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A Deadly Blade

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It wasn’t that Hardison didn’t know about the sword. You live with someone for seven years, living the life they led, and certain things just became known. Like how Parker could sprawl across the width of a king-size bed like an octopus and completely not move unless someone kissed her, and then you had to be seriously careful because she could knock you out flat (thanks a fuck, Eliot, for teaching her that). Or how Eliot was never comfortable in the middle unless they were fucking and even sometimes not then. Or how both Eliot and Parker needed their own spaces, even if they rarely lived there. Parker’s was a warehouse on the edge of the industrial district, with a fridge, a microwave, a teeny bathroom barely big enough to fit her, and a massive brass framed, top-of-the-line bed dressed in white linen and lace; Eliot had a top-floor condo with a chef’s kitchen that had barely any furniture but a well-stocked pantry and freezer. Not that Hardison had either of them wired for security reasons and memorized the floor plans or anything like that, but it was only fair that he made sure they were safe, because they were his team.

So Eliot had a sword. After seven years of learning to rely on the hitter’s ability to identify and disarm his opponents, Hardison figured it was just yet another one of Eliot’s quirks. It wasn’t as though Hardison looked it up or anything (Norman style broadsword, leather wrapped handle, double-edged 1055 carbon steel blade, with wear that indicated it wasn’t some recent make). Hardison had learned when it came to weapons, Eliot had his reasons for having them around – or not having them. Eliot didn’t have a gun, but he kept Parker’s and Hardison’s oiled and maintained, and he made sure Hardison didn’t neglect his knives, either. Hardison figured between them, they were set for weaponry, and the sword was just cool. Plus, it made a nice companion to the katana Eliot already had, and Parker had pointed out once that the katana was lonely. It wasn't unlikely that Parker had acquired it for Eliot under that justification, so Hardison just accepted the broadsword as yet another Eliot thing.

As part of his protection for his team (lovers, but nobody had said those words and they were just having fun, especially since they’d only been a trio in bed for the last eight months), Hardison had set up web crawlers to alert him when someone was looking for Eliot, Parker, himself, Nate, Sophie, or Tara (okay, so Tara was lower on the priority list, but he still figured he owed her). It wasn’t surprising to wake up and see that someone was looking for any of them; the search query automatically sifted the priority of the alert from “wanted by Interpol” to “someone wants to hire” to “someone wants to kill.” What cropped up one rainy January morning was nothing the query knew how to handle. Hardison sat on the couch in the living room of their apartment, which had been Nate’s before he and Sophie moved out. It was almost noon; the thundering rain had woken Hardison, and he’d stayed up late playing games, since Eliot wanted to treat Parker to dinner. (They were carefully not calling it a ‘proper date’, but Hardison knew it was one, no matter if they called it ‘an exercise in high-class food.’) The fact that both Eliot and Parker had given Hardison the time to play without distractions was an oblique apology for making him spend three tournament weekends in a row working on their most recent target – something he appreciated.

Now, however, Alec Hardison had a genuine problem. The video was recent; the timestamp on the security footage indicated it had been about a month after Nate and Sophie had sailed off into the sunset (literally: they’d gotten married and sailed out of Portland, supposedly to the Bahamas but Eliot was sure they were headed elsewhere). That meant that Eliot had been in Paris in March, which would’ve explained why Eliot had been tired and snappish when they’d gone to visit their second client as a trio. It didn’t quite explain why Eliot had chosen to decapitate the man in the video, or why the video had emerged now, nearly a year later. The video had cut out just after the head had been severed. It had been tagged with “cool security footage – movie in real life???” on a social media site. The only redeeming quality was that it was being denounced as fake, staged, and the original poster was being called an attention-seeking glory hound, among less flattering posts. The problem for Hardison was that he knew Eliot Spencer’s moves. Knew what he looked like naked, knew what he preferred to wear when he hunted. Hardison had even watched Eliot move through that particular sequence of moves, with that sword, in the early morning light, on the floor above their apartment, which they’d turned into a martial arts studio so Parker wouldn’t randomly hang from the ceiling and break things and Eliot could show them how to move better so they weren’t so stiff. Hardison hadn’t meant to spy on Eliot that morning, but he’d woken up cold and alone, and he’d gone looking for company.

He’d found, instead, Eliot, in jeans and nothing else, working through a sequence of moves that looked like he was fighting with someone. To Alec, who’d grown up on Star Wars, it was better than seeing Jedi fight. He’d waited for Eliot to finish before speaking, in awe. Eliot had shot him an odd look, but that morning, Alec had kissed him for the first time. He’d been surprised and shocked when Eliot had looked at him, then kissed him back. Remembering that – and how Parker had chosen that moment to walk in (“Oh, you weren’t already fucking each other?” had been her comment) – made Hardison sigh and stare at the video. First order of business: get rid of the video and make sure it stayed gone. Easier said than done on the Internet, but he was Alec Hardison, a god of hackers. Second, talk to Eliot. Third, freak the fuck out. Or maybe do that first, he thought. Then do everything else, because Eliot would calm him down and tell him he’d freaked out for no good reason, but at least…at least he’d have it out of the way.