Eliot isn't surprised to find Parker in his kitchen when he wakes up. But he is surprised she bothered to make coffee.
"You know," he says, yawning and running his hands through his hair, "normal people would knock when they stop by at seven in the morning."
He feels a twinge of guilt; it's not Parker's fault she's not normal people.
But she doesn't seem to notice. "I did knock," she says. She's staring at her coffee mug like she's not quite sure what to do with it. "But you didn't answer, so I came in through the ventilation system."
That's when Eliot notices the vent cover and loose screws on his kitchen table and the gaping hole above his front door. If he didn't know better, he would have sworn the vent was too small for a person to fit through.
"Right," he says. "Makes perfect sense. That's what anybody would do."
Unfortunately, Parker only notices sarcasm when she wants to, and on this fine Saturday morning she clearly does not want to. "Nate told me to talk to you," she says.
Eliot perks up immediately. "We got a job?"
"No," says Parker. "He told me to ask you about the birds and the bees."
Nate's phone rings fifteen times before he answers. Nate is a coward.
"I'm going to kill you," Eliot says.
Nate laughs. "Keep me updated. This is better than reality television."
Eliot hangs up. Nate is a cruel, sadistic bastard.
It's not that Eliot doesn't listen to Hardison. He listens to Alec a lot. For all his geeky rambling and embarrassing pop culture references, Alec is a smart guy who knows a lot of important stuff, like how to alter CIA records to erase covert activities and how to send InterPol on a wild goose chase through Lichtenstein and how to get every channel ESPN ever so much as thought about broadcasting without paying a cent. Most of the time, Alec is a good guy to have around.
This is not one of those times.
"I'm just worried, man, that it might send the wrong message," Alec says. He has his this is serious business, you better damn well be listening face on, although it might be his very similar if you annoy me I will redirect a top secret military weapon satellite to vaporize your lily-white punk ass, don't think I won't face. Both faces are accompanied by an awful lot of talking, so that doesn't help Eliot narrow it down. "It's the symbolism, you know? I really ain't down with that racist primitive peoples shit they have going on, but that's what you get from a franchise that creates an entire desert planet without a single brother living there, but I just think maybe dancing teddy bears might send a more positive message than the alternative."
Eliot blinks. "Wait, what? Alternative what?" He's pretty sure this conversation did not have dancing teddy bears in it when he stopped paying attention five minutes ago.
"Dude," Alec says. He leans forward earnestly, and Eliot can practically see him redirecting weapons satellites in his mind. "I'm asking you, mano a mano, do you think The Empire Strikes Back is too intense for a first date?"
Eliot blinks again. "If I had a light saber," he says, "I would stab you right now."
Alec scoffs, unimpressed. "You do not have what it takes to be a Jedi, Mister Let's-Resort-To-Violence-Always. Besides, a light saber is made for slashing, not stabbing."
Eliot scowls. "I could so be a Jedi."
Alec rolls his eyes. "You just keep telling yourself that, Darth Maul. Are you gonna help me plan my date or not?"
"It's just weird," Eliot says. "It's... weird. Don't you think it's weird? I mean, how can that possibly work?"
"Oh, I don't know," Sophie says. She's sitting on the sofa with her legs curled beneath her and a bag of Cheetos on her lap. Every finger is stained orange but she still manages to look classier than afternoon tea at the Buckingham Palace. "I think it's adorable, if you consider it from a certain point of view."
Eliot gives up hope that he might have an ally in sanity. "Adorable? Seriously?"
"Think about it this way," Sophie says, gesturing elegantly with one Cheeto-stained hand. "Lucinda thought Ricardo was dead, but he really he was only pretending to be dead so Emilio would stop trying to avenge Guillermo's death on Maria, and Maria is only keeping the secret because she knows Marco will try to steal Pia's daughter if he finds out, and... Eliot?"
"What the hell are you talking about?" Eliot asks.
Sophie points at the television and makes a well, duh face. "Why? What are you talking about?"
"Hardison?" Eliot says. "And Parker? You know?
He thinks he made that pretty clear from the start, but he doesn't know anymore. Maybe too many hours of afternoon telenovella have given him the brain damage that years of prolonged physical violence have not been able to.
Sophie raises an eyebrow and smiles. "No, Eliot, I don't know. Why don't you tell me?"
Eliot sinks deeper into the sofa and crosses his arms over his chest. "Never mind."
Eliot sends a text message to Nate: dead dead dead dead dead.
Five minutes later Nate replies: keep up the good work! we're counting on you! :)
The good thing about Nate's newfound sobriety is that his text messages are now 100% more legible than they used to be. It's a lot easier to figure out what he means when there is a correlation between what he wants to say and the keys his fingers hit.
Eliot shoots back: after i kill them im coming 4 u.
Nate: super! :)
The bad thing is that Nate's messages now contain 100% more smiley faces and exclamation points than they used to.
"Listen," Eliot says. "This is how it's going to work."
"Why are we in Nate's bedroom?" Parker asks.
Alec gives Eliot a suspicious look. "If this is one of your weird-ass cowboy fantasies, man, I want nothing to do with it. I mean, I try to be a good friend, I try to be supportive of alternative lifestyles and all that, but after that time with the tequila, and you telling me about that horse, I'm really not -"
Eliot cuts him off. "We agreed never to speak of that again."
"Horse?" says Parker. She looks intrigued.
"There is no horse!" Eliot snaps. "This is not about a horse. This about you. You two. The two of you. Both. You and you."
"I think he means you and me," Parker stage-whispers to Alec.
"I am going to leave you," Eliot goes on, before he loses control of the entire situation, "and you are going to stay in here until you do... whatever you need to do to resolve this whole..." He is momentarily at a loss for words, but he recovers. "You are going to resolve this unresolved sexual tension -"
"Dude," says Alec, "you spend too much time on the internet."
Eliot stubbornly continues, "Or else I'm... or else you'll... or else you'll regret it!" he finishes triumphantly. He ignores the fact that both of them are staring at him like he's grown a second head. "Are we good? We're good. Good-bye."
He leaves the room and shuts the door firmly.
"He wants us to have sex?" Parker asks, loud enough to be heard through the door. "Why do we need to be handcuffed to Nate's bed?"
"It's Eliot," Alec says, like that's some kind of explanation. "He's got, you know, issues."
"Oh, right. Issues."
Eliot raises his fist to point on the door and shout that he does not have issues, damn it, and this isn't about him anyway, but Parker isn't finished.
"So I think I'm going to slip out of my handcuff," she says, "but you should leave yours on. We haven't tried that yet."
Eliot drops his hand, snaps his mouth shut, and retreats from Nate's condo as fast as he can.
operation lovebird: mission accomplished
dont go home anytime soon and wash ur sheets when u do
what did you
Eliot turns his phone off and slips it into his pocket.
He is absolutely not whistling as he walks down the street.