This was originally written as a quick snippet set that I wasn't planning to post, but I had a couple requests for an addition to One Weird, One Warped where Eliot and Hardison realize that they'd run into each other before so I decided to go ahead and combine the two.
For the purposes of this story, they didn't recognize each other when they met in The Nigerian Job—in One Weird, One Warped Hardison was a teenager, Eliot had a buzz cut, and they only saw each other for a minute or so total, so without something to trigger it, I don't think they would have.
This is set during The Miracle Job, and the lines in italics are taken directly out of the show.
* * * * *
"So, what, now you're religious too?" Eliot asked.
Hardison shook his head. "No, no, I'm not denominational. It's just I just never do anything my nana said 'don't do'."
* * * * *
"Don't fake a miracle?" Eliot asked, matching paces with Hardison as they left the office. Nate had suggested a couple potential miracles, but which ones would work depended on the props available in the church, and none of them had really been examining the décor the last time they were there. Well, possibly excepting Parker, but she was always looking for something new to steal.
Hardison twisted and gave him a look. "Isn't that what Nate just told us to do?' He shook his head, adding in a mutter, "As crazy and immoral and bad as the idea is."
Considering the various…activities…the team was involved in, Eliot didn't think any of them—Nate included—had any business trying to take the high ground, but he just shook his head. "Nah, I mean what the hell kind of kid were you that your nana had to tell you not to go around faking miracles?" He climbed into his SUV and started the engine, waiting until Hardison buckled himself in on the passenger side before pulling out into traffic. "I mean, 'don't lie', 'don't cheat', 'don't steal', sure, those make sense. I'm guessing she must have missed them, somehow, seeing as you do all three on a regular basis, but…."
"Hey, man, don't dis my nana."
Eliot grinned. "'Don't do drugs', now there's another good one. But 'don't fake a miracle'?"
"For the record, it was mostly Luke's fault. I was just an innocent bystander."
Eliot snorted in disbelief, about to ask who Luke was when the radio station finally finished its string of commercials and started to play some actual music. And Hardison reached for the dial. Without thinking, he reached out and smacked Hardison's fingers.
He cradled his 'injured' hand, and Eliot rolled his eyes. "My ride, my music."
"That isn't music," Hardison grumbled. "That's some old guy singing through his nose about his pickup truck."
* * * * *
"Ow!" Hardison left off protecting his hand and rubbed his shoulder. The punch hadn't really hurt—as much damage as he'd seen Eliot do to other people, he'd never been on the receiving end of anything that even left bruises—but it was the principle of the thing. "Anybody ever tell you that violence doesn't solve anything?"
Eliot ignored him, which didn't really come as a surprise, and he debated going for the radio again. Except that Eliot was faster, so unless there was something to distract him with….
The radio switched back to commercials—after one lousy song—and he made a mental note to hook Eliot up with satellite radio. Or at least introduce the guy to mp3 players. Even country was better than ads for mops and homeowners insurance. This time it was Eliot who reached out and changed the channel, and he leaned back in his seat a little more as Moonlight Sonata began to play. Still not exactly his music of choice, but definitely an improvement.
He looked over at Eliot. "Huh?"
"Whoever you're blaming 'don't fake a miracle' on."
"Oh." He waved a hand. "This foster brother I had once. Was the one who really got me into computers, which was cool, but, man, talk about trouble."
Eliot seemed mildly interested, so he shrugged and continued. They had a good twenty minutes before they'd get to the church.
"See, it was maybe a couple months after I got placed with Nana. Luke and I shared a room—she only had two spare rooms, so there were usually two kids in each—and he had a couple of these really old monitors and towers and shit that he'd pulled out of people's trash scattered around. Kicked my ass a couple times for messing with them, but when he figured out that I was actually pretty good at getting them working again, he stopped getting so mad about it." He shook his head, remembering a teenager that had scoffed watching him trying to straighten pins with his stubby little fingers and then finally showed him how to do it correctly with a pair of pliers.
He shook his head again and continued with the story. "So, anyway, Nana used to drag us all to church every Sunday, and none of us really liked it much. It was this stuffy little church that always smelled kind of funny, and the minister would just go on and on. Seriously, he could talk for hours when he wanted to."
Eliot muttered something that sounded vaguely like 'sounds familiar,' but when Hardison glared at him he just gave him an innocent look. "What?"
Hardison glared again, just for good measure. "Anyway, the choir was pretty terrible too. Like cover your ears terrible. Unfortunately Nana had been going to church there since she was a little girl, so we were stuck with it. Now, there wasn't an organ or anything like that, but there was this really ancient piano that the choir sang with. You know, one of the big ones where you can open up the back and make it look fancy? One time when Nana was helping to organize a social and she'd brought us along to help, Luke and I rigged up some sensors and put them under some of the keys and then ran the wires out the back and then up the wall into attic."
He snorted. Wires. It seemed ridiculously primitive when he thought about it now. "It was really more of a crawlspace than an attic, and he couldn't fit up there, but I could so he boosted me up and then handed up one of his old computers. One with working speakers and a few pre-recorded messages. I got it hooked up like he showed me, and then every time one of the keys we rigged was pressed, the voice of God speaking from above had something to say about it."
* * * * *
Eliot shook his head slightly. His own memories of church were pretty fuzzy—they'd stopped going after Mama had died, although Eileen had started again in college—but he vaguely remembered a large, airy building with brightly colored glass in the windows and being forced to wear shiny black shoes that had pinched his toes. "I think my Mama would have murdered me for a stunt like that."
"Oh, when Nana finally figured out that Luke and I were the ones that did it—I think the hysterical laughter when God ordered the choir to shut up gave it away—she just about did. 'Boy, you don't go around faking no miracles, you hear me?!' Damn near twisted my ear off. Plus we had to spend our Saturdays for months scrubbing out the church top to bottom." He made a face. "Or at least I did; Luke turned eighteen, so I was the one who got stuck with all the work. Trouble, like I said."
"How come being eighteen let him out of the work?" He'd done plenty of work around the farm at eighteen, before he'd finally gotten frustrated and left—if he hadn't, he'd sure as hell have heard about it.
Hardison gave him a strange look. "He aged out of the system."
"We were in foster care."
"Yeah, I got that much." He wouldn't have guessed it before Hardison brought it up, but then he didn't really know much about the history of any of the Leverage team, except Nate. And that something had gone seriously wrong with Parker. But he didn't understand what foster care had to do with getting out of trouble, although from the way Hardison said it he thought that it explained everything.
"Well, he turned eighteen and left Nana's." Hardison shrugged slightly. "I never saw him again after that. He left most of the computer stuff behind for me, though, which was cool."
"Couldn't you use the computer find him?" He was pretty sure Hardison could find just about anybody like that. It was kind of disturbing when he thought about it, so mostly he didn't.
"Back then, no. Not with the setup I had, anyway. Now I probably could, but…." He opened his mouth and then shut it again. "Sometimes it's just better not to."
"Huh." Eliot wasn't stupid and decided to change the subject. "So what did the voice of God have to say?"
"Um…well, there were a couple standard Bible verses to start with. Nothing major, but you should have seen the look on the minister's face when we started hearing them during the choir songs. Man, that was funny. Then there was 'Thou shalt shut up,' which is the one that gave us away. I think there was one about letting us all rest in peace too, and…what was the other one? Something about wise men speaking little that was supposed to be a hint to the minister to hurry it up. I don't remember, Luke was the one who made the recordings, and we didn't get to hear all of them."
* * * * *
Hardison was glad that Eliot let the subject of why he hadn't found Luke again drop as quickly as he had. It wasn't that it was any real secret, but it wasn't something that he thought Eliot would understand, either. Parker, of all of them, probably would, but not someone who'd grown up with one set of parents. He shook his head slightly.
He'd done a decent amount of hacking into the pasts of most of the Leverage team when they'd first started working together, out of curiosity as much as anything. He'd tracking down quite a few aliases—and what he strongly suspected were real names in a couple cases—and although there was a curious blank in the-man-currently-known-as-Eliot-Spencer's history between ages eighteen and twenty-four, and not much after that, he was pretty sure that the trail before that, back to a Kentucky farm, was solid. Not that he ever planned to ask, or even admit what he'd found out, but….
He shook his head again. He'd been lucky to be able to stay with Nana as long as he had, but she'd been neither his first nor his last foster mother, and with the constant flow of foster parents and siblings he'd learned early that it was best to just let them go when it was time to move on, rather than try to hold on to something that he could never keep.
"Hey, do you think you could rig something like that up here?" Eliot asked. "With slightly more…appropriate…messages?"
Hardison returned his focus to their conversation. "Nah, man, no way. People know too much about audio systems now; even with a wireless setup they'd never buy it." He shook his head again. "No, it's got to be something new." He slid down a little further in the passenger seat, stretching out his legs as best he could as a new song came on. "Maybe…."
He trailed off, staring out the window. The voice of God would never work. But…maybe apparitions? Angels? There had been Star Trek, though, and holograms, and besides, that would require setup that was hard to hide.
* * * * *
Eliot frowned as he watched long, dark fingers twitch in time with the music. Something was nagging at his memory, but he couldn't quite place it. It couldn't be recent—not much had happened recently, outside the jobs Nate had picked for them; he hadn't even picked up any freelance work on his own for months. Fingers twitching…fingers tapping…and— "How old were you?" he demanded suddenly.
Hardison looked over at him, obviously startled out of his train of thought. "What?"
"When you started with computers, how old were you?"
"Uh, about ten, I guess." He shrugged slightly. "Why?"
Eliot shook his head. The last movement of Beethoven's Ninthand twitching fingers. "It was you, wasn't it?"
"What?" Hardison asked again.
He did the math quickly, double-checking himself, but it seemed to work out. At a guess, Hardison was somewhere around ten years younger than himself. Possibly a little more, possibly a little less, but ten was good enough for a rough estimate. That would have made him about fifteen in the museum—a teenager, but already tall—and with five years of playing with computers behind him, Eliot had no doubt that Hardison would have been capable of messing with a newly-installed alarm system. "It was you."
Hardison shifted to sit up straight, still staring at him. "Man, I have no idea what you're talking about."
"In the museum." He slapped his hand against the wheel. "You just about screwed up my job!"
* * * * *
Hardison kept his back against the window, trying to figure out what Eliot was blaming him for. He was fairly used to Eliot's bizarre flares of temper by now—fortunately they cooled as quickly as they came—but usually he had some idea of what Eliot was mad about. This….
He frowned. He generally did his work from hotel rooms or temporary homes, places where he could work in quiet and that couldn't be traced back to him. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd been inside a museum. Well, there had been that thing in Cairo, but he'd just been collecting information at the time. He hadn't actually done anything except see the sights. He shook his head.
"You made the alarms play this," Eliot declared, jabbing a finger at the speaker.
"I did what?" He started at the speaker for a minute, the music not really registering. Why would he make alarms play anything? Usually the only thing he wanted to do with alarms was turn them off—or, occasionally, go off elsewhere as a distraction while he hooked something up to a computer system that he hadn't been able to access remotely. He blinked, recognizing the fast run in Ode to Joy. When would he have made alarms play that?
"In the museum," Eliot repeated. "The Museum of Natural History, back in—"
Hardison's eyes widened as he stared at Eliot, not hearing the rest of his words. Ode to Joy. Anna, and the alarms, and the Incas, and the frightening man with the cropped hair who'd stolen one of the museum exhibits. "Holy shit. That was you, wasn't it?" He had a hard time replacing Eliot's shoulder-length hair with a buzz cut in his mind, but from what he remembered their features matched. And his glare was just about the same as the man's as well—that Hardison had seen plenty since they'd started working together. "I didn't screw up your job, you screwed up my test!" When he'd learned that something had definitely been stolen, he'd worried for weeks afterwards that someone would remember seeing him doing by the phones and blame him for it.
* * * * *
Hardison glared at him, and Eliot glared right back. "Well, what kind of kid goes around turning an alarm system into his personal jukebox?"
"Jukebox? Seriously?" Hardison retorted. "And I'm not the one who was trying to rob the museum, was I?"
"You were one weird kid." Glare.
"Yeah, well you were one warped dude." Glare.
Eliot stamped on the break and swerved as Hardison yelped, barely missing the car that had cut them off, too close even for this city. "Idiot! You all right?"
"Yeah." Hardison looked a little shaken, but his voice was strong. "You?"
Eliot nodded. "Some people shouldn't have licenses." He shook his head, turning down the road the church was on. That little rush of adrenaline had pretty neatly interrupted him and Hardison's argument, and he didn't feel like picking it back up again. Just now, anyway. "So what kind of miracle are we going to fake?"
"Man, I don't know." Hardison didn't seem at all concerned with the new topics, but then considering how fast he could change focus that probably shouldn't have been a surprise. "Nate says make a statue bleed, so maybe that. Or stigmata. I could probably do pretty good stigmata."
Eliot slipped the car into an empty spot neatly, and he and Hardison matched paces into the church. He waved at a figure with its arms upraised. "I guess that's the statue Nate was talking about."
Hardison nodded slightly. "Yep." He walked over and knocked on its face lightly. "But no way I can make a solid piece of stone do anything; it's going to enough of a bitch just to move it out of the way so we can replace it with ours. Can you get me some plaster?"
He shrugged. Nate had said to get Hardison what he needed. "Sure."
Eliot opened his mouth and then shut it again.
"And maybe a paintball gun…." Hardison tapped his lip lightly. "Yeah, that ought to do it."
Blood made sense, even if he wasn't sure how he was going to acquire it yet…he really didn't want to know what Hardison planned to do with a paintball gun. He really didn't want to be in front of Hardison if he had a paintball gun. "All right."
"Oh, and I could use—" Hardison frowned, pulling a laptop out of his bag. "What was it called, again?" He waved a hand. "I'll look it up, you go ahead and get the rest and I'll call you when I find it."
Eliot nodded and turned to head back out to the car. "You're still weird, you know that?"
* * * * *
Hardison ignored Eliot's grumbling, bringing up his research. Where was it? He knew he'd seen an article on it somewhere…it reacted with smoke to create liquid, which would be perfect for tears—
"Hey, Hardison?" Eliot interrupted, sticking his head back in the door.
"You need to go out for anything, stay on the main streets."
Hardison rolled his eyes and waved an acknowledgement. Like he'd do otherwise, especially in this neighborhood. Eliot would, but then, Eliot was still warped.