There was a bit of shuffling around as he was transferred to the couch where the blonde propped pillows behind him, sitting at the other end near his feet. Eliot could hear them murmuring back and forth a bit as Hardison immediately began to doze, found it interesting that she was being so attentive.
At his feet, Lennie had begun to pack up her bag, putting everything back into place and zipping it closed. The sudden stillness and quiet calm that had fallen over the apartment had him weary, the adrenaline and fear draining away as things fell back to normal patterns. Sliding down the side of the counter, he sat on the floor with his knees pulled up to his chest, staring at the back of the couch as he debated driving home for the night. His mind was made for him, at least for the moment, when Lennie finished what she was doing and slid back to sit quietly at his side.
She didn't talk for a while. Just sat at his side in the dimly lit apartment, their matched breathing the only sound. Echo had slunk over soon after she'd sat down, having stayed well out of the way until the commotion had settled, and had wormed into the tight space between their thighs and gone to sleep. She felt a smile tip at her mouth when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Eliot's hand find its way to the big dog's shoulder, stroking him lightly without thought. She felt calmer with Echo at her side, and apparently so did the hitter.
Lennie let out a shaky breath, and Eliot glanced over at her with an arched brow.
"Haven't done that in a while," she confessed.
And she hadn't. After Matt had died she'd rarely played doctor, avoiding even a splint and a band-aid unless she happened to be at the right place at the right time when someone was really hurt.
"Couldn't tell," Eliot replied in the dark, his voice low and gruff. "Looked like you knew what you were doing."
Lennie chuckled lightly. "I did," she responded honestly. "That's kind of the weird part I guess."
"Because you're not actually a doctor."
It was a gentle statement, not a question, and it made her smile. "No. I'm not."
Maybe it was the gentle darkness, the warmth and easy breathing, bodies pressed close, or maybe it was just the fact that he didn't push, didn't ask, that made her talk.
"My brother studied medicine," she began, and it was easier somehow to say the words to him than they had ever been to say to anyone else. "He got a scholarship from the army, to go to school to be a medic. I studied with him, took all the practice tests and wrote all the papers. Snuck into labs, went on ride-alongs and shadowed him on his internships when I could. All against the rules." She smirked. "Never did get a grade…"
"Or a degree?"
"Nope," she answered, popping the 'p' for emphasis.
For a few seconds he didn't respond and she wondered if she'd thrown him by being so candid.
"Just a piece of paper," he said, and his voice was a little hoarse. "You're good. That's what's gonna count. Especially around here."
Lennie's eyebrow arched in surprise and she turned sharply to look at him but his eyes were closed, his head tipped back against the counter. Frowning slightly at the implication she wasn't sure he'd meant to make, she glances over to the couch where Parker and Hardison were both sleeping soundly before shifting lower, trying to get comfortable on the hardwood. She supposed she could move; neither Sophie nor Nate had re-emerged from the back bedroom, leaving two arm chairs open, one apiece for her and Eliot, but in a weird way she was satisfied with where she was at, low to the ground in the shadows, slightly turned in towards the hitter, Echo shifting so that his head and foreleg were resting over her knee. Eliot's fingers were curled in the big Shepherd's ruff, and if she were to reach out to pet her dog she could link their arms together.
It was a strange thing.
Must be the gentle darkness. The warmth and easy breathing.
Most people weren't so content with the quiet. So willing to just sit and be near someone.
Hell, she usually wasn't.
But her father was dead. Most of her stuff had either been sold off or put into storage. She'd accomplished what she'd hoped, gotten Parker to the funeral and gotten her to talk, just a little, to feel just a little. She'd done something today, helped someone. It was as if she'd thrown off a weight that had been suffocating her, holding her back for years, and it was… well it was gloriously exhausting. She hadn't felt so light, so liberated in a long time.
Sighing quietly, she shifted so that she was facing the drowsy hitter full on, her cheek pressed against the cool laminate of the counter as she watched his broad chest rise and fall. Eventually her eyelids began to get heavy and flutter shut, and Eliot's chin began to bob toward his chest. She could've fallen asleep, should've fallen asleep – she'd been driving for hours and the adrenaline spike that had kicked her in the butt when the apartment door had crashed open and the injured team members had come pouring in was well worn off by now. She felt warm and heavy and content, and the only thing keeping her awake was knowing that she needed to check on the hacker.
They spent another twenty minutes or so dozing before she forced herself to her feet, Echo and Eliot raising their heads in tandem to watch her cross the floor slowly to the couch, and the man didn't miss the low-set curve of her shoulders. It didn't take much for her to shake Hardison awake, which she counted as a good thing, and she was quick about checking his orientation to time, place, and person so that she could leave him alone, at least for another hour. He seemed fine and she wasn't worried about him, but it was always better to be safe than sorry and she figured one or two more checks wouldn't hurt.
They'd piss him off, but they wouldn't hurt.
Her job done for the time being, she grabbed two throw pillows from where they'd been piled in a chair and walked back over to the counter, tossing one in Eliot's direction. It caught him lightly in the chest when he was just a second too slow on the receiving end, and he looked at it with a sort of comical, drowsy surprise before drawing his knees up and wrapping his arms tightly around it, tucking his face into the crook of his elbow. For a minute her eyes were caught by the gentle swell of his biceps, the way his shirt stretched over his shoulders before she shook her head, blinked away the strange, half-formed thoughts that stuttered through her brain so foggily that she didn't even know what they were. Sliding down the counter, she mimicked his pose, hugging her pillow and looking at him through half-closed eyes.
"He'll be ok?" Eliot murmured, and Lennie offered him a weary half-smile.
"He'll be fine," she answered softly, and she could actually see the tension drain out of his body. He didn't have to say that he was worried, didn't have to say that he was scared; anyone with eyes in their head could see that he cared about his teammates. And it was like she'd given him permission to relax because he seemed to collapse in on himself, settle into place as he burrowed into his pillow and blew out a breath through his nose. She was sure he was going to sleep then and so she settled in herself, Echo huffing and shifting his shoulders against her side.
It felt like hours that she floated halfway between wakefulness and dreaming, what was really only fifteen minutes or so. She could hear Eliot's gentle breathing, the soft, steady thrum of her own heartbeat and she was almost lost to it when he spoke again, a throaty murmur that fell on her skin like rain water.
"Can I ask you a question?"
Humming sleepily, Lennie lifted her head and blinked at him owlishly before dragging her fingers through her hair and propping her chin on her knees.
"What's with the suitcase?"
"You mean…?" Lennie stuck a foot out and nudged the square black bag that was filled with outdated medical supplies and had the name Matthew Task scratched into the leather under the top fastening.
"No, you…" Eliot frowned and sat up a bit, turning towards her. "Before you left. Parker didn't want to go." He chuffed out a little laugh. "Thought I was gonna have a catfight on my hands."
"I don't cat fight," Lennie mumbled.
"I don't doubt it," he replied, one corner of his mouth quirking up in a grin. "But you cut it fast. Was nice work, I just… didn't get it. You said you had to go get a suitcase and she just caved. Never seen Parker back down like that before."
A smile broke over Lennie's face, a hard, bright, honest smile and she laughed quietly, ducking her face into her pillow while her shoulders shook gently. "I really shouldn't…" she giggled when she finally raised her head again.
"Well now you gotta tell me," he grumbled. "Can't just throw that out there and then leave it like that."
Lennie arched an eyebrow at him and he just looked steadily back at her, daring her like they were ten and telling secrets around a campfire. Twisting her fingers in the black string bracelet on her wrist, she smirked back. She hadn't shied from a challenge yet, and he didn't scare her.
"When we were kids," she began, "Parker was… well, she wasn't like she is now. She wasn't so good at stealing things, wasn't so good at getting out of… tight situations. She had this… fear of small spaces…"
"She told us," Eliot mumbled, his voice hushed as their words, the conversation hung close in the air around them. "Said she…" He swallowed and Lennie saw the knot of his throat rise and fall. "Said she buried herself alive."
"That was mostly my fault," Lennie admitted, and shame tinged her tone. "This was before. I caught her stealing crayons out of Matt's backpack, so I zipped her up inside an old suitcase. Left her there for ten minutes. When I finally let her out she was… wow, she was as white as a sheet. Week later she had a couple of the neighborhood kids stuff her in a trunk and tip her into a hole in the back yard."
A sad sort of smile edged at her mouth as she remembered, remembered when they were all young and small and mostly happy.
"Course she's better now," she muttered, shaking herself out of her reminiscence. "Not scared of it anymore."
Sighing softly, Lennie readjusted her pillow and snuggled back down. "She could get out of that suitcase in a second, if I could even get her in it in the first place," she mumbled. "It mostly just embarrasses her now, I think, me bringing it up."
Her moss green eyes glinted in the low light with a childlike mischievousness, and in the dark she saw Eliot grin sleepily in response. Easy silence fell again and for a time they both just breathed, half-conscious dreams coming to them both quickly and quietly. The last thing she remembered before the dreams took her was Eliot's voice rumbling over her one more time.
"So Matt was your brother?"
Lennie's foggy brain curled up around the words like a kitten and began to purr, oddly touched that that was what he took from a story about Parker and a suitcase. Kind of sweet really.