The Kidnap Job
It's two days later, and Nate's kept him busy with all sorts of recon work. He's done a little online research late at night and he thinks he might know a way to get that family into contact with the right sort of social worker, but without Hardison's skills in tracking them down via surveillance camera's there ain't much he can do, and he's reluctant to ask. Eliot is just shucking his suit jacket and tie when he hears Sophie and Hardison enter the apartment.
"...and I can't be there in the way Debbie can," Sophie is explaining.
"You can call though," Hardison says. "Check in on them."
"And I intend to, I just didn't want their care to depend on my..unreliable.. life."
Eliot steps out of his bedroom, undoing the top buttons of his white shirt, and nods in greeting.
Hardison looks plain and conservative in a dark red sweater. Sophie.. her hair and makeup are downplaying her, deliberately he thinks. She looks a little older, a little plainer, with a pale green shirt and a maternal brown knitted cardigan. Nate's had them do some sort of meeting in a library. It had sounded marginally more interesting than watching milk curdle.
Sophie flashes him a smile.
"How was today?"
He scowls. "I had to pretend to be an office temp. How do you think it was?"
"An interesting insight into the lives of the office-working population?" Hardison grins.
"Yeah, it was fascinating."
"Scintillating?" Sophie suggests.
"Ohh, nice one. Engrossing?" Hardison again.
"Try boring and humiliating," he grumbles, wondering what sort of game they were at.
"AND OTHER WORDS ENDING ON -ING!" Parker yelled down the stairs.
"You're all nuts," Eliot summarised the situation. "And I need a beer."
It's that evening, when he's settled into the comfortable chair with his second beer and his book, that Parker bounces over to him.
"Hi!" she drapes herself over the sides and back of the chair, legs on one side, cheek resting on his shoulder like she's some sort of bizarre fur stole. He can't quite hide his smile.
"Hello darlin', how are ya?"
He winces from her volume so close to his ear.
"I went and planted files instead of stealing them and it was all really exciting because this lady asked me questions and I answered them and I think I did all right because she let me go and maybe I can do grifting after all and we didn't even steal those kids but they are still going to be better I think!"
There's a pause while he mentally reruns that with commas and full stops inserted. She's playing with his hair, which is a little distracting.
"Those kids? You went to plant files for those kids?" That at least he can make out.
"Isn't that cool?"
He idly strokes the blonde braid that is hanging down over his shoulder and tries to formulate a response.
"We did a little more than plant files though," Sophie sat down on the sofa with a glass of wine. "We tracked the family down, went in to talk to them-"
"You talked to her? How did that go?"
"Not bad at all, actually. You weren't far off - her husband left her last month and the kids have been really difficult. Add to that financial troubles and the fact that her in-laws used to watch the kids.. She said she'd been thinking about getting help, but she was worried they would just take the kids away from her."
"So what'd you actually do?"
"Well, essentially we did an intake of her and the children, and then inserted them into the system."
"Parenting class, child care vouchers, food stamps..." Hardison summed up, walking into the living area with his laptop in front of him, nose still buried in it. "Forget anything?"
"Twice-weekly sessions with a parenting coach who works closely with a social worker, so if things go downhill it'll be noticed too," Sophie said. "Parker planted the physical files, Alec did the digital side."
"We basically navigated the entire system for her and did all the admin," Hardison says without looking up from his screen. "Should take care of itself from here on."
"I'll call her occasionally though, to see how she's doing."
Eliot doesn't say anything. Isn't sure if he could form words even if he did know what to say. God, they've done this... for those kids, of course, but also a little for him. They made it their business because he had made it his. And they did it so he didn't even have to ask for their help, probably because they knew he wouldn't ask.
He takes a deep breath, trying to summon the rights words to say, but they don't come, and he closes his mouth again. Nobody seems to notice. Hardison doesn't look up from his screen. Sophie sips her wine while looking through a fashion magazine.
And Parker - she brushes a quick kiss onto his cheek, stage-whispers "You're welcome" and then slides from her weird perch on the back of his chair. He watches her as she bounces off, a little bemused.
He puts down his book and glasses, downs the last of his beer and gets up.
"Rack of lamb tonight, I think." Honey glaze maybe. There's fresh rosemary too. Yeah, that seems about right.