Series: Jukebox Musical
Pairings: Parker/Hardison, Eliot/Women
Warnings: Minor angst, crack, ridiculousness
Word Count: 3852
Disclaimer: If I owned it, the good guys would kick ass.
Summary: The one where high school reunions are awkward and bullies get taken out.
Alec had never actually planned on attending his high school reunion. Sure there was a sick kind of pleasure to be gained from rubbing his success in his old bullies' faces, but the hacker was a better man than that.
Well... actually, he was just petty enough to think that sounded awesome, but revenge wasn't worth reminding the world of what an awkward, gangly teenager he had been. Fifteen year-old Alec was better left in the past and there's a reason that the hacker had destroyed every copy of his high school yearbook that he could find after senior year.
So when he goes to check the one PO Box still registered to his real name and finds his invitation, Alec almost tosses it immediately. However, despite the slew of bad high school memories, there's also a nostalgic twinge in seeing his old mascot, Freddie the Falcon, in all his Technicolor glory, and he can't quite resist bringing the flier back with him. Alec really does mean to throw it out eventually, but the hacker has always been easily distracted and he forgets all about it when Parker blows through the door with a new job for him.
Which is why he's so very confused two months later when he finds himself dressed to the nines and looking very out of place amidst the tacky streamers and cracking tiles of his old high school gym.
Alec isn't entirely sure how he ended up back in Arbon Valley High since Parker had sworn that they were scoping out another con this weekend, one that apparently involves a lot more fruit punch and bad nineties music than the hacker had been expecting when he left their hotel.
But while he had almost fled in a mad panic when he saw their destination, Parker's iron grip on his arm had kept Alec from diving back into the car. For some crazy reason, his girl was determined to attend this party and none of his strident protestations changed her mind. But, then again, arguing with the thief about things like this was generally a losing battle since she tended to tune Alec out once his voice reached a certain pitch.
So he made a few more half-assed protests as they came to a halt in front of the hostess before taking his cheap plastic name tag with a sigh of capitulation, pinning the little rectangle to his lapel and then allowing Parker to pull him through the inner doors.
Which leads the hacker right back to where he started, trailing awkwardly behind his girl as she cuts through the crowd of soccer moms and ex-jocks on the polished wooden floor.
“Seriously, babe? What are we doing here?” Alec asks once Parker finally pauses by the punch bowl, his annoyance easing slightly at the delighted grin on the thief's face.
“It's your reunion, Hardison.” Parker replies with a sarcastic eye roll, pinning the hacker with her best 'you dummy' stare. “You keep telling me that socializing is supposed to be fun and I enjoyed Dooberman's reunion when we had that job. So a party with your friends instead of strangers should be even better, shouldn't it?”
This is perfect Parker logic: straightforward, reasonable and just a little left of center so that it makes no sense at all. But the thief is trying and it's the hint of uncertainty in her eyes after Alec stands there gaping for a bit too long that makes up his mind for him.
He's not going to shut his girl down after she's gone to all this effort and the hacker has always prided himself on being adaptable. Besides, this reunion can't be all bad when Parker looks damn smoking in her outfit, the two of them dressed twice as formally as anyone else in here. However, if Alec is going to stay and mingle, he has to correct a few misconceptions before Parker sets her hopes too high.
“These people aren't exactly friends, babe. A lot of them were more like my mortal enemies,” Alec explains quietly. However, before the thief can get that disappointed look that always makes him feel like an asshole, he's quick to reassure her that he doesn't mind at all. “It's okay, though, rubbing their noses in my success will be all the fun I need. So let's go get ourselves some free food because surprises make me hungry and I want to show you off.”
His girl nods happily as Alec takes her hand, perfectly willing to let him take the lead now that he's given in. However, the two of them have barely taken two steps toward the buffet of hors d'oeuvres before the hacker draws up short again.
“Okay, I get why we're here now. But why is he here?” Alec hisses as he turns back to Parker, jabbing his finger over his shoulder to emphasize his point. Because Eliot is standing at the buffet, staring down at the selection with a frown of disgust when he should have been back in Portland arguing with their waitresses.
While Alec is secure enough in himself to admit that the hitter cleans up pretty, Eliot still looks like he wants to punch everyone around him and the hacker had been hoping to get through this night more or less non-violently.
But Parker just gives him another 'duh' face at the question before explaining cheerfully, “Eliot was my backup in case you tried to run. I know you sometimes get twitchy about our date plans so I wanted to make sure that you couldn't escape too easily. Besides, I thought he might be getting lonely now that Nate and Sophie aren't with the team anymore.”
“Eliot doesn't get lonely, he gets laid,” Alec retorts, not bothering to explain again that twitchiness when being thrown off buildings is a perfectly acceptable response.
Actually, compared to some of their earliest attempts at dating, Parker has definitely upped her game this evening, but that doesn't mean that the hacker wants Eliot tagging along. The other man teases him enough already and even if his comments aren't malicious anymore, the hitter doesn't need to know all the things that Alec's classmates used to call him in their infinite teenage cruelty. That's either going to give him ideas or make him very angry, and an angry Eliot is a scary, scary thing.
However, despite these perfectly valid reservations, Alec's protests come out more like, “But... Eliot? No babe. Just – bad idea right there. He'll make with the punching and steal all the shrimp rolls and look at him: the soccer moms are gonna go crazy for all that rugged untamed manliness and they'll be too busy trying to drag him into some quiet corner to notice how hot I am.”
The hacker is whining slightly by the end there since his revenge fantasies were always more focused on his amazing girlfriend and giant pile of money than on the other random guy he knows. Not that Eliot is just any guy, but “oh look I made a friend” simply doesn't have the same gloating ring to it.
Not that the hitter seems remotely interested in Alec's pouting when Parker pulls the hacker over to greet their teammate properly. Instead Eliot just gives his partners the most impressive bitch face that they've seen in a while and holds out something that is probably supposed to be an egg roll in the mind of a chef who thinks that all Asians are Chinese.
“This is garbage,” Eliot snarls as he shoves the roll into Alec's face. “I wouldn't feed this to my dog if I had one and I can't believe I let Parker bring us to a place that serves this crap. Seriously, Hardison, your high school is a dump. I don't know why you came back here.”
“It's not like it was my idea. But if you don't like it, you can always take your Gucci-clad ass back to Portland, Mr. 'I grew up on the wide open range somewhere.'”
“Maybe I will,” Eliot retorts, tossing the egg roll at some unlucky waiter's head. “I have better things to do than force you to go to your own high school reunion just because Parker wants me to. In fact, I think I'll go back to the hotel for dinner; I saw an Asian market on the corner and I know a great recipe for Egg Foo Young.”
“Oh, come on, Eliot. That's just mean. You know I love the Foo,” Alec protests vehemently. Those egg rolls do look pretty foul and Eliot's cooking is the best cooking so the thought of missing out on something fantastic is quickly making the hacker regret his decision to stay here instead.
So he complains and Eliot gives a dismissive hair toss in answer; he makes threats and the hitter glares at him, and Alec is just gearing up for a proper throw down when Parker stops him cold.
“Enough!” the thief says sharply, her Mastermind voice snapping both men to attention immediately. “No one is leaving even if the food is terrible. We are going to stay, we are going to have fun and if these people aren't actually Hardison's friends, we are going to rub their faces in his success until they choke on it. Agreed?”
They can't really argue with that, even if Eliot's nod of concession is rather more grudging than Alec's happy grin. But bossy Parker is hot, even hotter than Eliot in a tuxedo, and the hacker is seriously the luckiest bastard in this gym.
So Alec pulls his girl out onto the dance floor, leaving the hitter by the buffet to chat up whatever lonely women he can find. The two of them dance until the DJ starts playing something truly awful and then they wander back to get some punch. While it's a little disturbing at first glance, the sweet red-flavored liquid isn't all that different from orange soda and Alec will have to remember that the next time he runs out on a job.
Only then Parker wants to go look at the pictures arranged along one wall and while the hacker had waged a successful war against every digital record of his teenage years, someone had used their own yearbook for decoration here.
All Alec can do is wait for the laughter as the thief looks through the photos, his shoulders hunching a little further with every page she turns. But once Parker finds his photograph there's nothing but silence for a minute, the thief's eyes going wider than he's ever seen before.
“You look different,” his girl manages eventually, not even Alec in all his goggled teenage glory enough to silence her for good.
“Yeah... I was... awkward,” the hacker mutters, mentally weighing the risk of bribing Parker with chocolate to never speak of this again. On the con side, he'd probably have to keep her in chocolatey goodness forever, but on the plus side, enough sugar might completely delete his photo from her memory. However, Alec still hasn't come to a decision one way or the other when a very familiar voice makes his hackles rise.
“Well, well, if it isn't black Harry Potter. I'm surprised you were brave enough to show your face around here. Or did you just lose your glasses and get lost on the way to the comic store?”
“Jackson. I see your insults haven't gotten any better in the last ten years,” Alec retorts, his heart starting to pound as he slowly spins around. If there was one person that the hacker had been hoping to avoid this evening, it was Jackson Pollack – who, despite his name, had never been the artistic type.
No, the other man had always preferred violence over thinking, the kind of asshole sports star who made it his mission to kick the ass of anyone he didn't like. Which had definitely included Alec because the hacker had been just as much of a smart ass in his teenage years, only without the skills to back it up.
But, hey, apparently karma is finally on his side because Jackson has not aged well since Alec saw him last. While the bully used to be blandly handsome in a square-jawed patriotic fashion, it's obvious that he spent most of the last ten years drinking beer on his couch.
So the hacker is feeling pretty damn good in comparison and he always knew that his regimen of crunches would pay off eventually. Not that Jackson seems very impressed by Alec's new appearance (even though he should be, damn it), the other man looking him over with a familiar sneer.
“What did you do, Four-Eyes? Rob the Gap?” the bully asks, as if Alec would be caught dead shopping in a place like that anymore.
However, before the hacker can think of a proper retort, one sure to be absolutely devastating, Parker finally notices their audience. Or rather, the thief turns around, dismisses Jackson and his cronies as unimportant, and goes right back to talking to her guy instead.
“Hey, Hardison. Did you want to dance again? The rest of these photos are boring me and I know you like this song.”
Alec does, in fact, really like this song and anyone who says that all nineties music was terrible doesn’t know what's what. However, Jackson has always been a sore loser and he blocks the hacker's path with his body when Alec tries to lead Parker back onto the dance floor.
“Leaving so soon? You can run away if you want, but a fox like that deserves someone a little more substantial, if you know what I mean?” Jackson gestures at himself like he's some kind of catch and Alec has to force the gag of revulsion down his throat before he can say anything.
“Aww, man. I think I threw up a little,” the hacker groans once he can breathe again. “That is so not cool. But even if you were actually attractive, no one talks about my girl like that.”
“Your girl, nerd? There's no way a guy like you managed to land a babe as hot as that,” Jackson replies, his minions letting out a creepily synchronous laugh. “I bet you paid her to be your date, didn't you? So tell me, sweetheart, how much do you cost?”
While Parker has been largely ignoring the posturing up to now, the thief's face twists in repulsion once this question registers. “Hardison didn't hire me, you idiot, and I wouldn't date you for all the diamonds in the world. So get out of my way before I do something you'll regret because my boyfriend promised me this dance.”
When Jackson doesn't actually move, Parker goes to step around him and Alec winces when the other man grabs her by the arm. If the thief had been just a little closer to the buffet, Jackson would already have a fork in his shoulder, and considering his girl's inventiveness, he'll be bleeding before long.
Or maybe bruised since Eliot materializes out of nowhere to interrupt the standoff with a growled, “Is there a problem here?”
This is just one more tick on Alec's mental list of reasons why his teammate is actually Batman, or at least a ninja, and given their nonplussed expressions, Jackson's bully boys have no idea what to make of him.
“Eliot! Have you been having fun?” Parker asks without missing a beat (to which the answer is a resounding 'yes' considering the amount of lipstick smeared across the hitter's mouth). But before he can start to wonder which of his former high school crushes Eliot was making out with, Parker continues in her scary cheerful voice. “I was just about to educate Hardison's friend here about all the reasons that he's going to die unloved. And possibly dickless if he doesn't let go of me.”
“You heard the lady, hands off,” the hitter growls, wrapping iron fingers around Jackson's wrist. His expression barely changes but Alec can hear the creak of bone when Eliot starts squeezing and it only takes a few seconds before Jackson lets go with a girly screech.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” the bully snarls, his bravado puncturing instantly when the other man glares at him.
“All right, Parker. Go ahead and enlighten this douchebag about why he's a useless waste of space,” Eliot says once Jackson has subsided, yielding the floor back to the thief gracefully.
Alec's not really sure how this evening turned into Eliot and Parker taking down his old high school bully, but the hacker is enjoying the show far too much to question it. So he just watches events unfold with a wide smile and wishes for some popcorn when Parker jabs a finger into Jackson's chest.
“You want to know why I'm with Hardison and not a guy like you? I'm with Hardison because he loves me and doesn't try to change me even though I'm weird. He doesn't try to own me like you obviously want to. You can't own people and if you keep on trying, even the women with really low standards won't want anything to do with you.” Parker says all of this very matter-of-factly and it probably seems like the most obvious thing in the world to her.
But then again, his girl has always been strangely insightful underneath the crazy so Alec really shouldn't be too surprised by this. Of course, she's also Parker so the thief finishes her lesson with: “And you should really consider doing some crunches. I don't know how you expect to outrun anyone with a gut like that.”
She starts going into great detail about why fitness is so important in their line of work, but before she can blow their cover completely, Eliot tugs her back.
“All right, Parker. I think he gets the point,” the hitter says firmly, though he can't resist getting in a few jabs of his own as well. “She is right about the crunches, you know. A proper workout regimen and some self-control would melt those pounds right off. Not that this would do anything for your personality if you don't learn that anyone worth having is worth treating with respect.”
While at first glance this seems like a hypocritical thing for Eliot to say considering that he hasn't had a serious relationship since their team came together, when Alec stops to think about it, it actually makes sense. Because the hitter may sleep with a lot of women, but that's because he genuinely likes women and he always respects refusals whenever they come along. Eliot simply has a knack for finding partners who aren't looking for any kind of long-term promises and, you know, there's nothing wrong with that.
So Alec just nods his agreement when the hitter finishes his little speech with: “Seriously, man, you should try politeness some time if you think your ego could handle it,” and he's not sure why he's disappointed when, “Go to Hell, you weirdo, who do you think are you?” is the response.
It's not like the hacker could honestly have expected Jackson to apologize for all the years of misery, but maybe that lonely awkward kid inside him kind of did. After all, shoving his success in Jackson's face wouldn't mean anything if Alec didn't still care about the asshole's opinion subconsciously.
However, as he watches Parker and Eliot prepare to rip the other guy a new one, Alec realizes that it really doesn't matter what this dickwad thinks at all. Because the hacker is happy – he has an awesome girlfriend, a family and a job he loves – and his high school nemesis can go fuck himself.
So Alec takes two steps forward to throw an arm around his teammate's shoulders and announces cheerfully, “This is Eliot. Good with the ladies, damn good with the punching and better than any home alarm system at catching burglars.”
He's not saying it for Jackson, although the way that the asshole gapes is certainly a plus; no, the hacker's saying it for Eliot and his smile only widens when the hitter turns to glare at him like he wants to break his face.
“Damn it, Hardison. I'm not your fucking dog,” Eliot growls in annoyance but there's no bite to his bark anymore. Not even when Parker throws her arms around his waist and squeals excitedly, “But you would make such a good puppy, Eliot. Can we get a puppy? It would give us someone to cuddle with when you're not there.”
“Christ, Parker. Now I sound like your goddamn boy toy. Do we need to have another conversation about things that you can't say in public? Because I'm sure Hardison still has the first list somewhere.”
“Damn straight, I do. But I think I agree with my girl on this one. Let's get a Rottweiler and name it Eliot, Jr. You can train him up as an attack dog and let him bite people for you since you're getting old and all. We wouldn't want you to break your cooking fingers punching some asshole in the face.”
“One of these days, I am going to snap and kill you both,” Eliot replies flatly but Parker and Alec just laugh off the threats like always, the thief reaching around Eliot to grab Alec's hand.
“Let's get out of here. This place is boring me and the bank two blocks over has a Vorchezmikov.”
Eliot's still busy grumbling about how dogs would be unsanitary in a restaurant but he lets Parker shove him forward, the hitter clearing a path to the exit as his teammates trail along behind. Along the way, Alec gives one more smug little wave to Jackson and his cronies who have been staring speechless throughout this interlude, their gobsmacked expressions something that he will treasure for days to come.
Because he may not care what they think, but they're sure fun to mess with, and the hacker's steps are jaunty as he follows his teammates out. Screw revenge, these two bickering weirdoes are his family and theirs is the only approval that he will ever need.
Alec loves them both in all their violent strangeness and he knows that Eliot and Parker care just as much in their own way. Sure their way is grudging, silent and often inexplicable, but he knows what his teammates are really saying with every, “Damn it, Hardison,” and Alec has no idea what he could have done to earn such happiness. But whatever it was – loving Parker, crashing the bank of Iceland, taking tap lessons back in Junior High – the hacker is damn glad that things turned out like this.