His mind swirled, a mass of questions and dulled agony, and Eliot couldn't find it in himself to fight past the wall that had constructed itself in front of his way out. He fought hard to pull himself close enough to consciousness to feel his aunt's squeeze to his hand and the soothing promises she whispered to him.
Even through the darkened wall that barricaded his consciousness, Eliot could sense the members of the team near him. He felt Parker's twitchy energy, and Sophie and Nate, sedate, blended into the background but still near. Hardison was a blunted feeling of nervousness, backed closely into the corner.
It was terrifying and enlightening to feel them all around him, but more than all the others there was a presence deeply ingrained throughout his body and soul. It encompassed the energy through the rest of the room, blanketing the rest of the presences in the room.
Over everyone else in the room, Eliot felt her next to him. She was so warm, and melded right into his side, and Eliot wanted to wake up and turn his body into her, but his muscles didn't want to obey his commands. He was tired and weak, and it scared him to be as vulnerable as he was.
'Hush my love, I'm here, you're okay. It'll all be over soon.' He felt lips brush against his neck and a hand rest lightly over his tense stomach.
Everything hurt, but with her next to him, everything muted, left him feeling as if he were floating, as if nothing could touch him. It was a comforting feeling, one that Eliot didn't want to lose, and for some reason he knew that she wouldn't leave him, that if he wanted it, that comfort would be there forever.
'Stay.' His own broken plea whispered through his mind.
'I'll always be here. Sleep now, you're safe.' Her own whisper was reassuring and pushed everything else from his mind. The fire seemed to burn a little cooler, the agony fading into the background, and Eliot gratefully accepted the relief.
'Sleep.' She whispered again, and Eliot couldn't find it in him to disobey. Pushing closer to her comfort, Eliot slept.
"I think you need to explain this," Nate said over an hour later, crossing his arms over his chest as Savannah watched him from lidded blue eyes.
Savannah looked at Eliot before nodding, more to herself than the rest of the room. Reaching for her mental connection with Eliot, she pulled him close enough to consciousness that he could listen in on what she was about to tell the rest of the team. She felt him waking, and cemented the connection even more, watching as his eyes flitted open to the barest slits.
Gold now flecked the brilliant blue of his eyes, making them appear brighter, almost ethereal. They sharpened as she felt his new senses taking hold and scanning the room with an animal like radar. She smiled, showing off pointed canines as she felt the wolf rising in him, and he smiled confusedly back, showing off his own new set of teeth.
Around them the team stared at them with awe, studying the Eliot's new features with wonder. They seemed to watch the interaction between the hitter and Savannah with a sort of reverence only held for the most treasured things. Things that usually the team went after on jobs.
It made a shiver run down Eliot's spine, and Savannah pushed her calming influence deeper as she felt the confusion in him. She frowned and tangled her fingers in the hair at the base of his neck, scratching there gently.
Eliot had to fight to hold back the moan that threatened when the woman, Savannah, he told himself, scratched at the base of his neck. It was embarrassing just how good it felt, but he was hard pressed to think of anything that made him feel as good as it did at that moment.
"There are three different reactions to our bite," Savannah started, forcing Eliot's attention to her. He was still tired and it was hard to concentrate, but he had a feeling that whatever she was saying was going to change his life forever.
"Go on," Sophie prompted from his right. Eliot didn't bother to turn toward her, having to use too much energy focused on keeping himself awake.
"The first reaction is the most known in this country. Some people bitten turn into werewolves, only changing on the full moon cycle, and most not keeping their human sense of self. The shift is painful, and usually only lasts from the time the moon rises until the sun rises in the morning." She paused, seemingly making sure that everyone in the room understood before continuing.
"The second reaction is rarer, limited to only five percent of those bitten. In the second reaction, people are turned into shifters. We can control when we shift, and where we shift; and" she said exaggeratedly, "although the moon does have a certain pull on our libido, it has no effect on our shifting. We keep our human mind, and our shifts involve little to no pain at all, unless the wolf is in a great deal of pain or under a lot of stress.
"Changes when the human is really sick or hurt can be extremely painful, and can even kill the person shifting. We do heal faster than humans though," she added with a smile and a tilt of her head. "That's what Eliot, Wade, and I are; shifters." Everyone in the room nodded, looking a funny combination of dumbstruck and awestruck.
"What's the third reaction?" Hardison asked from his spot in the corner, leaning forward a little to listen better.
"The third reaction is simple; you get bit and you die." Savannah answered solemnly.
"The maulings." Ellie whispered.
"The maulings." Savannah confirmed with a slight nod, unconsciously rubbing Wade's side, as she felt him shifting uncomfortably.
"What about the other six disappearances?" Sophie asked, voicing the question that was on everyone's mind.
"The other six bitten were in the first category of changes. They are werewolves, and shifters and werewolves don't live together. They don't really even get along." Savannah answered softly, looking over to Wade again, and patting his side gently when he growled at the memory of his own meeting with the werewolves.
"Why are you so hot?" Parker asked bluntly and out of the blue, and Eliot let out a weak snort.
Smiling indulgently at him, Savannah said, "Shifters' and werewolves' bodies run at a higher temperature than most humans. Usually our normal temperature is 101, to about 101.5. Anything over that, like Eliot here, is a temperature." She squeezed the base of his neck in sympathy. "We don't usually get sick, but there are things we can catch, and when a shifter gets sick, they get really sick."
"Why's he so calm with you?" Sophie asked, looking from Eliot to Savannah and back again.
"Because I'm his Alpha." Savannah answered simply.
"Anything else?" Nate asked, seeing Eliot's eyes glaze over a little bit.
"There is," Savannah said, once again resting her head on Eliot's chest, "but I think we should let him rest some more before finishing this conversation."
Closing her eyes, Savannah relaxed between Wade and Eliot, and reached for her connection with the hitter again. 'Rest now.' She murmured, feeling Eliot give into her, and his mind drift back to sleep.
She smiled and drifted lightly with him.
The next morning when Eliot woke, he felt good. Moving his arms and legs slowly, Eliot grinned when he felt none of the pain he had felt the day before, and the fire that had been consuming him ever since the bite, was gone.
Opening his eyes he found himself alone in the room, but thinking about it, the hitter had known there was no one in the room even before he opened his eyes. His senses felt like they had been placed on speed and given an energy drink. Colors were brighter, sounds were louder and more distinct, his vision was sharper and magnified, and his sense of smell was off the charts.
Eliot felt positively wired! He felt like a squirrel on crack, almost ready to start bouncing off the walls.
From jobs Eliot had gotten used to adrenaline rushes, but the way he felt now put those rushes to shame. He felt better than he ever had in his life.
Hearing a light padding in the hallway, and smelling the sweet fragrance of irises, Eliot looked at the door. Savannah appeared there only seconds later, and smiled at him. The simple smile held a whole wealth of emotions, but the one that really stood out was how safe Eliot felt right at that moment.
'Morning.' She whispered in his mind, and her smile widened when his brow furrowed a little in concentration. He could see her sharp canines, and the gleam in her eyes with that simple expression, and Eliot found himself wanting to make sure to make her smile like that as often as he could.
'Hi?' He asked sheepishly, ducking his head when she laughed.
"Hello Eliot." She murmured, sitting down on the edge of his bed.
"You," he looked up, locking gazes with hers, "you were the one that changed me?" It was an odd feeling, being so nervous and out of his element, and Eliot didn't like it at all.
"Yes, I changed you. I'm your Alpha, Savannah." She said softly, settling a hand on the back of Eliot's neck. With the simple action, his fears settled, and something seemed to click into place, her grip felt as if it belonged there, and Eliot unconsciously leaned into it.
Eliot nodded, letting all his questions go. Normally he would be chomping at the bit to get answers, but it felt somehow wrong to question the woman in front of him. He wouldn't have let it go with anyone else, but for some reason it felt shameful to even think about asking Savannah anything.
"Hungry?" She asked, and as if on cue, Eliot's stomach growled loudly. She grinned, looking ridiculously innocent and like a child, and stood.
Eliot slid from the bed after her, but looking down, he found himself in just his boxers, boxers he had been wearing for close to three days. "Shower?" He asked, feeling almost stupid at the need to ask Savannah's permission to complete the simple task.
"Go ahead," she answered amusedly, gracefully walking from the room.
Eliot watched her go, and then looked around the room, scrubbing fingers through his hair. He found his duffle on the floor next to the bathroom, and grabbed clothes, before stepping into the bathroom, and turning on the water.
The hot spray felt great on his body. It felt almost like heaven washing the dirt and grime from his skin, and feeling the water washing through his hair was enough to cause a moan of appreciation.
Regretfully stepping from the shower back onto the rug in front of the shower door, Eliot dried off and dressed in jeans and a plain black tee. Towel drying his hair, Eliot studied his new eyes in the mirror, not knowing whether or not he liked the new features.
Shrugging, Eliot hung the towel back up, and padded bare foot out into the kitchen, turning just in time to catch Parker as she jumped on his and pulled him into a hug. Smiling a little and squeezing her back, he whispered, "There's something wrong with you."
She giggled and Eliot couldn't help his own grin as he pulled back and reached for Ellie who stood tearfully in front of him. He didn't know what it was, but with his new senses came the feeling of freedom when it came to showing his emotions. It was a twist, but like anything else, Eliot adapted to the change gracefully.
"I was so afraid," Ellie whispered into his neck, and Eliot held her tighter, rubbing her back tenderly.
"I'm okay." Eliot whispered back, resting his cheek against hers.
Still holding the older woman, Eliot looked up at the rest of the people in the kitchen. His family. It was almost startling to see how the team and Savannah had all become his family. He almost couldn't fathom the care these people had for him, and Eliot tightened his arms around Ellie, not knowing what to do with the information.
"What's with all the chick flick moments?" Hardison asked from his stool at the breakfast bar.
"Wolves show more emotion." Wade said simply, a wry grin twisting his lips. Eliot grinned back at him, feeling as if he were a kid again.
It felt freeing, to be able to show exactly how he felt when he felt it. Eliot didn't know how he had handled being so closed off for so long. He understood that it had been necessary at the time, but being able to just show everyone everything lifted a lot of weight off his shoulders, made him feel lighter.
Pulling away from Ellie, Eliot wandered over to the table and grabbed a couple bagels, throwing them both in the toaster and wandering over to the fridge. Grabbing the cream cheese and two slices of cold pizza from the shelf and shut the door.
Setting the cream cheese by the toaster, Eliot ate the pizza in a few big bites before reaching for the toasted bagels and smearing them with cream cheese. Taking a big bite from the first bagel, Eliot looked up. Everyone in the room was staring at him, Wade's and Savannah's expressions amused.
"What?" He asked around a bite.
"Hungry much?" Nate asked with a dry grin.
"A little," he answered defensively, looking to Savannah for support.
"High metabolism," she smiled, reaching up to wipe cream cheese from the corner of his mouth. Eliot's grinned and stuck his tongue out at Nate, who looked about ready to choke on his laughter. It made Eliot's stomach twist a little when he realized that it had been a long time since Nate had really laughed, and all it had taken was a simple gesture to make it happen.
"Cute, dawg," Hardison said with a laugh of his own.
"Does this mean he'll eat us out of house and home now?" Sophie asked with a quirk of her lips.
Eliot's heart stuttered to a stop at the simple question.
Home. That meant leaving. Leaving was out of the question. He couldn't leave Savannah and Wade, the possibility hurt too much to even think about. A small hand settled on his neck in support, and Eliot relaxed almost immediately.
"What just happened? What's wrong?" Ellie asked, seeing the panic on Eliot's face.
"You can't leave your pack." Savannah said, squeezing Eliot's neck as she spoke. "It'll feel like dying, leaving a gaping wound that can't be repaired." Eliot relaxed a little at the touch, but panic still made his heart pound hard. "Only rogue wolves leave their packs, they're the only ones able to deal with the pain."
"Oh." Parker looked at Eliot, studying him carefully, her head cocked to the side. "Well I like Eliot anyway, and like this he's even more fun." She paused looking at the rest of the team. "If he's staying, so am I." She bounced over and pushed herself up on the counter, wrapping an arm around the hitter as she settled.
"Good," Eliot said hoarsely, looking at her with something akin to loving gratitude and awe. He wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her closer. She leaned into his side, and something settled deeply in Eliot's chest.
"Well we all know, Parker can't be left alone, so I guess I'll be staying as well." Sophie said with a slightly dramatic huff of indignation, smiling to show she was kidding.
"Yah'all can't survive without me." Hardison said simply, although Eliot could see the grin in his eyes.
"Oh okay, I suppose I can get used to Texas heat." Nate winked conspiratorially.
"Well if that's settled then, why don't you all come stay with us?" Savannah said, dropping her hand from Eliot's neck to pat at his shoulder before walking over to Wade and sitting on his lap.
"We can't impose." Sophie said, drawing her hands up in front of her.
"Please," Savannah said, taking Sophie's hand and looking her straight in the eye, "you wouldn't be imposing, you'd be doing me a favor. Twenty three rooms are too much to handle anyway." The team's eyes widened, and she smirked slightly, "Old money." It was as much of an answer as they were going to get, and it seemed to be enough.
"Cool," Parker said, unconsciously scrubbing at Eliot's side with her nails. Eliot almost purred at the action, the sensation comforting and pleasurable at the same time, and Parker didn't even notice she was doing it.
"Besides," Savannah said, turning from Eliot with a smile, "if you really want to make it up to me, retrieve something for me." A simultaneous jaw drop from Nate and Sophie caused a sputtered laugh from Eliot and Wade, and Savannah's smile widened. "All shifters in a pack are linked telepathically."
She said it like it was just that simple, like there was no other possible option, and while Nate supposed there wasn't to her, but to him and the rest of the team it wasn't even plausible. So instead of answering, Nate just smiled awkwardly at her.
"What is it with yah'all and all the smiling?" Hardison asked from his position in the corner of the room, a hard fought smirk pulling at the corners of his mouth.
"I'm happy," Eliot said serenely, leaning farther into Parker, unconsciously taking in a deep breath through his nose, and holding the scent deeply in his lungs before letting it out.
She smelled like apple blossoms and gummy worms and mischief. She smelt like home.
There was something about Parker that just pulled at him, made him feel safe and cared for, and for Eliot to find something like that, it was a big deal. It also confused the hell out of him.
'What is this?' He asked, trying to figure out just why he was so comfortable so close to Parker, and it hurt so much to even think about being away from her. Thinking of her leaving felt like shards being driven into his stomach, caused his breath to stop short in his throat.
'She's your haven.' Eliot could tell Savannah was holding back, but what she said made sense. He just wondered what else was going on, and what exactly being a haven meant, other than the impression of safe.
Parker seemed to sense the change too. She was staying close, and making sure that Eliot stayed calm and happy by effortless actions, actions that seemed to be unconscious in effort.
"Are you happy, Eliot?" The question came from his aunt out of nowhere, and Eliot startled back into focus.
It took him a moment to think it over, but in the end the answer was simple, "Yeah," he said hoarsely, "Yeah, I think I am." The change left him feeling loose, free and unburdened in a way he hadn't felt since before his parents had died.
"Good." The answer came from Parker, who only grinned back at him when he looked over to her.
He smiled back.
'Now I'm going through changes, (Changes)
God I feel so frustrated lately,
When I get suffocated,
Now I'm going through changes,
"Just let it happen, look for the wolf, feel him, and let him out." Eliot swallowed and nodded. He looked from Savannah over to Parker, and felt a little better when she smiled and gave him the thumbs up.
Closing his eyes, Eliot tightened his hands into fists and sucked in a harsh breath through his nose. He could feel the wolf pulling at him, begging him to just let it out, and clenching his fists tighter, Eliot let out his breath and let the pull take over.
It was nothing like he had ever felt before. The wolf was a serene and fully restrained beast, with instincts like any canine, to protect those it loved and rip apart anything that got in its way of protecting. He was just glad that he was in the company of those he loved.
The wolf also held a sense of freedom and a complete sense of complacency with no worries except keeping its pack and family safe. No responsibilities to anyone but the ones he cared about.
It was an awesome feeling.
It felt like his blood was thickening and warming, coursing through him, and leaving him on a pleasant buzz. His bones shifted and popped, muscles thickening and adapting. It was a weird, not entirely pleasant feeling, and then he found himself on all fours. His heart beat rapidly, and seeing Parker grinning at him from her position Indian style on the ground made him smile back.
Eliot trotted toward her, tail wagging, and Parker's heart melted and turned over in her chest. He was smiling at her, could tell, and her own grin widened, eyes glinting and the sides crinkling as her dimples deepened.
"Oh, you're so pretty!" She squealed, and Eliot's tongue lolled as his grin widened and he made his way over to her.
A big grey and white wolf with bright blue eyes now stood where Eliot had just seconds before. A long snout nuzzled at Parker's face, and she giggled as his fur tickled against her face.
'Good job.' Savannah's grin was wide in his mind, and Eliot snorted, a slight bark rumbling in his chest.
Parker reached up and threaded her hands through his fur, scratching gently behind his ears. Eliot sighed a deep rumble in his chest, and laid down, his head in her lap as she kept scrubbing her nails behind his ears.
Parker giggled again and looked down at him. "You need a nickname." She said thoughtfully, and Eliot rolled his eyes up to look at her. She stuck her tongue out between her lips and looked back at him, lost in thought. "Ryder?" She asked after a moment, looking down at him to make sure it was okay.
Eliot rolled the name around his head for a minute before turning his head and nuzzling her wrist in answer. She seemed to know that he was agreeing and grinned, carding her fingers through the long fur at his neck.
"Aw, that's so cute!" Eliot closed his eyes and ignored the team behind him, knowing they must have coordinated to say it in unison. Unwilling to give them the pleasure of seeing him rise to the bait, Eliot just focused on the pleasant motions of Parker's hands, and ignoring them completely.
'It is kinda cute.' Savannah told him with a laugh.