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The first time she and Hardison have sex, it’s… good. By Sophie’s standards, ‘good’ is most likely an unflattering qualification, but it’s good in a way that few things make Parker feel good.

Plus it’s fun. Hardison only screeches a little and then kisses her, still shaking with laughter, when she gets nervous halfway through and tickles him.

He lets her touch everywhere she wants and he touches every inch of her in turn. Reverently, but not afraid she’ll change her mind and say no. She likes his confidence because she would never have said yes to him if she hadn’t known she could trust him. It’s hard to tell by now who has been tiptoeing around this longer and she’s glad there is no second-guessing.

When it’s over, Parker collapses on her back. The tingle of her orgasm on and in her skin and Hardison’s heavy breath in her ear, she lands with a distance of two and a half gold bars between them.

Outside it’s raining.

She’s aware that Hardison is the kind of man… the kind of person who would like to cuddle, after, but Parker… can’t. It’s too much.

Yet she doesn’t get up from the bed. She doesn’t go to the window to check if the outside wall is getting too slippery for an escape. Instead she lets her left hand slide into Hardison’s right and holds on tight. Hardison doesn’t say anything, but she knows what his silence sounds like when he smiles.

In the next room, the ventilation on her closed laptop starts whirring.

“That was… wow,” Hardison says eventually. His voice is hushed, not overenthusiastic as he sometimes gets but quiet. Awed, and a little proud. Sincere.

“It was,” she agrees immediately and is startled by the way the last word drags out in her mouth. Waaaaas. But, well. It was.

They lie silently beside each other for a while, their heavy breathing evening out, their clasped hands something that Parker is not really surprised she is reluctant to let go.

When he speaks up again, it’s a halting question. “Did you think there was someone missing?” His voice is very high, like he can’t quite believe he’s even asking.

Parker’s hand tightens around his because even though Hardison is the one who brought it up there is still a chance he might miss the point when she answers truthfully: “Yes.” She waits, doesn’t turn her head. She can feel his the muscles in his arm tense but he doesn’t try to pull free. “That’s weird,” she adds because what they just did was good and it is.

“Hell yeah it’s weird,” Hardison agrees but he doesn’t sit up. The tension evaporates enough that Parker feels safe to let up enough to give him his circulation back.

“But also not,” she states. Because now that she’s thinking about it, it isn’t.

Hardison is silent. Then he lifts his head as if to take a good look at her face, but stops before he gets his back off the mattress and lets himself fall back onto the pillow. “Huh.”

“You figured out Eliot should have been here, huh,” Parker asks sagely.

“Huh,” Hardison confirms.

* * *

Eliot starts out a bit hesitantly. Not hesitant as if he doesn’t believe they want him here or like he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but like he isn’t quite sure where he fits in between them.

Parker once threw her brother’s bouncing ball at a Russian Mafiosi because their radios were out and Hardison spotted a silenced gun that would have taken Eliot off guard. The wariness doesn’t last.

By the time he comes for the second time Eliot has helped Parker propel Hardison out of his mind and teamed up with Hardison to make Parker feel very, very good.

It’s better. It’s even better afterwards when he makes a languid ninja move that ends with him snug against Hardison’s back and Hardison’s head on his chest.

Parker is lying on her back and gulping breaths against the ceiling. It’s a good ceiling, perfect to hold on to before a drop-down. She tries inching her captured hand closer to Eliot – it’s only right that she should stay connected to him, too – but then her arm touches the skin on Hardison’s chest, and… no.

She feels it when Eliot casts a glance at where her hand is clasped together tightly with Hardison’s. It’s warm and already familiar and good. She lies still while he reaches over and closes a hand around her wrist.

It’s a little too much like a restraint, but she has no time to grow uncomfortable before he senses her apprehension and instantly loosens his grip.

He doesn’t snatch his hand away, though. Instead he lets his fingers slowly slide up her arm and free, testing the waters. Parker holds her breath until the fingers are gone and only his palm is resting against her skin.

“This is good,” she grinds out and waits, transfixed. She is staring straight at a tile perfect for one of Archie’s invisible screws. With the right kind of rope she could hang on up there for hours. She’s been living here on and off for almost two years, how come she’s never spotted that tile before now?

Eliot’s hand doesn’t twitch.

Parker really likes Hardison’s silence when he breaks out into a blissed-out grin.

In the apartment next to hers, a phone rings. “Can we go to sleep now?” Eliot asks, his voice muffled against Hardison’s shoulder.

“Yes,” Hardison yawns. Parker isn’t sure which one of them moves, but someone stretches out a free arm and a blanket appears. It’s not her blanket, she notes, but the as yet unused afghan Sophie had brought from her last trip to England.

None of them are wont to fall asleep at the blink of an eye unless it’s urgent. Still, Hardison and Eliot nod off one by one, leaving Parker to drift in a hazy state of tingling and together and safe.