I don't own Leverage... Though that would be really cool :)
Parker lifted her head and looked around as Sophie opened the door to the roof. For a second she considered the fact that she was the only one on the team that had never used that door. Why take all those stairs when there was the more direct route of climbing available? She dismissed the thought. At the moment, she didn't really need any further reminders that she was different from everyone around her.
Sophie walked over and stood beside her, giving a brief but telling look at the edge of the roof. It was ten feet away from where Parker sat, her back against a vent, but it still managed to make Sophie nervous. The wind was blowing (8 mph, Parker thought distantly, her training still sending her information on her environment whether she wanted it or not), and Sophie's hair was down, blowing alternately in her face and then out to the side.
"Here, Parker, put this on," said Sophie, handing her the jacket that she had left sitting on the back of her chair in Nate's apartment. "I don't want you to catch cold."
"Yeah, guess I wouldn't be of any use to you guys then would I," said Parker bitterly, but she took the jacket and swung it around her shoulders, admitting to herself (if nobody else) that she had been cold. She just hadn't wanted to go back for her coat after she stormed out because then she would have had to face them. Face Hardison.
Sophie watched her for a minute, head tilted to the side, trying to pick up some clues about what might have caused this attitude in Parker. She'd seen her angry, hurt, in shock, high as a kite (and they were never EVER letting her have that much chocolate or caffeine again). But she'd never seen this mood, this sense of betrayal. Not even when she had tried to get the first David for herself and wound up getting them all busted. She sat down, shoulder to shoulder with Parker and looking out at the city of Boston. She had to admit that while being up here made her nervous at times, it did have a beautiful view. For a second she admired the way the sun was reflecting off the skyscrapers, and then she returned to the issue at hand.
"Do you want to tell me what's wrong, or do I have to guess?" She looked at Parker briefly, and then looked away. She had found out through careful observation that Parker actually found it easier to have conversations with people if she didn't need to meet their eyes to do it.
Parker shrugged, her shoulder brushing against Sophie's with the movement. "Hardison."
Sophie sighed. "What about him?" It wasn't the first time she'd given advice to Parker about their relationship; hell, sometimes it seemed like that was all she did.
"I don't get it," Parker said. She was toying with a padlock from the box of them she kept at Nate's place, opening and closing it again with startling rapidity. The motion was almost hypnotic in a way, and it was clear that the effort took no thought on Parker's part. "I thought he wanted me," she said, and then fell silent again.
Sophie thought for a second, and then asked "What makes you think he doesn't?" Peripherally, she saw Parker shake her head, and when she looked over at her face she was startled to see tears in Parker's eyes. For just a second, Parker's eyes met hers, and the amount of pain she saw staggered her.
Parker's eyes dropped back to the lock in her hands. "If he wanted me he wouldn't have done what he did last night."
For a second, Sophie gave thought to the fact that if Hardison had hurt Parker deliberately, he was going to wind up with ten broken fingers. Nate wouldn't do it, and neither would Eliot, but they weren't the only men she knew. And some of the men she knew would be quite willing to break a man's hands at her slightest say so.
"I was at his place last night. We were sitting on the couch, watching a movie, and well..." she sort of trailed off for a second before continuing "making out," she finished. Sophie raised an eyebrow but said nothing. She hadn't realized they had advanced their relationship that far, but it didn't really surprise her that much. "Anyway, I was enjoying myself and sometimes I don't like it when people touch me but this time it was ok so I tried to get him to have sex with me but he wouldn't," she finished in a rush. This time when Sophie looked up she saw another first... Parker was blushing.
"Did he say why he didn't want to, Parker?" Sophie asked.
"I left before he could say anything," said Parker, the anger back in her eyes.
Sophie sighed. "Parker, why didn't you just ask him what the problem was? He may have had a good reason to not have sex with you."
"Like what?" Parker said, bitterness returning to her voice. "I'm too crazy, I'm not pretty enough, I'm not smart enough, what Sophie? Tell me why I'm not good enough for him!" She pulled her knees up toward her chest and rested her head on them.
Sophie reached over and wrapped her hand around Parkers ponytail. She didn't pull hard, but she exerted just enough force that Parker had to lift her head. Keeping her grip on Parker's hair, she made her turn her head so that she was facing Sophie. "Look at me, Parker." When Parker's eyes remained steadfastly downturned, she pulled a bit harder and tilted her head further back. "Look at me." When the other woman's eyes finally met hers, she stared at her. "I don't ever want to hear you say that again." Parker stared at her, but there was a defeated look in her eyes. "Don't ever, ever say that you aren't pretty. Or smart. The fact is that you wouldn't be the world's best thief if you weren't smart enough to remember and use thousands of pieces of information on the fly. How many guards does First Boston Independent have again?" she asked.
"Two in front, one in back."
"How old were you when you first broke into the Louvre?"
"Thirteen. But Archie coached me through it. I didn't do it on my o-..." she tried to say, but Sophie overrode her.
"How old were you when you stole your first car?"
"Ok, Sophie, I get it. Yeah, I'm a great thief. But that's just because I practiced. Archie taught me to do it, I didn't just know it on my own."
"And you think I'm the best grifter in the world by accident? You think Hardison is such a great hacker because he has some superpower? Or that Eliot fights the way he does on instinct? All of us are the best because we practiced over and over. We learned from whoever we could. And as to your comment about not being pretty enough," Sophie continued, "maybe I need to just walk you through a crowd sometime and you should watch the way guy's heads turn. Then you can walk back the other way and watch the jealousy on their girlfriend's faces." She dropped her hand back to her lap and watched Parker process that information.
"I'm still crazy," said Parker.
"We're all crazy, Parker."
That got Parker's attention. "What?"
Sophie shook her head. "Don't tell Hardison or I'll deny it but he left a book here one day and I was bored so I started reading it. All of a sudden it was two hours later and there I still was. And then of course Nate walks in, and I don't want him teasing me about it, so I acted like I hadn't been reading the damn thing. But I went to the bookstore and got it later. Anyway, in the book two people were talking about insanity and one of the women told the other that we all have our own pieces of insanity. We all have parts of us that do things that we know aren't good for us, or that we'll regret later. Parts of us that know we should just cut our losses and walk away, but we don't do it. Can't do it," she finished, and looked out again at the city.
Parker shook her head. "It's not the same. Remember when we were going after Hurley and I ended up staying in the rehab center? They gave me those pills and after two days, two days, even though they're supposed to take two weeks to work, suddenly the world makes sense. Suddenly touching someone else or having them touch me isn't so bad. At least I wasn't reaching for forks to stab them with. Though that would have been hard 'cause the forks were plastic. Huh. Wonder if you can stab someone with a plastic fork." Parker's attention wandered for a second but then she appeared to visibly pull herself back to the conversation at hand. "Those pills made me almost normal Sophie. If they made me normal, than there must have been something for them to fix, otherwise they wouldn't have worked. That means there is something wrong with me chemically somewhere."
Sophie considered for a minute that this person, who two minutes ago was doubting her intelligence, and with very little knowledge of mental and psychological disorders, had been able to logically figure out a reason why anti-depressants had effected her. She didn't want to get too far from the initial reason for this conversation, Hardison, but she decided that Parker needed to have some reassurance.
"Parker, I want you to listen to me. Do you know how anti-depressants work?" She didn't wait for an answer. "They modulate the amount of serotonin in your brain, which is the chemical in your brain that makes you feel content. Normally serotonin is all spread out. It's like when you pour a glass of water. The water doesn't just sit on one side of the glass, it spreads itself out until it's all even. Well that's what the chemical in your brain is supposed to do. But sometimes, when people have an imbalance of serotonin, they get depressed or anxious because the chemical isn't doing it's job, isn't getting to the right spots. So they take anti-depressants, particularly SSRI's like what you were given, to fix that balance. It spreads out the chemical and keeps it where it's supposed to be. That makes a person happier. It doesn't change who they are; it's more like it helps them be who they are without having to fight it. That's what happened to you Parker. Maybe you do have an imbalance of serotonin. But that doesn't make you crazy. It just means you have an illness."
Parker considered this for a second and then looked up. "But if I'm sick, doesn't that mean I should take those pills to make me better?"
Sophie shook her head. "Pills aren't the only way to correct that imbalance Parker. Diet, exercise, enough sleep, low stress, all of those can help. It's usually a good idea to try dealing with it without meds first, since once you start them it can be hard to stop."
"You mean I'd get addicted?"
"I mean you would likely become dependent. Dependence and addiction are different. You become dependent on a substance because your body or mind gets used to having it and doesn't like having it taken away. You become addicted when you start taking more than you need or when you take something that you don't need at all." At this last Sophie closed her eyes briefly, her thoughts returning to Nate, which happened more and more lately. "Parker, if you want me to I'll help you figure out the best way to try to treat your illness, if that's what it is. But we still need to talk about Hardison. "
"What is there to talk about Sophie? He turned me down."
"Parker, I want you to give me your permission to ask him why."
"He won't tell you." Parker met her eyes.
"Do I need to remind you that I'm the best grifter in the world?
"Oh." Parker paused. "Promise you won't make him angry or hurt him? I don't want him to get hurt."
Sophie nodded. "I promise. I'm just going to find out what the issue was."
"And you'll tell me after?"
"Yes, Parker, I'll tell you. Why else would I ask?" She nudged Parker's shoulder. "Don't stay up here too long okay? It looks like rain. Rooftops get slippery in the rain."
Parker gave her a bit of an incredulous look, like yeah, I'm gonna fall off this roof when I practically live on rooftops all the time. But she nodded.
"How's Parker?" Nate was sitting at the island in the kitchen, a bowl of soup in front of him. "You want some soup?"
Sophie shivered a bit as she hung up her jacket. She hadn't realized how cold it was up there in the wind until she was back inside. "Yes, I'd love some soup. And I don't know how to answer your question about Parker." She walked over and sat down as Nate placed a bowl of soup in front of her. And a glass of wine. She looked at him. "Not trying to get me drunk and take advantage of me are you?" A second later a terrible thought occurred to her. "Tell me you don't have your earbud in."
Nate smiled. "No."
"No you don't have your earbud in or no you aren't trying to get me into bed?"
Nate's smile widened. "No."
Sophie shook her head and began eating. Sometimes the man was too frustrating for words. The wine was good though, she had to admit.
They ate in silence for a few minutes, and Sophie noted that all of Hardison's tech gear was still out. Eliot and Hardison must have gone out for lunch. Despite how it sometimes seemed that Eliot wanted to strangle Hardison, the two of them had become surrogate brothers. Anyone who doubted how much Eliot cared about the hacker would have been silenced if they'd seen the way he hugged him after they broke him out of that coffin. The look on Eliot's face had been the gratitude of a man who just got back someone he knew was lost. The fact of the matter was that he had lost people. Maybe a lot of them. And while he may get annoyed with Hardison, even genuinely pissed off at times, he'd put himself in harm's way every time to keep him safe. Not because it was his job. Not because he liked hurting. But because Hardison was family.
Sophie's musings were cut short by a hand waving in front of her face. "Earth to Sophie. You in there?" Nate asked, and she turned to look at him.
"I was thinking."
"Obviously. I said your name twice and you never twitched." Nate shook his head. "Sophie Devereaux unaware of her environment. How often does that happen?"
"Never." She changed the subject. "Stinson's lined up?" Their latest client was a man being blamed for a fire that had gutted a four story apartment, and left six people in the hospital. Their client, Jeffrey Haler, had been the superintendent at the building. A little bit of digging on their part had revealed that the owner, Lee Stinson, had actually started the fire himself rather than put in the new government mandated safety modifications. Apparently the man had decided to take the insurance payout and then build new apartments, so he could increase the rent. Never mind the people that lost their homes. Or the fact that he'd pinned the fire on their client, who was currently waiting to see whether he'd go to jail. This was the kind of guy Sophie really couldn't stand, really liked to hurt. The kind that put innocent people in the way. Sure, she stole, she broke the law, but if she got caught, she got caught. She'd get herself out again, but she'd never put an innocent man in jail to do it.
"Yeah, we have the evidence that we need. Just have to find a way to put Stinson and the evidence in the right spot and then make sure the police are there." He laughed slightly. "Hope detective Bonanno doesn't get a promotion anytime soon. It's nice to be able to give him the evidence and not have to worry about him asking too many questions. Not sure we'd be that lucky with anyone else."
"Good. Well, if we don't have anything to do before tomorrow, I'm going to catch up on some things at home." She looked at him and smiled. "I've been spending so much time here my plants are probably dead from lack of water." She kissed him on the cheek as she left, and he sat there long after she was gone, missing her presence and trying to deny it.
Hardison was playing Warcraft when the doorbell rang. He quickly checked the cameras outside the door, and was a bit shocked when he saw Sophie standing there. "Come in" he said as he hit the button on his remote, causing the door to swing open silently. Sure people might tease him about being a geek, but it did have its advantages. Sophie stepped into the apartment and set her purse on his table. She took off her coat and hung it over the back of a chair. Looking at her, Hardison saw that she had drops of water in her hair. "Is it raining?" he asked, then realized it was kind of a stupid question. How else would she get water in her hair?
She smiled. "You should look outside more often. Hell, the end of the world could come and you wouldn't even know as long as your computer stayed on."
"Hey, don't devalue the computer. Just 'cause I'm the only person on the team who knows one end of a USB cord from the other and you guys can't even use the TV without me..." he teased.
Sophie pulled out a chair and sat down. "Come over and sit here for a second Hardison. I need to talk to you." She patted a chair beside her invitingly.
Hardison sat down, a somewhat concerned, somewhat confused look on his face. "Uh... am I in trouble?"
"Maybe." She thought for a second, then said "I talked to Parker today." She almost smiled at the look on his face. He could make a good grifter someday with the right training, but at the moment his face was like an open book to her. As soon as she said Parker's name, she saw love, desire, and then guilt. The other two she knew about, but the guilt was why she was here. "She said you two were... getting intimate last night, but that you then turned her away. She was quite upset about it."
He covered his face with his hands. "Why do women always hafta talk to each other about this kind of stuff? It leads to conversations like this one, which by the way I really don't want to be having."
"Well if you had had this conversation with Parker in the first place then I wouldn't have to be here. Parker is very upset. She thinks you don't like her enough to have sex with her." She sort of wanted to slap him when he flinched at that sentence. If he was so uncomfortable having this conversation with her than he should have talked to Parker about his issues before they started making out.
"Look Sophie, I do want Parker. I do. I wish I could be with her 24/7. But she's been hurt in the past. Really hurt. And I don't know what was done to her. What if we start," he swallowed "having sex and she like, freaks out? What if I scare her away and she doesn't come back? Sex isn't worth losing her," he finished and rubbed his face with his hands.
Sophie took a second to feel relieved that she wouldn't need to have both Hardison's hands broken after all, and then gave him a brief hug. He dropped his hands from his face and looked up at that. "What was that for?" he asked.
She smiled. "For being the kind of guy I hoped you were, not the kind I feared you were." She stood up and put her coat back on. "See you tomorrow." She left, leaving a somewhat mystified Hardison behind.
Parker's phone beeped. She flipped it open. Sophie. The text read "Coffee shop, Hanover St., 20 minutes." Parker shrugged. She dropped down off the parallel bars she'd been practicing on and left.
Sophie was already at a table when she walked in. She walked over and sat down. The waiter took their orders and left. "So why'd you call me here?" she asked. "Thought you guys didn't want me to have caffeine."
"Large amounts of caffeine, Parker. Like six white chocolate mocha espressos plus lord knows how many pieces of chocolate. Almost everything is okay when taken in moderation."
"Yeah, I was really tired the day after that. I slept forever." The waiter returned with their orders.
"I spoke with Hardison."
Parker suddenly became very interested in the design on the side of her coffee cup. Not meeting Sophie's eyes, she said "And?"
"He's scared of hurting you."
"What? If anyone would get hurt it'd be him. I swing from buildings all the time. In the rain, snow, whatever. I don't think having sex is gonna put a big strain on my system."
"Not that kind of hurt Parker."
"Uh, Sophie, I have had sex before. I mean, I know you guys think all I do is steal but that isn't true. Okay, so usually I'm a little drunk and it doesn't happen that often but still. I'm not, you know, a virgin." She continued to play with her coffee cup.
"Parker, what he's worried about is that you might get scared or hurt and just run away and hide. Or not come back. He doesn't want to lose you." She paused, unsure whether to say anything else and then decided the hell with it. Might better go all the way. "Plus he's afraid he might do something that would trigger a flashback for you."
"Flashback to what?" Parker's eyes were flat. Sophie found herself considering that although Hardison might make a better grifter, Parker definitely had more skill at hiding her emotions.
"Parker." The woman's eyes remained steadfastly focused on her cup. "Parker, look at me." The other woman raised her eyes but still kept them on a level just below Sophie's. "Look, you don't have to tell me. Just like when I told Eliot he didn't have to tell us about Moreau, and the things he did when he worked for him, I'm not going to push you. Maybe someday you'll trust me enough to tell me but until then your past is yours and yours alone. One of the greatest things about having a true friend is that they know that sometimes the other person needs space or time. A true friend gives that to them."
"Thanks." The word was almost inaudible, but it was there.
"You also don't have to tell Hardison about whatever happened to you. But if you do want to have sex with him, you need to tell him what you'll be okay with. That way he has some guideline to follow. Then he won't be so afraid of you getting hurt."
Parker's eyes finally lifted and Sophie was overjoyed to see the girl she knew. "I can do that." Without another word she stood up and walked away. Sophie just shook her head. Because Parker was, well, Parker.
The Next Day
Sophie walked into Nate's apartment. The smell of fresh coffee and bacon frying met her and she sniffed appreciatively. Between Nate and Eliot, she could almost always count on two good meals a day. Nate was standing at the cooking island, and looked up when she came in. He looked to have just showered, his unruly curls standing almost straight up in places. "Nice hair Nate."
He rolled his eyes upward, trying to see his own hair (a futile gesture) and Sophie laughed at how goofy it made him look. He didn't normally do goofy unless a con required it. It was nice to see some of his personality bleeding back into his everyday life. Lately it seemed like he was getting better, like perhaps all the good things they had done were starting to help counter the pain and guilt he felt about Sam.
She reached in her purse and pulled out a brush. "Here," she offered, holding it out. He didn't take it.
"I don't want to let this stuff burn. I'll brush it after."
Shaking her head she walked up behind him and began dragging the brush through his hair.
"Ow! Ouch jeez be careful," he said, squirming and trying to duck away from her. "God, I'll do it myself stop!"
She found herself laughing and rolling her eyes at the same time. Men. "Hold still. Don't be such a baby." She wrapped an arm around his waist and held him against her. Reaching up with the brush she began working on the front of his hair.
"I'm gonna be bald by the time you're done!" he said, but his protests and attempts to get away began to fade as the fact of her body pressed into his got through to him. Sophie Devereaux's body pressed up against them was something that would distract anyone. He had to admit that now that the knots were gone it did feel pretty good, her dragging a brush against his scalp. Though he would have like it even better if it had been her fingernails.
As if she could read his mind, Sophie sighed and moved away, getting a glass of juice from the fridge. He watched her surreptitiously out of the corner of his eye. She'd caught him staring at her ass once already lately. Though if she didn't want people looking at her ass, she probably shouldn't wear skirts that sexy. Jesus.
"You're checking out my ass again," she said, still with her back to him. She turned to face him.
"I was not."
"Yes you were."
"No I wasn't."
She took a drink of her juice. "Nate, I could see your reflection in the cupboards."
Busted. "Okay I was. Then again, we do have sex most nights, so you can hardly blame me."
She raised an eyebrow. "There's a difference between someone staring at you when you're alone and when there are other people around. I don't actually mind you staring at my ass," she shifted slightly, "or any other part of me. When we're alone. Just try to remember not to do it during a con. There are others out there like Sherman that could figure it out and that could put us in danger." Put you in danger, she thought, but didn't say. He put himself in enough dangerous situations without more to deal with.
"Here," he said, handing her a plate and a coffee. They sat down at the table. For just a second she let herself enjoy it, feel like they were a couple sitting down to breakfast and not just "friends with benefits", whatever the hell that even meant.
By the time they'd finished eating, Eliot had wandered in, griping a bit about the mess in "his" kitchen and pouring himself a cup of coffee. Parker and Hardison arrived together and Sophie was glad to see that her talks with each of them seemed to have worked. Parker was standing closer to Hardison than she normally did, and the looks in their eyes seemed to indicate that they'd had a good (if tiring) night. She smiled and finished her coffee.