A/N: So, I just had the idea of putting Newt's adopted father and Nate Ford in the same place at the same time, and this is what came of it. Reviews are always appreciated.
"This is a really bad idea."
This was actually the worst idea in the history of bad ideas, but Eliot probably wouldn't want to hear it. He'd been up since midnight cooking half a pig and Newt knew he wouldn't take too kindly to having a huge fight during his barbecue. Still, having Nate anywhere near Alex? Bad idea.
"It'll be fine. I won't kill him. Maybe."
"Not exactly reassuring, Dad."
For the first time in what had to be seven years, they weren't going away somewhere for Labor Day. By some miracle, Julian decided to take an actual holiday since his legitimate businesses were closed for the weekend, which meant she actually had the weekend to herself. And somehow, Eliot was actually free to cook.
Since the news had come too late to change her plans and actually go down to Virginia, Alex had elected to still come up for the weekend. One look at his room was enough to tell him it was actually Eliot's, and the glare the younger man received had been pretty intimidating, on a number of levels. Damn it, hadn't he already told the man he wasn't having sex with his daughter? Seriously, shouldn't the man be more concerned that he didn't have his own room when he spent so much time here?
"Coffee's on the stove," Eliot told the older man. Newt might have abandoned him about three a.m. to get some sleep, but she'd kept the coffee maker stocked so that he could keep going the whole night through, and even put on a fresh pot this morning once she woke back up. Considering that she couldn't stand coffee, it was a pretty decent gesture on her part.
He still wasn't sure whose idea it had been to have everyone come over for a big cookout. He thought it might have been Parker, after he told her he wasn't cooking for her this weekend. She'd pouted, and threatened to break into the house if he didn't feed her. And of course, once Hardison heard the words "food" and "Eliot" in the same sentence, there was apparently no more discussion, and it was a decided event. Somehow they were now assembling at Newt's house, and the others were even bringing stuff.
Alex waited until Eliot was outside checking on the pig to take a good look at his daughter. She looked more stressed than she should, even in her current occupation as a private physician to a known criminal. He didn't doubt that it was largely due to this hastily planned "family" barbecue that would put him and Nate Ford under the same roof for a day. Ford had never been high on his list of people he liked, considering that he got a girl pregnant and then couldn't even take responsibility for it , but he'd easily dropped to the list of people Alex hated seven years ago. He was still considering placing a call to some of his former colleagues and having the man arrested, now that he'd turned thief (a fact revealed when she accidentally let slip that Eliot was working for him). He was honestly surprised that Spencer hadn't already seriously injured the man, or that he could even stand to work with him.
"How is it Spencer hasn't already killed him?"
It was a question that had been bugging him ever since he learned Spencer was working for Ford. The younger man had an itchy trigger finger, according to the reports he'd gotten not too long after Eliot spent Christmas with them. The man who liberated Croatia after his ex-girlfriend married another man wouldn't just sit by when someone as close to him as Victoria was hurt as badly as she was. He couldn't imagine that Spencer would not go after the man responsible, however unintentionally, for what Victoria had gone through.
To say that the reports his former colleagues gave him only made him worry even more for Victoria was an understatement. The Eliot Spencer Victoria knew now was completely unrecognizable as the young man she'd grown up with. This one was a killer, pure and simple.
"He doesn't know. And I plan to keep it that way. He doesn't need to know, Dad."
"How does he not know?"
He ignored the half glare she gave him over her glass of milk, and sipped his coffee.
"Because, it happened long before he went to work with this crew, and I don't see any reason to drag it back up. They're actually doing some good here, from what I've seen."
The back door opened again to let Eliot back in, and Alex dropped the subject. If Victoria didn't want to tell Spencer just why Ryan was on that plane, well, it wasn't his place to do so. Instead, he made himself at home in the kitchen that was clearly not his daughter's domain, and pulled down the makings for breakfast. With so much food this afternoon, he wouldn't cook much, but he considered it only fair to make breakfast, since Spencer was cooking everything else.
"You don't have to cook, Dad."
"Since Spencer's cooking everything for lunch, and I'm not eating your cooking, I'd say I do."
Both men ignored the protests at that pronouncement. Her cooking ability or complete lack thereof was well documented and undeniable. The fire when she was fifteen was still used as a cautionary lesson in her high school's cooking classes. Alex just ordered her to stay out of the way as he went about making a light breakfast for all of them.
Nate climbed out of the car and looked up at the house with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Parker was already bounding up to the front door of the house, a tray of Rice Krispy Treats in her hands. She'd been talking about this barbecue for the past two days, excited enough to look up the recipe for the dessert and actually make it, sacrificing her cereal to do it. Hardison followed closely behind her, his Nana's famous potato salad carefully wrapped to safeguard it from a hyper Parker.
The only person missing was Sophie, and the simple fact that she was gone was reason enough for him to not want anything to do with a large Labor Day gathering. It couldn't rightly be called a "family" gathering when a very important part of that family was off God only knew where. He was determined to go after her if she didn't come to her senses and come back to them in another week. This whole "saying goodbye to Sophie Deveraux" thing was complete crap. She was who she was, regardless of what name she went by, and it was time she accepted that. The team accepted her exactly as she was, just as she did for them, and that should be all she needed. Running off to find herself, or whatever the hell she was doing, wasn't an answer.
He was surprised to see Parker actually ring the doorbell, instead of waltzing right in. He hadn't expected that she would realize what that button was for. Her people skills were improving. He followed slowly inside the house when the door opened and Eliot ushered them all inside.
This could be a very bad idea. Victoria's adopted father was a retired FBI agent; not exactly the best person to have dinner with a bunch of thieves. Retired didn't always mean retired, and they were on every government watch list. Not to mention the fact that he was fairly certain Newton blamed him, and rightly, for Ryan Seccombe's death, just like Victoria did. He wasn't too surprised when Eliot stopped him from following the others through the house.
"Nate. I'm telling you the same thing I told Alex this morning. I don't know why he has such a problem with you, and I don't care. But you leave it at the door today, you got that?"
"I got it."
He followed Eliot through to the kitchen, and set down the rolls he'd brought. Victoria was pouring drinks, and he noticed that there was no alcohol. He'd expected Eliot to at least have a beer, but the younger man had a plastic cup, just like Parker and Hardison. He had a sneaking suspicion that he was the reason it was a dry party.
"There's soda and sweet tea, Nate. What would you like?"
It was only after Nate took his drink that he moved outside, and got his first look at Alex Newton in the flesh. He'd never met the man before, only seen him in photos that Victoria's mother sent over the years. He and Carol were far too young when they got pregnant, and they would have ended up killing each other if they'd tried to stay together, but occasionally over the years he'd wondered if they'd have been able to make it work. It wasn't easy to see evidence of Alex Newton occupying the place in Victoria's life that should have been his. Especially when this was now his only child.
Something in the other man's stance just screamed "Federal Agent". And it wasn't just the glare directed his way. Eliot would say it was a very distinctive stance, or something. The man just looked as if he would love to throw each and every one of them into prison.
"Nice weather today."
"Should be clear all day. You have a nice flight from Virginia?"
Yeah, this was going to be awkward.
Newt kept a close eye on both men as she carried out the plates and cutlery. She'd overheard Eliot warning both of them to behave themselves. Hopefully they would listen. She didn't really want to have to patch anyone up today, she was off the clock. Parker and Hardison were wandering, almost obliviously, around the house and yard, and Newt was almost afraid that the thief would drop the Rice Krispy Treats she'd worked so hard to make. Parker's first words to her had been "I made these. Really. They're actually fresh, not stolen." From what Eliot said, Parker's talents in the kitchen weren't much better than her own, so it was an accomplishment for her to make anything.
"Parker, why don't you put those on the table, that way they'll be safe?"
The picnic table was a new addition to the back yard, picked up only after it was decided that this lovely event was actually taking place. It was big enough to seat everyone easily, which was a definite plus, but Newt had no idea what she would do with it once this was over. She wasn't exactly planning on doing a lot of entertaining. The tablecloth was thankfully not checkered, or striped, or any of the other increasingly silly designs she'd seen when looking for one, but a simple, respectable light green, and easy to clean.
Surprisingly, they managed to get all the food on the table without an incident. It wasn't long before Eliot was announcing that the pig was ready, and he stepped back from the cooker. The rule was simple: he cooked, but everyone had to pull their own meat off the carcass.
Parker's expression was the most priceless. She looked completely floored, as if she was only just realizing that cooking half a pig meant there really was half of a dead animal on the grill.
"Uh-uh. That thing still has half a face."
"It's dead, Parker. It can't hurt you, just pull the meat off."
"Uh-uh. I'm not touching that."
"You don't have to touch it Parker. That's what the meat fork is for."
Eliot was growling, which meant he was getting annoyed, but Parker held her ground. She was not taking apart a little piggy! Newt choked back a giggle at that announcement, especially once Hardison started pulling meat off for the thief and put it on her plate. What followed was twenty minutes of mass confusion and movement as everyone tried to maneuver between the cooker that held their meat and the rest of the food, and then make it to their seats without losing anything. It didn't escape Nate's notice that Victoria was seated almost protectively between Eliot and Alex Newton. Nor did he miss the look Alex gave him as they sat down, though his direction almost immediately after was directed at Parker. He did, however, miss the look Eliot gave him as he gave his attention to his plate.
It was a strange collection of people that Alex Newton found himself eating dinner with. He knew their faces, these people Victoria was associating with. He knew their crimes, almost by heart, so many times had he re-read the reports he'd gotten from not only the FBI but the CIA and even Interpol after he'd discovered his daughter's involvement with them. They were a "who's who" of their particular specialties—even Ford, and he'd only been involved in criminal activity for little more than a year. What did didn't know was their character, their behavior. This was what he was trying to understand about the people that he knew his daughter called friends, and was his primary motivation for accepting the invitation to come up for Labor Day. He hadn't expected to spend so much time with all of them at once, but he wasn't passing up the opportunity to observe them all.
Alex found Parker to be possibly the most dizzying person he'd ever encountered. The young woman didn't seem able to keep still for any length of time. Even when eating, she was constantly moving, either reaching for her drink, or the platters of food, or simply swaying from side to side, and leaning on Mr. Hardison. He was positive the woman had ADHD, and was simply never tested or properly medicated. Especially since most of the motion seemed to be compulsive, rather than deliberate.
As he took in the small conversations taking place between her and Hardison, he also had to wonder at her mental processes. She certainly wasn't a "normal" person. He better understood why Eliot said there was something wrong with her. It was probably what gave her such moral flexibility that she didn't seem to consider stealing wrong. He wasn't so ungenerous as to believe, after finding out about her time in the foster system that failed her, that she hadn't originally started stealing to survive, but the woman was now certainly rich enough that survival was no longer an issue. No, he suspected that now her thefts were more for enjoyment of the theft than anything else.
Alec Hardison was something of a surprise. He'd only received a list of the young man's many crimes, not a full report, so to see a young man who couldn't be more than twenty three at the most sitting at the table, knowing all the illegal things he'd accomplished, was quite unexpected. The young man should be terrorizing the young women on a college campus, not gracing the pages of the "most wanted" lists of nearly every government agency. How did a geek (there was just no other word for it, even if he could just picture the outrage on McDonough's face at the term) like Hardison end up a criminal?
His obvious devotion to the seemingly oblivious thief beside him was entertaining. He didn't need to read files to see that the younger man was obviously smitten with the girl. It was obvious, to everyone but her. That was probably a good thing, though. Alex feared what kind of offspring would come if those two ever reproduced together.
There was one person missing from this motley crew though. The con artist, the woman who went by the name Sophie Deveraux, was not among them. Victoria hadn't mentioned anything about a rift, but he had to wonder what happened that the woman wasn't there. Especially since she and Ford had some sort of tangled relationship, according to his daughter.
Nate Ford. There was a person he would happily see rotting in a cell, if he could manage it. Alex still wasn't certain what sent a man from recovering stolen items to becoming a thief himself, but he would bet it had something to do with the death of his son. Tragic story, that was. Still, that didn't absolve the man of the things he did before his son died, and that was why Alex hated him.
And Spencer….Spencer was special. Hardened killer the man might be now, Alex couldn't forget the boy who'd moved next door so many years ago, or the young man who'd watched over two girls six years his junior without complaint. He couldn't forget how devoted the grown man was to Victoria, or what he'd done for her, and how devoted she was to him. No, Alex knew that even if by some miracle he had the opportunity to see all of these people pay for their crimes, he would leave Eliot Spencer out of the lineup.
Newt was now officially worried. Someone, and she didn't know who as she'd been too involved in the clean-up process, had decided that the afternoon required a football game. In her back yard. It was a complete surprise to come back outside and see all of the dirty dishes piled on the tiny back porch, and the two younger men moving the picnic table as far out of the way as it could be moved. She didn't want to know where they'd gotten a football from, considering that she knew Eliot didn't keep one in the house. When she saw one of the small bolster pillows she normally kept on the couch in place of an actual football, she knew this could get ugly.
"Eliot, if you ruin that pillow, I will murder you," she warned him in a whispered hiss as he gave her a sheepish grin, before practically running off to join the other males. Parker opened her mouth as if to ask a question, but closed it again before any words came out. Newt was glad the blonde had changed her mind.
When the teams divided up, with Alex and Eliot against Nate and Hardison, she went for her medic bag, sure that this could only end in bloodshed. Giving Alex and excuse to bodily tackle Nate? Bad idea.
She considered it a minor miracle that, hours later, she was waving Nate, Parker and Hardison out the door. No one had ended up needing medical intervention, and they managed to get everyone out the door easily, which was good, since she was completely exhausted, and she knew Eliot had to be in worse shape, considering that he'd been up the entire night cooking for everyone. She was ready to call it a night, and it wasn't even 8pm.
"Alex, when do you go back to Virginia?"
"Wednesday. You have any plans for tomorrow?"
"Not currently. Was there something in particular you wanted to do ?"
"Just see the city."
They managed to continue pretty mundane conversation for almost an hour before she was finally forced to concede to her exhaustion and say goodnight. She doubted Eliot would stay over tonight, unless he stayed on the couch. True, Alex was staying in Eliot's room as the other guest room wasn't furnished yet (and she really needed to get around to doing that), but he knew that they shared a bed. He'd given her a hard time about it after Christmas. And he knew that nothing would come of it. Still, if Eliot actually joined her in the sinfully large bed while her father was under the same roof, she would be surprised.
She was looking forward to playing the part of a tourist tomorrow. She was pretty certain that in her almost four years here, she'd done little to nothing that could be called "touristy". It should be pretty fun. As she changed into her pajamas, she caught a whiff of her clothes and winced. She was pretty ure her house would smell like pig for the next several days.