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The Tender Things That We Were Working On

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“Aren't we supposed to write a letter to him or something about how we bond?”

Hardison isn't sure if he should be proud about the evidence that Parker was actually kind of paying attention during Breakfast Club or if he should explain that Miss Devereaux didn't actually tell them to do that when she abandoned them in the detention room, or Mr. Ford when he actually assigned them the detention in the first place. Eliot Spencer, though, scariest kid in school, explains before he can. “All we've got to do is homework.”

“Oh.” Parker taps her pencil on the desk a few times, frowning. “That's stupid.”

“How do you not know how detention works?” Eliot looks kind of baffled. Hardison kind of likes Eliot, he never talks to Parker like he thinks she's stupid like some of the teachers do. He's also scary as fuck, but hey, nobody is perfect.

“I've never been in detention before,” she says with a shrug.

Hardison elbows her gently in the side. “You were in detention twice last week.”

“Well, that doesn't count. It wasn't Saturday.” She frowns at her math homework some more. For a scary applied physics genius she really hates algebra. “Don't know why it has to be Saturday this time.”

“What did you two do, anyway?”

Hardison kind of likes that Eliot assumes Hardison and Parker are here together. Maybe they're developing a Bonnie-and-Clyde reputation. “We were fighting the power, man. They keep trying to call Parker a name she doesn't want to be called, so we took it out of the system, that's all.” And he's really glad it was Mr. Ford who caught her in the vents with the USB drive after it was done, because he just gave them Saturday detention instead of expelling them. “How about you?”

“I broke Damien Moreau's nose.”

Eliot's tone makes it pretty clear he's not going to answer any more questions, so Hardison nods amiably. “Sometimes a man's face just needs punching.”

Eliot snorts. “Like you've ever thrown a good punch.”

“You're right, I usually do the punching.” Parker pauses, thinking that over. “Well, the biting. I still think we should write a letter. That's what you're supposed to do in Saturday detention.”

Hardison pulls out a blank sheet of paper. He's a computer guy, but sometimes he appreciates the value of old school. Especially when electronics are banned in detention. “Okay, baby, we can write a letter. What do you want to write?”

Parker wrinkles her nose while she thinks. Eliot watches the two of them like he's watching a circus act or something, kind of entertained and really unsure if he wants to be involved or not. “Shouldn't we have categories, and then discover that we're all those categories?” She frowns at them. “You two aren't thieves, though. And I'm not a hacker. Hardison, what should we write in our letter?”

“It was supposed to be an essay about why they were in detention that day,” Eliot finally says, and ha, Hardison knew that everyone in the world has seen Breakfast Club. “You could start there.”

Parker sets her jaw stubbornly. “I'm in detention because people won't listen to me and if I couldn't make them listen Hardison said I couldn't set things on fire but we could change it.” She crosses her arms. “It's stupid that I'm in detention for fixing something that was wrong.”

Hardison writes that down, because Parker is serious, and she's not wrong either. He embellishes it a little with stuff about the unsympathetic administration, since it's why he's in detention too. Miss Devereaux and Mr. Ford are the two teachers in the school who never call Parker anything but Parker, so he figures they'll have some sympathy if Parker does end up making him pass it in at the end of the day. “Eliot, man, you have anything to add?”

“You're kidding, right?” Hardison just looks at him, because they have about three hours left in detention and all Eliot's got in front of him is a book of crossword puzzles and a copy of Joy of Cooking, so it's not like he has anything better to do. Eliot, after a second, kind of growls a little because Hardison is pretty sure he's secretly a pit bull and then sighs. “I'm here because I punched a guy, and nobody ever figured that maybe I had a good reason for that.”

Hardison writes that down. “You want to tell the administration what they should have been looking out for?”

“Guys being assholes.” Okay, that's clear as mud. Hardison writes it down anyway, and Eliot softens up a little when he sees Hardison's taking it seriously. “He was bullying this kid, saying really shitty things, Principal Dubenich wouldn't do anything about it, so I did.”

“Okay, this is gold,” says Hardison, and starts writing that down.

Parker is starting to fume, he's going to have to defuse that in a few minutes before they end up in the vents. Hardison spends a depressing amount of his high school career in the vents for a man who does not like heights or small spaces. “They should be in detention, not us.”

We are in detention because the administration doesn't want to fix actual problems, writes Hardison, because it's sort of satisfying to write. “Someone really needs to clean this school up. The school and then the world! Zero tolerance for people being assholes. Or, you know. Real assholes. Because I'm kind of a dick sometimes and Parker likes breaking into things and you punch people, but we're weirdly not the awful people here.”

Eliot rolls his eyes. It's sort of an amazing process that goes through about four facial expressions, all of them disdainful. With Parker there too, Hardison is getting bitchface in stereo. It's kind of distressingly hot. “So what, we're supposed to start some kind of gang? I'll bet they'll love that.”

Really, Eliot needs to have a little faith. Hardison would never be in detention if it weren't for Parker, and it's not because he doesn't do things that are against the rules but because he knows how to bend the rules to his will. “No, we're supposed to start a club. Clubs looks great on college apps, or whatever, and I bet Mr. Ford and Miss Devereaux wouldn't ask too many questions. We're a … service organization, let's call it.” He starts scribbling again. “We are to student government what nonprofits are to the regular government, right? We solve problems they don't have the structures to fix. And hey, if we solve them with punching and breaking into computers and stealing things out of offices, that doesn't have to go in the club manifesto!”

Parker seizes on the idea with glee, and really, that's all Hardison has to do, because after that Parker is filling the page with ideas, and Hardison is countering them, and Eliot is telling them they're both dumbasses and then refining their ideas.

Hardison doesn't realize it's time to go until Miss Devereaux clears her throat the door, Mr. Ford standing behind her, both of them looking amused. “You know, I believe the point of detention is silence,” says Miss Devereaux in that dry British way she's got. “Perhaps I'm wrong, I only ever saw it on the television. Mr. Ford?”

“It seems like they were productive anyway,” he says with a smirk that makes Hardison wonder exactly what he knows. “What have you been doing?”

“Club manifesto,” Parker says with terrifying cheer, pointing at Hardison's mess of papers. “We're calling it the Leverage Club. We're meeting Tuesday after school. You guys are free to advise us, right? Right.” And she picks up her bag and breezes out of the room, leaving Hardison to scramble to pick up his and go, and to his surprise, Eliot to pick up The Joy of Cooking and leave the crossword puzzles and follow after them, falling into step silently on Parker's other side like this is something that happens every day.

As they leave the school, he's pretty sure he see both Parker and Eliot raise their fists a little, not quite punching the air but at least thinking about it. Hardison hums a little, getting the mood going, and figures since they're going to be walking together for a little while, he'll see where the other two plan on going.