"Eliot? Eliot! Tell me you still got your earbud on, man," Hardison's voice suddenly came to life in his ear, a little winded like he'd been working out or something.
Eliot blinked and touched a hand to the Bluetooth receiver; he'd almost forgotten he still had it in, mostly in case Tara ran into some trouble or other on her part of the latest con. Sophie wasn't back yet, and Lindsey hadn't shown his face in Boston in the month and a half since the team's trip to L.A., so they were still stuck with the woman. She was kind of starting to grow on him, but he still didn't feel as comfortable trusting her off on her own as he would have if Sophie was playing the role.
"Yeah, Hardison, I'm here. What's got your panties in a twist?" he asked, halting in the shadow of a tree just outside the entrance to the next graveyard on his impromptu patrol schedule.
Buffy halted next to him, hands in her pockets against the early February chill, and tilted her head in curiosity. Probably listening in, not that he minded; he'd have waved her off if it was something he didn't want her to hear.
"Your scary girlfriend there, too? 'Cause--" A heavy clattering sound like a bunch of crates falling over interrupted him. "Shit, Parker, what're you-- oh, good thinking. Man, hand me a pair of those."
"Hardison," Eliot growled. "Yeah, she's here. What the hell are you two doin'?"
He regretted asking almost as soon as the words left his mouth; Hardison had said he'd be taking Parker to Auntie Anne's, but if that had been some kind of weird pretzel metaphor and not a literal trip to the food court in South Station, Eliot really didn't want to know.
"Making stakes! Sorry, sorry-- it's kind of a long-- Parker, this way! Crap, we ain't losing 'em; and it's still three blocks to the apartment." Hardison gulped audibly, the sound backed by the quick slap of rubber against pavement. "Eliot...."
No, they weren't working out, or anything else he'd have to bleach his brain about later: Hardison was running. From someone-- or something, if Eliot factored in the sound of splintering wood. Which didn't make any sense. What would bloodsuckers be doing in Boston?
The hacker didn't answer; instead, a loud banging noise carried over the tiny speaker, and everything went real quiet and muffled.
...Shit. Eliot turned and immediately started running toward the truck, his carefully planned 'casual date night' with the Slayer abandoned.
"Well I guess now we know where all the vampires are tonight," Buffy quipped, darting ahead of him to throw open the passenger side door and vault in.
"Shoulda known something like this was gonna happen," he shook his head as he got behind the wheel and started her up, burning rubber as he spun around and floored it back toward McRory's. "Been too damn quiet since we left L.A. Gotta be a hit. Boston proper's been off limits since the Saints cleared out the underbrush back in '99; somebody must be paying these fangs a lot for them to risk it."
"Saints?" Buffy asked, frowning over at him. "I'm guessing you don't mean the guys from New Orleans with the sparkly new rings?"
He spared a second of attention from the road to throw her a skeptical glance. "You honestly don't know, or you tryin' to take my mind off Hardison and Parker?"
"Hm. Little of both?" she admitted. "We've heard rumors, but, you know. They were human, but they weren't our crowd, and no one in the know was much inclined to talk. But why patrol, then, if...?"
Eliot cleared his throat; he'd been kind of hoping for quiet night, not that he was going to admit it. "Better ask Nate about 'em, later; he's from around here..." He raised a finger as the earbud crackled back to life. "Hardison! You there?"
"Damn, that was close," Hardison breathed out with a sigh of relief.
"Too close," he heard Parker add, almost on top of him. "He smelled. Do they really have trouble with running water, like in the myths?"
"What? What was close?" Eliot asked, jerking the wheel hard over as he took the next intersection against the light. Traffic was pretty sparse, but he still set off a chorus of honking horns as he skidded through the unsignaled turn. Still a few blocks to go, damn it.
"Dude, don't give me that attitude. Vamps not be much to you, but that one that knocked my earbud out? I'm damn proud of me and Parker for taking him. Where's your girlfriend, anyway? Thought you said she was with you."
Eliot shared another startled look with Buffy at that-- then swore. "She is with me. Pullin' up in front of McRory's right now."
"What? No, man, I see you...." Hardison broke off briefly as he finally caught a clue-- then kept right on babbling. "Uh, talkin' without moving your mouth. Hey! That's new."
Eliot rolled his eyes. Because the simplest explanation was obviously telepathy.
"Hardison, whoever you're lookin' at? That ain't me." It was probably another attacker; Buffy had told him about the Order of Teraka, and he wouldn't put it past Wolfram and Hart to have hired someone like that to prove you couldn't pull one over on the company without consequences. A shapeshifter, maybe, or someone wearing a glamour....
"Kinda getting that. Dude."
Hardison's voice went back to indignant as Eliot and Buffy threw themselves out of the truck, following Buffy's spidey sense toward the nearest supernatural whatever. She claimed her skill in that wasn't much compared to other Slayers, but Boston was like a still pond compared to the whirlpool of a Hellmouth; it didn't take much to pick up a ripple.
"Where you been, man?" the hacker continued. "Eliot's been pouting, you got no idea how disturbing that is. And one of you's really got to cut your hair or change your wardrobe or something, cause that's damn confusing."
...'cause surely, if his brother was in town, he would have called.
"I ain't been pouting," Eliot said, breathing heavily from the run as they finally reached the dusty sidewalk where Hardison and Parker stood facing his double. "I said he'd come when he was ready. I just didn't expect him to take so damn long to make up his mind."
Lindsey ignored that, turning a brightly amused smirk toward Buffy. "Slayer," he greeted her.
"Lawyer," she replied, arching an unimpressed eyebrow.
"S'pose that's fair," he grinned, then nodded at Hardison. "You're welcome, by the way. Though I figure they were probably here after me anyway."
...Yeah, and that made more sense than Eliot would like. "You better have a good explanation," he growled.
Lindsey nodded, finally meeting his gaze. "Yeah. Not here, though. McRory's? It's kind of a long story."
"Just like old times, then," he said, thinking of Nepal and the balcony of a crumbling old opera house.
"Yeah." Lindsey's smile faded ominously as he glanced away again. "Just like old times."
Somehow, this was not how Eliot had envisioned the reunion going.