This is a character add in story. The story will have a lot of Nate and Sophie later on, but Sophie (being the mother of the group) is the main character in the beginning. The next chapter is already written so if you guys like it, tell me!

"No. This isn't the land of misfit toys, we can't keep a person."

Nothing like listening to people argue about you. I almost felt like a stray dog that they found on the side of the street. Geeze, these people know how to make others feel welcomed.

"Nate, she has nowhere to go and she has talent. You're just mad because she caught something you missed."

Silently I cheered for Sophie. But if I wouldn't have caught Nate's mistake I would have never gotten this far. So what if I hurt his pride a little, I knew what I was doing. If I wouldn't have pushed, the con would have failed.

"Sophie's right. Besides, she could be useful. I haven't see a kid who can con and thieve, not on her level. Imagine once she gets a little older how useful she'd be."

"Guys, she's fourteen. She should be in a home somewhere. Kids aren't meant to be con artist."

Finally I stood up and moved down the stairs. I don't know why they sent me up a floor so they could argue, it wasn't keeping in any secrets. Every single word they said I could hear clearly and I was tired of sitting back, unable to plead my own case. Sophie was on my side, so was Elliot, but I wanted Nate to see that I was worthy.

There I stood at the bottom of the steps staring at the five people most of which had their backs to me. Sophie and Nate were still in the middle of the room arguing in hushed tones. For a moment I stood there, beginning to change my mind about getting into the middle of this. Slowly I took a step back toward the steps.

Just was I was about to make a break for it, "Anna, you're welcome to be present for this conversation."

Taking a deep breath, I cast away the fear the boiled in the bottom of my gut and stood a little straiter. All eyes turned to me as I exhaled and leaned against the banister. "First of all, I'm sixteen, who can easily pass for eighteen or fourteen. Second of all, if I wouldn't have been at the docks when I was, we may have been in more trouble, and I'm sorry if I disobeyed your orders, I was just looking out for the team and the con. But if you don't want me to help you out that's fine. Don't do me any favors, I have other places I can go."

Other places I could go… New York, Italy, Mexico. I was a ghost to the world, a girl who barely existed. Being a ghost was lonely and the cool exterior was a front that I had created with for my own protection. These people were the closest things to friends I ever had. I had lived on my own, just surviving for too long. Some would say that I was young and had oppurtunities to change, but I had already chosen my lifestyle.

I was sixteen and only been to school until the ninth grade. I had my GED, and I was far from stupid. A large majority the knowledge I had came from life and the public library.

Sophie was fighting for me to stay and Nate was pushing for me to leave, but I just didn't want to get hurt anymore. So I pretended I didn't care if I stayed or went. I tried to lie to myself even. I've gotten good at that too, lying to myself. Saying I don't care if I don't have anybody. Saying I don't care if I sleep in the park again. Saying I don't care whether I live or die. But I did care. Deep down, the dark truth of my fear remained.

I had only been with them a couple weeks but Sophie had already taken a protective liking to me, and in reality I preferred to stick close to her as well. She reminded me of my mother at times, and even though it hurt now and then, I loved having her there. Even Parker seemed to like me some or at least saw me as some sort of play thing. She enjoyed testing me. Locks, safes, tall buildings.

Hardison liked me if only to keep up with him on videogames (but he probably was also impressed with my vast knowledge of Star Wars), and Elliot watched me as though he was a protective older brother. From the beginning, I knew this was temporary, it was supposed to be one case. That's it. Secretly, hoped to stay. I didn't want to go back out into the world alone, not after experiencing what it was like to have someone there. To know someone had your back.

No matter what I did Nate never seemed to care for me much. He looked at me like I was questionable and a threat. At first I pushed it off as a security thing, nothing personal, but it never went away even when I earn the other's trust.

Finally Sophie stepped closer to me and wrapped her arm around my shoulders. "Nate this is ridiculous. We could use her. She'd be just like another member of the team, like she was last time."

Nate ran a hand through his curly hair before throwing a dramatic arm out to the crew. "We don't need anyone else. We have the perfect team already."

The heat of her glare made Nate nervous, and her voice lowered into almost a snake like hiss. "Either she stays or you'll need a new grifter."

I looked up at her surprised. Her dark brown eyes were pushing for a fight that may only end in blood or sacrifice.

"Wait, Soph-" Nate took a step closer to us laying a hand on her arm and pulling her towards him.

She pushed him off. "You're taking your fear of feelings and pushing her out the door with it. I just hope you buck up before you lose me too. There won't be anyone there to pick you up after drowning your sorrows. You need us, we need each other, and that includes Anna now."

"I'm with Sophie," Elliot said moving from his place on the couch and standing next to us. I felt my heart flutter a little bit.

"So am I," Hardison added.

"Is there cereal with you guys?" Parker asked Sophie with the utmost seriousness. Ah, Parker and her cereal addiction.

Barely resisting an eye roll, Sophie nodded as I chuckled a little.

"Yup, I'm with them."

Nate's face was getting red with anger, but finally he threw his arms up and headed for the steps. "Are you serious? You'd leave everything we've made for a kid? She's a child. We could give her to DFS or something."

This caught Parker's attention more than anyone's. Her eyes glistened with emotion that was rarely shown, but she remained silent hoping someone else would say what she was thinking. Elliot also seemed to tense along with Sophie. Hardison, if anything, seemed to cower a little. The room was so silent for a moment that you could hear October breeze hitting the window making it whistle slightly.

Finally, Sophie reacted.

She shook her head as she took a threatening step closer to Nate. I could see the anger of her body. Tense shoulders, a slightly lowered head, deep breathing in attempt to control the fury that was burning up her insides.

He knew he had said the wrong thing, but there was no unsaying it.

"I hope you have a fucking bottle tonight to drown the pain, because if you make us choose we won't choose you. She stays, Nate. That's that."

Pale faced Nate tried to regain his composure, but was failing due to the death glare he was receiving from most of the group. I actually felt sorry for him. I knew he had already been drinking and I understood hit train of thought. Logically I knew why he didn't want me on the team. I was young and I couldn't magically transform into an adult for a con. Plus there was nothing I could do that the five of them couldn't either. So in reality I was more of a backup plan than a member of the team.

Finally he nodded. Sophie exhaled and moved to the door mumbling something about needing fresh air. Parker and Hardison went back to entertaining themselves with a new video game that Hardison bootlegs and Elliot laid a hand on my shoulder.

"You better head home before Nate comes down or Sophie comes back. I have a feeling it's going to be World War III," he said in his soft, strong country voice.

All I could do was nod and make my way for the door as Nate poured himself another drink.

Head home. Home. Lately home had been a bar that burned a few months back. The own hasn't gotten around to fixing it or even selling it. The damage was pretty extensive, but it was better than the cold. The side door was easy to pick the lock and I had set up a cot and some blankets there, even food. It wasn't much, but it was definitely better than some.

For a few minutes I just laid there, my stuffed bear held tight against my chest. Slowly, one by one, tears began to slide down my cheeks. It was nights like these that I missed my mother. I missed her more than anything else in the world. If she wouldn't have died, I would still be at home, safe, where I belonged more than anywhere else in the world.

But she was gone, and I was never going to get her back.

Something had changed since the team made a point to stand up for me the night before. Not with the team, just with me. It was like this panicky fluttering in the pit of my stomach hat made me want to run for the hills and hide under a rock. Perhaps I was afraid I would disappoint them. That they'd realize they made a mistake.

The day after, I couldn't even convince myself to go back. When I left the old bar, I found myself walking absently block after block, heading nowhere specific. I just kept walking until I was completely exhausted. Then I'd walk back and bury myself in the warm blankets on the floor and cuddle my teddy close to my chest.

The next day I repeated this process, and the next, and the next until I realize that if I didn't show up sooner or later that they'd think I had run out on them. In reality, I didn't even know where I was walking that day until I ended up in front of the bar below Nate's apartments. The team most likely was all gathered in his living room entertaining themselves.

I entered the bar with slight hesitation that didn't exactly fade when I saw Sophie and Nate sitting in a booth across from a young woman. They seemed to be in serious conversation, most likely a new client. The woman was redheaded, maybe early twenties, and seemed to be nearly frantic, glancing around continuously as she spoke in hushed tones.

I took a seat at the bar and ordered myself a soda. The bartender had gotten used to me hanging around and probably assumed I was a niece or something of the team's. I took a com out of my pocket and placed it in my ear.

"Anyone on?" I said softly holding the glass close to my lips.

"Hey kid. Didn't think you'd come today. Little late are ya?" Hardison's voice was playful and it automatically lifted my spirits.

"Sorry. Rough night. Know anything about the girl Nate and Sophie are talking to?" I asked glancing at her again and also catching the two men walking through the door. I had a strange feeling they weren't friendly.

"Girl's dad died of a mysterious heart attack after discovering his boss was embezzling money," The rest went unsaid but well heard. I nodded slightly to myself and went on watching Nate and Sophie, as well as keeping an eye on the two strangers.

"Elliot?" I whispered seeing the men take a seat next to me. Immediately I took my soda and moved to the booth behind Sophie and Nate. Something bad was about to happen. When I didn't get a response from Elliot I tried again. "Hey! Mr. Punchy!"

"What?" He snapped clearly annoyed. "I was in the middle of talking to this chick with the most amazing-"

"Don't care. Where are you?"

"Book store two blocks over, why?"Classic place to pick up women. He's probably wearing those damn glasses that make him look like Blake Shelton became a doctor.

I spoke a little louder and leaned back so Sophie and Nate could hear me as well. "I think we're going to have a little problem."

Sophie glanced up to the bar and saw the two men with trouble written all over them. Immediately she tensed and I caught a glimpse of her squeezing Nate's arm to confirm my suspicions.

The bar had maybe ten people in it and it wasn't going to take long- yep, they spotted her. The bald man nudged the other and jerked his head towards the girl.


As they stood up I could see Nate and Sophie contemplating a plan that stalled them long enough for Elliot, but I already had one. I stood up and "accidently" walked right into one of them. Stumbling back I looked up at them with mock shock.

"Oh, I'm sorry."

One of them just grunted and tried to push past me, never taking their eyes off the redhead. As they reached out for her, I quickly thought of plan B. These men were at least six foot and every bit of two hundred and fifty pounds. Fine, if I couldn't get their attention that way…

Without hesitation I picked up another man's drink off the bar and threw the two glasses in the men's faces. No doubt soda and whiskey probably burned their eyes, they were a bit angry, but it was a fair distraction. With two swift movements, I nailed each of them in the groin and watched them tumble to their knees.

Nate was ushering with woman to the stairwell with great heist as Sophie reached for me to come along, but the men were already recovering and reached me first. With my free hand I shoved my palm upward on the man's nose and broke for the door.

Book store, book store, which way is the book store. I took off right hoping it was the correct way. I could feel the men on my heels.

"Coming your way, Elliot. Two big guys on my tail," I said in a slight panic hoping I got to Elliot before they got to me.

As I rounded the corner I caught a glimpse of a familiar face. I stopped and crouched behind a newspaper rack, waiting for the show.

Elliot gave me a wink just before the first man rounded the corner. Without hesitation Elliots arm went out clutching him by the far shoulder and slamming him to the ground with such force I knew he wasn't waking up any time soon. The other man though was ready. He grabbed Elliot by the collar, but before he could get in a hit Elliots head flew forward into the others and down went number two!

I literally jumped from my hiding place and threw a fist in the air. "Woo hoo! That was great!"

"Nice distraction, just next time be a little bit more careful. We don't need you dead, kid." I smiled to myself. Nate had said that. Which meant he at least minorly approved of what I did. Maybe we were getting somewhere.

As I climbed the steps up to the apartment, I thought about how ready I was for another con. They always took my mind off of things, personal things. Pushing the door open, I was immediately welcomed by a smiling Parker and an oddly tired looking Sophie.

"Hey, I bet you can't pick this lock in five minutes," she tossed me one and slid me her lock picks. She started the timer and I began without reply. I could hear the sounds of Sophie and Elliot speaking in the next room, not that I could understand a word of it. Two minutes had passed and I was beginning to get frustrated with the lock. Each time I thought I had it, I'd lose it again. Finally Parker made a buzzing sound and looked triumphant.

"Wanna know what you were doing wrong?" she asked taking the lock from my hands and the lock picks.

I nodded watching her closely. "You were treating it like a normal lock, but this one's broken. When a lock it broken, sometimes you have to get it where it's just about to lock up again-" she squeezed the top of the lock down and turned the pick as though it was the simplest thing in the world, "you have to push, turn, and-" the lock popped open as her hand came off the top, "let go."

She handed me the now open lock smiling brightly. "Just because it's broken doesn't mean it doesn't work. You just have to try a little harder and sometimes be more flexible for it."

Before I could say anything, she skipped off leaving me there with the broken lock. Somehow it felt like I had a lot in common with that lock.

So there you go. The next chapter is the beginning of a con. So tell me if you want me to keep going! Please review! Love always, Marilynn.