Based on the Van Gogh Job. Written for Leverage Bingo on LJ. I don't own Leverage, Star Trek, or Doctor Who (the latter two are mentioned in here.)
"Why couldn't Charlie be with Dorothy?" The members of the Leverage team looked over at Parker's question. Hardison was sprawled on the couch, his laptop resting on his stomach as he watched the latest Doctor Who episode. Sophie and Nate were sitting at his table, heads together and poring over his list of possible clients. Eliot was doing some stretches on the floor.
"What do ya mean, why?" Eliot's voice was little impatient; a good deal of the most frustrating conversations that he'd ever had had involved two things: Parker and the word 'why'.
"I don't get it," Parker replied. She had this baffled look on her face, the one she usually reserved for Sophie's fashion magazines. "Why couldn't he be with Dorothy?"
Sophie, monitoring the conversation from her place at the table, sighed and abandoned the list of clients in favour of going over to where Parker sat against the couch that Hardison was currently monopolizing. "Move your feet," she said, swatting them lightly. He acquiesced with some grumbling, more for forms sake than anything else. Parker moved up so that she was sitting beside Sophie.
"Do you know what racism is, Parker?" Sophie tried to inject just the right amount of curiosity into her tone so that Parker wouldn't feel like she was being patronised.
"The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others." Parker sounded like she was reading off a page, and when Sophie raised an eyebrow at her she said "Google."
"But do you know what that means?"
Parker shook her head. "Where I grew up you didn't worry about what colour someone was or what language they spoke, you worried about what you could steal from them and get away with it. Which ones you could take food from and just get a growl and a curse or maybe a slap and which ones would kick the crap out of you so you ended up in the hospital."
Sophie saw the wince that crossed Hardison's face at Parker's casual statement. They all knew that Parker had had a bad childhood but had learned early on not to ask about it; if they did Parker would just pull away and disappear, or ignore them entirely. Every once in a while she'd say something like this, and every one of them would realise again that no matter how bad they felt their childhood had been, it paled in comparison to what Parker had likely experienced.
"Parker, believe it or not, there are a lot of people in the world that judge someone only on what they look like, or what religion they believe in. I think it would be easier to understand if you'd gone to school, high school in particular, because that's generally when teachers take off the PG-13 rating on the things you're allowed to see and hear. That's when you start to learn about all the atrocities that have been committed in the past by one group being perceived as inferior to the other. Things like the way African-Americans were treated here in the US for most of it's recorded history. Things like the Holocaust, where more than six million Jewish people were killed by Hitler and his Nazi regime."
"I know about the Holocaust. But I still don't understand why. Why do people do that? It doesn't make sense to judge someone only by what they look like. Like if someone looked at you and said 'oh, she's dressed really well and is really pretty so she can't be smart too'. You'd hand them their head while they were still sitting there thinking that you couldn't possibly be dangerous. It just doesn't make sense to look at the world like that."
"Yes, but Parker, you have a very logical mind. You understand what I mean by that? You look at all angles of something before you make a decision."
"Sure," Parker said, "like Spock." Hardison grinned at the reference.
"Actually," Nate broke in, "that's a very good analogy. Spock always took the time to fully think through something before making a decision about it. There were a few times where he just 'went with his gut,' but for the most part all his decisions were preceded by careful deliberation." Nate joined them by the sofa, ever present tumbler of whiskey in his hand.
"Strangely enough, Star Trek fits with the conversation at hand." Even Eliot's head turned at that casual comment coming from Sophie's mouth. She was the one most likely to complain if the program(s) on the TV involved anything remotely science or space related. Oddly enough, she didn't often complain about Doctor Who. (Sophie would never tell anyone that she liked the show because it reminded her of home. The accents, people, streets, all of it. Oh, and David Tennant was H.O.T.) She continued "When Gene Roddenberry created the series way back in 1960 whatever, part of his planned arc for the show included having all races and genders included. Think about it: a Russian security officer right in the middle of the cold war? A black woman on the bridge of the fleet's flagship? It was all about creating a culturally diverse environment in an effort to combat what Roddenberry perceived as being the most vicious threat to his society. Not the Russians, not nuclear war. But the small everyday prejudices that went on all over the world every single minute."
"I think I maybe just fell in love with you." Hardison's voice was shocked.
"Mine," Nate growled, plunking down and pulling Sophie into his lap. She giggled and resituated herself into a position that didn't feel quite so precarious. Since San Lorenzo he'd been mostly the same old Nate, except his possessiveness of her had skyrocketed. After the incident at Morris Beck's mansion where he'd run into the sitting room to make sure she was free, she'd had to have a serious talk with him about him putting himself in danger when he knew she could extract herself from a situation. Lord knew she didn't want a repeat of that time when he'd gotten shot because he wouldn't walk out of a bank that was being robbed just because she was inside.
"Anyway, to return to the point at hand, Parker, you always assess the whole of a situation. But some people are either lazy and don't want to expend the energy to do that, or they're brainwashed from a young age to believe certain things about certain people."
"Like thinking that all guys whose name is Erik with a 'k' is evil?" Parker asked softly.
Once again Sophie was astounded by the intelligence of their thief. She didn't always talk that much, and often when she did it seemed frivolous. But Sophie had slowly come to the realisation that Parker never really asked anything or did anything without a specific purpose. Sometimes her motives were a bit vague, but once you understood what she actually wanted it turned out that she was capable of startling insights. Like now.
"Yeah, Parker. Like that. Judging someone only on one characteristic is exactly what racism is about."
Eliot had been mostly silent throughout this conversation, but now he weighed in. "It still happens all over the world. Kids five or six years old get an AK shoved into their hands and are drilled endlessly about the evil of this country or that one. It's always the same propaganda."
"Hey Parker, you have your e-reader with you?" Hardison had given it to her for a present at Christmas. She'd been delighted, saying how many safecracking books she could fit on it at once.
She nodded and grabbed her backpack from under the coffee table, rummaging around and finally coming up with a hard plastic case. She'd insisted on it when she'd learned how fragile the little thing could be; Hardison had to replace the screen the first week she had it.
"I'm going to put some books on her for you to read, okay? If you don't like them, you don't have to finish them. But I think you should give them a try."
"Schindler's List," Sophie said.
"To Kill A Mockingbird," Nate added.
"I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings," said Eliot, "and anything else by Maya Angelou."
"Ooh, and The Help," Sophie exclaimed. "Then we can go see the movie. It's supposed to be really good."
Parker's head was going back and forth, trying to follow all of them at once and failing rather miserably.
"Hey, what about that romance one you were reading the other day, Soph? That one had some really interesting parts about the Second World War and the treatment that Jews received from the Nazis and how black people were treated here." Sophie gave Nate an incredulous look and he realised suddenly that he'd just admitted to reading a romance novel out loud. Oops.
"Haa… Nate's a girl," Hardison said, pointing at him. Eliot was snickering too, and even Parker had a grin on her face.
"Hey," Sophie protested, "first off, Nate's definitely not a girl. Second, some guys do read romance novels, especially if they're packed with action and suspense and Navy Seals doing awesome things like rigging explosives and scuba diving and saving each other's asses on a daily basis. Plus they really do have some good morals to teach, if you're paying attention."
"Okay, so who's this amazing author, Sophie?" Parker asked.
"Her name is Suzanne Brockmann. Here," she said, reaching into her purse and pulling out a book. "This one is kind of in the middle of the series but all of them could stand alone and be great anyway. Plus there's a lot of stuff that bears on this discussion. So read it, Parker." Parker nodded and put it into her backpack along with her newly updated e-reader.
The conversation broke up a short time after that, and they all went back to what they were doing. Later that night Sophie walked straight up to Nate and held out the next novel in the series to him, a slightly challenging look on her face. He simply smiled and started reading. He was over a hundred pages in before she could coax him into bed. And when Parker was seen crying two days later, her e-reader in front of her and Bunny firmly enclosed in her arms, not one of them said a word. They just hugged her and made her hot chocolate and let her know they were there. And two weeks later when she came out with another 'why', every single one of them was relieved. She trusted them to help her understand, and that was more than enough.
A/N – I changed Nate and Sophie's dynamic a little here… Mostly because I think if I was Nate Ford and Sophie Devereaux was casually inviting herself into my bed I'd be doing backflips to keep her there, not pushing her away, alcoholism and pain notwithstanding. Also, obviously the titles are real books. I've listed them and the authors below. As a final note, read Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooter's series, particularly the early novels. They are really good.
Schindler's List (aka Schindler's Ark) – Thomas Keneally
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
The Help – Kathryn Stockett
Suzanne Brockmann – Gone Too Far