Eliot was pleasantly surprised when Tana accepted defeat. Now, months later, Katie Beth was starting kindergarten in a few days and Sophie was taking immense pleasure in the school clothes shopping while making everyone else miserable.
"Daddy can you die from too much walking?" Katie asked as they trudged behind an energized Miss Deveraux. "No."
"Can your feet fall off?"
He smiled picking her up "Better?"
"Thanks, I'm hungry."
Parker reached for her. "I'll take her to the food court you pry Soph outta that store."
He handed her over not at all worried. Things were starting to change between Parker and him, casual accidentally on purpose touches, moments filled with sexual tension and quiet time spent together doing nothing at all. He liked to read. Parker liked to plan thievery in her head. She tried to be sly about it, but he knew that she was mentally trying to steal the Mona Lisa from the Louvre.
They both knew something was changing slow like the tectonic plates of the Earth but still a change. Changes they ignored. They were like Sophie and Nate, only more fucked up.
"Come on Sophie you've worn us all out. Lets pay and leave."
"But she needs-"
"Soph you've bought three closets worth of stuff. She has everything she needs, she's tuckered out she asked me if her feet could fall off."
"Nonsense....although maybe what she's really saying is that she needs new shoes."
"Seriously, do you know how hard it is to make a five year old tired? You've accomplished something."
Parker stood in line at Taco Bell, Katie still on her hip. To the outside world, they could of very easily passed for mother and daughter. Their orders placed, she went to set Katie down at the table and the hairs on the back of her neck rose.
She felt like they were being watched. She tried to shrug it off. Maybe the last job was still making her paranoid. She turned her attention back to Katie who was talking to her.
"What did you say Katie?"
"I asked if we can get cookies too?"
"Ask your Daddy here he comes."
Eliot strode up with a pouty Sophie following. He kissed Katie on the top of the head then plopped down in the seat next to her. "Ready to go home Monkey?"
"Can we get a cookie at the cookie place?"
"Eat your tacos first…"
"Thank you for bein' good today."
"No prob Bob."
He laughed. "You guys order for me and Sophie or do we gotta bum off you?"
"We ordered for you see." Katie pointed as he reached for his food he noticed a distracted look on Parker's face.
"Earth to twenty pounds of crazy you ok?"
"Yeah I'll tell you later." She didn't even acknowledge the barb he threw at her teasingly. That told him something was off. She usually at the very least made a face at him.
Katie Beth had fallen asleep on the way home so he put her to bed. He closed her door leaving it cracked and emerged into the living room to find Parker sitting in the dark on the couch staring at the blank TV. He reached over to turn on the lamp on the end table by the couch.
"Parker you are acting weirder than usual."
"Someone was watching us."
"What? When? Now?"
"No earlier Katie and I at the food court. I know it I felt it Eliot." He sat next to her on the couch. He never knew how to comfort her or make her feel better. He usually left that to Sophie or Hardison. He could totally punch someone for her but hugging and kind words didn't come easily to him.
The only reason he could support Katie emotionally was because his love for her overrode his insecurities about being emotionally venerable. So he sat on the couch near her fiddling with a strand of her hair. "It was probably nothing just your imagination working over time."
"I guess you're right and you'll say I'm imagining this thing between me and you too right? That this thing we've been avoiding by being with other people and just plain pretending you dislike me like we have fo-"
He kissed her.
She was pretty sure he was kissing her to get her to shut her up. Man, was he good at it though, gentle yet demanding. One hand coiled into her hair, the other on her hip. She didn't know what kissing him would be like but she'd wondered.
Now she knew it was a bit like being electrocuted, this warm zappy feeling she felt from her toes on up and he tastes like Christmas. Huh who knew, she thought.
"Better?" He smirked pulling away.
"You taste like Christmas."
"Huh? Do what? You lost me." His brow furrowed
"You know peppermint equals candy canes and candy canes equal Christmas."
Eliot had two days with his girl before school started everyone else had side jobs to do. So it would just be Katie Beth and him at the Franklin Park Zoo today.
He shook her slightly "Wake up Monkey get moving." He kissed her cheek as she groaned into wakefulness.
"It's zoo day." and he got a sleepy little smile.
"Can I wear my tell me I'm pretty or my Daddy will punch you in the face shirt?"
Eliot laughed. "Sure wear whatever you want babe but your blue tutu is in the laundry so that's out."
"I know right."
He was making breakfast when she emerged from her room wearing her purple shirt that said "Tell Me I'm Pretty Or My Daddy Will Punch You In The Face!", black jeans and one pink converse and one purple. He cocked his head to the side
"Katie darlin' your shoes don't match."
"I know I meant to do that."
"Oh, well at least you have them on the right feet. Here eat your cereal." He set a bowl of cheerios in front of her.
They were looking at the lemurs. "Daddy could Parker steal a lemur?"
"I'm sure she could but -" he felt it too then something was off. He looked around trying not to alarm Katie. He didn't see anything. Maybe Tana was tailing them.
"But what Daddy."
"Oh um, you can't have one."
"Well why not?"
"Why does because I said so never work on you?"
"Cause you taught me to question authority."
"Not Daddy's smartest move."
"You gave me a puppy for my birthday."
"I had a weak moment because you are a charmer. That's a wild animal and they stink so nope sorry kid not happening."
"You know you should ask Parker on a real date. One I don't go on." Eliot chuckled at the quick change in subject. "I should huh?"
"You like her don't you? And it's the gentlemanly thing to do."
"Thanks for the advice Monkey."
"No problem that's what I'm here for."
Eliot had never set out to be a father much less someone's daddy, but if where honest with himself, he could admit that it was one of the few things that didn't involve violence stealing or lying that he was truly good at. Which he guessed was why he was standing here on the sidewalk watching his baby, who Sophie had dressed like a model for Gap Kids, walk into school.
She stopped every few feet to make sure they were still there and would wave. He really just wanted to cry. Not hit something, like Hardison so often suggested. Just really wanted to have himself a good cry. His mama said he would, but he was trying like hell not too. Katie Beth stood in the doorway, looking back as they all shouted last minute advice.
"Use the Gummi Frogs to make friends at recess."
"Don't get dirty."
"Yeah right Sophie…" Parker said motioning her to ear bud "If you need to talk."
"Great, Make people think she's crazy," Eliot muttered to himself.
"Just have fun Katie." Nate called out. Katie Beth looked over at Eliot. He nodded mouthing "It's ok, go." she gestured 1 4 3.
"What's that mean?" Sophie asked. "It's the number of letters in each word of I love you."
He answered signaling back 1 4 3 3. And in she went. He took a deep breath.
"Lets go we have work to do until she gets out. It'll go faster for me if I work. So, lets go." he said gruffly.
No one took the bait though they just followed him to the car letting him grumble, because that was just Eliot.
AN: Ok, so this is it for this story but I'm planning a sequel that will be titled "Rise And Rise Again Until Lambs Become Lions" so keep an eye out for it coming to an inbox near you! Thanks for all the reviews and alerts and stuff and thanks to my Beta Fleur!