The apartment was blissfully empty for the first time in a while. Nate settled down at the kitchen table, a tumbler of scotch as his companion, and opened a book. It was time to get some quality reading in before the chaos started again. (Because with his crew, chaos never seemed to take the appropriate vacation time.)

He was three sentences down the second page when Parker burst through the front door. She looked irritated and desperate, her hair thrown back into a messy ponytail and her eyes somewhat wild. Nate dropped a bookmark onto his page—he wasn't going to be reading much in the next few minutes—and intoned, "What is it, Parker?"

She stormed to the table, dropping her hand on the sturdy wood, "Was it true?"

Nate resisted the urge to rub his temples. Today was supposed to be relaxing. "Was what true?"

"What you told Archie yesterday. Was it true?"

He drew a blank. He'd said a lot of things to Archie during the Wakefield job. And he'd thought a hell of a lot more, most of it rather unpleasant and all of it directed towards the old man. At his bemused expression, Parker huffed in annoyance and clarified, "We could hear you on the comm, Nate. When I was breaking into the vault with Eliot, you told Archie—" she broke off, swallowing hard.

But Nate knew where she was going. He nodded slowly, "I told Archie that I would die for you."

She nodded, not willing herself to speak.

Nate studied their thief carefully. He could tell this had been banging around inside her head since he'd said it, and she wanted nothing more than to put it to rest. But she deserved the truth. He felt no remorse as he closed his book and held her gaze, "I don't say things I don't mean, Parker."

For a moment, she just stared at him. Then she straightened, and in less than a second her hand lashed out. Nate recoiled from the force of the slap—damn it, she was strong—and when he could see straight again Parker had stalked out the front door. Eliot was coming in at the same time, and he quickly moved to the side as the thief shoved past him, disappearing in a flash of blonde hair.

Eliot watched her go, then looked over his shoulder at Nate. When he saw the older man massaging his jaw, the red tingeing the left side of Nate's face, the hitter's eyes narrowed dangerously. "What the hell did you do to her?" he took a threatening step forward, fists clenched and promising pain.

Nate shook his head and downed the tumbler of scotch in one gulp. He poured himself another glass as he said, "I told her the truth."


It took Eliot a good hour to find Parker. When she disappeared, she had a habit of doing it well—he was honestly surprised he didn't find her halfway across the country. He walked to the edge of the City Hall building, leaning on the stone railing that lined the roof as he looked at the blonde thief. Her legs teetered over the edge, and although she looked troubled, Eliot knew it had nothing to do with the height.

"I didn't expect you to find me," she said sullenly.

"You like tall buildings," he replied. "Didn't take Hardison to figure it out."

Instead of smiling, she leaned against the railing and looked up at him, "Does Nate hate me now?"

"Where'd ya get an idea like that?"

"I slapped him."

Eliot ran a hand through his hair, pushing it out of his face, "Darlin', he's been married. I'm sure you're not the first woman to slap him."

Parker looked back at the street below them, studying the patrons of the coffee shop across the street. Eliot took that time to (carefully) hop over the railing, taking a seat on the ledge beside her. A gust of wind made him tense, but Parker seemed completely at ease, shifting her head slightly to let it blow her loose hair out of her face.

When the silence got deafening, he finally asked, "What made you so mad at him?" He didn't want to mention it, but he'd seen the tears in her eyes as she pushed out the door.

Parker looked at her knees, "He told Archie that he'd die for me."

Eliot startled her with a gruff laugh. When she looked at him, he toned it down to a slight smirk, "Parker, every one of us would die for ya."

"I don't want anyone to die for me!" she snapped, her anger returning at his blasé comment. "Not you, or Nate, or anyone else."

Instead of responding with the same kind of anger, he just shrugged a shoulder, "Doesn't matter what you want, Parker. It's the truth." He echoed Nate's words, but continued with another thought. "That's what comes with havin' a family."

Parker stared at him, her fury fizzling out. After a moment, she mumbled, "What if I don't want a family?"

"Too bad," he replied. "You're stuck with one." He pushed to his feet and moved back over the railing, holding out a hand to help her. "You comin'?"

She shook her head sullenly, staring at the coffee shop again, and Eliot shrugged a shoulder, "Don't be out here too long. I'm makin' stew tonight, and I'm gonna be pissed if you're late to dinner."

Though he couldn't see it, Parker allowed herself a slight smile.

Archie was right—she'd made her own family. She supposed she could learn to live with that.