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Like a Wild Flower

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“Eliot, I'm bored.”

He gave her a look, grimacing. A bored Parker was a Parker that got into trouble, and that was the last thing they needed right now. Nate and Sophie were off somewhere pretending they weren't a couple, Hardison was deep in his age of the geek work, building some new computer system or gadget, and Eliot had plans of his own, but no one had planned anything for Parker.

“You want to go on a hike with me, Parker?”

She looked at him like he was the crazy one. He shrugged. Maybe he shouldn't have asked, but he didn't want Parker going off on her own and getting hurt or arrested. If she got back in contact with Leech, he'd have to make that old man pay.

“This won't be like climbing that mountain, will it?”

“No. I'm just sick of the city. Want to get outdoors, clear my head. You can come if you want. Or not. I don't care.”

Her nose wrinkled. “Yes, you do. You wouldn't have asked me if you didn't.”


“I'm coming,” she said, wrapping her arm around his. He didn't like when she got clingy, but when she was excited enough to bounce off of the walls, it was probably better if she bounced off him.

“Parker, I swear if you change my radio one more time—”

“I wish we had a tape of you singing. You didn't need the program to alter your voice, did you know that? You have a nice voice.”

Eliot's grip tightened on the wheel. He didn't feel like remembering the squeals of the girls running after him. He didn't want to hear them again. Ever. “If you'd stop changing the damn station—”

“What is with your taste in music, anyway?”

“Man needs music that can speak to him,” Eliot told her. “You need something that makes sense to you. That fits who you are. Some tunes are catchy. That don't make them the ones you need to hear. Or the ones you need to sing along with.”

Parker put her feet up on his dash. “You sing in the car? That's why you're so mad about me changing the stations. You need music to sing along with.”

He grunted.

She smiled, and she didn't change the station again for the rest of the drive.

“You're sure I don't need gear.”

“You don't. Not your kind of gear,” Eliot said, though he handed her a knapsack anyway. “This is just the basics, like I told you. Water. Snacks. First aid kit. Things any hiker should have even if they're taking an easy trail that's maintained by park rangers. You never know what will happen.”

She nodded. “Okay, but if this turns into some kind of climb—”

“You don't have to do this.”

“I was gonna say I'll race you to the top and win,” she said, grinning at him as she pulled the bag on her back and started down the path. Eliot shook his head and shut the truck door as he followed after her.

“This place is nice,” Parker said, stopping to sit down on a rock. She pulled the bag off her back and dropped it on the ground. She leaned up and smiled as the sun caught on her face. “You come here a lot, Eliot? You know, when you're getting away from the city and clearing your head?”

“I'm thinking your head is clear,” he said, giving her a look.

“You're saying that there's nothing in there. That's not nice,” she said, pushing herself up from the rock and getting in his face. “I do think. I think a lot more than you know. I didn't come out here because I don't think. I came out here because I keep trying to understand you and I don't. You taught me about food and I could use that for art, but I still don't understand.”

“I'm not that complicated,” Eliot told her. “I hurt people, I steal things, and I do what has to be done. Now, I run cons, protect people, and I cook food. Not much to know.”

“That's like people saying the only thing I am is crazy. You really think I'm just crazy and nothing else? That I'm wrong somehow?”

Eliot let out a breath. “We should go.”

“The sign back at the beginning said this was a four mile trail. We've only gone three. We can do one more before we go back down.” She folded her arms over her chest. “Besides, you didn't answer me.”

He grunted, reaching for her hand and pulling her over next to a columbine. “This is what you are. A wild flower. Grows where it wants, does what it pleases. Bends but doesn't break in the wind. Spreads wings and resettles where it wants, endures harsh weather. All of that.”

She touched the flower, finger going across the petal before turning the whole thing over in her hand. “I thought you didn't want to say I was just crazy.”

He shrugged. “You're still crazy. You're just more than that, too.”

“So are you,” she said, giving him a kiss on the cheek before swiping the flower. “Are there more of these around here?”

“You're not supposed to pick them.”

She smiled at him. “We're thieves, Eliot. Let's go steal some flowers.”