A/N: Words cannot adequately describe how I feel about this cancellation of Leverage. It, to me, was one of the last "feel-good" shows still on air. It provided escapism from the cruelness of reality. It stole all of our hearts and did something that not many shows can do. It gave us hope. The chemistry of the cast was incomparable. Every episode it felt like you were a part of this family and on this journey with them. It was hard to tell where Aldis, Beth, Christian, Gina, and Tim ended and where Hardison, Parker, Eliot, Sophie, and Nate began. That is what made them one of the best casts on television…you could feel the real love and affection that they had for one another through their characters. It made for a magical experience that always, ALWAYS made me smile. I'll miss that most of all. Smiling and laughing so frequently while watching this show. So words cannot fully sum up how much I'll miss the show, how much I'll miss the cast together, and miss the wonderful characters and great storylines. But we got closure, and I'm grateful for that, and it will forever remain one of those shows that I can watch every single episode for the millionth time and enjoy it every bit as much as I did that first time it ever aired. Apologies for the longwindedness. I wanted to keep up the unplanned tradition of the Leverage crew at New Year. I'm thinking of this as taking place before the finale episode, if you want to put a timeframe in here.
Disclaimer: Leverage and its wonderful characters are not mine. Scratch that, I believe that they are mine. They are now all of ours, to do whatever we please and keep the legacy going since TNT abandoned them. In its own way Leverage belongs to the fans now more than ever, but I'm not collecting a paycheck. ;)
"$40 a lb for crab legs?!" Eliot snarled. He ran his hand through his shortened locks; his perpetual scowl deepening with agitation. "You gotta be kiddin' me kid!"
The young man behind the seafood counter barely seemed perturbed by the intimidating Hitter and his imposing presence. His eyes flickered downwards before staring at a spot somewhere behind Eliot. "Sorry dude, that's what the sign says…" he shrugged impassively, oblivious to the way Eliot's eye twitched.
"Dude?!" Eliot all but growled under his breath as he narrowed his eyes at the kid. "Well dude," he emphasized sarcastically, "how about you call over your manager."
The kid behind the counter looked up from the cellphone he was fiddling with and sighed, "I am the manager."
"Y-you're the manager? You?" Eliot stared the kid down. He was tall, skinny, and gangly. The kid's Adam's apple was prominent, his muscular definition not fully developed, and Eliot found himself fighting the urge to play whack-a-mole with the smattering of zits across his pasty face. "What are you 10?!"
The kid shrugged and went back to swiping his fingers swiftly across his phone. Eliot exhaled, his eyes narrowed as he tried ignoring the visions he had of shoving the I-Phone and the clusters of crab legs including the claws up the pasty little brat's as-
"Store,"his fist tightening as he slung the plastic bags with the crab legs on the counter. "Store Manager." He ground between clenched teeth. "Now."
The kid rolled his eyes and jerked his thumb in the direction of a plaque on the wall. "Topaz isn't in today. You can send her an email perhaps."
Eliot's eyes flickered to the plaque of a perky blond with braces. If he had to guess, he'd say she was no older than nineteen. He reached for the kid's cellphone, snatching it out of his hand and fisting it in his own. He was just reaching for the kid's collar, somewhat satisfied that the kid was looking rightfully petrified, his orbs widened to the size of saucers, when the Hacker came into view.
"Yo, whoa! Whoa, El! Chill!" Hardison jerked his friend back, ignoring the grimace on Eliot's face that had long since become a permanent fixture. He tugged the mangled phone out of Eliot's hand and slid it across the counter to the kid, flashing his pearly whites in an apologetic smile. "We'll take them kid," he said with a note of humor in his voice as he snagged the bags of crab legs and tossed them into the cart. "Happy New Year!" He shook his head as they walked away from the counter, Eliot growling as he headed towards their cart.
"I ain't paying for those," Eliot grumbled as he nodded towards the bags in Hardison's hand. "That's highway robbery! And who names their kid Topaz?" he spit out venomonusly. "How old do you have to be to work in this place? Managers aren't even old enough to wipe their own-"
"Eliot, dear, you can afford it. No need to be an ogre about it." Sophie's voice rang through the comms.
"It's the principle, Soph" he muttered as he stopped abruptly in front of a shopping cart before glaring at the back of Hardison's head.
"You mean Eliot's Shrek?"
"I'm not an ogre!"
"Sure, Uh Eliot, while you're out, some of that Bourbon that I like."
"There's Bourbon behind the bar, Nate," Sophie sighed exasperatedly.
"Not the kind I like."
"I stashed it behind the…"
Eliot tapped at his comm, drowning out the chaos in his ear. He dug through what used to be their cart, pulling out a plethora of frozen pizzas and ten two liters of Orange soda. "Dammit Hardison!"
Hardison jogged towards Eliot, his mouth crammed full of the samples he snagged from the little stand at the end cap of an aisle.
"What the hell is all this crap?!" Eliot gestured towards the cart as he levered his friend with a glare.
"Eliot!" Parker's perky voice came through the comms, as both men ignored it.
"It's food. Pizza, man. And soda, you know I need my orange soda in order to function. Some gummi-frogs-"
"Dammit Hardison! You were the one who begged me to cook a New Year's meal for the restaurant and now you're stocking up on this crap?"
"W-what, man, dude, chill okay? A man's gotta have options!" The Hacker replied, his big, bright eyes shining with amusement.
"El-i-ot!" the Thief barked.
"Options?! How about I give you the option of dying in 2012 or 2013!"
"C'mon man, you a little tense. You need to relax, maybe go to the gym-
"-work out a little of that pent up frustration," Hardison continued boxing at the air in demonstration before playfully jabbing Eliot in the shoulder. "You haven't punched anyone in a while, is that it? Yeah, that's definitely it."
"You ain't gon make it to the New Year bubba," Eliot grumbled, but Hardison's goofy grin was infectious enough to take the heat out of his words.
"ELLLLLIIIIIOOOOOTTTT!" Parker sing-songed into the comms, her voice five octaves higher than usual.
"WHAT?!" Eliot shouted.
It appeared as though all the bustling around them had come to a complete stop. He and Hardison had more than a few glares directed at them. The security guard eyed them suspiciously, and the little old lady who was trying to reach something on the top shelf nearly jumped out of her cardigan. "Sorry about that ma'am," he drawled playing up his Southern charm. He forced out a smile and reached above her to snag the jar of tomato sauce she was reaching for, and placed it gently in her cart. She gave him a hesitant smile, patting his arm gently in thanks, before slowly wheeling down the aisle, the squeaking of her cart the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.
"What do you want Parker?" Eliot snarled into the comms, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible and ignore Hardison's full blown laughter beside him.
"Don't forget the-"
"What the…PARKER!" Nate's voice bellowed, loud enough to make Hardison and Eliot wince from the feedback on the comms.
"Uh, nevermind," she said quickly before tapping out.
"She then got into the chocolate again,"Hardison sighed. "I told them not to let her in the kitchen this early." He shook his head and crammed the last of his handful of samples into his mouth. Staring at the empty toothpick forlornly before meeting Eliot's irritated blue eyes. "Hey El, ya think we can get some of these little squishy things?"
"Something is wrong with y'all," Eliot muttered, choking back the laughter threatening to break through as he shook his head over his crazy friends.
"It's called love, brah," Hardison quipped with a half smirk.
Eliot finally abandoned the kitchen, after hours of sending out dish after dish with the support of his kitchen staff. He slid into the restaurant area and sat at their usual place, taking in the sights. The place was filled with regulars who had nothing better to do to bring in the New Year and a slew of newbies who wanted someplace to drink and have a good time. Hardison slid into the seat next to him and passed him ale.
"New Year's special. Made my own brew just for the holiday."
"Hardison, you can't just-"
"Geez El," Hardison cut him off, "just try it!"
Eliot shook his head before taking a long pull on the beer, pleasantly surprised by the unusual blend. "This is actually quite good," he said after a bit.
"I know right?!" Hardison replied, practically beaming. It was no secret between the two of them that despite all of their bickering, the opinion and respect of the other actually meant a great deal to them.
Eliot finished off the beer and requested another. He and Hardison exchanged one of their signature handshakes before he slapped his friend on the back. "My man."
Nate plopped down across from the two and snagged Eliot's freshly replaced beer before Eliot had the chance to even reach for it. He chugged it down and ran his hand through his dark hair with a heavy sigh.
A knowing look washed over Hardison as his bright eyes met Nate's and he asked "Where's Parker?"
Nate grunted and jerked his head in the direction of the large studded ball that took up half the room on the other side of the bar.
"What the-"Eliot muttered
"Hell?" Hardison finished for him, as they watched the blonde Thief accompanied by an amused Sophie, skip over to them and slide into their respective seats.
"We couldn't steal another year," Parker said solemnly as her brown eyes met Nate's. "So I figured we could still have the ball."
"The ba-" Hardison shook his head as he stared disbelievingly at the studded ball that was being danced around by the customers. "The ball. THE ball? The one we borrowed last year?" He sputtered.
"Stole," she corrected with a mischievous smirk.
"H-how, girl, how'd you even get that thing in here?"
"In here," Eliot levered the Thief with a glare. "How'd you get that thing to Portland?"
"I think it's quite festive," Sophie offered giving the Thief an amused smile. "If we're going to bring in the New Year here in Portland, the least we can do is have a ball."
"I can think of other ways to bring in the New Year," Nate murmured into Sophie's ear, his warm breath tickling the shell of her ear.
"Eww, y'all nasty," Hardison pointed at the pair of them.
"Like you can talk," Nate shot back, his eyes never leaving Sophie's.
Parker giggle-snorted, arching a brow at Hardison, and Eliot chuckled. His eyes strayed toward the door where his new friend waltzed in, waving in his direction.
"Well now, I'll get the champagne," Sophie said softly as she pecked Nate on the lips before slipping away into the kitchen.
"Hey Hardison, why don't you make yourself useful and set up the projector screen," Eliot snickered as he got up from the table and begin heading towards his friend.
"Hey El, why don't you kiss my-Ow!" he yelped as Eliot smacked him in the back of the head. Eliot's throaty chuckles set off Parker's giggle-snorts.
"You're getting better at that," Eliot grunted as Hardison landed a playful punch to his gut. "Not quite as good as Parker or Sophie though." He didn't bother hiding his laughter at Hardison's disgruntled expression.
"Boys!" Sophie admonished from the kitchen, her eyes glinting with humor.
Nate noted that she always got a maternal streak around the holidays, especially when she had a drink or two. He smiled in her direction.
"When you do it, you make sure you say the words," Parker's voice broke through his thoughts as he turned to face her.
He met her perceptive gaze. He always found himself seeing glimpses of Sam when he looked at Parker and Hardison. Hardison's bright eyed innocence and "goodness" always shone through and it reminded him so much of his son. But for Parker, her hidden intuitiveness is what sparked memories of his son. Her mischievousness was misleading, on the surface she appeared aloof, even now with her hair falling around her shoulders, the shirt with a penguin wearing a New Year's hat and the 2013 bobbly headband she was wearing, she appeared the epitome of childlike, but she always knew things, seen the deeper meaning behind them, and what was below the surface. Neither of them spoke for a bit, she just gave him a coy smile and he in turn smirked at her and sipped from his mug of beer.
"I keep feeling like this is the last time we'll get to really bring in the New Year together," Parker said quietly. "I feel like everything is changing."
Nate eyed the "mid-kid" for a long moment. She studied him back, gave a slight smirk that was eerily similar to his own. Out of them all, she seemed to be the one that picked up the most mannerisms and traits of the rest of them. He found it intriguing and amusing all at once.
"The important things won't change," he whispered, so quietly he wasn't even sure if she could hear him. He braced himself for the usual Parker questions…but she merely canted her head and gave him a slight grin. He couldn't help but wonder when exactly Parker learned to speak Nate. He reached across the table and affectionately ruffled her hair, before clearing his throat and bringing his attention back to the mug in his hand.
There was a hint of vulnerability in her eyes before she brightened up again. Suddenly that childish grin of hers was gracing her face. She glanced at a watch on her wrist and clapped in excitement. She reached under the table and brought up another bobbly head band with the 2013 bulbs, plopped it on Nate's head while smacking his hands away, and skipped off to plug in the giant New Year's ball in the middle of the floor.
Nate shook off the discomfort he felt from the conversation with Parker, just as the others slid into the booth. Eliot's friend joining them, smiling shyly at the gang, her dark hair falling into her face and covering up the light blush on her cheeks.
The champagne was passed around fifteen seconds before the ball was set to descend. The bar got lively as everyone counted down. The cheers were deafening as party favors were blown, and confetti was tossed into the air. Nate pulled away from a searing kiss with Sophie in time to see the Hacker and Thief wrapped up in one another kissing and laughing, and the Hitter whispering something in his lady friend's ear.
"Happy New Year, everyone!" Parker called out. Eliot placed a kiss on her forehead and chuckled. Nate and Hardison shared a hug, and Sophie reached across to squeeze the Hitter's hand affectionately.
"Alright, alright, let's have a toast," the Hitter drawled, gracing everyone with one of his rare smiles. "Glasses up everybody," he waited until everyone shuffled around before raising their glasses up. "To a prosperous New Year," he said with a wink. Everyone murmured their concurrence and were about to clink glasses until Parker interrupted.
"To surviving the Apocalypse…again," she added with a grin.
Hardison shook his head, "To family…"
"To family!" they said in unison as they all clinked their glasses and delved into their usual bantering and talking over one another.
"To family," Nate whispered quietly as he hugged Sophie closer to him and smiled fondly at his "kids". "Forever and always."
Nate looked around the table at all the smiling faces and merriment amongst his family. He used to think that despite the New Year, nothing was ever really new amongst them. He realized that he was wrong. Parker was right; everything was changing, and had been for quite some time. One thing he knew for certain, however. Despite their lives ever evolving, the one thing that would never change was the love, the experiences, and the bonds that they all had with one another.
"Parker, dear, what…what is that?" Sophie asked suddenly, eyeing the 38 oz cup of chocolate and coffee goodness that Parker was pouring half a canister of sugar in.
"White chocolate espresso with milk chocolate shavings!" she said nonchalantly. "Jeremy in the kitchen let me have one.
"Aw hell," Hardison sighed, rubbing his forehead.
"I'm gonna kill 'em," Eliot said lowly, the barest hint of amusement in his piercing blue eyes.
Parker merely shrugged before rising from the table and bouncing away, chugging on her highly caffeinated beverage. The boys and Eliot's friend were in tow, following Parker into the kitchen, and most likely plotting some leverage of their own on Jeremy the sous chef.
Nate shook his head and smiled at Sophie. Endings and new beginnings aside, maybe some things wouldn't change afterall.