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[Fic] The Cat-Burglar Job Part 3

Title: The Cat-Burglar Job. [Part 3 of 3]
Pairing: Pairs? Pairs? Pshaw.
Rating: There sure is some punching in here.

Notes: Written with brown_betty, and betaed by skywardprodigal and mari_luvs_gcfa. This story may be considered to be set in an AU branching from about the middle of the The First David Job. Sequel to The Underwire Job. Part one here. Part two here.

Summary: Wherein it all comes together in a most delightful way

The next day, Eliot got up and went jogging at dawn to avoid Parker. Her breakfast, he meant, because there were some things a man shouldn't have to face in the morning, and Parker dripping mustard down the front of the wife-beater she seemed to think was somehow appropriate as pyjamas was one of them. Because of the mustard, he reminded himself. Mustard, dammit.

Ten minutes in, he realized he was getting a blister on his heel because he'd jammed his feet into his trainers without socks and, swearing steadily under his breath, limped back three blocks before he managed to flag a taxi the rest of the way.

"Eliot!" said Parker, sounding pleased to see him, which startled him into a smile. "Ford wants us. You forgot your com."

Eliot wrenched himself away from her--it wasn't even a smile, for godsake, it was a Parker-smile, a kind of neutral face that had a hint of a--he stuck his head under the tap in his bathroom until he felt the temptation to describe her eyes as 'sparkling' recede. When he turned the tap off, she was saying:

"- on comms, and I'm not allowed to do them myself since I talked Sophie through setting a fuse."

At the office, Hardison was putting on a disguise for his part, and trying to do something at the computer at the same time. "Just-- Don't touch anything, and don't-- if she beeps ignore her, unless it's more like a ringing, that's our intrusion alarm. Leave her on, though, and don't --" he struggled into a jacket with patched sleeves, and then lunged back at the keyboard, and typed something frantically, causing windows to blossom and collapse sequentially on the screen. "Right, you shouldn't be able to break her unless you--don't break her."

"Okay," said Parker, and did a handstand. The hem of her T-shirt fell down, exposing a pale, toned stomach and the smooth parentheses of her waist.

"Did I miss something? Aren't you Alec Hardison for this one?" Eliot asked, tearing his eyes away from her and staring at Hardison's machine. With no prompting, its screen suddenly erupted code, which scrolled up and then disappeared.

Hardison snapped open a pair of heavy-rimmed glasses. "I'm getting into my role."

"Is this like the thing Sophie did where she stared at that point on the ceiling and said the same word over and over?" asked Parker, upside down.

Eliot ignored this, as he ignored all of Sophie's crazy "character investigations" on principle, even by proxy. "Your role as Alec Hardison, Computer Geek?"

Hardison pulled his glasses down to glare at him over the rims, which was disturbingly... something. "My role as hacker-for-hire who's never done the wild thing with Parker."

"You need props for that?" asked Eliot, because his mouth was evidently faster than his brain.

Hardison leered, and there was the disturbing again: Eliot couldn't tell why it unsettled him so much.

"Hardison, you're on in 10!" said Nate's voice over the coms.

Hardison looked at his computer with heartbreakingly sincere and incredibly dorky anxiety, and then at Eliot. "Just don't... don't touch her," he said, and went for the door.

"I won't," Eliot muttered, and set himself up at the other end of the room, with a stack of new weapons spec intel briefs between himself and Parker, who was still twisting herself into shapes designed to torment him.

When the speakers started, he had to stop sneering at the latest Ukrainian AK47 modifications, and advance cautiously towards the octoputer, but he could have handled that if Parker hadn't come up on his left side and leaned her hip on his shoulder.

"He's so good," Parker observed approvingly, watching Hardison drop his pen and giggle nervously while Sophie introduced him. Fish's eyeroll dismissed him as a harmless geek.

Eliot could smell jasmine.

She's Hardison's girl, he reminded himself. She's not right in the head. She eats mustard sandwiches.

Sophie wandered away from the men and towards the bathroom, while Hardison showed Fish the security footage he'd altered of Parker and Eliot opening doors at Hansen Direct. The timestamps now showed them there two years ago, at the same time Sophie had apparently been fleecing someone who'd inherited a Swiss bank vault full of Nazi-acquired French valuables and sending the goods through Hansen.

"This is great," Fish said. "This is a perfect set-up. The cops aren't going to be interested in us at all."

All Eliot was going to do was turn his head, so he did that, and Parker was looking at him, so he started to rise, and she began to lean down, and her hands landed on his shoulders and her lips tilted towards his and Fish said, "If you screw me I'll kill you."

Eliot whipped his head back to the screen, and Parker fell into his lap, both her hands bracing against his thighs as she knocked him back into the chair, but he barely noticed. Besides, she was looking where he was, all her attention on Fish and Hardison and the gun in Fish's hand.

"Maybe I should take care of that anyway," Fish said. "I don't know you, Alec. No hard feelings. But I don't want you wrecking my big score."

"Fuck," Eliot breathed. "Sophie! Get back!"

"We could get down there in 19.4 seconds," Parker said.

Eliot shook his head. "That don't beat a bullet. Hardison, drop your eyes and hunch your shoulders."

The Hardison on the screen cowered.

"Babble," Eliot said. "Babble and plead. You just need to stall him until-"

Sophie swept into the room, hair flying. "Mr. Fish! The last thing we need is an unexplained body!"

"I was thinking," Fish said. "We could blame it on Spencer. California's a death sentence state."

Sophie laid long fingers on his hand and gently tugged the pistol down. "Eliot Spencer doesn't like guns."

"How do you know that?"

Sophie managed to convey withering scorn and self-deprecation in the same tinkling laugh. "Mr. Fish, everyone knows that. Besides, Alec is my contact. You're being very... discourteous. It's not what I'd expect of you." She flicked a glance at Hardison, who was still doing a very good impression of an abject coward. "Are you done?"

"Ma'am, yes, Miss Devereaux, I'm done, ma'am."

"Then shoo."

And Hardison shoo'd, out the door, around the corner and up the back elevator. "Son of a bitch," he was muttering. "Son of a goddamn bitch."

Eliot realised he still had a lap full of Parker when the elevator rang, but she stood up when he did, both of them moving to Hardison.

"You okay?" Eliot demanded, standing down only when Hardison nodded. Hardison didn't really respond to Parker's quick pat-down, absent touches and random brushes as if she were trying to find his wallet; he didn't think Parker knew she was doing it.

"He doesn't go armed!" Parker said. "I hate him, he took my cats, he maced Eliot, he threatened you, I want to make him hurt."

"Kids, I hear you," Hardison said. "But right now Sophie's on her lonesome, so get out of the way so I can work."

Eliot stepped aside to let him have his big, blinky security blanket, but stepped back close as soon as he sat. Hardison's hands were shaking. The problem, the really fucking big problem, with Ford's plan was that it was going to give Fish a chance at all of them, one by one, while keeping Eliot too far away to intervene. And Grand Theft wasn't going to hold him for nearly as long as it would take to make Eliot feel okay about not crippling him.

"You don't have to keep patting my shoulder, man, I'm okay."

Eliot dropped his arm; he hadn't even noticed he was doing it. Parker reached out and took his hand, and tugged Eliot back and out the door. He let her do it, little fingers curled in his, and let her pull away too, as soon as the door was closed behind them. Breath hitching, she stepped back, then in, and brushed his face with her palm.

"We can't-" he whispered.

"I know," she said. "I don't mean to but you're there and I have inappropriate feelings because most people don't date more than one person, right?"

Eliot blinked, brain short-circuiting in the certain realisation of where she was headed next.

"But what if they did?" she asked, her pointed face intent. "We don't have to keep to the rules, do we? I mean, we're thieves."

"I don't- I'm not really the expert on-" He took a deep breath, but it caught in his throat, because did she mean she would date both Hardison and Eliot, or would he be dating both of them and did that mean Hardison's over-the-rims leering meant something, and what did he think about that?

"Alec doesn't mind that I'm not normal. Do you mind?"

Eliot had been put on the spot by women before, but never quite like--

She gave one of her Parker-smiles, a sort of smugly amused one. "It's okay. You don't have to answer right away. I'll let you think about it."

"Think about what?" Nate said, poking his head out of his office. Dammit, Eliot was going to start hanging bells around their necks. Nate was smiling in a way that indicated not only that Maggie had agreed to her part but that the conversation had gone well in other ways Eliot didn't want to think about.

"None of your business," Parker said, which pretty much guaranteed that Nate was now going to snoop.

"We all set up?" Eliot asked hastily.

"She's making the call on my signal."

"Just like that?"

"I may have made some promises about helping her find a few things," Nate conceded.

"And Sophie's okay with that?"

Nate's eyebrows wrinkled. "As it happens, Sophie made the offer."

"Huh," Parker said. "Women."

Eliot caught himself before he gave her the same look Nate did; the brow-furrowed Parker Special.

"So we're all set," Nate said. "Sophie's taking Fish to the warehouse tonight to make the handover." He made little fingerquotes, smirking. "Parker, you're good to carry two?"

She snorted. "Please. I could carry an elephant on that rig. Sophie's not that fat." On the receiving end of two Parker Specials, she shrugged. "What? She's not."

The corners of Nate's mouth twitched. "Sure. Okay. Eliot, you'll stay here."

"About that," Eliot said, settling on his heels. "No."

"Spencer, people in our line of work develop certain instincts. If you trip Fish's-- it's safer if you're not there."

"Not gonna happen. He stuck a gun in Hardison's face."

"You could ruin the-"

"You ever seen brains spray a wall?"

Nate opened his mouth, then closed it again, looking thoughtful, and Eliot realised that he should have found a way to make it seem like Nate's idea. Nate couldn't easily back down now, and Eliot wasn't going to.

"I feel safer when Eliot's there," Parker said suddenly. "And so does Sophie."

And just like that, she made it about Nate looking after the team and not about him giving in to Eliot. Smart girl, Eliot thought, and then, Get your shit together, boy, you're on the job.

"If you stay out of sight," Nate said. "And intervene only in an emergency."

"Okay," Eliot said. "Whatever, fine, I better go and get hidden."

"It'll be a couple of hours yet," Nate told him, with the same inquisitive look he'd worn when he first poked his head into the hallway.

Parker looked innocent. "You could use the time to think!"

"No! I mean-- no, I wouldn't want to trigger his instincts. I better-- yeah." He backed out sideways, trying to keep both Parker and Nate in view until he turned the corner.

"Hey --whoa!" said Hardison, swinging into the hallway and nearly colliding with him. Eliot reared back like a horse seeing a rattlesnake, but with Nate and Parker at his back, there wasn't really anywhere to go. Hardison--Alec--Hardison raised his eyebrow. "You that eager to get this party started?"

Eliot really couldn't tell if there was innuendo there, or if Parker had just permanently broken him. Alec didn't back off, and they were standing a bit too close for-- well, for anything, really, except fighting, or--

"Alec," said Parker, right behind him oh jesus, "Your wallet was in my pocket." She sounded mystified by this, and a little annoyed, but more critically, she was reaching around Eliot to hand Hardison back his wallet, bracketing him between herself and Hardison, like--

"I'm going now!" Eliot blurted, and ducked under Parker's arm, and then dodged around Hardison. He heard Hardison, at his back, talking to Parker:

"That man ain't right."

Eliot had to agree. But he was beginning to wonder if that might be okay.

* * *

He did try to think about it.

The problem was, thinking wasn't so much Eliot's specialty -- not that he was dumb, he'd pulled off the thing in Bangkok, and that had taken some smarts, and he could count cards like a pro because he was -- but he had the sort of brain that made snap decisions and then put his body in the best place to carry them out. He just wasn't the type to make relationship pros and cons lists, or put together elaborate seduction schemes, and the one time he'd tried, with Parker and the kittens, it had taken Nate and Sophie to make it actually work anyway. His version of deciding whether to court someone came down to whether they seemed interested and then just sort of going for it. Like most normal people.

Parker was right. Normal wasn't going to cut it.

He palmed his hair out of his eyes and wriggled a little further back between the two crates.

The thing was Parker was smart and tough and he could vaguely remember thinking she was unattractive but clearly he had been deranged at the time because now she was freaking magnetic. And Hardison -- Alec -- okay, that was slightly different.

Not completely different, because now that he was thinking about it (and this was where that was coming in handy, even if he had to do it in a dark warehouse on an empty stomach) there was the rangy, corded wrists, and the smart mouth, and the loyalty. And it wasn't as if he'd never with a guy. But he'd never really done like a real thing. He knew what to do with women in relationships, so far as he'd had them - he bought them flowers and carried their bags when they shopped and cooked for them, until they got sick of unexplained absences and weird injuries and not taking them to their cousin's wedding because he'd been a little occupied with that shark tank in Dubai. But what was he supposed to do for Alec?

Well, the cooking was probably the same, although Parker would no doubt pour ketchup over everything.

"They're on their way," Hardison said in his ear. He had been mercifully silent the whole time, which was so much not like him that Eliot had come to the conclusion that he and Parker were definitely teaming up on him.

He tore his mind away from the images that thought brought up, and tapped his ear piece. "Ready."

"Maggie made the call," Nate said. "You've got about twenty minutes."

The warehouse door cracked open, and then Sophie's heels clicked over the concrete floor. Eliot squinted so that he didn't lose all his vision when the fluorescents came on.

Fish's intake of breath was audible across the room.

"Sophie, if you get him thirty feet towards the back wall and four feet to your left, Eliot'll be able to help out," Hardison said.

"Only if it's necessary," Nate added.

Sophie's laugh was low and sultry as she wandered towards Eliot's hiding place, laptop case tucked under her arm. Fish trailed behind her, taking in the sheer number of wrapped paintings and carefully padded crates. Eliot's fists clenched at his first glimpse of the jackass's face, and wouldn't relax again. "Impressed?" she asked, stopping right on the mark, and conveniently further blocking any view of Eliot in the shadows.

Fish pursed his lips. "Very. Ms. Deveraux, have you ever thought of working with a permanent partner?"

"I've always been a loner," Sophie said smoothly. "But it's an intriguing proposition. I could consider it... for the right price." She held out her hand. "My diamonds, Mr. Fish."

"I want confirmation that the setup worked," he countered.

"But of course." She held the laptop open for him and pushed a button.

Fish leaned over, face intent as he watched the completely convincing and totally fake footage of Parker and Eliot getting arrested by two of Sophie's acting acquaintances who'd thought they were auditioning for a cop show. "What did you get them caught with?"

"A minor O'Keefe, a couple of Goya fakes, an early Hotere, and a rather nice Hokusai. I assure you, most of the really pricy stuff remains."

"And the cops think they have it hidden somewhere?" Fish chuckled. "No jury's going to be sympathetic to that."

Sophie gave him a razor-edge smile. "The diamonds?"

Fish fished them out of his breast pocket. Eliot saw the edge of the shoulder harness and went up on the balls of his feet, but Sophie smoothly handed Fish the laptop as she took the diamonds, and tapped the play button again. Fish watched, smiling at the part where the one "cop" began listing charges for Eliot.

He seemed to barely register Sophie tucking the diamonds into her cleavage and drifting further into the warehouse.

"I am good," Hardison said.

"Shush," Parker said amiably, and Eliot caught a shadow moving in the skylight directly above Sophie's position. "Ready when you are."

"Too soon," Nate said urgently. "Stall, Sophie."

Eliot clenched his fists tighter, but then Sophie did something that made him think maybe he loved her a little, in a very scary big sister kind of way.

"Mr. Fish," she called. "From the moment you broke into Parker's house, it was over for you. It was only a decision between the easy way or the hard way."

Parker dropped behind her on the zipline. "This is the easy way," she said, and snapped her harness to the one that had been hidden under Sophie's coat. "Actually, I think it's too easy, but Nate manipulated me. He does that."

And then the sirens started. Fish's eyes popped. "What the fuck?" he choked. "What's going on?"

"Don't indulge in theatrics," Nate ordered, like the hypocritical ass he was. "Just get out of there."

Sophie ignored him and smiled at Fish, nearly as wide as Parker's crazed and beautiful grin. "Isn't it obvious? You're about to be arrested and charged with multiple accounts of grand theft. If the video evidence of you breaking into the courier to retrieve various bits and pieces doesn't convince the jury, I'm fairly certain being caught red-handed will."

"But that footage- You set me up?" Fish shouted. "You and her and the geek… and Nate? Nathan FORD? You're fucking kidding me!" He dropped the laptop and fumbled in his jacket. He was side-on to Eliot, focused on Sophie and Parker, paying no attention to his surroundings.

Eliot took three steps from between his crates and, as the gun cleared the holster, landed a punch that would have made angels sing.

The gun skittered over the concrete floor as Fish caved around his solar plexus. Eliot made a mental note of where it had landed, grabbed the back of Fish's head and brought his knee up. There was a crunch of expensive dental work. Fish made a noise that was more gurgle than scream, collapsing in a way that satisfied Eliot on a very deep level.

"SPENCER," Nate yelled, but Hardison was cheering in his ear and Parker was whooping, "Go, Eliot, go go go!"

Fish scrabbled at the floor, trying to get away, and it was just too easy to catch him in an arm bar. "Think of this as a deposit," Eliot breathed in Fish's ear. "The day you walk free, I collect the rest." Then he dislocated his shoulder.

Fish's shriek nearly drowned out the shouts at the door.

Eliot dropped him, face down on the filthy concrete. "Stay away from my people," he said, and scooping up the laptop, ran towards the girls. "Room for one more?"

Parker wrapped her arms around him, still grinning like a loon, and he wriggled his hands into her straps. Sophie was warm and tight against his back, and disturbing particularity for others in the team or not, he'd have to be dead not to appreciate that. "And that would be the hard way," she whispered in his ear, voice rich with quiet approval.

They cleared the roof as the FBI broke down the door.

* * *

Eliot had pretty much figured that he'd cast some reasonable doubt on the set-up part of the plan. People didn't often dislocate their own shoulders, after all. But it turned out Maggie had called the dumbest federal agents in the country, and they'd taken Fish's injuries as self-inflicted during an escape attempt on the rig that Parker had left hanging from the roof.

Smart girl.

Fish hadn't argued. Fish had nursed his shoulder and spit out some teeth and asked for his lawyer in a voice so dead Eliot was sure he'd be pleading guilty. Even Nate had conceded on that, before loudly declaring his intention to get a drink and signing off comms.

Parker and Sophie had taken their own cars, of course, so Eliot ended up driving himself back to the office, to discover Hardison watching the footage from his hidden cameras (lingering with delight on the part that started with Eliot's fist in Fish's gut) and Parker perched on the desk beside him. It was just those two, and Eliot hovered in the doorway to Hardison's office, uncertain of whether he should come in or stay out.

Parker noticed him, of course. She gave him a slanted Parker-smile, and flicked Hardison's ear.

"Are you nearly done with that?" she asked. "I want to go home."

"I'm gonna vid this up," Hardison said. "I'm gonna get a rhythm behind it, play with some lighting, do the jump-cut thing. It's going on the Youtubes, baby, Colbert is gonna greenscreen this, I swear to you. Dance clubs across America will go crazy to Fish's screams and my phat beats."

"I want to go home," she repeated. "Eliot's here."

"Oh," Alec said, and swung in his chair. "Cool. Are you coming with us?"

As if it was as simple and easy as that.

Eliot looked at Alec's wrists and Parker's throat, took a deep breath, and let go of normal. "Yeah."

"Cool," Alec said again, something wicked and promising and warm in his eyes. Parker said nothing at all.

* * *

Later, Eliot said, "Jesus! Grover's staring at me, that's really disturb-- Damn, do that again."

And Parker said, "I think they've learned how to use the door-handle. We can start them on locks next."

And Alec said, "Am I boring you? Because we could go level up Eliot's warrior instead," which Parker took as a challenge.

And Grover's stare wasn't really hurting anyone, and anyway, after that, Eliot got more than a little distracted.



( 59 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 14th, 2009 02:23 am (UTC)
Squeeeeee! Eliot got to punch the bastard and the kids got to have sex and there was joy in the land :) This was entirely too much fun to be legal.
Mar. 14th, 2009 08:08 am (UTC)
We were actually not going to have punchings, because a frustrated Eliot is a HILARIOUS Eliot, but it turned out Fish was so damn unpleasant that he really needed some broken teeth after all.
Mar. 14th, 2009 02:36 am (UTC)
In a just world, that'd be episode two (and maybe three) season two. Only then we'd lose the wonderful Eliot interior monologuing so never mind... it's good... no, amazing right where it is! Yay you!
Mar. 14th, 2009 08:08 am (UTC)
Now I am having wonderful/horrible visions of Eliot voiceovering every scene he's in.

Glad you liked it!
Mar. 14th, 2009 03:09 am (UTC)
OT3, Baby!
Mar. 14th, 2009 08:09 am (UTC)
Heck yeah.
Mar. 14th, 2009 03:09 am (UTC)
My mind is one big dolphin noise. Such a wonderful conclusion.
Mar. 14th, 2009 08:09 am (UTC)
Yay, I'm glad you liked it!
Mar. 14th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
wheeeeeeee. I had somehow missed part 2, so I started from the top again and read everything. SO GOOD! I foresee rereads! possibly dramatic reading! podfic! I dunno, but: GLEE. LOFF.
Mar. 14th, 2009 08:09 am (UTC)
As it happens, I think we have a podficcer lined up, so that could be some awesome right there!
Mar. 14th, 2009 03:46 am (UTC)
oh, this is wonderful. OT3 = love!

it's funny and compelling - and there are kittens! (everything is better with kittens). the characters really sound like themselves, and I could easily visualize the action. so terrific. thank you!!!!

Mar. 14th, 2009 08:11 am (UTC)
The *whole thing* came about because basically we wrote the Underwire Job, and we stuck the kittens in there as a plot device. But once you *have* kittens and Eliot in the same universe, obviously you have to combine them.
Mar. 14th, 2009 03:55 am (UTC)
Glee! This is great. So glad you finished it, but sad because now I want more!
Mar. 14th, 2009 08:12 am (UTC)
Glad you liked it! And I imagine we'll revisit this fic world while we wait for the second season.
Mar. 14th, 2009 04:03 am (UTC)
Hee! Fantabulous ending! Great fic. :D
Mar. 14th, 2009 08:12 am (UTC)
Glad you liked it!
Mar. 14th, 2009 05:27 am (UTC)
Loved The Underwire Job, love this. :D

Thank you for writing it!
Mar. 14th, 2009 08:12 am (UTC)
Thank you for reading it!
Mar. 14th, 2009 05:29 am (UTC)
This! This was awesome! You guys have everyone down and I'm so glad that Eliot got to beat up Fish (ha! I love that name for him!).

This was so much fun.
Mar. 14th, 2009 08:13 am (UTC)
We had way too much fun writing it, so I'm glad that came through!
Mar. 14th, 2009 05:47 am (UTC)
♥. This is AWESOME! And full of love! And vengeance!
Mar. 14th, 2009 08:14 am (UTC)
Love and vengeance are so *delicious*.
Mar. 14th, 2009 05:47 am (UTC)
Kittens! And team love! And OT3! This was marvelous. Thanks so much for continuing with this. Loved it.
Mar. 14th, 2009 08:15 am (UTC)
Really, I feel that we cheated with the kittens, because basically cats add +3 Awesome to everything, and we were thereby able to increase our audience brain damages.
Mar. 14th, 2009 05:48 am (UTC)
*loves like a big loving thing that loves* OT3! Eliot Punch! Kittens!
Mar. 14th, 2009 08:16 am (UTC)
Sometimes Eliot just needs to punch someone who needs a good punching, and it would be cruel to deny him.
Mar. 14th, 2009 06:26 am (UTC)
I love how believable this was. You didn't force anything and everything flowed so naturally. Really well written!
Mar. 14th, 2009 08:17 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Mar. 14th, 2009 08:54 am (UTC)
Wheee! There it is, the OT3 I had been hoping for!

Thank you so much for a great read!
Mar. 15th, 2009 03:37 am (UTC)
You're very welcome! We had a lot of fun writing it.
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( 59 comments — Leave a comment )