Ashes to Ashes
Disclaimer: Sadly not mine. Everything recognised as "Leverage" does not belong to me; I've just borrowed some of the characters.
Genres: Hurt/Comfort, Angst, Episode Tag
Warnings: MAJOR spoilers for 4x17 The Radio Job. Be warned.
Summary: People who get too close to the fire get burned and there's definitely a metaphor in that. [Post-ep for The Radio Job]
A/N Oh. My. God. I'm still flailing over the first half of the season finale and it was just amazing so I had to write something. Is it next week yet? (Or better yet, I need Parker's time machine. Or a TARDIS. I'm not picky.)
When Hardison's eyes fly open in the middle of the night, he can hear someone in this apartment. As he staggers to his feet, he pauses and there's the distinctive sound of a television being watched with the volume turned down. Hardison lets out the breath he didn't know he was holding because surely Latimer's men (or is it Dubenich's men now, Hardison can't keep it all straight) wouldn't break into his apartment just to watch television.
He pads warily into his lounge room and is only slightly surprised to see Parker curled up on his couch, legs tucked under her body as she clutches that stuffed bunny of hers. She's staring at his television and Hardison glances across to see what has her attention. And he smiles when he sees the familiar blue box materialising on the screen.
"Hey, girl," he says quietly.
Parker jumps and Hardison frowns. Something must really be wrong (would you like that list in alphabetical order) because Parker's never surprised. She looks away from the screen, sees Hardison and relief floods her face like a darkened shadow.
She says nothing and squeezes Bunny tighter so Hardison shuffles over to his couch and sits down next to her; close, but not touching. She tries to ignore him, but he doesn't let her. Hardison reaches for the remote and pauses the TV just as the Doctor shows Rose a burning Earth millions of years into her future.
"I was watching that," Parker complains and would have crossed her arms defiantly if she wasn't hugging Bunny so hard.
"In the middle of the night?" Hardison questions. "And besides," he adds, narrowing his eyes, "whatcha doing roaming around the mean streets of Boston? You heard Eliot, we need to keep our heads down until we think of a way to, you know." Hardison wrings his hands as Parker stares blankly at him.
"Bunny wasn't happy," Parker remarks simply, pulling on one of Bunny's floppy ears. "And besides, she wanted to watch Doctor Who." Parker frowns. "Bunny's sad that we didn't bring her back a time machine."
"Parker." And Hardison sighs, because there's not much else to do. Shit's gone to hell and taken them along with it.
Parker's silent again, but Hardison can see she really, really wants to say something but doesn't want to make a social faux pas. It's a look he doesn't see quite as often on her anymore.
"I don't want to be around Nate anymore," Parker finally blurts out, but then goes silent and still and looks as though she's waiting for Hardison to raise his hand to her, like she's said something blasphemous.
Okay, not what he was expecting, but okay. And knowing Parker, what she says and what she means is sometimes not the same thing. So he waits for her to elaborate, because she will.
"He's cursed," Parker continues, almost shyly (when did Parker do anything shyly), and pulls Bunny close so that she's now speaking into Bunny's fur.
Say what? "Don't be silly, mama," Hardison replies, looking slightly confused (he blames the fact it's 2:38am), "there ain't no such thing as a curse."
"Is too," Parker mutters against Bunny's furry chest. "I met this old lady once at a fair and she said that she could put a curse on someone …"
"She was probably a grifter, Parker," he reassures her. "A fake, like with the psychic job. They ain't real."
"We should call Maggie," Parker says suddenly.
He doesn't understand what she means, though there's a lot of things he doesn't understand at the moment (or doesn't want to understand). What has Maggie got to do with …
"Nate's son died," Parker says flatly, "and Nate's dad died. That means Maggie's gonna die next."
"Don't be … wait, what?" Hardison is on his way to say something else, but then he registers exactly what Parker said. "Come again?"
Parker lets Bunny drop into her lap and Hardison's face softens when he sees just how serious Parker is.
"We need to call Maggie," Parker repeats urgently and pulls her cell phone from her pocket. She scrolls through her contacts and then stops, her finger hovering mid-air. "I don't have her number," Parker mutters, "I thought I did and …" Parker's getting more and more worked up so Hardison does the only thing he can think of.
He snatches Parker's cell from her hand and tosses it across the room. Parker looks both betrayed and confused, and Hardison tries really, really hard to ignore it (but he can't, he never can).
"But … Maggie …" Parker pleads.
"Parker, it …" he falters and tries again, "it-it doesn't work like that, Parker." Of course it doesn't and Parker knows that, or should know that, but she's in shock (hell, they're all in shock) and definitely not thinking straight.
"But we're next," Parker says ominously, like a dark prophet, "after Maggie. Archie said that Nate's like our family and Nate's family dies and if Nate's our family then we're gonna die too."
And Hardison can't help but shudder as he remembers the warehouse exploding into a fireball of lost childhoods and deep regret. But it really, really doesn't happen like that (or so he tells himself, because people who get too close to the fire get burned and there's definitely a metaphor in that).
Hardison laughs, but it's fake and doesn't fool either of them. "Don't be crazy, woman."
Parker narrows her eyes. "I'm not crazy," she said defensively and Hardison knows he's hit a nerve without meaning to. "Everyone thinks I'm crazy, but I'm not."
"No," Hardison says firmly, "you're not." He pauses. "And Nate's not cursed. You're sad that Nate's dad died."
"No I'm not," Parker denies.
And it clicks. Dying sons and dying dads and dying brothers. Parker might be a little sad that Jimmy Ford is dead, but she's mostly sad because Nate's dad is dead. There's a difference.
"He looked really, really sad," Parker recalls sadly, "and Nate didn't even like his dad."
"Of course he did, Parker," Hardison replies while the Doctor remains paused on the television screen and he's sure there's some irony in there about stopped time and all that, but he can't think of it now. "He loved his dad, Parker, which is why he … looked really, really sad."
"He wouldn't even talk to us," Parker adds in a small voice, "not even to Sophie and he likes Sophie best."
"People deal with grief differently, Parker," Hardison reminds her and she clasps her hands over her ears, like she doesn't want to hear it.
"But he's cursed," Parker says in an overly loud voice as she can't hear herself and it's her attempt at avoiding the subject. "Some old witch lady cursed Nate and everyone dies. I don't want to die."
Well, neither does Hardison, even if Parker and Eliot seem intent on killing him by pushing him off tall structures.
"Maggie next," Parker says to herself and good god, she's counting them off on her fingers. "Then Eliot, cuz he likes to protect us. Sophie after, since Nate likes her best. And then maybe me …"
And that's it. Hardison can't stand it anymore. "Just shut up, Parker," he snaps, not caring about the hurt look on her face. "Just … hell … just stop talking. Shut up." And Parker recoils like he's slapped her.
"Hardison," she says tentatively, looking worried.
"No. No. Don't Hardison me." He gets to his feet and jabs an angry finger in her direction. "No. You don't get break into my house in the middle of the night and … and … and do that! You don't get to come in here and start talking about dying and people and people dying and … and … and you just don't." Hardison sits back down with a thud and crosses his arms.
"You're sad that Nate's dad died too," Parker observes as though she's suddenly come to a great realisation.
"Hell yes I'm sad!" Hardison exclaims. "I'm sad that someone's trying to kill us again and I'm sad that Nate's all messed up and I'm freaking sad that I had to leave a cool-ass meat smoker back in that god forsaken patents office!" He finishes, breathing heavily.
Parker stares at him wide-eyed, as though she's just seeing him for the first time. And Hardison's ready to break so Parker does the first thing that comes into her mind.
She straddles his lap and kisses him.
Hardison looks shocked at first, and tries to wriggle away from her. But Parker's stubborn when she wants something and doesn't let go. Soon, Hardison relaxes and responds to Parker's abrupt kiss, and the tension drains from his body.
It's not a bad method of stress release, Hardison thinks vaguely as he concentrates on the blonde in his lap.
Parker is the one who breaks the kiss, pulling away from him slightly flushed. She smooths down her hair where Hardison had grabbed it and leans over him for the remote. "Can we watch Doctor Who now that you're not so sad?" she asks eagerly, itching to switch the television back on.
Hardison nearly laughs (or cries, or both), but that's Parker for you. He nods. "Wouldn't want anything else, mama."
Parker squeals happily, presses play on the remote and the television springs back to life. She picks Bunny up off the floor and snuggles against Hardison's shoulder, clutching the stuffed rabbit. But before she gets swept up in the storyline, Parker lifts her head from his shoulder
"But if Nate is cursed," she starts and Hardison is about to protest, but she cuts him off, "but if Nate is cursed and we're all gonna die," and Hardison's trying to protest again, "then I won't let you die."
"I won't," Parker says firmly, frowning slightly. "I'd die first."
"No," Hardison replies sharply, "you wouldn't."
Parker nods. "I would. I made a list."
"Then burn the list." Hardison ends the conversation.
Parker shrugs and turns her attention back to the TV screen.
The Earth burns.