Title: What We Don't Say
Genre: Hurt/comfort, Family
Word Count: ~4,800
Pairings: Eliot/Parker friendship
Summary: Written for hannasus for the leverageland Halloween gift giving. Parker doesn't like vegetables, Eliot thinks that's not a very good life decision. A war of wills begins and not everyone will escape unscathed.
Author's Note: As always, a huge thanks to rusting_roses for the beta. It's been awhile since I've done this and I'm almost a bit surprised I remembered how to do all the formatting...anyways, dusting off the saddle and getting back to writing fic again!
What We Don't Say
Parker disliked a lot of things. Eliot had come to learn this during his tenure at Leverage, Inc.
She disliked the cold. He'd learned to keep a spare blanket in the back of Hardison's truck during the winter months if a con required her to hang off the side of a building or perch on a roof or otherwise endure the extreme conditions that a New England winter liked to dole out.
She scrunched up her nose at the mere mention of the word "horse." He wasn't totally squared away on where that particular phobia came from beyond having discovering it had something to do with a horse killing a clown. He considered himself pretty adept in Parker-lingo these days, but even he had no idea what the exact story was behind that one and part of him was still too scared to ask.
Eliot could put up with a lot of her eccentricities. It was part of what made Parker, well, Parker.
There was one that he just couldn't put up with though, and that was her hatred of vegetables. Give the girl a piñata and she'd be happy as a clam. Put a plate of broccoli in front of her and she was liable to snap at you like one.
Maybe it was by virtue of his southern upbringing. Hospitality was a key tenet of any real household and as his mother had once put it, "You feed your guests real food. If you were going to feed them slop you may as well forgo offering them the guestroom and put them up in the barn with the animals instead."
Real food meant healthy food in Eliot's mind. Your body was a temple. You treated it well and took care of it and prepared it for any rigorous stress you were going to put it through. He worshiped at that alter every morning by running the streets of Boston, going at his punching bag, and finishing it all with a well-balanced breakfast.
He could watch Hardison throw back a two liter of orange soda and pair it with some gummy frogs and not bat an eye. He could watch Nate drink himself into a stupor and prevent himself from grumbling about it. It was different for them, though. Their contribution to the team lay in their intelligence. Hardison's skill lay in being able to make technology dance for him as puppets on a string, while Nate worked behind the scenes moving them all about like chess pieces on a board.
He and Parker, though, they relied on their bodies. Parker conditioned her body to scale walls and contort into the most impossible of forms to climb through vents. For that, he really thought she should treat her body with a little more respect too.
It all came back to the vegetables. She'd muttered something about him being a heathen when he'd introduced her to the concept of eating from all the categories of the food pyramid. It had taken some persuasion, but she'd gone along with everything begrudgingly - except the vegetables. You could lead Parker to the dinner table laden with healthy and delicious foods, but you couldn't make her eat. He'd tried taking her to a Farmer's Market to let her pick out whatever caught her eye, he'd had cooked her fresh vegetables from their garden, but on this, she was resolute. Popcorn was okay (and no, in his book that didn't count as a vegetable), everything else was refused.
The last time he had cooked them dinner and dished some corn onto her plate on reflex while putting it on her own, he'd woken up the next morning to a pair of hedge clippers on the nightstand next to his bed with a few decapitated flowers strewn about. There were a number of things wrong with that, starting with the fact that Parker had snuck in and out without waking him, and ending with the clear warning the dead flowers had left. Try again, and the garden he had so painstakingly installed on Nate's roof would be next.
Despite the threat, Eliot knew she wouldn't do it; at least he didn't think so. After all, she had her own little corner of the garden where she was growing sunflowers. The girl treated those plants like pets, visiting them after every team meeting and cooing to them as if they could understand her numerous compliments . Of course, also weighing into his decision was the fact that he had found the receipt for the florist in his trash can. Darn girl didn't even have it in her to cut the flowers herself.
Still, that had been the last attempt. He figured it was best to let things cool off for awhile.
Eliot had given it two weeks. It was Monday, another team dinner, and he just hadn't been able to resist giving it another go. So he sat there, part of his attention on the conversation that Sophie and Nate were conducting between bites of food, the majority of his focus on Parker where she sat across from him.
The only food she seemed to really get excited about was junk food or anything that had about three times as much sugar as it should. What he was seeing now was a bit uncharacteristic by that standard; she was actually shoveling food into her mouth. Could be that she had just gone rappelling; he'd seen her hang up her harness with her coat when she'd come in earlier.
Rather pleased with himself, he felt the corner of his lip curl upward into a small smirk. He might just win this ongoing war of wills afterward.
Satisfied, he leaned back in his chair, cracking his back, before picking up his own fork and digging in.
It was a few minutes later as Hardison was chattering on about the latest episode of one those shows he loved when Eliot noticed something was wrong. Parker had abandoned the food, pushing her plate forward and away.
Sophie asked if Eliot's cooking had really been that bad. She muttered something about his pasta being a gift from the gods. Usually he'd bask in such comments, but not now, not when Parker was acting so strangely.
Parker was sitting up rigidly straight, raising one hand to her throat as if to massage it.
"Parker, you okay?" he asked.
She opened her mouth to speak and nothing came out but a harsh wheezing noise. Her chest was rising and falling rapidly as she gasped for air. She didn't have enough breath to say anything , but she was still able to mouthed it . One word. His breath caught in his throat. Help.
Conversation died as everyone's attention focused on the distressed thief, stunned for a precious moment into silence.
"Is she choking?" Hardison asked as he moved over to help, eyes wide with barely restrained panic. "I can do the Heimlich." He made the classic motion of the technique against his own chest, as though they would be confused to what he was referring.
Eliot clambered his feet, ignoring the fact that he'd knocked the chair over backwards as he did so. He was mentally cataloguing what had gone into the dish. Nothing struck him as an overt choking hazard.
She was slumping forward, dizzy from the lack of air.
As he rounded the table, moving calmly but swiftly to make sure that the others didn't begin panicking themselves and complicating this entire mess, he passed Hardison and pulled her chair back from the table, turning it toward him. "Parker?" he asked again, making sure his voice was loud and clear, tilting her chin up to get a better look at her.
He had been about to take Hardison's recommendation and perform the Heimlich. It had been the most likely solution he could think of. Then he took in her flushed complexion, the panicked look in her eyes.
"Shit," he muttered under his breath. Then, once again speaking in that collected and confident tone, "Nate, I need my first aid kit, the full one we keep under the bar downstairs." He spared the man a glance from where he and Sophie had moved off to the side to give him room to work.
The man gave a terse nod and was off toward the stairs at a run. As Parker started to list to the side, eyelids drooping, he caught her before she could fall out of the chair. He lowered her to the ground and rolled her onto her back.
It was moments like this that he hated. Moments where one of his own was in trouble and he couldn't do a damn thing but sit there on his heels and wait. She raised a hand toward her throat; he caught it, squeezing it softly and lowering it down to her side. "Hang in there, Parker, we got you."
Her wheezing grated on his ears. He gritted his teeth and steeled himself.
There were boots on the stairs and Nate was depositing the first aid kit next to him a second later. He then backed off toward Sophie, taking her hand in his own as they watched tensely.
"What's wrong with her?" Nate asked.
"She's having an anaphylactic reaction to something," the hitter responded, tearing his gaze away from her just long enough to pop open the kit and start digging through its contents. The organization and care he had packed everything into the kit were forgotten as he tore through it looking for the EpiPen that he'd stashed in there more as a second thought; on the off chance it would be useful but without any real thought that it would be needed .
He gave a mental sigh of relief as his hand closed around the familiar object. He popped the cap off with his thumb and turned back to Parker. "Help me turn her on her side."
Hardison had moved across to kneel on Parker's other side at some point, but Eliot had been too distracted to know just when. He nodded, helping roll the thief over. She didn't weigh much; between the two of them it wasn't difficult. She was so still, so lifeless, dead weight. That bothered him more than he cared to admit, he thought, trying to keep his fingers steady.
Eliot wasn't afraid of many things. He could face bullets and armed thugs no problem. This, on the other hand, was his worst nightmare.
He plunged the tip of the EpiPen into Parker's thigh. She jerked slightly as he depressed the plunger and counted the seconds under his breath. Fifteen beats later he pulled it out and rolled it under the table where he wouldn't have to worry about anyone getting caught on the exposed needle for the moment.
He crouched down low over her, listening to her breathing with a critical ear. The wheezing was already improving and her chest wasn't rising and falling so rapidly.
He turned to where the rest of the team stood, anxiety and stress painted in their faces for Parker. Eliot spared a moment to be grateful for the fact thatthey had responded to the situation with as much grace and serenity as possible. He of all people knew that people tended to react poorly when things they weren't accustomed to happened; while for the Leverage team this meant a wholly different set of factors than the average person, the point still stood. "She'll be okay."
"What was that?" Sophie asked, breaking the silence, the shock still evident in her voice. The whole episode couldn't have taken more than a few minutes. In that short span they'd gone from a communal meal to widespread panic.
"Anaphylactic shock," Eliot responded as he took Parker's slim wrist in his calloused hand, practice allowing him to find the pulse point quickly. "I don't know what she was reacting too, some sort of allergy, I'd assume . The EpiPen is starting to reverse it. She'll be okay," he repeated, as much to reinforce the notion to himself as well as his teammates.
He turned his gaze to Nate. "Can you call for an ambulance?"
The man gave him a quizzical gaze in response. "I thought you just said she was going to be fine? " In a rare moment of doubt, Nate turned what normally would have been a statement into a question, belying his own neutral façade.
"She should be. In rare instances people can have a biphasic attack with a second episode following the first. It's a good idea to get her checked out just in case."
As if someone had flicked a switch Parker became animated then, shaking her head as if to protest the notion. She was like him in that. Hurt, sick, didn't matter. She preferred to hide away for a weekend and recuperate in private.
Nate's gaze flickered back and forth between the two of them, as if considering whose advice he was going to heed. Eliot knew he had distaste for hospitals, with good reason too. There were times when it couldn't be avoided, though.
"Nate, call for an ambulance," Eliot reiterated. "She almost suffocated. This is not something we're treating at home." What he very carefully didn't say was that he wasn't qualified to treat this at home as he was for the number of contusions, scrapes and bruises that they regularly patched up. If he had been, he wouldn't have asked for Nate to ask for help.
The man nodded stiffly as the words sunk in, mouth tightening. He slipped the phone from his pocket and stepped into the kitchen to place the call.
He glanced down at Parker again. Her eyes were still wandering around the room unfocused. Oxygen deprivation, even short term, tended to have that effect. "You doing okay, girl?"
She moaned softly, the first noise she had made since this whole thing had started, and it was only by virtue of Eliot's famously steady nerves that she didn't jump. She rolled onto her side and made to curl up, muscles clenching beneath Eliot's hands. It was instinctual. Reason was usually the first thing to jump out the window with a situation like this and the body went on autopilot. In past times, with threat of predators, it made a person a smaller target. For a situation like this, however, it was completely wrong.
"Stay with me Parker," he said, rolling her back onto her back gently. He kept his voice soothing and low, making it easy for Parker to latch onto. People often compared it to speaking with a wounded animal, but they weren't wrong. When in pain or confused, it was the hindbrain that usually responded first, and it was that hindbrain that needed to be calmed. "On your back makes it easier to breathe. Trust me."
There were sirens in the distance.
He ran a hand through her hair, noticing it was matted with sweat. He was surprised to see that she actually leaned into it, as if taking comfort from his touch. "You'll be okay."
She hated this. Hated it with a bitter passion that few things could match, Parker thought as she pulled at a loose thread on the edge of her sheet. She hated hospitals and being strung out on drugs and the antiseptic smell that made her want to liberally douse the room in air freshener – which in and of itself should say something because she hated the smell of air freshener.
She snorted through her nose out of frustration more than anything else. At least she was alone for once. They'd put her in with a roommate for the first few hours since the hospital was over capacity for patients. The man had been out light a lamp, strung out his own drugs or perhaps actually able to sleep in this place. The snoring had put her even more on edge than she was already, grating against raw nerves. Nate and Eliot had been in the room at the moment when her threshold had been reached. She told them she wasn't spending another moment in this damnable room with that tractor going next door.
Nate's lip had curved up at the comparison, but it didn't rouse her out of her foul mood. In a fit of pique, she told them that she was "Getting a new room or going home, their choice."
Nate and Eliot weren't too good at sweet talking people, and nurses seemed pretty immune to any sort of charm. Part of her wondered whether they ever smiled. The one that kept popping in and out of her room like a cuckoo clock, precisely every thirty minutes, seemed to live under a permanent storm cloud. It had been Sophie who had saved her sanity, performing miracles as only she was capable of doing. Parker had gotten moved up to a private room within the hour.
She wanted to go home. Her ribs hurt and her limbs felt like lead. She wanted to just sleep off whatever drugs they'd pumped her full of but apparently that wasn't possible either since her best efforts for napping simply left her tossing and turning. There was a nervous energy she just couldn't shake.
She swung her legs over the side of the bed. At least they had given her scrubs instead of one of those flimsy scratchy gowns. She went to pull at the IV in her arm or the wires attached to her chest. They made her felt naked and exposed, monitoring her heart rate and pumping god knows what into her system.
"You shouldn't do that, you know," Eliot said from where he was leaning against the doorway, one hand hanging casually in the front pocket of his jeans. "Your nurse isn't going to be thrilled if she has to set those up again."
She had almost gotten to the end of the hallway last time. She had almost been sorry for it too, when she'd seen the panicked look on everyone's faces when the heart monitor had started wailing an alarm.
But only almost.
She growled, crossing her arms across her chest as best she could without tangling the IV line. Her gaze followed Eliot as he plopped down in the chair next to her bed. "I've been here long enough," she retorted.
"Six hour minimum, Parker. They need to make sure that you aren't going to relapse."
"I'm not going to relapse," she argued.
He smirked. "You normally don't get to decide those things. It just happens."
"I know that. It happened to me, remember? We were eating dinner and the next second I was on the ground and my throat was seizing up…" Her breath quickened as the memory rose in her mind. The panic, the lack of control.
"Calm down, Parker. Last thing we need is for you to start having trouble breathing again. They just took you off the oxygen an hour ago." He suggested, leaning forward and putting a hand on her arm.
She pulled it away from his grasp. "What did you feed me anyways? I've eaten that dish before with no problems!" It was only a tangentially related sentiment, but it was enough for the words to slip out of her mouth without involving her brain in the process. The damn drugs did that, too, had her mind running so fast she was practically tripping over the thoughts.
A wounded look crossed over his face before he smoothed it away. "It was pasta…I cooked it the same as always. I added a bit of hot peppers, just to spice it up a bit, but that shouldn't have done this."
"You poisoned me!" she snapped. "I told you I didn't like vegetables and look what you did," she finished in a dangerous tone.
A confused expression crossed his face. "What-" He stopped mid sentence, chewing over her statement for a moment. "Parker," he growled in an equally low tone, sounding supremely irritated. "Are you meaning to say that the reason you don't eat them is because you are allergic?"
She glared at him. "You thought I was just being picky? I'm always willing to try what you cook at least once!" She pulled her feet up onto the bed, rolling over and facing the wall away from him. Stupid Eliot and his stupid yummy pasta and his stupid un-yummy vegetables. He had done this to her. It was all his fault. His fault for the reaction and dosing her with so much adrenalin that her heart was beating like it was going out of style and hard that she expected it to crack open her chest any moment.
Though she wasn't facing the door, she heard the clicking of shoes against the tile floor. "I heard shouting from the hallway. Everything ok in here?" a new voice asked. It was Sophie. Always the peace maker.
Neither of them responded for a moment.
Eliot gave in before Parker did. She just wanted to be left alone and curled herself up in a tighter ball. "She's allergic to vegetables. Nightshade family I'm guessing, if it was the hot peppers that caused this whole mess," he responded in a frustrated tone.
"I was managing it fine," Parker cut in, still focusing on an off-colored stain on the wall. It looked a little like a dinosaur. Or possibly a rabbit. Maybe the rabbit was eating the dinosaur. "I know what not to eat, I'm not some kid who's going to stick anything and everything in my mouth." She threw out the word kid like an insult.
"You don't withhold crucial information like that Parker! What if we hadn't had epinephrine on hand, huh? You could have died." There was fury in Eliot's voice, real and genuine fury. Eliot didn't often get mad, didn't often match her petulant bouts of temper with one of his own, but this was looking to be a shouting match. Except…except…
"I didn't, though." It was a weak argument, and she knew it. All she had to do was think about Eliot keeping something crucial from her that could kill him and her own anger at the situation would start eating at her. No matter how hard she tried to think about other things, that sentiment kept coming back. She banished it to the furthest corner of her mind and it would come back like a boomerang.
His next response was softer and came in a voice that was wrecked. "I could've killed you." It was the absolute terror in his voice that broke her resolve. The anger melted away like a receding tide that uncoiled all of her tense muscles. She sighed, taking a deep breath before she started coughing again. Rolling over, she faced him, knowing she had to tell him the truth.
Knowing it didn't make it easier to say, though, and after a moment of heavy silence, the words escaped her in a rush. "Do you know what it's like to just be eating one day and have everything seize up like a stone lodged in your throat? Or to have to take a handful of vitamins every morning just to supplement the foods I can't eat? It sucks. I hate it. I don't like to dwell on it,." she finished, a bitter taste in her mouth.
"Do you want to know how terrifying it was to watch it?" Sophie asked in a mild tone that did nothing to disguise the steel and conviction in her voice. Parker flinched back at the words, not because of their harshness, but because Sophie's voice was as strained as Eliot's had been earlier. "Because if it weren't for Eliot, I don't know what we would've done Parker. He was the only one of us not paralyzed when you went down."
Parker worked to focus her gaze, to slow it down and really look at Eliot for the first time since this whole thing started. There were circles under his eyes. His normally immaculate hair was straying every which direction as if he had spent the night running his hand through it over and over.
Sophie continued without pause, hammering the words home. "Seems to me there was a communication problem here. Parker, it wasn't smart to withhold that knowledge, and Eliot, it was not your most brilliant idea to try sneaking the vegetables without Parker knowing."
And that was that. Sophie, as ever, had delivered her expectations on their behavior without fuss or unnecessary irritation. As her friends, as her family, she simply expected them to heed her common sense as they should have done from the beginning. Eliot's staunch posture melted a bit as if the fight had gone out of him too. He looked as exhausted as Parker felt, but he also looked like there was as much warmth growing in his chest as there was in hers. "So where do we go from here?" Parker finally asked.
Sophie smiled at the both of them, her expression bringing light into the dreary hospital room. "We go home, because the physician just cleared you."
Home didn't mean Parker's place, apparently. There were all sorts of hidden rules of this family thing that no one had told her about. Like after the six hours of being under observation at the hospital she was going to be subjected to another twenty-four hours of the same treatment by her teammates.
Despite her best efforts to the contrary, they were coddling her like mother hens. She'd taken up a position on her favorite couch almost as soon as she'd gotten through the door, but no one had yet dared to take a spot beside her. They must really be concerned since they let her have the whole thing to herself. Usually she shared the couch with at least Hardison, her curled up and laying down on two cushions and him set up with his laptop on the last. When she'd pulled up her feet to let him join her, he'd smiled politely at the gesture and dropped down to sit on the floor, leaning back against her calf. Furthermore, it was technically Nate's night to pick a movie; Parker had been last in the rotation but he'd ceded that option to her too.
Eliot had apparently had enough cooking for one night, a first for the hitter. Part of her was a little bit worried about this being a sign of the impending apocalypse, but despite stealing a glance out the window every few minutes it hadn't started raining down fire just yet so she figured they were good for the time being.
It seemed like a normal night by any standard. The movie droned in the background while Hardison bemoaned the CIA's new security measures for their database that he hadn't quite figured out how to crack. Sophie appeared to be falling asleep as she rested her head on Nate's shoulder, occasionally jerking her head up when she caught herself falling forward. Eliot had stepped out to answer the door and would hopefully return momentarily with the pizza. Parker took a moment to just soak it all in.
Parker didn't like a lot of things. She didn't like horses or the funny looks she sometimes got from her teammates, like when Eliot had asked if there was anything else she'd neglected to tell them and she responded that she preferred to wear mismatched socks.
She didn't like change, either, and she'd been informed that there would be changes. Eliot had already told them that at least one of them needed to be carrying an EpiPen when they were on a con in addition to stocking them in all of their vehicles. She thought it would change the way they looked at her too. Her foster parents had done that, treating her like this fragile thing out of fear that she might break; the first time she'd had a reaction. So far, though, that hadn't come to pass. Nate had already gone back to jabbering about where he would need her stationed on their next con.
A pizza box fell into her lap, disrupting her thoughts. "Thin crust with pineapple and garlic, just like you like it," Eliot said from behind her.
She twisted around to see him shake his head. "I still don't know how you eat that stuff…"
"It's good!" she responded as she snuck a hand into the box to steal a slice.
Changes were something she didn't like. They had the potential upset the fragile balance she'd attained in her life for the first time. She wasn't running, wasn't stealing her next meal. She had a family and a home and sunflower named Sylvia. Parker was slowly coming to realize, however, as Eliot casually batted her feet out of the way and dropped onto the far edge of the couch with his own slice of pizza in hand, that for every change, there was a constant to balance the scale, and that maybe, just maybe, it would all be alright.