Characters/Pairing: Eliot/Parker; Sophie; Hardison; Original characters
Word Count: 4,803/9,452
Spoilers: Between Seasons 2 and 3
Disclaimer: I don't own them. They belong only to themselves, and the people that created them. This is a figment of my imagination--fiction. No money made. Any mistakes are mine.
Summary: Hardison declares his feelings, so does Parker, but a job to stop industrial espionage will bring changes to the Leverage team.
Notes: Written for Leverage Exchange 2012
As they rode the elevator to the top floor, Parker leaned into Eliot and let his warmth and scent ease her nerves. Eliot's scent always reminded her of standing on a tall building where the air is clear of city smells, everything is fresh, and she feels like she can fly forever.
The ding for their floor made her pull her nose out of his shirt. She looked up through her lashes, and the soft look on Eliot's face stole her breath. Warm lips touch her forehead.
The words cause her legs to wobble as Eliot purred in her ear. Pulling back from his warmth, she swatted his arm.
He waggled his eyebrows as his pale eyes twinkled with mischief. A warm hand in the small of her back and they're walking towards the door of the Presidential suite.
That's opened by the same man that brought the invitation. Marcus Rostov comes toward them grinning like a mule eating thistles, and a loud voice.
"Welcome! So glad you accepted my invitation."
He pumped Eliot's hand enthusiastically and tried to kiss Parker's until she snatched it back and clung to Eliot's arm.
"Y'all have to excuse Ellen-she's a bit touchy about strangers puttin' hands on her." Eliot soothed with a drawl that oozed old southern money, and menace.
"Quite alright. I admit I can be a bit abrupt when I see such beauty." Rostov nearly drooled then remembered his manners. "Let me introduce my other guests, The Richfields. Andre-Antoinette-Daniel and Ellen Boothe."
While pleasantries were exchanged, a valet appeared with a tray of drinks.
"Champagne not to your liking Mr. Boothe?" Andre asked when Eliot turned down the drink.
"I'm afraid too much so, and please, it's Daniel and Ellen. Ya make me want ta look for my daddy when ya call me Mr. Boothe." Eliot's smile was charming. "Water with a twist would do me just fine, thank you."
Andre motioned to the man who returned shortly, and with another nod the valet and bodyguards left the room.
"I'm sure you're wondering why you've been invited here?" Andre settled beside his sister on the couch.
"Since you're probably aware of our occupation, we'd assumed there was something you wanted to acquire that needed our particular brand of expertise." Eliot countered as he moved to perch on the wide arm of Parker's chair.
"Ah, plain speaking. I appreciate that in people." Andre's eyes shot to Rostov before coming back to rest on them. "I wish to acquire a set of plans for a prototype."
"Where and when?" Eliot asked.
"What's the pay?" Parker asked.
Just then the valet announced dinner. The siblings each took an end of the table with Eliot on Antoinette's right, Parker at Andre's, and Rostov in the middle. Conversation turned to mundane things as the chef personally served each course.
"I trust everything was satisfactory?" The chef asked as he served a chocolate mousse for dessert.
"Very good." Rostov commented as he dove into his dessert.
The chef looked at Parker who looked at Eliot.
"What? I just like food, Daniel's the food snob in the family."She smiled when she heard the low growl.
"Not quite what I'd have expected from a hotel of this caliber, but it was palatable."
The chef sputtered his indignation.
"I fear I've insulted your ability, but since I've given up drink, food has become something of a vice." Eliot purred in Antoinette's direction.
"That was very bad of you, Daniel." Antoinette leaned against Eliot's arm, giving him ample view of her cleavage.
"Sister, dear, let us retire to the living room where we can talk privately while they clean up." Andre ground out from between gritted teeth.
Parker knew just how he felt. Hussy!
"You two can't tell me you're not curious about the why's and wherefore's of the job we want you to do." Andre pressed.
"You don't survive in our business by asking too many questions." Parker offered.
"There is a certain 'plausible deniability' in only having the bare details." Eliot assured.
"Yes, of course." Andre's smile was all teeth, but little smile.
Before he could go on, Rostov's phone rang. Yelling in Russian could be heard from the phone. Rostov said something abruptly then excused himself.
Antoinette handed Eliot a folder.
"As I was saying, the plans are at Carson Enterprises here in Boston. In that folder is the pertinent information, address, file number, which vault the plans are located in-everything we could find out about their security systems. You successfully deliver the plans to the location in the folder and there will be $500,000 in cash waiting for you."
"Half now." Parker barked.
"What?!" The Richfield's seemed stunned.
"Half now, the rest when we deliver."
The siblings looked at Eliot.
"Sorry. My little darlin' handles all our finances. I'm just the strategist." He smirked.
"ROSTOV!" Andre gave an undignified yell.
"Sir." The man's face was red either running to Richfield's bellow or his conversation with Krista.
He left and returned with a briefcase that he handed to Parker. When Parker gave the nod it was all there, Eliot stood.
"We thank y'all for your generous hospitality this evening. Am I to assume Mr. Rostov…Marcus will provide us with any equipment we may require?"
"Yes…of course…my number." He handed Eliot a business card.
Once in their room, Parker danced across the floor.
"That was fun!" She threw the briefcase on the bed. "Except for the part where Rostov wanted to slobber on my hand and that hussy rubbed her breasts all over you." She pouted.
"Why Parker, you jealous little cat." Eliot teased.
She wrinkled her nose as she kicked off her heels.
"What's he want us to steal?"
Before he could answer, the adjoining door opened.
"Plans for a purification system that can clean the water used in hydraulic fracturing." Eliot read from the file.
"The patent on that would be worth millions." Hardison read through the file Eliot handed him.
"Sophie, you and David need to sit down with Kit and explain what's happening. Hardison you need to fix up a set of plans that look real, but missing a vital component, but not so blatant that we get our asses handed to us when Richfield looks at the plans."
"What are you going to be doing while all this work is going on?" Hardison sounded suspicious.
"Ellen and Daniel will be casing Carson Enterprises, planning our strategy and sending Rostov out to buy equipment we don't need." Eliot smirked.
He took two bundles of money out of the briefcase before handing it to Sophie, and practically pushing them out of the room.
They'd changed into sweats and were on the king sized bed, Parker curled against Eliot.
"You realize this is a very bizarre date?" Parker asked quietly. "Even for me."
"I figured it'd have all the things you like-playing dress-up, breaking and entering, theft, the possibility of a fight or two, maybe blowing something up…"
"Sounds like the perfect date." Parker giggled.
"Eliot…" Parker's voice got small.
"Sleep, darlin'-it's time to sleep."
With a sigh of relief she did.
They spent the next day acting like tourists and casing the Carson Enterprises building. They even went inside to inquire about Ellen's cousin Krista Newman. They were informed that Krista Newman had transferred to the Wooster office.
They called Rostov with a list of equipment, stopped for dinner at Neptune's Oyster before going back to the hotel. All they had to do was wait until Rostov and Hardison finished they're part of the job.
Luckily the hacker and Rostov finished at the same time, so they would lift the plans tonight and meet Andret's plane at first light.
While they were waiting, Parker had been through all the ductwork on the top floor looking for Jonas Carson, and because she was bored, she checked all the other floors with no joy. They'd even gone to the airport and checked the plane.
When they were getting dressed to break into Carson, Parker noticed the extra layers Eliot was adding.
"It's not going to be that cold." Parker quipped.
Eliot paused for a moment before he answered. He'd never lied to Parker, and he wasn't about the start now.
"Since we can't find Jonas, they must have him wherever Richfield keeps his toys. I'll be on the plane when it takes off."
She stopped what she was doing.
Eliot cringed at the plaintive note in her voice. He wouldn't lie so he answered with his silence.
Knowing she only had one chance to change his mind, she looked around for something that would make an impact on the armor of his stubbornness. There it was-the light glinted off the chains around his neck. There on the chain he never took off, was the wedding band he'd worn until they started to get ready. She reached under her shirt and pulled out the chain that held the ring she'd worn. Left hand clasped around the ring she poked Eliot in the chest hitting the ring.
"If you're alone, why are you still wearing that? Why isn't it in your pocket or duffle or back at the office?" She tried to keep her voice steady-she hated tears, but she could feel her eyes welling at the thought of him going off alone.
Grabbing her hand to still the poking-it was starting to hurt, he looked into dark blue eyes sparkling with tears.
"I've always gone into these situations alone. It's my job, Parker." The rough hand reached out to cup her cheek. "It's my job to protect the team-the family from danger, even from themselves." His voice was raspy as he fought his own emotions.
"But isn't that what this is? We're not alone any more-we're together-we have each other's backs. You…you taught me how to fight so I would be safe-so I could cover Hardison's ass…" Both of their chuckles were watery. "How could I not do the same for someone I have all these frickin' feelings about?" She grumbled.
Eliot threw his head back and laughed.
"Oh, darlin', you are nuts…Fine, but you have to listen to me. No gettin' a wild hare up your ass, and doin' somethin' crazy where I can't back you up."
Only his lightning reflexes caught her as she flew at him landing a kiss at the same time. His first thought was that his life was never going to be calm and quiet with Parker, and that he wanted nothing more than to spin around and spread her out on the king size bed like a gourmet meal, and savor every course until she begged for the meal to end.
He mentally cursed Carson, Rostov, and Richfield for being an obstacle what he wanted to do to the woman in his arms.
"Ready? The quicker we get this done, the quicker we can rain havoc on 'The Keeper's' collection."
Parker's eyes lit up and her smile would have made lesser men run, but the wild side of his nature rose to meet hers as he bared his teeth in his own wolf's smile, and together they headed for their target.
After retrieving Hardison's fake blueprints, there was plenty of time to make the meeting at the airport hangar so they took a turn through Beacon Hill, making fun of the security systems, by pilfering their gourmet food stuffs.
An impromptu picnic on top of the John Hancock Tower gave them a view of the Charles River Basin and the beauty of Boston when the city was asleep.
As they gathered up the remains of their picnic, Parker tucked the memories of the evening away with her good memories, for they were few, and ingrained on her soul. With a small smile, she wondered if it was too soon to introduce Eliot to Archie.
They watched from the shadows the flight crew ready the plane. Parker made an exclamation of surprise then dismay when Eliot dropped his pants and cut his RFD chip out of his thigh. Handing her the chip he explained.
"If Richfield actually pays us instead of having Rostov kill us, drop the chip in the briefcase when you check the money. There's a bathroom by the exit, slip in there and hide the case in the ceiling, high shelf, whatever while I make it look like we left. We'll slip around and into one of the service doors."
"We're not going to get covered in that blue stuff, are we?" She wrinkled her nose at the thought.
"No, Parker, we'll go in the galley door then make our way into the cargo area."
There was no double-cross. Andre was like a five year old at Christmas when Parker handed him the map tube with the blueprints. Rostov grumbled but handed them the briefcase before following the brother and sister onto the plane.
With everyone occupied and few people around at the early hour, Eliot and Parker had no trouble slipping into the belly of the jet. They had just gotten situated when the pilot revved the idling engines and began to move.
"It's like traveling with Sophie on a shopping trip." Parker whispered as she looked at all the pieces of matching luggage in the hold.
With nothing else to pass the time, she systematically began going through all the bags. She nearly drooled when she found Antoinette's jewelry case.
"Most of this stuff is paste." She growled. "Think she keeps the good stuff at home?" Then she saw the emerald cut diamond ring that was the perfect size to go with the band Eliot gave her.
"No." Parker jumped at Eliot's growl. "You'll not wear somethin' you stole with that band. You want one like it-I'll buy it."
Parker knew what the ring in her hand was worth, and with wide eyes she looked at the retrieval specialist.
"You know how much this cost?"
"To the penny…Pocket change." He gave her a wink.
Pocket change?!!Parker knew Eliot lived simple, and he never would tell them what he did with his cut of the money from the Dubenich job. She tossed the ring carelessly back in the case. She was going to have new stuff… stuff that only ever belonged to her. She closed the case and curled inside Eliot's parka. The thought that he would spend the money he earned with his blood and body without complaint warmed her inside like Eliot's body heat warmed her outside.
They dozed curled together until the change in the sound of the engines brought Eliot to alert.
They stayed hidden until the hangar got quiet. Eliot dropped down, checked for cameras and when he saw no cameras or people, he signaled for Parker to follow. They moved into the jungle that was right outside the hangar, and turned on their ear buds and cell phones to find out if anyone knew where they were.
"Hardison." Eliot whispered.
'Eliot?" The hacker's voice sounded sleepy. "ELIOT! Is Parker with you? Man, where are you? We found the money…"
His rant was interrupted by Sophie.
"What are you doing, Eliot. You two disappearing was not part of the plan."
"If you can still pick up our signal, we must not be too far from some coast. The vegetation is tropical, probably somewhere around the Yucatan, maybe."
"We stowed away on the plane." Parker's tone was excited.
Eliot interrupted before the arguing could start.
"Jonas wasn't at the hotel or on the plane so we decided to try and find the man. Figured his boy might appreciate gettin' his daddy back." His tone brooked no argument.
"It looks like you're somewhere off the coast of Central America in the Caribbean Sea." Hardison informed them.
"Great. Then all you and Sophie need to do is steal us an airport on the American side of the Gulf of Mexico. Try Florida. There should be a lot of abandoned airfields used by drug runners."
"That's asking a lot, Eliot." Sophie snapped.
"Considering what we may be getting ourselves into by stealing The Keeper's compound, stealing an airfield should be a walk in the park."Eliot growled back. "We're shuttin' everything off just in case, but text us those coordinates. We'll probably be leaving in a hurry."
They stayed in the cover of the jungle while moving around the perimeter of the compound. They had taken water and some non-perishable foodstuffs from the plane. Eliot was hoping they wouldn't be in the jungle long enough to worry about living off the land.
"Their security sucks." Parker blurted out.
"They're probably worried about people wanting to leave as opposed to breaking in, and the fences are probably electrified."
"There's a very distinct hum." He turned his head at the sound of an engine. "We should maybe see if we can hitch a ride."
Security was lax around the kitchen entrance, allowing them to slip out of the truck as easily as they had slipped in the back. Night was beginning to fall and they took advantage of every shadow. They were waiting for two guards to pass their hiding place when Eliot began to whisper in the blonde's ear.
"If we're seen I want you to hide, and when you can-cause a distraction. Let the animals loose, blow something up-I don't care, but the bigger the better so I can get away. Understand?"
Parker started to protest leaving him, but then became quiet as her tactical mind kicked into high gear. He started to move, but stopped when she tugged on his arm.
"I'm not leaving you so don't ask."
"Our first priority…"
"I don't care."
"Can you pre-flight a plane?"
"Sure." A blush crossed her cheeks.
"What? If Hardison can figure it out, I'm sure one of the brains in here can too." She said mulishly.
With a roll of his eyes, they started forward staying in blind spots until they came to a guard watching several screens of security cameras. Eliot had him quietly unconscious before the guard knew someone had him. They matched the cameras to the diagram on the desk.
Parker rummaged through the drawers and lockers while Eliot figured out how to get to the humans Richfield had collected. She muttered in appreciation at the treasures she found. The stuff was probably to blow the place up if they were ever raided so she figured she'd just make it happen a little sooner than planned.
They had all the cells open including the one holding Jonas Carson. Eliot breathed a sigh of relief when he found Jonas could fly. Parker continued to set charges as they headed back the way they'd come.
"We have to hurry. They'll be bringing our meals around soon." Jonas warned.
"Parker!" Eliot hissed. "Get 'em to the plane."
She grabbed Eliot's arm as he stopped so she could take point.
"I won't leave you so you better be right behind us." She cocked her head. "We've got four minutes before this place goes BOOM."
"I'll be there." He surprised her by grabbing her for a hard quick kiss before shoving her to the front. "Stay with Parker. I'll cover your backs."
Since it was dinner hour, their first obstacle was the guard at the main gate. With the dozen geeks they'd rescued there wasn't time for taking the long way-they'd never make it out before Parker's little surprises lit the night. The guard was bringing his gun to bear on Parker when Eliot came out of the dark like an apparition.
"RUN!" He growled as he subdued the guard.
An automatic light that came on at dark showed them where to go. Eliot was between Parker and the house gate when something hit him in the back with enough power for him to have to fight to remain conscious as the ground flew up to meet him.
Parker heard the report of the rifle. Chancing a look behind her, she saw Eliot thrown violently to the ground. Her first instinct was to go back, but she heard the door on the plane open. They had two minutes before the fireworks. Still running she turned on her phone and ear bud.
"Get this plane ready to roll!" She shouted at Jonas. "You better have a damn airport." She growled at the com.
Seeing the numbers on her phone, she threw it at Carson.
"That's where we're going-UNDER the radar."
She turned back for Eliot-only to see him hanging limply between two of Rostov's goons. Rage and grief nearly consumed her until she saw Eliot setting his feet while still playing possum.
"I believe you dropped something, Mrs. Boothe." Andre sneered as Antoinette pulled Eliot's head back by his hair.
"Thanks for returning him." She snarked.
Hearing the crunch of dead grass where they'd mowed between the house and hangar, Parker brought up her arm and hit Rostov in the chest with her tazer.
"That wasn't very nice." She glared at the brother and sister.
One minute until showtime. Andre and Antoinette each raised a pistol.
Several things happened at once. Eliot jerked free of goon on the left forcing Antoinette to let go of his hair as he shoved her into the man sending them both to the ground. Parker dropped and rolled behind the cover of Rostov's body as Andre shot in her direction. Parker peeked over the Russian's body to see the goon on the right on the ground-not moving, and Andre taking aim at Eliot. She screamed Eliot's real name in warning causing Andre to look in her direction before turning back toward Eliot.
Eliot and Parker hit the ground as the countdown in their heads reached zero. Antoinette had barely regained her feet when the concussive blast threw her and Andre roughly to the ground. With fire and debris raining down on them, Eliot got to his feet, disarmed everyone, throwing guns and clips in different directions.
The plane was pulling onto the runway as the thief and retrieval specialist got to the plane. Two of the scientist yanked the door shut behind them as Jonas started down the runway. They'd barely strapped in when the plane started its climb.
Everyone was celebrating as Eliot slowly made his way to the cockpit. The left side of his back was numb, he had little use of his left hand, and he could feel shrapnel where he might have a hard time pulling it out. One consolation was he'd been wearing his vest so most of his core was protected, but he could feel blood seeping under his shirt. Thankfully his clothes were black, and he gave thanks to the universe at large that no one else was hurt.
"You got coordinates?" He asked Jonas as he settled in the co-pilot's seat.
He held up Parker's phone.
"You're partner became quite fierce when she saw you go down."
"She loves me. Did she emphasize that we need to stay under Everyone's radar?"
"Quite loudly. My ears are still ringing." He chuckled.
Skirting Cuban airspace while Eliot kept watch for other aircraft, but it was a smooth flight until the wheels touched down on the broken asphalt of the deserted airstrip. Pain shot up his back as the plane bounced through cracks and potholes. He could feel the sweat stinging open wounds as he fought to control the pain.
Jonas turned to look at him as he powered down the plane.
"Are you alright, young man?"
"Not at the moment, but I will be as soon as we get to a shower and bed."
He made sure Carson left the cockpit first, giving him time to gather his strength to move. Looking out the window, he blessed Sophie for thinking ahead. Two vans waited by the airstrip. Hardison was passing out ID's from information Parker had relayed while they were in flight. When he climbed in the 'team' van, he sighed seeing his medical bag on the shelf. Now all he needed was a little privacy.
Sophie handed Parker the key to their suite so they could slip in the back without drawing attention to their scraped and battered selves. As the escapees climbed out of the van, each one was handed a duffle and key card like they were on corporate retreat. He listened through the ear bud as everyone was told to shower, eat, and rest until eight when they would all meet in the team's suite.
That gave Eliot three hours to pull himself together.
Thankful the suite had two bathrooms, he pulled a large trash bag out of his EMT bag for his clothes, most of which were probably headed for the trash anyway.
His jacket was fine. It had been in the van and he'd used it to hide most of the damage from cameras and nosy patrons. He opened the fastenings on his vest and felt pain and new bleeding as he carefully peeled the vest away from his back.
The vest had stopped the bullet that put him on the ground-barely. It was the tip that had been digging into his shoulder. A little higher it would have trimmed his hair. A little to the right would have taken his head off. The vest went in the trash, followed by his Henley, button down, and wife beater. His pants had survived, but would need to go through the wash several times. He put them in a different bag. Using the mirror to check his back, most of the wounds were superficial, but the bruises were ugly.
The hot shower made him feel nearly human. A 4x4 patch on the bullet wound, some herbal salve for the bruises he could reach, clean shirts, snarls brushed out of his wet hair and everything packed back in his bag. Going into the living area, he saw pizza, Chinese, burgers and fries spread across the table.
Sticking the ibuprofen in his mouth while he was bent down to get a bottle of water out of the refrigerator, he was mindful of his bruises as he fixed himself a plate of food. He'd just settled on the couch and was setting his plate on the coffee table when Hardison rushed through the room and bumped his bruised shoulder. He bit back a cry, but his hand went numb and the plate clattered against the wooden surface.
"Dammit, Hardison!" He growled as he flexed his left hand.
"You're hurt?" Sophie asked.
"Hurt!" Parker dropped her burger, and started to reach for his shirts.
"Man, I'm sorry…" Hardison backed away.
"Stop!" Eliot commanded. "Just stop." He looked into worried blue eyes. "My shoulder's only bruised, my vest caught the bullet."
"BULLET! Should we get one our many doctors to take a look at it?" Sophie asked worriedly.
"Not unless they've invented a way to heal deep tissue bruises. " Eliot quipped.
With that everyone settled, though Parker continued throwing him worried looks. Before Eliot could reassure her, their refugees were filing in the room. Several had already made arrangements to get home, but many were still bewildered. Jonas called Kit, and on a conference call with David offered anyone who wanted it, a job with Carson Enterprises. It would at least give them some place to go until they were able to decide what they wanted. Kit would be flying down the next day with the corporate jet, so anyone going to Boston was fixed for a ride. Plans made, everyone retired for the night.
Knowing his team mates was ready to pop a seam, Eliot slowly removed his button down shirt so they could all see he was telling the truth about being bruised. After seeing Eliot was fine, Hardison began complaining about slaving over a hot computer for two days with no sleep, and headed off to bed.
Realizing they were a bed short, Sophie started to offer hers before Eliot told her he wouldn't be lying down much for a day or two. Wishing them a good night, Sophie also retired.
"It's a king size bed. You and Sophie have shared before." Eliot cajoled Parker toward bed.
"I'm kinda used to having you for my mattress-not sure I can sleep on a regular one anymore." She leaned against his side that wasn't bruised.
As Eliot's warmth began to make her drowsy, Parker thought about the past few days. When she'd asked Sophie to describe love, the grifter had told her it was the best and the worst feeling in the world. In the morning she would have to tell Sophie she was wrong.
Love was like flying without a net.
~ Fini ~