This one took about 6 hours to write... at this point I've lost all ability to judge good from bad. Sleeepyyyy. I don't own Leverage. Spoilers for the end of season four.
Sophie pulled the emergency blanket up around her shoulders more and tried to ignore the chattering of her teeth. She'd never been this cold in her life.
"Soph, you still with us?" came the worried voice of Hardison.
"Y…yeah," she said.
"Just hang in there Sophie. We're gonna get you out." That was Eliot. He'd already cut through three walls in his efforts to make it into her apartment.
"Guys, I'm at another dead end. That's five now." Parker's voice was frustrated. Technically speaking she was the closest to Sophie, but she might as well have been in a different country for as much good as it did.
"Fuck!" Every one of them winced at the sound Nate's fist made when it hit a wall. Five, Sophie thought internally. That was the amount of times he'd lost control and punched something since finding out she was trapped in here.
It should never have happened. One of the other tenants in the building had left the gas to their stove on. From what the firefighters could determine it appeared to be an older person, possibly one with Alzheimer's. The unfortunate tenant had tried to light a cigarette and, well…
The resulting explosion had taken out several of the floors above Sophie's apartment. This in turn had caused a collapse of the struts and most of the building had fallen sideways, with Sophie's apartment somewhere in the middle of all the chaos. That she had survived at all was a miracle. She'd been in the kitchen at the time. Fortunately there was an emergency first aid kit there, (something Eliot had insisted on) and it contained a foil emergency blanket. Unfortunately, it didn't seem to be helping much. Nate said the temperature outside was -14 degrees Celsius. The collapse of the building had been two days ago, so any heat that had been in the building had long since been leached away. All of the power had been turned off, as well as the gas. If it wasn't for the candles she kept in one of her kitchen cabinets Sophie would have had no light at all. She was trapped in a space about four feet wide, her stove and fridge and most of her cupboards having disappeared behind what appeared to be a solid wall of rubble. In her small space were her water cooler, which thankfully had had a new bottle of water on it at the time of the explosion, the aforementioned emergency kit, and a couple of boxes of cookies that had been sitting on her counter. Oh, and her com, which she'd still had in her pocket at the time.
"You're too quiet in there. You're supposed to be talking to us, remember?" Nate's admonishment was gentle. He hadn't taken out his earbud since this happened. This had caused some grumbling from Eliot when Nate finally passed out the night before and started snoring, but Sophie had sternly told him to let Nate be, and Eliot hadn't wanted to argue.
"S…s…sorry," she said. "For once in my life I have absolutely nothing to say." She could almost imagine the grin that would be on his face at any other time if she made that statement. But not now, not with her trapped and the dangers of hypothermia looming.
"Hey, guess what? It's been an hour. Time for another cookie." Hardison tried to inject some cheerfulness into his voice.
"A whole cookie? Really? Wow, am I ever lucky," she said, a wry tone to her voice. "God, I'm never eating Oreos again after this. Ever. I'll probably end up with post traumatic stress just from the sight of the damned things." Still, even as she complained she was opening up the package. In an attempt to keep her mind occupied, she'd been building a rapidly growing list of things that she'd be willing to do for a good (hot) meal. Some of the items on the list simply made her shake her head; others made her wince just thinking about them.
"Now, do I detect a hint of sarcasm there?" Nate teased. "Soph, I promise we'll feed you a warm meal when you make it to my place. For now, eat the damn cookie. You need the sugar to try to keep your body heat up."
"I have a feeling there's going to be a chorus of 'ews' and 'yucks' but I'd rather have you keeping me warm than a stupid cookie."
"At the risk of those same statements, I'll warm you up all you want later. Hardison, wipe that look off of your face. She's my girlfriend, for God's sake."
"Yeah but you know, there's stuff I just never want to think about. Now I'll have to bleach my brain." Sophie could just pick up the faint sounds of him tapping on his keyboard.
"Actually, they look good when they have sex. Like they just… fit."
"Parker!" said in four different tones of voice was the response to this statement. From Eliot it was sort of a mix between admiration and disgust, from Hardison it was a tone of disbelief, and from Sophie and Nate it was more of a sense of exasperation.
"Parker, what did I tell you about not watching us have sex? Remember that conversation? You should, since you said you had permanent hearing damage by the end of it," said Nate.
"I was doing research!" Parker protested.
"Um, Parker? You do know that that excuse, true or not, is still not a good enough reason to be invading our privacy, right?" Sophie said.
Sophie sighed. "Since I don't think this conversation can degenerate any further, I'm taking a break from it and going off coms for a few minutes." This was code for taking a bathroom break. Each of the others had argued quite strenuously when she'd first said she was going to do it, but she'd been very vocal about the fact that she wasn't going to be keeping her com on while performing bodily functions. Bad enough that the best bathroom facility she'd been able to come up with involved a pot (thankfully equipped with a lid.) When they'd argued, she'd simply told them that she'd talk to them soon, and then turned it off. (Then she'd muffled it in the blanket, thinking that it was entirely possible Hardison could come up with a way to turn it back on.) She'd felt a bit bad when she'd turned it back on several minutes later and heard Nate saying words she never thought would make it past his lips. Not bad enough to leave it on the next time though.
"I'm back," she said a few minutes later, shivering and almost dropping her com while trying to put it in her ear. Any heat she felt like she'd built up in the blanket was gone. "Miss me?"
"Absolutely," said Nate. Apparently he'd given up on lecturing Parker.
"My fingers are starting to go numb. I take it that's not good, huh?" She tried to keep the fear out of her voice but wasn't sure she was managing it. The thought of dying didn't bother her nearly as much as the idea she might lose her hands. She held them out to the candle that shared her little space, hissing slightly at the pain the heat caused.
"You'll be okay. Just keep them tucked in against your body Sophie." Eliot gave a particularly large piece of concrete a shove. Nate had wanted to be in here with him, but he'd vetoed that idea immediately. For one thing, there was barely room for him to work, since he had to use a torch and a saw (he'd broken six blades). But there was also the very real possibility that what he was doing would cause the rubble above him to shift and end up killing him. If that happened, Nate still needed to be there to try and find another way through. Ordinarily Eliot would have shored up the ceiling and walls above him on his way in, but they were running out of time. The fire department had finished extinguishing the building more than 24 hours ago. The temperature in Sophie's building, while probably still not the minus fourteen degrees outside, would nonetheless be freezing, especially to someone dressed only in indoor clothing.
"I'm going to look for another way in," said Parker.
"No." Sophie's voice was soft. "Parker, we agreed that this last vent was the last one you'd try. As it is you could have gotten trapped or crushed. Stay out there."
"I want you to do something for me," said Sophie.
"You have one of your notebooks handy?"
Parker caught herself nodding and mentally kicked herself. "Yeah, of course," she replied.
"I'm going to recite some things. I want you to write them down." She proceeded to rhyme off an address. "Let me know when you're finished writing and I'll go on to the next.
"Hey, you know I could ty… Ow! What?" Hardison gave Nate a glare, who'd swatted him on the head. Nate glared back at him and he took a second to think. Oh. Sophie was asking Parker deliberately to keep her occupied. Duh.
"Sorry," he mouthed, and turned back to his laptop.
"K, I'm done." Sophie continued rattling off addresses, occasionally spelling some of them out, since many were in countries Parker had never even heard of, never mind being able to spell the language. The list seemed endless.
"What are all these places?" Parker asked.
"Storage. Remember that storage locker in London when we conned Keller? The guy that worked with Moreau?"
"These are more of the same. Some smaller, some with quite a few more items in them. Someone else should know where they are. I'd hate to think that it would all just sit there if…" She didn't bother to finish the sentence. They all knew how it ended.
"I'm not writing anything else. In fact, I'm going to find a lighter and burn this whole notebook." Parker's tone was surprisingly hostile. "I can't believe you're thinking about dying. You left once, and you said you wouldn't do it again, and yet here you are, talking about it. Fuck this." Parker tossed the notebook down on the floor of the van, and then took out her earbud, turning it off. "Text me if you need me," she tossed at Hardison and then got out and strode away, kicking every piece of rubble in her path.
"Go after her," Nate said softly.
"But I…" he pointed at the laptop. "I should be here just in case, you know?"
"You can't do anything to help Sophie right now. Your girlfriend needs you more. I'll let you know if anything happens." Hardison looked torn, but finally nodded and zipped up his jacket, exiting the truck and wincing at the blast of cold air that hit him. It was getting colder.
"Soph?" She didn't answer. "Soph, please talk to me."
"What do you want me to say?" Her voice was tight, full of pain. Nate could tell she was doing her best not to just break down and cry.
"Anything. Anything at all. Just please, keep trying."
He could hear her take a shaky breath, and then she said "Got a pen?"
He swallowed hard. "Yeah." He grabbed Parker's notebook off the floor and said "Go."
Sophie was dreaming. She was walking on a beach, warm breezes combing through her hair and caressing her skin. Oddly enough, she was naked, but since there was no one in sight she didn't let it bother her. She crouched down and trailed her fingers through the sand. It seemed to be glowing. She heard someone calling her name and turned…
"Soph! Sophie! Damn you wake up!" Nate's voice was loud in her ear.
"Leave me alone," she growled. She closed her eyes, about to drift back out, but he kept yelling. And so was Eliot.
"Sophie, please, I'll never ask you for anything else in my entire life, but please, just wake up. If you don't move you're gonna die. And then I'm gonna kill myself." It was the last words that got through to her.
"I'd send you back," she said, slurring the words. They felt like mush in her mouth. It felt like so much effort just to move her mouth. "Wow, I never thought this was how it would end."
"Nothing is going to end. Stand the hell up and move around," said Eliot. He pounded harder at the wall. If Hardison was right, he was only a few feet away now.
"I can't feel my legs." Sophie's voice was strained.
"Then just keep talking. Don't fall back asleep. You got any cookies left?" Eliot asked.
"No. I ate the last one… sometime. I don't remember. Why don't I remember?" Her voice was detached, a bit curious but not enough to make her work to remember.
"It's okay Soph, it isn't important. Hey, I have something to tell you. I got you a present." Nate's voice was strained too, but there was genuine amusement in it too. "Actually, three presents. Or two, since one of them is a set of two. Bet you can't guess what it is."
"What do I need two of that I don't have already?" After a second, Sophie actually laughed a bit and said "Quite a few things now I suppose. I'm technically homeless. Weird." Eliot breathed a sigh of relief at her tone. She was waking up some. She was still slurring some words, and the fact that she was no longer shivering was giving him fits, but at least she was conscious.
"Well, the set of two isn't a necessity. More of a… collector's item. But you'll be proud to know that I stole it. With Parker's help."
"Yeah, I know what it is," said Parker. "And I really liked it, but Nate said I couldn't have it because you wanted it more." There was no sign of the anger that had been in Parker's voice earlier. "Can I give her a hint?"
"Yeah, you'd better, because I don't think she'd get it without one. But make sure it's not obvious."
Parker thought for a second. "Sophie?"
"The hint is Maggie."
Nate grinned. "So, guesses?"
"What the hell am I supposed to understand from your ex-wife's name? Other than that she's my friend, not much is coming to mind."
"Come on, Soph, try."
"I'm just going to start naming things that come in pairs. Maybe I'll figure it out somewhere along the way. Shoes. Earrings. Mittens, which I'd literally kill for right now. Socks, especially warm ones. Turtle doves. Glasses. Especially sunglasses, because I'd really like it if the sun was in here right now." It occurred to her that she probably wasn't making a hell of a lot of sense, but that hadn't been a requirement. All they'd said was keep talking.
"Nope, keep guessing." Keep breathing, Nate thought.
"Okay, new tactic. What do I know about Maggie? Blond hair, blue eyes, killer body. Smells like citrus. Dating Sterling." Nate made a choked sound and she replayed that last bit. Oops. "I wasn't supposed to tell you that. You never heard that. She'll kill me. Hmm, what else? Verifies art. Honest, but I can't hold that against her. Someone has to be. Likes Rome, hates Paris. Who the hell hates Paris?" Her tone was a bit offended. "Loves pulling your chain, Nate. She lied, by the way, when she said you were bad in bed. Deliberately, to get under your skin. That was an interesting job. Not me conning you guys, but the two…" Her voice trailed off. "Nate?"
"You're an asshole."
"You accused me of stealing them, and all along it was you and Parker?" That had happened sometime last year. Both Davids had been returned to the Vatican, placed under new security measures. Not three weeks after that they were stolen again. Each member of the team had accused one of the others of stealing the Davids, but no one had admitted it. Nate, however, had not been accused. Parker had, but seeing as it had been her and Nate stealing them together, obviously that had allowed her to effectively say that she hadn't done it.
"I can explain!" Nate said.
"Yeah, you will be. In detail. Jerk."
Suddenly a piece of drywall flaked off and fell to the floor somewhere to her left. "Eliot?" she said, her voice wavering. She hated that, and the blatant hope in her tone, but she couldn't help it.
Eliot placed his flashlight against the hole. "Hey. We be the cavalry." He smiled. "Stay back if you can, okay?"
Sophie squirmed away from the wall. In no time Eliot had a hole in the wall the size of his fist, and he started yanking chunks of the drywall away. By the time the hole was big enough for him to fit through he looked like a ghost, his hair and clothing covered in dust. Sophie though he was the most beautiful sight she'd ever seen. As soon as he was inside he started stripping off his coat and sweaters, gently raising Sophie into a sitting position and pulling a t-shirt and a hoodie over her head. She moaned involuntarily at the warmth seeping into her skin. Eliot threw his coat back on. "Come on, Soph. Let's get you out of here." He picked her up and carried her out.
"You made it through all this?" Sophie's teeth had started chattering again, a good sign. It meant her body was back to trying to heat itself instead of giving in to the cold.
"I had my reasons." He pulled her tighter and ducked down under a pipe. "Nate, we're almost out. Tell Hardison to get as close as he can with the van so Soph doesn't get hit too hard by the wind." Nate relayed the orders, and then stood at the entrance into which Eliot had disappeared what felt like a lifetime ago. His heart clenched at how pale Sophie looked, but he simply opened the back doors of the van and followed Eliot inside as he set Soph down on the floor.
Without a word Nate started taking off his clothes. "Hey, whoa," said Hardison, "can't y'all wait 'til ya get to your place?" His tone sounded scandalised. Nate didn't bother to answer, not stopping until he was down to boxers and socks. He tossed his clothes down as a barrier between him and the floor and then lay down beside Sophie, pulling her back against him and then pulling a blanket around them both. She was shuddering now, her eyes shut tight against the pain as the circulation started returning to her limbs.
"I didn't steal the second item," he whispered in her ear. "But to me, it's worth way more than both those statues." Those were the last words she heard before she drifted off.
"Hey Soph, open your eyes." Eliot was holding a mug with a straw in it. "Here," he said, guiding the straw to her lips. When the hot chocolate from the cup hit her taste buds she actually saw stars. Suddenly she was holding Eliot's wrist in a grip that said quite clearly that if he tried to take the liquid away he'd be leaving his hand behind. She drank the entire cup, ignoring the protest from her stomach as it was suddenly assaulted by warmth and fullness after two days of nothing except water and cookies.
"More," she pleaded when the cup was empty.
"Not yet," Nate said, his breath tickling her ear. "Give your stomach a chance to cope."
"We're almost to your place. You gonna get dressed?" Eliot gave him a daring look, and Nate shrugged, grabbing his shoes.
"It's only 20 feet. Pretty sure I'll survive." When they pulled up to the apartment Eliot tried to pick Sophie up but Nate was having none of it. "Nope. Boyfriend's prerogative." He picked Sophie up, still wrapped in the blanket, and carried her inside.
"Parker, go get the electric blanket from the closet okay?" Nate set Sophie down on the couch and pulled her back against him. When Parker returned with the blanket he plugged it in and then wrapped Sophie up in it. Parker disappeared into his room again and he wondered what she was doing until she returned with a small crate.
"Hey," Nate whispered in Sophie's ear. She was already half asleep, the warmth and comfort making her lethargic. "Open your eyes."
Sighing, she did as he asked. Parker set the two Davids on the coffee table in front of them. Sophie smiled and then closed her eyes again.
"Hey, no sleeping yet," said Eliot. "Drink this." He handed a cup of soup to Nate, not wanting to trust Sophie's fingers yet.
It was all Sophie could do to stay awake long enough to drink the stuff. It tasted amazing, and the warmth in her stomach as she swallowed was pure bliss, but she was exhausted. When she finally finished it Nate pulled her over so that she was lying down with her head on his abdomen, and she drifted off.
When she woke up it was dark in the room. Nate was still lying with his head on the arm of the couch, and his arms holding her against him. She was boiling, despite the electric blanket having turned itself off some time ago. She shifted around until she was sitting up, still feeling tired but not nearly so bad as earlier. Nate opened his eyes when she moved and then groaned.
"I think I'm too old to sleep on a couch," he said with a rueful smile.
She smiled back. "I need a shower."
He nodded. "Me too. Want some company? Not for sex if you don't want, but you know, sometimes company is nice."
"I'd like that." She stood up and took his hand.
"So, what was the other mystery item?" She wriggled a bit closer to him, no mean feat considering she was already almost on top of him. She liked his new bed better than the one he'd had in Boston.
"Oh. Uh…" He looked nervous. "I'm… not sure if you want me to give it to you now. I was kind of, you know, waiting for the right time. But every time I think it's the right time something happens and…"
She kissed him to shut him up. "Nate, just tell me what it is."
"Can't." He took a deep breath. "I have to either give it to you or not." He closed his eyes for a long moment and when he opened them there was resolution there. He got up and threw on a pair of pyjama pants and a t-shirt. "Stay here," he said.
"Where the hell am I going to go?" she asked, a bit amused. "It isn't like I have a place to live."
Nate disappeared into the hallway and she could hear him open and shut a cupboard in the kitchen. Then he came back, apparently empty handed. "You need to sit up on the side of the bed," he said.
She gave him a puzzled look but did as he asked. He pulled a hand through his curls. "You know, that makes you look a bit crazy." She reached up and moved his hair back to its previously (admittedly messy) position.
For the first time in her life, she saw Nate Ford look tongue tied. He swallowed twice, opened his mouth, closed it and shook his head. He paced back and forth a few times and then looked at her. Stared actually. Finally, he gave a sigh and reached into his pocket. He held out his closed hand to her and she reached out to take whatever it was. As their hands touched, Nate went to one knee. And Sophie's heart stopped. She opened her hand, and stared at the engagement ring that lay there. When her eyes came back up, Nate finally found his voice.
"Look," he started, "I know I'm a mess. And a drunk. And crazy. And you'd probably have to be crazy to say yes. But I love you. And I'm not hiding it anymore. So here goes nothing. Sophie Devereaux, will you marry me?"
Now she was the one having problems speaking. Not surprising, considering the rather large lump in her throat. She swallowed a couple of times, and then said "You aren't crazy. And I love you too. And yes. Yes, yes, yes." He grinned, a million watt smile that shone in his eyes. He took the ring and slid it on her finger.