Eliot sits down on his daddy's porch and drinks four fucking beers before his brother Alfie drives up. It's the middle of a Tuesday afternoon and Alfie's got a nice shirt on with his jeans, so Eliot figures a neighbor called him at work. He doesn't say anything when Alfie walks up, but he hands over his next to last beer.
Alfie takes it, but he doesn't drink. "Pru had Jimmy on May 15, and Daddy was dead the morning after the baptism." Alfie twirled the can in his hand. "Jimmy's my second kid."
Eliot grunts and opens the last beer.
"It was heart congestion. Or maybe liver failure. He was working on both of them." Alfie holds up the can. "He couldn't have drunk this if he'd been here."
Eliot pops open the last can, swallows half of it down in one go. "Y'all aren't living in this house." It's not a question. He looked in every damn window while he was sipping on those beers.
"It's yours," said Alfie, and he sounded resigned, like he was done being mad about it, but he'd been royally pissed when they read the will. "Didn't know how to reach you to tell you." He finally sits down next to Eliot and pops the beer open. "I would have told you about the funeral."
"But not about the baby," says Eliot. "Babies."
Alfie shrugs. "You're a bad guy, Eliot. I don't want you around my kids."
Eliot knows he's not a bad guy, not anymore. But he thinks that if Alfie knew what his life was like now, he still wouldn't be wanted around his nephews. Niece and nephew? He doesn't even know. He puts the beer down, pulls out his wallet, hands Alfie a Leverage card. "Send me the kids' full names and social security numbers. I'm going to sell this place, set up trusts in their names." He stands up and walks to his rental. When he opens the door, he doesn't get in right away. He talks without turning around. "If you get screwed — not gypped at the checkout, I mean really fucked over — call me. For help." He hops up in the driver's seat. "I won't kill anyone."
Eliot does tai chi forms when he's unhappy. Tai chi wasn't the first formal martial arts training Eliot had, but it was the first that felt natural and comfortable even when he was bad at it. Running through the forms puts him present in his body and his space, in a way that means he's not surprised when Parker drops in on him. He is shocked when she says, "It's good. If you're in love with us. We are. With you." She looks at him for about a second, nods, then shimmies back up her rope and into the air vent she'd come from.
He could keep the flow going and return to the forms. He hadn't even moved out of position for the five seconds she was here. But he wants to ponder what Parker just said, so he heads to his gym instead.
He deliberately left his phone at home, so he wasn't expecting it when Hardison to climb onto the treadmill next to his. He's not really surprised, though. If he'd really needed to avoid Hardison, he'd have gone to a park or a church or something, not someplace where he signed in with an electronic key fob. Besides, before Hardison even presses start on his treadmill, his phone comes out and a video gets started.
They don't talk, don't really have the opportunity to do so because they're only on the same equipment occasionally. Eliot's maintaining his body as a deadly weapon, but Hardison's just keeping himself in tip-top run-from-security-occasionally-hit-a-bad-guy shape. They finish with laps in the pool and a dip in the whirlpool. Eliot gives Hardison a pretty hard look when he pulls out a plastic case to put his phone in and then starts tapping away at it, but Hardison just says, "You don't want to talk now; you want to talk over JD," which is true.
Eliot weighs the advantages and disadvantages of having a personal talk about an unconventional relationship in public, and he stops at a liquor store to buy his whiskey. He also picks up orange soda and chips to show this is a friendly visit.
Hardison opens the front door as Eliot approaches, takes the bag from him while he hangs up his coat and racks his shoes. Eliot stops in the kitchen for some pepper salsa he'd left the last time he was over for the game, then follows Hardison down to the second living room, the one with great speakers, but a single fifteen.txth screen to control the audio, and four different conversation groupings. (What all of the sofas and love seats are for, Eliot's never figured out. As far as he's been able to determine, Hardison has three friends in Oregon, and maybe five more in all of California and Washington.)
"So, Parker," says Eliot, because they have to start somewhere. "Where is she?"
Hardison shrugs. "In theory, she's at her place." He rolls his eyes significantly at the ceiling.
Eliot shrugs his understanding, sits down, and pours his first glass of whiskey. It is a really good loveseat, plush red fabric covering a cushion that feels pillowy, but is actually very supportive. "She said you're in love with me."
Hardison sits back in the recliner across from Eliot, tips his head back onto the set back. Eliot can only see his chin and a little of his mouth; it looks like Hardison's pursing his lips. "What else did she say?"
"Said it would be good if I was in love with you." Eliot takes another sip, holds the whiskey in his mouth a moment before he swallows, lets the rich, sharp taste of it sit on his tongue. "Both of you."
Hardison sits up and looks sharply at him. "That was everything she said?"
Eliot nods "Was she supposed to say more? She didn't wait around for a reply or anything."
Hardison nods but doesn't say anything right away. He gets out the chips, opens the salsa, pours chips into one of the shallow bowls already sitting on the table. "Parker's never going to go straight. You know that right?"
"Yes?" Eliot takes the chips and the second bowl, waits some more.
"And I'm always going to be a hacker. I mean, the difference between a white hat and a black hat is mostly intention, but the tech, the technique, is the same, you know what I mean?"
Eliot shrugs. "Sure." He dips a chip in the salsa, takes a bite. It's still good, but it's too cold. He should have microwaved it a little. "You think Nate is going to go straight? Take Sophie with him?"
Hardison smirks and puts an entire chip in his mouth. Shrugs. "He's going to—they're going to try. She'll try for him."
Eliot nods. "Are you asking what I'm going to do when Nate gets out?"
Hardison shakes his head. "I'm asking you to stay when he leaves. And we're asking you to stay with us. Be with us. Two questions."
Eliot doesn't say anything right away. There's a difference between what he'd been thinking about all morning — sleeping with Parker and Hardison, feeding them, listening to their nonsense occasionally, but with an escape hatch, with Sophie and Nate for a backstop on the crazy — and paring his whole world down to them. He doesn't even have the daydream of going back home left. Except, "I am home," he says, mostly to himself.
He thought it was too quiet to be heard, but Parker drops from the ceiling into Eliot's lap. "Can I kiss you?" she says. Her eyes are softer than he's ever seen them.
"I wish you would, darlin'," he answers her, and then she does. Her mouth tastes sweet, and she kisses him long and deep and soft. His heart rate's up by the time she pulls back and his mouth feels tingly and warm.
Hardison's hand comes down on his shoulder and Eliot looks up. "My turn?" asks Hardison.
Eliot doesn't want there to be any question about what's happening, what's allowed between them, so he reaches up and gives Hardison a tiny tug at the nape of the neck. He says, "Yes. Yes. Yes."