Title: Gray Matters
Disclaimer: There is no ownage going on here, trust me.
And as Hardison took in Sophie's red-rimmed eyes, Nate's tense shoulders, Eliot's clenched fists, and the distinct lack of Parker, he almost wished they were back at the bar, just running another con like any other day.

He didn't remember making the drive; didn't even remember hanging up the phone after Sophie's frantic voice had shaken him from his dreamy state. All he knew was that one minute she was sobbing in his ear, and the next he was standing in the waiting room of the closest hospital. The others met him at the door.

"What happened?" he asked anxiously, his breath coming out in short pants. He felt as if he'd run all the way here.

Nate stepped forward like he always did, like this was a job and he was about to tell them about the mark. But that was wrong, wasn't even close, in fact, and as Hardison took in Sophie's red-rimmed eyes, Nate's tense shoulders, Eliot's clenched fists, and the distinct lack of Parker, he almost wished they were back at the bar, just running another con like any other day.

"There was an accident; a hit and run," the Mastermind explained, but all Hardison heard was "hit and run," and he immediately felt that desperate need for vengeance deep down in the very marrow of his bones. That fury was blinding, so much so that he felt as if he should be seeing red to match the sound of his heart in his ears, like the staccato that accompanies a particularly bad headache, like fat drops of water against the tin roof of Nana's shed on a rainy day. It was so loud that he almost didn't hear what Nate said next.

"…some internal bleeding. She's in surgery, now."

Nate explained the situation as they waited for the doctor to give them an update. The car—because it was so much easier to refer to her car instead of her as a person right now—had been t-boned at an intersection a few blocks away from the bar. A man in a black SUV had run a red light, and Parker's tiny Honda had been unfortunate enough to be in his path when it happened. Whether it was intentional or not, Nate wasn't sure, but he seemed to be leaning towards the former. He passed Hardison a picture from the intersection camera; a favor from one of his friends in the local police department. It was blurry, but the techie told the others that it would be easy to clean up once he got it onto his computer.

For now, though, they waited.

The next two hours were spent alternating between sitting and pacing as Alec tried to distract himself from the thoughts running rampant through his head.

It was all just so surreal: the call, the drive, the hospital. When he looked back on the last couple of days, everything had seemed so normal (or at least as normal as things could be with a group of crime-fighting thieves). They'd wrapped up a con on Thursday, on Friday they'd had a Marvel marathon, and today they'd spent the afternoon watching football while Sophie had tried to convince Parker to go shopping with her. She'd spent the rest of the evening angry with them for giving up her hiding spot to Sophie when asked.

("Narks," she accused.

"I ain't no rat," Eliot denied.)

It was all so…ridiculous, he thought, and a hysterical laugh bubbled forth from his lips. This was wrong—Parker wasn't supposed go out like this.

She'd once confided in him that she wanted to die the same way she lived; on a zipline (it wouldn't be her fault, though, "because I'm just too good," she'd told him matter-of-factly). But Parker couldn't die from a car accident. It was just…too ordinary, too simple an end for her.

Sophie's hand on his shoulder stilled him mid-pace, and he realized then that he'd been speaking aloud. For how long, he wasn't sure, but they'd definitely heard the last part, he knew from Eliot's uncomfortable expression, Nate's stiff posture, and Sophie's sympathetic gaze ("Oh, Hardison," her warm eyes said).

"Right?" he wondered, searching for confirmation, looking round at them.

"Right," he told himself softly, when his only answer was a tense silence. Because, considering the lives they led, Hardison couldn't even begin to imagine any of them—especially Parker—going out with anything short of a bang. And even then, he suspected it would take an entire army, the whole of the Chicago Police Department, and possibly a Starenko security system before that would happen.

These were the things that Alec tried to keep in mind as the on-call surgeon stepped through the double doors, asking about Alice White's family.

The End

Notes: I was really torn when I was trying to figure out how to end this story. In one scenario, I dragged it out, but Hardison became kind of out of character, so I nixed the ending idea. In another scenario, the story somehow turned into a Nate/Parker, and as great as that would have been, I was really trying to experiment with the whole Hardison/Parker thing (because, though I enjoy reading it, I've never actually written it before), so I deleted that ending as well.

So, before I lost my inspiration for the fic (as I tend to do with oneshots), I decided to cut it off. I know, it's a nightmare ending for readers, but it seemed appropriate.

I don't remember where the idea for this story came from, but I enjoyed writing it, and I'm considering writing a sequel; y'know, closure or somethinglikethat.