Strangeness abounds in this one... sorry. :) I don't own Leverage.

Parker glanced around nervously. She didn't like it here. There were too many entrances and exits to watch them all. And those security guards made her nervous too. Even though Sophie had reassured her that they had no reason to suspect Parker of being anything other than a pretty young woman (Sophie's words), they still made Parker's skin tingle.

"Ms. White?" It took Parker a second to remember that she was supposed to be Alice White. She'd never be able to do Sophie's job. She couldn't understand how Sophie kept all those back stories straight.

"That's me," she said to the nurse that had asked.

The nurse nodded. "I spoke to the doctor and explained your symptoms. He's asked me to send you to the x-ray department so we can get a look at that ankle. We'll likely do both x-rays and a CT scan and then the doctor will look them over and see what's going on. One of your parents can go with you if you'd like." That was Nate and Sophie's alias for this.

Sophie stood up. "I'll come with her." She grabbed the handles of the wheelchair that both Nate and Sophie had insisted she sit in. Parker had protested, but it had been clear that it was more for forms sake than anything else. Sophie kissed Nate on the cheek, using it as an excuse to whisper "Are you okay?" He nodded.

"Hey mister. You play chess?" Nate looked over to see an inquisitive face peering up at him. The boy might have been eight, if that. He had untidy blonde hair and a gap at the bottom of his smile where he'd recently lost a tooth.

Nate looked around, but didn't see any parents. He shrugged internally. "Yep, I play chess all the time. Why?"

The boy reached in his pocket and pulled out a magnetic chess set. "I'm bored," he said. "Will you play a game with me?"

Nate took another look around, but Parker and Sophie were nowhere to be seen. Oh well. Better than sitting here thinking about all the reasons he had to hate hospitals. "Sure," he said, with a smile. The smile became a bit cocky when he said "But I'm going to win."

The boy grinned. "Nope, I will."

"Nuh-uh," Nate replied.

"Yep," the boy said, and started putting the pieces on the board. When he'd finished, he said "White or black?"

Nate spent a second thinking that really, that was an extremely complicated question where he was concerned, before he said "You go first."

The boy nodded and moved one of the white pieces. Nate countered, and it was game on. Within five minutes he was extremely impressed at the boy's skill. He'd thought he might have to throw the game, at least for a bit, so as not to make the kid look bad. Actually, he had to try a lot harder than usual. Ten minutes later he was at an impasse. There were about three options available to him at that point, but one he was sure was a trap, the other was too blatantly obvious, and he couldn't make his mind up about the third. Finally he sighed and tried the third option. Four moves later the boy suddenly looked up and said "I have to go somewhere for a while. Can you look after the board for me? Promise you won't cheat," he said sternly. Nate nodded.

"I won't cheat," he replied. The boy smiled and walked down a hallway and out of sight.

After about twenty minutes, Parker and Sophie reappeared. "They said they'll call us when the doctor has seen the x-rays. Hopefully it won't be long. You miss me?" Sophie asked.

Nate smiled. "Always."

After about another ten minutes "Alice White" was paged to the Emergency department. Parker and Sophie disappeared again.

"Hello, I'm doctor Rollins. You're Alice White?" he asked Parker. She nodded. "Alright. Well, the good news is that there are no fractures in your ankle. But you did do quite a bit of damage to the muscles and ligaments. They'll heal up without surgery, but you're going to be in pain for some time. Also, you'll have to avoid putting any more stress than absolutely necessary on that joint or you could worsen the injury." Parker made a face and he noticed. "I know it's no fun, but trust me, in the long run it will benefit you. Now, I'm going to put a walking boot on you to help support the joint until it heals. You can take it off to shower or if you'll be sitting still, but otherwise you need to wear it. I'm also writing you a prescription for the pain. One of these is long acting, and you take it once in the morning and once at night. The other ones you take if your ankle is hurting you in between those. The pharmacy will give you a sheet with precautions to take while on these medications. Follow them. Don't improvise, because I don't like my patient's coming back in with an accidental overdose."

"You ready to go?" Sophie asked Nate. It felt like a silly question; she knew how much he hated hospitals. So she was surprised when he looked torn. It was then that she noticed a chess set that was sitting by his elbow. "Is that yours?" she asked. She'd never seen it before.

"No… I was playing a game against a kid that was here earlier, but he had to go somewhere and wanted me to watch it." He appeared to struggle with himself before he sighed and said "I'll leave it with security, I guess." He stood up and walked over to the desk.

"Can I help you?" a young man asked.

"Yeah, I need to leave something with you. A kid and I were playing chess and he left it behind." The security guy nodded and Nate handed it to him.

As Nate turned to leave, the man said "Wait a second." Nate felt a flash of apprehension, unsure if maybe the man had figured out that he wasn't exactly who he claimed to be. He turned around.

"Yes?" he said politely.

"Where did you say you got this?" The man was looking at the magnetic board with far more interest than Nate felt was necessary for such a common object.

"I was playing chess with a kid while I waited for my daughter to have an x-ray," Nate responded.

"Can you describe the boy?"

Okay, this was starting to get weird. Still, Nate said "Blonde hair, blue eyes, about eight years old. Gap from one of his bottom teeth."

Now the guard looked a bit scared. "Sir… the name on this chess board… we had a kid here today by that name. Normally this would be confidential information but I suppose it'll be a big news story anyway. Paramedics brought in an eight year old that was hit by a car. I guess his little sister got into the street and he saved her. He died two hours ago."

Nate felt like the floor had dropped out from under him. "No… it had to have been someone else. Another kid with the same name. I was playing chess with him less than an hour ago. Right over there." He pointed. "Don't you have security cameras here? Check them."

The guy shook his head. "They started acting up this morning so the tech guys have them off." He looked down at the board and then slid it across to Nate. "If he gave this to you I guess there must have been a reason."

Nate was shaking his head. "But this doesn't make sense," he said, frustrated. Sophie apparently noticed something was wrong because she told Parker to wait and walked over.

"Nate, what…?" She reached out to touch him and he shook his head and backed away. She kept the hurt off her face (barely) and said, "Come on. We have to go. Nate," she said again, and this time he focused on her. He had one of the most lost looks on his face that she'd ever seen. Finally, he nodded. Just before he went to leave she saw him slip the miniature chess board into his pocket.

"Is Nate okay?" Parker looked at Sophie. After stopping at a 24 hour pharmacy to fill the prescription for Parker's pain meds, they'd come back to Nate's apartment. He hadn't said anything to either of them. He'd even handed Sophie his keys in the hospital parking lot, clearly an indication that he wanted her to drive. After carrying Parker back upstairs to his bedroom he'd gone back down. Sophie had heard the door to the apartment open and close. A part of her heart wanted to insist that he wasn't downstairs in McCrory's, drinking himself into a stupor. But as good as she was at lying, she couldn't believe that one.

"I hope so Parker. I'm going to go and talk to him after you're settled." She waited until the girl's eyes drifted shut before she crept out of the room, closing the door softly.

"Is it okay if I sit down?" He wasn't at the bar, as she'd expected. Actually, for a few seconds she hadn't been able to see him at all and had wondered if he was there. But then she'd spotted one of his wisps of curls peeking over the top of a table over in the corner. He was sitting with his back against a wall. There was a bottle of whiskey beside him but it was still sealed; actually, she was pretty sure it was the one from his apartment upstairs.

He didn't say anything but nodded. She slid down beside him, fitting herself deliberately close to his side. He was shaking.

"What do you know about hallucinations, Soph?" His voice was a bit scared.

"Not much. They're usually caused by either a drug, an illness in the brain, or… DTs," she finished. "Why? Nate, I don't think you'd hallucinate. The way you've been steadily drinking less and less lets your body get used to the lack of alcohol." He didn't look very comforted by her statement.

He picked up the miniature chess set that was sitting next to him. "Is this real?" he asked.

She furrowed her brow. What? She reached out a hand and touched it. "Feels pretty real to me. Nate, what's wrong?" She was starting to get concerned now.

Sometimes it was uncanny how he could judge her moods. He could see her anxiety, so he told her. About the kid, the chess game, what the security guy had said. He realised he was rambling and forced himself to stop, taking deep breaths. His brain kept trying to make sense out of what had happened but couldn't. He put his hands to his head, as if trying to physically force the thoughts out of his mind.

"Soph, I know I saw it. I know it. Even if I hadn't how the hell would I have gotten that chess board. But it's impossible. I…" She kissed him, and he responded automatically.

"Sorry. You were looking a little wild in the eyes there. Just breathe, okay?" she said, and took his hand.

"I just… it can't have happened."

"Why not?"


"Why can't it have happened Nate? It isn't the first time someone's talked to a ghost. Why not you?"

"Soph, you can't believe that," he protested. "Ghosts aren't real. And they sure the hell don't sit down and play chess with some random stranger and then leave their chessboard behind!" He tapped the board for emphasis.

"Well this one did. And why do you think that is?"

"How the hell should I know?" he exploded. She raised an eyebrow, and he said "Sorry."

"Maybe he wasn't ready to leave yet. Maybe you helped him and you don't even know it."

"I just… I can't believe that Sophie."

"Why don't you just try letting it go then? Accept that something happened that you have no explanation for and leave it be. Maybe someday you'll find the answer, maybe not. But I know one thing for sure Nate. You won't find the answer in the bottom of this." She tapped the top of the bottle of whiskey.

"I didn't drink it."

"And if I tell you I'm proud of you all you'll do is scoff." He smiled slightly, pretty much confirming her assumption. "Come on." She stood up and offered him a hand. "I think we could both fit on the couch if we tried hard enough." When he raised his eyebrows she swatted him lightly. "To sleep. Men, I swear."

"If I ask you something will you promise not to yell at me or hit me?" Nate's voice was quiet. "I mean, you don't have to promise to answer. It's just been driving me nuts and I want to ask but I'm afraid you'll be mad."

She was lying half on top of him, head resting over his heart. After a second she said "Ask."

"You started sleeping with Eliot before that job where we were getting the Scott's house for them, didn't you?"

She sighed. "Nate, does it really matter?"

"No. It doesn't matter in context of you and I. But… remember how you stopped Eliot from kicking the crap out of me? After I insulted him?" She nodded and he continued "I think I must have known somehow that he was sleeping with you. I deliberately provoked him that day Soph. Maybe I knew somehow."

"Yes, Nate it was before that. Just before, actually."

He nodded but didn't say anything else. She looked up. "That's it? That's all you wanted, a yes or no?"

He smiled. "It's all I needed. Besides, that was then. This is now. You're the one who thinks I need to just let stuff go, remember? So I'm trying."

Sophie looked at him. He looked better than he had downstairs in the bar. Of course, he often looked better when she was in his arms. He'd deny that fact if she said it though, so she tilted her head up and kissed him. "If Parker interrupts this time so help me God," she said, and then started unbuttoning his shirt.

A/N I'll leave it with the reader to decide if the kid was a ghost or a hallucination... Mostly because I'm not completely sure myself!