A/N: I just got Leverage Season 2 for my birthday! So I've been watching tons of Leverage. And here's one thing I thought of… Enjoy.

My life has been filled with women. Some I've loved, some I've hated. Some I've worshipped, some I've shunned. And some I've cared about deeply but I wouldn't classify it quite as love. Love is an emotion that makes you do stupid things. When you really, truly love someone then you'll do anything to make them happy. If they want you gone, you're gone. If they want you dead, you'll die. It's that simple.

I loved my mother. Of course I loved my mother. How could I not love her sweet, gentle soul? She was barely out of childhood—barely able to fall under the classification "woman"—when I was born. I was her second child, her baby. She loved me as only a mother could: unconditionally. She loved my father despite his violence and mob ties. She loved him even when he smacked her around. And she was beautiful the whole time. She had lovely blonde hair. Hair I used to bury my face in and cry into. Hair I smelled every time I needed comfort. She always smelled of lavender and just a hint of jasmine. I had no idea where the smells came from but I knew that they were always there. They lingered in the air when she left the room. They filled the house when she showered after my father came home. Her smell lingered on her pillow after her death.

I had loved Maggie, once. When she was carrying Sam, I don't think I could have possibly loved her more. Her face was radiant throughout the entire pregnancy and she took every day of morning sickness in stride. Never had I met a woman more suited for motherhood. I loved the smell of her blonde hair—a mix of strawberries and roses. It was an odd combination that I eventually learned was caused by the strawberry shampoo and the rose conditioner. Her hair was too… platinum blonde to be the same shade as my mother's but I loved it nonetheless. But, when Sam died, she lost the glow that surrounded her. Her soul was crushed. And the part of me that loved Maggie more than life itself died with my son. I couldn't bear to look at her so I drank myself into oblivion, trying to rid myself of all the memories, happy and unhappy.

I had cared about Tara. Tara was… odd. She wasn't really… into what we did. Well, she loved grifting, that was clear, but she didn't feel the rush of excitement when she was able to help someone. So I was understandably surprised when I realized that I… cared about Tara. Not as I did the rest of my team, of course, but it was something. I suppose some would call it "love" but they don't really understand the meaning of the word. I cared about her. Hell, I would risk my life for her. But love? No. It wasn't quite love. Not even the love of a friend. It was more like… a connection. Humans are pack animals, after all. And she had joined our little "pack." And I grew fond of her despite my attempts not to and was truly saddened to see her go. Tara was also blonde, oddly enough. Instead of the pale, silky hair my mother had it was darker; it was almost dirty blonde. And Tara smelled different depending on the con but her natural smell was of vanilla. Warm, sweet vanilla. The kind that you associate with sugar cookies. It was odd that someone who acted so… hardened smelled of something so innocent.

Now, Parker I loved. I still love her. I feel like I've watched her grow up over the past three years. She has developed from a shy, awkward child to an almost self confident woman. I've watched her stab a guy with a fork and rescue orphans. I've chased her all over the world. I've watched her jump off roofs just for the sheer delight of the free fall. I've seen her learn how to handle a mark. I've seen her fall in love. I've seen her make friends. And, goddamnit, I was proud of her. She was the daughter I never had and probably never would. She was perfect in her imperfection. And, she looked as though I thought my daughter would look if I ever had one. She was blonde, the same silky, pale blonde of my mother. Her curls fell loosely and were easily combed into soft waves. In another lifetime, we could've been related. But I was more than happy to watch her grow as a woman now.

I didn't admit that I loved when she came over. After all, she left a gentle smell of jasmine in her wake. And jasmine reminded me of my mother, a woman I loved. I've grown to love seeing her fall asleep on my couch and I would allow myself to indulge in a moment of fatherly affection. I would take out the blanket I kept just for her (one that now smelled of jasmine and orange soda) and tuck her in, kissing her forehead softly. I loved her more than I thought I could love a thief. I not only wanted her to be really, truly happy but I also wanted her to be able to be… Parker. I wanted Parker to live in a world with people who loved her and cared about her. And she was there now. I had thought about leaving the team countless times over the years and each time I was close to leaving, Parker would sit next to me and watch me with her curious blue eyes. She would ask questions about the con and she would listen with rapt attention. She had the power to charm me back to the team more than the rest of them. She had no idea how much she meant to me and I always regretted that. But, eventually, when she learns what love is (real love. Not the love that makes a woman stay with an abusive husband or the love that lives in a broken marriage) I'll be there, watching her with pride. Because, after all, a father is always proud of his children.

Sophie was the oddity. I loved her deeply, so much it almost destroyed me. But Sophie had dark hair. Dark hair that smelled of fresh, clean wildflowers when she wasn't playing anyone other than Sophie. She lacked the soft, pale hair I loved. But, for some reason, it made her unique. Throughout my life I had been attracted to blondes, falling head over heels when I saw a flash of pale hair. But not with Sophie. I love her hair. It's dark and thick and curly and I love the feel of it when I play with a lock of it. She hates her hair sometimes, loves it others but I happen to find it fascinating. She can dramatically alter her appearance with only ten minutes of hair styling. She can be half Indian or Italian or Russian or British or American with only an accent switch and a few minutes of hair dressing. And, oddly enough, I loved that about her. I loved everything about her.

I knew that it was a different love than what I had for my mother or the love I have for Parker. I love Sophie like a lover. An equal. My mother was the woman I had worshipped as a child because of the way she loved me for who I was. Parker is the child I've been raising and I love watching her grow. And Sophie… Sophie's been there while I directed Parker, helping the girl in ways I never could. Sophie is my goddess, my love, my life. If I had known that I would fall in love with Sophie when I was chasing her across Europe, I would've laughed. How could I ever love a woman like Sophie Devereaux? But, I did. And I still do. In a perfect world, we would live happily ever after. We would have a couple of kids and a yard and Parker, Hardison, and Eliot would visit and babysit and maybe even have families of their own. But, the world wasn't perfect and that would never happen. My life would never be perfect because I, Nathan Ford, am a broken man. A man torn apart by the love I once had for my mother, the love that lingers for Maggie, the love that makes me want to keep Parker away from the evils of the world, the love that makes me long for a woman I can never have. Because Nathan Ford and Sophie Devereaux are destined to live life alone. Since the death of my son, I haven't truly been able to live. And that would kill Sophie. And I love Sophie. I never want to see her hurt. So, despite what she says or does, I cannot let myself love her. Not openly, anyway.

So I force myself to turn away from Sophie in order to save Sophie. By loving me, Sophie would be torn apart. Love for Parker is safe and easy; Parker barely grasps the idea of love anyways. Parker will never be an equal in my mind because I see her as a child. A child who cannot be corrupted by my pain. But Sophie… Sophie would try to take my burdens and make them hers. And I knew that the weight of it would crush her. She would be killing herself slowly and painfully if she knew my true pain. I couldn't let her do that, no matter how ready she thought she was to deal with it. It may be selfish of me but I will never, ever let Sophie Devereaux suffer if I can prevent it.

That's love. The want—no, the need for the one you love to be happy is love. My mother did everything in her power to keep me away from my father's evils and to keep my spirits lifted. She did a wonderful job and I'm thankful everyday for her sacrifice. I knew it pained her more than I could imagine to put on a brave face and tell me everything was going to be okay. I tried to do the same for Parker. I never let Parker see me for who I really was: a broken man who can barely function without alcohol to numb his pain. I force that upon Sophie, though. I let her see the broken, evil Nate that's buried somewhere inside of me. I never let hers see the kind Nate that loves her. Because that's who she loves. And I can't let her love me. So I bury that Nate deep down and I show her the cruel Nate. The Nate that enjoys making bad men suffer. The Nate that can stand there silently as a mark's life is torn apart. The Nate that shot her. The Nate that wouldn't hesitate to give up his own team to save himself. Yes. That's the Nate I force on Sophie but she still loves me. I can see it in her eyes when she watches me. I hear it in her voice when she speaks to me. I feel it in the kisses she gives me when no one's looking.

I love Sophie Devereaux with every fiber of my being. And she loves me. I saw her watching me now and I looked away. It was late and our boys had already gone home. I forced my smile away as I reflected upon my last thought. Our boys. That's what they were. Ours. Our children. Sophie was sitting at the bar, looking from the tea that sat in front of her to me, watching both intensely. Parker was half asleep on the couch, her mouth hanging open slightly as the tv provided background noise. As was my ritual, I stood and went to the closet to retrieve the blanket. It was freshly laundered thanks to Sophie and it smelled more of Sophie than Parker. I gently placed the blanket over Parker and her eyes fluttered open.

"Night, Nate," she yawned as I tucked the edges of the blankets around her shoulders. We've been through this routine a thousand times and I like to think she's come to enjoy it. I kissed her forehead and she smiled at me sleepily.

"Sleep well, Parker," I told her gently. She nodded as she shut her eyes and she fell asleep quickly. I watched her for a few moments before moving an errant blonde curl off her face. I sat next to Sophie and I turned my attention to her.

"You're wonderful," Sophie said so quietly that I think I imagined it. She was staring into her tea cup as she spoke again. "She loves you, Nate." I heard the silent "so do I" that she left unsaid. She shifted her gaze from the tea to me and I was surprised by the intensity of her gaze. "I know what you're trying to do," she told me, her voice dripping with an emotion I couldn't identify. "I know who you really are, Nate. I love you. I always have. I always will. No matter how hard you try to keep me from loving you."

I was stunned by the truth behind her words. "Sophie, I—" I tried to reason.

"No, Nate," she sounded tired. "I know what you're going to say. Save it. I don't want to hear your lame excuses." There was a moment of tense silence before she spoke again to the tea sitting in front of her. "I wish you would stop pushing me away," she whispered. I heard the tears in her voice and I felt a pang of regret shoot through me.

"Sophie," I spoke gently as I moved to touch the hair I love so much. I tucked a lock of it behind her ear and I saw the tears coursing down her perfect cheek. "I'm sorry," I was having difficulty keeping my voice calm and gentle. I wanted to undo the pain I was causing her more than anything. "I just can't… I… I love you, Sophie. But I can't love you."

"Why not?" she spat at me, her voice angry and harsh as she continued to stare at her tea.

"I'm broken. I'm a drunk. I'm a thief. You deserve better."

"Is that what you think?" she asked, her voice devoid of the anger that had been there only a moment ago. "Nate… You're the best man I've ever met. You're kind and you live to make other people happy. Have you ever seen how you treat the team? You know how to calm us down. You keep a blanket in your closet just so Parker can be more comfortable when she falls asleep on your couch. You're a wonderful man, Nate. And, for that, I love you. I love every broken, shattered remnant of you."

I was silent for a moment as I looked into her rich brown eyes. How could I respond to that? "Sophie," I whispered, my voice tasting her name delicately. I leaned toward her slightly and she took my hand. She smiled at me, the tears still shimmering in her eyes, and leaned forward. We kissed gently at first. It was filled with a slow burning passion that would last an eternity. "I love you," I whispered as I pulled away.

"I love you too," she replied as she kissed me once again.

Love was a funny thing. And, as I kissed Sophie in the semi-darkness of my kitchen, I felt love once again. Pure, innocent, true love. There was the love I had for my mother, the love I had for Tara, the love I had for Maggie, the love I had for Sam, the love I had for Parker. But, now, there was the love I had for Sophie. The love that I allowed to finally take over me. It felt so… right to kiss her. It felt perfect to whisper my love. It was perfect. Sophie was perfect. And I loved her.

A sneeze followed by a cough shattered the moment. "Parker?" I asked, concerned about her. She coughed again and I stood up, Sophie only a step behind me. "Are you alright?"

She shook her head, eyes shut in pain. Sophie knelt next to Parker and placed a hand on her forehead. "Oh, dear. She's burning up."

"Come on, Parker. We're going to get you some cold medicine and we'll put you in my room," I told her gently. Parker tried to sit up and fell into a coughing fit. "Soph, will you go to the medicine cabinet and get the nighttime cold medicine?" I asked as I placed an arm under Parker's shoulders and my other arm under her knees. I scooped her up easily, a little surprised by how light she was.

"Of course," Sophie replied as I carried Parker up the stairs. In a few minutes, Parker was asleep once again and Sophie and I were watching her carefully. "This is nice," Sophie stated as we watched her.

"What?" I asked.

"It's nice… Being parents," she struggled to explain. "It feels… natural."

I grinned despite my concern for Parker. "It does, doesn't it?" I placed an arm around Sophie's shoulders, pulling her close. She leaned her head against me and I rested mine on top of hers. She was right, though. It felt natural. And it was nice. For now, at least, everything felt right in the world. I loved Sophie and she loved me. I loved Parker. I loved my mother. And that was more than I could ever ask for. I shut my eyes and took a deep breath, storing this moment for the future. A slice of happiness that I would be able to look back on when it wasn't such a happy day. I added the memory to a barrage of others: Sam learning how to walk, Parker giving me a hug, Hardison getting a gummy frog stuck to his forehead, Eliot taking care of the team, Sophie's kiss, my mother's smile.

I knew this moment of perfection wouldn't last forever so I savored it while it lasted. But, for now, everything was right in the world. I stood with the woman I loved while watching a girl who was practically my child sleep peacefully. I kissed the top of Sophie's head, inhaling deeply.

I grinned at the smell of the fresh wildflowers and soap. No one would ever smell quite like Sophie Devereaux. No one would have the same gorgeous brown eyes. No one would ever have the same soft, dark hair. And I would love no one like I loved Sophie Devereaux.

A/N: Um… I dunno what happened. This was supposed to be a short one-shot. Something about 500 words or so long. But it grew into this 3,000+ word monster! I'm not sure how I feel about this fic… and it's the first time I've written from Nate's point of view. Anyways, tell me what you think. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I usually stick to cheerful Parker/Hardison stories so this was kinda out of the norm.