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Leverage Fic: Escapology, Parker/Eliot/Hardison

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Sep. 25th, 2009 | 12:16 am

The egregiously talanted fahye spotted my Leverage icons and asked me to write her Parker/Eliot/Hardison, and there was really absolutely no way I could refuse. I've been utterly rubbish at writing not one but TWO stories that we've been brainstorming together, because I'm ridiculous and lame, but I hope this goes some way into making it up to her. Fahye, my dear, this one is without a doubt for you.

No spoilers for the new season, though I have, of course, been watching.

And no, no, no, I am absolutely not writing the Elliot/Sophie companion piece to this, even though my brain is trying to go there.

escapology
They’re in it for the long-con.




Harry Houdini was an escapologist, but he was also a showman. If you meet a con-artist that tells you he doesn’t idolise Houdini he’s a liar. Which is okay, because you probably expected lies anyway. Magicians are the bastard cousins of escapologists. They’re the sell-outs, the down-and-out TV-actors doing infomercials at 2am, the washed-up baseball stars selling cleaning products with a fake smile. But all of them-- escapologists, con-artists, magicians, thieves and liars-- all of them begin with misdirection. It’s in their blood, their bones; the gene that traces them all back together to their common ancestor. Maybe the first man who tricked his cave-mate into hunting his dinner for him. The first con-artists were politicians, organisers, leaders. Nate would probably say, “let’s go steal a country”, but you could also call it “an election”.

But here’s the reason why magicians and escapologists are the bastard cousins, and so are politicians for that matter: a real con-artist is a misfit, an outsider. An outlaw. They’re cowboys, not show-girls; they never get to take off their costumes and go home.

*

To really escape, you have to burn your past clean away; Parker knows this, there’s no going back, it’s escape or die. A final act shorn clean of any other meaning by desperation. Parker moves on because it’s a necessity; she makes sure it is.

When she leaves Nate and their feel-good operation behind, it will be in smoke and ruins. She always told herself this. (But one thing she maybe didn’t account for was the idea that you can rebuild things from the ashes. She watched the windows blow out of their HQ and the smoke thicken the air & never expected that they could put the pieces back together again. Parker’d never really believed you could fix what was broken. You live with it or leave it, but Nate shows her a world where all the cracks show, but they’re so beautiful she can’t stop grazing her fingers along the lines.)

Parker knows she's a ruin, a broken thing, but she never ever felt sorry for herself until she met Nate. She slides through windows and doorways, she appears like a phantasm and carries her escape strategy under her clothes. Parker’s always planning to be somewhere else at the time, but lit by the reflected glow of Hardison’s projector she feels suddenly solid. Weighted down and heavy, skin full of flesh, and when Hardison brushes her arm she feels for the first time truly confined by her body.

So she pretends. She lies. She shifts her body out of the reach of his fingers and angles away from his gaze; it’s not hard, she’s had a lifetime’s practice.

*

The only thing you can really rely on in a hostile situation is your body; they can take your guns, your knives, your tac-vests, your plan, but Eliot knows he’ll always have his fists. He’ll always have that hard and solid feeling in the pit of his stomach to centre him. His body is a weapon, a tool; unless he’s dead he can still fight. He fights to survive, not to win (Sophie’s right about that). He fights because they can’t take that away from him.

Hardware is just so much shit he has to carry through a battlezone. It weighs him down. He’s spent most of his life paring down his needs; when he goes to sleep at night it’s secure in the knowledge that he could roll out of bed and leave wherever he is with just the clothes on this back without actually losing anything. (He dreams of men strapping him down to a table and slicing through the tendons and bones of his wrists-- but he wakes up whole, and that’s the important part. Nobody sees him do his AM once-over, a quick press of his fingers to limbs and joints to check that yes, yes, they’re all there; the dream doesn’t bleed out into real life, real life bleeds into the dream.)

He doesn’t understand Nate, what Nate does. Alcohol, caffeine, escaping into altered states. Elliot’s escape is to burrow deeper, to resketch and thicken the confines of his own skin, not to attempt to blur them with with a drug-of-choice. There’s safety in knowing where he ends and the world begins. Whether you like it or not it’s bellum omnia contra omnes (hey, he reads) and Elliot’s got a step up because in this war he’s got a precisely defined side. He’s on it. That’s about the size of it.

He’s never really liked it when other people edge over onto his side but Parker slips one toe then a shin and then a torso over the line and before he knows it his hands are all over her. He clenches them but her wrists get in the way and the fist turns into an embrace; Elliot finds that he can be gentle. He says to her, “God, Parker, you’re not all there, you know,” offhand at a briefing but she gives him a quick secret smile because that’s what he likes about her. She’s slips over to his side and then slips away again just like a ghost; he can almost believe that he doesn’t have to change a thing.

*

Hardison is all ears and eyes everywhere. People might say he’s got a God-complex, but even God couldn’t hack the security feed at the National Mint just for Saturday morning kicks. You can lock all the doors and bar all the windows you like, you can keep out bodies and dust and even air but, not to quote Joss Whedon or anything, you can’t stop the signal. He works the invisible and makes it real, he finds the dark places and projects them onto his screens. Let there be light, and lo, there is, in HD-quality on stolen bandwidth.

To Hardison, the best con is one you don’t have to run away after; you don’t take what you want, you make it come to you.

Sophie might think he’s bad with people. By Sophie’s standards, he probably is. But they’re both working in the same arena: invisible signals, hidden messages, crossed-wires. (Except, in his case, the crossed wires part is a bit more literal.)

Hardison sees more than he lets on; he sees what people leave behind and discard. Their credit card bills, their hotel stays, their bank-statements and google-searches and porn-habits and most frequent items they buy at the grocery store. There’s a kind of purity to the image that all this data sketches out for him. It deals in what people really are, not what they say or believe or want or desire. Just what they do, and the indentations it leaves on the digital universe that solidifies with a few quick presses of his fingers on a keyboard.

So, slightly drunk on his fifth beer of the evening he leans into Elliot’s personal space and says, “So you and Parker,” with a significant look and Elliot takes a deep drink of his beer. “Me and Parker what?” He asks, unhelpfully. Hardison doesn’t roll his eyes (he’ll doctor the security camera footage to prove it, too). “So are you. Or aren’t you?” Elliot claps a hand on his shoulder and Hardison gulps involuntarily. “The real question is, Hardison,” he says, far too smugly. “Are you?”

The next time Parker and Elliot disappear Hardison actually gets up and follows them. He stops just outside the Parker’s room, but hey, he’s Alec Hardison, there isn’t a locked door that can keep him out. Just because he doesn’t have to break it down doesn’t mean he can’t.

*

A room is four walls built around a series of escapes; your body is a weapon; the only truths are the ones people don’t know they’re telling. Magic tricks, like cons, have a beginning, a middle and an end: the pledge, the turn, the prestige. A play in three acts. Except the con-artist bows out before the applause at the end, the curtain rises to an empty stage. The con-artist’s signature move is an exit-strategy and their reward is silence.

The reason con-artists like Houdini is this: he understood, even if it was only at the end, you either escape or you die.

They peel off each other’s clothes in the semi-dark and string chains of spit and love between them like so much metal, they leave marks, they blur lines. In the morning, they tell themselves, they’ll wake up and they will walk away clean.



*

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Comments {11}

La Fahyette

(no subject)

from: fahye
date: Sep. 25th, 2009 12:02 am (UTC)
Link

You are SO SNEAKY, writing this in secret and then springing it on me, I made a very high-pitched noise indeed. And! And and and! Not only is it OT3, it's one of my favourite extended metaphors. And it works beautifully -- a room is four walls built around a series of escapes -- because I think one of the truest things about these characters is their awareness of boundaries. And part of that is the fact that they've always accepted themselves as outlaws, isolated, and accepted that if they were to find intimacy they would have to change somehow. Elliot out of all of them has a willingness to compromise himself for love, but he will always resent it just a little.

Lines that were fantastic:

Parker’s always planning to be somewhere else at the time, but lit by the reflected glow of Hardison’s projector she feels suddenly solid

he dream doesn’t bleed out into real life -- I think I like the wording 'bleed out' because it gives the impression of death, of the dream dying so that reality can take over

umm basically everything in Hardison's section but most especially It deals in what people really are

Thank you so much, my dear <3<3<3

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_medley_

(no subject)

from: _medley_
date: Sep. 25th, 2009 01:54 am (UTC)
Link

Oh, this is just gorgeous and suits them all so perfectly!

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never underestimate a Celt

(no subject)

from: vanitashaze
date: Sep. 25th, 2009 04:17 am (UTC)
Link

Nrgh. It's official, you're a bastard - why do you have to write so well, and leave us all looking foolish? Maybe because it's 12AM and I've only just started to ease off my Oh-My-God-I-Just-Met-Lorrie-Moore high, but reading this is damn near to a transcendent experience. (I promise: will come back and reread when slightly more sane.) While Leverage is, by and large, not a serious show, you've taken those threads of seriousness and drawn them out, and because of it, the whole thing reads so very clear - so very honest and self-evident, as if you've stripped away the bullshit, but even that's just another layer, another con; underneath is a whole mess of writhing the characters barely skim, but those few touches are enough. Adding to the general wonderfulness is the tone, how distant it is, the irony, ambiguity, and of course, the sentences themselves, like, Weighted down and heavy, skin full of flesh, and when Hardison brushes her arm she feels for the first time truly confined by her body.

And, He’s never really liked it when other people edge over onto his side but Parker slips one toe then a shin and then a torso over the line and before he knows it his hands are all over her. He clenches them but her wrists get in the way and the fist turns into an embrace; Elliot finds that he can be gentle... She’s slips over to his side and then slips away again just like a ghost; he can almost believe that he doesn’t have to change a thing.

And, They peel off each other’s clothes in the semi-dark and string chains of spit and love between them like so much metal, they leave marks, they blur lines.

Not to mention, A room is four walls built around a series of escapes; your body is a weapon; the only truths are the ones people don’t know they’re telling. Magic tricks, like cons, have a beginning, a middle and an end: the pledge, the turn, the prestige. And how I love the juxtaposition there - is it a list you're making, a summary, and then a topic change, or is the second line in direct reference to the first? And so on, of course, through the entire piece. Are these things just magic tricks they play on themselves; cons? The answer appears to be yes.

(I am very mad at you right now. Now I will have to be thinking about this all day instead of focusing on Chemistry and the like. Curses.)

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neifile7

(no subject)

from: neifile7
date: Sep. 25th, 2009 05:24 am (UTC)
Link

Well.

I don't know this show at all, but I had to read this just for the music of it; and now I feel as though I do.

Hardison sees more than he lets on; he sees what people leave behind and discard. Their credit card bills, their hotel stays, their bank-statements and google-searches and porn-habits and most frequent items they buy at the grocery store. There’s a kind of purity to the image that all this data sketches out for him. It deals in what people really are, not what they say or believe or want or desire. Just what they do, and the indentations it leaves on the digital universe that solidifies with a few quick presses of his fingers on a keyboard.

As pure evocation, you can't do much better than that. Hardison isn't even a face to me, an actor I know, a storyline, but I think I can guess him as a character from this.

I'd like a podcast of this on infinite repeat, please.

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a particularly heartless line of binary code

(no subject)

from: charlie_d_blue
date: Sep. 25th, 2009 02:16 pm (UTC)
Link

Oh, this was just quietly searing and utterly perfect.

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(no subject)

from: petronelle
date: Sep. 25th, 2009 09:11 pm (UTC)
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This is so extremely *them.* I love it.

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all sass, no class

(no subject)

from: brynnmck
date: Sep. 25th, 2009 10:49 pm (UTC)
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Here via fahye--this is so beautiful! Such gorgeous prose, and equally gorgeous character insight. Thank you so much for writing it!

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amchara

(no subject)

from: amchara
date: Jan. 7th, 2010 11:55 pm (UTC)
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Hmm, I don't remember how I got here... but I wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed this story. :)

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(no subject)

from: harborshore
date: Aug. 10th, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)
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GOD. THEM. ♥

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hollow_echos

(no subject)

from: hollow_echos
date: Aug. 31st, 2010 06:03 am (UTC)
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Stunning...absolutely stunning.

I don't think there's a single thing that didn't leave me awestruck in this piece. The language was pure poetry, the metaphors were fantastic. And you took characters from the show and made them flesh and blood with your words. Thanks for this fantastic piece, you give us something to aspire toward.

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downbythebay_4

(no subject)

from: downbythebay_4
date: Nov. 30th, 2011 04:24 pm (UTC)
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All around gorgeous. Just had to say.

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