Title; Foolish Games

Author: BuffyAngel68

Fandom/Pairing: Leverage Nate/Eliot

Rating: FRT implied slash/implied 'ship minor bad language

Summary: Post most recent epi. Not everyone brushed off Sophie's manipulation of Eliot or thought it was cute and amusing...

AN: This may put you off at first, you may think Nate is sounding massively hypocritical. Please hang in 'till the end. In the beloved words of Alton Brown... your patience will be rewarded.

"Sophie. Can I see you downstairs?"

Sensing what the discussion would be about, the brunette shook her head.

"Not just now, Nate, alright? I'm in the middle of something..."

"Yes, now."

She sighed heavily, dramatically.

"It was only a bit of fun."

"Sophie. Downstairs."

Sophie tensed abruptly and carefully laid aside the tiny bit of equipment she'd been fiddling with. Nate's MO with his team, at least since his escape, had been quiet persistence, cajoling and reassurance. When she heard a long-missing tone of command re-enter his voice, she realized he'd been deeply disturbed or angered. Probably both. Rising to her feet, she followed him down to the bar, which, at five in the morning, was silent and peaceful. Once the lights had been switched on and they could see their way around, he pointed at a table and, at least on the surface, she meekly obeyed and moved to perch on a chair. A few moments later, he took his own seat, placing two full glasses on the table and sliding one toward her.

"Now, Nate..." she began, breaking off when he held up a hand. She watched quietly while he slowly twirled his glass on the table, unable to look at her. After several minutes of this, she finally, gently, broke the stalemate. "Oh, my. I really upset you." she offered, mild surprise and genuine regret coloring her words.

"Upset doesn't even come close. If you'd picked Hardison, he would've been pissed, but as soon as the newest tech or the next challenge came along, what you did wouldn't even be a memory. Parker is so far left of center most of the time that she might've actually enjoyed playing, as long as you told her beforehand. You picked the wrong one to toy with, Soph."

"It was an experiment, Nate! It turned out useful, didn't it? Besides, I wasn't trying to *hurt* Eliot..."

"Do you even give a damn how easy that is to do?"

"You can't be serious..."

"Wake up, Sophie. Have you ever known somebody like him that *wasn't* full of broken glass inside? The wrong word, the wrong person messing around without thinking and one of those shards twists and slices him up. He doesn't recover from that easily or quickly, I don't care what you see on the surface."

"Nate... He never really knew I was doing anything. I'm sure of it."

"I told him."

"You what? Then if he's hurt or angry it's your responsibility!" she shot back, rising and stalking away, stopping a pace or two from the bar.

"He had a right to know. Hell, he deserved better than to be used like that in the first place! Eliot's been screwed over most of his life, Sophie. I'm showing him how to work through it bit by bit and move forward... fighting to rebuild his trust in the world. When you pull stunts like this it just blows apart any pieces he and I have managed to put back in place."

Reeling from witnessing such a radically different side of Nate Ford on display, Sophie forced herself to breathe deeply a few times and settle her roiling emotions before she turned back to him and hesitantly responded.

"When I left..."

"It was bad. I'm not giving you any details. When you go to him and apologize for this bit of crap... maybe he'll tell you himself. Don't count on it, though."

"I will... say I'm sorry, I mean."

"It can't ever happen again, Sophie."

"I know. I... I understand. I, um... I need to go and... do some thinking."

"Good idea."

Gaze firmly on the table, Nate heard, but didn't actually see, Sophie stride from the room and back up the stairs. A few moments later a heavy warm hand dropped onto Nate's shoulder. He reached up and drew it sideways and soon its twin joined it, lightly massaging Nate's neck.

"You forgot to mention that you and me have a mutual aid society going."

"It wasn't about my problems. Besides... we agreed I don't have to tell anyone until *I* think I'm seeing some progress on my side of the partnership."

"Yeah, yeah. Not the time for old arguments."

"Good."

"We do need to talk about something, though. I don't need you fighting for me, I've told you that a thousand times." Eliot growled softly, briefly squeezing just a little too hard.

"Owww... Hey, 99 percent of the time I listen to you. Tonight... I felt like I had to speak up. If she'd stop, for even a second, and allow *consequences* a little room in her brain..."

"Impulsive works for her and the team. Usually."

"When it translates into thinking on her feet in the field, I'm all for it. She needs to learn to leave it there. I'm sorry, El. I'm fully aware that you can stand up for yourself. What she did was just so callous and insensitive and I..."

"I know." Eliot replied, grinning lightly as he finished the massage and leaned in to press a soft, lingering kiss on Nate's cheek. "Thanks. You coming up?"

"In a minute."

"Nate... let it alone. Leave it on the table."

"Damn it, Eliot..."

"Want or need? Didn't you tell me that was the most important question? Do I have to have it, will I suffer and die without it... or is there something better I could be reaching for?"

Nate's hand hung in the air over his glass for a long time, but eventually he stretched the fingers over his shoulder again. Eliot grasped them firmly, tugged Nate up and out of his chair and the two men moved up the stairs together.

END