A/N: Hey, I wrote a Leverage fic! lol So, this is part of a series I actually started in 2009, writing a happy family Christmas for the characters in various fandoms. Now comes the turn of the Leverage crew, who I have reunited, two years after the series finale, with a couple of surprises along the way ;)
Disclaimer: All recognisable characters belong to John Rogers, Dean Devlin, Chris Downey, TNT, and other folks who aren't me. Unrecognisable characters belong to me (Ultrawoman).
A Reunited Family Christmas
It was going to be quite the occasion. That was why Eliot and Hardison weren't quite so shocked by the change in Parker these past couple of weeks. She seemed to grow up a whole lot when Nate and Sophie left, she had to really, taking on the lead role in the crew. Not that there was really a leader as such, all the roles had shifted so much over time. None of that mattered now. The whole focus of the three-person Leverage crew was Christmas, and the family reunion that the occasion was going to bring.
Parker had been pretty much bouncing off the walls from the moment Sophie called and invited them all over to England. She had a house there, a safe place where she and Nate were known by different names, and had built a life for themselves. They had other homes around the world, and though they were never sure exactly where their old friends were at any one time, Eliot, Hardison, and Parker knew if they needed them, Mom and Dad would come running.
So far, so good. They managed not to get themselves into any trouble they couldn't also get out of as they continued their heists and cons on those that deserved to be taken down. Meanwhile they co-ordinated with other crews to pull off some bigger missions, to see justice done for so many.
Now was their time off, a well earned rest, something they rarely if ever took. For two whole weeks, they were going to just be regular people, or as regular as people like them ever were. Parker's Tigger-like bouncing and excitement for Christmas in general was legendary, and knowing she was going to see Sophie and Nate again after so long sent her into over-drive. That wasn't so bad on solid ground, but it had been damn crazy on a plane and was no better now they were walking through the airport to meet up with their friends.
"Damnit, Parker!" Eliot cussed as she jostled against him. "Can't you stay calm for five more minutes?" he urged her.
"How are you not excited?" she asked him. "Why is it just me?" she said, looking from him to Hardison on her other side.
"Maybe 'cause we is the ones carrying all the luggage like a pair of Jeeves, while you bound around like a princess?" the hacker told her, more amused by her actions than he was prepared to let on right now.
Parker paid no heed to either guy, especially when they came through the doors and spotted Sophie and Nate waiting for them. The blonde went barrelling towards her loved ones, with Eliot and Hardison no less pleased to see their old friends. The surprise came when a tiny figure, much like a miniature version of Sophie and yet sporting Nate's eyes, came toddling towards the Leverage team members, staring curiously up at Eliot and Hardison with a grin on her lips.
"Lily Samantha Ford!" Sophie snapped sharply at the toddler who had slipped her hand.
They had kept her a secret, a daughter it seemed, and Hardison looked bowled over by the realisation. Eliot was less taken aback and entirely comfortable with dropping his bags and meeting the little girl that seemed enamoured with him already.
Lily Samantha. She seemed to be named for flowers as pretty as she was, though in truth Sophie had another reason for the name, one that perhaps only the team really knew, and even then they never spoke of it. Samantha was more easily explained. She was no replacement, nobody ever could be, but Sam was for the half brother she would never meet, at least not in this world, but she would know all about him, Nate and Sophie were going to see to that, as she grew older. For now she was a thirteen month old bundle of fun wearing an adorable smile that could melt the coldest heart. Even Sophie caved every time at the look that was directly inherited from her.
"A year old and I can already deny her nothing," she sighed, looking to Nate for support and comfort. "By the time she's a teenager, she'll be impossible."
"She'll be fine," he said, kissing her temple. "We've coped with each other, and with three different kinds of kids," he said, shooting a look at his old team. "She'll be fine," he repeated of Lily who giggled as 'Uncle' Eliot swept her up in his arms for a hug.
She knew them all already, from pictures and stories, and had been so excited to meet her two uncles and her aunt so often spoken of.
"Well, ain't you just lucky you look so much like your Momma?" Eliot smirked, eyes twinkling with fun as he glanced at Nate.
"I'm not going to argue with you," the mastermind agreed. "How are you, Eliot?"
"'M doin' okay," he agreed, apparently not willing to explain the remnants of a black eye or the obvious bandage around his bicep that showed through his shirt sleeve. "Keepin' these cats out of trouble ain't always easy, but we all do what we gotta do," he shrugged.
Lily babbled some to herself, reaching across Eliot to tug on Parker's long blonde hair.
"Hey!" she complained, leaning away from the grabby hands of the baby.
Honestly, she wasn't entirely thrilled with the new addition to the team. Of course she was happy for Sophie who had always alluded to wanting marriage and kids with Nate one day. Now she had everything, but Parker wasn't totally sold on the idea. Up to now, she was usually treated like the kid, and actually, in spite of the fact she knew all of the advantages to being a grown woman, she had kind of liked being mothered... and fathered, if that was even the right word. Now all attention was on Lily, as Eliot bounced the baby girl in his arms and Hardison tried to teach her to high five.
"Parker?" said Sophie, touching her shoulder. "How's my grown up little girl?" she asked with a warm smile.
Parker looked around fast and a smile crept onto her own lips. It was almost as if Sophie had read her mind just now, and as freaky as that might've felt years ago when they first met, Parker liked it these days. Nate and Sophie were so smart, Parker wouldn't exactly be surprised if she found that they did read minds for real. As it was she just enjoyed the fact that she was maybe still one of the centres of attention. All out of the blue, she threw herself at Sophie and hugged her tight.
"Oh, okay," the older woman was a little startled, but happily hugged her back.
"I missed you," Parker whispered like a secret.
"We missed you too, sweetie."
The house was big, exquisitely decorated, finely furnished. Sophie had impeccable taste, and Nate sure knew a thing or two about the finer things in life too. They had the money, the means, and no reason not to live a good life. As far as their team were concerned, they had certainly earnt this retirement of sorts.
There was no forgetting it was Christmas in this home either. Immediately they got in through the front door, Lily started scrambling to get down from Eliot's grip, a place she had been all the way home from the airport. It seemed Eliot's way with women extended right down to the youngest females in the world, they all just loved him.
Lily toddled as fast as she could through to what turned out to be the living room, and Parker, Eliot, and Hardison all followed. There in that particular room stood the tallest most beautiful Christmas tree any of them had ever seen, even more impressive than Parker's tree in Boston years ago, replete with all her greatest stolen treasures. There was no doubting this was a family home, and a happy one at that.
"Damn, woman!" Hardison shook his head and then glanced towards Sophie. "This is like Christmas at Disneyland crossed with somethin' out of a Victorian painting and... I don't even know," he told her.
Sophie laughed like a bell.
"It's just a little decoration, Hardison," she waved away his words with her hand. "The tree is mostly for Lily... and for Parker," she whispered the last part, but her point was proven as the blonde was spotted sinking to her knees in front of the fabulous tree.
"We had a feeling you'd like it," said Nate beside her, his fingers messing with Lily's hair where she clung to his pant leg.
"It's amazing!" said Parker with wide eyes. "It's amazing just being here."
That made Nate smile, and the grin only grew when Eliot appeared beside him.
"She ain't wrong," he said definitely. "Don't get me wrong, I ain't gone soft these past couple of years, but it ain't bad seeing family after so long."
His eyes never left the star on top of the Christmas tree, even when Nate looked sideways at him to observe the almost child-like look of wonder even present on the hitter's face. This time of year, well, Sophie called it magical. Nate still struggled with his faith in anything these days, never mind getting into actual magic, but having these people in his life again, even if only for a couple of weeks, it sure felt good, like some kind of miracle that they were all back together, a family, just like Eliot said.
"Hey, y'know what'd really pull this room together?" Hardison was heard to say then. "A fifty inch flat screen right here!"
He was gesturing at the back wall and Sophie looked like a landed fish with the shock of such a ridiculous suggestion. She launched into a whole speech about the antique wallpaper and what a heinous thing it would be to put holes in her precious walls. Eliot rolled his eyes as Nate broke out into a chuckle. On hearing the sound, Lily laughed too, though she didn't know why. She tripped forward to where Parker knelt still and put her little hand on the woman's shoulder.
"Pretty," she said.
"Sure is," Parker agreed, assuming Lily spoke of the tree.
"Pretty, pretty," the little girl repeated, tiny little fingers messing with Parker's hair.
The blonde looked down when she realised what Lily meant. She wasn't calling the Christmas tree pretty, she meant Parker herself, or at the very least the colour of her hair. She laughed at the odd realisation.
"Thank you," she smiled, all the encouragement Lily needed to throw herself at Parker, her little arms reaching around her neck to hug her tight.
For a moment, Parker went stiff, and then she relaxed a little and hugged the baby girl back. She kind of always wanted a little sister of her own, or maybe she just wanted one now because she knew she could have one. Either way, maybe it wasn't so bad to have a new addition to the team for this Christmas reunion.
After Lily was put to bed, they fell into old times as if they had never been apart. The little girl was all dressed up in her footy pyjamas, as Sophie helped her put out cookies for Santa and hang a stocking over the fire place. She looked pleased as she stood back and saw the whole row of stockings in pretty colours, each bearing a name of one of the extended family she had met today. She didn't understand the jumble of letters, she was far too young, but Mummy and Daddy told her that every person had a stocking, and in the morning it would be full of presents from Santa Claus.
Lily dutifully kissed her father, both her uncles, and her aunt, before her mother took her up to bed and laid her down to sleep for the night. Once left alone, the team talked of life as it was now for all of five minutes, as the drink began flowing, then got back into old stories of adventures shared. They got through more than one bottle of champagne, several beers, and a good amount of scotch between them as they reminisced on cons and other good times from the past. Laughter was heard ringing from the living room way into the night, it was surprising they didn't wake the baby, but no stirring came through the monitor at all.
The mantle clock softly chimed midnight, stopping Nate mid-remembrance of a previous Christmas season in L. they had saved St Nicholas church for his friend, Father Paul. The striking of the clock meant they had been talking way too late, that it was now no longer Christmas Eve but Christmas Day.
"Merry Christmas, everyone," said Sophie with a smile.
"Yes, indeed. Merry Christmas," agreed Hardison.
Eliot and Nate shared the same sentiment, as Parker slept silently on the couch. She had started to fade about an hour ago, sliding further and further down in her seat, leaning more heavily on Eliot's shoulder. She was now completely dead to the world with her head in his lap and he hadn't flinched at all, just absently stroked her hair now and then when she stirred a little.
"It's best she's asleep," said Sophie, rising from her seat as elegantly as she always had. "I know she can't really believe in Santa at her age but..."
She went to the back of the room, pulled a book from the shelf and in the true tradition of old houses of this kind, the shelving suddenly shifted away, revealing a secret room beyond. Nate got up and went over to help her pull boxes out from that room, piled high with brightly wrapped gifts.
Eliot and Hardison both smiled at the realisation that Mom and Dad really were going to fill their stockings with presents and pretend it was Santa, not just for Lily but for Parker too, even for them though of course they sat there now seeing the truth of the matter, and would've known for sure even if they hadn't seen with their own eyes.
"We should turn in anyhow," said Eliot, moving carefully.
He managed to get himself up without waking Parker, lifting her into his arms as if she weighed nothing at all. Hardison led the way to the stairs, holding the doors open so Eliot could manoeuvre through with Parker in his arms like a child. When the 'kids' were gone, Sophie and Nate got on with their task of filling stockings with gifts.
"It had to be like this," she said as she worked, her eyes never leaving her task, not even when she felt her husband watching her closely. "Lily may be our daughter by blood, and I couldn't love her more than I do, but they're..."
"They're family too, and they had to be here," Nate finished for her, his hand pushing her hair back over her shoulder, encouraging her to look at him so he could meet her eyes. "I know I put up a fight at first, but this is how it should be. As crazy as it seems, we are a family, after everything we've been through, and nothing is ever going to change that."
Sophie smiled wide and reached up to kiss his lips.
"I love you, Nathan Ford," she told him, words he already knew but never minded hearing.
"That's the best gift I could ever get, any day of the year," he promised her.
They were a joyous and noisy bunch on Christmas morning. It was a close call between Lily and Parker for who squealed loudest or got most excited about their gifts, though no-one was at all disappointed with what they received. A lot of thought had gone into each present, into the wrapping too, right down to the colour of the stocking each person had hanging over the old fashioned fire place. No family could have been happier or shared more love than these people.
As Lily rushed around showing everyone her new toys and clothes, Hardison and Eliot kept their more grown up gifts far away from her, and Sophie and Nate made a big fuss over their baby. Parker sat in the centre of the floor, transfixed by the scene. She had never experienced anything like this. As part of Team Leverage, she had learnt to be a part of something, to have friends and trust people. They had been a family, always, and yet nothing felt quite like this. It was so real, so tangibly warm and comfortable. Without even understanding what was happening, Parker felt tears well up in her eyes that she couldn't contain and they trailed down her face unchecked.
"Parker?" said Eliot, noticing her apparent distress. "You okay, sweetheart?"
"No," she shook her head, barely noticing as Lily lost interest in trying to get Hardison's latest digital gadget out of his hands way above her head and came toddling over to the lady with the pretty hair.
"Oh, darling, whatever's the matter?" asked Sophie, looking to Parker for an answer, some explanation for her tears. "I told you she would have been happier with cash like before!" she muttered to Nate, as if it were his fault they had actually bought Parker real gifts this year.
Parker laughed and cried at the same time, a strange sound coming out of her like a cough, that made Lily jump.
"I'm not sad," she confirmed. "I swear, I just... I don't know what's wrong with me," she shook her head, wiping her cheeks with her hands. "I guess it's just that... I wish it had always been like this. I wish every Christmas was just like this."
"Hap-py Christ-mas, Pretty," said little Lily carefully, doing her best to pronounce each syllable properly, including her own personal name for Parker that already seemed to have stuck.
"It's a very happy Christmas, Lily," she agreed, accepting a big hug and a wet kiss from the little girl.
"Hey, you ain't tearing up too, are you, man?" Hardison teased Eliot, bumping shoulders with his friend who really did seem oddly emotional.
"Damnit, Hardison. Shut up!" he told him sharply, and yet he continued to smile like an idiot even then.
"Here's to Christmas and to a family to share it with," said Nate then, though he had no drink to toast with.
As those around him all agreed with the sentiment, he realised all over again just how much he didn't need the drink anyway. Most of the time all he needed was his wife and his daughter, but Nathan Ford had to admit that they were not the whole of his family. That took three more people, children of his in some strange way, even if he wasn't quite old enough to have fathered them all. It made him very happy to have them here, more happy than he could ever truly deserve to be, and yet he wouldn't trade it for the world.
"Thank you," he whispered towards the Heavens. "Thank you so much."
A/N2: To all those who read this story, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings to you and yours, as is appropriate :)