Disclaimer: I'm not allowed to keep fish, let alone three grown men and two women. I'd probably kill them anyway, if my fic-writing history is anything to go by.

For Lulubelle, who is a total sucker for Eliot and Hardison interacting like brothers, with a dash of Parker being her buckets-of-crazy self. She gets bonus points for both inspiring and betaing this. YOU GO, GIRL.


He said he was fine. He repeated it over and over any time they asked, and it was hard not to believe him when he growled it like it was a threat and not an affirmation of his health.

And, really, when was Eliot NOT fine? Sure he took hits and they looked bad, but he was their hitter. It was kind of in his job description to deal out hits—and to take them. And he did his job very well.

Except when the person hitting him had a knife clutched in their fist. Not that he'd disclosed this information. Oh no. There was a job to be finished. They were in the homestretch, but you didn't stop running until the cameras flashed at the finish line.

And to be fair, it hadn't been obvious a knife was involved. At least not until he swayed on his feet and with a softly uttered, "Dammit!" toppled over like a bag of potatoes.

Hardison was right next to him and he'd like to say that it was his quick reflexes that saved Eliot from hitting the ground. It wasn't. He was just in the way of Eliot's fall.

His reflexes were pretty good though, allowing him to get an arm wrapped around the other man's chest and snugged under his arms. It was the weight differential and muscle tone—or comparative lack thereof—that sent them both to the cold cement.

"Shit. Shit! Nate! Eliot's down!"

"What?" came back over the radio.

"Not cool, man. Not cool. How am I supposed to drag your ass out of here? You eat your Wheaties, dude. I eat Froot Loops for breakfast."

"Hardison, say again?"

"Eliot is down. He just dropped like— Aw hell no," he added when he found the tacky seeping wound under Eliot's ribs on the left side.

He stared at his hand, then looked at the slack features of his teammate. "Damn, boy. Why didn't you say something? We all runnin' and shit."

"Hardison, what is going on?" Nate asked, half concerned, half annoyed because he wasn't getting anything useful.

"Eliot's been stabbed. I don't know when. But he's bleeding pretty bad— I mean he has to be to be unconscious, you know?"

"Dammit. Okay. Stay there. Parker?"

"Already on my way." The sound of a horn honking was followed by, "OUT OF MY WAY, ASSHOLE!" then a completely calm, "Is he still breathing?"

Hardison checked just to be sure, then checked his pulse because it made sense, right? "Yeah. He's breathing and he's got a pulse. It's not a good one, mind you, but it's there."

"YOU WANNA PLAY CHICKEN WITH ME? BRING IT!"

Hardison looked up. "You better not be playing chicken in my van."

"Don't worry. I won."

The sound of a revving engine filled the parking garage and a squeal of tires preceded the arrival of Parker.

Hardison looked skyward for patience, but just started levering himself out from under the downed hitter as Parker jumped from the van and ran to open the back doors.

They loaded him up with a minimum of muscle strain—though if he had to do that again, Hardison was pretty sure he was gonna end up with a hernia—and then Hardison stepped between Parker and the driver's door.

"Nuh uh. I'm driving. You can play nurse."

Parker narrowed her eyes briefly, then said, "Fine," in a way that suggested Hardison was going to find all of his orange soda poured into his tub—again—when he got home.

If it meant his van survived, though, he'd take it. Orange soda was cheaper and, you know, tasty and stuff, but still just a drink. A man's van was his heart. His soul. He wasn't gonna risk his soul, dammit.

They climbed in and Hardison headed for the exit. "We're heading to the hospital."

"All right. Sophie and I will meet you there."

Hardison nodded and turned onto the street. "Roger that."

A groan from the back was followed almost immediately by Parker's announcement of, "Eliot's waking up."

"What happened?" a muzzy Eliot asked.

"You passed out on me, man," Hardison shot back before Nate or anyone else could pop in.

"No, I was just a little dizzy," Eliot said.

Parker snorted and Hardison shook his head. "Nuh uh. No way, man. You were out. All damsel in distress with the vapors or somethin'. Do I look like Rhett Butler to you? No. I do not. You gotta tell me when you're gonna faint on me next time. That was not cool. Not cool. I almost didn't catch you, you know."

"I didn't faint," Eliot growled.

"Oh you fainted. Like a fangirl at a Justin Bieber concert. It was— There was definite fainting going on."

"I didn't faint!" Eliot snapped.

"Discuss it later," Nate interjected. "Whether you fainted or not, you're going to the hospital."

"Nate—"

"And next time you need to tell me when you're hurt. I need to know what's going on if I'm going to keep track of everything and make changes to the plan."

"I didn't faint," Eliot grumbled.

"Eliot."

More grumbling followed, but that was Nate's 'don't argue with me or else' voice and even the mighty Eliot Spencer would relent under it. "Fine. Whatever."

"Thank you. How far away are you, Hardison?"

"Five minutes, depending on traffic."

"See you in five, then."

He blew out a breath and shook his head. One thing you could say about his chosen profession: It was never boring.


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