"No way, man, just no", Alec says, and "Fuck, no", Eliot says, right at the same time.
Nate sighs. "Come on guys. You know this is our best chance."
Alec takes a step back and crosses his arms over his chest. "I said no", he says. "And why does it have to be me, anyway?"
Parker chuckles. "Can you imagine Nathan in a dress? He sure would make one ugly drag queen."
"Thank you for the flowers, Parker", Nate says dryly, before he returns to the topic at hand. "And it has to be you, Hardison, as you well know, because our guy likes his boys young, dark-skinned and long-legged, and I'm sorry, but there is just one person in this room who fits that description."
"There has to be another way", Eliot says, and Nate gives him a curious look.
"And why are you so against it, Eliot?" he asks. "It's not as if you are going to be the one in a skirt."
Eliot pulls a face. "I just don't like it", he says stubbornly. "It's not safe."
Nate raises a brow. Eliot shrugs. "Even less safe than usual. He won't even be able to defend himself."
Alec actually feels slightly offended. "Dude, I thought you said that my fighting was getting better."
"But not in a dress", Eliot replies heatedly. "There's no way you're going to be able to even get your leg up high enough to knee someone in the balls. And have you ever tried running on five inch high heels?"
"He does have a point, you know", Sophie says thoughtfully. "I mean, I can do it. But it does take a lot of practice."
"See", Eliot says, gesturing agitatedly between Sophie and Nate. "She thinks it's dangerous, too."
"Which is why you will be there with him at the club the whole time", Nate says. "As a bouncer, which means you can step in if something happens without being suspicious. And this is my last word, so stop nagging me already, because I really have better things to do."
He raises his whiskey glass to take a sip. Alec kind of wants to smash the bottle over his head.
He grudgingly agrees to go shopping with Sophie – it's not as if he's an expert on what one needs for an appropriate drag outfit, so he is even grateful for her help – but he draws the line when she offers to shave his legs. He has shaved his face since he was fourteen; he thinks he will be able to do his own shins.
15 minutes later, he has to admit that he was wrong. The angle is all different, his back hurts from bending over his leg that he has propped up on the toilet lid, and he has already cut himself at least once.
He's fully ready to throw a fit when Eliot walks in. Alec thinks about kicking him out, but hey, it's not as if there is anything on display Eliot hasn't seen already, and lately, Eliot has proved to be a calming influence whenever Alec is about to freak – as long it's not Eliot he's freaking out about.
Eliot leans against the sink and watches him struggle silently for two full minutes before he walks over and takes the razor out of Alec's hand.
"Sit down", he orders grudgingly, and Alec obeys without thinking – Eliot's voice does that to a man.
"This is never going to work", he complains, not caring if he sounds like a whiny little bitch. He's going to put on fishnet tights and a wig, he thinks he's entitled to a little bitching.
Eliot doesn't say anything, just gets down on his knees in front of the toilet and lifts one of Alec's legs in his lap. He reaches for the can of shaving cream and covers his shank generously, and then he starts to work with steady hands, gently, thoroughly. It actually feels kind of nice.
"Dude", Alec says, stunned. "How come you know how to do this?"
Eliot shrugs, not looking up from his work. "Some girls like it when you do it for them."
Alec clenches his teeth. He already regrets that he asked. He isn't usually the jealous type, but that doesn't mean he wants to be reminded that Eliot is the kind of guy who has a girl in every (air)port, and this thing between them is too new and too secret for him not to feel a little insecure. Eliot doesn't seem to sense his discomfort, though; he's working carefully on the bony parts of Alec's knee, all the while muttering under his breath.
"Sorry, what?" Alec asks, and Eliot bends his head even lower.
"I still don't like this plan", he mumbles.
Alec tilts his head. With all the freaking out about having to put on a dress, and the shopping and the shaving, he didn't really have time to wonder about Eliot's behavior. But now that he's thinking about it, he does realize that Eliot has been acting weird about this job.
"Yeah, and why is that anyway?" he asks, trying not to shiver when Eliot runs a hand along his calf to test the result of his work. "It's a good plan …" He trails off when Eliot raises a brow at him, and adds hastily: "I mean, if you ignore the fact that I have to pretend to be fucking Cinderella. It's just that I thought you'd be all for it. You might even get to punch somebody."
Eliot lowers his head again, hair falling down to cover his face, but not quite fast enough for Alec not to get a glimpse of – is that a blush?
"I just think it's too risky", he grumbles, reaching for Alec's other leg. "I will be there, but I won't be able to get too close. I might not be able to protect you."
Alec pouts. "You know that I'm not really a damsel in distress, right? Who says you're going to have to protect me at all?"
Eliot gives him a duh look, smirk playing around the corners of his mouth, and Alec raises his hands in defeat. "Point taken", he says. "But really, don't worry, I'll be fine. I'm going to kick Nate's ass for making me do this, but we'll be fine."
He'd really like to prove his point, to Eliot and to himself, and preferably in front of Eliot on his knees, but he knows that this isn't the time, and he doesn't even really know yet if he's supposed to suggest something like that, so instead he says: "And if you are done with my legs, get out so that Sophie can start with her personal version of Extreme Makeover."
He feels stupid. Stupid and so very, very uncomfortable. Everything itches – the black long hair wig and the fake lashes, the thong and the stockings. The silver sequin dress he's wearing is far too tight to be comfortable, the slit showing off his leg far too high, the neckline too deep; and in these silver stilettos, he feels like a drunken stork trying to cross a frozen lake.
There's no way he's going to leave the room like this, and Sophie can tell him that he looks great all she wants – she's a professional scammer, it's not as if she's actually reliable.
"Hardison, come on", Nate yells from the other side of the door, sounding more and more impatient by the minute. "We don't have time for this."
"Just – just a second", Alec shouts back, tugging on the dress in the hope to cover at least another inch of his thighs, until Sophie slaps his hands away.
"Stop it", she says, "you'll ruin the dress." And then she turns towards the closed door and yells: "It's fine, you can come in now!"
"Traitor", Alec hisses, but by then it's too late.
"Uh", Nate says, blinking furiously.
"Wow", Parker breathes, clearly in awe.
Eliot doesn't say anything at all, just stands there, frozen, mouth agape.
"What?" Alec snaps. "Stop staring, okay?"
"Uhm", Nate makes, and actually blushes. "Great ... great job, Sophie."
"You think so?" Sophie looks more than pleased, throwing him a flirtatious smile. "Thank you, Nate."
"Seriously?" Alec hisses, and puts his hands on his hips, forcing himself not to think about what that must look like. "I mean, seriously? I'm wearing a bra, dude! I shaved my fucking legs! And all you can say is Great job, Sophie?"
Parker giggles. "He's just afraid you will hit him if he tells you that you're hot."
"Uhm", Nate says, swallowing.
Eliot still doesn't say anything at all. He has closed his mouth, at least, but Alec isn't really sure if that's a good sign. If he's never going to get laid again as a result of this farce, he's going to kill Nathan – slowly and painfully.
Turns out that Eliot seems to be the only one who is not happy about his outfit. Apparently, Alec can add "drag queen" to the list of personas he is able to pull off convincingly. Which is a good thing, on the one hand, because, hello, that's why he's here, right? – but on the other hand, he wishes his disguise wouldn't work quite that well, because the other "girls" working at the bar keep throwing him angry looks, and his ass gets pinched at least five times before he even spots their mark.
Or, more exactly, before their mark spots him. Nate clearly wasn't lying when he said that Alec fit into his prey pattern, because as soon as Mr. Hawkins catches sight of him, he has him ordered to his table, and ten minutes later, he has Alec sitting in his lap, whispering naughty platitudes in his ear, while feeding him candied ginger, of all things, and oh God, Alec is never going to live this down.
That the others can hear everything that's said over the coms doesn't help either; nor does the fact that Eliot is watching them closely from across the room, looking for all it's worth as if he wants to rip Hawkins' head off with his bare hands – and Alec doesn't doubt for a second that he could.
Though he is not quite sure what it is that Eliot is so annoyed about – he can get angry over a lot of things, and not always is the level of anger proportional to the significance of the provocation. Alec has learned the hard way that waiting it out is often the best strategy to deal with it, and besides, it's not as if there's anything he can do, seeing as how he's tied up here right now.
"Okay, Hardison", Nate's voice is coming through the earpiece, "you've got him where we want him. Now you just have to find out where he's keeping the diamonds."
Alec doesn't answer. He sure as hell doesn't want to blow his cover now, after all the trouble he went through, and pretending to be talking to himself is a tad too suspicious in a situation like this – perched on the knee of a middle-aged diamond dealer with blood on his hands (metaphorically), who's practically chewing on his neck (literally) and whose hand keeps moving higher and higher up his thigh, making him squirm uncomfortably. Alec vows that he's going to set up a college fund for needy cross-dressers who want out of the sex business as soon as this job is finished.
"What do you say we get out of here, sugarplum?" Hawkins mumbles against his collarbone, and Alec silently curses him for being so very imaginative when it comes to pet names – he really doesn't need Parker to get any ideas – before the meaning of the words actually filters through.
"Out of here?" he squeaks, and coughs to get his voice back under control.
"Hmmm ......." Hawkins nods, nose buried in synthetic hair, index finger sneaking under the hem of Alec's dress. "We can go to my suite at the Hilton. There's something I want to show you....."
"Oh, I bet you do", Alec fake-giggles, slightly hysterically, patting the general vicinity of Hawkins' crotch. He's sure he could hear Eliot's growl from across the room even without the intercom.
Hawkins laughs. "You are such a naughty little girl", he chuckles. "We'll get to that soon enough, sweetheart. But I've got something else I want to show you. You like jewelry, don't you?"
Four gasps hit Alec's ears simultaneously.
"He's keeping them in his hotel room?" Sophie asks disbelievingly. "How can you be more stupid?"
"He's trying to buy him with jewelry?" Eliot exclaims, outraged. "How can you be more of a loser?"
"Hm", Parker says in that dreamy voice she always uses when she's thinking about high-value goods. "I'd go for it."
"Come on, Parker", Eliot growls. "Nobody does that except for the guys who can't get some otherwise."
"Stop it, Spencer", Nate shouts. "Cut it out. Focus. Parker, I need you to go to the hotel room, get the diamonds. He's probably keeping them in a safe …"
"He better", Parker says darkly. "Because this job hasn't been much fun so far."
Alec thinks that he couldn't agree more.
"Alright", Nate says. "How long?"
"I'm on my way", Parker replies. "Half an hour."
"Okay, Parker, you've got 30 minutes", Nate says. "Hardison, did you hear that? Parker needs half an hour. You have to keep him at the club that long, can you do that?"
Alec sighs inwardly. It's not as if he can say no. It's not as if he can say anything, because he's still sitting on Hawkins' lap, who is trying to convince him to go back to the hotel with him. Which is so not going to happen, for more than one reason – one of them still standing on the other side of the room, sipping on a whiskey soda and watching them with narrowed eyes.
"So what do you think, baby?" Hawkins asks, running his hand up and down Alec's leg.
Alec sighs dramatically and bats his eyelashes in what he hopes is a coquettish way. "I'd love to, honey", he says flirtatiously. "But I'm still working, you know? It's my first week here, I can't afford to leave half an hour early."
"Half an hour?" Hawkins deliberates. "Well, I guess I can wait that long." He smiles salaciously. "But maybe we can wait somewhere a little bit more ..... private?"
"Somewhere more private" turns out to be one of the rooms in the back of the club, and Alec starts to panic before the door has even closed behind them. Private room means more inappropriate touching that he really would like to avoid; even more important, private room means that Eliot isn't here with him, and if Eliot's glowering made him nervous, his absence is definitely a whole lot worse.
"Why don't you get comfortable, gorgeous?" Hawkins says, leering. "I'll get us some drinks." He turns towards the mini bar, but not before slapping his ass, and Alec jumps and staggers over to the couch. "I swear, Nate", he whispers, while Hawkins is busy raiding the bar, "next time, you have to find someone else to do this job. These shoes are killing me." What he really wants to say is something along the lines of Please, come and save me, but knowing Nate, their leader will just tell him to suck it up. No pun intended.
"Fifteen more minutes, Hardison", Nate answers. "You are doing good." He sounds far too amused, and Alec thinks he might hate him a little bit.
"Did you say something?" Hawkins asks, walking over with a bottle of champagne and two glasses, grinning like he just won the jackpot and Alec is his lottery ticket. He waits for Alec to make room on the couch, but Alec stays right where he is, nervously crossing his legs. "Just that I'm glad that we're finally alone", he replies innocently, forcing a sweet smile.
So yes, he's stalling, even knowing that it's not going to do much good; but just as Hawkins is about to squeeze himself in next to Alec anyway, the door bursts open – revealing a clearly furious Eliot, fists clenched, head lowered, like a bull ready to storm into the arena. The sight shouldn't make Alec feel so relieved. It probably shouldn't turn him on so much either.
"El – Elmer!" he squeaks, barely catching himself. "What are you doing here?"
Eliot growls. Hawkins takes a step forwards, looking less than pleased at the interruption. "I said I didn't want to be disturbed", he huffs. "Who are you?"
"He ..." Alec swallows.
"Jealous ex-boyfriend", whispers Sophie in his ear, and Alec raises a brow before quickly switching back into scared cross-dressing sex worker mode. "He's my ex – ex-boyfriend. And he's really very, very jealous."
"Ex-boyfriend, hm?" Hawkins asks snidely. "Well, you had your chance. Looks like the lady wasn't too happy with your caveman act. Can't say that I blame her. Besides, I'm paying for her to be here, so why don't you just get your ass out of here, before I call security?"
"I am security", Eliot says coldly, slowly raising his fists. His knuckles are cracking, and Hawkins pales slightly at the sound. As he well should, Alec thinks proudly. Eliot could kill this guy with his little finger.
But before he can get to that, Parker's voice interrupts them. "Got the diamonds!" she cheers. "Do you want me to blow up his room, Nate?"
"No!" Nate shouts hastily. "No blowing up, Parker!"
"But he's molesting Hardison", Parker pouts. "Way to spoil my fun."
"I'm sorry, Parker", Nate says, and he even sounds like he means it. "Not today. Guys, you heard her. Get out of there now!"
Alec suppresses the sigh of relief that threatens to come out. "Don't kill him, Elmer", he says pleadingly, wringing his hands in a dramatic way that would make Sophie proud. "I don't want to see you in prison again for yet another murder."
Hawkins stumbles back slightly, paling even further. "He – he would do that?"
Alec nods seriously. "He killed three of my clients with his bare hands. And that was before we were even together."
"I don't have to kill him" Eliot says, not abandoning his threatening stance. "If you come back to me."
"Yes, darling", Alec purrs and ignores Parker chuckling in his ear. "I'll come home with you, alright? Just – just leave him be. He's not – not as strong as you are, anyway."
He gets up from the couch, trips over his feet and basically lets himself fall into Eliot's arms. Eliot drags him – rather unceremoniously – out of the room, and when Alec throws a glance over his shoulder, Hawkins looks just as relieved about their departure as Alec feels. Of course, he doesn't know about the theft of his diamonds yet.
"I'm going to kill Nate", Eliot growls on their way to the getaway car. They are walking at a relatively moderate pace, because Alec is indeed not able to move very fast in his shoes, and he'd rather kill himself before he lets Eliot carry him.
He figures they have time, after all – on their way out, he tampered with the electronic door lock, which means it will take Hawkins a while to free himself and discover that neither Miss Hershey nor Elmer are actually working at this club, and by that time, both of them will be far, far away.
"I'm going to kill him", Eliot grumbles. "Slowly. Painfully."
Alec can't help but pout a little. It's not as if he hasn't already cursed Nate himself, but after what he went through, he thinks Eliot could afford to be a bit nicer. It's not his fault that Eliot doesn't like his costume, and really, it wasn't his idea, anyway.
"Shut up", he sniffs. "You are not the one who had to walk around with a wig the whole night."
"No", Eliot grunts. "But I'm the one who had to walk around with a raging hard-on the whole night."
Alec stumbles, and only Eliot's hand on his elbow keeps him from falling. He tries to regain his balance, and when he's sure he can stand without support, he turns around to look at Eliot. "Excuse me?"
"What?!" Eliot grumbles indignantly. "What did you expect? You're wearing make up, for God's sake! "
"Dude", Alec stares like he sees him for the first time. Then, he switches off his com and waits for Eliot to do the same. "Dude. This stuff turns you on?"
Eliot frowns, looking actually confused. "Well, yeah. What do you think?"
"I don't know!" he says helplessly. "That you think it's ridiculous?"
Eliot just looks at him, and a split second later, he has Alec pushed against the back wall of a diner, and Alec feels the aforementioned hard-on digging into his thigh.
"This feel ridiculous to you?" he whispers hoarsely, and Alec throws his head back and groans.
"I just want to get my hands under that dress", Eliot murmurs, voice full of heat and smoke. "And rip off your panties – you are wearing panties, aren't you?"
Alec nods desperately; he doesn't even know if thongs count as panties, but at the moment? He really doesn't care. Hell, he doesn't care about anything right now, except for Eliot's hands on his skin, and he is ready to abandon the whole operation - and that's when Eliot's cell phone rings.
"Shit." Eliot steps away to take the call, but Alec can still hear Nate's voice over the phone. "Eliot! Where the hell are you guys? And what happened to your coms? "
"Calm down", Eliot says coolly, and nobody who listens would think that he was just about to rip off Alec's clothes in a seedy back alley. "Everything is fine. We're just about to get into the car, alright? " He switches off the phone and groans. "You'd think we are teenagers and missed our curfew."
"They are going to figure it out, sooner or later", Alec says.
Eliot looks actually surprised. "That a problem for you?"
"No?" Alec says, slightly confused. "I just thought ..."
"What?" Eliot grunts. "That I didn't want them to know you're my boyfriend?"
Actually, that is exactly what Alec thought, but Eliot looks almost offended, so he doesn't think it's the right thing to say. "Uhm", he offers instead.
"But just so you know", Eliot says warningly, "if you call me Elmer ever again, I will break up with you."
"Okay", Alec agrees. He thinks he can live with that.
"Alright", Eliot nods and starts walking again, "let's go home, baby."
Alec thinks that is an excellent plan. He can't wait to be home – he really needs to get out of these shoes.
And if Eliot wants to help him take them off, he certainly isn't going to complain.