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a nice meaty bit of fic, so to speak

Title: after the fallout
Ficverse: Leverage
Series: Understanding Among Thieves

Rating: Gen, PG13
Length: 5500 ish
Characters: Sophie, Eliot
Teaser: Cursing all arrogant, thoughtless, high-minded do-gooders, he stomped down the stairs.

Notes: The aftermath of the S2 finale. Sophie! Eliot! Conversation! Also some drinking. And some angsting. And some heatedness. (Probably not what you're thinking. Or maybe it is. I don't know what you're thinking.) But mostly? Conversation! And to see what would happen.
Warnings/Spoiler: Up to 2.15, The Maltese Falcon Job. Can be read on its own, but continues the friendship development between them in the previous installments (linked at the end).
Disclaimer: Stuff that's not mine is not mine.
Feedback: let's hear it. The good, the bad, the ugly....



They didn’t talk in the chopper. They didn’t talk in the car. Eliot drove, with a scowl that could clear traffic; Sophie sat shellshocked beside him; Parker was a ball of upset in the back seat; Hardison had taken her hand, and was alternating between squeezing it and glowering out his window.

Eliot pulled up outside McRory’s and turned off the engine. Nobody moved until he opened the door and got out. Then Hardison followed, and Parker. She looked up at the windows of Nate’s apartment once, turned on her heel and walked away.

“You got her?” Eliot asked Hardison, although he didn’t have to.

Hardison nodded, although he didn’t have to, either. He also glanced up at the apartment, with enough doubt in him to make him ask, “We okay here?”

The image of Nate making a deal with Sterling flashed before Eliot’s eyes, and he gritted his teeth. “Yeah. We’re safe. Look after her.”

Hardison didn’t have to be told twice, taking off down the block after Parker, which took care of those two for now. Eliot ducked his head back in the car door, to where Sophie still sat in the passenger seat. “I’m going in to tell Cora what happened. You want to come in?”

Sophie, staring off at something invisible, only shook her head.

“Okay. Wait here for me. Okay?”

The only response was a twitch that could have meant anything. He sighed and closed the driver door, and it wasn’t until his foot was on the first step down to the bar’s entrance that he realized his mistake in leaving the keys in the ignition. He was already turning, but too late; Sophie pulled out and away down the street before he could do anything.

“Dammit, Sophie –” He watched the car helplessly until it disappeared, then looked back at McRory’s, fist clenching and unclenching. “Dammit, Nate!”

Punching the sign over the stairs didn’t do much for his already-abused knuckles, and to tell the truth really only took the edge of his frustration, too. But it was enough to get a cap on his temper, at least for as long as it took to tell the redhead what was going on. Or some version of what was going on. He couldn’t imagine why he ever thought, however briefly, that Nate “White Knight” Ford might generate less need for damage control than the straight-up criminals he used to deal with.

Cursing all arrogant, thoughtless, high-minded do-gooders, he stomped down the stairs.

Three hours later, he was on Nate’s sofa, nursing one of his beers from Nate’s fridge, wearing some of his spare clothes from Nate’s closet, bandaged and iced with his first aid supplies from Nate’s cupboard. On the way, he’d had to navigate Hardison’s orange sodas, Sophie’s dresses and endless shoes, and Parker’s cereal, black hair cap, coiled carbon fiber line, two carabinas, a fork, a battery, a pair of socks, three padlocks, a waterproof wax pencil, a newspaper, some string, and a mug. All arranged in a neat – crowded – grid.

This was the problem with teams. With ... families. You were in each other’s pockets until your lives threaded together and somehow you stopped noticing how entangled you’d become. Which actually was fine most of the time – until someone decided to con everyone into an impossible position, forcing people to let them protect everyone by sacrificing themselves when that wasn’t their damn job. And so, naturally, making a complete mess of it. And, by extension, everything and everyone else.

His phone rang, and he snatched it up.

“Hey man, I got an update for you. Nate’s out of surgery, and it seems like he’s doing okay.”

Eliot didn’t want to know – famously didn’t want to know – how Hardison was able to find all this stuff out. Everything else aside, right now, he was just glad the hacker was on his side.

“Thanks, man. How’s Parker doing?”

“She’s ... okay. Upset. Especially that we can’t just go break him out right now.”

“Even if we could move him, Sterling’ll have that place locked down so tight....”

They’d already hashed this out twice in their last two phone calls. Circumstances being what they were, they hadn’t even snarked at each other in the process. This day had just been full of incident. “Yeah, she knows. She just doesn’t like it.”

“Who does?” Eliot pressed the cool, wet glass of the bottle to his forehead.

“Right.” Hardison’s agreement was heartfelt. “Tell Sophie not to worry, huh?... How’s she, you know, doing? Is she okay?”

“Sophie?”

“Isn’t she with you? I’ve got her phone’s location in the building.”

“Uh – yeah. I’m taking care of it. Look, I gotta go. Call me if anything goes wrong with Nate, okay? Or Parker.”

“I got you, man. Just look after Sophie.”

Eliot was already heading for the door. “Yeah.”

Downstairs, the crowd of regulars had their eyes on the last run before closing. One or two patrons, not regulars because they knew better, had their eyes on Sophie.

Eliot did not waste more than a look on them, but his current mood meant that look was more than enough. They visibly backed down and he turned his attention to the lady in the chair, assessing her at a glance.

“Another,” she said tersely, slapping her empty shot glass down on the bar. There was no evidence of salt, lime, or any other triviality that would stand in the way of an end zone dash to getting drunk.

Eliot caught the barman’s eye as he turned, and mouthed, “How many?”

With the hand reaching for the tequila, hidden from Sophie’s view, the barman made three fingers. When he poured the drink, Eliot leaned over and plucked it away from Sophie’s grasp, downing it even as she angrily registered his presence. His look dared her to make something of it, while ignoring the burn that simmered through his skull. He’d never really been a tequila guy, it was the wrong kind of drunk, all wham-bam-thankyou-ma’am. But when the circumstances called for it....

He turned back to the barman and nodded at the two-thirds-full bottle he held. “And another glass.”

Deftly gripping the bottle’s neck and both glasses in one hand, he took her arm, gesturing with the bottle at an empty booth at the back. She gave him a sulky look and resisted the tug of his hand. “Sophie –!” he bit out, before getting a leash on his temper. “If you’re gonna get drunk, you’re doing it properly. With a friend.”

Sophie looked at the guys he’d scared away from her, and scoffed. “I can take care of myself, Eliot. I’d like to see them try something. I really would.” The relish she showed at the idea only annoyed him further.

“Well good for you! I’m just tickled pink that half our crew is itching to throw themselves into the way of needless danger.” He glared at her, his hold on her arm increasing its controlled pressure. “Now come on.”

Her face fell, and she let him lead her to the booth, not quite hiding a momentary unsteadiness on her feet. She threw her coat in and slid after it, too chagrined to protest when he followed on her side, physically boxing her in from the rest of the room with his body. It was just possible that his protective instincts were on overkill this evening, but he wasn’t about to apologize for it. Especially since this was not the first time he’d witnessed how Stupid could become a spiraling contagion amongst a crew. Giving Hardison responsibility for tracking Nate and looking after Parker should keep him on task, and meant Eliot didn’t have to worry much about Parker, either. Sophie, on the other hand, was not getting any kind of leeway until she stopped seething over what Nate had done. To anyone who didn’t know her, it might not be obvious, but he could practically feel her fury heating up the space beside him.

He poured two – small – drinks, setting the bottle out of her reach. He clinked his glass against hers and pointedly took a measured sip. She looked disgruntled about it, but she followed suit.

“Didn’t think you’d be back in here this soon,” he said, attempting casualness.

“It has thematic congruence,” she answered cryptically. “Besides, where else am I going to go?... I didn’t think you’d still be here.”

He shrugged. “You took the car.” He gave her a sideways look. “Hey, you know – Nate should be okay.”

“In jail?” She sneered. “He bloody well deserves not to be.”

Eliot didn’t feel inclined to argue that one, and stayed on topic. “From being shot.”

Her attention snapped to him, face slack with shock. “What?

“He was shot. On the boat.” Eliot touched his side to show where.

“But ... he couldn’t have been! I – he –”

Eliot raised an eyebrow sardonically. “You think I don’t know the smell of blood?” – among other telling clues. His sour question had the intended effect of removing all doubt, but he didn’t really want to deal with the way it was making Sophie look at him. He turned to his drink, taking a mouthful to punctuate the silence. “Anyway. Hardison’s monitoring him remotely. He says he’s had surgery and is doing well.”

Sophie’s voice was shaking, but it was a toss-up whether it was from anger or distress. “But why would he....”

Eliot finished his glass. He should have poured a larger amount. He promptly did so, topping up Sophie’s nearly-empty one as well; keeping her in the booth was going to go so much easier if he wasn’t noticeably interfering with her original purpose of getting plastered.

“If you’d known, would you have left him on that boat under any circumstances?” He watched sidelong as realization hit, and put the bottle back out of reach.

After a moment, she observed, “But you knew.”

All the muscles between Eliot’s shoulder blades tensed up, recalling it. “And I left him there,” he coldly finished for her. “Yeah. I told him I had his back – and the bastard counted on it.”

“By keeping you from fighting?”

He had to consciously relax his jaw in order to answer her. “By making me keep his only family safe for him.” He shook his head, a humorless snort for his earlier vow. “All the way down.”

Sophie didn’t notice, already steamed up and ready to blow. “The high-handed asshole! That –” She paused, voice hitching, turning her face away from him. “You know what he told me –” She gave a raw laugh, trying to pull herself together. “He played me as well,” she finally admitted bleakly.

He could maybe blame the tequila for the next words out of his mouth, but there was no doubt he probably should have handled it better. “It’s Nate,” he said. “That’s what he does.”

She gave another of those heartbroken laughs, producing instant remorse in him. He sighed inadequately, putting a hand on her back – after finding it, under all that mass of hair she’d grown out – in sympathy. “He’ll do right, no matter what it costs him and everyone around him. You know that. It’s who he is.”

His idea of right,” she muttered bitterly.

He huffed in agreement, rubbing her back awkwardly to underscore his own gratitude. “Look – whatever went down, I’m glad you’re back. I ... couldn’t do this without you.” He tried for a moment to picture what that would be like, and his brain rebelled. “No way. No way in hell.”

Dark, wet eyes met his, painfully searching for sincerity. He met her look openly; whatever Nate had said, and Eliot had a hunch or two about what that might be, he’d sure done a number on her. The least Eliot could do was let her see that he simply meant what he damn well said. He wished he could do more than just be an anchor in the turmoil Nate thoughtlessly churned up, but it was all he had to offer.

“Forget him. We need you,” he said as though it were obvious, because it was.

Sophie stared at him for a second. Then, without warning, she darted forward and pressed her lips against his.

Eliot froze, mouth actually falling open a little in shock. Sophie seemed to falter for a moment, too, and in that time a thousand things flooded through him, most of them telling him this was a bad idea. But then, as though by mindless instinct, her mouth moved to fit to his, insistent, hungry for pressure and glide and catch and breath. He felt her tongue brush his lip in invitation, and now his body and the alcohol were telling him about heat and pleasure, and his own wrath at Nate’s con was telling him about taking revenge, and his mouth and soul were telling him she tasted like tequila and tears.

Slowly he moved, across the threshold of decision. His eyes closed as he relinquished the lead to his body, which felt no confusion at all over what to do. His hand on her back planed smoothly around and down, pulling her closer, while the other came up to caress her neck, sinking into the thickness of her curls. As his mouth easily answered the demand of hers, he allowed himself to savor the textures of her as pure woman; the slide of fabric on her waist, the silkiness of her hair, the soft fullness of her lips ... the hot rasp of her tongue on his.

At that touch, every nerve ending jolted, burning through the haze filling up his consciousness. All the reasons why this was a bad, bad, bad idea resumed their clamor, or maybe he was just paying attention again. Because this wasn’t just woman. This was Sophie.

Fighting the desire of his body that didn’t know or care about the difference, and the panic in his hindbrain that wanted to bolt out of the seat, and the beer and tequila that were still fogging his thought processes, he brought both hands up to cup her face. He held her gently, but firmly enough to pull back, and rested his forehead against hers while he caught his breath.

“Sophie,” he said raggedly, trying to get his voice, and everything else, under control. He met her eyes, full of her frustration and craving for this emotional anesthetic, driving her toward him. But he wouldn’t let her take that inch. “This is a mistake.”

He watched it in her eyes – so close it was impossible to miss – her refusal to hear him say what they both knew was true. She summoned up a smirking mask instead. “That’s what being drunk is for.”

He closed his eyes and shook his head, drawing away a little more. “I’m not gonna do this.”

She jerked free from his hands, sneering as only a very tipsy grifter who feels herself scorned could. “Oh! Are you too honorable? Because Nate says so? So you’re not going to do this to him?” Her eyes narrowed cruelly, wielding contempt like a scalpel. “You think you’re a good man, now, Eliot Spencer?”

That sliced through too many things, including his restraint. “I won’t do it to you!” he threw at her, and if it wasn’t a yell, it wasn’t much less.

It acted like a slap, or cold water to the face for both of them, and they stared at each other for a second, getting their bearings. Sophie looked past him, around the bar, in agitation. As the many more ways this whole thing was a really bad idea in public made themselves felt, he copied her, rapidly scanning the room. Few patrons were left, and the staff had been doing the usual closing up activities, and no one seemed to be paying attention to them. Still, it was probably too much to hope that none of them had looked in this direction at all for the last few minutes. The likelihood of any of them mentioning it to anyone on the team was low, but the possibility was going to niggle.

Dammit.

He took a deep breath, and turned back to Sophie, noting the crimson blush on her usually shame-proof cheeks. She wouldn’t meet his eyes.

Very deliberately, he brought his hand back up, brushing hair away from her face, then let it drop, a knuckle softly nudging her to look at him. She resisted the first nudge, but gave in at the second, and the defeat in her expression almost made him want to cry. And/or punch Nate. Definitely punch Nate.

Instead of withdrawing his hand, as he’d intended to, he opened it to cradle her jaw like it was the most precious thing in the world. But somehow that wasn’t enough, and so his other hand returned to its position, too. Just maybe, holding her thus, he could explain without trampling all over her. So that she understood.

“I’d be using you,” he said, voice low but not suppressing the urgency he felt about it. “And – you’d be using me.” A flare of acknowledgment in her eyes encouraged him. “It’d just be a ... a con. Of each other. Or – of ourselves, I guess.” He shook his head; she got what he meant. “And tomorrow, everything would be worse. And every day the team’s together, we’d have to be there and know. There’s no erasing that. Ever.”

Miracle of miracles, a small, reluctant smile had appeared. “He conned us,” she pointed out, but the fire of it was banked for the moment.

Eliot answered her smile, releasing her with a light combing of his fingers through her hair. “So let’s be better than he is,” he suggested, then gave her a sudden, dirty grin. “And if that doesn’t work, we’ll just get drunk again, and make mistake after mistake all night long.”

She laughed. A little wobbly, but it was a real laugh. She looked at him thoughtfully, but was interrupted by the manager stopping past their table and giving Eliot the keys, receiving the assurance that they’d lock up. Her eyes followed him out before returning to Eliot.

“You really think the team’s going to stay together?” she asked.

He gave her a smirk. “I don’t think a little thing like being conned by one of our own is gonna break us up. How well did that work last time, again?”

“Ha ha,” she said, pulling a face at him. “This time we lost Nate.”

He looked at her seriously. “This time, we’ve all got more to lose.” He had an image of Parker, out there, on her own, and everything in him nearly staged a one-man riot at the thought. “That’s not gonna happen, not on my watch. Nate or no Nate, we stay together, we keep doing the job. At least until we can spring him. Whether we wanted him to do this or not, we do owe him.”

Sophie’s expression said she knew he was right, but there was a grim, vindictive twist in it. “We’re going to let him stew in there a while first, though, right?”

“Sure,” he agreed easily, but his attention was on that unhappy downturn of her mouth, the persistent dullness of her eyes that kept skittering away from meeting his.

She threw back the last swig in her glass, staring silently into it, sinking into her own thoughts. Feeling like he’d already done a full PFT run with gear, Eliot did not yet feel equal to leaping back into the blast radius of Nate’s little stunt. He settled for keeping an eye on the little expressions crossing her face, and calculating how long before he should pour another shot.

For a few minutes Eliot just watched as a largely-hidden storm wreaked through her, wondering at what point he should speak up and try to help, or if he should just leave her alone for a little while. He felt worse than helpless as the restless, anguished resentment swirled next to him, seeking but finding no way of getting at its rightful recipient. She was hurting, bad, but he still didn’t know what to do about it. Certainly his attempts so far had produced less-than-predictable results, and he had to admit his ability to follow what the hell was going on was getting a little sluggish.

So probably wait some on that next drink, then.

Abruptly, she pushed her still-empty glass away with jerky fingers, and turned his direction with an expectant look.

“What?” he asked after a moment, when her intentions failed to become clear.

She bounced impatiently, looking at him like he was a moron. “I need to go to the ladies.”

Distrust immediately got the better of him, and came straight out of his mouth, sans censoring. “Sophie, if this is some ploy for you to duck out and go do something stupid, so help me, I will –”

Indignation got buried under a certain amount of desperation. “I’m not! I’ve had a lot of tequila! I need to pee!”

“Oh.” He pulled himself out of the booth to let her scoot past him. Since he was up, he made sure everything was locked, and then went on a small treasure hunt. By the time she came back – at which point he realized, worryingly, that he hadn’t made any contingency plans for if she had snuck away – he had two full tumblers of water and a bowl of pretzels on the table in front of him.

Hearing the restroom door, he shifted in his seat until she was in his peripheral vision, working methodically through his train of thought like a dog with its bone, determined not to miss a thing. By the time she paused at the booth, clearly expecting him to insist she sit on the inside again, he’d settled on a few decisions.

He didn’t move except to inch in a little further, at once giving her both space and the freedom of her own choice to come and go. If the team was going to operate without Nate for a while, he had no place treating Sophie like a child. Not even when she deserved it.

She gave him a funny look, sliding in next to him with a slightly puzzled but pleased smile, and he was gratified to know that she wasn’t the only one who could behave unexpectedly tonight. Of course, the face she made when he pushed food and water at her instead of pouring the next drink said that in some things, he was still very predictable. He could live with that.

Once she’d consumed at least a little of something that wasn’t 80 proof, he leaned back, letting the corner of the wall and the booth’s seat take his weight. It had been a long day; his hands were throbbing across the knuckles, stinging around his wrists, his head ached where those goons had got in a shot or two and was now swimming from the tequila. Strained muscles and bruises just wanted him to lie still, and the state of overdrive he’d been in since this whole mess went south was now presenting its price in terms of days of sleep.

Except that the job wasn’t done. Not until Sophie was safe, too; from herself if no one else.

He took a long breath, drawing the air into his lungs slow until he could feel the push against the back of his throat. Riding the back of the release, the techniques they taught hard-wired to produce calm and focus, he took aim and interrupted her brooding.

“So what did he say?”

She was startled by the question, but didn’t pretend she didn’t know exactly what he was talking about. She looked away, fiddling with her glass. He just waited patiently, until she laughed an ugly, disparaging little jeer.

“He said he needed me.” Even as she said it, she pulled into herself, physically shrinking away from betrayed trust, being used. “That he needed me.... Not just the team. Not just ... well. It doesn’t matter.” Her usual honey-smooth voice was punctuated with little spasms of breath betraying her control, showing just how hard she was fighting the vicious sting of it. “He knew it would get me back here ... so that he could do this.”

Eliot swallowed, with a sudden, unbidden memory from the very beginning, of Nate’s dead-eyed rage at Dubenich. He used my son. Some things were just plain off-limits. “You ... believed him,” he said softly, wincing for her.

Sophie jerked away from him, snatching up the bottle. He moved, grabbing it and her before she could get the lid off. After a few seconds she stopped fighting him for the bottle and just fought him, but that was equally futile. He wasn’t going to let her push him away, and even with the multiple minor injuries he’d sustained today there was no contest.

Soon all she was doing was pushing against him, and her head fell. “I’m such an idiot,” she whispered, sagging, letting him pull her into him.

He just held her, until a half-hidden sob made his arms tighten around her. “Love makes us all idiots,” he said feelingly.

“Not me!” she wailed, muffled against his shirt where she had curled herself up into his hold. “I’m supposed to make the idiots, not be one!”

He couldn’t help smiling; her tone made it plain that the irony wasn’t lost on her. He dropped kiss on her hair. “So maybe you’ve both just been idiots.”

At this, she went still. Not looking up, she sniffled quietly, then asked, “What do you mean?”

“Well –” He frowned. “He’s been a mess. Between the drinking, and his whole white knight-savior complex, and his invincibility complex, and his daddy issues, and that whole thing in Ukraine with Maggie, and taking on everyone from the Triads to arms dealers, and you gone and the team off-kilter, and then Sterling shows up....”

Somewhere in this litany, she’d pulled herself up and was staring at him. He wasn’t sure if that meant he was supposed to let her go or not, and settled for letting his arms drape around her loosely where they were. He also wasn’t sure what her look meant. “What?”

“At what point in all of this were you going to call me back in?” she asked indignantly. “Or were you waiting for him to, oh, chop off his own ear or something?”

Eliot raised his eyebrows at her. “Hey, you asked for time, remember? We were trying to honor that.” He thought back, and added, “And there isn’t exactly an obvious tipping point when it comes to Nate’s crazy. We needed you from the second you left. We dealt. Most of the time we were just trying to stay ahead of the snowball.” He shrugged, and gave her a knowing look. “Besides, you had your mole in place.”

Sophie folded her arms in vindication. “And a good thing, too!”

Various threads of the conversation abruptly crashed up against each other in his head. “Whoa, wait, wait, hang on.... Nate – we’re talking Captain Dysfunction himself, here – actually realized that he’s falling apart without you, and actually calls you and tells you this ... and now you’re complaining about it?... And complaining because the rest of us didn’t?”

She glared at him for trying to bring logic into it. “It’s not a question of whether it was true, Eliot, it’s a question of why he said it!

He threw his hands up in exasperation. “Well maybe he meant it and is just a total dumbass!”

Her face was almost hopeful. “You think so?”

He snorted. “Ohh, yeah. Positive, princess.”

“But –” She chewed her lip. “This is Nate! Why didn’t he think it through? Why didn’t he realize what would happen?”

“You’re kidding, right?” Eliot shook his head at her mystified expression. “Sophie, when it comes to you, Nate does not listen to reason and he does not think things through. He’s all bad impulse control and want. And conflicted ... ness. Believe me.”

Sophie was once again locked on to him, urgently seeking the truth of what he was saying. “Are you sure?”

He’d never seen her so anxious, certainly not about her own effect on men, and in spite of his annoyance with this never-ending saga between the two of them, he could empathize. Having your heart in the stakes was guaranteed to mess you up. “Yeah,” he said gently.

“But how do you know?” she pressed him.

“You mean apart from the fact that that’s what you do to guys?” He pushed his hair out of his face, sitting up straighter. “Because I pay attention. Because I need to know how and when everyone’s functioning well. Because I’m the fail-safe when they don’t.”

After a pause, he realized she was still studying him, but not to determine whether his judgment on Nate was sound. Something about the curve of her mouth said she’d accepted his interpretation; more than that, it pleased her. For the first time since they got off that boat, she was paying attention to something outside of what Nate had done to her. Which meant the job was done.

The moment his subconscious system of checks, alarms, and loose ends recognized this, a fresh wave of exhaustion hit him, with no mission objective to focus on and help him counter it. It took a moment to realize he was still being scrutinized, and he shifted uneasily, not having braced himself to be examined so closely. By Sophie, no less, who was a consummate mistress of reading people no matter how drunk she got.

“I’m sorry,” she said, but not before he had become quite uncomfortable.

“It’s my job,” he said with a half-hearted indifference he knew she wouldn’t take at face value. “It’s what I signed up for.”

“Still ... that’s a heavy burden. It’s not really fair to put so much on you.”

This really wasn’t as complicated as she seemed to think, and it wasn’t exactly her business in the first place. “Sophie, what part of ‘it’s my job’ don’t you get? That’s why I’m here. No one’s job is easy. But you all do yours, and I do mine.” The afternoon’s events loomed in his thoughts like a livid thundercloud. “Usually.”

Mercifully, Sophie didn’t dig at that last comment. Then again, the understanding in her eyes said she didn’t need to. No matter how many times you reminded yourself it was impossible to save everyone, all the time – especially if they were hell-bent on sacrificing themselves – failure was an unforgiving son of a bitch.

“Yes ...” she said thoughtfully, “but we’re a team. We should at least try to make your job easier. Help you have our back.”

He’d be lying if he said that thought hadn’t occurred to him before. But then there was reality to consider. “Please. This crew? It’s like you’re custom-designed to make fail-safes nearly impossible.” Which was why, when they lost, they lost BIG. It hadn’t taken him long to work out that success was their only option, and most of his time was spent anticipating ways to make sure they didn’t fail.

He pulled his hand down his face, trying to wipe away all residue of expression, trying to massage life back into his brain via his sinus zone, trying to wrap this damn day up. “We’re meeting tomorrow afternoon to figure things out. If anything happens before that, with Nate or the feds, Hardison’ll call us. You got somewhere to stay?”

She shook her head.

“I just made up the spare room in Nate’s, you can have that. I’m about ready to pass out on any horizontal surface, so the sofa’s looking pretty good right now.” He wasn’t looking forward to the trip up the stairs, but despite what he might say, collapsing here in the booth wasn’t really that attractive. He moved in expectation of getting up, but Sophie did not. She was giving him a look that was entirely undecipherable, certainly in his current pathetic state.

Slowly, she leaned across the small distance between them, hesitating for a second before placing a chaste kiss on his lips. Brief though it was, this touch went straight into him, far deeper and really more troubling than the lust and urgency of the last. When she pulled back, he stared at her, and realized that this was because this kiss had been about nothing but him.

She smiled, and it was like another kiss, soft and glad. “Thank you, Eliot. You are a good man ... and you do a good job of protecting us.”

He could tell she meant every word, and in spite of everything – his failures of today and his sins of the past – he felt himself flushing. Yearning. And at least for tonight, he was too tired to squelch the hope of becoming a righteous man.

Sophie took his hand, bandages and all, and held it tight with promise. “And from now on, we are going to start finding ways to make that a little bit easier.”




Understanding Among Thieves series:
to reach an understandingShe held up the food. “Brought you some dinner. I thought you could do with it.”
picking up the pieces"I'm fine," she told him a little crossly.
tea and sympathy"Sophie, he made me a mute!"
after the fallout – Cursing all arrogant, thoughtless, high-minded do-gooders, he stomped down the stairs.

Comments

( 4 speakses — have a speak )
lmx_v3point3
Feb. 4th, 2011 12:08 pm (UTC)
One of these days I'll remember not to read your fic until I'm home from work. What an emotional rollercoaster, and given that little edge by the alcohol involved but not so much it feels disaffected. Nicely done. So nicely done. More please :D
themonkeytwin
Feb. 4th, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
Well, thank you! I could put a warning label on them for you... ;)

When I started writing this, I knew Sophie was really upset, but I didn't realise quite how upset Eliot was with Nate, but then of course that boy represses a lot. He definitely took me by surprise a couple of times. Which was fun. No matter how savvy Nate is about the job, when it comes to his family, he can be kind of clueless!

I anticipate much argument and exasperation as they learn to run the crew together. We'll see what that brings up, I guess!
luxorien
Jun. 18th, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC)
I <3 this:

Especially since this was not the first time he’d witnessed how Stupid could become a spiraling contagion amongst a crew.

That's so...Eliot.
themonkeytwin
Jun. 19th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I love writing Eliot pov. He has such a fun take on the world. :)
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