Abigail Delaney ran as fast and as hard she could down the deserted country road. Her lungs burned and as her legs grew weaker she began to stumble on the dirt road. The August sun beat down mercilessly on the young woman as she ran for the tree line which was almost a mile ahead. She stumbled over nothing in particular and fell to the ground which tore deep gashes in both her hands and knees. She sat in the dirt a moment, trying to catch her breath ad rid her mouth of the increasing metallic taste when she heard the faint sound of gunfire coming from the lonely estate behind her. She scrambled to her feet and began running again, pushing her terrified thoughts from her mind as she focused on reaching the cover of the thick woods. She dashed into the trees, letting the dense brush envelop her. She sunk down onto the cool earth and just before her eyes closed she saw black flames licking the sky where her home had once stood.
It was raining again. The gloomy weather matched everyone's mood as the Leverage team moped around the new restaurant/headquarters. Hardison was trying to research potential clients but Eliot kept confiscating the computer to make changes to the brewery's appetizer menu. Sophie had tried to give herself a manicure but Nate quickly put an end to that, claiming the smell was giving him a migraine. Parker was sitting in the corner glaring at everyone because they had all forgotten that today was the day she was going to teach them how to pick a door lock in under 30 seconds.
"Stop it!" Hardison barked at the hitter, protectively reaching out to retrieve his wireless keyboard that Eliot was angrily tapping. "Respect the equipment, man! Not cool."
Eliot growled and crossed his arms. "Piece of junk."
"Hey, hey, hey." The hacker protested. "Do I trash your weapons when they don't work right? I don't think so!"
"They always work right. It's you that doesn't work right."
"Will the two of you please take it down a notch?" Sophie pleaded, her hands conspicuously laying in her lap as she tried to covertly finish painting her fingernails.
"Sure," Eliot turned his wrath on her. "When you stop poisoning us with noxious fumes."
Sophie's mouth dropped open to form a small "o." "Oh please," she whined. "As if the smell of a little acetone could possibly penetrate the smell coming from you! When was the last time you showered?"
"I haven't had a chance after taking down the group of eleven men who had you cornered this morning! Remember that, Sophie?"
"I had it under control."
"Oh really?" Hardison piped in. "Then how did you get that nasty bruise on your arm?"
"Shut up, Hardison!" they both said in unison.
"Oh knock it off, all of you!" Nate strode back into the room, massaging the bridge of his nose. "Eliot, go back to the kitchen, write down the changes on the menu and Hardison will change it later. Hardison, stop petting the damn keyboard! If he broke it go get one of the dozen others lying around the building. Parker, for God's sake get off of the window sill! We aren't going to stand out in the pouring rain and try and break into our own building! Sophie, please, for the love of God, put the cap back on the nail polish and…" he took a breath as Hardison went back to the computer and Eliot and Parker walked into the adjacent restaurant. "What bruise, Sophie?"
Sophie sighed and rolled her eyes as she looked up at him. "It was nothing." She replied as she calmly finished paining her left hand before screwing the bottle cap back on. "It was just a little misunderstanding over some emeralds." She blew on the crimson polish and flicked her eyes up to meet his.
"I don't like you doing outside jobs, Soph." he said seriously.
"Well maybe if it there was something more entertaining to do around here…" she trailed off suggestively and flashed him a smile.
Suddenly there was the sound of shattering glass from the restaurant and shrieks from the crowd of diners.
Nate and Sophie both ran into the next building to find Eliot on the ground with three other men just outside of the newly shattered store front window. A young, twenty-something woman stood against the wall looking frightened and ill. The rest of the restaurant patrons clustered in the far end of the room some looking bewildered and others curious. The three men—all in business suits but suspiciously well-built and wielding both knives and guns—fled the scene looking battered and exhausted.
Eliot pulled his hair back from his sweaty face, his right eye swelling and blood trickling from lower lip. "Are you alright, honey?" he asked the girl softly, touching her arm softly.
She looked like she was about to start crying as she shakily pulled her auburn hair out of her face. "I'll be fine." She replied with a light British accent as she gave him a tentative smile and he released her arm. "Thank you for helping me." She bent down to pick her purse up off the floor and almost fell to the ground.
"Easy there, sweetheart." Eliot pulled her upright again and supported her as they walked to the bar.
"I'm sorry for the interruption, ladies and gentlemen." Hardison announced. "Come back this weekend and dinner is on the house!"
Eliot scowled as he guided the girl onto a barstool and the crowd filtered out. "Damn it, Hardison. You can't give away free food."
"Haha!" Parker bounded back into the building. No one had even noticed she had left. "Look what I've got!" she tossed three wallets, a knife, and two guns onto the bar.
"Very good, Parker." Nate voiced his approval and opened the wallets one by one. They each had a prepaid phone card and two hundred dollars cash. No credit cards. No identification.
"Can I get you something to drink, ma'm?" Eliot was still looking at her with concern. "Wine? Maybe something a little stronger?"
She gave a nervous laugh. "Something a lot stronger."
"Why don't you tell us what those men wanted with you?" Nate suggested bluntly.
"No." she shook her head as Eliot offered her a shot a whiskey. "Thank you all for helping me but there's nothing more you can do."
"I wouldn't be so sure about that." Sophie warned, placing a hand on the girl's back.
She twisted around in her seat to study the latest addition to this strange party. "Charlotte?"
Sophie looked startled and the rest of the team grew quiet.
A smile broke through on the young girl's face. "Charlotte!" her voice was joyful and she jumped up from her perch, grabbing Sophie's arms excitedly. "I can't believe it! I never thought I'd see you again."
"I'm sorry…" Sophie stammered. "I don't…"
"Abigail! Abigail Delaney!" She waited for the name to strike some memory in Sophie's mind but all she received was a blank stare. "The London troupe?" the girl was looking despondent again. "My father? William Delaney?"
The team could see a sudden recognition fill Sophie's face. "Will?" she asked incredulously, not believing what her eyes and ears were telling her.
The girl nodded and Sophie enveloped her in a hug. "Oh my dear girl."
The team stood on awkwardly as Sophie refused to let go. "What have you gotten yourself into?"
"Come on." Nate touched Sophie's shoulder and she released her embrace. "Both of you." The two women followed Nate into the headquarters and the rest of the team followed, Eliot grabbing the bottle of whiskey on his way.