Alec walks around the corner, one hand on the food cart and the other rapidly scrolling through the building’s blueprints on his phone. “Only way in is the service elevator,” he says. “I’ll be the middleman, and you’ll be--” he stops abruptly when Leia, clinging to his shoulder, pokes him. She holds a paw over her whiskered mouth, looking intently forward. Alec follows her gaze.
In front of them, Eliot crouches down, whispering harshly to his daemon. Alec has seen the wolfdog’s furious snarl many times--anger seems to be Eliot and Boudicca’s ground state of being sometimes-- but he’s never seen it directed at Eliot before. The pair has always seemed utterly united in purpose. Unlike Alec and Leia, who talk and bicker constantly, Eliot and Boudicca rarely even speak to each other, at least not where anyone else could see. The only time he’s ever seen them so much as disagree had been in the woods fleeing that militia, Eliot ready to throw them all on the train, when Boudicca, Leia, and Hardison had to convince him to go back for the bomb. It is not a reassuring comparison, and Alec fidgets uneasily. “Y’all done?” he asks. “We gotta go.”
Eliot and Boudicca exchange one long, tense look before Eliot’s shoulders slump. “Fine,” he snarls, standing up and turning to Alec. “Let’s go .”
Alec looks at Leia, hoping for an explanation, but she is focused entirely on Boudicca and the sharp angle of her ears, her tail held so still it has to be a deliberate effort. “Later,” Leia says, resting her own striped tail around the back of Alec’s neck. “Be French now,” and Alec launches into his prepared spiel.
“And who are you?” the guard asks, his porcupine daemon twitching restlessly at his side.
“Me?” Eliot says, and there is something so unfamiliar in his tone and stance that Alec nearly breaks character to stare at him. “Me? I’m Eliot Spencer.”
The porcupine instantly bristles. Both guard and daemon stare at Eliot, then turn in unison to stare at Boudicca, who lifts a dripping lip to reveal a single fang in what is nearly a smirk. Alec has never seen her look more wolf-like. Thankfully, no one is paying any attention to him anymore, or they never would have missed Leia’s involuntary shudder.
(It is only later that it occurs to them that Eliot would never miss a tell like that, even if the baddies did).
They’re in, they’d made it in, they are ushered into an elevator, Alec should be relieved that the plan is working, but now there is a whole new variable he hadn’t known to plan for, he’d thought Eliot was a constant yet here he is giving out his actual name and Alec is not so caught up in his own terror that he has failed to notice how terrified these goons are of Eliot.
“Trust Eliot,” Leia whispers in his ear. “Eliot always has reasons and he always protects us.”
“Right, right,” Alec mutters, though all he wants is to pin his partner to the wall and demand answers.
There are so many guns, and every one of them pointed at Eliot, Eliot who walks with strength, not even looking around, though if Alec knows him at all he was tallying guns in his head. Though, Alec thinks again in increasingly panic, it seems more and more likely that he doesn’t know Eliot at all. Because it is now obvious that these people do know Eliot, especially the tall British man getting all up in Eliot’s space. Chapman. Alec remembers him from his research. He’d had to watch half a season of Batman: The Animated Series just to clear some of those images from his mind.
A tug on his ear redirects his attention to Boudicca. Chapman’s daemon, a black-backed jackal, is trying to get the wolfdog’s attention, to menace her, but she shrugs him off like a mosquito rather than thirty pounds of vicious predator known for going after larger species. Her entire focus is on a door at the back of the room.
The door opens. Steam pours out. And there he is.
“Well, that’s no way to treat old friends,” drawls Damien Moreau, more terrifying in a bathrobe than any of his minions in suits with guns cocked. “Boudicca, what a pleasure.”
Alec is handcuffed to a chair before he could even process the familiarity with which the Big Bad spoke to another man’s daemon. To Eliot’s daemon. And not the way Parker sometimes talks to other people’s daemons, like she doesn’t even register the difference between the human-shape or the animal-shape, but like he has the right to chat with Eliot’s soul.
“You work alone,” Moreau says, pouring himself some whiskey. He settles himself lazily on a chair, the tiger a silent presence beside him.
“Things change.” Only Leia’s reassuring presence on his lap keeps Alec from jumping at the unexpected female drawl. Eliot hasn’t answered.
Moreau nods, satisfied, and addresses the rest of his comments to Eliot. Every line emphasizes his familiarity with the hitter. Damien Moreau doesn’t just know Eliot. He knows him intimately. Alec can count on one hand the number of times Boudicca has spoken directly to him, and every one of those times had been to give or receive information on the job while Eliot was occupied with fighting.
Alec tries to focus on upholding part of his con, but he can’t help watching the tiger watching Boudicca. He’s watched enough Animal Planet to be expecting an attack at any moment. But the pounce, when it comes, comes from Moreau, not the tiger, and it isn’t Eliot he leaps at.
Alec and Leia fall backwards into the pool, and everything else goes silent.