Title: A Very Distinctive Myth
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.
Summary: Trying to figure it all out had been a pain in Eliot's occasionally scaly ass. 1600 words.
Spoilers: Season 3 of Leverage, particularly "The Boost Job" and "The Big Bang Job"
Notes: Originally posted to LJ on Feb 8. For earcmacfithil, for Day 16 in Wishlist 2012, for the prompt: "Eliot or Parker (or maybe both) are turned into mer-people (You decide how that's manifested). How does the rest of the team deal with that? How do they incorporate the new "mer-ness" into the team's operations?"
"...still can't believe you nearly let me drown like that, man," Hardison bitched for the nth time as he and Eliot settled into a booth at McRory's.
Eliot sighed irritably. It had been a hell of a long day for all of them; he was more than ready to sit back with a beer and not think about what had gone down in that warehouse with Chapman and his boys, much less the fact that Nate wanted to chase Damien Moreau back to his home country for Round 2, but Hardison would just not let the thing with the pool go.
"You sure you didn't pick up some radiation from that bomb, or something? 'Cause your mouth's been skipping tracks all day."
"That's 'cause you still haven't said a damn thing to make me feel any better about it," Hardison groused. "I went into that pool trusting you with my life, and you made me rescue my own damn self. What if I hadn't been able to get the extra air out of the pneumatics in the chair? Were you just gonna stand there and watch me breathe water, or what?"
"You were never gonna drown," Eliot said, gritting his teeth.
Frankly, he'd thought Damien had intended that as another test- making him stand and watch in his role as impartial middleman while his 'new client' spluttered and thrashed underwater. But he'd also seriously doubted Damien would actually let Hardison die. One of his guards would have gone in and dragged Hardison out by the scruff like a misbehaving pup, providing another object lesson of his power. They'd actually been pretty fortunate that he'd been amused by Hardison's tenacity.
Eliot would never have had to act- which was a good thing, because if Damien had seen him in the water he'd never have let them walk back out of that room, auction or no auction.
"You don't know that, Eliot. That guy is crazy. Cray-zee, with a capital K," Hardison said, scooting over as Parker slid in next to him.
"I do know. Remember? I used to be the guy who made sure all the crazy happened to other people," he said, sourly. As hard as he'd fought to keep from having to admit his shared history with the guy to the team, Eliot liked reminding them of it even less. But it was the truth.
"But what if you were wrong. What if he was drowning?" Parker spoke up, steepling her fingers on the tabletop and frowning at him.
"That was never gonna happen," he said again.
"But if it did..." Parker insisted, with a strangely eager expression.
Hardison gave her a long look, then suddenly sat up straighter and turned to Eliot. "Wait. Wait. Do you not know how to swim or something? Gotta say, I can't remember ever seeing you in the water. But if that's all it is, why didn't you just say so?"
Eliot rolled his eyes. Where had he even got that from? "Do you not remember when I got hit by a car and knocked off the docks a few months ago? Fried my earbud in the water?" he asked, dryly.
"Yeah," Parker narrowed her eyes, leaning forward with an avid expression. "You were pretty grouchy about it when you showed up again. Did someone have to help you out?"
"Parker..." Eliot rubbed a hand over his face, frustrated. Being able to swim had never been the problem. He'd been like a fish in the water since he was a little kid; you didn't grow up in the South in striking distance of any body of water worth the name- whether river, pond, beach, pool, or waterpark ride- without learning how to swim. It was like driving lessons: any responsible parent either paid to send their kids, or taught them themselves.
No- it was getting tangled up with something waiting under the surface that had nearly killed him that day. He had in fact had to be rescued. It was the manner of the rescue that had been seriously fucking with his mind ever since. He'd never expected to literally become a fish in the water.
"It's not that I can't swim," he hedged. He wasn't at all tempted to tell them the truth; he dreaded the look on Hardison's face and Parker's questions, if he did. But between them, they were pretty good at spotting deliberate lies, especially since he'd lowered his guard more for the team than he had for anyone else in years. He'd only got away with the secret of his working for Damien for so long because it had been a lie of omission; he hadn't actually had to say a damn thing.
"I knew it!" Parker said, suddenly lifting a hand to deliver a smack to the table.
"Knew what?" he asked, warily.
"The last time you growled at me when it was all rainy outside? Your teeth looked sharp, so I watched when you took off your shoes to change your wet socks, and I found a scale on the floor afterward!" She grinned at him, triumphantly. "You didn't want your old boss to see, did you?"
...And maybe he wasn't going to have to actually say a damn thing this time, either. He remembered Parker staring at his feet that night; it had been raining hard enough to drown a turkey- dumb birds would stare at the sky for hours if you let 'em- but he hadn't even suspected that anything less than complete immersion would expose him.
Of course, he was pretty damn new to this himself, and the chick with the fins hadn't stuck around to explain. She'd been messing around with a net or something down under the docks, and it had been that tangle of rope he'd got caught up in. She'd just watched him at first, twitching her tail to swim in place while he struggled- and then slowly approached, laying a hand on his cheek. He'd felt a strange warmth in his mind; then she'd given him a sympathetic look and leaned in for a kiss.
Most surreal kiss he'd ever had. He'd been half-unconscious at first, and then in too much agony to properly appreciate the experience. When he'd finally opened his eyes again, she'd been gone- but he hadn't needed air anymore, either. If hadn't been for his disastrous attempt at a hot muscle-relaxing bath a few days later, though, even he might have thought he'd hallucinated the whole experience. Since then, trying to figure it all out had been a pain in his occasionally scaly ass.
"Would you? But how do you know what it meant?" he had to ask.
"See what? What are you talking about, Parker?" Hardison spoke at the same time.
"I'd have to be dumb not to recognize the signs," Parker replied matter-of-factly, ignoring the hacker.
"What, are you sayin' you're...?"
"...What signs?" Hardison spluttered, his voice growing louder as they continued to ignore him.
"Ugh, no." Parker rolled her eyes, twitching her shoulders oddly. "I belong to the air, not the water. You mean you didn't know?"
"Can either of y'all even hear me?" Hardison flailed. "What. The hell. Are you talking about?"
Apparently, they were getting loud enough for their voices to carry, because Nate turned around at that to give them all a speaking look. The place had already closed up, so the team were the only ones there, serving themselves as they wound down from the day's events; Nate and Sophie had started discussing something privately in low voices, so the others had abandoned the bar for a booth. Of course, politeness never stopped Nate from meddling in anyone's business.
He eyed all three of them, one by one, then smirked suddenly, that shark's smile that made Eliot wonder how anyone had ever thought he and Stirling were two peas in a pod. "So you're finally admitting it to each other? Good. There are a few jobs I've been putting off because they require a little... shall we say, supernatural assistance?"
Then he got up, tugging a surprised and curious Sophie with him by the elbow, strolling toward the back stairs before anyone could ask him what the hell he was talking about.
"Damn it, Nate," Hardison swore, then glanced back and forth between his companions with an alarmed, confused expression. "So yeah, I'm a..." he swallowed, "...technopath; what's that got to do with whatever y'all are talking about?"
Parker's eyes went round. "Wow, that I didn't know about," she said, awed. Then she shifted her shoulders again, grabbed the hem of her shirt, and pulled up, unselfconsciously exposing a skimpy tank top beneath, cut lower in the back than it was in the front. One shake of her shoulders later, and a wide expanse of feathers spread out behind her, shaded from a rich, smoky blue to a pale, iridescent white.
"I have wings," she explained with a shrug. "Though I don't get to use them much these days."
Hardison jerked, swatting automatically as the sweep of the left wing momentarily scraped over his ear, then stared at her with an equally awed expression. "You're an...?"
Well. That made things more interesting, didn't it. Though what was Nate, that he'd all known before they did about each other? "And I'm..." Eliot winced, still not quite able to say it.
"A mermaid," Parker filled in, cheerily. "See, I knew you weren't as bad as you were pretending when you told us about Moreau."
Hardison choked on a feather.
"...Merman, Parker," Eliot corrected her with a sigh. "Merman."