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What, was "Rudy" on cable last night?

. . . Yes.

team-face, action trio-face
Eliot Spencer vdistinctive
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The preserve, Saturday afternoon into night
Eliot led the way through the trees -- well, probably, he knew Hardison was behind him but Parker might be basically anywhere with the trees crowded this close together -- towards the campsite. He'd already made the trek out a few times today, carrying the cushions and rugs and tent and all the other luxuries he'd promised Hardison to get him out here. Now he was just down to his own pack with the camp stove, pots and pans, and food (and some spare bed rolls, just in case, and because he pack looked weird without them), and Parker with her climbing supplies, and whatever the hell Hardison had decided to lug along with his laptop.

He hoped Hardison remembered that there weren't any electrical outlets set into trees and rocks out here. Unless Fandom was even weirder than he'd first thought.

He had solar charger! Because being with Eliot necessitated a great deal of time spent outdoors. Hardison knew that and accepted it, even as he outwardly fought against it.

"Yo, how much longer?" he asked, because it was expected. He was actually...kind of enjoying the walk, though he'd take that secret with him to the grave. But after being trapped in a coffin not once but twice, he had an appreciation for places that were wide open with plenty of air. "An' what's that smell?"

Not that he'd give Eliot a break, even for a minute.

Parker snickered, then asked, "What smell?" She sniffed. "There's a lot of them." She had to grin. "Are we there yet?" Even thought she knew they weren't.


"Y'all are lucky you're cute," Eliot grumbled. "We still got about a quarter mile left before we make it to camp. And they make damn candles and air fresheners based on this smell, so don't tell me you don't like it."

"You ever been inside a candle shop?" Hardison demanded, though he avoided saying that he didn't like the smell. "Make my allergies act all up. My eyes get all watery an' my sinuses get stuffed up an' I'mma end up with a sinus infection, just you watch."

"Nope, that starts happening, we start doing medical stuff, we won't just watch," Parker said, jumping out of a tree and landing ahead of Hardison. "Sophie loves candle smelly those things. We should call them when we get back. And torment Nate about weddings." It was always hilarious when he started stuttering and back-pedaling. "But now we have fire and smells not in candles!"

"And I made sure you packed your allergy medication," Eliot said. Because Hardison only really had the same three arguments about going anywhere outside: racist militias, allergies, and dirt.

He was also keeping a sharp eye out for any poison ivy. He didn't want Hardison adding a fourth argument.

"No excuses, Hardison. You're gonna learn to love the outdoors. Or -- at least grudgingly enjoy them."

Excuse him, but racist militias, allergies, and dirt were all excellent reasons not to like things! And don't forget 'enforced march to act as bait'! That was his fourth reason for disliking the great outdoors.

"You got some damn high hopes," Hardison muttered. "I'll like the outside 'round the same time you get into video games."

"You never know." Parker hung from her fingertips off a branch, and kicked her legs. "We can always try that later, maybe the next time Eliot gets hurt and needs to rest." She perked up, seeing the cliffs coming up, and sang out, "Almost-there-yay!"

"I said 'grudingly enjoy'," Eliot grumbled. "And you find me a video game that even begins to have any idea bout fight mechanics and tactics and maybe."

That was actually exactly what they shouldn't do. Eliot would just wish he was fighting for real. They needed to get him playing something that had no basis in reality, like Super Monkey Ball. Or something he had no expertise in, like Ace Attorney.

Hatoful Boyfriend. Hardison was going to lure Eliot to the Dark Side of video games with Hatoful Boyfriend. It would be glorious.

"Man, even if I found you the perfect game, you'd still bitch the whole time," Hardison said, who was totally not doing that very thing. "An' how close it almost-there-yay? My feet hurt."

"See the water through the trees? Right before that bit." Parker squinted around at the foliage, and pointed off to the west. "The Alot was over there, I think. I brought Silly String and a marshmallow gun in case another one shows up all pouty that we're in its space."

"Didn't see any tracks in the clearing this morning," Eliot noted. He picked up the pace a little as he caught sight of some of the carpet he'd set up through the trees. "Almost there." He broke through the tree line and stopped, stepping aside enough that he could see his partners' faces when they saw what he'd set up.

No, seriously, this had been several trips this morning. With the aid of a very well compensated rickshaw driver.

Even Hardison had to stop, impressed with what Eliot had put together. He whistled. "Damn, yo," he breathed. "You went all out.You sure this counts as campin'?"

Parker made a high-pitched noise of delight, and grabbed Eliot to kiss him on the mouth. When she was done, she dropped her stuff and spun around, trying to look at everything at once. "It's like magic. Or like your secret identity as Ratman made you put this all together, it's amazing!"

Eliot leaned forward, attempting to follow that kiss even as Parker went spinning away from him. "Not Ratman," he said, trying for a grumble, but those didn't work well when you were beaming.

He looked at Hardison and shrugged. "Close enough? Tent, woods, space for a campfire." He looked back at where Parker was bouncing about. "Hell of a view."

That's okay, Eliot, because Hardison was willing to step in and take up where Parker had left off. With a whoop, her grabbed Eliot and dragged him in for a long, heated kiss. "You might actually make a convert of me yet," he allowed, before kissing his boyfriend again.

"Such a good view," Parker agreed, from where she was now watching. Another spin, and she was hugging both of them at once. "We're going to do all the things! In the bed and out of it! Happy anniversary!"

Eliot had a whole speech prepared (taking not a few cues from the ones Nate had given over the years). About how much they'd done for him, how they'd kept him sane, made him real, even to himself. How he was turning 40 in a little more than a week, and how thanks to the two of them, that was a number he could actually handle. How he could see a future for himself through them, something he hadn't had for a very, very long time.

But there were kisses and laughing and hugging, and -- yeah. Parker'd pretty well covered it.

"Happy anniversary," he said, and pulled them both in tighter. "C'mon, let's break this sucker in."

Several hours later found the trio as close to drowsy and relaxed as they ever got. Eliot had gotten a good campfire roaring and Hardison had been in a good enough mood to let him lecture about the proper way to start a safe fire in the woods without interrupting with snarky commentary. Well, not a lot of snarky commentary anyway. Once the fire was lit, Parker had immediately declared it s'more time and was constructing increasingly bizarre creations of marshmallows and chocolate. Hardison had his laptop open, occasionally pecking at keys, but his attention kept getting drawn back to his partners.

"Yo, Eliot," he asked. "You bring your guitar?"

"Pretty sure it ended up in one of the piles to come out here," Eliot said. There had been a lot of piles."You hopin' for a singalong?"

Did they know any John Denver?

"OOoo. Eliot singing." Parker licked her fingers as she carefully made a second s'more, and nodded vigorously. "Good plan. Hardison, do you want jam or blueberry syrup on your s'more?"

Hell, everyone knew Rocky Mountain High! Even kids from the hood in Chicago!

"The Greatest Hits of Hall an' Oates ain't gonna sing itself," Hardison said, grinning. "Mighta brought the violin along, too, just in case." He knew Parker liked it, so it had seemed appropriate. "An'--mama, what are you doin' to the s'mores? They're just--they ain't got--Eliot tell her how to make s'mores!"

"Jam or syrup should add a bit of tartness to counterbalance the taste of the marshmallow, and they ain't gonna change the overall texture at all," Eliot mused. "I'd say it's worth a shot."

Sorry, Hardison. Eliot was in favor of culinary experimentation. Though it was probably going to add to his rug cleaning bill, later.

"Go get your violin," he said. "We can trade off songs, since I'm guessin' you ain't learned to fiddle, yet."

Parker's eyes lit up, and she settled back on her pillow a little more. "Okay, no s'more's until you're done, so you don't get food on the instruments." She nibbled her latest creation and then said, "Wonderwall?"

There was some kind of meme about it that made Hardison laugh, so.

Hardison was indeed laughing at that. "Anyway, here's Wonderwall," he agreed. "Should we make him play it first, just to get it out of the way of the trip?"

"Be a nice trick," Eliot said. "Since I ain't got a clue what you're talkin' about."

He would absolutely recognize the song if he heard it. He hadn't actually lived under a rock for the last twenty years (well, not for more than a week at a time, anyway). But he didn't follow Brit-pop or memes.

Parker hummed part of the first line, perfectly on key, and grinned. "Or anything. I love listening to you guys play together." Not even with any innuendo to that statement. "Something soft. And slowish. Relaxing."

Hardison got up to go get his violin and came out tuning it. "Hmmm," he said, plucking at a few of the strings. "You know Hotel California good enough? I learned a cover that I think might be nice."

And he figured The Eagles would be country enough to please Eliot.

Eliot nodded, grabbing his guitar and taking a moment to check the tuning. "Ain't tried to play it before, but if you get the melody, I can at least provide rhythm." He played an easy chord progression, getting his fingers and the strings warmed up, then nodded to Hardison to get started. "You wanna sing for us, Parker? Or you prefer I do it?"

You didn't really sing while playing violin, after all.

"You," Parker said immediately. "I like to listen better. And your voice is better." She would probably end up joining in on the chorus, though. She put down her s'more makings and pulled her knees up under her chin, smile peeking out already.

Also Hardison's voice wasn't anywhere near as good as Eliot's or Parker's, so keeping him on the violin wasn't the worst thing that could happen to the song.

He took a moment to remember the first notes, then drew his bow. A discordant note shrilled out and he stopped. "Sorry, sorry!" he said. "Just--yeah, sorry."

Taking a deep breath--he really wanted this to be good for them!--he tried again. This time, his bow sang true and the opening melody wound through the pavilion.

Eliot smiled reassuringly back -- telling Hardison this wasn't an audition wouldn't actually relax him the way he needed to to get the music working properly -- and waited for Hardison to get settled into the song. Then he started picking out the background chords, tapping his foot and patting the body of the guitar between strums to keep the beat. He held off on singing until he was sure he had the chord progression down, then held off again so he could listen and appreciate Hardison's melody properly for a few measures.

Then he cleared his throat and started, his voice a little rougher and his accent a lot stronger than when he was just speaking. The roughness would clear a little as he warmed up; the accent wouldn't.

"On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night"

Parker had jumped as Hardison's violin squeaked, then given him a smile to bolster him up; he settled in to not needing it within seconds, anyway. As the song progressed, she swayed a little in place, arms around her knees. Happy. Just there, and happy.

She closed her eyes when Eliot started singing, wanting to block out everything else for a minute, but opened them again because she had to watch her boys (hers, ha!) because they were so beautiful together.

Not even aware of it, she started to harmonize with Eliot's voice and Hardison's violin, voice thin but sweet.

By the time they got to the second verse, Hardison has lost much of his nervousness. Funny how playing for his partners seemed so much scarier than, say, down in the diner. But for them, he wanted not only to play well, but make them proud. Not to prove himself, exactly, the way he'd wanted to as a young. hotshot kid of twenty-one, but to make them look at him with that quiet glow of pride he felt whenever he saw them truly in their respective elements.

Damn, he loved them so much. And how lucky was he that he got both?

He couldn't sing along with the song--could barely even hum for fear of affecting the violin--so instead he let the instrument do the singing for him, improvising bits and adding flourishes, and with every note he sang, I love you.

Eliot was tempted to back out of the song, let Hardison with his gorgeous violin and Parker with her untrained but pitch-perfect and heart-felt voice carry it instead and just listen. But if he stopped they might not keep going. Instead he worked to keep his rhythm steady and his voice even, a steady foundation for them to build and improvise and go wild on as they liked.

It was a good song to go wild on. As a teenager he'd found it eerie and mysterious and compelling in a way he couldn't put into precise words. The idea of running away into the desert and getting swept up in something feral and strange had appealed like crazy to a kid who could barely keep his id in check. As a young adult, working his way across the globe and building a vicious reputation, he'd always smirk when he came across it. They could stab him with their steely knives all they liked, they couldn't kill his beast.

Now he smiled faintly as he sang the strangeness of the Eagles' metaphorical hotel, and paused during the bridge.

"It's kinda like they could be singin' about Fandom, huh?"

If Parker had been asked, she would have connected the song to Archie and learning escape tricks, because you never knew what you'd have to get out of, and because he'd played the radio sometimes while teaching her. That feeling that she wouldn't check out, but go out through a hidden window or underground tunnel, and be a ghost out in the desert herself, twirling around colitas, whatever they were.

She almost pouted when Eliot stopped for a second, and opened eyes that she didn't realize had drifted shut again. The pout didn't form though, because she had to beam at him and at Hardison -- so elegant and so talented he could do anything, Eliot could do anything-- and nod. "It looks all easy and simple, but... you should ask yourself, what is this hotel? What is this island? Why is it all out in the middle of nowhere?" She tilted her head and then sang it a little, "Such a lovely place. Such a lovely face." And winked at Hardison.

For Hardison, the hotel had always been the hood in Chicago. He'd seen it swallow so many of his peers and no few of his foster siblings, despite Nana's efforts to give them something more to strive for. There were so many different locks: violence, gangs, drugs, despair...Perhaps that's why he'd become a thief first, to be able to pick at the locks that tried to hold him in, at least until he could code his way out.

Catching Parker's eye, he winked back, giving her that smile she liked so much. He finished the bridge, then dropped out of the chorus to respond. "Kinda. But Fandom--it kinda makes you wanna not go. It gives you people who get you an' a kinda purpose an' then suddenly you turn around an' you been here over a year an' you ain't even sure how it coulda been that long."

Eliot tilted his head at that and was quiet a moment. "Huh."

The song had somehow always been about escape to him, not actually being trapped, despite the final lines. The hood would have swallowed a guy like Eliot had been right up.

He counted down with the flat of his hand on the body of his guitar and then flung himself wholeheartedly back into the chorus.

They livin' it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise
Bring your alibis

Mirrors on the ceiling, pink champagne on ice
And she said, "We are all just prisoners here
of our own device..."

Parker's voice rose, almost eerie, on 'own device', and she hugged herself, rocking forward to beam at Hardison for having the words and the music in his fingers that she didn't. Magic, maybe. But not music. There'd never been time for that. The guys were kind of giving her that time, now. And how different would Eliot's life had been, if someone heard him sing when he was little, instead of him leaving to fight wars? How different would Hardison's have been, if he hadn't gotten into computers? She'd never have met them.

Parker wasn't sorry she was happy about that, that they weren't rich and famous, that she got to keep them and their music all to herself.

And in their master's chambers--

They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can't kill the beast

They'd all had beasts to try to kill. It didn't surprise Hardison one bit that he hadn't been able to slay his until he'd joined Leverage, found Eliot and Parker. He was fairly certain that they could both say the same. They'd always been stronger together than apart.

He picked up his violin again and made it wail out the notes for the last verse, letting all his emotions out through the strings.

Eliot's voice rose, matching Hardison note for note, feeling for feeling, until his voice threatened to crack.

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
"Relax," said the night man,
"We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!"

He wouldn't trade his upbringing for one that led to fame and fortune either, Parker. Wouldn't trade a damn thing -- not even his biggest regrets -- for anything that wouldn't have brought him right here, sharing the song, the night, his life with these two people, who came at the world in such completely different ways than he did, but still managed to end up in the same place.

[ooc: With age_of_the_geek and whoisalicewhite. OKAY SO MAYBE WE PREPLAYED A SONG FIC. TBC is comments!]

Hardison closed the song out with long, mournful, drawn-out notes before finally setting the violin down. "Damn," he said, settling back against the cushions. "We good together no matter what we're doin'."

Parker held out one of the s'mores-- one that had peanut butter added -- and said, "Very very good," with satisfaction. "I'm so glad you guys like playing the music. We should go to another concert thing, sometime this summer. Maybe a different one." She picked up a honey-and-chocolate s'more and offered it to Eliot. "You know, after we have more sex."

Eliot set his guitar aside on one of the cushions and accepted the s'more. And hoped he remembered to pack some wet-naps. This thing was sticky. "Sex is a given, darlin'," he told her. "Heck, we pick the right concert an' I bet we can find a spot to do 'em both at the same time."

Hardison held his hand up to refuse the s'more. "Still allergic, mama," he reminded. "I'll have one of them honey ones you just made for Eliot, though."

"What kinda concert?" he asked, intrigued. "Tell me more about this sexy concert you got planned."

Parker looked at her fingers and eeep'd, then switched his for another honey one. "How?" she demanded, curious, very curious now. "Well, I know how, but I am just wondering how to do this without winding up in jail--" Hang on, now she was really thinking about it. "Ooooo."

"Didn't actually have one in particular in mind," Eliot admitted, in between attempts to clean honey and marshmallow off his thumb with his teeth. "Probably one where half the audience is stoned or somethin'."

A Dead concert would have worked perfectly, once upon a time.

"A'ight, so the hardest part of this whole thing?" Hardison said, leaning over to snag the honey s'more. "Findin' a concert that the three of us could all agree to go to, sex or no."

"Kate Lynn-- no, that would be rude," Parker decided. "We'd have to go to someone's that they won't ask us what we thought of the concert afterward." She sprayed whipped cream into her mouth, considering, then some more. "Roof of a stadium might work?"

"We gotta have more'n one song in common," Eliot said. "'Course, if we're stickin' to classic rock, most of them ain't tourin' anymore."

"So, you're sayin' we might actually need to look into somethin' produced this century?" Hardison teased. "Yo, man, how will you cope?" He considered. "So, I'mma just say it out. Country ain't sexy. We wanna feel sexy, we gotta go for somethin' more like R&B. You know, slow, smooth, an' sensual."

"I like Norah Jones?" Parker offered. Considered. "And Blue Man Group."

Those guys were hilarious! Trash cans! She licked her fingers and then wrapped them around her knees again. "More music? Please? Like 'Devil Went Down to Georgia', if you guys know that one."

"I know you ain't tryin' to say Emmylou Harris ain't sexy."

It was entirely possible that Hardison didn't know who Emmylou Harris was.

"Eliot looked up at Parker's suggestion, smirked, and nodded to Hardison. "You heard her, man. You gotta request to play."

"Who? You wanna go see a grandma play a concert?" Because nobody born after 1960 was named Emmylou, right?

He picked up his violin and experimentally played a few notes. He didn't know it very well, but he'd heard it enough that he could fake it. "I think Blue Man Group puts on the kind of show that we'd actually wanna see without getting distracted. Norah Jones could work. Or Madeleine Peyroux?"

"I think we should compare them," Parker said, looking innocent. For given values of that. "Since I don't know who Madeleine Peyroux or this Emmylou person are. Expand the options." And take ways to hide with them, and it would be awesome.

"Ain't familiar with the French girl, either," Eliot said. "How 'bout, uh." He racked his brain a moment for a more modern Emmylou cipher. If he were a different sort of person, he'd be scrolling through an mp3 playlist. "Alison Krauss. Hell, Hardison, you could pick up a fiddle tip or two from her stuff."

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