It has been a long road. I have loved every review and as I write this final chapter tears are already rolling down my cheeks. This fanfic would have never grown in the way it has without all the wonderful readers. I will always love Anna and every person involved with Leverage.
But all good things must come to an end.
Yet, let us remember, the end is just an opportunity for a new beginning.
"Aimee is going to kill Blogger Mom," I mumbled as I sat down next to Mom at the toy convention. "She was happy with the flirting going on."
Sophie nodded empathetically. "It not easy watching your significant other flirt or be flirted with, even for a con. Be glad Quinn doesn't do much grifting."
I shrugged a little, thinking about all the times I had to use sexuality to get out of a situation or get my mark to do something for me. Quinn didn't really act like it bothered him a whole lot. Then again, Dad didn't act like it bother him a whole lot all the time either. Well that wasn't completely true. It depends how far someone takes it. I honestly thought he was going to hit Hazlit when he bluntly ignored the fact she was married.
The con was done, all that we were waiting on was the big reveal. Mom pretty well begged dad to let her go watch and see Hazlit when he realizes he's been done in. There are very few times where a mark is so sleazy that Mom creates a personal vendetta against, but Hazlit was one. Any man who is willing to put a huge choking hazard on the market for kids to possible die from, he was the lowest of humans in her mind. That was even before she had kids.
Sophie groaned as she stretched her back. She looked tired and I wondered if that was from Leo and Rosalie or if it was just a hard day on her in general. Leo had a slight cough and was definitely cranky about it and Rose had been excited about the upcoming holidays.
"Rose keeps asking me if we're having Christmas this year," Sophie said softly as she continued writing something in the little book she often kept in her purse. I had seen it a lot over the years and I had always been curious as to what it was, but I never asked. "I guess we didn't have much of a holiday last year."
I frowned as I continued shifting through my holiday sheet music. She caught the look and also frowned. "I'm not trying to guilt trip you, sweetie. It's just sad that the little girl hasn't had a real holiday before and last year she was even with us. I was just too upset and too pregnant," she let out a small laugh. "You father was trying to keep my emotions at bay and it was even more difficult with pregnancy hormones."
"Mom, I would do it again," I told her firmly. "I do not regret the choice I made. You all were safe. You would have made the same choice."
Sophie smiled at me. "Yes, and you know what? So would Melissa."
She watched my expression change as she ran her hand down my face before kissing my cheek. "You are my girl, baby, but Melissa has her good qualities just like I have my bad ones."
I tilted my head at her and she kissed my cheek again. I wasn't sure what she was trying to do bringing my mother up, but I decided not to say anything on the subject. It was the day before Christmas I preferred to just think back to my old life when I had so much to look forward to in my new life. Christmas was a time that was meant for family and love and I was no longer a Moretti, I was a Ford now.
"You're still my daughter," Sophie said clearer and firmer this time. "You and Rose, no matter who your birth mother is, you are my daughter, Nate is your father and Leo is your brother. But if you want to know the Melissa Bonini I knew, I will tell you, alright?"
I nodded and slipped my arm into hers. She gave me a small smile. "Why don't we go finish up Christmas shopping?"
I gave her a look as she led me toward the door. "I thought you and Dad said no going overboard on Christmas?"
She gave me a smile and waved her hand in a dismissal. "You dad always says that. I think we're just going to do things a little differently."
That meant she had an idea and I would have to help her.
Sophie wanted Christmas done a little different than we had done before. No matter what Nate said, there would be a very expensive Christmas exchange, but there would be a small request before we actually sat down to eat.
Eliot had taken over half the kitchen and Aimee sat on the island keeping him company as she nursed a glass of white wine. Sophie had even turned down a glass when Dad didn't pour himself a glass of Scotch. I could tell she was really proud of him for making the effort to drink less.
Leo was sitting in Nate's lap as we somehow all migrated to the kitchen. I guess we were so used to being in such close proximities, even being rooms away felt too far on Christmas. Rosalie climbed up on the bar stool Sophie was sitting on and manage to wiggle her way onto her lap with very little help from Sophie.
"You're starting to become more of a momma's girl," Sophie commented as she pushed a wild curl out of her face.
Rosalie shook her head. "Daddy's holding Leo."
Sophie rolled her eyes and pulled her in closer then grabbed my hand. "At least I have one momma's girl," she told me as I leaned over and rested my head on her shoulder.
She then looked over at Eliot who seemed to have found a stopping point in cooking and had his arms around Aimee's torso. He was whispering something in her ear that made her turn around and slap him on the shoulder.
Sophie took a deep breath and looked at everyone around the island. "I know what we said about Christmas, and I know very well none of you listened." She gave Parker and Hardison a look that was pointedly avoided. "But I have a request."
I sat up and felt Quinn's arms circle my shoulders. Everyone seemed to be in pairs as they patiently waited for Sophie to continue.
"This Christmas things have really changed. Next Christmas will be different yet and I want to do something special. I want this year's gift to and from all of us to be something that can't be wrapped, and means something truly important to us." She took a deep breath and held Rose a little tighter. "I want our gifts to each other to be trust."
We all exchange looks and she kicks my leg under the table. "Ow-oh! That's a good idea!" I try to say as my leg tingles from her managing to hit me right in the nerve.
"This isn't going to be one of those things where someone closes their eyes and falls, because I did that one time and the person had to have stitches," Parker said quickly as an awkward silence fell over the table.
"Still hurts," Hardison mumbled making Parker squeeze her eye closed and nod.
"No, no," Sophie said gently, trying to hide her smile from the humor she found in the story. "Trust as in a secret or maybe a story." Eliot scoffed and Sophie pouted just a little. "I'm serious. Anna's getting older, the cons are getting bigger, and Nate and I have two little ones we have to think about. Next Christmas we may not all be together."
Her comment was met with concerned and sobered expressions as I felt the reality of her words setting in.
Sophie sat up a little straighter but kept her eyes locked on Rosalie in her lap. "This is what I want."
I swallowed hard. "Mom... you're not sick or anything... are you?" I asked truly terrified of the answer. Everyone else at the table looked to be wanting the answer to that question as well.
"No," she said with a gentle laugh. "I'm perfectly healthy. Just well aware that things are changing quickly."
I nodded and looked around table. "Alright... then who first?"
I could feel Sophie smile at me. It usually only took one of us joining someone else's ranks to make everyone else go along with a plan. Unless it was Nate. Then as long as Sophie went along with it, the rest of us would follow.
"Eliot," Parker prompted, but Nate shook his head.
We all listened to Nate as he told his story about his dad and the trumpet he wanted when he was young. As much as I wanted to interrupt him and ask him why he never told me he played anything, I knew better. When he said he gave the very same trumpet to Sam, I felt the image of the little boy flash into my mind. The brother I would never know, and neither would my siblings. I didn't even realize I was crying until a little hand reached up and wiped away my tears, along with Sophie's. It was Christmas two years ago when I discovered his existence and every Christmas I find myself mourning him.
"I find a it a little ironic that my son never got a chance to play trumpet, but I was sent a daughter with such an ear for music," Nate said softly, his own eyes glassy.
Sophie's hand was on top of his on the counter top and he gave her a tight smile as he kept his free hand around Leo.
He cleared his throat and looked around the table. "Who's next?"
Sophie was just about to speak when Parker jumped in. "When I was about seven I had this really nice foster home. It was one of the only good foster homes I was ever in. The woman couldn't have children and they didn't care that I was screwed up."
We all swallowed at the way Parker said the words screwed up. They sounded so heavy, like she was choking on them as they came out of her mouth. She's always known she wasn't normal, but it was the first time she had ever sounded bothered by it.
"I didn't get to stay there long. The man got really sick and they couldn't take care of me, but I always considered them my first home. Then Archie, and now you all."
She gave a watery smile but her eyes were down at her hands in her lap. There was an unspoken rule that no one was allowed to comment on what they were hearing, there was to be no words of comfort, but just acceptance. Quinn was up next.
"Most of you already know that Quinn is just my last name," he said clearing his throat awkwardly. "My first name is Graham. Graham Anthony Quinn, and I was named after the father I never met and the grandfather that raised me."
This was news to even me, but I refused to let the surprise show on my features. He hands found mine and immediately I found myself thinking how cute it would be to have a little boy named Graham one day. Immediately I dismissed the idea and cursed myself for having ovaries.
More stories were shared. Aimee told the story of how her mother taught her to ride a horse when she was terrified or horses, which led to the first interruption of Parker asking if Aimee could teach her because she too was afraid of horses. I swear, Sophie nearly completely lost control of her emotions at that moment. She knew Parker was having some difficulty accepting Aimee into their odd family because she didn't like the idea of someone taking away her big brother, but this was proof she was starting to accept Aimee.
Sophie shared a story from her Christmas as a child. She told us how her brothers were so bad her parents left them coal under the tree, just as a joke, but they were so upset they cried like little boys as she proudly hugged her new paints. She ended up painting on their names on the coal in gold letters and the last time she saw them, many years ago, they still had them.
Hardison told us the story of his Nana, and the first day he was brought to her. He didn't talk for weeks, but she never gave up on him. Eliot told us a story about his mother, the best cook he ever met.
Then before I knew it, they were all looking at me. I was the only one who didn't share and I had no idea what I could tell these people. For a moment I thought and as soon as the answer popped into my head, my eyes fell from them and I looked at my folded hands.
"I-I uh," I licked my lips and took a deep breath. "Wow. This shouldn't be hard at all." I gave a slight laugh and I felt Sophie's hand move to the top of mine. "Well," I began again, slower this time. "I was accepted into Juliard," I nearly whispered slowly looked up to see a lot of faces with different emotions. "And Boston School of Music and several others." I let my gaze fall again. "I don't actually know if I'll go, but... It's an option."
Nate moved around me and pressed his lips to my forehead. "I'm so proud of you," he told me. I could hear the smile in his voice and I had mixed feelings about that.
"But I don't know if I'll go," I repeated.
"That's okay," Sophie told me from the other side. "We're proud of you for embracing other options."
I decided not to question it, but Rose tugged on Sophie's shirt. "Momma, can we open presents now?"
We all laughed her but Sophie nodded and Nate helped her from the barstool, holding each other's eye contact a moment longer than usual. They paused for a moment before Sophie leaned up and kissed his lips with their two youngest kids between them.
"Merry Christmas," Nate told her as his slipped an arm around her and led the way to the living room, everyone following them but me and Quinn.
He gave me that gentle smile he could wear so well before he pushed my hair out of my face and looked at me. "I love you," he told me quietly, being sure to keep our words just between us.
My cheeks glowed as I returned his smile and put my hand over his on my face. "I love you too."
Our eyes never broke eye contact as he pulled a long rectangular box out of his pocket. "I really suck at Christmas presents," he told me with a weak chuckle, glancing down at the box.
"You could get me coal and I wouldn't mind," I told him with a grin. "I'm just glad I'm with you this Christmas."
"Well, actually, I had a chat with Parker in order to get it right, and I'm still not sure if I did." He placed the long rectangular box in my hands, but when I opened it I gave him a guarded look.
"Lock picks?" I said trying to hide my slight disappointment and extreme confusion.
He smirked. "Don't worry, Anna. That's not your real present."
"Your real present is in here," Eliot said from the doorway.
I blinked at them. "What's going on?" I asked as Quinn helped me off the barstool and led me to the family room. Everyone was standing around looking at me. Except for Rose. Rose was sitting on a large chest that had a pad lock dangling just beside her calves and Phantom laying at her ankles.
"You want your Christmas present?" Mom said with a smirk. "Well, you'll have to prove you deserve them."
My brow furrowed. "By opening a pad lock with lock picks? That's not much of a challenge."
Parker shrugged with a knowing smile. "We'll see."
Quinn offered me the lock picks and I slowly took them as I stepped up to the chest and easily lifted Rosalie off of it. Phantom trotted over to Mom and sat at her feet as Dad continued holding Leo. It was weird. They were all watching me so intently and I did not understand why.
I slid the lock picks into the key hole and in only a few seconds, the lock popped open and I heard Mom gasp. I tilted my head at her. "What?" I asked as tears started rolling down her cheeks. "Mom, don't cry," I said with a slight laugh, but she just laughed at herself too.
"Open the chest, sweetheart," she prompted me.
I looked around at the rest of the family, all watching me with gleeful expressions and I could not figure out why. As I opened the chest, I felt my heart skip a beat.
Just because it's broken doesn't mean it doesn't work.
The words were stitched in gold against red velvet. I ran my hand over the lettering and looked back at my mom. "That's not all, sweetheart."
I turned my attention back to the chest and looked at the contents inside. Jimmy Ford's gun, something I thought was lost forever, laid in the chest along with an Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain America, Green Lantern and Cat Woman comics lined the bottom. A picture from two years ago of me playing piano while Nate drank Coke. The ring I had abandoned when I left last year.
Then there was a picture of all of us, even Aimee and Quinn, sitting at the restaurant looking at a briefing and none of us able to keep a straight face.
"We're all a little broken," Quinn told me, as I tried to wipe away my tears, "but somehow all these broken pieces fit together perfectly."
He stood me up and turned me around to look at him. I watched as he got down on one knee as he reached into his pocket.
"Anna Devereaux Ford... You make me a whole person. I promise to always love you, from this day and every day I take a breath. Will you marry me?"
****Three YEARS LATER*****
Anna quickly ran a brush through her hair as she glanced at the time. He was going to be late, she could already tell and her father was going to have a fit. He dear husband was really going to have to start getting places on time, at least the important things.
She picked up her phone and called him again. It went straight to voicemail. "I'm not kidding, if you're not there at three o'clock, you will not only be on the couch, but not even Rogue will be brave enough to sleep with you. This is my little sister we're talking about. I'm not missing her birthday party and neither are you!"
She hung up the phone and stuffed it in her pocket. Nate and Sophie had partially retired from Leverage, but not fully. Anna had taken over Sophie's job as the mother of the team, even though most of the members were older than her. She was there to make sure everyone was alright. She was the moral balance for the rest of the team, just as her mother taught her to be.
It was 2:45 and she was done waiting on him. Grabbing her car keys and whistling for her dog, she headed for the car. Rogue was a Alaskan Malamute that Eliot bought her shortly after her first anniversary. She obviously missed Phantom, but she could take him away from the rest of the family. Rogue was even bigger than Phantom, but she loved her dearly.
The house she and Quinn purchased wasn't far from her parents (it was one of the conditions she put in place, because Anna would always be a home body), but far enough away they had a few minutes to prepare for her parents when they decided to come over.
The moment she pulled up in the driveway, she noticed that she was the last one to arrive. Her mother was waiting at the door with a knowing smile on her face.
Rogue hopped out of the back seat as she grabbed the large box of presents. "You spoil her," Sophie warned her oldest daughter. "Your father will have a fit."
"I have to spoil my baby sister," she replied with an easy smile. "It's my job."
As soon as she walked through the door she was bombarded with hugs from Rosalie and Leo. Every time she walked through the door it was the same. They acted like they hadn't seen her in weeks when they normally saw her at least every other day. Leo was jabbering about the new boat Nate had taken him on while Rosalie talked about how hard she' be working on piano since Anna had been giving her lessons.
Aimee was the next to greet her. She glowed with the radiance of being six months pregnant. Eliot was already over the moon and obsessing with baby proofing everything. Parker and Hardison had already privately agreed they would not being having children anytime soon or getting married.
A big smile spread over Anna's face as her eyes fell on her father.
"Hey Iron Man," she called to him, going to him and putting her arms around his neck.
"Hey Wonder Woman," he replied pecking her cheek.
Anna took a step back and looked at her youngest sister, a mess of Nate's curls on her head with the dark eyes of her mother. She definitely mixed right along with the other two Ford daughters.
"And my favorite little Charlie!" Anna said scooping up the little girl and tickling her sides. "I heard someone turns two today. Do you know who that would be?"
Charlotte Lara Ford, born in June the year after the Christmas Quinn had proposed was a definite blessing to the whole family. Anna stood by her mother's side the entire time, this time their was less stress and the pregnancy went fine. She was the guest of honor at Anna and Quinn's wedding, being only three weeks old.
And the beloved nickname lived on.
"Where's your husband?" Sophie called as she scooped up her son and finally received the hug from her oldest daughter she had been searching for.
Anna rolled her eyes. "He said he had something important to deal with this morning and I told him he can't miss Charlie's birthday. When he gets here, he'll have to deal with me."
The married couples chuckled as Anna looked around. "Where's Maggie and Sterling? Olivia texted me and said she'd be late."
"Here we are!" Maggie called, appearing from the kitchen, wearing an apron. "You look good Anna!"
Anna smirked and struck a pose, showing off her well in shape body that she had worked on after doing a modeling con last month. "Thank you! So do you."
Sterling wrapped his arms around her. "I know," he commented earning a swat from her.
Libby appeared from the steps with her newest boyfriend (which Anna actually liked) just beside her.
"Good to see ya, girl," she said with a smirk. Libby, the everlasting proof that anyone can grow up.
"You too." Just then Anna's phone rang and she pulled it out of her pocket. The caller ID said Him and she shook her head as she answered. "You're in trouble, Mister Quinn."
The voice on the other side was not her husband. "You have no idea, Mrs. Quinn."
So wipe those tears and prepare for the next installment of Broken Locks, entitled Unlocked. Drama, romance, angst, and comfort, but most importantly family. That's what Leverage is to us. Leverage is Family.
Just because it's broken, doesn't mean it doesn't work.