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Ow Parker!

Oh quit whining, Parker hissed, reaching over to ring out the rag full of water and Eliots blood into the
bowl once more, Maybe if youd listen when I say I can take care of myself, you wouldnt be in this
Eliot glared over his shoulder and his lips twitched as if her were going to say something, but he winced
instead when Parker returned to wiping the blood off his shoulder, Youd rather it be you cut up
instead? he growled, his eyes flicking between her concentrated gaze on his arm, and her fingers
carefully brushing the rag around the cuts to get the blood off.
Yes, her firm answer surprised him, and her fingers pressed a little harder than necessary for a second,
Because then the only person who would be hurt because of me is me.
Its my job to make sure you dont get hurt Parker, Eliot stated, realizing her anger stemmed from the
fact hed been hurt helping her, not because he hadnt listened to her and allowed her to handle the
situation, I know you can take care of yourself, but its my job as the hitter to make sure you dont have
Parker frowned, but instead of responding to him she looked up and over where Hardison stood
watching them from the bathroom doorway, Could you go get me some more clean water? she asked
in a strong voice that told him it wasnt a request. Hardison nodded, turning away, Im going to need to
stich it up, she stated, gently prodding the area around the cuts.
I can do it, Eliot replied, turning to look at his arm in the mirror behind the counter he was perched on.
Parker just rolled her eyes and bent over to grab the first aid kit that they stored under the sink. Pulling
out a needle she threaded a long piece of thread through it, I got it, she disagreed, snatching the new
rag from the bowl Hardison returned with. Ringing it out she turned and shoved the rag in Eliots mouth
as he opened it to protest, Bite down on this, she muttered before turning back to the needle and
quickly setting to work sewing the worst of the cuts shut.
Eliots free hand reached up to tear the rag from his mouth as he glared at Parker, Damn it Parker! he
exclaimed, flinching a little before forcing himself to hold still. He glared at the top her head as she was
bent over close to his arm to watch what she was doing. When his glare had no effect on her, he turned
it to where Nate and Sophie had joined Hardison in the bathroom doorway.
Apparently sensing the eyes watching her, Parker nimbly sent a leg out behind her and kicked the door
shut, rapping Hardisons knuckles in the process. The hacker yelped, but refrained from saying anything
else for once. Parker finished the stiches on the first cut on his upper arm and leaned forward to clip the
string with her teeth, surprising Eliot enough to make him twitch once more and look down at Parker as
she pulled back and set about threading the needle for the second worst of his cuts just below his collar
I can do it myself you know, he grumbled, watching her carefully.
Parker looked up from the needle she held in her hands to meet his eyes, I know you can, but if you get
to take care of me when I can take care of myself, I can take care of you, she pressed a hand to his
chest, Sit on the counter, she pressed again, encouraging him to move, Now hold still, she
commanded softly, stepping between his legs, her eyes meeting his for a split second before moving to
focus on the long jagged cut that would have slit his throat if he hadnt moved as quickly as he had.
Carefully she threaded the needle through his skin, her fingers brushing lightly against the sensitive
edges around the cut as she worked.
Eliot sat silently as she worked, contemplating her. There were very few people in his life that Eliot could
say with absolute certainty that he would allow to get this close to him while he was injured. When hed
stormed into their headquarters in the back Hardisons pub, the rest of the team close behind, hed
headed straight for the bathroom where he knew the supplies he would need to fix himself would be
stored. Sophie had hovered trying to figure out what to do to help him, Nate had simply met Eliots eyes,
noted the pain hidden in them and gently tugged on Sophies hand to pull her away to go wait
somewhere else. Hardison had remained hovering, and in all fairness had managed to think somewhat
ahead by grabbing a bowl and filling it with hot water and a rag. But it was Parker whod come charging
into the bathroom, already knowing what her mission was and how to accomplish it.
No matter how much Eliot had growled and snarled shed just pressed on, tearing his shirt the rest of
the way open and helping him to remove it before using the water and rag Hardison had brought to
start to clean the cuts on his arms, chest, and stomach. There was a small cut on his leg that was still
drizzling a little blood, but once Parker had caught sight of that shed used his already ruined shirt to
wrap around the wound until he could get to it later. It was the first time since he was a kid hed
willingly allowed someone else to take care of him without being drugged first; and he had to admit,
despite the twinges of pain that came every time she slid the needle through his skin, it was pretty nice
to have someone taking care of him.
It had been the words, Theres someone coming, that had first put him on alert, hed echoed
Hardisons insistence that she get out of the marks office right then, but she hadnt listened. Her
breathing had sped up as she continued in her mission of snatching anything and everything physical
that looked like it was worth anything, including everything in the safe the man had in his office (all 1.5
million of it)while Hardison hacked everything he needed to get access to every bank account the mark
had the world over.
Sophie had maintained a cool face while flirting with the marks co-CEO who theyd already robbed silly,
even as Nate had joined in the hissed demands that Parker get out of the office that instant. The
groundwork had been laid to completely wipe out both the mark, his co-conspirators and tear down
their companies, burning it all to the ground. Parker had reminded them that it all rested on her ability
to get the files they needed, and since she was still trying to get to those files she couldnt leave yet.
Parkers excited ah-ha! had quickly turned into, Oh, youre not Mr. Dalloway, and set Eliot into
motion. Breaking away from the mind numbing conversation hed been stuck in Eliot had woven his way
through the party goers, making eye contact with Sophie for a moment to let her know he was leaving
so she could cover for him.
I got this Eliot, had come over the coms in a low voice that Eliot knew Parker was trying to be subtle
about speaking to him, So what are you three boys up to tonight? shed asked brightly, sounding as
flirty as Parker ever could. Eliot rolled his eyes and smirked to himself for a second as he recalled
Parkers first time grifting and compared it to the Parker today.
It was then that he heard Parkers breathing shift from semi-relaxed to tense and uncomfortable;
spending so much time connected to one another through the little ear pieces made him very aware of
the sounds each of his teammates made when they were in duress and uncomfortable, and this was the
sound Parker made every time crazy was about to appear, and not in the cute naive way she sometimes
Whats a pretty girl like you doing up here all by yourself? A low gruff voice, had spoken far closer to
Parkers ear than Eliot had been prepared for.
Parkers voice was tense and uncomfortable when she spoke, Oh, you know, just doing what JoI
mean, Mr. Dalloway told me to do. Just sitting here, waiting for him, he wanted to show me something.
Eliot rammed into the stairway doors, his face tense as he heard the fear creep into Parkers voice.
There was very little that could make Parker let her emotions slip in her voice or on her face; one thing,
in fact, and if Eliot was rightWell how about the boys and I show you a little something of our own?
the voice was still too close to Parkers com for Eliot to be comfortable, We can show you what we do
to pretty little intruders who hang out in places theyre not supposed to.
Eliot, Nates voice was tense and warning.
Im already on it Nate, Eliot growled, grabbing the railing to propel himself around and up the next
flight of stairs.
Parker gave a small chuckle, Nah, I think Im good to just wait for Mr. Dalloway if its all the same to
you, there was a strange lilt to Parkers voice that had Eliot pausing for a millisecond before continuing
on, even if she thought she was fine, he wasnt going to leave her by herself.
Im almost there Parker, just hang
I said Im fine! Good! there was another tense chuckle, Im good, thanks for the offer though.
Eliot growled, what was she thinking?
Mr. Dalloway wont be coming sugar, another man stated, We already took care of him.
There was a pause where all Eliot could hear was the pounding of his feet on the stairs as he continued
to climb, then Parkers breath caught and her voice came out shakier than Eliot could ever remember
hearing it, Oh, well maybe Ill just go back to the there was a grunt and a thud that had Eliot
swearing, Let me go! Parker demanded, there was sound of flesh hitting flesh and a low groan that
Eliot took to mean shed at least wounded one of the men, Get out of my
There, there, Sug, a voice sounded before Parker gasped just as the sound of a loud smack that was
too close for it to be anyone hit but her, Were going to take care of you, itll be fun, youll see.
Eliot slammed through the stairway door that led to the floor he knew Parker was on to the sound of
Parker making a sound that sounded as if she were struggling to get away from something covering her
mouth. It took Eliot only a second longer to find the office he was looking for and forcefully kick the door
in. One of the men, was stumbling to his feet, clutching his nose, he was quickly knocked to the ground
and kicked into unconsciousness. Still stunned, the two men had turned to him, one of them with their
hand still sliding up Parkers legs, while he held her against the wall with an arm against her throat. The
thug who wasnt holding Parker down turned to Eliot and pulled out a gun.
Noticing the unconcern in the third thugs eyes as he returned his attention to Parker, Eliot saw red. He
grappled with the man with the gun, managing to get the gun away from him only for the man to tug a
switchblade from his pocket. The man clearly had training, as his targets werent the untrained swipe
here and there, but skilled jabs at areas where prominent arteries were located. Eliot ducked and
weaved, barely swiping out of the way as the other man swung the blade at his neck.
Parker gasped when she saw the blade draw blood, Eliot! she panicked, twisting a little, ignoring the
hand grabbing and pulling at places shed sworn long ago never to let another man touch. Seeing that
the man pressing her against the wall was only half paying attention to her as the fight between Eliot
and his companion dragged on, Parker closed her eyes and tried to steady herself the way Eliot had
taught her. Seconds later her foot stomped down on her assailants foot then her knee jerked straight
up into his groin as hard as she could. When he bent over compulsively, she grabbed his head with her
free hands and rammed her knee into his face before slamming her elbow into the back of his neck.
Forcing her panic down, Parker had stepped forward and tapped the thug still standing on the shoulder.
When he turned around, knife swinging, she jumped back just in time for his knife to simply slice
through the loose fabric on the front of her dress. The small distraction had been all Eliot had needed to
get his arm around the mans throat and squeeze long and hard enough to knock the man out.
I was fine, Parker stated, glaring at Eliot.
Eliot stared at her, trying to decide if she was trying to convince him or herself before blinking and
looking down as he slowly felt the pain begin to spread across his body, Got any zipties? he grunted,
moving to prop himself up against the wall as he pressed his least injured hand to the deep cut on his
upper arm.
Parker paused for a second, surprised by the change of topic but jumped at the abrupt Parker!
growled by Eliot. Moving over the body of the man shed knocked out she reached into the bag shed
shoved all the money in earlier and pulled out a couple of zip ties. A few second later she found herself
grinning menacingly as she tied the thugs hands to each other more tightly than was probably
Everything alright? Nates voice broke the tense silence in their ears.
Yeah, Eliot muttered, Were good.
Parkers surprised gasp caught his attention and he looked up to find her watching him with wide eyes,
Eliots bleeding, she amended his earlier statement, a lot.
Eliot forced himself to stand up straight, Im fine, he disputed, You got everything you need Parker?
he changed the subject once more.
Yes, she answered automatically, But Im going to leave it in the elevator, Sophie, youre going to
have to pick it up, Im taking Eliot to the van now, she picked up the two bags she needed and slung
them over her left shoulder before moving to help Eliot. He tried to bat her away but she just rolled her
eyes, Suck it up, ya baby, just let me help, she grumbled, slipping herself under his uninjured arm
when she noticed the small cut bleeding into his levis.
She helped him into the elevator and pressed the button that would take them to the parking garage
beneath the building. After that theyd waited in the van for a few minutes while Nate and Sophie
wrapped things up inside, leaving the evidence necessary to bring down both the co-CEO and the
company, while doing what they needed to effectively pin the apparent murder of the main mark on the
three thugs tied up in his office.
The trip home had been silent and Eliot could tell Parker was silently seething and he couldnt help but
wonder over it. He was still wondering over it as he watched the concentration on her face as she
focused on the small stitches. He was still wondering about a few things actually. Why had Parker been
so determined to fight this battle by herself, why hadnt she listened to them when they told her to get
out? Why was she so focused on him, when it had been her who had nearly beenhe couldnt even
think about it. Why had he felt his heart race with panic in those few moments while he ran up the
stairs with the intent to utterly destroy anyone who had even thought about laying a finger on her?
Okay, so maybe he knew the answer to the last one. It was the same reason he felt so comfortable
allowing her to be so close to him in a way hed never allowed since he was a child and his momma had
pressed a kiss to a bandaged skinned knee. But even in his own mind he refused to acknowledge what
he had discovered not too long ago about his feelings for the little thief.
Parker? he murmured, watching her eyes flicker up to him before back to the cut as she finished
stitching it. Ignoring him she tied the final knot and leaned forward to cut the string with her teeth like
before. His breath caught a little when he felt her lips lightly brushing against the sensitive area
surrounding the wound, but before he could look down at her to try and decipher whether the contact
had been accidental (most likely) or not (why would it have been on purpose anyway?) Parker had
pulled away.
What are you punishing yourself for anyway? she asked point blank, placing the needle down on the
counter and meeting him eye to eye, not stepping out of the small cradle between his legs.
Not expecting that at all Eliot frowned, What? he asked, more out of something to say than needing
her to repeat herself.
Parker brushed some hair out of her eyes and stared him firmly in the eye, Ever since San Lorenzo
youve been fighting harder and longer than ever before without really even needing to. At first I
wondered if I was just seeing something that wasnt there. But then I watched you fight those guys on
the Polo job and how you almost seemed to be letting them get a few hits in. The only reason I could
think for you to do something sososo stupid would be some crazy form of punishment for
something, she searched his eyes as she spoke noting passively the growing anger in them, so what
are you punishing yourself for? she repeated her earlier question.
Eliot had to physically restrain himself from reacting in anyway, his eyes clouded over and he felt himself
pull his angry face on, hoping to intimidate her into backing off, Im not punishing myself for anything
Parker, he growled, scooting off the counter, unheeding of the fact that he was pushing Parker out of
his path, Not that its any of your business.
It is my business! she insisted, throwing the rag shed been wiping her hands with on the floor, Youre
part of my team, my family; if you are trying to hurt yourself for some reason I need to know!
Drop it Parker! Eliot snapped, snatching up the overcoat hed been wearing earlier.
Slamming the door shut with one hand just as hed managed to open it a few inches Parker jumped in
his way, I told you I was fine, you know I can take care of myself. So why else would you come fight
those guys tonight if you werent looking for a fight?
Eliot glared down at her, his anger from her earlier words overriding his confusion at her current words,
I said leave it alone Parker! he hissed, getting right in her face before nudging her out of the way and
tearing the door open. He glared over where Nate, Sophie and Hardison all sat staring at them, and
stormed over to the back door and pulled the door shut behind him with a vigorous slam. He made it all
the way to his truck before he heard Parkers voice yelling after him. Ignoring her, he jerked the door
open, slid in and pulled out of his parking space.
Driving around he tried to forget the anger that was fighting to find its way into his driving. Eventually,
after taking several detours and side routes, he pulled into the garage beneath his warehouse
apartment. Switching off the engine he leant forward and knocked his head on the steering wheel. A
deep breath later he admitted to himself that he wasnt really angry. Not at Parker anyway, she was
right after all. He just hadnt realized that hed been doing what she said until she put it into words.
Hed tried to play off his emotions regarding Damien Moreau following their job in San Lorenzo, but it
hadnt been as easy as hed hoped. Hed spent years burying the guilt and messed up emotions he had
regarding his time working for Moreau, by the time hed met the Leverage crew hed managed to go full
days without thinking back to those days. Hed gotten wrapped up in the family the team had become,
Hardison becoming the brother that drove him nuts, and Sophie the sister hed never wanted but would
protect no matter what. Nate was his friend, the father figure hed lost a long time ago, a brother, and
someone who could reel Eliot back in when he got too out of control. Parker had at first found herself in
the sister role, but every time he got a glimpse into her past he became more and more intrigued and
enthralled by the innocence and naivety of the young woman. Without his even noticing shed wormed
his way into his heart, becoming one of the very few people he would trust without question, every.
Single. Time.
But when The Italian had given them their mission to destroy Damien Moreau the memories began to
surface. Hed begun a slow tail spin into the past, and in an attempt to keep himself from drowning in
the past and to keep his family from having to face the man who had played such a huge role in the
worst part of his past hed started to look for a solution that wouldnt involve them. Hed contemplated
going after Moreau himself, and almost did so on several occasions. But something had held him back,
fear, anger, anxiety, he didnt know exactly.
Now he recognized the part of him that had known, or at least hoped, that if anyone could take down
Damien Moreau it would be Nate Ford. The man was a Mastermind in the ultimate sense of the word;
there was no one Eliot would feel so comfortable following into the situations they found themselves in.
Part of him had childishly hoped that somehow Nate would find a way to keep both the team safe and
out Moreaus way, while keeping Eliot from spiraling back into the place he never wanted to return to.
Sure enough Nate had pulled the rabbit out of his hat, and Moreau was locked up, never to see the light
of day again. Eliot had had to kill to make it happen, but as the men were Moreaus men, men who killed
for no other reason than to enjoy it, he was able to reconcile their deaths in his mind. What he couldnt
reconcile was what he had done in the past. Those memories had been dug up, and hed been struggling
to bury them ever since.
The way hed managed to bury the memories before had been through fighting, retrieving impossible
items, placing himself in the line of fire constantly; it had worked before, so without even consciously
recognizing what he was doing, hed begun to do it again. Parker had proven herself more observant
than most would give her credit for once more with her question. What was he punishing himself for?
His head banged against the steering wheel once more, what wasnt he punishing himself for was the
better question. It was part of the reason why hed never even considered chasing Parker and making
something of the emotions he tried so hard to keep hidden from even himself. Hed done so much in the
past, been such a large part of so much darkness that he couldnt and wouldnt allow himself to taint
Parkers light in anyway. There were times when he was convinced even just being her friend was asking
for too much, but he knew he would never be able to bring himself to be the one to pull away from her.
Then there was the fact that she and Hardison had some sort of flirty relationshipthing going on. Eliot
had been the first person Hardison had come to when he began to have feelings for the thief, and as
much as it had grew to bother him over time, Eliot had been the one encouraging the hacker to pursue
her. Slowly their relationship had evolved until they were able to announce just over a year ago that
they had finally started dating each other. As Hardison was the best friend and brother Eliot had never
wanted, hed claimed to be happy for them, as long as they kept the flirty crap to themselves. Really he
just finally realized just how much it was going to hurt to watch Parker be so happy and in love with
someone else. Just having the knowledge was enough to make him wish he could live without whatever
it was in his chest that twinged whenever he saw them together, but to actually have to watch them do
coupley things like kiss and flirt? He didnt think he could handle it.
Recently, at least since Nate and Sophie had tied the knot a few months back, hed noticed something
had been off between the two lovebirds, but since he wasnt sure he really cared to know, he hadnt
asked what was up, figuring one or both of them would come to him in time to explain. Hed caught
Parker staring at him a lot recently, and every time he internally thanked his lucky stars that she hadnt
come to him for advice about Hardison yet.
Yet despite his intentional distance from Parker over the last few months he still couldnt stop himself
from fighting extra hard whenever it was her in danger, or whenever she was nearby. His beatings were
never as bad then; he didnt feel like he had something to prove to himself whenever she was around.
When hed heard those men going after her tonight hed known that she could probably handle them,
but thered been a part of him, a big part, that was not just going to sit by and force her to take care of
herself when he could just as easily do it for her. And if he happened to get the chance to beat some
guys for hurting her, all the better. = hurt in her eyes
Sighing and running his hand through his hair he winced as he felt a few cuts pull. Deciding hed should
probably just go upstairs, grab some pain killers and pass out for a few hours of sleep, he climbed out of
the truck, locking it behind him. Thinking about Parker always left him feeling more exhausted then
anything else, and thinking about the hurt hed seen in her eyes tonight had him wanting to kick himself.
If there was one thing he never wanted to do it was hurt Parker.
He pictured her face as he waited for the elevator to climb to his apartment on the second and third
floors and rested his head on the wall behind him. Slowly he came to realize what had been bothering
him about the look shed been giving him while shed ben stitching him up, there had been honest fear
in her eyes. The door slid open in front of him, but Eliot was too caught up in the realization that Parker
had been well and truly scared tonight to notice. He jerked forward to stop the door from closing down
when he realized he was home and silently entered the main floor of his apartment.
Really the place was too big to be considered an apartment, but as it was just a renovated warehouse
divided in half and separated between two owners, himself and some old architect who was never
home, he figured apartment was more appropriate than house or mansion, even though the place was
huge. Two floors of brick walls and oriental rug covered hardwood floors everywhere but the bedrooms
was probably more than he needed; especially considering the four bedrooms and three bathrooms that
were held in those two floors. The fourth floor was mostly a sun room that shared its floor space with
his small home grown garden.
Tossing his keys in a bowl that rested on the breakfast bar in the kitchen area, Eliot moved towards the
cabinet that housed his various medicines, not that he had many. Pulling out some strong pain reliever
pills he popped them into his mouth and filled a glass of water to drink. That done he set about moving
through the apartment to his bedroom, where he gathered some clean boxers and a pair of pajama
pants before heading into the ensuite to take a long hot soak in the tub.
He meditated silently as he relaxed each and every muscle in his body, focusing on clearing his mind,
rather than going around in circles trying to figure out exactly how he should feel about Parker and her
pointed questions.
It was nearly an hour later before he pulled himself out of the cooling water and stepped into the large
shower where he quickly and efficiently washed his hair and the rest of him, paying particular attention
to his stinging wounds, including the small cut on his leg that turned out to simply be a long thin scratch
that would have probably nicked his artery had the actual force behind the cut been there. Stepping out
of the shower he carefully toweled himself off and pulled on his clothes. He ran a brush through his hair,
re-braided the small braids he had in his hair and then added some metal and jade beads Parker had
given him a few years back.
He smiled at the memory as he worked, remembering the careful way hed worded his explanation for
the braids, telling her about a tribe of people who had taken him in on a classified mission years ago.
Hed been accepted as one of their own, and theyd protected him from the men who were after him.
When hed finally had to leave, hed braided his hair as a monument of sorts to remember the tribe by.
It had been one of the first and still few stories of his past he had told her, and in response shed given
him a small box on his birthday a few weeks later that contained these beads. She said shed liberated
them from some rich guy in Berlin who collected stuff like the beads, and she thought he would
appreciate them more than she would. To this day he still didnt know how she knew it had been his
birthday, but she still hadnt missed a year.
Finished with his task, and now thoroughly ready for bed he flipped off the bathroom light and walked
into his bedroom.
I didnt mean to make you angry.
The words had him startling, but not flying into a defensive stance like he would for anyone other than,
Parker, he sighed, taking a step further into his room and spotting her sitting dead center in the
middle of his bed, her legs folded under her lotus style, dressed in black and white pajama bottoms with
little pandas eating bamboo patterned all over and a black tank top, her hair pulled loosely into a side
braid. She was looking at him with sad eyes that made every protective instinct in him rise up in
preparation to do serious damage to whoever had made her sad. Even if he knew it was him.
How did you get in here? he asked, after a few moments of silence, looking around for an air duct or
an open window.
Parker shrugged, The nice man who lives next door let me in, she answered, and Eliot couldnt contain
the small smile that spread across his lips, of course she would choose the normal way of entering a
persons house the one time he fully expected her not to, I yelled that I was here from downstairs, she
gestured to the door before folding her hands in her lap once more, but I guess you didnt hear me.
Eliot took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Reaching up with his uninjured arm he scratched at the
back of his head before taking a few tentative steps towards her, unsure about how she was feeling
about him now, What are you doing here Parker? he asked, resigned to not going to bed just yet, yet
feeling strangely energized simply by seeing her, How do you even know where I live anyway?
I know where everyone lives, she picked up a pillow and pulled it onto her lap, Ive followed you all
home at some point or another.
Eliot frowned as he mulled that over. Hed been trained to know when people were following him, yet
not once since hed moved here had he felt as if he should be on guard for any reason, When? he
finally asked, for lack of anything else to say, and wondering if maybe hed been injured and a little off
his game when shed done it.
Another shrug was his answer as Parker looked down at the pillow in her lap and errantly began to pull
at a seam, Um, I think the first time was after that job we pulled for that veteran guy who was being
threatened by that company for seeing something he didnt see.
You mean the first official job we did together in LA? Eliot asked incredulously.
Parker widened her eyes emphatically down at the pillow as she spoke, I was curious, she stated as if
that fixed everything, You were actually staying at the same hotel I was, so it was partially on accident
Uh-huh, Eliot didnt seem convinced, And when I found a place to stay in LA? How long did it take you
before you followed me then?
Um, Parker, lifted a shoulder, Im not sure, but you werent living there for long, you were still
moving stuff in.
Eliot took a deep breath as he processed, questions were whirling around his head in a jumbled mess,
like they often did when he spoke with Parker, but one managed to make its way passed his lips before
he could pull it back, Why?
Like I said, at first I was curious, and a little cautious, but then I started to follow you home after jobs
where you got hurt, Parker flipped the pillow in her lap and errantly discovered a stray thread that she
wrapped around her finger a few times, To check up on you, you know?
Deciding it wasnt something worth getting angry over, Eliot just shook his head at the typical Parker-
ness of the situation. Slowly he moved closer to the bed before he sat down with his back against the
head board and his injured leg stretching out in front of Parker, And just how often did this happen?
he asked out of genuine curiosity.
Parkers eyes trailed up his leg and over his body slowly before they met his, I dont think you really
want to know, she shook her head with a small smile and a twinkle in her eyes that Eliot wished would
stay forever.
His lips twitched in return, but he felt some concern begin to make itself known in the back of his mind
as he contemplated just how often the woman in front of him could have potentially followed him home
without him knowing. It was concern at how off his instincts may have been recently that forced him to
push the question, Parker, his voice was a little firmer, how often?
Parker averted her eyes once more, Um, it wasnt that often, she hurried to say, But, she hesitated,
it was just about every time youve taken a beating since she trailed off.
The beginning? Eliot hoped the dismay and surprise he felt werent showing. The dismay stemmed
solely from the idea that anyone could have followed him so frequently without him noticing, not once;
the surprise came as he realized just how often she must have followed him, his job required him taking
a beating quite often, Even when we moved to Boston? And here?
Her head was bobbing as he listed locations, And there was that time in Vegas and Berlin, and once in
Moscow; I couldnt go to Pakistan, she sounded genuinely apologetic about that, but I found you again
in Egypt and India and there was a few times in Montana and Kentucky, Parker saw the increasing
frown on Eliots face and ducked her head some more, I justI needed to know you were okay.
Parker, Eliot stopped speaking when he heard the tension in his voice and forced it back, Parker, you
realizeyou realize those were dangerous situations right? Situations that could have gotten you killed?
Especially since I didnt even know you were there.
Parkers head jerked up, You didnt know I was there? she repeated, Ever? her eyes were wide as
she stared at him, Not once? she poked his ankle, Not even in Montana? she tilted her head and
stared at a spot on the bed next to his waist, Because I thought for sure you caught me in Montana,
her eyes widened as she reminisced before she looked back at him, But you really didnt know? when
he shook his head she copied his movement for a second before speaking again, I thought you were
trained to know when you were being followed? it came out more of a question than a statement.
Eliot nodded, absently scratching a spot on his stomach near a small fist sized bruise, noting the way
Parkers eyes zeroed in on that movement and remained attached to his stomach for a few seconds
longer than was probably normal, even for Parker. Silently pondering the look in the blondes eyes he
forced himself to answer her, So did I, he agreed, I have to be ready to take on any threat anywhere,
so it is really weird that you were able to follow me without me noticing.
Maybe you dont see me as a threat? Parker suggested, Or you know I wont hurt you, so you dont
pay attention to me?
Was it just him, or did her eyes dim a little at those last few words, I dont know, he thought silently
for a moment, I do know that even when we first met and I thought you were the most insane person
Id ever met, he gave her a small smile to take the sting from his words, That I never really felt
threatened by you, this time it was his turn to drop their shared gaze, For whatever reason, Ive
always trusted you.
Me too, Parker replied quietly, Most people make me flinch whenever they touch me, she explained
softly, But even on that first job as the Leverage team, she tugged at the thread from earlier, you
touched my shoulder, she lifted her head to look him in the face, you touched my arm and I didnt
flinch, I didnt jump, I didnt feel uncomfortable or worried. I knew you were on my team, and I knew
you would never, ever hurt me, she gave a small burst of air that could have been a partial laugh,
Which I told myself was really stupid, I hardly knew you, she bit her lip, But I trusted you nearly from
the beginning.
Eliot watched her quietly for a few minutes before clearing his throat, Thanks, Parker, his voice still
came out more gruff than hed intended, That actually, uh, that actually means a lot.
Parker slowly twisted her frame to face him as she looked seriously at him, Do you trust me? she
asked point blank.
Yes, Eliot answered, his lips lifting in a small smile as he realized that she was the first person hed ever
told clear as day that he trusted. The grin he received in response was definitely worth it.
Slowly the grin faded from her face as her eyes scanned his face, Then why wont you let me help you?
Eliot felt himself begin to tense as he flashed back to their earlier argument, Help me with what
Parker? he sighed, hoping she wasnt going where he knew she was.
With whatever youre fighting. You havent been the same since Moreau, she sounded sincerely
saddened, And I just want to help you go back to being that Eliot, happier Eliot.
I am happy Parker, Eliot growled, his patience beginning to wane.
Parker didnt flinch, Yeah, you sure sound happy, she agreed sarcastically.
Eliot moved to get up off his bed, Im not having this conversation Parker, he snapped.
Tell me what you did for Moreau.
The statement had Eliot freezing in his half risen stance. Slowly he fell back the few inches hed risen to
look numbly over at Parker who stared back challengingly, What? his voice was low and quiet with
eerie calm undertones.
Parker didnt back down, she met his hard gaze without fear and repeated her request, Tell me what
you did for Moreau.
Now sure hed heard her correctly but desperately wishing he hadnt Eliot shook his head, No, his
voice was firm and his jaw clenched.
Her frown deepened, You told me once that if I asked you what you did, you would tell me, she met
his stare unwaveringly, Now I am asking you to tell me what you did.
I cant do that Parker, Eliot forced himself to swallow the rising panic, he couldnt tell her, she was too
good, too light, toohe just couldnt ruin her, he couldnt ruin the oddly perfect image she seemed to
have created of him.
It cant possibly be worse than what Ive come up with, her eyes widened and Eliot thought he saw
some sort of desperation there, it made his heart twinge, I need to know, Eliot.
This time Eliot did get up from the bed, It can be worse, Parker, trust me, he struggled to get her to
understand, I cant tell you, so please, his voice broke a little, and he went on in a quieter voice,
Please, dont ask me to.
Parker slowly moved to rest her feet on the floor before rising to stand in front of him, I need to know
Eliot, she repeated, I need to know why you think you need to keep punishing yourself for something
that is so far in the past. I need to know how long I am going to need to watch you suffer, how long Im
going to have to keep worrying that one of these times her voice caught and Eliot was surprised to
see the tears in her eyes, One of these times you wont be so lucky, that one of these times you wont
be able to walk way, she shook her head, Because I do, you know. I do worry.
Eliot was already shaking his head, his jaw clenched as he ran through his options, none of them were
good, You shouldnt worry about me Parker, he spoke his voice low.
But I do! the desperation was no longer buried beneath other emotions, I do Eliot, and it scares me
that you dont!
Im doing just fine! Eliot snapped, I dont need your help, or whatever it is you think youre offering
here! his hand lifted between them.
Parker shook her head, I think you do! she insisted, I dont know a lot about people, but I do know
that burying the past doesnt work. It never works. It just makes things worse, her voice rose a little and
a foot hit the ground in a little stomp she couldnt contain, So I need to know what happened so I can
help! I need to help you Eliot. Please!
Eliot swallowed tightly and shook his head once again, I think you need to go, he finally stated, Now,
he commanded when she opened her mouth to argue.
Im not going anywhere until you talk to me, Parker answered defiantly, her chin lifting a little in
A growl left his throat and he snatched her wrist and pulled, he didnt stop until hed reached the
elevator and shoved her in, despite her protests and her dragging feet, Go home Parker, he growled,
Leave it alone, he reached in and hit the button for the bottom floor and back up, watching silently as
a stray tear slid out from the corner of Parkers eye before the elevator door slid down to shut in front of
He silently turned away with a heavy sigh and realized a moment later that the blurriness was because
of the water in his eyes burning to escape. Shakily lifting his hands to press the heel of his palms into his
eyes he rubbed away the water and forced the knot in his throat down. Quickly and efficiently he made
his way around the apartment, shutting off lights and making sure all his windows and doors were
locked and forced back the images of Parker crying as he climbed the stairs and entered his bedroom.
Wearily he flipped off the overhead light and switched on the dim bedside lamp as he returned to his
earlier spot, sitting against the headboard, his legs stretched out in front of him. His head fell back to
rest on the wall behind him and he stared vacantly at the wooden rafters that stretched across the room
and throughout the apartment. Eventually he felt himself pulling his knees towards his chest and he
leant forward a little to place his elbows on his knees before forcing his hands through his damp curly
He didnt know how long he sat there in that same position, running through memories over and over,
the worst parts of his life playing behind his eyelids on repeat, but it was at least half an hour before he
felt the bed shift next to him. Part of him longed to laugh at the predictability of the moment; of course
Parker would find some other way back into his apartment even after hed kicked her out, but he forced
himself to remain silent as he felt her move closer to him.
Im sorry, she breathed, her voice closer than he had thought it would be. Silently she shifted next to
him a little until he felt her rest her head on his shoulder, Im sorry.
The two sat in silence for who knew how long before Parker broke the quiet, speaking softly, I was
scared tonight, she murmured, When those men came in, she paused thinking, I thought I had it
handled, she told him the same words hed heard all night, But I didnt, this had him shifting a little,
turning his head in his hands a little to acknowledge her words, I was scared out of my mind when it
became clear what he wanted was she swallowed, What they wanted was to and I swore I would
never let anyone do that to me again. Never again, the last words were muttered to herself as if he
couldnt hear her.
Someday darlin, he spoke just as softly, You are going to tell me every name of every person you
remember who ever hurt you and Im going to make them all disappear, slowly he leant back, removing
his hands from his hair and half expecting Parker to move away now he wasnt acting so unlike himself.
Instead of moving away like he expected her to, Parker moved with him, nestling herself into his
relatively uninjured side, Why can I tell you about everyone whos ever hurt me, but you cant tell me
whos hurt you?
Eliot gave a heavy sigh as he contemplated the answer to that question, The people who hurt me in the
past are either dead, too dangerous for you to even consider going after or, he paused, or me.
To his surprise Parker didnt seem as surprised or confused by his last words as he expected, When you
showed up tonight, I was so relieved, so so relieved, she emphasized this by wrapping her arms around
his and squeezing in a mini hug, but then I was scared again, her voice went quiet again, because I
knew youve been punishing yourself, fighting longer and harder than you ever have, she traced one
hand down his arm until it met with his where she lightly tangled their fingers together, I didnt want
you to help me because I didnt want to be the reason you were hurt again, her other free hand traced
the outline of a bruise on his forearm, I hate seeing you hurt, physically, she tapped his chest lightly,
Or mentally, she slowly lifted her finger to tap against his forehead, giving him a small smile with her
touches, And I never want to be the reason your ever hurt. I just want you to be happy.
Eliot stared down at her silently, wondering at the innocence in her expression and some other emotion
he wasnt sure he dared to hope was there. His fingers tightened subconsciously, bringing his attention
to where they still held Parkers smaller hand in his own, her long fingers twined around his. Slowly he
tightened his grip, unsure for a moment if this was real or not; when her fingers tightened in response
he couldnt help but let a brief smile spread across his lips quickly before he sobered.
I cant tell you about my past Parker, he murmured, his voice almost too quiet, Ive done things that I
dont want you to know about. Things I wish I didnt know about, he closed his eyes to the images that
flashed in his mind as he spoke, Things he hesitated as he looked for the right words, Things that
would change the way you look at me, he squeezed her fingers, and dont think I could stand to see
you look at me the way I know you would darlin, his voice grew strained as he pictured the fear and
revulsion he knew he would find in her eyes if she knew.
Parker shook her head as best she could with it resting on his shoulder like it was, How do you know?
she asked, How do you know I would look at you any differently than I do now? she wrapped her free
hand around his bicep, What you did then doesnt change who you are now, she murmured, If
anything it made you who you are now. Right? And I care about who you are now, she nearly
whispered the last part, making his heart jump a little in his chest, Why would what you did in the past
change that?
Because I killed people Parker! Eliot shot forward to sit up straight, accidentally knocking Parker back a
little, I killed innocent people, his voice wasnt so loud now, but it was still strong and frustrated. He let
go of her fingers and tried to tug his hand free from her grip.
Instead of letting go, Parker tightened her grip on his hand and pulled it towards her, wrapping it up in
her other hand, I kinda already figured that Sparky, she replied softly.
Turning to look at her Eliot wasnt sure whether to be surprised at her words or irritated, Then why do
you need to know more? he demanded, Why do you keep trying to stick your nose into my business?
Parker met his light blue eyes with her own dark blue ones, Because I think you need to see that
someone can care about you even when they know everything youve done.
And how do you know you will? Eliots voice was strained and quiet, and he would deny it to his dying
breath, but maybe a little desperate too.
How do you know I wont? she replied softly, slowly maneuvering herself around on the bed, Parker
turned until she sat facing him, her thigh pressed firmly against his, and his hand resting in her own on
her lap, You either trust me or you dont Eliot, she told him, tracing her thumb lightly across the back
of his hand, Please, she added softly, meeting his eyes with her own once more, even as she tilted her
head to looked at him.
Eliot searched her face, her eyes, anything he could think of to find an answer, a solution, a way to get
out of the night without losing her forever. It only took him a minute to realize that there was only one
thing for him to do, only one thing he could do when she looked at him with that expression on her face.
So he took a deep shaking breath and started talking. He started with the young innocent nieve boy hed
once been back when hed first joined the army. He told her about his escalation through the ranks and
his recruitment to Black ops. He told her about his training, the first time he killed a person and how it
nearly killed him. Told her about the war zones and how he finally figured out it was kill or be killed and
how he couldnt feel bad for every person he ever killed or hed never be able to recover himself. He
told her about missions that were probably still classified, friends and enemies who swapped places too
many times to count.
He shared the slow fading of feelings from his body, how killing had caused him to revert so far into
himself that he lost his ability to feel anything but kill or be killed, fight or die. He told her about
meeting Toby and how cooking had changed everything, how he slowly came to feel again. He told her
about a mission gone wrong, and how hed been disavowed by the country hed lost himself to. He told
her how hed floundered, unsure of what to do while his own government hunted him, how he found
Moreau and how Moreau had made the warrant for him disappear on the condition that hed come and
work for him. He told her about how hed been desperate, how hed followed Moreaus every order,
even as he began to doubt whether or not the people he was killing were actually deserving of being
Slowly, stutteringly he told her about the men and women hed killed in the name of Moreau and the
children hed discovered too late before he could save them from the bomb not meant for them; how
their deaths had nearly killed him before hed been done. He told her how hed finished the worst job
of his life and decided he couldnt keep going like he was. He told her how he left and set out on his
own, taking down anyone Moreau sent after him, and how hed managed to bury the guilt and self-
hatred over the next few years as he learned new methods of fighting, of hunting, tracking, cooking, and
searching for himself.
He told her how finding the team had changed everything. How he feared the things they would think of
him if they ever found out, if they ever discovered what hed done in the past. He brought up his
momma, his daddy and his two sisters, his deadbeat ex-brother-in-law whod been abusive to his sister
and her two kids, and the other brother-in-law who had been his best friend since they were kids. He
told her how hed argued with his daddy when hed joined the army, how he knew now that he should
have listened when his daddy told him it was a bad idea. He told her how he hadnt seen or talked to
any of them since the day hed walked away to serve his country.
He talked and talked, feeling as if a dam had broken and every emotion, feeling and thought hed ever
had was flowing uncontrollably through his lips. He talked all night, letting himself be weak in front of
the one woman hed always been strong for, letting down his walls to allow the tears he hadnt shed in
years slide down his cheeks. He felt Parker drawing soothing patterns on his hands, his arm, his back
after shed moved around to get more comfortable, and occasionally shed let her hand slide into his
hair where it would comb softly through his locks, soothing him and sometimes pulling his head down to
her shoulder so she could hug him tight.
At some point theyd reclined enough to be laying down with his arm wrapped around her pulling her
into his side as she rested her head on his chest, her ear over his heartbeat. Eventually hed run out of
things to tell her, every thought and memory that had haunted him over the years had been bared and
somehow he felt a little lighter, You still with me darlin? he asked hours later, just after five in the
Always, Parker murmured, pressing a light kiss to his heart that sent fire surging through his veins,
Was that everything? she asked him in return a few moments later, her voice sounding sleepy.
Eliot blinked up at the ceiling, Yeah, he murmured seeming almost surprised, his voice rumbling in his
chest as he pulled her tighter into his side, Thats everything.
Mmm, Parker answered, nuzzling her head in his chest a little more, And Im still here.
A small smile, incredulous as it was, made itself known on his lips as he processed that, Yeah you are
Sweetheart, he agreed, turning his head and pressing a kiss to her forehead. Nestling them both deeper
into the pillows on his bed he shifted a little to pull the covers over them, We should probably go to
sleep now.
Parker took a deep breath and let it out slowly, her breath leaving small goose bumps on his chest in its
wake, Sounds good, she slurred, falling further and further into the sandmans realm until she was fast
asleep on his chest.
Eliot remained awake for a while longer, going over everything hed told her. Logically he knew she
would probably be horrified when she woke up to find them in such a position. As far as he knew she
and Hardison were still dating, and though she was often socially challenged, even Parker would know
that this was not an appropriate position for someone to be in with someone they werent dating. Then
there was the fact that shed be able to fully process what hed told her in the morning, and odds were
she wasnt going to take it as well as she was now. All the trust theyd spent forever building, at least the
trust that wasnt instinctive, like how Parker seemed to somehow know that Eliot would sooner kill
himself than hurt her, it would be gone once they woke up, she would fear him, like any sane person
Sighing, not liking any of the scenarios playing out in his head, Eliot turned a little and pulled Parkers
slightly smaller body into his own, trying to memorize the way she fit perfectly in his arms; trying to
remember every piece of the moment really. It was probably going to be the only time he would get to
hold her in such a way, so he might as well take what he can while he can get it. Pressing a light kiss to
Parkers forehead he buried his nose in her hair, and after taking a long, deep inhale of the scent of
strawberries, vanilla, and something distinctly Parker, he slowly allowed himself to drift off to sleep.
His first thought was that he felt peaceful. His second was that he smelled strawberries. And vanilla. And
something else; something likethe thought had his eyes flying open, though he somehow managed to
keep his body from tensing too much. Looking down he found Parker had somehow managed to tangle
them together so tightly he wasnt sure he knew which limb belonged to whom. Her head was nestled
comfortably in the junction between his shoulder and his neck, her legs were tangled with his, while her
hand had somehow managed to find his and was now resting over his heart.
Slowly memories came fading back from yesterday, the con, the fight, Parker tending to his cuts, then
asking what he was punishing himself for, their argument. He couldnt help but tighten his own hold on
her waist to pull her just a little closer, as if holding her tighter would make her stay longer; as if holding
her tighter would somehow make her want to stay even after all hed said last night.
Hed never bared his soul like that to anyone. As of five oclock that morning Parker knew more about
him than anyone else alive. And it scared the crap out of him. Some part of him hoped against hope
that she would actually be able to do as shed said last night, that shed be able to not look at him any
differently than before, but that hope was infintismal compared the knowledge that people, especially
good people like Parker, tended to want to stay as far away from people like him as they could. He
doubted Parker would be as obvious as to completely cut him out of her life, but he was almost certain
that where theyd managed to make headway over the last few years, all of that would be gone.
No more training sessions, no more movie marathons where she ate too much popcorn and he criticized
every fight scene just because he knew it amused her. They wouldnt stay late in the pub talking about
food anymore or jokingly gang up on Hardison together for a good laugh. All of that would be gone now,
all because hed never been able to tell her no when she looked at him with those eyes, and those
emotions, and that small amount of water gathering over her eyes but refusing to escape.
A long slow breath and he slowly managed to pry his fingers from where they had a grip around her
waist where she lay nearly on top of him on her stomach. He didnt get much further than barely letting
go however, when his fingers began tracing small, light, indisernable patterns on her back, side and arm.
If this was going to be the first and last time he got to be this close to her, he wasnt about to let the
opportunity to be cut short just because he couldnt turn his brain off.
Silently he watched her sleep, noting how her nose crinkled a little, and her eyebrows furrowed in a
quick movement before a small smile met her lips. He forcefully shoved aside the thoughts about what it
would be like to feel those lips beneath his, what it would be like to call her his, to be able to wake up
like this every morning and justbe. Slowly the question of whether or not it actually was morning came
to the forefront of his mind and he turned his head to blink at the clock he placed next to his bed.
He had to blink three times before he realized that he was actually reading the clock right, it was actually
two in the afternoon. Somehow hed managed to sleep more in one night, or morning as it may be, with
Parker, than hed slept all together in the last week. The thought stunned him, and as he returned his
gaze to the beautiful woman sleeping next to him he had to mull it over. The peacefulness he was
feeling, the contentment, the feeling of never wanting to move and face another day was almost as
unsettling as it was relaxing.
He felt calm when Parker was around, he almost always did; well, there were times when she did things
that irritated him, like when she poked his bruises or did something that most normal people would
instinctively know not to do, but she never invoked the kind of anger that had followed him around
since hed first left home years and years ago. He could be right in the middle of a life or death fight and
her mere presence could center him and balance him in a way nothing and no one else could. It was a
startling realization; the idea that he subconsciously relied on her to be the peace to his raging tempest,
enough that he was able to sleep just over eight hours straight for the first time in years.
Parker took a deep breath and shifted a little in his arms, nuzzling her head further into his neck and
hummed. Eliot froze, waiting for the inevitable panic that would come when she woke up and found
herself entirely ensconced in his grip, but she didnt wake. For some reason he couldnt name a picture
of Hardisons face if he saw them together like this floated into his mind and he found himself tensing
up. How had he forgotten the other man so quickly? Here he was, lying in his bed, cuddling for all
intents and purposes with the hackers girl, dreaming about what life would be like if said girl were his
The thoughts had Eliot mentally scrambling to find a way out of the situation; he needed to go
somewhereelse. He needed to remove himself from the situation before he did something irreparably
stupid. Like kiss her awake. The thought actually floated around his mind with serious contemplation
before he remembered Hardison. The man was like the little brother Eliot had always wanted growing
up, he was perfect amounts of annoying andwhatever else brothers were supposed to be; and though
Eliot may have done a lot of terrible things in the past, he didnt want to hurt the two people who meant
more to him than he ever thought possible.
So, even though the temptation to remain where he lay was nearly overwhelming, he slowly untangled
himself from Parker, and left the bed. He silently grabbed a pair of worn and faded jeans, a dark red long
sleeve button up shirt and a black wife beater and headed into the bathroom to change. Then, to avoid
returning to the bedroom and potentially finding Parker gone, or still there he wasnt sure which was
worse, he turned his attention to his hair, straightening it and brushing through it. When he was
finished he found himself looking his reflection in the eye and for the first time in years feeling a little
lighter, like the past wasnt trying to drown him quite so much anymore. Or maybe it had just become a
little easier to swim.
Sighing he shook his head to clear his thoughts and forced himself to exit the bathroom. He almost
avoided looking at the bed for fear of what he might find, but inevitably his eyes had locked on the
person still lying peacefully asleep there. Parker had moved around to pull his pillow to her chest,
holding it tightly, while one leg bent upwards, sneaking out from beneath the covers to reveal a long
partially bared leg. He stood there watching her sleep for a few minutes, mesmerized by the way she
looked, and how he felt; eventually though, reality began to set in, and he turned to leave with some
vague notion of making breakfast for them both.
It was nearly forty five minutes later that he heard the soft pad of feet behind him and turned to see a
rumpled and still sleepy Parker. The sight, as cheesy as it may sound, nearly took his breath away. Her
hair was falling out of the loose braid it had been in last night and her tanktop had gotten caught on one
side and now revealed her toned stomach, while the pant leg on her left side remained crinkled up
around her knee. Her mouth was opened in a large yawn and one hand reached up to rub at her eye
Good morning, she stated through the yawn, What are you making?
Eliot stared for a few seconds longer as she moved closer to him, her tanktop finally falling into place
and her hand moving to tug out the band that held her hair in place by a few strands, Uh, he paused
for a second as his brain caught up to her words, Breakfast, he answered, I thought you might, um,
might like some breakfast, he pointed to the griddle where six perfectly formed pancakes cooked.
Parker stepped closer, her front nearly colliding with his side as she peered at the food, Are those
strawberries? she questioned, her voice eager as she turned her head to look at him.
Unaware of just how close her face had gotten while hed been distracted by her body almost but not
quite pressing into his, Eliot turned his face only to find their noses only millimeters apart, Yes, he
answered in a voice he almost didnt recognize. His eyes flickered between her lips and her blue eyes,
and he leaned in just a little, his focus solely on pressing his lips to hers, before he remembered
Hardison, and who they were and everything theyd talked about last night. Abruptly he pulled back and
attempted to clear his throat, shifting away from Parker to grab a pair of plates and two glass cups, I
know strawberries are your favorite fruit and I had some lying around, so I thought Id make some
strawberry pancakes and syrup.
Parker clapped her hands, the small frown that had crossed her face making way for the wide smile and
the twinkle in her eye as she laughed, That sounds awesome! Are they ready yet? When can we eat?
If youll just grab some silverware from Eliot went abruptly silent as Parker skipped gleefully to the
drawer where he kept the silverware as if shed lived her all her life, Parker, his voice was low when he
spoke, Exactly how many times have you actually been in my apartment?
Parker blinked wide innocent eyes at him that belayed her guilt despite her best efforts to convince him
otherwise. When he just stared at her in return she dropped all pretenses of being innocent and let out
a small sigh at being figured out and shrugged one shoulder, I dont know, a few times I guess, she
admitted, setting the silverware next to the plates, I always feel safer here after she cut herself off
and shrugged again abruptly picking the silverware up again, I just feel safer here is all, she moved
around the counter to set the silverware on the table. Returning to the counter she grabbed the two
glasses hed gotten out and set them on the table as well.
Eliot watched her fidget for a few more minutes before returning his attention to the food he was
cooking with a small nod, Could you grab the butter and the milk then? he asked, not looking as he
heard her skitter around, going straight for the cupboard he hid the butter in and pulling the milk out of
the fridge without much ado. He contemplated her ease in his kitchen and decided to see just how
familiar with the room she was, Can you grab the syrup container too? he asked, knowing full well the
container was hidden in the back of the cupboard next to him on the top shelf.
He was only a little surprised then to feel Parker next to him as she moved to climb onto the counter
where she reached in and snatched the syrup container from exactly where hed stashed it. He watched
her climb down with a small smirk on his lips, I think youve been here more than a few times Darlin,
he nodded a little as he narrowed his eyes and pointed at her with his spatula.
Parker just smiled in return and placed the container on the counter next to him, Anything else you
want me to find? she asked impishly, as if shed known the whole time what he was doing.
Pondering her words, Eliot flipped the pancakes over once more before placing three on each plate,
Now that you mention it, he said slowly, unsure if he really wanted to know what he thought he knew
now, I seem to have lost a few of my favorite shirts, he watched her expression carefully, noting the
almost immediate impression of being innocent she pulled on as he spoke, You wouldnt happen to
know where they went would you? he gestured to the rest of the apartment in front of him.
Nope, Parker denied boldly, Cant say I know where they could have gotten to, she wouldnt meet
his eyes and something warm spread through him at the thought of her stealing his shirts for whatever
reason, Are those for me? she asked, sitting at one of the places shed set at the table and tapping her
fingers excitedly in front of her. Her eyes watched excitedly as Eliot threw on some eggs and bacon
before rounding the counter to come and set the plates and the now full syrup container on the table.
One of them is, he replied, I need food too, he told her with a small smile.
Parker watched him quietly as she finished buttering her pancakes, I like it when you smile, she told
him bluntly, Even your eyes smile when you smile for real.
Eliot stilled his own movements and watched as she turned her attention to the syrup container which
she attempted to use to drown her food in a reservoir of red liquid. Not sure what to make of her
compliment he eventually decided to mark it up as just Parker being Parker and returned his own
attention to his food.
Got any whip cream? Parker asked, bite caught midway between her plate and her mouth.
Eliot stared at her, Really? he answered incredulously, staring at the sugar already piled on her plate
then back at her.
Is that a yes or a no? Parker narrowed her eyes as she studied his face, I cant tell, she shrugged a
second later, Never mind, she answered her own question, I know where you keep it, she stood and
walked over to his fridge and reached in for the cool whip, returning with a victorious smile on her face.
She sat down and opened the lid, licking off one of her fingers that accidentally caught some of the whip
cream on it as she set the lid on the table, and with her spoon she took two large scoops of whip cream
and piled it on her pancakes with a flourish. Meeting his eyes she wiggled her eyebrows with a delighted
twinkle in her eyes as she dipped her previous bite in the whip cream and took a bite.
Her eyes shut as she chewed and a smile met her lips in a way that was much more subtle than before.
Eliot couldnt tear his eyes away as she chewed, watching the pleased expression on her face with rapt
attention. Eventually her eyes opened and she grinned at him, This is amazing Eliot, she
complimented, Thank you!
Eliot watched her eat in silence for a few moments before returning his attention to his own food. They
ate in silence for the most part with the occasional compliment spilling from her lips and acceptance of
the compliments coming from his.
Once they were both done eating Parker rose to her feet and helped him clear the table. Spinning on her
heel from the fridge where shed returned the milk she moved to sit on the counter as she watched him
wash the dishes and griddle. While he washed his eyes kept flicking over to the contemplative look
Parker was watching him with and he couldnt help but wonder what she was thinking. The morningor
afternoon as it may have beenhad gone much smoother than hed anticipated, and he couldnt help
the small part of him that kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.
As he dried his hands on a nearby towel he turned around and leant against the counter behind him and
across from her, Why are you still here? he finally asked, deciding to put the other shoe into motion.
A small crease appeared between Parkers eyebrows as they creased in confusion, What do you
mean? she questioned in return.
I mean, he shifted a little, feeling uncomfortable, Why are you still here after everything I told you
last night?
The confusion cleared from her face and she shrugged, tilting her head a little as she looked at him,
Your still the same Eliot, she answered as if it were simple.
Eliot shook his head and stood up straight, No, he disagreed, Now you know what Ive done, what Im
capable of. Im not a good man Parker, I never have been and because of that I probably never will be.
Thats not true, Eliot, Parker shook her own head and a frown formed on her lips, Youve always been
a good man, she dropped down to stand on the floor and took a few steps towards him, Youve always
been a good man, she repeated, You just got a little lost on your way to who you are today, she
furrowed her eyebrows again as she tried to figure out how to convince him, You may not have always
been the best person you could be, she acknowledged, But you kept trying. The point is to always
keep trying.
Eliot tossed the towel to the ground with a little more force than was probably necessary, but his
temper was rising; why didnt she get it? Why didnt she see just how messed up he was? Trying for
what Parker? he demanded, What is there to keep trying for? For the small rush I get after we pull off
some insane job Nates thought up? For some people Ive never seen before and probably never will see
again who somehow manage to walk away thinkin Im some sorta hero? Cause I aint no hero Parker! I
wasnt a hero then, when I did try, when I did everythin I was told to do, when I sold my soul to the
worst parts of this world. So you tell me Parker, he swallowed and forced himself to breathe, So you
tell me, what do I have to keep trying for? Cause I will, I will try til my dyin day to be a good person, to
be the type of man Id always wanted to be, but whats the point, whats there to try for?
He was breathing hard, his fists curled, and face red as he ranted, and he didnt notice until it was too
late that Parker had tears in her eyes, that she looked almost physically stricken at his words. They both
stood in silence for a moment, him physically shaking with the force of his words and the emotions
behind them and her staring at him as if she were searching for something. Finally she took a tentative
step forward, then another, until she was firmly in his personal space. One hand rose up to hold his jaw,
her thumb lightly circling on his cheek as her eyes searched his face. He felt himself still and calm almost
immediately as she lifted her other hand to brush some hair back from his face before curving around
his head to mirror her other hand and cradling his face between her palms.
Uncertainty flashed through her eyes followed by determination and slowly Parker rose up and pressed
her lips against his. She brushed their lips together once, twice and a third time before he felt himself
respond. Moving forward his lips caught hers and everything seemed to stop. The world faded away, his
past no longer mattered, her past didnt matter, the only thing that mattered was right here and right
now, the push and pull of Parkers lips against his, the absolute peace he felt in this moment.
Without conscious thought his hands rose up to lightly touch her sides, then as the kiss continued, the
light touch turned firm as he pulled her into him, unable to get close enough. This was everything hed
been dreaming of, wishing for, longing for. It was perfection.
Slowly Parker pulled away and pressed her forehead against his as they tried to catch their breath. Her
hands slid from where theyd slipped into his hair to rest on his chest, Me, she whispered, her lips so
close to his he could feel her words and probably wouldnt have heard them if shed been any further
His eyes fluttered open to find hers still shut as she attempted to slow her breathing, What? he asked,
just as softly.
Parker lifted her head and opened her eyes to meet his, You asked what there was to try for, she
murmured, My answer is me, she lifted her hand to lightly brush some hair back from his forehead,
Try, for me.
Dumbly he watched as she backed out of his arms, and smiled a weak smile, her eyes sad, before turning
and grabbing a pair of shoes shed stashed by his elevator. A push of the elevator button, an open and
shut of the doors, and she was gone.
Eliot stood numbly staring at the elevator shed disappeared into for several minutes. Her words whirled
around in his head followed by her actions and the tingles and fire he still felt rushing through him.
What had just happened? Why had it happened? Confusion was too simple a word for what he was
feeling, yet as he stared at the door trying to process everything one thought rose above the others;
why wasnt he going after her?
Swearing he hurried to his room to pull on a pair of socks and work boots. A few seconds later he
grabbed his wallet and keys and was out the door. He got to his truck and paused, suddenly unsure of
where exactly he was going; he was going after Parker, he knew that, but where would Parker go? It was
the first thought that had him cringing and barely resisting the urge to bang his head on the truck door;
Hardison. The first place she would go would be to her boyfriend. Sighing and deciding it was probably
better for everyone to just face the music he climbed into his truck and headed towards the Hackers
Minutes later found him pushing the door to Leverage headquarters open, Hardison? he called, his
voice a bit harsher than hed intended but didnt really care to fix.
Eliot! Hardison greeted with a wide smile, Sup man? he asked, coming down the stairs, orange soda
in his hand, I was just about to start a Zombie apocalypse marathon, wanna join? he walked around
the table in the center of the room to flop down on the recently acquired sectional sofa.
Eliot scanned the room, his eyes locking on the upstairs, but finding no sign of Parker he walked a little
further into the room, A zombie apocalypse marathon? he repeated as the words sunk in.
Yeah man, Hardison nodded with a you-know-it grin, Starting with White Zombie and going through
World War Z Im going to be watching nothing but blood, brains, and dead people for the next several
hours, he wiggled his eyebrows, You in? he lifted a remote and pointed it at the large screen. Eliots
answer must have been on his face because Hardison just stared at him for a second before rolling his
eyes and shrugging, Whatever man, he waved Eliots nonverbal refusal off, Just wish Parker were
around, she loves this kind of stuff.
Coming more alert at the mention of Parker Eliot stepped around the couch to stand between Hardison
and the screen, Is she here? he demanded, when all he got for an answer was a confused look he
growled, Parker, he clarified, is Parker here?
Hardisons eyebrows raised as he took a long, slow, annoying look around the surrounding area, Dude,
did I not just say I wished she were here? he asked, Our beloved thief lady is many things, but here,
he gestured to the couch next to him and then the room, she is not.
So you havent seen her? Eliot clarified, pressing his lips together in irritation.
Nope, Hardison popped his p then took a swig from his soda, Why?
Why are you looking for her? Hardison repeated, watching Eliot with a suspicious look on his face,
What did she do this time? he asked, furthering his question on a whim.
Eliot stared at him, he stared back. There was a long awkward silence as Eliot tried to figure out what to
say before he let out a long sigh that was half growl and let himself fall down on the couch, She kissed
me, he answered, deciding it was easier to bite the bullet, so to speak, and get it all out there now
rather than try to cover it up.
There was a snorting noise that brought Eliots head around to look at the hacker as he whipped a hand
up to cover his mouth and nose, followed by a wince and a quick shake of his head, What? he gasped
out, his face contorting in odd ways.
You alright man? Eliot asked, watching as Hardison plugged and unplugged his nose between weird
gasps of breath.
Hardison shook his head, his eyes narrowing at Eliot, No, he frowned, rubbing his nose hard, Eliot,
he stated with his nose plugged, One does not simply drop that kind of bomb on a person when they
are about to take a drink of the worlds best beverage!
Now it was Eliot who frowned and shook his head, I tell you I kissed your girlfriend and you get mad
about the fact that you got soda up your nose? because apparently thats what had happened, instead
of doing the stereotypical spit take, Hardison had sputtered soda up his nose.
It hurts man, Hardison whined, whipping at his nose once more before twisting in his seat to face Eliot,
And what do you mean my girlfriend?
Unsure what exactly he was walking into Eliot hesitated before speaking, Parker kissed me and
And its about dang time! Hardison exclaimed, a wide grin forming on his lips.
shes---what? Eliot paused, What do you mean its about dang time? he stared at the Hacker, You
knew she was going to do it?
Hardison rolled his eyes, Anyone with eyes could tell she was going to do it, he stated, It was only a
matter of time.
Eliot blinked. Then blinked again. What? was all he could come up with.
Well Parkers been in love with you for like, Hardison waved his hand around vaguely, Ever, he
finally settled on, I mean, it was part of the reason we broke up.
Again Eliot was at a loss for words, Broke up? he repeated, You and Parker broke up? he watched as
Hardison nodded as if he thought Eliot were a little slow, When? he exclaimed.
Hardison recoiled a little at the loudness of his question, It was just after Nate and Sophies wedding,
he answered, Well, actually, technically it was probably at Nate and Sophies wedding, but it all
depends on how you want to
Damn it Hardison, Eliot growled, one hand lifting to fist in his hair, Why didnt you guys tell me?
I thought it was pretty obvious, Hardison seemed as if hed really thought it had been, but as Eliot
scanned over the last thirteen or so months he found it wasnt, No? Hardison seemed to actually be
surprised, Really? his head bobbed forward incredulously, You thought she and I werethis whole
time? a pause, Seriously?
Growling, Eliot lunged to his feet, Yes seriously Hardison, he snapped, Nothing changed between
then and now! You two are still asastouchy feely as ever! he threw his hand in Hardisons direction
Looking shocked Hardisons head jerked back a little, Really? he asked, he paused as he thought then
asked, Was how we acted when we were dating any different than how we acted before we were
dating? he inquired sounding and looking genuinely interested.
Eliot stared at him with his usual Im-alone-and-youre-all-crazy look, but answered him anyway, No,
he said honestly, Not really.
Really, now it was Hardison looking as if hed heard shocking news, Not at all? he double checked,
dropping he head back onto the couch when Eliot shook his head, You should have said something
man, he declared a minute later, Id have backed off sooner.
Confused at the whirlwind conversation Eliot ran his fingers through his hair in frustration, What? he
lifted his hands in exasperation, then lifted his hand in warning, Speak in full sentences Hardison, from
the beginning.
Hardison nodded, lifting his head and taking another sip from his soda, wincing a little, but swallowing
anyway, The beginning as inwhen we first met or the beginning as in the beginning of our break up?
I dont know Hardison, Eliot snapped, I dont care which! Just explain!
Right, Hardison nodded again, Well, Parker and I were having a great time at Nate and Sophies
wedding right? Then Parker asked me if Id ever thought about marrying her, Hardison widened his
eyes meaningfully, Which scared the crap outta me, let me tell you, he cleared his throat, I
stammered around an answer until she came right out with Parker bluntness and told me that she
hadnt thought about marrying me. Then she asked if I loved her the way Nate loved Sophie, Hardison
shrugged, I went to tell her that of course I did, but thats when it hit me, he lightly hit his temple with
the palm of his hand, I really didnt. I loved her, he held a hand out at Eliot in a stopping motion, But I
didnt love her like that. Not enough to want to marry her and have 2.5 kids and a house with a white
picket fence and a dog.
Eliot watched the slightly younger man fidget while he talked but didnt do anything to dissuade the
story. He couldnt hide the confusion from his face, nor the slight irritation he felt that the man hed
been letting have the one thing hed wanted from the beginning, didnt love it, her as much as he did.
The idea that hed bowed out of a competition that he hadnt known existed, a competition for Parker
he never thought hed even stood a chance in, well, it rankled.
Before I could answer her she turned and looked up at me with those eyes, they told me everything I
needed to know, her apology was clear as day even before she said the words. She told me she loved
me, but she wasnt sure she could love me as much as Sophie loved Nate. She didnt know if she was
even capable of it, Hardison chuckled a little, which had Eliot frowning at him, but he ignored it, I told
her that I knew she was capable of it. That I knew she had such a huge heart that there was no way she
wasnt capable of loving someone like that. She asked me if our talk meant we were breaking up, and
after a few minutes of thinking about it I realized that it would probably be better for both of us to call
the relationship thing off. When I told her that I thought we probably were, she asked me how it was
going to change things. As I got to thinkin about it, I realized that it probably wouldnt change anything.
It hadnt really changed anything when we got together, so it probably wouldnt change anything after
we broke up.
Eliot watched Hardison stare blankly at the large screen, lost in the past for a moment, We were
watching Nate and Sophie dance and she asked what I thought love was supposed to feel like. So I told
her, I explained it the way my nana did, how it felt like falling, and everything was a rush, and how
sometimes you didnt even know you were falling until you were too far down to catch yourself,
Hardison pulled his gaze from the screen to look at Eliot, Then she looked at you. She asked if I would
get mad at her for feeling like that about someone else.
There was a small pause where Hardison gave him some time to take in what Hardison was telling him.
His mouth opened a few times to ask the different questions that came to mind, but he couldnt bring
himself to do it. His heart beating just a little faster than normal Eliot waved Hardison on.
It was really in that moment when I realized that my honest answer was no, I wouldnt get mad at her
for feeling like that about someone else, that I realized that she and I were not meant to be together.
We were friends, best friends even, but we werent in love. We would probably never be in love, and it
wasnt fair to either of us to keep trying to make it happen when it hadnt happened already. So I told
her that I wouldnt by asking her if she would get mad at me for the same thing, Hardison took another
sip of his soda, She was quiet for a minute but said that as long as we were still best friends she didnt
think she would. Then I asked her if she felt that way about you.
Eliot swallowed and waited. When Hardison didnt go on he forced himself to ask, What did she say?
the silence continued despite his question and he looked over at Hardison, Well? he demanded,
embarrassment displaying itself in gruffness.
I think you need to ask her that, Hardison replied, sounding as if he were thinking about something
entirely different. What that thing was, was revealed a second later when he grinned that face splitting
I-know-something-that-I-probably-shouldnt-know grin, You love her! he suddenly declared, making
Eliot jump a little at the loud declaration, You are actually admitting to loving her! Man this has been
years in the making! And she kissed you? But you dont know where she is? Thats why you came here
isnt it, you thought she would come here to her non-boyfriend after sheDude! This is so going on
Eliot growled and jerked to his feet, though when hed sat down he had no idea, Say nothing! he
Hardison went quiet as he watched his unlikely friend pace a little, Parker knows what she wants, he
said quietly a moment later, And shes known she wanted you for a while now. Shes known at least
since the wedding, when Eliot turned to look at him with an indiscernible look he continued, It was
later at the wedding when I realized she kept watching you. Eventually I asked if she was alright, and
when she said she was I decided to take a page out of her book and ask her if you were the person she
thought I would get mad at her for liking. She hesitated like she does with any personal secrets and said
that she really wanted to dance with you.
Hardison gave him a small grin and a shake of his head, So I told her to ask you. Her response was to
laugh and tell me shed heard you say once that you dont dance. So I told her that youd never told her
no about anything important before, and I didnt think youd start then.
Eliot nodded, it was the truth after all. He remembered the moment clear as day, it was one of those
moments hed done his best to imprint on his brain to last forever.
Eliot? a small voice asked from behind his shoulder. Eliot turned and found Parker standing behind him
and once again felt his breath leave his body as if stolen. She stared nervously at him, her fingers toying
with the long mint green skirt part of her floor length one shouldered dress. Her hair was pulled up and
into a side bun that was braided like a flower, and her ears sparkled with small chains of diamonds he
was almost certain was as real as the single, but not insignificant diamond that rested at the base of her
throat. Parker cleared her throat uncomfortably and shifted her weight from one wedge heeled foot to
the other, Eliot? she asked again, this time with more caution in her voice.
He cleared his throat, What? he grumbled, tugging at the unbuttoned collar of his dark purple dress
shirt, a little embarrassed to be caught staring.
Parker tilted her head and looked at him funny, Um, Parker paused before speaking again, seeming to
be trying to convince herself to speak, Would you dance with me? she finally asked.
Eliots head whipped around to look at her again, and his hands pulled from the pockets of his white
dress pants, What? You want to he vaguely pointed at the dance floor as his voice trailed off, You
want to dance? he repeated her question.
Her grin was equal parts mischievious and amused, I would love to dance Eliot, she gleefully reached
out for his hand and tugged, Thank you for asking.
He ground his feet into the grass beneath his feet, What, no! No, Parker, he shook his head, tugging his
hand back but not letting go of her own, inadvertently pulling her a little too close to him, I dont
dance, he said quietly.
Oh, her face looked immediately downfallen, Okay. I just she trailed off and gave him a small smile,
No worries.
She began to walk away looking sadder then he liked, once shed reached the point where she would
have to release his hand to go any further he stopped her by squeezing his hand around hers, Parker
wait, he sighed, not letting go of her hand when she pulled harder, Why do you want to dance? he
asked, sensing that there was something more going on.
Parker looked at the dance floor and back to him then down to the ground, I dont know, she told him.
Parker, he pressed, his voice softer than before as he stepped closer to her.
She lifted her eyes and met his own slowly, I just she trailed off and gestured to the couples swaying
on the dance floor, Ive never danced with anyone before, she told him softly, Well, not really danced,
Hardison and I danced a few times but he told me to stand on his toes, so I never actually danced and I
guess I was just hoping you would she cut herself off and ducked her head.
Eliot studied her carefully for a moment, clearly this meant a lot to her, and hed never been one to turn
her away when she asked him for something. Making his decision he gave a small sigh and tugged on her
hand, Come on, he muttered gruffly, ignoring the pointed and amused look Tara was giving him from
where she stood flirting with the bar tender at the open bar.
Parkers head whipped up as she followed him, Really? she asked once she realized where they were
headed. Her excitement had him smiling a little as he pulled her through the small crowd and onto the
dance floor, Oh, um, she faltered as she realized she didnt quite know what to do as he turned to her,
I dont really she trailed off, her hand flitting between his shoulder and somewhere near his elbow.
Eliot smiled at her, one of his rare smiles that reached all the way to his eyes, Here, he took her free
hand and placed it on his shoulder as he tightened his grip on the hand he already held, adjusting his grip
to be more comfortable as they danced. He rested his free hand on her waist and took a step forward.
Meeting resistance he gave a small sigh, Relax Parker, he commanded gently, Follow my lead, okay?
he raised his eyebrows meaningfully, When I go forward you step back, he did the motion slowly,
waiting as she followed his instructions, And when I go sideways like this, he stepped, you do the
same, he waited as she stepped sideways but gave a wince when her foot landed on his.
Sorry, Parker winced sympathetically, Sorry, she whispered loudly.
He just shook his head, Try and keep this foot, he nudged the foot he was talking about lightly with his
own, between both of mine, he instructed, Lets try that again, he took another side step, and smiled
at her when she copied him seamlessly, Good, now when I do this, he stepped back and pulled her
around a little, pleased when she only resisted the pull a little before following him, Good, you have to
trust me Parker, he told her when he noticed her darting her eyes between their feet and the people
around them, Im not going to run you into anyone, you just relax and follow my lead alright? Just like
when we spar together.
Parker met his eyes and lowered her eyes to look at her feet before she realized what she was doing.
Eliot shook her a little as he pulled her closer, Sorry, she apologized once more.
Just watch me, he told her, Watch me and just go with it, he demonstrated by taking a few steps,
swaying them around a little. After a few moments he grinned at her, Look whos dancing now, he
commented teasingly.
Parker grinned back at him, I did it! she proclaimed excitedly, Its not that hard, she told him
suddenly looking confused, Why does Hardison think that I cant do this? she asked as he continued to
lead her around on the dance floor.
Eliot shrugged, turning them so that he could look over where the Hacker sat staring at something on his
phone, I dont know Darlin, he answered softly, taking a few more steps before speaking, You want to
try turning now?
Confused, Parker looked around them and then back at him, Yes? she answered as more of a question.
Next thing she knew Eliot was releasing her and stretching their clasped hands up and using just enough
force to spin her around underneath their hands before pulling her back in to his chest. She giggled as
she realized what just happened, Oh, she laughed, you meant that kind of turning, she laughed
again, I thought you were talking about how weve all been going around in a kind of circle, she
nodded to the people around them.
Eliot gave an almost embarrassed smile that caused some of the tendons in his neck to tense for a
second before relaxing again, I guess that is what it sounded like, huh, he chuckled himself, Wanna try
it again? he asked, now understanding her startled movements as hed let her go. When she nodded he
took a few more steps before twirling her again, this time she went more easily with a broad grin on her
lips as she spun and returned to his arms, standing closer than before.
They laughed together at the seamless move and settled into a smooth rhythm that they were both
comfortable with. Eventually Eliot felt Parker step a little closer as the song changed and he felt her shift
her hand until she was close enough to rest her chin on his shoulder. Instinctively copying her need to be
close, Eliot brought their hands in closer, cradling her hand against his chest as he slowed their
movements to match the slow tempo of the music.
You know, Parkers lips were close enough to his ear that he felt them move, Youre pretty good at
this for a guy who claims not to dance.
Eliot turned his head just enough to look into her face, Just because I dont like to doesnt mean I cant.
Parker swallowed as she dropped her eyes to his lips and back to his eyes, as aware of their closeness as
he was, Why dont you like dancing? she asked softly.
He shrugged, Guess I never had a good partner, he answered, tightening his hand on her waist
Maybe that was my problem before too, Parker agreed nodding her head a little, surprising him when
he actually felt her forehead rest against his temple. They danced silently for the next few minutes as the
song played out then when it was over Parker slid her hand from his, up his arm and around his neck,
Thank you, she breathed, hugging him tightly, holding on for a bit longer than she would for anyone
Once she let go and backed away a little he nodded, Anytime, he told her, his voice low.
She smiled at him, Im going to remember that cowboy, she stated, Someday when you least expect it,
Im going to ask you to dance, and youll have to say yes because you promised.
Eliot smiled back and nodded his head with a twitch of his eyebrows, Sure, he agreed.
End Flashback
And then theyd gone their separate ways, Eliot using those memories to keep himself afloat on days
when he felt like everything was going wrong and Parker acting as if nothing had transpired between
them. Eliot paced back and forth a few more times before falling into the arm chair, cradling his head in
his hands as he propped his elbows on his knees. He stayed that way for a moment before scrubbing at
his face with his hands, rubbing his hand across his lips as he thought, And youre okay with this? he
asked finally some minutes later.
Hardison scoffed, Dude, if I had known you were holding back because you thought Parker and I were
still a thing I woulda told you sooner. You and Parker, Hardison shook his head as if there were no
words, You and Parker have something that she and I never had. The whole yin and yang thing seems
clich but its true in your case. Youre two sides of the same coin. Youve both been through hell, yet
youve found your way to being better people because of it. Where shes hyperactive and inquisitive,
youre all zen and jaded answers. You protect her when she needs protecting, even from herself, and
she protects you just the same, maybe through different methods, he allowed, but Ive never seen
Parker be as protective of somebody as she is of you.
A hand flung out as Hardison fell back on the couch cushions, Parker, he went on, then paused,
Parker is twenty pounds of crazy in a five pound bag, this brought a smile to both their faces, And
youre jaded with a giant bone to pick with the world. Shes the only one who can calm you down when
youre ticked off about something, even if shes the one who made you that way; and youre the only
one who can bring her back from the edge of something completely insane, and the only person she
completely trusts.
Here Hardison paused and switched conversational directions, You know even when we were dating or
whatever, there were still times when she jumped when I touched her or went out of her way to keep a
good two feet, sometimes three, between us? But even from the beginning, as far back as I can
remember she has never done that with you. Both of you have a very large personal bubble space,
anyone gets too close too quick and its like a shot goes off and you tense up. You get ready to fight off
whoever is invading your space, and she gears up to escape the situation as quickly as possible. Youre
all fight and shes all about flight. But watching you two since the wedding, Hardison shook his head,
Man, I seriously dont know how I didnt see it before. You two practically live in each others personal
space, yourevolve, he used his hands to demonstrate, around each other. And you dont even know
you do it do you?
Eliot shook his head, taking in everything he was being told. It was true he trusted Parker to be close to
him more than the others. Something in him just never perceived her a threat to him, even though he
knew that thanks to him she was quite capable of taking care of herself. It was probably why hed never
noticed her following him home, because he was so used to Parker being near him, or her eyes following
him that he just never noticed when it happened anymore.
I dont know what to say man, Eliot finally spoke, his mind still racing, For the first time I feel he
trailed off and shook his head.
Hardison smiled a little, partially amused to see the Hitter at such a loss. Normally he was formulating
plans on top of plans that pieced together to form his section of the puzzle Nate provided most of the
pieces for. He was prepared for any scenario that would need him. Three guys guarding a room? He
prepares for twenty. He was a guy who liked to know where he stood, what to do, where to go next and
this situation with Parker had clearly thrown the poor guy for a loop.
Hey look Eliot, Hardison spoke in a softer voice than before, catching the hitters attention, You and
Parker are meant to be together. I can tell by the look on your face that the thought scares you out of
your mind, but trust me, you will be great together, he hesitated for a moment as a mischevious smile
spread to his lips, But let me make one thing clear, he tried for a more pointed voice that had Eliot
watching him carefully, If you hurt her, I wont need a gun or a knife or any of those freaky ninja moves
you use to fight the bad guys, his face sobered a little as he spoke, All I will need are my fingers, a
tablet computer, and access to the nearest wifi and I will end you. Every alias, every safe house, every
asset and penny you own will be burned. Gone. As in, never to be seen again. Poof, he exploded his
fingers to demonstrate, You feel me?
Eliot stared at him for a long time before a small twitch in the corner of his lip started and slowly spread
to a slight smile, Yeah man, I feel ya, he rose to his feet, looking at the door and back at the hacker,
Um, thanks, he stated, reaching out his hand to do the little slap handshake the two of them had
developed over the years. He turned and headed for the door and was just about to leave when
Hardison called his name. Turning he looked at the hacker expectantly.
You might try Nates place, Hardison told him, She likes to go there sometimes when she feels things
she doesnt understand, they shared a knowing look even as Hardison went on, Even if she isnt there,
Nate probably knows where she lives, or were else you can find her.
Yeah, Eliot agreed with a nod, feeling the urgent need to find Parker rise up in him again, Thanks
again man.
Hardison waved a hand at him, already focused on the menu for his first zombie move, Just promise I
get to be your best man at the wedding! he called just before the door shut behind Eliot.
Had he been looking he would have seen Eliot freeze, eyes wide as the hackers words brought to mind a
beautiful Parker dressed in white and grinning widely as she walked down the isle to meet him. Shaking
his head at the unusual thoughts, Eliot grumbled to himself, Have to find her first. One thing at a time
It wasnt long before he found himself standing outside the large Victorian house Sophie had convinced
Nate to buy when theyd first moved to Portland that resided a few miles outside the city in a small
suburb. Eliot could honestly see what Sophie found appealing about the yellow siding and dark blue
shutters, there was something picturesque about the place that just screamed fairy tale home. Nate had
made the comment when theyd first relocated here that his house, while not headquarters anymore,
was still open to the team if they ever needed a place to crash for the night. Sophie had further
extended the invitation by handing out keys to the front and back doors as well as the code to get into
the garage that rested behind the house.
For the most part Eliot had let Nate have his space, he knew that Nate cared about them, and that his
invitation was genuine, but he also knew that too much time spent with anyone could drive a person
insane. Hed gone to the house for the few barbeques and team nights theyd had, but for the most part
hed left the place alone. It felt a little too much like home, like family, for him to feel completely
comfortable there. He knew both Parker and Hardison looked to Nate and Sophie to be the parents they
never really had. He also knew that Nate and Sophie viewed them all as the children they would
probably never have; but Eliots relationship with the two older thieves was a bit more complicated than
Hed reached out to Nate when theyd first joined forces back in the beginning, and Nate had lashed
back at him in a move Eliot had understood. After that it had taken a while for Eliot to trust Nate on a
personal level, but once Nate had proven himself to Eliot, hed become a close friend, despite Nates
firm denial for the first year or so of jobs. To be fair, Nate had been in denial about a lot of things, so
Eliot didnt hold it against him. Eliot could see why Parker and Hardison looked to Nate to be the father
figure they had both missed out on growing up, but for Eliot, Nate had found himself in the role of
brother, older brother perhaps, but brother none the less.
Sophie was a complex person to categorize for Eliot. She had an odd way of crawling under your skin
that almost literally made his skin crawl when hed first met her. The woman couldnt act on the stage to
save her life, but put her in front of a mark and the worlds best actress would rise to the surface. She
played protective mother figure to Nates not always emotionally available father figure for Parker and
Hardison, and again Eliot could easily see why. There was just something about Sophie being a mother
that was just so instinctive for her that even Eliot felt himself looking to her for emotional stability on
jobs that really got to him. Yet more often than not he found himself imagining just how well she would
get along with his two sister should the three women ever meet, heaven forbid.
When shed first extended the offer of house keys to the three children in the group, shed mentioned
that she and Nate had an open door policy, just like theyd had back in Boston. All she asked, was that
they knock before entering, and please wait for one or both of them to appear downstairs before
heading upstairs. Eliot had thought then that it was highly unlikely that he would ever actually take
advantage of that policy, but as he stared at the decorative glass and wood door in front of him on the
large wrap around deck he decided he could change his mind.
Lifting a fist he took a steadying breath, though why he was nervous in the first place was almost beyond
him, and rapped his knuckles on the door once, twice, and a third time, before pressing the door inward
and entering the large entry way, Nate? he called, looking around for the elusive mastermind.
There was a short pause then a responding, Were in the kitchen! echoed through the long hall that
stretched in front of him.
His boots thudded on the oriental rug covered wooden flooring as he walked down the hallway towards
the area he knew the kitchen was located in, Nate? he called again, rounding the corner and entering
the kitchen to find a grinning Nate sitting at a light pine wood breakfast bar, watching Sophie swing a
cookie sheet around the smoke filled room, coughing up a storm.
Oh hey Eliot, Nate greeted, laughing a little as Sophie nearly dropped the pan she was waving around,
Sophie was just trying to make me some dinner, you hungry? I think were going to be having some
Thai food if you want to stick around.
Eliot couldnt help his own smirk as he took stock of the messy kitchen. He walked over to the stove
where the pan of burntsomething lay still on the hot burner and lightly flicked the burner off, The first
thing you want to do when you burn something Sophie, he spoke with a little humor in his voice, Is
remove the burning food from the thing that is burning it, he flipped off the burner and lifted the skillet
to move to the nearby garbage bin to dispose of the whole thing.
Hey! Sophie cried, What did you go and throw the whole pan away for? It was just the food that was
Eliot shook his head, The food had burnt off the tephlon coating, using the pan again wouldnt have
gone over well, trust me, he moved around Sophie to open the French doors that opened into the
nicely sized back yard, What were you trying to make exactly? he asked as he reached up to pull the
chain on the ceiling fan that hung over the dining table, setting it to blow the smoke out.
It was a recipe I saw online, Sophie declared mournfully, Some sort of stir fry.
It took more than he thought it would not to laugh, he knew how hard Sophie tried to cook, but she
seemed to be able to some how burn boiling water. Nate, however, had no qualms about laughing at his
wife if his chuckles and grin were anything to go by, Dont worry sweetheart, he soothed as he rose
from his seat to step towards Sophie. He took the cookie sheet from her and rested it on the counter,
pressing a quick kiss to her pouting lips, I still love you, even if you cant cook.
Sophie stared up at him with wide eyes, Eliot knew her surprise came from the fact that Nate rarely
spoke about his feelings out loud, let alone when he was in front of an audience. Suddenly feeling as if
hed been forgotten as Nate ducked his head to kiss Sophie again Eliot cleared his throat, Uh, he
started, his lips twitching in amusement when Nate and Sophie both turned to look at him as if theyd
forgotten he was there, Thanks for the offer to stay for dinner, but I actually just had breakfast a few
hours ago, he jestured over his shoulder with his thumb, as if the food were somewhere behind him.
Nate pressed a quick kiss to Sophies temple an moved around to snatch the phone from its cradle on
the counter, You mind if we still eat? he asked even as he dialed the number on a nearby pamphlet
Eliot knew was a take out menu. Without waiting for Eliots answer he greeted the person on the other
side of the call, placing their order for food. A few uh-huhs and sures later and he hung up, They are
really busy right now. She says it would be faster if one or both of us could come and pick up our food in
about half an hour.
Sophie snatched the keys off the counter before Nate could, looking pointedly at Eliot then back at Nate,
Ill go and get it, she decided, I was the one who ruined our dinner after all, she moved towards
Nate and gave him a quick kiss, You boys behave while Im gone, she instructed as she left the room,
Oh, and Eliot? she turned from where she stood in the doorway to give Eliot a knowing look, Good
luck with Parker.
Eliot stared after her as she left, still staring even after he heard the door shut behind her and the car
start up and leave. Slowly turning he found himself looking into Nates contemplative gaze, What? he
snapped more as a self defence than actual irritation.
Nothing, Nate shook his head, looking all the while as if it were most certainly not nothing. Nate
moved towards the doorway and led Eliot to the open and well lit living room, Now, he asked as they
both sat down, What can I do for you Eliot? he sat back and steepled his fingers together.

I cant forgive you for something that you never did to me, you need to forgive yourself or youll never
be happy.

He asks her why she stayed, hes still the same eliot is her answer
He argues that hes not a good man, never has been, and because of that he never will be
She argues that he has always been a good man, he just got a little lost on the way to where he is today,
the point is to keep trying
He says theres nothing to keep trying for,
She says there is,
He asks what,
She kisses him
She leaves
He hunts her down (shes everything hes ever wanted and despite everything hes not an idiot who is
going to let her get away)
He figures shes gone to Hardison, he says no, he hasnt seen her, says its about time he realized Parker
was worth fighting for. They have a conversation about her and Hardison, H admits to having thought
himself in love with her a while ago, but then he noticed the way E and P were around each other and
he realized that E was proably the only person who could handle that much crazy in one person.
He goes to Nate and Sophie, they havent seen her either, sophie leaves, Eliot knows Nate will know
where Parker is and tries to convince him to say where, Nate gives him a hurt her Ill end you speech and
then gives him the directions to Parkers warehouse

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