She Needs Someone Else

"Hey, Nate," Sophie said as she sat down across from him. "You alright?"

She motioned towards the drink in front of him, as of yet untouched. He didn't respond, so she simply poured herself a glass of the same and waited for him to make the first comment. Something was most definitely on his mind.

Finally, he spoke, but when he did, she was surprised.

"Sophie…what do you think about Parker and Hardison as a couple?"

She was shocked to hear him talking about relationships, let alone Parker and Hardison's, but she decided to humor him…and take it seriously. If this was something that was bothering him, then it must be important.

"Well," she started hesitantly. "I think it's good for Parker that she's learning to connect with her emotions, and that Hardison is helping her learn better social skills…and they're sort of cute together," she finished, a slight smile on her lips.

Nate was silent for a moment, absently moving his half-filled glass back and forth between his hands, not taking a sip.

Then, after a long few seconds, he said, "I don't see it working well for them."

The Grifter looked at the team's leader in shock. What did he mean by that? What was he seeing that she wasn't?

Hesitantly, she spoke up.

"Uh, Nate…you're not exactly an expert on relationships, you know. Simply look at your track record for reference…" She paused a moment and then continued. "So…why do you think it won't work for them?" She didn't even bother to ask why he wanted to talk about it, and decided to let the conversation run its course.

He let out a long sigh.

"Hardison's more set on it than she is. I can see it in their eyes…"

His voice trailed off, and as he collected his thoughts, Sophie tried to understand what he was saying, but then he continued.

"Normally, I wouldn't care, so long as it didn't mess with the team dynamic, but…but I can tell that Hardison has his heart in it…and that Parker doesn't." At this point, he finally took a long drink from the glass that was set in front of him.

"Sophie…Hardison is going to get his heart broken, and it won't be pretty."

Finally, she interrupted him.

"Look, Nate, I respect you and everything, but where on earth is this coming from, and why do you care so much about it?"

He turned slightly on the bar stool and gave her a scrutinizing look.

"Why do I care…good question." He got off his stool, taking his drink in one hand, and then just stood in the middle of the empty bar, eyes gazing aimlessly. "Parker is…she's like a daughter to me, Sophie. And I can tell that to her, the relationship that she's in isn't really a relationship to her. It's a game. A con. Just something to take up her free time…"

Sophie slowly turned on her own stool, facing him, trying to figure out exactly what he was saying, carefully paying attention to his words.

"I watch her with him and I see this look on her face…and I see the look on his face…and I see two completely different emotions."

The Grifter was suddenly intrigued, and leaned forward slightly, the drink in her hand still untouched.

Nate continued to explain, his eyes going slightly sad as he did so.

"With Alec, it's…it's longing and pining away for something that he thinks he can almost see, almost touch. And now that he has her, all I'm seeing him doing is trying to create her into the Parker that he thinks that he saw in his mind."

He paused, but then continued.

"But with Parker, all I see is…amusement. Humor. A childlike joy about her that doesn't quite fit what their supposed relationship should be." He suddenly took a long drink, and then walked back to the bar and poured himself some more to drink, and then began to speak again. "To her, it's really just a way to kill time…and I don't think Alec sees that. With her, I don't see any longing, not a single loving glance in his direction…and, sometimes, not even respect. Every now and again, some form of affection…but not love…"

Sophie slowly took all of this in, wondering where he was going with this, and then carefully listened to him as he finished explaining.

"Sophie, she's…she's really just learning how the world works for people like us, like everyone else, and I'm afraid that he's just a willing doormat for her to walk over and do whatever she wants. I mean," he said, gesturing with his empty hand, "No one really understands her…except maybe Eliot…"

At hearing this, the Grifter's ears perked up. What did Eliot have to do with anything?

Feeling bold, she asked the question on her mind.

"Uh, Nate…what does Eliot have to do with Parker and Hardison?"

She was taken back when he let out a short bark of laughter, one that almost sounded like disbelief at what she'd just asked.

"What does Eliot have to do with Parker and Hardison? I'll tell you what he has to do with them…everything. Every single damn thing," he said, emphasizing his point on the word "damn" by slamming his glass against the counter.

He then staggered over to a booth, letting Sophie know by the sway of his walk that he'd been drinking long before she had even come down.

She carefully put her glass down and walked over to join him, listening as he now started to rant.

"I mean, out of all of us, Eliot and Parker are the most different from the rest of us, and because of that, they're the most alike…both lone wolves, used to not having people in their lives, used to not showing any form of emotions…"

He drunkenly gestured with one hand as he emphasized his next point.

"Alec is her, her…her testing board, her safety zone, the one person who won't force her to deal with her emotions…the one she's safest with because he's the last person she knows she would ever fall in love with…Eliot, however, is too close to home. Too similar to her, too likely to understand her and see who she really is…he's dangerous. He'd bring all of her buried emotions to the surface, he'd show her how human she is, how vulnerable she is…and she can't think about that, not now…"

Sophie was suddenly fascinated by what Nate was saying, and was actually slightly scared at his all too brilliant deductions. She now much better understood how the leader's mind worked and she had a newfound respect for him.

Carefully, she spoke up.

"So, what do you mean Eliot's dangerous? Parker isn't interested in him, Nate…"

At her comment, he threw his head back and laughed, almost too loudly.

"Not interested, hah! Oh, she's interested, Sophie…trust me…" He stumbled back out from the booth, back over to the bar, and grabbed his drink, taking a deep sip. He stared into his glass for a long moment and his voice lowered. "Trust me…she's interested…"

Sophie carefully stood, acting as though he were an easily frightened animal, keeping her tread light.

"Nate," she said gently, placing her hand on his shoulder. "How are you so sure about this?"

He let out a low chuckle and took another sip of the amber colored liquid.

"Oh, Sophie…for a Grifter you don't pay much attention to your own team, do you?"

She was confused, and he explained.

"Neither Eliot nor Parker likes to be touched…but they've always been able to touch each other without flinching." He paused, letting it sink in, and then continued. "When plans are going south and our job is falling apart, she always looks to him, not anyone else, for reassurance, and he always gives it…"

Sophie slowly took in what he'd just told her, and she was slightly surprised to realize that he was right. How was it that he'd seen this and she hadn't? She hated to admit ignorance in these types of things, especially when it came to the team, but it seemed that he was much more aware of what was going on internally than she was. But the question still remained in the back of her mind; why did he care?

Yes, she was glad that he was noticing other people besides himself and his marks…but why was he worrying about Parker?

However, just as she thought that, she remembered what he'd said earlier…

"Parker is…she's like a daughter to me, Sophie…"

That's why he was so worried about her. That's why he was suddenly paying attention to what Parker was doing and how she was feeling…but at the same time, Sophie knew that it was uncharacteristic of him to emote in such a way, so she chalked it up to his being drunk.

Carefully, she slowly voiced her opinion.

"Nate…I think that you're reading too much into the situation. Eliot isn't Parker's type-"

He let out a bark of laughter, interrupting her.

"Not her type? Are you even listening to what you're saying, Sophie? Gee, let's think about it…hmm, Parker is attracted to danger and extreme situations, as well as having a somewhat violent edge to her. Remind you of anyone you know?"

Once again, Sophie found herself rendered speechless. It was becoming more and more disconcerting to find out how perceptive Nate was…but of course, as a Mastermind, he would have to have those powers of observation. At this point she wouldn't have been surprised to discover that he had an eidetic or photographic memory. In fact, it made perfect sense, and possibly explained his constant bouts of depression and incessant drinking. He needed the blur, the haze of alcohol to attempt to suppress the memories he couldn't forget.

He drank to forget, but at times, such as tonight, it probably made things even clearer and sharper, in severe and stark contrast to everything else around him. Sophie suddenly had an overwhelming feeling of sympathy for him, and wanted nothing more than to take him into her arms.

But, of course, he would never let her do that, so she simply silently mourned for his own personal pains…and wondered at what he had said about Parker and Eliot.

He had extremely valid points and she was now of the mind that he was absolutely right about every single one of them.

She inwardly sighed, wondering what might happen to the team should anything happen between the two of them, and then decided, probably against her better judgment, to ask Nate about what he thought about it.

"Nate," she said, gently placing a hand over his. "If the two of them ever, you know," she motioned with one hand, "Do you think it would mess up the team dynamic?"

Nate shook his head, and she listened closely to what he said.

"No…not at all. They're both too professional for that." He paused a moment, taking a sip of his whiskey, and then said, "Actually, them together would be better than her and Hardison right now…Hardison worries too much about her and doesn't know how to separate the feelings from the job. I wouldn't have to worry about that with Eliot. I wouldn't have to worry about that…"

She said nothing in response, but gently pulled her hand back and looked down at her drink…and then shot back a long sip.

If she was going to know about this, she'd rather be drunk and forget about it the next morning, otherwise she'd constantly have her eyes on the rest of their small team, more family than anything else, and she didn't want to create any unwanted tension as she had in the past.

If Eliot and Parker ever ended up together, she hoped that it would happen naturally…because she knew that if it were forced, they would most likely destroy the entire team dynamic. The two people that they needed the most on the team were the Thief and the Hitter; you couldn't have just one. If you had only the Thief, then you had no one to get in fast and get them out of tight spots. If you had only a Hitter, you didn't have anyone to retrieve quietly when the need called for it.

They needed both of them.

However, she had the sneaking suspicion that they just might end up together.

And when they did, she'd be happy for them.

Yes, Nate was right…

...Parker needed someone else.

Part 1/2