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don't care about winning

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Same dances in the same old shoes
You get too careful with the steps you choose
You don't care about winning but you don't want to lose
After the thrill is gone.

-Eagles


“Ajay says she knows how to get a vault key.”

“Oh bullshit,” Elliott calls out. He’s at the bar - the rest of them are spread out over sofas and other pieces of furniture, winding down after the day’s fight. Ajay herself is curled up in the single armchair, nursing a mug of something steaming and chocolatey, and she’s definitely not answering the expectant gazes looking her way. “Bullshit,” Elliott says again. “Do you think she would have spent the whole match running around with a P2020 and a Flatline if she’d gotten into the vault?”

Ajay says nothing, but she flashes Elliott a grin as the rest of the legends dissolve into an argument about whether or not the keys even exist.

Shaking his head, Elliott pours himself a drink, two fingers of bourbon in a glass that’s seen better days. He still throws it back, and the burn in his throat is pleasant in the way only good alcohol can be.

He turns, and almost startles. He’s no longer alone at the bar - at some point, Park sidled up to it, quiet and stealthy, looking a little bit too much like the shadows he likes to hide in. The kid’s expression is closed off. Elliott sighs.

“Relax, kid.” He fills the glass again, sliding it across the bar towards Park. “This is the wind-down part of the day. We chat, we relax, and we forget about killing each other for a little while.”

The other man eyes him, unresponsive, and, yeah. Elliott gets it. It’s a lot to take in at first, a lot to process, and the kid already seems like he’s got a lot on his mind outside the games. Leaning across the bar, Elliott nudges the drink a little closer. “Here,” he says. “Do you think Ajay’s really found a key?”

The sound that escapes Park’s mouth is somewhere between a chuckle and a snort. He reaches for the glass, fingers dancing along the rim, but he doesn’t pick it up. “I do not think she would willingly tell us if she had.”

“Fair point.” Elliott cocks his head, thinking. “People are pretty loose with pillow talk, though. Hey!” He raises his voice, and then points at Ajay. “Someone seduce her! Get her secrets!”

From the couch he’s sprawled on, Makoa guffaws, his voice ringing out in the enclosed space. “I think that’s more your department, brother,” he replies. “No offense, Ajay, but you’re not really my type.”

“You put a hand on me and I’ll make sure it goes back broken,” Ajay calls in Elliott’s direction. Her voice is lilting, though. Soft. She laughs a moment later, and Elliot flips her off.

Park makes a face, his nose wrinkling in displeasure. “There must be easier ways of getting information.”

Elliott blinks, and he knows he’s about to focus on the wrong part of that statement, but. But. His options are to focus on that, or to get sucked back into the vault key conversation. “Wait, ‘must be’? Is that you admitting that you’ve never slept with anyone?”

“I did not say that. I only said that there have to be easier ways of getting information.”

Elliott groans. “For fuck’s sake, sex isn’t a tactic!”

He says that last part a little loud, drawing a startled, wide-eyed look from Natalie. He looks away from her, only to be met with an unimpressed look from Park.

“Fine,” he concedes. “It’s not just a tactic. It’s fun, too!”

Park’s grimace deepens. “That is a matter of opinion,” he says. “How anyone would enjoy… that is beyond my understanding.”

“Oh.” Elliott feels a little bit like a jerk for not picking up on the vibe earlier. “Dude, no. That’s cool. Sex isn’t everyone’s thing.”

The look Park throws him is drenched in disbelief, and, yeah, Elliott definitely feels like a jerk. But Park doesn’t call him out on it. Instead, he just raises an eyebrow. “You are going to leave it at that?”

Elliot shrugs. “Uh, yeah? I mean, obviously, sex is kind of definitely my thing, but I’m totally aware that not everyone has the same prop...prepen...propient… fuck, the same interests as me. If you don’t, that’s cool, man. I’m not gonna be an asshole and try to make you.”

The kid flashes him another one of those looks, one of the deep, considering ones that makes Elliott feel like his soul is on display. He shifts uncomfortably, running a hand through his hair before grabbing the glass that’s sitting, untouched, in front of Park. “Look,” he says, his voice a little but softer. “We’re a weird kind of family here. Kind of fucked up, and really dys… disaf… we don’t work all that well all the time, but we’ve got each others’ backs, you know?”

Park makes a sound. “You are a strange one, Elliot.”

And that’s definitely not Park telling him to fuck off, so Elliott grins before tossing back the drink. “Keep calling me by my name and I’m gonna get the wrong idea,” he says, setting the glass down and throwing a wink in the hacker’s direction.

“But you just said…”

“I’m gonna get the idea that you don’t actually hate me, kid.”

Park’s mouth snaps shut, mid-complaint, and Elliott doesn’t think he’s imagining the faint blush that’s staining the kid’s cheeks. It’s fucking adorable, but he does value his life, so he doesn’t say that out loud.

“I do not hate you,” Park mumbles, a moment later.

“Oh, great! So no more worries about friendly fire?”

“I said I do not hate you, Elliott. Do not push your luck.”


The thing is, behind the air of mystery and sadness that Park walks around in, he’s a really cool guy.

He’s smart like a whip, and biting like one, too. He’s not afraid to say what’s on his mind, and, more often than not, what’s on his mind is a sharp criticism that reads like an insult but is really him caring. It’s endearing.

It’s fucking adorable when he sits down with Ajay to figure out what has D.O.C. in a sour mood one night. And that’s the night that Elliott realizes his interest in his colleague might go a little beyond the professional.


Park’s been on the team for two months when things come to a head.

And in his defense, Elliott has tried. He’s dialed back on the flirty comments. He hasn’t thrown his arm around Park’s shoulders on the drop ship, not since the first time, when the kid nearly broke his arm for it. He doesn’t pry, and he doesn’t go looking for the kid when he disappears for his shady solo hacker time.

But they’re two minutes into a round and someone has a charge rifle beam on Elliott’s chest, and the man doesn’t even have a split second to think before there’s a body slamming into him, hard.

Park’s momentum rolls them down the hill Elliott was standing on, depositing them behind an empty shipping container. Park is braced over him, all but straddling Elliott’s hips, and his cheeks are flushed and his eyes are wide and Elliott doesn’t think, because that’s a specialty of his.

He reaches up, one hand cupping Park’s cheek. His fingertips barely touch skin before the other man is jerking away, scrambling back and off Elliott. “We need to move,” he says as soon as he’s out of touching range, hoisting his backpack up higher. “Do you need meds?”

Elliott shakes his head, levering himself to his feet. “Closest respawn?” he asks, and Park points off to their left.

They get moving, and they don’t talk about it.

Well, they don’t talk about it until after the game (and You are the Apex champions is still ringing in Elliott’s head, the thrill of winning still rushing through him), and maybe he’s a little careless in the way he takes the seat next to Park at the bar, propping his head up on his hand to look at the hacker.

“About earlier,” he says, and the words are barely out of his mouth before Park’s face closes down, going almost entirely blank, and that’s a fucking terrifying sight. “Hey,” he says. “Hey, no, don’t do that. I just wanna talk, kid. That’s all.”

Park grits his teeth. Elliott can hear it. “I cannot give you what you want,” he says, voice low. And that’s all he says. No explanation, no clarification, no nothing.

“Um.” Elliot straightens a little. “What is it you think I want, exactly?”

The glare Park shoots him is withering, but it’s better than the blank look that decorated his face a moment before. “Me,” he says, and his mouth curls downwards in distaste. “Sex. Intimacy.”

“Those are three pretty different things. You can’t really just lump them all together.”

The withering glare deepens, but Park is still there, so that has to count for something. Elliott dives in. “They are! Look, having you is like… like this, right now. All your sass and snark and slightly murderous tendencies. Having you is just chatting, you know? Being friends.”

“I do not…”

Elliott barrels forward. “And sex is… well. You know what sex is. Mostly mutual orgasms, unless you’re getting kinky about it.”

“You do not need to…”

“But intimacy is just being close!” He’ll stop interrupting the kid, eventually, but this feels important. Making the distinction feels important. “There’s no orgasms needed. No touching needed, either. Intimacy is about so much more than skin-on-skin. It’s being open, being honest.”

Park’s expression has softened a little, but he still shakes his head, still sighs. “You do not know what you are asking for.”

It’s Elliott’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “I’m not asking for anything,” he says. “Just telling the truth. I like you, kid. Those are my feelings on the subject, and they absolutely do not obli...obligigi… my feelings shouldn’t have an impact on your feelings. But if it’s something you don’t want to talk about again, that’s fine. I’ll work on getting over it, and I won’t bring it up. You just have to tell me.”

Park frowns, and Elliott’s 99% sure he’s about to hear that deep baritone tell him to fuck the fuck off. But then the kid speaks, voice soft, and that’s definitely not what he says.

“I do not want you to get over it.”

Elliott grins.

“We’ll take it slow,” he promises.


This is not taking it slow.

Elliott had a plan, goddammit. It was a good plan. It involved making a nice, homemade dinner, and maybe drinking some wine, and then having a nice, relaxed conversation about limits and triggers and all the things that were on and off the table. That was what adults did. They talked, and they outlined, and they fucking stuck to their fucking plans.

They didn’t wine and dine the kid they were definitely falling for and then fall into bed with him.

“Do you really wish to spend more time talking, old man?”

Elliott groans, because the answer to that question is a resounding ‘no,’ but he’s trying desperately to think with his upstairs brain. They’re in Elliott’s room, which had sounded like a good idea at first, because of privacy and things like that, but now it just feels… close. Like there’s absolutely no reason not to take this to a bed.

“No,” Elliott answers, and Park’s eyes darken. “No, fuck, I don’t, but we need to. Just for a minute? ‘cause, like, I’m totally on board for this, baby, but I want to make sure you are, too.”

Something shutters over Park’s face, and fuck, Elliott really hates that look. Sighing, he props his elbows up on the table, resting his face in his hands. He forces himself to take a breath, to direct some of the blood flow in his body back up to his brain, and then he looks up, steepling his fingers together in front of his mouth.

“Honey-bun,” he says, making sure his voice is soft and even. “Remember that first conversation we had, at the bar?”

Park narrows his eyes, but he nods. “Good,” Elliott says. “Yeah, so. You remember you said that you didn’t know why anyone would enjoy sex.”

The kid breaks eye contact, looking off to the side. “That was before… “ He trails off, makes an aborted hand gesture between the two of them. Elliott’s chest aches, just a little.

“Babe, do you enjoy sex?”

Park actually flinches away from the question, like it’s a physical threat in his face. And if Elliott wasn’t already pretty sure what the answer to his question was, that would have convinced him, the way that the kid is leaning back, avoiding looking at him, like he’s fucking afraid of the direction this conversation is going.

“Sweetheart,” Elliott starts, but Park interrupts, slamming his hands on the table.

“I do not know!” he shouts, and the starts, like he’s surprised by the sound of his own voice. “I don’t know,” he says, softer, this time. “I do not… I do enjoy being with you. Around you. And I enjoy having an orgasm.” He hesitates, and his gaze drops, and that pretty flush is back to his cheeks and Elliott hates how much he likes it. “I have never enjoyed being touched in a sexual manner.”

Elliott swallows. “How about a non-sexual manner?”

Park shrugs, and Elliott stands, walking around to the other side of the table before opening his arms wide. “C’mere,” he says. “Can I hug you?”

The kid actually rolls his eyes, but he stands anyway and steps into Elliott’s embrace. He’s stiff, but Elliot just wraps him up, holds him close. It’s the most they’ve touched since this thing started, and Elliot wonders if Park’s been avoiding the contact because everything that comes out Elliott's mouth sounds like a fucking come-on.

After a long minute, Elliott shifts, letting Park pull out of the embrace. He doesn’t let the hacker go far, though, reaching down to grab the kid’s hands and lace their fingers together. “Sex should always be on your terms,” he said, gently. “And if your terms are no touching, then I won’t touch you. If there’s more, then we’ll talk, and we’ll make sure you’re comfortable. Or,” he adds quickly, because Park’s face is back to looking blank, “or sex can be off the table completely. That’s fine, too. Me and my right hand have a pretty good relationship.”

Park snorts, the stoic facade breaking, and Elliott grins.

“You and your talking,” the kid says.

And Elliott replies with, “Shut up, you know you love it.”


Two weeks, three wins, and lots of awkward, personal conversations later, they have a plan.

It’s their plan, not Elliott’s plan, and it’s good and detailed and Elliott’s already jerked off to just the thought of it at least two four times. Informed consent is sexy, and all they’ve been doing for two weeks is getting all the informed consent from each other. All of it. In explicit, excruciating detail.

And now they’re in Park’s bedroom, and it’s not just a plan anymore.

Elliott is sprawled out on the bed, naked. The room is warm enough, but his nipples are still peaked, and his cock is twitching against his stomach, smearing the tiny pool of pre-come around through his treasure-trail. It’ll be a bitch to clean up later, but that’s a problem for Future-Elliott.

Present-Elliott is too busy focusing on the way Park is wrapping paracord around his wrists.

He winds the cuffs with practiced precision, pressing Elliott’s wrists together before encircling them with the rope. The fit is snug - tight enough that Elliott isn’t going to slip out without breaking a thumb, loose enough that he’ll still have feeling in his fingers when they’re through. Park tests the wraps, checking the tension of the cord before slipping the free end through the slats of the headboard and pulling it snug.

Elliott lets his head fall back against the pillow with a groan. “This sounds like a good time to bring up that I definitely have a competence kink,” he says, watching Park move away from the headboard, towards the foot of the bed. He’s still dressed, although the trademark white coat is gone. Instead, he’s just in a t-shirt and a pair of black pants, the latter of which are doing nothing to hide the fact that he’s hard, too.

“You have every kink,” Park replies. And he’s probably not wrong, but still. Elliott sticks his tongue out.

“Rude.”

“Do you want me to be rude?”

Park’s hand stops right on his waistband, the button of his pants halfway through the hole. And Elliott knows how good his self-control is - the kid will up and walk away if Elliott pushes too much.

“Nooooo,” he whines, kicking his legs uselessly. “No, c’mon, baby. Let me see you. Please?”

The hacker smirks, but he finishes pushing the button through the hole. He shoves his pants down a moment later, and that’s all there is to it, because the kid decided to forgo underwear in favor of, apparently, driving Elliott crazy.

Park wraps a hand around himself, stroking from root to tip in one easy, slow motion. Elliott’s gaze fixes on his hand, his own hips jerking up in a futile effort to get some friction on his own dick. The worst part is, he knows it’s not going to happen any time soon. The worst-worst part is that this was his idea.

“Look at you,” he breathes, biting his lip. Park’s cheeks are pink, and his eyes are blown wide - he looks amazing, like sex on a plate, and Elliott’s never been more grateful for something. For someone. “Fuck, baby. Does that feel good?”

“No,” the hacker says, and Elliott’s brow furrows for a moment before he continues. “No, Elliott. It feels amazing.”

His voice is breathy and soft, and his cock is leaking, spilling clear pre-come over his hand every time he strokes over the head. And it shouldn’t be as hot as it is - Park’s not showing much skin, doesn’t even have his pants down past his knees, and he still has on his shirt and all his stupid jewelry, but fuck, Elliott’s breathing hard from just looking at him, unable to resist pulling at the ropes around his wrists. He just wants to touch himself, wants to make an attempt at being as pretty as a picture as Park is being for him.

“Be good,” the hacker warns, and Elliot forces himself to stop struggling. It’s worth it, though - Park rewards him by sliding his other hand up under his t-shirt, and if he focuses, Elliott can see him thumbing his own nipple under the fabric. The kid arches up into the touch, sighing as he fucks up into his own grip.

“So fucking pretty,” Elliott breathes. “Jesus. I could look at you all day. Gonna show me what you look like when you come, baby? I wanna see it. I wanna see you shoot, fuck, wanna see you get yourself off ‘cause your boyfriend’s all tied up and helpless.”

And Elliott’s not sure which part of his little speech does it, if it’s the compliments, the begging, or the reminder that he’s fucking tied to the bed, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what tips Park over the edge, because he falls, throwing his head back as he comes in hard spurts. It lands on the bedspread, and Elliott thinks, next time, it needs to fucking be on him. He wants Park to paint his face with it, wants to lay there and take it and like it.

“Fuck,” he gasps. He’s back to pulling at the ropes, twisting helplessly, waiting for Park to come down off his orgasm enough to realize he still has a job to do, that Elliott’s been waiting and straining and his dick is almost purple and it fucking hurts and…

“Easy,” Park says, and then those deft, clever fingers are pulling on one of the knots. The wraps don’t fall from Elliott’s wrists, but the tension eases, letting him yank his hands away from the headboard.

“Fuck fuck fuck fuck!”

He manages one, two strokes, and then his entire body goes rigid as his orgasm hits him like the goddamn train on World’s End.


“So. Any new feelings about sex?”

Park snorts his laughter, and Elliot’s pretty sure he’s fallen in love with that sound. It’s pure, unadulterated, and it’s a sound Park only makes for Elliot.

Next to him in the bed, Park shifts, stretching his legs out under the blanket. “Preliminary results are promising,” he says, and his voice is flat, deadpan. “To be certain, I will need to run a few more tests.”

“A few more tests, huh?”

Park nods, face solemn, but his eyes are dancing. “I would like to collect data about the introduction of toys in a controlled environment.”

“...fuck. Yeah, baby. We can definitely test that out.”