"I want to show you a striptease," Parker said, which should have been a huge warning in and of itself.
He didn't initially hear her, of course, since he was deep in a raid and getting bombarded with stupid questions from three time zones away--but once his brain clicked that it was Parker talking he hit his 'AFK' macro and pulled his headphones off. "Sorry?"
"Striptease," Parker repeated.
Alec swallowed, hard. "Uh, okay," he said. "I'm watching, I'm attentive, here."
Parker nodded, then bounded to her feet and reached for the hem of her sweater. With a jerky movement she tugged it over her head, then let it fall to the floor by her feet. Honestly, she was just getting undressed like she did most of the time, except maybe a little more piecemeal; her expression didn't change from focused and Parkerlike laser intensity until she was standing there naked.
"Okay," she said, pursing her lips and crossing her arms. "Now how do I make that sexier?"
Alec blinked a few times, because he was all set to say something like That was hot, honey, because even though, yeah, it wasn't sophisticated and he'd been sneaking into pro strip clubs since he was sixteen and faking his own IDs, it had been sweet and athletic and very Parker, which was always hot. But now that reaction was running into his well-intentioned habit of giving advice whenever it was (and was not) requested of him, and ooh, that could go badly. "Uh," he said.
"I tried asking Sophie, and she didn't tell me anything useful," Parker said, and okay, the thought of Sophie giving Parker stripping lessons was really really hot, but not really relevant to the conversation and the naked Parker in his room right now.
"You're hot," Alec finally says. "You just, uh, maybe... more, um..."
His attempts to describe slightly more sensual movements with his hands wound up coming across as spastic flailing. Parker watched him for a moment, then shrugged and leaned down to grab her sweater again. "I need to do more research."
"Hey, uh, wait," Alec said, but by the time he got that out Parker had all her clothes on again and was halfway out the window. After a few moments watching the empty window, Alec sighed and turned back to his computer.
"Eliot, I need you to take me to a strip club."
Eliot was glad that Parker had started talking before he got a swig of beer. Not having a mouthful when she started that sentence meant that he could wait for her to finish talking without a spit-take.
"What?" he finally said, when it didn't make any sense a minute later.
"I was thinking the Acropolis, you know, down on the highway?"
"Parker..." he turned to look at her. She was leaning over the couch, staring at him with that eerie intensity. "Why do you want to go to a strip club?"
She nodded in her I-am-taking-your-question-on-board fashion, bobbing her entire neck down and back up. "I want to learn stripping. I hear the Acropolis has good steak."
"They do--" Eliot shook his head. "Why do you want to learn stripping?"
"I wanna show Hardison," she said, and how weird was it that she wanted to strip for a guy that she still referred to by his last name? "Can we go?"
He looked up at the game, looked back at Parker. "Now?"
"Yeah," she said.
"It's three in the afternoon."
"Is that bad?"
"I don't think they're open. It's kinda an evening thing."
She nodded again. "Okay. I'll come back at eight and we'll go."
"Parker--" She had already vanished by the time he turned his head. He sighed and turned back to the game. He'd think of a way to get out of it by the time she showed up again.
Eliot handed over their cover and turned to glare meaningfully at Parker. "Now, you're gonna behave yourself, right?"
Parker bounced on her toes a bit as she followed him into the dim interior. "Yay! Thanks, Eliot."
He grumbled slightly and led them to a bar seat as the dancer finished sweeping up tips, and the announcer called out the new lineup. "Okay, here's the deal," he said, pulling out a stack of ones and handing Parker half of them. "You sit up here where you can see, you gotta tip."
"Tip, right," she said, holding onto the wad of bills and sticking her tongue out of the corner of her mouth for a second. "How much?"
"Generally you start at a dollar for the first dance, two for the second, three for the third," he said. "More is always appreciated, but don't run out of money too soon."
"Right," she said. "Do I stick it in their underwear?"
"No!" Eliot held onto his exasperation as Parker's face fell. "No, don't touch the dancers. Just put the money on the bar."
"Okay," she said, nodding.
"They can touch you," he said. "But you can't touch them first. I don't want to get in a fight with the bouncer."
Parker frowned. "Why not?"
He was fortunately saved from giving his standard "I don't beat up police officers, bouncers, or mall cops" spiel by the next dancer coming on stage and Parker rapidly losing interest in the conversation.
Eliot had to admit that Parker had picked a pretty good club; the dancers were almost as good as the steak. The woman at their stage had a sort of goth-punk thing going on, with all-black lingerie and tattoos up and down her arms. Her negligee was gone in a couple seconds and then she was flashing miles of tightly muscled legs through the air in a pirouette around the pole that Eliot happily admired on several levels.
Parker's mouth had dropped open wide. "That's stripping?" she asked.
Eliot nodded. "Yup."
Parker watched for a couple more seconds, then said, "That's awesome."
"Glad you approve," Eliot said.
"That's great. Where do I get one of those things?"
Eliot frowned. "The poles? Uh, I think there are a couple stores in town that sell 'em."
"Great." Parker took a dollar bill from her stack, rubbed it against her cheek, then laid it carefully on the bar. "Okay. This is research time."
Eliot took in Parker's focused expression and hoped she didn't scare the dancers too badly.
"I'm back," Parker announced.
This time, Alec closed ventrillo and turned around right away, only to stare in surprise. "Uh, Parker? Why are you putting up a stripper pole?"
"For stripping," she said. She braced the pole against the floor and extended it until it tightened against the ceiling. "I did research."
"Okay, ready?" Parker said, ignoring him.
Alec leaned back in his chair and spread his hands. "I'm all yours, babe."
Parker grinned, then grabbed the pole and pinwheeled until her legs were fanned out over her head and she was balancing by the strength of her arms alone.
Alec's mouth dropped open. "... Uh. Wow."
Parker beamed at him, upside down, then hooked one leg around the pole and started slowly spinning, first one arm then the other holding her steady. When she tucked her legs and flipped so she was right-side up again, she tossed him her shirt.
"Uh, wow," he said again, only then realizing that she'd skimmed out of it.
She arched her back and shimmied up to the top of the pole again, then started lazily unfastening her pants while leaning backwards into another spin. And she suddenly looked so comfortable doing it, lazily flicking down the zipper and rubbing her fingers under the elastic on her panties, like she was born to hang there halfway between the floor and the ceiling doing incredibly sexy things. That was actually a possibility, knowing Parker.
He didn't actually process how she got her pants off. There were a couple leg extensions and her arms spinning around and then she was mostly naked and cuddling up to the pole like she was taking all its valuables. Her wicked grin was the happiest he'd seen her in weeks.
He felt himself grinning as well. "That was awesome."
"See?" she said, walking over and plunking herself down on his lap. She smelled like sweat and was warm and slightly goose-pimply all over. She tugged on his T-shirt and smiled. "C'mon, now we need to get your clothes off."