I own nothing but the OC. Thank you to my beta fleur. This was written for the 2012 Leverage Exchange!
He's been chasing her his whole life, and he's never regretted a single step.
The first time he sees Parker Amberly, he's sitting in the reading circle in Mrs. Allen's kindergarten class.
In she walks, wearing worn overalls and thin-soled green high top Converse sneakers. He thought her white blonde hair was the prettiest he'd ever seen. The light gray bruise under her left eye causes his gut to twist.
He's too young at the time to recognize that what he feels is anger. He does, however, hear his father's voice ringing in his ears. "You don't hit girls, ever." And for the first time Eliot realizes that statement wasn't just about his tendency to pop Evie when she's being especially annoying. It's a life lesson.
"Class, this is Parker Amberly." Mrs. Allen introduces her. They all parrot some form of hello.
He watches her for the better part of a week. She sits off to herself murmuring to her stuffed bunny. She's weird but that's ok, he kinda likes it.
He finally gathers his nerve to talk to her. He reaches over and tugs her blonde ponytail; he couldn't help himself, he just had to do it. Her head whips around and she shoots him the dirtiest look he's ever seen. He promptly decides not to let the hair pulling become a habit.,
Instead, he holds out his M&MS from lunch. "I'll share. I'm Eliot by the way."
She takes the bag, pours some candy into her palm and hands the bag back.
"Thanks," she says.
He eats some himself and mutters "Welcome."
When the teacher tries to make Parker put "Bunny" in her locker ,she throws what his grandma calls a walleyed fit with tons screaming about there not being enough light or air in there. Ok, so the girl is a lot weird.
When he sees her saving food in her pockets for later, he feels bad and decides to fix it.
The next morning he eats his Captain Crunch. "Mama I been gettin' really hungry at school and I was wondering if you'd make me an extra PBJ."
"Well sure baby," his Mama smiles at him, bright as ever, and he feels a bit bad for the lie but it's for a good cause, so maybe he's not really being bad.
The next day at lunch, he sits down and pulls out his Ninja Turtle lunchbox.
"I like the rat." Parker says pointing to the graphic on the box.
"Splinter? Why? Leonardo is the leader and fights with katana swords. I'm going to have one someday."
Parker shrugs. "Splinter is smart. So am I."
Eliot unpacks his lunch. "My mama made extra you want it?" He slides the sandwich over to her.
"Wolverine or Batman?" She asks biting into the sandwich he'd offered.
"Wolverine dude! Claws shoot out of his hands. Batman is a dude with daddy issues and a fanny pack."
"It's a utility belt and he's self-reliant."
"What's that mean?"
"He takes care of himself." Even at five Eliot knows she's talking about herself.
She challenges him to a foot race and that's how it all begins and she's fast. Rather than let her think she's won, he pretends to chase her and soon, becomes obsessed with catching her.
She's like a whirling dervish of red playground dirt and a platinum blonde swinging ponytail. His fingertips brush her shoulder as he almost catches her. She turns around, giving that odd smile and his stomach feels like jelly. He doesn't know what it means and he's not sure he likes it.
"You're getting to be like a snail." He jokes trying to breathe heavily.
"But snails are slow?" her face scrunches up in confusion.
"Never mind Parker."
He shows up to school one day and she's just gone.
Ten Years Later…
Certain people just stick in your brain and never leave. So when he sees a flash of blonde hair and that same determined, almost robotic stride he just knows it's her.
For reasons unknown and utterly beyond him, he runs after her or at least tries to, as he pushes and struggles through the overcrowded hall, headed toward Coach Bradford's algebra class.
"Parker!" He hollers she doesn't hear him and keeps moving. "Amberly!" he yells again. That catches her attention. She freezes and turns toward him, quick and gracefully light on her heels.
"Do I know you?" Confusion causes a wrinkle in her brow; he likes it.
"Eliot Spencer. Mrs. Allen's class." He says suddenly feeling like a huge nerd.
"Right! You got that scar…" She reaches forward, gingerly caressing the scar just above his upper lip. "Falling off the monkey bars, you had a Ninja Turtles lunchbox and you mom used crunchy peanut butter."
"How do you even remember that?" he asks, disbelief evident in his voice.
Parker gives an odd little shrug. "Photographic memory and you were my best friend."
He wants to ask a million questions but they're being forced into their respective class rooms and he doesn't have time.
He's cutting English to be with Aimee in the stacks. When he passes through the cafeteria, he sees Parker trying to pick the very rusted lock on the vending machine.
"There are easier ways to get what you want, Miss Amberly," he says with a smirk. "This thing is older than dirt. You can trick it. What you want?" He glances over at her.
She chews lip thoughtfully. "A Kit-Kat. It's just Parker now. Amberly makes me sound like a stripper."
"You say that like it's a bad thing," he teases.
"Why take off my clothes for cash when I could just steal it?"
He punches a series of numbers and letters and the candy bar falls free no money required.
"How'd you do that?"
Eliot shrugged. "The delivery person's a woman, told her it kept stealing my money and I charmed her into telling me the machines cheat code."
"Don't you mean conned?" Parker says, leaning up against a coke machine.
"Maybe, but it's harmless so...I mean the quarters just go toward the Prom, so who cares right?" He tosses her the candy bar and motions for her to follow him.
They end up in the music room and he distractedly plucks out the tune of "I Walk the Line."
"So what happened to you, Parker? Where did you end up?" he asks. "And you steal to get by?"
"I steal to survive, because I'm good at it, and I like it."
"And where'd you go?"
"My foster parents and I had explosive differences," she says with a private little smile. "They moved me. I escaped, made a friend." She opens the candy bar and breaks a piece off meticulously. "Archie, he taught me…more." She takes a bite.
"Were you happy?"
"I guess." She cocks her head just a little and squints and for second, he's caught by how pretty she is.
"Then why come back here?" He presses his fingers into the fret board but keeps his eyes on her.
"Archie left. Three square and a warm bed, sounded all right. They placed me here." She smiles at him brightly. "Fate I guess."
Eliot feels something inside him catch. Something just clicks.
"So, that red head? She, your girlfriend?" and just like that possibility dies.
He smiles and nods. "Aimee." He keeps strumming and Parker changes the subject.
"So what do you do for fun around here, besides play depressing music and tip cows?"
Eliot laughed. "I've never actually done that. We should try it. No, I uh…I ride, play football, hang with my girlfriend. Normal shit."
He grins. "Horses and the occasional motorcycle. I could teach you…"
Parker shakes her head. "No thanks."
"Offer stands," he says.
He can tell Parker feels uncomfortable, sees it in the way she holds her body just this side of tense. He wants to tell her it'll be okay but he has no idea what he's okaying.
She stands and gives him another bright smile. "Want to know what I do for fun?"
He shrugs. "Sure."
She walks across the room and, calm as ever, pulls the fire alarm. It takes a few seconds of noise and water raining down on him before it sinks in what she's done.
"Are you insane?" he asks in a shout as he chases after her. "This is what you do for fun, commit federal crimes?"
"Well no. I escape for fun. The crime is just a bonus." She grins maniacally.
"There is something wrong with you," he tells her as they duck behind the low slung Ag building.
He comes in after a particularly muddy and grueling practice to find his window open to an early fall chill and a black lacquered acoustic guitar sitting in a stand in the center of his bedroom. The note stuck to it was simple.
"You deserved to have your own to play, I'm sorry but I just have to go. I'll miss you.—Parker "
She'd stayed put for seven whole months and he'd learned through many convoluted conversations just how difficult that was for Parker. On some level, he felt honored even more that he'd warranted a Parker version of goodbye.
He's surprised by the gift and its thoughtfulness. He smiles and decides not to question if it might be stolen. He picins it up and began strumming. Sometime later, Aimee finds him playing "Born To Run."
"Interesting choice," she points out.
"Just reminds me of someone." He pulls her down into him for a kiss to blot out the sting of missing Parker.
When they see each other on that first job, they come to a silent agreement to act as if they have no history. No matter how short lived it may be. They don't trust the team with their secrets yet.
All the feelings he's kept down and buried for so long slowly trickle out over time. Parker is weirder, somehow more broken. He doesn't want to fix her, really, he just wants to understand her.
In time, he's teaching her to throw punches and he cooks for her and literally catches her crazy ass. He tries and fails to convince himself he's not in love with her.
He loathes the regal looking Archie Leach on sight. He remembers that long ago conversation. Archie had bailed on Parker. He really gets pissed when the decrepit old fart hits him with his cane.
He's standing on the window washer, crow bar poised when it hits him.
"Let's go!" Eliot gripes.
"I have to stay. We fix things, that's who we are!" She retorts and with the pride he feels, a realization crashes in: he loves her.
"Well shit!" he growls and bashes his way through the window. "Parker ,we gotta go!" he hollers chasing after her.
Their relationship just sort of happens without conscience, thought or planning. He buys her favorite cereal without commenting on the sugar content. When his demons get the better of him, the only thing that quells the nightmares is her fingers locked into his hair as he sleeps with his head in her lap.
They're oddly domestic at times. Despite their differences, the uniqueness makes them work.
Eliot is truly happy for the first time in longer than he can remember.
The team knows and they probably have for a while. No one mentions it other than Sophie, trying to be gossipy and asking Parker how the sex is.
Eliot stops mid chop to listen. "What do you mean how is it?"
"Good, bad, mediocre? It just seems by the look of him, Eliot would be quite good?"
"Well he makes me feel still…"
"Still is not good especially for sex Parker."
"No, it's good, trust me. I get fidgety and weirded out usually but not with Eliot. Since he understands me, I'm not as twisty and can be calm. It's nice. I like sex with Eliot."
Eliot supposes with all of the things Parker keeps close, that's a really high compliment. That being with him makes her feel something akin to peace.
He feels a little guilty for eavesdropping.
"Parker!" he calls out.
Parker pokes her head through the kitchen door. "Yeah?"
"Wanna help me?"
"Last time I did, you turned really red and got exceptionally growly."
"The salad shouldn't explode. Just toss it." He points out.
"One time…" she pouts.
"I scraped oatmeal off the ceiling, Amberly."
"Yeah, I know the stripper thing. Whatever, sweetheart, toss gently, Jesus girl, what has lettuce ever do to you?" Parker picks out a piece of feta and tosses it in her mouth. Eliot gives a half-hearted growl and she smiles.
He wakes alone on a random Thursday morning. Her side of the bed is made and all signs of Parker are gone from his home. His head knows what his heart wants to deny.
"We were fucking happy! What's wrong with you?" he shouts in the silence of the empty room.
He employs Hardison to track her down even though he knows it's pointless. Parker is only found when she wants to be. He's not surprised when Hardison can turn up nothing. Not even Alice White.
He knows her, knows she'll pop up sooner or later. He hopes.
It's coming up on six years since Parker made her abrupt exit and Eliot misses her more than he'd ever willingly let on. Some part of him hopes she'll come back one day; he has even less hope that she'll explain herself. That's just not Parker's way.
He's watching a mark in the middle of a con one day and feels a nudge in his lower back, then spots a shaggy dark head running into the crowd. He gives chase with Nate yelling his ear. That kid has taken ten of his aliases, 500 in cash and his military ID. Eliot needs the wallet back, if for no other reason than pride. Dirty faced urchins do not pickpocket Eliot Spencer.
There is something familiar in the way the little guy moves. Light and graceful, it's odd and tugs at his memory. The kid ducks into an alley and Eliot follows.
The kid is handing off his loot to a blonde woman. She looks up. "Parker." He whispers and she looks up. The kid looks over with clear blue eyes that match his own.
The world goes a bit fuzzy and he thinks he might actually throw up when he puts it all together.
He finds his voice and its shaking. "He's mine, isn't he?"
"His name is Chase." She says plainly.
"Chase what?" he pushes and ignores the questions in his comm while he holds Parker's gaze.
"Chase Eli Spencer."
It takes some convincing and pleading but she comes to his apartment. He needs to understand her reasons for the years he's missed and he needs to know his child.
"Why?" he asks sitting as far away from her as the couch will allow. He doesn't want to spook her.
She twines a lock of the boy's hair around her finger as Chase sleeps on with his head in her lap. Eliot catches himself looking at the child in amazement.
Parker shrugs. "I run, it's what I do." The "And you catch me" goes unspoken but lingers in the air.
"You could've told me. You should have."
"Maybe. I didn't intend to keep him but then I heard his heartbeat and I just couldn't do it. He's mine…my family and… anyways I have a real job. I'm only teaching him to keep my skills up. He picked you for a mark himself like he knew. Who knows, maybe on some level he does, like some weird parental bat signal."
"Tell me about him." Eliot hopes this is the beginning of something.
"He's five. His birthday is June 5th; He likes Ninja Turtles, Apple Jacks, and playing tag. He's allergic to kiwi, man was that scary…" Parker shudders.
"He's really smart, he likes math…" Parker goes on and on and Eliot lets her. When she pauses for breath, she says. "He's my favorite thing ever…more than money, more than diamonds, more than you. I kept him a secret to keep him safe."
"I understand." And he truly does.
He wakes on the couch the next morning to shrieking laughter and fast-moving feet in his kitchen. He follows the noise to find Parker and Chase facing off on opposite sides of the island in a game of tag.
"Can I join in?" He asks ,moving into position to cut Parker off.
"Mommy's hard to catch, Mr. Eliot." Chase says.
"I know, bud," Eliot answers, thinking that they need to get to work on the kid calling him "Dad". Eliot goes after Parker, who runs only to be caught by Chase.
"Double teamed. Cheaters," Parker gripes.
Yes, he's been chasing her his whole life, and he's never regretted a single step.