Chapter One
The English and Their Channel

We all sat around the briefing room as Nate rattled off about the closing of yet another case. I listened to him intently, but I think I was the only one. Parker was absentmindedly picking at her fingernails, and Hardison and Eliot looked like they were possibly playing 'rock, paper, scissors' underneath the table. The two of them had recently gotten on a competitive kick, and while it sometimes resulted in amusement, it was starting to get tiresome. They would compete over everything now, even down to the stupid little things like who would get the biggest slice of pizza.

"...So they decided to give us a cut, as a reward. I told them we didn't want it of course, but they insisted."

Parker straightened her back in her chair, finally alert as to what was going on. She turned her head to look at Nathan, and asked excited, "I get more money?"

"We all get more money, Parker, but yes."

"Can I touch it?" She asked, and the tone in her voice almost sounded like the thought was turning her on. I raised my eyebrows, slightly amused. There was something wrong with that girl, but I think it was her quirks that made her interesting.

"Later, I promise," Nate answered, shaking his head slightly at the girl.

"Ha! Scissors trumps your flimsy paper, I win!" Hardison exclaimed, then realized he said that out loud in the middle of a meeting, and both him and Eliot sheepishness turned towards Nate.

Nathan sighed, "If we're all done playing games now, can we move on?"

"Sorry, boss," Eliot said, but was still seen giving Hardison the finger behind the table for winning.

Nathan rolled his eyes and continued. Everyone was listening now, though I could still see Parker's eyes scanning the room, no doubt looking to see if Nate had the money somewhere close by. "So, I was thinking that if you all are interested, we could all take a vacation together somewhere, just as a way to congratulate ourselves on the start of a successful business."

It was my turn to sit up straighter in my chair, "Really?"

"Oh! Amsterdam!" Hardison blurted out, which made Eliot elbow him in the ribs lightly.

"I was going to say that."

"Just one more thing you ain't quicker than me, brother," Hardison replied with a smirk.

"You just want to smoke cannabis legally and buy a cheap hooker," Parker interjected, which made Nathan cough uncomfortably and me laugh.

"Hey man, there ain't nothing wrong with that."

"Let's go to London," I said, wanting to go back home.

"Boring," Eliot replied.

"London is not boring!" I replied haughtily.

"No Sophie, he's kind of right, I'd rather go to Amsterdam than London," Parker said pointedly.

"Amsterdam!" Hardison exclaimed excitedly.

"Alright, alright, settle down guys," Nathan interrupted. "Before we vote on a place, does anyone have any other suggestions?"

Parker raised her hand like in an grammar school class, and Nathan nodded his head at her to speak. "Antarctica."

"What? Are you serious?" Eliot asked in disbelief.

"Parker, there's barely any life on Antarctica," I said.

"That's why I think it'd be cool."

Nathan sighed and said, "Okay we have Amsterdam, London, and... Antarctica. Any others?"

"The Netherlands," Eliot said.

"That's where Amsterdam is!" Parker objected at his way of cheating.

"Among other places," he rationalized.

"Okay, okay, enough. We'll put it to a vote," Nathan said.

"Wait, don't you want to go anywhere?" I asked him.

"I'm fine with wherever we go," he replied before turning to the rest of the group. "Okay, everyone in favor of going to London, raise your hands."

I raised mine. I was the only one. "Oh come on!"

"Face it Sophie, no one wants to go. Who want's to be stuck in an entire island with a bunch of prudes?" Parker said as she turned to me.

"The British are not prudes!" I exclaimed, offended. "We're just well mannered!"

"You all walk around like you have some giant stick rammed up your... English Channel," Parker explained. "Well, that is until you guys get into to bed, and then—"

"Whoa! Okay guys I think we should..."

But no one was listening to Nate anymore. I raised my eyebrows and crossed my arms over my chest, "Since when do you know anything about the British in bed?" My face was turning slightly pink, but it was out of the truth in the other woman's words.

"I've done a Brit or two... or five. You're all the same."

I scoffed out in part amazement that it seemed Parker seemed more uninhibited that I originally thought, but also part of embarrassment at all the attention that seemed to be focusing on me and her. "You can't... you can't possibly know all British people are like that..." I was running out of things to say, and I wish I just shut up and never said anything in the first place.

"Care to prove me wrong then?" She asked as her eyes met me in a challenging manner, but also in a slightly desirable one, without any care that we were also joined in the room by three other men.

That was it for me, my face was bright red by now, and I started stuttering incoherent protests as I sunk further into my chair, wanting this entire conversation to just disappear.

"Point proven: Prude," Parker said as she casually leaned back in her chair and put her feet up on the table in triumph.

"Okay enough you two. Parker, get your feet off the table," Nathan said exasperated, no doubt feeling like a preschool teacher. But he saw how embarrassed I was getting, and tried to save me from it, so I gave him a small smile in thanks.

"Oh come on, that was just getting good," Eliot remarked, but Nate shot him a look and he stopped talking.

Parker took her feet off the table, but still had a smirk on her face, and Nathan sighed before continuing with the original conversation. "Everyone that's for Amsterdam, raise your hands."

Eliot and Hardison's hands shot up in the air immediately, and there was a pause before Parker raised her hand as well.

I scoffed, she didn't want to go there just as much as I didn't, it was more a man's place anyway, so why was she voting for it?

"Alright, girl!" Hardison exclaimed happily.

Parker looked over at me and answered my question I didn't vocalize, "They're more uninhibited there."

I narrowed my eyes at her, she was working on my last nerve. I don't know how I let her get under my skin like this, but I wish I could make it stop. I just needed to stop caring, but that didn't seem to be happening anytime soon.

Nathan threw up his hands in defeat and said, "Pack your bags everyone, we're going to Amsterdam."

Hardison and Eliot exchanged high fives, while Parker asked impatiently, "Can I touch the money now?"

Nathan laughed a little under his breath and said, "Yeah, you can touch the money now. It's in the vault."

Parker rushed off to no doubt go pet all the Benjamin Franklins in the vault, while the boys left in a hurry to start packing. Nathan looked at me as I still sat in my chair and said with an understanding smile, "I know how you feel, once you get used to her she'll throw something completely out of left field."

I shook my head as I rose from my seat and replied, "She's just so... odd, you think?"

"She's certifiably insane, seriously, I've seen the paperwork. But she's the best thief I've ever come across."

"Yeah, I can't argue with you there," I agreed, and helped Nathan pick up the rest of his paperwork.

He smiled at me, "You ready for Amsterdam?"

I laughed a little, "As ready as I'll ever be."