his hand and kissed his cheek when they'd left the apartment. This was starting to look like a really great day. Except for the part where Parker had said they were bait. He felt a shiver run down his neck and he was suddenly sure they were being watched. He started to turn but Parker let go of his hand and set her hand against his cheek stopping him.

"Don't look." She smiled at him and leaned forward.

He wasn't sure if Parker was inviting his kiss to distract him or provide a cover for why they'd stopped walking but it was an invitation he couldn't turn down. He kissed her gently and briefly, knowing Parker was generally uncomfortable with public displays unless it was to sell a con. Parker continued to lean against him for a moment.

"Mmm, pretzels." She murmured before taking his hand again.

Hardison let go of Parker's hand to wrap his arm around her shoulder. "Me too."

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Eliot walked quietly half a block behind Genevieve. Her body language said that she had more than taken the bait. She was stalking Parker and Hardison. Parker was doing everything she could to be good bait. Her body posture said that she was unaware of her surroundings and she walked too close to the curb. Hardison was so tuned into Parker that, by intention or not, he also presented an easy target. Even at almost a block behind them Eliot caught the occasional scent brought to him on the breeze from the traffic. There was no way that Genevieve could miss that Parker and Hardison were both human and seemingly clueless to the wolf following them.

Spring St had plenty of traffic both in the street and on the sidewalk and Eliot used it to his advantage. Weaving through groups of pedestrians to get closer to Genevieve without her noticing. Up ahead he saw Hardison turn onto Mott St. He picked up his pace a little until he was almost within arm's reach of Genevieve. Once they rounded the corner Eliot let Genevieve get farther ahead of him again. There was still two and a half blocks before Hardison and Parker would turn into the shop he'd sent them to and he didn't want to tip Genevieve off yet.

Finally when they were within sight of the shop Eliot sped up and with a grip that ground painfully into several pressure points, he took Genevieve by the arm and hustled her across the street.

"Hey! What do you think you're doing?" Genevieve growled into Eliot's face. She briefly struggled but Eliot clamped down on the pressure points in her arm.

"I could ask you the same thing? Now mind your manners." Eliot spoke quietly but the threat in his voice was clear.

Across the street they came to a small one story shop that looked somewhat out of place sandwiched between buildings on either side that were six stories tall. It was obvious that this little storefront had been built decades after its neighbors. Eliot knew that behind the shop was a service alley that would provide the closest place he was going to find for privacy.

As Eliot hustled Genevieve toward the front door he whispered in her ear. "You scream or make some kind of scene in here and I will break your arm just for starters." The bell above the door jingled brightly as Eliot shoved his way in.

"Sebastian! Long time…" The woman behind the counter didn't get to finish her greeting as Eliot and his captive rounded the end of the counter.

"Sorry no time Mindy. I need to use your back door." Eliot didn't hesitate as he bundled Genevieve out the door and into the alley.

Eliot shoved his captive into the corner. "Alright, Vivy what's going on here?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." She angrily yanked her clothing back into order.

"Yes you do. That stunt you pulled yesterday, hunting my friends on the street just now, you are way out of line!" Eliot glared at her and kept an open ready stance in case she tried to bolt.

"You think you can just do whatever you want and get away with it? Well you can't! Badger's in charge now so you can't just call your old buddy and shut me up." She glared at him.

Eliot could smell hurt as well as anger. "Shut you up? What are you talking about Vivy? I never talked with Jonas about what went down between you and me." Jonas had been the last Alpha of the Manhattan pack and while Eliot had known him, he certainly wouldn't have classified Jonas as a friend.

For just a moment Eliot thought that Vivy might back off now that she had her chance to say her piece, but he saw the look in her eyes change and her scent shift with her determination. "You think you can get away with hurting people? We'll just see about that." She started forward but Eliot grabbed her by the throat. Grasping her hand and kicking her knee Eliot spun her around onto her knees, face pressed into the wall. Using the hand he'd grabbed to put her into a joint lock, Eliot held her in place while he got out his cell phone.

"Badger. I've had a little trouble with one of your wolves."

"Really Spencer? And up to this point we'd been working so good together." Badger's voice was clearly audible over Eliot's phone.

"You need to send someone to replace Genevieve."

"She's not dead. I would know." The sarcastic tone dropped from Badger's voice.

"Not yet, but if I see her anywhere near my people again I will end her." Eliot hung up the phone. He hoped that Genevieve was paying enough attention to her nose to smell the truth of his words. "It didn't have to be this way Vivy but I'm serious. You go near any of my people again and I will kill you."

Eliot did his best to incapacitate the usual threats to his team, but if necessary he would kill to protect them. He let her up and waited until she disappeared down the alley before he headed back into Mindy's shop.

After overpaying for a cup of green tea, to apologize for the earlier scene, Eliot found a seat outside. He could see Parker and Hardison laughing and talking inside the shop across the street. Eliot made another quick call. "Nate. You and Sophie stay away from the door until you get a notice on your phone that there is a new watch wolf on duty. If you have any trouble let me know." Eliot thought about heading back to the apartment to make sure that Genevieve didn't try anything but he felt pretty confident that there wouldn't be any more trouble.

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Parker led the way into the ice cream shop that Hardison had taken them to. At first it looked like a normal ice cream shop and Parker assumed that Eliot had picked it for the location rather than the shop itself. But when they stepped up to the freezer that displayed the ice cream Parker noticed the lineup of cereal boxes behind the two employees.

"Really?" Parker was so excited that she almost squealed. "I can have whatever combination I want?"

Hardison smiled at her. "Absolutely any combination." He'd known Parker would love this place the second that he'd seen their website. He wished he'd come up with the idea to bring her here himself, but he had appreciated that Eliot had called it a date earlier and not just a job or a con. He tried to work in a date night with Parker as often as he could, but especially when they were running a job, it just didn't happen as often as he wanted.

Parker ordered some horrendous combination that Hardison would never have imagined. And he ordered chocolate ice cream with Coco Pops. Parker selected a table by the window and practically dove into her giant bowl of ice cream.

"Thanks for bringing me here." Parker smiled at him between bites.

Hardison wiped a smudge off of her cheek. "Wish it had been all my idea but you know it was Eliot that sent us here."

"Sure, but he would have hated this place and he's not you." Parker used her spoon to steal a bite of his chocolate ice cream.

Hardison warmed at her comment and put Eliot out of his mind.

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Eliot watched as Parker finished off a truly giant bowl of ice cream and stole a good deal of Hardison's. He was glad they were getting a few minutes to do something fun together. Finally Hardison and Parker emerged from the shop. Hardison spotted him across the street and waved him over. Parker held out a vanilla cone that had been sprinkled with whole grain Os.

Eliot took the cone and stared at it a moment. "Really? What's this supposed to be?"

"Hey man, that's about the healthiest option they had in there." Hardison held his hands up to show that he was not responsible.

"Aren't you going to try it?" Parker looked at him expectantly.

With a growl he licked the ice cream before it dripped onto his hand. He would never admit it out loud but the Os and the vanilla ice cream were actually pretty good together.

"So what were you trying to accomplish with this trip besides the early stages of diabetes?" Hardison wrapped and arm around Parker's waist and she draped her arms over Hardison's and Eliot's shoulders.

"Got rid of Genevieve." Eliot said between bites of his cone.

"Got rid of, got rid of?" Hardison raised an eyebrow.

"Not if I don't have to but it's not off the table." Eliot threw the cone wrapper and napkin in a trashcan as they passed.

The three of them made it back to the apartment and Eliot noticed that there was a new watch wolf on duty across the street.

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Hardison and Parker had settled in at the kitchen table with one of his larger screens. Nate couldn't tell if they were watching a movie or playing one of those video games that had some sort of story involved.

Eliot scoffed and shook his head before he went back to the dough he was working on the kitchen island. "You keep staring at it like there is something to figure out. Got news for you as long as there's elves and gnomes and whatever you're not going to make sense of it."

"Says the werewolf?" Nate arched an eyebrow as he settled himself on a barstool near the kitchen island.

"Didn't say this made sense either." Eliot sprinkled a little more flour.

"So, what happened with Genevieve?"

"Told you. I made it clear to her and her alpha that she needs to stay away." Eliot washed his hands before he started rifling the cupboards.

"No. I mean before. What happened between you two that made her come after us? It was very obviously about you. We were just the avenue she was using to get to you."

"I was working here on a couple of consecutive jobs, not long before we started running together, and her and I sorta ran into each other. It was very casual, especially at first…" Eliot stopped digging in the cupboard to lean on the counter for a moment.

"She didn't want it to just be casual?"

"Yah, she was looking for something more. I needed something more too but I knew it wasn't that. Turns out it was you lot that I needed." Eliot shook his head in mock disbelief. "I tried to explain it to her but she didn't want to hear it. She got…"

"A little crazy?" Hardison strolled past Eliot and pulled an orange soda from the fridge.

"I didn't really hold it against her and I thought she was going to let things go, but now, I guess it was her last Alpha that stepped in and made her back down." Eliot went back to his cupboards still searching for something.

"So will she stay gone this time?" Sophie asked as she leaned against Nate.

"I don't know." Eliot shrugged. "I hope so."

"Maybe we'll get lucky and she'll find someone who is really into her kinda crazy." Parker wormed her way under Hardison's arm.

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Monday morning the five of them loaded up into Lucille just like old times and headed for the offices of Ortho Pro. This time Eliot drove them making sure not to lose the watch wolf on the way.

"So what was with the whole 'escape and evade' thing the other morning but now you're all 'driving Miss Daisy' today?" Hardison was relieved that they were unlikely to have any near death experiences in traffic this morning but he hadn't forgotten Parker's mad dash through Greenwich Village.

"'Cause this morning we aren't breaking into a building." Eliot slowly turned the corner bringing them to a stop several blocks down the street from Ortho Pro's offices.

Eliot hopped out of the van and walked around to the back doors. Reaching through, he snagged his grey duffle bag and rummaged through it. He tucked his hair up under a knit cap and pulled out an old army coat that had a hole in the elbow and zipped it up half way. "I'll be near the bus stop if you need me." He waited for a nod of acknowledgement from Sophie before he took off.

Sophie checked her watch and decided to give it a few more minutes before she headed into the office building. "Has Ryder already initiated his transfer?" Sophie turned to Hardison who was setting up his command center.

"No. Eliot has to call him and initiate the transfer of the donation funds before he can initiate his transfer for the money laundering."

"And those funds?" Parker asked.

"It will look like Ryder is purchasing guns from Maddox and launder the rest of the money. And Maddox's laundering set up along with the weapons will put him firmly in international terrorist categories with the FBI and a bunch of other agencies." Hardison smiled as he started lining up the digital dominoes to be knocked down on Parker's word.

"Alright Eliot, I'm on my way." Sophie stepped out of the van and strode toward the offices of Ortho Pro.

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Eliot had curled himself into a space near a decorative flower box and the bus benches. He focused on the pack bonds and becoming as uninteresting and unnoticeable as possible. His vision went blurry for a few seconds and then it cleared. Several people walked past him without paying him any kind of attention but he wasn't sure if that was because of the overlook spell or because people just didn't want to notice a homeless man near the bus stop. Either option suited him at this point, and now it was just a matter of waiting for Sophie to finish the con.

Eliot watched her strut her way into the building as if she owned it and he smiled to himself. A few minutes later Hardison's voice came over his earbud. "Eliot, go ahead and make that call to Ryder. Tell him you're transferring Bettencourt's donation."

Eliot didn't acknowledge Hardison he just pulled out his phone and placed the call. "Mr. Ryder, this is Victor, Miss Bettencourt's accountant. I just got a call from Tom at Ipsum Dolum, he says you are ready for the donation funds." Eliot kept a professional tone and a smile even though he was still slouched on the ground at the bus stop. "You should see the funds in your account any minute now." After a few more pleasantries Eliot ended the call.

"Alright Hardison. You caught all that?"

"Oh yeah. The money trail is on its way."

Sophie charmed and flirted, and walked Maddox through the same steps and in no time she was headed back to the van. Nate drove past Ortho Pro and slowed at the bus stop so that Eliot could hop in as they passed.

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Hardison put together the digital trail and copied it to a thumb drive that he included with the packet of paperwork that contained Ryder's and Maddox's signatures. The paperwork and the digital trail would prove that Ryder had been skimming from the charity for a long time before he got involved with Maddox's money laundering and gun running scheme. Hardison had duplicate copies and had one couriered to the local police and one to the FBI.

With a smile Hardison sat back down to his computer to put together one last project before they left the big apple.

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Eliot still in the guise of a homeless man crouched between a trashcan and the stoop of Ryder's brownstone. He had used Parker's phone to text Ryder, making the man think that Parker was waiting for him. Eliot knew that in just a few short hours Ryder would be in cuffs and looking at a long list of charges, but Eliot wanted something a little more personal when it came to retribution for the trouble this man had caused between Hardison and Parker.

Eliot watched as Ryder spritzed himself with a cologne that he could smell a half a block away and didn't approve of. After combing his hair and checking the results in the rearview mirror Ryder got out of his car and strolled toward his brownstone. As Ryder took the first step on the stoop, Eliot stepped behind him.

"I think you dropped something." Eliot couldn't keep the growl out of his voice.

"What?" Ryder turned around and Eliot hit him in the solar plexus, driving the air from him.

As Ryder doubled over, Eliot in the guise of helping him grabbed Ryder's hand and pulled that arm into a chicken wing as he helped Ryder to fall face first onto the sidewalk, grinding his nose painfully. "You caused a lot of trouble between my friends. Maybe next time you're looking at someone's girl you'll remember to mind your manners." Eliot whispered into Ryder's ear, right before he broke several fingers and cracked a rib. He left Ryder lying on the sidewalk and smiled all the way down the street where he hailed a cab.

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The five of them faced each other in the airport terminal. Hardison had booked two first class tickets to London and three to Portland. The two flights were set to leave at the same time and now there were only a few minutes left.

Parker hugged Sophie. "Thanks for coming and saving the con and… And everything."

"Oh Parker. You were doing just fine without us. You just need to remember to talk to those two. They're men and they just don't understand things." Sophie patted Parker's back until Parker let go.

Eliot rolled his eyes at Sophie's comment but knew better than to argue. He shook Nate's hand and then pulled Sophie into a hug. "Thanks for straightening things out with Parker." He whispered.

"You'd have got there in the end." She smiled as she patted his cheek.

Hardison hugged Nate and Sophie at the same time before stepping back and announcing. "Yall, we are gonna miss our flights if we don't put a move on."

Once they were seated, Hardison pulled out a small tablet and finished the last step of hacking Morrissey's devices. Somewhere across the city, simultaneously all of Morrissey's devices started blaring Thnks fr th Mmrs by Fall Out Boy and displaying a photo montage of all of the watch wolves that had been assigned to them during their stay.

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"Nate, are you sure they'll be okay with all of the dreadful business back in Portland?" Sophie watched as Parker, Hardison, and Eliot boarded their plane.

"I'm sure they'll be fine." Nate checked his watch. "Come on we gotta go." He grabbed the handle of Sophie's carry on and started for the central walkway.

"Where are you going? Our gates the other way." Sophie hurried a couple of steps until she caught up with him.

"No, our flight to Portland leaves in twenty minutes from the other side of the airport." Nate hadn't liked what they'd found out about so far, and he wasn't comfortable leaving the team on their own.

The End

(play ominous music)