The Cupid Job
with lots of help from: LoveRobin
Leverage and associated characters are property of Electric Entertainmen/TNT and used without permission for non-commercial entertainment reasons. Various movie quotes/songs/etc belong to their respective copyright owners, etc. etc. If you are offended by lesbian relationships, please do not read. Premise: Parker/Sophie slash. Takes place after season 1. Special thanks to LoveRobin for helping with this and proofreading. Any mistakes still in it are my fault. Enjoy.
No drogs were harmed in the writing of this fic.
Parker had a problem. She was currently rappelling down a narrow gap between a set of infrared lasers, knowing that if she interrupted any of the beams, a small army of heavily armed goons would be alerted. That was not her problem. When she got to the ground, she had to crawl through a narrow drain pipe and place explosives so that one of her teammates could be rescued from a white supremacist organization. That was not her problem.
"You're doing very well, Parker…" a soft, seductive voice whispered in her ear. That voice was the problem. Or, rather, what Parker felt for the person who owned that voice.
* * *
Nathan Ford paced the interior of the van that was the Leverage Team's mobile command center. "I don't see why I can't do that."
Sophie Devereaux, sitting at a communication console, put a hand over the microphone. "Nate, the team took a vote. You're great at planning missions, but when it comes to running an operation when we're both available, the others prefer… a woman's touch."
"Ok, I've got the explosives in place." Parker reported.
"Good, now get out." said Sophie. "I don't want you to get hurt when those blow."
* * *
In the dark depths of the tunnel, crawling through mud and muck, Parker felt herself smiling
* * *
Several men, dressed in bright red robes and hoods, were gathered around a large bonfire. Even with their supremacist camp surrounded by high-tech security, the camp still retained a savage, primitive core. The leader of the group, identifiable by the large, stylized black cross and flame logo on the front of his robe, raised his hands. "Bring forth… the sacrifice!"
Two of the largest men, the sleeves of their robes cut off to reveal bulging forearms, dragged a skinny, struggling man into the light of the bonfire. Alec Hardison was an African-American self professed cyber geek. More used to facing e-mail flames then the real thing, he was obviously panicked.
* * *
Parker set crouched in the shadows, tucked in a small corner of the command van. Even as a girl, she'd never had claustrophobia; instead, she found comfort in tight, dark spaces that freaked out most people. From here, she gazed at Sophie. The woman had brushed back her dark hair, unconsciously licking her soft, kissable lips. Parker, as a professional thief, had stolen thousands of things, but she had never longed to steal anything as much as she longed to steal a kiss from those lips.
"We need Eliot to go in, now." said Nathan.
"Wait, we need to make sure Parker is clear first." said Sophie. She leaned close to the microphone. "Parker?"
"Yes?" Parker asked, standing next to Sophie and Nathan. It was naughty, she knew, but sneaking up on her colleagues helped her keep up her stealth skills. Sophie had no idea how many times she'd been secretly watched, Parker gazing at her in adoration from the shadows.
"How…" said Sophie, startled.
"I've stopped thinking about it." said Nate, as he moved into the driver seat of the van.
Sophie shook her head to clear it, then activated the microphone again. "Eliot, go."
* * *
"Look, this is all a big mistake!" pleaded Alec as the two men dragged him to the fire.
"Shut up." snarled one of the guards gruffly. He raised his fist, and for the first time the light penetrated his hood, allowing Alec to see the face of one of his captors. Eliot Spencer, the close quarters combat member of the team, winked at Alec and then instead of punching Alec, punched the other man holding Alec prisoner.
Startled, the man fell to the ground, releasing Alec.
"Go! Go!" shouted Eliot, using his grip on Alec's arm to lead him toward a nearby building. They dodged behind the building, only a dozen or so feet ahead of their pursuers. "Blow it now!" Eliot ordered, knowing it would be picked up by the communicator he wore hidden inside one ear.
"Get them!" ordered the leader of the cult. "Strike them down with…" Whatever else he was about to say was interrupted by a massive explosion. The ground under the giant bonfire seemed to swell up like a bubble and then burst, scattering blazing wood everywhere. Several of the cultists, including the leader, found their heavy robes aflame and quickly rushed to disrobe.
A set of smaller explosions, near the building where Alec and Eliot were taking shelter, brought down the heavy security fence surrounding the camp. No longer worried about setting off alarms, Nathan drove the command van through the new opening. Sophie swung the back doors of the van opened, then both she and Parker helped Alec and Eliot onboard.
The sound of helicopter blades could be heard overhead, even over the confused cries of the cultists. Eliot stomped on the gas, exiting the camp. In the side-view mirrors, he could see a bright spotlight being turned down on the cultists and heard an amplified voice saying "FBI! Nobody move!"
* * *
The Leverage Team, tired and dirty after along drive back, walked into the mansion that Alec had secured for their headquarters. While the team had separated for several months, the mansion had been renovated. Each member now had his or her own suite, even if it wasn't as extravagantly decorated as when the mansion had been owned by a rap star who's meteoritic career had ended with him fleeing charges of tax evasion.
"Why aren't their any black supremacist movements?" joked Alec. "Why do all these southern cults got to pick on the black man?"
"Oh, give it a rest." said Eliot. "Just be glad I was there to save your bacon."
"We." said Nathan. He gestured around to indicate himself, Eliot, Sophie, and Parker. "We were there to save his bacon."
"Hey, I had my own escape plan." said Alec. "I just recognized you when you were dressed up as a guard and let you do your own thing."
"Right." said Eliot, sarcastically. "That's why you shrieked like a girl when that goon and I came to get you."
"Well, as fun as this conversation has been." said Sophie. "I have to go shower to get the smell of bonfires and explosive out of my hair. I will see you all later." She turned, climbing the staircase to her rooms.
Parker shook her head, trying to clear it of images of Sophie in the shower, naked. "I have to go, too." she said. "Shower."
She turned and hurried up after Sophie, trying not to be too obvious at watching Sophie.
"That girl needs to learn to talk more." muttered Eliot.
"Well, gentlemen, everybody needs something." said Nathan. "Right now, I need a beer."
* * *
Nathan was trying to cut down on his consumption of alcahol. Right now, his resolution was one beer a day. Since this was his one beer, he was taking the time to savor it. He was just finishing it when Parker walked in. She'd obviously showered and was dressed in what was, for her, a standard outfit; her blonde hair pulled back in a pony tail, black shirt, jeans, and shoes.
"I need to talk to you." she said.
Nate put the now empty beer bottle into a recycling bin. "Ok, what?"
"I'm interested in someone on the team." said Parker.
"Ok." said Nate. He sat down in a large easy chair and gestured for Parker to sit down in an adjoining chair. "Dating within a team can cause problems. On the other hand, both you and Alec are adults, and if you both feel you can be professional and still date…"
"Oh, it's not Alec." said Parker, shaking her head.
Nate raised an eyebrow, surprised. "Eliot? Well, Eliot is a fine person…"
"Not him either." Parker said, frowning a little at the failure of Nate's usual omniscience when it came to situations.
Nate shifted his position in the chair. "Me? Parker, I'm flattered, but…"
Parker laughed. "You?" then immediately stopped. "I mean, you have many fine qualities and are a great person, but it's not you. I mean, you're old enough to be my father". Parker shuddered at unpleasant memories of her foster father.
Nathan blinked. "Well, if it's not Alec, and it's not Eliot, and it's not me…SOPHIE?!?"
So much for resolutions. "I need another drink." Nathan said, getting up. He ignored the minifridge where he kept his beer and went over to another room, where he had a fully stocked liquor cabinet.
Parker waited, then realized Nate wasn't coming back. Puzzled, she stood up and decided to get advice elsewhere.
* * *
Alec was in the Leverage briefing room. One wall of the room was a set of LCD monitors, which he currently had linked to show a single video image. He watched in appreciation as the members of the cult were loaded aboard a prison transport. He turned as he heard the door to the room open. "Oh, hi Parker." said Alec. "Come sit down and watch this."
Parker set down, but she sat stiff, instead of relaxing in the chair as she normally did.
"Something wrong?" asked Alec.
"How do I let someone know that I want to have sex with them?" Parker said.
"Wow." said Alec. He took a moment, trying to decide what to say. "I think the important thing is to be honest with the person. To just go up and say 'I think we could be good together'." He looked at Parker. "Say 'I think we could be REALLY good together.'".
Parker nodded. "Is that it?"
"Yes." said Alec. He waited a minute then asked "Do you have anything you want to say to me?"
"Yes." said Parker, standing up. "Thank you for the advice."
She left, not seeing the look of disappointment on Alec's face.
* * *
Eliot held the heavy knife easily, the blade positioned perfectly against his target's chest. With a sudden surge of movement, the blade sunk in, cutting soft flesh. Not satisfied, Eliot pressed the knife until it had cut completely through. He lifted the blade, slicing down again and again, cutting the chicken breast into thin slices. He lifted the cutting board, using the knife to brush the sliced meat into a large wok. He turned to the spice rack and jerked at discovering Parker next to him.
"Don't do that!" Eliot growled, stabbing the knife point down into a convenient pineapple.
"I've got a question." said Parker.
"What is it?" asked Eliot, reaching for a bottle of soy sauce and a bowl of cilantro he had chopped, fresh, earlier.
"What would you do if you liked a woman?" asked Parker.
Eliot blinked, taking a moment to season the chicken and gather his thoughts. "Well.. I'd give her flowers… invite her over… fix her a nice, romantic meal…"
"How would you let her know you wanted to have sex with her?" asked Parker.
Eliot, startled, found herself putting in a bit too much soy sauce. He recovered, setting the bottle down. "Well, um… I'd probably wait till after dinner. Light some candles, then ask her if she wants to spend the night with me."
"Ok." said Parker.
"Parker…" said Eliot. "I like you, as a friend, but if you were thinking about you and me…"
"No." said Parker, then turned and left.
Eliot shook his head in confusion then went back to cooking for himself.
* * *
Parker sat in the coffee shop and waved as she saw Peggy come in. "Hi, Alice!" said Peggy. The two had met when Parker had been doing jury duty. The other woman only knew Parker by the alias of Alice White. The two had continued their acquaintance, meeting for a lunch every few weeks when Parker could manage. Parker treasured the occasions, even if she had to remind herself not to order any meat items. Alice White was supposed to be a vegetarian.
"What's wrong?" asked Peggy, as she sat down at the table across from Parker. "Are you mooning over some guy?"
Parker shook her head quickly. "No."
"Come on, who's the guy?" asked Peggy, pressing for details.
"Trust me, there's no guy." said Parker. She took a deep breath. "It's a girl."
"Oh." said Peggy.
"She's really nice, and she's gorgeous with this great body." said Parker.
"Well, it definitely sounds like you've got a girl crush." said Peggy. "Have you asked her out yet?"
"No." admitted Parker. "What if she isn't… you know… into girls?"
"Love is about taking risks." said Peggy. "If you're sure she's the one… go after her."
The two sat in silence for a few minutes as Peggy's soup and Parker's meatless lasagna was brought to the table. "Tell me." said Peggy. "Was it a guy who made you go vegetarian?"
"Yes." said Parker. Making Alice White a vegetarian had been Alec's idea, not hers.
"Is this woman going to make you give up anything you don't want to give up?" asked Peggy.
"No!" said Parker. Sophie was far too nice for that.
"Well, there you go. Instead of giving up meat, you should have just given up sausage and gone to having tacos a lot earlier." said Peggy. Peggy started eating her soup.
Parker shook her head in confusion. What was Peggy talking about? Parker was having lasagna, not tacos.
* * *
Parker laid on her bed, staring up at the ceiling. Since several months ago, when she had been captured by some employees of Nathan's former employer and been rescued by Sophie, Parker couldn't stop thinking about the other woman. Parker closed her eyes, remembering when those goons took her up to the top of a giant office building.
She'd been scared, up on the roof. Growing up, and as an adult, she had been a loner. She had never had anyone she could trust, any person she could depend on doing anything but betraying her. At first, working with Sophie, Nathan, Eliot, and Alec had been hard. She'd kept living out of a suitcase, always ready to run. Gradually, though, she had started to trust them more. She'd even bought a plant… the first time she'd ever taken on a responsibility to another living thing. She still had the plant, growing in her living room window.
When she found herself captured, she had fully expected to die. The rest of the team had been captured or were being hunted. When she'd seen Sophie there, she'd felt a huge surge of both happiness and fear. Happy that Sophie had come for her, that Parker wasn't going to die alone as she'd always expected to. Fear, afraid that Sophie was going to die with her; that this amazing, extraordinary woman was going to die and it would all be Parker's fault.
She'd tried to warn Sophie, trying to think of some way she could save Sophie, even if it meant sacrificing herself. Then she'd seen Sophie shrug off that coat and reveal the harness underneath. From their one time before in a tandem harness, zipping down a stairwell, Parker knew that Sophie had a fear of heights and falling. The fact that she would do this for Parker… Parker didn't even hesitate, just ran eagerly into Sophie's arms. The few minutes of free fall, plummeting downward, Parker's heart beating in time with Sophie's, had been some of the happiest moments of Parker's life.
Parker turned, staring at the stuffed bunny on her bed, and wished with all her heart it was Sophie.
* * *
Sophie walked into the mansion. They'd gotten back two days ago. She'd spent yesterday getting everything unpacked. Today she'd taken the time to get her sports coupe out of the garage and take it out for a spin. She unlocked the door to her suite and opened to find that the room was filled with flowers. She blinked in surprise, at first thinking it might have been Nate, but Nate wasn't usually so extravagant. In addition, he probably would have just picked roses, while the flowers here seemed to be of every sort a florist would carry, with no overall theme or pattern. Sophie walked over to the largest bouquet and found a card. She picked it up and read it. "Please meet me in my suite at 7 PM - Parker.". There was another card behind it. "Hope you like flowers."
Sophie raised an eyebrow. "Curiouser and Curiouser…" she said.
* * *
Parker glared at the cook book. Eliot promised this was the easiest one he had, and she'd already gone over to his suite four times, once for more ingredients and three times for help understanding the directions. She'd broken into government secured facilities and some of the most expensive jewelers on the planet, surely cooking something more then her normal macaroni and cheese couldn't be that hard. She heard a knock at her door. "Parker?" asked Sophie. "You wanted to see me?"
Parker turned, knocking over a salt shaker. She quickly righted it and glanced at her reflection in a mirror. Cooking was taking her longer then she had expected, she'd hoped to have time to clean up and look nice before Sophie came over. Her hair was mussed up, and there was a trace of flour on her nose where she'd rubbed it earlier. Worse, her clothes were splattered in several spots.
"If this is a bad time, I can come back later." said Sophie, through the door.
"No!" said Parker. "I mean… just a minute." Parker grabbed a napkin, wiping her face snd hurrying to the door. She opened it. "I was just cooking." she said.
"I can see that." said Sophie. "Thank you for the flowers, why did you want to see me?"
"I thought you might want to have dinner." said Parker. "I mean, dinner with me. I thought we could talk."
Sophie nodded, noticing Parker's nervousness. "Sure. Is there anything I can do to help?"
"No, I think I've got everything under control." said Parker. She turned, looking in the kitchen, and saw one of her pots was bubbling over. She yelped, rushing back.
Sophie stepped into the suite and looked around. A white table cloth with two settings had been set on the dinner table, complete with several candles. The lights were already dim. On the bookshelf, a book had hastily been jammed back along with several other ones. Sophie peered at the bright yellow spine and wondered why Parker had been reading 'Dating for Dummies'.
* * *
"Stupid, stupid…" Parker cursed herself as she tried to save the dinner she had been making. Sophie was so sophisticated, always seeming to be in control, and Parker had desperately wanted to impress the other woman.
From the living room, Sophie called out "Do you mind if I put on some music?"
"Go ahead, turn on the CD player." said Parker, glad she'd remembered to put a romantic CD in like the book had suggested.
* * *
Sophie turned on the CD player, then stepped back as music began blaring out loud from the speakers. "Tonight I wanna give it all to you, in the darkness!" a male singer bellowed. Sophie shook her head slightly. Not her taste in music; Sophie tended to prefer classical or opera music, or occasionally (her secret vice) sentimental country music. Looking through Parker's CD collection, it was obvious the blonde woman preferred addrenalin pumping music. Sophie found a different KISS CD and put it in, selecting the song 'Beth' to repeat.
She left the CD playing and went into the kitchen, to see Parker struggling to pour the contents of one pot into another, larger pot. "Parker? Is this meant to be a date?"
"A date?" said Parker, then forced a laugh. Sophie didn't need to be a master at psychology to recognize the falseness of the laugh. "What makes you think that?"
"Parker, I appreciate the effort you've obviously put into this." said Sophie. "But I want you to be honest with me. Are you attracted… sexually… to me?"
"Yes." said Parker. She tensed. She knew that the other woman would be upset, that she'd tell Parker how Parker wasn't good enough for her, that when it came down to it Parker was just a sneak thief and Sophie was just so much more. What she didn't expect was what Sophie did; the slightly shorter woman stepped toward Parker and went up on her toes, her arms going around Parker, Sophie pressing her lips up against Parker's.
Parker didn't know how long the kiss lasted. In one sense, it seemed to last for years as all Parker could think of was the warm, soft body pressed up against her, those lips she'd dreamed of so long finally pressing against hers. In another sense, it was over far, far too soon as Sophie pulled back, breaking the kiss.
"I'm attracted to you, too." admitted Sophie. "And I loved the flowers."
"Great." said Parker, then bent down, planning to kiss her again. She was surprised by Sophie bringing a hand up to her lips, stopping her.
"Parker… we need to take this slow." said Sophie. "For one thing, I need to know what you want from me. Is this just a fling? Two friends with benefits? Or something you want to last?"
"I want this to last… I think." said Parker. She was aware of the desperate, pleading sound of her voice. Never before in her life had she ever had anything she had thought, had hoped to last. She looked into Sophie's eyes. "I'm not really good at the whole relationship thing, but I'd like to try"
"Ok, then we definitely need to take this slow, for both of our sakes." said Sophie.
"Ok, slow." said Parker. "So, like, what, no sharing a bed until tomorrow?"
Sophie bit her lower lip, resisting the urge to laugh. Parker normally seemed so cold and distant, and now she was acting like… like a first time teenager, actually. The urge to laugh abruptly faded. "Parker, have you ever had a sexual relationship?"
Parker snorted. "Of course I have."
"Not just having sex with someone." said Sophie. "A relationship, where you and the other person took the time to get to know each other, to be comfortable with each other before sharing bodies?"
Parker had to shake her head no.
"I promise, it'll be better for waiting." said Sophie. "For once, don't just rush in. Can you do that, Parker?"
Parker nodded. "There's a first thing for everything."
"Good." said Sophie. She glanced at the stove and saw that the meal Parker had been preparing had been left on the fire, and was now ruined. She turned the oven off. "For starters, let's go back to my rooms and I'll cook."
* * *
The fact that Sophie could cook did not surprise Parker. How fast she was able to whip up a meal did surprise her a little. It wasn't as good as the food Eliot prepared, but it was better then what Parker fixed for herself and, in any case, Parker would gladly have eaten a meal of saw dust and spinach to be near Sophie.
The conversation had started with Sophie gently quizzing Parker about her past, and sharing some of the details of her own past life with Parker. It almost should have been past lives, plural; the con woman had spent considerable time under different names, pretending to be different people. They had discovered they'd both robbed a certain French art museum, and the conversation changed to a discussion of the bank's security systems and comparing techniques.
Sophie had served wine with the meal, considering wine as essential a part of dining as using silverware. Parker was not used to that, and had drunk rather more then she usually did. As a result of that, by the end of the dinner, she had gone past being 'relaxed' and was at the point where Sophie was a bit worried about the normally very well coordinated thief making it back to her room.
Parker giggled. "Hey, look, the room is spinning…" as she stood up, then staggered slightly.
"Yes, yes…" said Sophie, moving beside Parker to help steady her. She put one of Parker's arms around her shoulder and guided Parker over to a couch. "Here, why don't you just lay down here and wait for the room to stop."
"Right." said Parker. She laid down on the couch, then her eyes closed. She fell asleep, splayed out over the couch.
Sophie shook her head. Apparently, Parker was one of those people who was a lightweight when it came to drinking. Nate could have drunk twice the amount Parker had drunk and still appear sober. She bent down, gently kissed Parker's forehead, and went to her bedroom to change before going to bed. If Sophie had looked back, she would have noticed a smile growing on Parker's lips as Parker had stealthily opened one eye to watch Sophie leave. Mission accomplished.
* * *
Usually, the Leverage team ate breakfast together. In their current work and in their previous lives, they had to get used to quickly shifting their schedules; waking up and going to sleep at strange hours. Having breakfast together helped them to synchronize their internal clocks with each others, and give at least a little normalcy to times when they had to get up at 1 AM or some other strange hour. Alec was usually the late riser, but for once he saw he wasn't the last to come to the breakfast table… or even the second to last.
Alec nodded to Eliot, who was busy making himself an omelet, and grabbed a bowl of cereal. He sat down next to Nate, who was busy eating a bagel and doing the morning Sodoku puzzle in the newspaper. He grabbed the pitcher of milk, pouring some on his cereal. "What's keeping Sophie and Parker?" Alec asked.
Nate reached for a glass of clear liquid and took a gulp of its contents. Alec sniffed, confirming that the contents of the glass was not water. "Hey, man, isn't it a little early for that stuff?" asked Alec. Like the rest of the team, Alec was concerned about Nate's drinking habit. While Nate usually seemed able to control it, it tended to get worse between missions.
"Not if Sophie and Parker have been doing what I think they've been doing." said Nate, a comment that baffled Alec.
"And what do you think we've been doing?" asked Sophie, walking downstairs. She was dressed in a dark rose robe, wrapped over her nightgown. Parker was dressed in rumpled shirt and pants; to Alec's eyes, it looked as if she might have slept in those clothes. Sophie went to the table, picked up Nate's glass, and held it up to the light. "Oh, Nathan…" she said, her voice sorrowful.
"Can I talk to you? Alone?" asked Nate. He stood up and marched out of the kitchen, leaving the remains of his bagel and puzzle. Sophie took the time to dump the glass in the sink and then followed him out.
"What's up with those two?" asked Alec.
"Oh, it's probably because Sophie and I slept together." said Parker, seeming unusually cheerful as she went to fix herself some toast.
Alec had just taken a large spoonful of Cheerios; he immediately began coughing and took a gulp of orange juice.
"Excuse me?" asked Eliot, not sure he had heard correctly.
"She and I had dinner together, and I fell asleep in her living room." said Parker. She looked at Eliot and Alec. "Jeez, it's not like we had sex or anything.". Both Eliot and Alec calmed down, Alec going back to his cereal and Eliot transferring his omelet to a plate. "Not yet, anyway." added Parker. "Hey, Eliot, can you make me some scrambled eggs?"
* * *
In addition to their suites on the second floor of the mansion, each team member had a private office. Nate, as the leader of the group, had the largest office. The walls and floor were paneled in dark wood. The ceiling was cream white, giving the impression that, when you were in the office, you were in a wooden box with the lid off.
Nate ignored the desk with the computer and padded chair behind it, instead sitting down in one of the two guest chairs in front of the desk. He drummed his fingers on one chair armrest as Sophie sat down, gathering his thoughts.
"You don't approve." said Sophie.
"Of you and Parker?" said Nate. "No, I don't. First of all, any relationship in a group is dangerous. I can't have you worrying about Parker when you're on a mission, and I can't have Parker worrying about you when she's on a job."
"Oh, like you don't think I worry about you on a mission?" asked Sophie. "What about that time in the bank when you got shot?"
"Exactly my point." said Nate. "You broke cover. It made a bad situation worse."
Sophie rolled her eyes. "My point, Nate, is that we've dealt with this type of situation before. Everyone on this team is a professional. We can handle it."
"You, maybe." said Nate. "But Parker? She's too young. She already has control issues. She doesn't take the time to think. She's…"
"She's a woman." said Sophie. "She and I are both women, and that offends your Catholic upbringing."
Nate gritted his teeth, not wanting to admit Sophie was right.
"Nate, you've known I was bisexual. I was dating a woman when we first met, after all." said Sophie. "Since joining the team I haven't been dating… waiting for you… but I have needs."
"Well, what about us?" asked Nate. "About you and me?"
Sophie sighed. "I'm sorry, Nate… I warned you, I wouldn't wait forever."
"I need you." said Nate.
"You need me." agreed Sophie. "You need me on the team… but you don't need me in your bed, in your heart. If you did, you would have found a way to tell me. Parker does."
Nate shook his head. "This is a mistake."
"Love…" said Sophie. "…is never a mistake. Neither is seeking happiness. Parker has had very little happiness in her life. I want to give her some."
"Is that all she is to you?" demanded Nate. "A charity case?"
"No." said Sophie. "I'm attracted to her. She's led a far harsher life then I have, and come out… well, as Parker. She's strong, Nate… strong in a way most people can't even understand. She can also be hurt so easily, and knows that. But here she is, reaching out to me, risking being hurt again. I can't… I won't be the cause of her being hurt again. And Nathan Belisarius Ford… May God, his angels, and all the saints have mercy on you if you harm what's between me and Parker, for I swear by all I hold dear that I shall have none."
Sophie stood up and marched out of the room, leaving Nate sitting alone. "This is a mista-a-a-ake." he repeated to himself.
* * *
Sophie walked back into the kitchen. Alec and Eliot had left, Eliot to eat his omelet in the gym and Alec taking his cereal with him while he checked on what his web-crawlers had found in the night.
"So, what did Nate want to talk to you about?" asked Parker, busy eating a plate of scrambled eggs.
"Oh, he's not comfortable with our relationship." said Sophie.
"Want me to stab him?" asked Parker, holding up her fork and making stabbing motions in the air.
"No, that won't be necessary." said Sophie, smiling at Parker's joke. Well, she hoped it was a joke, anyway. With Parker, you couldn't be a hundred percent sure.
* * *
Between 'jobs', Nate insisted on a basic routine. It offered a stability, a sense of normalcy that the team was otherwise lacking. Part of that routine was a weekly meeting which happened to be today. The team gathered in the briefing room, Eliot still damp from the shower he'd taken after working out in the gym. Alec was at his normal seat, laptop set up to control the video wall. The monitors were currently showing a montage of news broadcasts. Nathan was sitting in his normal seat, while Parker and Sophie were sitting close enough that they could hold hands.
Observing the fact, Nate's voice was a little gruffer then normal as he said "Ok, Alec, what's up?"
"Well, it's been a pretty slow news week." said Alec. He tapped the keys on his keyboard. "No major injustices, no serious e-mails or hits on our website… The only local thing was a florist warehouse got broken into two nights ago. No money was stolen, just a lot of flowers; the thief even apparently left some money."
Nate and Sophie turned to look at Parker.
"Parker!" said Sophie, her voice partly reproofing.
"What? I don't like shopping when a lot of people are around." said Parker. "I paid for the flowers."
Nate rolled his eyes to the ceiling.
"Parker, when you go in when no one is around and take stuff, even when you leave money, it's still stealing." said Sophie. She smiled, and her voice warmed. "But thank you again for the flowers." She leaned over and kissed the slightly taller thief.
"Ok, that's enough." said Nate.
"What's going on between you two?" asked Alec, gesturing at Sophie and Parker.
"Parker and I have decided to pursue a possible relationship." said Sophie. "We're dating."
"Wow." said Alec. He shook his head to clear it. "Just… wow. I don't know whether to be freaked out about this or turned on."
"Turned on." said Eliot. "Definitely turned on."
It was Sophie's turn to roll her eyes, to stare up at the ceiling for guidance. "Boys. What is it about two women that you find so exciting?"
"The way they touch." said Eliot, drawing out the last word slightly. "And the chance we can join them."
"Really? How do they touch?" asked Parker.
Nate coughed loudly, interrupting the conversation. "Good meeting, everyone." he said, standing up and walking out.
"Nate… isn't a hundred percent comfortable about this." said Sophie, as if the fact wasn't obvious even to Parker.
"Well, if there's anything I can do to help, just let me know." said Alec. "I mean, if you need some ideas or anything, I've got some girl-on-girl videos I've downloaded…"
"Alec!" said Sophie, frowning at the hacker.
Eliot snickered. "Videos, right. What, you downloaded some video of Kim Possible and Shego having sex?"
"Actually, I was thinking of some exclusive footage of a girl's only party at the Las Vegas adult entertainment expo." said Alec.
"Let me go grab some popcorn." said Eliot.
"Come on, Parker, let's go." said Sophie, standing up and storming out of the room.
"We're not staying to watch the video?" asked Parker, following after her.
* * *
Sophie was determined to show Parker the finer things in life. As part of that, she took Parker with her to her favorite restaurant for lunch, La Madeleine Marmalosa. The head waiter, recognizing Sophie, greeted her in French then, at Sophie's request, led them to a quiet table in a discrete corner.
"What's with all the candles? Can't they afford the electric bill?" asked Parker.
"It's more romantic this way." said Sophie. She sat down as the head waiter held her chair for her, and noted that Parker set before he could help her. The head waiter did not react overtly, merely handed them both menus and assured them their waiter would be there promptly.
The waiter did show up promptly. Sophie ordered a bottle of wine and the Chicken La Marmalosa. Switching from French to English, she turned to Parker. "What would you like, Parker?"
Parker stared at the menu, frowning while trying to read the menu in the flickering candle light. The fact that most of it was in French did not help. "Do they serve hamburgers here?"
"Two Chicken La Marmalosa." Sophie said, hastily, as she saw the waiter's nose crinkle in distaste."
"Très bon, madame." the waiter said, taking the menus and walking stiffly off.
"Jeez, I hope he's not expecting a big tip." said Parker.
The rest of the lunch went better. While Parker was not a trained art appreciator, she had a keen eye and recall; the two were able to discuss pros and cons of various art treasures while they dined. Only occasionally would one or the other discuss the security around a particular piece.
When they returned to the mansion, they discovered that none of the rest of the team were in their normal areas. Sophie checked the door to the interview room and, finding it locked, went into the next room.
The interview room had been carefully furnished with comfortable furniture and a large mirror against one wall. Few clients ever noticed that the mirror was actually a one-way mirror, allowing the client to be videotaped and monitored from an adjoining room. Currently, Eliot and Alec were sitting in the observation room, watching while Nate was talking to a young woman. Hidden microphones in the interview room allowed the observers to hear, despite the soundproofing between the two rooms. The woman was dressed in a tight fitting shirt and jeans, and had a young baby in her lap. Eliot and Alec were not watching the baby.
"What's going on?" asked Sophie.
"Someone showed up while you two were out." said Eliot. "Candy Cane. She's an exotic dancer… or was, until she got pregnant. She wants us to get the deadbeat dad."
"What's her real name?" asked Sophie. "And would you two please stop ogling her?" she said to Eliot and Alec.
"Candy Cane IS her real name." said Eliot. "Her stage name is Candice."
"Wow, she's really stacked." said Parker, peering close through the one way glass. "Do you think they're real?" Parker glanced down at her own chest, rolling her shoulders back to try to make her own breasts stick out more.
In the conference room, Nate finished speaking and held out his hand. Smiling gratefully, the woman shifted the baby to free up her right hand and eagerly shook hands with Nate.
After the woman left, the team gathered back in the conference room. Alec brought up, on the video walls, images of a European man, in his late thirties or early forties.
"This is our target." said Nate. "Enrico Pluntee. An assistant ambassador at the Hungarian Embassy. He's apparently fond of patronizing exotic dance clubs, which is where he met our client, Candy."
Alec changed the images to showing promo pictures of Candy. Nate kept his eyes averted. "Candy was an exotic dancer at the Pink Flamingo when she met Enrico. Enrico seduced her, claiming he was looking for a long term relationship, drugged her, and had his way with her. When Candy became pregnant, Enrico dumped her and threatened to send men after her if she did not get an abortion. Recently, when Candy contacted him begging for money, he sent two hired goons out to her apartment. They struck Candy and threatened her child unless she promised to never try to contact Enrico again."
"He's scum." said Eliot. "So, how do we get this guy?"
"First." said Nate. "We steal a strip club."
* * * * *
Eliot stood on the top of a ladder. Below him, Nate and Alec worked to help him get a sign in position above the main door entrance to a club the team was temporarily 'borrowing' (without bothering to tell the building's owners). After a few minutes hard effort, they finished installing the sign. Alec stepped back to examine it. "Le Grand Dard - Exclusive Gentlemen's Club" he read. Below the words was a stylized depiction of a scorpion, a pair of panties dangling from its stinger.
"The name was Sophie's idea." said Nate.
"What does it mean?" asked Alec.
"The Big Sting." said Nate.
"What I don't understand…" said Eliot. "…is why I'm working outside and not with Sophie, helping Candy line up dancers for this club."
"Patience, Eliot." said Nate. "You'll get to see them soon enough. Just be glad you don't have Parker's job."
* * * * *
Parker sighed. She had been out here for what seemed like hours, and she was only halfway through the parking lot. She stuck another pink flyer under the windshield wiper of a car and moved to the next one. She'd suggested only putting out one flyer on Enrico's car, but Nate had insisted she put a flyer on every car in the lot.
* * * * *
"Hello, welcome to Le Grand Dard." said Sophie, smiling as another man walked into the Club's entrance. She was dressed in a bright red Chinese silk dress. The dress was tighter then she normally wore, clearly showing off her figure. She gestured. Parker, dressed as a waitress in a mini-skirt, heels, and a shirt with the 'Le Grand Dard' printed across the back, came up to the front. "Parker, please show him to a table."
"Stop flirting with everyone." Parker hissed.
Sophie rolled her eyes. "It's part of the con." Sophie said, sub-vocalizing, knowing the ear-com would pick her words up clearly and rebroadcast them to Parker. "Enjoy the show." she told the man.
The club was laid out in a long rectangle. An oval stage filled the middle of the room, with dancers undressing and undulating between metal poles. The stage was brightly lit, leaving the rest of the room in shadows. Eliot, dressed in clothes which for once emphasized his muscular build, stood vigil next to the door way. Against one wall of the room was a bar, where Nathan now sat. In the basement, Alec monitored the security cameras the team had set up in strategic locations.
"Heads up." Alec said into his com. He had a camera zoom in on an approaching car, noticing the diplomatic tags. "Here comes our boy."
Sophie smiled warmly as Enrico Pluntee came in. "Greetings, welcome to the Le Grand Dard. I'm Sally Mander." Sophie said, holding out her hand in greeting.
Enrico smiled, taking her hand and kissing it. "Charmed. I only hope the women inside are as half as beautiful as you are."
Sophie laughed as if the comment was extremely witty, instead of a rehash of a comment she'd already heard a dozen times tonight. "Here, let me show you to one of our special tables." she said, leading the way inside, adding an extra wiggle into her walk. A hired hostess stepped up to take over for Sophie as Sophie led Enrico inside.
"Here you go." said Sophie, leading Enrico to a table. She smiled, pretending not to notice his hand on her bottom. "A waitress will be here shortly." said Sophie. "I hope you enjoy your time here."
Nathan had started circulating around the room as soon as heard Alec warning that Enrico had arrived. He would go to a table, introduce himself as the club owner, speak for a minute or two, then move on. After letting Enrico sit for a few minutes, he came over to Enrico's table.
"Welcome to Le Grand Dard. I'm the club owner, James Guyke." said Nate, holding out his hand and shaking Enrico's.
"Enrico Pluntee." said Enrico. "Tell me, why a scorpion?"
"Hugh Hefner already has a monopoly on rabbits." said Nate, smiling. "I hope you're enjoying yourself."
"Yes… the girls here are very beautiful." said Enrico. The man was practically drooling at a redhead who was kneeling over a chair to emphasize her round bottom and bright red thong panties. Her matching red bra was already at her feet.
"And very friendly… for the right customers." said Nate.
"Many clubs have private lap dance areas." said Enrico, dismissively.
"For the truly distinguishing gentleman, we offer more." said Nate, promisingly. "Just let Sally know if you want her to arrange a little private time with one of the girls."
"I will keep that in mind." promised Enrico.
Smiling, Nate moved off.
* * *
The Leverage team were staying in a block of apartments at a local hotel. Since the club had them working evenings and nights, Alec had arranged for the rooms to be all interior rooms, with no windows to let in sunlight while the group was trying to sleep. Carrying her shoes in one hand, sighing in relief at finally being able to take them off, Sophie unlocked the door to her suite and turned on the light. She jerked, startled. "Parker… I wasn't expecting you to be here."
The blonde woman was sitting on a couch, a cushion in her lap. Her arms were wrapped around the cushion, cuddling it. "You didn't have to smile so much." Parker said accusingly.
Sophie sighed. "Parker… it's part of an act. Part of the con." She went over to the couch, sitting down next to Parker. "I didn't want to go out with any of those men… I just wanted them to think that, because that's how a real hostess would have acted. ". Sophie put an arm around Parker's shoulders, trying to pull the woman closer to her. Parker resisted at first, then relaxed. "Come on, now." said Sophie. "You're not jealous, are you?"
"Maybe a little." admitted Parker.
"It's you I want to be with." said Sophie. "Not anyone else."
"Promise?" asked Parker, suspiciously. "You're just not saying that because you know that's what I want to hear?"
"I promise, Parker." said Sophie. "Now come on, let's get you back to your room."
Parker whimpered, an impulsive sound of distress. "No… I mean, can't I stay here? I can sleep on the couch or something."
Sophie sighed. "Ok, you can sleep in my bed, with me… I just hope you don't steal the covers."
* * *
Sophie awoke to find that the blonde woman had, in her sleep, wrapped her arms and legs around Sophie. While Sophie had changed into a cream satin night gown, Parker had just slept in her panties and bra. The blonde woman was pressed up against Sophie, her small but firm breasts nestled up against Sophie's side. Sophie tried to gently unwrap Parker's arms from around her, but Parker only murmured in her sleep and clung tighter.
Suddenly, a loud knock came on the hotel door, startling Parker awake. Sophie held a finger up to her lips, indicating for the other woman to be quiet.
"Sophie, it's Nate." came Nathan's voice through the hotel door. "I'm going on a doughnut run for the group. Do you just want coffee?"
"Just coffee would be fine, Nate." said Sophie.
"Parker, do you just want your usual jelly doughnuts?" he asked.
Parker looked startled. "Yes." she said. She waited until she heard Nate walk to the next door, where Alec was. "How did he know I was here?" she demanded, in soft tones to keep Nate from overhearing..
"He's Nate." said Sophie. "I've stopped worrying about how he knows all he does a while ago."
After getting Alec's order, Nate went over to Eliot's door and knocked. Eliot opened the door. "Going on a doughnut run." said Nate. "And you owe me ten bucks. She was in there.".
"No way…" said Eliot, even as he dug his wallet out of the jeans he was wearing. "I watched the corridor from when Parker went in her room to the time Sophie came in. How'd she get into Sophie's room without me seeing her?"
"She's Parker. The amazing thing is when she bothers to use a door." said Nate, taking the ten from Eliot. "Bagel, cream cheese and grape jelly, right?"
* * *
Enrico Plentee has showed up for the club's opening on Friday night. Not surprisingly, Enrico Plentee did not show up the next day at the club… or the next. The group knew they might have to wait several weeks before their opportunity. Early Monday morning found the group returning to the hotel.
"I don't know what hurts more, my feet from wearing these shoes or my butt from getting pinched." muttered Parker. "I can't believe Nate won't let me slug some of those guys."
"What I can't believe is that I'm actually getting tired of watching attractive women strip." said Eliot.
"Power to the geek, baby." said Alec. "I just think of it as my own private streaming porn-feed. Got it all being burned to DVD for later, too."
Sophie shook her head. "Are all men such pigs?" she asked rhetorically.
"No." said Nate. He considered. "Yes."
"Can I get a copy?" Parker asked.
"Parker!" said Sophie, scandalized.
"What? I'm too busy waitressing to watch." explained Parker. "Besides, it's hot."
Nate shook his head, not wanting to hear any more. "Well, relax, people. The club is officially closed tonight." he said, going into his room.
"Well, I've got a DVD to watch." said Alec. "See you all later."
"I'm going to hit the hotel gym before I turn in." said Eliot. "Maybe I'll find a nice, ugly chick to stare at for awhile in contrast."
"Come on, Parker, I've got an idea for something we can do together ." said Sophie, grabbing Parker by the hand and leading her to her room.
"Oh, good… are we going to have sex now?" asked Parker.
Sophie rolled her eyes. "No." she said. "I told you, I want to take this slow. We're going to have a slumber party.. We'll change into pajamas, share gossip, maybe I'll braid your hair…"
"Couldn't we have sex instead?" Parker asked plaintively. "I'm not good with girly stuff."
"That's why we're going to do it." said Sophie, firmly.
* * * * *
Sophie entered the hotel room she and Parker were now sharing. Despite her best efforts, she had been unable to find a pizza restaurant open at this time of the day. Instead, she'd gotten some fresh rolls and brownies from a nearby bakery. She'd picked brownies partially because they were a traditional sleepover snack and partially because she knew Parker had a bit of a sweet tooth. It was amazing, even with all the exercise Parker got, that she was still skinny enough to crawl through vents.
She saw that Parker had, as Sophie had told her to, changed into her pajamas. She looked at the two bags Sophie was carrying.
"Great, I'm starved." Parker said. "What's in the other bag?"
Sophie handed the bakery bag to Parker and dumped the other bag out on the table, revealing several different bottles of nail polish, a bag of cotton balls, and some hair ribbons. "I figured after we eat we can try painting our toenails." said Sophie.
"What's the point of wearing toenail polish?" asked Parker, ignoring the rolls and taking a brownie "I mean, in shoes, no one can see it."
"You'll know it's there, and I'll know it's there." said Sophie. "It helps us feel pretty."
"I don't." said Parker. She took a big bite of brownie and then mumbled "Feel pretty, that is.".
Sophie gasped, then shook her head. "Parker… you're very pretty."
"Really?" asked Parker.
"Really." said Sophie firmly. She picked up her makeup kit from her luggage. "And don't worry, by the time I get done with you, you're going to look gorgeous."
* * *
Sophie had changed into a night gown and was sitting on the floor, one of Parker's feet up in her lap. She had one of her own feet in Parker's lap and was busy painting Parker's toenails.
Parker was painting Sophie's toenails, but kept sneaking looks into the mirror. She had thought she knew how to put on makeup, but the makeover Sophie had given her was amazing. If she hadn't known better, she wouldn't have believed the gorgeous woman staring back at her in the mirror was really her.
"What was it like, growing up in an orphanage?" Sophie asked. Parker turned to look at Sophie, but the woman was scrunched over as she examined Parker's toes critically, Parker's foot nestled between her breasts.
"It wasn't just one orphanage, it was several different ones." said Parker. "And a couple of foster homes. I got passed around a lot."
"That must have been rough." said Sophie, sympathetically.
"Not as rough as staying longer at some of those places would have been." said Parker. "Look, I don't want to talk about this."
"You need to talk about it with someone." said Sophie. "I'd rather it was me." She took Parker's left foot out of her lap and moved Parker's right foot into it's place. Sophie wondered if she'd gone too far, had pushed the reticent thief too fast.
After a moment, Parker began talking again, slowly. "I was ten when I was sent to the Jones'. I was known as a problem child, because I'd take things. Things I saw other children having. The husband smoked and drank a lot. One day, I came home with Mrs. Jones. I was wearing a new dress she'd bought for me. Mr. Jones was there and he'd been drinking. He started yelling at his wife for wasting money on me, then grabbed my stuffed bunny away from me and told me he'd show me what a… a little bitch like me was good for."
Sophie looked at Parker. Parker was staring at the carpet as she spoke; she didn't even seem to really be aware of Sophie or the tears coming from her face. The words tumbled out, about how the man had taken her into his bedroom. How despite the wife's protests, the man had forced Parker to undress, then spent several minutes playing with the helpless young girl's body.
"I never wore a skirt again in that house." said Parker.
"That's horrible." said Sophie. "We need to do something about him."
Parker shook her head. "A couple of weeks later, he was home with a bad cold. When his wife was out shopping, I turned on the gas and sneaked out. He woke up, lit a cigarette… and boom." Parker mimed an explosion with her hands.
"Good." said Sophie firmly.
When the two went to bed, for once there was nothing sexual about the way Parker snuggled close to Sophie. After stirring up those memories, Parker desperately needed someone to hold her, and Sophie was happy to oblige.
* * *
Enrico didn't show up at the club again until Friday. When he did show up, Parker was busy on the phone, talking with her friend Peggy.
"I'm sorry I couldn't meet with you this week… I'm working right now." said Parker into her cell phone, speaking loudly to be heard over the dance music.
"Where are you at?" asked Peggy. Parker had explained that she (Alice White) was a book keeper who was often called to various businesses to help them with their books.
"Le Grand Dard." said Parker.
"Oh, is that a French restaurant?"
Parker shook her head, forgetting that Peggy wouldn't be able to see it over the phone. "It's a strip club." Parker said bluntly.
"Oh…" said Peggy, then was silent for a moment. "Is… is that where the girl you're interested in works?"
"Yes." said Parker. "We're dating now."
"You're dating a stripper?" Despite her efforts to be non-judgmental, Peggy couldn't help sounding a little shocked.
"No!" said Parker. "She works as a hostess… you know, like a maître d'."
"Oh, good." said Peggy. "I hope I can meet her soon."
Parker saw Sophie entering, escorting Enrico. "Gotta go, Peggy."
Parker hurried over with a tray, just in time to hear Enrico say "Your boss said that, for a fee, I could spend some quality time with someone in the club."
"Oh, yes." said Sophie, not seeming to notice the way the man's oily hand reached out to rub her bottom. "It's a hundred dollars an hour for one of our VERY private rooms and the dancer of your choice."
"How much for you?" asked Enrico.
Parker gripped the tray tighter, fighting down the urge to drive the tray into Enrico's skull.
Sophie didn't even bat an eye. "Sir, I'm a hostess, not a dancer." she said.
"Two hundred?" offered Enrico, still smiling.
"Sir, I need to go back to watch the desk…" said Sophie.
Sophie tilted her head. "Four hundred." she stated firmly.
"Done!" said Enrico, fishing out his wallet. He fished out four fresh, clean hundred dollar bills and handed it over. Sophie folded them up and tucked them down the front of her dress. "There's a hallway down the back." said Sophie. "Go down it, room seven. I have to go clear this with the boss."
* * *
Sophie came into the room, finding that Enrico had already opened a bottle of champagne from the room's mini fridge. Room seven was small, the king sized bed and the mini fridge taking up much of the floor space. The floor was thick, dark red shag carpeting. The walls were the same color, and the ceiling was mirrored. Small lights were affixed to the walls.
"Hmm… you do know that champagne is a hundred dollars a bottle?" asked Sophie.
"I have expensive tastes." said Enrico. "Shall I pour you a glass?"
"Please." said Sophie. She turned, closing the door. Enrico filled a second glass, palming a pill into it. The pill fizzed and quickly dissolved. For four hundred dollars, he'd sure the bitch would be willing enough… but the pill would make sure she'd go along with some of his more exotic requests. It had certainly worked with the other dancers he'd partied with. "Aren't you worried about what your embassy might say if they knew you frequented night clubs?"
Enrico laughed. "My embassy? My embassy has no idea about what it is I am doing. The fools are blind."
Sophie turned, taking the drugged champagne glass and pretended to sip from it. "Do you know what else I want?"
Enrico grinned. "Yeah, I know what you want, and I've got it right here." he said, gesturing to his lap.
"Well, Enrico, let's…" Sophie started to say, then suddenly set down heavily on the bed that was the main piece of furniture in the room. "I… I'm sorry. I'm dizzy."
Enrico sat down. He had never known for the pill to work so fast. "Well, perhaps we could…" he was interrupted by Sophie gasping, clutching her throat.
"I… can't…" Sophie said, then suddenly collapsed. Enrico reached for her, feeling her clammy skin.
The door suddenly slammed open, the door jamb splintering. Enrico turned to see Nate and Eliot charge in.
"What'd you do to her?" Nate demanded. "What did you slip her?"
Eliot rushed over to the bed, loosening Sophie's clothes and putting his head to her chest.
"I slipped her nothing!" Enrico insisted.
"Bullshit!" snapped Nate. He pointed at the ceiling. "That's one way glass, with a camera behind it. We say you put something in her drink."
"It was a mild tranquilizer! I wanted to make sure she was relaxed!" insisted Enrico. He was getting nervous. The pills had been prescribed by a doctor, who knew that Enrico wasn't planning to take them himself. The doctor had warned that a small percent of the population might be allergic to them.
"She's dead." announced Eliot.
"We've got to cover this up." said Nate. "Jake, find some place to ditch the body."
"Oh no, boss!" said Eliot. "You're not paying me for this type of thing."
"I'm paying for you to keep this club safe!" said Nate.
"How much." interrupted Enrico.
"A million dollars. Cash." said Eliot, flatly.
"That's ridiculous! I don't have that kind of money!" said Nate.
"I do!" said Enrico. "I will pay it. Just make this all go away."
"You have that?" said Eliot, suspiciously.
"One million dollars. Yes." said Enrico.
"Ok." said Eliot. "A million dollars, and I dispose of the girl and give you the video recording of the room."
"This is blackmail." said Nate.
"Don't worry, you'll get your cut." said Eliot, sneering. "Just like you do with the girls." He turned to Enrico. "I'll need to know how to contact you to deliver the money, after I get the body disposed of."
Enrico hurriedly scribbled a number down on a napkin. "Here. My private cell pone."
"You better go now." said Eliot, bending down and scooping up Sophie's body. Nate and Enrico hastily left the club.
A few minutes later, Nate came back into the room. "Ok, he's gone." he reported.
"I really regret that I had to do that." said Sophie, opening her eyes and sitting up.
"Faking your own death? Pretending to agree to have sex with someone for money?" asked Eliot.
"No." said Sophie. "Spilling a glass of champagne." She took a fresh glass and poured from the still open bottle.
Nate reached over and grabbed a glass for himself. "At least it gave its life for a good cause," he said.
* * *
Enrico Pluntee paced his office within the embassy. He had gotten a million dollars from his secret safe and packed the money into a large briefcase. Now he was only waiting for the call. Finally, it came.
"Hello, Enrico Pluntee here."
"No names." The voice of the strip club guard was distinctive enough Enrico recognized it. "I want to know, the deal we have: A million dollars for certain video footage and other services. Is it still on?"
"Yes, of course it's still on." said Enrico. "Where?"
"There's a park on third street. Be there by the duck pond park benches in an hour. We'll make the exchange there." The call went dead.
Enrico hurried out of his office, moving so fast he crashed into a blonde woman, dressed as a secretary. The two fell over, Enrico losing the grip on his case. He scrambled up, looking for the brown leather case. Spotting it, he grabbed it up and hurried off, without checking on the woman he had knocked over.
* * *
Nate held a pair of binoculars to his eyes, watching the duck pond area. "The call go through?" he asked.
"Oh yeah." said Alec. "He sounded really interested."
"Guys, it's Parker." came Parker's voice over their ear coms. "He has the briefcase and he's on his way."
Sophie came over to where Alec and Nate were watching. "Everything going according to plan?" Sophie asked.
"So far." said Nate, watching Eliot with a briefcase pretended to be taking a stroll.
"Be careful." she told him. "There are several embassy guards out here."
"I see them." Eliot reported over his com link.
"How can you tell?" asked Alec, scanning the large group of people milling around.
"Body language." Sophie said.
"Their weapons. They're trying to hide them, but I can see the bulges of Glock Nines." said Eliot.
"You can tell what type of guns they've got concealed?" said Alec.
"It makes a very distinctive bulge." explained Eliot.
"We'll be in the van." said Nate. "Good luck."
Enrico showed up on time, for once. Eliot strode over.
"How do we do this?" Enrico asked.
"You give me your briefcase, I gave you mine." said Eliot. "Money for the video, just like we discussed."
"Fine." said Enrico. He stepped forward, holding out his case.
Enrico turned. Several men, no longer acting like simple pedestrians, had drawn their guns and pointed them at Eliot and Enrico.
"What's going on?" demanded Enrico. He gasped as he saw the Ambassador coming over. "Your Excellency… what is the meaning of this?"
"We know all about you selling the footage of our new military weapon tests." said the Ambassador, grimly.
"What are you talking about?"
The ambassador pulled out a tape recorder and hit play.
Alec: "Enrico Pluntee has arranged to sell information on the new Jericho Missile tests your country has been doing."
Ambassador: "What is this? What proof do you have?"
Alec: "Listen to this:"
Eliot: "I want the blueprints of the new Jericho missile system and the video of the test launches your government has made."
Enrico: "Yeah, I know what you want, and I've got it right here."
Eliot: "In return, we'll pay you the money you requested."
Enrico: "One million dollars. Yes"
Eliot: "Why are you willing to betray your own government just for money?"
Enrico: "I have expensive tastes."
Eliot: "Is there any chance you will be caught by your embassy?"
Enrico: -laughter- "My embassy? My embassy has no idea about what it is I am doing. The fools are blind."
The ambassador stopped the tape. "We may be blind, but we are not deaf. We also recorded the phone call you received about meeting to exchange the goods."
"I can explain…" said Elliot, then suddenly darted away. Before the guards could shoot, he was inside a large van and slamming the bullet proof door behind him. Nate, at the wheel, hit the gas.
Enrico turned. "This is crazy… we did not exchange anything, I came here to give HIM money…" Enrico babbled. He opened his own case and gasped. Inside was a set of DVD cases and blue prints.
* * *
Nate drove the van up to the Hungarian embassy where Parker, still dressed as a secretary, was waiting. "Any trouble making the switch?" Nate asked as Parker handed in a briefcase full of money and then sat down in the passenger seat.
"Nope." said Parker, smiling.
"Ok, money for Candy and plenty of hot water for Enrico." said Nate. "Good job, team."
* * *
Parker was packing up her suitcase, wondering where Sophie was. When they had returned to the hotel, Sophie had went with Nate. Alec and Eliot had gone to the club to clean up Alec's gear. Suddenly, her ear radio came on. "Parker, this is Nate. I need you to come to the club right now."
"What is it?" asked Parker.
"I'll explain when you're here. Emergency meeting inside."
"I'm on my way." promised Parker.
She arrived at Le Grand Dard, finding the club apparently empty and shut down. A large sign on the door read 'CLOSED - PERMENANTLY'. Parker opened the door and slipped inside. "Hello?" she called, stepping into the main room.
The lights suddenly turned on and music began to play. Parker recognized it as Katie Perry's "I kissed a Girl". On stage, Sophie was standing in the coat she'd worn for the cliff side rescue.
"What's going on?" asked Parker.
"Well, I thought since we still had the strip club for one more night, we might as well take advantage of it." said Sophie. She sashayed over to one of the poles, then swung around on it. Looking over her shoulder at Parker, she began to unbutton the coat, moving to the song.
Parker watched, eyes wide, as Sophie slipped out of the coat, revealing the black panties and bra she had been wearing underneath.
"Does this mean we're finally going to have sex?" Parker asked hopefully.
Sophie laughed. "Yes, Parker." she said, unfastening her bra. "We're going to have sex now."
Outside of the club, Nate helped Alec and Eliot load the last of Eliot's gear into the van. "I can't believe you made me take all the cameras out before letting Sophie do this." grumbled Alec.
"Come on, gentlemen." said Nate. "Let's find another strip club, and I'll buy you both a drink."