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It's a Long Way to Zanzibar

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"When I was ten, I ran away from home," Hardison said and smiled fondly. Eliot spread out a little on the sofa opposite him, slung his arms out along the back, hunkered down. Alec was in a talking mood, and sometimes Eliot didn't have a clue what he was going on about, but the man had a nice voice, and Eliot liked to listen. And look.

"How far did you get?" Parker asked, and she settled down crosslegged beside Hardison, her right knee bumping his left.

"A block and a half. Turned out, Mrs. Greenfeld from across the street had spotted me packing my stuff—I had these little saddle bags on my bike—and anyway, she'd been following me the whole time. As soon as I got near the main road, she got Mr. McKenzie to hustle my ass home while she called Nana."

"You get a whipping?" Eliot said and grinned; he'd earned some tanning when he was young. Hadn't seemed so funny at the time, but it didn't seem like much now.

"Oh no. No, no. Nana, she didn't hold with that. She had this look, this disappointed look, you know? That was worse than any spanking."

Eliot didn't know about that, but he wasn't fixing to argue, so he asked, "Why'd you run?"

"New foster kid showed up. Didn't like her," Hardison said, and Parker nodded knowingly.

Eliot took a closer look at her and raised his eyebrows. "Are you knitting?"

"Maybe," she said.

"Since when do you knit?"

"Since I called Sophie twelve times in an hour, and she said I needed a hobby. Also, she changed her number." Parker stabbed at the yarn with the needles. Whatever she was making was about a foot long, and a shade of green not found in nature, but likely figured prominently in Hardison's wardrobe.

Alec was watching the whole process with some nervousness, which was only smart. Parker and sharp things were a potentially dangerous combination. Parker and a plastic fork. Just Parker.

Eliot started to laugh. "Hey did I ever tell you guys about the time I was on a plane to Kazakhstan, and I took out a guy with a knitting needle?"

Alec swiveled his gaze over to Eliot and eased a little away from Parker at the same time. "Was that the same trip where you crashed in the dessert and had to make an artificial heart to stay alive, or am I getting that mixed up again?"

"Funny, Hardison." Eliot speared him with his best glare. Alec was fourth on the list of people immune to his best glare. Parker was fifth.

"So what about you, Eliot? You ever run away?" Alec asked.

"Hell, yeah. Got a hell of a lot farther than a block and a half too. Also, my saddle bags didn't come from the toy department at Walmart and I was riding an actual horse." Eliot smiled slowly. Damn, he'd been mad. He'd have kept on going too, if he hadn't run out of trail. Damn housing development.

"Why'd you go?" Parker asked.

"My daddy confiscated my best knife," Eliot said, and he was getting pissed off again, just thinking about it. So he'd been eight years old, that was old enough for a proper Bowie knife. "Said I couldn't take it to school."

Alec gave him a long look full of some meaning he couldn't fathom, and then he said, "What about you, Parker," and Eliot winced. He could imagine, or well, really he couldn't, how many times she'd hit the road. Probably been in diapers the first time.

"I made it as far as Cedar Rapids. No one had heard about the explosion there." She glared at her knitting, made a noise, and then started going backwards, at least Eliot thought she was; he was no expert on standard uses for knitting needles.

"Um," Alec said, and flicked a glance at Eliot. He was on his own; Eliot wasn't getting him out of the mess he'd gotten into asking stupid questions. "From where?"

"Little place outside Indianapolis."

"That's—"

"400 miles. I was older than ten though."

"Yeah?" Eliot said.

"Oh yeah, I was eleven and one day."

"Oh," Alec said, and stared at his shoes.

"So are we going?" Parker said, looking up from her knitting, and casting her gaze back and forth between them.

"Going?" Alec said.

"Running away from home, silly. Now that we have a new stepmother."


Eliot could not tell you how arguing about whether or not Tara Cole should really be called their stepmother had devolved into arguing about what kind of car was best for a road trip, but there they were discussing the relative merits of conning a car out of a dealer, stealing it, or just buying it with actual cash money.

Eliot knew he was doomed when he heard himself holler, "Why the hell can't we just take my truck?"

"Alec Hardison does not travel in pickup trucks," Alec said and sniffed.

"No, he skulks around in the back of seedy-looking vans," Eliot said and threw up his hands. "Go find something on the internet then."

"Fine I will. Hey—where are we going anyway?"

"The Grand Canyon," Parker said, and Eliot looked over, and then looked again. Whatever she was knitting was suddenly a lot longer and not just green.

Hardison just shrugged and punched a few more keys on his laptop.

The Grand Canyon. Eliot thought about that for a minute. Boston straight west to Chicago and then Iowa, Nebraska, (And was he still wanted there for that little incident after their job there?), Colorado, and then through some of the more interesting parts of Utah. "Get something fast," he said, but Alec was nibbling his lip and scrolling, and he didn't answer.


Eliot knew a fast way out of town, he always knew the fastest way out of town, and he was dying to get this gorgeous hunk of machine on the highway. Alec, bless his slightly deranged geeky soul, had found a car that was faster than anything Eliot had driven since he'd been undercover in Italy as a NASCAR driver trying to break into F1, had an honest to god tape deck along with a sound system to do justice to the voice of the Man in Black, and—"It's rear wheel drive, Hardison," Eliot said.

"I know," Alec said. "It's also a hybrid."

"I don't care, it goes fast, and it corners like a damn race car."

"Also," Alec fiddled with the centre console, and Eliot could feel the road, the slope, the grip of the tires, every little bump and dip translated straight up to his hands, hell, his ass even.

"It's got one of those—"

"The thing with the suspension, yeah," Alec said and grinned at him like he'd invented the damn thing himself.

"I could kiss you."

"Okay," Hardison said, and Eliot squeezed the steering wheel a little tighter.

"Okay?" Eliot said, and risked a glance.

"Yeah, with the kissing, anytime you want."

"Can I watch?" Parker asked, leaning forward between the bucket seats, like they might do it right there on the highway. "Also, why are half our suitcases in the back seat?"

Eliot concentrated on getting a look at every car in front of him in the rear view mirror and didn't have time to discuss kissing—or trunk space.


Their first night, in a chain hotel just off the interstate in the middle of upstate New York, Hardison flashed a credit card, got them three singles, and nobody met anyone else's eyes in the elevator—they weren't discussing trunk space either.

They met the next morning in the parking lot, and Parker's yarn monster was nowhere in sight. She insisted on driving. Eliot settled in the back and ignored Hardison's music choices, Parker's driving, and he wished he had something to do with his hands, possibly involving a flask. He'd never thought about taking up knitting, but he'd spent two weeks in Kosovo, in a safe house that wasn't, with a guy who made all his own socks. They'd been nice and warm.

When the State Troopers were finally far enough behind, all four of them, Eliot calmly and quietly insisted Parker pull over.

"Who in the unholy hell taught you to drive?" Eliot said, when they were both standing on the side of the highway.

"You don't have to yell," Parker yelled. "And what do you mean, 'taught me to drive?'" She did the finger quotes with a smirk.

"I'm not yelling, and what do you mean, 'what do you mean?'" Eliot did 'em right back.

"You are so yelling, and I mean no one taught me to drive, I just, you know, stole a car and drove it."

Eliot watched Alec's window silently slide up. The barest hint of a bass beat from something never recorded on cassette escaped the car. Eliot opened his mouth, and Parker held up her hand.

"Are you going to just let him put us all in separate rooms?" she said as quietly as she could.

"What?" Eliot fisted his hands in his hair. Sixty miles of Smokey and the Bandit had left him a little freaked out.

"I said, are you just going to let him hide in his own room?"

"I thought—you—he changed his mind," Eliot said. "It's fine."

"It's fine," Parker mimicked. "Fine, I'll just hook his wallet and book our room myself tonight."

"Fine," Eliot said, suddenly tired beyond all reason. "Just stay in the back seat."

"Fine," she said and sneered, but he saw the sly grin that spread across her face when he turned to get back in the car.

Hardison had just changed his mind, or never been serious in the first place, whatever. Eliot was not in any way disappointed by that, and he was going to keep busy reconciling himself to all three of them in one room for the night. He looked at Parker in the rear view mirror, but she was intent over her knitting. All three of them plus the yarn monster.


"If that's a sock, it's for a giraffe," Alec said, and he tilted in towards Eliot when he said it, small smile playing over his lips.

They'd taken over one bed and the television, while Parker was ensconced on the other. Eliot wasn't doing any math involving 2 beds and 3 people. He was watching Mario Batali stuff ravioli.

He looked over at the tube of knitting spiralling out between Parker's feet. If they had rainbows in hell, they would be that exact colour combination.

"If you want the whole thing to have been a joke, I can do that," Alec said.

"Parker doesn't think it's a joke," Eliot said, stalling.

"How can you tell?"

Eliot turned, and Alec was right there, still leaning in, and he was trying very hard to look cool, Eliot could see that. Eliot wasn't feeling cool, which was weird, he'd done stranger things than this, not that they'd done anything, but he was confused about just what the hell they were all going to do. Three divided by two, and all that.

"How about a no strings test drive," Alec said, leaning a little closer. "Way it works is, you take her, or in this case, me, out for a spin, no pressure, if you like it, we can talk terms."

"Are you quoting the poor schlub you conned that car out of?" Eliot said, and he could feel himself developing a matching lean to Alec's.

"Maybe," Alec said, and they both leaned a little more, and Alec was not the first teammate Eliot had ever kissed, but it had always seemed a little dangerous and foolhardy before, like that was the point.

"Hey," Parker said, "I missed the start, start over."

"You snooze, you lose, baby," Alec said, and he leaned back against the headboard and just watched Eliot silently.

Eliot kept his eyes on Alec. He needed to forget for a second that Parker was there, get used to one thing at a time. Decide if he was going to go for it, or—

"Come on, Eliot," she said, "aren't you going to do it again?"

Eliot turned to glare at her, so much for forgetting, but she was looking at him with this strange combination of hope and disappointment, like a little kid who knew she wasn't going to get what she wanted but hadn't stopped asking. She wanted this, she wasn't just fooling around. "Do you think I should?" he said.

She smiled and nodded vigorously.

Alec was still waiting and watching when he turned around. "You're driving, baby. Anywhere you want to go is cool."

"Don't call me baby," Eliot said, trying to sound like he was spitting the words out along with some ground glass.

"Ah, don't be like that," Alec said. "Baby."

"I know how you could make him stop saying that," Parker said.

So did Eliot, and as a bonus, the smirk would get wiped too. He got a hand on Alec's neck and pulled, and they were kissing again, and Eliot heard Parker laugh, and there may have been clapping, but he didn't have the time to pay mind to anything but Alec's hands all over him, up under his shirt, ghosting over his denim-clad ass, and he was not cool; he was hot and wanting—more of this, more of whatever else was on offer.

They got more skin exposed and hunkered down a little flatter on the bed, found more places for their hands to go, and for all Eliot was supposed to be driving here, he'd ended up flat on his back with Alec looming over him, slowly working his fly open wide enough to get his hand inside. Damn, the man had nice hands.

"Can I play?" Parker said, and Eliot jerked, damn near levitated off the bed. He hadn't exactly forgotten she was there, but when Alec had started working his dick, he'd stopped automatically tracking her. She was kneeling on the bed beside them, and she and Alec were looking at him, matching expressions of banked down desire, looking for him to set it flaring higher, and he was starting to wonder just how spontaneous all this spur of the moment adventuring really was.

"Make a move," Eliot said.

She grinned at him, bounced up and kissed Alec, and yeah, okay, he could see the fun in watching. Alec was different with her, a little more gentle, and Eliot thought that might be a mistake, she wasn't very breakable. Trial and error, there was always a little of that with someone new. He was good at the trial and error part.

She pulled away, and Eliot watched as their lips separated. He'd been keeping his hands to himself since she jumped on the bed. He wanted to touch, it was natural to want to, and he reached out, but she moved away a little, not a flinch, just a slide of her body out of his range.

"He," she said to Alec, nodding at Eliot, "needs to not have those jeans on."

"Okay," Alec said, and Eliot's jeans were yanked off and made to vanish, and he tried to make a mental note to look for his wallet later, but Parker had bent and wrapped her lips around his dick without so much as a how do you do. Yeah, and if they were going this fast, it was definitely Parker driving.

She bobbed back up grinned and said, "I like doing this, it's fun," and she got right back to it. Eliot rolled his head, found Alec watching now, so Eliot tapped him on the shoulder, made an intensely obscene gesture with his hand, smirked lewdly and said, "Pants, pants, oh, god, pants." Which hadn't been quite the line he'd been shooting for, but Parker could do this thing with her tongue, and Jesus, did she ever need to breathe?

"A man just doesn't get offers like that every day," Alec said, but he shimmied out of his jeans and rolled over closer so Eliot could take him in hand. He wasn't sure if he had the coordination to do much, what with Parker, the blowjob savant, working him over, but he was always game to try.

Alec was kissing him again, long deep explorations of his mouth, and okay, apparently both of them were a little oral, Eliot could deal with that. Parker was bringing him to the edge and backing off, and Alec was essentially rutting into his hand, and tongue fucking his mouth now, and all Eliot needed to do was hang on, and Parker brought him close, and then pulled off. Eliot tried to complain, but Alec's tongue was keeping him busy, but then he felt her tongue on his balls and he had to jerk away from Alec's mouth so he could yell something embarrassingly incoherent as he was driven into coming at 200 miles an hour.

He lifted his head enough to see Parker, her head right at dick level, watching the last spurts of come sluggishly pour out of him. "I love this part," she said, sounding almost awed. "It's so cool."

"Uh," Eliot said and levered himself half upright, waved liquidly at Alec. "Give me a hand here, and you can see it again."

Alec flopped over and said, "Do me, baby," which Eliot ignored.

He got his hand around Alec's dick again, and Parker was cupping his balls and rolling them. She flashed a grin and bent and wrapped her lips around the head of Alec's dick, and he arched up, strung taut while she pulled back and Eliot finished him off while she watched.

"So cool," she said again.

"Hey," Alec said, and Eliot jerked awake. "Parker, you want—"

"No, I'm good," she said, and she'd sounded like she'd meant it. She crawled off the bed and threw a smile over her shoulder before she disappeared into the bathroom.

Eliot heard running water, and Alec was asking him questions with his puzzled frown that he couldn't answer.

"I got nothing," Eliot said.

"So, test drive was okay?"

"Let me find out if you snore or hog the covers first," Eliot said. "I'll get back to you."


Parker was sitting on the foot of their bed in the morning, crosslegged and intent on the yarn monster again. "Can I drive today?" she said and looked up at Eliot with a casual innocence that did not look studied at all.

"Absolutely not," Eliot said firmly, and then yelped because Alec was licking his right nipple.

"I woke up and it was there," Alec said.

"That's because you're half on top of me." Hardison didn't snore, but he was inclined to committing personal fouls in his sleep.

"Fine, dibs on the shower," he said and launched himself upright, and wandered over to the bathroom, idly scratching at his stomach in the time-honoured way of men everywhere.

Eliot watched his ass, in the time honoured way of, well, some percentage of men everywhere. He wasn't surprised when he turned and saw Parker staring at him with a little less innocence.

"We're going to need to buy lube, aren't we?" she said.

It didn't even seem that weird anymore, was the thing. She just said things in that matter of fact way, and he was worn down enough that he didn't even try to argue. Not that he had any argument with the need for lube, but—

"Can I pick the music?"

"No," Eliot said.

"Fine, but we're stopping at the first yarn store we see."

"Deal," Eliot said, and she grinned at him and stuck her hand out, and they shook on it.

In the best cons, the mark always thought he'd won.


Eliot was behind the wheel when they hit the outskirts of Buffalo. Parker's yarn monster was long enough to trail over the centre console as she sat in the middle of the back seat. It was like having an acid-trip snake slithering in his peripheral vision, and it was making him nervous.

"So Alec," Eliot said, shifting, hitting the accelerator and changing lanes like a sleek little fish in a sea of lumbering sedans. "This car have papers that actually match the VIN?"

Alec slapped his hand to his chest. "I am wounded, sir. Of course the papers match."

"Notice he didn't say they were legit," Parker said.

"I did, yeah. What about us? Our papers match our VINs?"

"We have VINs?" Parker started to peel up her shirt, looking for a number. Eliot was pretty sure she was joking. Pretty sure.

"Oh yeah, one passport each, matches our wallet ID. You want to go through Canada?"

"Why not, see a foreign country, learn a new language, makes for a fun trip." Eliot spotted the sign for the bridge and cut off a minivan or two changing lanes.

"Foreign language?" Parker said nervously. She hadn't done so well with Serbian.

"Yeah, eh." Eliot said, rounding out his vowels and curbing his drawl. He saw Alec turn to stare. "Besides, you can really give 'er on the 401." Eliot smirked, wondering what he could get Alec to do to worm the story out of him.

Eliot really did give 'er on several multi-lane highways. Even taking into account that it was construction season, he was soon barreling along through Michigan, idly thinking they should stop for the night and half listening to Alec complain about how he hadn't got any in Canada when Parker said, "You can always go to Niagara Falls on your honeymoon."

Eliot may have had a small coronary event, definitely cut off three Hondas and a Toyota when he accidentally changed lanes, twice, and firmly decided he needed whiskey and a room ASAP.

As soon as they got in their room in the Detroit Airport Marriott, which was actually in Romulus, Eliot ducked in the bathroom to freshen up, as his mother used to say, or to take a piss, like he was known to phrase it. He splashed around in the sink, avoiding heading back out to the room—the room they were all sharing again—because he, well he didn't really know why, beyond his desire to avoid hearing anymore Star Trek jokes.

He liked Hardison well enough, they could argue and snipe and crack jokes that he actually understood occasionally, and then crack a beer and watch football, which had always been what he'd wanted in his friends, rare as they were. Truth be told, that pretty much described his one and only somewhat long-term relationship with a woman too.

Parker though, Parker was nothing like, well anyone else on earth probably. He couldn't tell when she was joking half the time, even when he could, he always felt like there was a layer or two he couldn't decode to everything she said, and yeah, he liked her well enough too, but he wasn't sure how he was supposed to proceed with her. None of his usual moves seemed to apply.

He flicked some water at his own face in the mirror and stepped out into the room. Christ, it was not safe to dawdle in the bathroom.

Alec was laid out, only words for it, laid out and waiting, naked, long limbs sleek and soft looking. They were, too; he had really soft skin, and Eliot was getting used to wanting to touch him all the time. He was face down, head pillowed on his arms, comfortable looking, relaxed.

The lights were turned low, and Parker was kneeling, straddling one of Alec's legs, naked as well, hair cascading down, her lips and her nipples red, like maybe they'd been doing a little more than stripping their clothes off while he'd been spinning his mental wheels.

"Alec says I have to wait to see if you want to," she said.

"Want to?" he said, not coming up with much he'd say no to at this point.

She flicked a condom at him, and he caught it out of the air while she brandished a bottle of lube at him. So want to, as in fuck Alec with supplies shoplifted in Canada, seemed to be the issue under discussion.

"I can't imagine not wanting to," he said.

"Not even if there was an Iron Chef marathon on?" she said, rising and turning to him, like she was prepared to debate this at length.

"Parker," Alec said, and he bounced his ass in the air. "Come on."

Eliot's role in the prep seemed to consist solely of getting naked. Which he could do just fine, even while watching Parker's long fingers work Alec open and slide inside while her other hand trailed in soothing circles along his back. Alec was never quiet, never, and he was making a continuous song of pleasure and wanting, all sung with insensible words and sounds. Eliot got everything off—eventually.

There was no sign, no consultation with Alec, but Parker pulled her hands away, reaching for a towel that was waiting on the bed and said, "Your turn."

Eliot was feeling a bit like a horse on a stud farm that still did things the old-fashioned way, but Alec's murmured approval when he set his hands to his soft, smooth-skinned hips washed away any hesitation.

Parker kept her hands on Alec the whole time, light touches along his shoulders and back, and Eliot took his cue from her, and kept the pace slow and easy, almost too gentle, as he pressed inside and thrust slowly, more of a roll of hips than anything else.

It was almost eerily quiet, the shush of Parker's hands clearly audible over Alec's soft noises. The build up was slow, steady, easy, like a long drive down a country road. No frantic thrusting or slap of skin, just a steady, easy ride.

Alec's noises eventually got louder, more urgent, and he was flexing his ass around Eliot in a way that made him hunger for a little more room to move. He knew what Parker wanted, so he manhandled Alec up onto his knees and Parker slid down until her eye level was where the action was, and it should have been weird, but it wasn't. He wanted to show off. He wanted her to watch while he fisted Alec's cock and drove him over the edge, and then threw himself right after.


They were in a hotel in Indiana, nothing special, a room with a couple of king-size beds and a television. Hardison had been playing scales on his thighs all day while Eliot had hogged the wheel, so Eliot wasn't surprised when he built a pillow desk on one of the beds and started communing with the internet.

Eliot gathered up the room service menu, the remote, his boot knife and stone and settled on the other bed beside Parker. He ignored the menu, found Food TV, and started working on his knife. "You hungry?" he asked, when he'd felt Parker's stare on him for a while.

"Not really."

He nodded and continued with the sweep of the blade against the stone.

"There are things I just don't do," she said, and he nodded and kept working the blade.

"Do you want to ask why?" she said, a little jut to her chin.

He'd seen her angry, not too often, but Hardison had managed to piss her off, and he reckoned he had too, once or twice. This wasn't anger exactly, more like determination, like she was testing him with this question. Most people, he'd fuck with them by answering with the simple truth, because it wasn't what they expected, or generally wanted to hear. Parker wasn't most people.

He thought about it, turned the blade, worked the edge. She'd never asked him about the guns, neither had Alec, but if they had, and he told the true story, it wouldn't change anything, make him any different than he was.

"Nope," he said finally, "don't need to know why."

"I like you, though."

Eliot looked over, cocked a brow. He'd not doubted that.

"And you like me, right?" She looked a little frustrated, like this wasn't exactly what she'd meant to say.

He thought about that, and he did like her. He was coming around to understand her a little, learning to just go with it when he didn't. He knew Alec got him hot, got him wound up in some way, frustrated and irritated and horny and lustful and a million other things all tangled together. Parker was simpler, an unknotted cord. There wasn't the same heat, but there was something, some draw, and it was just possible he did like her, simple as that. With his upstairs brain, anyway. "Yeah, yeah, I do," he said. "I like you just fine."

She grinned at him and threw down her knitting, and then she eyed his knife. "You should put that away because I'm going to throw myself at you," she said.

She'd meant that literally.

Their talk apparently meant she felt free to spend a few eternities kissing him, grinding down against him and getting him worked up enough to make him fear for his jeans. She sat up, straddling him, licking her lips clean of his taste, and she smiled. "I like to take my time," she said.

"I ain't going anywhere."

She looked him over, predatory, or speculative maybe. He'd seen that look before and it usually led to silk scarves or fuzzy handcuffs and some pretending on his part that he couldn't get loose in half a heartbeat.

"You going to let me take my time?" she said.

"I think I'm going to let you take whatever you want," he said, and she had the dirtiest, slyest little smile.

She opened his clothes like they were locks she could pick with her eyes closed, a few deft little flicks of her fingers all that was needed. She put her hands on him, closed her eyes and read him by touch. He watched, was mesmerized really, by the play of expressions on her face as she stripped him bare and examined every inch of him, and it was weird, and not really erotic, but intimate, shockingly so.

He was aware, couldn't not be, of Alec watching them silently from across the narrow divide between beds. It added something, that awareness of his gaze, some charge of emotion or lust maybe that wouldn't be there otherwise.

They'd been together before, her and Alec. He'd been sure of it for a while, and they'd fought over that diamond job, the two of them spitting like cats, and he'd thought she was going to make a move his way, but she'd kept it to looking at him longer, appraising, and then suddenly the two of them weren't fighting anymore, and it had all cooled down. He'd been fine with that, hadn't really thought they'd be anything but terrible, just her and him.

He'd let his eyes fall shut, and she must have been waiting for that, because she stopped just using her hands and touched him with her tongue, flicking out to skate across his skin. He played his own game while she played him, kept his eyes shut, let her surprise him and torment him, ratchet his nerves up to someplace that he'd never been before.

She moved down and sucked his dick for a while; he wasn't kidding himself that she was going to finish so quickly, so he let all expectation go, just let the throb of his need fade into the background, and he focused on all the sensations. His breath was quickening, he was working his fingers into the sheets and starting to lose control over his thrusting urge. She had backed off, worked his balls into her mouth, one then the other, then his cock again. She was talking directly to his body now, and his body answered her, his knee bending, and his legs splaying apart without his design.

She made a sound of approval, a throaty chuckle that put him on par with a minor currency, a Peso maybe, or a Dinar. She danced her tongue down his perineum and then delicately along the most sensitive edges of his ass.

It almost tickled. He almost clenched up and jerked away. He almost wanted to open wider. His legs were tight from too much time in the car, so he stalled by shaking out a cramp.

She sat up, and watched him, eyes steady, giving nothing away. He met her gaze, and he didn't want her to have to ask out loud again, he wanted to just offer himself up, so he turned over.

He could see Alec now, sitting on the edge of the bed and watching. He was intent, leaning forward, elbows on his knees, but he didn't look like he was watching a spectacle, more like he was with them, all the way across the few feet of space between the beds.

Eliot heard the sounds that telegraphed Parker's next move. The choice again—he could tense up or he could open to it, and he was always a man to want to decide for himself. When he was deep in a fight, it could seem as if his opponent was leading, dictating the moves, but only he could control his response, step aside, or meet head on. But, oh, he was not very good at this, hadn't had much practice, and his body might decide for him if he let it, so he fixed his gaze on Alec, and he took control and made his body obey.

She was gentle with him, more so than he likely deserved, more than he needed, and it seemed as if she was playing with him, toying with him. He'd resolved to let her, so he let her, and she worked his ass, teasing around his opening, dragging sensation out of him. It was like she could see every nerve in his body, knew how to work him just so, as she pressed along his perineum, scraped her barely-there, blunt nails against his skin, and returned, not quite breaching, just there.

He was feeling too much—want, need maybe, need for control, or just more, and he was going to demand it soon, but Alec was looking at him, envy or empathy or amusement on his face. But he was growling, twitching and dammit, yes, aching for it, and she was still barely touching him. It felt like it had been hours when she finally, barely, slid inside him, and he rose to meet her, bucking up and back and struggling to get his arms under him, but he'd said she could take however she wanted to be served. He was renegotiating.

"God damn it, woman, please, fuck me," he said, and Alec barked out a startled laugh and hollered, "Hell, yes, please."

She was laughing too, as she slid a finger, maybe two—he was blind to anything but the raging in his mind— straight on in, slow, deep, and curved to drag across his prostate and he could take about once more, Jesus, maybe twice, before he was going to lose it.

He rolled over after, blocked out the sounds of her and Alec doing whatever it was they were doing, taking care of business, trading high fives, whatever. He threw his arm over his eyes and ignored the sticky drying mess on his belly.

He woke up hungry and ornery and wanting to punch someone in the head. Not that that was all that unusual, but he had an inkling of the specific cause this time. Parker was curled up on the other bed, and Alec was hunched over the computer, ear buds in, oblivious to anything but the flicker of the screen.

He showered fast, got himself clean, noticed he was a bit sore, and ignored that in favour of scratching at his chin and trying to decide if he should shave. He was getting itchy.

He'd let another guy fuck him when he was twenty-two, mostly because the guy had dared him. It had hurt, and hadn't seemed like the easiest way ever designed to get off. He'd done it again a lot of years later and come away thinking he was right the first time. Apparently all he'd needed was to be worked over by an artiste, because he'd laid on that bed after and thought about not much other than how he wanted Alec to fuck him. How much, how often, how hard and fast, and not gentle or careful, and to hell if it hurt.

He flung the shower door aside and Alec was leaning against the bathroom door, towel in one extended hand, face as expressionless as he could get it. Eliot snatched the towel out of his hand and threw it into the tub. He grabbed, at Alec's head, and at his clothes and at his mouth, and he was kissing with his teeth more than anything else, and hell and damnation, could the man have some goddamn hair on his head? He dug into scalp and pulled and ripped open buttons, goddamn, retro, fucking button-fly pants, and he sighed in relief when he had Alec's cock in his hand, hard and full, and he stopped his frantic kissing and just jerked him hard while he let himself feel the pain in his ass and think the thoughts in his head.

He was covered in come again, and Alec had him wrapped up in the arms that matched the legs. "Might just as well stay in here," he groused. He pulled away and touched the sticky mess spiking up his glory trail. He glared at Alec.

"Fuck off, Spencer. I'm soaked, and you ripped half the buttons of my jeans," Alec said, but he was smiling and looking sated and smug.

"Yeah, yeah," Eliot said and climbed in the shower again.

"Order me some chicken-fried steak and baked potato would you?"

"You know it's like midnight, right?"

"Sweet talk 'em. You're good at that. Oh, and your lip is bleeding—you might want to look at that."


Eliot hadn't even thought about it when they merged onto I-80 just outside Chicago. Hardison had been driving, which meant the GPS had been navigating—Eliot preferred the just go the right way method—so when they'd whizzed by Des Moines at a completely not-legal speed, that was the first moment he realized they were heading into Nebraska. He hadn't actually checked his status before they left, but he was sure Hardison had a second set of ID for him hidden away somewhere. As it turned out, the problem with Nebraska was something else entirely.

"I'm bored," Hardison said.

"I'd suggest we try out the back seat, but I'm afraid we'd smother each other in all the yarn," Eliot said.

Alec gave him a little smug up and down look full of carnal knowledge.

Eliot levered himself up from his lean against the car, and paced away a few steps. When he turned, Alec was watching him, a small frown on his face, eyes hidden behind his sunglasses. The parking lot, grassy field really, was full to bursting with cars. The occasional bright, happy, blond family wandered by, and they'd gotten their share of curious looks while they'd been waiting, but there was no one around at the moment.

Eliot stalked back, he knew he likely looked like he was trying to prove something, and he was. He grabbed Hardison's head with both hands and pulled him down, kissed him hard and rough, and Alec slid down against the side of the car, widened his stance a little, and Eliot was lips-to-groin tight against him when the kiss turned quieter, softer, and he just let himself get carried away—again. He didn't know what else to do, short of punching someone, and he hadn't had a moment's peace to go stir up a fight in days.

"Can't leave you two alone for a minute," Parker said from right behind him.

Eliot turned, and Alec slid his hands up from their former grip on his ass and left them casually sitting on his waist. Parker had the sticks for three corn dogs threaded through the fingers of one hand and a deep fried dill pickle in the other. There was the barest trace of pink candy floss in her hair, sparkling in the sun. She handed over two of the corn dogs, and Alec stared at his.

"I bet this goes great with mayo," he said, and Parker looked intrigued.

Eliot ate his—hell, it was food, sort of—and fished around in the back of the car for his biggest hat. He dumped out the nest of yarn balls in it—Alec claimed they were breeding like tribbles, whatever they were—and held it out to Parker, waved it at her when she pretended not to see it. "Come on, all non-food items in the hat."

She stuck the corn dog in her mouth, managed to smirk at them around it when they both did a little adjusting, and filled the hat with her booty. Eliot would dump it in the lost and found on the way out. This was their fourth County Fair, they had a system.

Hardison always stared at the loot coming out of her pockets and muttered, bag of holding, and Eliot was getting used to not knowing what anyone was talking about, so he didn't ask. Parker had spent an hour and half that morning trying to explain what an SSK was. He'd thought it was a submarine, but what did he know.

Eliot threw the keys to Hardison so he could work off some of his boredom with the accelerator. It could have been worse, they could have gone through Oklahoma.


Colorado was where they really started to dawdle. No one planned it, and they didn't talk about it, or even argue fruitlessly for 90 miles, but they just kept pulling off down side roads and into restaurant parking lots, and once, Alec managed to drive for an hour and a half the wrong way and then spent two and a half hours blaming it on the GPS.

The air cooled after they'd edged around Denver, and Alec heated up, the perverse bastard. Eliot had spent his life outdoors, riding, fighting, running for his damn life, whatever he needed to do, but sex was meant to be had in a bed, and pine needles did not belong anywhere near the equipment. That was just common sense.

"You done," Alec said, after he'd tried the rant out loud.

"Yes, dammit," Eliot answered, and sighed when Alec found a dirt road that wandered through some trees before ending up at a look-out with a spectacular view of mountains and trees, cool blue sky and a snake of a river down below. Okay, so it wasn't the worst sex he'd ever had, but that railing was never going to be the same.

They got back on I-70 and drove through the Eisenhower tunnel, which turned out to be like being stuck in Boston traffic only indoors. Parker had been making discontented noises about the total lack of county fairs since they'd crossed over from Nebraska, but a judicious stop at a yarn store just off the highway—Hardison could find anything online—kept her happy. Eliot foolishly let himself relax.

The signs appeared on the side of the road as they were coming down out of the mountains. Alec noticed one and started to grin, and Eliot started preparing his counter arguments. Parker just announced, "It has the name fair in it, we're going."

"We'll wait at the car," Eliot said, and he tipped a look at Alec.

"No, no we won't," Alec said. "Besides they'll have swords."

"Stupid fake-ass crap. Christ, don't get me started on that junk. You might be able to do yourself an accidental injury with some piece of crap like that, but that's about all. The damn things rust if you look at them crooked and even if they aren't pot metal, and you can get them to hold an edge—what did you say?"

Hardison shifted in his seat. "I may have said something about how it's too late on the not getting you started."

"Oh, fuck right off, Hardison. I listen to you go on about gigabits of this and upload speeds and all—"

"You do not."

"You yap about that crap all the damn time."

"I might discuss higher concepts beyond your comprehension, that doesn't mean you're listening."

"What, was that?" Eliot said and shot an evil smirk Hardison's way.

"Oooh. Funny, funny man. Go back to your sword diatribe, Spencer. You're cute when you're all worked up. Your face gets all red and flushed, and—"

"I am not, cute. I have never been cute a day in my life."

"I think you're adorable," Parker said.

"Don't you start now," Eliot hollered back.

"Well, I do. Also why would there be swords at a fair?"

"Because it's a damn Renaissance Faire. Bunch of losers dressing up in silly costumes and running around pretending to be something they're not. Almost as horrible to contemplate as a Star Trek convention, only at least here there's beer, and women in corsets."

"Oh," Parker said, "so what we do all the time then, except for the corsets."

"I think Sophie has a corset," Alec said.

"What, where—you're making that up," Eliot said.

"I know, I just wanted to see you get that look."

"His boobie face," Parker said happily.

"My what?"

"Your boobie face. Whenever you see a woman who has nice boobs you get this look."

"I do no—I do?" Eliot concentrated on driving very carefully. Had Parker seen him looking at other women? Was she mad, and how the hell was he supposed to be able to tell? He shot a look at Alec, the kind of screaming for backup look that the man should recognize, but all he did was grin lazily at him. Fucker was enjoying this. "Uh, you do know, uh, Parker, that—"

"Oh, god, please stop talking." Parker said.

"Yes, ma'am," he said and ignored the snickering.

The West Colorado Renaissance Faire and Pirate Extravaganza was a cluster of false-fronted ramshackle buildings and tents strewn in a field just down the highway from Grand Junction. It looked more like an old Wild West Show site that had undergone a bad makeover than anything remotely 16th century, or 18th for that matter. They seemed a bit confused about their time period.

The place was thronging with people dressed in homemade costumes, and while he wasn't admitting to having a boobie face, the faire sure wasn't lacking in things of that nature to look at. Parker hared off as soon as they were inside the gates, and Eliot went looking for the sword seller. Might as well have some fun mocking the junk the guy would be selling to the rubes.

He started working his way along the display cases, shaking his head and muttering over the selection. It was competently enough made, he'd seen much worse, but it wasn't serious blade crafting. There were lots of prettied up curlicues and swirls on hilts and guards, and the leather sheaths for the knives had been given more attention that the edges of the blades, but it was actually better than he expected. He picked up a couple of things, surprised that the balance was pretty good.

He turned to say something to Alec, but he was long gone, across the room staring at some monstrosity of a fantasy blade, big curved blade with a bunch of ridiculously impractical jutting points along it. If you swung that at someone, you'd get it jammed up on something, catching the other guy's ribs would be a horror show, and you'd end up gutted yourself for your trouble. The other guy wouldn't be too happy, but—

"Something you're looking for?"

Eliot turned to the guy who'd been trying to come up quietly behind him. He was good for a big guy; he had to be taller than Alec, and about 350 lbs packed into a silly froufy white shirt and a black leather kilt. Eliot glanced at his hands; he wasn't some accountant out for a day of role playing, he had some scars and burns on the backs of his hands. He'd found the swordsmith. "What if I said I was after a real blade?"

The guy laughed, scratched his fingers through his beard and said, "Then I'd tell you to check your local state laws before you buy anything."

Eliot turned to look at the guy full on. "You selling?"

"Come take a seat in my office back here," he said and led the way to a leather flap in the back of the store.

Alec found him there a while later. "Hey, man," he said, ducking inside to stand beside Eliot's chair. "You nearly done playing with the cutlery?"

"Don't start, I know you bought that," Eliot described a derisive curve with the knife in his hand. Alec didn't flinch even though the blade sliced the air an inch from his belt.

"Oh, man, it's the best replica Bat'leth I've ever seen. Seriously, dude, it looks real, not just like a prop—of course I bought it."

Eliot just shook his head. He had a horrible feeling Alec was going to hang it over his bed, and then Eliot was going to have to make sure it was securely attached. Very securely attached—they'd had to pay some damage charges in Illinois. Parker had flourished a gold AMEX with a smile so sweet, he knew the card had to be stolen.

"None of this stuff is really up to your standard, is it?" Kevin said.

"It's good," Eliot said. It was good. This was serious smithing, the balance was great, the metals were excellent, but there was something just not quite real about them. They'd been made by a man who though knife fights only happened in movies. "Just not quite my thing."

"We should go find Parker," Eliot said, standing up and shaking hands with Kevin.

"I already did," Alec said, and he set his hand to Eliot's back, propelled him out into the store again. "She was making side bets with people at the Jacob's Ladder thing, the guy running it turned a blind-eye, so we aren't getting kicked out, but I think she made about two hundred bucks."

"Jacob's Ladder?"

"Yeah, it's this rope ladder thing, sort of on a weird angle, you have to climb it. Anyway, she swarmed up it like a pro, and said she was going shopping with the proceeds."

"Wait, Parker is actually going to buy something? With money?"

"I know right? Gets weirder than that. She said she was going shoe shopping."

"That's just—that's not right," Eliot said.

"There's a tavern over there," Alec said, and he pointed to a bunch of wooden tables roofed over, but open to the air. The tavern waitresses had very nice corsets. This place was turning out to be kind of fun.

They sat at a table that gave them a nice view of the parade of idiots dressed in silly costumes and wilting in the summer heat. The kids with their plastic swords were cute, but the adults in costume were just laughable. The whole place had a familiar tang of horse and wood and earth to it, though, and Eliot was hoping Alec would want to go see the jousting later, so he didn't have to suggest it himself. He knew it was fake, but still, he wanted to watch.

"Hi boys, my name is Mandy, what can I get you?"

Eliot turned to look. Mandy had a very, very nice corset. He smiled slow and easy, leaned back a little, didn't do to look too eager. "I don't know, Mandy. What's good here." He flicked his eyes down on the word good, and Mandy smirked at him.

"It's all of the best quality, guaranteed," she said and leaned in, not the least afraid to look eager.

"That's sweet," Alec said, in a tone that was not at all. "Why don't you bring us a couple of your best quality beers then."

Mandy turned and swished away, flipping her petticoats like an angry cat thrashing its tail.

"You've got a little drool on you face, there Eliot, might want to do something about that," Alec said sourly.

"Oh, come on, you telling me you didn't look when she bent over?"

"Hell, no." Alec said, and finally the grin took over his face.

Eliot was relieved that Hardison wasn't pissed at him, and for shit's sake, when the hell had that happened? Hardison was still going on about how good the view had been, and they'd done a tour of strip clubs together, so he knew what Hardison was like. He was just having trouble remembering what rules applied.

Mandy brought their beers, giving them another show, and Alec smiled at her this time and draped his arm over Eliot's shoulders while he told her to keep the change out of the twenty he'd given her, preening like he was the only rooster in the hen house. Eliot sighed. There were times when Alec was just going to be Alec, and Eliot was just going to have to deal with it.

Hardison took a sip of his beer, didn't move his arm. Eliot pretended he was comfortable and took a lot longer pull of his own brew.

Alec's hand suddenly dug into his shoulder. "Oh my—Eliot, Eliot, Eliot—oh. Swear. To. God. I think I just jizzed in my pants."

Eliot snorted into his beer, looked up and shifted on his seat. He shifted again. Alec was busy looking poleaxed, and Eliot was afraid he was too.

Parker was heading their way. Parker, who had started the day in jeans and a tee shirt with a plaid shirt thrown over that she'd stolen from him—when called on it, she'd just shrugged and said stolen stuff is better, and Eliot in no way felt anything like he had way back when Aimee had worn his barn jacket instead of her own—Parker had definitely been shopping.

She had on a pair of skintight black pants—the kind of thing she wore to do wire work in—along with a froufy, fluffy, white pirate shirt, not too different from Kevin's and a pair of boots that started out flat on the ground and went up and up, and Jesus Christ, she turned around to look at something, and the boots finished just shy of her ass, and the shirt was kind of scrunched up and tied, and, "Sweet Jesus," Eliot said.

"Uh huh."

"Hi, guys," Parker said and put one foot up onto the bench and plucked Eliot's beer out of his hand. She took a long drink, winked at Eliot and turned and sat beside him on the bench. She stretched her legs out in front of her and leaned back on the table.

"Enjoying yourself?" Alec said.

"Oh yeah," she said and then she turned and clutched at Eliot, resting her head on his chest. "It was so funny," she said, "one guy actually walked straight into the side of a building, and three women gave me their phone numbers. That was just on the walk over here. Hey, they have jousting, we should go watch." She sprang up and started heading off.

"I saw a porno once that was set on a pirate ship," Eliot said.

"I have a camcorder," Alec said.

The jousting was actually kind of fun, and Eliot really wanted to try it sometime. He did have an obscene amount of money to spend, and he had been idly looking at land around Boston, but it was too green and lush, too much like Kentucky in its way. He was thinking of something dryer, ranch land, for real horses, not pampered racing stock. Trouble was, he couldn't quite picture Alec or Parker on some spread in New Mexico. Which why that should be what was holding him back, he wasn't sure.

The existence of any video evidence of what went on in Room 208 of the Motel 6 in Grand Junction is not something Eliot Spencer will confirm or deny.


"I lived in Utah once," Parker said, "for 62 days."

"Uh-huh," Alec answered. He was slumped down in the passenger seat, fingers twitching. Eliot figured he needed about twenty hours straight with a keyboard in front of him before he'd really relax.

"It's not true, you know, that thing about the extra wives."

"Huh," Eliot said, "don't be so sure." They'd be driving right past the turn off to Colorado City, he could always take them on a tour. That little adventure had been a clusterfuck that proved you should never work for the damn government. Too bad that lesson never seemed to stick.

"What I never understood was why just wives, why not extra husbands?" Parker said.

"What, you think some woman might want to have more that one guy? That's just crazy talk, Parker," Alec said, and he elbowed Eliot, wanting him to share the joke, but it wasn't a joke, it was crazy talk, and they were just—weren't they just fooling around, blowing off steam, having fun?

"Hey, how far is it to Salt Lake City?" Hardison asked, and then got the GPS to tell him. Why he'd asked when he would never take the word of a mere human over a machine was anyone's guess.

"We're not going to Salt Lake," Eliot said.

"But I wanted to visit Temple Square, I hear it's really something to see." Alec had this look on his face that meant Eliot was supposed to get some hidden meaning.

"I'm not busting you out of jail," Parker said, seriously not serious, as if she got it, whatever the hell it was.

"Some Madame Defarge, you make," Alec groused.

That joke, Eliot got. At least, he was pretty sure he did.


Seedy bars with scarred up wooden tables and country music on the jukebox were as American as apple pie and interdiction. Finding one in Utah was a challenge, but not impossible now that the laws had changed. Eliot had a bottle of Jack, a barstool with a view of the whole place in the mirror over the bar, and he was fixing on some serious drinking.

The secret to serious drinking was to take it nice and easy. Jumping in the deep end and slamming back shots by the handful was amateur hour. Hell, Nate used to drink all day long and was almost never drunk. Eliot knew exactly how to keep himself just at the level of buzz he wanted. It was one of the many skills he'd developed over his slightly more eventful than average life.

The point to serious drinking was not to stop thinking entirely. The point was to keep those thoughts from spinning in useless circles and wearing you down. The booze cut a few of your tethers to the real world, not all of them, and the trick was to make sure you kept enough to keep you from floating right away. Nate wasn't always so good at that, and hell, he hadn't come here to think about Nate, or the disappearing Sophie, or Tara, who he sure as shit should have made as a ringer.

They were all falling apart, and they shouldn't have worked in the first place, not the five of them, not the damn three of them either, but he didn't damn well want to think about that either, even if that was the reason he was here. The Jack was starting to taste too sweet, too easy, whiskey for the Coca-Cola drinker, some fussy-assed Brit had called it, when the hell was that? In Croatia or maybe the clusterfuck that had been Somalia. He sure as hell didn't want to think about that.

He signaled the bartender over, ordered something that tasted more like a dirty leather shoe than anything else and toasted that asshole from Somalia. He remembered him now, remembered watching him get blown to bits by a land mine.

What would Hardison do if he ever found himself in a real war? He wasn't useless in a fight, wasn't a natural either. He fought harder for someone else than for himself, didn't like it for its own sake, not like Eliot did. He'd always been a freak like that, always known it, never minded too much.

Hardison though, he was a whole different kind of man. Not like Eliot at all, no way, no how. He was silly, childish almost, sometimes, and Eliot chaffed at his goofing around, or he had; he was starting to like it, and wasn't that a bad sign when you started to like the things about someone that used to drive you nuts?

It had been the legs at first; Eliot had a type, and Alec was so not it, well neither was Parker, but the point was, he told himself, and when the hell had he started lecturing himself? But the point was, he did have a thing for long legs, and that was all it was, until the damn man had kissed him. There was no goofing around there, he meant every move of his mouth, every swipe of his tongue and Eliot was coming around to thinking he seriously meant it. Fuck.

Fucking—men were for fucking. Only fucking, and yeah, that made him some kind of asshole, but you couldn't go around with another guy on your arm, making out in parking lots for fuck's sake, and he was alone here in his own mind, so he could admit that having that man that was kissing you so damn seriously be a young black man wasn't exactly a recipe for an easy life. But shit, Eliot was getting addicted to those hands on him.

Women, women were for the whole relationship thing, which he sucked at. Sucked hard, just not as hard as Parker, and damn, but that was a bad joke, and he shouldn't be laughing, mostly because the bartender was giving him the stink-eye, not because Parker would ever know, and he didn't even know if she would be offended. He couldn't fucking tell with her. Alec might have a clue, because he was tighter with Parker than they'd ever let on.

He knew this whole damn trip was a con. Who were they trying to play anyway, the fuckers? Nate hadn't called, probably had a goddamn tracking device on the car, probably put there by Hardison, and that conversation, oh, I ran away from home once, and suddenly they're in a goddamn Lexus speeding across the country? Fucking setup.

Eliot slammed his drink down. Glared at it. Women, that's what he should just stick to, nice and simple. Last time it had been more that just a couple nights with someone, it had been fine. Charlotte was her name, and hell yeah, she had nice long legs too, and soft skin, great tits. Soft hands.

Parker had calluses that would impress a cowboy, big rope burn down one arm, half healed. Some scars, faint white lines, barely noticeable, that he didn't think he should let on he'd spotted. She'd do just fine in a war zone. She was a bit like him that way, but colder with it, more calculated. She reminded him of a sniper he'd met in Bosnia, a real technician. No moral qualms, no agonizing. The moral questions had been answered a long time ago, and Eliot had to wonder if Parker had answered all of hers before she ever made the first run for it.

Charlotte. Damn, she'd been a trip. Great in bed, simple, straightforward. She liked to fuck, he liked to fuck, they got on, and when he'd left, he'd almost felt like he'd been doing her a favour, because yeah, they'd been hot together, but he was never going to go to parties with her and meet her friends; he was never going to be housebroken. He was always going to leave.

Hardison would try to find him if he took off again, was the thing of it. Might be fun, actually, let him try. Let Alec chase him—catch him. Fuck maybe he was dumb enough to let him too, but they were all going to fall apart if Sophie didn't come back, all going to scatter again. They were all too damn nuts to stay together. Weren't they?

Wasn't that why he had a type? Single white female, career, great body, her own life, not looking for a man who would stay. Someone who was looking for a walk on the wild side, a turn with someone a little out there. He was the wild side, he was the freak. He was the guy who was going to leave, and they all knew it.

Alec and Parker back there in that hotel room, heads bent over Alec's laptop, plotting something. He'd barely said two words when he'd busted out the door, needing to get out. Needing to leave. Parker's yarn monster was coiled on the other bed, a riot of hideousness, no rhyme or reason to it. Christ he was grinning down into his drink just thinking on it. What the hell was he turning into?

What the hell did they think he was, was the question. Were they looking for the guy who won't stay? They couldn't just be looking for a walk on the wild side, hell, they already had that in each other. What the hell was the point of him to them anyway? Sure, Alec couldn't keep his hands off him, or his lips or his tongue, but he was the same with her, and Parker—he'd decided that Parker had to be in charge of getting what she wanted, because he'd never be able to figure out what it was. Hurt his head to try.

The fucking scotch was letting him down. His head did hurt, and he wasn't floating off that nice buzz he'd had going before, and so much for not spinning in circles. Fuck, he might as well go on back, see if they were fixing for a argument with him, let him know how disappointed they were that he hadn't kept with the program. Might be just the thing he needed. Might be a disaster. Walking into disasters was kind of his line of work though.

He got the bartender to call him a cab.


He shoved open the hotel room door deliberately belligerently. He'd decided on the cab ride over that the best route to go was to have it out, let them air their grievances and he could go with a clean conscience, because seriously, this was not going to work, and they all knew it. He'd imagined the two of them pacing the tiny space of the room, barely any floor around the two beds, not that they ever used two anymore, but they'd be pacing and working up a head of steam, and—they were exactly where he'd left them.

Both of them were lying on their stomachs, propped up on their elbows, heads bent over the glow of the laptop screen, four long legs bent at the knee and waving in the air, like they were a pair of girls in some damn fifties movie writing in their diary about some surfer. Exactly the way he'd left them, except now they were naked.

Christ, Alec's ass was fantastic. Parker—Parker you had to look at the whole package for it to make sense, as much as it ever did, but Alec was pretty enough to look at in bits—great ass, great hands, great legs, really, really sexy face with those glasses perched down on his nose like that. Parker was more of a force of personality, not that she wasn't attractive, and he should really get out of the doorway and close the door.

When he turned back around, they were both standing there, less than an arm's length away. This was really unfair. It was hard enough to argue with one person you'd had sex with when they were naked and you weren't, far less two. Also, the fact that he was less than sober was not helping.

Parker wrinkled up her nose, leaned in. "You smell like a saloon," she said.

"Mmm," Alec said, and looked at her, raised a brow. "Shower?"

"Definitely."

And Eliot found himself being towed into the bathroom and stripped and pushed reasonably gently into the walk-in shower, and all he'd managed to say was a few buts, and heys.

It was even harder to argue with someone you'd had sex with who was naked, wet, and washing your hair. Jesus, and since when were the nerves in his scalp connected to his dick?

It was impossible to argue with someone you'd had sex with who was grinning like the maniac they may very well be and working your dick with soapy hands.

They kept him in the middle, like they were afraid he was going to bolt, like it would be a bad thing if he left. They never stopped touching him, four hands on his body, lips, tongues, and he shut his eyes, and let them carry him, let them hold him aloft, floating on a buzz no whiskey could match. He let them fill him up until he couldn't imagine what empty was.

He even managed to sleep hemmed in by the pair of them, and if he woke in the morning with a blinding headache and Parker sitting up by his head, braiding his hair, and Alec half on top of him, drooling into his chest hair, well maybe that was the way this deal worked. Maybe the point of him this time was to be the guy who didn't leave.

He'd try that. See how it came out.