AN: Thank Ultrawoman for reminding me that I haven't posted the last chapter for this story yet. :D Sorry I haven't been "with it" lately. That goes for review replies, PM replies...posting. Bunch of stuff going on in RL. But anyway…Thanks for reading and reviewing!

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Four-Letter Words

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When Eliot reluctantly returns to school, he finds that he's one of the last of Ms. Leggett's class to do so - hey, chicken pox and the flu at the same time will take a lot out of you, okay? - and that holy frack, his teacher is dating the other second-grade teacher, Mr. Frut! They seem pretty...happy, too. In a bizarre, awkwardly cute kind of way. It seems that they'd gotten close after their students decided that they were almost all going to get sick at the same time (possibly due to their close proximity during the events of The-Thing-That-Must-Not-Be-Mentioned-In-The- Presence-Of-Adults).

"Dammit!" Lindsey frowns when Eliot tells him the news. "So much for that."

"I thought you didn't like her," Eliot says. So he was right; Lindsey had lied about not liking Ms. Leggett.

"She was an asset," Lindsey replies, and Eliot's annoyance at being lied to turns into a wholly different kind of annoyed.

Thwap! "Stop thinking of people as commodities, Linny. It ain't healthy," he scolds.

"Tell that to Nate!" Lindsey says in defense, "And Sophie! And while you're at it, tell Hardison that people aren't computer programs, and Parker that people's pockets aren't her own personal ATMs. An' you know what? I ain't a punching bag, so stop hitting me!"


Bandit "earmuffs" himself obediently at the four-letter word that explodes from Lindsey at that point.

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"Hi Eliot," Jenna Leeman says.

"Hi Jenna," Eliot says warily, backing away slowly. However, there is no way to escape the two sticky hands that reach for his face and pull it towards Jenna's puckered, watermelon-flavored Princess Glitter Gloss-smeared lips.

If the muffled scream that erupts from Eliot's mouth, accompanied by frantically flailing hands is undignified, well…say that in public and that's libel, and you can take it up with his lawyer.

And Eliot will kick you in the shins, too.

So there.

(And ew. Girl cooties are gross! Especially if there's glitter involved. Seriously!)

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Among the team, things also pretty much go back to the way they were. Except...Except some things are subtly different.

Nate isn't the only one who notices that, while their squabbling may even have increased in the course of their quarantine together, Lindsey and Eliot's relationship has gotten slightly more complicated, yet less so at the same time. It's…Well, it's different. It almost reminds Nate of Sam, but…only almost because Sam had been a completely different kind of child from Eliot. So really, this doesn't remind Nate of Sam at all. Except…

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Sophie watches the brothers out of the corner of her eye during one Saturday movie night.

Lindsey is sprawled out on the couch, seeming to be completely at ease, with Eliot tucked under his arm and fast asleep. The boy's cheek rests on the ex-lawyer's chest, rising and falling with each breath, and a chubby hand holds tight onto a fistful of flannel shirt. A larger hand smooths out the tangles in the messy mop of dark blond hair with slow, gentle strokes.

A raised eyebrow lets Sophie know that she has been caught, and she returns the look with a knowing smile of her own. Lindsey chuckles softly and turns his attention back to the movie, letting his hand settle protectively on the boy's head, the smile lingering on his lips. Eliot shifts in his sleep and punches Lindsey sluggishly in the side, prompting only an annoyed huff from the older man and a slight readjustment into a more comfortable position.

Parker snuggles in closer to Lindsey's other side, but only so that she can reach over the two brothers and snag a bag of Hardison's snacks from the pile between the slumbering Eliot and the hacker.

"Hey! Get your own movie food, woman!"

"It's mine now!"

Sophie laughs silently at the two younger thieves' antics and the hitter's rolled eyes (being stuck in the middle, literally, since he can't move from under Eliot's weight without waking him), and feels Nate's arm wrap around her, warm and safe.

She smiles up at him. Blue eyes twinkle down at her.

Content. She is content. This is her family, and this is where she wants to be, where she wants to stay. Always on the run, always changing identities – she has never stayed so long in one place, stayed one person for this long (at least since her tumultuous and best-left-forgotten childhood). She has never wanted to stay before.

Things have changed, and she doesn't know exactly when, but somewhere along the line, her relationship with Nate has turned into exactly that – a relationship – rather than just a fling, or teammates with benefits. She…loves Nate, and the way his eyes shine down at her tells her that he feels the same.

He smiles at her and presses a chaste kiss on her forehead. She closes her eyes and languorously leans into his chest with a contented sigh.

"Enough!" Lindsey erupts from the other couch in a whispered yell. "You'll wake him up! This," he slices his hand up and down an imaginary line in front of him, "is a wall. It is magic and you can't hack it, and you can't break into it. Neither of you may cross it. No loopholes or back doors. Understood? Now watch the damn pirate movie like adults."

"Lindsey," Parker whispers, "I finished my bag." She waves the empty snack bag in his face, spilling crumbs into his lap. "I want more."

Lindsey groans. His head thuds against the back of the couch.

Parker rests her chin on Lindsey's shoulder, makes a pitiful mewling sound, and breathes chip-breath into his ear.

"Hey!" interjects Hardison as Lindsey swings another bag of Chex Mix (Traditional flavor) over the imaginary magic wall into Parker's gleeful, garlicky hands.

"Sorry, man," Lindsey says apologetically, "She's more annoying than you are."

"Traitor," Hardison mutters, "Traitor to the Little Brothers United club. I'm revoking your membership."

"In case you haven't noticed," Lindsey says, "Big Brother ain't so big anymore."

As if to make his point, Eliot moves a knee up into Lindsey's lap and wriggles his little body into place, latching onto Lindsey's neck like a…like a monkey. He settles back down with a contented little sigh, his nose pressed into the side of his brother's neck, making Lindsey snort because even for a real seven-year-old, this is a bit too cuddly.

"Hardison…" he warns when the hacker pulls his phone out.

Hardison snaps the picture anyway. Just because. And another for luck.

"He'll beat you up and I'll laugh."

"We should take pictures of that," Parker giggles with an audible crunch.

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In other news, the day that Eliot goes back to school, Lindsey insists on parking the van a block from the school so that they can monitor how Eliot is doing – both in terms of trouble-making and his health. They get raided by the school police as potential child-snatching suspects four hours into their watch. The appearance of five FBI badges in the cops' faces solves the problem, but they move the van to someplace less…suspicious.

Hardison avoids his beloved Orange Squeeze for an entire week and a half after his bout with the flu – the muttered under-the-breath laments about the trauma of orange, stinging vomit gives the others a clue as to why. He goes back to his soda after Nate catches him dozing on his keyboard with a long line of "r;ehgggggggggggggggggg" on the screen. Man needs his caffeine to work, brah.

Lindsey adds a new nickname for Eliot to his long list: Outbreak Monkey. Eliot hates it immensely and stops making dessert for eight team dinners. Parker and Hardison force Lindsey to apologize so that they can have their delicious baked sweets again.

However, it takes an entire three months for peanut butter cookies to make their reappearance. (Some might credit this with the replacement of "Outbreak Monkey" with "Snuggle Monkey," but they would be wrong. Eliot isn't nearly that spiteful. They just didn't have the right brand of peanut butter in any of the stores he frequented for those three months. That's all.)

Finally, Parker has a new scar. On her butt. Lindsey and Hardison have a brief, unmanly giggle about it when she changes in front of them during a con.

"Scar," snickers Lindsey.

"Butt," titters Hardison.

"Guys," Sophie and Nate chorus.

"What?" asks Parker, confused.

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AN: This is a probable maybe ending for this story. This is what I was unsure about when I asked people for ideas in Chapter 8. Do you guys think that this chapter solved everything? (And as for turning Eliot back, I'll do that, but in a separate story, later.) If I do add an epilogue, I don't know what I'd put in it…This wrapped things up, I think. (Except for the thing Lindsey used to blackmail Nate. But I have a plan for that.)

References/other notes:

To "earmuff" a kid means to put your hands over his/her ears when a bad word/dirty joke is being said. One may also instruct a child to" earmuff" him/herself.

The Jenna thing came out of nowhere. I thought I'd finished this chapter, but no, I was in bed and my lavender plot bunny named Bruce appeared in front of me and demanded that I write this in. But it makes complete sense, doesn't it? Or no…?

The pirate movie they're watching is one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. They had a marathon that night. Hardison is an Orly 'n' Depp fan, Parker likes how they swing on ropes, Nate uses movies to pick up new ideas for cons, and Sophie thinks that Johnny Depp in eyeliner is dreamy. Eliot likes to critique the fighting, and Lindsey feels a sort of sympathy for Bootstrap Bill Turner's fate (sold his soul).

Traditional Chex Mix is awesome. 'Nuff said.

Van: Thanks for the idea, Gigi13!

Outbreak Monkey – This is a reference to the movie Outbreak, in which a deadly disease is initially spread by a monkey. Also, Eliot hates monkeys (canon). Lindsey, of course, knows this, and can't help but rib his "little" brother about it.

Lindsey loves his peanut butter cookies. Referenced in "Lindsey's Adventures in L-Space."