Okay, so apparently my muse is unaware that when you're heading for your fourth night shift in a row it's nice to get more than three hours sleep. Instead, there's this. 3300 words later. I don't own Leverage.
When Maggie walks into her apartment in LA and Nate's sitting on her sofa, she just smiles and shakes her head ruefully. Maybe Parker was right after all: security was underrated. She sat down beside him.
"I need a favour," he says. "A really big favour. Huge." She just looks at him and waits. She takes a few seconds just to look at him. His hands are steady, his eyes clear. It's only been four weeks since they pulled that job on Latimer and Dubenich, and he's sober. Totally, completely, stone cold sober. She knows; she still knows everything about him. She couldn't forget if she wanted to, and she's tried. Finally he says, in a voice close to a whisper "Tell me I'll do it right this time. Tell me it's going to be okay. That I won't lose this child like I lost Sam." His eyes are on hers, and she's pretty sure he's crying but she can't see through her own tears. She reaches out and pulls him into her arms, holding him as tight as she can. Later she'll remember that he still had a healing gunshot wound in his shoulder. But he never flinched. She's never felt this angry happy sad confused feeling in her life. It occurs to her that despite everything she still loves him.
"You'll be okay. And you did it right the last time, Nate. Life screwed you when it took him away. Screwed us. You'll be a great dad." She pulled back and smiled. "You still are a great dad. That team loves you. Any one of them would have taken that bullet for you."
For the first time since she saw him, he started smiling. It started just as a little tugging at the corner of his mouth, but he obviously couldn't contain it. "Umm... I talked to Sophie and, well... we want you to be the Godmother. If you want to."
She's shocked, and then a wave of pleasure overtakes her. She hugs him again, unable to resist. "Yes Nate. My God yes." His smile widened. "Where is she?"
"Shoe sale." Maggie laughs. Sophie and her damn shoes. Seriously, she has no idea where the woman puts them all.
"Well you aren't leaving until I get to see her." She grabs her phone and texts her friend. Stop considering those horribly expensive totally unnecessary heels and get your ass over here!
A second later her phone beeps. Hey, they aren't that expensive! I've paid way more for footwear in my life. And BTW, I'm in the checkout line. So hold your damn horses.
Maggie laughs and shows Nate the phone, who just shakes his head in that way he has that says 'I'm so screwed and I know it'.
Twenty minutes later Sophie walks into her apartment with not one but two bags in her hands. She's forced to drop them, however, as Maggie hugs her so hard she squeaks.
"How long?" Maggie asks, and her best friend has the grace to blush a bit.
"According to the doctors six weeks." Sophie glares at Nate over on the couch. "And then he goes and gets shot. I would have dragged him back kicking and screaming from the other side if he'd died. No way will I be doing this myself. Hell, I can barely look after Parker and she's grown."
Maggie smiles and pulls her over to the sofa. She notices that Nate's eyes never seem to leave the woman. When she sits down he pulls her against him, kissing her on the cheek. Maggie can't stop smiling, because it's the first time since Sam died that he looks totally 100% alive.
"I need a maid of honour." Sophie looks at her. "You're being drafted."
Maggie starts laughing. "Well I've been volun-told into things before. Sign me up."
"It'll have to be rather soon. No way am I getting married six months pregnant. I don't want a lot of fuss either." Nate made a noise somewhere in his throat, and Sophie casually elbowed him in the ribs. Hard. "There's a time for performances, Nate, and there's a time for just being happy."
Maggie could see him trying not to laugh, and apparently Sophie had eyes in the back of her head because she elbowed him again. "Shut up, Nate."
"I'm sorry, it's just that this is coming from the woman who wanted to stretch me on the rack because I said a wedding was a big con." He catches her elbow this time.
Maggie shook her head. Either Nate was going to learn to watch his mouth (extremely unlikely), or he was going to be walking around with bruised ribs for the rest of his life (and she was going to go with the second option.) Their conversation degenerated into talk about dresses and heels and flowers and Maggie could see that sort of blank look on Nate's face that said he wasn't really listening, just picking up the conversation enough to answer yes or no occasionally. From the way his arms were wrapped around his soon to be wife, Maggie had a feeling she knew exactly where his thoughts had gone.
"Oregon? Seriously?" Parker looked over at him. "Man, I had a bat cave. A BAT CAVE," he said, and she could tell it was all in capital letters in his mind. "And now we have to move to friggin' Portland? This sucks." He went back to coiling up the wires from his PS3 and putting them away with the million other wires in this place. Honestly, Parker could've rappelled off of the Empire State building with the amount of wire here. Hmm.
She put that thought in the back of her mind somewhere and said "We can't stay. You know that. People know us here, Alec. It's almost gotten us all killed. It's time to move on."
He knew she was trying to comfort him by the use of his first name. She seldom used it, as if she thought it was too precious to waste just any time. He looked down. "It's just... I like it here. It feels like home."
"I know. For a while I didn't even know what that feeling was. It kept bugging me, how I missed this place every time we went away. How I could be so happy to see one stupid city. I mean, you know that song that was playing in Nate's place, the one that says I've been everywhere, man? That's me. So why would it be this place that I missed? I finally asked Sophie about it. She kind of cried a little bit, like she does when she finds out about something that happened to me so long ago that I barely remember it. Like when I told her about Erik." She knew he'd understand the reference. She'd told him about it first, long before Sophie. He grew up in the system, like her, so it was easier to explain to him about her foster father and the things he'd done, things he'd made her do. Alec had cried too, and hugged her. But he hadn't treated her one bit differently afterwards. She figured that was probably the exact moment she'd fallen in love with him. And yes, Sophie was right: falling was definitely the right term.
"Sophie told me that that's what it feels like to have a home. A place you can always come back to, where people know you and accept you for who you are. But she also said that you can either make a home somewhere or else you can carry it with you. She says it's people that make it a home, and as long as they're with you, you'll be okay."
Hardison smiled and stood up, coming over to her and pulling her up off the floor so he could kiss her. She responded vigorously. She'd told him the other night that if he didn't hurry up and have sex with her that she'd have to replace all her sex toys, since her other ones were pretty much worn out and it was all his fault. In his shock and ensuing arousal over this comment, he'd been unable to point out to her that most women would not have said that to their boyfriend.
She smiled into his mouth while he kissed her. He was starting to get desperate, which was good, because she couldn't wait much longer. She wanted him so much it hurt. When he didn't stop like he usually did when things started getting too hot between them, her smile turned to a flat out grin. Finally.
Each of the team got a text about five days later. It was Nate's cell, and it gave an address and a date about three weeks away. The address was in California, which what the hell? Why was he there? Hardison and Eliot just gave each other WTF looks and then shrugged. They'd been staying at a hotel in Portland, trying to get used to the new city, the new streets. Parker had (aside from having sex with Hardison at least twice a day because holy frickin' GOD) done nothing but case every single bank and museum in the city. She'd filled up a whole notebook the first day they were there.
When they walked in the guys just sort of stopped dead. "What the...? Hardison, did you bring us to the wrong damn address? What the hell, man?"
Hardison rolled his eyes. "No, Eliot, I did not bring us to the wrong place. That was one friggin' time" (and in his mind he saw Parker's warehouse, and Sophie, and him stammering 'yeah, the central... I tracked your phone.') "Unless Nate sent me the wrong one this is where he sent us."
"What, do we have to steal another wedding?" Parker's voice was curious. She'd kind of liked that job. It was the first time Hardison had said he thought she looked good. She'd never forgotten.
"You guys are underdressed," said Nate's voice from behind them. They turned around and just flat out stared. Because holy crap. He was wearing a tuxedo, looking as nervous as they'd probably ever seen him. "Eliot, you're best man and Hardison you're with Parker who's also a bridesmaid, so seriously, that room over there" he pointed "has your tuxes in it. Get over there and get dressed." They all just kept staring. With a sigh, he gave Eliot a shove, pushing him toward the room reserved for the groomsmen. Eliot finally found his voice enough to say "Huh?"
Thankfully, at that point, Maggie came up to them. Within seconds she had them herded into the room, handing them off to Father Paul, who'd flown out from Boston at Nate's request. She then returned to where Parker and Nate were standing. "Nate, go help Paul get those two dressed. I'll get Parker taken care of." He groaned at the idea of the interrogation he was about to face but then nodded and followed the guys. "Come on, Parker," said Maggie, taking her hand.
When they walked into the room reserved for the bridesmaids, Parker stopped stock still, her eyes widening. It was as if Nate's telling them this was a wedding wasn't enough. But seeing Sophie in that wedding dress... that did it. Parker started grinning. "You look like a princess," she said, rushing over. Sophie grabbed her and gave her a hug. Her eyes were a little wild looking. Truth be told, she was scared shitless. But since she wasn't about to admit that, she said "Thanks Parker. You need to get dressed." Maggie grabbed her and dragged her over to where there were changing screens set up. "You can change over there," she said. "Let me know if you need help." She started taking a dress off of a hanger.
Parker shrugged and started stripping. Why go over there when the dress was here?
Sophie just put a hand over her eyes for a few seconds. Trust Parker. When she looked up again she realised two things. One, Parker wasn't wearing a bra. This wasn't unusual. But two, she had a bruise just on the underside of her right breast. Sophie knew those marks. Nate left them fairly regularly on her, and she didn't protest because him putting them there felt good and he never left them where anyone but the two of them would see. Her eyes widened and she met Parker's. For the first time in their entire time together, Sophie saw Parker blush. And then she grinned. Sophie smiled back.
"If you two are done grinning like the Cheshire cat, we need to get this on you, Parker." Maggie's voice was dry. Parker blushed a little bit more, and then let Maggie help her into the dress. It looked good on her (not that much didn't) as Sophie had known it would. Maggie and Parker had similar skin tones and hair colour. Once Parker's dress was on Maggie took her over and sat her down at the makeup table. She started putting the girl's hair up. Thank God she'd taken a hairdressing course once out of boredom.
Ten minutes later they were all standing there, just waiting. Parker seemed amazingly calm; Sophie was a wreck. She couldn't stop fidgeting. Actually, she was a bit lightheaded. "Breathe, Sophie," Maggie advised, seeing the look on her face. Oh, right. Oxygen. Good idea. Sophie jumped when Father Paul knocked on the door.
"We're ready when you are," he said with a smile and a hug for Maggie. He looked at Sophie's eyes and laughed. "It'll be fine. Trust me, he's more nervous than you right now. I'm surprised he's not throwing up."
Sophie swallowed. Taking a deep breath, she nodded. And walked out to meet her husband.
Later, when he'd ask her what she remembered most, she'd tell him, completely honestly, that all she saw was him. She remembered saying the words, and she'd never been that nervous about any line she'd said in any play ever. She'd had thousands of eyes on her before. But that small gathering of twenty or thirty people felt like Madison Square Garden at its fullest. And she'd been there. But finally, when Father Paul told Nate to kiss her, it hit her. He was hers.
The reception was outside. It was a beautiful day, sunny but not boiling hot. Tara came up to her somewhere in all the chaos and said, quote "I'm happy for you but you are so friggin' crazy. Seriously?" she said, pointing at Nate. "I nearly murdered him that time I worked with him."
"Hey!" Nate said. "I came around eventually. Besides, you started out by conning us."
"And?" Tara asked, grinning. She was unrepentant. Sophie had a feeling she always would be.
He just shook his head and hugged her. She gave him a resounding kiss on the mouth before she walked away. He looked at Sophie with the most puzzled look he'd probably ever given her. She just laughed.
Surprisingly, Sterling had shown up. Nate had invited him, saying that even though sometimes the man was an idiot, at one point they really had been friends. Nate held out his hand. Sterling shook it. "Took you long enough. She's been in love with you for years, Nate."
Sophie just shrugged. "Men are blind. What can I do?" Nate looked like he was getting ready to make a witty retort, and then swallowed whatever it was.
Sterling laughed. "Practice that," he said, indicating Nate's face. "You'll need to do it more often in about seven months." Both of them stared at him with shock written on their faces. He shrugged. "She carries herself differently," he said to Nate, indicating Sophie. "Like she's protecting something precious. I know that look. My wife had it." He hesitated for a second and then hugged Sophie. "Try not to get arrested okay?"
She gave him a look. "Haven't yet." He laughed and walked away, giving Eliot a wide berth as the hitter came over to them to tell them to sit down.
Later on, at the house on a private beach that they'd reserved for a week, they just sat and stared into each other's eyes after they made love. Sophie would tell anyone who asked her later that that was the second best night of her life. The first best was almost seven months away.
Hardison, Parker, and Eliot looked around. Well, this was the address. Nate had given it to them at the wedding reception, telling them that when they got back to Portland they should go here first. They didn't bother to ask how he'd known they had been there already. He was Nate.
They walked into a spacious apartment. Most of Nate's furniture was there, and there were boxes stacked neatly over against one wall. Hanging from the ceiling inside the door was a note. It told them to go over to the kitchen table.
They all tried to grab the note at once, but Parker, having the quickest hands, grabbed it first. It read:
Parker, let the guys read this too.
Hardison, go to the fridge and read the note inside.
Eliot, go over to the kitchen counter and read the note on it.
Parker, go read the note on the kitchen cupboard.
PS. After you read those notes flip this over and read the back.
"Seriously?" They all said at once. They each went to their respective spots.
Parker's note read:
This is your cupboard. This is for your cereal and your locks and whatever else you bring here. Be warned. If you start filling up my other cupboards with stuff it will go into this cupboard haphazardly and you will have to pick it up when it falls out. If I run out of room in here I will drop it off the balcony. Seriously. Nate.
Hardison opened the fridge. Inside, stuck to a spot in the door, was a note. Behind it were orange squeeze bottles, stacked neatly. He grabbed one and started reading.
Hardison. This is the only spot I ever want to see orange squeeze in my fridge. There is a shelf in the storage closet by the hallway and that is where you will keep all but six bottles of this stuff. Fridges are for food, not just orange squeeze. Disobey this and I will dump every single one of these each night. Seriously. Nate.
Eliot wasn't moving. He wasn't doing anything. Parker looked at him. "What's wrong Sparky?" She walked over to him. He looked over at Hardison and the other man joined them at the counter. His note read:
Eliot. You are free to cook here any time you like, but be warned. I will be underfoot trying to learn to cook because I'll be damned if my kid is going to eat all the crap our team seems to live on. Also, you are a retrieval specialist, so I reserve the right to call you in the middle of the night to satisfy Sophie's insane cravings. Oh, and we want you to be the Godfather. Seriously. Nate.
They all just sat down at the table and stared at each other. None of them could quite process Eliot's note. Parker took out the note that had been on the table. She flipped it over and read it, then handed it off to Hardison. He read it too and then gave it to Eliot. It was addresses. Each of them had one by their name.
"Well," Hardison said, breaking the silence. "Guess we should check these out." The others still looked a bit shocked, but nodded. Just as they went to leave they saw the note left on the back of the door. Nate must have figured that they'd see that only as they left. It said: WELCOME HOME.