Title: Understanding and Feeling
Summary: Parker doesn't understand what he's doing or why he's doing it, but she knows him well enough to understand that this is something he feels he has to do, so she makes no move to stop him.
Author's Note: Takes place after 4x05, The Hot Potato Job, so spoilers for that and any episode before it.
She finds him at the bar after the job, a beer in his hands. And by looking at him, just one look, Parker can tell that this isn't going to be the fun, celebratory conversation she'd wanted. Hardison isn't supposed to be guzzling a beer, he's supposed to be chugging orange soda or fiddling with a new gadget. Something is clearly wrong, and Parker doesn't like it. She thinks idly of just turning around and avoiding him until whatever is wrong blows over, but some feeling she doesn't quite understand tells her not to.
Parker doesn't say anything when she sits down next to him. She supposes she doesn't really know what to say. She opens her mouth twice, trying to see if something comes out. Nothing does.
"Hey," she says at last, hitting him gently in the shoulder.
Hardison nods in Parker's direction and sips his beer in response.
"What's up," she says, drawing out the first word. She eyes his bottle, thinking he looks too much like Nate with it, and debates whether she should take it from him. She doesn't.
He mumbles something incoherent in a raw voice.
Parker feels an emotion she can't place, one that makes her desperately want to find whatever made him sound like that and scatter it anywhere as far away from Hardison as possible.
"Hey," she bribes gently, laying a hand on his left arm, "what's wrong?"
Hardison looks at her hand, disbelief etched across his face, then grabs it with his right. He traces the patterns, the lines, the creases, the scars, looking at them as if he expects them to have suddenly vanished. Parker doesn't understand what he's doing or why he's doing it, but she knows him well enough to understand that this is something he feels he has to do, so she makes no move to stop him.
He replaces her hand on his arm, holds on to it there for a moment, then turns to face her.
"You..." he starts, but he doesn't finish. It's not often he's at loss for words, and it's unsettling to Parker, so she stays mute, letting him say whatever it is he needs to say.
His mouth opens and closes a few times, in much the same way hers had earlier, and she adds that to her mental list of similarities between them. She's thrown, however, when Hardison finally does speak.
"You almost died today."
Parker's confused for a split second, but then she remembers the ice room and his frantic voice in her head. He'd been worried, she knew that, but she hadn't understood exactly how worried he could be.
"Oh, that," Parker dismisses."Naw, I was fine. I had plenty of time. See, look, both hands still attached."
"Parker!" he says loudly. A little too loudly, she thinks, when the people across the room look up at them. She's pleased when he grabs her hand and leads her to the back room and away from the prying eyes in the bar room, but she's also a little concerned- Hardison is not the type of person to raise his voice, especially not to her.
They reach the room and Parker quickly sits. Hardison paces in front of her a few times, his hand on his forehead, as if he's literally trying to force his thoughts out of his head. He stops across the table from her and leans on it.
"You could have died, Parker!" he says softly, yet powerfully. "You could have died because you didn't listen to me."
She's angry then, even though a voice in the back of her head tells her that she shouldn't be, because technically he is right, and yes, she could have died because she wasn’t listening to him, but she ignores it. She doesn’t need to listen to him; she knows her own limits.
"I had plenty of time, Hardison," she says strongly.
"You had one second left! I know, I was counting."
Parker's retort dies on her lips. He was counting the seconds. It suddenly hits her that all this, his drinking, his depressed mood earlier, his anger now, it's because he was scared for her safety. He didn't want her to die.
"Parker," he says, his voice soft. He stops, then looks up at her. "Babygirl, I can't lose you."
Parker looks at him, seeing the truth of his statement in his eyes. She gets up then, thinking about hugging him, or kissing him, or something, but she doesn't.
Instead, she says, "that was a really good second lift, with the boxes. The first one wasn't very good. You should have..."
Hardison understands her, Parker knows. So she knows that he'll understand, as she points out his flaws and cautions him not to repeat the same mistakes, that she really means that she can't bear to lose him either.
Then their conversation turns light and happy, the kind she'd originally come looking for, and they move back out to the bar. It's still crowded, so they decide to head up to Nate's apartment. She's happy to see him grab an orange soda from the fridge. It means he feels better, and that all is right with the world.
"Hey, wanna watch a movie with me?" he calls, making his way to his computers in the living room.
She almost says no, wanting to avoid the possibility of another heavy conversation, but Charlie's voice saying "don't waste time" rings in her head, so she agrees.
"Sure, okay," Parker says. She plops next to him on the couch (though Sophie had called it a loveseat when she'd had it brought in and set up diagonally to the screens, to Parker, anything soft and meant to sit on was a couch), and waits for him to set up his post-job searches. He starts up the movie when he's done, and she curls into him as he places an arm around her.
When the movie is over, Parker decides it's time to go. She gets up abruptly and moves to the door, Hardison trailing behind her. He promises a trip to an actual movie theater, and he tells her that she can even steal the candy if she'd like. She nods, feeling like she should say something, anything, but not knowing what. So Parker turns to him and hugs him close, and his speech dies away.
"Promise me you’ll be more careful?" he whispers into her hair.
She nods and she can feel him relax more. He pulls away, but leaves a gentle hand on her arm, using the other to brush hair out of her face. She wonders again if she should kiss him, but she doesn’t. She still isn’t quite ready for that. She struggles to find something to say, but can’t, so she turns to go.
She’s got one hand on the doorknob when it hits her. “I couldn’t either,” she says.
Parker leaves then, as quickly as possible, and hears Hardison’s computers beep at him as the door closes behind her.
She doesn’t exactly know what’s going on between them, doesn’t know what to call it or how to react to it, but for the first time in her life, Parker cares about someone enough to need them, and she likes the way that feels.
Understanding and Feeling
Title: Understanding and Feeling