Disclaimer: I do not own Leverage. If I did, Tara would be sent to the moon.

.

Pack Mentality

.

Basically, they are all lone wolves.

Even Hardison, who loves to have people around him, even Sophie, who, everyone is sure, would shrivel up and die without masses to adore her. At the end of the day, they all go back to their own places, their hidey-holes and batcaves, and they sleep alone.

Lone wolves.

Company is nice, sometimes even appreciated, but people are props to them. It comes with the job and it's not always a nice thing, but that's how it is. People are marks, willing bodies to sleep with or unwilling bodies to hit, they are numbers on a screen or objects in a vault.

They all survive just great on their own, even Nate, the only one of them to ever put down roots, to invest in such things as marriage and children. Even before Sam, he spent most of his time chasing criminals across the continents, sleeping in empty hotel rooms.

So mashing them all together, stuffing them into one office and calling them a team is a bit of a stretch and everyone's sure that they'll fall apart. Eliot gives it a month, Parker and Sophie a few weeks. Hardison and Nate seem the most enthusiastic but even they doubt they'll make it a year.

They're simply not made for company.

But somehow, somewhere, something changes.

.

For Eliot it's the first time he reaches for his earbud outside of a job. He hates those things, hates the peanut gallery constantly in his head and most of all, hates Nate's insistence that they take the buds with them wherever, because you never know when trouble might pop up. Nate thinks that five lone wolves thrown together means they're suddenly a pack. He thinks it means that they'll rush to each others' rescue now.

Maybe they would, but Eliot still hates the fucking buds. And then he's standing in the middle of the grocery store, tapping his ear and asking, "Hey, Sophie, where did you say you got that great red wine from?"

And Hardison calls him a food-snob and Parker giggle-snorts and Nate asks him to bring back some more whiskey, all before Sophie answers and Eliot just grunts at them all and thanks her. Then he moves down the aisle a few feet before it hits him. He stops, stares at thin air and then curses loud enough to make the old woman one aisle over jump.

Parker titters in his ear.

.

For Hardison it's the third time he comes home to find someone else in his apartment, drinking his orange soda. The first time it was Parker, who he'd invited to come look at his place. She misinterpreted the invitation and just looked while he was still out. Almost gave him a heart attack when he came home to find her perched on his kitchen counter, munching chips.

The second time was Eliot, who doesn't have a TV but loves football. He let himself in, brought his own beer and lounged on the couch until the game was over, refusing to budge.

The third time it's both of them, curled up on said couch, snacks and beer at the ready, sipping his beloved orange soda. They look up when he comes in and Parker holds up two DVD cases, asking, "Horror or SciFi?"

Hardison sighs, strikes the evening's plans to rewrite some tracking programs and throws himself in the love seat, saying, "Definitely SciFi, baby."

.

For Sophie it's having someone to invite to the premiere of her latest foray into acting and then, afterwards, having someone to hold her hand and tell her that really, she wasn't that bad and the way she reinterpreted Hamlet to express his oedipal complex was perfectly fine, they just didn't get it. Honest.

Eliot brings her a glass of wine, Nate keeps muttering about how all the other actors pulled her down, Parker pats her head like some deranged puppy-owner and Hardison offers to destroy all digital evidence of the play and change her name for her.

And Sophie knows that she sucked and that these people have no obligation whatsoever to be nice to her, but they still are. It's not out of politeness, but because, somehow, they genuinely want her to feel better.

She thinks that, maybe, they see past all the masks, down to who she really it.

It's a damn scary thought.

She takes a sip of wine, smiles winningly at Eliot and tells Parker to stop ruining her hair.

.

For Nate it's passing out on the couch in the office after a long, drunken day and half waking to the feeling of someone pulling a blanket over him and calling him an idiot.

.

And for Parker it's when she asks another one of her stupid, inane questions. The ones that always make people look at her funny. The ones that normal people never asks because they know what to say when and what never to say and Parker just never seems to get it right, never seems to shut her mouth at the right time, never knows what she did wrong.

But she always recognizes the awkward silences that fall in the wake of one of those questions and they make her scramble into ceilings or air vents to disappear.

But she asks one of those questions during a briefing ad Eliot rolls his eyes and Hardison gapes and Sophie and Nate just give her long looks and it makes her squirm and look at the loose ceiling tile in the far left corner in contemplation.

But then they're done being surprised and Eliot shifts his chair closer to hers and they answer her question. They explain.

.

Somehow, somewhere, something changes.

And they may all have convenient excuses as to why they came back to finish the IYS job, but the simple truth is, they missed each other, missed running in a pack.

A pack of lone wolves, sure. But still a pack.

So there.

.