What is wrong with you?
Eliot asked her that question a lot. Like now, after she’d told the story of her first time and how it’d involved specialized rigging and handcuffs. Normally, the question just rolled off her back, she ignored it until the staring just shifted to someone else.
But they were alone and she’d been messing with a lock he’d brought her from one of those classified countries of his and it’d just slipped out. “Asperger’s.”
Her eyes widened and she was up and out of his apartment through his ventilation system. She was furious! That was her secret! He had stolen her secret!
The only reason she had a label for her brand of social weirdness was because foster mom #4 had had a Social Conscience and she’d had Parker put through a battery of tests. When those tests showed that Parker was both smart and had Asperger’s, Mom #4 made a call to the state to come get her. Her Social Conscience demanded that Parker be handed over to someone with the time and energy to deal with a special child.
Parker learned not to give a fig about anyone’s Social Conscience. She did get special gymnastic lessons to help with her clumsiness, although her habit of bumping into people came in handy for pick pocketing.
The next day, they were all preparing for a job. Well, Nate and Sophie were arguing and Hardison had a running commentary going and Eliot was scowling when he wasn’t looking at her like he wanted to ask if she was okay. She swapped his and Hardison’s wallet just to make him stop making that face.
The job went off without a hitch. Well, if by ‘without a hitch’, you meant the client was happy and relieved and grateful and stuff. Which she was. And if Eliot hadn’t gotten himself shot because Parker wouldn’t talk to him, everything would’ve turned out perfect.
She’d heard the gunshot from where she’d been in the building, then Eliot’s hissed, “fuck,” and she’d gone cold even as she’d hurried to his last known location. He’d been trying to shove himself off the ground but the blood blossoming along his abdomen probably had something to do with why he didn't get very far.
Parker kind of lost track of events but she remembered yelling (hers) and cursing (Eliot) and very poor driving skills (Nate’s, thankfully sober). At the hospital, she pretended to be the frantic wife in a mugging gone wrong scenario and if she was maybe a little hysterical, that just sold the performance even more. Then they tried to take him away and the hysterics went through the roof. Then there was a pinch on her arm, the room spun, and Nate caught her as she sank into oblivion.
“You little bitch,” Foster father #2 hissed, big fists balling. “You’re like a bad penny. Every time you walk in the door, bad shit rains down on good people.”
Parker jerked awake to the phantom stinging in her cheek, eyes seeking something safe, something safe, something familiar until they landed on Nate. Then everything in her stilled and she knew that everything was going to be okay because Nate made things be okay.
She was stretched out on a hard waiting room sofa and how he managed to talk everybody out of admitting her, she’ll never know. But he was watching her and he looked tired, weary Sophie would say. And she closed her eyes and let herself go back to sleep like the drugs in her blood wanted because he wouldn’t let anything happen to her or Eliot.
When she woke up next, it was because Nate was crouched in front of her, gently shaking her shoulder.
“C’mon,” he said quietly. “They’ve got Eliot in his room. Since you’re his wife, you get to stay with him.”
So she sat beside him, hand wrapped tight around his, and eyes never leaving his unusually pale face.
“Parker, what happened?” Nate asked quietly from behind her. When she didn’t answer, he tried again, obviously exasperated, “Parker-”
“Not now,” she said, never looking away from Eliot.
She wouldn’t speak of stolen secrets or bad feelings. She wouldn’t be Eliot’s bad penny.
Parker hovered close for days and Eliot let her even though she knew he valued his space. He probably let her because he’d stolen her secret and felt guilty.
The trip to the office had been tense. Eliot was the white-grey of the recently shot and Parker kept shooting him sidelong glances which made him tense and hiss, “Eyes on the road!”
They made it in one piece and Parker figured Eliot must be feeling a little better if he was threatening to tear the wheelchair Hardison had provided apart and shove it piece by piece down Hardison’s throat.
Finally, they were all slumped around the conference room table and Nate asked politely, “Would someone like to tell me what the hell went wrong?”
Parke slid Eliot another sidelong glance but this time he didn’t seem tempted to freak out about it. She shrugged. “He stole my secret.”
“Oh, God,” Sophie said, horrified. “You slept together.”
Eliot sputtered, turning alarmingly red after being so pasty.
“Well, yeah,” Parker said, wondering what that had to do with her secret. Eliot’s sputtering went up in pitch. “We did. In Juan.”
“While we were sharing a room?” Hardison said, aghast. “Brother, that’s just cold.”
“There was only sleeping,” Eliot finally shouted. “No sex. Jeez.”
Parker nodded. “And we only slept together then because Hardison had all his toys on the other bed.”
This time, Hardison was sputtering. “Computers! Computers and gadgets, not toys.”
Parker blinked at him. “I saw naked women on them.”
“Alright!” Nate shouted, pinching the bridge of his nose. “That was Juan. I’m talking about our last job. The one where Eliot got shot?”
Parker just stared at him. “He stole my secret.”
“What secret?” Sophie said gently, leaning forward a little bit.
Parker balked but Eliot bit out before she could flee, “That’s for Parker to know and to tell you when she’s ready.”
She swallowed as Sophie eyed her for a moment, then leaned back with a nod. “Of course,” Sophie said and the heaviness in her chest abated.
“I’m going to assume,” Nate said, looking at Parker, then at Eliot, “that Eliot stealing your secret was an accident.”
Parker furrowed her brows in thought, then nodded. “It was.”
Nate threw up his hands. “Then kiss and make up and we’ll all forget this whole situation.”
Eliot sputtered as Parker’s eyebrows rose. Damn, Nate was good. She hadn’t thought he’d be down for inter office bribery.
She leaned over and sealed her mouth to Eliot’s and he went still, hands hovering in the air on either side of her.
Parker leaned back and said with a serious nod, “I forgive you.”
And she was gone, leaving Eliot to himself for the first time in days.
Her lips kept tingling. Parker had never, well, she’d had sex but it’d all been mechanics before. Sometimes it felt good and sometimes it didn’t and that was fine. Parker just wasn’t used to phantom tingles or having her mind circle back to a man.
He’d been antsy all afternoon. She knew because she’d been watching him. That might have had something to do with it because Eliot was pretty good about knowing when he was being watched. But she, in the hidden girly sector of her brain that she’d never bothered developing, liked to think that maybe he missed her.
Finally, what little pacing he’d managed to do had worn him out and he headed to bed. Parker waited twenty minutes for him to get settled, then snuck in through the roof.
She paused in the doorway, making sure he’d woken up because getting into Eliot’s space while he was sleeping was ill-advised. She saw when he came awake, even if he didn’t move and his breathing didn’t change. She made her way almost silently to the bed, the quiet jingle of her harness as she set it aside the loudest thing about her. She sat on the edge of the bed, careful not to jostle it, and tugged off her shoes because Eliot was funny about shoes on the bed. Then she lay down and rolled until her head was on the pillow next to his and she was facing him.
He was watching her. Had probably been watching her since she sat down. “Parker…”
“You didn’t kiss me back,” she announced quietly. “Nate said we had to kiss and make up but you didn’t kiss me back. You’re still mad.”
“Parker…” he said on a sigh.
She leaned in and kissed him. This time, one of his arms wrapped around her waist and his other hand pushed into her hair, knocking her black cap astray and causing her hair to curtain around them. Supporting herself on one arm, she shifted until she was straddling his waist. His growl of approval sent the tingles into a frenzy and she rocked her hips a little. He ground up, then tensed in the bad way and she snatched herself away.
She was almost off the bed when his hand wrapped solidly around her wrist. “Parker, stay. We’ll just sleep.”
“I’m a bad penny,” she said, low, almost guttural.
“What?” he asked, the confusion there in his voice.
She twisted until she could see his familiar scowling face. “I’m a bad penny. I show up and bad things happen.”
He tugged at her until she lay stiffly beside him.
“We’re thieves, Parker. We steal things. It doesn’t always end well,” he said, hand shifting until his thumb could drag over her knuckles. “And this isn’t the first time I’ve gotten shot.”
“But I wouldn’t talk to you,” she interjected.
“I know,” he said, squeezing her hand. “But I never let personal stuff bother me on a job.”
“You let Aimee bother you,” Parker countered, unsure as to why that bothered her.
“Aimee was unfinished business. That’s finished now,” he said gruffly. “But you’re different. We’re on the same crew. I know how you think. I knew that you just needed some time.”
Parker swallowed, then rolled, her hand still in his, and rubbed her nose against his shoulder. “I’m sleepy.”
She wasn’t, really, but it was a decent end to such an uncomfortable conversation, and she fell asleep eventually, anyway.
It should’ve been awkward. Everyone was on the lookout for her secret, everyone watched her with Eliot, and Nate kept the two of them separate for several jobs. Well, that last might’ve been because Eliot was still healing and couldn’t afford to get hit so he had to stay at the office. And mostly they were doing soft cons and preparing for a three-in-one job, where they had three clients for three interconnected bad guys.
And everything should’ve been awkward. But she was Parker and a certain level of awkwardness always surrounded her, so mostly it all felt normal. She stole things and hung out with her crew and slept with Eliot. She still thought she was a bad penny but she also kind of thought the others were, too. Because there were two sides to every coin and, yeah, when they showed up, bad things happened to bad people. But good things happened to good people, too. It was all in the balance.