True to Eliot's estimation he was well back on his feet within a week of his surgery. Only a slight limp marked his injury, and he kept an elastic athletic brace strapped around the knee just to make sure it stayed stable, but unless you knew him really well and had studied the way he normally moved then you would have no idea.
In short, the team noticed he was still nursing the limb, but only Parker realized when he was pushing it too far and began to favor it. The Spendler's were scheduled to move out of their apartment by months end. Giving the 'couple' two weeks longer to pack and move on to their respective lives. Every day of those two weeks was torture and joy mixed for the both of them. Parker often remarked on how well he was doing as every day Eliot proved himself a bit more capable in some small way.
"Pretty soon Sparky you won't need me at all."
She smiled to him one morning as she buttoned his shirt over the hard muscles of his chest. He nodded, she was right pretty soon he wouldn't need her to take care of him. But if she thought he didn't still want her she was even crazier than he had ever believed. He tried to prove it to her every night, with every kiss, every touch he tried to tell her that he was not getting over her the same way he was healing from his wounds. But neither of them were very good at talking about what they felt, or even really feeling what they felt so the all important words just remained unsaid.
With only two days to go Parker found herself awake in the middle of the night, staring down at Eliot while he slept at her side and formulating a desperate plan. The next day just after lunch Sophie arrived to keep Eliot company while Parker left to take care of some business. To say the least Eliot was surprised, and he argued that he did not need a babysitter anymore. But Parker insisted, because the truth was she needed to be certain that he would be kept occupied for the few hours she would be gone.
By the time she finished what she needed to do she would arrive at the apartment to find Sophie and Nate all sitting in the living room listening to Eliot rant about the events of the day. Seems there had been a fire in Eliot's old apartment. Bad wiring in the kitchen, and the place was a mess of fire and water damage. The fire department had been called quickly and only minimal damage had been done to the apartment below him. But his place wouldn't be ready in two days that was for certain. Nate was offering him the couch at his place, but with him and Sophie already there it would be a little crowded and a lot uncomfortable. He didn't know if he could handle listening to Hardison at the keyboard all night talking to his cow friends or elf friends or whoever played that game he liked on the computer so much. And honestly, with everything that had happened he didn't think he and Alec were a good idea for roommates.
Parker crossed the living room to drop a bag of groceries in the kitchen. She'd stopped at the farm market on her way back and picked them up some fresh produce, including those fancy tomatoes he liked so much and a bag of assorted apples that she had chosen primarily by the color of them. She liked the deep reds and bright greens and knew which ones were sweet and which ones tart, but hadn't bothered to remember their names. She returned to the living room, eating one of them, a yellow one and perched at the end of the couch next to Nate, looking over to Eliot as he finished describing all that he had lost in the fire. Mostly he was upset about his books, he didn't have a lot of keepsakes, but some of the volumes had been rare, or held some degree of sentimental value to him. Everything else could be easily replaced.
"That's horrible." She piped in when he paused, and then after listening more she made a suggestion. "Why don't I call the land lord here? You said it before you like the apartment, and most of your clothes are already here. It would at least be a good place to stay while you look for something else. I'm sure they wouldn't mind letting us stay."
Sophie caught the us before anyone else did and moved in swiftly to deflect any attention from it before Eliot or Nate paid it much attention. She was already suspecting that Parker's errands might have had something to do with Eliot's homelessness. Leave it to the thief to decide that something as extreme as setting his apartment on fire was easier, better than telling him how she felt.
"That's an excellent idea Parker. Your already established here, comfortable here and the owners aren't expected back for months. It would really be doing them a favor if you stayed, it would be difficult to find another tenant to occupy the place for a partial year."
Eliot was still understandably upset, obviously his very few keepsakes meant a lot to him. Parker sat down beside him and moved to run her fingers through his hair but he was way too pissed off to be coddled like a child over his loss. It wasn't like he was in pain and accepting the comfort of her touch, this was entirely different. He pulled away from her and waved her hand away with a bulky bandaged hand before getting up and heading to the kitchen for a beer.
Parker was left sitting on the couch with her hands folded in her lap and head hanging. It dawned on her then that she hadn't really thought out the entire plan, she had just gotten an idea in her head and acted on it. All she had needed was his key, a few boxes and some needle nose pliers. It had been easy as pie, except that she hadn't considered how upset Eliot would be, or how she'd give him back his belongings. She looked up to Sophie and sighed, gaze dropping back into her lap as she spoke.
"Now what do I do?"
"Oh Parker, I wish you would have asked me that before you had gone and done anything."
Nate chimed in then, finally catching up to speed on the conversation that the women we having without him.
"Parker, you...you didn't...arson? Why?"
Even though they were all talking in very hushed tones Eliot was hardly far away and he heard the word arson very clearly.
"Arson? You think someone set fire to my place on purpose?"
"Well, yeah. I mean Eliot you have enemies. Another good reason why the two of you should stay here, these alias's are clean. No one will be looking for Ethan and Alice. And that will give us some time to investigate the fire."
Nate, as always, made complete and perfect sense, although it didn't make Eliot feel any better it at least got Parker off the hook for a little while. As far as replacing his treasures and belongings; that was something Parker would have to figure out later.
"Parker, you should go. No matter how clean the identities are, if someone set fire to my place they could track us here and I don't want you in the middle of that."
Eliot stood over Parker, a bottle of Heineken in almost useful hand. He looked down at her like she was a child, or some weak little woman that needed him to protect her and that expression on his face after everything she had done for him just raised a fire in her that was so evident it lit up her big blue eyes with something almost electrical. She shook her head no as she geared up for one of 'those' arguments. Eliot's opinions were not easy to change when he got an idea into his thick stubborn skull.
"No way Sparky. I'm not leaving you here alone if someone is coming after you. You can't exactly fight them off on your own yet."
She spoke matter of factly as she looked up to him and shook her head in the negative. There was no way she would just leave him now to fight his own battles, even if the foes were somewhat imaginary at present. Next time they wouldn't be and they might as well have it out now.
"What are you gonna do, fight them off for me?"
And now he was going to get all condescending with her? Really? He almost laughed at the thought of Parker beating up the bad guys for him. It was real sweet and all and even he would have to admit that she had some skills. She had picked up everything he had ever taught her really damn fast. But hand to hand combat? That was his gig and not hers.
She stood up then and he had to take a step back as she moved forward, each word she spoke was punctuated with a finger pressed right into his chest. And when he stepped back to get away from her poking digit she just stepped in closer.
"Your damn right I will. You think after all the time and work I put into getting you better I'm going to let anyone hurt you again?"
"Parker I appreciate that really, but I can take care of myself."
He grabbed her wrist and wrapped his fingers around it as well as he could, and held it there in between the two of them as the fight took a softer turn.
"I know that. You always could...but you don't have to anymore."
"Yeah I do. The same way I'm supposed to take care of you and Sophie...Nate and Hardison...it's my damn job."
"I am not your damn job!"
So much for softer, she snapped her hand out of his grasp and balled her fists up at her sides in rage.
"Yes, you are Parker..."
"No I'm not you said so yourself...you said I was more than that."
"Parker that's not what I meant. I'm just saying that I'm the one who takes care of others, it's not supposed to be the other way around. I take the hits, so none of you have to. I stand in the way when anything is coming at my team and I stop it. If you need to get out, I give you the window. And that means if I'm in trouble that I can take care of it myself, and I will. You don't need to get involved in my trouble."
Eliot sighed and tried to back track and explain himself, and he could tell that his words were having some effect on her and that he had at least partially said the right thing. He had told her that she was more to him than just part of his job, that what they had was different than what he had shared with other women in his past. And he had meant it, but saying it and knowing just how to act on it were very different things and he was confused as to how to proceed.
"Damn it Eliot I am involved in your trouble."
"No...no your not...you can leave now, you'll be safe..."
He cared about her more than he wanted to admit, even to himself. He knew that what had happened between them would change the way he did his job. That he'd find himself watching out for her on a case more than he did the others. That he'd pause to the sound of her voice over the com. What he hadn't realized was that he had already been doing just that for so long now that it wouldn't be a detriment to the team.
"I can't leave you now. Don't you understand that?"
She closed her eyes and dropped her chin, not defeated but just amazed at how dense a man really could be. Her first real relationship with a man and he was as thick headed as a cement block wall. Sophie had always warned her though. According to the grifter most men were about the same in that respect. God knew Nate was. But Sophie had also told her that there were ones that were worth all the trouble, the very best ones and there was no doubt in Parker's mind that Eliot Spencer was one of them.
"Why not, give me one good reason why the hell not."
"Because I love you."
Eliot stopped there, he didn't have much of anything to say to that. He honestly couldn't remember the last time he had heard those words said to him. And he knew in his heart that Parker meant them in every sense possible and that if he made her walk out that door the crazy little thief would just climb back in through a window.
"And that's why you have to go...because I love you too."
Parker felt a lump rise in her throat, and although it felt the same as the one she got when she had her hands on that fist sized amethyst in Mozambique in 2004, the emotion behind it was slightly different. Because she would have thrown that shiny purple rock in the garbage for Eliot.
"No one is coming after us here Eliot. I'm the one that set fire to your apartment. But I packed all your stuff first and it's in my hangar."
She quickly added in that his possessions were safe, because she figured he'd forgive her for what she had done if he knew that he hadn't really lost anything important.
"Why would you do that? Are you nuts?"
He only realized what he had said after he had said it, talk about a rhetorical question.
"Yeah you keep saying so but I...I didn't want you to leave me. I'm sorry."
"It's okay Parker."
He laughed as he leaned in and pressed a kiss to her forehead and wrapped his clumsy arms around her to hold her close.
Eliot Spencer had no idea what he was getting himself into entirely. But he did know that his life with Parker would never be boring that was for sure.