I do not own the TV show Leverage and am making no profit from this work of fanfiction.


There are men, with dogs.

They are behind her – not too far behind, Parker judges, and getting closer all the time.

She runs through the trees as branches reach down to grab her hair. She cannot see her way in the dark, but moves by feel, her sure feet finding ways her eyes can't see. It's a clear night – a good night to be running – it's very beautiful. Parker loves to run.

"Parker, can you make it to the road?" Nate is tense, but not panicking – not yet. He does not hear the dogs barking.

"Can't talk, running," says Parker, between breaths.

She likes dogs well enough, for the most part – not like horses, which everybody knows are murderous. In this case, however, they make things difficult. It is dark, there are trees, Parker could hide - she is very good at hiding – and the men would never find her, in the dark.

But dogs.

So, she will have to hurry.

It was a clean con, right up until the very end. Sophie was the inside man (woman?), and she got into the warehouse easily, casing the security. They only needed one file from the mainframe.

It wasn't hard to get in – Parker picked the lock on the gate and Eliot busted in the back door, without a sound, in one swift blow. Hardison hacked the security from the office, long enough for Parker to swing herself into the crawl space.

Nobody made a mistake. It was just one of those things - a guard was looking at the screen at exactly the wrong moment, and when Hardison made the switch to the loop feed, the guard noticed the flicker. The guard summoned more guards. They swept the hallway.

Parker was already inside, safely tucked away in a vent. Before anybody reached the computer room, she had already made the connection to the network and the file was uploaded miles away, where it could be used again the bad men who kept a warehouse way out in the woods filled with dirty secrets.

But there was no way out.

Eliot at the back door, Nate in the van, and Parker on the wrong side of the compound – across all that open space, which was now fully illuminated, with no place to hide. She'd smashed the computer so that no one could follow it back to Hardison, leaving the shattered pieces on the floor where they fell because it didn't matter any more. Then quickly, quickly, she followed the fresh air through the ducts to an access shaft, with an exit which was close to a wicked barb wire fence . . .

Parker likes to jump fences. She climbs them just for fun, even barbed wire, just to pass the time. She likes to fling herself upside-down over the top, like a gymnast at the vault. And it was so easy to slip into the dark forest, where the secretive trees could easily conceal a clever thief.

But now the men with dogs are behind her, and the road is still far away, and Nate's voice is sounding tighter in her ear, saying, "Parker, they've blocked off the road, we can't get to you, there's a blockade at the bridge, Parker, we're turning around, we're going to take the back road out, gun it, Eliot, Parker . . . Parker - "

And they are hungry, those dogs – she can hear their terrible eagerness, their lust – she knows the feeling, since she also loves to run.

Now she barrels out of the trees, and she can see the bridge, the bridge where Nate said that the men with guns were waiting. Parker can see the lights of their flashlights coming towards her.

Instead of turning towards the road, Parker scrambles down the steep side of the river, studded with crumbling, heavy blocks of cement. It is very far - a fatal decent - but Parker is good at climbing, even free-climbing in the dark over sharp blocks, and she knows how to take a fall, a half-fall that is like an intentional drop. Parker is covering ground. Those dogs are close, they are close to the bank, but Parker is closer to the water.

"Okay, here's the plan," says Nate, as Parker strips off her pants and shakes the legs to fill them with air. "Your cover is that you're a mental patient, you'll have to turn yourself in, there's no way around it. And Sophie will make a call as the Health Service, looking for you, and we'll send in a team –

Parker makes quick knots in the pant legs and tosses her shoes around her neck.

"Just pretend not to understand whatever they ask you, maybe try talking about mollusks or crustaceans, that should convince them –

Parker staggers into the dark water, which is quickly up to her knees, and then there's nothing under her feet, she is swimming – and oh, the water is cold, it's very very cold –

"Parker? Parker!"

She pushes off into the deeper water, trying to get out into the current so she will be pulled downstream faster than she can swim, faster than a dog can run, faster than a man can shoot bullets at a bobbing shape. It's the wrong direction, away from Nate and Eliot, away from Sophie and Hardison, but it's away from the men and the dogs, and that's good enough for her.


But the next minute Parker ducks under the water and the comms crackle out. Hardison made them very tough – and she has certainly pushed their limits a couple times, so she would know – but enough water kills anything.

Parker isn't an actress – she wasn't going to be able to convince anybody, it's Sophie who could charm her way out of a paper bag. And there is a busted door, a broken computer, and the shoved-out grate of an air shaft to belie her story. Parker is a thief, already half-gone before you see her, and men with guns and dogs would tear her apart.

What if she led them back to the team, what if she ruined everything? No, this is better, this is free.

The current is so fast, and she knows – just knows – that there are rocks ahead, and it's hard to hold on to the bobbing pants, which are only half-full of air anyway. She feels her shoes loosening around her neck – she didn't have time to tie the laces properly – and she lets them go, feels them brush past her and behind, as she is hurtled through the shoot of water. And with every second she is getting further and further away.

It's funny, thinks Parker, that with the water so black and cold, and with the sky black and the wind cold, it's hard to tell which is up and which is down, and what's wrong and what's right – but it's always like that anyway, unless Nate tells you the difference, so she just keeps moving forward, into the dark.