I tried to add humor, but this isn't a humorous story so it didn't really work. WOW I'm really surprised at the reviews, I didn't think so many people would like it! Please keep reviewing, and I'd be glad to hear any ideas or comments (sorry, though- it's not going to be Eliot/Parker) Oh and I managed to somewhat tie in one of my other stories (the Bike Accident), but it's not exactly the same. Thanks everyone!
Parker choked on her cereal. Eliot noticed how tense she got. Sophie got her a glass of water when the coughing wouldn't stop, but she didn't take it. She was looking at the picture on the screen. It was Susan and Jason all grown up. They were smiling and laughing at the camera. She noticed a ring on her finger and her eyes grew even wider. She got married?
A wave of emotions hit her. Sadness. Anger. Regret. Jealousy.
She didn't know if she should be happy that Susan was still alive or upset that they've been separated all these years.
"Parker, are you OK?" Sophie asked, concerned. She patted Parker's back, who was still coughing.
Parker nodded and the coughs went away soon after. "Fine," she mumbled weakly.
Eliot hadn't taken his eyes off of her. "You know them," he stated. It wasn't a question, but Parker nodded anyways.
Everyone was extremely curious, but before they could fire off questions she bolted out of her seat and ran out the door.
"That was weird," Hardison said. They all nodded their agreement.
"Please, Susan," Parker begged. "This is the third time this week. Please, let's tell someone. It's worked for me before."
"Yeah, cause this is such a better place than your last homes," she said sarcastically. She didn't mean to be rude, but getting hurt every day ending in 'y' was wearing her down. "This actually is a better place for me. I know it was bad for you before, but there are much worse things than physical abuse," Susan said, shuddering at the thought of her last home. "This is manageable."
Parker's arm was dangling limply at her side. She clutched it in pain. "Another trip to the hospital," she said, and Susan nodded.
"We have to go to the free clinic," Susan said. "The doctors at the other place are getting suspicious."
Parker sighed. "That's over a mile away."
"Then let's get going."
"I'll go after her," Sophie said.
"No, I will," Eliot said. He didn't know what to say, but knew what she was going through. Sophie nodded at him and he got up. He knew exactly where she was going.
Up on the roof, Parker sat, legs dangling over the side of the building. She was thinking about Susan, imagining how great her life was. She probably had kids and a real family, thought Parker, and is a good mother. Thinking of Susan brought up the memories- clearer and more detailed than ever. Susan was always protective of her; she was Parker's only friend. Parker thought about how she even got into stealing, despite how her older sister/best friend disproved of it.
"Whadcha get this time, Parker?" Michael asked excitedly. He was bouncing up and down. She showed him three wallets, a yo-yo, half of a pack of gum, and an electronic game. "Yes! This is awesome!" He grabbed the yo-yo and the game and ran off under the big slide, his 'room'.
Susan was frowning at her, but Parker was oblivious. "Parker," she started, "Stealing is wrong. It says so in the bible."
"What's a bible?" asked Parker.
Susan was about to ask how she never heard of the bible, but realized that she grew up alone and in the system. After all, Susan only heard about it because one of her previous parents was a church-goer. She didn't know how to answer the question, either. "Uh, I don't know. It's like a book that everyone follows and it gives you rules that tell what's right and wrong."
Parker frowned. "Sounds like a boring book."
She was getting frustrated. "Whatever. I'm the oldest, just listen to me. Promise me that you won't steal."
Parker hesitated a moment, then agreed reluctantly. "Fine. I promise," she sighed.
Her fingers were crossed.
Deep in thought, she didn't notice the door opening behind her. Eliot walked to the ledge and sat down right next to her. Parker put her head on his shoulder and they stayed like that for a while. She wiped the tears out of her eyes and got up. "I don't want to talk about it, OK?"
"I understand," Eliot said. "But I'm here if you ever do."
They walked back to the offices. Parker pretended like her outburst never happened, and the team didn't bring it up. They were still in their spots on the couch, except Hardison had laid down where Eliot and Parker usually sat. He got up as soon as he saw Eliot's glare. "Just keeping it warm for y'all," he joked.
"Hardison, run- well, finish running it," Nate corrected himself.
"OK, so as I was saying, Susan and Jason Stapleton," he briefly paused to make sure there were no more random outbursts, "they were in the foster system, Susan for 15 years and Jason for 8 years. Their similar parents were Chris and Michele Bratton. They were flagged quite a few times for…" he paused. "Um… Abuse and maltreatment." They all looked at Parker, who continued to stare obliviously at the picture on the screen. "And, um, after their house exploded- couldn't figure out why or how- they separated when Susan was 16 and Jason was 14 and have stayed in touch since. They just bought a house, and the guy they borrowed money from is forcing them to pay him back plus a twenty percent interest… I'm not a mathematician or anything, but I'm thinking that's a lot. And he's demanding it by the end of the month or he's taking the house and all that's left in their bank accounts. Along with that, Susan has some long-lasting damage from foster care. From what I can tell by the records it's with the Brattons."
"Why is both their last names Stapleton if neither of them had any parents named that?" Sophie asked.
"Susan makes people names," Parker mumbled, her knees pulled up to her chest.
Hardison pointed at Parker and then at the picture of Susan, "your name-?"
Parker was about to nod before Eliot cut him off. "Back to the relevant stuff," he said. "So what's the plan? Whose heads do I have to bash in this time?"
"Hm…" Nate contemplated. "I'm thinking the San Antonio Split."
"No way," Sophie said, shaking her head. "The Happy Couple."
"Please," Hardison complained. "We all know you two make up these random names. They aren't even real cons!"
"Can we do the Fiddle one?" Parker asked after raising her hand. "And can Eliot be the fiddle?"
Eliot stared at her quizzically. He would never completely understand her.
"No," Nate said. Then, simultaneously he and Sophie got stupid grins on their faces and said "the Banana Split."
"What the hell," Hardison said. "It's not a real con. This is seriously getting old. Wipe those damn grins off your faces, we didn't accomplish anything."
Ignoring him, Nate uttered his famous line: "Let's go steal a loan shark" and walked out the door. Sophie followed.
Eventually, Hardison got up too. "We already did a con like this," he mumbled, then walked out of the room.
Eliot and Parker were left. There was an awkward silence, so Eliot was about to leave when Parker spoke up.
"Susan was my best friend. I should have gotten her out of there. I just couldn't-" she stopped mid-sentence, trying so hard not to cry.
He hugged her, burying her head into his shoulder. "I understand."
"No, you don't. I did a really bad thing."
Eliot knew that Parker admitting she did a bad thing must have meant that it was a really bad thing. Most of the time he seriously doubted whether she had a sense of right and wrong. Or up and down, for that matter.
"Like I said, the offer still stands," he said. She nodded, untangled herself from him, and left.
She didn't steal just because it was fun; she stole so she could buy Susan, Jason, and Michael (the only three she talked to) food and clothes. Later, she realized she could just steal those items as well, so she had a huge amount of money on her hands.
The money she got from stealing added up to a lot. At the time, she didn't have an obsession with money, so she didn't know what to do with it. She decided to take Michael to the toy store and let him buy anything he wanted. He picked a bike he'd been eyeing for a while. It was red with racer stripes down the side. He was ecstatic.
They walked home together, Michael pushing the bike. Parker felt bad, so she said he could go down the hill. His eyes grew wide. "The really big one? That's for big kids, though."
She laughed. "You're old enough, definitely. Kids like us grow up a lot earlier than others."
"Who told you that?" he asked.
She shrugged. "I've heard it around the park. The kids don't play with us cause their moms tell them not too. They think we're different."
"Because we sleep there," Michael finished. He was a quick learner, Parker noticed. Without another word he hopped on his bike and pedaled fast for the hill. There was no side walk so he made sure no cars were coming before he zoomed down.
Parker saw it happen, but couldn't do anything about it. The bike brakes weren't working, and a car was speeding straight ahead. The driver never saw it. Michael died with the impact.
It destroyed her.