Hardison was the first one to enter the room. He was three steps in before he even realized something was wrong. Parker, who’d been half turned towards Eliot walking behind her, didn’t see Hardison stopping dead on his tracks and thus, collided with his back. Eliot noticing this shouldered his way past both of them to see in to the room. Parker, not to be left out, circled also around Hardison. The three of them stood fanned out in the doorway, their earlier banter forgotten as they stared at the man calmly sitting in Nate’s living room. Hardison kept opening and closing his mouth, his eyes darting from the man’s cowboy hat to the rifle he was holding. Eliot had tensed as soon as he saw the stranger, his eyes trained on to the trespassers body language and his weapon, that wasn’t (yet) trained on them. Parker was the most relax of them, her head tilted to the side in a curious manner.
“Guys?” Nate’s inquiry made Hardison turn to look at Nate and Sophie briefly, before his eyes darted nervously back to the stranger.
“What’s going on?” Sophie asked softly, sensing the tension.
“There’s a… man in our living room,” Hardison answered, sounding almost unbelieving. Nate didn’t even bother correcting him about the “our” part.
Eliot made a growl of warning as the man got up. When he sifted his hat a bit and his face came better into view, Parker gasped and recognition lit her face.
“Cougar?” she asked, very faintly.
“Parker,” the man answered with a small nod of his head.
Before any of the others had time to react Parker was standing at arms length of the stranger, intently staring up at him. “What happened? What’s wrong? Is he…?”
The man shook his head minutely, and then tilted his head a little, his eyes flickering to the team standing at the door.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Eliot ground out, still standing stiffly.
Parker lifted her hand to touch the man she’d called Cougar, gripping his right arm tightly. “Tell me.”
The way she hissed it out came as a shock to the team, and Hardison almost took a step back. They had never heard Parker sound so insistent, so dead serious.
“Chiquita,” the man said gently, “it is just a little hold up.” Eliot noted he had a Spanish accent.
“And what does that mean? How little can it be if he can’t get out of it by himself? Or you can’t help him either?” Parker had let go of the man’s arm in favor of waving them empathically to puncture her speech. This made Sophie narrow her eyes a little as she observed their thief, who’d she’d started to suspect didn’t know how to properly express emotion.
The man just raised his eyebrow a little, barely imperceptible to the team, but apparently to Parker it told something.
“Fine, be that way,” she huffed and held up a phone that was not the one Hardison had given her, “I’ll get my answers, one way or another.”
The man smirked a little, patting his pant leg and with an acknowledging tilt of his hat seemed to approve Parker’s quiet way of liberating him of his cell phone. He sat back down, after a glance to the team, and trained his eyes to Parker. It would have seemed he was readying to be amused, but Eliot could tell he was keeping an eye on pretty much everything going around him. His mannerisms really reminded him of someone.
Before Eliot got too deep into the memory lane Parker’s call got through and she started talking. “Tell me why Cougar is here and what is going on with Jensen, right now!”
There was a pause, Parker’s eyes narrowed, “He did what? And why didn’t you call me?”
She had been pacing few steps to the right, few to the left, when she suddenly whirled around and pointed her finger straight to the stranger and hissed “You’re not off the hook, Alvarez, so you better not laugh.” The man made a cross over his heart with a straight face, though Eliot suspected that was his default face.
“And now you’re telling me! Put the idiot on the phone,” Parker demanded and apparently her demands were met by the other person as her tone changed shedding even the remotest underlying’s of respect when she growled in a fair impression of Eliot, “Jacob Charlie Jensen, you moronic piece of shit! What did I tell you? No, did I say ‘please don’t inform me when you get into trouble, instead please do it after you are in trouble when I cannot help you’? No, I did not!” Parker’s voice was getting progressively louder and Eliot made the executive decision to herd everyone inside and close the door before anyone got too curious.
“Don’t argue with me! I know what I said! Screw need to know, you’re my brother!” That proclamation had the team trading surprised glances.
Parker had a brother? They'd been in the understanding her brother had died years ago. Parker didn't seem to notice their bewilderment.
“Uh huh, is that so? Then why is Cougar here and not you?” Parker didn’t sound very impressed. She also threw a glance to their visitor who made a ‘don’t blame me’ gesture with his hands.
“Well, your better get your ass to Boston or I’m coming there,” Parker sounded a fractionally calmer. “Put Clay back on.”
“I’m giving you and rest of your Losers till tomorrow night to procure my brother, in one piece, to Boston or I. Will. Have. Your. Hide.” Parker enunciated her threat very clearly and then, with an impish smile added almost jovially as an afterthought, “Colonel.” and hung up.
She stood there; looking at the phone for a moment, then gave it back to its owner and leaned in to give him a hug. Eliot could hear the soft murmur of voices but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. It sounded vaguely like Spanish.
Sophie was the first to shake the odd sort of calm that had descended upon the team as they had stood as a mere audience to Parker’s performance. She gave a polite little cough and asked, “Parker, darling, what’s this all about?”
“My brother got into trouble, again.” Parker said, taking a seat on the couch, next to the stranger. Eliot resisted the urge to tell her to not sit so close to the unknown since it was clear the intruder wasn’t so strange to Parker.
“I – that is, we – didn’t know you had a brother,” Sophie remarked, and Hardison nodded along.
“Well, biologically he’s my half brother, so I don’t suppose he nor my sister would show up.”
“You have a sister, too,” Hardison blurted.
Parker nodded, “Yep, my father was a busy guy,” she rolled her eyes to show what she thought about her father.
“How come you’ve never mentioned them?” Nate wanted to know.
“Well… I still haven’t forgiven him for Bolivia,” Parker said enigmatically, raising an eyebrow to the man beside her, who just smirked in return.
“How would that affect anything?” Hardison wondered.
“Everything,” the man said and as he turned his head towards them Eliot suddenly knew he’d seen that smirk somewhere.
“I know you from somewhere,” he told the man and was rewarded a searching up-and-down glance. With a slow nod, the man replied, “You do.”
When Eliot remained quiet, he raised both of his eyebrows and nodded towards Parker with his head, and with sudden clarity Eliot knew exactly what he meant. Parker had said it – how had he missed it the first time around? – Losers.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” Eliot purposefully applied heavy Texan drawl to his words, “Sarge.”
“Corporal,” the man – well, Sergeant Alvarez – nodded at him.
“Eliot, you know this man, too?” Nate sounded like he wanted a whiskey, now.
“Oh, yeah,” Eliot smiled, “or, I knew him before he became a Loser.”
Sophie seemed to catch on the capital L. “A Loser?”
“Uh huh,” Parker nodded, “It’s a…” she searched for a proper phrase, “unit,” she ended, ambiguously.
“Okay,” Hardison drawled sarcastically and muttered to himself, “that cleared it up.”
Sophie surveyed the scene in front of her. The man – Cougar, Sarge – sat there, mostly without saying anything aloud, Parker sitting next to him, seeming content for the time being. Eliot had migrated to sit opposite of them both, on the coffee table, catching up with an old acquaintance. Hardison had his laptop opened in front of him but he was only half paying attention to it as he listened the other three. Lastly, Sophie took a look at Nate, who looked like somebody had wrecked his master plan.
“Come, let’s make some tea,” Sophie slipped her hand to his elbow and led him to the kitchen.