I don't own Leverage *sniffle*


"So, did you send them, or did you just tell him which ones I liked?" Sophie leaned up against the counter and watched Eliot's body language.

Eliot used every bit of control he had to not react to her question, although all he could think was 'busted'. "I don't know what you're talking about darlin'." He took a swig from his beer.

She wondered if she ought to tell him that having absolutely no reaction was more telling than a lie. Not that either one mostly mattered; she read people so well that she would have seen through both. "Come on Eliot. Nate knows a lot of things about me, up to and including my dress size and what toothpaste I use, but he doesn't know that. I've never told him. And while it is possible that he guessed right, it's unlikely."

"Who's to say Hardison didn't send them both? After all, if he'd sent Parker flowers from him but not sent you some from Nate, then Nate would have been pissed at him."

"I saw the look on Hardison's face Eliot. He had no idea. Besides, he doesn't know what kind of flowers I like. You do."

"Among other things." It wasn't really an admission of guilt, but it was a concession to her logic.

"Yeah." Sophie walked over and sat down on the couch. He followed, after grabbing another beer from the fridge. He twisted the cap off and handed it to her. "Thanks. Though I really shouldn't drink this. You know how many calories there are in one bottle of beer?"

He shook his head. The woman was quite possibly skinnier than Parker and she worried about one frickin' beer. "You look perfect. You always do. Besides, one beer isn't going to do you any harm."

"Thanks Eliot," she said. "But it's more about the habit than the beer. You do something enough, you get used to it. Then you have a hard time stopping." Thoughts of Nate and his alcoholism threatened to break through, but she pushed them back. She'd tried saving him in the past, and it hadn't worked. So instead she'd told him that he could save himself. He was working on it, but sometimes she still felt like strangling him for taking so long.

They sat in silence for a few minutes, and his voice was quiet when he spoke. "Are you ever going to tell him?"

She looked over. He was peeling at the label of his beer. "I don't know," she admitted softly. "I know for a fact if I do he's going to be pissed off, but more importantly, he'll be genuinely hurt. And that seems like an awful thing to do to someone who's suffered as much as he has."

"I'm not saying I care if you do Sophie. It's just... I'd want to know, if it was me. What if he finds out somehow on his own? You and I can both understand it, but he's not always the most rational person in the room." They both smiled at that. It was an understatement.

"I'm afraid," she said. He looked at her. "What if he can't understand? What we had, what we did, I needed it. Badly. But what if all he sees is that I slept with you, and to hell with whether I had good reasons? What if he walks away?"

"He won't." Eliot's voice was filled with conviction.

"You can't know that."

"Yeah, Sophie, I can. I know you, and I know Nate. I know men in general, actually. He might be pissed, and maybe he'll always blame you a bit, but he's as trapped by you as you are by him. You have that effect," he said ruefully.

Both of them looked over at the door when they heard footsteps in the hallway. Eliot had been a bit shocked at how good Sophie's hearing was when he'd first found out about it. He'd said something under his breath (about her) and she'd punished him for almost two days before he'd given up and asked what the problem was. She'd calmly informed him that he should be a little more careful about what he said even if it was under his breath, unless he knew for a fact that no one could hear him. And then she'd quoted him, word for word. That time he'd needed all his creativity and charm to get back into her good graces.

Nate walked in and started emptying out the pockets of his pants and sweater. It never ceased to amaze the team just how many things he managed to collect at the end of the day. Not just ordinary stuff like keys, money, and gum wrappers, but other objects too, like dice, bits of strings, those little Indian rubber balls you can get at the corner store, and (their second favourite so far) eighteen pesos. However, the running favourite had actually happened last year on a trip to South America. They were all sitting around talking when, no word of a lie, a lizard had crawled out of his shirt pocket. Sophie, who'd been sitting beside him on the couch, had freaked out. Nate on the other hand, had calmly picked it up and taken it outside. He denied having put it there himself. Needless to say, the team hadn't believed him.

"So, anything interesting today?" Sophie tossed the comment at him as she walked by to put her bottle in the recycle bin. Nate held up a piece of Lego. Sophie cracked up.

"How the hell did I get this?" he asked with a puzzled look. Probably the funniest part of the whole deal was that Nate really didn't remember how stuff made it into his pockets. They all figured he was just a magnet for weird stuff; after all, how else to explain all the strange things that happened during otherwise perfectly normal jobs?

"You know Nate, maybe you have multiple personality disorder. That would explain why you don't remember," Sophie laughed at him.

"I do not have multiple personalities. One is all I need." He gave her a cocky grin.

"More than. You forgot to put the words 'more than' in that sentence," Eliot said.

Sophie expected Nate to answer back with a snarky comment but he didn't. Well that pretty much proved her right about the flowers. He didn't want to piss Eliot off because he was afraid of what Eliot might say.

"I'm going home guys. See ya." Eliot grabbed his jacket and headed out.

"What about you? You sticking around for a while? Hardison and Parker left too. I think for one night we may just have the apartment to ourselves." Nate looked over.

"You're just hoping to continue where we left off last night." Sophie smiled.

"Not just. Believe it or not, I do actually enjoy your company as well as the sex."

"Mmm. That's reassuring." She boosted herself up onto the counter. "Come here." It wasn't quite a request. He thought about arguing for about half a second. Well, maybe a quarter of a second. He walked over to her and stood between her legs as she pulled him into a kiss. Her hands were in his hair, pulling slightly. He loved that feeling.

"Tell me you aren't just teasing this time," he said, pulling back and looking at her.

"No. I'm definitely not." After all, there was only so long she could stand to stay away from him, and to hell with what point it was supposed to prove. Besides, he had done what she'd asked. Actually, it was almost as if he'd taken the list of things she'd told him she liked and used it word for word. "Did you deliberately follow that list of stuff I gave you when you took me out today Nate?"

"Well yeah. Since, you know, you were kind enough to hand it to me on a silver platter and all. But I'd like to think I did it with a certain amount of charm." He hadn't been too happy with her about her implying that he needed tips from some other guy last night. He wasn't lying when he said he'd done all of that before. He'd had to. Did she think Maggie had just fallen into bed with him?

She kissed him again, adding a bit of tongue to it this time. He moaned softly. Even after he'd jacked off last night he still hadn't slept well. He never did unless she was in his bed. She did something, and he wasn't sure what, but it helped keep away the nightmares. It helped take away some of the sting from some of his memories too, made it easier to think of the good stuff instead of the bad. He reached behind her, intent on removing her shirt, and she stopped his hands. Well hello déjà vu, he thought. Haven't seen you in almost a whole day. Wondered where you went.

"Nate, I'm not stripping off in your kitchen. You never know if one of the others might walk in." She pushed against his chest and then slid off the counter. "Come on," she said, and led him up the stairs.


Two days later:

"Hey," Sophie said as she walked in. Nate was sitting at the kitchen table and reading the paper. He didn't look up at her comment. "You know Nate, you're supposed to say hello back when someone says hi to you." He continued reading. She decided she didn't like it, so she walked over and pulled the paper out of his hands. He didn't grab for it, just let it go and picked up the glass in front of him. She turned the bottle that was on the table around and read the label. "Whiskey, Nate? For breakfast? What the hell?" He still didn't look at her. "If you aren't going to tell me then I'm going to start guessing," she said angrily. "And I doubt you'll enjoy it. So what the fuck?"

He finally looked up. And she saw betrayal in his eyes. The only time she'd ever seen him look like this was when she'd gone to the rehab centre after he'd tried to escape. But this was way worse. It was as if she was a stranger, as if they weren't even friends, never mind lovers.

"You should have told me." He dropped his eyes back to the glass in his hand.

"Told you what Nate?" Okay, she now had an idea what this was about, but she was hoping like hell she was wrong.

"Don't play games with me Sophie. I'm not in the mood for that shit. You know what I mean."

"Yeah, well, I'm a criminal Nate. You think I'm just going to confess to something when I don't know what I'm being accused of?" She pulled out a chair and sat down.

"Why? How many other secrets do you have that I'd be pissed about?"

"Lots. There are a lot of things you don't know about me, Nate, and trust me when I tell you that it's for the best. Besides, you have a lot of them too. And I don't expect you to tell me everything."

He stood up and walked a bit unsteadily towards the stairs. She watched him, but made no move to follow. He stopped when he got there however and pulled something off one of the steps. His laptop. Walking back over, he set it down and flipped up the lid, and then pushed play. And her voice and Eliot's were played back. The conversation they'd had the other day, sitting on his couch. After a few seconds, she reached out and turned it off. He just poured another shot of alcohol and downed it.

"Since when do you spy on your own team, Nate?" She couldn't stop the anger from leaking into her voice. That was low, even for him.

"It's my fucking home, Sophie. I know you guys are here all the time but I do actually live here. And that means I have the right to record whatever I want. I'm in the habit of recording the stuff that goes on here because more than once someone's been here and there was no proof but my word or theirs. Sterling, The Italian... I once heard a person on a tv show say that you never knew when an inconvenient truth would slip through the cracks and vanish. He was right."

"Oh, great, now I'm being compared to Sterling. Thanks. You're such an asshole, Nate."

"Why'd you do it Sophie?"

She had been stalking off in disgust, but now she rounded on him. "What the hell right do you have to ask me that? You take your sweet fucking time, assuming I can just wait forever, and then you get pissed when I find a way to make it through? He's my friend Nate. Hell, at that point he was a better friend than you were. At least he listened. At least he did something to help the pain." There were tears on her cheeks now. She'd told Eliot he wouldn't understand.

"When? Before San Lorenzo? After? When?"

She thought about just walking out. Walking away, and maybe for good this time. But she'd put so much work into him. Tried so damned hard. "Do you honestly believe I'd have done it after that? Do you really believe I'd have done it after I came back when you said you needed me? Because if you do believe that, then you don't know me half as well as you should. I'm working my ass off here Nate. Trying my best to find a way through to you. And you think I'd jeopardize it by sleeping with someone else now? It was early on, after the team got together. Once I realised you wouldn't let me in, I started giving up. Somehow Eliot knew. He figured out that I was in pain and did everything he could to make it stop. And he was a perfect gentleman. I had to practically beg him to have sex with me. He thought I couldn't keep it about just sex. The last time was right after that job with Lillian Foods. The magic show one." She could see him thinking back, trying to remember if he'd seen some sign.

"Did it help?" he asked softly. There was no accusation in the words this time. He really wanted to know.

Sophie swallowed against the lump in her throat. "Yeah. For a while, yes it did. Nate, you can live your life in a bubble, and you seem to do just fine. I can't." She looked away. She hated admitting to any sort of weakness, and this was one of her worst. "I need to feel liked. Appreciated. Maybe it's because I'm an actress, and maybe it's just me. But Eliot... he made me feel good. He made me feel like he wanted me around." She got up and started to walk away.

"Don't go." She could barely hear him say the words, they were so quiet.

"Give me a reason to stay." An echo of her words three years ago, after they'd gotten a house back for a client. She stood there for a few seconds, watching him. He didn't say anything, and she was getting ready to walk away when he stood up, picking up the bottle of whiskey off the table. Nate walked over to the sink, the too careful walk of a person already drunk, and upended the bottle, watching as the amber liquid swirled down the drain. He looked up at her, wondering if she understood the meaning of the gesture. Apparently something about it got through to her, because she didn't move.

"I did this once. If that's what I have to do to get you to stay then I'll do it again."

"And what are you going to use to take its place this time, Nate? Last time it was control. At least when you're drinking you can still function. What happens if you get addicted to something that keeps that from happening? Then I lose you all the way, instead of one small piece at a time." She sat back down in her chair and put her head in her hands.

He hesitated, and then walked over and sat down beside her. He wasn't sure what to expect when he pulled her into his arms. Most days he really couldn't tell whether she'd rather kiss him or kill him. This time she just rested her head against his chest, and stayed there, silent. "Don't you want me to quit drinking, Sophie?"

She hated that question. Any way she chose to answer it she would most likely regret it later. Finally she said "I want you to quit drinking for you Nate. Not for me, not for the team, not because of some 'moral' reason. I want you to stop because you actually want to be better. I could ask you to stop for me, but it won't work. You have to want to heal. And I don't think you do. Not yet." She didn't move from her position leaning against him.

"I don't know how to make myself want to heal. How do I make myself want to heal?" There was bitterness and grief both in his voice.

"You can't. Why do you think I have so much patience for you Nate? Most women would've given up by now. I know that you can't help it. But that doesn't stop the fact that it's hurting me."

"I'm sorry," he said. "Sorry for hurting you, and for being angry about you and Eliot. I hate that it happened, but I hate even more that I was responsible. You know, my mother once told me that my worst problem was always going to be getting out of my own way. I never understood what she meant until now." He rested his chin on her head. His phone rang, but he made no move to pick it up.

"Aren't you going to answer that?"

"I'm busy." He tightened his arms around her a bit.

"It could be important."

"I don't care if it's St. Peter calling direct from the pearly gates, I'm busy."

"Busy doing what, Nate?"

"Hugging you." Okay, so that sort of felt good to hear him say.

"Oh."

"Will you tell me about it?"

She pulled back to look at him with a puzzled expression. "Tell you about what?"

"About you and Eliot." She started to look angry again, and it took him a second to replay that and figure it out. "Oh... No, no, not that part. Definitely not that part," he said with a bit of a shudder. She rolled her eyes a bit but continued to watch him. "I meant, will you tell me what you guys did as friends. Why he was such a good friend."

"My answer to that depends entirely on two things, Nate. Eliot's permission, and you telling me why you want to know. And don't lie to me, because you suck at it."

"I do not."

"Yeah, you do."

"Do not."

"What are you, twelve years old? Answer the question Nate."

He thought for a second, and then said "How else can I learn? How am I supposed to know what you want from me, as a friend or as a lover, without you telling me Soph? I'm not a mind reader. I can't see what you want unless you let me. Like... okay, the other day during our date, you remember how you shivered and I gave you my jacket?" She nodded. "You did that on purpose, didn't you? So I'd see that you wanted my jacket." She nodded again, but he'd already continued. "The weird thing is, about five seconds before you shivered Meridith was in my ear saying how I'd screwed up by giving you something cold to eat and then sitting you in the shade. She said you'd walk away. But you didn't. You deliberately gave me a cue to follow. And the strangest part was that I trusted you so much that I waited for it. I didn't stand up when she said it. I waited for you to say it, even if it wasn't with words."

"So you want me to tell you about Eliot and I so that you'll have another list to follow? Things that I like?" She shook her head. "Nate, you could just ask me whether I like something or not. Don't you think that would be easier?"

"Probably. But Eliot isn't like me. He likes different things, so it stands to reason he'd try different things with you. Things I'd never consider."

She had to admit that it made sense. Eliot had gotten her to try a lot of things she'd never have considered otherwise. Things she'd either never been introduced to, or things that she wouldn't have done on her own because she would have been too scared. And it wasn't like she wanted to stop doing things with Eliot; he was her friend. But it would be good for Nate to know more about what she liked.

"So will you ask him?" Nate looked over at her.

"When I said 'if Eliot gives his permission,' I didn't say I was going to be the one to ask him, Nate." She had a feeling he wasn't going to like this part. She was right.

"What? No way Sophie. He won't give his permission if I ask."

"You can't know that. He might, and anyway, I think we need to let him know that you figured it out. He's my friend Nate, and I don't want to lie to him. He was the one who suggested that I should tell you in the first place."

"But why can't you tell him that?" He looked genuinely confused.

"Because I think the two of you need to talk."

"Sophie, guys don't need to talk. We can go all day and not say two words to each other and still be friends." That earned him a whack on the back of the head. "Ow!" She seemed to get faster every time she hit him.

"First, that's a stereotype. Second, even 'guys'," she rolled her eyes, "need to talk sometimes. He needs to know that you don't blame him."

"For sleeping with my girl? I do sort of blame him Sophie. He knew I wanted you."

"But I wasn't your girl then Nate." He felt a little bit of pleasure at that sentence. At least she'd progressed from the whole 'you and I are definitely not dating' thing.

He sighed. "Is there any way that I can change your mind about this?" She shook her head no. "Fine," he grumbled. "I'll talk to him. But if I come back with two broken arms you get to take care of me."

"Fair enough." She leaned over and kissed him gently. "I'm going home for a while. Don't you dare drive anywhere. Not with all that whiskey in you." She waited for his nod before she left. After she did he sighed, and set about planning how to talk to Eliot without getting killed.


The quote about inconvenient facts I borrowed from Londo Mollari, Babylon 5: Ceremonies of Light and Dark. Since the fic is basically about the differences between how two men treated the same woman, I borrowed a piece of the episode title. Seemed appropriate. :)