Characters: Sophie, Eliot
Summary: Eliot's not above learning from a master. Sophie's always wanted a pet tiger.
A/N: This little thing started out being a writing exercise to try to get a better handle on Sophie, and ended up being All About Eliot. I think I have a problem with that. Oh well. ^_^ I sort of like how it turned out, though, so here it is. I may write more of this someday. Or not.
When she’d first joined the team, Sophie had been nervous around Eliot. Nate was… well, Nate was Nate. She knew how to deal with him, if not really how to handle him, which was rather the basis of her attraction to him anyway. Parker was hard to read, but it soon became apparent she was something of a savant, so narrowly focused it was at least possible to grasp her frame of reference, which didn’t exactly make her predictable, but did make her somewhat comprehensible. And Hardison, well, Hardison was just adorable, if a disturbingly easy mark for someone in their line of work. He was young, though, he’d learn.
Eliot was a different story. Eliot was old enough and experienced enough to have learned some hard lessons, but not old enough, though disturbingly perhaps experienced enough, to be as closed off and jaded as he acted. But it was a damn good act, and it was a long time before Sophie could catch him dropping character. When he did, well… he might well have killed her for thinking it, but he could be nearly as adorable as Hardison. Never as soft, though; the comparison was more that of an adolescent lion to a kitten. Eliot never quite lost his hard edges, even when he was relaxed. He didn’t unnerve her anymore, but she was still respectful of how dangerous he could be if he chose.
Even when he was smiling crookedly in her doorway, offering an exceedingly fine bottle of wine she recalled helping him select in Paris and a single yellow rose.
Sophie smiled back warmly – it was always nice to get presents, especially from a handsome man, and a thrill to get them from a dangerous one. “Hello, Eliot. To what do I owe the pleasure?” she purred, then mentally kicked herself for the sultriness she’d put into her voice. Eliot was her teammate, not a mark.
Eliot’s smile only widened slightly, though, his eyes crinkling charmingly at the edges. “I just wanted to say thank you, properly. For your help with Irina,” he clarified.
Sophie’s smile widened in return, the subtle sexual undertone in her manner fading into genuine surprise and pleasure. Considering his initial reaction to her offering advice on how to approach the woman, she certainly hadn’t expected such gracious thanks. “Well, of course you’re welcome, but it’s hardly necessary. It was a job, I wanted to help.”
Eliot shrugged, a slow rolling of his shoulders that made the tight dark blue knit he was wearing lovingly caress his muscles. He caught her looking, and his smile slid easily into a smirk, sharing the joke. Sophie chuckled. “Alright, yes, you don’t need that much help, I know. But everyone can use a few pointers from time to time,” she remarked with a grin, reaching out to trail fingers lightly down one powerful arm, because it looked like he might be inclined to let her touch.
His eyelids dropped just slightly, subtly darkening the bright blue of his eyes and changing his familiar smirk to something more predatory.
Eliot always put her in mind of the big cats.
When Sophie was very young, she’d been taken to the zoo and seen a tiger for the very first time. It was the most magnificent thing she’d ever seen. It had met her eyes from across the enclosure, and given a casually dismissive yawn, displaying its deadly fangs. Eliot’s smirk often put her in mind of that tiger’s yawn. Look, the expression seemed to say, see how dangerous I am? You are my rightful prey, weak squishy thing, if I was inclined to bother with you.
Sophie had wanted nothing more than to slide her hands into that tiger’s fur. Of course it was scary, but it was also beautiful and powerful and wild, and she wanted to touch it. Eliot’s muscles flexed subtly under her hand.
Eliot naturally provoked the same reaction she’d had to that tiger, that fascination for the untamed and beautifully deadly, which was why he really didn’t need that much help with the ladies. She’d actually been worried Irina would be too wary of another predator’s advances if he worked his usual wiles on her, thus the coaching.
Eliot’s whiskey-rough voice pulled her from her reverie. “I’m always lookin’ to expand my horizons. Broaden my skills, you know,” he informed her, still watching her like he might take a bite. He didn’t insert unnatural pauses to emphasize the suggestive phrasing, though, which earned him points.
Sophie gave his bicep an appreciative squeeze. “Oh, you are good,” she acknowledged. “You’re a born flirt, no doubt.” And it was true, incongruous as it was when one knew of his darker skills. But the man was a charmer.
It was his turn to chuckle, an artlessly raspy sound that made her want to join him. “Well, if I’m so dang good, darlin’, how come I’m still standin’ in the hallway?”
Sophie had to laugh at that, and of course she also had to step back and wave him inside. He stepped past her and then stopped, turning to wait for her to close the door instead of wandering off on his own. It confirmed what she’d already guessed about what a private man he was, how he wouldn’t want his own personal space invaded without his permission. The fact that he would wait for an invitation and then for her to show him her boundaries kindled a warmth low in her belly, all that deadly power restrained, content to follow her lead, allowing her to hold a leash he could slip so easily.
She stepped past him and trailed fingers along his forearm – really, she couldn’t resist the urge to pet him, since he was allowing it – as she headed for the kitchen. “Shall we let the wine breathe a bit?” she asked, knowing the touch and the question would tell him she wanted him to follow, her temporarily tamed tiger.
He moved unnervingly silently behind her, stealth an ingrained reflex for him, though she could feel the solidness and warmth of his presence. “I suppose,” he replied slowly. “Have to admit, I don’t know as much as I should about wine, other than what to serve white or red with. Always been more of a beer and whiskey man.”
“Oh, I would never have guessed,” Sophie teased lightly, tossing him a warm smile over her shoulder to take any possible sting from the words. He shrugged and grinned back at her, not at all offended.
“If I’m gonna be working more jobs like Serbia, though, I might need to start learnin’ some more. About wine,” he added with a wink at her raised eyebrow. “Among other things,” he continued when she turned back around to lead him into her kitchen. She had to laugh again.
After retrieving her corkscrew from her rather barren utensil drawer, she turned back to him, offering it with a smirk. “And what precisely do you need lessons in, Eliot?”
He met her smirk with his own, offering her the rose and taking the corkscrew. “S’pose I’ll just figure that out as I go along,” he replied easily. Sophie smiled, lightly playing the soft petals of the rose against her lips as she watched his muscles bunch and shift while he worked the screw deep into the cork.
She flicked her eyes up to meet his as he slid the cork out in a slow, smooth motion, then she turned away to pull a champagne flute and two wine glasses from a cupboard, laying the rose gently on the counter. The champagne flute was the closest thing she had to a bud vase at the moment. She’d have to go shopping again, which would be such a hardship.
She filled the tall glass with water and set the rose in it gently, bending to inhale the heady fragrance again. “A yellow rose, hmm? Unusual choice,” she observed, straightening up to regard Eliot again. He’d set the wine bottle on the counter by the glasses to breathe, and smiled at her, rolling one shoulder again.
She’d noticed right off that he was much more a physical person than a talker, and wouldn’t waste words when his body could express the sentiment adequately. Or more than adequately, and enjoyably besides, as the case may be.
“Was there a reason you picked yellow?” she pressed, mostly to distract herself from thoughts of Eliot’s body.
His eyebrows quirked upwards, his smile a little uncertain. “Well, I wasn’t about to go for red. Pink is for little girls, and white’s just boring. Yellow seemed… different. Kinda unique. And I like yellow.” He was uncomfortable explaining the thought process behind his gift. It was cute, and she realized his masks were down now, his claws sheathed.
Sophie smiled. “It’s lovely, and yes, it is unusual. Did you know yellow roses symbolize friendship?”
He gave a small, honest smile in surprise. “No, I didn’t… guess it’s appropriate after all, then.”
She smiled back, pleased that he’d answered her implied question. Pleased that he’d decided he wanted to be her friend. Lord knew she didn’t want him as an enemy. Then she let her smile turn slightly wicked and added, “Of course, they also symbolize infidelity.”
This time she actually got a laugh out of him, a surprisingly pleasant, full-throated sound. It made her want to touch him again. He shook his head, grinning. “That’s… an interesting combination.”
“It is, rather,” she agreed, picking up the wine bottle and pouring carefully. “It’s a good thing neither of us has someone to be unfaithful to, or I might have been suspicious of your intentions.”
He hesitated a moment, and the unasked question was heavy in the air, so much that she almost answered it, but then he offered gently, “And that’s just a damn shame and a waste, ain’t it, darlin’?”
She gave a small involuntary sigh of relief that they were going to avoid the topic of Nate Ford. She wasn’t in the mood for it tonight, she was actually having fun for once – Eliot was indeed an accomplished flirt, and she was enjoying the attention.
Sophie lifted her glass of wine and gently swirled the dark red liquid, holding it beneath her nose and inhaling the rich aroma. A rose, fine red wine, and Eliot Spencer – tonight had certainly turned into an unexpected sensual pleasure. Eliot lifted his own glass, copying her motions with an easy grace that made them look natural to him, though it was clear from the way he was watching her that he had no idea what sniffing wine was supposed to accomplish.
Well, he had asked for lessons.
“Oh, not such a shame as all that. Leaves us both free to have a little fun, doesn’t it?” she purred, looking up at him through her lashes.
When he smiled, slow and dark, she took a sip of her wine.