|Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been
Author: Sapphire Smoke PM
"Are you now, or have you ever been so in love with someone that you forget to breathe, to eat, to live?" •Sophie/Tara• •Parker/Sophie•Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Angst - Parker & Sophie D. - Chapters: 3 - Words: 26,396 - Reviews: 12 - Favs: 21 - Follows: 9 - Updated: 08-13-11 - Published: 08-08-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7267674
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been
Author: Sapphire Smoke
Beta(s): dolfynrider on LJ
Pairing(s): Sophie/Tara & Parker/Sophie
Timeline: Post Season 3 finale, but before Season 4
Summary: "Are you now, or have you ever been so in love with someone that you forget to breathe, to eat, to live?"
A/N: It's been over a year since I've written for Leverage, but I recently noticed that this fandom still has a serious lack of femslash, so I decided to try to rectify that. This is pretty angsty at first, but it turns into a very sweet love story. So don't worry, there will be a happy ending :)
Sophie certainly didn't mean to fall in love with her.
Perhaps it was the passion of it all: the late night rendezvous when no one was looking, the orgasms that left her breathless, the feeling of yearning when she was left alone; nothing but the memory of the hours past to make her feel whole again. Tara Cole was like that though; she took what she wanted and didn't linger a second longer after she had gotten it. She was a constant in a life that was filled with changes. No matter where Sophie was, no matter who she was pretending to be that week, Tara would always find her.
At first Sophie didn't mind it. After all, it was a ridiculous notion; a grifter settling down. But each time Tara left her alone in another dark hotel room, her heart ached a little more. She wanted nothing more than to go after her; to ask her to stay, even if it was for another hour. But each and every time Sophie stayed silent, allowing Tara to walk out the door without question or hesitation. For someone who based their life around constant change, Sophie was terrified of changing their relationship. She was terrified that what they had now was all Tara really wanted and if given the choice, Sophie would rather have this than nothing at all.
Still, hiding her feelings was starting to get more and more difficult.
Sophie's eyes were shut tightly, her arm thrown haphazardly over her face as she bit down on the skin of her forearm, trying desperately to keep herself quiet. Tara's fingers were buried up to the knuckle inside of her, each fluid motion being met by the thrusts of Sophie's hips. Though Sophie found herself completely naked and at Tara's mercy beneath her, her blonde lover still had all of her clothes on. Sophie hated that, but only because it told her what this was: a quickie. Tara was going to take what she wanted from her and then rush out the door, not caring in the slightest that Sophie didn't get the chance to reciprocate; Tara had always been more of a giver than a receiver.
But it had been months since Sophie last saw her. Every inch of her body longed to touch her, taste her, fuck her. She wanted nothing more than to feel Tara's skin against hers; fill her so completely that Tara would know, she would finally just sodding know that she was hers… because Sophie was pretty sure she had always belonged to Tara, even long before she met her. Every breath she took was just another way to count the seconds until she saw the woman she loved again.
Tara's thumb slipped against her clit and Sophie whimpered, tossing her head to the side as she desperately grabbed for her with her free hand. Tara came without a fight, laying her body atop hers as she pushed Sophie's arm out of the way of her face. Though before Sophie could emit a loud sound of pleasure – possibly alerting the rest of the team to her extracurricular activities – Tara's lips collided with hers in a wave of bruising passion that stole the breath right from the grifter's lungs.
As Tara milked gasp after gasp from the woman beneath her, she smirked against her lips. "This is what I look forward to every day, y'know that? When I can do this to you again…" Her words were nothing more than a breathy whisper, and yet they felt like a scream to Sophie from the force they instilled. Tara had never told her that before… never said that she looked forward to it every day. Perhaps that really did mean something, but Sophie didn't have a moment to contemplate it; the pleasure was beginning to overwhelm her. "You're the sexiest fucking thing I've ever see, Fi," Tara finished in a whisper, using a nickname that Sophie always hated, yet found she loved when Tara was the one to call her that.
The words almost fell from her lips, but Tara didn't give her the chance. Her hand covered Sophie's mouth and she sped up the pace of her fingers, successfully managing to cloud the older woman's mind with immeasurable pleasure. "Don't," she pleaded softly in her ear. "Please don't."
Sophie wanted scream it out, regardless of Tara's protests. It was so hard keeping it inside. But instead she cried out loudly, the sound being muffled by Tara's hand. Her hips twitched in pleasure as her body shuddered beneath her, her orgasm hitting her fast and hard. Sophie's fingers curled in blonde hair, holding on to the only thing she ever wanted but could never completely have as she rode out her high.
Tara didn't even give her a moment to take a breath before she untangled herself from Sophie and climbed off the bed to smooth out the wrinkles in her clothing. "I have to go," she told her, without even making eye contact. Usually she would at least stay for a moment longer; kiss Sophie softly as she allowed her a moment to bask in her afterglow. Not tonight though; tonight she realized they both got a little too close to reality and was fleeing from it.
Not that Sophie should have expected anything different; this was what she was scared of, after all.
"Tara…" she tried, breathing labored as she struggled to get herself to a sitting position. When she finally was able to open her eyes to look at her, Tara already had the front door open.
"I'll see you." It was a promise that was again made without eye contact, making it feel fake.
But Tara was already out the door, leaving the brunette alone in the dark for the umpteenth time. Sophie bit her bottom lip hard, pulling her knees up to her chest as she ran her fingers through her hair, letting out a heavy breath as she tried to keep herself from crying. It was so hard though; she knew it was her that messed up. She almost said something that would have crossed the established boundaries the two of them had set up and though it pained her; it seemed obvious that what they had now was all that Tara was offering.
Sophie could only hope that her near slip up didn't cost her the little she was allotted though. After all, it was better to have something small than nothing at all.
If Sophie hadn't been conditioned to expect Parker to randomly turn up unannounced all the time, she probably would have startled her. The thief sat on her hotel room couch, without a care in the world about invading Sophie's privacy. Sophie sighed, clutching her towel to her body as she exited the bathroom.
"Parker, we talked about this."
"But if I knock, sometimes people don't answer."
Though it was a rational argument on the surface, it still gave Sophie a little twinge of annoyance. She wanted to explain to her that that was the point, but she knew the girl wouldn't listen to her so she would've been just wasting her breath if she tried.
"We need to get some sleep," she tried instead, running her fingers through her wet hair in an effort to untangle it. "We still have a job to do in the morning." Though it was a pretty standard, run of the mill type of con, it wasn't guaranteed that they wouldn't hit any snags. After all, nothing was ever perfect.
"You didn't sleep last night," Parker countered, "and you still did fine, outside of being really grumpy."
Sophie didn't really want to know how Parker knew that, so she merely answered with, "Which is more of a reason for me to sleep tonight." Last night she spent most of the evening crying over Tara. She knew she shouldn't have, after all it did end up causing her to be a little off of her game today, but she couldn't help it. She wondered if she'd ever see her again.
"Are you sad because of Nate?" Parker asked, completely dismissing Sophie's wish for sleep.
"Is it because of the sex you had with him?"
"No! What?" Sophie exclaimed, now looking at Parker with disbelief. How did she know they slept together? Though, yes, part of the whole ordeal with Nate made her upset, Sophie also knew that she slept with an emotionally unavailable man; it was bound not to lead to anything, at least not yet. Nate was only on the backburner of her mind, however. The forefront belonged to—
"Is it because of Tara then?"
Whatever Sophie was expecting, it wasn't that. As far as she knew, no one on the team knew she was seeing Tara.
"Why does she never say hi to us?" Parker went on to ask, looking a little let down by that fact. "She always says hi to you, but never to us. I don't understand."
Well, at least Parker didn't know she was sleeping with Tara; she would have had the answer to her question if she did.
"Parker, slow down," Sophie replied, holding up her hands to stop her as she took a breath. Her head felt like it was spinning from being bombarded with questions this late at night.
"You're still dripping," Parker observed, watching droplets of water fall from Sophie's hair to the floor. Sophie waved her hand at her, trying to get her to stop talking for two seconds. Trying to follow Parker's train of thought was maddening; she constantly jumped from place to place without any kind of connecting thought.
"Tara just came to get something from me; she had an early flight to catch so unfortunately she had to leave without saying hello to the rest of you," Sophie explained, half truthfully; trying to smooth this over seamlessly. "Maybe next time she'll be able to stay longer."
"But she never stays longer," Parker countered. "When we're in places like this, sometimes she comes by. I see her. Berlin, London, Italy," she listed off on her fingers, then waved her hand a little to indicate their current residence, "Paris. She only comes in your room and then leaves an hour later. Sometimes you cry after. Why do you cry, Sophie?"
"I…" Sophie started, but found she didn't exactly have an answer for her. Or rather, she chose not to answer her. It was too personal of a question and personal feelings were not something Sophie Devereaux shared very often. At least not on that level. So instead she asked, "How did you know she came by that often?" The thought perplexed her, after all.
"Eliot taught me how to listen to people's shoes; the way they walk," Parker explained with a proud smile. "Tara's easy to hear; she always wears loud shoes and she has a weird way of walking. I talked to Eliot about it once; asked if he heard her sometimes too. He said he did, but I don't think he cares that she doesn't say hi."
That was a bit too much. Not only Parker knew, but now Eliot too? She could only pray Eliot didn't care enough to find out why Tara visited so often. But then again, knowing him, he probably didn't. "Who else knows?" Sophie demanded, feeling a little overwhelmed all of a sudden.
Parker shrugged. "Hardison. Maybe Nate, but I didn't tell him." There was a beat, then, "Are you going to get dressed or just be naked all night?"
A towel hardly constituted as nakedness, so Sophie brushed it off. She was covered enough. Besides, knowing that the whole team probably knew about her late night trysts with the other grifter kind of took precedence over clothes. "How…?" she tried, but was interrupted.
"And you never answered my question," Parker said, cocking her head to side slightly to peer at her. "Why are you sad? You told me friends ask those sorts of questions so now I'm asking. It'd be rude if you didn't answer."
"I'm not sad, I'm fine," Sophie stressed, feeling like she was being interrogated. She sighed, running her hand along the back of her neck. This was too much to take in in one night. "Parker, please… I'd like to sleep."
"So you can cry?" Parker asked. The question was posed innocently, which seemed to enrage Sophie even more. She felt so exposed and… she didn't like it. Not at all.
"Do you get some kind of sick satisfaction from watching all of us when we think we're alone?" Sophie snapped. "Some things are meant to stay private. Some things are meant to stay hidden. I understand that you're a thief and that your mindset is to take things without asking, but we're not objects, Parker; we're people!"
The force of her outburst seemed to render Parker mute, at least momentarily. She stared at her, confusion masking the hurt that lingered beneath the surface. Sophie immediately felt like an asshole. She knew Parker was different; that she saw things differently, went about things differently. God knows she knew the entirety of Parker's social behavior was learned because of the time she spent time with them. It was obvious, however, that she had yet to learn that privacy was not a variable. They tried to teach her of course, but Parker was curious by nature and sometimes that overrode everything else.
"I'm… sorry," Sophie apologized. "I didn't—I mean, I know you're just trying to… care." She sighed, wishing she didn't take her frustration out on the girl. She didn't mean any harm, after all. "I've just had a hard couple of days. I shouldn't have yelled at you."
"I just wanted to know why you were sad," Parker replied quietly, fidgeting slightly in her seat. She was growing uncomfortable. She wringed her hands together rhythmically. "Did I ask it wrong? Hardison told me not to ask at all, but it keeps happening and friends are supposed to stop that sort of thing, I thought."
Hardison. Great. Hardison understood people. If given enough information, he could have connected the dots rather quickly. Sophie found herself slumping against the wall in defeat, looking over at the blonde on her couch.
"Everybody knows, don't they?" she asked softly. Her voice sounded so weak. It was one thing for her 'relationship' – quote, unquote – to practically make her come undone, it was quite another to find out everyone knew about it.
Parker shrugged, apparently not understanding the question entirely. "Eliot told me and Hardison about the sex you and Nate had, since he practically walked in on it, or so he said." Sophie's cheeks colored in embarrassment; she told Nate that Eliot wasn't stupid, but apparently Nate either thought he was or hoped he was. "He also knows Tara comes by sometimes," Parker added. "I told Hardison you cry when she leaves because I didn't understand why, but he started acting really funny and told me not to mention to you that I knew. I don't get it though. Do you like crying or something? Do you want her to make you cry? Is this some kind of kinky thing? Because I don't think it's very practical to have her fly all over the world to do that when you could just ask one of us to make you cry."
Oh, for God's sake. Parker's naivety was sometimes too much to grasp. She could take the most obvious things and somehow conclude something completely irrational.
"I'm sleeping with her, Parker."
Sophie didn't mean to say it, but perhaps she was just exasperated by Parker's millions of questions. Parker just wanted to understand. Well, now she understood. Sophie's cheeks felt hot as she stared at Parker, waiting for some kind of reaction.
Parker merely blinked.
"Oh," she said finally. "Oh. Oh, I get it." Then she paused, her face scrunching up in confusion. "Wait. I thought you liked Nate. Oh!" she interrupted, not waiting for Sophie to answer her. "Is that why Tara makes you cry? She's mad because you had sex with Nate?"
"No, she… well, I never told her that," Sophie admitted guilty. "Not… not that I think it would matter to her, either way. I'm sure she has other lovers." The sour tone in her voice seemed to tell Parker all she needed to know.
"And you don't want her to."
At least when Parker finally caught on to something, she really caught on to something. Which was thankful, seeing as her questions were starting to drive Sophie a bit mad.
"I think that's how I'm feeling, yes."
As far as replies went, 'hm' wasn't the best. Sophie swallowed, tightening the towel around her breasts a little self-consciously. "Please don't tell anyone else."
Parker looked up from her hands suddenly, to peer at her curiously. "Are you gay?" she asked. "I've never met a gay person before."
"No, I—" Sophie started, then paused as she reassessed the truth in that statement. "Actually, I'm not quite sure yet," she finished honestly. She was in love with a woman; that seemed pretty gay. However she wasn't completely against the touch of a man; Nate proved that.
"I won't tell anyone," Parker told her, a small smile being shot in her direction. It was meant to comfort. Strangely, it seemed to work.
Sophie flattened her back against the kitchen wall and suppressed a groan, hearing the greeting at her doorway. She had asked Nate to answer her door, thinking nothing of it. Tara hadn't been answering her calls for over two months; the last thing Sophie expected was for her to turn up on her doorstep, especially today of all days. Tara was never big on holidays.
Parker's jaw dropped open as she heard who was at the door as well. She started erratically gesturing and mouthing things both silently and dramatically; being extremely obvious that something of significance was happening when Sophie would rather have kept this low key. To quickly rectify the situation, she quickly grabbed Parker's arms and pulled her over to her, trying to keep her relatively still as Eliot turned around. Sophie shot him a tightlipped smile as she continued to force Parker's hands to her sides.
"What the hell are you guys doin'?" he grumbled, looking at them strangely. He was always particularly grumpier when people were in the kitchen when he was trying to cook and apparently two women flailing behind him wasn't helping matters. "If ya'll wanna act weird, go into the living room. I'm busy."
But Sophie wasn't listening to him anymore. She heard, "What are you doing here?" from Tara, a question that was posed more as an accusation. Parker tried to start erratically gesturing again, but Sophie held her arms to her sides tightly as she strained to listen. The sound of Tara's voice both excited and angered her; it was an odd feeling.
"I'm here for Sophie's birthday dinner," Nate answered flatly; obviously unhappy by the hostility he was greeted with. Tara and he left on good terms, so Nate wouldn't understand why she was acting this way. Hell, even Sophie didn't know why she was acting that way. Problem was, Nate hated not having all the answers, which meant he would be trying to get them, and soon. Which, ultimately, wouldn't work out in anyone's favor. "What are you doing here? Last I heard, you were in Morocco."
"Checking up?" Tara's tone was colored in displeasure.
"Sophie!" Parker hissed urgently, which Sophie shushed immediately and without second thought. If this was going to end up turning ugly, she would have to step in. But honestly, she'd rather not. She was actually quite content with being a coward at the moment; she wasn't sure if she could handle her lover (or was she an ex lover?) mingling with her friends, her family, while she was also present. That was bound to be disastrous.
"Making sure you stay out of trouble," Nate corrected. There was a distinct pause before he finished with, "Though now I'm wondering if that effort was wasted."
There was a silence that washed between the two for a moment that Sophie held her breath for. But instead of continuing to be confrontational, Tara merely sighed; sounding a little exhausted. "Sorry. I didn't mean to come off sounding like a bitch – it's been a rough day. You have no idea the hell I went to get here on time—"
"What?" Sophie snapped, frustrated by Parker's desperate attempt to get her attention for the better part of the last five minutes. She rounded on her while letting go of the thief's arms, finally allowing her movement.
"Guys!" Eliot exclaimed, apparently fed up himself. "Out of the kitchen. Now. I'm tryin' to make this nice fuckin' birthday dinner for you, so the least you could do is allot me some damn space." There was a distinct pause until he finished with, "Please," having known by Sophie's look that he was about to be lectured on rudeness again if he didn't.
"Fine," Sophie relented with an exasperated sigh. She knew she shouldn't have come in here; it was only a matter of time until Eliot complained about it. "Come on, Parker," she encouraged, turning to exit the kitchen. She could still hear Tara and Nate talking in the living room so she made a point to go the opposite way down the hall, slipping into her bedroom.
"Sophie!" Parker tried again. This time it was with a little more force; she didn't like being ignored. But stepping into her bedroom and seeing a man in it took priority with Sophie and she put her hands on her hips, not looking happy.
"Hardison, what are you doing in my bedroom?"
Hardison was cross-legged on her bed, laptop in his lap. He gestured at the machine like the answer should be obvious. "What does it look like I'm doing, woman; crocheting? Nate's been breathin' down my neck about unencrypting these damn files all day and apparently I ain't allowed to have dinner until it's done." There was no other way to describe the look that just crossed Hardison's face other than 'bitch, please.' "Uh uh," he went on, mumbling to himself as he shook his head. "Shit ain't right man, I'm telling you."
"I'll sneak you some dinner," Parker offered with a smile. It was returned to her, but only briefly before Hardison went back to being grumpy again; folding his arms across his chest and arching an eyebrow at Sophie. Sometimes she swears Eliot, Parker, and Hardison see her and Nate as the same person; they sure do get blamed for what the other does a lot.
"Nate can't stop you from eating," Sophie told him patiently, though her patience was actually starting to wear thin the more the evening wore on. "You know that. Besides, didn't I say 'no work' at my party? So put your computer away and go help set up the dinner table, please. Nate's supposed to be doing it but I think he got distracted, so I'd really appreciate it. And if he says anything to you, tell him to talk to me about it."
Hardison looked at her, hopeful and yet suspicious. He closed his laptop, placing it on the bed next to him. "You can really make him stop?" he asked, like the concept was unfathomable. "Because he's been acting like a tweeker on a mission the last couple days and I ain't lookin' to get run over."
"What's a tweeker?"
Sophie ignored Parker for the millionth time that day, choosing instead to deal with one person at a time. "I promise I can make him stop." She actually didn't have the faintest clue on how to make Nate stop; she only knew how to slow him down for a bit. But Hardison was right; he had been like a tornado lately – blazing a path through everyone and everything without caring who he knocked over in the process. That could get dangerous if left unchecked for a while.
Sophie could see Parker glaring at her out of the corner of her eye so she explained, "A tweeker is someone who's addicted to methamphetamines, Parker." The glare immediately disappeared. Really, it was scary how simple it was to please her sometimes.
"Oh." Parker scrunched her face up before finishing, "Right, I should have known that."
Sophie hoped Parker thought she should have known because of that job she did where she had to be a meth addict; and not for any other reasons. Then again, Parker seemed to detest any kind of chemical in her body – even regular medicine – so it was doubtful narcotics were even on her radar.
"Count it as a good thing that you don't, girl," Hardison told her as crossed the room, giving her a little shoulder bump on his way out the door. Parker tried to contain her smile, but wasn't succeeding at it in the slightest as she watched him leave.
But then she turned around just as suddenly. "Oh!" she exclaimed, immediately excited that she now had Sophie's complete and undivided attention. "Sophie! She came for your birthday!" This fact apparently elated Parker with some sort of uncontrollable glee, because she was practically jumping up and down.
"I know," Sophie answered slowly, confused as to why Parker looked like she was about to fly around on a rainbow and meet Puff the Magic Dragon over something that didn't even involve her. Meanwhile, Sophie was left standing there alone and in a rainbowless land, actively debating on either running up to Tara or jumping out of the nearest window just to get away from her. Both options looked pretty appealing.
"So if she hated you she wouldn't have came. Duh."
As surprising as it probably was, Parker had become Sophie's sanity over the last couple months. She was the only one who really knew what was going on and Sophie found that once she had someone to talk to about it, she felt a million times better. It was ironic; a woman who lived her life keeping secrets ending up being so burdened by one. Sophie didn't even realize how much it had been crushing her until she was relieved of the weight.
Parker wasn't the best person to talk to in the world if you were looking for empathy, but she was great at seeing things exactly how they were, without all the barriers of confusing emotions since she seemed to actually go out of her way to not have many of them. Sophie had once, dramatically, said that she was sure Tara hated her since she was going out of her way to avoid her. Parker responded by telling her that could very well be true, which of course didn't help Sophie's paranoia any. But Parker seemed excited to be proved wrong and honestly, Sophie was kind of glad she was too.
"Yeah, I know."
Parker furrowed her eyebrows, "Why don't you sound excited? If she doesn't hate you, she might have come back to sex you. That's good, right?"
Sophie wished she had the effort to explain to Parker how it was so much more than just sex, but she just didn't. Not that it mattered anyway; they were interrupted by a figure leaning in the threshold of the doorway.
"I would say the sex is good, but then I might sound like I'm bragging."
Sophie nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw Tara standing there, arms crossed over her chest as she looked at the two of them. "I see that 'secret' was more of a suggestion," she started, looking pointedly at Parker who obviously very much knew the situation, "and not the unbreakable rule that you had made it out to be."
Sophie flushed in annoyance. Tara had no right to come in here and start getting pissy at her; she was the one who fell off the bloody map. "Parker, will you give Tara and I a moment?" Sophie asked, her eyes not leaving Tara's for a second. She decided on an emotion: anger. It was safer and it was far, far easier than the alternative.
"Okay, but don't sex in here because dinner's soon," Parker told them, as casually as she would tell one about the weather. Tara cocked an eyebrow at her. "Besides, Nate's already grumpy; you'll make it worse," she finished before exiting the room, leaving her words hanging over their heads like a pile of bricks.
"So you are fucking him."
"Close the door," Sophie told her, not about to have this conversation with her where everyone could hear. Tara stepped aside to close the door before leaning against it, looking less than thrilled. Sophie really didn't want to deal with this right now, on her birthday of all days, yet all she could remember was waiting for Tara to show up on her doorstep again. Now that she had, Sophie wasn't sure if she was emotionally capable enough to handle this conversation.
"We had sex once," she admitted as she paced back and forth, running her fingers through her hair. But then she stopped suddenly, rounding on her. "And you know, you can't just come in here and act like you actually have some kind of claim on me when I haven't heard a single word from you in months. Hell, even before that you had no right – you couldn't even call what we had a bloody relationship!"
Tara at least had the decency to look a little ashamed of herself, but it was brief. She set her jaw and straightened up, obviously not comfortable with her own emotions. "I told you years ago I don't do relationships, Fi."
"And yet you can come in here and act like a jealous prat over Nate?" Sophie countered, pointing out at the living room. "You haven't earned that right, Tara. In fact, I'm not even sure why I'm allowing you in my house right now when recently all you've done is make a point to blatantly ignore me because of your own selfish insecurities."
Tara colored in anger; she hated being called insecure. "Like I said, we weren't in a relationship; so why should it matter if I up and bailed? I had some stuff I needed to think about and fuck knows I needed some space to breathe. So sorry if I didn't update you on my every waking breath, but last I checked I was still my own person."
"We were in a relationship, you stupid prat!" Sophie burst out, furious that Tara still couldn't accept that. "Maybe it was based on sex, but it was still a relationship we had with each other for the last five years."
Tara was silent for a long moment, staring at her intently while she chewed on the inside of her cheek. She was trying to stop herself from screaming at her and was having a difficult time containing it. It was no surprise that Tara, who had an explosive personality, was quick to rush to anger; especially if it involved something personal. But over the last five years Sophie had tried to help her suppress that as a first instinct, which was probably the only reason Tara was taking deep breaths right now. It was still a little while until she spoke though, but when she did her voice was at a normal volume.
"Look, I didn't come here to do this," Tara told her, holding up her hands in light surrender. "I just… I wanted to say 'Happy Birthday'; that was it. I didn't want to make this into a huge thing."
"That's it?" Sophie asked incredulously. "You came out here just to wish me a happy sodding birthday?"
"Fi, come on; trust me when I tell you that you don't want to have this conversation right now," Tara replied, which made a sinking feeling form in the pit of Sophie's stomach. That didn't sound good at all. Especially since Tara's tone had a bit of a beg to it; she obviously didn't want to do this now either. But that didn't matter – Sophie knew something was up. She couldn't wait three more months or however long it would be until Tara decided to talk to her. That'd kill her.
"What is it?
"What is it?" Sophie asked again, voice firmer as she looked her dead in the eyes. She wasn't about to let this go and Tara needed to get the message.
Tara threw up her hands in frustration, giving up on being calm. "Why are pushing this?" she demanded angrily. "I don't want to do this to you on your birthday – that's fucked up. You're my friend; I don't actively go around trying to upset you, contrary to what you may believe at the moment."
"You don't want to do what to me on my birthday?" Sophie asked dangerously, choosing to focus on her anger; it was the only thing keeping her from falling apart on the spot. "I think after the last two months, I at least deserve to know what the hell is going on."
Tara looked at her, letting out a breath she seemed to have been holding. She looked regrettable, but that didn't soften the blow any. Her words were expected at this point, but they still felt like daggers in her heart. "I can't give you what you want from me, Fi. I don't think I'll ever be able to."
Sophie felt sick at those words.
"And it's not like I didn't try; never in my life have I even considered being someone's… I don't know, everything." Tara said the word like it was ridiculous, waving her hand like it should be dismissed. The woman thought love was a con though, Sophie knew that, and yet it didn't stop Tara's words from hurting; Sophie felt like she was being suffocated. "But that's why I needed space, to figure out what the hell I wanted," she explained. "I thought you at least deserved that; a real, thought out answer instead of something born from impulse."
"It's not like it changed anything."
Sophie could hear how sad she sounded and she hated it. She didn't want Tara to know she had that much power over her. It was irrational seeing as she was sure Tara knew she was in love with her, which was what prompted this whole 'self-evaluation' in the first place. Still, it was one more thing Tara would have and Sophie refused to give it to her. She may not be able to stop herself from sounding upset, but she damn sure wasn't going to cry in front of her.
"I can't apologize for who I am," Tara told her softly, a sympathetic look on her face that Sophie wished she could slap off. She didn't need her sympathy. "Look, I don't… want to stop what we have going on," she told her, prompting Sophie's eyes to widen at the set of balls this woman had on her. "I like you, I like the sex; it's fun. But if you can't handle it – if you know you're going to keep wanting something more than I can give you – then maybe we should just… go our separate ways."
Go their separate ways? Is it really that simple for her; to leave and never look back? Though the prospect pained her, Sophie still found herself wondering if that would actually be better for both of them.
Maybe Tara was expecting her to make her decision the second after she gave her the available options, but it didn't matter because they were interrupted by a pounding on the door. "Eliot says you need to get Hardison out of the kitchen before he ends up stuffing him for dinner instead," Parker informed them. "And I don't think he'd taste very good."
Sophie let out a heavy breath, trying to gather up her emotions and suppress them, at least for now. There was a time and a place to fall apart and right now wasn't it; it was her sodding birthday. She didn't want to deal with this, but at the same time… she knew she couldn't have gone without knowing.
Tara was still looking at her like she expected an answer, but instead Sophie turned away, opening the door. "Yeah, Parker. I'm coming."
Sophie waited over two months to hear Tara's answer and right now? She was seriously considering returning the favor. If she could wait, so could Tara.
"Are you a masochist?"
The question sounded far away, but the body that flopped down on her bed (couch? What the hell was she sleeping on?) seemed very solid by the way it made her whole body shift; alerting Sophie to a nausea problem she wasn't aware she had until that moment. The grifter groaned, her whole body feeling like bricks as she struggled to get herself to a sitting position. When she opened her eyes she nearly had a panic attack until she realized that though it wasn't all that familiar, she did actually know where she was: Parker's house.
If you could call her living in a half empty warehouse a "house." It might just be insulting to the word, honestly.
She was in Parker's bed, half laying on some comic books and a stuffed rabbit. The owner of said things was sitting next to her, peering at her like she was something interesting that needed to be studied. Really, all Sophie felt right now was that she was something hung over that needed aspirin. "How did I get here?" she asked, her voice coming out scratchy.
"Are you a masochist?" Parker repeated again, apparently not about to give any answers unless she herself was privy to one. Sophie didn't understand why Parker decided that this random question was in dire need to answering now, but she replied:
"Not that I'm aware of, no." She shifted on the bed, groaning softly as she tried to get herself upright to help with her overwhelming nausea. "How did I get here?" she asked again, since Parker was doing nothing else but looking at her like she had five heads.
"You called. I drove," she answered shortly. She was still turning her head ever so slightly as she peered at Sophie, as if a different angle might bestow on her the answer that she was obviously looking for. "Are you sure you're not a masochist?"
"What? No. Why?" Sophie asked, getting irritated by the constant question. Once was enough.
"Well," Parker started, sitting back on her heels and beginning in a tone like she was explaining something to a child, "Usually when people want to be happy they stay away from the things that make them hurt." She looked at her pointedly. "You're having sex with the thing that makes you hurt. So now I'm wondering if it's because you like getting hurt."
Sophie wanted to bang her head against the bed railing, but thought better of it due to her headache. She didn't tell Parker she was seeing Tara again for this very reason – she'd end up making her see things she didn't want to see; like the shit right in front of her face. It was nearly a month that Sophie managed to evade giving Tara her answer and she really, truly meant to walk away. But when the time came to say those words, all she did was kiss her.
This month has pretty much gone downhill from there.
And now, as Sophie lay in someone else's bed disastrously hung over, missing a shoe, and feeling fucked raw, she couldn't help but feel like a bit of a slag. It really didn't matter that she wasn't in the bed of the person she slept with, but just the fact that she couldn't even make it home was rather pathetic. Sophie was also pretty sure her and Tara had sex in a bar bathroom last night which was… about the most unclassy thing she had ever done in her life. But it was this whirlwind she had gotten herself caught up in – the wanting, the pain of wanting; getting completely sloshed only so she could emotionally handle getting fucked like a cheap prostitute by the woman she was in love with… it was all so disastrously messed up and yet Sophie felt addicted to it.
Maybe she was a bit of a masochist.
"She's a bloody amazing shag," was the only thing Sophie gave Parker as an excuse. It sounded weak, even to her own ears. It was absolutely true though. Tara was an amazing lover; she gave a lot and what she gave you made your toes curl and your hairs stand on end. Still, Sophie wanted to give some too; taste her, touch her, fuck her. And she was able to… sometimes. But it wasn't enough. The sex was fucking fantastic, sure; but most of it was completely one sided. Sophie wished she knew why.
"You can have sex with someone else that's amazing too," Parker told her. "It doesn't have to be her. She doesn't have to hurt you." That. That was what Sophie loved and hated about this girl at the same time. She had the tendency to hit Sophie with logical solutions that sometimes, like now; she just didn't want to hear. Either way though, things like that still needed to be said, and that was what Parker was there for. She paused for a moment, narrowing her eyes again as she studied Sophie. "Unless you like it. You never told me if you liked it."
"I don't know if I like it." It was the most honest answer she could give at the moment; she was hung over, the last thing she wanted to do was analyze herself. Sophie sighed heavily, rubbing her temples as she stared out into the fading blackness of Parker's warehouse. "I don't know why I want her anymore," she admitted softly, "just that I do."
"You love her," Parker answered for her.
The confirmation sounded depressing coming out of her mouth, but then again, loving someone who can't, or won't love you back is rather depressing in and of itself.
Sophie looked over at her, not sure whether or not to be offended by that. It wasn't very often that she got told what her feelings should and shouldn't be. "Why?" she asked, curious as to Parker's reasonings.
"Because even I make you happier than she does, and I annoy you."
That broke Sophie's heart a little.
Immediately she replied with, "You don't annoy me, Parker."
It made Sophie feel like shit; knowing that was what Parker thought. What made it worse was that she knew why she thought that; lately she had been incredibly short-tempered with her, or at least much more than usual. Sophie used to be patient with her, understanding. And she still was sometimes, but it wasn't nearly as much as it used to be. She used to take care of Parker; look after her. Now it seemed to be the other way around.
Maybe things changed because for the first time in Sophie's life, someone knew something incredibly significant about her; that alone was bound to make her uncomfortable. But that didn't excuse the fact that while she has been sitting here throwing a pity party for herself the last couple of months, Parker had been working on trying to be a better friend to her.
Just so she can stop being sad.
Parker would tell her all the time that she wanted to stop the sadness, because that's what she was told friends did, but she didn't know how. It frustrated her, yet she kept trying. It was so simple to her: Sophie was sad, Sophie was her friend, so she had to fix it. A plus B equaled C. The only problem was, the reason Sophie was sad went far beyond what Parker was capable of emotionally understanding. Maybe one day she'd understand, but that day wasn't now. It didn't matter though, whether Parker understood it or not – she still tried.
"Come here, sweetie," Sophie encouraged, holding her hands out to Parker. She just wanted to hug her. The girl had been nothing but good to her these last few months and yet Sophie had been too wrapped up in her own bullshit to really notice until now.
Parker assessed her invitation carefully. Sophie knew she still wasn't too big on touching, but sometimes she indulged in it for other people's sake. Today seemed to be one of those days as she climbed into Sophie's arms, allowing the grifter to settle back into the bed and hold her. "You've been a great friend to me these last couple months," Sophie told her softly, stroking her hair. The gesture seemed to comfort Parker a little because one minute she was as stiff as a board and the next Sophie could feel some of her muscles start to relax. It wasn't enough – Parker would always be on edge – but she did allow her hand to drape over Sophie's stomach instead of keeping her arms tight to her sides like she usually did when confronted with physicality. It made the brunette smile, even though it was clear Parker didn't know what to do with her hand now that it was there; she kept playing with her fingers. Baby steps, though.
"I know I can be a bit of a prat when I get self-involved, but I don't think you're annoying," Sophie told her, letting her nails lightly rake Parker's scalp as she toyed with her hair. "You can annoy me, yes; but so does everyone else on the bloody team sometimes. That's normal." She looked down at Parker's fidgeting hand and reached down, covering it with her own. Parker seemed even less sure what to do about that and she immediately froze, but Sophie continued. "I just want you to know that you're appreciated."
Parker was silent for a little while after that and Sophie wondered if she broke her with the sudden overload of affection. "This is confusing," Parker admitted. Then immediately following that she mentioned offhandedly, "Your boob is very comfortable."
Parker, who probably didn't realize why Sophie was laughing, still smiled anyway. She was happy she made Sophie laugh; that was one step further away from sad. The change in atmosphere made Parker relax again, feeling a little bit better about the situation. "I've never laid on someone's boob before," she explained. "I like it." She then paused as she came to a realization. "Does that make me gay?"
And just when Sophie's laughter died down, it started right back up again.
"No," Sophie told her, shaking her head as she tried to calm her laughter. Parker was adorable without even trying to be and after a night like last night, that was what she needed. "No, it doesn't make you gay. There's quite a big difference between finding them comfortable and finding them arousing."
"What if it's both?"
Sophie's laughter died in her throat. She immediately started to worry that she may have inadvertently been influencing Parker into something that might not even be right for her; the girl did tend to mimic the people she was around a lot. Perhaps she thought it made her look more normal, or maybe that was just how she learned new social behaviors. Sophie wasn't sure why Parker did what she did, but she knew better than to ask. Parker wasn't big on sharing things like that.
"Then it's both," Sophie replied softly, shrugging. She didn't know what else to say; it was entirely possible she was worrying for no reason, so she didn't bring it up. Parker did tend to say strange things, after all. Her meaning for things didn't necessarily coincide with the rest of the world's meaning for things. "I can't tell you what you are, Parker. It's not for me to decide."
"Oh." That answer seemed to satisfy Parker for a moment and the two of them lay there on her bed, probably being the closest to each other in that moment than they had been with anyone else in their entire lives. Parker never did stuff like this and Sophie… well she never got the chance to just lie comfortably with someone. Even post sex cuddling – if she got it – was barely even cuddling at all. It was more touching each other to feel the sensation. It had a purpose; a goal. This didn't; it just was what it was.
Parker started walking her fingers along Sophie's stomach, apparently becoming intrigued by the movement. Or perhaps even becoming intrigued by the fact that she was allowed to make the movement. Regardless, she watched her fingers carefully as she let them walk across Sophie's shirt. "There's people who love you more than her," Parker told her, voice filled with concentration that Sophie was sure she was faking as she watched her fingers move. It wasn't often that Parker did one thing when she felt another, but this was one of those times where she decided she needed to pretend she wasn't as invested in the conversation as she was. "Eliot, Hardison, Nate, Me," she listed off, each name being another step of her fingers. "We love you more. So why not love us instead of her?"
"That's a different kind of love, Parker," Sophie explained. But Parker shook her head, turning to look up at her for the first time since they got in this position.
"No, it's not. There's only one kind of love, Sophie."
Sophie gave her a patient, half smile. The world would be much simpler if it was according to Parker. "Just because you've only felt one kind of love, doesn't mean that others don't exist."
Parker, instead of trying to understand like she usually did, outright glared at her. "You don't know how I feel," she told her strongly, sounding offended. Sophie's eyes went a little wide; she wasn't expecting that.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to presume I did."
Parker rolled her eyes and turned away from her, but only to settle back down against her breast. "Everybody compartmentalizes love," she told her. "You guys keep things in boxes and then separate people into categories to fit into those boxes. But you split it up too much and people can't fit in the boxes anymore; they're too big for this little thing you're trying to squish them in."
Sophie just stared at her, a little in shock that Parker was initiating an actual conversation that would require both thought and explanation. Parker lived on the surface; surface emotions, surface ideas, surface facts. Black and white. Things either were or they weren't. She was rather simple, honestly. Not in the stupid way, but in the way that she never made things complicated: she could look at something and see it for what it was, not what people made it out to be. Yet now, for the first time since Sophie met her, Parker was having a conversation with her that required more than just a sentence in explanation; that was far from simple. Then again, she was explaining how everyone else looked at love, not how she did. Her way may very well be simple. It was a maddening concept – simple love – but Sophie found herself intrigued by what Parker had to say.
"Family love goes here," Parker tells her, placing an imaginary box on Sophie's stomach. "Friendship love goes here." Another imaginary box landed on Sophie's stomach. "Romantic love. Sexual love," she listed, placing a box for each category.
"But then, like that isn't enough, you guys split them up even more." Parker touched the first imaginary box. "Family love; a different love for your parents, your siblings, your children, even your dog." She moved on to the next box and explained, "Friendship love is confusing, since sometimes people hold secret romantic love for their friends. Or a sexual love. Or they love them 'like a brother'. Yet instead of crossing over to make more room, you squish them all into an even smaller box. I don't know why; it's impractical."
It was odd; Sophie felt like she knew what she was saying, yet still felt completely lost. So she let her continue.
"Anyway, so there are boxes being inside boxes that can even be inside other boxes, right?" Parker went on, waving her hand as if to encourage herself to move on. "So you put someone in a box, wanting to feel their love since you love them. But the problem is, there's barely enough room for the person in the itty bitty box you gave them, let alone enough room for the love they want to give you. You squished them so much that they feel suffocated and nobody wants to give the person who's suffocating them a bunch of love. That's just stupid."
"That doesn't always happen though," Sophie replied, hoping she was following Parker's train of thought correctly. "You can feel a lot of love from someone you compartmentalized."
"But not real love," Parker told her, turning her head to look up at her. "Not whole, unbroken up love. You only get a little; you just think it's a lot because it's all you've ever felt. But if you smash your boxes and love everyone the same, then the love goes everywhere; it's not contained. You can love them and they can love you. I don't understand why people think 'how' you love someone matters – it doesn't. Love isn't a bunch of things; it's one big thing. So stop squishing it, please."
Sophie looked at her, not exactly knowing what to say to that. That was entirely more in depth than she ever thought it would be and she could only make sense of about half of it. "Honestly, I can't believe you just explained all that to me," Sophie said, still a little in shock. "You're usually very purposeful with your speech and ideas – they're straightforward and simple. That was anything but."
Parker merely shrugged. "I think a lot. I just don't like saying a lot because no one seems to understand when I do. If no one understands then it's a waste of time." She looked at Sophie quizzically before asking, "Did you understand?"
"I think I understood what you were trying to say, but I don't understand how you can love everyone the same, no," Sophie answered. "If you smashed the boxes that would mean you felt every one of those things for every person you loved."
"Yeah," Parker agreed, not seeing where Sophie was getting hung up on this.
"So you love Nate," Sophie started, trying to get this right. "You love me, and Hardison, and Eliot, right?" Parker nodded. "So then you're telling me you think of us as family, as friends, as romantic interests, and sexual interests? All of us?"
Parker blinked, confused by Sophie's tone when she said that. "Yes," she answered. "I love you guys. And I know you guys love me, even though you squish me in little boxes and I get cramped. We're supposed to all love each other the same, but you guys are doing it wrong."
Sophie cocked an eyebrow at that statement. Apparently, Parker's world was right and everyone else's was wrong. That was new.
"So you're suggesting that to love properly I should want to call you my family, yet also want to sleep with you?"
Parker looked at her funny before she turned back around, scooting down a little so she could lay her head on Sophie's stomach. "I'm not telling you to do things. You can do things how you want, even if they're wrong. I don't care." Parker, apparently having decided she liked touching today, chose to let her fingertips explore Sophie's thighs. Which would have been fine, really, if she didn't push up the bottom of the dress Sophie was wearing to do it. "I just think you should love someone who loves you back," Parker told her. "Fully. Not just for sex, like Tara does."
"This is bordering on inappropriate touching," Sophie informed her as Parker's fingers got dangerously close to a place that their friendship could not come back from. Parker's hand froze for a moment before she retracted it, sighing a little.
"You have pretty skin," she told her.
"Thank you. I don't mind if you touch me, Parker; but I would appreciate it if you stuck to parts of me that didn't include erogenous zones." She tried to make it sound like a light joke, but the truth was Sophie had enough problems with Tara, and she wasn't stupid – Parker was an attractive girl. She needed to set boundaries so she didn't go off halfcocked and repeat her same mistakes over again.
Sophie watched as Parker let out a long breath of air, rolling over so she could face her. She kept her head on Sophie's stomach, looking up at her like she was the most complex creature on the face of the earth. "You don't understand."
Sophie furrowed her brows, not sure what they were talking about now. "Understand what?"
Parker looked up at her sadly, her fingers picking idly at Sophie's shirt. "Everything. I thought you would, but you didn't." She frowned, shrugging a little as she looked down at the bedspread. "I can't stop you from being sad, Sophie."
Sophie knew Parker never had that power, but it was still a little disheartening to see Parker give up and not even knowing the reason why.