Title: Performances In The Dark
Author: Sapphire Smoke
Fandom: Leverage
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Nate/Sophie
Length: 4,452
For: The Nate/Sophie Ficathon on LJ... prompt - "evoke" ... though I think I strayed just a... bit LOL. I used the word twice, best I'm getting with that one.
Summary: Always the same dance: one step forward, two steps back… until someone changes the rhythm.
A/N: I still have no idea what the point of this story really was... lol. And I can't believe I got so SAPPY at the end. Arrgghh lol.

All the lingering looks and subtle touches never make him bat an eyelash. It's like holding up a big neon sign for a blind man; no matter how bright it is and how much you wave it around, he'll just never see it. It's like having him; hook, line, and sinker but not being able to reel him in. She just feels stuck, attached to him in this almost painful way, but can't let go for fear of him drowning underneath her. It rips at her heart to see him stare off into space, that look in his eyes like he knows he's destroying himself. What he fails to always see though… is that he's destroying her too.

When the lights turn out and he still hasn't left, Sophie stops waiting. She knows Nate's sitting in the dark alone, brooding in the office like it'll make some sort of difference or give him some sort of amazing revelation that will fix all of his problems. But she knows it won't, and she knows he knows it never will either. Key in the lock, turning the handle. Opening the door to a blackened room, she sees the shadow of the man she loves sitting in the armchair, glass in hand filled with what she can only assume is his escape from reality.

"I'm fine," he says into the darkness, not even turning around to fully acknowledge her presence. He says it likes it's an answer to a question that she never asked anymore, there was never any point; it was always the same lie.

Sophie doesn't say anything to him, the pointless conversation they always have just isn't worth it anymore. She closes the door behind her quietly and walks across the creaky floorboards as she carries herself over to the front desk. She leans against it softly, and doesn't say a word. She just looks at him.

The ice cubes clink softly against the glass as he raises it up to his lips and takes another sip. There's silence for awhile after he lowers his arm back against the arm of the chair and a sigh fills the quiet of the room. Then he finally raises his eyes up to look at the woman across from him, finally acknowledging her fully.

"Do you need something, Sophie?" he asks in a tired voice. The downward spiral he's on is starting to take a toll on how he looks. Hair mussed, bags under his eyes. Insomniac due to the liquor.

"Yes," she says simply in a quiet voice. She does, she needs him, but he will never understand that, never realize it. She shifts a bit on the desk, sitting on it more than standing against it now.

"Are you going to tell me what it is, or are we going to play a guessing game?" Nate asked with a hint of amusement pulling at the corners of his lips. The glass goes to his lips again, looking at her like he expects her to answer.

She doesn't answer for a long time, instead just choosing to watch him with sadness in her eyes. She doesn't think he can see it though; even if the lights were on he would never see it. "Can we talk?" she asks, though doubts that he'll let them.

"We are talking, see the conversing of words going on here?" Nate asked, still slightly amused by something Sophie doesn't see the funny in. Avoiding, all the time. He thinks she won't see that he's doing it, but she sees it constantly.

It aggravates her though, the way that he just plays things off like they don't matter. She narrows her eyes and clenches her jaw a bit as she stared at him like he was being a jackass, because he was. "You know what I mean," she says to him, keeping her voice steady.

"Not now, Sophie," Nate responds as he leans back in the chair, sighing like it was getting repetitive. Maybe it was.

"When then? You never want to talk about anything, ever," Sophie says, her voice still steady and quiet, but her own frustration is clearly seeping through now. She slides off the desk, her heels hitting the wood with a slap that echoes through the otherwise silent room. She stares at him, and wishes that he would truly see her.

But he doesn't. "When hell freezes over. Which might be soon, according to Parker," Nate says with a small chuckle as he raises the glass up to his lips again. Sophie's eyes flash; she didn't need the jokes.

A clatter and a smash echoes through the room as the glass hits the floor, being slapped out of Nate's hand in matter of seconds. Nate sputtered on the liquor he had in his mouth and looked up at her in surprise, but only to replaced with anger momentarily. "What the fuck was that for?" he demanded.

"You bloody bastard," falls from her lips, her bottom one threatening to tremble and she bites on it hard to stop it. She wasn't going to cry, not again. Her voice is steady and even, her anger with the whole situation even past the point of screaming. "Take your head out of your ass and look at me for once," she tells him.

"I am looking at you, Sophie!" Nate exclaims, annoyed at the loss of his liquor. He then looks over on the floor and sees the tipped glass in a puddle of his escape, evoking memories of when it used to feel good to run away, and anger that it just didn't anymore. "Damnit, woman," he mutters, still looking at the glass.

Sophie grabs his face with her fingers then, tilting his chin to look from the glass to her face roughly, her eyes boring into his. "Look closer, Nathan," she demands through clenched teeth, just sick of it all.

He pulls his face away from her hands and glares at her before throwing up his hands and exclaiming, "What the hell do you expect me to see?!"

"Bloody idiot," she exclaims softly and raises to full height. Her eyes flicker back down the man on the chair before turning and walking away. She should stop being so foolish as to think that making the same mistakes would have different results. But then a hands on her shoulder, turning her around. She didn't even hear him get up.

"So that's it? That was the grand plan? Come in here, bother me, spill my drink, and call me an idiot?" Nate asks with a glare. She shakes her shoulder off of him, looking at him through the darkness of the room.

"It went a lot better in my mind," she says flatly and cocks and eyebrow at him. They stare at each other for a moment; blue baring into brown, and finally she just takes another step back. "I'm done playing Suzie-fucking-homemaker in hell's kitchen with you, Nate," she tells him.

"What?" he asks not understanding what she's referring to. He looks at her like she's the one that's gone mad, but that was never anything new.

"You heard me," is all she says as she shakes her head a bit and purses her lips. Always so bloody repetitive. A song and dance they've rehearsed so often it's damn performable. One step forward, two steps back. Later, rinse, fucking repeat. "Have fun here in the dark. Alone," she says the last word with double meaning, but he'll never understand it.

Halfway out the door, halfway close to gone, and she's stopped again. "Why did you come here?" he asks her, making her halt where she was. That wasn't part of the dance; he always just relieves her from the stage. The routine is shot to hell now, and Sophie doesn't know her next move.

"You already know why," she says quietly, though doesn't turn around. She holds her breath, not realizing she's doing so, waiting for his answer.

Silence for a moment. "I have a theory," he says finally. That makes her turn around, and she leans against the threshold of the door as she looks at him.

"Any you plan to share with the rest of the class?" she asks, though doubts he will. He's shifting uncomfortably now, and she watches his eyes flicker back over to the liquor bottle on the desk.

"No."

"Didn't think so," Sophie replies before she turns again, out the door, back into the routine that she knows she'll be performing all over again tomorrow.

* * * * *

Parker, Eliot, and Hardison are arguing. Sophie rubs her temples, hoping the ringing of their voices will just fade away, hoping Nate might speak up like he usually does and settle the argument, but he doesn't. He's just sitting across the table, hands lightly on his glass as he stares at her. She tries not to notice, but all she ever notices in a room filled with people is just him. Always him.

"That's a stupid plan, Parker," Eliot says with a scowl and half an eye roll, "Maybe you feel the need to recreationally try to kill yourself, but the rest of us don't."

"Lay off her, man," Hardison replies, defending her. Sophie's eyes flicker to Parker, who looks offended at her plan being deemed as unintelligent.

"You know it's stupid too," Eliot says as he rounds on Hardison. "Just because you want in her pants it doesn't mean you have to sacrifice the rest of our skins to do it."

"Hey!" Parker exclaims, offended at that too, apparently. Sophie sighs heavily and her hands that were on her head fall to the table with a loud thud, making everyone look at her.

"Will you all just bloody shut up, please," Sophie mumbles. She didn't get much sleep, lying awake at night thinking about him… like always. Fantasizing how it should be, replaying things that are.

"I never said I—" Hardison starts, no doubt trying to defend himself that he doesn't want to sleep with Parker, or something equally as absurd. Everyone who has eyes can see that he does.

"Hardison, zip it, seriously," Nate finally says, interrupting him. He falls silent and he looks at all of them. "Parker's plan is fine, as long as we take out the unnecessary escape from the roof." Parker goes to protest but he holds up a finger, tired as well. "Just take it as a win, Parker."

Parker still narrows her eyes at him, but stays quiet. Her eyes flicker over at Eliot, and Sophie can swear she sees her stick out her tongue at him. She sighs; her hands are back on her temples. Maybe one day this pain will go away.

"Hardison, check the blueprints, find us a better way out," Nate says, and Hardison's chair squeaks as he gets up, making Sophie wince. "Eliot and Parker, go check out the security system, see if they have beefed up anything since the original plans." More squeaking of chairs, Sophie closes her eyes and tries to imagine hummingbirds or something soothing, but to no avail.

"Sophie…"

"I know, I know," Sophie says as she opens her eyes and looks at him, the frustration from the pain in her temples seeping into her voice. "Settle myself in."

"No," he says and she looks confused for a moment, thinking maybe he wants to finally talk. But then he says, "No, he doesn't get back to the office till after two, go then." Right, of course he doesn't. She needed some aspirin.

She wants to just kick over her own chair this time as it squeaks, but she controls herself. She needed a new plan, and not one that was involved in the con.

* * * * *

"What are you doing?" Nate asks in a tired voice as he comes into the room. The lights are out; she's sitting in his chair, a glass of his liquor in her hands. She doesn't look at him, just like how he never looks at her. She's switching the roles; maybe for once he might see it through her eyes.

"Do you need something, Nate?" she asks him, the familiar tone being slightly eerie coming from her lips instead of his, evoking memories of just a day past, only twisted slightly. She brings the glass up to her lips and takes a sip. Hell, she did kind of need it.

"Get out of my chair," he says, and she chuckles softly. She couldn't help it, it was so ridiculous, all of it was. She doesn't move though, just brings the glass up to her lips. There's silence for awhile, him just staring at her like she's insane before he says, "Alright, you've made your point."

"Have I?" she asks in an even tone, though she know she hasn't yet.

"Yes, I shouldn't sit here and brood in the dark every night," he answers, and she cracks a smile before turning to look at him.

"That wasn't the point, Nathan," she tells him before leaning back in the chair, throwing one leg over the arm of it.

Nate sighs heavily and looks towards the desk where his small comfort always lay. "Where's my liquor?" he asks suddenly, realizing its gone. His eyes fall back on the woman in front of him with an accusing stare.

She just holds up her own glass and shakes it lightly, the ice cubes clinking against the glass before she smirks and raises it to her lips. She was being awfully horrible to him, she knows that. But the dance was maddening, and she was done with it.

"There was more than just that," he says, and she shrugs lightly. "Sophie," he says her name like it should mean more than what he's saying, but it doesn't to her. Not anymore.

"Nate," she says his name the way he said hers, and tries to hide her smirk. She was enjoying this a bit too much, if she was to be honest with herself. It was nice for him to finally feel the frustration.

"Sophie," he repeats again, and she giggles a bit in amusement as she peers up at him.

"Nate," she says again, straight face now.

"SOPHIE!" he yells this time, frustrated. She tries not to laugh, and chooses to just stare at him blankly instead. "What is your point?!" He comes closer to her, trying to see her better in the dark. He didn't understand what she was doing.

Sophie doesn't answer for a long time, just casually swirls her drink around as she watched the ice cubs bounce off the transparent walls of the glass. "Does it make you feel better?" she asks finally in a low voice, still only looking at the alcohol. "Being alone here with this? Or does it…" she looks up at him then seriously. "Never help anymore?" she finishes, like she knows that's the answer. She has this calm tone that kind of unnerves Nate just a little, and she can see it.

"It does me just fine," Nate says in an even voice, like he's trying to convince her. It doesn't work.

"And yet it destroys me," she tells him, looking at him pointedly before downing the rest of the liquid in the glass. It falls from her hand then, clattering against the floor. Maybe she was being a bit dramatic, but sometimes drama helped drive a point home.

"Then maybe you shouldn't drink it," Nate says and bends down to pick up the glass, placing it on the desk.

"Not what I meant," she says, in an annoyed tone because she knows he knew what she meant.

"I know."

She blinks a bit, not expecting him to admit it. The dance was screwed up again, even the backwards one that they were doing at the moment. Silence again, before a whispered question of, "Then why do you do it?" fills the room.

"It's not your problem," Nate tells her, leaning against the desk then, looking down at her. "You don't have to let it fuck with you too."

"You're an idiot," is all she says, because he is if he doesn't see how she isn't letting it… it just does.

"Back to that again, then?"

"Wouldn't be if you'd stop," she replies. Then her shoulders sag a bit as it just doesn't become fun anymore. It's more depressing than it was before, and she doesn't know what to do about it anymore. She lets out a heavy sigh and just looks at him. He never get's it, he never will. Not unless she clearly spells it out for him and she can't just…

…Why can't she?

Fear. It's always fear. Tell the man she loves him and he rejects her, it plays often in her mind, over and over like someone forgot to take the needle off the record. But right now she was still stuck on this awful piece of vinyl, round and around again with this stupid little dance as it makes her sick. Jumping off it might make her hit the floor, yes, and that's something she's terrified of. But maybe, even accidently, he might catch her as she falls. And it's been ten years, the two of them. They're both too old to play these games anymore, aren't they?

"I'm not—" Nate starts, but is interrupted by Sophie making a decision. She gets up from off her chair and holds up her hand.

"Just shut up, for a second," she tells him. She's standing at her full height but still feels so small and vulnerable. Her heart has sped up because of the fear and anticipation bubbling inside of her threatening to burst right out of her veins. But she takes a shaky breath and looks at him and says seriously, evenly, and with every ounce of sincerity and even annoyance she has in here. "I love you, Nathan. You bloody… fucking… wanker. That's why all of this matters to me."

He stares at her, and doesn't speak. He's looking at her like he wasn't sure that he heard her correctly, but that fear inside of her is spilling from her pores now and she just can't take the silence. She musters up all of her courage and tells him honestly, "The balls in your court now. Don't drop it." And then she turned and started to walk away, and with every ounce of hope in her she prayed to whoever was listening that he would stop her…. but he didn't.

* * * * *

She wasn't going to go to work. Nope, not today, and not any other bloody day for that matter.

She was stupid, wasn't she? Just saying it like that? Just telling him like it was supposed to matter even a little bit? Of course it didn't matter, she gave him the bloody ball and the bastard dropped it. Probably didn't help that she was drinking last night, for some reason that always makes people say the stupidest of things.

So of course she's been crying, and she hates every moment of it. Like crying every helped anyone in the end. No, it doesn't. But it just hurt so bad, for him to just let her walk out after that. She put her heart on the table and he just looked at it… did nothing!

But then there's a knock on her door, and her heart leaps into her throat. She's got this fleeting hope that he's somehow come back for her, tell her that he was being a jackass and that he's sorry for not saying anything… until she opens the door and see Parker standing there.

"What's wrong with you?" Parker asks bluntly, noticing her wet cheeks. Sophie furiously wipes the tears away and stares at the girl, this was the last thing she needed. Parker continues without a beat, "Nate told me to come find you. I found you. Can we go now?"

Sophie just blinked at her. It was stupid to assume that she would get any kind of comfort from Parker, or even time enough to think. "I'm not going to work," Sophie tells her, and moves to shut the door but Parker's foot gets in the way. Sophie sighs heavily and looks at her.

"He loves you," she tells her, and Sophie looks at her in shock. How did Parker know…?

"What?" Sophie asked automatically, not believing Parker just said that, out of all people, and out of all the things to say… just out of nowhere. Did Parker read minds? That's a bit creepy to think about.

"He loves you," she repeats again, like Sophie didn't hear her the first time. But she did, she just didn't understand it. "Hardison says so, and he knows stuff like that. Can we just go? I don't like your apartment building."

"What? What's wrong with my flat?" Sophie asks, offended now even though she probably shouldn't be. She doesn't even know why she cares, she's still thinking about Nate and why the hell Parker felt the need to let her in on Hardison's observations.

"It has an ugly paint job," Parker tells her, than takes her hand, practically pulling her out the door. "Come on."

"It is not ugly!" Sophie protests, but is still being dragged by Parker down the hall, not being able to stop it. The thief was stronger than her, so trying to fight was pretty futile, though she still tried, pulling, trying to get away. Parker turns around, annoyed.

"Nate told me to bring you even if I have to pick you up over my shoulder, and I don't want to do that because I don't think I'm that strong," Parker told her. Sophie is very offended now. Did Parker just call her fat?! But Parker continues, not noticing she offended her coworker. "I told him Eliot should have gone instead, but something about women and trust and… I don't know. I zoned out through half of it, there was some sort of shiny spot on the window that kept moving and I was trying to figure out where it—"

"Parker!" Sophie exclaimed, trying for the love of everything holy to stop her ramblings. "I get it, okay? I'm coming." What else could she do? The last thing she wanted either was to be fully embarrassed by being thrown over Parker's shoulder and carried down her hallway. The sad thing is, she knew Parker would try.

But the last thing she thought would happen when she got to the office was Parker standing outside, not moving. "Aren't you coming?" Sophie asked her, wondering what the hell shiny thing might have stolen her attention this time.

"What?" Parker said, looking back a her face from whatever she was looking at previously. "No, he just wants you in there. I'm leaving. So… bye." And then she's gone, and Sophie's confused. She opens the office door, being a bit daft at not already connecting the dots, and is surprised to walk into a dark office. It was the middle of the day, but the blinds were drawn and the lights were off. The faint silhouette of Nate was visible, him sitting in a chair with a drink in hand.

Great. Just… bloody fucking fabulous.

"You dragged me here for this?" Sophie asks as she throws her purse on the front desk heavily and stares at him. He doesn't look at her, but he can see a bit a smirk on his lips before he replied:

"No, I brought you here for this."

He reached over and hit a button on something, Sophie wasn't sure what in the darkness of the room, and all of a sudden music started playing. Sophie is pretty sure he must be on some kind of drug, because this was not like him at all. He stands up, puts down the glass of what Sophie was surprised to see up close was not liquor and he held out his hand to her. "Would you like to dance?"

"What?" Sophie asked, this whole entire situation not computing her in her brain. She just looks at him like he's gone a bit mad, when really it should be the way she needs to be looking at herself. All she's wanted is this and now she refuses to even believe it's real because it's just… too good to be true. There's gotta be a catch… somewhere. She'll wake up from this dream eventually.

"I thought you liked dancing. Remember that time in…" he trails off, with a smile on his face.

"Rome," she finishes softly. She blinks at him, her breath catching in her throat. This just couldn't be real. "What are you… what is all this?" she asked quietly.

"I'm picking up the ball," he replies simply. He shrugged a bit, with a hint of a smirk still playing at his lips. "You threw it so fast I wasn't ready to catch it."

"Nate…" she whispered, looking at him. He still had his hand extended out to her and she took it hesitantly, and he twirled her slowly before bringing her closer to him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and she knew tears were threatening to fall from her eyes again. The music was soft, slow… and they just danced together, him holding her for a little while.

"I'm not going to pretend I'm perfect, Sophie," he told her in a low voice in her ear. His breath tickled her neck and she bit her bottom lip. "But I'm not going to pretend I'm not in love with you either. That would make me an idiot, and you right… and we both know much I like to be the one that's right."

That does make Sophie cry, and when his lips meet hers it's almost as if everything about them faded away. Nothing mattered anymore, and even if this was a dream it was the most perfect dream she could ever hope for. It sounds sappy, maybe it even is sappy, but it was how she felt. Her tears are falling from her cheeks but he was holding her, kissing her, and everything was just… ridiculously perfect.

This wasn't supposed to happen. The performance was never supposed to end with such a bang. But as she feel onto the couch, half clothed now, gasping as his hands wandered down her body and his lips claimed parts of her they only used to in her fantasies… she decided she liked this ending a whole lot better.

THE END