And the voice cried quietly, "Let us fall together into that drunken oblivion..."

He could slip, at any moment. All those months of sobriety gone in a moment of weakness.

One sip that was all it took...

Because he was an addict and he could never stop at one sip. One sip would become one glass would become one bottle and suddenly there he would be again... lost, afloat in a sea of liquor. Living in a state of permanent inebriation. He had lived like that for too long already and he knew it. His liver couldn't afford another slip.

Neither could the team for that matter, particularly Sophie. Sophie who he loved too much to ever truly inflict himself upon her in the way she craved. Sure he knew that she wanted to be with him. A part of him knew that he was being cruel involving her in the team. Holding her so close and yet so far at the same time. But he could not be with her and that was for her own good

It would be selfish of him to allow that. He was too broken a man to ever make her happy the way she deserved. Working with her was the emotional equivalent of him living above the bar. Close enough to smell, to touch, slowly building his strength each day he managed not to give in to temptation. And maybe that was unfair on her but he was not a perfect person and neither was she.

He was aware that one day he would lose her for good. And that day his sobriety would probably leave him for good too. This knowledge just assured him even more that they could never be together. One bad day and he'd lose it all and hurt her. It might be years from now, but it would come and he knew that.

The funny thing about his addiction was the fact that even though intellectually he knew that nothing good could ever come from it, the allure of the alcohol was a heady one. What was there to enjoy really though? The constant hangover? The damage to his liver? The way he smelled and the general shambles it turned his life into? Or maybe it was the way it impaired his brain, leaving it addled and unclear?

When a serious alcoholic stopped drinking cold-turkey the increase in brain function could literally kill them.

And yet still he had that unquenchable thirst hounding him in the small hours of the morning. Waking up from sweaty dreams of nightmarish visions, desperately searching for a drink somewhere in his apartment. Both raging and thankful that his team had located that bottle of scotch he had hidden so well in a panel in the sub-ceiling.

He could so easily walk down to the bar and locate that demon which hounded him so. But he hadn't, not yet. One day things would get too much and he would but not yet.

He hated those moment in the middle of a con when he found himself staring lustfully at cheap, paint-thinner-esque alcohol like it was twenty year old single malt, completely and utterly distracted. One day he would end up compromising a job; he really hoped that he was the only one that got caught in the crossfire if that ever happened but deep down he knew he was kidding himself if he believed that.

So he suffered the loneliness and the insomnia and the constant, desperate desire to take a drink, praying that one day it would get easier, that one day he could be at peace.

He filled his hours with anything he could until he was too exhausted to stay conscious and then passed out in his bed. He was afraid that if he stopped and did nothing then he would not be able to stop himself giving in to his dark desires; that drink that whispered his name, husky and promising.

And so he fell back into the monotonous circle. Frustrated and impotent, unable to break free of the hold it had on him. Why did it have to be so hard?

He remembers his anger at his father, that feeling of hypocrisy taunting him once. He had ranted at the man questioning why he couldn't just pull it together. Why he had to keep choosing that noxious substance over his family. He guessed he had his answer now.

Funny how he had wished so fervently to understand his father and now he knew how he so violently wished he didn't. Ha. Guess the old saying 'be careful what you wish for' applied rather nicely here.

The memory of the empty eyes of his father as he stared with no reaction at the son yelling in his face burned a whole in Nate's heart. His father would just another sip of beer and wipe idly at the spittle on his cheeks until Nate stopped yelling and walked away to vent his adolescent rage in another direction.

He could at least be proud, or maybe that wasn't the word, that he had never been a drunk when his family was whole. He had been the perfect husband and father, or as near as life's imperfect nature would allow. Sure he had maybe spent a little too much time working, but when he was at home he was 100% there.

But when his son whose name he could now barely bring himself to say had died so had a part of Nate's soul. And through the haze of self-loathing and destructive behaviour he had become his Father and his Grandfather before him.

Then he had succumbed to a fate that had been calling to him for so very long.

Today even though he was totally sober, he knew the rest of the team watched him a little too intently every time he got annoyed or irritated. All of them acutely aware that he could slip at any moment.

Hardison seemed to be most certain that Nate had kicked his addiction. Hardison was perhaps the most naive of the bunch, the most optimistic; an overwhelmingly positive man. Maybe it was his innocence that allowed him to be so happy. And he was happy. He could enjoy life; sure he knew bad things were out there but he could detach himself from them in a way Nate just couldn't seem to. He envied the younger man that skill.

Hardison's life had hardly been perfect. He had been raised in a foster home by a woman he called Nana. Nathan didn't know what had happen to his parents but Hardison's 'Nana' certainly seemed to have done a good job raising him despite whatever had happened to him. As Hardison himself had said he had been very lucky and he had a lot to thank the woman for.

Parker on the other hand was a much harder read. She had met the revelation that Nate had quit drinking with a look of utter confusion. Like the concept was completely alien and extremely unlikely. Like positive things like that didn't happen. But then he supposed that was Parker's reaction to a lot of things so he wasn't too offended. Parker and crazy went together like peas and carrots.

Parker's past was more than a little mysterious. From fork-stabbing incident it had been clear that she had been hurt very badly in her past. Her terror the potential sexual advances told him a things he wished he didn't know. She was really very sweet, but she had a feral quality to her. She didn't understand social nuances or why it wasn't okay to smell people for no apparent reason or jump off roofs. But then that was just Parker and though they hated to admit it sometimes it was really rather endearing.

He got the feeling sometimes she didn't think he could stay sober. He couldn't be sure though as Parker's mind was something he didn't think would ever be truly understood.

Eliot had been more than a little surprised and disbelieving, but he was definitely hopeful. It was obvious to Nate though that Eliot did not want to get ahead of himself; he had obviously been disappointed by the one's he cared about in his life more than enough times. He had been burned before and knew that too much hope only lead to pain in the end. It was a sentiment that Nate understood well having watched his father struggle with alcoholism and sobriety before ultimately giving up.

Eliot, whilst he often seemed the most grounded of their merry band of thieves was also the angriest. He was the master of controlling his temper though even if it didn't seem that way. It wasn't until you saw some of his rage unleashed that you realised just how much of a feat controlling his temper was. None of them had seen Eliot really mad.

He had gotten angry with Nate about his drinking when it had started to affect the job. Sophie had stepped in and cooled things down though. Looking back he realised how grateful he should be for that. He had been drunk and belligerent and looking for a fight. Eliot would never hurt him except if he felt he was putting the others in danger – which he had been. Eliot had one hell of a protective streak and one hell of a lot of rage directed at people who hurt those who couldn't protect themselves.

And Nate knew just how to push his buttons – a dangerous combination with Nate's reckless desire for self-destruction.

Sophie had been there though, to pull him out of the flames one more time. It certainly wouldn't be the last time he needed her to save him.

He loved her, her truly did. Even if he did not even know her real name. They all had their damage, but that didn't mean they couldn't be happy though. So maybe he and Sophie could be together one day. Why did he have to be so pessimistic?


That was all he needed, a little hope.