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Just the Rain (Between Us and the World)

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Eliot had taught them how to fight, sure.

Okay, that wasn't quite right. He had taught them how to defend themselves—how to immobilize and take down targets twice their size, where to strike and where to twist, where to aim and where to hit. He taught them quick things that hurt long enough for them to get away, holds and grapples meant to give them the upper hand for those few precious moments it took for Hardison and Parker to either get away or for Eliot to come barreling in.

And he tried to show them how to cook. Genuinely tried. Three times.

Parker could boil water. And, oddly enough, make some really amazing tamales. Hardison could make a passable spaghetti. Anything beyond that? Well…

You know what, the garlic smell did come out. Eventually. And he replaced the oven, so he didn't know what Eliot was still grumbling about. And they don't talk about the stove and the vent, so it's like it never happened.

Anyway.

It hadn't really crossed his mind, what else Eliot might have, want, to offer to show them, him, that wasn't just…part of being part of them. Couples (and moresomes) learned how to dance together, how to sleep together, how to make each other's coffee, how to talk each other down from a breaking point or build them up to a mountain, how to do each other's laundry, how to exist around each other day-in and day-out, how to...well, be them.

Eliot had his skills. Parker had hers. And Hardison had his. Sharing them didn't mean sharing everything , because they still had to be themselves, right? So it didn't hit him as weird that Eliot did a lot of things him and Parker couldn't do. The same could be said for all of them. They all brought something different to the table, and that was fine. Good, even.


The apartment was quiet in a way it rarely was. No TV going, no shouts or bangs from a video game, no clanging in the kitchen, no music from...well, anywhere (which, in and of itself was weird, since normally two to three separate radio stations were playing at all times from different parts of the apartment).

There was just the quiet patter of rain on the window, and the soft clacking of Hardison’s keyboard—only audible because of the quiet. Parker had left, early that morning, saying something about a run and maybe giving the Interpol office a scare (he’s pretty sure she was joking about that one, tossing it out to make sure she had their attention more than anything, but...well, it was Parker. You never knew).

Either way, she probably wouldn't be back until that night.

And Eliot was…

Actually. Where was Eliot?

Hardison paused, blinking a couple times, trying to yank his attention back from where it had split along so many simultaneous paths, and shaking his head to clear the mental double-vision.

Glancing up past his monitors showed...well, a dark living room. The big windows along the south wall (mirrored and as bulletproof as current technology allowed, thank you) offered ambient light, but not much, most of the visible sky dark and heavy, the rain turning what daylight there was to grey streaks across the hardwood floor.

What he could see of the kitchen was also dark, as was the hallway. Eliot hadn’t left this morning, of that he was sure. They'd both still been half-asleep when Parker had left for her run—a rare occurrence, seeing as Eliot was normally up with the sun, if not earlier. Hardison had been all over getting to sleep in late with a sleep-rumbled, soft looking and relaxed Eliot (the kind only him and Parker ever got to see).

When Hardison had finally dragged himself out of bed around eleven that morning, Eliot had clearly been awake for a couple hours—but had apparently been content to stay in bed, one arm curled around Hardison’s shoulders, where Hardison was clinging to his middle like an affectionate octopus, the other hand flipping through his latest book. (And maybe that had made Hardison's insides go all melty and sweet. No one needed to know.)

Eliot had made them breakfast ( lunch he’d grumbled at the time), and then Hardison had parked it at his computers and Eliot had...apparently vanished.

He pushed himself away from his desk and to his feet with a groan, stretching out a crick in his back he hadn’t noticed until he’d decided to move. A look at the clock told him he’d been hunched over for a good four hours—which, nothing for him, but his back disagreed with him on that.

“E? You still here?” He called out into the quiet apartment. As much as he’d wanted to put soundproofing into all of the rooms when they’d first moved in, Eliot had soundly vetoed that idea. Hardison had decided he’d sleep easier at night if he didn’t question why too hard. Point was, because of Eliot’s veto, and with the way the apartment was set up, if Eliot was in the apartment and not ignoring him (there’d been a week in there where an age joke had hit a little close and he’d decided he suddenly couldn’t hear either of them, on account of being so old apparently. Hardison still felt kind of bad about that sometimes), he definitely would’ve heard that.

It took a couple moments before he got an “In the bedroom!” back, from, sure enough, down the hall.

He shuffled that way, curious. Sure, the brewpub was closed today (otherwise no way in hell would Eliot have stayed in bed late with him that morning), but it was still rare for Eliot to stick to their room on their days off.

Not unheard of, of course. But he hadn’t sounded rough or tired—from what little he could actually tell from one yelled answer.

The door was closed but, hey, it was his room too, so he pushed the door open, leaning in the doorway to get a look.

Eliot was sat crosslegged on the bed, still dressed in the tank and sweats he’d slept in last night, mussed up hair shoved back with a tie that was valiantly trying its best, his reading glasses perched on his nose, an acoustic guitar Hardison had never seen cradled in his lap while he tuned it and what looked like a stack of sheet music spread on the bed in front of him.

(...He loved his life sometimes.)

“...New guitar?” Was what he finally managed to ask after a couple minutes of standing in the doorway, staring like a jackass.

Eliot blinked slightly in response before glancing over, raising an eyebrow. “Nah, went and dug it out of storage earlier.”

...Huh. Hardison hadn’t even known he had one, let alone that he’d apparently had it for years if it had been in the storage in the building’s basement. Sure, he knew Eliot played (none of them forgot Tennessee, alright), knew that Eliot probably, at one point, loved to play. But...well. Again, he hadn’t known Eliot had even had the guitar.

It hadn’t come up, is the point.

Hardison slipped over to climb up onto the edge of the bed, careful not to crunch any paper under his knees or hands. “What made you get it out today?”

Eliot shrugged, glancing back down at the sheet music—which, Hardison noticed, was older, faded and notated to hell and back. “Seemed like the kind of day for it?” Eliot murmured after a moment, in that low rumble of a way he had when he was embarrassed. Hardison knocked their shoulders together, grinning when he got Eliot to roll his eyes (but he relaxed, so, mission accomplished).

And, Hardison had to admit, it wasn’t a bad day for it at all. The big windows in their room (damn near matches for the ones in the living room) showed the city sprawling out below them, or, smears of light that Hardison was pretty certain were headlights, windows and streetlights, muddied and mixed by the rain. It wasn’t just the apartment that was quiet it seemed, not in this close space—it felt like, even if he opened the window, all he’d hear is that rain. No honking, no traffic, no wind...just rain.

(It was nice. Felt like it was just the two of them.)

It took him a couple seconds to pick up the first few notes—played softly, easily, like they were trying to blend in with the rain—but when he did, all his attention snapped back to Eliot.

There didn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to what he was playing—eyes closed, he clearly wasn’t using the sheet music—but he looked just as relaxed as Hardison remembered seeing him back in Tennessee, when he’d finally relaxed into the role and just let himself enjoy it. It was...softer, here, more mellow, less energetic and seeking less attention, but no less captivating for it.

(It was moments like this—with this close, heavy, content feeling sitting warm in his chest—that he entertained the idea of them saying fuck it, moving to some island in a country with no extradition, and just...living their life easy, from here on out. No more jobs, no more stress, just...enjoying their lives and enjoying each other. Now, like with every other moment he’d had yet, it went out the window two seconds later. Parker would go stir-crazy in a week. He’d last two, maybe. Eliot would maybe be okay, except for the fact that his partners wouldn’t be, so he wouldn’t be, no matter how much he’d try to deny it.)

“...Show me?” He whispered, in a dip between notes that ran a little longer than the others. He hadn’t even realized he’d asked out loud until Eliot stopped playing completely to look over at him, that damned eyebrow crooking up again.

“Takes longer than a day to learn, even with a big ol’ brain like yours.” He grumbled—but he was already shifting closer, so Hardison just grinned. They all knew Eliot was wrapped around his and Parker’s fingers. But they also all knew it wasn’t really polite to point it out.

The guitar ended up in his lap, Eliot pressed against his side while he grabbed Hardison’s wrists to put his hands where he wanted them.

Despite knowing for a fact that Eliot was a growly, snappy teacher normally (though, that may have just been the cooking thing), the afternoon stayed quiet from there, both of them keeping to hushed murmurs (out of respect for the mood around them or something not nearly so conscious, he didn’t know) as Eliot pointed out the basics. It was different than his violin, sure, but not so different he couldn’t pick up what Eliot was telling him pretty easily. He wasn’t going to be rocking out ballads anytime soon, but he could pluck out a light, easy (emphasis there) tune in a couple of hours—earning him a smile and a soft, honey-warm kiss as a reward.

Which is probably when both of them missed Parker coming into the room and appearing on the end of the bed. Eliot didn’t start, because he was a bastard like that, and Hardison only didn’t because he had a pretty good sense of what would happen if he damaged the guitar in his lap in a flail-related incident. It was by sheer force of will though.

She glanced between the two of them, look soft and curious, a small smile curling up the corner of her mouth.

It was an odd look, considering she was also dripping wet and clearly just in from the rain. Already close-cut clothes clung to her frame, her tight braid plastered to her neck in a way that couldn’t be comfortable at all. And that wasn’t even mentioning the growing wet-spot where she was sitting.

“Parker! Off the bed!” Eliot scolded, doing his best to shoo her and save the paper closest to her from getting dripped on. She snorted out a laugh, but did roll off the bed (literally, and backwards). Eliot just rolled his eyes, “Go get changed before you catch a cold.” He could grumble all he wanted, Hardison saw the smile in his eyes. And so did Parker, so she just laughed and shook her head, sending water droplets flying.

“Fine,” she replied, drawing it out like a whiny teenager just to get a snort from Eliot, “But when I get back I wanna hear a song.” Hardison grinned, sketching an approximation of a salute after her as she disappeared into the bathroom, “And I wanna learn too!” she called out when she was out of sight.

Eliot groaned at that, face planting on the bed, which...yep, it was to hide a laugh.

(He really loved his life sometimes.)