Too restless to settle, Hardison wandered through McRory's, Nate's words – both spoken and written – still running through his mind. He pulled up short as he saw Eliot tucked into a corner booth, well-worn book in hand, half-empty beer on the table before him.
"I thought you had a social life to get back to."
"She's workin' late," Eliot said gruffly, eyes still on his book.
Hardison slid into the other side of the booth, ignoring the way Eliot's jaw tightened, the way his eyes narrowed.
The younger man chided, "You didn't turn in your evaluation – "
"No, and I ain't about to. You don't wanna hear what I have to say."
Hardison's teasing smile faded at the hitter's sharp tone. "Uh, if I didn't, I wouldn't have given – "
"Reading here," Eliot interrupted, his fist clenched tightly around the spine of his book.
Hardison shifted uneasily. "Look, if you're still pissed because – "
The book hit the table, making him flinch. Eliot glared at him, blue eyes icy with anger as he gripped the table edge so rigidly that his knuckles were paper white. He leaned in towards Hardison.
"You're right, I am pissed. ‘Cause you just don't get it. Maybe I'll go on strike next time, let whoever's threatening you beat you ‘til that genius brain leaks out your ears!"
"C'mon, man, I just – "
"All right. You want my evaluation? Here it is: you are not the star of this team, Hardison. There is no star. We're a team, and what we do only works when we all do our parts. We don't need any prima donna bullshit, from you or anyone else!"
"Prima donna? You're calling me a prima donna? I'm not the one with guitar and the singing and the fangirls! "
"What – " Eliot sputtered, and Hardison hadn't thought it possible, but Eliot looked even more pissed. "That was a job!" he snarled.
"And this wasn't? Look, I just wanted you guys to appreciate what I do – "
"That's the problem! You're so damn worried about us appreciating what you do! It's not about that! It's not about what you do or what I do or what anyone does! It's about what we do! And I can't figure out why you keep forgetting that."
Sweeping his book up, he stalked out of the pub.
Troubled, Hardison watched him go. His first instinct was to deny everything Eliot had growled at him. But he forced himself not to, forced himself to think about it.
Maybe he had been a little too focused on himself. He wanted them – he needed them to understand that nobody but him could do what he did. But maybe he'd forgotten that nobody but them could do what they did.
Sighing, he leaned back, fingers rubbing through the condensation rings that Eliot's beer had left on the weathered table.
He realized he still had a hell of a long way to go before he was ready for a team of his own.