Jim Bean hadn't helped him this particular night. Neither had Captain Morgan, Jose Cuervo, Bacardi, Anheuser Busch, Jack Daniels, Johnny Red, Johnny Black, Martin Miller… they had all failed him tonight. No matter how much alcohol he put in his system, he couldn't escape his thoughts.
He had arrived at the burned out office at around eleven. He had bypassed the door that once led to Leverage Consulting and Associates, heading to the roof of the building instead. On the roof, he had found one of Parker's zip lines, which she had used for the occasional recreational building dive. That had made him smile. He stood at the building's edge, staring at the street below, unnoticed in his dark clothing by the people on the streets. His balance was fine, a side-effect of his alcoholism, and his toes were on air as he looked at the people on the street. What was it that separated him from them? It wasn't just the eight stories between the street and the roof of the building. It was a whole life. Nathan watched as a father lifted his son high into the air, their laughter carrying to his lonely ears. He watched as a young man who had been waiting at a table stood up and embraced a woman who had just arrived. He envied the people on the street. He envied the father who could still hold his so, and the man who could express the affection he felt for the woman.
He had acquired his revenge. Ian Blackpoole had paid dearly for the role he played in Sam's death, but Nate had been wrong. For his thieves, revenge was a powerful motive. Revenge had helped him, but it wasn't able to give him peace. Revenge hadn't brought his son back to life. Revenge hadn't given Sam back to him. It had helped him make peace with Maggie, but not with himself, and not with his team.
They had forgiven her.
She had lied to them, tricked them, scammed them, used them, and in the end almost destroyed them. They had forgiven her.
Maybe that was because they were thieves, just like her. Maybe it was because thieves were always most concerned with taking care of themselves. Maybe it was because criminals would always walk away when it became too dangerous. Maybe because they would have done the same thing if they were art thieves.
Nathan wasn't a thief. He was an honest man, and the betrayal cut him, deeper than if it had come from anyone else. He had trusted her, maybe even loved her, and she had lied. What was worse, she had used his pain against him. She had used Sam, just as surely as Victor Dubenich had that very first time they had worked together.
Looking back on it, he realized that they had never been completely honest with each other. They had told each other truths that had created lies. They had told each other the personality traits that had created the view that they had wanted each other to see. They had manipulated each other without ever leaving their safe houses.
There had been times, rare in their nature, when the carefully controlled guard would slip by a fraction of an inch, allowing a glimpse at the person hidden behind the mask. She had been conning him since they met, and he had been conning her, and that had almost been enough for them.
He stood motionless, watching the street until all the lights in the shops went out, and people had gone back into their homes, safe and comfortable in the lives fate had written out for them. How he envied them their peace and quiet. The nights spent with family and friends, when the only comfort he had on his lonely nights was Jim Bean and Captain Morgan.
He stared straight down at the quiet street and remembered the first job, when Eliot had told them that a lot of people noticed when he went off the hunt. Would anyone notice now if Nathan Ford disappeared? Could he be like his thieves, vanishing when things got too hard for him?
"Nate?" He hadn't heard her come onto the roof, hadn't heard her come up behind him.
"Do you think it would hurt?" He asked quietly. She didn't answer, so he clarified. "Do you think that falling would hurt?"
"Falling?" Sophie came up, a bit behind him on his left. "Would you fall, or would you jump?" She asked, looking at him.
"I haven't decided yet." He said. "I'm drunk, so maybe if I slipped…" He moved one foot forward, holding it above the air and swaying dangerously before replacing it and finding his balance again, his feet even farther off the edge. One inch forward now and he would fall. Sophie reached towards him, and then lowered her arms. They stood together in silence for several moments. "Do you think anyone would notice?"
"Would anyone else notice? Would they even care?"
"Maggie would." Sophie replied. Nate snorted derisively.
"Forty three years, and five people would notice." He said, shaking his head. "Pathetic." He stepped forward half an inch. "Would it hurt?"
"I don't know. Maybe." Sophie said quietly.
"Why aren't you fighting me? I expected you to try and drag me backwards." Nate hadn't looked at her since she first came up on his side. He was staring at the pavement, trying to guess exactly where he would land.
"I want to, but it's your choice. I'm not going to force you to do anything." Sophie told him. "You're getting better every day Nate. You're almost--"
"Almost? I hate that word." Nate told her. "We were almost honest with each other, and that was almost enough for me to almost love you. But almost doesn't get you anywhere. Almost is just a way of making you feel better when you fail. It makes you feel like you could have succeeded, but you didn't. It wasn't enough. I don't even know you."
"What are you talking about? You know me better than anyone." Sophie told him.
"Not true." He shook his head. "I know Sophie Devereaux better than anyone. I know that her favorite flower is a lily, and that her favorite color is dark blue. I know that she's a grifter from England, and that she has a thing for diamonds. I know how tall she is, what her favorite song is, her favorite food. I know her moods, her habits, what makes her laugh, what makes her cry. I know it all. What I don't know is where in England you're from, how old you are, when your birthday is, if you have any family, what school you went to, what college, what you wanted to do with your life, if you were ever married, who your friends are… I don't even know your name." He sighed. "I know Sophie Devereaux, but I don't know you."
"Everything I've told you about me is true Nate. Sophie Devereaux is who I am now, whether it's my name or not." Sophie told him.
"But why don't I know? You've never told me who you really are. Who you were before I started chasing you. Why haven't you ever told me? I know I've asked." Nate asked. Wind gusted up from behind him, blowing him forward to a more precarious position.
"Because it's not important. It's in the past, which I'd prefer to leave there. Who I used to be and who I am now are two different people."
"That's not fair. You know who I used to be. Why don't I get to know who you were?" Nate asked. "Tell me your story. Not Sophie's story. Your story."
"My story isn't that interesting." Sophie told him. "I was actually born in New Zealand, then I moved to England, then I moved to New Zealand. Then my parents died, and I started acting, then I started grifting. I never stopped."
"What's your name?"
"It's Sophie Devereaux. I got it legally changed. It used to be Victoria Conway."
"Victoria… you look like a Victoria." Nate said. "Tell me more, Victoria."
"I stole a Monet, and the IYS sent an insurance cop after me. I almost fell in love with him that day. I almost fell out of love with him in the two years between Damascus and Prague. I almost gave up on him when he was married, and I almost didn't come back when he asked me to."
Nathan stepped back and turned around. "I'm glad you did."