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Other Romantic Verbs

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i. whisper

Parker drops from the ceiling to the floor, then collapses cross-legged on the floor next to Eliot. “Well,” she says. “We’re definitely stuck.”

Alec hangs up the phone and bangs his head back against the wall. “An hour until they can get someone who can fix it. What the hell, man. What are we supposed to do in here for an hour?”

“I think we should just have sex,” Parker says. “Then we wouldn’t be bored.”

“Woman, keep your voice down,” Alec hisses. “We’re trapped on a floor, not between ‘em. There could be people out there!”

“People who think we’re respectable business folk,” Eliot says, loosening his tie. “Guess we’ll just have to be quiet then, huh?”

Alec raises his eyebrows at Eliot. “So you’re just going along with this?”

Eliot takes off his respectable businessman glasses and scoffs. “Like you don’t do whatever Parker tells you to do.”

“Hey,” Alec says. “Last week, when you were away, Parker wanted cereal for dinner, and I said, nuh uh girl, we gotta eat the food Eliot left for us, it’s better for you than cereal.”

“I didn’t – ah – tell you to eat cereal for dinner. I – mmm, keep doing that, Eliot – I just said I wanted to.” Parker combs her fingers through Eliot’s ponytail as he sucks lazily on her ear.

Oh hell, Alec thinks. He’s not gonna get left out of this. He scoots on up next to Parker and says, “Fine. I’m in. But you better keep quiet.”

“I won’t blow the con because of sex, Hardison,” Parker whispers. “That’s, like, basic thief stuff.” She unbuttons her shirt so Eliot can kiss the tops of her breasts.

Alec slides his hand under the waist of her skirt, into her panties, and kisses her to swallow down her whimpers. He can feel her, wet and warm and open. Eliot unbuttons her shirt some more and reaches into her bra to play with her nipples. Alec smiles into Parker’s mouth. Good man.

Parker pulls out of the kiss. “C’mon, Hardison. Get your fingers in me already,” she says, quiet but not a bit less demanding for all that.

Alec rests his forehead against hers and whispers, “Your wish is my command.” He curves his fingers into her and grinds his palm hard against her clit, just how she likes it. She squeezes her eyes shut and clenches her teeth to hold back a gasp. He moves his fingers faster, and she brings her fist to her mouth and bites on her knuckles, quiet muffled moans escaping the seal of her lips. Her forehead creases and her cheeks heat with the effort of holding it all in. Alec meets Eliot’s eyes and trades a grin. He loves getting Parker worked up like this.

Eliot’s grin is dangerous, though, and he reaches over Parker’s lap to undo Alec’s pants. He gets Alec’s cock out and gives it a warning squeeze before twisting his hand around the head. Alec nearly bites his own tongue to keep from shouting.

“Oh shit,” he mutters to himself, feeling Parker grind desperately against his hand, and Eliot’s strong fingers move fast and sure on him. “Oh shit, guys, I’m the loudest one of us. Shit, I forgot. I fucked up.”

“Better learn to be quiet then, huh, Hardison?” Eliot says. And he thrusts two fingers of his other hand into Alec’s mouth.

Parker tightens hard around Alec’s fingers. She’s about to come, and damn, that is one of the hottest things that Alec’s ever known in this world. He sucks on Eliot’s fingers and groans helplessly. If he’s the one who gets them caught with their pants down in this elevator, he’s never going to live it down.


ii. groom

“I feel weird about this,” Hardison says, looking at the makeup laid out on the dresser.

“Why?” says Parker. She looks at the eyeliners and thinks about which would set off his eyes the best.

“This guy. The mark. He’s going after his own employees for actually being gay. I’m just… dressing up.”

“Hardison. You’re bisexual,” Parker says. “If he saw you kiss Eliot, he’d hate you too. But we can’t have Eliot there with you to kiss, so we’re just showing him you’re queer in a way he’ll understand.” In the mirror, Parker sees Eliot’s face tighten, just a little. “Sorry, Eliot. I know you don’t like that word.”

“Don’t care about it much either way,” Eliot says. “Just that when I was growing up, any time you heard that word, it was bad news.”

“Okay,” Hardison says. “Okay. It’s cool. I can do this. Come at me. Make me pretty.”

“You’re already pretty,” Parker says. She picks up an eyeliner pencil in a deep cobalt and holds it up to Hardison’s face. “What do you think, Eliot?”

“That’s nice,” Eliot says. He takes the eyeliner. “C’mere, Hardison. Close your eyes.”

Eliot’s done her makeup for her before, when she needs it for a grift, so she trusts him with it. More than she trusts herself with it, even. She takes a bottle of clear nail polish, holds Hardison’s hand, and adds a coat of gloss to each nail. She blows on them for good measure, and when she looks up, she sees Eliot putting the final touches around Hardison’s eyes.

It reminds her of going to the zoo and watching the monkeys groom each other’s fur. The information board in front of the monkey cage said that grooming was a social bonding activity. Parker thinks that might be true for humans, too. She likes Hardison’s hands, and she gets to show it by making them shinier. Eliot likes Hardison’s eyes, and he’s outlining them in blue. Their faces are really close and Hardison is staring into Eliot’s eyes and the liner somehow makes Hardison’s stare so much more.

“Oh,” Parker says. “I like that.” She looks at Hardison’s mouth, parted just a little. “Put the lipstick on. I’ll get his other hand.”

Eliot puts down the eyeliner and wipes away a bit of smudge with a delicate swipe of his thumb at the inner corner of Hardison’s eye. Hardison’s gaze flicks toward the mirror, and his blue-lined eyes widen. “You think it looks good?” he says, tilting his head to catch the light on his face.

“Yeah,” Eliot says. “It makes your eyes stand out. Nice warm brown.”

Parker holds Hardison’s hand and paints the nail on his index finger. She thinks of how many programs he’s launched with that finger and smiles. Hardison’s fingers are weapons, just as much as Eliot’s fists. When she finishes with his nail, she kisses the second knuckle.

Eliot holds up different lipstick tubes to Hardison’s face, and settles on a creamy maroon color. Two swipes across each lip. With the eyeliner and the lipstick on, he looks glittering, untouchable, like a diamond. Right up until you steal it, that is.

Hardison looks in the mirror again. His mouth opens, two smooth arcs of red-brown. “Damn. I am pretty.”

“What did we tell you,” Eliot says. He looks at Parker. She looks back. It’s the look they give each other right before they’re about to push Hardison off a building.

“We have an hour,” Parker says.

“An hour for what?” Hardison says.

“An hour to fuck you ’til you can’t see straight.”

“Won’t the makeup get all – “ Hardison gestures around his face.

“Probably,” Parker says cheerfully. “We’ll put it back on after.”

Eliot grabs Hardison by the shoulders and kisses him hard. Parker comes up behind him and kisses the nape of his neck, his secret weakness. Hardison moans into Eliot’s mouth. When they pull apart, there’s maroon lipstick all over Eliot’s mouth, too, smeared outside the outlines of his lips.

“That’s a good look for you,” Parker tells him. She snakes her arms around Hardison’s waist, undoes his jeans, and pulls them down. “I’m gonna go down on you now. When I get back up there better be kiss marks all over Eliot.”

Hardison looks at Eliot thoughtfully. “I might need more lipstick.”

Eliot sighs and passes him the tube. “Here you go. Give the lady what she wants.”

Parker hides her smile in the nape of Hardison’s neck. As if Eliot didn’t get hard the second she told Hardison to mark him all over with his lipstick. He is such a bad liar sometimes.

iii. pretend

As soon as the students leave the room, Eliot and Hardison do their secret handshake. “Did you see the looks on their faces?” Eliot smirks.

“They looked like they were about to spontaneously combust,” Hardison says, grinning. “She put the fear of Parker into ‘em!”

Parker takes off her square-rimmed glasses. “You think they were really scared?”

“Oh, hell yeah,” Hardison says. “You put the screws on. When they get back to trying to steal Yue’s research, they’re gonna be looking over their shoulders for big bad Doctor Lowry.”

Parker sits on the edge of the desk and puts her glasses back on. “Maybe I’d make a good teacher. What do you think?” She leans forward and puts on the voice she used to be Dr. Lowry. “I’m glad the two of you came to my office hours. You haven’t been doing so well in class. Maybe you’ll do better with a little more personal instruction.”

Hardison ducks his head, as if she scolded him for real, but he looks up at her through his eyelashes, his lips parted. She studies his face. There’s something in the air but she’s not sure what it is.

Eliot raises his eyebrows a little at Parker and Hardison. “We turning this into a sex thing?”

Oh. Hardison’s turned on by this. That’s what it is. “Sure,” Parker says.

Eliot nods. He locks the office door and turns on the white noise machine next to it. Always practical, their Eliot. He sits in one of the chairs facing the desk. Hardison sits in the other one. He’s eager, Parker can see now. Eliot’s relaxed but alert in his chair. He’s waiting to see what comes next.

“Promise me you’ll try to do better,” Parker says, low and even. “Tell me you’ll try. For me.”

They both lean forward a little in their seats. They say, “I promise.” Warm brown and blue eyes fixed on her. It’s a rush. It’s scary. The good kind of scary.

“You’re testing a hundred-foot rope you have to use to rappel down a building. You hang your own bodyweight from it and measure the length of the rope. How far can the rope stretch under the weight and still be safe to use?”

Their eyes go unfocused as they think about it. They look at each other, then at her.

“Neither of you know?” Parker’s not actually surprised, but she makes herself look disappointed. “Basic safety rules. Don’t rappel with a rope with more than 2% stretch.”

“Sorry,” Eliot mumbles.

“I’m sorry, professor,” Hardison says. His breath comes faster. He expects to be punished. Parker realizes she wants to punish him. Eliot, too.

“Well, you’re just going to have to do better than that,” Parker says. “Maybe this’ll teach you a lesson. Sit in your seats and don’t move until I say you can.” And she unbuttons her pantsuit and starts rubbing herself off.

She keeps her eyes closed at first, and just thinks about how powerful she feels, sitting on this desk with all of Hardison’s and Eliot’s enormous attention focused on her. She rubs in slow circles, gets herself wet. Then she opens her eyes.

Hardison has his elbows on his knees so he can lean forward even more. He’s biting his lip, and his hands flex and unflex like they’re trying to reach out all on their own and he’s holding them back. Eliot’s leaned back in his chair, biting on the knuckle joint of his index finger, his legs spread, making it easy to see that he’s half-hard.

Parker takes her hand out of her panties and licks her fingers clean, enjoying the way Eliot flushes and Hardison twitches as she does it. She buttons her pants back up. “Again. You have to con a broker into selling his stock in a specific company. Which variant of the Shake ’n’ Bake do you use?”

For a second, they both stare at her like she’s spoken in a foreign language. Then Hardison snaps into focus. He raises his hand, and Eliot does too, a second later. Parker points to Hardison. “You first.”

“The one with the two rival bidders. Right?”

Parker looks at him expectantly. “Which is called…”

Hardison covers his mouth with his hand and thinks so hard she can practically see it, but he doesn’t know. She calls on Eliot.

“It’s the Bake-Off,” he says.

“That’s very good, Spencer,” Parker says. “You got it.” She thinks about the reward for Eliot, and the punishment for Hardison. They don’t have lube or condoms with them, so she’ll work with what she has. “Hardison. You got it wrong, Spencer got it right. I think you should kneel in front of his chair.”

Eliot inhales loud enough for her to hear over the white noise machine. Hardison licks his lips. He gets up. He’s half-hard, too. When he kneels in front of Eliot’s chair, the heights are just right for him to lean over and…

“Unzip your jeans, Spencer,” Parker says. “You’re a good student. You get a reward.”

Eliot tears his eyes away from Hardison at his feet and watches Parker as he gets his cock out. He’s waiting for her approval. Hardison, too, his eyes on Parker even though Eliot’s cock is out right in front of him. Parker’s clit throbs.

“Suck him off,” Parker tells Hardison. “Show him what a good boy he’s been.”

Hardison swallows hard. Then he grabs Eliot’s thighs and sinks his mouth down on Eliot’s cock in one smooth movement. Parker’s always been jealous of him for that. Her mouth is too small to do the whole throat-fucking thing. It looks fun, though. Eliot’s hand settles on the nape of Hardison’s neck, and he looks down at him with hooded eyes, smiling and fond.

Parker puts her hand back down her pants. This is too good not to masturbate to.

Hardison’s mouth moves up and down Eliot’s shaft, grunting and sweating a little with the effort, and Eliot’s face is so warm, looking down at him, like he’s the most precious thing in the world, and Parker knows exactly how that feels. She whines, just a little, at the friction on her clit, and suddenly both of them are looking at her, Eliot wild-haired and wanton, Hardison wide-eyed with his mouth full.

Parker laughs darkly and strokes herself harder.

That seems to inspire Hardison, who closes his eyes and bobs his head up and down, gripping hard on Eliot’s thighs. Eliot cradles the back of his head with a splayed hand and makes deep uh-uh noises from his belly. Parker watches her boys, and rocks her hips into her hand, and keeps watching them as she comes.

When the fog of her orgasm clears, Eliot’s desperate, thrusting his hips up into Hardison’s mouth. His hand drifts up to cover his face as he comes, gasping, into Hardison’s mouth.

Parker buttons her pants up, and goes over to kiss Eliot, then Hardison on his loose raw mouth. “I don’t know why I like telling you what to do,” she says. “But I do.”

“Don’t care why,” Eliot says. “Long as you keep on doing it.”

iv. beg

Parker and Hardison are kissing over Eliot’s shoulder, and he’s sandwiched between them with a please trapped behind his teeth.

Over Parker’s shoulder, he can see all her toys laid out on a bench. Ropes, knives, handcuffs, dildos, vibrators, a strap-on harness. Some of them they’ve used before, some of them they haven’t yet. Parker’s never lacked for imagination. She’d find ways to use any of them, in any combination, and goddamn, he wants her to.

Before they went into the bedroom, Hardison pulled out of a really good makeout session with Parker, one Eliot was getting a real kick out of watching, and said, “Eliot needs to work on his communication skills. Man doesn’t know how to ask for what he wants.”

Parker said, “You did a good job teaching me. What do you think we should do?”

Eliot said, “Do I get any say in this?”

“Do you want to?” said Parker.

Eliot hesitated, and that was enough. Parker said, “No. You want us to decide. You like that.”

“Okay,” Hardison said. “Here’s the rules. We all go to bed, and Eliot doesn’t get to do anything sexy with us unless he asks for it. If not, he just watches us and takes care of himself until he learns a thing or two about opening his mouth. For words, not for…” He waved his hand in the air.

So now Eliot is trapped here, and Parker and Hardison are so turned on he can smell it, and he can’t do anything for them unless he finds a way to say something about it.

Parker reaches around Eliot to squeeze Hardison’s ass. Suddenly Eliot really wants to watch her do that, naked, her hands on Hardison’s tight, firm ass – and how that man keeps his ass so toned on less exercise than Eliot is one of life’s greatest mysteries – and he wants to see her fingers dip between his cheeks, and spread him open, and –

“Please,” Eliot grits out.

The soft, wet sounds of kissing stop. “Please what?” Hardison says in his ear.

He opens his mouth. Closes it again. There are so many things he wants. He’s got to narrow it down. He looks at the bench with all its toys again. “Please, Parker,” he says quietly. “I wanna see you fuck Alec with your strap-on.”

“Shit,” Hardison says. “Hell yeah, Parker, I wanna – let’s do this.”

Parker kisses Eliot. “Good,” she says. “I’m glad you asked.”

Begged, more like. But no one’s judging him for it. Hardison feels pretty turned on by it, judging by his hard-on against Eliot’s ass. He made them happy, and that’s worth whatever shame his gut insists on feeling.

The three of them take their clothes off. Hardison helps Eliot unbutton his flannel, and Eliot lets him because he likes seeing Hardison’s long elegant finger bones move under his skin as he goes. Parker’s got hers off like a shot, of course, and by the time he and Hardison are naked on the bed she’s already got her strap-on all rigged up, buckles and velcro and all. A few more straps across her chest, and she’d look like some kind of bondage queen. And she’d be great at bondage if she put her mind to it, wouldn’t she? Now there was a thought that’d pop up in his next morning shower jerk-off session.

Parker picks up a middling-sized dildo, purple and curvy, and waves it around. “Which dick do you want, Hardison?”

“That one looks good, babe,” Hardison says, flashing her a thumbs-up. Eliot takes a bigger one, when Parker’s done this to him, but Hardison’s newer to ass-fucking than he is. His boy’ll learn, if he wants to.

Parker secures the dildo in her harness. Eliot reaches out and holds Hardison’s hand as she crawls toward him from the foot of the bed, like a big prowling cat, her eyes fixed on Hardison. She can be scary when she’s like this – the good kind, of course. Eliot opens up the night table drawer and tosses her some lube. She lubes up the dildo, then pounces.

She kisses Hardison hard, relentless, her breasts crushed up against his chest and her dick smearing lube on his belly. Then she gets up on her knees, grabs Hardison by the hip to turn him over, and buries her face in his ass. He bites down on the pillow and screams.

Eliot reaches for Hardison’s hand again. Hardison damn near crushes it with every bob of Parker’s head between his asscheeks. The wet lip-smacking noises she makes, not caring what she sounds like, are what Eliot can only call charmingly obscene. He rubs his thumb over Hardison’s knuckles, and when his fingers start to go numb, he says, “Parker, c’mon. Just fuck him already. He needs you to.”

Parker’s head comes up. Her lips are shining and swollen with spit. Hardison’s hand relaxes around Eliot’s. “You just told me,” she says. “You gotta ask me.”

That’s his girl. She never could resist poking at his bruises. “Please,” Eliot says. His voice comes out raw. “Please fuck him, Parker. I wanna see.”

Hardison groans quietly into the pillow. Eliot’s going to take that as agreement. Parker puts her hand over both of theirs and squeezes. She looks at him and smiles. “Good, El.” That makes his skin flush warm all over. Glowing at the praise, like a dog. No shame in that, he tells himself. Dogs have better sense than people, taking compliments just as they’re meant. Parker looks at Hardison next. “How do you want to do this, Alec?”

“Face up,” Hardison says. “Wanna see you.”

Parker kisses his ear and leans back to give him room to turn over. She lubes up her dildo again, pressing the base back into her clit with every stroke of her hand. She puts a pillow under Hardison’s ass, hauls his long legs up over her shoulders and lines up. Hardison’s eyes are fixed on her like she’s pulling off one of her really elegant lifts, the ones that make even thieves wonder if it might be magic. Then she slams her hips up against his.

Hardison cries out and reaches for Eliot’s hand. Parker grips his thighs and grunts with every thrust. She’s holding nothing back, trusting her boy to take it after all the time she spent opening him up. And he does. He’s got that look Parker gets when she’s falling, flying, trusting that she’ll land. Eliot holds Hardison’s hand to his mouth and kisses the back of it, because he doesn’t know what to ask for, yet, or how to ask it, and this is what he knows how to do right now.

He loves the look of concentration on Parker’s face, as she tries to fuck Hardison just the way he wants. He loves the way Hardison watches her and jerks off like he just can’t help himself. He loves the little gasps they make like they’re still surprised at each other, after nearly two years together.

Nearly two years together. Less time than that with Eliot. He makes it different. He hopes he makes it better.

Eliot holds Hardison’s hand to his cheek and watches the orgasm hit. Hardison wails, long and high, and Parker has a look of pure triumph on her face. Eliot holds his hand for a minute longer, then gets a rag from the night table to wipe up the come on his chest.

Parker and Hardison kiss, their hands caressing each other’s necks and shoulders. Then they turn to look at Eliot. He’s not sure what they see, but it makes them look at each other again and grin. They watch him some more, not saying a damn word.

Right. He’s supposed to ask for what he wants. He licks his lips. He opens his mouth, with no idea what’s about to come out of it. “Need both of you touching me. Please.”

“Touching you how?” Parker says. Curious, like she can’t wait to find out the answer.

Eliot’s body throbs all over, and he notices for the first time how hard he is. “Don’t care how. Just get me off any way you like. ’S long as both of you are touching me. Please, please, just do it.”

Hardison squeezes his hand. “Hey. Whatever you want. We got you, babe.”

Parker takes her harness off and climbs over Eliot’s legs so he’s in the middle. Hardison wraps his big hand around Eliot’s cock, wetting his fingers with precome. Parker’s hand goes between his thighs, and she must have lubed up her fingers without him noticing, because she circles his hole then goes right in with two fingers to the second knuckle.

Somehow Hardison knows that Eliot needs to kiss someone, because their mouths meet and there, yeah, that’s exactly it. The thing he didn’t know how to ask for. The three of them all linked up like this. There’s some kind of sound coming up from Eliot’s chest that he probably should feel embarrassed about, but doesn’t.

He looks over at Parker and realizes she’s touching herself while touching him, her fingers on her clit in time with the ones inside him. That and Hardison’s kiss are all he needs. He pulls out of the kiss, bites down on the heel of his hand, his fingers blotting everything out into a warm close darkness.

“Got what you wanted?” Parker says, close to his ear, still breathless with her hand between her legs.

“Yeah,” says Eliot. And it’s so much less than everything he could say to answer that question. But it’s what he can say right now.

v. fasten

Parker lays back against the pillows with a happy sigh. “Put the handcuffs on him, Alec. He’s earned them.”

Eliot looks up at Alec, his face still shining after twenty minutes between Parker’s legs. She flexes her thighs, showing off all the red hickey marks. It makes Alec throb all over just to look at the two of them. “C’mere, El,” Alec says, slapping his thigh.

He’s so short, compared to Alec. It’s easy to forget, because he’s so solid, so full of attitude, but when he stands in front of Alec all wide-eyed and open and smeared with Parker’s come, Alec looks down at Eliot and thinks: he’s a pocket-sized cowboy. And he’s theirs.

Eliot holds out his wrists without Alec having to ask, and Alec nearly has to swallow back tears for a moment there. It was so hard at first for Eliot to admit how much he wanted this. Now he lets them see all that desire, and damn if it isn’t one of the most beautiful things Alec’s ever seen.

“I appreciate it,” Alec says, rubbing his thumb over the thin skin of Eliot’s wrists. “But I’ll need those behind your back.”

Eliot licks his lips and nods. He turns around and presents his wrists at the small of his back. Alec fastens a cuff around one wrist, then the other. He hears Parker’s breath catch at the sound of the cuffs ratcheting shut.

Alec rests his head on Eliot’s shoulder and wraps his arms around his waist. On the bed, Parker’s turned herself around, her legs propped nearly vertical against the headboard. “What should I do with him, Parker?” Alec says, a smile spreading slowly across his face.

Parker hums. “Whatever you want.”

Alec thinks about how Eliot covers his face when he or Parker get him off and he’s about to come, like he’s afraid to let them see what he looks like when they’re making him feel good. “Sit on the bed,” Alec says in his ear, before pressing a kiss to his cheek.

Eliot sits on the side of the bed; his cuffed hands touch her arm, and he curls his fingers around it. “You’re cheating,” Parker says.

“It’s what we do, isn’t it?” Eliot says with a smirk.

Alec gets to his knees beside the bed, bites the inside of Eliot’s thigh, and wipes the smirk right off his face. He gasps and spreads his legs. Behind his back, he rattles his cuffs. “You’re gonna do this for me? Not me doing it for you?”

“Getting a blowjob doesn’t mean you’re in control,” Alec says. He leans forward and breathes on Eliot’s dick, watches it twitch. “I’m feeling pretty in charge of things right now. How about you, Parker?”

“Oh yeah,” Parker says. “I can tell both of you to do whatever I want and you’ll do it.”

Alec kisses the head of Eliot’s cock. His abs tighten and his breath comes out with a bit of a growl. “Just lie back and take it, boy,” Alec says. “We got this.” And then he just goes to town.  

He holds onto Eliot’s legs for leverage and seals his mouth down and around Eliot’s cock, pulls up and swirls his tongue around the head, bobs his head down again and again and again. In the background he hears high little gasps and that means Parker’s touching herself while she watches, so he gives her a show, moaning around his full mouth, but his eyes are fixed on Eliot’s face, flushed pink and damp with sweat and Parker.

When Eliot comes, his shoulders tense, but his face just lets go. His eyes close, his mouth goes slack. Alec swallows him down, and Eliot’s absent and peaceful, like he never lets himself be.

Parker sits up, kisses Eliot’s neck, and picks the cuffs. When they come off, Eliot brings his hands forward and looks at his wrists, the red marks where the cuffs were, and smiles. Hardison climbs up on the bed to kiss him. “Thank you,” Eliot says between kisses. “Thank you. Thank you.”

(+i.) praise

Good job, soldier, his commanding officer told him after he neutralized the targets. (Blew up a family’s home.)

I’m giving you a raise, Moreau told him after he sent the message. (Killed the messenger.)

Always dependable, Spencer, the client told him after he delivered the merchandise. (Stole a treasured family heirloom.)

You took that for me, Parker tells him, tracing a bruise he got when he stepped in the way of an angry mobster. (Protected something precious in the world, precious to him.)

You’re so good at this, Hardison tells him, touching his jaw where he’s sore from going down on the two of them for hours. (Used his body to show his people how good they could feel, how good he could feel.)

Everything you make is so delicious, they tell him, licking chocolate fondue from each other’s fingers, their mouths sticky-sweet. (Showed people who needed love that he loved them, in all the ways he knew how.)