A/N: Just a little Valentine's Day one shot that popped into my head. I actually meant to get it out on Singles Affirmation Day, but it just didn't happen. It's not like we get that day off or anything. Typical disclaimer applies: I only own what came out of my own head, which does not include Eliot Spencer or Leverage in general. And it should be pretty obvious that this takes place wayyyyyy before Family Ties. Reviews are Love!

Eliot watched the two girls playing in the field. Four months after the move to Kentucky, Emma still hadn't made too many friends, but the Newton girl had attached herself to Emma almost as soon as they moved next door. He still wasn't sure about that girl, but it made Emma happy to have a friend, so he didn't say anything. He just watched them pretty closely when he could.

"Eliot!"

It hadn't taken him long at all to find friends at school. Jocks were pretty much the same everywhere, and while he'd ticked off more than a few seniors by being better than them and going right to the varsity team, it hadn't taken long for some of the underclassmen to set him up as their god. If he'd gotten into a few fights, well, it was hardly his fault when they threw the first punch. At least he didn't lose any of them. It was too bad his dad couldn't feel the same way.

Patrick calling his name had drawn his attention back to the football they were tossing back and forth. Football season was over, but Patrick was one of those Texas kids, for whom football was practically a religion. And he really wanted off the junior varsity team next year. And it wasn't like they really had anything better to do this afternoon, since Eliot was supposed to be keeping an eye on Emma while dad was at work.

Eliot caught the ball and quickly threw it back, smirking as Patrick had to back up to catch it. A few passes later, a scream caught his attention, and he dropped the ball and sprinted across the field, Patrick closed behind him. He found Emma and Victoria almost paralyzed in fright.

"Emma, what is it?"

She pointed, and he looked to see a large black snake coiled up and hissing at them, not four feet away from them. His first thought was "thank God, it's not poisonous" followed by "oh shit, if that thing bit one of them…" The animal looked to be easily six feet long, which meant they were already within striking distance. He had to get Emma away from that thing before it decided to lunge.

"Holy shit!"

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Patrick pick up a stone, and he quickly stopped him from throwing it. That snake looked ready to strike already: it really didn't need further provocation. Especially not when two little girls stood between Patrick and his intended target.

He vaguely heard shouting coming from the direction of the Newton home. Either Victoria's mom had come out of the house at the sound of the scream, or he'd completely missed her dad coming home from work.

"Okay girls, it's not poisonous. Just back up slowly."

"I can't! It'll bite me!"

"Emma, it's just as scared of you as you are of it, that's why it's bunched up like that. Just back up, okay. Don't turn around, just walk backwards to me."

"Are you sure about that, Eliot?"

He didn't have time to ponder the fact that that might have been the first time Victoria Newton actually spoke directly to him. He had a six foot long, pissed off, snake (that could still do damage even if he wasn't poisonous) only four feet away from two eight year old girls.

"I'm sure, Victoria. Just come back here to me."

"Okay then. C'mon Emma."

He held his breath as he watched Victoria take Emma by the hand and slowly pull her a step back. Then another step, and another. By the fourth step, Emma was moving by herself, without Victoria having to tug her, though she still held tight to the other girl's hand.

"You're doin' real good, Emma. Just keep on coming."

Just a few more steps and Emma was clutching his hand, holding on for dear life while Victoria darted behind him. Eliot quickly swung his sister up into his arms, and backed up a lot faster than the girls could have done on their own. He didn't mention anything to the frightened girls, but he wondered if that thing had a nest somewhere in the field they were playing in. They were met halfway back by Mr. Newton, holding a pistol.

"What is it?"

"Black snake, about six feet long. I think they must have startled it."

"Did either of them get bit?"

"No sir."

"Alright, girls, let's get back to the house. Finch, I think you'd better head home before your parents come looking for you."

Patrick was quick to obey the order when he looked at his watch and saw the time. He said a quick goodbye to Eliot before grabbing his football and taking off. The adult picked up his daughter and lead them back to the house. Eliot had only been inside it once before, but Emma seemed right at home when he set her on the floor, and she followed Victoria back to her bedroom.

"Hold it, Victoria. You know the drill."

Eliot watched the younger girl curiously, as she slowly trudged to the living room, Emma not far behind her, to stand in front of Newton as he took a seat on the couch, turning on the floor lamp to shine it on the kids.

"I'm fine daddy," she whined as her shirt sleeves were pushed up in an inspection for damage, "it didn't bite me. Nothing's broken, battered or bloody."

Those words didn't have any effect on the father who carefully looked over every inch of the girl before doing the same to Emma. Only when he was satisfied did he reach up and turn off the lamp.

"Alright, you can go play. Just be careful not to wake up your mom."

"Okay daddy."

The two girls padded down the hall to the bedrooms, leaving Eliot alone with the man he still saw as slightly intimidating. He wasn't entirely sure how to act around the man

"Is her mom sick?"

"Her mom has pneumonia, so she's in bed for a week. What time does your father get home from work?"

"He's on second shift this week, so he'll get off at eleven."

He didn't like the way Mr. Newton's eyes narrowed at that.

"Kind of late, isn't it?"

"We're fine until he gets home, Mr. Newton."

He could take care of Emma himself until dad got home. He did it all the time. They didn't need someone looking over their shoulder, waiting for him to mess up. They could take care of themselves.

"Does your dad work late a lot?"

"No," Eliot was quick to defend his dad, "No, he hardly ever works second shift anymore, but somebody had some kind of family emergency, so he got called in to cover this week."

The older man didn't look too convinced, and Eliot wondered if he was going to call Social Services on them. He wouldn't be the first one to do it; their next door neighbor Mrs. Watson had called on momma a few times before the accident. But he wasn't about to let them take his sister away, or split them up somewhere. He didn't let them do it before, he wasn't about to let them do it now.

"I better get Emma and get back home."

"Hold on a minute," Newton stopped him from going after the girls, "I'm throwing some ribs on the grill. You should stay for dinner."

Eliot eyed him distrustfully. What if he was just trying to stall until he could call someone to come pick them up?

"Kid, I've got bigger things to worry about than calling Social Services on you. Now if you're staying for dinner, grab some of those ears of corn out of the fridge and start pulling off some of the silks while I get the grill started."

Twenty minutes later Eliot was wrapping ears of corn in foil and carrying them outside. The grill was hot, and the meat was already cooking. He set the plate on the picnic table, almost setting it on a book before he saw it. He was surprised, when he pulled the book out of the way, to see that it was an algebra book. He recognized that book; he had one in his bedroom. At least he'd thought it was in his bedroom, but now he wasn't sure. He knew he hadn't brought it out to play ball.

"Um—" he held up the book for Mr. Newton to see.

"I told her to put that thing away."

"Mrs. Newton's a teacher?"

"Oh no, Carol's a lawyer. That's Victoria's book."

"Huh?"

How could it be Victoria's book? She was only eight years old! What was an eight year old doing with a high school math book?

"You didn't know she was in your school?"

"No. Is she some kind of genius or something?"

L-L-L-L-L-L-L

Now that he knew the kid was in his school, he couldn't believe he hadn't noticed it before. He must have heard at least a dozen comments on the little girl who didn't belong in high school. He never saw her around, even now that he was looking for her, but he figured if she really was some kind of genius, she was in the advanced classes he didn't want to bother with. He saw her plenty after school, after Newton convinced his dad that on nights he had to work so late he and Emma should stay over at their house so they weren't home alone, but he never saw her at school.

It was only after three weeks of keeping an eye open that he finally caught sight of her, on his way to shop class. A boy he recognized from his English class—Ben, he thought the name was- had Victoria held up against the wall, in a corner that he'd almost walked right past. He stopped when he saw the boy actually shake her, a little girl half his size. That was unacceptable. Without a thought, Eliot grabbed Ben's arm and squeezed, hard enough to really hurt. Ben immediately set Victoria down as he spun around to face whoever had decided to interrupt his fun.

"What the hell are you doing, Spencer?"

"What the hell do you think you're doin' pickin' on a little kid, Wells?!"

"She's a freak, man!"

He didn't wait for another word, but punched Ben directly in the face.

"Aw, shit, you broke my nose!"

He wasn't able to get anything else out before Eliot punched him again, and this time kept punching. So what if Victoria Newton was a strange kid? So what if she was some kind of freaky genius who managed to make all the other kids at the high school look like idiots? She was just about the only friend Emma had, definitely the only one who didn't treat his baby sister like some freak because of all her scars, and that was all that mattered to Eliot. He wasn't about to let some bully twice her size hurt her because she was smarter than him.

They were by this time drawing a crowd of spectators, and Eliot could vaguely hear them all in the background. He was finally pulled off of Ben by one of the adults who'd come running at the chant of "Fight! Fight! Fight!", and he was herded off to the principal's office. He saw Ben struggling to get to his feet, and one of the other teachers was looking at the boy's battered face. He hoped he managed to break something. The asshole deserved it for picking on someone so much smaller than him.

"What did you do this time, son?"

Eliot had been shifting in the uncomfortable plastic chair outside the principal's office for almost half an hour, wondering what the hell was taking so long. Now he knew. Principal Stanton had called his dad. Wonderful.

"Please come in, Mr. Spencer. And Mr. Spencer."

"I hope you understand what a serious offense this is, Mr. Spencer. The young man you assaulted had to go to the emergency room."

"Good."

Both the principal and his father looked at him in disbelief.

"Good?! What is wrong with you son! You put a kid in the hospital and you think that's good?"

"Mr. Spencer, in light of the fact that this is the seventh fight you've been involved in at this school, I'm afraid you're leaving me with no choice but to expel you—"

"He was beating up a little girl! That asshole had an eight year old little girl up a wall by the throat! He's lucky he was able to walk away!"

His dad sat back, stunned by that declaration, before turning to glare at the principal.

"Is that true?"

"I'm told that Victoria Newton was involved in the altercation, yes, but that doesn't change the fact that your son-"

"That changes everything Stanton."

"In point of fact it doesn't. Your son is a danger to the others in this school, and I can't allow him to remain here."

"Of all the fights my son has been involved in, was he ever the instigator? And answer me honestly."

"No, but that doesn't matter in the eyes of the school board-" and again the principal was cut off.

"So what you're saying is that you want to expel my son because he dared to defend himself against other students who attacked him, and then came to the defense of a child that another student was assaulting."

"Mr. Spencer, I don't think you understand—"

"Mr. Stanton, you will not expel my son. And you won't expel him because you aren't that stupid. If you want to suspend him for being a hothead, you go right ahead, and I'll even agree with you. But if you try to expel him, I will sue this school. And I will do it loudly and publicly, and not even your precious school board and superintendent will be able to shut me up. And after the media gets a hold of the story of a kid who's been assaulted numerous times while you did nothing to stop the violence and then was expelled for aiding a child one of your students was beating up, you'll be lucky to keep your job. Good afternoon, Mr. Stanton."

With that, Eliot was hauled out of his seat and out of the building by his father, who continued hauling him until they reached the truck, when he was finally let go. They drove in silence until they reached Emma's school and joined the line of parents waiting to pick up their children.

"I'm proud of you, for sticking up for the Newton girl. But If I ever hear of you throwing the first punch, I'll tan your hide to within an inch of your life, and I don't give a damn how old you are. You understand me?"

"Yeah."

"Good. Here comes Emma, and not a word about this to her."

They were dropped off at the Newton house, since dad had to get back to work, and Eliot was greeted by Victoria hurling herself at him.

"You're okay! They didn't expel you or anything?"

"I'm fine Victoria."

She leaned back, making a face.

"That's an old lady name. Don't call me that."

"Then what should I call you?"

"Just not that. Your hands are all bruised up, did you break anything?"

"Nah, nothin's broken."

"Alright Victoria, stop bothering Eliot and do your homework."

The girls skipped off to the dining room table where Emma was already set up with her schoolbooks. He was kind of glad Mrs. Newton sent Victoria off; the girl had the grip of an octopus and if nothing was broken from the fight, he was in danger of being broken by a kid.

"It's been hard for her," he turned his attention to the woman who was now talking to him, "she doesn't have any friends her own age, apart from your sister. We knew sending her to high school would be hard, but her own grade just wasn't doing anything for her. The teachers at the elementary school didn't know how to handle her. Thank you, Eliot, for sticking up for her."

Now he felt bad. He'd stuck up for her because it was the right thing to do, but he'd had the same thoughts about her that Ben had; that she was some sort of strange freak. He'd never considered just how hard it had to be for her. Well, there was nothing he could do about that, but there might be something he could do about the idiots at school.

By the next morning, it was all over school that Eliot Spencer had put Ben Wilson in the hospital, and that the little girl at the school was off limits. It was Friday, and the Newton's had arranged for Victoria to spend the night at the Spencer house so that they could go out for Valentine's Day. As the bus took them through the town, a thought occurred to Eliot, and he hopped off at the main street. He hadn't picked anything up for Emma for Valentine's, and he really wanted to get something for the Newton girl. He knew full well that she hadn't gotten anything from any of the kids at school, and it wasn't right that a girl that age should get nothing for Valentine's. If she'd been at the elementary school, she'd have gotten a box full of Valentine cards from all of the kids in the class.

He saw them in the window of the drug store—the perfect teddy bears. They looked just scruffy enough to be cute without looking like they came right of the factory line. They had personality. It was time Emma had another bear—they hadn't been able to save any of her toys from the fire, and while dad had picked up enough Barbies to get her started again, she was sadly short of stuffed animals. These were perfect. All he needed were a couple of cards, and he was done. Now he just had to get to the house before dad got back with Emma and Mrs. Newton brought Victoria over.

He set the bears on Emma's bed, carefully placing the Emma's card in front of her bear. He paused before writing Victoria's name on the envelope of her card. She didn't want to be called Victoria. He had to come up with something else. He started to write Newton, but stopped as he heard the truck door closing. Emma and dad were home, he had to get out of her room before she came inside. He looked back at the envelope and saw what he wrote. Newt. She was Newt now. He liked it.