It wasn't real. None of it was real.
Except the echoing clang of the metal door closing behind him, and the rasp of metal on his wrists, and the very hard metal of the prison cot beneath the cheap mattress. That had all been real.
Being sent to prison hadn't been real. Not for Eliot Spencer anyway. But Allen Swift had been remanded pending trial, and Eliot was playing Allen, so...
But it hadn't been real. At least, that's what he told himself the first night when the lights cut out at exactly 10 pm and he laid there wide awake listening to the rustling of the others in the cell block.
Prison didn't scare Eliot. Certainly not relatively cushy American prisons. But the intrusive thoughts were hard to stem, and they kept popping up, right below the surface.
'What if they find out who you really are? What if something goes wrong and you can't protect the team in here? What if you never see her again.'
Full stop, that one made him sit up in bed the first night and give up on sleep entirely, instead setting to the age old time passage technique of working out until he couldn't stand the thought of another sit up or push up.
Two weeks had never felt so long.
But then the con ended, and Hardison did a surprisingly good job playing his lawyer. Allen Swift's charges were dropped and Eliot traded the grey jumpsuit for the clothes he'd been booked in, chosen for their comfort and refusal to wrinkle after being stashed in a bag for 14 days.
"You good man?" Hardison murmured as they exited the prison, still playing outwardly as lawyer and client.
"Yeah, just need to wash the prison stink off and eat something that didn't come out of a can." He grumbled back, but kept the last part of his thoughts private.
He needed to see her, to hold her, and know that it was real.
"She missed you too, been real antsy the last few days," Hardison commented as they climbed into the cab of his van. "Parker suggested we take some time off, maybe a week or two, if..." he trailed off at Eliot's nod.
Yeah, a week or two would be nice.
He didn't knock, the apartment was in his name after all (well, his alias), and immediately a blur in a light colored t shirt smacked into his chest and wrapped arms tightly around his middle.
"Oh my god," she sighed against his shirt and then peeked up at his face, her chin pressing into his sternum. "You're really back."
He wanted to hold her, wanted to crush her into him until they couldn't tell where one body ended and the other began, and he did indulge that desire momentarily. The shape of her in his arms was familiar and comfortable. The way she relaxed and went loose and almost boneless as her breathing calmed into deep even lengths helped calm his as well.
But he hadn't been lying in the van, there was some kind of psychological need to wash the job off before getting too invested there.
"Hey sweetheart," he dropped a kiss onto the top of her head. "I missed you, so much."
He'd tensed just enough that she peeked up again, shrewd eyes assessing. She'd learned to read him so well that they probably could have had the ensuing conversation completely with facial expressions, but he was tired and opted for words.
"God I missed you, I just-"
"I'm not going anywhere." She said, eyebrows smoothing as she understood. "Do what you gotta do El, and then you're all mine."
"There is another option," he couldn't help a grin. "You could join me, might make things go a little faster."
Or not. But that was ok too.
A quirk of her mouth, God he'd missed her mouth, was all she did in reply but her hand slipped into his own and she led him further inside towards the bathroom with a giggle.
They left a trail of clothing in the last 10 feet and he took the opportunity while the shower spray heated up to trap her against the vanity and revel in the feel of her hands all over him.
This was real. She was real. Real and solid and coaxing him into the shower stall. He watched with rapt fascination as the water drenched her hair and ran down her cheeks and neck as she leaned her head back and sighed in the warmth.
He must have let out some kind of sound because her eyes opened again and she regarded him carefully.
"You ok?" She asked softly, still with her fingers twined in his. Neither of them had wanted to let go yet it seemed.
He gave a quick nod that earned a raised brow and incredulous look and he quickly amended it to a shrug. "I will be, don't worry sweetheart."
"If that job had gone any longer I'd have invented a reason for a conjugal visit." She replied with a low purr to her voice. She'd always been primarily tactile, his compliment in that way. On the job, she was usually quick and light and dancing just out of the mark's reach to keep them distracted while he was the weight that slammed in from the side. From the first day they'd acknowledged feelings to each other there had been a subtle fading of the carefully drawn lines between them. These days he felt more bereft without her touch than he ever had before knowing it.
She let him touch. Who knew why but she'd chosen him. That was real.
Her hands were real where one skimmed, dripping warm water, up his arm and settled on the back of his neck pulling to guide him down to her for another kiss. Her hips were real where his free hand rested lightly on one, earning him a subtle shimmy that made him smile. Her lips were real where they molded to his, soft and full and faintly fruity from her lipstick, he supposed.
After a minute of slow kisses she pulled back enough to speak. "So, I was just going to let you lead but uh..." she trailed off and the hand that had been in his came to rest on another, equally as interested part of his anatomy. "Seems like you already are."
She gave a few little nudges with her fingertips and he bit his lip to hold back an embarrassing noise. No way he was jacking off in a prison cell, so pent up was an apt descriptor.
"I could help you out with this, god knows in the ranking of 'which of us gets the other off more' I'm losing by a long shot."
"I don't have to. I know, Eliot I don't think you have any idea how rediculous that sounds every time," she soothed.
Well he wasn't going to stop saying it. Because as much as this was real right now and as much as he knew that her feelings were real, he also knew how easy it had been to be the other Eliot; the Eliot Spencer that kept mafiosos and cartel members and human traffickers and generally anyone he'd ever been pointed at by a boss awake at night. That Eliot was real too.
He was doing his best to atone for that Eliot's actions day by day, and that included making double and triple sure that he wasn't doing anything that might make him slip back towards that path.
"Eliot," his name in that sing song lilt of her voice told him he'd spaced again and he gave a little shake of his head sending water droplets flying in the small space.
"Hmm?" He asked, flexing the fingers on her hip lightly and discovering that he had a free hand that he wound into the mass of hair on the back of her head without hesitation.
"Stay focused cowboy," she purred and then did something with her hand that quickly dispelled any lingering distractions.
Oh yeah. Definetly real.