A/N: Found this languishing on my hard drive, originally written in April apparently. Can't say why it never got posted really, but hey, it's here now! For Kitty Nebula, and based on her prompt 'Its either of their (Eliot & Parker) birthdays and the other is the only one that remembers and gets them a gift'. If you read it, I hope you like it ;)
Disclaimer: All recognisable characters belong to John Rogers, Chris Downey, Dean Devlin, TNT, and other folks that aren't me.
Present and Correct
Eliot's first thought was that Hardison had done it.
The hacker knew everything about everybody on this team and more besides. That included dates of birth, and so it wasn't much of a stretch to think that he had bought the gift Eliot found on his doorstep. It had to be someone who knew this address too, and it wasn't one that Eliot had shared with his team-mates yet. It all pointed to Hardison, except the box looked like nothing a guy would ever give to another male of the species... unless those two guys were dating. Eliot shuddered at the thought of his bro in that capacity and reached down to pick up the perfectly wrapped box with a bow on top. This was the handiwork of a woman.
Eliot's second thought was that Sophie had done it.
The grifter was all for team building and everyone being a loving family unit. They were such misfits it took a lot of shoehorning to make them all fit any kind of regular pattern that way. Still, she meant well, and she was thoughtful enough to get him a birthday gift and bring it here without making the kind of fuss that he would hate. Eliot frowned at the thought. Actually, as thoughtful as Sophie was, she definitely would want to make a fuss. She was an actress, as theatrical as a person came. She wouldn't go for dumping the gift and running. She would want the praise for her act of kindness and a big fuss and riot, maybe a party. This was from a person that was as awkward under the gaze of others as Eliot himself.
Eliot's third thought was that Parker had done it.
The little thief might seem like an unlikely candidate in so many ways. She didn't have Hardison's access to information, or Sophie's thoughtfulness and finesse, but she had heart. Parker had maybe the biggest most innocent heart of any of them, in spite of the fact she appeared so damaged in the beginning, and was a criminal just like the rest of the team. She had it in her to be sneaky enough to find out his birthday somehow, and definitely shy enough to leave the gift and bolt for fear she might have done wrong.
Eliot couldn't help but chuckle to himself as he realised he just thought of Parker as shy. The same woman who had stripped off her clothes in an elevator with him and Hardison the very day they met. She had no problem with showing off her body or saying what she thought, but when it came to anything real, shy was the right word entirely.
Putting the box down on the table, Eliot took a moment to consider before opening it up. Parker was complicated. Any gift from her was bound to be equally as confusing. She wouldn't go for anything obvious, probably not even anything fancy. Sure, Parker liked cash and gold and the like, but in a gift, somehow Eliot couldn't imagine she would go in that direction.
Second guessing Parker was like trying to apply logic to a wild animal. Not that he would be so crass as to think of her in the same breath as something inhuman. It was just that her complete lack of lateral thinking was often similar. She didn't live by the same rules that everybody else did. There was no way Eliot could think this out, he just had to dive in, the way Parker always did. He lifted the lid off the box and let out a low whistle.
Parker didn't spend money, and yet Eliot was pretty sure she wouldn't steal something meant for a gift. She had certainly proved she knew more about him than he usually revealed to the women in his life, and he sure did appreciate her efforts. Here was a present that had nothing to do with his work for the team, not his fighting or even his cooking. She had taken the time to notice that when there was quiet down time, Eliot liked to read. Parker had paid attention to the type of books too, and had gone out of her way to find not just any copy of a novel that was lying around, but an original, leather bound copy of the first English translation of The Art of War by Sun Tzu. It was beautiful, special, and perfect for Eliot Spencer.
"Thank you, Parker," he smiled to himself, since she wasn't there to hear.
The team were already assembled in the bar when Eliot arrived. None of them reacted in any big way when he walked in, but he never really excepted they would. His eyes were mostly on Parker, and though she showed no major signs of being any more twitchy or odd than usual, there was something. She was making too big a deal of not looking at him, which was what gave her away to Eliot. Nobody else was likely to have noticed but he was looking for a sign, so he saw it. Now he knew what he suspected was true. Parker had been the one to buy the birthday gift left on his doorstep, whilst everyone else, well, they probably didn't even realise he became a whole year older yesterday.
Walking around the tables in his way, he approached the bar with the intent of going straight on over to the little thief. He pulled up the stool beside her and sat down, exchanging greetings with the whole team. Nate was ordering another scotch, with Sophie telling him why he shouldn't, as Hardison crunched the numbers on their latest potential client. Only Parker was quiet and relatively still as Eliot leant into her personal space, safe in the knowledge no-one else was paying attention.
"Thank you, Parker," he told her in a low whisper.
"How did you know?" she asked, looking genuinely astonished - it was so cute he couldn't help but grin.
"Because it had to be you," he told her, eyes fixed on her own.
Somehow Parker wondered if they were still talking about the birthday present she dropped off at his apartment yesterday, or if they ever had been actually. She was sure something more was being said to her when Eliot leaned in ever closer and planted a kiss on her cheek. She didn't flinch, not like Parker normally would when any other person got close to her. This was Eliot, and he could do what ever he wanted. She trusted him completely, and every time he smiled at her the way he was right now, her stomach flipped over in the best way. It was why she bought him that gift, it was why she did a lot of things lately.
"You know when my birthday is?" she asked, smiling slightly and then ever more so as Eliot laughed at her gall.
"I'm sure I could find out if I wanted to," he told her. "I guess it's only right I return the favour and get you something, but what would a woman like you possibly want that you couldn't just go ahead and take if you wanted to?" he asked, blue eyes sparkling as they met her own again.
It made Parker shiver in the best way to realise what he seemed to be implying, but before she could say anything about it, Nate called for everyone's attention. The team started talking about heading upstairs to plan their latest con, and the moment was broken, for now it seemed. Parker still smiled, even as she followed the other four up the stairs in silence. Only three months until her own birthday, and who knew what wonders that would bring?