It was the anniversary of his son's death. Everyone in the crew knew it. They had been dreading this day ever since the month started. Every day Sophie said "remember that we have to be sensitive to Nate." Hardison didn't need to be reminded of this, much less Eliot, he knew his boundaries, but Parker was another story. They didn't know how she would react. Hell, even she didn't know how she would react. Sophie has been giving her lessons on what's acceptable and what's not, but she knew that the lessons wear off and that she says "unacceptable things" as Sophie called them.
She sat down next to Hardison with the intention of letting him know she was nervous, that she was scared of saying or doing the wrong thing; but the words never left her mouth. She hated feeling vulnerable, but to her luck, he knew that. As she was about to stand up ready to leave the couch his voice paralyzed her.
"You'll do fine." He said while admiring her and cutting through the awful silence. She got even paler.
You think?" She finally said.
"Parker look at me. I know you'll do great. When the moment comes you'll be sure of what to do." He said reassuring the young woman.
Parker wanted to give him a thank you hug, she knew the hacker would like that, but instead she just sat there close to him. He got the message and turned towards her and said "you know you can hug me, right?" While his voice tried not to quiver "you can, Parker. You don't have to be scared, we're not gonna hurt you. I'm never gonna hurt you."
Her watering eyes looked straight towards his. She nodded letting him know she understood. She knew she was safe.
The dreaded day finally arrived.
The sound of nothing invaded their surroundings. They had prepared for this day. They vowed not to leave Nate alone. Sophie was aching to go towards Nate, she wanted to let him know he didn't have to suffer anymore, he could instead celebrate the life he had with Sam and, for all that matters, Maggie too.
Eliot stopped her as she was about to move forward. "Do you really think that's a good idea?" he said sincerely. "Soph, I know you want to help, but sometimes saying nothing is way more helpful than saying anything. Especially today."
As she was drying the tears rolling down her face she sat back down and they all observed Nate.
He was in the corner booth. It was darker than usual, but they didn't know if it was because he removed a light bulb or if he just expelled some of the darkness within. The table was filled with his companions, liquors, and lots of them. Glass after glass he kept drowning his sorrows or at least trying to.
Nobody could get his pain, no matter how much they tried the just couldn't. The pain of losing one's child is unbearable, if only they knew what it meant.
As Nate downed yet another glass Parker moved towards him. Eliot and Sophie were about to stop her when Hardison said "let her." They both looked back at him with their expressions of "are you crazy! It's Parker!" Hardison just nodded, he knew Parker would be fine. Sophie though of telling a piece of her mind to Hardison, but instead decided to observe the young thief as she moved forward.
Her steps were silent, a skill she had mastered long ago. She could feel the gang's eyes on her, but decided to ignore the feeling of being watched. What she was about to do was more important.
She finally walked up to Nate who still didn't notice her. She didn't want to startle him so she let out a soft sight, the kind of sight that says "I'm here."
He looked up saw her standing there with a glum expression on her face. "I've caused that" he said to himself. "I made parker sad, yet another kid I'm letting down." More tears cascaded on his face.
Sophie looked back at Hardison, with the kind of look that said "see what you did". But he just said "Give her a chance." Eliot didn't break his observation for a second, he knew Nate was drunk and Parker was Parker. That was enough to keep him alert.
As a tear left her eye Parker moved even closer towards Nate. He looked up, but before he could say anything, Parker had hugged him. He was as startled as the rest of the crew.
She didn't say anything she just hugged him. The hug was longer than usual. The thief had her plan: she wouldn't let to until he hugged her back.
Nate turned his head and said in a low voice "Parker you're hugging!" The smell of alcohol drowned her. "Yeah, I know it's not the best hug, but - " he cut her off and said "Parker this is perfect" as he hugged her back. Tears came and went in both of their eyes. "I'm sorry." she said as she let go. "Don't be." he reassured her with a hint of a smile in his face.
"Parker hugged me!" he said in disbelief as the young woman walked away. "She hugged..." he whispered again.
The biggest smile took over her face, adrenaline filled her body. She felt like running up and down the stairs, maybe even jumping off a building.
"Genius" Sophie thought. That was just perfect. She looked at Hardison with a proud mother's look. He smirked back at her. Eliot still with his eyes on Parker said "Great job honey. You did great." he repeated.
Parker saw Hardison and went up to him, stretched her arms out and gave him the hug she wanted to give him before, but this time it was also to share that warm feeling she received from Nate. Hardison hugged her back with more affection than he realized. He knew what he had done when she kissed his cheek, startled by the action he began to blush while he heard Parker say "It was the only way I could match your hug." She let go and stood besides the blushing man. They all went back to watching Nate. This time as the bartender offered a refill he denied it. Because from now on the worst day of his life will forever be accompanied with Parker's hug, her first real hug. He looked at her, she still had the smile radiating through the bar. "I don't think she'll ever realize the hugeness of her action." he thought to himself.