Chapter 1: Chapter 1
“Guys, you’ve got about about four minutes left before the guards return.” Nate’s voice held the characteristic tone of their Mastermind at work: cool, calculating, always thinking one step ahead, overseeing the con and it’s players.
Eliot looked around the corner for any signs of the guards returning earlier than usual, before he resumed his position next to Hardison, who was trying to hack the time-sensitive lock to the room that contained some dirty evidence on their current mark. Although the hacker had managed to disable two alarms and a motion sensor lounging on the sofa at Leverage HQ, the time-lock had proven too complex to hack from a distance. That meant a late night visit to the actual location to hack a lock for Hardison, and Eliot tagging along to ensure Hardison’s safety.
Sophie had created their way in by blatantly flirting with the men at the reception desk, allowing Eliot and Hardison to sneak in without any problems. She had just hoisted herself to perch on the reception desk, providing the two men sitting behind it with a clear view of her bare legs and short dress. She had winked at Eliot and Hardison before they ran up the stairs to the seventh floor.
“There’s a bit of cash and a passport in the vault, but nothing too interesting.” Parker’s voice interrupted Eliot’s musing. She had been assigned vault-duty, and the prospect of breaking into a hidden vault in someone’s locked office had made the thief almost giddy with excitement. She only sounded slightly disappointed that the vault’s content was not as exciting as she would have thought.
“Leave it as it is Parker, we don’t want to raise any red flags yet. Get out there and find Hardison and Eliot. Sophie, can you keep the reception distracted for a couple more minutes so everyone can clear out?”
“Please, it’s late at night and there’s a break in the baseball game they were watching. I could’ve walked in wearing a turtleneck and oversized dungarees and they would’ve been distracted by me”, came Sophie’s quick and hushed response. Eliot suppressed a snort: Sophie was clearly enjoying herself but didn’t want to give in to Nate after their fight earlier that day. Since they had officially started dating there had been short arguments between the couple, most of them usually resolved on the same day. After every argument they both needed to let of some steam however, which was usually to the benefit of the characters they were playing for a con.
Three loud beeps suddenly disturbed the quiet corridor. “Dammit Hardison!” Eliot growled.
“What man! The software they use to set and reset the timing on this damn door has been alerted by my software, and is now shutting me out step by step.” Hardison sounded slightly frustrated.
“I thought you said you could hack this as long as you were right next to it?” Nate asked.
“Well I didn’t consider that they might use AI in their time-sensitive lock now did I?” Hardison replied. He continued to tap at his little keyboard with increasing speed.
“You better hurry, the guards have just started their round at the elevators. They’ll probably be here in two minutes.” Parker suddenly popped up next to Eliot. She gave him one of her “What are you looking at?” glares, but it was hard to miss the twinkle of excitement in her eyes, and even harder to resist smiling a little at her infectious grin.
“I’m trying girl, but this doesn’t seem to go as I had planned, something keeps interfering with my work here and I’m not feeling it.”
“Well you better start feeling it man, because we have to get out of here within a minute or we’ll not be able to reach the elevator without meeting the guards.” Eliot started to get slightly impatient. Getting himself out: no problem. Getting himself and Parker out: almost no problem. Getting himself and Parker and Hardison out, without knocking any guards to the floor (per Nate’s strict orders to not raise any suspicion): complicated.
“We could hide until the guards leave?” Parker suggested, showing a uncanny ability to follow Eliot’s train of thoughts.
“Where? The hallway is completely bare, there are no desks to hide under and I’m not climbing in any vents.”
“Here!” Parker pointed to one of the doors bordering the hallway. Eliot started to protest, but Parker cut him off. “It’s not an office, it’s a small storage closet that’s not currently in use.”
“How do you – nevermind. Hardison, you done yet?”
“Not. Yet. Working. On. It.” Was Hardison’s choked response.
“Hardison!” Nate was started to get impatient.
Suddenly, Eliot noticed the flickering of a flashlight at the far end of the hallway.
“Move!” Eliot and Parker grabbed Hardison at the same time, and shoved him in the closet. Parker jumped in next, and Eliot took one last look around the now empty hallway to check for any items left behind before stepping in the pitch-black closet as well.
Eliot immediately regretted not checking his options more thoroughly, and vowed to himself to never follow Parker’s advice on place to hide. Even though he managed to close the door behind himself, he immediately bumped into someone else in the complete darkness that surrounded him.
Long hair moved against his face.
“Parker! Move over.” He whispered, annoyed. He gently tried to push her away from him.
“I can’t.” Came the immediate hushed reply. “Hardison is standing there already.”
“I ain’t moving anywhere man, my back is against the wall already.”
There was some grunting and shuffling, as the three of them tried to find a place for six feet. Parker landed on Eliot’s left foot with her full weight.
“Knock it off!” Hardison grumbled.
“Guys!” Nate demanded their attention. “What’s happening?”
“We’re in a closet, hiding”, Parker answered quickly.
“How long do you –“
“Shh!” Eliot interrupted the chatter of his crew. He heard footsteps and voices on the other side of the door. At least four guards, possibly as much as six. They didn’t sound like they were doing an ordinary security round though (what would you need six guys for). He was wondering what they were doing, when he suddenly heard the distinct cheering of a supporting crowd at a baseball match.
“Nate, seems like the guards have set up camp in our hallway to watch the baseball match.”
“Alright guys stay where you are.”
“Hard to go anywhere else now”, replied Hardison.
“Sophie, I’ll pick you up by cab in two minutes. We’ll figure out another distraction so you can get out.” Nate didn’t sound too stressed about the prospect of having three team members unexpectedly getting stuck in a tiny closet.
For a moment it was silent. Eliot focussed on the sounds from the guards. There was some appreciative humming and – could it be? – clinking of beer bottles. Meanwhile, Hardison couldn’t seem to find a comfortable position (as far as possible in their cramped situation). He started wriggling, and his movements in turn caused Parker to move against Eliot.
Eliot slowly lowered one hand to Parker’s hip to hold her firmly, while his other hand reached around Parker’s waist to grab Hardison’s wrist.
“Stop it.” He said in a stern whisper, trying to exert as much pressure as possible to get them both to stand still.
With a barely audible thud Hardison’s head hit the wall behind him, before he breathed in and out a couple of times. Eliot could sense Hardison dropping his hands to hold Parker, just below his own hand on her hip. He let go of Hardison’s wrist and accidentally brushed against a sliver of bare skin on Parker’s stomach.
Her soft gasp surprised and amused him.
Being the physical force of the team, Eliot and Parker often worked together in order to accomplish the part of the con that required the most physical effort. As a result, they had been in close proximity before and they were no strangers to touching each other. He had thought that Parker had complete control over her body at all times but the small sound she had just emitted suggested otherwise.
The atmosphere in the small closet changed.
Eliot, who considered himself a sensible professional, found his mind wandering to other situations that might cause Parker to lose control. Intrigued he softly stroked her bare arm with his empty hand. Not only was he rewarded with another sigh by Parker, Hardison also seemed to catch on to his state of mind. The hacker’s hands held Parker just a little tighter, pressing her just that little closer to his own body.
Eliot was not exactly sure of the current state of the relationship between Parker and Hardison but he had noticed that the thief and the hacker had become more relaxed around each other, showing little signs of physical affection – Parker patting Hardison on the back after a particularly difficult piece of hacking, Hardison adjusting Parker’s hat or jacket for a con, the two of them sitting shoulder to shoulder on the couch. Hardison also seemed to be more comfortable with Parker jumping him for fake make-out sessions during cons, having also initiated one or two himself by now.
Since Eliot had never been a part of the developing relationship between the hacker and the thief, Hardison’s next move took him by surprise: he extended his fingers from Parker’s waist to the loops of Eliot’s jeans, and he pulled him flush against Parker’s back. Eliot momentarily lost his balance and steadied himself against Hardison’s shoulder. He felt a strange sensation in the fingertips that touched Hardison’s skin, almost like a mild electric current. He could have sworn he saw Hardison’s eyes twinkle in the darkness.
He tried to understand the sudden turn of events. Hardison had always been free with his physical affection, even against Eliot. He was no longer surprised by Hardison leaning on his shoulder to point something out on a screen, or by Hardison grabbing his arm in an attempt to sell their ‘loving relationship’ to the mark on a job. He had never, however, expressed the same kind of interest in Eliot that he had expressed in Parker, although their relationship had slowly grown closer as they spend more time together, both on and off the jobs.
“You think too much.”, whispered Hardison, barely audible. He wasn’t sure whether his comment was directed at Parker or Eliot, but both the thief and the hitter relaxed. Eliot suddenly became very aware of Parker’s well-formed butt nestling against his crotch, and he felt himself getting harder with every tiny movement either of them made. Based on the irregular breathing patterns from both Parker and Hardison, their situation had not let them unaffected either.