Let me start off by saying that this is NOT where I wanted to take this story, but… I'm pretty happy with the results.

WARNING: some sexual content, though there's nothing grafic. Still rated T.

Sorry this chapter took so long. I may be stuck at home but that doesn't mean I'm not busy. I hope everyone is staying safe!

Enjoy!

Eliot let out a huge sign of relief. The others had made it. Just in time, too. Or so he thought.

"See that? We made through the— Parker? Parker!"

He looked down at her, but she wasn't looking at the lights on the tent. Her eyes were closed, her body lax.

He shook her gently. "Hey, Parker. Come on, darlin'…"

Her brows screwed together slightly. "Tired…" she said breathlessly.

"Eliot…!" Someone—it sounded like Nate—called from the distance.

"Nate! Here!" he called back. More voices, and then the sound of people trudging through the snow.

Turning his attention back to Parker, he lifter her higher on his lap. "I know you're tired, but you can't fall asleep on me now."

"Why?" she asked weakly. She didn't understand. When she's tired, she sleeps. She's fallen asleep as the office and on Nate's couch countless times. She was so tired… Why wouldn't he let her sleep…?

"Parker, look at me." His voice was gentle but demanding. Slowly, she opened her eyes. "That'a girl. Great, now keep 'em on me. Ya hear me?"

The worry in his eyes made her heart leap.

"Y-You're worried…for me?" she asked, not looking away from him like he asked.

Lights continued to dance around the tent. She could see his face better now. The lines on his forehead creased. She'd seen that look in his eyes before; when things started falling apart and the job wasn't going according to plan.

"'Course I'm worried," he said. "I haven't stopped worrying since we got here."

She sighed. "Don't want…y-you to…worry…"

"Yeah? Then stay with me. Parker, damn it, don't close your eyes!"

Parker had tried—really tried. But she couldn't keep her eyes open anymore. Her body wouldn't let her.

"Nate! Hurry!" He'd never heard that level of urgency in his own voice before. It scared him because he knew that Parker may not…

'No,' he thought, physically shaking the thoughts away. 'Don't go there, Spencer. She's a surviver. Like you.'

He pressed his forehead to hers, willing her to open her eyes. She had to be okay. He didn't know what he'd do if she weren't.

Nate didn't know what to think. He'd finally found them, thanks to the GPS locater in their coms that Hardison traced. He'd never seen Eliot afraid of anything, so hearing it his voice when he told them to hurry… He assumed the worst.

Finally, they were outside the tent. "Eliot! Parker!"

Nate ripped open the tent, poking his head inside. What he saw nearly tore him in half. Eliot sitting in the middle of the tent with very weak looking Parker in his lap. His head lifted from hers at Nate's arrival, the look of fear laced with fear in his eyes over taking him. Nate knew they were running out of time.

Nate turned back to Sophie, standing in the cold behind him. "More blankets. Now!"

She nodded, hurrying as fast as she could to the chopper that was just landing in the distance. Snow whipped every which way, though no one on the rescue team tat got them up the mountain seemed to care.

Nate crawled carefully in, sitting himself next to the pair. "How bad is it?" he asked, removing one of his gloves, lifting his fingers to her exposed neck.

"Bad. Wound is infected. Nate…" The mastermind looked the hitter in the eye. Eliot's eyes said it all. He didn't need to tell him.

"She's still there," he said removing his hand and putting the glove back on. "She's fading fast, but she's still with us, Eliot."

"Nate!" Sophie called from outside the tent. Her and Hardison waited patiently with two more blankets and a team read to receive Parker. Nate leaned out and took the blanket from Sophie, turning back to Eliot.

"Eliot… I'm going to take her, okay?" he said cautiously, as if approaching a wild animal. There was no telling what Eliot would do in his state of mind. "Chopper is waiting, Eliot. We're going to get her out of here."

Eliot's wild instinct to protect Parker was more than that—he promised her he'd get her out of there. He shrugged off the blanket wrapped, exposing them to the much chillier, night air. Nate wrapped the blanket around her shoulders and over her head to keep the cold from her face. The mastermind grabbed her legs, lifting half of Parker's weight from Eliot's lap so he could move. Slowly, they moved together: Nate leaned back toward the head of the tent, and Eliot cradled her as best as he could while moving with Nate to the entrance. Once they were clear, Nate took her from Eliot and stood. Eliot, on the other hand, went down hard. He had mustered all of his strength just to move those few feet. Hunger and fatigue had gotten the best of him. He barely moved fast enough to keep his face from meeting the snow.

"Eliot!"

"Hey, man, take it easy."

Sophie and Hardison knelt beside him and helped him stand.

"Go," Eliot rasped to Sophie, motion her to follow Nate as he moved toward the rescue team and chopper. "She'll…need you most, Sophie."

Hesitantly, Sophie nodded. She hurried after them, telling some of the rescue team to get the 'big guy' as well.

"Hardison."

The younger man looked at him, barely holding up Eliot's weight. "Yeah, man. What is it?"

Eliot's head spun. Screwing his eyes shut, he breathed, "I'm sorry."

The young hacker smiled gently. "For what? You got her out, man. She's good. You both are."

Two members of the rescue team each wrapped one of Eliot's arms over their shoulders. Before they started walking, Eliot finished his apology.

"For everything."

Not having a clue what the hitter was referring to, he watched for a moment as they started toward the others before following.

Eliot was practically dragged onto the helicopter, hating that he didn't have the strength he thought to get up himself. He leaned against the opposite wall of Parker, Sophie knelt next him, looking him over.

"Get them out of here!" Nate called over the noise of the helicopter. He glanced at Eliot, and when the doors closed, they were moving.

"Eliot. Eliot!" Sophie shook him gently. "They need to know what happened." She motioned to Parker laying strapped to a gurney.

His eyes glazed, hating the memories that flooded back as he told them. "Russian…shot at us. Parker got hit. Had to get…the bullet out. It got infected—Sepsis." He watched the paramedics unwrap the bandage from her arm.

"He's right," one of the men confirmed. "It's mild, and we caught it in time. We're starting her on antibiotics and fluids."

Sophie placed her hand on Eliot's knee.

"I'm fine," he said. Parker hadn't opened her eyes, but she was awake, mumbling something. "Go. She needs you more than I do, Soph."

Sophie patted his knee and carefully made her way to Parker's side. Parker mumbled, and Sophie listened. Whatever the thief was saying surprised the grifter as she whispered soothing words to the younger girl in pain.

Eliot didn't get to know what they were talking about. Exhaustion and hunger washed over him. Knowing that they were safe—she was safe—we let his body relax. His vision darkened as he faded into sleep. He left Parker's care in their hands.

2 Weeks Later

Eliot moved about his kitchen as he always did, preparing himself dinner: Pesto and Kale Pasta with Goat Cheese—a classic, but one of his favorites. It smelled delicious; his empty stomach agreed as he plated the dish. Just as he was sitting down at his small dining room table with his food and a beer, his phone rang. Growling, walked back to the counter and checked the caller ID.

"What, Haridson?"

"Hey, easy, man. Show a brotha some love. Just callin' to see if you're up for a job tomorrow." The hacker on the other end typed on his keyboard. "It's in San Diego. Shall I book your ticket?"

Eliot sighed. "Yeah, man, just book the tickets and send them to me. I'll see you tomorrow." He was just about to hang up.

"Haven't talked to her yet, have ya?" When Eliot didn't respond, Hardison sighed. "Look, man, you've gotta call her. She's been driving me crazy, askin' if I can hack the controls of your car and make you drive here! She's got a twisted mind, you know that?"

"Hardison, I— Wait, can you hack into my car and do that?"

A long pause from the man on the other end. "I mean, I'm not saying I couldn't give it a try. You know I'd do just about anything for that girl. She's almost as scary as you are, man. But you also know I would never invade your personal space like that, man. Respect."

Speaking of respect. He'd been dreading having another conversation like this, but he wasn't a coward. "Hardison. About Parker…"

"Nuh-uh. No. Man, don't even go there. What happened on that mountain, stayed on that mountain. I don't want to hear it again."

Eliot sighed in defeat. Well, he'd tried. "I'm sorry. Are we still good?"

He heard his friend sigh as well. "Me too, man. Brothers for life."

The hitter smirked. "I'll see you tomorrow." He hung up, knowing it bugged Hardison that he never said good-bye when their phone conversations ended.

Eliot took a long drink from his beer. Heading back to his food, eager to finally eat, he was just about to sit down again. His door bell rang.

Growling, about ready to put a hole in a wall, he turned on his heel to the front door. He yanked it open…to find no one there. There was definitely going to be a hole in his wall. He slammed the door, locked it, and took a deep breath.

"Easy, Spencer," he said to no one in particular. "Don't lose your shit over stupid kids ringing your door bell…"

Just about to step away from the door, he had this sinking feeling in his gut. Something wasn't right. His honed instincts told him that…someone was in his apartment.

Good. I was just think that he need a face to hit, blow off some steam.

Casually, he walked toward the dining table, took another drink of his beer, and set in on the table. Next, he silently crossed his apartment; past the living room and bathroom; past the spare room that he turned into a home gym. His bedroom was next. He entered the room, not bothering to turn the light on. There wasn't anything off about the room itself. His bed was low to the ground, the sheets and bed spread kept nice. His dresser directly across from his bed, undisturbed. An old chest he had 'acquired' during one of their sat just under the window (that was still closed) held his extra blankets. He was just about to turn and leave when caught a scent—literally. Something didn't smell right.

His bedroom was empty. Nothing to hide behind, and nothing was moved or disturbed. To the right of his bedroom door was his closet, big enough for someone to hide in. But that's not where the intruder was.

That sixth sense of his kicked in, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. The intruder was standing right behind him.

He snapped around, right arm swinging. The intruder duked just as quickly, sending a hard blow to his stomach. Grunting, he stumbled back, ready to send another punch, but whoever it was that broke into his home was faster. They were behind him; he received a blow to his left, making him groan in pain. This fighting style was…different. The intruder was playing with him; like a cat playing with it's food.

Eliot was no mouse.

If they attacked from the left, they're likely to come at me again from the—

He steeled his body, ready for the next attack to his right side, planning to catch the hand as it made impact. Pain exploded in his left again, catching him off guard. Taking advantage of his surprise, the intruder dealt a blow to his right side as well.

Recovering quickly, Eliot spun low on his foot for a leg sweep, but no one was there.

Foot steps. Down the hall.

Eliot took off after them, cradling his left side that had received most of the punishment. Catching the intruder just before they jumped out the living room window, Eliot called out to them.

"Parker!"

The intruder stopped, one foot on the windowsill.

A long moment passed before the intruder wearing all black stepped back into his living, never turning to face him.

"I never could match your speed," he said casually, waiting for her next move. "You really had me there, switching up your fightin' style. You knew I'd suspect that you'd go for the right punch, so you sent another left one. Smart."

Over the years, Eliot had been teaching her how to hold her own in a fight. Parker and Hardison had been the only ones interested, though Hardison dropped out after a week of doing work outs and stretches to prepare their bodies. Eliot had taught her to use her speed against the enemy, getting round their attacks before they could land a hit. His own teaching were certainly coming back to bit him in the ass.

Still nothing from her.

"You know, if I'd actually connected that first punch—"

"What?" she yelled, her back still facing him. "You've avoid me for another two weeks because I got hurt?"

That hurt him more than the physical punches she'd just dealt to his body.

"Parker…"

Before he could so much as blink, she snapped around and ran at him. Leaping over his coffee table, she put her hands on the back of his couch and sent a hard kick to his chest. He stumbled backward into the wall, hitting it hard. He could have easily blocked that kick, but didn't. Not giving him time to catch his breath, she was on him again. One-two combo punch to the chest; right hook to his left cheek, snapping his head to the side. He was sure that his lip was split, but he ignored it.

"Why aren't you fighting back?" she demanded, her voice thick with emotion. "Answer me, Eliot!"

Another hard blow to his abdomen. He grunted again, hunching over. His head down, she grabbed a chunk of his hair, holding it in place. He watched as her knee came fast at his face. He clenched his eyes shut.

Nothing.

Opening his eyes again, her knee was and inch from his nose. Shaking, she let him go. He fell to one knee.

"Parker."

"Stop it! Stop saying my name like that." He looked up at her. She was crying. Alligator tears flowed down her face. He couldn't decide if she was shaking from crying, or from rage.

Probably both, he concluded to himself.

"You never came to my room at the hospital—did you even know that I was stuck there for a whole day? I was alone that night because the hospital forced the others to leave."

He shaking got up, leaning his back against the wall again, facing her.

"And then you won't answer your phone—not when I call at least. I know you've talked to Haridson, Nate, and even Sophie when they call you! You told me on that mountain—promised me—that you weren't going to leave me alone! I believed you!"

She was practically screaming at him; he'd never seen her like this before. When Parker let her emotions out, it was like a hurricane. It came out of nowhere, and was very destructive.

"Par—" He started to say her name, but tried again when her fit clenched. "I'm sorry."

She waited for more.

"That's…it? That's all you have to say? You force me to come down here, beat the crap out of you for answers, and all you have to say is 'sorry'?"

For a moment he wondered how he'd found his house. They'd always even met up at Nate's place for clint work, booze and food. He'd have to have a talk with Hardison about piracy later.

Eliot chose his words carefully. "You may not like what I have to say."

She snorted, wiping away half dried tears. "So now you think I can't handle it? I just used you as a punching bag with a sore shoulder. You may not hit me back, but I promise I will hit you again."

He squinted her challengingly. She'd do it, too. He could take another hit, but now that he knew about her not-fully-healed injury, hit avoid being her punching bag again. She was using his guilt over her getting hurt against him. Low blow.

"No more hitting."

She crossed her arms, and stepped back to lean against the back of the couch. "Then start talking."

"I'm sorry I didn't come to your room. I couldn't…deal with seein' you so soon after…"

"After…?" she said, coaxing him.

His temper flared. He hated being interrogated. "After you almost died in my arms, Parker!"

She drummed her fingers against her arm, mulling over his words. "Okay, I get that, I guess. But why avoid me for two weeks?"

"I was givin' ya space; lettin' you recuperate," he answered quickly.

"Bullshit."

He shrugged. "You don't have to believe me if you don't want to."

"What I want doesn't matter." She pushed off the couch and stepped right up to him. Hardly an inch of space separated them as she got in his face. He didn't move a muscle. "It's what I needed. I needed you after that night. I was lost and alone, and even Sophie couldn't take the pain away."

The stared at each other for a long time. Long enough for her to decide what to say next.

"You asked me if I found what I was looking for, remember?"

He did. Remembering it kept him from sleep nearly every night for two weeks.

"Well, I did."

He tried to keep the emotion from his voice. "And?"

Her eyes softened, sadness replacing anger and pain. "And…I loved it. I held it close to my heart, waiting to tell you what exactly it was that I found in that kiss."

She stepped back and turned for the door. He watched her go, willing his body to move—to stop her. But he couldn't. So many things held him back.

Hand on the door, she added, "I may not have died in your arms that day, Eliot, but you did do something to me." Her voice was barely a whisper, but his sharp hearing caught what she said before she opened the door.

"You killed me."

The man in question felt as though time stopped. He didn't want her to leave, not like this. He wanted…

Eliot didn't know how he crossed the room so fast, or what part of his brain fried that caused him grab her by the wrist and spin her around. All he knew was he wasn't letting her leave; not now, not ever.

His lips found hers in an instant, hard and needy. It took all his will power not to slam her against the door out of pent up frustration. He wasn't trying to be forceful or harsh. He had just…lost control. He hated losing control. But he feared losing her even more.

To his surprise, she responded just as feverishly. Arms thrown around his neck, she pulled him so close together he wouldn't have been able to fit a dollar bill between them. The split lip from their earlier encounter protested his actions, but he ignored it. His right hand reached the back of her neck, holding her in place, while the left pressed into her lower back. He couldn't believe how perfectly her body fit against his.

Something tickled the back of Eliot's mind, but he ignored it.

Her hands roamed from his neck to his shoulders, sending shivers down his spine. For someone who hits so hard, her touch was so soft he almost didn't feel it. She pushed down on his shoulders and wrapped her legs around his waist, practically climbing him like a tree. He caught her effortlessly, his own hands moving to her back side to keep her up. And all without breaking the kiss.

She did pull back, if only for the sake of breathing. But he only let them separate for a second before he claimed her lips yet again. Not that she minded. This kiss was softer and less needy, but in no way did the heat between them fade. He took one step forward until her back hit the door, making her grunt. The vibration of her voice against his lips did terrible things to his body; things he both hated and loved.

Parker's hand traveled down the length of his arms, feeling every muscle contract as the worked to keep her up. She'd seen the power they delivered; somehow that made him all the more attractive.

Again, a red flag went up in Eliot's mind. Every part of him wanted this, but he couldn't shake this feeling that he was forgetting something.

He pulled her from the door and spun them around, making his way to the small kitchen. Her butt hit the counter of the island and he set her on top of it. Somewhere along the way she'd thrown her black baseball cap away, letting her long, blonde hair flow down her back. Her feather touch moved down his chest at a mind numbingly slow pace, making him groan. She smirked against his lips, now knowing just how to put his buttons.

She released her legs from his waist, letting them dangle from the counter. Hands on her hips, he stepped as close as he could. Her hands continued their trek down his chest and abs and long his waist. Anticipation burned within him, mixing with need and want. Her delicate, lock-picking fingers grabbed the hem of his shirt…

That was it! As their advancement in their…extra curricular activity escalated, his foggy mind snapped back to coherent thought. He had something to say, and he had hoped to say it before something like this happened.

Reluctantly, and much to Parker's dismay, Eliot pulled away completely, backing away from the counter. He side stepped and hit the fridge while she scrambled to keep from falling off of the counter, almost losing her balance now that his presence was gone. Both were breathing heavily, hearts beating hard.

As he caught his breath, he pushed down every need to go back to her. He wasn't going to lose control again.

"P-Parker…I," he started, running a hand down his face. His head hit the fridge with w loud 'thud'. "I know how you felt that night. The whole time I—I knew but I didn't want to push it. I didn't want to push ya into thinking you felt it, I wanted you to find it for yourself."

Parker sat on the counter, listening as he talked.

"I wasn't going to force you to feel something just because I wanted ya to feel it. You'd been hurt enough, and I wasn't goin' to be the one that hurt you, too." He considered his words, shaking his head. "Although, I see now how badly that backfired on me."

His thoughts traveled to the man that he had just spoken with not fifteen minutes ago. "Alec…is my friend. I wasn't going to ruin whatever is was ya had with him for my own desires."

Realization came over her features, her eyes widening.

"What?" he asked, feeling like he'd said something wrong.

"He didn't…tell you?"

His brows furrowed in confusion. "Who didn't tell me what?"

She cursed under her breath. "I knew I should have smashed his computer when he wouldn't tell me why you were avoiding me."

"Parker, explain."

She sighed. "I broke up with Haridson two weeks ago."

Her words rang in his ears, like an echo bouncing off of the walls of an empty room. He was going to hurt that computer loving geek.

"Well, not 'broke up', per say. We were never really, together, together. I mean we never had sex or—"

Eliot put his hand up to stop her, wishing he could unheard that.

"I was interested in him and he was interested in me, but it never really felt like anything. He was comforting, sure, but I wasn't the security I needed."

Eliot pinched the bridge of his nose. "Back up: you're sayin' that Harison knew this whole time how we felt for each other, and managed to keep it a secret from the both of us for two weeks?"

Parker shrugged. "I…guess so."

"He's a dead man," Eliot growled. "I'm gonna kill him."

She jumped off the counter, taking one of his hands in hers. "These hands don't kill anymore, remember? Don't go back on your vow to Sam just to make me happy." She was vaguely hinting that she wasn't completely opposed to him hurting their supposed 'friend'.

Eliot took a deep breath and closed his, reigning in his anger. When he opened them again, she was looking at him in an odd way. It was very much a look she wore a lot, but it was still odd.

"What's on your mind?" he asked.

Her expression changed to a 'for real' look; like she even had to answer his question.

He chuckled. "Okay, other than that."

She shrugged. "Pretty much everything that's happened over the last couple weeks."

Eliot rolled his eyes. "Oh, is that all."

Something occurred to her then. "Hey. How did you know it was me?" she asked, referring to her braking into his home.

He smirked. "I could smell the perfume Sophie gave ya last year. When she claimed you smelled like drowned rat after that cruise ship job."

She made a face of annoyance. "Damn it. I should have thrown that bottle out."

"Well, I'm glad ya didn't. I like it."

Their eyes locked again, and that heat passed between them again. This time now that Eliot had control, it was sweeter, and less needy. His hand came up to cup her cheek, missing the feel of her lips on his. Much slower this time, his lips claimed hers gently in a sweet kiss. There was no heat or passion; just to people enjoying each other's presence.

He didn't think she'd pull away so soon, and the look on her face confused him. He was going to ask what was wrong, but she didn't give him the chance.

"I love you."

The three little words swept over him like a wave, making his heart race.

The hand on her face moved to the back of her neck once again. "Say it again," he demanded, wanting to hear the words roll of her tongue.

"I love you," she repeated, stepping into his body heat. She had for a moment thought that we would reject her. She had taken a leap of faith saying it to him, knowing that she could get hurt in the end.

"I'm sorry I punched you," she said out of the blue, gently running her finger over this split lip.

He winced a little and chuckled. "After that performance, darlin', all is forgiving."

He leaned in to connect their lips, but just before they did, he hovered just out of her reach and said, "I love you, Parker."

Her heart soared. No one had ever said it to her before. Having never known her parents and growing up in foster care, she'd never heard the words uttered to her. Sophie had explained that that may be why she had such a hard time understanding it. That kiss her and Eliot shared and helped her find it: what it felt like to be loved and cared about. And she was never going to let that feeling go.

Their kiss was interrupted by the sound of her angry stomach. Eliot chuckled against her lips and pulled away, but not before placing a small kiss her to her forehead.

He pushed off of the fridge and stepped around her, grabbing a plate from the cupboard.

Her eyes lit up and snatched the plate from him, quickly switching back into her childish, Parker-like demeanor. She spooned the remains of the dinner Eliot had left on the stove. They met at the table where his now cold food awaited him. They sat across from each other at his small, 2-person table. Eliot grabbed his beer and finished it off, downing nearly half a bottle. After the night he'd had, he felt he was justified in his actions. When he spotted his phone, he picked it up and started typing.

"Who are you texting?" Parker asked curiously between bites.

He finished his writing and slid the phone across the table for her to read. She laughed, hitting the send button for him. The phone screen stayed lit through the remainder of their dinner, and every time Eliot caught a glance of it, it made him smile.

'Alec Haridson, you are a dead man. With love, Eliot and Parker.'

And…that's it! Like I said, this isn't how I thought this story was going to go. It certainly took a turn, and the characters may have been a little OOC. What's done is done!

Thanks for reading, and everyone stay safe!