By nightfall Eliot had packed Vinny's SUV, with the exempt license plate and government grade darkened windows, with their luggage and equipment. He had to repack the car more times than he'd care to admit because Parker was trying to be helpful. Vinny stood back laughing at their antics.

Eliot was a little nervous about the trip to the cabin. He wasn't really ready to talk about the job he'd had made up to lure Angel into his trap. So, when Angel, gotta love the over protective instincts of a vampire, suggested that he take a couple of pain pills to help with the aches the vampire said he knew Eliot was suffering from. He had made the token argument of not taking the pills before jumping at the chance. He slept for most of the trip and was now, playing possum in the back seat as Angel drove. It was starting to annoy the hell out of him. Being inactive without an outlet was torture so with that thought he unfolded his body slowly. Groaning at the twinges the movement caused. He may have slept in worse places and been in worse shape but at times like this he was reminded of how he really should have dodged that punch to the ribs. It was always the ribs or the head. Stretching his body out causing his shirt to ride up high on his stomach before slowly sitting up to see Angel eyes glued to the exposed skin. Moving forward he rested his arms on the back of the driver's seat.

"Care to switch places with me?" Eliot gave Angel a sultry smile.

"Why?" Angel cleared his throat seeing that smile he hadn't seen for many years and it really made him want to do all kinds of wonderfully fun stuff to Eliot. "My driving is not that bad. No matter what Cordy used to say."

Angel ignored the twinge of sorrow from the bittersweet memory of old friend. He met Eliot's gentle gaze.

"I was sorry to hear about your team. Always admired them. Fightin' for the world and loyal for nothin' more than you and the greater good. Their world was black and white. No gray in sight for them." Eliot had admired them for their intentions, bravado and the family closeness but didn't envy them for the narrow mindedness with which they traveled between demons and humans. In order to fight and make a real difference you had to live and fight in the world of shadows where the world really existed.

"I still miss them, but doesn't hurt as much as it used to. Unfortunately it goes with the undead territory."

Eliot had the urge to play 20 questions while the vampire was being open about stuff. "So when was your real birthday?"

Angel smirked. "Where did that come from? Wasn't that in file that Wolfram & Hart had on me?"

"Just answer the question since you're not going to let me drive." He folded his arms and rested his chin on them. He stayed quiet waiting Angel out.

"Human or Vampire?" Angel keep his face serious.

"I know about the Vampire but I'm curious about the human." Eliot kept his tone light and curious not wanting to bring up to much of Angel human past.

Clearing his throat he said. "March of 1700. They didn't use the actual date much back then. I wasn't a noble so it didn't really matter."

Eliot ghosted a finger down Angel neck enjoying the shiver he got out of the vampire.

"Do you miss Ireland? Then or now?"

Angel suppressed the groan that he wasn't sure if it was the questions or Eliot touching him. Who was he kidding Eliot's fingers had moved around to message his neck.

"Both. I'd love to go back again sometime. So, did you use your birthday as Lindsey's birthday?" Angel was finding harder to concentrate.

"Nah, Lindsey was total fiction. I was born on July 14. What do miss the most about Ireland?" Keeping his touch light for now.

"The views, the people and hearing the accent. A lot of different things actually." Angel shrugged.

"Huh? The accent wasn't even on the list I had."

Angel grinned at the puzzled look on the mercenary's face. "You made a list of things I might miss from Ireland?"

"Yeah, I always have list going to any question I ask and possible responses." Eliot quirked his eyebrow at the grin that Angel was giving him. "What?"

"It's just cute you made a list of things I might miss." Angel started laughing.

Eliot smirked at least he'd finally gotten the vampire to loosen up a little but he knew his time had run out on the reason for the trip.

"So what's the job?" Angel watched Eliot's face not getting anything from his emotions.

"A militia group I want to check on since they're a little too close to Michael's cabin for my likin'. Usually they aren't active this early in the year. Just need to make sure they still aren't going to cause trouble."

"You've met them before?" Angel's tone was incredulous. Looking at Eliot's 'Parker's don't be stupid' face and the irritation was coming across loud and clear too.

"Why would I not have met them?" Eliot's voice was a soft drawl but it had a sharp edge to it as he leaned back into the seat.

Angel scrubbed a hand down his face as he felt his boy draw away from him both physically and emotionally. "Sorry, Eliot. I still see you as a fragile human and I'm afraid I'll lose you again before I've even gotten to know the real you. Just please give me time to adjust to this new side of you. Not to mention you're still recovering from the last job."

"Okay, first, I'm tougher than you think I am and this is nothing compared to some things. In the simplest description possible my job is to have the crap beat out of me. Second, I've taken care of myself for most of my life. Third, I've survived this long without a big bad vamp taking care of me."

Eliot was trying to calm down this was why he had learned to do other things so he didn't have to try and explain what a retrieval specialist did. Okay so that wasn't true but right now it sounded pretty good. He took a deep breath and let it out and kept it up for a few minutes before he finally met Angel's gaze.

"I'm sorry El, just give me some time to adjust please." Angel pleaded softly.

"Look, I know this is new for you but it's not for me. Been doing it my whole life. I want a partner not a protector. Got it?" Eliot moved back to lean against the back of the seat. His hand slid across Angel's shoulder his fingers sliding into soft wisps of hair. "Let's just agree to give each other room on this subject. I'll try to not snap every time you forget I'm not Lindsey. You try remember to I'm not some fragile human you need to look after."

"I'll do my best. Scout's honor." Angel grinned at his boy.

"Really? Your gonna go with that? How old are you again?" Eliot liked the laugh he got from the vampire. Made him feel all warm and tingly. Wow wasn't that a new revelation for him. Most of the time it was a quick fuck here and there with a forgettable name and face. Vinny had been the only exception to the rule but they hadn't loved each other. Well, he hadn't allowed himself to fall into that particular pit.

Angel challenged him, aggravated the hell out of him, knew the truth about him and still wanted him. All that and the warm fuzzy feelings that the vampire was causing him to feel for the first time scared the crap out of him but he wasn't going to try and talk himself out of this. This time he was going let something he really wanted to play out no matter where it went. He laid his head on his arm, leaving his hand on Angel's neck he closed his eyes and just relaxed.

Angel had felt the internal struggle his boy was working thru and was surprised how quickly the feelings had changed to peaceful, like Eliot was satisfied with the decision he had come to. Even better was Eliot's warm hand still on his neck though he knew the mercenary drifted off to sleep.

Angel's mind drifted as he followed the directions Vinny had given him to his brother's cabin. Vinny had warned him that the pain pills would keep Eliot asleep most of the trip but that the hitter avoided sleeping too much because of nightmares. Eliot never told anyone what the nightmares were about, but Vinny had told him so he would be prepared as Eliot sometimes got violent when he woke up in unfamiliar places. Which was ironic since when the mercenary was on a job he usually woke up in different and strange places.

Pulling onto the road that led to Michael's cabin Angel slowed down not wanting to make it any bumpier than necessary. Hoping Eliot would continue to sleep for a little longer. Maybe long enough for him to do a quick scout of the area. Just because Eliot said he didn't have to worry didn't mean he wouldn't take precautions. He just had to make sure Eliot never found out or the mercenary might stake him before he could explain. Then again Eliot might stake him for the explanation alone.

Angel had just pulled to a stop in front of the cabin when Eliot jerked awake. Angel just had a second before a fist collided with the side of his face. Angel ignored the slight throbbing in his face as he grabbed the mercenary's hand before he could pull it back.

Dragging Eliot over the seat as he tried to contain the fighting mercenary without hurting the struggling man. "What the hell? Eliot calm down!"

Angel held the struggling man as he continued to contain him, but just barely. Angel wasn't sure where the strength was coming from but Eliot was a lot stronger than usual. He'd have to think about that later. He held on tight as he started talking to Eliot trying to get through the nightmare to wake the man.

Eliot struggled against his captors. Trying to break the bands around him. He had to get away before the doctor came and started on him again. He never got free of his restraints, everyone that had anything to do with operation was dead. He was getting tired and he still hadn't got anywhere with his restraints. That's when he heard it. A soft voice talking to him. Great whatever the freak doctor did to him had him hearing voices. Correction one voice and it was familiar. It sounded like Angel. Except it couldn't be Angel. He hadn't even known the vampire yet. He had heard of him in the underground demon fights before he got grabbed one night after winning a big fight but he hadn't known Angel or what his voice sounded like.

Eliot stopped struggling all of the sudden but Angel just keep talking in a low voice trying to give the mercenary time to come out of the nightmare. Angel's hold became an embrace as Eliot relaxed against him. The mercenary's breathing became easier as did his rampaging emotions.

"You okay now?" Angel kept his voice low and intimate.

"Better. Sorry shouldn't have forgotten." Eliot sighed tiredly. Damn nightmares left him off balance for days afterwards.

Angel hugged his boy to him, kissing his neck. "El, you have nothing to be sorry for. Everyone suffers from nightmares. We can deal with together if you'll let me?"

Eliot clenched down on his automatic response to tell the vampire to go to hell but if he wanted this thing with Angel he needed to suck it up deal with letting the master vampire in completely or there was no point of even trying.

"We're going to be here for a few days. Mind giving it a day or two so I work up the nerve to tell you?" Eliot knew Angel would give him the time even if the vampire had every right to have his questions answered now.

"You can talk to me about anything, but if you need a few then I can wait. How about we get unloaded and settled in and then you can tell me about this militia group?" Angel waited for Eliot to pull out of his embrace in case the younger man needed a few more minutes to pull himself together.

Eliot was reluctant to move but Angel did have a point the faster they squared things away the faster he could start his plan. He'd save the talk for a later but he'd need to do it before they left in case Angel took it badly. He cringed as he pulled away his ribs were still tender.

"I saw that." Angel said as Eliot winced, no doubt from his ribs.

"I'm fine." Was all Eliot was going to say about it.

"Un-huh." Angel opened his door meeting Eliot around the back to start unpacking. He had to bite his tongue when Eliot hissed after picking up the cooler. No need to piss his boy off so soon into their trip. Besides he knew that it would help for Eliot stretch his muscles a little as long as he didn't over do it.

30 minutes later he was ready to strangle his boy. Angel wasn't sure how to broach the subject but he'd just have to do it. "El…"

Eliot had been waiting for the vampire to tell him to go sit down though he'd lost the bet he had with himself. He had bet on 15 minutes ago being the limit but it showed him that Angel had listened to what he had said and was trying. He interrupted the vampire quickly.

"Angel, would you mind finishing this? I need to ice my ribs for a bit?"

"Sure. Go ahead on in. I'll bring everything in then you can sit and tell me where everything goes." Angel let a relived sigh out as his boy went into the cabin. He thanked the TPTB that Eliot had interrupted him.

Eliot went into the master bedroom wanting to get his supplies stowed before Angel finished. No need for the vampire to know what he was up to just yet. When he finished he went back into the living area with the ice pack he found in the first aid kit. He conveniently left his shirts off since it was warm enough right now, though the rest of the week did call for snow. He was digging in the first cooler for a beer when he heard Angels in drawn breath. He stayed bent over for a few more seconds giving Angel a good view of his ass before he looked over his shoulder in the same position.

"You okay? Need some help?"

Angel cleared his throat. "No I'm good. Uh, you ready to tell me where you want me to put things?"

Angel wasn't sure what to think as he walked in to see a shirtless Eliot bent over a cooler digging for something. Angel felt himself harden further when the mercenary looked over his shoulder at him. The mercenary had no idea how irresistible or delectable he looked right at this moment.

For both their sakes Angel turned around going into the kitchen to start putting up something, anything to take his mind off what it was currently demanding he go back in there and do to his hot sexy boy right now. If Eliot had any idea what he was thinking right now the mercenary might stake him on sight. Sure he understood what his boy wanted but they both still needed time to get to know each other. He had a feeling that tonight was going to be very challenging for him. To lie next to and hold the warm hard body might very well have him bursting into flames. Who needed a stake when he had Eliot?

Eliot grinned as he retrieved his beer from the cooler before following Angel into the kitchen. He stopped and leaned against the door frame just wanting to watch the vampire for bit. The man had always been easy on the eyes but it seemed that to him that Angel had aged some since the Great Battle in LA. Maybe that's the real reason behind why Angel had sought him out? In the end it really didn't matter to Eliot any more why Angel had as long as he had Angel with him. Eliot continued to watch as Angel found where things went until he got to a few packages he wasn't familiar with.

"Those go in the cabinet at left of the stove."

Angel was reaching to open the door when he felt Eliot slip up behind him, trapping him against the counter with Eliot flush against his back. The heat from his boy felt so good and since he couldn't read his boys emotions right now, he was going to go with his boy was done waiting.

Resting his head against the cabinet Angel was readying himself for the argument he had expecting at some time during this trip. But he wanted to wait and see what Eliot was planning.

Eliot ran his hand around Angel's waist resting them against the button on his pants until he felt the vampire relax. The mercenary then ran his finger along the inside of the top of the band before skimming both hands up the flat stomach stopping to play with fine hairs of Angel's pleasure trail until he had Angle panting. Eliot continued up the firm chest stopping to tweak both nipples until they hard and had Angel pushing back against his hard on before running his hands down and around to Angel sides, skimming down to his hips, holding tight he pulled the vampire against him even harder.

"You have absolutely no idea how hot you are right now, do you Angel? Watching your strong graceful movements around the kitchen has me wanting to throw you against the counter and make love to you." Eliot whispered hotly into Angel's ear.

Angel shivered as Eliot pulled away. Just as he was about to turn and pull Eliot back to him to kiss his boy, he noticed that Eliot was putting on his shirt and that was a damn shame.

"You ready to check on the group?" Eliot was trying to contain his smug grin as Angel lost the glazed look in his eyes.

Angel cleared his throat. He really hoped his boy didn't make this a habit while they were here he wasn't sure his dead heart could take it. "Sure. You scouting or planning on talking to them today."

"Scouting for the next two days before I go in. I'll do some close quarter recon tomorrow night. Tonight I just want to get a feel for the movements, patrols and how many." Eliot finished pulling on the flannel shirt over his other two layers before adding a jacket. It was going to get cold tonight and the weather was going to make his ribs hurt even more. When they got back he was going to soak in the hot tub for an hour. Which worked nicely on his next step to get Angel all hot bothered. Shouldn't take more than two hours at the most. He whistled as he and Angel walked out the door.