The light shined off the black ropes as she slid down from the ceiling, stopping herself inches from the floor. There was a sort of poetry held in her—the contrast between her fluid movements and her blunt words—not that Eliot would ever claim to have thought about that kind of thing.
"This is stupid," he commented in a way that made him sound angrier than he really was; he was always happy to see them, "You know this is stupid, right?"
Parker grinned, unhooked her harness in an instant. "We won't let you fall."
He could hear the sound of Hardison in the bedroom, rifling through Parker's equipment to find some piece of rigging that she needed. Eliot sort of wished he was here, if only so he had some back-up in his resistance; Hardison hadn't been thrilled by the idea either.
That, of course, wasn't the only reason he wished Hardison was here right now. He at least had a better sense of boundaries.
"That ain't exactly what I'm worried about, Parker."
He wasn't against having the team learn parts of each other's skill-sets. He'd taught the two of them how to grapple, to spar, he'd gotten better at lifting, and he'd even picked up bits of that tech garbage Hardison was always going on about. There was just something about suspension rigs—their hands all over him, adjusting the tightness, pulling him into the air with only her knowledge on how to get him back down again—that felt... different. Put him at their mercy in a way he was a little too familiar with.
She stared at him for a long moment then, long enough that he felt the urge to shift on his feet or turn away but he'd had enough practice in holding still that he resisted.
"Oh," she said simply, realisation tinting her words, "You already have."
And god fucking dammit, Parker really was too perceptive sometimes for her own good. He wanted to blame Sophie but, honestly, he thinks Parker may have always been that way once she got to know you—picking out your secrets like they were the chocolate bits in trail mix.
A grin spread across her face, eyes crinkling at the corners and if he wasn't so fucking far gone on these two he might have actually been worried about what that meant. As it was, he trusted them with his heart as much as they trusted him with their lives—and wasn't that a punch to the sternum.
"That's okay," she continued before Eliot had the chance to reply. He's not sure what he would have said anyway. "I told you already. We'll catch you."
And as Eliot was trying desperately to align those words in his brain, Hardison took that chance to walk into the room, dragging a 10-foot rope and several harnesses in with him.
"I wasn't sure-"
Parker sprung up from where she was standing in front of Eliot, running over and springing herself onto him. Hardison then proceeded to drop all of the equipment he was holding in favour of catching her.
Yeah. Yeah, they were good together.
Hardison stretched out a grin and Eliot felt his face burn with the urge to look away. "Well, hello to you too, mama."
Wrapping her arms around his neck, Parker leaned in and began whispering in Hardison's ear, stripping Eliot bare, cleaving him in half and exposing all his veins and arteries and the fact that the heart that pumped his blood through his body had belonged to them for longer than he could ever truly know.
He watched Hardison's eyebrows raise, wanting so badly to leave.
He didn't, though.
Parker had hopped down from her perch in Hardison's arms, was standing silent beside him now as the two of them made their way over, stopping just in front of him.
Hardison looked at Parker for confirmation, watching her grin and nod slightly before turning back to Eliot.
"Yeah. We'll catch you. Anytime you wanna stop falling and settle down on the ground here with me and Parker, we got you. Just say the word."
"It ain't that easy," he protested, but it sounded weak even to him.
Because the truth was, he wanted it to be that easy. He wanted it to be simple to just love them, without his own baggage or hang-ups or fears, without feeling like it put them in danger.
Hardison smiled—a compassionate yet sad sort of smile Eliot's sure he's seen on him before, one that read like Hardison had heard his whole internal monologue and decided it was still worth it to love him.
"Yeah, man. It is."
And maybe it was.
Parker slipped out from her place in the circle, moving to sort through the mess of rigging on the floor. After a moment, she pulled out a harness and skimmed a stretch of rope free from the tangled mess Hardison had made.
She turned back to him, a determined look in her eyes that made Eliot think she wasn't just talking about the rigging. He glanced back at Hardison for a moment but he was watching him with more affection in his gaze than Eliot really knew what to do with.
It had felt so stupid, falling in love with them. He'd cursed himself out over it on more than a few late nights, evenings where he'd brought back a blonde and felt a bullet through his chest for every way she wasn't Parker (and less frequent nights where he'd let himself do the same with a man). He’d told himself that keeping away was keeping them safe, that they were all better off not knowing, that speaking up would only ruin the good thing the two of them had going.
But they didn't seem to think so.
He’d made a habit outta trusting those two; he didn’t see why that should stop here.
"Yeah," he admitted finally, seeing tension leave Parker's body that he hadn't even noticed was there, hearing Hardison let out a shaky breath Eliot hadn't known he was holding. "I'm ready."
Maybe he wouldn't be the best at loving them. Maybe, in the end, it still hurts, but for some goddamn reason, they wanted him, and he'd never been able to say no to them. Not when it mattered. And, more than that, he didn’t want to. He may be strong enough to beat up 7 members of the Russian Mafia at once but he wasn’t strong enough to turn down this—the best job ever offered to him: a chance to love them for real.
And, later, when Parker has him dangling from the ceiling, Hardison's gaze sweeping over him in lazy motions, Eliot finds he’s not worried in the least about hitting the ground.