Title: That's The Way The Cookie Crumbles
Length: 1,586 words
Setting: Right after 2.01 "The Beantown Bailout Job"
Prompt: "Chocolate Chips" from Quimby13 via Twitter
Summary: Nate doesn't want to have this conversion. Or people in his apartment, either.
"No, NO! Get out of my house!" Nate yells at the team for what feels like the millionth time in the last three days. He had just woken up, half stumbled down the stairs in a semi-comatose state to be greeted by Eliot, Parker, and Sophie in his kitchen and Hardison continuing to set up those damn monitors.
Hardison, his landlord. His landlord? REALLY? It's like the whole world was conspiring against him lately, just everything falling into place to make his life one continuous migraine.
"Don't be such a grumpy-butt," Parker tells him, and as he stops he finally looks at her, looks at all of them, and wonders why the hell Parker has flour on her nose. Then he's wondering why Sophie's wearing and apron and Eliot has a rolling pin in his hand.
It probably should have been obvious, but he was half-awake after all, and didn't even know if he was seeing straight. He rubs his eyes before asking, "What the hell are you guys doing?"
"Baking cookies," Eliot told him, and waved the rolling pin around. Nate sighed heavily. Right? Why not? Why not just have everyone break into his house in the wee hours of the morning and freaking bake cookies?
"Seriously?" he asked, looking at them all like they might be insane. Maybe he was the one who was insane for getting them all together in the first place.
"Come on Nate, they're just cookies," Sophie says with a smile. But the way Sophie smiled; it always looked like it was laced with something devious. This time was no different. Nate narrows his eyes at her.
"Nothing is ever just anything with you guys. And why are you wearing my shirt again? Am I ever going to get it back?" he asked, looking at her in his big button down collared shirt.
"No, probably not," she tells him with a smirk and pops a chocolate chip into her mouth, trying to hide her tongue in cheek. Nate stares at her for a moment, then shakes his head. It was too early to argue. He needed…
Stumbling over to the coffee machine he picked it up, only to find… "Why are there skittles in my coffee pot?!" he exclaimed, blinking at the multicolored candies inside.
"So you can taste the rainbow," Parker said with a smile, and pointed at them with an encouraging nod.
"You have no idea how dirty that sounded, do you?" Hardison asks with a smirk near the monitors. Parker just shrugged.
"I thought it would be better to brighten up the room, than maybe Nate will get happier," she explains. She honestly thought it was a good solid plan, and Sophie snickers.
"But in my…?" Nate starts, just looking at it like it's some kind of alien object to him. He shakes his head and puts the coffee pot back down. "Okay, that's it. Guys, out. Seriously. You can come back later, but give me just an hour or two of peace, alright?! Please."
Parker pouted and Eliot rolled his eyes as he put down the rolling pin. "Fine, but you have to get these out in ten minutes," he tells him. Nate just waves his hands at him like a sign of acknowledgement.
"One hour?" Hardison asks, pointing at him. Nate just sighed and nodded his head. Yes, one hour of piece would be simply amazing right now. "Alright, but don't try to lock us out or anything when you get back. Parker can pick the lock… or Eliot still has that chainsaw."
Nate tries to remember that somewhere, deep down, he does like these people. Somewhere way down there.
Hardison, Parker, and Eliot are out the door… but he doesn't see Sophie leave. Turning around he sees her still sitting on a stool near the island counter, looking at him while she continues to pop chocolate chips in her mouth. He blinks, was he not clear when he said everyone? The last thing he needed was Sophie in here… all he can think about is her and her stupid boyfriend.
He's probably fat. The boyfriend. He must be fat.
"You'll forget to get the cookies," she tells him, as if in explanation. "And then you'll burn the building down."
"I think I can remember cookies," Nate tells her with an eye roll, but she still doesn't move. He doesn't like the look on her face, it's almost… sympathetic. It's almost like the…
"We should talk," Sophie says finally. Right, the 'we should talk' look. But he didn't want to talk. Not now, not ever.
"Nah, that's okay," Nate says with a little smile and a shake of the head as he turns to walk away.
"Nate," Sophie says, and Nate can hear her stand up, the stool scratching against the wood floor. "Don't do this, don't keep walking away from everything."
Nate sighed, stopping. He turns on his heels and looked at her pointedly. Might as well get this over with. "Alright, what is it?"
"I just…" Sophie starts, walking over to him slowly while tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. "I wanted to, you know, make sure things aren't going to get all weird. You know, with us working together and everything."
"Why would they get weird?" Nate asks, but already knows the answer to his own question. But he's avoiding it. Avoidance seemed like a nice, solid plan.
Sophie gave him a look that meant she knew better than to fall for his act of innocence. "Nate, you know why." She stepped closer to him, and he automatically wanted to step closer to her, but instead he took a step back to be on the safe side. "I mean we had this… whatever it was that we had. Old feelings, maybe new ones, I don't know. And I mean I…"
"I was drunk most of last year, I wasn't ready for anything," Nate tells her seriously.
"I know that. I mean… I know that, Nate. I do. But… you didn't really expect to me to… wait around forever, did you?" Sophie asks softly, looking up at him.
Nate didn't answer, only because the answer that wanted to come out of his mouth was 'yes.' So instead he just shrugs, which makes Sophie sigh in annoyance.
"Nate…" Sophie starts, but then all of a sudden the timer goes off on the microwave, signaling the end of the baking.
"Cookies," Nate says, and walks right past her, wanting to get out of this conversation. He opens the over and grabs a potholder before pulling the tray out and setting it on top of the stove. Then he just stands over them, looking down at the perfectly cooked dessert and just sighs. He really doesn't want to turn back around.
He had taken a chance, he asked her out to dinner. He had been thinking for a long time how he thought he was finally ready to take it to the next step with Sophie and then… and then all this bullshit comes up. Then she's taken. Then she's... moved on. Without him.
"Nate…" Sophie said softly, and then Nate feels a hand on his shoulder. They are both silent for a long time, and she's rubbing his shoulder softly. He hates that she's trying to comfort him. Finally she says quietly, "I loved you for so long…"
"And now?" Nate asks, his voice cracking a bit from the strain he put on it.
Sophie bit her lower lip and looked down to the ground before admitting softly, "That doesn't just go away, of course. But I have—"
But Nate doesn't want to hear her say his name, or say the word boyfriend again, so he turns around and cuts her off by pressing his lips against hers. She gasps a little in shock, but then closes her eyes and kisses him back softly, tentatively, almost nervously. Her hand that was on his shoulder comes up to cup his neck, and they kiss deeper… but only for a moment.
Then Sophie steps back, looking a bit embarrassed. She clears her throat and looks down. "Um… okay. I…" she sighs for a minute, as if gathering her thoughts. "Look, Nate…" she starts, looking back up, but Nate holds up his hand.
"I already know, just don't say it, okay?" he requests softly. He doesn't want to hear her say no. Doesn't want to hear her say that that door has been shut. He just… doesn't want to know.
But he should have expected it this way. That's what happens, right? Finally get to a place where you're better, think you can finally treat the woman you love right and… she didn't wait for you. It's just typical. Life just likes to grab you by the ball sack like that.
"I better… go," Sophie said kind of awkwardly. She points to the door, and Nate just nods. He hates this, he hates all of this. She takes a cookie off the tray and holds it up to him, giving him a slight smile that sure as hell still wasn't making him feel any better. "One for the road," she says.
"Yeah," is all Nate can say. And then he watches her leave. He watches the love of his life walk out his apartment door. He wants to go after her; he wants to make her stay… somehow.
But she's made her decision, and now it's his turn to wait for her.