Notes: A prompt fic that ran away with me. I think it was "Something for Everyone" But yeah.
Something for everyone
They would never (or in Parker's case never again) call Eliot a Teddy Bear.
In fact they had a secret team moratorium on never calling Eliot out on any of softer habits even if they were becoming increasingly noticeable as time went on.
It was the little things really, the way he had something for everyone when they needed. The way he quietly read them, subtly did what he saw needed doing, and left without a word.
It was how he cooked vegetables stir fry with lots of spices and a sweet and sour sauce. He'd cook them in mass, feed them to whoever wandered over hungry and packaged up what was left over in single serving Tupperware and left them in Nate's fridge between Parker's bag of fortune cookies and the rows of Orange soda.
No one saw Parker eating them in the apartment or even touching them, but everyone knew who it was who took them home and who occasionally turned up for an emergency meeting with breath that smelled like Eliot's special sweet and sour sauce.
No one ever saw Parker eat vegetables except when Eliot was doing the cooking.
It was how Eliot sat there and listened when Hardison rambled. He stayed an extra hour here or came a half hour early there. He pretended not to pay attention. He acted like all he wanted to do was make Hardison shut up.
But he stayed. He listened. He even responded when he understood and sometimes when he didn't. He played pool and watched football and drank beers. He kept his cell with him and at two in the morning when Hardison called out of the blue, pulling the nocturnal thief who doesn't realize the time card to ask if Eliot wanted to watch hit a bar or watch a movie or something Eliot would threaten him. He would threaten him and keep threatening him until Hardison could think of something that could legitimately entice Eliot to come over to his place for a couple hours.
And Eliot teased him furiously, but he never teased Hardison for getting lonely, for craving some kind of social interaction when his criminal life left him trapped in an isolated world of ones and zeros.
It was how he left a newspaper on the table by where Sophie sat every time they came in, turned to the section with news of the latest local acting opportunities. The books of monologues and plays that she found slipped into her bags every time they found themselves on some kind of stake out. How he'd watch her from across the room as she read over her most recent script for a few minutes before crossing to sit next to her, easing it out of her hands and asking what part she was as casually as you'd ask about the weather.
He'd listen as rattled off her lines, not even seemingly to pay attention until she made a mistake. He'd tap the paper or restate her cue or reread the line to her when she really just didn't have it. When they got interrupted or finished they would break apart and he would always leave before she had the need to thank him.
He showed up to the shows she invited them all to. She didn't ask him how she did and he didn't comment on her acting but before the night was up he'd slip a casual comment. "You had your lines down tonight." "you didn't mess the pentameter up in the second act." "You hit that note in that song." It was one little comment, but it was honest praise. Something she'd done well that she hadn't done before.
He'd smile and roll his eyes and complain with Parker and Hardison. But she'd find flowers on her front step when she got home. She never took it as a romantic gesture, just what he'd said to answer Parker's confusion once. "you give an actress flowers. It's just what you do."
And it was how he just let Nate be. How he followed Nate's lead. How he didn't question an order, didn't second guess a motive or go off the rails needlessly. Nate had a need for control and a team that for the most part wasn't overly familiar with the word and Eliot provided him with dependable backup when everything else was a variable.
A dependable backup that still had his head in the game, that looked out for the team, that would and did speak up when Nate was being reckless and if nothing else that would knock a little sense back into Nate.
He was a safety net. If things went badly or if chaos was breaking out Eliot was a solid counterbalance, wading into it like a one man army, keeping Parker and Hardison on task when Nate was busy, keeping the team safe when there was danger.
Keeping them all grounded, all sane, when they were going four different directions.
And then just settling back with a book when things were over.
There was chess, and pool, and Eliot cooking in Nate's kitchen after everyone else had left, sending pointed remarks toward their boss until Nate just let go and said whatever was on his mind. Or shouted it.
And Eliot would let him, sometimes shouting back but mostly staying quiet.
And afterwards Eliot would slide a plate of food and a mug of coffee in front of him and slip out the door.
It was something different for everyone.
And they all had developed a moratorium on ever mentioning it.
But they didn't have a moratorium on responding in kind.
When the grocery lists Eliot would make started disappearing only to have the items appear in the fridge the next day there were a few moments of confused surprise from Eliot.
When Hardison suddenly developed an interest in horses and the magazines Eliot occasionally picked up started appearing in places he normally frequented when he was pretending to ignore Hardison he was suspicious but couldn't figure out what it was about.
When he was next hurt on the job and Sophie stepped in to deftly lend a hand while he tried to patch himself up he was openly surprised to learn she'd taken a couple classes in field medicine. He relaxed when she explained it was for a role, but was confused when he next helped her rehearse and found it had nothing to do with medicine.
When Eliot ran into an old enemy the team found out that said enemy had held and tortured him for three weeks and that was why he wasn't acting his usual self. Two weeks later said enemy was broke, in jail, and disowned by his criminal family.
Eliot stormed into Nate's apartment when he found out, shouting and raging about the team staying out of his life, about how he didn't need them to get revenge, how it was none of their damn business. Nate stood through it until Eliot calmed down enough to ask "why?"
Parker dropped down from an air duct, Hardison waved from the couch and Sophie turned from where she'd been doing the dishes to look over at him with that smile of hers.
Eliot hadn't even processed that they were all there and when did that happen before Parker handed him an apple and answered. "You do something for everyone. We did something for you."