Disclaimer: The characters/show Leverage is not mine, never has been and in all likelihood never will be.
For I am dedicating this to ellina HOPE who is a big fan of this particular dynamic. Hope it doesn't disappoint!
Parker gingerly touched her arm, wincing at the sharp pain that came from the long cut. She had lied to them all when she had pretended that everything was okay. The last con got a little out of control and she had repelled off the roof a little too closely. A scrap of metal had managed to snag through her sleeve.
She carefully ran a probing finger over the deepest part, biting into her bottom lip to hold back the sound before letting out a slow breath. Stitches were going to be needed there, she just knew it. Years of having to patch herself up had taught her how to tell and more importantly, how to hide it. People tended to lash out at those who seemed to be weak and showing injuries like that made for an easy target. She wasn't going to be anyone's target, not anymore.
The others had all scattered, disappearing to their homes and whatever they did when the job was wrapped up. Not her though. She was on the roof, a little black satchel at her side. It had all the bare necessities. That's why she kept it up there, just in case.
Another slow breathe was let out before she used her good arm to dig blindly, everything meticulously organized in the bag and easy to access. Fingers brushed a well known plastic bag and she pulled out a needle and thread. It was going to be tricky at the angle she would have to work with but there was nothing else to be done about it.
Needle in her teeth, she got to work at threading it. She didn't want to bend her other arm more than she had to. Painkillers would be over the top and besides, she hated to be drugged. It showed if someone knew how to look and slowed reaction time.
The crunch of someone walking on the roof alerted her of the fact that she wasn't alone and a gasp escaped, the needle tumbling down. She groaned when it bounced to the ground. Now it wasn't sterile and she'd have to get a new one. No time though. Hastily working her dark sleeve down, she turned to see who had joined her.
"Nice night," Nate commented, hands stuffed in his pockets as he observed the sky for a moment.
Parker made a non-committal sound and focused on her shoes.
Nate looked down, studying the small thief. He had thought she had been acting a little unusual earlier and now here she was sitting alone on the roof, reserved. More telling was the fact that she was tucked against a wall rather than bouncing her heels off the side of the building, leaning precariously over the edge.
"Practicing your repelling?"
"Hm? Oh yeah. Gotta keep up the practice." Parker said with a nervous laugh. "Over the top, wee. Just catching my breath."
"Uhm-hm." Nate nodded. "Without any equipment? Not even a harness?"
Parker looked up with a frown, careful not to move her arm. "My stuff's around."
Nate sighed and crouched next to her, trying to catch her eyes. "Want to try again?"
"Don't worry about it. I just wanted some time alone." She defended.
Not convinced he let his gaze take in the general area, tried to see into the open bag and caught sight of the needle at her feet. His brows furrowed, "Parker, are you hurt?"
"Goodnight Nate." Parker said, standing. She hoped he would take the hint.
It was his turn to frown. "You are hurt then. What happened? When?" He reached toward her and she stepped away, cradling her arm. "Parker, let me help you."
She shook her head. "I don't need help. I can do this just fine on my own."
"Parker, at least let me see. Why did you need a needle?"
Teeth biting into her lower lip she shook her head again and darted for the stairs, hoping Nate would just leave her be.
Nate released a deep sigh and followed after, catching her at the foot of the stairs. What in the world was going on in her head? He placed his hand over her shoulder.
She yanked back with a poorly concealed grimace.
"Your shoulder?" He had seen the way she held her arm on the roof and now this.
"Geez Nate, it's just a scratch. It's fine." She insisted.
He carefully nudged her between the shoulder blades and towards his apartment. "Then humor me. If it's not a big deal we'll forget this ever happened."
Once inside the familiar area she flopped down on the couch, watching him through weary eyes.
Sitting down besides her with a little more dignity he patiently held out his hand for her arm.
It was with great reluctance that she surrendered the limb. Nate carefully worked up her sleeve, wincing at the cut. Disappearing to the bathroom, which Eliot made a personal point of keeping stocked for such emergencies, he reemerged with antibiotics, some butterfly bandages and fresh needle and threads.
"You're right, no big deal," he commented getting to work. "You shouldn't need more than three or four stitches. I would say let Eliot look it over tomorrow but I am going to guess and say that doesn't appeal to you?"
Parker shook her head stubbornly, trying to hide her wincing as he put in the stitches. One person knowing she was hurt was already one too many. "I can fix it if I have to."
"Or you can come to me." He suggested mildly, finishing off the last stitch and tying off the thread. "There you go, good as new. Just don't rip them out."
"Yeah," She muttered and looked over his handy work, her eyes shadowed. She wasn't used to this, used to people helping her just out of kindness. It never worked that way. It only took a few misjudgments to get that particular lesson embedded.
Not getting the response he expected, Nate slapped his knees and stood. It was Parker. Normalcy wasn't her specialty. "I meant what I said. You ever need anything, anything at all, you can come to me. I'll even keep it a secret between us if you prefer."
Secret. Parker heard that word and finally looked up at him, undecided for a second. Usually when people were keeping secrets involving help and pain there was a price.
"Hey Nate?" She addressed his back when he had turned from her to gather the patch kit.
"Why are you helping me?" Her voice was carefully neutral.
Nate shrugged in a nonchalant manner. "Because you're technically my employee? Because you needed help? Because it was the right thing to do? Because I wanted to? Take your pick."
Parker pursed her lips at his indecisive answer. She didn't want to do this, really didn't like it. Everything had been going so great up until now. When she spoke again her voice had dropped a couple of octaves, disappointment within her words. "What do you want from me Nate?"
He stopped, startled by her odd question.
"Whenever someone helps others it's because they are after something. You had nothing to gain helping me." She informed him slowly like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"We help people all the time," he countered, picking up the kit.
"That's different and you know it. Every time someone helped me before it was for ulterior motives." Parker's voice was a whisper as she continued. "I know you don't need money which is good. I'd never give you my money."
Nate stared at the wall, his mind processing her words. His fingers tightened on the recovery kit making the plastic creak. Subconsciously he cut that line of thought off. He just wasn't ready to deal with something like that, to consider what she might be implying.
He walked slowly back into the bathroom, putting everything back where it went. When he emerged he couldn't quite meet her eyes. "Don't worry about it, Parker. I don't want anything."
"I owe you, Nate. Just tell me what you want." She was insistent, even if her voice lacked conviction. This little group was her family. She needed them, even if she would never say it out loud. She was afraid if she didn't get this settled now she would be off the team. Debts always had to be paid in small groups, in families, or everything changed for the worse.
Nate sighed, his overactive mind trying to jump to the conclusions he didn't want to know anything about. It was too much. He held up his hand to stop whatever answer she had for him and moved to the cabinet, pulling out a half empty bottle of Jameson and swallowed a couple of shots straight. Replacing the bottle he glanced in her general direction. "Fine Parker later, we'll deal with this later. I just… I'm going to bed."
Hopefully she would just drop it and that later would never come. "Goodnight Parker. You're welcome to stay if you like," he invited over his shoulder, almost in autopilot as made his way into his bedroom, double checking to make sure the door closed behind him.
Parker watched him go, curling up on the couch. She hated waiting. Waiting meant he needed time to come up with something, wanted to make it memorable. She shuddered, curling into herself a little tighter as she remembered what so many people had called memorable before. This was Nate though. Maybe he would go easy on her, not leave any permanent marks. That's what she hated most, when people built up emotions like they cared then worked so hard to come up with something that would mark her forever, so everyone would know about her mistakes, know who had claimed her. She already had too many marks.
A couple of hours passed and she spent every agonizing second thinking about what Nate had said. She tossed and turned it at every angle she could in her head and still came up with the same meaning. She had kind of been hoping he meant something else. Might as well get it over with.
With quiet steps she padded down the hall, slipping into Nate's room with ease. She moved in the dark, eyes quickly adjusting before she slid next to him on the bed. The way he relaxed in his sleep was nice. All the stress melted away and he looked… peaceful. It was a pity about what had happened tonight. She had kind of started to see him as the father she wished she had gotten when she was little. Sure he had his problems, everyone did, but she would stake every dime she had ever touched that he never harmed his son, never beat him, never played with him then let a bunch on strangers…
She swallowed and shut off those memories. No. He wasn't like that. Maybe he would even let her enjoy it. She'd just have to say goodbye to Daddy Nate and hope he didn't decide on a more twisted version of the word.
With an almost regretful sigh she crawled closer to him, slowly pulling the blankets away. At least he was kind of handsome, if you were into the older guy thing. Maybe that would make it a little easier.
Moving over him she started with licks and nips to his neck, hands slowly exploring his torso. She knew what was expected of her so might as well get started right.
Nate shifted in his sleep at the unexpected attention but didn't wake up.
Gradually she slipped a hand under his t-shirt, nails grazing the muscle she found there and her kisses moved to his chin and finally his lips. At first he was non-responsive but little by little he started to react.
Still mostly asleep he returned her kiss lazily, lost somewhere in a dream. Encouraged she deepened the kiss, tongue exploring his mouth. It was a little awkward to her but it could have been worse.
Her hand slid under his waistband, searching and finding her target. She gave him a squeeze and repositioned herself so she was straddling his waist.
Nate's eyes flew open in shock at the contact, fully awake and painfully aware of the girl sitting on top of him.
Not able to see who it was in the dim light he worked quickly, wrapping his arms around the small body and flipping them both so he was on top. He used his hands to pin her to the bed.
Going with the flow Parker tightened her legs around him, grinding up and feeling his physical reaction to her efforts, the minor flair of pain from her arm going ignored. "Shoulda known you'd like the top."
His eyes widened hearing the voice, seeing the face on a couple of inches from his own. Realizing who it was he jerked back, breaking the hold of her legs and yanking his hands back like he had been burned. "What is wrong with you?" he demanded.
"But you said…" Her face fell at his harsh tone. Wasn't this what he had wanted?
"Jesus Parker, at what point did I say grope me in my bed?" Nate snapped, annoyance lacing his tone.
She lay there unmoving for a second, frozen with dread. Her fight or flight instincts were urging her to get away, fast, now. He was too angry and she didn't know what he was going to do. Nate had never looked so mad around her, never directed anything even close towards her.
Seeing the look of her face, the ways her eyes darted around and how slack she went, Nate's features softened and a feeling of guilt flashed through him, He was ashamed for how he had reacted. It was Parker, just Parker, and somehow what he told her had gotten all mixed up. The signs had all been there earlier and he hadn't wanted to see them.
God, he needed a drink. Coffee, not alcohol. Alcohol would just make it worse at this point. But then again....
Letting out a slow breath he moved off the bed, careful not to touch her in the process. He straightened his clothes and went to the kitchen, to the same cabinet as before and liberally dumped some of the amber liquid into a tumbler.
Parker trailed after him, wringing her hands and wondering anxiously what was going to happen. She had messed up this time, bad. She had messed up and somebody had to pay. Watching as he brought the tumbler to his lips and half drained the contents she winced, unable to keep herself from reacting.
"You're not supposed to drink when you're angry!" She accused, stepping back a little when he looked back towards her. He was mad. He was mad at her and he didn't need alcohol. That never ended well in her memory. "That changes people too much, makes them mean."
Nate listened, heartbroken at the blatant implication. How was everything going so wrong tonight? He ran a hand irritably through his curls, watching her face, trying to read everything there. His gaze turned and he glanced towards the drink, the tempting solace he could hide in so he didn't have to face the nightmare she was painting. With a deep sigh he dumped the liquid into the sink.
Tumbler abandoned to the counter he walked to the couch and took a seat, patting the place next to him. A hand wiped over his face. He so did not want to deal with this but it needed to be handled. "Come here Parker. Sit with me."
She was hesitant, eyes traveling to the empty glass and back to him.
"It'll alright," He promised, hoping he sounded understanding. "I'm not going to put a hand on you that you don't want there."
Still she hesitated, watching like she expected him to pull some kind of trick.
He was practically begging now, "Parker, please? You should know by now that I would never hurt you. You have my word that nothing's going to happen."
Slowly she moved forward and sat on the edge of the couch, keeping her eyes trained on him. Silence stretched between them. She didn't want to upset him and he honestly didn't know where to begin.
"You know, uhm, coffee. We, well I, need coffee. You want anything?" Nate asked and stood again, making space between them.
She shook her head no and settled back a little more when he moved towards the coffee maker. When his back was turned she found some courage to speak.
"What did I do wrong?" she asked, her voice small and insecure. "I mean, I thought I was doing everything right. You were supposed to enjoy it, but I just managed to make you mad." Her eyes darted to the liquor cabinet, making sure he wasn't moving towards it.
Nate kept his gaze trained on the drip of the coffee, rubbing the bridge of his nose. He was not sure how to respond to that.
"You don't think I'm attractive?" She guessed when she didn't get an answer.
At that he turned back around, looking at her through saddened eyes. "Parker, it's not about being attractive. You're beautiful."
"So why don't you want me? Is there something wrong with me?" She refused to look directly at him.
"Because I care for you in the wrong way for that. Parker, please try and understand. It's not that I'm not flattered by your offer but I'm old enough to be your father."
She shrugged thin shoulders. Her voice was puzzled. "I thought older men liked little girls."
He closes his eyes and cringed at that particular implication. God, he had really hoped she hadn't been that young when all this started. It would at least explain how she had managed to twist his words so badly.
"Not always." He tried to explain. "I don't expect anything out of you, not like that. You don't have to repay me for anything, certainly not a simple act of kindness. What was done to you before, the way you were treated, the things you were taught on the subject, it was wrong. It was horribly wrong and you deserved so much better than that."
"Nothing is free." Parker insisted, voice breaking. Some lessons were hard learned and he was contradicting a lot of what her childhood had taught.
A tired sigh came from him. "Sometimes it should be." He walked forward, kneeling in front of her and gently taking her hands. "Parker, please, look at me?"
She reluctantly looked up, catching his eyes.
When she didn't pull away he smiled gently. "I don't expect any compensation, not for this, not for anything. What I do for you is because I want to, because you deserve it. The same goes for the others. They aren't going to expect you to pay them back if they do something for you. Like I said, I would never hurt you and would do just about anything to protect you. You never owe me anything you aren't comfortable giving. You never owe that to anyone, no matter the circumstances."
She looked at him, her face blank. Her mind was trying to figure out where an angle could be, what he could be trying to do but nothing made sense.
Nate shifted and leaned forward, placing a chaste kiss against her forehead. "I love you Parker. You're like the daughter I was never lucky enough to have. Don't forget that and don't doubt it for a second."
Her lip quivered, eyes misting over. "Promise?"
"Cross my heart," Nate answered sincerely, squeezing her hands. He hadn't realized it himself until the words had left his mouth, but seeing her reaction, seeing the way her eyes lit up he wouldn't take it back for anything in the world.
He caught the girl when she jumped him, sending both rolling onto the floor but couldn't resist the smile that pulled on his lips at the way she seemed to be glowing.
Parker enveloped him into a hug, willing herself to believe those words. She had to, she would. Throughout her life she had always dreamed having a dad, a real one like the people she saw on old black and white tv shows. The ones that would sit at the breakfast table reading the newspaper and making everything just seem alright because nothing ever got to them or made them quite smiling.
What Nate was offering was something so much better. He was someone she could get advice from, could turn to when something went wrong. Someone she didn't have to be afraid to cry to and could trust without question. Someone who would fuss at her if she ever went too far but never, ever hurt her. Someone who would overlook her screw ups and oddities other people ran from and still accept the girl standing right in front of him. He was a real dad, what they were meant to be.
Maybe this time things would turn out better, turn out right and she could finally admit she had someone who cared about her. Maybe this was the beginning of her becoming part of a real family.