SUMMARY: Three words that became hard to say: I and love and you.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: A sequel to "Somebody's Crying." For mystizan, who begged so nicely for me to write it. :D Special thanks to steffync81 for the banner!
Hardison cast an uneasy glance around the ladies’ restroom at McRory’s. It looked about the same as the men’s room but slightly cleaner and with 100% fewer urinals. Parker had fallen silent as soon as he stepped into the bathroom, but he could see her black Converse under the door of the last stall.
“Hey, uh, Parker?” he queried tentatively.
There was no answer, but the Converse silently withdrew from sight.
“Parker, come on. We need to talk about ... whatever this is that’s happening right now.”
“Will you open the door, please, and talk to me?”
“Leave me alone,” came her terse reply.
He sighed and cast his eyes heavenward. An assist from the Almighty would not be unwelcome right about now. Unfortunately, the only response he got was a memory of Nana telling him that God helps them that help themselves.
Fine, then. Be that way. He pushed his way into the stall next to Parker’s and climbed up on the toilet so he could peer over the partition. She was sitting on the toilet seat hugging her knees to her chest.
She looked up and scowled. “Go away, Hardison.”
“Look, I get that you’re upset, but we gotta talk about it. You can’t just run off and hide, you have to let me in so we can deal with this stuff together.”
She shook her head and buried her face in her arms. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
The restroom door opened and a short brunette walked in. She stopped short when she saw Hardison and her mouth fell open in surprise.
“What?” he snapped at her, as if he wasn't a fool standing on a toilet in the ladies’ room and she wasn't perfectly within her rights to be appalled. “Like you never saw a man in a woman’s bathroom before? We’re in the middle of something here, you mind?”
“Pervert,” the woman spat, before storming out of the bathroom.
Hardison sighed and went back to pleading with Parker. “You’re not making this easy for me, girl. You know I damn near got strangled by Eliot a few minutes ago on account of you? And it ain’t like I ran over your dog or nothing. I mean, look, I got feelings, and I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable but—”
And then he stopped, disgusted with himself. He just couldn’t be doing this anymore. He couldn’t be standing on a toilet in a public restroom trying to have this conversation with someone who wouldn’t even look at him. He had some pride, after all. Not a lot, but more than this.
“Naw, you know what?” he said. “Forget this. Just forget it.” He climbed down and banged out of the restroom.
He tried to make a beeline for the exit but Eliot intercepted him halfway there. “Well?” he demanded, looming up in front of him. And how did the man even do that when Hardison had at least six inches on him, anyway?
Hardison shook his head. “She wouldn’t talk. She wouldn’t even come out of the damn bathroom stall.”
“And what? You’re just giving up? Get back in there.”
Hardison had had it. “Forget you, man,” he snapped, momentarily forgetting Eliot could break him like a matchstick if he wanted. “I’m done. I tried, it didn’t work and now I’m goin’ home.”
Eliot’s hand shot out and grabbed Hardison’s arm. He steered him back into the bathroom, muttering something under his breath about having to do everything himself. Hardison briefly considered resisting, but Eliot’s fingers were like a vice on his arm and he figured it’d be easier to just go along and let Eliot could see for himself that it was hopeless.
“Parker, get out here.” Eliot barked in the brusque tone of someone who wasn’t going to truck with any more shenanigans
The muscles in Eliot’s necked tightened. “I’m gonna give you five seconds to get come out of there or I’m breaking that stall down.” He paused. “One.”
Hardison rolled his eyes. No way this was going to work.
Eliot was scowling and—damn—he was actually going to do it, wasn’t he?
Hardison winced, bracing himself for the sound of 180 pounds of muscle crashing against a metal bathroom stall.
The stall door opened and Parker stepped out. Her eyes were red and her expression was both heartbreaking and terrifying all at the same time.
“Good, girl,” Eliot said, a little more gently. “Now, look, I know you’re not used to doing things the normal way, so I’m gonna help you out this one time, and then you two are never, ever gonna to drag me into—” his lip curled in distaste as he waved his hand back and forth between them “—this. So, Parker, when someone tells you they love you, you’re supposed to say something back.”
Hardison blanched. “She doesn’t have to—”
Eliot raised a warning finger. “You don’t talk right now.”
Hardison rubbed his forehead with the heel of his palm and wondered if this was what having a stroke felt like.
Eliot turned back to address Parker. “Hardison said he loves you. How do you feel about him?”
Parker had gotten that deer-in-the-headlights look again. The one she’d had right before she ran for bathroom. “I don’t know,” she hissed.
“Sure you do,” Eliot told her. “It’s not rocket science. How do you feel about Hardison?”
The look she directed at Eliot was about as cuddly as a feral tomcat. “I don’t know!”
“You do, too.” Eliot’s voice shifted into the commanding, clipped tone of a drill sergeant. “Don’t think, just answer: how do you feel about Hardison?”
“I LOVE HIM, OKAY!?” Parker shouted. “Geez!”
Hardison stopped breathing.
Eliot rolled his eyes. “See? How hard was that?”
Between the bathroom and the crying and ... and Eliot for chrissakes, this was not at all the way Hardison had imagined this moment playing out. They weren’t Han and Leia in Empire, that was for damn sure. But Parker was looking at him now with eyes that were wide and shining and she’d just said she loved him, like, out loud. And she wasn’t crying anymore, in fact she almost looked like she might be about to smile.
He took a step towards her, and when she didn’t back away he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her—kissed the hell out of her, in fact—right there in the middle of the women’s bathroom, in front of Eliot and God and anyone else who wanted to walk in. Because he loved this woman, dammit, and she actually loved him back.
For a moment she didn’t respond at all, she just stood there, frozen against him. But then her lips parted against his mouth and she was kissing him back, not just eagerly, but like her life depended on it, which was so very, very hot.
“Gross,” he heard Eliot say. “Seriously, y’all, this is a bathroom.”
And then the other man was gone and they were alone. Parker hooked an arm around Hardison’s neck and wrapped her legs around his waist like she was shimmying up a damn telephone pole. Her fingers were on his chest and on his face and her tongue was exploring his mouth and he could seriously do this forever. But then he felt her tremble a little when his fingers brushed against her skin.
“Hey,” he breathed, pulling back slightly. He cupped her face in his palm and tilted it so she was looking at him.
“What?” she demanded impatiently.
“We good?” he asked.
She smiled and kissed him again, hard and deep. Then her lips drifted to his ear. “What do you think?” she murmured.
He shuddered as she nipped at his earlobe. One of her hands was skimming down his chest, under his shirt. “I think we’re good,” he gasped. “Yeah. Definitely ... very ... good.”