Hardison wondered, as he sat on the couch, counting the thump-thump-thumps of the knife hitting the cutting board, if they made cutting boards that could actually handle the wear and tear of living with Eliot Spencer. Because he’s pretty sure the one they had right now wasn’t going to make it through the night, the way Eliot was going at it.
He’d been in the kitchen for two hours now. He hadn’t noticed Parker leaving (Hardison didn’t blame her one bit for that. She’d given him a look, big worried eyes and a questioning frown—she’d stay if he needed, if they needed, but stuff like this still made her fidgety in the worst way and after everything today? Hardison had just shaken his head and out she’d gone). Hell, Hardison’s pretty sure that short of an actual earthquake tearing through the apartment, Eliot wasn’t in a state to notice shit.
But, Hardison had let him stew for awhile now—if he had to listen to that cutting board much longer, he was going to throw something—and if he left it too long, Eliot would get too far in his own head and that was the last thing they needed after today.
Because today? Today had been an absolute disaster.
Files destroyed before they got there. Wild goose chase. Back up they hadn’t known was coming. A bad guy way too satisfied that he’d gotten the drop on them and determined to gloat over it personally.
Fifteen minutes where neither Hardison nor Parker could hear Eliot over the comms. Fifteen minutes where they hadn’t been able to go find their hitter because they’d been caught and dragged away.
Eliot bloody, roughed up, and absolutely furious, crashing through the door at the last second. Seeing a gun pointed in Hardison’s direction. Everything getting a little...tangled after that. But ending with Hardison and Parker being hauled up and out, job be damned.
(Not completely, not really. They had enough to bring the man down, had enough to nail him to the wall just fine. But they’d need to go at his network, the people that helped build him up, at another time. A new game plan entirely, and that would have to wait.)
Eliot hadn’t been okay, in the van, while they were tearing out of the lot they’d parked in—he’d hidden it well, but Hardison had seen his hands shaking, had seen him curl his hands in the fabric of his jeans hard enough to turn his knuckles white to get them to stop. He hadn’t been okay, two hours later, when they knew they’d made an escape, and they had confirmation that the police and the local FBI were systematically tearing the place apart, and had their guy in custody—it had taken way too long to get Eliot to focus, to get him to actually listen to the news. He hadn’t been okay at the hospital—oh, sure, the nurses in the ER patched him up fine, though they were...more than a little concerned about the amount of dried blood. Eliot told them he always did bleed easy. Hardison knew most of it wasn’t his (but, nothing was broken, no concussion...he’d be nursing bruised ribs for a little while, and taking care of some stitches, maybe keeping an eye on what looked like a recently dislocated shoulder, but that was it. Thankfully).
And he definitely hadn’t been okay when they’d gotten home. But instead of actually letting Hardison or Parker do anything, he’d waved them off and disappeared into the bathroom, the sound of the shower starting up a couple minutes later. After that, he’d shuffled to the kitchen, and that’s where he’d stayed.
Hardison leaned in the doorway for a moment, just watching, trying to get an idea where the man was at. Sometimes, this shit just had to work its course and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.
Eliot either didn’t notice him standing there watching, or didn’t care. His back was to Hardison, stiff and straight and looking all kinds of painful, the only parts of him moving were his hands, steadily chopping...looked like bell peppers now. When Hardison had last checked, it had been carrots.
Hardison was pretty sure, if he looked in the fridge, everything that could be chopped and diced probably was at this point. And he knew Eliot would be pissed about it in the morning, would end up hauling everything down to the brewpub to use, go grocery shopping to fill up their fridge again. (...Maybe the day after, given just how rough he looked.)
“...Eliot?” It wasn’t quite a whisper—he needed to be heard over that damn thumping—but it was low. Careful. Eliot stopped. For a second. Before resuming his cutting. But that was all Hardison needed really, so he slipped over, bare feet scuffing against the tile best they could. Eliot knew where he was just fine, but still. Better safe than sorry.
Eliot didn’t stop, didn’t turn to look at him, but he also didn’t turn to stop him. So when Hardison pressed carefully up against his back, one hand wrapping around the other man’s waist and the other reaching out to catch the wrist of the hand holding the knife, he wasn’t too surprised when Eliot kind of just. Slumped. The knife was taken from unresisting fingers and set aside before Hardison wrapped that arm around him too, pulling him close and burying his face in the crook of Eliot’s neck.
He could feel Eliot’s breathing (tense, shallow, too tightly controlled), could feel the minute shaking that he hadn’t been able to see. But he didn’t push Hardison away. If anything, that sharp, brittle line of his back folded after a couple moments, pressed back into Hardison more easily, fitting them together in a way that actually felt comfortable (instead of desperate).
Hardison doesn’t know how long they stood there—long enough that their breathing was easier, and close to, but not quite, in sync, with how tightly pressed together they were—but eventually Eliot let go of his death grip on the counter (Hardison hadn’t wanted to say anything about that because, frankly, Eliot letting him this close, this soon? Victory all on its own), and gently pulled Hardison’s hands away.
He’s pretty sure he made some kind of argumentative sound at that—he didn’t want to let go yet—because Eliot shook his head, catching one of his hands and bringing it up to his lips to brush a kiss over his knuckles. And Eliot still wouldn’t look him in the eyes, but it was enough for now, so Hardison didn’t fight it. Didn’t seem to matter much anyway since Eliot didn’t let go of his hand, instead using that hold to lead him back out to the living room.
They got to in front of the sofa, but Hardison’s pretty sure that’s where Eliot’s plan kind of just stopped, because he didn’t make any kind of move to sit down or head further, down the hall. So, Hardison made the decision for them, dropping down on the sofa and dragging Eliot down too.
There was a couple grunts (one or two curses), elbows and knees digging into tender places for a moment, before they ended up settled, Eliot leaning back against the arm of the couch, Hardison sitting between his legs and leaning against his chest. Hadn’t been what he’d been going for, but when Eliot wrapped his arms around his shoulders, pulled him close, he found he didn’t much care. This would do just fine.
They were quiet for a long while after that. The apartment around them was dark—the only light coming from the kitchen and the window. The kitchen’s light stretched and faded out around them, melting into inky shadow in the corners, the back of the couch blocking and shadowing them. What light coming from the window mainly painted the ceiling in weak streaks of gold from the streetlamps outside and the occasional too-bright white of headlights, climbing up the wall before disappearing entirely as whatever car it was turned off their road.
Overall, the apartment had a faintly...unreal quality too it, and Hardison kind of wanted to blame it on the lights rather than the emotional crash both of them were definitely dealing with right now.
Sure, he’d needed to get Eliot out of his head—he knew the man too well to be comfortable leaving him alone to deal with what was essentially the tail end of a panic attack, pared and cut down until it was functional and could be worked around without compromising his ability to fight, to run—but Hardison had had a gun pointed at his head roughly seven hours ago. And…
He’d had a gun pointed at his head. He’d seen the man’s finger inching towards the damn trigger. And he’d had no idea what the hell they were going to do because they hadn’t heard from Eliot in too long and Parker could get them out of so many goddamn places but this wasn’t one of them and-
Eliot’s hand clamped around the back of his neck, pulling him, somehow, closer than he’d been and back to the present, and maybe his fingers were curled tight enough to hurt in Eliot’s shirt, but he could breathe. He could breathe.
Hardison was okay. Parker was okay. Eliot had gotten them out, like he always did. And that was enough for today.
He groaned, shifting enough to press his face into Eliot’s chest, grumbling slightly at the rough, rusted out sound he’s pretty sure Eliot wanted to be a laugh (points for trying though). He feels Eliot press a kiss to the top of his head, and he has to shift slightly to free a hand to swat at him (Eliot still hadn’t let go of his other hand), but Eliot just laughs at him again—sounding a lot less...broken this time.
They don't talk. Not then—they’re both still too raw around the edges for that—but they do settle easier after that, pressed close there in the dark, watching the occasional streaks of light make their ways down the walls, taking comfort in just. Hearing the other breathe, for a little while.
(Parker joins them a couple hours later, sitting on the arm of couch behind Eliot’s head, one hand threaded through his hair, the other reaching over to curl in Hardison’s shirt at his shoulder. The breaths they both take after that are easy enough that maybe, just maybe, they’ll be able to get some sleep tonight.)