At first, Eliot doesn't notice anything is off at the morning meeting. Nate and Sophie are their usual mix of catty and inexplicably sweet with each other. The case isn't anything unusual; just another corrupt CEO terrorizing thousands of unsuspecting citizens in the name of adding to his wealth and power. His wife is uncommonly attractive, though, a fact Eliot notes in the back of his mind for the near future.
All in all, it's very nearly a boring Monday morning, like any other office. The illegal activities they'll be sure to get up to, notwithstanding. But then, it hits him.
It, of course, being Parker, who flops down beside him on the couch with enough force to send her elbow directly into his still-sore ribs, making him wince. He turns to growl at her, but stops when he catches the expression on her face. It's that scary sort of blank that he knows is only a hairsbreadth away from extreme rage or complete emotional breakdown.
With Parker, he's not sure which one would be worse.
Shifting ever so slightly away from the blonde time bomb, he looks over at Hardison to see if the other man knows what in the world is going on. When the hacker crosses his arms and resolutely looks away, Eliot sighs. Great, it's the "very serious arm cross." That's exactly what he wanted to deal with on a Monday. Or any day, really.
Nate clears his throat, and Eliot rolls his eyes before focusing on him, determining to get to the bottom of this after the meeting.
"What did you do?" Eliot asks, blocking Hardison's exit from the kitchen. Nate and Sophie have gone down to the bar to talk to the newest client, and Parker has disappeared, as she is prone to do.
Hardison gives a token shove to Eliot's shoulder, only causing the hitter to smirk and hold his ground.
"I'm like five inches taller than you," Hardison says, glaring at Eliot's stupid hair.
Eliot narrows his eyes.
"But you can bet your ass you'll be flat on your back if you even try something," he replies.
They both freeze at that, suddenly glad Sophie was nowhere to be found to snicker at how that threat had sounded.
"You know what I meant," Eliot mutters.
Hardison just rolls his eyes and takes a long sip of his orange soda.
"I didn't do anything," he says, moving to lean against the counter.
Eliot, ever cautious, leans only as far as the door frame, ready to stop Hardison if he tries to run away.
"Mhm," he replies, "then what the hell is going on between you and Parker?"
"There was a slight… misunderstanding," Hardison says, shrugging. "It's none of your business."
"Fuck you, it's none of my business," Eliot says, downright glowering. "Because it's my job to make sure you all are as safe as possible on a job. And if two of my team members are distracted because of petty bullshit, endangering the entire operation, it sure as hell is my business."
Hardison sighs slowly, avoiding Eliot's gaze as he talks.
"Have you ever heard of Tumblr?" he asks. Because he's never quite sure when Eliot will finally come into the 21st century.
"Is that some sort of… exercise thing?" Eliot asks, looking appropriately puzzled.
Apparently not yet, Hardison thinks.
"No," Hardison says, "It's a website. Kind of like livejournal."
"Bad example," Hardison says, "It's kind of like Facebook, but with more pictures and less annoying family members."
"Is facebook the blue one with the stupid games?" Eliot asks, clearly unimpressed.
"It's not…ok, yeah, sure, that's the one." Hardison says, unable to keep a smirk off his face. "Anyway. Tumblr is kind of like that. You share pictures and videos and stuff with other people. Usually about a movie or band or whatever that you like."
"Ok," Eliot says, "so how did you manage to fuck that up?"
"I'm getting to that!" Hardison exclaims, "even though it wasn't my fault!"
Eliot merely arches an eyebrow, as if saying "please. Do go on."
"Parker found my Tumblr page," he says, "Which would have been fine. Except she clicked on this link that I reblogged from some dentist in Albuquerque, and apparently his page is FULL of hardcore Leia/Jabba fic and fanart… and she got a little freaked out."
Eliot pauses, staring at the other man for a long moment.
"Was any of that actually English?" he asks.
"It was all English!" Hardison replies, petulantly. "Ok, maybe 80% English, 20% American Geek."
"I don't speak geek," Eliot says, "translate."
"Well," Hardison begins, "Albuquerque is in New Mexico, and a dentist is a doctor who works…"
"I will hit you," Eliot says, his tone matter-of-fact.
"You ruin all my fun," Hardison grumbles. "Fine. It's from Star Wars. Princess Leia and Jabba the Hut are characters from the movie. Parker found some really graphic pictures of the two of them in… compromising situations."
"I know the princess," Eliot says, trying to remember, "But which one was Jabba again?"
Hardison tries to think of an adequate way to explain it, he really does. Failing that, he pulls out his phone and brings up a picture on Google for Eliot to see.
"Ack!' Eliot exclaims, looking disgusted. A fact that Hardison has to take an actual moment to marvel at.
"That's sick," Eliot says, "He's not even human! Or even an attractive alien."
"So attractive aliens are ok to your delicate sensibilities?" Hardison scoffs.
"Man, that green chick in the movie with the spaceships was pretty hot, not gonna lie," Eliot says, shrugging.
"Star Trek," Hardison says, slowly, "It is not that difficult. Just two words. Star. Trek. Seriously, man."
"Shut up," Eliot replies. "So, ok, Parker found the creepy dentist's porn. Why's she pissed at you?"
"I don't know," Hardison admits. "I can't even tell if she's actually angry. She just stopped talking to me, and won't even look me in the eye. I guess it really freaked her out."
"Even Parker has had to have seen some creepy porn before. She's a grown woman. Mostly."
Hardison just shrugs again. "I don't know. But I can't fix it if I don't know what's wrong. And I can't get her to stand still long enough to talk about it."
"Right," Eliot says, resigning himself to what will inevitably come next. "You stay here and… hack something. I'll go make Parker talk."
Hardison raises his eyebrows.
"Fine," Eliot says, "I'll talk to her. Without violence."
"Like you'd ever hit Parker, anyway," Hardison laughs.
Eliot says nothing, but his stare says it all.
"But you will hit me, got it," Hardison says. "I'll be here. Hacking. Man, you still have no idea what I do, do you?"
"You give me headaches," Eliot replies, before spinning around and heading for the door. It's a pretty bad-ass exit, if he does say so himself.
He searches for Parker for several hours, hitting all the common haunts the team has, as well as a few that Parker thinks nobody knows about. After exhausting all the possibilities, including three ice cream shops, two pets stores, and the local library, he finally heads home.
Which is, of course, where he finds her.
"Parker," he says, as he walks in the front door to her sitting on his couch, "Why do I even bother with an alarm?"
"It's a pretty good system" she admits, "I'm just better."
Eliot slips out of his jacket, hanging it carefully on the rack, before locking the door and moving to sit across from her, on the coffee table. It's solid mahogany, that can support at least two people. He knows, he's tested it. Several times.
"Alright," he says, getting right to the point, "How do I fix you and Hardison?"
Parker looks away, but he doesn't fail to notice the blush that flushes her pale skin.
"He told me about the porn," Eliot says, gently, "and that it freaked you out a little."
She turns to him again and gives a little shrug.
"I'm not mad at Hardison," she says, "I just…" She trails off, growing frustrated with her inability to articulate her thoughts.
"Hardison has nothing to do with the people that make that… art," Eliot says, practically spitting the last word.
"I know," Parker says, and he believes her. But her tone tells him that she's not done.
"Talk to me, Parker," he sighs, "I can't fix y'all if I don't know what's broken."
Parker laughs a little at that, and it eases the tension in the room just enough.
"The girl," she says, "Leia. I saw all those pictures, and she's always chained up, and that… thing, he…" She takes a moment to compose herself before continuing. "She's trapped, and she can't even scream. And they get off on it! You should've seen the responses. Like they think that it's ok to do that to somebody. To chain them up and…"
She coughs harshly, covering her choking voice, no doubt, and Eliot wants to find every single asshole out there who made her feel this way and beat them to death with a shovel.
"It's just fantasy to them," he tries, "Just a power trip from the damn movie. People… most people aren't like that."
Like whoever hurt you, he says silently.
"I'm not afraid of them," Parker says, resolutely.
"Then what is it?" Eliot asks, with compassion and exhaustion warring in his voice.
"What if," Parker's voice drops to a whisper, "What if he wants me to do that? What if he wants to chain me up, like a fantasy? I know it's not real, but I don't want to do it. No chains."
Eliot contains his laughter, but barely. He feels bad for her, but at the same time, can't believe that she and Hardison are both being so stupid.
"Parker," he says, "Hardison would NEVER ask you to do anything that made you uncomfortable. All you have to do is tell him. You know he's stupid in love with you."
"I know," she says, smiling even as she looks away. "And I… I have, I mean, I feel…"
"The words aren't important," Eliot says, "He gets it."
Parker grins then, facing him again.
"Now, can you two please go make up and leave me to get some sleep," Eliot grumbles. "Next time, I'm making Sophie deal with it."
"Ok," Parker says, standing. Eliot follow suit and walks her to the door.
If he's expecting a 'thank you,' he doesn't let it show, and sure enough, he doesn't get one as she breezes out the door. Eliot laughs, because that is just so Parker. Locking his door and resetting the alarm system, he heads to bed. His work is done for now. He's going to need his rest for whatever the new job, and the CEOs pretty wife, might require.
"I want to have sex with you," Parker says, looking up at Hardison.
Hardison chokes around the soda he'd been drinking, suddenly very aware of three other sets of eyes on him.
"Umm," he says, "Right now? Cuz I am ALL for that… but we're sort of about to start the meeting."
Nate and Sophie snicker quietly from the other side of the room, while Eliot just rolls his eyes and goes back to reading his book.
"Not right now," Parker says. "But Eliot told me I should talk to you, so I am. I want to have sex with you. But I don't want to be chained up like I saw online. Ever."
"Jesus, Parker," Hardison says, finally understanding why she's been so distant. "I wouldn't ever, I mean, I...mama, no. I never expected that. I swear. God, I'm an idiot."
Eliot snorts, but doesn't look up from his place on the couch.
Sophie clears her throat and steps forward a little.
"Maybe you two should continue this conversation later," she says, "in private."
"We're done," Parker says, bounding toward her favorite chair, pulling Hardison with her.
Nate's droning on about the new case, and Hardison knows he should be paying attention, but Parker's squished in next to him, practically in his lap, and he knows it's a lost cause.
"So," he says, so only she can hear, "Is there some sort of… timetable for when you want to…"
Parker just gives him a pointed stare.
"Right," Hardison laughs softly, "Don't push it."
Parker leans into his shoulder a little and grabs one of his hands in hers.
"Soon," she says, and he'll be damned if it's not the best word he's ever heard.