He knew there wasn’t a knock on the door, even though he just got out of the shower. How did he know? They were a bunch of thieves, that’s how he knew.
He looked into the kitchen when he heard the noise and peeked around the corner only to be greeted by his smiling hitter, wearing an apron that said “Kiss me under the mistletoe” with a mistletoe artfully attached at belt level. He smiled as he continued chopping, not saying a word.
“It’s Christmas Eve.”
“Yeah, it is.”
“Why are you here?”
“Well you can’t exactly have Christmas without a turkey, so I figured if I cooked everything up for you tonight it’d still be good for you tomorrow.”
“I prefer ham.” Nate said, trying to discourage the hitter. Eliot was a man of many talents. Getting under Nate’s skin was one of them.
“Good.” Eliot said, beaming. “Got one of those once the turkey looks about ready.”
Nate opened his mouth to say something, but then Eliot looked over his shoulder. “You might want to get some clothes on. Someone’s at the door.”
Nate opened his mouth again, but then he did hear something at the door and he walked quickly down the hall because he was damned if he was going to be caught in nothing but a towel by anyone else. He dressed quickly in a worn pair of jeans and a tee shirt that smelled vaguely of Eliot. It wasn’t his fault the hitter kept leaving clothes at his place and he kept finding them. If Eliot would stop stripping when he was working out in Nate’s gym he wouldn’t be losing his clothes in the first place. Not that Nate minded the view, because Eliot was pretty pleasing on the eyes, but he didn’t figure the hitter would appreciate his boss making eyes at him. He threw the shirt on anyway and walked back towards the front.
He was gaping as he walked in the living room and found Hardison putting an angel on top of the tree and Parker frowning at him. “We need a star.”
“Angels are a holiday tradition Parker.” The geek said with a sigh.
“How comfortable would you be,” she asked with a bright smile that made Hardison look wary, “if I took a stick that size and shoved it up you?”
Hardison rolled his eyes and sighed. “Fine, you fix it.”
Nate walked away with a nod as Hardison saw him standing there. He wasn’t sure he wanted to see what Parker was going to do to the angel.
“What are Parker and Hardison doing?” He asked the evening’s chef.
“Decorating the Christmas tree.” He answered, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Yeah I get that. But where the hell did they get a tree?”
“Hell if I know. I was afraid to ask.” The hitter looked out at their thief and shook his head. “Something just ain’t right with her.”
“Here Nate, I could use some help. Just peel the potatoes while I finish this up.”
He wanted to object, but it wasn’t like Eliot gave him much of a choice. The hitter started talking about Christmas specials and then Hardison was pulling up a different Christmas movie on each screen of his television and they were fighting about which one to listen to. They settled on a channel playing a Christmas sing a long, until they realized Eliot could sing like nobody’s business and they were muting the television all together to listen to him sing whatever Christmas carol he wanted.
He heard the front door close and the rustle of bags before he heard Sophie’s delighted gasp and then she was hugging Parker (and not commenting on the angel that hung from the ceiling by rope as she dropped to steal the star from the top of the tree), kissing Hardison’s cheek (not mentioning the many programs) and joined them in the kitchen.
“I can’t believe you’ve got the tree up already.” She said to Eliot as she took a seat at the bar.
Eliot just smiled. “I’m just the cook. Gotta talk to Parker and Hardison about the decorations.”
She laughed. “I did notice a few things missing. I suppose I’ll have to get on that.”
“What is this all about Eliot?”
“Christmas? You know, little baby Jesus and the wise men and the guy with the big red suit…”
Which led into a discussion about the pagan rituals usurped by the Christian majority by Parker with Hardison filling in the gaps, which then led to a discussion about how organized religion was the biggest crime in the world and how it would only be justice for them to steal everything from the Vatican, which led to a pouting Parker when they told her no, they were not conning the Pope before Eliot called them all out, saying dinner was ready.
Sophie had set the table in a very classic red and gold place setting and as Eliot brought out the turkey and all the trimmings, Nate could only watch and wonder.
It wasn’t his first Christmas without Maggie or his son, but it was the first one sober. He looked at the men and women around him, and though he knew he would always mourn for what he had once had, he didn’t feel the need to drown it out with alcohol tonight.
He didn’t know what to say and when Eliot asked them all to join hands, he shook his head slightly. The hitter understood and smiled around the table instead. “Let’s give thanks for the friends we’ve made, the people we’ve help, and the jobs that keep us doing what we love. And for the next year, that we remember where we are tonight, and that we remember where we came from, and where our family really lies.”
Parker blinked a few times, then threw herself into Eliot who patted her back awkwardly. Hardison lured her back to her plate with the promise of candied yams and Sophie got her talking about what gem was the hardest target left in the world, as Eliot just smiled, shaking his head lightly.
When it was all over, Eliot was back in the kitchen cleaning up and Sophie was sitting next to the tree, telling Parker and Hardison about a Christmas in Budapest (that he was sure was made up because he’d seen her in Naples that year at Christmas time). He wandered in and shook his head as he leaned against the counter where Eliot was finishing up.
“I know what you did.”
“Cooked dinner? Amazing powers of deduction there Nate.”
He didn’t meet his eyes though and he knew it meant a lot to Eliot that he said something. “Thank you. It would have been hard… alone.”
Eliot looked up then, something conflicted in his eyes. “You’re not alone Nate.”
He knew what he was seeing, finally got it a mile short and an hour late, but he thought maybe it might still work out. He thought maybe he’d been wrong to think some of the things he had about Eliot. About the things he said and did and reacted to. “No?” He asked, scooting over just a little so that his arm brushed up against the hacker.
Eliot looked down to where they touched and then back up. “That’s my shirt.”
“You keep leaving your clothes in my gym.”
“I didn’t think you noticed.”
“But you wanted me to.”
Eliot smiled as he wrapped one hand at the back of Nate’s neck. “About damn time,” was all he said as he pulled him in, brushing their lips together lightly.
Nate smiled against his lips. “I’m not the only mastermind in the group it would seem. You did a good job of keeping me off balance tonight.”
“It’s a talent I have.”
“Got any others?”
Eliot kissed him again, this time opening him up with tongue and lips and letting his promise show. “Soon as we open presents and the rest of the goons leave, I’ll show you all sorts of talent.”
“Presents?” Nate asked looking up.
Eliot smiled. “Yeah, presents. And in the morning, if you’re good, I’ll let you unwrap me under the Christmas tree.”