Gift fic done for LJ's Leverage Secret Santa - Prompt: A part of Parker's past comes back to haunt her during a con. Eliot's there to support her. Ok, and maybe beat up the person who caused that pained expression, that fear, which crept over her face. Eliot protects his own. – Disclaimer – I OWN NOTHING…but a couple of seasons of DVDs.
Finishing the job had been simple: get in, plant the evidence, and get out. They had gathered back at the hotel bar later that night to watch the evening news. The news reporters salivated over the story of a big time business executive's downfall.
"Stephen Collins, chief executive office of Branson Incorporated, has been arrested on multiple charges, including drug possession and child abuse, as well as the creation of child pornography with intent to distribute. In the effort to protect the identities of his victims, all information on the children involved has been suppressed. The police have informed us however, their planned interview at the Collins household had been prompted by a credible report from one of the survivors. The interview turned into a search after one of the detectives spotted a half-hidden cache of marijuana. Apparently, Mr. Collins had been caught off-guard by the unexpected visit. With this discovery, the police had probable cause to search the residence. This search led to the discovery of a private studio and a collection of pornography ready for shipment. Representatives from the Collins estate or Branson Incorporated were unavailable for comment."
Satisfied with the job's conclusion, the team finished their drinks and began drifting out to get ready for the trip home in the morning. Hardison left first, with Nate and Sophie leaving only a few minutes later. As Parker rose to leave, Eliot caught her arm and pulled her back down.
"What?" she asked, frowning at him.
He turned an intense gaze on her. "You want to tell me what happened?"
Confusion traced across her face, but her eyes flickered. "What are you talking about? The job went fine. We got the bad guy and the kids are safe now."
"Yeah, the white hats won and everything went great. And that's the most you've spoken at one time since we started this job. You've been edgy the whole time. What's going on?"
Her eyes dropped to the scarred wood tabletop. She slowly began to shred one of the napkins. Eliot watched her for several minutes, letting the silence drag out. Her movements grew more and more anxious as the silence deepened. Finally, he reached over and grabbed her hand.
Taking both of their jackets, he led her upstairs to the roof. As they stepped out of the previously locked door, she closed her eyes, threw her head back and took a deep breath of the cool night air. Breathing out, she could feel some of the tension leave her frame. Her lips curved into a small smile. Eyes still closed, she spun in a circle for a few minutes, letting her mind empty.
A husky chuckle broke her reverie and she opened her eyes to find Eliot leaning against the door. He gazed at her with an affectionate look before pushing away and ambling over to sit on the edge of the roof. She joined him. They looked over the city in silence for a long while.
"So," he finally said. "Tell me."
Parker sighed before looking over at him. "I…I didn't want to come on this job."
"Yeah," she replied. "It's just…well…I knew who he was."
He lifted a brow in question, but stayed silent.
"Of course everyone knew who he was." She rolled her eyes. "I just meant that I'd met him before."
"Yeah?" He asked. "How long ago?"
She pulled her eyes away from his and looked back to the lights of the city. He studied her profile. She had a hell of a poker face, locking her emotions up tightly behind her mask. After three years as teammates however, he had gotten proficient at reading her tells. Despite her apparent composure, small cracks were forming. Her fingers twitched and she kept gnawing at the edge of her bottom lip. Something about Collins scared her.
She put her hands down, preparing to move away. He reached out. She stiffened, but he just touched the back of her left hand. She focused on his face.
"You don't have to say anything, but it might help."
Neither of them moved. Blowing out a harsh breath of air, Parker shifted and looked away. She stared up at the stars.
"I was eight, maybe nine," she stated, not looking at him.
His eyes narrowed in suspicion, but he stayed quiet. Another couple of minutes passed in silence before she sighed.
"Ms. Gayle, the current foster mom, was the Collins housekeeper. We had a day off of school, so she took me with her…told me to stay in the kitchen or vegetable garden. He was home from college."
She remembered that day clearly.
She could still smell the bacon they had made for the family's breakfast.
Parker sat on the floor in the corner of the kitchen, knees pulled up to her chest, watching as the cook rolled out the crust for that night's dessert. The cook, a thin, disagreeable looking woman, barked orders at the cowed servants who dashed in and out of the room cleaning up after the family had left the table. Torn jeans and an oversized plaid shirt hung loosely on Parker's lean frame. The dark bruise of a handprint marred her pale forearm. Her latest foster mother did not like Parker's curiosity, and would forcefully drag her away if she got too close to anything. Parker stood up.
The cook gave her a dark glance. "You go out into the garden. I don't have time for you to be underfoot. And don't touch anything! I'll tan your hide if even one piece of silverware is missing."
Chewing on the end of her blond ponytail, Parker just stared at the woman. She did not know why her blank-eyed stare bothered people, but it was fun to do. After thirty seconds, the cook blinked and gave a shudder.
Parker shrugged and slipped out the back door on silent feet. She made her way through the vegetable garden and went to look inside the gazebo. A fragile looking structure, the gazebo had been engulfed in plants. The family had ignored it for so long that the vines and ivy had taken over. It was empty so she stepped inside.
It was like being in a private cave. She put her eye up to one of the few openings and watched as the gardener walked past, whistling as he hefted his rake. She smiled. He didn't know she was there! This was great! She could probably stay in here all day.
"Looks like little bit here likes to play."
The words followed by quiet laughter caused her to snap her head around. Three men stood in the entrance of the structure. The lead figure stepped forward, a hand reaching out to brush back a lock of blond hair.
"Is that true, little sweetheart? Do you like to play games?"
With a shake, Parker pulled herself out of the memory. She wrapped her arms around herself and rocked slightly. "There was something…wrong with their eyes. I was old enough to realize that, but I didn't know what it was."
Eliot had gone eerily still. "Parker? Did they…?" He stopped, not quite able to force the words out.
"I didn't like their games."
For a long moment Eliot's breath just stopped. He had seen the pictures. They had all seen a small segment of one of the DVDs the bastard had made. The idea of Parker in that place…his brain tripped over even the thought of it. Fury coursed through his veins causing his hands to shake. He forced himself to take a breath, to stamp down on the anger until the red haze faded from before his eyes.
He glanced over and found her watching him. He took another breath and deliberately relaxed his shoulders. "Hmm?"
"We're going home soon, right?" Parker asked.
"Tomorrow," he replied. "We're on the morning flight out."
"Good," she stated. "I don't like this place."
"Don't much care for it myself," Eliot agreed.
She shifted a bit and touched his hand. "We did good, though."
Looking down at her, he let one side of his mouth quirk up. Bumping her shoulder with his, he said, "We did damn good, darlin'."
She gave him a small smile and leaned her head on his shoulder.
He watched as her eyes grew heavy. "You ready to go to bed?"
"No!" She exclaimed, sitting up. Biting her lip, she peered up at him. "I don't want to go inside."
He smiled down at her. "Alright then, let's get off the edge."
The two of them moved back near the entrance and sat down on their jackets. Leaning against the wall, Parker stared up at the stars. "He won't get out, right? I mean, they're going to keep him locked up?"
Eliot snorted. "He won't get out. I'll make sure of it."
Something in his voice sounded off, but she decided not to worry about it right now. She just wanted to sit here in the night breeze and let the memories go back into hiding. If she could just stay here for a little while longer, she would be able to put them back in their box.
With a sigh, she shifted to lean against Eliot. "I'm glad it's you."
"You'll let me put it away. The others are too loud." She shivered slightly in the cooler air.
"Put it away, darlin'," he whispered, shifting so he could put his arm around her shoulders. "We can stay as long as we need to."
As she moved closer to curl against his chest and fell silent, he rested his chin on the top of her head. He would keep a real close eye on where they decided to send Stephen Collins. If he was lucky, he would already have a contact there. If not, he would find one. It was never hard to make friends when a child molester landed inside.
Nobody's going to be upset if a bastard like him meets the wrong end of a shiv.
Parker's breathing even out as she drifted into a light doze. His arm tightened as he considered the little girl she had been.
No, darlin'. I can guarantee he's never coming out.