Lennie woke with the scent of coffee and bacon in her nose and it was almost enough to make her purr. Only the vicious kink in her lower back kept her from perfect happiness, but a good stretch and a pop went a long way. Gave her a minute to get her bearings too, because she wasn't on the cement floor of Parker's warehouse bedroom. Nope, this time she was on another floor – and from her view of the ceiling she was going with the floor of Nate's apartment. Right?
Ugh, what was it with her and sleeping on floors? Might be time to think about that lifestyle choice.
Pushing off the throw pillow that she'd been clutching to her chest instead of resting her head on, she sat on her butt and reached for her toes, exhaling silently as she felt her spine decompress. A loud chomping sound brought her head up with a jerk, just in time to see Echo surge to his feet at the end of the counter and snap a piece of bacon out of the air.
"You'll spoil him," she said with a smile, raising her voice enough to be heard over the pop and sizzle of a frying pan, "But if I'm being treated to the same, I won't complain too much."
"He had to roll over and play dead first."
Having already started rolling to her feet, she shot the last few inches upright over the edge of the counter with a jolt of surprise. Of all of them, Eliot was perhaps the last she'd expected to find cooking up a smorgasbord of scrambled eggs, fried with onions, potatoes, and peppers, and enough shredded cheddar cheese to build a sandcastle with. Blinking away the sleep that lingered in her eyes, she did a stupid, girly thing that she never did and smoothed a hand nervously over her ponytail. Not that it would do her any good. He'd woken up beside her after all, so the man was probably well aware that she sometimes drooled and talked in her sleep.
He had his back to her anyways.
She took the opportunity to free her hair, finger-comb it, and throw it back up again, straightening her t-shirt in the process. Moving around the counter, she gave Echo's ears a scratch before moving to the cabinets near the fridge.
"I'm not above begging," she confessed, "Especially for coffee. But my nose balancing isn't great. Plates?"
"Third from the left."
Lennie frowned, but took down a stack without comment from the cupboard he'd indicated, hunting around until she found the drawer of silverware herself. What had felt so close and warm and intimate between them last night in the low light now felt kind of distant, and she thought that maybe she only noticed because she had never felt anything even close to cold from him before. She'd felt it from the others, still did – Nate had been wary, Sophie distant and unsure, Hardison openly hostile – but never Eliot. He had been cautious, yes, but always open.
From the way Echo fawned around him, she suspected that the hitter had a gentle, tender way about him if you caught him in a quiet moment.
So this little bit of frost between them was… disconcerting.
But she guessed she didn't blame him.
She'd gotten too close too fast.
She'd known him, what? Less than a week? And she'd only actually spent a handful of hours with him. They were veritable strangers, and she'd shared things with him that she didn't talk about with anyone. Things that she had a hard time even dealing with inside her own head. But he was easy to talk to, and she thought that maybe she recognized something familiar in him – a deep stillness that he somehow managed to hang on to despite frequent struggles to take root when waters grew dark and choppy. Last night words had fallen out of her mouth without thought or pain, soft and smooth in the dark as they never had before, and he'd actually listened.
He knew Matt's name.
That was more than she could say for a lot of people.
Pouring herself a mug of coffee from the full pot, she watched him move easily over the stove for a minute or two before slipping out of the kitchen and walking over to the couch where Parker and Hardison still slept. She debated how to wake them up, decided that clicking on the weather channel was probably the best option. The hacker hadn't been too pleased with her last night; she wasn't expecting any sort of thank you for helping him out. He would be sore and achy and irritable when he came to, but she hoped that offering him some pain killers might soften him towards her a bit.
She could hear them both stir on the couch behind her as she watched the seven day forecast, sipping at her coffee. It was mid-summer, but Boston could certainly have its dreary days, and it looked like they had a long stretch of them coming. Nothing but rain and fog and more rain headed their way. A muffled groan told her that Parker was awake, and without thought she lowered her mug down to her side and back, felt small hands take it from her and mumble some noise meant to be gratitude. It was an easy interaction, more so than they had shared in a long time, and she both loved and hated it at the same time.
"Oh for the love of…"
Lennie's gaze flicked toward the hallway from which Nate had emerged, looking messy and rumpled in last night's clothes.
"We need to find a new headquarters," he muttered.
Moving into the kitchen, he slumped down onto a stool, running a hand roughly over his face as Eliot placed a heaping plate in front of him.
"I could take a look around if you like," Lennie offered, leaving the weather behind in favor of getting her own breakfast, Parker following close at her side. "Need to find my own place anyway. Might as well kill two birds with one stone. Give me your specs and I can do both, easy."
"You're staying then?" Eliot asked, and his tone was curious, almost… eager.
Lennie paused in scooping eggs onto her plate, met his gaze for a second with a smile tipping at the corners of her mouth before he looked away to snag a slice of whole wheat toast. "I think so," she replied, her belly warming now that he seemed to be relaxing around her again. "For a while at least. No reason not to."
Beside her Parker wriggled in an uncomfortable manner, her nose scrunched, and Lennie suspected she knew what her cousin wanted to say, but wasn't going to give her an easy out. She wasn't great at communication, and it had been years since they'd talked at all, so she was going to make her speak it or keep silent.
Parker frowned, hummed, and Lennie smiled, took pity on her. Those two words were enough for now.
"Appreciate the offer Parks," she grinned, "But I'm gonna need my own place." Reaching out, she took back the mug of coffee she'd leant, almost empty now. "You and me would kill each other and you know it."
Sophie appeared at the end of the counter, looking far more put together than any woman had a right to after a rough night, and poured herself her own coffee, stirring in cream and sugar.
"Lennie's looking for a place," Eliot offered, finally sitting down with his own plate having finished building his veritable buffet and turned off the stove.
"Oh that's wonderful!" Something gleamed in Sophie's eyes and Lennie didn't miss the amused smirk Eliot attempted to hide behind his glass of OJ. "I could show you some of Parker's other places if you'd like."
Lennie raised her eyebrows at her cousin's awkward outburst, and the blonde blushed.
"It's… just… you can take one if you want." She fiddled her fork, twisting it between her fingers nervously as she tried to recover. Apparently such an arrangement was an acceptable compromise for the thief.
Lennie shrugged. "No harm in having a look."
She was cool with compromise.
"Lovely," Sophie smiled. "I'll need a bit to freshen up, but we could meet this afternoon? I'll take you around, there are a few properties I think you'll appreciate. More than some," she remarked pointedly, eyeing Parker with something like accusation, and Lennie thought she might understand then.
Sophie was the type to go in for drape and carpet schemes, matching throw pillows and appropriate wall colors.
Parker was more of a… well, more of a warehouse type.
Apparently there was a bit of a clash there, if Eliot's poorly hidden mirth was any indication.
But she needed a place to stay, and if she fed into Sophie's need to mother the team and design interiors, or Parker's need to offer something while keeping her distance, she wasn't hurting anyone. Below the counter Echo pushed against her lower legs, finally abandoning the bacon-feeding-hitter and lying down at her feet. His warm, solid presence was a reminder of things, made domestic yearnings flare. It would be nice to have a place to call home.
"I'd like that," she replied with a smile.
"We're looking for a new headquarters too," Eliot said, moving from his stool to put his plate into the dishwasher. "Know a place?"
"Hmm." Lennie watched as Sophie considered for a moment, nibbling a piece of toast from Nate's plate. She didn't know them all that well, but she didn't think anything had happened between the two the night before, not with the purple goose egg on the planner's forehead. Still, somehow she found herself thinking that it would've been nice if something had passed between them.
"I have a few ideas in mind," she answered finally. "A few places that might fit. I could take a look when I take Lennie out."
"Thought I might tag along," Eliot responded off-handedly, and to Lennie's mind, far too casually, his back to the group. "Was hoping we might find a place with a little extra space. Put in a gym, maybe a sparring ring…"
"If anyone's going to pick out the new headquarters it's me."
Everyone turned to find Hardison finally awake and up, pain and weariness evident in the tension around his eyes. Lennie immediately stood and shepherded him onto her vacated stool, ignoring the confused and irritated looks from the team and the hacker respectively. She took hold of his wrist and shoulder despite muttered protests and stretched and flexed them, testing how high he could raise his arm and how tightly he could close his elbow. She took note of when he gritted his teeth, when his fingers shook before guiding his arm carefully back into the sling and adjusting it around his neck. He couldn't seem to maintain his glare when she was so close, so he turned his gaze away, staring resolutely at the counter behind her, and she couldn't help but smirk.
Rounding the counter, she grabbed the bottle of pain pills from where she'd stashed it atop the refrigerator, shook two out into her palm and slapped them down onto the island next to the plate Parker had piled high for the handicapped computer geek.
"Eat first," she warned. "No coffee either."
He grimaced but she stayed firm. She certainly wasn't above buying good will with pain meds, but she wasn't about to deal with the dizziness and nausea that could come with mixing them up with caffeine. Eliot was watching her over his shoulder from his place at the sink, up to his elbows in suds as he started on the mountain of dishes his cooking had created, and she was hit hard with the image of standing next to him, pressed shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip as his body heat burned into her and he handed her plate after plate to rinse and stack.
"Need help?" she offered, and her voice was oddly tight.
There was a distinct beat of stillness that only she noticed before he declined with a shake of his head, and she canted her shoulders back before disappointment could hit. It would have just been weird to feel it; she didn't know him, shouldn't take it personally, and that was what she was going to tell herself even if she knew it was a hard, hot lie.
"I need to take Echo for a run," she said to the room at large, even though she was talking to Sophie, "But I'll be ready to go by three? I could drive, pick you up?"
"That would be lovely," she replied, moving to grab her purse from where it was slung over the back of a chair and fishing out a stack of pink sticky notes and a pen. "I can show you a few places and then maybe you and I could grab dinner before we take the boys to look at some more?"
Lennie smiled gently at the tentativeness in the grifter's voice as she handed over a note with an address written out in careful script. It warmed her insides that Sophie wanted to get dinner with her, just her, and that she included her in the look for the team's new headquarters without thought. She hadn't joined up, hadn't really made friends with any of them, and yet it seemed like she was being welcomed with open arms, at least by one of them. She hadn't had friends in a long time, hadn't been close to anyone, and so this was… nice.
"I'd like that," she smiled, folding the note and pushing it down into her pocket. Grabbing her two duffel bags off the floor, she clicked her tongue at Echo, who stood and shook out his fur before moving to her side. "Need a ride Parker?"
The blonde shook her head, her eyes on Hardison as he struggled to work a fork with his left hand.
Lennie rolled her eyes. "Thanks for letting me crash," she tossed out in Nate's direction, and the planner just nodded as he disappeared down the back hallway towards the bedroom.
Sophie smiled softly, waved a hand in dismissal. "Don't mind him," she said loftily before gesturing at the back of Hardison's head. "Or this one. We all appreciate the help. We were lucky you were here."
Lennie shrugged, shifted uncomfortably, and she could feel Eliot's eyes on her but she didn't look. "See you at three then?" she mumbled, and Sophie just nodded.
Echo pressed against her legs and she knew he could feel her unease, so she took her chance and ducked out the door without further farewell.