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It's a Thing

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They were in Eliot's apartment after the job. Tara didn't socialize, and Nate wasn't any fun without Sophie to handle him. If they went to Eliot's, Hardison talked instead of computed, and Eliot cooked.

"I like your food, Eliot," said Parker.

"Thanks," said Eliot. He picked up a hush puppy and bit into it.

She added, "I like the way you kiss Hardison, too."

Eliot choked.

Hardison jerked the soda bottle away from his mouth. A few drops hit the sofa, and Parker wiped them off the leather with her fingers. "He kissed me for the job, Parker," said Hardison.

Parker picked up a carrot stick, swirled it through the honey yogurt sauce, and crunched thoughtfully. "That doesn't mean he didn't mean it," she said. She reached out and patted Hardison's knee twice. "You kissed me for a job, and now you want to kiss me all the time."

Hardison opened his mouth, closed it, opened and closed it again. He finally leaned around Parker and peered at Eliot, who was sitting on Parker's other side. "Eliot, do you want to kiss me all the time?" Hardison asked, voice a little strangled and fast.

"You shouldn't ask people stuff like that when you're dating or whatever with Parker," said Eliot. He picked up an ants on a log, but instead of eating it, he started rearranging the raisins in the peanutbutter.

Hardison frowned. "Parker, did Eliot say yes or no?"

Parker picked up another carrot stick, some more sauce, and crunched thoughtfully again. She looked at Eliot, who was not looking at either of them. "Neither." She picked up a hush puppy and started making it appear and disappear in her hands. "Do you like kissing Eliot? It looked like you liked it."

Hardison looked at her, and the expression on his face was like what happened when he tried to explain the difference between WEP and WPA to Nate. "You know what? I think Eliot's right, and we shouldn't talk about him and me kissing. Let's talk about Ocean's Twelve."

"That's the stupidest con movie I've ever seen!" said Parker, right on cue.

Behind her back, Eliot mouthed 'I do not believe her' at Hardison. Parker saw the reflection in the big mirror on Eliot's wall.

That was not the end of it, of course.

Alec wasn't actually surprised when Parker appeared on his couch. After the second time she'd broken in, he'd just given her an electronic passcode and told her to use the front door. The passcode triggered a text message to his phone, and the opening swells of Star Trek: The Next Generation's theme heralded her arrival, and let him run to his room to get pants on over his SpongeBob boxers.

What did surprise Alec was her shiny, tight, red shirt and that Parker's hair was curled and styled: she looked like she was going on a job. "You look nice," he said and smiled. "Special occasion?"

"I want to kiss you," said Parker, but her face was grim and she had her arms crossed in front of her body.

Alec sat down on the couch, but on the far end from Parker. If they reached out, they could still hold hands, but they were currently tucked neatly into their respective corners. "You don't look real happy about it."

Parker shrugged.

"Is this about Eliot?"

Parker shrugged. "I liked it, and I'd like to do it, too. He's," she shrugged, "I like Eliot."

"It what?" asked Alec.

"It what what?" asked Parker.

"You said you liked it. What was the it you liked?"

"The kissing," said Parker. "I liked it when he kissed you. I want to kiss him."

"Um," said Alec, and wrapped his arms around his torso. "I thought we had a thing. Or were going to have a thing."

Parker shrugged. "Yes. I want our thing, and I want a thing with Eliot, and I want to watch yours and Eliot's thing." She grimaced. "It's better that way."

"What's better?" asked Alec. "No, wait. I'm getting something to drink, you want anything?" He got off the couch and headed to the kitchen. He pulled out the last of a six pack of orange soda and put another one in, then stood there staring at the inside of his refrigerator. He wanted the cold air to help him think, but all it did was raise goosepimples on his arms. He grabbed a box of Thin Mints from the freezer.

He tossed Parker the cookies and put the soda on the coffeetable. He popped open one of his sodas, but he didn't take a drink, just dragged his finger in the condensation, spelled out his name. He wasn't good with talking about his feelings, and he wasn't sure Parker even knows she has them, but he also didn't see how they can work this shit out without talking about it. "You ever do this before?" he asked after a little while.

She shrugged. "I had a thing with a guy who had a wife and a couple girlfriends. He kept feeding me."

"What happened?"

Parker frowned. "The wife didn't like me, she said I was creepy." She opened up the cookies and ate one, passed him back the box. "Cold."

He nodded absently and took his own cookie. "But you didn't—you weren't jealous of the wife and other girlfriends? You didn't try to do anything bad to them?" Alec didn't exactly believe Parker had blown up her foster father to get a stuffed bunny back. But he didn't exactly not believe it either.

Parker tilted her head at him sideways. "I stole Jilly's favorite necklace after she called me creepy?"

Alec shook his head. "That's not exactly what I meant. I—you were okay with sharing?"

"Sharing what?"

"Sharing the dude with the wife and the girlfriends."

"You can't share people. You can only share things you own, and nobody owns me."

Alec wouldn't argue with that. He had another cookie instead.

Eliot had kept to his place and his gym, after Parker tried to start a threeway or something. It wasn't that he expected things to be weird; he just felt like maybe he needed to meet some new people, some people who weren't his co-workers. The plan probably would have worked better if he'd gone somewhere besides the gym and the market, but being by himself had been peaceful. Absent of revelations. And he'd made a pretty spectacular paella and eaten it all by himself, so definitely not a waste of time.

But Nate called them into a briefing for a new job, and even though he managed to keep Tara between himself and Hardison and Parker while they were in Nate's den, he couldn't avoid Hardison doing remote control evil to his car.

"So," said Hardison, "I'm kidnapping you. Come back to my place."

He gave Hardison a very dark look, and headed for the bar, instead. He got a beer, a light beer, because Eliot wanted a clear head while Hardison talked about how super-straight he was, and how wonderful pussy was, and all the head he was giving Parker. Because it was a light beer, and a pretty crappy one, he was only sipping at it.

Sipping was why he didn't choke when Hardison said, "Parker was serious about wanting a threesome. Do you have any interest in either of us? 'Cause if you don't, I can unkidnap you right now."

He put his beer down and said, "Fuck, Hardison, how do you just say shit like that?" He rubbed at the handle of his mug, tried to decide what to say. He was attracted to both of them, they were beautiful individually, and a fucking amazing matched set when you put them together: contrasting colors but built on the same long, lean lines. But he'd never had sex good enough to justify fucking up a working relationship of two years, and he didn't know if he wanted a sexual relationship. Especially with a boy who drove him crazy and a girl who appeared to be crazy. "Don't like to shit where I eat," he said.

"Really, Eliot?" said Hardison, hackles up with a sudden cat finickiness. He stuck his finger in his drink, what looked like a screwdriver, and licked the tip of it. "That's the best metaphor you can come up with: sex with me or Parker is like shitting." His eyes widened suddenly. "You're not into scat, are you? That would be so disappointing."

"No, I'm not into scat!" Where the fuck did Hardison even come up with this stuff, seriously?

"Good. Because then this whole thing would be a non-starter." Hardison picked up his drink this time, sipped it, and gave it a disappointed look. "Look, man, I don't—you weren't exactly on my radar before Parker said something, but you're hot and I like you, which is two good reasons to start sleeping with you. And Parker," he sighed, drummed his fingers on the table, looked off towards the bar. "I'm not sure how interested Parker is in me without you as part of the package."

"I thought you guys were…." Eliot sucked down a little more crap beer, trying to figure out when he thought things had changed. "After the corporate food job, I thought you guys," he waved his hand from side to side in a way that didn't actually mean anything, just gave Hardison something to riff on.

"Not really, no," said Hardison. He was working a hangdog look that almost made Eliot pat him on the head.

"Sorry, man. But, uh, what do I have to do with it? She like watching two guys together or something?"

Hardison shrugged. "I don't think she wants to have a threeway." He stood up and said, "This is gross. The orange juice is gross here or something. I'll be back."

Eliot thought about leaving. He had his apartment keys and his cellphone. He could walk out of here and catch a cab. But now he was fucking curious about what a threesome-not-a-three-way was. He dithered long enough that Hardison had come back with a beer of his own.

Hardison drank half of it down before he said anything. "She knows she's different, right? She knows she's not going to turn into a normal girlfriend, even if she wanted to. But she thinks that if we had someone to do the normal girlfriend things with, then we could put up with her for longer. Also, she likes you and thinks you're hot."

Eliot couldn't think of what to say that was helpful, so of course he said, "I'm not a fucking girl."

Hardison just rolled his eyes and said, "Your femininity is not the issue here."

Alec was responsible for the hotel reservations on a job, and Alec justified only booking two suites by saying he wanted to do some fight work with Eliot and Parker. Nate didn't give a shit, and Tara didn't give a shit once he got her a suite of her own.

Parker and Eliot didn't say anything on the way up to the suite, but Parker kept looking between him and Eliot, eyes cutting back and forth like she was nervous, like she was waiting for him to say he'd taken down the electronic lock and she could go.

They still didn't say anything when they got to the room suite. Parker checked out the windows and balcony, Eliot sniffed derisively at the kitchen, laughed at the knives they supplied. Alec got himself set up at the desk with power strips, USB charger, myfi, and the rest of the tools of his trade. Parker put her stuff in the right bedroom and Eliot put his stuff in the left bedroom. Alec put his bags in the closet and waited for someone to try to count to three.

"Where are you sleeping?" asked Parker. "There's two beds."

Alec took fifteen seconds to finish checking on his hooks into the hotel's security cameras, and then he turned the desk chair around and said, "If I need it, the couch folds out."

Parker was standing in the doorway to her room. Her mouth got really tight and her eyebrows knit together. "Why—?"

"The couch is my backup plan, Parker. I want us to get this," Alec made a circle that included the three of them, "straightened out. And, hopefully, I'll be sleeping with one of you. Or you'll be sleeping together, and I'll get the other bed."

Eliot was sitting on the couch, remote control in his hand. He wasn't looking at either of them. "Those are king beds."

Alec looked at Parker, hoping she could explain what the point was. She looked back at him with raised eyebrows and big eyes.

"You can fit three, if you're friendly." Eliot turned around on the couch, got his legs thrown up on it and stretched out full length. "Come here, Parker."

Parker's eyes got really, really big, and she gave Alec a look that he interpreted to mean, "Rescue me." He just mouthed, "It's okay," and shooed her in Eliot's direction.

She walked over slowly, and Alec scooted his chair closer to them, as subtly as he could on the fairly plush carpeting.

Eliot said, "What do you want to do with me?" Alec couldn't see his expression, but instead of his usual Batman growl, Eliot was working a Southern drawl. He had one hand up, reaching towards Parker.

Her hand drifted down slowly to meet his, and then she sank down to perch on the coffeetable in front of him. "I don't care," she said. She ran her hand down his arm, suddenly, to the back of his neck, and pulled him into a kiss.

Alec felt himself get hot, a rush up the sides of his neck and in his ears. His heart clenched up, too, but he was pretty sure that one was psychosomatic, a physical metaphor for his sudden fear that they would leave him out of whatever it was they were building on the foundation he had set with Parker.

And then she looked up and said, "Hardison, you're too far away. You have to touch my shoulder because I need a free hand."

And he knew that it would be weird and them-shaped, but whatever was happening here would work out.

Parker slept less than other people, so she expected to wake up in bed with a sleeping body on either side of her. She played a game with herself, cataloging the ways Eliot and Hardison were different in the dark: Eliot was a furnace and Hardison was cooler; Hardison was pressed up against her and Eliot just grazed her waist with his fingers; Eliot snored every so often, just a little wibble, and Hardison was silent.

She got up and sat at the foot of the bed, looking at them in the dark. Hardison was a long, thin smudge, striped by the white sheets. Eliot, unexpectedly, sprawled, taking up all of the space she had just vacated but managing to only touch Hardison with his knee. He'd kicked all of the blankets and sheets away and was naked from head to foot.

She stared at them for an hour, listening, sitting still, just being, all tools of her trade. But then Hardison twitched the wrong way and Eliot woke up. She could tell by the way he got very, very still. After a minute, he turned over and looked at her. "You okay?"


"You coming back to bed soon?"

His whisper was apparently too loud, because Hardison lifted his head and said, "Where's Parker?"

"I'm here," she said. "I'll come to bed in a while."

Hardison turned over and looked at her, too, and with two pairs of eyes on her, eyes watching, just waiting, not pushing, a while turned into now.

She climbed in between them, and kissed Hardison and then Eliot. "Now you," she said.

Hardison rolled his eyes, but he leaned across her body and kissed Eliot.

"Good night, John boy," said Eliot.

Hardison snickered, so she didn't feel the need to figure out the game. She just went to sleep.