A/N – So I'm not entirely sure how this happened. But my brain decided that Hardison can't be happy ALL the time. Even he has his moments of weakness. And so, we get this. But fear not, fluff lovers, I can never stay angsty too long.
Hardison wakes suddenly, in the pitch darkness, and wonders for a moment where he is. His neck is stiff, his legs are cramped, and as he notices when he tries to stand, his left foot is still decidedly asleep. Grumbling slightly, he shakes the offending foot until the tingles recede, and finally stands to stretch.
It's Nate's place, he groggily registers as his feet automatically move him towards the kitchen area. He tries to remember exactly how he ended up asleep on Nate's couch, but everything is still blurred and slightly fuzzy. He notes the clock says it's a little past 5AM. Far too early to be awake.
This latest job had run them all ragged, chasing down clues for days without rest, all to bring down a corrupt CEO with ties to Damien Moreau. They had succeeded, but it was a rough case, for all of them.
Hardison leans on the counter, looking out into the darkness of the living room as the details finally click into place. They had been so exhausted, had just sat down for a few minutes to rest their eyes. He supposes they just never made it home. His eyes finally adjust to the darkness and he notices the pale glow of Parker's hair in the moonlight, as she's curled up beneath the window. He shakes his head fondly at the sleeping girl. Not understanding, as usual, but not questioning either.
His gaze drifts back to the couch he woke up, noticing Sophie tucked into the other half, wrapped up effectively in a afghan Hardison has never seen before. Walking over to the couch, he gently moves Sophie's legs so that she's stretched out more comfortably, before securing the blanket around her again.
He turns to survey the rest of the room, looking for his other team members, but they aren't there. He supposes Nate's gone to sleep in his own bed. As for Eliot, Hardison rolls his eyes and imagines Eliot is off weeding his garden or darting into phone booths to change his clothes and fight crime. It really could go either way with him. Regardless, Hardison isn't too concerned with Mr. 'I only sleep ninety minutes a day.' Even if he is curious.
Realizing sleep isn't returning anytime soon, Hardison wavers between going home or staying until the rest of the team wake up. He pulls up a stool at the kitchen counter and thinks.
And that's when the trouble starts. If you ask any one of them, they'd say Hardison was the one who valued the team the most. He is the heart of them, simply put. His team is his family, the only constant in his life beyond technology. And as awesome as he is, pretty awesome if he does say so himself, technology changes, sometimes too fast even for him.
As much as he loves his team, his crazy ramshackle family, there are times like this one now, where he doubts. He's always the upbeat one, the grinning one, the one who tries to make everyone happy. Because they're worth it. And most days, he feels like it's enough.
Hardison sighs into the silence, willing the thoughts to just go away. The stillness of the night unnerves him. The problem is, he muses, he's not actually stupid. He knows that what they all have is precarious, at best. He knows that something could happen and they could be forced to split up again, and chances are they wouldn't come back together.
He thinks about Nate and his addictions; alcohol, control, it was all the same. The man's goddamn fearlessness could get them all killed, and yet they stay. Because he needs them.
He thinks about Eliot and the strange relationship they've developed over the past two years. Something between friends and brothers, though the hitter would never admit it. But Hardison can see it every time their lives are on the line, he can see the concern in Eliot's eyes, the calm control that comes into his voice when he's the only one who can get them out of it. It's that calm that scares Hardison the most, because it reminds him of exactly what Eliot is capable of when he needs to be. The man he knows would die to protect them, but he knows that Eliot is not the same man as he was before he met them. And he knows that other man, the one who only knows how to survive, is still buried under his growling demeanor and multitude of flannel shirts. And that scares him when he allows himself to think about it, on mornings such as this.
Sophie shuffles in her sleep and Hardison turns to watch her briefly before focusing back on the darkness. Sophie. He shouldn't trust her as much as he does, shouldn't feel so protective of her, shouldn't seek her approval like she was his mother, and yet. He tried once, he laughs quietly to himself, tried to hate her. For betraying them, for nearly getting them killed, for making them blow up the office. But mostly, for leaving them broken. He tried, but he couldn't do it. Sophie may be emotional and stubborn and the worst possibly surrogate mother he could have, but she's theirs damn it, and he never wants to lose her again.
Finally, his gaze and thoughts drift to Parker, still curled up in the moonlight. God, Parker. She's the only one who stalls his mind and leaves him speechless. She's infuriating and intoxicating all at once, and he almost can't stand it. He's a patient man, and he can wait forever for her to get over her demons or make up her mind, or sort out whatever it is that stops her from loving him back.
And he understands. He knows how she feels. He got lucky, growing up with Nana, having a somewhat stable life, for a foster kid. And he knows that Parker never got that. Never had someone to tuck her in and say goodnight. Didn't have anyone to tell her bedtime stories and rub her back until she fell asleep. He knows that she's still broken inside, in ways that only she can fix, but God, he wants to help. He wants to scoop her up and never let her go and promise her that everything will be ok, and they'll live happily ever after.
But he's not stupid.
Oh, he knows they could be happy together, knows he loves her more than he'll ever love anyone else, and even knows that she loves him, in her way. But he also knows that sometimes, it's not enough. And that's the part that worries him. One day she could walk right up to him and tell him she loves him, and it would be the happiest moment of his life, but there would always be that part of him just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The thoughts are making his head hurt, but it seems he can't will them gone until they've had their say. Rubbing his eyes, Hardison looks back to Parker.
She makes him want more than he's ever wanted before, in every possibly way. He wants to kiss her senseless and have it mean something more than a con. He wants to lay her down and show her how damn beautiful she is, every inch of her. He wants to hold her hand as they walk down the street, wants to run his fingers through her hair, wants to give her his coat when she's cold. A grin spreads across his face involuntarily as he thinks, but he doesn't fight it. He wants to marry her and raise babies with her and grow old with her, and die before her, because he can't stand the thought of a world where she isn't there.
His smile fades as the dark thoughts creep into his head once more. There's a part of him, he knows, that will always be that little lost boy, before Nana found him. The boy who doesn't understand why he doesn't have parents, or siblings, or anyone that loves him. The fear that everything could just disappear, and he'd be all alone again, surges to the surface. He wills it to go away, again.
It's these moments of uncertainty that haunt him. He hates the silence for this, hates the doubt it puts in his mind. Hates that he can't make it go away completely, hates that he's the happiest he's ever been and yet it persists, making him ache. He sighs again, cursing the silence.
He looks up and Parker is there, standing in front of him. He hadn't even heard her move.
She smiles at him, as the room turns orange around them, filling the darkness.
He smiles back and feels the depressing thoughts quell. Not gone, but softer now, almost unnoticeable.
Parker moves to the fridge silently, pulling out two sodas and handing one to Hardison. She leans against the counter, next to him, and together they sip their drinks and watch the world brighten around them.