A/N: Okay, so I was in the mood for another holiday one-shot, so here you go. I fully intended to have this up on the 4th, but my free time ended up not being my own. Reviews are always loved, especially for these short ones.
Eliot looked around the beach house. It looked exactly as he remembered it. He was standing in front of the house, not two hundred yards from the ocean, and it looked perfect. He'd been away far too long.
"Mr. Russell! No one told me you were coming!"
He really had been away too long; he almost didn't answer the young woman who only barely avoided dropping the bags she carried at the sight of him. He didn't use the Russell alias, apart from this island.
"The house isn't ready, Mr. Russell! I haven't had a chance to stock the kitchen for you, or to replace the linens!"
He had to struggle for a moment as Oksana's accent thickened in her haste to explain the state of the house. Her English was very good, but she tended to slip into Russian when troubled or upset. And she would be most upset at failing to have Ethan Russell's house up to her standards before his arrival. Eliot almost shook his head. He would bet gold that the linens were pristine, considering that she changed them every Wednesday like clockwork. And he could care less about whether the kitchen was stocked. He liked to cook, true, but Hatteras village boasted a number of excellent locally owned restaurants. He could easily have food delivered to the house.
"It's fine, Oksana. I'm sure everything's fine."
The best thing about this place was that no one knew he was here. No one knew about Ethan Russell; it wasn't one of the aliases Hardison created for him, and it wasn't one that Nate had ever chased. He walked up the steps and pushed the door open, Oksana trailing behind him.
"The place looks great, Oksana. Really, it's fine."
The living room was open, with a bar dividing it from the kitchen, and Eliot could practically smell the cleaning products used to keep it dust-free. How the woman could protest that nothing was ready when the furniture was a pristine ivory was beyond him. It looked like a model house that the realtors showed off for the tourists who rented vacation homes here.
"Is Mrs. Russell not joining you this weekend, Mr. Russell?"
"She's gettin' in at four."
He had an hour before he had to drive out to Norfolk.
"Very good. I'll stock the kitchen while you're gone."
She was already on her way out the door before he could tell her not to bother. Oh well. It would be one less thing for him to have to do before driving out to Virginia. He wouldn't cook tonight, they'd just stop somewhere on the way back.
Looking around, he shrugged out of his jacket and tossed it up on the coat rack. The invitation from Sophie fell out of the pocket, and he picked it up off the floor. The play opened in a couple of days, but he wasn't sure yet whether he'd go. While he wouldn't mind making the trip up to Boston and spending a few more days with Newt, he didn't know how he felt about seeing the others. And he knew he'd have a good chance of running into them. He'd decide over this weekend, after he took a much needed break.
He saw her standing outside the terminal, her single bag slung over one shoulder. He bit back a growl at the fact that she was standing so exposed. He'd taught her better than that. She didn't see him yet, so he took the opportunity to sneak up behind her, and grabbed her bag. She swung around, fist already flying directly at his face, and she only barely pulled back in time to keep from hitting him.
"El, you—I swear I'm going to hurt you one of these days!"
"Not very likely, darlin'."
He took her bag from her and guided her in the direction of the car as he asked about her flight. He studied her as she talked; taking his first good look at her in six months. He thought she looked a bit tired, but otherwise pretty good. It probably wouldn't take her too long to nod off once he started driving. They had over ninety miles to go, after all. Plenty of time for her to take a nap.
He was right; she was out before he even made it to the main highway. She didn't wake up when he stopped at a restaurant to pick up dinner. She didn't even wake up when he pulled up to the house. She must have been more tired than he thought. Had something happened that she hadn't told him about? Working for Julian, that wouldn't be surprising. Or it could also be the time of year, and the upcoming anniversary. Whatever the reason, it would be a crying shame to wake her up now. Climbing out of the car, Eliot walked around to the passenger side and lifted Newt out, then carried her into the house. Oksana had obviously come back while he was gone; the bed was already turned down. He laid the sleeping woman on the bed, and pulled the sheet up over her after he removed her shoes.
Newt woke to the sound of waves crashing on the surf. Not a bad way to wake up, really. But had she really slept so late? She remembered Eliot picking her up from the airport, and nodding off in the car on the way back to the island, but she didn't remember waking up at all after that. That would put her at…..she hated calculating anything in the morning…..seventeen hours. She couldn't remember the last time she'd slept so long.
The next thing she noticed was the smell of breakfast coming from the kitchen. If her nose wasn't misleading her, she smelled cornbread. The scent was enough to get her out of bed, and she changed her clothes in record time to make her way out to the kitchen.
"Good morning." Eliot was standing behind the bar, setting a mug of coffee beside a plate that held massively oversized corn muffins. Two empty place settings were already laid out, and Newt slid onto a barstool. Eliot handed her a mug of her own, and she was pleasantly surprised to discover hot chocolate. She'd never developed the appreciation for coffee that Eliot had. She helped herself to the muffins and the bacon Eliot offered before sliding onto a stool of his own. Breakfast was enjoyed quickly, in a companionable silence that was broken only by the crashing waves and seagulls overhead.
"So what's on the agenda for the 'let's keep Newt so busy she can't see straight' holiday?" she asked as she loaded dishes into the dishwasher. Eliot didn't even deny the accusation.
"I thought maybe we could go up to Buxton, and see the lighthouse, or up to Roanoke. I've booked a boat for the day tomorrow, so today we can go wherever you want."
"Wow. You bring me up to the beach house, plan your entire holiday around my wishes- you know, if I didn't know any better, I'd think you were worried about me," she smiled over at him. "Really, Eliot, I'm okay. It's been seven years. I'm fine."
Either her poker face had improved since he last saw her, or she really was doing much better this time around. Eliot refrained from reminding her that she'd been "fine" last year, up until she found an old sweater of Ryan's buried in her closet, which was the reason for his bringing her out here this year. If she was actually ready to make it through this holiday without breaking down or raging at the world, then more power to her.
"Good. Then you shouldn't have a problem with playing tourist for the day."
"Sounds like a plan. Once we've taken a dip in that water."
The beach, so close, was simply calling her name. Playing tourist sounded good, but not before she got out in that water and went for a good long swim. It had been awhile since she'd been swimming in the ocean instead of a pool.
After about an hour in the water, Newt was finally ready to head up the island and see the sights. She was actually awake for this drive, and she enjoyed the scenery as Eliot drove them up the island. She didn't think she'd ever been to Buxton, and she was excited. She wanted to see the lighthouse. She remembered reading something about it, about how big a controversy the moving of the lighthouse was to the residents. She appreciated wanting to keep the structure where it originally stood, but seriously, they only moved the thing 2900 feet. It didn't leave the island, and now it was far enough away from the shore line that it should be safe for another hundred years or more.
"Good lord, it's enormous."
It was hard to think that anything could manage to destroy such a towering structure, let alone salt water.
"Did you bring the camera, El? I've got to get some photos of this thing."
Eliot handed her the camera without a word, and followed her into the building. The view was definitely worth the 260+ steps required to climb up. Ocean, as far as the eye could see. Newt didn't think she'd ever seen anything so peaceful. It was absolutely beautiful.
The drive up to Manteo was uneventful, but Eliot almost felt bad for unleashing Newt on the unsuspecting townspeople. When that woman decided to play tourist, she could be as unpredictable as Parker. Fortunately there was plenty to keep her occupied here. They'd already spent time in a number of the stores, and strolling around the village letting her take pictures. Dinner was seafood, at the restaurant least crowded with tourists.
His Newt-watching was interrupted by the vibration of his cell phone, and he made sure she was absorbed in watching the drama about the lost colony before he pulled it out and checked the ID. If it was Sophie calling again about her play, he would murder the woman for interrupting his holiday. It was Emma, so he excused himself to answer it.
"Emma? Is something wrong?"
They'd spoken regularly since he went home last Christmas, but she knew where he was and why, so she shouldn't be calling, unless there was an emergency. She knew how far away he was.
"I was just about to ask you that question. How's she holding up?"
"She's doing alright so far. I think she might actually make it through this year."
"You're keeping her busy enough?"
"Yeah, we're doing fine. Is everything alright there?"
"We're good here. Alex is coming over tomorrow to grill and watch the fireworks."
He could hear the sound of children yelling in the background, and hurried his sister off the phone. He didn't want to leave Newt alone too long, and while he loved hearing from Emma, there wasn't much she could tell him other than variations on the "Take Care of Newt" theme. That wasn't anything anyone needed to tell him. He returned to find the woman in question still engrossed in the action on the stage. She would probably fall asleep in the car on the way back again. It had been a long day, for both of them.
"Good morning Mr. Russell! Mrs. Russell! Happy Independence Day!"
Newt let Eliot answer for the both of them, not trusting that she wouldn't say something biting and sarcastic. It really was too early in the morning for anyone to be that chipper. Never mind that it was the 4th of July, it was still a Saturday. Newt would like to have slept in, but the firecrackers had started going off just after dawn. Waking up because Eliot had knocked her out of the bed after hearing what sounded like gunshots wasn't exactly the best way to greet the morning.
She was rather surprised that so many people greeted them as they walked down to the marina. She didn't think Eliot came that often that people remembered what "Ethan Russell" looked like, let alone "Mrs. Russell." She'd only been here three times in six years. The housekeeper she could understand, but the other townspeople? Even with it being a small town-Newt knew that she would never remember someone she'd only barely met so easily, unless they were bleeding on her table.
She was curious to see what Eliot booked for them. To him a boat could mean a yacht or a dinghy. If he took her to a rowboat, she was leaving him at the dock. She wasn't too surprised when Eliot led her to a twenty-five foot yacht.
"Do I want to know how much you paid to have this thing for the whole day?"
"You don't. Just get on."
She did, climbing aboard while he unhooked the rope keeping the boat moored to the dock. Eliot handed her a pair of sunglasses as he backed the boat away from the dock and pulled out onto the ocean. Newt closed her eyes, leaning her head back as the wind whipped across her face and through her hair. It didn't matter where Eliot steered them. She was just enjoying the time on the boat.
She lost track of how long they drove before Eliot finally stopped, and cut off the engine.
"Do you have any idea where we are?"
She couldn't see land anywhere.
"Eh, the island's back that way," Eliot pointed in a general direction as he sprinted down the stairs to drop the anchor. When he didn't immediately come back up, Newt looked down.
He wasn't visible from her point of view, and she had to wonder what he was doing until he came up from below decks a minute later, bearing fishing rods and tackle.
"C'mon down, Newt."
"You expect me to fish?"
The look he gave her was somewhere between exasperation and determination.
"I expect you to get your ass down here now."
"You can't make me!"
And that might have been the wrong thing to say to the man who could kill her with a paperclip. On second thought, she could kill him with a paperclip, too. And she knew he would never actually try to hurt her. No, she could just sit right where she was, and there was nothing Eliot could do to make her change her mind.
"Woman, if you don't get down here now, I'm coming up after you. And if I have to come up there after you, I'm dumping your ass in the ocean."
"You wouldn't dare!"
She decided that moving might be the prudent option when he started up the stairs, the look on his face promising that he would do exactly what he said. Newt darted out of her seat and around him as soon as he was clear of the stairs. He was on her heels in an instant, and caught her before she could actually get below decks. With an arm around her waist, he hauled her to the edge of the boat and tossed her carelessly over the side. She shrieked just before she hit the water, and came up sputtering and cursing.
"Damn it El!"
The Jackass had the nerve to lean over the railing and laugh down at her.
"Aww, poor baby. Did you get a little wet?"
"Eliot Spencer, so help me, I will haul your ass in here with me if you don't help me up this minute!"
"I'd like to see you try it, darlin'."
Newt swam over to the ladder, and hauled herself out of the water. Eliot jogged down the stairs and came back up with a towel, which he handed to her. After wringing out her hair, she used it to scrub her head. Letting the ocean water dry on her scalp-not such a good idea.
"You son of a freakin' goat! I didn't bring any other clothes with me."
"Downstairs in the bedroom. You've got a swimsuit and a change of clothes, so stop your bitchin'."
She chucked the now wet towel at his head, which he wasn't able to completely duck, as she hurried down the steps, and took her first good look at the cabin space. If she ever had to live on a boat, she wanted one like this. It was a house on the water. The bedroom wasn't exactly full sized, but it was separate from the galley and the bathroom, which she noticed had a generously sized shower. The lack of a bathtub could be forgiven since if one lived on this boat, they would be surrounded by water in which they could soak. Unless of course, someone in a wheelchair lived on the boat, in which case a shower was a bad idea. And she really needed to cut out the caffeine first thing in the morning if her thought patterns were going to be so erratic.
She found her bag on the bed. It was easy to tell which one was hers, considering that Eliot's army duffle had most definitely seen better days. After a moment's consideration for the likelihood that she would end up in the ocean again before day's end, she quickly slipped out of the clothes that already clung uncomfortably, and pulled on her swimsuit. He'd managed to grab her sarong, too. Good.
"Took you long enough. You ready to fish?" he asked as she climbed back up the narrow steps.
"Only if you bait the hook. And take them off the line if I actually catch one."
"You're kidding me."
"I'm not touching a live fish. Or a live minnow. It ain't happening, Eliot Spencer."
"You'll spend your days up to your elbows in a person's insides, but you're scared to touch a fish? There's somethin' wrong with you."
"I'm not scared. They're just icky, and slimy. You want me to fish; you're touching them, not me."
He looked like he wanted to make a smart ass comment, but thought better of it. This was good, because if he did get started, Newt was sure she wouldn't hear the end of it. Her refusal to touch a fish did pretty much give him license to mock her for the rest of her life. Instead, he grabbed a fishing rod, and slipped a minnow onto the end of the hook, handing it to her before reaching for his own.
"Your nose is pink."
Newt slapped him lightly in the chest for that remark.
"Thank you Captain Obvious."
Her sunscreen had been applied religiously, but she still managed to burn over the course of the day. She hoped that her nose was the worst of it. True to form, whenever she caught a fish, she'd handed the line to Eliot to remove it. He could make fun of her all he wanted for it, the fact that she caught more fish than he did more than made up for it. Needless to say, the fishing had only lasted a couple of hours before Eliot grew tired of unhooking her fish and re-baiting her line. He opted instead for tethering inner tubes to the back of the boat, and they spent most of the afternoon relaxing in the water. It didn't get much more relaxing than that, in Newt's opinion. She'd almost fallen asleep in the sun, which could have been really bad, given how fair her complexion was. If all she had was a bit of a burn on her nose, she would count herself lucky.
"Make yourself useful and set the table before you hurt yourself in here."
She couldn't really argue with that, when he was the one who'd gutted and filleted their fish, and she really couldn't be trusted around the kitchen, so she grabbed plates and napkins and climbed the steps to the deck. It was a good thing the ocean was so calm today. There wasn't a storm in sight, so they would be able to eat dinner in peace on the deck, instead of in the small living room below. The second trip secured the silverware and glasses, just in time as Eliot came up with dinner ready, steam rising from the hot pan.
He set it down carefully on the trivet before heading below again. He returned with a bottle of wine, and poured it into the glasses while Newt filled the plates with food.
"We'll start heading back once we're done with dinner. They'll start the fireworks once it gets dark."
Newt just nodded her agreement, unable to comment as her mouth was currently occupied with chewing. She just might have to steal Eliot so he could cook for her. The food was superb. And that way he couldn't bitch at her for not eating properly. In less than an hour, they were cleaned up, and making their way back to the island.
They made it back just as the first of the fireworks lit up the sky. Newt jumped at the noise, just before the explosion of color, and latched onto Eliot's arm. Fireworks always made her nervous. She put it down to all of the injuries she had to treat from the idiots who weren't careful with them. She knew exactly what kind of damage they could cause if anything went wrong.
"You're not workin' tonight, so just calm down and watch the show," Eliot not-growled in her ear.
They had the perfect vantage point to watch from. As soon as they docked, Eliot turned out the lights on the deck, so that the only light came from the marina, and the village behind them. Leaning against the railing, they barely had to look up to see the show. It was perfect for watching fireworks.
The docks would be crowded with people trying to watch, but they were alone on the boat. Their view wasn't obstructed by anyone in front of them. They weren't jostled by crowds, or next to crying children.
The only thing that would make this July 4th more perfect would be to have Ryan with her. He loved the fireworks. But that wasn't a possibility, and she refused to wish for something she couldn't have. Not when she still had so much. She still had Eliot, and Emma, and her father. She had a job she loved (even if it did mean occasionally dealing with idiots like Richard Sanford), and she wouldn't trade any of it.
"He wouldn't have wanted you to do this to yourself every year, darlin'."
Her face must have been showing more than she thought. Either that or it was just that Eliot knew her too well. It was probably the latter.
"Really, El, I'm okay. I'm not—I'm okay. I was just thinking that he would have loved this."
"Nah. He would have hated my being here. Or the fact that you're stayin' in my house."
"What the—he would've been fine with it. He liked you."
"He liked me about as much as Aimee liked you, darlin'. He liked me as long as I was hundreds of miles away."
Well, he was right about that. And he knew it, so she didn't bother trying to deny it. Ryan liked Eliot long distance, much like her relationship with Aimee when Eliot had dated the other woman. Neither had really understood the relationship she and Eliot shared, and it had been cause for a few discussions about jealousy and realistic expectations. Still—
"He trusted you, El. He knew you'd be there if anything ever happened to him, that I'd be safe with you."
He surprised her by handing her a sparkler, and she leaned back against him as the darkness in front of them erupted into bursts of gold.
"They really are beautiful tonight."