A/N: This is for all the wonderful readers and reviewers who have welcomed me into this fandom that I only discovered a couple of months ago and love already. This fic entirely got away from me and grew into something much more than I meant for it to, but thats okay. This is for the Eliot/Parker shippers, who are so very cool; I am glad to be amongst your number.

Disclaimer: Characters from Leverage belong to John Rogers, Chris Downey, and other important people that aren't me.

The Christmas Miracle Job

"What did you do, Eliot?" asked Sophie in her best motherly tone.

Even through the webcam she was severe enough to have the hitter squirming, though he tried not to show it.

"I didn't do anything!" he protested, loud enough to sound affronted but not so loud that the others would overhear from the couch where they were watching TV.

"Well, that's not how it seems to me" Sophie said firmly, "I had Parker on the phone for over an hour last night sobbing her heart out" she told him, watching as he seemed to wince a little at that particular news, "All I could really figure out was that it had something to do with Christmas and you"

"Oh, right" Eliot nodded then, apparently getting it at last.

Glancing over his shoulder, he checked that Nate and Hardison were still concentrating on the baseball game on TV (which he totally didn't get as a game) then went back to talking to one missing member of their team about the other absentee.

"I didn't mean to upset her, Soph" he assured the grifter, "We were just talkin' about Christmas coming up and I'd been drinking… I guess I was reminiscing about a good old warm family Christmas from way back when and…"

"And Parker was reminded in grand Technicolor that she never had that" Sophie suddenly realised the problem, letting out a long sigh, "I suppose it really wasn't your fault then" she admitted, looking just a little apologetic for being so hard on the guy.

"I never even thought about it" the hitter agreed, pushing his hair off his face, "I know I say some stuff to Parker that sounds harsh but I never mean to hurt her. You know that, right?"

"Of course" smiled Sophie, loving that of all people Eliot seemed more prone to being honest with her.

Her abilities as a grifter helped her break down the defences of the best of people. Even Eliot's armour cracked a little if she pushed the right buttons, and right now she needed to do that. Besides, she knew that beneath the steel coating he had to show the world in order to survive, a heart of gold resided, perhaps the strongest part of the man as a whole

"But you know Parker does deserve at least one good Christmas, with a family" she hinted, not exactly having the desired effect at first apparently.

"Well, if you could come back here, maybe she'd be happier" he said with a look of defiance.

Sure, he'd upset Parker and he did feel bad about that, but Sophie being gone was really painful for the thief. She felt like they'd bonded and then suddenly her older sister / mother figure was gone again, right when she'd just learnt to lean on her some, and without so much as a goodbye.

"I wish it were that simple, Eliot, honestly, I do" sighed Sophie, looking genuine enough in her own pain right now, "but you know you could do something nice for her, you and Hardison, and Nate" she suggested, "She just needs a family experience for Christmas, replace some of those bad memories with a few good ones" she explained.

"What do you want me to do?" the hitter shrugged like he didn't get it.

"Oh for heavens sake" sighed Sophie, aggravation creeping into her tone, "Buy a tree!" she prompted, "Throw up some decorations, maybe go crazy and bake a few cookies!" she explained frustratedly, "The girl just wants to feel like part of a family Christmas, y'know?"

Eliot got to thinking then and a smile spread across his lips. He didn't do nice things as a rule, it was his job to be the bad guy, but a good family Christmas he could do, just like his Mama used to do for him.

"Okay, Soph, don't blow a fuse" he advised as she started to get angry with him, "I'll do it" he assured her.

Now Parker was in for a big surprise, if everything went according to plan.

Thankfully the crews last con before Christmas got finished late on the twenty-third, giving Eliot and the guys almost twenty four hours to prepare for Parker's surprise. The hitter had told a little white lie when he let Nate and Hardison believe that everything he told them about the family Christmas for Parker had come from Sophie. Though it had been her idea for the most part, the details were his own, he just didn't want them to know it. At least they agreed it was a good plan, and honestly, each of them had their own reason to smile at the thought of what might be called a 'real' Christmas this year.

Nate had found the holiday season all the harder since the death of his son and the break down of his marriage. So many happy people always reminded him how sad and lonely he had become which usually led him to a bottle of booze and tears that nobody else was ever meant to see. This year, he had a family, such as it was. Sure, he missed Sophie and couldn't help but wish she was here, but the guys were like brothers, maybe even sons to him these days, and Parker was most definitely the crazy little daughter that he never had. Here was his family, and here was a happy Christmas for Nate, in spite of the fact this was really being planned for Parker.

"There, all done" he said, stepping back from the very special Christmas tree with a smile.

"Man, that is too cool" said Hardison with a chuckle as he noted that the pretty Christmas ornaments in reds and greens and gold, weren't interwoven with tinsel but a fake rappelling wire that held a series of blonde dolls in place around the tree from top to bottom, "There's no doubtin' that's a crazy Parker Christmas tree" he grinned.

"How's the fireplace coming?" asked Nate as he came over to the couch and watched as Hardison clicked the last few keys on his computer keyboard.

"And... done!" he said, miming firing a shot at the large vid screen just as it flipped over to a fake roaring fireplace with mantle piece above from which hung stockings for Santa.

Around the screen and along the walls were Christmas lights glowing and flashing like it was going out of style. Christmas music began to leak from the speakers dotted around the apartment, that was apparently guaranteed to continue and loop on for many hours if the playlist Eliot could see over Hardison's shoulder was anything to go by. By then it was going to drive him crazy to keep hearing Jingle Bells and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, but he'd deal.

"Looks good" he conceded as he look from the screen and the lights to the tree, then to the guys that had helped out so much, "We did a good job"

"We always do" said Nate with a look as he dropped into his armchair with a sigh, "And given the delicious smells I'm getting from the kitchen, I'm guessing your part is done too?"

"Check it out, man" Eliot smiled some as he encouraged the guys to follow him to the kitchen and showed them all he had done.

"Woah, you did all this today?" asked Hardison with wide eyes as he took in the trays and plates covered with bite-size treats of all varieties.

"Took a couple of hours" Eliot shrugged like it was no big deal, turning away to grab the tray of cookies he'd just got done icing and bringing them over to the counter where the guys could see.

Immediately Hardison's hand reached out for one and was deftly slapped away by the chef. He didn't say it for fear of getting his butt kicked, but Hardison saw his Nana in Eliot's eyes right there and then. She used to do the same thing when he wanted to come tasting food that weren't for him or just weren't done being cooked yet.

"This all looks great" said Nate with a smile as he glanced around the place, "I'm sure Parker will be..."

"What?" said a voice behind them, and all three guys turned to see the very woman they were talking about framed in the doorway, "Parker will be... what?" she asked again as she came further into the apartment and headed straight towards them in the kitchen area, her eyes apparently going nowhere else but just focusing on the delicious food laid out on the counter.

It threw the guys for a loop to have her show up just like that. They'd planned to call her over as if she were needed for a job and then surprise her with their family Christmas party type thing they'd got planed. Well, that was kinda ruined now.

"We been busy for you, baby" Hardison told her with a grin, making the best of the messed up situation as he put his hands to her shoulders and turned her around, showing her the lights, the fake fireplace, the tree, and all.

The little thief's eyes went wide as saucers, her mouth dropping open so far as to almost hit the floor. Nate and Eliot were both smiling inspite of themselves as they rounded the counter to come see the overwhelmed reaction Parker was having to the surprise they'd prepared for her.

"Merry Christmas, Parker" her father figure said softly as he came to stand by her, seeing the wonder and joy dancing in her eyes that had often been there in his own son's gaze at Christmas.

"Oh my God!" she gasped, genuinely taken aback as she took a run up at the couch and vaulted over the back.

She landed squarely amongst the cushions, staring alternately at the roaring fire on the vid screen, the lights twinkling all around her, and the perfect tree with little Parker style figures rapelling from top to bottom.

"You guys, this is..." she began as she turned to face the men in her life, "I just... Did you really do all this, for me?" she asked them, apparently too overwhelmed to even get the words out at first.

"All for you, darlin'" Eliot assured her with a rare smile.

Almost immediately Parker was on her feet, running full pelt and throwing herself into the hitter's arms, her feet leaving the floor as he caught her. She would have bowled Hardison over, probably Nate too if she'd have chosen to hug them in such a way instead. Eliot told himself that was why she always picked on him in these moments, but he couldn't quite convince himself that was all it was.

"How'd she know this was mostly his idea?" Hardison asked Nate over the odd couples head, immediately regretting the words as Eliot glared at him, a growl escaping his throat.

"Really?" asked Parker as she took a step back, happy tears now visible in her eyes as she stared at him.

"Well, actually... Sophie kinda helped with the ideas but..." he felt extremely awkward about admitting he'd done a nice thing, not least since everyone was staring and Parker was about to get even mushier on him than she already was, "Dammit, Hardison!" he complained as he was so often prone to do, turning to walk away back to the kitchen where he felt more comfortable.

Nate soon distracted Parker with the tree again, assuring her Eliot would be fine. Still, her eyes didn't leave him for a good long moment as he walked away. It didn't entirely surprise her that the hitter was capable of nice things, though it hadn't really occurred to her that he'd be inclined to be so kind to her in particular. Later she would thank him for it, when they were alone and the others wouldn't make fun of them. She'd pick her moment, like Sophie so often said she should. In the meantime, she was gonna have fun!

It was late in the evening, getting close to midnight, and Hardison said he ought to be headed out. Nate was yawning his head off and had been for the past hour, in fact Eliot was pretty sure he'd fallen asleep a few times before the credits rolled on Santa Claus: The Movie. After flipping through every movie channel known to man kind, Parker had chosen the movie because the 'elves were funny' and because Eliot was quick to assure her she'd see a greedy businessman get his. He was only grateful nobody asked how he knew such a thing.

"Well, this has been... very special" said Nate, choosing his words carefully as he eased himself up out of the armchair, "You did good, Eliot" he said more quietly over Parker's head and the hitter wasn't sure whether he was grateful for the sentiment or mad that his so-called friend had brought that up again.

"Merry Christmas, Nate" said Parker with a cheery smile that the mastermind found infectious.

"Merry Christmas, sweetheart" he replied in kind, ruffling her hair a little as he walked away and up the staircase to his bed.

Parker watched him go and then looked back at Eliot who was flipping channels on the TV now the movie was over. The smile just wouldn't leave her face as she stared at the hitter who had done so much to make her happy today. She was sure she knew why. When he talked about the family Christmasses he'd had as a kid, well, she wasn't ashamed to say it had hurt her. She hadn't had that, not ever. Even Hardison had foster siblings and the nicest foster mother in the form of his Nana. They hadn't had much, but what they had they shared and enjoyed. Happiness and family fun really weren't parts of Parker's childhood at all, but it seemed she was going to make up for it now.

"Thank you" she said aloud without thinking, catching Eliot by surprise as he turned to find her grinning at him from the other end of the couch.

"We all pitched in" he shrugged, like he had only a part in tonight's special Christmas event, but Parker knew better.

"Eliot" she rolled her eyes, "You can be the big scary guy for the marks and the bad guys" she told him, her hand reaching out to land on his arm, "but we know you're just a teddy bear underneath" she teased him.

He would like to have yelled at her, got angry and told her she was talking crazy, but his eyes meeting hers took all the harsh words away. She was beautiful, he knew that, but when she smiled like she was smiling now, she had a glow about her, brighter than any of the fairylights in the room or even the over-sized fake fireplace that had found its way back onto the TV screen by now.

"Everybody deserves at least one decent Christmas" he told her more softly than he meant to, "This one was yours"

Parker nodded, still smiling bright as the sun as she pulled herself further along the couch towards him and dropped her head onto his shoulder. Normally she could barely sit next to the guy without him pushing her away or telling her there was something wrong with her. Christmas seemed to make a difference to everyone, especially Eliot, as he seemed fine with her just curling up beside him.

"I wish every Christmas could be like this" sighed Parker, her meaning not lost on Eliot.

"Hey" he said, encouraging her to look at him, "We're not going anywhere, darlin'" he promised her, "We can do this again next year, and after that"

"Just like this?" she checked, the perfect combination of child-like innocence and beautiful woman in that moment.

"Exactly like this" he nodded slowly, not entirely shocked when she closed the tiny gap between them and pressed her lips to his.

Up on the balcony, Nate peeked over to see the odd couple share what he surmised to be their first and only kiss so far. He smiled in spite of how complicated this was going to get, backing off to his bedroom a moment later. His eyes went to the note clutched tightly in his hand still. It didn't say much, just wished him a Merry Christmas and explained that the mistletoe hung over the couch was her own doing, though it didn't explain how or why. Nate wouldn't ever question it; he always trusted that Sophie knew what she was doing.

Downstairs, Parker and Eliot parted from their kiss and could only stare at each other for a long moment.

"What was that for?" he asked her, his hand still at her hair where it had wandered during their kiss.

"Tradition, and holiday spirit" she told him simply, pointing above their heads to the mistletoe he clearly hadn't noticed at all til then, "Merry Christmas, Eliot" she was saying as his eyes returned to hers.

He thought for a moment about explaining that he never put that damn plant over their heads, that this wasn't quite how he intended the evening to end. Strangely, he couldn't bring himself to say it, or even truly believe that he hadn't wanted this to happen for a while now. Him and Parker, it would be a miracle if they lasted til New Years as friends, nevermind a couple, but surely that was what Christmas was about in a lot of ways; love and believing in it.

"Merry Christmas, darlin'" he said, pulling her closer for another kiss that she happily fell into.

Yep, it really was the merriest of Christmasses Parker had ever had in her life.

The End

A/N2: This is the third of four Christmas fics I am posting - check out my Profile Page for more info! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Seasons Greetings to you, as is befitting :-)