Chapter 1: [ PART 1 ]
- - HACKER - -
"I want..." Parker stopped, thought unfinished, and Hardison dragged his attention away from his computer monitors. He was so close to finding out what the CIA's newest toys were, but breaking into their internal servers could wait until later if Parker needed him.
He had been too distracted with the brewpub, and the new toys he could get here in Portland, and his molecular gastronomy stuff lately. It had been up to Nate to actually ask Parker what was wrong, and that had been hard to listen to over the coms. It had been Eliot who helped Parker feel better. So Hardison was grading himself a B on boyfriending over the last couple days and dedicating himself to improving that.
Parker had been in such a good mood since the team took Rampone down and the little art-appreciation field trip she took afterward. Hardison had been happy to listen to Parker ramble about all the art and how it felt. The sex had been great too. Happy-Parker sex was the best, if kind of exhausting. Parker did not look happy now, though, and Hardison closed out of his programs to crawl back onto the bed with her.
"What do you want, baby?" Hardison asked, reaching for her and only finishing the motion to turn it into a hug when Parker leaned toward him. Parker's head fit under his chin, her body curled up body fit into the curve of his own. They just fit together. "You want to go jump off the space needle? Or rob a bank? A museum? You say the word and I'll make it happen, you know I will. Anything you want."
"...I want Eliot," Parker said.
"Eliot?" Hardison thought he could probably be forgiven for his voice squeaking a little. That was not something he'd expected, at all. Ok, Eliot was undeniably hot but Parker had never shown any interest in him before. And Hardison hadn't ever noticed Eliot flirt with Parker. Of course the two of them were close. Eliot was team, and more than just team. Was this something that had been building right under Hardison's nose and he didn't even know? Was he just a stepping stone, the baby steps until she was used to relationships and ready to move on to someone else? All done with the geek and on to the hot white jock with the higher social capital. But that was the uberculture, that wasn't Parker. Parker couldn't care less about social standing. Hardison was way richer than Eliot anyway; he wasn't the foster kid with the hand-me-downs and braces anymore. Was he richer than Eliot? He must be, he had his fingers in way too many pies not to be. Money was all digital nowadays and Hardison was the undisputed king of computers. A few million here, a billion there, and that wasn't even counting the values of all the properties his various aliases owned.
"That's not normal, right?" Parker curled closer to Hardison's chest, both body and voice going very small. Hardison had been quiet too long. He put 'make sure to be richer than Eliot' into the suggestion box of his brain and turned to the problem at hand.
"It's normal," Hardison promised. "It is extremely normal. I mean Nate had his weird cat-and-mouse thing with Sophie before he and Maggie broke up. Everybody wants people they ain't with sometimes. Most sexual people. Not ace or like demisexual people usually; though we're probably close enough to Eliot for even the most demi of sexuals." Hardison pulled himself forcibly away from the sidetrack. "And you know people change, and relationships change. What's good for you at one point isn't always what's good for you at another. If we, if us isn't working for you... then..." Hardison couldn't quite make himself finish the thought, it hurt to bad. He and Parker had been drifting together so slow and careful over the years, now they were finally in the same boat it felt like belonging to Hardison. Maybe he'd been doing even worse than a B as a boyfriend recently, if Eliot was more emotionally available to Parker than Hardison was. Or maybe it was that Hardison was too emotional? Parker had never been as demonstrative as Hardison was. Maybe it would be easier for her to be with someone who was less into the whole 'sharing of thoughts and feelings' thing.
"Not like that," Parker said, hand clenching in Hardison's tshirt to hold him close. "I want Eliot too. I don't want us to break up, even a little. That's weird, isn't it?"
"Historically and evolutionarily it's definitely monogamy that's weird," Hardison promised. "You know how many animals do that? Almost none, and the ones who do are like birds and not even mammals. The whole one-man one-woman and their biological children being the only family unit is total bullshit. That's what my Nana taught me. She's more my family than anyone I share DNA with. You find the normal that works for you, and if it's that whole thing... Polyamory!" Hardison remembered the word triumphantly. "If you're poly, baby, that's ok."
It shouldn't feel so scary to say that, but it did. Hardison knew better than to try and hold Parker too tight; if she felt weighed down or stifled then Parker would run. Parker had run, a few times in the beginning when things got too scary. Hardison was patient, and Parker always came back closer than ever. That had been letting her go to be alone, though. Letting Parker go into someone else's arms and still trusting her to come back was harder. There was no guarantee Parker would come back.
Eliot, though? He was muscly and hot, yeah, and he was protective of them which was hot in its own kind of way, and he clearly had plenty of experience with the ladies. Hardison mostly just flirted unless he was in a serious relationship. Flirting was fun. Eliot clearly dove right in, and his partners always seemed to be pleased with him. Experience could be sexy. Hardison wasn't that inexperienced himself, though, even if a lot of that experience was seen through a screen. There was some great porn out there on the internet, once he'd learned to find the little niche feminist porn studios where all the performers were actually enjoying themselves and they showed all the affection and buildup and aftercare and stuff. Not like that soulless mainstream stuff. Who could even get off to that? And Parker was great. Hardison didn't think he could ever get bored with her. He'd figured they were going to keep happily sexing each other up until they were old and gross.
Clearly Parker had other ideas, and that was going to be ok. It was going to have to be. Research. Hardison was going to have to do all the research about polyamory to make sure he didn't fuck this up. Hardison knew how to share; he couldn't avoid it growing up with Nana and the rest of her kids, but even when most things were shared there were some things that were your very own and you didn't have to share. Hardison usually ended up sharing those things too anyway, when he was a kid. Sharing was nice. He hadn't thought his relationship with Parker was going to be a thing that was shared, that it was going to be a strictly two-person affair. Parker wasn't a thing though, not like a favorite shirt or necklace or a computer. She was a person, and very obviously not for owning.
Hardison already shared so many things with Eliot – the brewpub most prominently. He couldn't imagine trying to keep Eliot's fingers out of it, even though he was technically the owner and Eliot wasn't. He'd been counting on Eliot to be his copilot from the moment he decided to buy it. They worked together so seamlessly on the team, and Hardison shared all the gear he made. That stuff was easy to share. Sharing Parker with Eliot seemed so much bigger than that. Like jumping off a building that never ended without even any ropes attached. Hardison trusted him with team stuff, with con stuff, with protecting them completely. He just didn't know if he could trust Eliot with Parker. That was an entirely different beast.
"Eliot? Really?" Hardison asked.
Parker rolled to the side, tugging Hardison with until they were lying together on the bed. "I was sitting here being happy, and then I thought that the only thing that could make all this better," Parker gestured to everything – Hardison and the bed and the entirety of their apartment, "was if Eliot was here too. You like Eliot too, right?"
"Eliot's great, baby," Hardison promised. "But I don't know if he's... I don't want you to get hurt." Parker was tough as nails, but so fragile in some ways. He couldn't bear it if Eliot went tromping all over her feelings. Fuck and forget – not that Eliot was really like that. He was good to his partners, he just didn't hold on to them for very long. If he didn't give Parker all the love she needed and deserved, if Eliot hurt Parker, Hardison would probably lose his friend and the team their hitter too – or their hacker. Hardison couldn't keep working with Eliot if he hurt Parker.
"Eliot wouldn't hurt me!" Parker protested.
"I don't mean like punching!" Hardison explained. "I know he'd never do that to you. He just doesn't do the emotions things."
Parker was quiet for a long moment, thinking, and Hardison tried not to let his own thoughts run away from him in the meanwhile. He could do that. He could be right here, in this space, laying on his bed and holding Parker and not thinking about anything else. His thumb was resting on the bare skin of her arm, and he stroked up and down it softly. Hardison loved this, loved to get to touch Parker. What would it feel like, having some other guy's hand here with his? Scary, like he wanted to pull her closer, protect her.
Not some random man, though. Eliot. Eliot's punchy hand capable of so much violence being gentle, warm across Parker's skin, strong thick fingers intertwining with Hardison's. Ok so maybe that was a little nice, even though Hardison had a hard time imagining Eliot being touchy-feely like that.
"Eliot cooked for me," Parker finally said, bringing Hardison back to the moment. "That whole night of the restaurant opening. So much was going on, but he was cooking for me. He gave me his art and let me into his brain. I felt things. He doesn't do the talking like you do, but he does emotions."
Love languages, right. Sophie talked about those sometimes, about the different ways people expressed their affection and how to use that against them. And Hardison might also sometimes take random online quizzes when he was sleep-deprived. Hardison himself did his with talking, mostly. Also with providing – housing and equipment and comfort, the things he'd struggled for so much before he got to Nana. And touch, too, being close to people with hugs and kisses if they wanted that. Hardison was versatile with his love language.
Parker's language was still evolving. It had started by just being around the team, not leaving them behind and disappearing out into the world. Then there was inviting Hardison into activities she enjoyed. Like jumping off buildings, and making plans to steal stuff. Parker liked getting presents, too, and was taking to doing silly romantic things like having picnic dates. Parker had also warmed to physical closeness and cuddles more and more as they got more comfortable together. Like here they were right now, laying in their bed with her body tucked into the curve of Hardison's very comfortably and affectionately. It was great, it was wonderful and always getting better... and Parker wanted Eliot too.
Eliot, what was his language? It wasn't talking, unless it was sarcasm or like friendly swearing. It was maybe physical, protecting the team? But that was his job, and he was proud of how well he did his job even before the team had liked each other. Maybe he was more protective of the team now than he'd been back then. He only went for a hug or said he cared in extreme circumstances, like if Hardison had almost died in a coffin, but he did do it then. He did care. Cooking was definitely Eliot's language, though. Eliot hadn't started cooking meals for the team until they were all knit tight together and friends. Eliot liked the team, and he cooked for them, but that was friend-affection. Sex seemed to be the language he preferred with the lady of the hour.
Eliot was hard to classify, but he had been the one to talk Parker through feeling things. He'd been late to the class, jeopardizing a job he cared deeply about, because Parker needed support. That had to say something.
"You're right, he does do emotions," Hardison granted. "He cares about you. If you want to try being with him too, then that's..." Hardison nodded. "You do you."
"We could both be with Eliot, and then Eliot could be here with us like this," Parker said, like it was the most reasonable thing. Hardison laughed, and Parker poked him with a sharp elbow in the ribs. "You like Eliot too," Parker huffed.
"Are you sure?" Parker asked.
"Baby, Eliot is the most heterosexual man ever," Hardison explained. "He's like the definition. Look it up in the dictionary, there's just a picture of him being all grumpy and manly and then smiling at cute ladies. It's more like a video clip than a picture. Or the pictures in Harry Potter." He was getting off track again and Hardison stopped himself. There ought to be a way to print moving pictures like in Harry Potter, but the tech probably wasn't quite there yet. Maybe in another few years. Hardison put researching that into the suggestion box for later and returned to the point at hand. "Eliot's very straight, and straight guys don't want to be in relationships with other guys."
"You could ask him if he does," Parker suggested.
"Oho, no. No no no." Hardison shook his head hard. "We do not hit on the angry straight men, no way. You see this face, this beautiful face of mine? It does not need any punching, nuh-uh, no."
Parker snorted a laugh like he was being ridiculous, pushing an elbow into Hardison's ribs again. "Eliot wouldn't punch you."
Oh. Huh. That probably was true. Hardison would never have teased Eliot by grabbing him to hug it out, or ever dared to say they were together for a con, if he believed Eliot would get violent with him for it. Eliot might growl at him, but he wouldn't hurt Hardison.
"You know how sometimes you decide something to survive – like never hitting on straight guys to survive High School – and then you keep thinking that way even when it doesn't fit anymore?" Hardison asked. "I think that's..." He scratched his head. It was just a thing he'd never questioned, that actually hitting on a guy that was not already 100% known to be at least a little bit gay would end in pain. Particularly if the guy was a lot more butch than Hardison was.
Parker rolled over, pushing Hardison onto his back to straddle him. "So you'll ask Eliot to be with us?"
Hardison shook his head again, hands resting on Parker's strong thighs. "He's still straight. But if you want to try with him, if that would make you happy?" He nodded. "Go for it."
Parker pouted briefly, but then ground down on Hardison's crotch with a grin. There was no more coherent conversation for a while after that, and the topic of Eliot didn't come up again.
Hardison figured he'd be told if there was any change on that front.
- - HITTER - -
"Are you straight?"
"What the hell, Parker." Eliot tapped Parker's elbow, correcting her posture as they squared off against each other. Parker just looked at him, wide blue eyes expectant and utterly guileless behind her fists. Eliot nodded, and Parker began throwing punches at the focus mitts he held.
"Are you?" Parker asked.
"There's no simple answer to that. Put more of your body into it, use your hips," Eliot instructed.
Parker grinned big and fierce as she landed a hard punch, her whole body lending power to it. "That means no."
"Footwork," Eliot reminded, backing up to present a moving target for Parker to follow. Why Parker suddenly had an interest in his sexual orientation, he had no idea. It was none of her business.
"It does mean no, doesn't it?" Parker didn't give up, even though Eliot feinted with a hand to make her duck. "If you were straight, yes would be simple. So you're not."
Eliot moved one of the pads to low, and Parker went for it with a knee. She was a quick study – and tenacious. If this was something Parker wanted to know, the needling wasn't going to end until he'd either explained it or asked her to leave it alone. There wasn't anything in his past he'd hide from her if she really asked, and this was such a smaller thing than lives he'd taken. It was nothing to be ashamed of, not really. At least the gym was loud enough no one would easily overhear, and nobody cared to pay particular attention to them.
"At some point, skin's just skin," he said. "Touch is touch."
Parker wrinkled her nose at him, ducking easily under another swing of his hand. She almost caught him in the face with an elbow jab, nice and vicious. "I know you care who you have sex with."
"That wasn't..." Eliot sighed, throwing a knee strike of his own for Parker to block. How was explaining this his life? Making Parker sad wasn't on his to-do list if he could avoid it, though. "A tiny group of guys, goin' through hell day after day with no end in sight. If you've got a buddy who can help you forget the friends you've lost and the blood on your hands for just a little while, help you feel good? Then you count yourself lucky. Skin's skin, orientation means nothing."
"Oh," Parker said, and threw another punch. The fact that Parker just took the story at face value without being fascinated or horrified or, worst of all, trying to comfort him, might be a good part of the reason why Eliot didn't mind sharing it. They moved easily together, through different sets of blows and blocks.
Parker took Eliot's instructions well. She wasn't ever going to be a hitter like him, but she was a hell of a lot harder to beat now than she'd been all those years ago when they first met. Parker's first line of defense would and should always be disappearing, the second line a taser, but if she was ever cornered without Eliot there to help, whoever had done the cornering wasn't going to know what hit them.
God, he hoped it never came to that. If they were on the job and Parker was in danger, the only reason he could ever not come to the rescue was if he wasn't physically able to. Which pretty much only meant things had gone so wrong he was dead.
This much he could do for his team, his family, beyond just being their hitter. He could watch their backs, and he could make sure they were still fighting after he went down.
"But otherwise you wouldn't want to have sex and do relationship stuff with guys?" Parker picked the thread of the conversation back up again out of the blue.
Eliot grunted, taking a hard shin-strike to his side that stung even through the practice padding. "Not that simple either," he said. "Mostly it's numbers."
"Numbers?" Now Parker looked completely confused, but she still dodged his quick jab perfectly.
"Numbers," Eliot repeated. "There's an awful lot more straight women out there than there are gay men. So the chance of hitting it off with one is higher. Unless you go looking, which I don't usually."
"Ok," Parker said, taking a step back from the attack to shake her arms out. "Let's do grappling now!"
And just like that the topic was dropped, no explanation of why Parker had wanted to know in the first place. That was just Parker. Whatever went on in that brain of hers was completely opaque to the outside.
Eliot got out of his padding and tapped the bandage on his still-healing forearm, reminding Parker to avoid it if possible, before they and launched into practice grappling. It was always a great challenge to grapple with Parker. Moves that worked to pin most people had no effect on someone as flexible as she was. Eliot made sure to train her how to use that to her best advantage against an opponent bigger and stronger than she was.
No one, ever, was going to wrestle her down and hurt her. Even if someday Eliot wasn't around anymore.
They went long and hard enough they were both sweating by the time they were done. Eliot's entire body was humming pleasantly with the endorphins of the fight; always good, even if he didn't actually get to beat anyone up. Parker tossed an arm around Eliot's neck, walking at his side like she was going to come on into the men's shower with him.
"Parker," Eliot growled, shoving her away and pointing her toward the other shower. "Go shower." The thought of showering with Parker was too tempting, not that a crowded gym would be the best place for that. And he wouldn't do that to Hardison, either. He cared about them both too much to cheat on either one of them.
Parker huffed a disgusted breath and went. Eliot shook his head. What went on in her brain he would never know.
- - THIEF - -
Hardison was being dumb.
It was extra annoying when he did that, because he was so smart. Parker liked Eliot. Hardison liked Eliot. There was a space Eliot could fit into their lives, closer to them. Parker could see it, like a hole in a security system. Hardison was usually better with people, but he was all 'Eliot's straight' and then 'a little situational homosexuality doesn't mean he'd want to with me, baby'.
Hardison was reading lots of things about polyamory, and making Parker read some articles and stuff on it too. He kept saying that it was ok for Parker to be with Eliot, but that wasn't the right shape either. Parker didn't want to be the hinge in the middle of two and two when she could be one of three. Hardison's articles said that a stable trio was very unusual, but Parker could see it. It would work, but Hardison refused to understand, or Parker didn't know how to explain it in a way that Hardison understood.
It was very frustrating.
Since Hardison wasn't going to be good at people and bring Eliot in, Parker had to. She rested her chin on her hands and watched Eliot. The brewpub closed early on Tuesdays, so no one else was in. Eliot was mostly just writing all over Hardison's menu about everything that was wrong with it and what should be on the menu instead. He was grumbling about things being the wrong pairings and ingredients being the wrong season. It was funny. Complaining about the brewpub was how Eliot showed he cared about it and about them. Parker missed this, sometimes, when Eliot wasn't around.
"I miss you," Parker said.
Eliot shook his hair back and gave her one of his unimpressed looks. "We see each other all the time, Parker."
"Not at home," Parker said.
"That's because you live here with Hardison," Eliot said, fake and bright how he did when he was making fun. It was mean. Parker thought about leaving without trying to get Eliot to come home with her after all.
"Hey." Eliot bumped her arm, handing over half of the last leftover butterscotch cookie as an apology. It was delicious, and Parker forgave him.
"I don't like missing you," Parker said. She smiled up at him from under her lashes, touching his arm to make sure she had his attention just like Sophie taught her. "Will you come home with me?"
Eliot jerked his arm away, taking two quick steps back and then turning to open one of the refrigerated cabinets. Not looking at her. Had Parker done the smile wrong? She thought it was the right one, because she really was happy to look at him and invite him home.
"You need to talk to Hardison if you're having relationship trouble. I ain't gonna—" Eliot started, voice tight and hard.
"Hardison likes you too!" Parker interrupted. "I like you and Hardison likes you and I want to bring you home to Hardison. Together." Why did neither of them understand this? "We work, the three of us. It works. Why can't we work together closer?" Parker meshed her fingers together in demonstration. The fingers of one hand fit perfectly into the spaces between the others. That's how it worked, that's how they could work.
Eliot glanced at her over his shoulder, then looked away again as he slowly closed the fridge. Eliot's voice, when he spoke, was very careful – like he was trying to make sure each word came out right. "Parker, are you trying to invite me to a threesome with you and Hardison?"
"Yes!" Parker bounced on her chair. "Will you?"
Eliot took a few deep breaths, still looking at the closed refrigerator. Parker opened her mouth to ask again, but then closed it. Sophie said it was best to leave the mark time to think, to make the decision on their own. Too much pressure could turn them against the idea... not that she was conning Eliot. Parker was just trying to get him together with her and Hardison like he belonged, that was all.
Eliot sighed and shook his head. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah, all right."
Parker squealed a little bit. This was better than donuts or those black noodle things, and she said so.
"Tagliolini nero," Eliot corrected in a huff. He was smiling a little, though, as he tossed his kitchen towel aside and came out from behind the counter. Parker looped an arm around his neck to pull him through the back room and toward the stairs up to the apartment. It was easier to put an arm around his neck than it was Hardison's, because he wasn't as tall. He was heavier than Hardison, though, and very solid. He felt good to hold, but pulling him up to the upper level of the building with her rope system would actually be slower than the stairs. For once the stairs were the most efficient option.
Parker definitely needed to make a more efficient system of getting Eliot to the upper level. It shouldn't be too hard, because he was more than strong enough to pull himself up the ropes.
It was a little bit awkward to walk two-wide on the walkway above the back room, but Parker wasn't letting go and they managed it. Eliot had his arm around her back, hand warm where his fingers curled around her hip. He didn't usually touch her like that, close and warm, and it sent little shivers running up Parker's back. This was going to be so good. Parker opened the door to the apartment and pulled Eliot in after her.
"Hey baby!" Hardison called from his computer.
"Hey," Parker called back. It was nice to have a house where someone noticed and cared and liked it when she came and went. She wasn't giving up her warehouse, but this was nice. "I brought Eliot up for sex and stuff!" Hardison wasn't like her or Eliot – he wouldn't have noticed two sets of footsteps and know that Eliot was with her.
There was some scrabbling sounds, like Hardison had knocked something over and almost fallen out of his computer chair. He came out of the bedroom with his eyes wide. Parker grinned at him, leaning against Eliot. She'd got an Eliot for them. It hadn't even been that hard.
"Hey, man," Hardison waved his hands awkwardly. "Should I just... fuck off for a few hours? Give y'all some space to get your freak on?"
"No!" Parker said. That wasn't at all what was supposed to happen.
"Dammit, Parker!" Eliot's voice was quiet, but it was very frustrated and growly. He never said that to her. He pushed away, trying to untangle himself from her. "You can't just spring a threesome on a man! Sorry, Hardison, I thought you'd agreed. Sorry. I'll go."
"No!" Parker protested again, as Eliot nearly got away. He was only still here because he didn't want to hurt her, when she wanted him to be here because he wanted to be here like he had just moments before. "Hardison, I told you! Help!"
"Wait, Eliot," Hardison finally took a few steps into the living room. "You came up expecting a threesome? With both of us?"
"Thought you were on board," Eliot said. "I'm leaving. Parker let go!"
"Hell nah, you're not going anywhere," Hardison said. He was grinning now. He could move fast when he wanted to, and he was grabbing hold of Eliot too. "Change of plans, I am so down with this if you're down with it."
Eliot stopped struggling, so Parker let him go. Hardison didn't. They were staring at each other like their eyes were magnetized to each other.
Hardison licked his lips. "Didn't think you'd be down," he said, hand slid around Eliot's strong shoulder, fingertips digging into the muscles.
"If you like," Eliot answered, smiling just a little bit like he was challenging someone to a fight.
Then they were kissing.
Hardison was making those little hungry noises, like almost whimpers, he only made when he was very happy with what was happening. Eliot was growling a little. Their hands were all over each other, their bodies pulled tight together. Eliot's hand was on the back of Hardison's neck, one of Hardison's hands getting into Eliot's hair. Parker didn't like tongue kisses herself, they were gross, but Eliot and Hardison were very pretty eating each other's mouths. They seemed to be enjoying it a lot. Parker smiled and watched them kiss for a little bit.
Parker enjoyed watching them, but she stepped in and tapped Eliot on the shoulder when he tried to push Hardison against the wall.
"No pinning Hardison," Parker instructed, when Eliot glanced back at her. Being pinned wasn't sexy to Hardison. Eliot's mouth was very red, and she couldn't resist squeezing in to kiss him just a peck. His lips weren't as soft as Hardison's, but they were nice. He reached up, fingertips barely brushing her jaw – as though she were beautiful and breakable. It was just as careful as Hardison had been with her early on when things were scary, and that made Parker feel warm all over.
She kissed Hardison too. She could tell when he was happy, and he was so happy. His eyes were all crinkly and shiny. She had known this was going to work. She had her arms around both of her boys, and they had their arms around her too. All three of them, like it was supposed to be.
"Ladies first," Eliot said. "If that's all right?" He glanced from Parker's face to Hardison's.
"That's just good etiquette," Hardison agreed, grinning.
"I'm the lady!" Parker crowed, jumping up to wrap her legs around Eliot's solid waist. He caught her easily, hands under her thighs. "To the bedroom!" Parker pointed the way, bouncing a little to hurry Eliot.
"What do you want?" Eliot asked her, moseying along to the bedroom like he had all the time in the world.
"Orgasms," Parker said. "Lots of orgasms and no tongue kissing."
"Parker does best when she's in control," Hardison added, trailing along and taking his clothes off. That was a good idea, so Parker took her shirt off too and tossed it at the foot of the bed.
"Does sitting on my face work for you?" Eliot asked, his eyes hungry looking up at her.
Sitting on him? Oh, he meant oral sex. "Oh, you mean oral sex," Parker said. "Yes please!"
Eliot turned around and let his body fall backward onto the bed with Parker on top of him. It took her 3.5 seconds to get her pants and boxers off and straddle his face. She was even careful not to get a knee on his hair. Eliot immediately licked up into her, no wasted time. His chin stubble was scratchy against her labia, and his head hair was silky-smooth under her petting fingers. He made a complicated kind of moaning sound when he found her clit with his clever lips and she ground down on his face.
Parker liked sex to feel intense, and Eliot figured that out fast. He sucked hard on her clit, ground his tongue against it, and Parker's entire body shook with the pleasure. It could be scary, sometimes, to let someone in this close; to give up control of her body's reactions. This was Eliot, though. She knew his hands, familiar on her thigh and her back as he steadied her, even though he didn't usually touch her without clothes. She knew the sound of his breath almost as well as she knew Hardisons, almost as well as her own, used to hearing it in her ear over the coms, even if she didn't usually feel the huff of it against her pubes. It was Eliot, and Parker always knew she was safe if Eliot was nearby.
The tightness started in her clit, radiating quickly through her thighs and up her back. Parker's spine arched, breath catching in the endless moment between 'it's going to happen' and 'it's happening', the peak of pleasure that could not hold.
"There she goes," Hardison murmured behind her, and just like that was the trigger Parker's orgasm broke through her in crashing waves and a flush of wetness. Eliot moaned with her, somehow keeping his mouth on her as she bucked through the pleasure, pushing her higher through the orgasm, and then beyond it.
"Oh," Parker gasped, in the warm lax moments beyond. "Oh, Eliot. So good."
Eliot's eyes fluttered open for a moment, shining up at her, before they rolled back and shut again. He licked into her as deep as he could, sucked on her labia with little wet slurpy sounds like she was delicious, and Parker laughed. He came back to her clit soon enough, and Parker pet his hair encouragingly. She wanted another orgasm. Lots of them. Orgasms were fun with the right people, and Eliot was definitely one of the right people.
Her second orgasm was close to the surface, with her body already warmed up and ready. Eliot was tapping at her clit with his tongue, now, quick and firm as he sucked on it. Parker whined and shuddered as the pleasure built. She was more than ready for her orgasm, but Eliot wouldn't give it to her. He kept gasping against her, sucking at tapping one moment almost enough for her and then groaning and losing contact with her clit the next.
"Eliot," Parker whined, humping at his face. "Come on!"
Eliot's hand disappeared from Parker's back where it had been holding her, his body shifting. Parker glanced back to see that Hardison had unbuttoned Eliot's shirt to lay it open. He was completely naked and kissing Eliot's chest as he squeezed the bulge of Eliot's hard cock in his jeans. It was beautiful, the two of their bodies together having pleasure while Eliot gave Parker pleasure. It was a good shape.
"Don't distract me," Eliot mumbled against Parker's sex, pushing Hardison away. It tickled when he talked, and Parker couldn't help giggling. Hardison immediately backed off, he was good like that, but then he just looked lost. Hardison shouldn't be left out.
"Come here," Parker invited, gesturing him around to the front of her. That would be a good shape too. Eliot got his coordination back, then, so Parker's eyes were shut with pleasure when Hardison obeyed. The bed moved beneath his weight, and then his hands were warm on her skin. Parker wasn't in the mood for teasing. She looped an arm around his neck to keep him close – also convenient to brace herself in place over Eliot's face – and pulled Hardison's hand to her breast with her fingers digging in hard to clue him in to what she wanted.
Hardison pinched her nipple firmly, rolling it between his fingers. Eliot's wonderful tongue flicked relentlessly against her clit, and Parker tumbled back over the edge between them.
The orgasms came in waves after that, one feeding into the next. Parker clung to Hardison, face against his collarbone. His is hard cock occasionally pushed against her belly, his hands touched and held her body wherever she wanted them. Eliot was tireless between her legs. Hardison's hand joined Eliot's on Parker's back, their fingers intertwined. Her boys were holding hands against Parker's skin, and she was in free fall between them.
Nothing could be better, but free fall had to end some time. The orgasms started to be harder to reach, the intensity of Eliot's mouth and the pressure against her sex aching more like pain than pleasure.
"Ok," Parker gasped out. "Ok. Done."
Hardison gave Eliot's hand a squeeze and practically picked her up off of Eliot to lay her on the bed. Parker's body wasn't really cooperating to help him. Her knees surprised her by twinging as she stretched them out – she'd been kneeling over Eliot for so long.
"There. There you go baby," Hardison crooned. His face looked like he was flying too. Parker almost pulled him on top of her, but that wasn't quite right. She pushed him toward Eliot instead.
Eliot had rolled up to his knees, panting, his cock still tenting his jeans. His lower face was completely soaked, his lips red and bruised looking, his eyes glazed. He looked as wrecked as Parker was as he tossed his shirt aside. Hardison made a hungry sound and kissed Eliot, licking so softly at his lips. Eliot shuddered through as he roughly pulled Hardison closer, thick pale fingers denting into the soft brown skin of Hardison's ass.
Hardison cupped the back of Eliot's head, fingers in his hair, and laughed. "Hair's wet," he commented.
"Parker squirts," Eliot answered. "'s hot."
"Hell yeah," Hardison agreed. They both turned to look at her, where her body was floating or maybe turning into a cloud of diamonds or something wonderful.
"Need anything else?" Eliot asked, reaching out to touch Parker's ankle – like a static shock all the way through her body. Her toes curled with pleasure.
"Lay on me," Parker requested, reaching a hand out to him. She wanted his skin, his weight, to feel his body grounding hers so she couldn't float away. She didn't want to be anywhere but here. Eliot shared a quick glance with Hardison and then crawled over her, hesitant where he touched her. Parker pulled him closer.
"Get your weight on her," Hardison instructed, prodding at Eliot, and Eliot finally settled on Parker. Eliot felt completely different from Hardison. He was heavier, thicker, solid. It felt very secure to lay beneath him, like being squished in an air vent that was barely big enough to hold her – or maybe strapping into a harness for a jump and feeling it squeeze tight around her to hold her safe. Parker's entire skin was buzzing, and Eliot's weight held her inside it. Little tremors passed through her, aftershocks of the orgasms. Mini-gasms. Like mini cupcakes and just as delicious.
"Mmm, cupcakes," Parker sighed. Eliot's hand tried to stroke Parker's skin along her shoulder, but she caught it to hold it still. It made too much brain-noise, complicated the simple good of Eliot's skin. "No, shh," she hushed it.
"Uh..." Eliot sounded uncertain.
"Welcome to Parker," Hardison said. There was a laugh hiding in his voice. "Post-orgasmic sensory seeking. It's this or jumping off a skyscraper."
Parker shivered deliciously at that thought. "I want to stay inside my skin," she explained. It was very simple. Weight or the rush of the jump both worked, though in different ways.
Eliot snorted softly, half of a laugh of his own. "All right."
It felt good, so good to lay under Eliot, to feel his heartbeat and time her breath to his. There was something Parker was missing, though. Something in the look between Eliot and Hardison, the laughs they weren't laughing. Parker opened her eyes, seeing over Eliot's shoulder to Hardison with his patient face on as he stroked Eliot's back.
Oh. They'd been going to have sex of their own before Parker stole Eliot. They hadn't gotten off yet. This was an example of being greedy during sex. Mostly Parker didn't mind being greedy in bed, and Hardison didn't mind that she was, but this was supposed to be nice for Eliot too.
"You two can do sex stuff, as long as someone can lay on me?" Parker informed them. She wouldn't mind that. It was a good compromise that meant everyone got what they wanted.
Eliot shifted on top of her, glancing at Hardison who had smiley crinkles around his eyes.
"How do you want to do this?" Hardison asked Eliot. "I can do it any way. I'm switch-ay, I am versatile. You want my hands, my mouth, my ass? You just say the word and I'm good. I mean I wasn't planning on getting fucked tonight if that's what you want but give me ten and I'll be good to go."
"Want to fuck me?" Eliot interrupted, lifting his hips slightly and spreading his legs.
"Oho, yes." Hardison put his hands on Eliot's ass, the flex of his arms meaning he was squeezing. Eliot's body tightened, like a shiver passing through him, and Parker's humming skin shivered too in sympathy. "Condoms and lube!" Hardison said, throwing himself onto the bed to more easily reach the bedside drawer they were in.
"Condom for me too," Eliot said.
For a brief and terrifying moment Eliot's body on top of Parker felt like a trap, deadly weighing her down. She forced herself to breathe, rather than instinctively driving her knee into Eliot's groin and running away. Talking before attacking in bed, she'd made an agreement with Hardison and she was sticking to it. Attacking and running away only if talking didn't fix things.
"You're not going inside me," Parker said, jittery and small. Hardison didn't ever do that unless she told him to. Eliot maybe just didn't know that when Parker wanted someone to lay on her it was just someone laying on her that she wanted.
"Of course not," Eliot said, easy and soothing like she was a skittish animal. His hand squeezed her shoulder tight, and it didn't feel scary. It let Parker relax back into her skin and enjoy his weight again. "But I could still get jizz on you."
"Parker will be up in just a few minutes," Hardison said. He had his condom on – an orange one. It was almost a shame the lights were on so Eliot couldn't appreciate that it glowed in the dark. Sometimes Hardison made light-saber noises to make Parker laugh, and she smiled at the memory.
"I'd rather wear a condom," Eliot's voice was careful again, like he was trying not to be frustrated. Hardison tossed him one and dug back into the drawer for the lube bottle.
"Being comfortable is important," Parker said. She needed certain things to feel comfortable having sex. It was fair that Eliot needed things too. He tore the condom packet open with one hand and his teeth, and then unzipped his jeans to roll it on one-handed. "Commando," Parker noticed aloud. He had only dealt with jeans, no other barrier.
"I noticed that earlier." Hardison turned back toward them, grinning as he warmed up some lube on his gloved hand. "Now get naked, ain't nobody else wearing clothes in this bed. Can't fuck with pants on."
"You'd be surprised," Eliot said, but he did squirm around to get his jeans off. For a moment it was uncomfortable, too much motion against Parker's skin and not enough weight, but then Eliot settled again on her naked and it was nice again. Parker closed her eyes. Eliot's heartbeat and breaths sped up, body tensing and relaxing, small groans and little growls building in his throat. Parker's skin hummed against Eliot's, shivering in sympathy with his growing pleasure. Hers was fading, though. All the little buzzing electricities zipping through her skin settled, leaving her body feeling warm and heavy and relaxed.
"You gonna fuck me or you just going to finger me all night?" Eliot asked.
"Excuse me for wanting to savor the moment," Hardison said, pretending to be offended but smiling. He took his fingers out of Eliot, reaching for the lube to get some on his cock.
"Savor the actual sex," Eliot suggested. He tipped his ass up, open and ready for Hardison. Too much motion, and laying still under Eliot was starting to feel boring anyway. Parker kissed his ear and slipped out from under him.
"Fingering is actual sex," Parker said. Saying it wasn't was silly. If fingering didn't count then she'd never had sex with most of the girls she'd ever had sex with, and they had definitely had sex. "I will finger you all night some time, and you'll see. Finger you with all my fingers."
"That's fisting, baby," Hardison said.
Parker wiggled her fingers and then made a fist with them. "Fists are made with fingers." There were knuckles and stuff too, but it was definitely about half fingers. Hardison had pushed his cock into Eliot by then, though, and neither of them was paying attention to Parker. They were pretty together. Eliot was moving now that he wasn't being good and laying still for Parker, getting up on his hands and knees to push back against Hardison. His big muscles flexed as he moved. There was so much strength in Eliot's body, and Hardison looked beautiful with him. He was taller and skinnier, but he had muscles too and they showed as he found his rhythm fucking Eliot. Parker didn't usually get to see what Hardison looked like when he was having sex, and she'd never seen what Eliot was like during sex, so this was nice.
Hardison's gasps and groans joined Eliot's snarls and growls. Their bodies and sounds were so good together. Parker had known that they would work together like this too. Her boys were making each other happy, and they'd already made her very happy. It worked.
Parker's body was starting to get cold now that she wasn't under Eliot, and she was covered in drying sweat and the wetness from her own sex. She trailed her fingertips across Eliot's powerful back and then Hardison's chest to admire and appreciate them on her way out, and went to the shower. Not a long shower, just enough to clean up.
Then there were still some cupcakes in the kitchen. Hardison had bought them from the local bakery they had scientifically determined was the best at cupcakes. Hardison had made spreadsheets and everything, and Parker had been very rigorous with her taste-testing. They weren't mini cupcakes, but they were very tasty, especially if you took the bottom off and put it on the top to make a cake-and-frosting sandwich. Parker brought her snack back to the bed, and she brought a paper towel to hold under it since Hardison was picky about crumbs in the bed. It was a good compromise. Compromise was important to relationships.
Hardison and Eliot had changed positions while she was gone. Hardison was laying on his back while Eliot rode his cock fast and hard. Hardison had that delirious expression he only ever wore when he was overwhelmed in a good way, his hands holding tight to Eliot above him. He didn't usually get to that state when Parker was playing with his cock, but Eliot was kind of awesome. Eliot's condom was purple. Parker smiled at them around her cupcake as she settled onto the pillows and pulled her weighted blanket over herself. It was super cozy and restful, even with the whole bed shaking with Eliot and Hardison's sexing. Maybe extra cozy because of that, because they were nearby.
Eliot was eying her cupcake as Parker settled herself. She quickly took a big bite to make sure it couldn't be taken away, before she remembered that Eliot wasn't going to steal food from her. It wasn't a competition. Also there were three more of them left in the box. Parker broke off a small piece and held it toward him.
"Cupcake?" she offered.
Eliot laughed a short bark of a laugh, shaking his head with his hair sticking to his face and neck, damp with sweat. He'd gone very red, more red than he would from just the exercise. That must be how he responded to being fucked. It was a nice thing to know. Parker ate the piece of cupcake she'd offered him, since he didn't want it.
"Woman, the crumbs!" Hardison managed, weakly. Parker was surprised he'd even realized what she was doing, with how far gone he looked.
"Paper towel," Parker answered around her bite of cupcake. There was no arguing about food in the bed to follow that because Eliot grabbed Hardison by the back of his head, making Hardison look up at him and at nothing else.
"You gonna come for me?" Eliot growled.
"Yeah," Hardison gasped in answer. "Yeah I just, I just..."
"Come on!" Eliot was stroking his own cock now, in time with his rise and fall.
"Pull Hardison's nipples a little," Parker suggested. It usually made Hardison get off faster. She would have done it herself for them, but she was too cozy under her blanket and her hands were still full of cupcake anyway.
Eliot moved his hand from the back of Hardison's neck to his chest. He seemed to be pinching more than pulling, but Hardison still made that high pitched whimper he promised was a very good sound, his chest arching up into it. Eliot pinched one nipple, then the other, back and forth with Hardison's whimpers turning closer to a wail, and then Hardison was coming with a gasp and a shout. Eliot stroked his own cock faster for just a few seconds and followed right after him. Eliot's orgasm was quieter, with just a long low moan.
He slumped above Hardison, both of them breathing hard, before he lifted himself off Hardison's cock and crumpled over to lay beside him. Parker finished her cupcake and licked all the crumbs off the paper towel and her fingers before she tossed it in the bedside trash.
"That was so hot," Hardison said, always the first one to get words back after sex. "You are so hot Eliot, god damn."
"You're both hot," Parker corrected.
"No, you're both hot," Hardison shot back, grinning.
"Everyone's hot." Eliot put an end to it before they could get a good back-and-forth going. He blinked up at the kinetic sculpture Hardison had helped her make. The mobile spun gently above the bed. "Is that..." Eliot started.
"Money!" Parker confirmed. She blew at it to make it spin around faster. Large bills and coins and precious gems from all over the world. "It's soothing."
Eliot shook his head and sat up, wrinkling his nose slightly. Maybe he was a little sore? He didn't say anything about that, though, just grabbed Hardison's hand to pull him upright too. "Clean up time."
"How do you expect me to walk in this state? How are you even able to stand?" Hardison complained, as Eliot put Hardison's arm over his shoulders to walk him to the bathroom. Hardison pretended to be weaker than he was, to be funny. "My legs are all jelly, do you see this? And you're telling me to walk. What ever happened to savoring the afterglow? This has got to be against the Geneva Conventions, man, this is torture."
"I'm a bad guy," Eliot agreed. "Now get your shower going. You can savor once we're clean."
Parker picked the forgotten lube bottle up off the bed with her toes and put it on the bedside table, then made herself more comfortable in bed to wait for them to come back.
"What the hell kind of rainbow condoms are these?" Eliot broke through Hardison's continued monologue to ask.
"They glow in the dark!" Hardison told him brightly. "You put high-tech glowing condoms in front of me, I'm going to get them. It's like Parker and chocolate."
There were splashing sounds now. They were using the shower.
"You're saying you fucked me with a glow in the dark condom?" Eliot asked, low and dangerous.
"Let my cock be a light to you in dark places!" Hardison laughed.
"Lord of the Rings!" Parker recognized the reference.
"I love you baby!" Hardison called back. He came out of the bathroom still wiping himself dry with a towel. He closed the door behind himself and climbed into bed to lay with her. Parker pushed her weighted blanket off the side of the bed and cuddled close to Hardison instead. The pressure of the weighted blanket made him feel claustrophobic, so they couldn't share it.
Eliot took longer in the bathroom, long enough that Parker started to get sleepy. She thought about turning the lights off, but she was too cozy to leave the bed to do it. Hardison's breath was already turning toward his sleep cadence too. Eliot finally came out of the shower, looking like his normal grumpy self. He sorted through everyone's discarded clothes on the floor, putting his own on the chair.
"No more puttering," Parker said, yawning. "Turn off the light and cuddle." She gestured toward the plenty of space to the other side of Hardison. Eliot paused for a long moment, then nodded and obeyed. The bed creaked a bit under his weight, and Hardison instinctively pushed himself closer to Eliot when he was in range. Parker reached over Hardison to rest her hand on a part of Eliot's side. Eliot put an arm over Hardison too, his fingers resting warm on Parker's waist.
"This is a good shape," Parker murmured, letting the rightness of it pull her down into sleep. She'd known it could be like this, that they would work.
It just took a while to get her boys in line.
Chapter 2: [ PART 2 ]
- - Hitter - -
Unexpected threesome with Parker and Hardison. That was a thing that happened. It was unexpected for both Eliot and Hardison. Parker was a feral child who didn't know better, Hardison was impulsive, and Eliot – who should probably have been the responsible adult in the situation – was a bad man. He took what he wanted when it was offered to him.
It had been horrible and tempting when Parker fixed Eliot with a grifter smile and made him an offer. He was good enough to turn that down, but not when Parker was Parker and invited him in to both of them. Eliot wouldn't help either Parker or Hardison cheat on each other, but a threesome with them both wasn't technically cheating on either of them.
That was a loophole Eliot shouldn't have exploited.
What was this one little compromise to his morals on top of all the rest?
Eliot halfway-drowned under Parker, finally tasted the sex whose scent he was already familiar with from grappling with her. Parker didn't shave, Parker was multiorgasmic, Parker squirted, Parker was creamy and pink and tart and liked oral sex rough. Parker liked to be in control during sex, and the pressure of being held afterward. Eliot rode Hardison hard, until the pleasure burned toward pain. Hardison's cock had a little curve to it, just right inside him. Hardison had almost no body hair, Hardison liked glow in the dark rainbow condoms, Hardison liked to savor the moment, Hardison had sensitive nipples and wailed when they were pinched. Hardison was just as mouthy after sex as he ever was.
They had a mobile above their bed made of stolen money and gems. Hardison's forgery and crafting room kind of overflowed into their living room. Hardison had a set of computers beside the bed, because of course he did. The ways Hardison was neat and Parker was messy, and the other way around, balanced themselves out through their shared living space. Parker ate in bed and Hardison complained about it.
They wanted to snuggle afterward, rather than wham-bam-and don't let the door hit you on the way out. Hardison and Parker were their own unit of relationship, but for just a moment – with his body curled around the back of Hardison's, with the warm scent of Hardison's skin in his nose, with Parker's hand on his ribs and his hand on her waist – they made Eliot feel as though he were more than just a little dash of spice to their sex life.
For once that felt good, rather than suffocating.
These were all things Eliot could have lived without knowing. Should have lived without knowing. He knew them now, though, and it would take an awful lot of brain damage to forget them again. They were lodged in his mind, burned into his body – the faint ache of his jaw and the tender twinge of his ass.
Eliot waited until they were both asleep before he slipped out of their bed, grabbed his clothes, and left. Parker made a small disappointed sound, hand groping after him, but Eliot managed to ignore it.
He left his car at the brewpub and walked home, let the cool night air clear his thoughts. At least it wasn't raining.
There were some bad neighborhoods to walk through on the way, on the roundabout route Eliot took. Who was going to challenge him? He was Eliot Spencer, walking weapon, and anyone with half a mind could see it just in the way he moved. Anyone too drunk or high to notice that would also be too impaired to be much of a fight. And anyone who knew who and what he was and wanted to take him out was more than welcome to try.
Nobody did. He made it home without getting to throw a single punch, without getting more than a passing glance from anyone else. His apartment was as sparse and military-neat as his places had always been. Not too much stuff to get sentimental about if it needed to be abandoned. His bed was firm and cold, with a good knife tucked behind the headboard and another beneath the mattress and his boots right beside him in case he had to get up running.
Eliot didn't get more than his minimum-necessary ninety minutes of sleep that night. His mind kept circling back to Parker and Hardison's bed. The taste of Parker's sex, the heat of Hardison's skin, the mindfuck of having to hold still for Parker while Hardison drove him out of his goddamn mind with those long clever fingers. Like bondage, but totally free of handcuffs or ropes that Eliot could break out of. Inescapable.
Eliot gave up sleeping. He tended his plot at the community garden, walked around town some more, and did some katas in the park to clear his mind as the sun rose. Some of the sunrise yoga ladies were eying him with interest, and at least one early-morning jogger, but Eliot ignored them all beyond the basic level of threat assessment. He focused on himself and the problem at hand.
A threesome with two members of his team had happened. Eliot needed to manage the fallout. He couldn't do that if his mind was too caught up in the moment. The faint scent of Parker that followed him kept trying to drag him back, but he mastered it. He finally got himself calm and removed enough to think clearly.
Jealousy was probably the biggest danger. Both of Parker and Hardison had gotten jealous of other people early on. That they'd taken Eliot both together was no guarantee they wouldn't get jealous again. Jealously didn't tend to follow logic.
If either Parker or Hardison thought Eliot was stealing the other away, or that the other liked him better, it could tear their relationship and possibly the whole team apart. They scattered to the wind from time to time when the heat was coming down on them, but they always pulled back together. The Leverage team was his family, and if Eliot broke it with jealousy he wouldn't forgive himself. What Parker and Hardison had with each other was beautiful. They were good. Good people and good to and for each other. Eliot couldn't ruin that.
Having had sex with them shouldn't change his relationship with Hardison and Parker, so Eliot wouldn't let it. He was Eliot Spencer, master of the casual hookup. They were still his friends, his team, his family. Nothing had changed. Eliot might need to back off to make sure they understood he wasn't taking anything from them. He wasn't trying to take the place either one of them held for the other. He wouldn't disappear on them, just back off a little. Don't hang around too much, don't monopolize either of their time.
That was easy enough. He could do this.
If there was one thing Eliot had a lot of practice at, it was living in the world his choices left behind.
Eliot made himself a good breakfast – and he refused to think about what Parker and Hardison might be eating for theirs. He refused to think about mornings when he cooked breakfast in the still-closed brewpub and made sure there was enough scrambled eggs and chopped fruit for the two of them too. Someone had to make sure they consumed nutritious food now and then.
That wasn't Eliot's job, though. They were both adults.
If it was anyone's job it was Nate's. He was in charge of the team, and he had his 'freaky love of controlling people'. Controlling what the team ate was a bit of an overreach for even Nate, though, so Parker and Hardison were doomed to diabetes, scurvy, osteoporosis, tooth decay – all that stuff.
Eliot put them out of mind and went to see Toby at the culinary institute. It was always good to visit with him, and Toby was more than willing to pencil Eliot in for a few shifts as a guest teaching chef over the next few weeks. Teaching people who actually wanted to learn the craft was rewarding; Toby's students were good kids. They deserved their second chances far more than Eliot ever had.
Getting all that set up took time, and Eliot took some time afterward to hang out with a handful of Toby's other instructors. It was evening before he went back to the brewpub. Hopefully the day had been enough time for Parker and Hardison to get themselves in order too. If Eliot was persona non grata he could always fuck off again and give them more space.
"What is this, Eliot?" Hardison demanded, before Eliot even made it to the back room. He was holding something it took Eliot half a beat to realize was the menu he'd been revising before Parker's invitation. "You're crossing off all my stuff! You can't take away all my artistry man, that's not cool!"
"People want two things in a brewpub," Eliot explained, patiently. "They want good beer – which you should be working on actually providing – and good food to go with it. Something they can get their teeth into, so they're not drinkin' on an empty stomach. They don't want..." He grabbed the offending menu to pick something out, "Garlic 'caviar' and peach foam in a tomato skin. Peaches ain't even in season, and what are you using, greenhouse tomatoes?"
Hardison made an offended sound, grabbing the menu back. He was smiling, though, a sparkle deep in his eyes. "People love my molecular genius!"
"Oh yeah?" Eliot flagged the nearest waitress, Amy, and she looked toward them with a perfect customer-service smile as she stacked dirty dishes on a tray. "What's the most popular food in here?" Eliot asked.
"The chili, definitely," Amy answered quickly. "Then probably the chicken parm, and the pasta salad with arugula? It varies, but those are probably the best sellers."
"Thank you," Eliot said, with his best smile. "My stuff is what people eat," he told Hardison, and pushed past him into the back room.
"Heathens, the lot of them," Hardison said, refusing to be pushed past and sticking to Eliot like a tick, pressed against his side shoulder to shoulder. "Barbarians. Try to educate their palates, try to elevate the food scene, and I get no appreciation."
"People like food. Real, actual, food. Sell the people what they want, or this place is going to go under."
"Since when do we have to worry about the money?" Hardison asked. "You know how many millions Leverage Inc. has? We could lose money for a hundred years and still be fine." He put his arm around Eliot's shoulders, like he was just going to hold Eliot in a side-hug while they argued. It couldn't really be a surprise that Hardison got clingy with his one night stands. He was probably the handsiest member of the team, and of course Eliot chose to have sex with him.
Eliot shot him a glare as he shrugged out from under his arm, and then gave Hardison a shove to get some personal space for good measure. And he didn't think about how Hardison's skin would feel without his shirt in the way, the heat of his body closer to Eliot's, or about grabbing him and kissing his soft hungry mouth like it was a war Eliot intended on winning. Hardison let himself be pushed away easily, his smile not fading in the least.
"You'd better think about the money," Eliot told him. "This is supposed to be our cover. If you're losing money, someone's going to notice eventually. That'd be a dumb way to get caught, wouldn't it? Give me the menu."
Hardison rolled his eyes and handed it over. "It's not like I can't fake it, but fine. Knock yourself out." He tossed the menu on the counter and turned as if to go. Eliot caught his arm, hand on bare skin that shouldn't feel like an electrical burn through Eliot's nervous system and so didn't.
Eliot quietly cursed himself in the back of his mind even as he said the words. "Crostini. Topped with chevre, fresh herbs, and your garlic 'caviar'." They'd be better drizzled with a roasted garlic oil, but that wouldn't make Hardison smile at Eliot like he was a company's server room with the door unlocked. And what the hell, it was Portland. They liked weird.
Hardison tried to lean against Eliot's side as they began to go over the menu together, but Eliot pushed him a step away and Hardison didn't try to get up in Eliot's personal space again. Eliot needed to reestablish some barriers, some distance. He couldn't imagine Parker would appreciate walking in on her man draped all over Eliot. Jealousy was ugly, and Eliot wasn't going to be the cause of it.
Eliot accepted the beer Hardison handed him and focused on fixing the damn menu. Hardison of course had three different screens up on his projector and was working in another two on his tablet for good measure as soon as he got into the spirit of a seasonally changing menu. He began researching local farms and getting excited about the fruits and vegetables they'd be producing. Before he knew it the brewpub was subscribed three different CSA's.
Eliot just made sure there were some good staples on the menu – with some vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options because Portland – and let Hardison have his ridiculous pseudo-foods on a few of the dishes. Hardison got two of the deserts – a strawberry gel that Eliot paired with candied pecans and mint leaves, and an espresso-toffee foam with crumbled shortbread cookies and a dusting of cocoa powder. A couple of the drinks were going to be spheriphied teas and seasonal fruit juices and liquors, served in a wine glass with a delicate dessert spoon, and Eliot would eat his own tongue before he admitted the idea was kind of ingenious.
Hardison also got his hands on something he was calling a 'sandwich'. Edible paper was not a food, no matter what was printed on it, and neither was meat glue sticking things that should not be together together. Putting them on the same dish wasn't culinary genius, it was a sin against nature, not to mention good taste.
In fact, the next time Eliot looked up at the screen, 'sin against nature' was exactly what Hardison had named his sandwich on the menu.
"That was not supposed to be a suggestion," Eliot growled.
"It's good advertising," Hardison defended. "For the discerning customer who appreciates their food being unchained to the whims of nature."
"More like a warning," Eliot countered.
It was easy, this. Teasing Hardison to get him to go on a rant, working together with him. Other than those few attempts at getting handsy Hardison was acting like everything was normal. So everything was normal. Almost, Eliot could forget that he knew what Hardison's mouth tasted like now, what he felt and sounded like when he was fucking.
Eliot's entire skin itched to get on Hardison's again, now that he was in close proximity. He wanted to grab Hardison and have sex with him in every possible way for about a week, until they'd burned it out of their systems and could part ways. That didn't happen with Eliot and men all that often, but it wasn't any different from ever wanting someone he couldn't have. Eliot pushed it away, cleared his head and focused on the menu and not the way Hardison smiled at him from the corner of his eye or the way those long clever fingers danced at their work.
They got the menu squared away, with a few dozen ideas for future menu items as their ingredients came into season listed and saved for later too, and Hardison went to go tell the cooks about transitioning to the new menu. Eliot made himself be good enough not to touch Hardison, but he wasn't good enough not to watch him go.
A soft sound overhead was warning, and Parker threw herself into her rigging to drop onto the counter beside Eliot. She would have landed straddling him if he hadn't stepped back and to the side in time. He didn't think about being between her legs, the faint scent that was still in his hair, the feel of her perfect little body trembling with aftershocks underneath him.
She didn't look happy, eyes narrowed and bottom lip stuck out in a pout. Not good. Eliot raised his hands to say that he hadn't done anything with Hardison and promise it wouldn't happen again and he wasn't trying to steal Hardison from her.
Parker poked him hard in the chest, interrupting him before he began. "You left last night."
That was what she was upset about? Eliot wouldn't have expected her to get clingy with him too. But then again the only person Eliot knew her to have a relationship with was Hardison and she was very protective of him even before they'd been official or serious.
More damage control.
"I went home, to my own place," Eliot pointed out.
Parker's brow furrowed harder, and she huffed a heavy sigh. "Why?"
"Because..." Dammit, how do you even answer a question like that. "I got my own life, Parker. I don't live here in the brewpub like you do."
"You could," Parker said.
"No, I couldn't." Eliot pushed his hair back from his face. What was going on in her brain? Nothing good, that was certain. He couldn't get mad at her, though. She just thought different than most people and sometimes needed things explained. "I need my space, and so do you and Hardison."
"Ok," Parker said, nodding. For a moment Eliot almost hoped she really did understand. "I still have my warehouse. You can have your other space too and also have space here with us."
Eliot growled under his breath in frustration. How could he make her understand? If any other one-night-stand thought that meant he was in a relationship with them Eliot would just leave the country or at least lie low for a few months. That tended to send the right message. He couldn't do that to her and Hardison, though, not to the Leverage crew. Not to his family. He'd fucked this up, and he needed to make her understand.
"This is you and Hardison." Eliot pushed Hardison's empty soda bottle and his empty beer bottle together on the counter. "You're together, a couple. This is me." Eliot pulled his pocket knife out and put it on the other side of the counter. He gestured to the wide gulf between them.
"But we like you," Parker said, grabbing for the pocket knife to put it with the bottles, but Eliot grabbed it back. They tussled for it a little bit, easy sparring with their bodies so familiar together. Parker cheated, though. She only kept the pocket knife away from him long enough to get into his arms, her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck.
Far, far too much like she'd been last night when she invited him into bed. Eliot's hands wanted to hold her closer, he wanted to kiss and touch her everywhere like he hadn't gotten the chance to last night. He hadn't been invited to. And this was bad, definitely bad. Hardison wasn't likely to appreciate it if he came back in to find his girlfriend and Eliot all over each other.
Parker pushed her face into Eliot's hair, breathing deep and then laughing softly. Her eyes were knowing when she drew back – she'd smelled her scent he hadn't had the heart to wash out, so he could carry it with him.
"Let go of me, Parker," Eliot said, grabbing her hips to push her away, touching as little as possible. She resisted for a second before relenting to stand on her own two feet. She didn't go far, though. And she was smiling at him now like he was a box of doughnuts. "I ain't doing this." He couldn't do this, not to the two of them. No matter how bad he wanted to. He had to be better than than that.
"Ok," she said. "...will you come home with us tonight?"
"No." Dammit hadn't he just said that?
Parker's smile faded very slightly. "The next day?"
"I ain't in a relationship with you," Eliot growled. "Neither one of you!" He turned away from Parker's hurt confusion, pushed out of the back room and bumped directly into Hardison coming back in.
"Whoa, hey." Hardison's arm came around Eliot's chest, trying to hold him, and Eliot shoved him off harder than necessary. Not nearly as hard as he could have.
"Explain relationships to Parker," Eliot snapped. "Sort yourselves out!"
He ignored Hardison's babbling confusion and left the brewpub. Clearly not disappearing was the wrong choice. He needed to get away from both of them for a while, until he felt less like crawling back on his belly and begging them both to give him anything they could - take any little thing they could give him. Take and take and take right up until the inevitable implosion. He couldn't do that to them.
Eliot took his car down to the port to find a fishing boat that took tours. Ocean fishing wasn't the same as stream or lake fishing, but it would do to take up the time he wasn't going to be at the culinary institute. Then he went to one of the gyms he used and worked over a few of their punching bags until he felt less like punching everyone to do with Leverage.
Then he went home and washed his goddamn hair.
There. Done. Taken care of. They could all leave it behind them.
- - Hacker - -
'I told you so' would be cruel, so Hardison wasn't going to say it. He removed it entirely from his vocabulary. Eliot stormed out the front door like he was just dying to destroy something – which was hot, and Hardison was going to have to have a serious discussion with his libido about why it would decide Eliot was hot when he was angry and dangerous – and Parker was pouting in the back room. Hardison couldn't do anything about Eliot, but he could try to comfort Parker.
She was currently stacking random objects on and around Hardison and Eliot's empty bottles, like a trash shrine on the counter.
"What happened?" Hardison asked, hand on Parker's shoulder so she could move closer or further way if she wanted. He really didn't think Eliot would have been intentionally cruel. He really hoped not. It would be very difficult to rain digital destruction on Eliot's life, for one because he didn't use technology more than necessary, but especially because Eliot would know exactly who to blame if it started happening. And as hot as angry-Eliot was Hardison didn't want that anger directed directly at his own person. Eliot might snap and snarl, but he didn't get that deadly destructive focus, he never aimed that gleeful violence, toward the crew. He never had, even in the early days, and Hardison didn't ever want to see him do it. Hardison didn't think Eliot would ever do it, not without some pretty extreme provocation. After all this was a man who didn't take it personally when people tried to kill him.
Hardison couldn't imagine wanting to kill Eliot. That had never been Hardison's style, and he just couldn't imagine being that much at odds with Eliot. Hardison didn't even want to kill Chaos and he was the definition of douchebaggery. Just maybe break him a little and leave him stranded out in the wilds far away from any technology. Forever. That would be nice. There must be some way to arrange that.
"Eliot says he's not in a relationship with either of us." Parker grabbed Hardison's hand, pulling it and his arm around her body to hold her. Hardison pulled his mind back to the moment, putting 'leave Chaos in the frozen tundra for the wolves' in the suggestion box for later.
"He won't live here with us and he doesn't want to come upstairs again tonight or tomorrow or the next day." Parker huffed a frustrated sigh.
"Oh baby," Hardison shook his head. Parker had pushed, and Eliot pushed back and then left. That was much better than the worst case scenario. "You can't push him like that." Eliot had made it pretty clear that he wanted his regular personal space with Hardison. He'd been his same old self in the wake of Parker's genius threesome plan, willing to work with Hardison on the menu, fun to push into rants about different kinds of foods. Hardison was honestly pretty excited to eat the dishes Eliot had come up with for the new menu. It was going to be great. The brewpub might actually start to turn a profit.
"But we work!" Parker said, gesturing to the countertop sculpture of bottles and pens and cups and one of Hardison's tablets. "Different shapes can fit together, and different people can too. Eliot fits with us. We like him, don't we? You liked him too last night."
"Eliot was great," Hardison confirmed wholeheartedly. Parker already knew what he thought about the entire situation. They'd spent a few hours this morning processing it, which made Hardison feel better about the whole thing. He didn't know if it helped Parker as much. Hardison was good. Parker still loved him, still wanted to be with him, and Hardison had always liked sharing. His only other threesome had been with some hired help when he was young and dumb and had his first million burning a hole in his pocket. It had seemed to be the thing to do with all his money, once his Nana and his foster siblings were all set.
That ill-advised threesome had just been awkward rather than sexy, and Hardison had tipped very generously and sent them home. Hiring sex workers wasn't really his thing. He liked to know the people he was having sex with. Live and learn.
But with Eliot and Parker? With his team, the family he'd stuck to like glue – the woman he loved and the man he liked and trusted better than any other – it had been kind of wonderful. Getting to watch Parker's pleasure when he wasn't in charge of giving it to her was great, and so was getting to share her quirks with someone who seemed to think they were just as awesome as Hardison did. And then getting to touch and kiss and have sex with Eliot was hella fuckin' hot, so Hardison was good. He liked hanging out with Eliot, and he definitely wanted to explore lots more sex with him, so Hardison was 100% down with exploring the possibilities of being a trio.
He and Parker had even talked about expanding the upstairs apartment into the next apartment over. It was still empty – Eliot had only lived there for like three days when they gave it to him as the team assembled in Portland, and then moved out into another apartment. As though Hardison hadn't picked the very best spot for them already. The place next to Hardison and Parker's rooms still belonged to Eliot, and the thought of adding it to their own apartment to keep Eliot close was a nice one.
Hardison didn't love Eliot the same way he did Parker, but then Eliot wasn't the same as Parker at all so it wouldn't make sense to. Hardison just couldn't picture going back to a life without either of them, anymore, and that had to be some flavor of love.
Sidetrack. Hardison pressed a kiss to Parker's temple and brought himself back to the topic under discussion. "I know you want us to be with him, baby, and I'd like that too; but did you ask what Eliot wants?"
"Oh," Parker said, getting where things had started to go wrong. She poked at the surprisingly sturdy trash construction on the counter. "Eliot liked us too, though. He wanted to come upstairs with us and have sex and snuggle last night."
"Yeah," Hardison grinned, remembering it. "but he might not want any more than that. The man likes his casual sex." He'd tried to point that out from the start, but knowing it and knowing it were two different things. "Eliot was fine with me earlier, hanging out and arguing about the brewpub like we do. He didn't want to touch, though. He wanted his space."
"He wanted to touch me," Parker said. "I could tell. But he wouldn't and then he got angry."
That thought was hot – Eliot wanting to touch Parker. Definitely another thing Hardison was going to have a discussion with his libido about. Hardison kissed Parker's ear. "Eliot's more like you than me," he explained. "You came to me when you were ready, and you already knew I was waiting for you. Eliot isn't. If I'd pushed you for something as soon as I knew you wanted me back..."
Parker's body stiffened, her strong hand clenching on the arm she was still holding around herself as she inhaled sharply through her nose. "Did I ruin it? Is he going to run away and leave us and Leverage and—"
"No, baby," Hardison interrupted her jittery questions. "Eliot won't abandon us. He just needs space and time." God he hoped that was true. He really couldn't picture Eliot leaving the crew, though. Not after everything. Eliot was far too loyal to leave. Not even when Nate was at his worst had Eliot contemplated leaving the crew. A little relationship hiccup wasn't going to send him packing. "We just got to be careful."
"Ok, we're going to be careful," Parker agreed. "How do we do that?"
Hardison rescued his tablet from the trash sculpture, bringing up a few screens for planning purposes. Between the two of them they could definitely come up with a foolproof plan. "Same way I did with you, baby. We let him have his space, offer him something he wants, and wait for him to come to us."
"I don't want it to take four years again," Parker said, as Hardison began putting houseplans and CSA schedules and an experimental calendar program he'd abandoned a while back up on the projector. That was definitely going to be a key component, he just had to iron out the kinks and make sure it was foolproof and above all easy and intuitive to use on any OS. Especially on Eliot's phone, that had to be absolutely seamless or he'd get frustrated. And it definitely needed an IM system built into it, or to tie in to his phone's existing IM system?
"I don't think it'll take another four years," Hardison promised as he dove into the code. "A few months, maybe. He's been with us those years already. Not with us, but you know, with us. And we know he likes us and likes sex with us. So not too long, if he does want to be with us like we want to be with him. Why wouldn't he want to be with us? We're awesome. Can you get me the gummy frogs?" Hardison asked, gesturing toward them as he got into the calendar app.
Color coding. Color coding was going to be key to the shared calendar. Quick to understand at a glance. Perfect for Eliot. The gummy frogs appeared in his hand, and Hardison got into his work - lists of potential angles they could work in a spreadsheet to one side, and the calendar getting better by the moment.
Age of the geek, seduction perfected through technology, it made Hardison want to dance. And hey, he'd installed an excellent sound system. Music came bumping out of it at his command.
Between his genius and Parkers, there was no way they couldn't reel Eliot in.
- - THIEF - -
Parker's boys were not in line.
Establishing new relationships was not that easy after all. Hardison had done all the hard work with her, but Parker was right in the guts of it trying to get Eliot in.
She should have realized sooner that Eliot wouldn't work the same way. By the time Parker had been ready to have sex with Hardison, she was just about ready for the rest of it too. Almost. Not quite, but very close. Not Eliot. He obviously liked to have sex with lots of people he wasn't in a relationship with at all.
He'd done the same thing with Parker and Hardison – sex, not relationship. Parker was going to have to work much harder for the rest, but at least Hardison was on board with the plan now. That helped.
What didn't help was that Eliot was avoiding them. Parker was willing to put the work in for the relationship (and also reminding herself to be patient just like Hardison had been patient for her), but that didn't really work if Eliot didn't show up.
Hardison said that Eliot was still around – he hadn't dumped his phone for a burner or skipped out of the country or even the state for a little while. Hardison was still tracking Eliot in and around Portland, but he didn't come back to the brewpub for a while.
Because Parker had pushed him. She could understand that. Being pushed about intimacy and relationship stuff was scary. Parker wouldn't be with Hardison if he was the kind of guy who pushed. She probably wouldn't have stuck with the Leverage team at all if any of them pushed. And then she went and was pushy herself.
It was rude and selfish. Parker wasn't perfect at recognizing when she was doing peoply things wrong, she would probably never be, but she was getting better. She would probably have apologized to Eliot if he was around. But he wasn't, and she was giving him his space and didn't break into his apartment to do it either. Or catch him at the culinary institute, or at the community garden, or down at the docks when he came back from his fishing trips or anything.
She didn't even text Eliot.
Except for just the one time. She went to the gym at their usual sparring time and did warmups for an hour waiting for him. He had never been late before, but he didn't show up that day. And Hardison said Eliot was still moving around town and stuff like usual. He hadn't been kidnapped or something.
Hurt. That was the feeling she was feeling about it. It took Parker a while to figure it out. Eliot had abandoned her when he was her team and she'd been counting on him, and she felt hurt. Parker texted him a single lonely boxing glove and two teardrop emojis.
Eliot didn't answer.
He did come back to the brewpub, though. Eliot came by the next afternoon, and he came with a girl. Parker knew because Hardison made a noise at his computer and she looked over his shoulder to see Eliot and the girl in the security feed. She was the kind of cute that Eliot went for, with the boobs and the hair and the way she leaned into his big muscly arm. Parker couldn't blame her, he had very nice arms.
"Eliot!" Parker said, and headed toward the door to go downstairs and ask him why he'd abandoned her.
"Whoa, whoa, babe, wait." Hardison reached toward Parker, and she stopped. He looked worried. "Planning time. We gotta be careful here. We can't spook him off again."
"Ok," Parker said, and sat on the bed. Hardison was better at people than she was, and he hadn't been the one who scared Eliot off last time. He'd managed to loop her into a relationship that worked well, too, and getting Eliot couldn't be harder than that. "What's our plan?"
"No accusations," Hardison said first. "No asking him why he's been gone, or making a big deal out of him coming back. Just act normal. We go down one at a time, we keep it casual, and we don't gang up on him." He paused, looking at Parker expectantly, and she nodded. She could be casual and friendly with Eliot.
"And you have to be friendly with the lady of the hour too." Hardison said, very seriously, gesturing to Eliot and the cute girl on the screen. Eliot was doing his 'I am charming a girl' smile as he settled her down at the bar. "No getting jealous, k babe? Can you do that?"
"Ok," Parker said, nodding.
Hardison reached over and touched her knee, getting her attention for something very serious even though he didn't take to Sophie's grifting lessons as much as Parker did. "Are you sure you can do that? You got jealous of other girls when you and I were still circling, and I was just being friendly, not..." He gestured to Eliot and the girl being kissy on the security feed. The girl was petting his shoulder.
"Eliot always has girls," Parker said. Eliot had always liked to be with cute girls, but he was on their crew and part of their team. He was still their Eliot, even if he had sex with other people. It never changed anything – the crew always came first. "You don't, so when you did it was scary."
Parker hadn't been ready to be with Hardison back then. It had still been too scary, and seeing him with someone who didn't have her brain stuff and could be with him immediately was scary too. It wasn't the same with Eliot at all.
"All right," Hardison nodded, taking her word. She loved that he did that, even when she couldn't always explain with words the right way. "You want to take first shift? Five minutes or so, say hi, make friendly, and then leave. I'll come down afterward, I need to talk menu with Eliot. Good?"
"Good," Parker agreed, and finally bounced off the bed to run down and see Eliot. Make friendly, make friendly... Parker wasn't the best at making friends. Alice White was much better at being normal and making friends.
Alice it was, then. Parker made sure the Alice smile was right on her face. Her clothes weren't quite the Alice clothes, but they'd do. Alice wouldn't come out of the back room, so she went out the side door and came back in through the front and headed right for Eliot. He'd noticed her immediately and his shoulders went all tight with tension even though he was still smiling at the girl. Parker didn't want to give Eliot the chance to run away again before she could show that everything was still totally normal. Alice was so normal. Being Alice was a good decision right now.
"Hey Eliot," Parker said, giving Eliot's arm a light punch. Not a real punch at all. But not flirty she hoped. Flirty was probably bad right now. "How's it going? Hi, I'm Alice." She leaned past him to offer the girl a handshake and planted one of Hardison's audio bugs under the counter at the same time.
The girl laughed a little, eyes turning toward Eliot for a second as she took Parker's hand. "Holly," she introduced herself. Holly was wearing a watch and bracelets and rings, but nothing too valuable, and Parker didn't take any of it. Eliot might have noticed her take it, anyway, and disapproved. And Alice wasn't a thief.
"Alice and I go to the same gym," Eliot said, setting up the relationship he had with Alice. That made sticking to the same story easy. "I teach her a little basic self-defense stuff now and then."
"Yep!" Parker agreed, putting her fists up with serious face, but then dropping them and laughing like Alice.
"Good form!" Eliot said, "Elbows tucked in, very tight."
"You teach self defense?" Holly said, eyes adoring on him. "That's sweet, and so important! Every girl should know how to protect herself."
"I do what I can," Eliot said, all modest with the 'charming a girl' smile again. Parker was glad he didn't aim that one at her. It would feel creepy-weird. Parker didn't want to be the kind of girl he smiled at like that; the kind of girl he had sex with and then left behind. She liked him when he was his grumpy Eliot self; the Eliot who took care of the team at any cost. She could trust that Eliot, except for the one time he didn't show up to sparring, and she had firm orders not to accuse Eliot of anything.
"Holly's a yoga instructor," Eliot continued, "She teaches sunrise yoga in the park a few times a week. I think that's much more impressive, keeping a whole class in line."
Holly blushed, nudging Eliot's leg with her foot.
"Yoga, nice," Parker said. Alice liked yoga, and was impressed too. "I might look into joining that, if you have space in your class." Alice was definitely the kind of weirdo who thought sunrise yoga was a good idea. Some yoga was good for flexibility, which was important, but Parker would much rather do it alone in her warehouse where she didn't have to worry about a bunch of other people staring at her or sweating around her.
"Here, I've got a card. You can check out my website," Holly said, fishing a card out of her purse to hand over. Alice took it with a smile. "That's how we met," Holly said, turning her attention back to Eliot and touching his arm. "I saw Eliot doing his martial arts in the morning a few times and finally got up the nerve to ask him out for coffee."
"That's so sweet," Parker said. Alice thought romance was sweet. "Well I won't keep you. I was just grabbing a bite to eat before I head home. Enjoy your date!"
"You don't have to run," Holly protested. "What would you recommend? I haven't eaten here before."
"The chili," Parker said, immediately. It was true and it made Eliot happy. "And all the spherified drinks are really fun." She pointed to them on the menu.
"Thank you!" Holly said, looking down at the menu with her body turning back in toward Eliot's and away from Parker's. That was probably a 'done with you and the conversation' thing, and Parker smiled the Alice smile at them both again and stepped away. She caught the eye of one of the servers, Lee who'd worked there for a while and had picked up that sometimes the team weren't who they were most of the time and just rolled with it, and ordered the seasonal pizza and two oatmeal cookies to go. Probably they'd have to make sure Lee got a better job offer or a scholarship or something to get him to move on soon.
Holly said a few more things to Alice while Parker waited for her dinner, and Parker answered just as friendly but without pushing for Eliot's attention. Most of Eliot and Holly's attention was on each other and the menu as they chose their food and drink. Parker could do not pushing. Finally Lee brought her pizza out, and Parker paid for it in cash because Alice would. Parker could always take the money back out of the till later. She waved to Eliot and Holly one last time, and Holly waved back, and then left back through the front door. She walked past the window like she was heading down the street, then darted into the alleyway and climbed up the fire escape and into her and Hardison's apartment through her roof hatch.
"Your turn!" she said. "Also I brought up dinner."
"Good job," Hardison said, meeting Parker with a kiss. "That looked very friendly."
"Alice is good at friendly," Parker said, opening the pizza box. She grabbed the biggest piece of pizza for herself and handed the rest of the box over. The brewpub's pizzas were fun. They weren't very big, but they were chewy and flavorful.
"You're Alice," Hardison said automatically, the way he always did, as he took a piece for himself. He paused before he got the slice all the way to his mouth, though. "Wait. You were Alice down there?"
"Yep." Parker smiled at him around her pizza.
"Baby," Hardison made his patient face, the one he did when people were making things more complicated. "Why would you..."
"You said be normal!" Parker defended. She'd only been doing what he told her to. "I'm not normal. Alice is normal and friendly, just like you said to be."
"I meant our normal?" Hardison said, quietly, with his hand over his mouth as he looked at her. Parker shrugged and took another bite of pizza. How was she supposed to know that? "It's cool. We're cool." Hardison decided, shrugging himself and finally eating his pizza. "I hope Eliot doesn't think we're trying to run a game on him or his new ladyfriend."
"Oh." Parker hadn't thought of that part. Sophie's lessons covered lots of being someone else, and how to keep people from being suspicious that you weren't who you said you were (unless them figuring it out was the point), but not if you were dealing with someone who already knew you. That was a blind spot Parker should probably try to fix. Some time. "Her name's Holly," she said, handing her card over to Hardison. "She does sunrise yoga in the park. She saw him doing his katas and asked him to coffee."
"Thank you!" Hardison said, taking the card and immediately typing Holly's information in to look her up on another monitor. "Girl's got good taste, who wouldn't want to devour the man after watching him at his katas? Holly, Holly," he muttered as he fished up tabs and tabs of information one-handed. Meanwhile in the security feed Eliot was feeding Holly spherified drink with a spoon and smiling with her as she giggled. "Little bit of a party girl but got decent grades in school, likes skiing and yoga and trivia shows, a couple parking tickets but no criminal records. Totally normal and boring and definitely not a secret assassin sent to crush Eliot to death with her thighs in the throes of passion."
"Not a bond bad girl, just cute," Parker said, leaning over Hardison's shoulder.
"I love you," Hardison said, kissing her cheek. He always liked it when Parker noticed his movie references, and she smiled.
"Besides, nobody could crush our Eliot to death with their thighs. He's too tough."
"True," Hardison granted. "He'd probably think it was hot anyway. I don't even want to know what he got up to with Mikel Dayan. He'd probably like an assassin way better than a normal person any day. We got nothing to worry about here. Nothing at all. This is cool. We're all cool here."
"You're nervous," Parker realized. Hardison's voice had gone all high and fast like it did when he was stressed.
"Yes, I'm nervous," Hardison said. "The man can pick up yoga chicks and assassins any day of the week. What makes us think we can win him over? Does he even want..." Hardison gestured between the two of them and all around their apartment. "...us?"
"He's our Eliot," Parker said. Hardison had been totally on board until right now. Why was he getting out of line now? Maybe his smart brain had gotten going too fast for him and unconvinced him of how much Eliot belonged with them. "He's ours. Our team. Our family. He came with us to Boston, and to Portland and even against Moreau even though he didn't want to. Not for any of the girls he's been with all these years, for the team. Eliot always has girls, but he's always here for us. Except for the one time he missed sparring practice, and that one probably doesn't count because I was pushing." Parker took a deep breath. "Like you said. We offer him what he wants and let him come to us. He belongs with us. It's going to work."
"Yeah," Hardison smiled a bit at her. "You're sure we're what he wants?"
"Yes," Parker said. "And if not, he's still our Eliot. Now go say something ridiculous about food to make him yell at you about the menu." Parker pushed Hardison toward the door. "He likes that." Eliot's eyes got all smiley-lines when he did, and that was the hardest part to fake.
"Ridiculous!" Hardison said, affronted. His voice went very high on it. "I'll have you know all my culinary decisions are pure genius. Genius. Ridiculous." His eyes were doing the smiley-lines thing too, so Parker know he was only playing at being offended. He grabbed a final piece of pizza and left to go downstairs muttering 'I'll show you ridiculous'.
Parker immediately began searching for the audio feed from the bug she'd planted. Luckily she had watched Hardison at work enough times to find it pretty quickly. If she'd planted a bug made by anyone else in the bar it wouldn't have worked, Hardison had it all locked down tight, but his own bugs of course worked anywhere.
"...should have told me!" Holly was saying, giving Eliot a little shove. Eliot, who was utterly unmoveable when he didn't want to move, let himself be pushed. He was giving Holly that smile.
"I said I knew the owner," he told her, all modest again.
Parker leaned back and ate the cookies while Hardison made friends with Holly and talked to Eliot about what the CSA's were going to be delivering and gave them free samples of food and beer to critique. He was all "I love your bracelet, that color is so good on you" and "I agree. Local sourcing is so important" and "Put that wallet away, you don't charge family. What would my Nana say!"
Hardison was way better at the friendly thing than Parker was, and Eliot finally relaxed as he argued about which cheeses to put on the appetizer plate with the fresh radishes the farms were going to deliver, and which beers to pair them with. Eliot won with german-style everything.
It was all fine and good and not actually all that interesting. Parker had begun to design a new addition to the money mobile above the bed and almost missed it when Holly excused herself to the ladies room before she and Eliot left.
"Are we cool?" Hardison't change of tone pulled Parker's attention back to the security feed. Hardison was much quieter, low and serious as he leaned across the counter toward Eliot. "We're all good." Hardison's gesture encompassed himself and upstairs toward Parker. "We're fine. We're great, but are we cool?" His gesture now encompassed himself and Eliot and a wider circle that might include Parker or the rest of the team.
"Yeah, yeah, we're fine." Eliot pushed back a bit from the bar, his best glower on his face. Hardison was not following the rules he'd given Parker! He'd definitely said no bringing up anything and only pretending things were ok.
Hardison gathered up plates, a smile on his face as his eyes flicked toward the security camera. If Parker didn't have audio she wouldn't have any idea that he was talking more seriously to Eliot now. "Good, good," Hardison said, "but you can't disappear on Parker, not when she's counting on you." Hardison's voice was a little sharp. "You know how she is. It hurt her. You hurt her again, and you and I will not be ok."
Eliot looked away from Hardison, down a bit, his arms crossing across his chest. Sophie would say he was showing uncomfortable body language. That was the opposite of how Hardison had said to make Eliot feel! Parker was definitely going to have to talk with Hardison about what he was doing.
"Yeah," Eliot said. "Won't happen again."
"Just let her know if you can't be there," Hardison said, his voice going softer. "Do whatever you gotta to sort yourself out, but don't leave her waiting for you to never show up. That's all I'm asking."
Eliot nodded shortly. Then Holly came out of the bathroom and Hardison and Eliot both smiled at her.
"Thanks for the help with the menu," Hardison said, as Eliot helped Holly with her purse and readied them to leave. "We should do this more often."
"Definitely," Eliot said, as Hardison and Holly traded thanks and compliments. Parker wasn't sure if his tone was serious or sarcastic.
"I'll send you the schedule," Hardison promised Eliot, and then Eliot and Holly were gone with no more than a last nod and wave.
Hardison slumped against the bar with a sigh, but then he looked up at the security camera and gave it a smile and a thumbs up. Parker grinned back at him. If Hardison was giving the thumbs up then he must feel he'd done a good job with Eliot. That was promising.
She'd get her boys in line yet.
- - Hitter - -
Getting some space, and giving Hardison and Parker the time they'd clearly needed to get themselves sorted, had been a good idea. Getting some space and spending a couple memorable weekends with Holly. She was fun; flexible, energetic, and not looking for anything serious. She was just what Eliot needed to clear his head, and some of the stretches she showed him really helped with the ache from old injuries. Great to keep his body in the kind of shape it needed to be for his job.
They'd both been able to tell that they were headed different directions in life. Eliot had given Holly a kiss to the cheek and been admonished to take care of himself, and they'd parted very amicably. All in all, exactly what Eliot needed.
Taking Holly to the brewpub to show that things were normal had been a good idea too. Parker and Hardison had sniffed around her, clearly curious, but they'd been nothing but friendly.
As far as Eliot could tell Parker and Hardison weren't stalking Holly or trying to pull any kind of con on her. There had been no jealousy in sight, which was good. It meant they understood that Eliot wasn't in any kind of relationship with them. Just team. Just their hitter. The only thing they'd asked of him was not to make Parker's abandonment issues worse.
Choosing not to show up to sparring practice had been a miscalculation. Eliot wouldn't make that mistake again. Now that he knew Parker and Hardison had sorted their relationship out in the wake of their ill-advised threesome he wouldn't be tempted to. There was no need to make a complete break to keep from breaking up the relationship that was clearly so good for both of them. Eliot wanted that much more than he wanted what he shouldn't have taken a taste of.
Eliot eased off on his fishing trips, and didn't ask for more teaching time at the institute, and stuck closer to the team again. He mainly kept his nose out of the brewpub, though. He met with Nate to find out that they were still between jobs with nothing promising on the near horizon, and got roped into helping Sophie teach her students how to convincingly throw and take a stage punch. It was actually surprisingly fun, not that he was going to volunteer to do it all the time.
Eliot was getting ready to meet Parker at the gym for their regularly scheduled sparring practice when his phone beeped with the sound it made when Hardison had been messing with it from afar again. Eliot rolled his eyes and opened it to check what Hardison had done now. There was nothing big, just a new app blinking at him. 'Calendar' it was labeled.
It was pretty straightforward, when Eliot opened it. It was on week view by default, but there were options for month view and day view. There were a lot of different colors, blocking out different chunks of time, but there was a handy key to the side. Parker was yellow, Hardison was blue, and Eliot was red.
Today there was a big chunk of light orange time, and when Eliot touched it it opened up. 'Sparring time' it was labeled, and then a string of Parker-patented emoji's. Boxing gloves and little characters in gi's karate-chopping and smiley faces and a knife.
There was an X to tap to leave the time chunk, and inobtrusive 'confirm' and 'delete' buttons at the bottom. Eliot tapped 'confirm', and the time chunk was now a deeper shade of orange. That was convenient, not that Eliot thought they needed a calendar to schedule sparring time. They'd never needed it before. There were green chunks of time clearly devoted to Parker and Hardison's date nights, and primary colored slots labeled things like 'hacker time' and 'thief time', that second one followed by a string of rope and parkour and lock and knife emojis. Eliot opened the lavender chunk on Tuesday afternoon, since that actually applied to him, to see that it was labeled 'brewpub planning time'. That made sense, and he clicked confirm on that too, and then closed the app.
It was good design, he'd give Hardison that. The man had an eye for it. There just really wasn't a reason for it.
"What the hell?" Eliot texted Hardison, and then changed into his gym clothes. He got five texts in the time it took to get dressed – after several weeks of getting a grand total of one text message from them. Eliot did not smile at the phone as he picked it up.
"You like it, right? You're looking at a work of pure coding genius. Your accolades will be accepted."
"I mean, you understand it right? It works for you? ???"
"Yeah it does. I can see you used it. Don't play."
"…you can be blue instead if you want. I ain't married to the color scheme. Parker might stab you if you try to take yellow away from her though. I cannot protect you from that woman."
"It does work for you right? Eliot?"
Eliot snorted, shaking his head. "Don't need it," he sent back.
"It'll grow on you. Like ivy on a building. You won't even remember what it was like without it soon."
"Or mold," Eliot answered. He tossed the phone in the passenger seat of the truck, and listened to the beeps as Hardison predictably ranted at him all the way to the gym, checking it at the red lights. Hardison didn't even need Eliot's input to keep going.
Eliot arrived at the gym early, but Parker was earlier. She was stretching, twisting well beyond most people's flexibility like it was nothing. Her relieved smile when she saw him hit like a punch to the gut. Like she hadn't expected him to show up after all, just like at the beginning when she was always surprised if the crew was there for her. Eliot didn't flinch, just nodded to her and went for his protective gear while Parker taped her knuckles.
"We'll start off easy, blows and blocks," Eliot said. Just like normal. Parker grinned just like normal, eyes bright, and threw a nice vicious punch the instant he lifted the focus mitts. Speed, power, footwork, form. Eliot could work Parker through all of them. It was a good workout for both of them. He kept them going at it longer than usual, until they were both sweaty and tired.
"Grappling now!" Parker declared, as soon as Eliot called an end to blows and blocks. That was what they normally did, but Eliot had kind of hoped Parker would be too tired to want to today. Didn't matter, anyway. He was a grown man who could control himself. There wasn't really room for sexual tension in a good grappling match anyway. Not when he was trying to pin Parker, not get pinned himself, and teach Parker the opposite all at the same time.
Eliot nodded and got out of his gear.
The replayed fantasies would come later, and that was no fault of Parker's.
They grappled briefly, but intensely. Parker squirmed out of holds the way nobody else could, held him with strength nobody would expect in her spare frame. She had to be strong for all her acrobatics and ropework. She wrapped her thighs around his throat, crushing the life out of him with her hands on the back of his head to grind his face into her lower belly and give him even less air. Less ability to move and react. He had no purchase, no leverage to pry her legs off him. Eliot tapped out, and Parker released him with a thrilled laugh.
She didn't squirm away from him, though, to bounce up to her feet. Eliot couldn't stay there on the mat to get his breath back, between Parker's legs, smelling the scent of sex and exertion on her skin. No matter how much he might want to. He pushed himself to his feet and offered her a hand up.
"Good match," he said as he pulled her to her feet. "That hold was perfect." People were gathered around, the next group waiting for the mats. "I think our time's up."
"Thanks Eliot," Parker chirped. Faster than he could realize what she was up to and react, she looped her arm around his neck and planted a smacking kiss to his cheek. Then she danced away toward the women's locker room without a single look back.
That was just Parker for you. Eliot shook his head, quashed the smile that wanted to crack his face, and went the opposite direction toward the men's.
A low whistle interrupted him, some guy standing by the free weights. He shook his hand out as he looked between Eliot and Parker's retreating back. "That blonde's something. The crazy ones are always the funnest, right?"
Eliot knew exactly what he was looking for – bonding over confirmation that this was an acceptable way to talk about women. That they were just here for the gratification of men. Like the asshole couldn't even see the half-dozen women in earshot gritting their teeth or looking away in embarrassment, when they had every right to be here and be comfortable working out without feeling perved on.
He expected Eliot to laugh, to say something crude about Parker and give him a high five. Like she was just a notch on a belt, an object of conquest to be used and discarded. No woman was, but Parker, Parker especially was so much more than that.
Eliot grabbed him by the collar of his artfully torn shirt and slammed him back into the wall, glaring him down. "Don't you ever let me hear you talking about her or any woman that way again, understand?" he snarled.
The asshole managed to scrape together the survival instincts nature granted an earthworm and nodded desperately, eyes rolling. "Yes. Yes sir. Sorry!" he babbled.
Eliot bit down the burning desire to feed the guy his own teeth and tossed him aside. He really didn't want to have to find a new gym, if he got kicked out of this one. It was convenient. And assault charges on the alias he was under wouldn't help him keep a low profile. He shook his head, growling under his breath, and went to take his shower.
At least the anger kept the plain desire, the want awakened by being so close to Parker, out of mind. At least for a few hours.
Normal. Eliot could be normal around Hardison and Parker. They were clearly over their fling with him, and he needed to follow suit. Be normal until it felt normal. He could show up to his usual sparring practice with Parker without making things weird. He could show up at the brewpub to inspire the chefs to greatness and rein in Hardison's menu without making things weird. Hardison smiled at him, all that kindness the ugliness of the world had never beaten out of him shining out of his face. He squeezed Eliot's shoulder at the end of their planning session, all done picking over the test foods Eliot had made and just enjoying some beers now.
"I'm glad we've got you around," Hardison said.
Eliot just shrugged out from under his hand, rolling his eyes. "Somebody's got to keep you grounded."
Hardison just grinned harder. "Exactly." He sipped his beer, and did not enlighten Eliot as to what he meant by that.
Eliot could even use the ridiculous shared calendar. He found himself adding red lines to it here and there – when one of Toby's kids who needed a little private tutoring to catch up with the class, or weeding day at the community garden when people teamed up to help those less able to care for their plots. It was convenient to have it all laid out and color coordinated. Not that Eliot would ever tell Hardison that. If his head got any bigger he wouldn't fit through doorways.
He was adding in the private lesson when he noticed that there was a new color on the calendar—a block of light brown on Tuesday evening after the familiar lavender of brewpub planning. 'Dinner?' it was labeled. And brown would be the combination of all three of their colors.
Eliot hadn't been cooking for the crew as much as he could have. He liked cooking for them, and eating with them. That's just what he did with this family he'd found. It didn't have to be weird, if none of them made it weird. He hit confirm.
It wasn't weird. Dinner turned into dinner-and-a-movie. Arguing about what to watch and wrestling the orange soda away from Hardison so he didn't ruin his palate for the flavors of the meal was easy and comfortable. They ended up watching one of the Die Hard movies. Parker laughed with her mouth full of popcorn, spraying it everywhere, at the parts that were supposed to be tense. Hardison went on a rant about how everything could have been done much more efficiently if Bruce Willis had been a hacker instead. Eliot stuck to relentlessly critiquing the fake action sequences.
They all three teamed up to figure out the best way the bad guys could have stolen the money without the messiness of hostages or catching the interest of maverick cops.
Hardison was drinking orange soda like it was going out of style, making up for being denied it over dinner. Parker was flinging popcorn at the bad guys and laughing. And Eliot was in love with them. He couldn't help it. These people he would protect, even from himself. He had their backs to his last breath, above all else, and no government and no money and no other promise was ever going to change that.
Not this time.
Eliot swallowed the lump in his throat, forcing his eyes back to the movie instead of the people sitting on the couch with him. He grabbed two of Parker's pieces of popcorn out of the air. "You're cleaning up your own mess," Eliot warned her.
Parker snorted. "Hardison has employees."
"Plenty of employees," Hardison agreed.
"And what would your Nana say about leaving your mess for them?" Eliot asked, guessing. From all he'd heard about her, he doubted she'd approve.
Hardison opened his mouth, then closed it again. "I'll help you clean it up, Parker," he finally said. "That's low man, using my own Nana against me. I am wounded. Deeply wounded. After all we been through together..."
"Shh, he's going to say the line," Parker shushed him before Hardison could really get going.
The camera cut dramatically to Bruce Willis' face. "Yippie-ki-yay, mother-"
They all three cheered too hard to hear the end of it. Parker threw more popcorn, Hardison pulled her close and kissed her temple, and Eliot smiled and drank his beer on the other end of the couch.
Didn't have to be weird.
Another week: sparring time with Parker, brewpub time with Hardison, dinner and a movie with both of them. Parker got to choose what to watch, and it was some French art film without subtitles. The food in it looked good anyway, even if Eliot couldn't catch all of the dialogue.
Parker sat in Hardison's lap and put her bare feet in Eliots. She kicked his hand when he tried to push her feet out of his lap. "My toes are cold," she said, snuggling in under Hardison's chin.
Hardison glanced over at Eliot with smile lines around his eyes, and he stretched out his leg just a bit to bump his foot against Eliot's. 'Relax,' that touch said, 'We're cool.' Hardison knew it didn't mean anything, and Eliot put his hand over Parker's feet to keep her toes warm rather than pushing her away again and telling her to get socks. He might have idly traced circles with his thumb on the top of her foot, but that was just because he was naturally tactile. It didn't mean anything.
There was a moment of quiet once the movie wound its way to an inconclusive ending. Then Hardison rubbed his foot against Eliot's and Parker wiggled her toes under his stroking hand, and Eliot untangled himself to stand. It wasn't a retreat, nothing that urgent, it's just that Eliot needed to go. Neither of them said anything, still cuddling each other on the couch and smiling at him, and Eliot went home for the night.
Another week, and Eliot brought food from one of Toby's graduate's new food truck instead of cooking his own on team dinner night. Hardison promised to do his magic with google rankings to make sure the food truck was easy to find and well reviewed. He tried to get Eliot's feedback on some bullshit renovations he was considering doing to the apartment next to his and Parkers. Then there was hockey on the projector, and Hardison sitting in the middle of the couch with one arm around the back of Eliot but not quite touching him, and a tablet in his other hand. Parker was doing something with her ropes and rigging, but she came back to cheer for the underdogs now and then.
Hardison came back with some moneyball bullshit when Eliot argued team strategy at the coaches, and they finished the game out in a friendly argument about game strategy. The underdogs lost, but they put in a good fight.
Then Parker demanded a test dummy for her new rig, and Hardison begged off, so Eliot had to step in. Parker strapped him into a harness and had him pulling himself up to the ceiling with her, clipping into different sets and following her instructions exactly. Hardison lay on the couch with his tablet, grinning up at them and occasionally blowing a kiss to Parker. Eliot's interest in climbing and ropes was more utilitarian than Parker's love, but he could see why she liked her brewpub setup. It opened the space up, made it far bigger than if she was constricted by gravity. It let her fly.
Parker lowered Eliot safely to the floor and peeled him out of the harness, and he went home for what was left of the night.
Nate said he had his feelers out, that there were some possibilities out there, when Eliot pressed him for when they were going to work an actual job again.
Another week. Eliot cooked fresh mussels with white wine sauce and homemade pasta. A geeky movie that Hardison chose, a classic horror flick where they all mocked how bad the fake gore was. Eliot pointed out how the doomed protagonists could have easily subdued the bad guy, with Parker chiming in about how they should have known to run for it, and Hardison pointed out how the internet would have solved the entire crisis before it could begin. Eliot somehow was in the middle of the couch, with Parker's legs across him to rest her feet in Hardison's lap, Hardison's foot between Eliot's, and both of Eliot's arms around their backs like he was going to touch them but not quite.
"You don't gotta run away," Hardison said, once the movie was over. He leaned back, bringing his back in contact with Eliot's arm – warm skin burning through his thin t-shirt. A very tight thin t-shirt, which Eliot was not noticing cling to his pecs. "If you want to stick around..." he let himself trail off.
"We would like you to stay," Parker said, before Eliot could demand to know exactly what Hardison was getting at. "I promised Hardison I'd fist him tonight, but we think it would be better for him if you were holding him while I did it. I'm not very good at the comforting stuff."
"Parker!" Hardison whined, ducking a bit and clearly blushing even if his deep brown skin didn't really show it. He turned in to hide his face against Eliot's shoulder before Eliot could get his spinning mind in order.
"What? It's true!" Parker said. She pet Eliot's other shoulder. "Will you?" she asked.
Eliot ought to get up. He ought to say good night and go back to his own place. He really shouldn't do this. He hated his weakness even as his arm closed around Hardison's back to hold him closer. Hated his voice as it said, "Yeah, sure."
Not as much as he hated the idea of walking out and being anywhere else tonight, even though he knew he'd regret it. What he wanted he could do without, but what they wanted, what they asked him for, he was always going to give, wasn't he?
Parker crowed and kissed Eliot's cheek, and his other arm closed around her slender body to hold her close as Hardison looked up from Eliot's shoulder with hope shining in his eyes. He smiled, big and bright and beautiful, and then he was kissing Eliot like he was going to drown without it. Hardison's mouth was every bit as soft and hungry as Eliot remembered. He moaned against Eliot's lips, his hands finding their way to Eliot's body to grab him like he'd been holding back for an eternity. Parker was petting the side of Eliot's face with one hand, tucking his hair back behind his ear, and Hardison with the other.
"So pretty," she said. "Come on. Kiss more in the bed."
"You ain't gonna freak out on us?" Hardison asked breathlessly. "'Cause man we missed you so much."
This was a bad idea, such a bad idea, but Eliot was shaking his head and pulling Hardison in to kiss him again. "Won't happen," he promised. These flings didn't mean anything to them; acting normal afterward wouldn't be the hardest thing Eliot had ever done.
Eliot was pulled upstairs, right into their bedroom again, was stripped of his shirt and laid out in the middle of their bed. Parker stripped Hardison naked and lay him on top of Eliot, her face set in intense focus like she was casing out a building. She snapped on a glove, slathered her fingers with thick lube, and got to work.
Eliot held Hardison as his snarking and joking around and encouragement gave way to trembling wails and then beyond that when hoarse moans of 'oh god' and 'yes' seemed to be the only words he had left. When Parker was fucking him with her whole hand, eyes burning down above them like she was going to dissect them both. Hardison's body was out of his voluntary control, it bucked and jolted in response to Parker's actions and his breath hitched like he was going to start crying even as he bit down on the muscle of Eliot's pec.
"Hey," Eliot crooned to him, hand finding the back of his neck to hold him close, other hand rubbing at his back. "I'm right here, I've got you," he promised. How could he not, when Hardison needed like this?
"Eliot," Hardison gasped back. "Oh god, Eliot." There were definite tears now, splashing down on Eliot's shoulder.
"Are you all right?" Eliot motioned Parker to pause, squeezing Hardison closer. "Is this good?"
"Good!" Hardison gasped, pushing back against Parker's hand that had stilled within him. "Goodgoodgood please." He broke off with a ragged moan when Parker started moving her hand again. Eliot could feel Hardison's cock grinding against his hip through his jeans, only half hard but Eliot could feel the wetness of his precome soaking through the fabric. His tears were still dripping down against Eliot's shoulder, his breath half sob.
Even a small hand was a lot to take. Eliot knew he could ever let go how Hardison was, never just surrender this way, no matter what was being done to him. With him. For too long survival had depended on staying alert no matter what drugs or torture he was subjected to.
For Hardison it was different, and Eliot would fight to the death to keep it that way.
"I got you," he murmured, holding Hardison close. "I got you."
Hardison finished in big bucking tremors, wailing and then biting down hard on Eliot's arm to muffle a scream. He collapsed, boneless and shuddering, when Parker gently eased her hand back out of him.
Parker discarded the glove, pressed a smacking kiss to the middle of Hardison's back, and ambled off to the bathroom. She came back with a damp washcloth for cleanup. Her hand joined Eliot's, soothingly stroking up and down Hardison's back. Her motions were all slow and gentle, cleaning Hardison up, rather than her natural brisk efficiency. This was obviously something they'd discussed, something they'd worked out so Hardison was getting what he needed.
"You did so good," Parker told Hardison, smiling down at him. "You're so good, Alec."
Hardison whimpered in Eliot's arms, twitching like the words were translated into pure pleasure in his nervous system.
"So good," Eliot whispered in Hardison's ear, to much the same response, and Eliot's grin matched Parker's above them. Hardison wasn't crying anymore, he was just basking in whatever place his mind had gone. Soaking in their attention and approval.
"You did good too, Eliot," Parker said, touching Eliot's cheek. "I forget to check in in the middle, sometimes. But 'yes' isn't always someone not speaking up to say 'no' yet?"
"You know the stoplight system?" Eliot asked. "Red is stop, yellow slow down or discuss, green is good. It can be easier to ask for a color."
Parker brightened, seeming to grasp the concept immediately.
"Green," Hardison mumbled against Eliot's neck. "Green all the way, baby. Rolling in green."
Eliot kissed Hardison's cheek in answer, giving him a little closer squeeze. Parker beamed above them both, playing with Eliot's hair. Eliot turned to nuzzle against her wrist, pressing a kiss there too.
"Anything I can do for you, darlin'?" he offered. What was a little more damnation on top of all the rest?
Parker wrinkled her nose, confused. "No? I already did what I wanted tonight."
Teach Eliot to expect more than Parker had explicitly offered. He'd held Hardison while he was fisted, and that was all they wanted him here for tonight. Parker moved back down down the bed, rolling Hardison off him a bit to clean up the wet spot Hardison had left on Eliot's jeans—in fact, stripping the jeans off Eliot entirely. Eliot let her, partially because they were getting cold and gross and partially because resisting would mean he had to let go of Hardison. He had boxers on underneath, anyway.
Parker took the pants right out of the room, and Eliot heard the combination washer/dryer start up. Ok. No pants for at least an hour, then.
Hardison was stroking Eliot's chest and stomach, and then all the way down to his cock, still half hard. Eliot wasn't a stone to be unaffected by Hardison's reactions on top of him. He didn't really stroke it, just lazily traced one fingertip around the shape of it.
"Stick around," Hardison invited, yawning before he continued. "I'm not feeling it tonight, but I'll give you a good morning blowjob?"
"Stay," Parker agreed. She'd changed into a loose tshirt for sleep and crawled into the bed on the far side of Hardison. "We like you here and the bed's big enough for three."
Eliot was doomed. He couldn't do this, not to them and not to himself—playing house with them wasn't going to end well for anyone involved. It just wasn't.
"Ok," his voice said.
A hand closed around Eliot's arm. He grabbed it, pulling the person it was attached to toward his swinging elbow before the rest of him woke all the way up. The person didn't move like a fighter, flailed instead of countering, and it was Hardison's voice gasping 'hey!'. Hardison. Right. Eliot shoved him away in time, reversed the blow that would have connected with his face, and breathed. He was in Hardison and Parker's bed. Parker was perched on the headboard with a bowlful of technicolor frosted sugar and an oversized spoon, and Hardison was gasping at Eliot wide-eyed.
"Jesus, Hardison!" Eliot snapped. "Don't grab me when I'm sleeping!"
He shouldn't have slept here, shouldn't have let himself feel safe enough that he fell asleep deep enough that he forgot where he was. He could have injured either of them, for no other reason than that they trusted him when they really shouldn't.
"Ok," Hardison said. "Ok, I hear you. No grabbing the angry sleeping man."
"Add it to the rule list!" Parker said, shoveling more of her cereal into her mouth. If you could call it cereal. It hardly even counted as food.
"Rules?" Eliot asked. Hardison, apparently satisfied that Eliot was awake now, shifted over to drape a long arm and a leg across him to cuddle.
"No tongue-kissing Parker," Hardison said, laying his head on Eliot's shoulder. God, it felt like it belonged there.
"No pinning Hardison," Parker added.
"No grabbing Eliot when he's asleep," Hardison said.
"And no attacking and running away in bed, unless talking doesn't fix whatever's scary," Parker concluded. "Four rules. Easy."
"You need to add anything to that?" Hardison asked.
"No," Eliot said. It wasn't his relationship to be adding rules to. The only rule he needed was 'don't break up Parker and Hardison's relationship', and he was going to break it if he couldn't keep a reasonable distance.
He really couldn't, though. Eliot got that morning blowjob Hardison had promised him, with Hardison moaning around his cock and his deep brown eyes smiling up at Eliot the whole time. He wore yesterday's wrinkled shirt and fresh washed pants and cooked them breakfast made of actual food stolen from the brewpub's kitchen, toast and eggs and thin-sliced tomatoes and juice. Like he belonged in their apartment and in their relationship.
Parker perched on the counter beside him, and smiled as she pushed her thumb hard into the bite-bruise Hardison had left on Eliot's shoulder. Eliot leaned right into it, the faint ache of it turned sharp and bright as a reminder of where it came from, and a little rumble worked its way out of his throat unbidden. Hardison smiled at them over the top of his tablet even as he accused them of being nasty.
They kissed Eliot, both of them. Parker a light peck on the lips as she pet his chest, and Hardison something deeper.
"Don't be a stranger," Hardison said.
"We like you." Parker added. "We like you here."
Eliot was in too deep. Far too deep. He went to his own place. He came back. He met Parker for sparring and she kissed his cheek and patted his back when they were done. He met Hardison for brewpub planning and he bumped against Eliot's shoulder and grinned as they argued about what constituted a good food.
Eliot got himself a new car, a classic mustang, and threw himself into renovations – and he smiled at his phone and took a break from car work when Hardison texted him rapid-fire questions about what made the perfect home kitchen, or argued about what kind of flooring was objectively the best. He fielded Parker's odd hypotheticals about escape routes or 'how would you go about robbing such-and-such bank or museum'.
He met both of them – brought them food and argued about movies and let himself cuddle them back when they cuddled him on the couch and then followed upstairs when invited. Parker cinched herself into a strapon harness she'd obviously designed and built herself – extremely sturdy and decorated with stolen diamonds – and fucked Eliot on his knees. Her design had a pocket for a bullet vibe and she giggled behind him as she came again and again, grinding into his ass. Meanwhile Eliot multitasked by returning that excellent blowjob Hardison had treated him to.
Parker and Hardison both joined him in the shower afterward, all touching and giggling and kissing.
He spent the night in their bed again.
He made them breakfast.
He helped them with tearing up the apartment next to theirs, to renovate and add it in to theirs. It was more space than even a full family needed, but that was Hardison for you. He liked his luxury. Eliot stayed late enough some nights that they just pulled him into their bed like he belonged there with them.
Most of the time he went and slept on the couch instead, but not nearly as often as he should have.
After that first time neither of them touched Eliot when he was asleep, but sometimes he'd wake up on the couch with Parker whispering his name from hanging six inches above him in her climbing rig.
"Hey," she asked. "Can I sit on your face again?"
When Eliot nodded, she grinned and tossed him a rope to pull himself up to the loft alongside her. Hardison smiled into his pillow when Parker pulled Eliot into the room, and by the time Parker was done riding Eliot's face, had fallen asleep again.
Like watching Eliot and his girl was the most normal thing.
The light brown 'dinner' slot in the calendar had been expanded first to 'dinner and a movie' and then all the way through the night. Parker had labeled successive portions of it with food emoji's, then movie and popcorn emojis, then two eggplants and a taco (which Eliot was trying not to think about), and then snoring and z's and bouncing sheep and pillows.
Eliot looked at the calendar, full of brown and lavender and orange, along with the greens of Parker and Hardison's dates and the slots of red and yellow and blue when they needed alone time. All three of their lives blended up together, like they were all the same. It felt like belonging, like home. Like Eliot had any right to be in there with them.
He didn't hit 'delete' on a single thing.
He was in too deep.
It was a relief when Nate finally had another job for them to work.
- - HACKER - -
Hardison was a fucking genius.
Obviously, yes, he was. Everyone knew that. But he was better than just run-of-the-mill genius. Alec Hardison, hacker of relationships. He'd managed to get not just one, but two of the most flighty people alive into a comfortable relationship. Who else could say that? None of the girls Eliot slept with; none of the people who crushed on Parker. Hardison.
Ok so Eliot was still a little twitchy about it, but give the man some time. He'd settle in. It was the time-tested Hardison relationship plan – leave the door open, and let them come in when they got tired of the cold outside. Parker was a bit more direct with Eliot, once she knew what she wanted, but the sex stuff clearly hadn't been hurting the situation. At least, not after the first time. Eliot didn't disappear on them again, and they didn't assume anything about the relationship with him.
With Parker gone for a week, coaching a bunch of teenaged cheerleaders, poor girl, it was a great opportunity for Hardison and Eliot to do some more bonding. In the little time they had around Hardison figuring out how to take Pep Athletics down. But between not actually sleeping that well alone and plenty of orange soda Hardison had lots of hours in his days. Eliot never slept all that much either, so it worked out.
It was particularly handy to have him around when a truck of stuff for Eliot's apartment was delivered. It would have taken Hardison way too long to carry it up himself, and he really didn't want to trust a bunch of delivery guys poking around his space. They could have been hired by anybody. A quick text to Eliot, and he showed right up to help carry it up. He was even doing the thing with the bandanna in his hair, which was just unfair, and wearing a tshirt that squeezed tight on what little of his biceps it covered.
Hardison could be forgiven for staring a bit, right? The man was sculpted like a god. Better than a god – Michelangelo's best had nothing on Eliot Spencer, and Hardison would know, he'd copied them. None of the old masters had anything to rival Eliot. Hardison ought to remedy that. Oh, wasn't that a thought? Hardison could definitely sculpt a series of Eliots in the styles of the old masters. How much would it take to pass them off as long-lost originals? Sophie would probably know. It wasn't like Hardison couldn't hack the digital databases to make sure there was documentation 'proving' their authenticity. And Parker could put proof in physical collections too.
"What?" Eliot snapped, glaring Hardison down, and Hardison put 'enshrine Eliot's physique in the finest museums' into the suggestion box for later.
"Can't a brother enjoy the view?" Hardison asked, grinning. Eliot rolled his eyes and went for another box. That was just Eliot, and it wasn't like Hardison didn't catch him looking too now and then. Hardison wasn't ever going to be a tank like Eliot, but he wasn't bad. Lanky was a good look, right? It better be, 'cause it was the only look Hardison had going on.
It didn't take too long, between the two of them, to get everything into Eliot's gutted apartment and check it for bugs. Then they settled downstairs to try Hardison's latest beer. Citrus beers were good, right? Well how about kumquats instead of your standard lemons and oranges?
Turns out that was a great plan. The whole fruit was a touch bitter, which meant going a little light on the hops for good balance. It was crisp and clean and fizzy, a good summer beer, and Eliot didn't even make any faces when he tasted it. He just kind of nodded to himself and got all thoughtful like he was planning what to pair with it. That was fine by Hardison. He was still teasing apart Pep Athletics corporate structure and figuring out Ms. Barron's weaknesses. He could work on that with his tablet – networked with his main computer – in one hand, and lean against Eliot with his beer in the other.
Eliot didn't push him away, just kind of shifted him a bit and started scrawling notes on a napkin. Heh. Doing his planning all analogue like a true caveman. Hardison loved that about him, though.
Hardison might have whooped a little bit when his worms came crawling back with the final pieces of the puzzle. "I got you now!" Hardison crowed, and turned to give Eliot a celebration kiss.
Eliot did push him away for that, though, scowling heavily. "You ain't cheating on Parker with me."
"What?" Hardison's confusion came out of his mouth. "Cheating is not what's going on here. How many times has Parker seen us together? She is fully aware of any and all..." Words failed Hardison and he resorted to gesture language. Himself mixed up with Eliot and then roughly eastward toward where Parker was in DC.
"She's not here now," Eliot said, voice even and sharp. His hand was very tight on his beer bottle, like he wanted to make it into a fist. "How would you feel if you were gone and found out I was messing around with her behind your back?"
"First of all it's called 'compersion' and it means I like thinking about people I care about making each other happy," Hardison said. He hadn't actually realized that was a thing until it started happening when he saw Parker with Eliot. "Secondly, you and her together are so hot it should be banned by the Kyoto protocols. Third and most important, nobody is going behind anybody's back. We both like you man, you're..." Ok, saying that he was the third point of the triangle, that he was part of their trio, that they loved him to death and back again was probably too much. Don't scare the flighty man off. "You're our Eliot. Everything's good."
Eliot looked away, jaw tightening. A twitch passed through his face that Sophie could probably read an entire novel in but was completely opaque to Hardison. Hardison was honestly surprised that Eliot was still here and hadn't stormed out to go have whatever feelings he was having privately. And probably violently.
Yeah, the thought of Eliot beating up a punching bag or a bad guy in frustration was still a hot one. Go figure. Violence had never really been hot until Hardison met Eliot. Also there was definitely going to be a punching bag in Eliot's half of the apartment when Hardison was done renovating it, purely for the eye candy. He was going to have to pay particular attention to the sight lines on that feature of the space.
"I don't..." Eliot took a sharp breath. "I don't know the rules here."
"What rules, man?" Hardison asked. "There's only four rules, and I know we told you. One of them's yours. No grabbing you when you sleep, no pinning me, no frenching Parker. No attacking and running way instead of talking things through." That last one was particularly important when making a relationship with violent and flighty people. Hardison had made it to avoid getting kneed in the balls when Parker got nervous. She could trust him to stop when she said without resorting to violence. It was turning out to be a more versatile rule than just that, though.
"Not what I meant," Eliot growled, tossing his hair back. "I don't know what's... ok."
"I told you," Hardison said. "We like you. Anything you want with either of us, that's fine."
What did Eliot want, anyway? They'd left the door wide open and he was definitely hanging out more inside it than outside, but what did he want? What had Eliot asked for?
Nothing, honestly. He'd taken what was offered, given what they asked him for. He hadn't gone after anything at all for himself. That... that might be a problem. Hardison should have noticed that sooner. Not time to panic, nope, but definitely past time to be checking in with Eliot about what he actually wanted. Making him outright say it wasn't likely to go over well, though. That was definitely the kind of thing that would make him snarl and go away to beat things and/or people up. Review the facts. Eliot was hanging out with them both a lot, keeping close to them, and he smiled a little bit sometimes. God those smiles, the little ones wrinkling the corners of his eyes as he growled and argued. Happy grumpy Eliot smiles, those were the best.
"I won't hurt Parker," Eliot said, and the expression he had on was not at all smiling. It was an 'Eliot is two seconds past when he wanted to be out of here' expression, and there he went, turning on his heel to leave.
"Whoa, hey," Hardison grabbed Eliot's arm, opening a new screen on his tablet with the other hand. "Let's call Parker and ask her, k? Clear this all up at the source. You know Parker won't lie."
Eliot jerked his arm out of Hardison's grip, but he stopped leaving. He crossed his arms and gestured to the projector with his chin. Hardison called Parker, fingers crossed for her to answer quickly. He doubted he could keep Eliot for more than a minute longer, if she didn't.
"Hey!" Parker looked a little wide around the eyes, but she grinned at them both on her phone. "Oooh, Eliot's doing the bandanna thing again. That's hot."
Eliot's face looked like he might start punching things or people any second.
"Hey yourself, mama," Hardison greeted, since Eliot clearly wasn't saying anything. "Eliot needs to know what you think about us having sex while you're away before he'll kiss me."
Parker wrinkled her nose. "You haven't had sex this whole time I've been gone? That's silly! Someone should be having sex. At this rate the cheerleaders are the only ones getting laid." She threw her hands in the air in exasperation.
"Um... babe..." Hardison tried, not even sure how he was supposed to start with all that wrongness. Their real coach, and their parents, weren't going to be happy if the cheerleaders they were supposed to be taking care of ended up pregnant.
"Pretty sure you're supposed to be making sure the girls aren't having sex," Eliot said. His eyes were laughing again, though, as he fought a smile on his lips. Charismatic bastard probably had more than his fair share of sneaking around with cheerleaders behind their coach's back during high school.
Parker snorted, waving it off. "Not with boys. A little girlsex never hurt anybody!" Her brow wrinkled. "Or boysex. Why aren't you two having sex? You like sex with each other. Wait, is this a gay thing? It's still gay even when I'm watching, I promise."
"Ok, first of all—" Hardison started.
"It ain't a gay thing, Parker," Eliot interrupted. That was fine. His way was more concise anyway.
"Eliot didn't want you to feel left out," Hardison added, in explanation. "How you feeling about it? Red, yellow, green?" Eliot was a genius for having introduced the stoplight system. It was working great for them so far.
There was a noise behind Parker and she looked away from them, biting her lip, before she turned back. "Why would I feel left out? I'm green light. Have fun, I have to go." She gave a thumbs up and moved to end the call, then paused, grinning like she'd spotted a pile of cash. "You two should kiss for me."
Hardison turned to Eliot. "What do you want to do?" he asked. Make sure Eliot's getting what he wants, very important to luring him in.
Eliot dragged Hardison down to kiss him hot and vicious. He kissed like it was an attack, and Hardison was more than willing to lose that fight. He moaned, knees going a little weak, but that was fine because Eliot with the aforementioned godlike physique was there to hold on to.
"So pretty," Parker purred, and then the projector turned off as she hung up. The kiss, though, that didn't end. It gentled and deepened, more of a give and take. Eliot made a growly little sound in his chest, and Hardison knew it wasn't going to end with just a kiss.
Upstairs there was condoms and lube and Eliot's hand full of lube to stroke them together as he lay on Hardison and just kept kissing him. Very conscientious with the safer sex, Eliot, which was good considering how many partners he had. It made Hardison feel better about the nonmonogamy thing. The solid weight of his body on top of Hardison's could have felt like being pinned, but skirted just to the ok side of that. The fact that Hardison had all of Eliot's naked body to hold on to and admire to distract himself probably helped.
Sex might not have been the smartest thing to do at the moment, because Hardison had a lot of work to do and he needed a nap afterward. They napped together on the bed – or, Hardison napped with his head on Eliot's shoulder and an arm and a leg thrown across him, and Eliot hadn't moved and was perfectly alert when Hardison woke up about an hour later. It was hard to tell if and when Eliot actually slept.
Hardison felt much more alert after his nap, though, so maybe it was a net win for work done anyways. He always slept better with company. Hardison got all his information together for a team presentation with time to spare. Eliot even brought him a sandwich so he didn't 'kill himself by eating nothing but sugar like a damn toddler'.
Then, off to DC to hack the government. Which turned out much harder than expected. It was like a fucking Steranko with how it fought back. Still, nothing the team wasn't up to. Back Barron's little lackey into a corner, and then watch the whole house of cards tumble down. The Leverage crew had the best job in the world, and the best part of it was seeing the good they did. No more cheerleaders breaking their necks, which was a net-win for the world.
The team was on different flights home. Sophie and Nate were staying around DC for a few more days – Sophie had a few last personal cons to wrap up, and of course Nate stayed with her. Hardison was the first to land in Portland, and he stuck around in the airport waiting for the rest of his team to get in. He tracked Parker and Eliots flights, and hacked the airport sound system to play some nice music while he waited.
Eliot was next, and he sat down next to Hardison to wait without saying a word. It took him three minutes to realize that the ambient sound was one of Hardison's mixes and demand he change the tune. They wrestled over Hardison's phone for a bit before Hardison agreed that they could trade off choosing songs. Hardison chose one of his longest mixes to start with, but then Eliot retaliated with a song entitled "the road goes on forever" that lived up to its name in spades, and Hardison made the strategic decision to play shorter songs from then on. It was worth missing out on some of his best work to avoid that kind of suffering again.
Parker looked tired when she came through security. She'd seen all her girls onto their flights before she could get on her own, and she'd been away from the team for a whole week. She smiled and hugged Hardison, though, and then looped her arm around Eliot too as they walked out of the airport. She grabbed Eliot's nearest hand once he was done stowing everyone's stuff in the trunk of his charger, humming curiously over it as she squeezed it into a duck shape. Oho, Hardison knew where this was headed.
"Nope," Parker said, dropping it and reaching for Hardison's hand instead. She inspected his hand carefully before shaking her head. "Still no. Neither of you can fist me, so you're going to have to put both your dicks in me at once." She nodded like it was all settled and stole shotgun. Hardison grinned and folded himself into the back seat, while Eliot stood blinking like he was stunned for a few seconds before he shook it off and climbed into the driver's seat.
"You sure?" Eliot asked, eyes fixed hard on the road as they got out of the airport parking garage. "You don't like..." He paused, maybe realizing the error of telling someone else what the did and didn't like. "You've never wanted..." He paused again, maybe searching for a word that sounded better than 'penetration'.
"I didn't want anything in me other times, but I do this time," Parker said. It was that simple to her. "I want both of you."
Eliot glanced up, searching for Hardison's eyes in the rearview mirror, like maybe he thought Hardison was going to tell him no.
"Parker wants what she wants when she wants it," Hardison told him. Hardison had never done this before, but he was definitely looking forward to it.
"I've been surrounded by lesbian sex all week. I need some." Parker squirmed eagerly in her seat, completely unabashed, and that made it all the sexier.
"All right," Eliot said, eyes fixed firmly back on the road. See that was the thing he did. He said ok to what they wanted, not what he wanted himself.
But Parker... Parker. Hardison was well aware that she was just as bi as he was, and they weren't really doing the whole monogamy thing. Why couldn't she have a girlfriend for when she wanted real actual lesbian sex?
"You could have a girlfriend too, if you want," Hardison said. That was an admittedly scary thought, Parker having someone beyond the two of them, but kind of a nice one too. Compersion was definitely Hardison's favorite new thing. Either attending or maybe hosting some poly munches at the brewpub, if Hardison could figure out security so they would be safe and uncompromised, had been floating around in the suggestion box for a while.
"Huh," Parker leaned back thoughtfully. "Yeah, I guess. I just don't know any girls well enough that I want to have sex with right now? Maggie said no when I asked her. I'm happy with my boys."
"Maggie?" Hardison's voice might have squeaked a little. He'd been aware that Parker liked her, hell they all liked her as a friend and co-conspirator. He just hadn't been aware that Parker actually made her an offer.
"Nate should not know about that," Eliot said. After how weird he'd gotten over Eliot and Maggie accidentally flirting that made a lot of sense.
Parker snorted. "Obviously."
The drive home to the brewpub went quick, even if Eliot did insist on being in charge of the music since they were driving in his car. Parker enthusiastically pulled them up through the fire escape and into the apartment that way instead of going through the pub itself.
"Everybody naked!" Parker decreed, heading through the semi-deconstructed apartment and right for the bedroom as she stripped her clothes off. "Condoms and lube!"
"Sure thing, babe!" Hardison was 100% on board with this plan. Absolutely. Eliot wasn't saying much as he followed. "What do you want to do?" he asked.
Eliot glared at him, tossing his shirt aside. "What she said," he growled, and that was as much questioning as Hardison had the will do do tonight. He'd talk to Parker and make sure they were both on board to figure out what Eliot actually wanted. Parker was already naked and bouncing on the bed with the condoms and lube ready. Hardison she put on his back, because he was tallest, then she rode him cowgirl and got Eliot behind her to ease on in alongside Hardison with plenty of lube. There were lots of legs, but necessity always was the mother of invention. They got it figured out quick.
Hardison had the best position. Probably the best position in the world or possibly the galaxy. He could lie there in heaven, looking up at his girl and his guy. Parker's pleasure sounds were always unselfconcious and wonderful because of it, and Hardison reached between them to rub her clit with his thumb to coax more out. He was nestled deep inside her, slick and warm and impossibly tight with Eliot joining him. Eliot's hands stroked Parker's back and shoulders when she was laying forward over Hardison, and her breasts and belly when she arched back against him. It was the most beautiful thing Hardison had ever seen.
Parker orgasmed again and again, pulling them both as deep into her as they could go. Hardison kissed her cheek and neck when they were in range, and Eliot kissed her neck and shoulder when they were in his. The two of them joined together to enjoy and pleasure their girl. Hardison couldn't last long against it. He only barely managed to gasp out a warning before he was coming.
Eliot practically picked Parker up off him when he was done and the oversensitivity was too much. Hardison sighed his relief, even as a little curl of arousal warmed his belly to see how easily Eliot could pick her up.
"How do you want—" Eliot started.
Parker twisted around out of his grip, shoving at his shoulder. "Lay down. I want more, I want to be on you."
Eliot's eyes were smiling as he obeyed, and Parker pounced on him to ride him hard. Hardison kissed Parker's cheek and then Eliot's mouth and went for the tissues to clean himself up before the afterglow knocked him out. Used condom was not a great thing to find the next morning.
The sounds changed behind Hardison. Parker growled and Eliot groaned. She had both her hands in his hair when Hardison looked back, pulling hard with two fistfuls right up close to his scalp, and her teeth in his bared throat.
"Whoa, hey... colors?" Hardison requested. This definitely wasn't something that had been negotiated.
"Hnng, green," Eliot ground out, his hands clenching on Parker's hips.
"Green." Parker kept it short, taking the space between one bite and the next. Eliot's spine arched up, head falling back to open up more space for her.
Ok that was... that was really hot. Not Hardison's thing, usually, but something about seeing the toughest guy he knew willingly giving in to Parker was really doing it for him. Eliot Spencer, hitter extraordinaire, could have been away from Parker in an instant if he wanted to, and he didn't.
Parker was an artist. She left six bites on Eliot's throat, symmetrical with three on each side, and he came as she placed the last one. She slipped away from Eliot's cock when he was done, hands turning gentle in his hair. She kissed his mouth soft and sweet with just her lips. "Thank you Eliot," she said, and Eliot swallowed convulsively.
"Anything else you need?" Eliot asked.
"No. I want Hardison to lay on me now," she answered.
Hardison was more than willing to do that, even if it took a monumental effort to get his lethargic body to roll over onto her. Eliot nodded and went to the bathroom to clean up. Parker was surprisingly cozy, as far as laying on top of other people went. She was still trembling with little aftershocks, and Hardison yawned. He could definitely fall most of the way asleep like this.
"Stay," Parker said, startling Hardison out of near-sleep. "I missed cuddling with you, too." Glancing up, it looked like Eliot had started gathering his clothes to leave. He was frozen with his pants and shirt slung over his arm.
"You're always welcome to stay, if you want," Hardison added. He could leave if he wanted, but they sure would like him to stay.
Soon Hardison would have the spare apartment turned into a perfect Eliot-space so he didn't have to go far or sleep on the couch if he didn't want to stay in the bed with them. Very soon. Plans were in motion, and they were excellent plans. Of course they were, Hardison had made them.
The bed shifted, and Eliot climbed over to lay beside Hardison and Parker in just his boxers. Parker patted his chest, then squirmed out from under Hardison to go clean up in the bathroom herself. Hardison cuddled up to Eliot's side. He was warm, like a furnace. A renewable resource powered by sheer obstinance.
"Do you want—" Hardison started sleepily, pushing for firm answers he probably shouldn't be prying after.
"I want you to shut up," Eliot growled, even as his arm came around Hardison to hold him. For once, Hardison could do that.
They could get to the whole 'what does Eliot really want' problem later. Hardison put it right up at the top of the suggestion box.
- - THIEF - -
Parkers boys were getting in line.
The team took down an evil cheerleader, and came home and had sex. They found D. B. Cooper for Agent McSweeten, and Hardison wasn't even jealous. Which was good. That was progress in their relationship, that he didn't have to feel threatened.
It was kind of a sad job, though, but then Eliot cooked them a warm stew that tasted like comfort and they cuddled him afterward.
"I'm glad we don't have to hide what we are from each other," Parker said, and her boys agreed. It had been a sad life when Parker couldn't trust anyone but herself. She hadn't even realized it until she had something different.
Nate led them to taking down a Schmidt guy with a Ponzi scheme, and Parker and Hardison got Eliot's part of the newly conjoined apartment finished, but Eliot wouldn't go into it. He had great sex with them, still burning hot with adrenaline from taking down a dozen security goons, and then disappeared for a few days. The next time he showed up at the brewpub it was with a new girl. Tiffany. She was tall and pretty and into volleyball and music. Hardison and Parker went down to meet her, introducing themselves as Eliot's coworkers, and she was friendly. She was also really into leaning against and touching Eliot, and Parker was only a little sad that she and Hardison couldn't do that while Tiffany was around because she clearly didn't know that Eliot had sex with them too.
There still wasn't any kind of name to the relationship Eliot had with them. More than just team. Family. Their lover, but not quite their partner. It bothered Hardison more than it bothered Parker that they didn't have exactly what Eliot wanted all written down in a list.
Eliot wanted them, that was clear. Eliot liked sex with them. Eliot was their hitter and their team no matter what. That was enough for Parker, even if it would be nice if he was her boyfriend like Hardison was, and he and Hardison were officially boyfriends too.
"All right babe, let's let these lovebirds get on with their date," Hardison said, and Parker blew a kiss and wiggled her fingers at Eliot and Tiffany before she followed Hardison through the door and into the back.
"You're not jealous?" Parker asked, watching Hardison watch Eliot and Tiffany snuggle on his computer screen.
Hardison laughed, rubbing the back of his neck. "No, I don't think so. Not this time." He smiled at Parker. "I know he'll be back."
Parker nodded, and reached over to close the security camera window.
It was working, all three of them together. They could trust each other and give each other what they needed – if that was reassurance, or cuddles, or space to have other relationships. They were a good shape, and even if it wasn't the exact shape Parker had imagined at first it was still good. Parker had what she wanted. Hardison had what he wanted.
Eliot wouldn't say what he wanted, but he did really love what he had with them. It showed in the food, in the eagerness of his touch when they drew him into bed, in his grumpyness when they teased him and the ridiculous threats he would never ever carry out against him. Their Eliot liked them, even if he would never say it. Parker could see it. Hardison couldn't see it that clear, and it worried him.
Even Parker didn't 100% know what Eliot wanted until they scammed that smarmy asshole Erickson with a real fake old car. Eliot came to Parker while Hardison was laying a trail of bread crumbs to make the car look like the one Erickson wanted. He leaned against the wall beside her and said that Hardison was flailing a bit because he didn't ever want to retire and be normal people and thought Parker might.
Parker snorted, elbowing him. "This is the best normal I've ever had," she said. "Why would I want to change?"
"Make sure he knows that," Eliot said, with the happy little lines crinkled around his eyes, so Parker kissed him and then they were off to run the rest of the con.
Parker made sure she and Hardison were on the same page, and heard Eliot huff a brief laugh in her ear. Neither of them thought to ask Eliot, though. They didn't know if he was on the same page too until Sophie asked him about retirement.
They didn't know, in words, what Eliot planned for the future until he told Sophie he was going to stick with them, keeping Hardison's restaurant from going out of business. He growled it like he was angry about it, but he said it.
Eliot's plan for the future was to stay with them.
Parker heard Hardison's little intake of breath in her earpiece and in her ear at the same time, and turned to share a look with him. He was just as surprised as she was to hear it. She pulled her earpiece out for a second and leaned into Hardison's unbugged ear.
"Bring him home," she whispered, and Hardison nodded.
First, there was the rest of the con to pull. Complicated by the Marshall getting too spooked and calling the cops, and also the mob showing up to kill Erickson. Still, they managed. Erickson and his rogue Marshall were going to prison, the money he'd stolen went back to the people he'd hurt, and the old car got back to its owners garage before the owners ever knew it was gone.
Then, then, once the job was all done and the team wasn't on coms anymore, Parker and Hardison got Eliot into the back of the brewpub alone.
He folded his arms, staring them down when they both turned on him.
"Did you mean it?" Hardison asked. Parker still wasn't perfect at reading people, she'd never be as good as Sophie, but even she could hear how much aching hope was in those words. "Did you really mean you want to stay with us?"
And Eliot. Eliot said a lot of things.
None of them was no.
- - HITTER - -
"Did you mean it?" Hardison asked.
Eliot couldn't even pretend not to know what he was talking about. He'd made a very distinctive gasp over the coms when Eliot talked about sticking around his restaurant for the rest of his life. Like he was naive enough to think he belonged in their relationship with him.
"I can back off," Eliot promised, turning to leave the brewpub. He'd known it wasn't going to end well. They'd given him so much of themselves already.
"Whoa, hey, no." Hardison rushed to cut Eliot off, and Eliot might have pushed past him and left anyway if Parker hadn't grabbed on to his arm. He stopped; didn't push her off. "You backing off is the exact opposite of what we want, man. We just didn't know if you wanted in with us too. We've been trying not to push but we want you..." Hardison looked halfway between hopeful and terrified. "Baby, tell the man how much we want him with us."
"We like you," Parker said. She squeezed Eliot's arm.
So many times she'd said that, and Eliot thought it just meant like a friend she occasionally wanted to invite into bed. Translate that out of parker-speak and it was practically a proposal wasn't it? And Hardison— 'stick around' he said, and 'you're always welcome' and 'anything you want with either of us' and now that backing off and leaving them to their relationship wasn't what they wanted.
Like they wanted Eliot in just as bad as he wanted in with them.
"I can't..." Eliot shook his head. "You're good for each other, I can't get in the way of that."
Hardison rolled his eyes and threw his hands up in the air. "How polyamorous do we have to be with you until you get this? You're the third side of our triangle, making us a stronger shape, not coming between us. If you want to. 'Cause man it sounded like you wanted to be and..." Hardison choked up a bit. "The door's open and we been waiting for you to come in for so long. If you don't want to you've gotta say so."
Oh god Hardison was crying. He was crying because he wanted Eliot in with him and Parker. As close to them as they'd made Eliot feel, that he'd fought getting comfortable with and craved as desperately as addiction, was how close they wanted him.
"I can't break you two up," Eliot said. That was his last rule, when he'd broken all the rest. That one was carved into his soul, right beside keeping his body between them and danger. He shook his head. "I ain't taking that from you."
"We all fit together. There's space for you," Parker said. Her hand on his arm slid down to take his hand, and she tugged him along. Up to the loft, to their apartment and through the wide doorway into the freshly renovated second half. She flicked a light switch on as she went, and Eliot saw what they'd made of the space for the first time. It had an open floor plan, excellent sight lines out but not in. There was a kitchen with two sinks and a big granite work surface and a professional gas range. Then transitioning to the next space, tatami mats on the floor, a whole set of professional wooden practice swords and a punching bag just the right weight for Eliot. A decorative shōji screen slid back at a light touch, and there was a small firm bed with military corners that could have been teleported in from any apartment Eliot had ever rented.
This space, connected to theirs but separate, could never have been for anyone but Eliot.
They'd built this for him, because they wanted to keep him close. They wanted him in their relationship with them.
Eliot cooked his feelings. Hardison made homes with his.
Parker said hers, now that she was comfortable with the fact that she had feelings. You just had to listen right.
"We like you," Parker said again.
'We love you', Eliot finally let himself hear. 'We want you to be with us.'
"None of this is set in stone," Hardison was saying. "We can change any of it you don't like. This place was always yours."
'Your home is here, with us," Eliot finally let himself hear.
"Yeah," Eliot said, his voice coming out a little thick. He rolled his eyes up a little to keep them clear of the tears that wanted to fall, turned away from them. "Yeah. I meant it. I want this."
Then there were two bodies, tall and short, pressing around him. Four arms wrapping around him to hold him close.
It felt like belonging, and for the first time Eliot let himself feel it.
Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoy this fic as much as I did.
For anyone interested, my playlist while I was writing this fic--
I'm thorinsmut on tumblr too, if you want to talk. I'm shy, but friendly.