What, was "Rudy" on cable last night?

. . . Yes.

bespectacled grouch-face, angled grouch-face
Eliot Spencer vdistinctive
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"A'ight now, settle in," Hardison said, flinging himself back onto the couch, his arm automatically falling onto Parker's shoulders. "I worked hard on this presentation for y'all. Made it all nice, gave it some decent graphics, rewrote Powerpoint to be less garbage--you know, all sorts of cool things since I'm stuck here by my lonesome while y'all run around on that whacky-ass island."

Not that he was bitter or anything. Really.

"But since y'all have finally deigned to grace me with your presence, I was thinking we might catch up on some of the backlog of jobs or something? Or we could keep telling those craaazy stories about that craaaazy island and whatever craaazy thing it's done this time. That'd be cool, too."

"We do jobs," Eliot protested. "We just did that -- the whatsit -- the one where I got hit by old Jewish ladies." The 8 Crazy Nights Job. So called because it happened over Hannukah. More than a month ago. Eliot cleared his throat and changed the subject. "I like PowerPoint."

Yeah, that probably didn't help.

"Man, did you really just--?" Hardison had to turn away, shaking his head and muttering to himself. "He comes up to me, in my house, and says he likes PowerPoint. Can't even update the drivers on the printer, but he likes PowerPoint. Fine, you know what?" he said, turning back to Eliot, still looking insulted. "Next time you do that whole Krav Magoo stuff, I'mma sit back and tell you how much I like karate. How does that sound?"

At least he was distracted from pointing out--again--just how long ago the 8 Crazy Nights job was?

"Krav -- man, you can't even do karate!" Why yes, Eliot, that would pretty much be Hardison's point. "Just -- get on with it. The presentation. Whatever."

"You sure you wouldn't rather do it?" Hardison asked. "I mean, I could change all the fonts to Comic Sans, maybe get Clippy all up in here to help you out? Offer some pointers and all?"

"Nah, I like the old-timey Egyptian one." That's right, Hardison, papyrus. "Clippy's the talking paperclip, right?"

Eliot knew the answer to that. He was seeing if he could get Hardison's head to actually explode.

He'd gotten Hardison up to Defcon Sputtering, at least.

"You like--he really said he likes--can't even remember the damn name--but he knows who the hell Clippy is--'I see you're tryin'a murder someone with your pinky, would you like some help with that?'--out of his damn mind--" He stopped and pointed at Eliot, visibly shaking, before turning around and facing the wall of screens.

"So about this damn presentation, created and handcrafted for you in the obviously-inferior-to-PowerPoint system that I designed in about three hours because I was bored, but what does that matter because Eliot likes PowerPoint..."

He was totally going to eat a sandwich of Eliot's, just for spite.

Then he could learn just how little Eliot needed help trying to murder someone with his pinkie.

Eliot leaned back in his seat, propping his feet up on the coffee table. "You know, that Danger Shop could totally use a Clippy."

No, Eliot. No.


"The what needs a what?" You could practically hear the needle scratch in Hardison's brain. "You are not tryna tell me that that beautiful, state-of-the-art, hologram projector needs some kind of handholding program that even Microsoft admitted was obnoxious just because some people can't even fix the clock on the microwave when it goes out even though there is CLEARLY a clock button on it and we've gone over how much it annoys me when it's just blank right there--"

Hardison stopped his sputtering to bite down on his knuckles, looking up to the ceiling as if God or his Nana or some other holy saint could give him patience.

"Eliot." Bite. "Eliot, do you have any idea what you just--" He was pacing now. "There are some things you just don't DO! You don't publish a friend's browser history. You don't lock down your hard drive with a thirteen-bit encryption unless you WANT your stuff to get stolen. And you don't install Clippy onto a piece of tech that even I can't build yet." He threw up his hands. "Next, you'll be suggesting we add toolbars that we got off porn sites to the dang thing, man!"

Parker was suddenly there, and watching the show. With popcorn.

"We can't do anything with porn with the students," she clarified. Just to see if it would wind Hardison up a little more. "...I guess we could ask one of them for help? We don't have a teaching assistant."

Now Hardison was whining in the back of his throat like a kicked puppy.

"No, no, babe, you're missing the point," he said. "These are things we DON'T do. Not even on out own computers. Babe, please tell me you don't download toolbars off of websites? Please, babe."

Why was this his life?

"Why would I need a toolbar when I have you?" Which could have sounded flirty, but was also completely puzzled. "Eliot's the one who's all about tools." Like that crowbar she'd thrown at him once! She smirked at Hardison. "And Powerpoint."

It should be noted that Eliot had never actually used PowerPoint in his life. It really didn't come into play very often when it came to beating people up and retrieving lost things.

"I bet the pony would like Clippy." The pony, near as he could tell, liked everything.

Hardison was just going to fling himself back into a chair. And hold his head. And whisper a few things to his beautiful, beautiful computer who, he was becoming increasingly aware, was the only person who truly understood him.

"Who," he asked in a tragic voice, "is the pony?"

"Pink, talking, excitable four legged thing," Eliot explained. "Dunno why she thinks she's a pony, she doesn't look a goddamn thing like a horse."

"I sent you pictures!" Which admittedly, were probably all fields of pink and the occasional large eye or tail, because Parker had been busy talking to Pinkie at the time and discovering someone who saw things like she did. "PINKIE. She's one of the other teachers and she bakes cakes. And has a cannon."

That hadn't been pulled out yet, but Parker was looking forward to when it would be!

"I just--I just want you to listen to yourselves," Hardison said. "Like, I want you to focus on the words that are coming out of your mouths. You're telling me that the pictures with that weird kind of Pepto-Bismol filter are actually pictures of a bright pink pony that talks, bakes cakes, and has a cannon?"

He couldn't even addressthe possibility of it liking Clippy. There were just some things that were beyond being beyond the goddamn pale.

"Y'all need to hold still. I gotta snap this picture for posterity, so I can remember you after the men in white suites come."

"Pbbbbbtttt." Really. Hardison could get so worked up about things. It was awesome. "I'm not going with them. Even if they give me some of those fun pills again. We need to do class next week and a new job soon."

"Yeah, she doesn't get all that more believable when she's inviting you to lunch," Eliot said. He still hadn't taken her up on that. There was only so much staring in bafflement while a pony-thing babbled at you that a man could take. "Y'should come by sometime and meet her. If you can make it up the stairs."

"Man, I can make it up some stairs!" Hardison said, insulted. "If I can climb up a million story building with Parker talking about how much fun it would be to dive off, I can handle some stairs."

...He would think differently if he ever saw the stairs, however.

"And I'm so glad that y'all remembered that ya do have another job besides your little one-hour-a-week hobby. Now counting whatever it is you do with that restaurant. There's that whole protectin' the little guy, providing leverage thing we're supposed to be doing. 'Member that?"

Again, not that he was bitter or anything. "I mean, if you can find time between your Stair-Masters and pink ponies and computer holodecks and all."

Subtext, what was that? Parker didn't even have to ignore it, it was going swooping by over her head. Although she did get that Hardison was upset about something.

"Popcorn?" she offered. "C'mon, do the presentation. Then we can go have consolation sex. Even if I'm not sure why."

"D'ya have an actual job for us, or you just lonely 'cause Parker didn't rope you into teachin'?" Eliot asked. "Which, by the way, takes a hell of a lot more than an hour a week. 'Specially when you gotta learn a freakin' space age hologram-deck thing."

"First of all, I don't need no consolation sex. 'Hardison, I missed you' sex? Sure! 'Baby, you're so hot when you hack' sex? Absolutely! 'I just did that sexy laser dance thing and made e'ry dude's eyes fall outta their head' sex? Sign me up!"

He held his hand out to Eliot for their obligatory five, then let it drop when he remembered that he was mad at him, too.

"But consolation sex, like I'm some kinda dudebro who needs sex to be jollied out of a good mood. Parker, that hurts babe. That really hurts." Especially when he just realized he'd all but talked himself out of sex for the point of his pride.

Man, later on he was gonna log onto his server and aggro the shit outta some Alliance guilds to make up for it.

As for Eliot's comment, he wasn't even going to acknowledge it. Mostly because the answer was far too close to 'yes.'

"You gotta learn space age hologram-tech," he muttered, turning on the screens and pulling up information about Abstergo Industries. "I'd be fine. Do well enough those times y'all call me in a panic and expect me to walk y'all through it with nothin' more than a blurry picture from Parker and Eliot tellin' me that he's pretty sure it runs on some form of electricity."

Not. That he. Was bitter.

Parker sent Eliot a look that from anyone else might have been 'do you get what he's talking about?' But really, she didn't expect that he did.

"I can't bring the holodeck here to you," she said. "You have to come to it."

And if he came to it, and the Island, OTHER THINGS could maybe progress? Right? Maybe?

"And you are not a dudebro. Ever."

Eliot missed the look. He was frowning at his hand, which had been denied a five. Hardison really was pissed.

"I'd invite you by, man, but you seem like you'd get a little put out by flyin' eels and things tryin' to kill you all the time," he said. "And I ain't kidding about the stairs."

Actually, Eliot was pretty sure that Fandom could be good for Hardison. Toughen him up a little. Now that he could be reasonably certain there were enough fighters around to make sure the hacker didn't get eaten by flying eels, even if Eliot couldn't.

"Flying eels? Fly-- fly-- flyin' eels?" He was so offended he was stuttering. "You are questioning my ability handle flying eels? I have been buried alive, thrown off buildings, shot at, nearly blown up more times than I can count, and you think I'm might get my girdle in a twist because of some extra-fresh unagi? Man, get outta my face."

"I could make you some," Eliot said. "It's not extra fresh any more, but Hannibal packaged the meat up real good." As far as peace offerings went, it was a little half-assed. But yes, Eliot was really pretty sure Hardison would get his "girdle in a twist" over flying, shrieking, attacking eels wearing reverse scuba gear.

Popcorn. Now being thrown at Eliot. As well as eaten.

Eliot batted the popcorn right back without even glancing over.

Hell yeah, he would. But he'd be with his family, so

"Hey, hey now-!" Hardison protested. "One of us has to live here, remember? And that means cleaning up after y'all's little popcorn battles when you're done."

Parker leaned over to pick up some of the popcorn and eat it off the floor, arms stretched wide.

"Job," she said, then leaned over to nudge against him, eyes serious even though she was smiling. "Work. Leverage."

"Yeah, yeah," he grumbled. "It sure would suck if I was the one holding us up."

He was nudging her back, though. Because, c'mon. It would take a better man than him to stay mad at Parker (or Eliot) for very long.

"Okay, so Abstergo Industries actually has ties all the way back to the Templars, back in the early days of Christianity..."

It was a good presentation, dammit. He worked hard on these.


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