A/N: So, I kind of felt the urge to do something Christmas with Eliot and Newt, but it didn't fit the timeline of Family Ties, so consider this my first attempt at a one-shot. We'll see if I can actually tell a story in a single chapter. Reviews are love people!
Eliot stepped off the plane, glad to finally be back on solid ground. It was a long flight from London to New York, and then to Virginia. Why Emma moved to Virginia to run a horse farm, he wasn't sure. Not when she could have stayed in Kentucky just as easily. Must have been Jason's idea.
Moving through the crowd to the baggage claim annoyed the hell out of him, which was why he never traveled with luggage, but this time he didn't have a choice. Emma didn't even know he was coming, so he'd made sure to come loaded with Christmas gifts. Most people had the sense to stay clear of him; his pissed off don't-come-near-me glare probably had something to do with it.
He managed to get his duffle bag off the belt and away from the crowd without hurting anyone, which he counted as progress, and made his way to the car rental counter. The line was ridiculous, but he expected it, with it being Christmas Eve. Normal people were making their way to their families for the holidays. Eliot hadn't done anything this "normal" in years.
He tensed when he felt a hand grab his arm, and instantly had that hand in a grip tight enough to break bones with just one little squeeze, before his head even turned to see who it was. His eyes widened in surprise. What was Alex Newton doing at the airport?
"Damn it, Alex! Don't sneak up on me like that!"
The older man gave him a look that said he was clearly unimpressed by the threat.
"Don't you ever cut your hair, Spencer?"
"What the hell are you doing here?" Eliot asked, ignoring the hair question. No one knew he was coming, so Alex Newton couldn't have been there just to get him. He hadn't even decided for sure that he was coming out until yesterday.
"Victoria's flight just landed. I'm here to pick her up."
Had she mentioned coming home for Christmas last time he talked to her? It was hard to remember much about that conversation; he'd been exhausted because of the time difference between Boston and Marrakech, hardly coherent. It was a miracle they'd managed to have a conversation at all. He would have to make it up to her over the holiday, if she was in town.
Eliot turned to look in the direction Alex was staring, and sure enough, Newt was walking right towards them. He could tell the moment she spotted him; her eyes widened and she sprinted the rest of the way across the terminal, hurling herself into his arms. He dropped his duffle bag wrapping his arms around her.
"El! Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"
She leaned back, and swatted him, for which he let go and she only barely got her feet underneath her in time to keep from falling on her butt. They were gaining the attention of the others around them, so Eliot steered Newt away from the rental line. He saw Alex walk away quietly, and make his way over to the carousel, which Newt seemed to have forgotten about.
That was a jackass with a capital J. He could always tell when he was a Jackass, as opposed to a regular jackass. This was one of those times. He probably deserved it, considering that he hadn't called her in over a month.
"I-uh-I didn't know I was coming until yesterday. I haven't even called Emma."
"Emma doesn't know you're coming? You haven't seen your sister in how long, and you didn't tell her you were coming for Christmas?"
The swat to the back of the head was a surprise, and he reached out and grabbed her hand by instinct. He let it go almost immediately when he felt the other hand hover threateningly over certain sensitive body parts. She would do it, too. And she did have a point. Emma might do more than smack him for showing up unannounced after purposely avoiding her for four years.
"So Eliot, where are you staying?" Alex asked as he rejoined them, Newt's suitcase in hand.
"I'm gonna find a hotel." Even he wouldn't dare think of showing up out of the blue at his sister's and expect to be housed. He actually had much better manners than Sophie accused him of having. His mamma had raised him right, after all. His stepfather on the other hand….well, there was a reason the family moved to Kentucky when he was fourteen.
"That's ridiculous, El. Come stay at the house with us."
He looked to Alex for approval when Newt made the offer. The man had become something of a surrogate father to him; it was Willie Martin and Alex Newton that he credited with making him any sort of a decent man, but even after twenty years, he was still uncomfortable as the focus of the older man's attention, which he would undoubtedly be if he stayed with them. Added to that was the fact that once Newt and Emma hit twelve, all invitations to stay over at their house had been rescinded for the guy six years their senior.
"You can have the other guest room, Eliot. Come with us."
Newt was nodding at him, mouthing "say yes" while he stood, mute and undecided. He didn't snap out of his thought until she was snapping her fingers in front of his face. He looked over at Alex, who was waiting for an answer, and the older man nodded at him.
He let Newt steer him out of the baggage claim, following Alex to the parking lot. Thankfully they didn't have to climb any stairs; Alex managed to find a spot on the main floor. In no time their luggage was in the trunk and Eliot was climbing into the backseat. Newt glanced back as they pulled onto the main highway; Eliot was already asleep.
Forty five minutes later, the car pulled up to the house. While her stepfather grabbed the bags from the trunk, Newt climbed into the back seat, unbuckling Eliot's seatbelt and lightly smacking his face.
"Alright Sleeping Beauty, wake up."
Eliot woke up to light slaps on his cheeks, and groggily reach out, catching Newts hand in his own.
"Stop it before I turn you over my knee."
She only laughed at the threat, which had him growling, which only had her laughing harder.
"Honey, right now I'm not sure I'd bet on you fighting your way out of a wet paper bag. You're exhausted, so get your ass out of the car and get moving, and we'll get you into a real bed."
That sounded good to him. He let Newt hoist him out of the back seat and leaned slightly on her as they made their way up the steps of the wraparound porch. The long flights were catching up with him now that he knew he was somewhere he didn't have to be constantly vigilant. Unable to completely stop himself, he did notice that he was walking into a large farmhouse, and he was surrounded by open land. While this would be peaceful, it was also something of a security nightmare. It was a good thing he was on vacation, and no one, not even Sophie, knew where he was. If no one knew where he was, he was pretty safe.
Newt pulled him up the stairs, and he noticed that Alex was walking in front of them, until they came to a stop at a door that Alex pushed open. Newt walked him halfway in, and let go when he started to collapse on the bed.
"At least take your shoes off, El."
His response was to extend his middle finger in what he thought was Newt's general direction. The chuckle from two adults told him that he must have been in the general vicinity. With the light turned off and the door closed, a soft glow coming from the corner revealed a small night light. Good. He tended to have fewer flashbacks if he wasn't in the complete dark. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.
He woke up to the smell of coffee, and pancakes. Yeah, those were pancakes, not waffles. And sausage, if his sense of smell was correct. There was no burning smell accompanying the scent, so it couldn't be Newt cooking. The woman could do many things, including crack open a chest and massage a heart back into beating, but cooking was not among her skills. It must be Alex.
The sun wasn't very high outside, but it was definitely past dawn. He looked over at his the clock on the bedside table. It was nearly 8am. He'd been asleep for fourteen hours? Impossible. He never slept more than a few hours a night. Still, he was reasonably certain the clock was correct, so he must have actually done it.
Not wanting to go back to sleep, Eliot changed into fresh clothes and combed his hair before making his way downstairs. He found Alex in the kitchen, but no trace of Newt. The older man said nothing to him, but handed him a cup of coffee in greeting. Eliot took it gratefully, and sipped it.
"Victoria's out in the stable, feeding the horses. Breakfast will be ready in about five minutes. Have a seat."
"You need any help? I'm pretty good around the kitchen."
"I've got it, just have a seat."
Now that he was awake, he took a good look at his surroundings as he took a seat at the kitchen table. His assessment from yesterday hadn't changed; this would be a nightmare to try to lock down. He'd need at least a week to prepare if he was going to move to a place like this. It would never work as a safe house.
Apart from that fact, though, the Christmas decorations were everywhere. Garlands were up along the walls, and he was pretty sure he passed a Christmas tree on his blurred journey inside yesterday. Candle holders and stockings covered every available surface, but none of it was gaudy, or overly tacky. It reminded him of the Newton house in Kentucky, decorated on December 1st, every year. Way more Christmas decorations than would ever be found in the Spencer house, but always tasteful.
He looked up when Alex slid a plate of food and silverware in front of him, and sat down across from him with his own plate.
"Thanks. You too."
They ate in silence for a few minutes, before Alex decided to speak.
"We're going over to Emma and Jason's for Christmas dinner. Around twelve thirty, so the kids can watch the parade and open their presents, and we can actually eat in peace. "
"I didn't hear you screaming last night."
Eliot was pretty sure his mouth was hanging open at that statement. Alex just gave him a level stare.
"You didn't really think you could hide anything from me, did you? Retired Fed, remember?"
He didn't know what to say to that. He'd stopped any questions of what he did for a living with his "I was in the army" statement, and left it at that. He certainly hadn't told Alex Newton that he was a retrieval specialist, and he was pretty damn sure that Newt hadn't, either.
"I- I don't-"
"Look, Spencer, I may not know exactly what you do with yourself now that you're out of the military. But I know that it's ended up with my daughter having to patch you up a number of times, and that you were connected enough with criminals like Julian Santiago to get her the hell out of here when she desperately needed to get away. And I know that whatever you do, that could include all of that, will also include nightmares, flashbacks, and some pretty bad memories. As long as Victoria doesn't get hurt, we're okay."
"I would never do anything to put her in harm's way."
"If I didn't know that, you wouldn't be staying with us right now."
They both shut up at the sound of the back door opening, and the woman in question walked in, sniffing loudly and appreciatively. She looked more relaxed than Eliot had seen her in awhile, with her cheeks and nose red from the cold as she pulled off her gloves, rubbing her hands together as she stamped her feet.
"Alright you two. It's Christmas Day. Keep the pissing matches for tomorrow."
"We were just having a friendly discussion, and doing some catching up," Alex answered her calmly. She looked to Eliot for confirmation of that before filling a plate for herself and sitting at the table beside him, a glass of milk in her hand instead of coffee. The talk turned to the horses in the stable and the year round operation of the farm, until they were all finished with their food. Clean up was left to the younger people, and they made quick work of loading the dishwasher and throwing out the trash, so that it was only a few minutes before Newt was pushing Eliot into the living room.
He was right. There was a tree that was at least ten feet tall, displayed against the front windows. Decorated from tip to trunk in garland, lights, and ornaments. And underneath it were piled gifts, wrapped in paper ranging from plaid to cartoon reindeer. You'd think half a dozen children lived here instead of a widowed FBI retiree. And Eliot had always thought it was Newt's mom who had done the decorating.
Newt directed Eliot to a chair, and started passing out gifts. He was surprised when gifts started landing in his lap and not in the piles for Newt or Alex. She couldn't have known he would be there. He set the packages down on the floor and sprinted up the stairs to his room. He had a couple of gifts to give himself, picked up while traveling. He'd expected to have to find time to go up to Boston and give them to her. Now was an even better time to do so.
He pulled out his duffle bag, and after a moment of searching found the packages he was looking for, and quickly headed down the stairs. Newt and Alex were already opening packages when he made it back to his seat. He handed Newt her gifts before he started to open the ones with his name on them. A set of chef's knives, a new watch, and half a dozen books that he'd mentioned at some point during their conversations. All things more personal than anything he'd received last Christmas from the crew he worked with, and far more precious.
He looked over to see that Newt had opened the first box, and pulled out the silver and sapphire necklace from the Marrakech market, staring at him. It took the clearing of Alex's throat to break the stare, and Eliot looked away, self-conscious. The gift didn't mean what Alex thought, it wasn't—he wasn't making a move on the man's daughter. He wasn't suicidal. He just knew that Newt would like it.
"It's beautiful, El. Thank you."
The second box was opened immediately, and she nearly squealed in delight when she pulled out the shawl. Hand woven in a shade of pale blue and bordered in gold embroidery, it just screamed Victoria Newton. He'd known it was right the moment he saw it. He was glad to see that his choices had been correct. It made hauling them around with him while he was still in the process of a retrieval worth the trouble.
"Alright, there's still a lot of work to do before we head over to Emma's, and we have to leave in two hours. Eliot, you can ride the fence rail with me. There's a section that needs to be checked."
Eliot was nervous. More nervous than he could ever remember feeling. He was standing outside his sister's front door, and he wanted nothing more than to turn around and run in the opposite direction.
"I don't think this is such a good idea."
"You can't chicken out now."
Newt grabbed him by the coat sleeve to make sure he didn't move, when Alex rang the doorbell. He heard the thud that accompanied a child running, and all too soon the door was opened by a little boy who had the same piercing blue eyes he saw every time he looked in the mirror. The boy stared at him curiously, not saying anything. Eliot stared back, unable to speak past the lump suddenly in residence in his throat.
"Hey there, squirt."
Newt was smiling at the child, who launched himself at her, shyness suddenly gone. She picked him up so that he was eye level with her, and he threw his arms around her.
"Are Tory and Uncle Alex here, Chris?"
That was Emma's voice. Emma was walking to the door; he could hear her footsteps. Any second now and she would be there. Eliot fought the urge to bolt.
"And a stranger!" the boy yelled back at his mother.
"Why are you standing outside? Come on in," Emma called before reaching the door. The boy backed away to let them enter, and Alex immediately ducked into the house, picking the child up and tossing him over a shoulder. Newt stepped in after, but stopped when she met resistance from Eliot, who stood unmoving. She looked back at him, and tugged on his arm.
"Come on, El. Too late to turn back now."
She pulled on his arm again, pulling him through the door just as Emma reached it. The younger girl stared at him, looking as if she'd seen a ghost.
"Eliot? It's really you?"
He finally remembered the bag of gifts in his hand, and shoved them at her.
"I got these, for Chris. And for you."
She took the bag, and stared at her brother a minute longer, before hauling back and punching him in the face.
"Four years? Four years, I hear nothing from you, and now you just show up?"
He lifted a hand to his face. He could already feel the black eye beginning to form. She still had good aim, he was glad to see that his lessons had stuck. She was glaring at him, doing a fine job of looking furious, until she burst into tears and threw herself at him, the bag falling forgotten to the floor. He caught her, and pulled her into a crushing hug, feeling tears pooling in his own eyes. He'd stayed away to keep her safe. People looking for him wouldn't find any connection to Victoria Newton, so Newt was save, but Emma, Emma they could find if they went looking. He stayed away so that they would have no reason to look. But he'd missed her. God, how he'd missed his sister.
"Mommy? Are you crying? Did he make you cry?"
The boy had come back into the hallway, and Eliot vaguely heard him running further into the house, yelling for his father.
"Daddy, the strange man is making Mommy cry!"
Heavier, hurried footfalls at that announcement, and the sounds of Newt intercepting Jason. Hushed voices, and then the siblings were left alone in the foyer.
"What the hell's wrong with you?" Emma asked as she finally leaned back, wiping her eyes.
"I'm sorry I didn't—I—it wasn't safe—"
"Oh, shut up and get inside."
She kept a hand looped through his arm as she guided him into the house. Newt and Alex were already seated with drinks, the bag of gifts at Newt's feet. Chris was staring at the packages that had already fallen out, as was Jason's daughter, oh what was her name? Casey, maybe? She was three the last time he saw her, right after his nephew was born. They were both staring at that bag and those brightly wrapped packages as if Santa Claus had just made a second trip. Jason was sitting on a kitchen stool, one eye on the living room, and one on the food. He stood when he saw the siblings enter.
"Everything alright now?"
"Everything's fine. Chris, this is your uncle, Eliot."
The boy looked up at that. He'd heard of his Uncle Eliot before. He stood up and approached the strange man who made his mommy cry, looking up at this man he'd never seen before.
That was apparently all that was needed for the boy to hurl himself at Eliot, and wrap tightly onto his legs. Emma released him to check on the food, and announced that dinner was ready. Eliot picked up the boy who was clinging to him like a leach and carried him into the dining room, where an extra place had been set for him. It took a bit of wrangling, but finally everyone was seated, and the plates were distributed. It took a moment for Eliot to notice that the plates had been passed out, but no one was filling them. He looked around when Newt kicked him under the table, and he saw the adults looking to Chris, and folding their hands. That boy bowed his head and started singing the blessing. Only when he said "Amen" did they begin filling plates and eating.
"Emma, that was wonderful," Alex complimented nearly an hour later, when they finally finished eating. It was a statement agreed with unanimously, if the groans of the adults sitting around the table were anything to go by. Chris and Casey, with all the energy and focus that only young children possess, immediately returned to the living room and the pile of gifts waiting for them. They protested when Emma made them wait until the kitchen was cleaned up, but she was firm, and they couldn't find anyone who would overrule her.
When all the adults were finally seated, the children were finally given permission to open their gifts, and they pounced. Paper and bows flew, sailing across the room as they opened package after package; some from Newt and Alex, and a number from Eliot. He could feel Emma's eyes on him as they watched the orgy of greed, along with Newt's, and he tried not to fidget. His eyes kept drifting to his sister as well; after four years away, he wanted to just stare at her. The two children throwing themselves into him, and he could barely make out expressions of gratitude in their garbled speech as they talked over each other. He narrowly missed a kick to the groin a number of times as both children's limbs flew in odd angles as they competed with each other in trying to hug him.
"Alright you two, get down before you kill him. He might want kids of his own someday," Jason ordered as he pulled them off and set them on the ground. They eagerly returned to playing with their new acquisitions, while one of the adults (Eliot didn't notice who it was) started A Christmas Story. He settled back into the couch as Ralphie stared through the storefront at his coveted BB gun, and felt Emma curl up beside him. He could get used to this, if he had to.
It was dark by the time they were bundled into coats and leaving the house. Emma stopped Eliot on the porch, pulling him into an embrace he would find it difficult to extract himself from.
"Don't you dare disappear for four years again, Eliot. You understand me? Not again."
He wanted to argue that he would do whatever it took to keep his baby sister and her family safe, but at the look in her eye, he stopped. It had been hard on him, too. He wasn't ready to cut himself off again. Maybe that was why he'd come out to begin with, because he'd had enough.
"I promise, Em. Not again."
She let him go only to pull Newt into a quick hug.
"Thank you for bringing him back, Tory. You make sure he keeps his promise."
"Of course. Merry Christmas, Em."
Another tight hug was required before they could climb into the car and make the drive back to the Newton house. As soon as they arrived Newt was on her way back to the stables to take care of the horses, and Alex pulled Eliot inside with him.
"You, and Victoria."
Oh lord, the man was bringing up this morning? Or something else?
"We're not—I know that—"
"Shut up a minute Eliot."
The younger man did as he was told, and Alex pushed him into the chair.
"The two of you have this—connection. I've never understood it, but I've always known it was there. Hell, you were the one who brought her back to herself after Ryan died. I couldn't have done that. I hoped it would have gone away by now, but I think it's just gotten stronger over time, and it's pissed me off because I know your life is dangerous. But she loves you, I can see that. Even if she's not 'in love' with you, any more than you are with her. Don't you dare disappear on her like you did on your sister, or I swear to God I will hunt you down and kill you."
The fact that he said it so deadpan, so matter-of-fact, was what told Eliot that he meant it.
"I was tryin' to keep Emma safe. Anyone comin' after me could find Emma, because she's my sister. It would be a hell of a lot harder for 'em to find Newt. I won't disappear on her."
"I'm glad we understand each other. I don't want to see either of you hurt. Tell Victoria I went to bed early, and I'll see you both in the morning."
Eliot didn't know what to say to that, so he settled for good night. Alex left him standing in the living room as he made his way up the stairs. He stopped at the top, as if a new thought had just occurred to him.
"One more thing."
"Her clothes had better still be on her when I open your door tomorrow morning."
Alright, he didn't even want to know how the other man knew that he and Newt often shared a bed when he visited her. He just acknowledged the warning for what it was. A few minutes later, the woman in question entered the house to find him still staring at the stairwell.
"He went to bed early."
Newt looked from the stairwell to him, then back.
"Oh God, what did he say to you?"
"It was nothin' darlin'."
"'Nothing' my ass."
"Really, he didn't say anything. It's alright. I'm pretty tired too, think I'm gonna head to bed myself."
"You're tired? You just slept for fourteen hours, and you're tired."
Eliot just nodded. He didn't really need to say anything else. It was almost 9pm, and there wasn't anything he wanted to do tonight, so he would be happy to just curl up in bed.
He went up to his room and changed into his sweats and t-shirt, leaving his door open. Sure enough, Newt was there in less than five minutes, in her own pajamas. She immediately shut the door, and turned out the lights before climbing into the bed and curling up beside him. He lifted his arm so that she could slide in and rest her head on his shoulder, and he pulled her up against him.
"When do you have to go back to Boston?"
"Julian doesn't come back from Mallorca until after the first of the year, so I'm free until then," she muttered sleepily. "What about you? When do you have to go back?"
"I leave for Pakistan again at the end of January."
"You really should come see me in Boston. I just bought a house. I'll need help with the heavy lifting."
"Yeah, I just bet you do."
"I mean it," she murmured. He could tell that she was nearly falling asleep herself. "You should come out again. You should move out there. You can find plenty of people on the East coast who could use your brand of help."
"Maybe I'll think about it when I get back."
He dropped a kiss on her hair as they both started to drift off to sleep. Alex was right: they did love each other. Maybe they weren't "in love". This wasn't about sex, or overwhelming passion. But then, they didn't have to fit into the definitions of a "normal" relationship. They were Eliot and Newt. And that was enough.
"Merry Christmas, El."
"Merry Christmas, darlin'."