Title: Why Do I Get You Wrong
Pairings: Nathan Ford/Eliot Spencer
Word Count: 6,402
Summary: Comment fic prompt: First fight.
He liked early mornings best. He’d drop a chaste kiss on his bedmate’s lips, and after a sleepy grumble of acknowledgement, started his daily routine.
After a shower and change of clothes, he’d head to the office. Dark and quiet, he moved through the rooms with a pot of his favorite Oolong tea. If they were on a job he’d double check the team’s research with his own resources, and if not put out feelers for any jobs that might pique his interest.
He’d slip any new information into Hardison and Nate’s files, do a little recon, if necessary, or just settle into his comfy couch with one of a dozen books he was reading.
This morning, they’d be doing the wrap-up with Jack Hurley. Maybe afterward they’d get a little down time and could take a few days away from LA.
He was starting to feel suffocated by the city … And as he was about to get lost in his own head Parker slid under his arm and tucked herself against his side. The drugs they’d given her still messing with her system. She’d seek him out because ‘he made everything quiet’, whatever that meant.
Then Alec was rambling in his techno-geek babble while puttering with the computer.
“All done.” The hacker declared.
“Thank ya, darlin’.” Eliot looked up from his book and winked at the younger man.
“I … You … Uh … I’ll just.” He pointed toward the door.
“I see how ya are.” Eliot drawled. “Just use me then toss me to the side.” He pursed his lips in a moue of feigned hurt.
“I didn’t … It wasn’t … We needed … Not that I minded … But … You … Uh. I have to go check Sophie’s computer.” Hardison went out the door like Eliot had goosed him.
“Shouldn’t tease him so much.” Parker yawned and rubbed her face against his chest.
“He’s just so easy.” Eliot chuckled low.
“Yeah, well he’s not like us. He had a Nana.” She settled again as the hitter ran his fingers through her hair.
Eliot rolled his eyes as Nate stuck his head in the door. He aimed an affectionate smile at Parker.
“Meds still messing with her?” He asked quietly.
“Yeah. Need anything?”
Parker grumbled as he stopped petting long enough to turn the page.
“Nah. Thanks for the info. Think we’ll pass on that one. Feels like a set-up.”
Eliot nodded his agreement. His eyes narrowed as he looked past Nate.
“I better go stash him before Michelle gets here.” Nate headed for the reception area.
Later he shook Parker awake and took her for lunch while the others dealt with their clients.
As he was leaving for the day, Sophie slithered into his office like she was making off the silver. He raised his eyebrows in a question.
Taking a breath, she started.
“You have to talk to Nate.”
“About?” Forehead knit in confusion.
“Finishing.” She stilled her fluttering hands.
She never figured out why it was so hard to talk to Eliot. Even when he was annoyed with them, he always treated her with respect.
“Sophie.” His voice dropped to an impatient growl.
“You need to get him to go back to rehab.”
He tucked his chin as his eyes widened in surprise.
“How do you propose I do that?”
“He listens to you.” She grabbed the hem of her blouse to keep from twisting her fingers like a school girl.
“Why would he listen?” The grifter shrugged. “Sophie, you can’t make an addict do something they don’t want to do. It’s not like a con.”
Sophie knew she should walk away, but she wasn’t accustomed to hearing the word ‘no’ from a man. As much as she liked Eliot, it irritated her ego that he wouldn’t bow to her wiles. She took a breath and pulled out her big guns.
“I’ve watched you. I think he’d do it for you.”
Blue/grey eyes narrowed dangerously. “What!?”
“He … He cares about you. He’d try if you told him to go.” Sophie wanted to back up, but in for a penny …
“Is that what you’d do, Sophie? Use his feelings to control him, do what you want?”
“It’s what we do, Eliot. Every game we run we manipulate people to do what we want.” Sophie felt more confident now.
“What!” Her voice raised a notch.
“You don’t con your crew.” Eliot was adamant.
“No. Sophie. Just. No.” He looked at her calmly, stubbornly.
Angry at being thwarted, she let her control slip.
“Afraid he wouldn’t want to fuck you anymore if he’s sober?” She asked snidely.
She paled as she watched the transformation. The rugged face smoothed into an expressionless mask, his eyes hard, spine stiff.
He picked his keys off the desk, calmly walked past Nate, Hardison and Parker, and out the door without a word.
Three faces turned to her accusingly.
“What? It was nothing–a little misunderstanding.” She waved it off as she walked to her office.
She shut the door and collapsed shaking into her chair.
The door banged against the wall. Nate glowered at her over the desk.
“What did you do, Sophie?”
She’d starting asking herself the same question the minute the words were out of her mouth.
“I made a mistake.”
Sophie spent an unsettled evening. Her livelihood, and freedom, depended on her ability to read people. If she couldn’t do that she could easily find herself in prison or worse, she could be the reason her teammates got hurt or caught.
So like any good grifter, she began to study her mark.
She had never crossed paths with Eliot until Nate introduced them in Chicago. She had nearly fallen off the couch when he said he knew a Victor in Viet Nam.
There was only one Victor in Viet Nam whose name was whispered in their circles. He collected ‘pretty things’. She wondered how Eliot slipped his notice.
Her breath caught. Eliot was probably the reason some of those ‘pretty things’ had disappeared.
Eliot growled, snarled and snapped, but he fed them, settled Hardison with a glare, never seemed surprised by Parker’s antics, managed to prop up Nate, and stitch them back together if plans went awry.
Sophie wanted to thump her head on the countertop as she got slapped in the face with how oblivious she’d been. She pigeon holed him as a hitter, and forgot all about the retrieval specialist. He was the perfect balance between brains and brawn. If forced, he could do every one of their ‘jobs’. Always alone, Sophie thought it a wonder he wasn’t more like Parker.
She nibbled on her cuticle as her thoughts tumbled through her head. Squelching the nervous habit, she cursed under her breath.
Eliot rattled her, made her revert to habits she trained away years before. His scrutiny made it seem he knew exactly what was going on in her head. It made her feel like an awkward teenager.
Her glance settled on the notebook on the table.
She had a plan for revenge on Ian Blackpoole and IYS, but she had just pissed off the person whose support she needed to sell the plan to the others. That could put a kibosh on the whole con.
Her agile mind set to work on how she was going to get back in Eliot’s good graces. None of her usual methods would work. The retrievalist was too cynical to for that, plus he would have all his defenses firmly in place to hide his anger and hurt.
Sophie blew out a breath in a huff. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, she was going to have to be honest. It was an insult to her profession, but Eliot would see through a lie.
Having decided on a course of action, she started rehearsing what she would say the next day while getting ready for bed.
Three days later Sophie was wondering if a person could die of frustration. Eliot was in the office, but every time she approached him, Hardison or Parker was there with something vitally important.
It was like watching two terriers protect a wolf. Eliot would give her that infuriating smirk before turning away. Nate flat out laughed.
The knock later that evening startled her out of her thoughts. Checking the peephole, she was surprised to see the hitter. She jerked open the door before he could disappear.
“Eliot! What a surprise. Come in. Make yourself comfortable.” She made a sweeping motion with her arm.
“Can I get you something?” Sophie continued to chatter to cover her nerves.
“Yeah.” Eliot settled into one of her arm chairs. “You can say whatever’s been stuck in your craw for past three days. Ya’ll’s makin’ me dizzy with all the dancin’ around between you, Parker and Hardison.” His voice was gruff, his expression bland.
“Yes…well…it’d be adorable if it weren’t so infuriating.” Sophie complained.
“Hardison’s got Parker believin’ we’re just one big dysfunctional family.” He rolled his eyes skyward.
“Look, Eliot. I just wanted to apologize for what I said about you and Nate.” She paused looking up through her eyelashes. “I’m not accustomed to hearing the word no—especially not from a man—I’m afraid I let my temper get the better of me.”
Sophie took a deep breath to settle her nerves. This next part could come back to bite her in the ass if she wasn’t careful.
“I mean Nate and I had this sorta relationship for ten years. I always thought that when he came back to himself that he and I would get together—Give it a go. When I realized he’d ended up in your bed…I admit it…I was…am jealous.” She plastered her most earnest look on her face and waited.
Eliot leaned back toying with the whiskers under his lower lip as he studied the grifter. He was quiet so long that when he began to speak, Sophie nearly jumped off the couch.
“Your ‘sorta’ relationship is the reason he’s with me and not you. I don’t have any expectations. We just are what we are. A drunk and a bad guy…not some epic love affair.” He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees.
“Hell Soph, you nag the shit outta him now ‘bout his drinkin’, what would it be if you were together?” He rubbed a hand over his face.
“He’s tryin’. After Miami … Some days are better than others. If it was me, I’d be havin’ someone’s head on a pike … Maybe that’s what he needs. Closure … Revenge … Whatever you wanna call it.”
He stood abruptly, clearly uncomfortable talking about Nate with her. He stopped when he felt her hand on his arm.
“It’s fine, Sophie. We’re fine.”
Sophie’s breath caught at the emotions in his eyes.
“You might be right. If he ever sobers up, he probably won’t want me anymore. You’ll get your shot.”
“Eliot?” Her voice was soft … Sympathetic.
“It’s okay, Sophie. I know who and what I am.” Eliot replied quietly before slipping out the door.
It seemed she wouldn’t have any trouble convincing Eliot to go along with her plan—he was more than halfway there all on his own. A quiet voice in the back of her head chastised her using him this way. He’d given her something she didn’t think many people got to see.
He’d given her his trust–allowed her a peek at his vulnerabilities. She was about to use that for her own gain. She ruthlessly squashed the quiet voice that warned that this was a really bad idea.
Head held high, Sophie refused to be cowed by the four expressions aimed at her. It had almost worked. Damn Sterling for thwarting her plan, though jumping off the building with Parker had been fun.
Nate’s scowl let her know how disappointed he was that even after he’d warned her she still conned them. Parker was upset because her plant got blown up, but thought it was a cool way to go. Hardison was upset because he’d not yet learned to not get emotionally attached.
All of that took a backseat to Eliot. He’d given her a gift, and she had used it like he was just another mark. His bruised, cut face and hitching breath were daggers in her brain forcing her to acknowledge how far off the line her machinations had taken them.
Brown eyes begged blue/grey for understanding and forgiveness, but their expression never changed. He walked away without looking back.
Sophie didn’t realize how much she’d missed the others until she looked up and saw Parker on the mezzanine. At Parker’s gasp she followed her line of sight and there was Eliot and Hardison.
By the time they reached Hardison’s house, the silence in the car is almost a physical thing. It was obvious they still trusted each other, but they didn’t trust her.
Sighing inwardly, she girded her feelings against the coming onslaught from the team’s youngest members.
The only thing that kept her from giving into tears was studying the body language of the other four.
Eliot stood between Nate and Sophie forming a triangle with Parker and Hardison behind him. Nate, as always, stood aloof from the group as Sophie was hoisted with her own petard.
There was a hunger in Eliot’s eyes as he watched Nate, which disappeared the second he realized Sophie was watching him.
They flowed back together like they’d never been apart, but when it came to Eliot and Nate they seemed to be blessed with bad timing. Every time the hitter got a few moments alone with the mastermind, they were interrupted. Eliot got tired of Nate not making an effort, so faded into the background.
No longer able to avoid the inevitable, Sophie sought out the retrievalist on the pretense of ‘seeing if they were okay’.
His burst of temper frightened her, but his words cut her to the quick.
“Why am I last?”
She heard so much in those four small words. They told her more about Eliot Spencer than all their time working together.
He smoothly shut off the conversation by twisting her words until it appeared she’d apologized. With his good ole boy ‘there ya go’ and a boyish grin, it seemed all was well with the Leverage associates.
Using the work in the restoration room at the museum as an excuse, Eliot disappeared until he returned to the mansion to shower and dress for the gallery opening.
Sophie almost smiled as she watched Nate try and corner Eliot. When he got the hitter pinned down she thought they’d pick up where they’d left off three months ago.
Nate talked as Eliot leaned against the fireplace. Suddenly he straightened so fast, Sophie thought she could hear the bones in his spine snap. He said a few words to Nate before stalking out the door.
Nate stared after the retrieval specialist slack-jawed. Sophie moved before she realized, not used to seeing Nate caught flat-footed.
“Nate?” Her voice was tentative as she touched his arm.
Her touch seemed to snap him back.
“Did you need something, Sophie?” He was still watching the door.
“Everything okay?” She fished.
“Uh … What … Oh yeah … Fine.” He stuttered. “Just a little misunderstanding.”
“Oh Nate.” She sighed softly.
“I know.” His expression was bleak as he moved toward the staircase.
They stood facing each other for possibly the last time. Wanting the drama over, Eliot spoke first.
“We had a good run.”
It wasn’t until they turned away that Sophie let go the tears she’d been holding at bay. The finality in Eliot’s voice, uncertainty in Parker’s, hope in Hardison’s, resignation in Nate’s made her chest tight with her own repressed emotions.
She did this. Her lust for the Davids broke them as surely as Eliot and Hardison’s bomb had shattered their home.
The roar of the motorcycle broke their immobility. Typical of the hitter—he was gone before anyone realized he moved, exhaust fumes the only proof that he’d been in the hangar.
The dark haired actress sat at her dressing room vanity staring at a slip of paper. Nothing about the paper gave any indication of how important it was to Sophie. She’d been searching her purse for tissues when she found the blue bandana with the note folded inside.
Fresh tears soon followed the ones she’d just gotten stopped. Without saying a word, Eliot had shown she was forgiven with an email address tucked inside a blue bandana.
Six Months Later
Sophie added the small slip of paper to the other three numbers in front of her. A silent plea went out to St. Nicholas that her plan worked.
Opening night and Sophie’s a bundle of nerves. She keeps slipping out to the lobby to see if any of the team have picked up their tickets.
Finally there’s the sound she’s been hoping to hear.
“Parker—one … No first name just one name.”
Hardison’s surprised squawk. “Parker?”
She listened a little longer until she finally heard the southern gravel growl of Eliot flirting with a couple of pretty patrons.
When she saw them all standing in a circle she couldn’t contain her excitement any longer and rushed through the lobby.
“I’m so glad you all made it.”
“I didn’t know you could sing.” Alec looked confused.
“Not as well as I act.” She called over her shoulder as she ran back to her dressing room.
She failed to see her team mates cringe at that statement.
Sophie Devereaux was not a woman who was easily confused, but what she had observed since the team reunited had her baffled.
Nate still held himself aloof, but there was a bit of desperation to him. His eyes constantly sought out Eliot, and sometimes her. It was as though he was waiting for them both to disappear.
Eliot never said why he was in Pakistan, but Nate’s expression showed a touch of fear, and Hardison’s comment made her skin crawl.
When in public Parker and Eliot both acted more ‘normal’ and somewhat sociable.
When Parker caught Sophie staring her smile became sly.
“Eliot’s been teaching me things.” She said cryptically.
Sophie rolled her eyes. God help them all.
Hardison seemed the least changed, but even he was quieter, not as frenetic.
They once again slipped together almost seamlessly. Eliot and Parker with their naughty twins act that saw them playing one-ups-man. Parker said it was because Eliot was good with locks, which caused Hardison and Nate to frown at the pair until Sophie told them Parker was learning from Eliot, which made Nate go pale and Hardison choke on his orange soda.
She thought Nate was going to have another go with Eliot until he asked her to dinner, and she had to explain about her boyfriend … Making things somewhat awkward.
The job in Nebraska reminded Sophie of Eliot’s skill at the con. She was amazed at how beautifully he hooked Rucker with his sad eyes, and quiet vulnerability.
When the others left the gym, Eliot gently teased Sophie about her concern while assuring her he had control over what was important to him.
After the fight, she looked into flat blue eyes as he held the ice pack against his shoulder, and watched as his iron will stuffed his beast back into its cage.
The next day it was as though he’d never let it out.
Nate tried to fuss over the battered hitter, but Eliot quietly rebuffed his efforts, disappearing after they’d turned the keys to the gym over to the Howorths.
On the plane back to Boston, Sophie had something of a revelation. She realized she was actually happy. New city, new boyfriend and her adopted family back together.
Wanting everyone to be happy, she kept nudging Parker and Hardison—Nate and Eliot was something she didn’t even attempt. That was too volatile a situation for even her romantic soul.
When not on a job, Nate turned his attention to luring Eliot back to him. If that didn’t work, maybe Sophie would get tired of living a lie with her new boyfriend.
Eliot smiled, slapped him on the back like they were close friends, but the cool expression in those all seeing eyes let Nate know Eliot hadn’t forgotten how callously he’d treated the retrievalist during the second Blackpoole job.
The memory swallowed Nate as he stared into the steam rising from his coffee. Eliot standing by the mansion’s fireplace, sunlight from the window sparking red and gold in the long dark hair.
Nate had pressed against his back and with a breathless voice, roaming hands, and teeth on his neck, expressed his desire for the younger man.
Eliot turned and caught Nate’s hands.
“Is this just a quick fuck so you can scratch an itch?”
Nate stared at the earnest expression on Eliot’s face as his brain came crashing down from its lust filled high.
Between Maggie, Blackpoole, Sterling, and memories of Sam, Nate’s emotions were already in turmoil. Eliot not giving Nate what he wanted made his temper flash and his words deadly barbs.
“Scratching an itch is one your specialties so what difference does it make?” He snapped.
Eliot dropped his hands as though scalded and backed up a step. The pain filled eyes blanked so fast, Nate thought he imagined it until Eliot spoke.
“That what you really think, Nate? Think I’m some kinda slut, you can come and take when you please?”
His deepened drawl was the only indication of the hitter’s distress.
“Eliot … I … No … Just …” Nate looked down at the hardwood floor.
When he looked up, no expression showed on the rugged face as he threw down his papers and stalked from the room.
Nate was pulled out of the memory by Sophie’s nagging voice.
“You can’t control everything, Nate. If you try you’re setting yourself up for a terrible fall.”
Nate rolled his eyes at the grifter and went back to his files.
Eliot walked over and set his bowl on the counter by Sophie’s elbow.
“You need to talk to him.” Sophie urged.
“He’s fine. He’s not drinkin’. You worry too much.” Eliot kept his voice steady.
“He’s setting himself up. When something happens he can’t control, it’ll break him.” Worried brown eyes caught his.
“Everyone breaks, Sophie.” Eliot’s voice was flat. “It’s how you handle it that matters.”
“That’s the part that scares me. I don’t think he will handle it. It could destroy him.”
Sophie turned to continue the conversation, but Eliot was gone. *Damn, he was worse than Parker.*
Seeing Eliot with the female hitter made Nate’s blood boil. Eliot was his … They were all his. How dare these other thieves try to compare themselves to HIS team. His expression was smug … Superior as Marcus declared, ‘You really do have the nastiest team this side of the Atlantic’. Now all he had to do was separate Eliot from Ms. Dyan, and things would be back to normal.
He was sure he had it all under control until his grifter had them carve ‘Sophie Devereaux’ on the tombstone, killing a person who’d been a big part of his life for 10 years. Giving in to what they’d danced around all those years, he lowered his head to capture her lips as they stood over the empty grave.
Sophie placed her fingers over his lips.
“You don’t really know me.” Her fingers stopped his protest. “You know I’ve never heard you say my real name.”
She left him standing by the empty grave grieving for what died before it reached full bloom, and watching the first thread of his control unravel.
Parker took Sophie’s leaving just as hard as Nate. The grifter was her umbilical cord to normal, and it threw her when the cord was severed. Several conversations that involved a lot of growling on Eliot’s part, and threats of turning her over his knee seemed to settle her.
Leery of Nate’s moods that swung from apathetic to frenzied, Hardison and Parker turned more and more to Eliot.
For someone who until a year ago had been a lone wolf, he tried. Parker was fine, finally. It was Hardison he was about to beat bloody.
After they got the hacker back from the Russians, Parker dragged a fuming Eliot to his pickup.
“What?!” Alec raised his hands in question. “It all worked out!” He yelled after them.
He climbed in the car with Nate. When they didn’t move, Alec turned to see Nate staring out the windshield.
“You asked Eliot how to run the game, then you did the exact opposite of what he told you. Then when you got your ass in a sling you called Sophie—then Parker and Eliot had to save you from your own stupidity.“ He turned to look at his hacker. “Stop me when you get the point.” Nate sneered.
“I just …” Hardison started, but stopped at Nate’s glare.
“Until we got together you lived a world of 1’s and 0’s, video games, and virtual playgrounds. All of a sudden you’re a better thief that Parker, a better strategist than the world’s best retrieval specialist, and a better grifter than Sophie—who we promised not to bother.”
Nate’s eerily quiet voice was starting to creep out the hacker.
Alec looked down at his fingers twisting in his lap.
“Sorry.” He said quietly.
“Yeah—you are.” Nate started the car.
The mastermind cringed inwardly as the three snickering thieves confronted him about going to London, Eliot teasing him along with others, his blue/grey eyes full of questions.
He ignored them all and re-focused their attention on the job.
When Nate asked Hardison to run a background check on Tara Carlisle, the hacker turned away. If they found out Sophie had called and asked him to set her up, he was dead.
Eliot would never trust him again—if he didn’t kill him—he didn’t even want to think about the things Parker’s twisted psyche would invent for her revenge.
Eliot hated strangers in his territory. He didn’t know or trust her, and for Nate to bring her into places the hitter considered home left him more surly than usual.
Parker hated the beautiful blonde, period.
Nate just wanted the job over.
Since losing Sophie, he’d been tightening his grip on his remaining team to the point where Eliot finally placed himself between him, Parker and Hardison as a badly needed buffer.
Nate brushed against the hitter’s back as he stood at the stove.
“You know you’re mine?” He whispered.
“I’m convenient.” Eliot answered just as quietly. “While Sophie’s not here.” The words held the bite of contempt.
Nate took a deep breath. This was becoming like one of their chess games, which Eliot won more often than not.
When all else fails—tell the truth.
“You know why I really went to London?”
Nate fought down his anxiety.
“For Sophie.” Eliot turned to face him, his expression carefully controlled.
“For a grifter. I already have what I want, he just won’t acknowledge it.” He kept his voice soft.
“Last—only.” Nate insisted.
Eliot looked at Nate with a jaundiced eye.
“You expect me to just fall into your bed with that little confession?”
“No.” Nate smiled softly. “I like to think you’d give me another chance.”
He covered the scarred hand with his own.
Keen eyes roamed Nate’s face looking for the lie. Finally he gave the older man a brief nod.
Eliot’s heart jumped into this throat as he walked around the forklift and saw the sniper drawing a bead on Nate and Parker.
Without a thought, he yelled Nate’s name wanting to alert the man and distract the sniper. The gunman jerked, missing his shot.
The rock Eliot threw didn’t miss its mark. A few hard elbows to the soft body, and he easily snatched the rifle, sending the sniper running toward the warehouses. He was able to breathe again when he saw Nate and Parker were fine.
As Nate started to climb in the car to go to the courthouse, Eliot grasped a handful of the slicked back curls and pulled him in for harsh, desperate kiss. Nate gasped a much needed breath when Eliot stepped back.
“Quit makin’ people shoot at ya.” He hissed, giving Nate’s hair a hard tug to emphasize his point.
Parker snickered and leered while Nate just stared as Eliot stalked away.
It was a relaxed team that entered Nate’s condo the morning after wrapping up their ‘lost heir’ job. Everyone stopped except Eliot who placed himself between the team and Tara Carlisle. Even after reading Sophie’s letter, the hitter remained tense.
Parker glared at being called adorable while Eliot just glared.
Nate gave her a cursory, ‘Welcome Aboard’ as they watched her sashay toward the door.
“This should be fun.” She chirped.
Hardison shivered at the glares from the hitter and the thief. He prayed to all his virtual gods they never found out he’d been the one to let her in based on Sophie’s word.
After Tara came onto the team, Nathan Ford’s operative word was control. He controlled his alcoholism, his clients, and he tried to control his team.
Eliot just smirked, said, “Sure Boss.” And did what he thought best.
Parker wrinkled her nose and came up with new and inventive ways to sneak up on and startle the mastermind.
Alec tried to keep his head down and distract Parker from tormenting Tara and Nate.
The only time Nate didn’t try to be in control was when he was with Eliot. With Eliot he just let go knowing the hitter would always catch him, so when Eliot finally pulled him up the spiral staircase by his belt, Nate’s life finally clicked in place.
Two months later, Eliot answered the knock on the condo door.
“For now. That’s a good look for you, Eliot.” She leered at the retrievalist.
Bare-chested, bare-footed, wet hair falling in waves down his back, he blushed while leering back.
“Back atcha, darlin’.” He stepped back to let her in the door.
“Just visitin’ or ya back?” He asked cautiously.
“Almost back.” The grifter hedged. “How’s Tara?”
“Not you.” Eliot growled and went into the kitchen.
“Eliot and Parker don’t care much for your friend.” Nate added as he came down the steps.
He gave her a peck on the cheek before following Eliot into the kitchen. He dropped a kiss on the younger man’s shoulder before picking up the coffee cup Eliot filled. He handed Sophie another.
Curiosity peaked at Eliot’s reaction to Tara–Sophie prodded.
“I thought she’d be a good fit.”
“She doesn’t have your touch.” Nate said diplomatically.
Eliot gave a snort of contempt. “She uses a sledge hammer to swat a fly.”
Before Sophie could comment an ear piercing squeal came from the loft.
“SOPHIE!” Parker squealed practically sliding down the banister to hug the grifter.
Sophie’s eyes grew wide at what that implied. Eliot rolled his eyes while Nate blushed and sputtered.
Sophie’s return helped Nate relax. As soon as she got sorted out things would be back to as close to normal as things got with this crew.
Sophie found a new place with a view of the harbor and was getting settled. For Nate everything was perfect … Except Eliot. Nate frowned at the back of his head as the hitter stood at the window, brooding.
At the soft call he ran both hands through his long hair and turned.
“There’s …” he waved a hand. “Something … I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something’s just not right.”
“Leftovers from the job?”
“Naw, already had Hardison check. I just need some time to figure it out.”
Eliot flopped down against Nate on the couch to watch the game.
Sophie looked around her new apartment, a smile of contentment on her face, her team-mates and Tara relaxing with drinks after one of Eliot’s excellent meals.
Eliot leaned against the counter between the kitchen and dining area savoring the fine red wine from Sophie’s collection. The dark haired grifter refilled her glass and leaned against Eliot’s side.
“If I could have your attention?”
Everyone turned to Sophie.
“First—Thank you for giving me the time I needed to sort myself.”
She smiled at the leggy blonde across the room.
“Tara. We’ve been friends a long time. Thank you for stepping in and helping. Now that I’ve gotten everything squared away, you can get back to your life.”
“Glad to pitch in. I haven’t had this much fun plus made a pile of money in a long time.”
“Does this mean we’re going to steal stuff together again?” Parker gushed.
“Yes, Parker, we are.” Sophie smiled softly at the younger woman.
“Yes!” She pumped the air with her fist.
The chaos caused by Sophie’s announcement quieted when they heard the metallic click. Eliot was already glaring at the intruder when the others spun around to see Colin Mason standing at door with a silenced pistol.
“Chaos! What are you doing?” Hardison yelled.
“You ruined everything!” He waved the gun frantically. “That score would have me set for life.”
Everyone but Eliot gaped in surprise.
“How’d ya get out?” Eliot drawled.
“It’s amazing what you can do with a little of this, a little of that, and a lot of money.” The crazed hacker sneered.
Chaos was squeezing the trigger when Eliot moved. Silver from Eliot’s hand flashed at the same time the pistol discharged.
Colin ‘Chaos’ Mason and Eliot Spencer collapsed in a blood soaked heap.
When Parker and Hardison rolled Mason, they saw the throwing knife protruding from his chest while Nate and Sophie went to Eliot.
Eliot was unconscious, blood running down the side of his face from a deep furrow gouged across his forehead.
Sophie, Tara and Alec dealt with the police while Nate and Parker went to the hospital with Eliot.
Parker was strangely quiet as she pressed closed to Nate’s side in the waiting room.
“He’ll be okay, right?” She gnawed at her bottom lip. “He’s Eliot. He was doing his job.”
She was practically sitting in Nate’s lap by the time she’d rolled those thoughts through her jumbled brain.
“I’m sure he’ll be fine, Parker. You know Eliot’s awful hard-headed?” Nate closed his eyes as he fought to control his own demons.
Parker, bless her heart, squirmed enough to keep Nate from getting lost in his own memories of waiting rooms, beeping monitors, and shouted orders.
A tired looking woman appeared with a clip board in her hand.
“Tom Baker?” She called.
Nate and Parker practically sprang from their chairs.
“I’m Tom Baker. How’s my brother?”
“A very lucky man, Mr. Baker. Where the bullet grazed his forehead caused a hematoma, but it’s stabilized.”
“Is he awake?” Parker peered around Nate.
“No we’re keeping him sedated … A light coma, to give him a chance to start to heal.”
“But he’ll be okay?” Parker nudged Nate in the ribs.
“Barring complications, he should be fine, other than a headache in a few days. They’re moving him to a room now. The nurse will let you know.” She started to turn away, then turned back.
“This may seem like an odd question, Mr. Baker, but your brother, does he have a high pain tolerance?”
Parker pinched Nate to get him to answer.
“Why yes he does, Doctor. He’s something of a daredevil.” Nate glowered at his thief.
“I thought so. He started to regain consciousness several times. He became quite combative.” She unconsciously rubbed her wrist.
“I’m sorry, Doctor. He has a thing about strangers touching him. I can usually calm him down.” Nate gave the doctor a quick once over. “He didn’t hurt anyone, did he?”
“Not really. He said something I didn’t understand, grabbed my wrist, apologized but by then the sedative had taken effect.” The doctor shook her head in amazement. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
An hour later, the nurse took them to Eliot’s room. A silent Nate and subdued Parker sat with the hitter until the vibrating of her phone nearly launched the blonde out of her chair.
“What!?” She whispered harshly.
“Why are you whispering?” Hardison asked.
“Eliot’s asleep … Well technically they drugged him into a coma …” She trailed off.
“They did what?” The hacker’s fingers flew over the keyboard.
“They drugged him ‘cause he kept waking up. Oh and Nate’s creepier than usual.”
Sophie and Alec exchanged concerned looks.
“Parker I’m in the hospital’s system. What room are you in?”
“352. How’d it go with the cops?” Parker continued to whisper.
“Smooth. The fact they let Mason escape probably didn’t hurt, but between Tara and Sophie, the cops didn’t know what hit ‘em.”
“You guys coming over?” Parker sounded really small.
“Just getting ready to head over. You need anything?” Hardison asked.
“Bring Nate some stuff. He’s still wearing Eliot’s blood. I think maybe that’s what’s making him creepier.”
“Creepier how, Parker?” Sophie asked.
“He just sits and stares. I had to pinch him to get him to answer the doctor’s questions.”
“He’s worried about Eliot, Parker.” They cringed at that image.
“Is he going to drink again?” Parker was blunt.
“No! I mean we hope not. We’re all going to help. Didn’t the doctor say Eliot was going to be fine?”
The second day, Sophie cajoled, browbeat, and badgered Nate until she got him home to shower and sleep.
Leaving him in the shower, the grifter went to pick them up some dinner. When she returned Nate sat at the counter with bottle of scotch and a shot glass. Hearing her gasp, Nate held up his hand for her to stay silent.
He inhaled the aroma of the aged single malt.
“Nate.” Sophie started.
He held up his hand again as he continued to savor the smell of the expensive scotch.
“Eliot bought me this bottle of scotch.” He told her softly as he poured the scotch back in the bottle. “No one knows more about breaking and control than Eliot.”
Sophie looked around Nate’s condo, content. Parker was irritating Alec, distracting the hacker from his computer with her antics.
She set down her book and with a smile headed for the kitchen to rescue Eliot from Nate’s hovering over the recovering hitter—or maybe she’d be rescuing Nate.
~ Fini ~