Nate's eyes narrowed as he watched a strange man talk to Parker at the bar. The tall, dark-haired fellow had approached her when she first entered. The blonde had blown him off, but apparently the guy could not take a hint. They had been a group long enough that he could pick up Parker's subtle nervousness. Nothing showed, she remained stoic and stone-faced, but the fingers on her right hand were beginning to shift a bit more and her eyes had narrowed past their contemplation point.
"Hey, man, what's got Parker wired?" Hardison asked as he sat across from the mastermind.
"She doesn't want the guy talking to her," he answered, hand tightening on his shot glass.
"You gonna break it up?" asked the hacker, peering over his shoulder.
"I can't. We've got a potential client arriving any moment now," he replied, a hint of irritation in his voice. His lips folded as the stranger tried once more to move closer to the thief. "Have you seen Eliot?"
"Yeah, he's upstairs. Said he was going to take advantage of the quiet and watch the game."
"Good," Nate replied shortly. He reached up to flick on his ear bud. "Eliot?"
"I need you to come down to the bar."
He heard a heavy sigh of annoyance, but he also heard movement as their hitter began moving.
"What is it now? The game just started."
"We've got a potential client showing up any moment to talk to Hardison and me, but Parker is being harassed."
This time he could hear a snort and footsteps heading down a flight of stairs.
"Never known Parker to have trouble dealin' with harassment."
"No, maybe not, but whoever this guy is, he's making her nervous."
"But not crazy?" Eliot asked.
"No," Nate replied. "That's part of what's bothering me. He's frightening her, not making her mad."
Before anything else could be said, the back door opened and Eliot walked in. His cold eyes scanned the bar, stopping momentarily on his male teammates before continuing. When his eyes reached Parker, they widened in surprise before narrowing in concern. He too spotted her tells. When her shoulders gave a slight twitch, his face hardened. He stalked forward, sliding around other people like smoke.
Even as he came up behind her, the stranger began to lean towards the blond thief. The man jerked back as he met the furious eyes of the hitter over her shoulder. Eliot reached over and placed his hand on the small of her back. He could feel the light tremors causing her body to vibrate slightly, even though nothing was obvious to the naked eye. She leaned back just a touch, resting on his strength, and her chin came up as she gained confidence from his presence.
"I told you I'm not interested," insisted the blonde, staring the man down.
Before the stranger could answer, Eliot tilted his head, eyes softening as they turned towards her.
"This guy botherin' you, darlin'?"
She sniffed, "He can't seem to get what 'no' means."
"Oh, really?" drawled the hitter, his gaze becoming glacial once more as it shifted back. He could feel the other patrons starting to pay attention to the little confrontation.
"Hey," said the guy, a smarmy smile crossing his face as he lifted his hands in a sign of surrender. "Didn't know she was taken. No harm, no foul, right?"
"Foul enough," Eliot replied. "I got whole sets of ideas on handlin' guys like you."
"I don't understand," the fellow replied, smile going stiff.
"I bet. Woman says 'no'? Means you back the hell off."
The guy snorted, relaxing as he figured he knew the hitter's meaning. A smirk slid across his features, and he ran his eyes over the slender blonde once more. Parker's hands twitched and his eyes went smug.
"Women are always leading men on, toying with them and playing around, then telling them 'no' and half the time they don't mean it. They're just screwing with our heads."
Eliot went unnaturally still. The entire bar fell silent. He felt more than saw Parker look towards him.
"Uh, oh," he heard her whisper.
With a gentle hand, he grasped her by the arm and shifted her behind him. As soon as he had her out of the danger zone, he focused his entire being on the piece of garbage before him. Taking a deep breath, he reminded himself that Nate would prefer the guy leave the bar under his own steam.
"You've got one shot at gettin' out of this unmarked. Start walkin'."
"What's your problem, dude? She's just a…" the man started.
He did not get any further. One quick right jab sent him flying. He struck the ground hard and did not get back up. The other patrons shrugged and returned to their own conversations. With a sneer, Eliot turned around. Giving Nate a nod as he moved away, he gathered Parker up and headed back towards the stairs.
Nate lifted his glass towards the hitter in response to the nod and watched as the pair left the room. His lips twitched as he watched people step over and around the motionless form on the ground. Apparently the regulars had no compunction over ignoring the man. In the meantime, he could trust Eliot to take care of their girl, even if it meant going and finding her something glittery to pick up.
Hardison snorted as he leaned back.
"Gotta love it when a jerk like that crosses paths with Eliot."
"Rather sorry Sophie missed it though. She might have enjoyed it."
"Nah, man, she'd have skinned that jerk. This was quicker and less bloody."
Nate lifted a brow in amusement, but let it fade as another person stepped up to join them. Shifting his focus towards the potential client, he let the incident pass into memory. He always did enjoy watching his team act like one. Lone wolves, the lot of them…at least until they figured out a pack worked better than being alone.