To the Masses: I'm not actually familiar with the process of finding gifts for children…but I've decided to guess.
Soundtrack: Carol of the Bells (Transiberian Orchestra) and Dance of the Sugar Plum Faries (Abney Park)
Warnings: Spoiler! Especially for the Ho Ho Ho Job, but there's some others in there was well. OOC & AU (All fanfics are)…and…questionable writing skills.
Disclaimer: I don't own Leverage, or any other illegal things.
You leave home to seek your fortune and, when you get it, you go home and share it with your family. – Anita Baker
Nate was never fond of Christmas. As a child, when his mother was still alive, it was a festive time full of hushed arguments and drunken aunts all trying to pinch his cheeks. Eventually it became known to him, in a very sarcastic tone, as the 'time of giving' which just meant that his father wouldn't take as much money from the clients.
There were some good times of course, when it was just him and Maggie. Then he recalled the first Christmas after Sam was born and the happy nervousness he felt while trying to shop for his son. Not to mention the need to document every second; they could have filled an entire photo album with that day alone.
He didn't even remember the first Christmas after Sam was taken from him. He did know that he'd started drinking the day before and when Maggie woke him up two days later she also presented him with the divorce papers. He loved her for staying so long. He hated her for not hating him for what happened to Sam, even though she didn't know.
After that Christmas was just another day on the calendar. It was ignored with the same vehement, passive aggressive anger as Father's Day and the anniversary of his mother's and Sam's passing.
Then Sophie Devereaux sashayed back into his life. Rather, he'd sought her out –but there had been some sashaying.
During the course of their not-relationship, gone about with eons of repressed sexual tension and consistent denial, he'd built himself back up. Not completely, but it was a work in progress. He sill mourned Sam, he still missed Maggie, but he had a family again. A family that was stealthy conquering his personal space with feelings of Christmas; like little reverse thieves that snuck in and left things that he did not want.
When the tree had made it's way into the office room he'd taken one look at it, pinned Eliot, Hardison, and Parker with a knowing (slightly disapproving) look, and added a dollop of Bailey's to his morning coffee. They'd looked a built guilty, as far as thieves could manage, with a hint of their own disapproval missile-locked onto his bottle of alcohol.
He knew they'd all run to Sophie, in their own way.
Parker was undoubtedly the first. It was likely that she was unsure of her own emotions and felt the need to ask her mentor about them. It was a form of therapy that Sophie was glad to give the young girl. Parker was probably also the reason his bottle of Bailey's went missing before lunch and was never seen again.
Eliot was likely next. For all his toughness there were still things that bothered him. If anything Eliot was the most emotional of the three when it came to his drinking. He'd probably had a drunk for a father, or somehow exposed to what the drink could do to a man in the long run. It was an emotional reaction, and his default way of handing those types of things was to rant. He'd think about it, let it stew, and when he was ready he'd go see Sophie. He'd shout for four point five minutes and that would be the end of that, until those emotions built up again.
Alec Hardison was last. Not because he cared the least, but because he was always so busy with his computers to find windows of opportunity like the other two. He'd make it before the day was out though. He'd quietly pull Sophie aside, huge her –because Hardison was a big fan of hugs, and she'd reassure him. Somehow she always knew what was kicking his ass.
After dinner they'd all cleared out. Parker wanted to test out a new rig she'd made, with improved binding and an alternate style of harness that she thought would lessen the pressure on her pelvis. Hardison wanted to get home and back to his base of computers, ready for some all night…thing with some fictional character doing something that probably involved some 'melting faces' move he had tried to explain to Eliot over lunch. The eldest of the bunch had to get back to his own place, to look after his home grown vegetables and go over the new MMA recordings that Alec had gotten him.
Sophie approached him while he was washing dishes, because the other three thieves had conveniently forgotten to do them before they all ran off. She rested her hip against the counter and crossed her arms; that was how Nate knew that she was going to say something important and he was going to have to do something he probably didn't want to.
"Christmas is in twenty days," she reminded him. Nate did well not to cringe or give any other outside indicator that this topic pained him. He would have gone for a shot glass, but he only had a few plates left. "Nate," she said slowly, almost seductively. He almost hated it when she did that, if it weren't for the soothing, knowing way she said his name. "We're getting them gifts Nate."
Nathan put the last plate in the rack and turned to Sophie with a childish resilience to the idea. "What do you get the people that could take anything they want?" It was meant to deter her, but she smiled instead.
"Well that's the fun of it," she replied angelically, "we'll have to figure that out."
Two days later they sat at the dinner table with coffee and scones. After they'd swept the condo for bugs, especially Hardison planted ones, and double checked for Parker shaped shadows.
"Let's start with Eliot," Sophie said, pulling out a legal pad and expensive looking pens. "We know he likes fighting," she said with a little disapproval, but not nearly as much as she'd used to. She had a better understanding of him after so much time.
"Nothing bought," Nate added. He also knew the fighter; Eliot appreciated illegally downloaded fights on Parker-acquired flashdrives more than anything they could spend their alternative revenue on.
"Right then," she said and scratched off several things she'd written down. "Something he can't easily get on his own. You know," she made that hand motion she did when she was trying to stir up her thoughts, "something a thief would appreciate."
"Yeah, so something stolen from some rich person," it wasn't that hard for Nathan to guess. "A weapon stolen from some rich person," he amended.
It hit him the next day while he met with their newest client, a Japanese gardener who had lost all of his money investing in some bogus retirement plan. He shared the news with Sophie and she smiled at him. A real, genuine smile unlike the one's she flashed at their marks with promises of great emotional pain and possibly the loss of something vital.
Hardison was next, and by far the easiest one to pick for. Something electronic and far ahead of its time would be appreciated. Only Nate and Sophie had no idea what that could possibly be.
"Maybe that thing, you know the hand held one," Sophie said, mimicking the hand movements of some unknown object. "With the games," she added a moment later.
They had to sweep the apartment twice for Hardison related materials, spent half an hour staring at some electronic thing that could possibly transmit their conversation, before they decided to just go out for coffee.
"One of those portable game things?" Nate asked and Sophie nodded quickly, "Nah, he'll get tired of it after a week. Maybe not even that long. Something he can use for work and play."
"Oh dear," Sophie said as she suddenly remembered something, "nothing with melting faces. Eliot's MMA is enough for us. Not to mention Parker…"
"With the stabbing and the tazer? Yeah, nothing with melting faces," he agreed thoughtfully.
They somehow ended up in an electronics store at the mall, asking a million and one questions about what is and isn't cool these days, and asking what a computer genius would appreciate the longest. The clerk they were pestering gave them a look and casually snarked "It takes more than elementary understanding of internet explorer to be a genius," like just because he was going to be a tech analyst when he graduated made him an expert in such things. He told them as such, giving away far too much information for his personal safety, and expected them to be impressed.
Sophie gave the clerk one of her coldest smiles and excused them both from the store. "The nerve of that guy," she raved, "we should rob the entire store during his shift, or better yet…" she trailed off, her anger dissipated, "oh, but we're the good guys." She sounded a bit disappointed about that.
Nate patted her hand, where it rested on his forearm as they walked to the pretzel stand. "Actually, I think the university he attends is hosting a showcase for future generation technology next week." That took care of the middle thief.
It took a little bit more time to think of something that could possibly interest the youngest; the girl who had very little and wanted nothing more than for Hardison to make it snow for Christmas.
Nathan watched the little thief ask Eliot how to decorate the tree. He'd simply said 'make it shiny,' right before Hardison joined them to explain the old Celtic tradition –which also ended in 'just make it shiny.' Neither one of them considered the value parker placed on 'shiny.' She didn't at all care for the worlds most valuable trinkets, or maybe she just put a billion dollars worth of value into the holiday
It was then that Nate realized the position they were all in. Eliot didn't care much for being bought, Hardison who was still a bit upset about being hypnotized, and Parker who thought the Gem of Gibraltar was a good tree ornament. All of them were either spiraling in confusion or intent on ignoring the entire Holiday. Except Parker, who was absolutely positive Santa was real.
He had to do right by her, and her absolute faith in the spirit of Christmas –backed by the suspicion that whoever told her otherwise would be tazed. He had the perfect idea, glanced over to Sophie and smiled. They'd do right by the little thieves.
Despite his insistence that they all spend Christmas apart, with plans to mail them their gifts, they'd all ended up at the bar –all full of light and happiness at the good deed they'd managed. So it seemed that they were a family after all, and he couldn't get away from them no matter what.
Eliot received his gift first, he was the oldest and most like Nate. Neither one of them saw the good in the holiday for a long, long time. He held the Hanzo sword with steady but nervous hands; Nate and Sophie watched the slight widening of his eyes and the glee that over took his face. His loss of words was considered a bonus, and the quick movements as he held onto the sword and retreated before it could be taken away from him were still looked upon with thievish glee.
Hardison won a phone far ahead of it's time, a seventh generation something or another that could do all sorts of techy things that Sophie and Nate didn't really understand. He'd also slunk off, already configuring it to his ideal settings. He wasn't so guarded as Eliot, and took their present with much thanks. Nate was sure there would be hugs of a positive kind sometime in their future.
Then there was Parker, looking at them expectantly as if she still weren't sure she'd get a present. It was probably her first real Christmas in a long time. She'd also been the hardest to shop for, even though her gift was the simplest. They'd each taken out as much money they could, with non-sequential serial numbers, without triggering any red lights. Even though they could have easily reached into their emergency stash and avoided the walk to the bank, where there were security cameras and guards.
'I think we got it right,' Nate thought happily to himself and turned to Sophie.
In return to accepting her, without knowing her real name, she gave him just that. They stared longingly at each other, eons of repressed sexual tension was bubbling up between them, and like the good old days –one of the kids had to go and interrupt that.
It was snowing though, a Christmas miracle, even if Parker was thanking Hardison for his weather hacking skills. They still hadn't had the 'Santa isn't real' talk yet, and Nate didn't think they'd ever get to it. Maybe next year.
Then he realized, while Sophie was calling Parker in so she wouldn't get sick and Eliot dismantled another chair, that this was his family –like it had been with Maggie and Sam, with minor differences. If you didn't count his transition to being a thief…
The excited nervousness was still there, the happiness and pride at seeing the people around him beam with similar emotions. The instant forgiveness for all of each other's faults, and if Nate had counted correctly they'd gone an entire day without someone shouting 'Dammit Hardison!'
It was Christmas, and Nate couldn't have been happier.
To Those Who Just Read:
My first oneshot on this site. Yay! I suck at endings though. -squints- It's kind of really short.
My gift to you: Christmas in July.
I like quotes, song suggestions, and reviews,