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The Muse's Carnival

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“Where's the mother in all this?” Eliot asked, watching Hardison’s carefully prepared debrief of their next mark, John Connell, on the huge screens in their apartment.

“Dead,” Nate interrupted before Hardison could speak. He was looking down at the papers before him, eyes focused so he obviously wasn't getting a psychic hit.

“Yeah, uh, she died a year ago. How did you-” Hardison asked.

Nate glanced up for a moment and shrugged before looking back down, “It's the way he looks at Molly. He loves her, but also, she reminds him of something that he's lost.”

“Makes sense,” Sophie said, nodding towards the John’s house’s blueprints on the screens. “that's not greed we're looking at it. It's grief.”

“Normal people grieve with a million dollar house?” Parker asked, making a face at the Greco-Roman architecture.

“Debatable,” Sophie said with a shrug then frowned slightly. “Although if his wife was an influencer all that would make more sense.”

“If his wife was big on Facebook?” Eliot asked, heavy judgment in his voice then frowning when Nate and Hardison laughed.

“No,” Sophia explained with a gentle smile and a calming scent, “in the magic world, influencers are people who have power over others. Succubi, incubi, furies, and based on the style of that…. Well… temple he's built, I would guess his wife was a muse.”

“Like the dancing pot ladies in that hero movie?” Parker asked, just as confused as Eliot. “Does that mean the daughter is a muse too?”

“Probably not,” Eliot thought as he stood babysitting the very grumpy Molly. He doubted she could inspire anything in anyone besides annoyance. Still, it wasn't fair they had to take down the one person she had left in the world; not that her father was acting like a father but still. Eliot knew all too well how much it hurt to lose a family member even though they had been gone for a long time.

But he had a job to do. A job that became very different the moment he saw the fallen giraffe stuffed animal lying on the ground. A job that had him thrown to the ground and into darkness by the Russian thugs that had invaded the carnival.


Hardison’s voice in his ear slowly pulled Eliot back from the dark. He wanted to grumble as he heard Molly’s scared whimpers worsen with the hacker’s yelling but instead heard the mark… heard Molly’s father over the earbud giving her hope and promises that the hitter would have to keep.

That the hitter would do his damnedest to keep as he dragged himself up and forward again.

But Molly wasn't in the storage shed. With a shaky breath, Eliot pressed his finger against the earbud. “Come on Botasky, give me a clue.”

And as if coming across the air, whispered into life by the sound of Molly’s scared voice came a breath of inspiration.

“I don't like what I see!”

“Got her,” Eliot growled, his fangs and ears coming out as he ran for the house of mirrors.

The first Russian was too stupid to be afraid of hulking wolfman, using mirrors and light against the shifter’s enhanced senses to confuse and beat the crap out of Eliot but fell as soon as the hitter closed his eyes and followed his muse’s voice. The second Russian tried to run as Eliot shattered the mirrors hiding him and Molly but the wolfman was too fast and left him out cold as he pulled the tiny muse into his arms.

“I should have said Turner and Hooch,” Molly said with a wet laugh, her voice muffled by Eliot’s fur.

“You callin’ me a dog, muse?” Eliot grumbled, slowly coming down out of his shift.

“You calling me a muse, dog?” Molly countered.

The job was pretty simple from there, the Russians and their leader captured, their client’s chip reclaimed and a father and daughter brought closer together, albeit by trauma. It could have gone better but Eliot had had worse than broken ribs and a cracked radius.

There really was no reason for Hardison and Parker to fret and fuss over him.

“I’ll just call a nurse, I’ll even get a certified one this time!” Eliot grumbled as his teammates eased him back onto the huge bed in his current safehouse. It still smelled like Quinn and the hitter’s token protests quickly stopped and Parker moved to shuck him down to his boxers. He didn't even have the energy to bat at Parker's prodding fingers poking around his wounds and old scars.

“How were you bitten?” Parker asked after a few minutes of bandaging, ignoring Hardison’s quiet shushing.

“Moreau,” Eliot muttered without thinking, the words spilling over his lips with surprising ease. “Sent one of his werewolves out durin’ a lunar eclipse over Afghanistan to see if anyone would survive. And I was the lucky son of a bitch that did.”

“An eclipse made you an eclipser?” Parker pressed eagerly, finally able to satiate her unending curiosity.

Eliot hummed in assent and then spoke, figuring he might as well get it all out in the open. “The full moon gives all shifters power but for eclipsers, ones made without the moon, it also drives us out of our minds. We fully become beasts when the full moon rises and are only safe around other shifters who can keep us under control.”

Making a face at the memories of the lonely nights when he had chained himself into some abandoned building or hunting cabin in the middle of nowhere, Eliot paused and then continued. “That's why I leave durin’ the full moons, I can't risk the beast in me hurtin’ any of you, or anyone at all. It would kill me if I hurt someone, or worse turned them, like how I was hurt and turned.”

“We understand,” Hardison murmured, finishing bandaging Eliot and shooting a pouting Parker a warning look. “And we appreciate how much you do to keep us safe.”

“Still wish you would stay,” Parker muttered as she curled up against Eliot’s uninjured side. “Don't like thinking about you all alone.”

“Well,” Eliot mumbled cautiously as Hardison carefully settled in next to him on the bed as well, “I aint exactly alone anymore… I’ve got Quinn.”

Both Parker and Hardison were quiet for a long gut wrenching moment before Parker finally spoke for the both of them. “Are they good to you?”

Giving a small bark of laughter, Eliot nodded. “Impossibly, he's almost as great as the two of you.”

“Then that's it, aint it?” Hardison said pointedly, “but if he ever hurts you…”

“I know I know,” Eliot laughed, pulling his packmates closer, “the rain of destruction on his head will be of biblical proportions.”

“And we’ll mess him up too!” Parker threatened causing both her boys to laugh.