How To Seduce Your Geek

Hardison's cell rang and he glanced at the number, mildly surprised at the contact displayed. He answered the call saying, "I thought we were all going our own directions."

"Hello to you, too," Eliot said. "I did. I just...need a favor."

Alec found himself sitting forward, minimizing the windows showing on his laptop's screen and one hand poised over the keyboard, ready for whatever Eliot might throw at him. "What sort of favor?" he asked warily, despite his willingness -- eagerness -- to help. Was it his fault the last month had been godawful boring without the team and their crazy adventures?

"It's nothing urgent," Eliot replied, but there was something in his tone that made Alec wonder if there was something hinky going on. A gun pressed to Eliot's forehead, for example.

Or maybe Spencer had figured out who had subscribed his local PO Box to a half dozen quilting magazines.

"So what do you need the services of the world's greatest geek for?"

There was a slight hesitation, then Eliot said, "I'm in town for awhile and I'm...." He sighed. "Trying to set up this entertainment system." His tone told Alec everything -- the shame and embarrassment of admitting defeat, of crawling to the geek for help.

Alec cackled over the phone. "All those cables and ports got you messed up?" He didn't bother trying to keep from sounding triumphant. All those high school jocks had no idea what they were in for once they got into the real world. Who had the power, now? he wanted to ask.

"Can you just come over?" Eliot asked, sounding exasperated.

"I'll be there in half an hour. Order the pizza, and we'll test it out with some Resident Evil once I work my magic."

Eliot's response was the silence as he hung up, but Alec just laughed. He gathered up a few DVDs -- not really sure what Eliot would consider a good entertainment system, he bypassed the movies that needed a 48" screen to really be worth watching. He also grabbed a few extra A/V cables, power cords, and an HDMI cable just in case.

~~~

When Eliot let him into the small apartment he used between overseas jobs, Alec took a good sniff -- and yep, there was the smell of pizza in the air. Nodding his acceptance of payment due, he headed directly for the living room.

Where he stopped and dropped the bags of cables.

"That's a tube set," he said. Then he blinked. "And a VCR."

"I told you--"

"What the hell is this?" Alec looked around wildly. "Am I on hidden camera? Is this some kind of joke?" He narrowed his eyes at Eliot, who didn't look all that apologetic for wasting Hardison's valuable time.

Eliot just stood there, waiting for Alec to wind down, then he gestured towards the ancient television set and its enormous and equally ancient VCR. Alec thought the thing must have been from 1978; it looked like a sad attempt at a futuristic scifi prop. He glared, not sure he wanted to even touch the damn thing, when he realized what Eliot was pointing at.

"Oh, hell no. You have got to be kidding me."

"How am I supposed to record the game if the thing doesn't know what time it is?"

The VCR, sitting on top of the TV, had a huge LED display on the front. The LED was flashing "12:00."

Alec folded his arms and shook his head. "No."

"Just set the damn thing, Hardison." Eliot turned suddenly, heading for the kitchen. There was a 'ding' a moment later and the smell of fresh pizza grew stronger.

"Man, did you get Papa Murphy's?" Alec ignored the entertainment system and followed Spencer into the kitchen. He stared as he saw the counters covered in food -- a big roll of salami, a block of cheese, and flour all over the counter-top. He looked closer and saw Eliot pulling a pizza out of the oven on a round grey stone. "You can do that?" he asked, sincerely surprised.

"Do what?"

"Make pizza."

Eliot gave him a disgusted look. "Of course I can make pizza."

"I mean -- I thought they came frozen from the grocery store, or fresh from Papa Murphy's."

Eliot gave him a look like Alec had just said he thought the Earth was flat, really, and what was all this nonsense about 'round'. "How do you think they make them?"

"I don't know. Melt the frozen ones and resell them?" Alec grabbed a cheese stick from a serving dish, dodging Eliot's attempt to smack his hand. "Is there beer?" he asked, already going for the fridge.

"Of course there's beer," Eliot said, voice still sounding like Hardison was brain-dead. Alec just grabbed the beer and headed for the living room.

The VCR mocked him as he set his bottle down on the coffee table. Well, maybe Eliot had some movies on VHS they could watch. But he would not be held responsible if he started criticizing the frame rate.

~~~

A week later, his cell rang again. "Now what?" Alec barely glanced at the contact display. "Didn't you have a job somewhere?"

"I just got back. I need another favor."

"If your VCR ate a tape, I am not--"

"No, no, it's my email. It's hosed."

"Hosed how?"

"Hosed as in 'it doesn't work', Hardison. If I knew what was wrong don't you think I'd be fixing it instead of harassing you?"

"OK, relax. Is it your home system or your laptop?"

"I've only got the laptop," Eliot replied, making Alec roll his eyes.

"How do you exist in today's world with only one computer?"

"I've got last Friday's game on tape, if you want to borrow it," Eliot said in a taunting tone.

Alec found himself rolling his eyes again. "And I streamed it online, and watched it on a High Definition screen. Bring your laptop over here and I'll 'make email go'."

"Fuck you, Hardison," Eliot said, but half an hour later he was knocking on Hardison's door.

Alec let him in, taking the laptop from him and noticing that he had not come bearing any other gifts. "You're supposed to bribe your geek to fix this shit, you know," Alec told him. Not that he'd been hoping for another of those amazing pizzas -- but free beer would have been a nice touch. Box of donuts, liter of Mountain Dew, anything.

"How about I offer to not criticize the way you've been keeping up with your exercise regimen?"

"Hey, I exercise," Alec said, then flipped him off for good measure. "I was boxing just yesterday."

"Video games don't count." Eliot smirked.

Alec chose to ignore the comment -- he'd even beaten his highest score, but was he going to brag about it now? Not if he was going to get further mocked for it, no sir. He opened up Eliot's laptop and booted it, grateful to see that it didn't look obviously different from when he'd set it up in the first place. As he worked, he heard Eliot rummaging around in the kitchen -- his mouth began to water. He knew damn well there was nothing in his kitchen that a person could cook. he wasn't even sure he had things to cook food in. But tell his stomach that, when it knew Eliot Spencer was in the kitchen messing around.

The email program turned out to be easy to fix, and he left the laptop on the table and went looking for Eliot. He found him standing by the fridge, holding a container in-between two fingers, like he'd caught a dead rat.

"That's Chinese from last week," Alec said, cutting off the expected question.

"Have you ever been to China?" Eliot countered.

"OK, so it's American, from last week. And I fixed your email." He started to explain what he'd done, then he thought about who he was speaking to. "One of the files the program needs to work got moved to the trash. Usually that's stuff a virus will do, but I didn't see any sign of one."

Eliot nodded. "So it works?" He narrowed his eyes. "You didn't read any of my email, did you?"

Slapping a hand to his chest, Alec looked mortally wounded.

"Was there anything from a McCormick?"

"Nah, man, nothing."

Eliot suddenly grinned. "Then I've got some time to kick your ass at Madden."

"You and what army?" Alec demanded, and led the other man back into the living room.

"Speaking from experience, I can beat you with one hand tied behind my back."

"Yeah, in real life," he countered. "In the video game world, your ass is mine."

"We'll see about that," Eliot said, looking far too smug for a man who had lost the game last time they'd played.

Alec brushed aside the fact Eliot had whooped his ass the five times before that. But he'd been practicing, and his gaming fingers were loose and limber and ready to go. Eliot laughed at him as he went through his warm-up, but Alec paid him no mind. They'd see who was laughing, when the dust had settled.

~~~

It was later in the week when Alec realized he'd been worrying over something in the back of his mind ever since Eliot had come over. It wasn't that Eliot had beaten him -- cheated, really, because who expected a damn Hail Mary pass as the first play of the first quarter? One touchdown down and he'd been scrambling to keep up ever since, losing by a mere ten points at the end.

But afterwards, Eliot had seemed reluctant to go -- not worried or nervous, just slow to leave. Alec hadn't really noticed at the time, but a few days later he found he was still thinking about it. Little things, like looks Eliot had been giving him when Alec had gone over to fix his VCR. Things he'd said which didn't quite sound like what he'd meant to say.

Add to the fact that Hardison had accessed Eliot's laptop remotely, and checked what he hadn't thought to check before: fifteen minutes before Eliot had called him, someone with Eliot's password had logged on and done exactly one thing: move a certain .exe file to the trash.

Add to all of that the belated realization that Eliot's VCR had been covered in a fine layer of dust, like it had been sitting in a pawn shop or the back of somebody's garage. Eliot might be a technophobe, but he wasn't poor, either. Nor stupid -- Alec thought about it some more, and it wasn't very long before his sneaking suspicion solidified. Now he needed to test it.

He grabbed his jacket and cell phone and headed out. Not long after, standing in the unnatural brightness of fluorescent lighting, he rang Eliot's number.

"Hardison, what's up?"

"Hey, um. Could you help me with something?"

"You want me to kill the mice that have taken over your left cupboard?"

"What? I do not have mice-- no, I just need...a little help, is all." He didn't try to sound falsely pathetic, but he did certainly feel jittery.

"Where are you?"

Alec rattled off the street address, then when Eliot said he was on his way -- sounding maybe like he thought Hardison was in serious ass-kicking trouble, which made Alec wonder if he should feel guilty about letting Eliot draw the wrong conclusion. He didn't feel guilty, but he recognized that Eliot wouldn't agree.

Only if he was wrong, Alec told himself. If he was, then it would be groveling and bribery, and maybe setting Eliot up with a real entertainment system, something from the 21st century instead of the dark ages.

He didn't have long to wait, ignoring the strange looks he was getting, and trying to look clueless without looking so clueless that somebody who wasn't Eliot would stop and offer to help. Finally he heard Eliot's growl coming up the aisle behind him.

"This is a grocery store," Eliot said, bumping roughly into Alec's shoulder to avoid a woman with a cart over-flowing with groceries and kids.

"Yeah, man. You have to help me." He gestured at the display. "What am I supposed to get? Salted? Unsalted? What the hell is Irish butter, anyway?"

Eliot sighed, looking pained, and rubbed his forehead. "You couldn't have asked over the phone? What are you trying to cook?"

Hardison shrugged, discovering a flaw in his plan: he hadn't thought this far ahead. "Toast?"

Eliot looked at him, then blinked. Hardison tried a little of the pathetic smile he wasn't sure would really keep his ass from being kicked.

But after a moment, the corner of Eliot's mouth flicked upwards. "Toast?"

Hardison nodded. "Toast. Um. I need a toaster, as well."

Eliot leaned forward, peering into the hand-basket Hardison had grabbed, trying to make his con look more authentic. "And bread. What're the clams for?"

"Clams? I got clams?" Hardison looked down and saw the label of one of the cans he'd thrown in. "Oh, that is disgusting."

With a smile that was nothing at all like the 'I'm about to break you into pieces' smile, Eliot reached over and took the basket from Hardison's arm. "How about if I do this, and you can just tell me what it is you want to eat."

"Eat?" He definitely hadn't thought this far ahead. "Toast?"

"I mean, for dinner. Tonight. What do you want?" Eliot stepped up beside him, turning to look at the dairy case. He reached out and grabbed something from the shelf; Alec had no idea what he'd picked and realized he suddenly didn't care.

He pulled out his PDA. "How about I start downloading Astro Boy and you do the shopping?"

Eliot frowned at him. "Isn't that being released in two days?"

Hardison smiled. "I am just that good."

~~~

Sometime between one a.m. and two, Hardison opened his eyes and said, "Tell me you don't really use that VCR."

There was no immediate response, then Eliot wrapped his arm across Hardison's back and tucked himself in closer.

As he was falling asleep, he felt a slight vibration, like a chuckle.

the end