Author's Note: This started as an idea and morphed into 3000+ words of what could be an ongoing story. Please let me know what you think!
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
They keep it a secret through silent agreement. Well, really, they keep numerous things secret from the team. It's not lying, per say, because no one asks the right questions; they just don't offer the information. During the first con, the one orchestrated by Dubenitch, he doesn't try to resist an eye roll when she jumps the gun, diving over the side of the building before the count hits five. He tells Hardison that she's twenty pounds of crazy in a five-pound bag. He doesn't say that she's his crazy thief. When she rushes into the elevator, pulling off her shirt because nudity has never been one of her qualms, he suppresses the urge to smack the hacker solidly in the face for eyeballing the topless blonde.
Secret One: the hitter and the thief have history.
Secret Two: said history isn't exactly in the past. It's more ongoing.
After they finish the job and Hardison emails the plans to Dubenitch, the makeshift team scatters. He isn't at all surprised to find her perched on the desk in his hotel room eating a bowl of cereal. He doesn't ask where she got cereal at this time of night. She smiles at him, her lips quirking skyward around the spoon. In a few steps, the distance between them ceases to exist, and her personal space is invaded. With him, though, she doesn't care; she never has because he has always been different.
"You're crazy." His voice rumbles low in his chest and her shoulders rise with an agreeing shrug. The bowl is forgotten off to the side as his hands trail along the outsides of her thighs. "We need to talk about you stripping in front of people…again."
"You were there."
"I was, but so was he. Damn hacker is lucky he still has all ten fingers in working order. He has a thing for you, Parker."
"Oh, but I'm yours." Her confusion furrows her brow.
"Yeah, you are, darlin'." He kisses her soundly because he can't think of a reason not to. "That doesn't mean that other guys can't see what a catch you are. Just next time, try to keep your clothes on around other people, okay?" She shrugs, not understanding his constant need for her to be clothed in public. Her upbringing didn't exactly instill in her normal social skills or values. Nudity had always been one of those things that she didn't and couldn't grasp.
"When's your next job?" Relaxing into his embrace, she leans into his chest and takes a deep breath, centering herself with his solid presence. His discipline anchors her spontaneity, giving her the stability she subconsciously craves. His gruff attitude and career choice shows the dangerous side to which she is so attracted. She doesn't have any concrete basis for understanding her feelings, but she thinks she is in love with the man hugging her to his chest.
"A friend called in a favor, so it'll be a week or two. I'll try and meet you wherever you are when I'm done." His fingers brush soothingly through her long hair. His lips find her forehead and press against her skin. He smirks against her skin when she leans into his touch. It's a rare moment when they get to slow down and truly savor an unrushed speed. Their chosen careers don't exactly lead to a stable 9-5 day job with dinner on the table by 6:30. They're lucky if the jobs line up in a way that allows them to steal a few moments here or there; even luckier if those moments line up and give them a night or two to themselves. "What about you? What's the next job?"
"Cairo Museum has a new exhibit with all new artifacts opening in four days."
"One of your favorites," he sighs with a fond smile. "We should take a vacation soon. It's been awhile since we've both been in one of the houses at the same time."
Lifting her head from his chest, she nods, a brilliant smile shining in her eyes. "Italy?"
"Texas," she states. He agrees wholeheartedly. God, he misses the south. "I can wear my cowboy boots!" Her statement startles a laugh out of him. "We can go dancing, and you can sing."
"I always sing to you, darlin'."
"Yeah, but in Texas, you sound happier when you sing. Plus, you're all country and whatever, so you fit in better in Texas when you're being you. As a grifter, you fit anywhere, but as Eliot, you fit in Texas." He can't argue with her straightforward logic, so he kisses her instead, losing himself in the familiar feel of her body pressing against his and her fingers threading through his long hair.
It's long past sunrise when she finds the strength to lift her head off his chest and check her account for her money. Her body bristles when her statement says she's lacking a couple hundred thousand dollars. Tension radiates from her, and Eliot grumbles something incoherent as he sleepily gropes around the bed for her. By the time his brain catches up to her missing presence, she is half dressed and tugging on her converses.
"The hell, Parker?"
"I want my money!" She throws a shirt on and walks determinedly out of the hotel room.
"Fuck." With a curse and a grumble, he pushes himself out of the bed, throwing on jeans and grabbing a sweatshirt and shoes. He dresses in the elevator next to her and calls Dubenitch once he digs his phone out of his pants.
She nearly yells at him when he tells her to wait outside the warehouse. It's her money, and she wants it. She also wants to take a few swings at Dubenitch while she's at it. Giving her one of his trademark glares, he gives her explicit directions about waiting outside.
Of course, following rules never was something she was good at. She was the person to make her own rules. When she comes barreling in holding a weapon of her own, he isn't entirely surprised. He makes a mental note to talk to her about weapons again. As Nate starts laughing, a worrisome feeling settles in his gut. The two men share a glance before rushing everyone towards the exit of the warehouse before the building explodes magnificently.
Handcuffed to a chair in a damn hospital room, Eliot tries to buffet his raging temper. Dubenitch would pay for this, for all of it, in spades. Parker says something about trust, and he knows she is talking to him. She doesn't want to go to jail. She doesn't want him to kill anyone. She is still pissed about her money, and her anger drips from her tone. He cringes when she empties her stomach; he adds it to the growing list of reasons Dubenitch is going to get his ass kicked.
Secret Three: he protected her long before the team became a team and before it became his job to keep them safe.
Then, Sophie finds a client, and Eliot fights the Butcher of Kiev in the kitchen of a mob boss. The resurrection from his past leaves him a bit shaken, though the team sees nothing but his usual stoic exterior. Parker finds him beating out a punishing rhythm on a punching bag. She waits him out, knowing better than to sneak up on him in this state. When he finally sags against the bag, she approaches, taking his hand and leading him towards the bathroom. Nimbly untying his hand wraps and gently removing his clothes, Parker tries to soothe his soul.
When the sweat and blood is washed away, he finds himself face down on the mattress with her lithe body massaging away the tension in his shoulders, back, and thighs. The bedding muffles the groans that fall from his lips. The noises turned from deep moans of released tension to sighs of relaxation as her fingers worked out the knots and her lips trailed between his shoulder blades. Her weight rests on his backside, as she drags her fingernails through his long hair and over his scalp. He feels boneless.
"Parker," he murmurs. Her name is a sigh, a soft prayer on his lips, his kryptonite. Her knees take her weight and he rolls beneath her, shifting until his back is against the mattress. His hands reach up to thread through her hair, bringing her down to claim her lips. She smiles into the kiss, feeling proud that she brought him back from the demons in his head, however temporarily. She knows tonight will be a night when terrors plague his sleep. Her forearms bracket his head as her lips trail along his jaw. He submits to her pace, accepting the feelings stirring in his chest. He lets her soothe him, take care of him, love him. Later, when he wakes in the middle of the night with a layer of sweat coating his skin, she kisses his brow and reminds him that he is a good man despite his past.
Secret Four: there is a reason he only sleeps 90 minutes a night. On nights, when she sleeps in his bed and curls into his body, he finds the nightmares stay at bay for longer periods of time.
Nate is drunk, and Eliot has half a mind to walk away from the job before it even starts. When the mastermind comes in hung-over and looking like ten shades of hell, that is a sure sign nothing will end well. Then he has the gall to ask how long Parker can hang from a ski lift without a harness, as if that is a normal question to be posed over coffee. Eliot isn't worried about the dangling from a ski lift; he is well aware of the thief's athletic skill. Now that they actually get to be in the same place at the same time on a more consistent basis, they have developed an exercise routine. He teaches her to fight after they work out separately. She managed to hit him once or twice, and as a result, he knows just how deceptively strong she is. What worries him, though, is the slur of the words in the question and the disregard for her safety.
Somehow, the con takes a strange turn, and the team ends up in Miami. He hates Florida, absolutely hates it, and his bad mood seems to intensify with each passing day. It doesn't help Nate is in a perpetual state of intoxication. Then, Parker throws herself out of a second story window; he barely catches her and suppresses the urge to shake her when she says she didn't know he would be there. Sure, she knows how to fall, but still, he is a little more than annoyed that she thinks that's a normal course of action.
When Nate refuses the $500,000 check from the mark, Eliot clenches his fist to quell the first wave of anger. Parker slumps against the car in disbelief. The con continues to go south with the development of state cops, and Eliot wants to walk away. When a drunken mastermind starts making decisions on the fly, he starts putting Parker's life on the line, and that's not okay.
When Nate signs over $100,000 to the mark, Parker reaches Eliot's level of anger. She storms out of the MRI room in a hospital gown, intent on giving the man a piece of her mind. He forcibly carries her out of the hallway because she's one breath from blowing their con. Instead of returning to the MRI room where Hardison is waiting with the cadaver, he carries her into a supply closet off to the side and removes their separate ear buds temporarily.
"That's my money! Mine, Eliot," she seethes, as she pushes against his chest in her anger.
"I know, darlin'. Trust me. I know."
"I don't like this." She sighs, takes a moment to compose herself, and leaves the closet after taking her ear bud.
When they meet back at the Miami Grand Hotel, no one is confident in the team's leadership. Eliot finally voices his opinion about the constant intoxication. "You can drink yourself into a coma as far as I'm concerned. But you're taking me down with you, and then it's my problem."
"You know what you talk to much. You should go skip some rope."
"What? You want me to skip somethin'?" Eliot seethes. "I'll skip your drunk ass of this marble." Sophie steps in and saves Nate a painful punch to the face. Parker wants to punch him too, but Sophie holds her semi-protective stance in front of the drunken mastermind.
Outside, Eliot takes deep, stabilizing breaths, trying to find his center. Parker paces frantically next to him. Hardison is nowhere to be found. Finally, once he has a grasp on his raging emotions, he reaches out and loops Parker into his arms. "Relax, darlin'. I know you're mad. Hell, I'm pissed too, but with the state cops listening in on this mark, we've got to be on top of everything, or it gets too dangerous for us. I'll make sure he puts your money back in the account."
"I'm not keeping my money where other people can reach it. I don't trust them. It's mine, Eliot."
Secret Five: she doesn't like stuff; she prefers money, and it's her money. She doesn't share well; blame a particularly rough childhood in the foster system throughout which she had very few possessions to call her own.
A plane crash-lands on a stretch of highway with Parker in the baggage compartment after Hardison manages to reboot the plane's system during an attempted sabotage. All the passengers fumble around, not sure how to react to the chaotic situation. Nate and Sophie console Marissa Devins, as Eliot surveys the crowd in an attempt to find the thief. He breathes a sigh of relief catching sight of her blonde hair.
Her movements don't translate as fluidly or gracefully as they normally do. He analyzes her posture and predicts her possible injuries. "Darlin', what hurts?"
"Nothing, I'm fine."
"Parker." His growl tells her this isn't the time for her to avoid his questions. He knows she's badly injured. After all, she spent an emergency landing in a cargo bin. "List 'em."
"None. I'm fine, Eliot."
"Damnit, Parker. I'm not doin' this shit with you. You're injured. Just fuckin' let me take care of you." Her eyes finally meet his when she nods her consent. Her pupils are different sizes, and he shakes his head with a sigh. "You've got a concussion at least. Nate, I need to get her out of here, so I can get her fixed up properly."
"Hardison has a booked in a hotel room. Sophie grabbed a medical kit from one of the on-site paramedics. I got us a car. We're ready when you are." Parker wavers on her feet, and Eliot lifts her off the ground, careful of her ribs. Habit sees her cuddling into his chest as she seeks the comfort and safety he always provides. If Sophie notices, she says nothing. In the car, he holds her in his lap, trying to keep her from jostling any of her injuries too much. With the constant start-and-stop of traffic, her ribs scream in protest, her vision swims, and nausea rolls through her in waves. She can't contain some of the pained gasps.
"Darlin', I've got to give you some pain medication." Her eyes widen in fear. Sophie watches like a concerned mother from the passenger seat. She witnesses the silent conversation between the hitter and the thief. "Okay?" He asks just to double check that they're on the same page, and she nods slowly. "That's my girl," he whispers fondly after injecting her with a painkiller. "You gotta stay awake, though. Concussion means you can't sleep, not yet."
When they finally check into their hotel rooms, Parker is valiantly fighting to stay conscious. She is pliant to his will as he cuts off her dress to get a better visual of all her injuries. Sophie brings more supplies: extra painkillers, blankets, pillows, and a myriad of clothing choices obtained from the gift shop. "Darlin', you got some air in that cargo hold, didn't ya?"
"The ceiling hurt," the thief mumbles.
"Yeah, I bet it did." He commiserates because he knows Parker doesn't exaggerate pain. She's one to ignore any injury until she's alone and can tend to it herself. He tries not to let this bother him as much as it does after years of being together. He can't blame her, though, as he is the exact same way. "Walk me through the security on the antiquities floor of the Cairo Museum," he requests, knowing it's one of her favorites and she will warm to the topic. Sophie smiles brightly, seeing a rare side of the hitter.
"Do you need any help," the grifter asks, hovering by the bedside and passing gauze and wrapping when necessary.
"He's good at this," Parker burbles somewhat incoherently from a mixture of heavy narcotics and a concussion. "He has patched me up for years, Soph." Eliot's hands falter a bit at her statement, and he hopes the grifter blames the concussion for, what the team would consider, an incorrect assumption of time. But the older woman is smart and her skill is reading people, so she offers Eliot a knowing smile and a look that says 'we'll talk later'.
"Has he," she asks, prompting the girl to add some stories. It should feel like taking advantage of the situation, but Sophie doesn't always see things in clear black-or-white; after all, she's a thief.
"He catches me when I fall, and he beats up people who mess with my jobs. He glares at people when they look at me funny. He keeps me safe. Oh, I don't think I was supposed to say that, so shhh, Sophie. Don't tell." Parker starts to lift her finger to her lips in a shushing motion, but winces.
"Darlin' if it hurts, don't do it." He catches her hand and gently brings it back down to rest on the mattress.
"Sorry I told our secret," she slurs.
"It's okay, sweetheart. I think Sophie was puttin' it together anyway. She won't tell." Eliot sends a pointed look towards the grifter, who nods her understanding. "See, secret's still safe."
"Can I have a kiss?" And she looks so hopeful that he can't say no to her. Leaning over her body very carefully, he kisses her tenderly and can't help the smile on his face when he sees her matching grin.
Secret Six: he would do anything for her. The little thief stole his heart, and he is perfectly content to let her keep it.