'I can see dead people.' wasn't something that Eli told people on the first date... or ever really.
Best case scenario was they thought he was making a lame Sixth Sense reference.
Worst case... well usually the dates- sometimes entire friendships- ended. He'd been punched once, though that had been by a believer who was upset when Eli said she wasn't haunted.
So when he met Thrawn for the first time in person he didn't say a thing about the very similar looking but clearly dead man with him.
Eli was actually pretty good at ignoring ghosts- he had a lifetime of practice- and the man wasn't chatty. Thrawn's... father? Maybe? Brother? Clearly kin- mostly just floated along behind Thrawn while the living man had introduced himself and lead Eli into the restaurant.
The rest of the night went really well . The ghost stayed silent while Eli and Thrawn got acquainted. The food was excellent, and Thrawn just, ticked all of Eli's boxes physically, and their dinner conversation revealed their shared interests. They had the same taste in music and Thrawn was an avid art enthusiast, matching neatly with Eli's fondness for architecture and design. Thrawn was a cat person and had actually asked to see pictures on Eli's fur babies. They had even both been in the Navy in their younger years.
The ghost didn't say anything until Eli's story about time his sister got hit in the head with an ax made Thrawn laugh out loud. (It was much funnier and less horrifying than it sounded, Eli often dragged it out at parties)
The ghost smiled at Thrawn as he laughed and said, “Alright brother, I suppose this one is acceptable.”
Eli scoffed instinctively. Thrawn didn't notice, he was still laughing, but the ghost gave Eli an intense thoughtful look. Eli avoided it's gaze- in hindsight this was a mistake.
“You can hear me can't you?” the ghost said. “And see me.”
Eli could hardly answer him, especially because Thrawn had stopped laughing and was asking about his job. So Eli ignore the ghost and instead focused on Thrawn and explaining his admittedly pretty boring accounting job- at least he usually got to work from home.
As the date wound down Eli had already decided he was going to go home with Thrawn if he asked, ghost or no ghost. But then Thrawn left to go to the bathroom and the ghost settled into Thrawn's empty seat like he was still alive.
“I need your help.” the ghost said.
Eli groaned, “Why?”
“Because my soul cannot rest until I make things right with my brother- but so far knocking things off tables when he isn't looking isn't catching his attention.”
Eli sighed, Thrawn's brother was clearly a fresh ghost- one who could still remember and had a hope of completing his unfinished business, and Eli had never yet been able to resist the chance to give the dead peace. Still...
“This date is going really well though!” he whined.
“Does that matter?” the brother asked.
“Does Thrawn believe in ghosts?” Eli countered.
“Ah,” the ghostly cockblocker said. “He does not. This may prove difficult.”
“Exactly.” Eli said, rubbing his face. “Look I'll do this, but I need you to tell me exactly what you need me to do. And I need details. Shit I couldn't have possibly googled. The sooner the better.”
By the time Thrawn came back Eli had enough information from the ghost- Thrass- to maybe getting Thrawn to listen to him. Maybe.
“Hey, are you alright?” Thrawn asked as he sat back down.
Eli knew his mood had deflated significantly. Thrawn had probably noticed. “I'm fine. It's just been a really great night and I have to talk to you about something kinda serious.”
Thrawn eyed him thoughtfully. “What is it you need to tell me?”
“So just, give me a minute ok? To explain everything. Because I know how this sounds... I can see ghosts and there's one following you around. It's your brother and he wants me to tell you where the key to his desk is. He says there's something in his desk for you.”
Thrawn's face had gone stiff and angry which was bad. Very bad.
Eli bit his lip. He could probably have done better at this. He opened is mouth to repeat some of the other information Thrass had told him but-
“Prove it.” Thrawn nearly hissed. Eli shifted uncomfortably, Thrawn was clearly really upset.
Thrawn stood abruptly, pulled a wad of cash that was clearly more than their bill out of his pocket and tossed it down on the table. Then he grabbed Eli's wrist and hauled him out of his seat and the restaurant.
Eli trailed awkwardly along behind Thrawn while the larger man dragged him through the parking lot.
Well he wasn't being punched, but he did seem to be being abducted... he thought he could probably break free of Thrawn's grip if he tried but-
And then they got to Thrawn's car and Thrawn was opening the back door and nearly shoved Eli in. Thrass materialized sitting next to him- as much as a ghost could sit anywhere.
“I should probably have mentioned that Thrawn and I were not on good terms when I died,” Thrass said as Thrawn made his way around the car. “...We had a fight, not long after he came out...”
“ You fucking what? ” Eli said. What the hell had he gotten himself into?
“And then I died before I could apologize.” Thrass continued.
“And you didn't think I might need to know that?” Eli asked just as Thrawn opened the driver's door.
“What?” he snapped.
“Nothing!” Eli said immediately. “Just um, where are we going?”
Thrawn glared at him over his shoulder. “You don't know already?” he said snidely.
“I'm not psychic,” Eli protested. “I just-”
Thrawn cut him off. “Since you're insisting on continuing this farce. We're going to my house and you're going to show me the key this ghost told you about.”
“Oh.” Eli said.
Thrawn seemed to be waiting for him to say something. But Eli figured his best bet was to show Thrawn he knew things he shouldn't. So he settled back in the car seat to wait. When he didn't say anything else Thrawn gunned the engine and began driving.
Thrass kept talking. “I should clarify. Thrawn came out to me first. It was... not a surprise. That went fine. But not long after Thrawn and I went to a rare family gathering. Our parents died when Thrawn was very young, and our extended family is not close- we saw them perhaps once a year. But they are...decidedly less understanding.
“I made so many mistakes that night, not the least of which was not talking with Thrawn beforehand about what we should and shouldn't talk to our relatives about.
“Our great-uncle is particularly prone to getting drunk and railing against 'immoralities.' When he started in on the topic that night Thrawn decided to come out to everyone. There was, fairly predictably, a fight and we left soon after.
“And on the drive home... I have always found handling our other relatives stressful. Immediately after our parents died there was a lot of talk about splitting us up. I spent much of those years convincing various relatives it would be easier for them for Thrawn to be in my care. As a result, I tended to be... accommodating to them when they were demanding.
“ I had assumed Thrawn just wouldn't come out to the rest of the family. So on that drive I asked him what he thought he was doing, he countered by asking if I wanted him to live a lie- the fight was not pleasant. We were not speaking by the time we got home- and I left on business the next morning.
“When I came back three days later Thrawn had moved out. He'd moved in with a boyfriend I was not particularly fond of- I was right about the boyfriend for the record- but we had another fight about the boyfriend the next time we spoke and then... I'd never properly apologized before the accident, and of course after it was too late...
“I should have done so much different...”
They finally pulled up at a house- a manor really, this house was massive- in an upscale neighborhood. Thrass' explanation had taken nearly the whole drive.
“That is why I need your help Eli Vanto. I need to make sure he knows I love him and that I regret ever making him feel like I didn't.” Thrass concluded.
Eli sighed, and waited until Thrawn had gotten out of the car, slamming the door as he went, before answering, “Ok.”
Thrawn was waiting by the front door. It occurred to Eli that Thrawn was likely giving him room to back out or run for it if he'd wanted.
But Eli was on a mission now, Mission Fix These Idiots' Relationship, so he squared his shoulders and headed up the steps.
Thrawn's eyes widened in surprise but he opened the door for Eli and stepped in behind him.
“Well?” he prompted.
Eli looked around the foyer until he caught sight of Thrass halfway up the steps beckoning him.
He was distantly aware of Thrawn following him, but mostly he was focused on following Thrass. Up the stairs, left down the hall, and then another left about halfway down the hall into an office lined with built in bookshelves.
Thrass was hovering by the far right shelf. “The green one on the fourth shelf.” he instructed.
The fourth shelf was full of photo albums, Eli had to go up on his tiptoes to reach the book but he just managed to pull it down on his own.
The key was stuck to a page towards the end of the book- the photos on that page were from a wedding- Thrawn and Thrass' parents, the ghost told him.
“He thought you would have found it by now.” Eli said, repeating Thrass' words aloud for Thrawn. “You always liked looking at the wedding pictures. But you haven't been in the office at all since he died.”
Even now Thrawn was just standing in the doorway, looking at him like, ha , like he'd just seen a ghost.
Eli went to the desk and started to unlock the drawer Thrass had pointed him to. That got Thrawn moving at last. He came around to stand beside Eli as he opened the drawer.
Right on top was a letter- unsent- addressed to Thrawn. There was also what looked like a diary, at least one other letter, and what looked like a will? Or some other legal document.
Thrawn crowded closer and Eli stepped out of the way, going to hover by the bookshelves and watching as Thrawn picked up the letter with shaking fingers.
Thrass had gone to sit on the desk, face to face with his brother, watching Thrawn's face with a desperate intensity that made Eli feel like he was intruding.
Thrawn opened the envelope and began reading. It was not a short letter- Eli counted at least three pages- and Thrawn was openly crying before he finished the first page.
Right, he was definitely intruding now. Eli snuck up to the desk as quietly as he could and snagged the blank legal pad there. He fished a pen out of his own pocket and quickly scribbled down his phone number along with a message to 'Call me if you need anything.' Then he set the pad down and headed for the door.
Thrass glanced at him as he left, but Thrawn was still too absorbed in the letter to notice him leaving.
Eli made straight for the front door, retracing his steps. He made sure to lock the door behind him when he left.
He caught an Uber home- well back to the restaurant to pick up his own car and then home.
He didn't get a call that night, or the next day. Understandable, it had looked like there was a lot of stuff for Thrawn to go through.
By day four Eli figured he wasn't going to get a call back. He was glad he'd been able to help of course, but he had to admit that he was also a little sad there wasn't likely to be a follow-up to that excellent first date either.
At least he'd succeeded in Mission Fix These Idiots' Relationship. Probably. He wanted to check in with Thrawn but he doubted he'd accept unsolicited assistance again- he hadn't really accepted any help the first time after all.
It was five days from his first/last date with Thrawn when he got the call from an unknown number.
“Hello?” Eli answered.
“I assume this offer of assistance is in regards to... ghost related things?” Thrawn said from the other end of the line.
“Oh, hi Thrawn. Yeah, uh, do you need me to stop by or-”
“Yes. Are you available today?”
Eli nodded, then remembered Thrawn couldn't see him. “Yeah I can come by in about an hour- your house right?”
He hung up before Eli could ask what was up.
Thrawn opened the door for him and paused, staring at something over Eli's shoulder.
“ What is that? ”
Eli looked back at his car. “That's a Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet.” he said.
“My granddad collects weird cars and he gave it to me a few years ago. It's got terrible gas mileage and handles like a bag of wet sand and I love it.” Eli explained. “But I'm not here to talk about weird cars.”
“No you aren't,” Thrawn held the door open. “Please come in.”
Thrawn led him through two sitting rooms, a formal dining room, an informal dining room, and into a fairly normal looking kitchen.
Thrass was sitting on the island in the middle of the kitchen. Eli eyed him but didn't ask.
“First I wanted to apologize for my behavior last week.” Thrawn said. “I was ...upset.”
“You always kidnap people when you're upset?” Eli asked.
Thrawn looked downright embarrassed and Eli smiled. “It's alright. Even with the kidnapping it was still not the worst date I've been on.”
Thrawn actually blushed and Eli thought maybe he wasn't out of luck on the dating after all. He cleared his throat- back to business then.
“I had some questions for you about... ghosts.”
Eli smiled. “Ask away.”
“You said you can see ghosts.” Thrawn said.
Eli nodded even though it hadn't been a question.
“Is my brother still here?” Thrawn asked.
“Yes.” Eli answered immediately, and seeing his opening he turned to Thrass and asked him. “What's up with that by the way? I thought you were just here to apologize to your brother for being stupid?”
Thrass waved a transparent hand at Thrawn. “I was but... he's still so sad... I need to keep an eye on him.”
Eli couldn't help but smile, “So even though you could move on you aren't going to until Thrawn is your preferred level of 'happy'?” he summarized for Thrawn's benefit.
Thrawn scoffed. “That sounds like him the busybody.”
Thrass frowned at his brother and then reached over and shoved a pepper mill off the island.
Thrawn jumped as it clattered to the floor but Eli just rolled his eyes.
“Tell him if he doesn't behave himself I'll tell you all the stupid shit he did as a kid.”
Eli smirked. “You should tell me that anyway.”
“What did he say and why does he hate my pepper mill?” Thrawn asked. “That was him right?”
“It was. He says if you don't be nice he's going to tell me all your embarrassing secrets. And the pepper mill was just a victim of circumstance... I think.”
“This is so weird,” Thrawn said.
“Yeah people always say that.” Eli replied.
Both brothers regarded him thoughtfully, which was a little unsettling.
“How long have you been able to see dead people?” Both of them asked at once- that was actually creepy, but Eli shrugged and answered anyway. “I've been able to see ghosts as long as I can remember.”
“That must have been difficult.” Thrawn said. Eli could almost feel Thrawn analyzing him- and as much as he liked the man, discussing Eli's admittedly pretty weird childhood was going to have to wait a few more dates.
“Eh, it means I've learned some cool tricks,” Eli said. “Speaking of which, do you two want to try something?”
“What?” The brothers said in unison again, but this time their near identical suspicious faces made him laugh.
“No arcane rituals or anything- here just- humor me and come here.”
Thrawn did, Thrass drifting over behind him.
“Shut your eyes.” Eli told Thrawn. “Don't worry, Thrass will throw a salt shaker at me if I misbehave.”
Thrawn chuckled and shut his eyes.
Eli looked past him to Thrass. “Put your hand on his shoulder.”
Thrawn inhaled sharply.
Eli waited until Thrass had done as Eli requested. “Now focus. Not on pushing but on making your palm solid.”
After a long moment Thrawn's shoulders relaxed.
“Do you feel it?” Eli asked.
“Yes...” Thrawn said, and laid his own hand over Thrass' ghostly one.
After a long moment Thrass dropped his hand and Thrawn looked over at his shoulder before dropping his own hand.
“He's still there.” Eli reassured him. “But that type of contact is hard to maintain for long.”
Thrawn swallowed. “Thank you.”
“Did you have any other questions about ghosts?”
“No. Not now.”
Eli turned to go, it seemed like a good idea to give Thrawn some space.
“Eli.” Thrawn said just as Eli reached the entryway to the dining room.
“Yeah?” He turned back to face Thrawn.
“I did have another question for you... I was ...wondering if you would like to go on another date?” Thrawn asked.
Eli was shocked for a moment, and before he could respond Thrawn started talking again. “I would completely understand if you're uninterested- especially since my conduct at our last one was... poor. But if -”
Eli cut in. “Sure. When?”
“I … whenever works for you. I, um, do not have a specific time or location in mind.” Thrawn was blushing again.
Eli grinned again. He had an idea. “So what are you doing today?”
“I- nothing. Do you have a place in mind?”
“Do you know how to bowl?” Eli asked.
Thrawn shook his head. “No.”
“Do you want to learn?”
Thrawn smiled, just a bit. “Alright.”
“Ok cool, then I'm here to pick you up.”
Thrawn grinned, and behind him Thrass did as well.
“Then we should go.” Thrawn said.