Well here we are. Originally the last chapter was written as the end chapter way back when the team had just found Eliot and I had to make the decision of how much I wanted Eliot to heal. However sometime in between the epilogue would not leave me alone as I wanted to know where the team would end up.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you to all that have reviewed and added this story to their favorites. I don't have time to reply to every review but know that I cherish every single one.
A big thank you to my beta JadeAlmasy for catching the mistakes and hopefully making it easier to read.
It had been seven long years since they had taken down Damien Moure and ten since the team had gotten together and if someone had told Nate that he would be this blissfully happy with life after losing Sam twelve years ago he would have shot them.
But he was. He was content and happy beyond anything he could have ever imagined. When he was at the worst in his life a group of thieves had come into his life and they had become his friends and eventually his family. He didn't quite remember when the lines had began to blur and the younger thieves that agreed to work with him became his children but they did.
"Stop fidgeting," he told Eliot and moved over to fix his tie. Eliot glared at him but let him have his way. Despite over coming all odds there were still things that Eliot had trouble with. When they came up the family had learned to take them in stride and not be bothered by them however a few of them were amusing such as Eliot's inability to tie ties if he was looking down. He was fine if he was tying someone else's tie however his own was impossible.
"There. Perfect!" said Nate as he stepped back to take in who he considered to be his oldest son in his dark grey stripped tuxedo, he was wearing a light blue vest inside the tuxedo that brought out his eyes with a matching tie and handkerchief in the pocket all of which was picked out by Sophie.
He was getting married today!
Eliot had met Claire over three years ago in a book store and they had started dating. They actually had been living together for two but three months ago over a family dinner Eliot had announced that they were going to get married. The declaration had made Sophie ecstatic as she had finally been able to organize the wedding she always wanted. When she and Nate had tied the knot, just after her announcement of pregnancy, he had been adamant that it would be a small ceremony. The whole family had flown to Santorini to have a beach wedding, it had been just them and casual. Hardison and Parker despite living together for the last four years were yet to be married. So when Eliot's wedding had come up he and Claire had let Sophie have her way. The wedding was happening on the estate in Maine and the guest list was extremely small however the wedding itself could easily been an example wedding for several magazines.
Nate himself was in a matching suit as well as Hardison who despite being the best man was nowhere to be found so taking care of Eliot was left up to Nate. He had to help Eliot shave that morning because his hands had been shaking and Nate was sure that it was because he was too nervous rather than the excuse that 'I am not feeling well.' Nate had smiled and let him have his way. Eliot had been shaving by himself for over five years and most mornings he did it with an open razor just to prove to himself that he was steady enough to do it.
About a year ago Eliot had announced that he was going back to university to try for his MD that he had left so long ago. The entire team had looked at him in shock, even after all this time they had no idea that Eliot had only been three semesters away from becoming a doctor. He had to take certain courses again and still had about a year to go but he was taking his time just enjoying life.
Nate looked him over with a critical eye and took in the hair that just fell short of his ears just like when they had first gotten together. Eliot still liked his hair long however Claire thought he looked 'cuter' with shorter hair so he had compromised and cut his hair for the occasion of their wedding. He had been sure he was never going to live that one down with Hardison. He was wearing a loop earring in one ear and no matter how much Sophie had nagged that morning she had not been able to get him to take it off.
Nate reflected that Eliot looked good and fit. He had never gained back the bulk that he had due to the effects of the drugs however you could tell that he was fit under the clothes. It was always a sour point among them that Hardison nowadays looked bulkier then Eliot however none mentioned it especially when Eliot could still wipe the floor with Hardison if he wanted to. Eliot's left leg and arm still on occasion spasmed although he had found out that wearing a knee and shoulder brace helped. Nate knew that it bothered Eliot that his body still did not responded like it used to. Add to that, that he still had cognitive troubles as well it wasn't always so easy to be him. However Eliot had accepted the hand that fate had dealt him humbly and it was because of that attitude that Claire had fallen in love with him and Nate could not ask for a better person for Eliot to marry. Him meeting Claire had been an adventure in its self where Parker had played the love culprit and therefore Parker was the maid of honor today and had been squealing like a teenage girl for the last four weeks.
Suddenly there was a lot of noise as the four year old Ben ran in wearing an identical suit to Eliot's and he was followed by two noisy identical three year old girls who also came in screaming. They looked very cute in their pink flower girl dresses that of course Sophie had picked out. They were Pepper and Penny and were Parker's and Hardison's twins. The cutest little girls you could ever meet, who were an exact cross between Parker and Hardison. They both had fair skin, big brown eyes perfect for begging and dark curly hair which today was interwoven with flowers.
Ben ran around the room until he managed to get behind Eliot and grabbed onto his legs wanting to hide. As the girls came rushing towards them Nate stepped in between knowing that in under a minute they would all be rolling on the ground, Eliot included, ganged up against Eliot.
"Now children," he said in his best I am the father voice – it seemed to work on the older members well enough however not always on the next generation. "We don't want all of you to get dirty before the ceremony now do we?" he said and when that didn't seemed to have any effect he added "What would Sophie think?" he after all used to be able to con the best of people.
That seemed to do the trick. The children who have been exposed to Sophie all their lives had the same sense of respect for clothes that she seemed to have. They calmed down and started to question their favorite person in the world about his wedding. Eliot bent to their level and answered their questions with a patience he never showed adults.
Sophie came rushing in after the children a moment later and gave them all a smile. She looked radiant in her tailor made dress with a hat for some reason. She ushered the children out with an expertise that did not match her lady image. She had settled down into the mother role like this was what she was born to do. And when the twins came she had stepped in to help Parker with them. Parker and Hardison had even moved in with them for a while until they were comfortable with handling the twins. For Nate and Sophie it had been like having grown children, toddlers and grandchildren all rolled up in one.
Sophie nowadays worked with under privilege children teaching them drama. As Nate watched her he wasn't sure if these children were getting a drama class or 'How to con someone 101' class however everyone who took her class came out with more confidence so there were no problems.
In fact almost all of them worked with inner city under privilege children. It had been Parker's idea after the whole do-not-steal-the-terracotta-soldier deal. She had wondered into a children's shelter in town and picked up a brochure and a week later she had announced that she wished to teach children who lived in the city to grown their own things. Suddenly Nate had found his next calling. He had dedicated part of their land outside of the city to Parker's project and Parker had built up a set of green houses with a lot of help from Eliot and children from within the city rotated to come and visit and learned about growing vegetables, fruits and flowers.
It hadn't taken Nate long to convince Eliot that they need some horses in the stables that the children could ride and for Sophie to give them some drama classes and before they knew it they had one of the biggest volunteer facilities in the state running for inner city children. Nate knew that he could somehow convince Eliot to be the onsite doctor for the organization once he graduated. Even from the start he had been the one to tend to the scraped knees and the splinters to the fingers. Nate really enjoyed the day to day organization of their little world and after all their lives the rest of the family felt good at being able to give back to the children as well as the community.
After the children left Nate looked at his watch and then over at Eliot, they had just ten minutes to go. Just then Hardison poked his head in and said, "Sophie says everyone to their places in five minutes," he finished with a grin that went from one ear to the other, flashed a photo before they could stop him and walked out.
Hardison was the only one who worked outside of "Parker's World" as it became to be known. He worked for the government of all places, FBI to be exact. How he came to be part of their teams was a whole other story. He of course spent an incredible amount of time sorting the camp's files and financials but he had always been good at multi tasking. And the excitement of the FBI suited him fine.
If Nate was honest with himself the rest of the team except Hardison had all been ready to retire when he made the choice for them. Sophie had already been out of the business when they got started, Eliot had been a weary soul, Parker had been in the business since she was twelve and ready to do something else and Nate himself while he had enjoyed the rush knew that he was on a destructive course. So the change in life style had suited them all except Hardison and in the end that had worked itself out as well.
Nate looked Eliot over one more time to make sure that Ben had not done any damage and as his eyes roamed over him he caught Eliot's eyes. Eliot's eyes these days always carried a slight sense of loss and confusion, like one who knew what they had had and lost however in the last few weeks they had been shining with enough happiness to mask all others except now. His head was slightly tilted to the side, a clear sign that he was working through a memory that he was remembering. Through the years they were all surprised that even after so many years there were moments that Eliot still recalled things from the past.
Nate also tilted his head clearly wanting to know what Eliot had remembered. Eliot shook his head not wanting to share. Nate silently lifted an eyebrow, Eliot not sharing was new. It had taken a while but Eliot had confined in Nate as the returning memories caused him a lot of grief and he would wake up screaming in the night. Nate had then stepped into the role of the counselor as well. He hadn't done much, just listened without judgment as Eliot had tried to explain with the limited amount of language he had however somehow it had helped, the nightmares were put back where they belonged and only rotated back when Eliot was having a bad day.
"This is not the time," Eliot said with a frown, clearly the newly recalled memory was bothering him.
"You might as well as share it with me," said Nate. "You guys are going to Europe for your honeymoon right after dinner and we won't have time with all the chaos that will ensure," he finished and thought that would have been enough to get Eliot to share but he could still see that Eliot was bothered and not willing to share.
"Please, whatever it is, it's bothering you," Nate said.
After a moment more Eliot raised his eyes to Nate's to look him straight in the eye. "You told me we were not friends," he stated in a small voice.
Nate froze for a second, throughout the years he had become proficient at reading Eliot and his careless words towards a young man ten years ago seemed to have made a deep impression even if the feelings were being just rediscovered at that moment. All Eliot had been doing then was telling Nate that he was sorry for losing Sam. And Nate had thrown his kind gesture back at his face not caring that he might have been hurting the person in front of him. He had no idea what had reawakened this memory and why now of all places but he knew he had to set the record straight.
He reached up and grabbed Eliot by the sides of his face and moved closer to him. "I was a drunk and an asshole back then," he said and watched the tiny smile that came over Eliot's face. "I did not care if I hurt anyone in my grief and I am sorry that I hurt you, however I was right about one thing," he said and watched as Eliot's tiny smile disappeared and his eyes become guarded. "You and I are not friends," he said and when Eliot tried to jerk back he held firm and spoke his next words with a fierce determination.
"We are way more than just friends, we are best of friends," he said, "we are family, brothers on occasion and," he stopped to take a breath and smiled at Eliot, they were so close that he could feel Eliot's quickened breath on his face "sometimes… father and son," he said in a whisper. At that he watched Eliot's eyes shutter and they fell closed and his head fell forward a tiny bit. Nate mimicked the movement and they ended up forehead to forehead. Nate allowed the moment and emotions to run freely though them and almost felt a wound he created years ago finally begin to heal.
He almost missed the whispered, "thanks … Nate," the implication on his name clear that it stood out for the word 'Dad.'
"What are you guys doing?" said someone from behind them, throughout the years Parker never got out of the habit of just appearing out of nowhere. They both opened their eyes and took a step back to turn to look at Parker.
Parker was standing in the corner furthest from the door in her beautiful black dress. Sophie had almost had a heart attack when Parker had announced that she wanted her bride maids dress to be black however looking at her Nate had to agree that black was her color.
"Nate! Eliot!" she all but screeched breaking the heavy moment that seemed to linger in the room, "places!" she screamed and with that left without a backward glance. With a smile to Eliot to set him at ease Nate winked and left the room.
Eliot took a deep breath to calm himself. Life had not turned out as he had imagined it to be or maybe exactly as he had thought it would be. When he had joined the army at the age of eighteen he had imagined doing his duty to his country while continuing school, after all that was why he had signed up. After he was done he always thought of getting married surrounded by family with knowing his place in the grand scheme of things. Now his chosen family was there to share this day with him and so what if he was almost 20 years behind schedule for doing the things he wanted. The experiences in between made him who he was and on reflection he would not change a single moment of anything because then he would not be him and most important of all have these people in his life. After looking himself over in the mirror once more and taking a breath he went forward to open a new chapter in his life.