Title: Free Fall

Genre: Television

Series: Leverage

Characters: Parker, Eliot Spencer

Spoilers: n/a

Rating: PG

Summary: She'd never made a mistake before, but there's a first time for everything.

She lived in an apartment that wasn't her home, but Parker didn't know what a home was supposed to be. Sophie had once tried to explain it, the feelings that a "home" was supposed to instill in a person but Parker had been unable to grasp the nuances. Home wasn't where you regularly lived, as Parker had always assumed, nor was it "where the heart is" as popular cliché said. It seemed to be a place where you felt safe and comfortable, but Parker had never felt those two things in conjunction.

She felt safe in her harness, hundreds of feet above the ground, and she knew it wasn't normal. There was something to be said for the restriction of movement, the shortness of breath, and the complete and utter control she had over the situation that made Parker feel like nothing could touch her. The first time she'd jumped off a building, falling until the line grew taunt and pulled her to an abrupt and bruising stop had been freeing for her. There would be no more petty larceny, no more banks or houses. By jumping off the ledge Parker had ascended to a new level, found something that calmed her in a way stealing never had before.

Before that day, when she was fifteen, scrawny, and defiant, she'd just been surviving. Her foster parents couldn't afford school things for her, so she'd gotten them another way. In her youth, fumbling and awkward but not afraid (never afraid), she'd gotten caught. The next foster house couldn't afford food, so she'd gone out and found some; she'd learned from her mistakes. There was always something she'd needed, clothing or food and later money, and eventually the need became the want became the have. It wasn't so much about needing things anymore as about having them. It was about taking things, not getting caught, and having them.

Now Parker had an entirely new life, where she wanted for nothing. She should have been...safe and comfortable but there was an edge of need that continued to grate against her skin, clawing for a way out. She liked working with her team, with Eliot and Hardison, and Nate and Sophie; she liked helping people the way they did but it didn't satisfy her, not completely.

Parker would never think that perhaps it a subconscious urge that had her balancing on the edge of the rooftop that night. She glanced over the edge, the wind blowing strands of her light hair into her eyes and making them blur. Seven stories below car horns blared and a few people moved out of sight, no idea that she danced above their heads with mischief on her mind. Everything in her life was so safe now, she always had backup and people looking out for her, people prepared to do a lot of damage should anything happen to her. People who had no idea where she was at that moment or what she intended to do.

She didn't really need to go through the window, the vent would've done just fine, but tonight felt like a harness and line night. There were no clouds, no wind, only the stars and the quarter waning moon shining on the glinting windows of the building below.

She checked her harness twice, and her line once, and moved to the edge to gaze over it with a look of yearning. This was what she lived for, the feeling of that edge. The roof was angled sharply, cutting into the soft soles of her shoes as she balanced there for several seconds. She was secured tightly, the buckles locked and the carbine for her line clipped into place; she was as ready as she would ever be (and ever had been).

She didn't jump off the roof so much as fall, letting her weight pull her off her feet and into the open air. She bumped into the building roughly, gravity still pulling at her until she stopped with a bruising jolt.

Then, much to her surprise, she began to fall again.

Her heart, which had been racing (always racing), skipped a beat and if possible sped up even more. The rubber soles of her shoes rubbed roughly against the glass of the building, her reflection sheer and mocking as she struggled to find a hold. The building was smooth, however, the glass slick, and her line failing her.

The line was long enough to get her lowered to the third floor, but as it slipped (she imagined she could hear the sound of the polymer pulling apart under her weight) she turned her attention to the ground below. She had training, she knew how to land that would cause the minimum amount of damage, but at this height no matter what way she turned her body she'd be hurt.

The line jerked under her trembling hands; her tether grated on the edge of the roof, the harsh sound sliding across her nerve endings. Every small jerk of her body as she inched slower to the ground startled her, her breath escaping in harsh gasps.

Then she wasn't being held anymore, wasn't safe, wasn't comfortable. The air roared in her ears and the ground rose to meet her.

The first thing she was really aware of was the ground and how very hard it was beneath her face. Her harness was damaged, half of it still tight and constricting but half of it had loosened, the contrast making it harder to breathe. She shifted slightly and felt the rest of her breath leave her; it felt like she'd broken one of her ribs. She stiffened as she raised her arms to push herself off the ground.

Make that two broken ribs.

Parker's neck ached slightly as she looked around, both relieved and frustrated to find that no one was around.

There was nothing for it. She'd have to call. Lucky for her that her cell phone was only slightly smashed, cushioned by her hip as she'd fallen. Lucky for her that he picked up on the first ring.

"I need help."

She gave him the address, and curled into a ball to wait for the calvary. She didn't know if he'd call the others or if he'd come alone; she didn't really know what his reaction was going to be. It'd always been Eliot to view what she'd done with alarm and awe, Eliot who'd check her line and harness a third and fourth time, Eliot who'd pretend not to study her after every job, every altercation to make sure she was okay.

Eliot's arrival was heralded by the screech of brakes on his truck only feet from her. His boots hit the ground heavily as he came to her, swearing under his breath but his hands gentle as he slid them under her broken frame.

"Ribs broken, something wrong with my leg," she warned him in a whisper, "can't breathe very well."

She could feel his jaw clenching tightly as he picked her up, tucking her head into the crook of his shoulder. "It's alright, Parker. I've got you." She whimpered as his movements stroked every injury, every sprain, strain, cut, and break to life and sent pain radiating through her.

As he carried her to his truck, though, Parker noticed something strange.

He felt like home.

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