Another marathon fic... You'd think I could write something in sections, but noooo, apparently my muse believes it's funny to have my eyes cross and wrists cramp from six hours of typing on here lol. I'm almost starting to think I should own Leverage, since it apparently rules my life (or at least the right half of my brain) but obviously I still don't. This is set Season four, so spoilers for that.

"Where is she?" Sophie asks Nate quietly as she sheds her coat. Her first instinct had been to run in here shouting but she knew it was a bad idea. In her state Parker might just up and vanish again.

Nate points straight up at his ceiling, and Sophie grimaces. Great. So she gets to deal with her claustrophobia and her fear of heights, along with any spiders that have taken up residence.

"How am I getting up there?" she asks, keeping her voice smooth. Nate knows about her fears, but Eliot doesn't, and he's making his way over to them now, with one of Parker's harnesses in his right hand and pressing a gauze pad to his forehead with the left. She makes him sit down in a chair so she can check over the wound. It's thankfully shallow, but came entirely too close to his eye for comfort.

"When will you learn to be less stubborn?" she says in frustration.

Eliot just gives her a shrug. "She needs to get out of there. She's already dehydrated. I could tell."

Hardison is standing by his computer, eyes wide in mingled excitement and worry. She gives him a reassuring smile.

With a sigh she takes the harness and starts putting it on, Nate stepping up behind her and helping without comment. When she's all snapped and buckled in she walks over to the far corner where a ladder is set up. Before she can step up Nate puts his arms around her from behind, kissing her left temple and whispering "Be careful, k?"

She leans back against him for a heartbeat, then makes her way up the ladder.

Two days earlier:

"But I'm really bad at this! Remember the fork thing?" Parker looks frustrated, like she wishes she was anywhere but here.

Sophie smoothes out a wrinkle in Parker's dress. "Parker, it'll be okay. You've gotten much better at grifting since that time. You know I'd do this if I could, but he knows me. And I don't know about you, but I'd rather not see any of our guys in a dress."

Parker smiles a little at that, especially when they can both hear Hardison say "Hell no!" and Eliot growl "Ain't happening!" There's a short pause and then a "Seriously?" from both of the younger men. Then Nate saying "I've worn a kilt, yes. And whoever decides to tease me about it gets garbage duty at headquarters until further notice."

Now Sophie's grinning too, and plotting how to make Hardison find every picture of Nate until she gets one of that, because it would be ammo for life in the constant teasing that defines their relationship.

Parker reaches up and pulls out Sophie's com, then says "I hafta talk to Sophie alone for a sec. Be right back," then pulls out her own as well and turns them both off. After about thirty seconds of fidgeting with her hands she says "I'm scared of him."

"Why?" Sophie asks quietly.

Parker shrugs a little. "He reminds me of Erik." Sophie doesn't say anything, knows Parker isn't finished. "Erik was my foster father. The one that… hurt me." Parker's eyes are haunted, and they never rest in one place, constantly searching her environment for danger and exits.

All Sophie wants to do is pull her friend into a hug, tell her it's all okay. But she knows that Parker finds it difficult to be touched, isn't sure exactly why but is unwilling to do anything to cause more pain.

"Parker, if you can't do this then you can't. I won't force you, and if Nate tries to he'll be extremely sorry, even before the guys get through with him." Sophie backs off a bit, lets her friend think.

After almost two minutes of silence Parker says "If I don't do this he wins. He hurt those people, he deserves to suffer. That's our job. If I chicken out just because I'm afraid…" she shakes her head. "I'm gonna do it. But you won't leave me, right? You'll be in here?" She holds up the ear buds for emphasis.

This time Sophie does hug her, but only briefly, and she pulls away before Parker can worry about whether she should hug her back. "I'll be there," she reassures. Parker swallows hard and hands back the earpiece.

"Okay," Parker says after she turns her com back on. "Let's do this."

"Good Parker, now move back a bit, let him chase you." Sophie's watching the feed in the van, Hardison beside her keeping track of all of them as well as the security forces in their latest mark's building. Nate and Eliot are inside, Nate as a security consultant and Eliot as his 'assistant'. Sophie'd had to endure about an hour of bitching about the 'geeky' glasses that she'd put Eliot in, as well as a side argument of Hardison complaining about how everyone thought geeks had no style. Honestly, men were babies.

"Miss Judson, would you like to see the pride of our collection here at the museum?" Their mark, George Carson, placed a hand on Parker's forearm. Sophie flinched internally, expecting a reaction from Parker, but the younger woman simply smiled and accepted with surprising grace.

"In here," Carson indicated, gesturing for Parker to precede him. And that was where it went wrong.

Hardison started to say "Wait, that room's not on the schematics," but it was too late. Carson raised a hand and hit Parker right at the back of the head where her neck met her skull. She dropped, and though she was trying to get up on her hands and knees it was clear she wasn't going to make it. And then the mark started kicking her.

She could hear Eliot and Nate yelling to Parker that they were on their way, to keep her head down and curl up. Hardison nearly gave Sophie a concussion trying to dart past her out of the van, and she did something she knew he'd never forgive her for: she grabbed the set of handcuffs that were part of an inside joke for the team and locked him to the seat. He grabbed for her but she backed off, trying to tell him to let Nate and Eliot handle it, that he couldn't help Parker if he put the whole place into lockdown.

Thirty seconds later they heard the pained sounds of a man screaming as at least one piece of his skeleton was rearranged by Eliot. Nate's voice came through, talking to Parker in a soothing voice, and Sophie watched him pick her up off the floor as though she weighed nothing and start walking towards the elevators.

Not one person challenged them on their way out of the building, possibly due to the fact that Eliot had a rather large and frightening looking knife in one hand. The look in his eyes was pure murder. Sophie didn't know whether to be relieved or not when she saw that Carson was still alive.

"Drive, Eliot," Nate says now, setting Parker inside the van and then climbing in beside her. Parker's dress had been a combination of cream and gold; now it was mostly red, due to the blood running out of her mouth and nose. She was awake but not talking to them. Sophie grabbed the first aid kit and started putting some pressure on the injuries.

"Nate, do we need a hospital? Come on, man, answer me!" Eliot growls from the front seat.

"Yes we need a damn hospital," Hardison yells, still pulling on the handcuffs and trying to get to his girlfriend. "What the hell kind of question is that?"

"Nate?" Eliot asks again, his voice tense.

Nate meets Sophie's eyes and then says "Yeah. Yeah I think we should take her. If she gets caught…" he chokes a bit, but continues "if she gets caught we'll break her out. But I think she probably needs x-rays."

Eliot swears but turns left, heading for Massachusetts General. After about a minute of taking deep breaths and telling herself that she won't cry right now, Sophie feels in control enough to pull a pin from her hair and make her way over to Hardison, grabbing his wrist and freeing him from the cuffs. The second he's free she finds herself on her ass on the floor as he shoves her with all his strength. Her head collides with a corner of his built in computer desk and she sees stars.

She has to shake off the dizziness in a hurry because she's genuinely afraid that Nate is going to kill the young hacker. "No, Nate!" She pulls him back and lets Hardison get to Parker. Nate's swearing, and somewhere in there she's pretty sure he told Hardison he's off the team but some of it is garbled due to his rage. "Just stop," she says, pulling his head down so he's meeting her eyes. "Just breathe, okay?"

He drifts a hand over the back of her head where it collided with the metal. "I'm okay. I've given myself worse… and so have you," she teases softly in his ear. After a second he drops his eyes and nods.

"We're almost there," Eliot calls from the front seat.

Hardison climbs up off the floor and starts digging through the IDs he brought for Parker, trying to find one that looks the least suspicious. None of them notices Parker's eyes go to the door of the van.

Eliot stops at an intersection only because there's an old guy on a scooter that he doesn't wanna run over, and in a split second the door is open and Parker is gone. Hardison yells her name and dives out after her, and Nate and Sophie are right on his heels, but she's around a corner and then simply disappears.

Eliot pulls around the corner and they pile back in, Hardison typing on his computer and looking for any sign of the trackers he puts on her. There is none of course; she thinks of it as more of a game than anything else, trying to find them all and get rid of them. By the time they make it back to Nate's place Hardison has given up and his face is buried in his hands, his shoulders shaking. Sophie wants to hug him but knows it'll only make things worse. Instead she meets Eliot's eyes and then indicates the hacker, pulling Nate away from the van and toward his apartment.

Sophie flinches for a second when Nate puts an ice pack against the back of her head; it wasn't the pain but rather that she'd been distracted and hadn't heard him come up behind her. His apology is soft, but he doesn't take the ice away. She closes her eyes against the hot prickling she feels there but it doesn't help; the tears make their way out anyway. Nate pulls her over to the couch and down against him, rubbing her back and not saying anything.

There's a short commotion in the hall and then Hardison storms in, going straight to his equipment and packing it haphazardly into a duffel bag. Sophie's one glance showed her that his eyes were bloodshot. Hers probably match at this point.

The worst part of this is that they all know they won't find Parker unless she wants to be found. It isn't the first time she's disappeared on them, but it is the first time that she's been this injured when it happened.

Opening her eyes and scrubbing at her face (her makeup is everywhere, she's absolutely certain, and it so doesn't matter to her at this point) Sophie says "Hardison, don't turn off the coms." He gives her this look, so much worse than he ever did after she tried to con them for the David, but she doesn't let it stop her. "Listen to me, I don't care if you hate my guts and make it your life's work to destroy me, you need to leave the coms on. I made a promise to Parker that I wouldn't go off coms and I intend to keep it. There's a chance she might come back on them and need help, and I intend to be listening. So please, don't turn them off."

He's ignoring her, and she thinks that she's probably ruined whatever friendship they ever had anyway, so she closes her eyes and channels Annie Kroy, who scares even her on occasion. Her tone, body language, and speech patterns all change and she can feel Nate's shock beside her, because as used to seeing her do this as he may be, he's never touching her when it happens. "Don't make me force you," she says. Hardison gives her this look, like he thinks that she's completely off her rocker, and she stands up and gets right in his face. His eyes widen perceptibly. "Don't make me hurt you, because if that's what I have to do to keep my promise to her I will."

She can feel Nate standing behind her, one step back and slightly to one side, an unspoken sense of guarding and support. Somewhere inside her the person that mostly goes by Sophie Devereaux these days cries out in pain, because that solidarity will forever colour Nate's relationship with this hacker he thinks of as a son. And then the pain is compounded when she feels Eliot on the other side, mirroring Nate. None of them will ever truly be able to understand how much it hurts Eliot to have to choose to protect Parker over Hardison.

After a minute of this standoff Hardison bends and grabs his laptop out of the bag, flips it back open and turns the coms back on. He tosses the plug for it at her feet and says in a voice filled with betrayal "Don't forget to charge it. You fuck it up, I ain't coming back to fix it." He grabs the duffel and deliberately shoulders into Nate on his way by, but the mastermind lets it go.

After he's gone Sophie lies back down on the couch, curling into a ball around the pain she's feeling. Eliot moves to the corner and plugs in the laptop, and she can hear him cursing under his breath both normally and in her ear. Apparently he hadn't gone off coms either.

"Parker, I'm still here," Sophie says. She can see the spikes on the laptop when she speaks. There's no response.

Two hours later Sophie stands up and goes over to where Nate is sitting at the table, his laptop open in front of him. "I'm going to have a shower, so I have to turn my com off. Don't take yours out for anything," she tells him, and he nods. She pulls the tiny thing out of her ear and sets it on the table and then slowly climbs his stairs.

At almost eleven thirty Eliot comes over to the couch where Sophie's staring at the screen of Hardison's laptop. "You gotta sleep," he starts, and she shakes her head and tries to speak. His voice overrides hers. "I know you don't want to but you're gonna have to trust Nate and I to do this with you if you want someone to always be listening. You can't do it every minute."

"I can go for a long time without sleep. Most actors learn to, even the ones like me that aren't very good." She can see him considering whether to argue and the point when he realises that she'll clearly see through any lie. He sighs irritably.

Nate saves this from going any further by coming up behind her and resting a hand on her shoulder, saying "Eliot's right Soph. We need to do this in shifts. Otherwise you could be so tired you might miss something. We can't risk that happening." He meets Eliot's eyes and says "Four hour shifts?"

Eliot nods. "Long enough to get some rest but not long enough to get too bored and lose focus. I'll go first." When Nate looks like he's going to argue Eliot's eyes drift over to Sophie and back, and the message is clear: make her sleep, however you have to.

After a second Nate nods and pulls Soph up off the couch. He pulls his earbud out and then hers, handing both off to Eliot. They disappear up the stairs.

"Parker?" Eliot's in the kitchen, because he finds it comforting. "Hey, ya know, I'm making fruit spread for pancakes. The one you like? I'll even make the pancakes for ya tonight if you want." There's no response, but he continues talking, describing what he's doing and hoping desperately that he's not just talking to himself. He wishes he could turn on the radio but thinks it might interfere with his com's reception. Instead, he sings; songs he grew up on and some that he wrote himself.

"Ow, fuck!" Nate's voice startles Sophie and she realises that she just hit him in her sleep. He shakes his head a bit and stares at her. "Remind me to bitch Eliot out for teaching you to hit like that."

"Sorry… nightmare," she says. He hugs her.

"I knew you were dreaming but I didn't want to wake you up, figured you needed your sleep more." He traces the dark lines under her eyes, ones that never really fade entirely. She doesn't suffer from insomnia like he does, but often she simply doesn't go to bed when she's tired, pushing herself further than she should. When he'd asked her that time in Kentucky about who she was proving things to, he thought her answer was just a brushoff when she said herself. He couldn't help but think it was a lot truer than he'd originally believed.

"How long did I sleep?" she asks after a second.

"Not long enough." She gives him a look that says she doesn't appreciate that comment and he gives her his best 'innocent' look. "Well it's true, you were only out for about an hour."

"And you're one to talk. I bet you haven't been asleep at all."

"You know me," he replies. He tries a smile, and it's not such a bad fit, with her here in his bed.

After a minute she pushes herself up and kisses him, then pulls back and says "Oops, probably should brush my teeth before I do that."

He shrugs and kisses her again, more thoroughly. "I'd rather kiss you than not, regardless of the circumstances."

Apparently that was the right thing to say, because she starts taking off her (his) shirt. "Why do you like my shirts so much?" he asks as he traces her ribs, noticing a bruise that he's sure wasn't there this morning.

"Mmm, boyfriend clothes are always better than your own, especially for sleeping." He furrows his brow at this, and looks so cute that she can't help but tell him that he's adorable, prompting a chorus of 'am not's' and 'are too's' that ends up as a tickling match. Some part of her wonders if he knew it was what she needed and that's why he did it, until he starts to kiss the paths along her ribs that his fingers had taken a moment before and the thought disappears from her mind.

"Fresh coffee," Eliot indicates with a tilt of his head when Nate comes wandering down the stairs. The mastermind mumbles a thank you and pours a cup, adding a shot of Irish and then plunking down on the couch beside his hitter.

"You staying?" Nate asks.

"I'll probably go home for a bit but I'll likely be back before eight am." The clock over in the corner said it was already three in the morning. Nate nods in response and then picks up his com off the table, turning it on and putting it in his ear. He considers asking Eliot to leave his com behind here, but figured it would only provoke an argument.

"Be careful." Nate's comment was soft, but with the coms it came through loud and clear. Eliot nodded and gave a semi salute on his way out the door.

After Eliot left Nate wandered over to the table and pulled out his laptop, considering running through the job again but instead pulling up a game of computer chess. He didn't notice that he was talking aloud to the computer, either complaining when it beat him or scoffing at it when he won. The spikes on the laptop showed only his voice.

Sophie dragged a brush through her hair and then pulled Nate's housecoat off the hook in the bathroom. She found him sitting at his computer, but with a screensaver up. It was one Hardison had created, she realised with a pang of sadness, where the words 'Let's go steal a' were displayed across the screen and then pictures that represented each of their jobs flashed underneath.

She poured herself some coffee and then sat down next to Nate, leaning her head against his shoulder and watching as each of the pictures went by. There were photos of the team as well, interspersed. Eliot in an apron, ever present bandana across his forehead as he served out spaghetti. Parker on Nate's ceiling, upside down and fast asleep. Sophie and Nate in their ridiculous disguises from that second job together, where they stole back money to help pay for a soldier's rehab. And Hardison, decked out in what he had declared 'proper convention garb' which was apparently a Star Trek uniform.

"Do you think he'll come back?" she asks softly.

Nate shrugs carefully, moving her head a bit. "I don't know. I hope so, but…" he doesn't finish the sentence.

Sophie picks up her com off the table and puts it in her ear. "I miss them both," she says after a minute. "It's too quiet without them here. They have this energy."

"Like kids." Nate's statement is pained. "They see things through different eyes. Less angry, or… I don't know, less bitter. It isn't like they don't know that the world sucks, they just haven't accepted that you can't change it."

"Yeah." They sat there watching the pictures scroll by, and neither of them would ever mention the fact that both of them were crying.

Hardison types in a few commands, tying his com into Parker's but no one else's. "Parker? Parker, if you're there, please answer." He waits, but there's nothing, not a thing to indicate that she's listening. "Look, I… I had a fight with the team and I can't really go back to Nate's but if you ever need to find me you know how. Nana, remember?" Parker was the only one he'd told about his Nana's address. Every month he left a new number at his Nana's place where he could be reached.

"I'll be waiting when you come back," he said finally, then flicked off the com feed because he'd be damned if he'd let her hear him crying.

"Anything?" Eliot asks as he hangs up his leather jacket and shakes his head to dislodge some of the raindrops clinging to his hair. Sophie's sitting at the island in the kitchen and just shakes her head.

As Eliot walks over to her his earbud suddenly gives out a loud 'wheeee' noise and he winces. "What the fuck?"

Sophie looks up. "Keeps happening, always in that spot," she says pointing. "I go around it now… only took me three times to get the idea through my head. Hardis…" she swallows, "Hardison could probably tell us why it's happening. I just hope it doesn't mean the coms are going to screw up."

Eliot looks as worried as she does at this prospect. Without a hacker, they'll never be able to fix the coms. "Much though I hate the idea… you have any idea where Chaos is at?" Eliot looks like the words actually physically hurt to say. She knows he hates even bringing up the name. He's never forgiven the man for trying to kill Sophie. Neither has she, for that matter.

"Last I heard he was in Beijing." He hadn't spent long in prison after the whole treasury heist last year. He'd been pretty much off the grid since.

Eliot grimaces and goes over to the kitchen. "Oh, tell me you did not decide to cook." Her inability to make anything besides instant noodles and microwavable dinners is legend among the team.

Sophie gives him a dirty look. "I only made toast, for Heaven's sake."

Eliot smiles in spite of himself. "Well I'm just trying to keep you guys safe. Don't want you to accidentally burn the place down while Nate's sleeping upstairs." She throws the nearest thing she can reach, which happens to be a pear. "Thanks," he says, and bites into it. Then spits it out. "Yuck, too ripe."

Sophie raises an eyebrow. "Serves you right."

He actually sticks his tongue out at her. This childish behaviour is a bit too much, and she has to grin.

"I was gonna make you pancakes, but now you can just fend for yourself," he says. She stands up and gets closer to him and he backpedals. "Oh no, none of that neuro linguistic crap this time. No sirree," he says dodging. There's a chase around the apartment until she has him backed into a corner and finally he lifts his hands in surrender. "Okay, God, just no brainwashing me. Last time I ended up cleaning your whole damned car."

"Thought you'd see it my way," she says breezily and then goes back to her seat. Later she'll feel a bit bad for conning him into making food when she isn't exactly hungry, but when the tension starts to disappear from his shoulders as he cooks, she knows it was the right thing to do.

For the next day and a half they continued listening to the coms, all of them at times speaking as if Parker were right there with them, not possibly curled up somewhere dying or, God forbid, already dead. The second day after Parker was injured Hardison walked into McCrory's, sitting at the back of the bar and drinking a hot chocolate to try to get rid of the chill that he told himself was entirely due to the rain outside. It wasn't fifteen minutes before Sophie walked in, tilting her head in a silent invitation to join them upstairs. It took them almost an hour to say anything to each other while they were there, but eventually they managed.

"Where'd Sophie go?" Hardison asks, confused. He'd fallen asleep on the couch and when he woke up only Eliot was visible in the room.

"She had to go to her place, said she needed some more clothes." Eliot offers the Hacker a half of the sandwich in his hand and Hardison mumbles a quiet thank you. Their relationship was still a little screwy since Eliot had backed Sophie and Nate over him, but it was getting better.

"Guys, have you seen my- ow, dammit!" Nate clutches his right ear and winces as he walks through the hotspot in his apartment.

"What?" Hardison asks.

Eliot points at the spot and explains what's been happening with the coms when anyone walks through it. Hardison's eyes widen. He's staring at the spot and then at his laptop and then he's off the couch, sandwich abandoned as he runs to Nate's storage cupboard and grabs a stepladder. He grabs a radio too, turns on a station playing who cares what, and pushes it against the ceiling. Nate and Eliot look at each other as if wondering if this particular madness is catchy.

Suddenly Eliot plugs the ear without his com in it and looks up too. He waves at Nate and the mastermind copies him, and suddenly Nate's over near his stairs, where Parker generally chooses to enter and exit the room.

Eliot has to grab him before he can do something truly stupid, like jump towards the vent, because he can just see Sophie's face if she finds out he let her boyfriend dash his brains out. Instead he yells for Hardison to get the ladder over there.

When it's set up there's a short argument involving a lot of swearing and threats of bodily harm before Nate finally pushes both Hardison and Eliot aside and climbs up himself. His mind tries to scare him with claustrophobia; he tells it to go to hell and keeps moving. And there she is.

"Parker," he says, and reaches out toward her. Suddenly there's a flash of metal and he nearly knocks himself unconscious getting out of the way. She's holding Eliot's knife from two days ago. It's clear that she doesn't recognise him.

He takes another look at her and then backs out of the duct, climbing down the ladder and explaining the situation to Eliot. "I'll try," Eliot says, and disappears inside. With the coms still in Nate can actually hear the sound it makes when the blade contacts Eliot's forehead as he tries to get close enough to grab their thief.

"Call Sophie," Nate says to Hardison, then helps Eliot back down the ladder and leads him over to the sink, grabbing the first aid kit and trying to stop the bleeding.

Nate hears the call Hardison makes and can guess what Sophie's end of it sounds like, but he's understandably distracted by the bright red blood near his hitters eye. So neither of them notices when Hardison goes up the ladder.

This leads to fifteen minutes of arguing when Hardison gets into the vent and promptly has a panic attack. His dust allergies aren't any help, and he's pretty much choking. Amid threats of how badly he's going to get his ass kicked later Eliot manages to pull the hacker out and back down to the relative safety of the floor. Nate gives him a hard whack on the back of his head for his stupidity, ignoring the part of him that's saying it's exactly what his own dad would have done to him in that situation.

All of which leads to Sophie, wearing a harness though none of the guys had been (they were far too protective of her, she mused) and crawling into a dimly lit vent.

"Parker? I'm just going to come in where you can see me, okay? I won't get too close," she reassures the girl, knowing that the physical proximity was likely what triggered her to lash out at the men.

She looks terrible; lips cracked and dry, blood still visible on her face although she's in black clothing now, not the dress she was in two days ago. Both her eyes have turned black and Sophie has a feeling her nose is probably broken. She's wheezing too, and Sophie hopes it's just two days of breathing stale air and dust, not a broken rib through one of her lungs.

For all that her physical condition is bad, it's her eyes that are most disconcerting. They're wild, untrusting, like an animal stuck in a cage. Maybe she came here two days ago knowing it was safe, but at this point it's become like a trap to her.

"Nate, I don't think I'm going to be able to get her out of here. How'd you like to do some renovations?"

"I think it'd scare her away if we try. Can you get her to drink?" Sophie doesn't have to ask what he's trying to say; he means can she get drugs into her to knock her out or at least slow her down.

The idea hurts, but it's clear the girl needs medical treatment and she won't get it up here. "Maybe," she replies. "Let me try talking first, see if she'll come down."

She inches a bit closer and can see Parker tense up, and she knows that she might regret it but she puts her hand out anyway. She stops shy of Parkers skin, and the girl stares at her hand for a long time, but she hasn't tried to cut it off yet so Sophie counts it as a win. "I didn't leave. Remember, I told you I'd stay on coms? Well I had to enlist Nate and Eliot, but you know, so long as you tell them what to do men can be useful." She ignores the protests in her ears but notes that Parker actually seems to respond to them, and favourably. There's a hint of a smile on her lips, perhaps at their tones more than their words.

"Nate, remember that job in the Caribbean?" Sophie asks. Eliot says "where I nearly drowned" and Hardison says "Where you guys lost all my gear, no respect" and Sophie's not actually listening for Nate's response, because what she needed to see is right in front of her. As Parker listens to the members of the team banter back and forth about who was at fault for that particular disaster, her eyes become less wild. It's like the normality of their tones is getting through to her.

"Keep it up, guys," she whispers, and so a war starts pretty much right under her feet as the three guys try to out-do each other in a game of "who screws up the most". Sophie actually catches herself wanting to smile at their antics and then realises that in this circumstance it'll likely help, not hurt. So she grins.

"Incredibly mature, huh?" she says, tilting her head at the floor of the vent. Parker looks more lost now than anything else, like she's not sure exactly where she is or what's going on. "Should we go sort them out?" she asks, and offers her hand to Parker again. As she does she backs up slightly, and is relieved beyond all measure when the thief follows.

She keeps up a stream of reassuring chatter as they slowly make their way out, and right at the edge she worries for a second that she's lost the connection until she sees Parker blinking rapidly and understands that for someone who's been in an air vent for two days, Nate's apartment is unbearably bright. "Guys, darken the apartment a bit." Eliot pulls the blinds and Hardison turns off the light switches. Nate's holding on to the ladder, steadying it as Sophie steps out of the vent and Parker follows.

All told it took almost twelve hours for the team to get Parker to trust them enough to treat her injuries. Much of this time Sophie spent sitting on the floor a short distance away from their thief, who'd taken up residence in a corner with a blanket and (after Sophie sent Hardison after her) Bunny. Sophie just sat there and talked, about anything and everything she could think of. Nate spent a lot of time there too, and Eliot. They were careful not to box the thief in, not wanting to spook her. It was almost four hours after she first came down that they were able to get her to drink anything, and even then it was a bottle that Sophie had to open right in front of her.

When she finally looked up and asked what day it was, night had fallen. Two hours after that she'd allowed Eliot to look her over, (Sophie was sure he wouldn't wince like that if his own ribs looked that bad) and she'd graduated to curling up on Nate's couch with cartoons on his TV. They were all draped in various positions of relaxation when she said out of the blue "Pancakes."

Everyone's eyes turned to her. She was looking at Eliot. He grinned suddenly. "Yep, still on offer. And I saved some of the fruit even though Sophie tried to get it all." Sophie protested out of reflex, because no she had not. But she gave it up rather quickly. Eliot headed for the kitchen.

Parker proceeded to look over at Hardison and said "Nana."

The hacker nodded, eyes bright. "Yeah mama, that was me."

She was quiet for a few more minutes and then "Nate, your bedroom is too close to that air vent." She looked at him and then suddenly he understood and blushed the darkest red Sophie had ever seen from him. Despite her empathy for his embarrassment she laughed.

Parker pushed up off the couch and looked at Sophie. "Thanks for keeping your promise." Then she got up and went over and hugged her.

When she finally pulled away she left Sophie attempting to wipe away tears and grumbling about having to invest in waterproof makeup if people here didn't stop doing this kind of thing. But there was a smile on her face.