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So life has been kind of weird and busy lately. But here's something that's been hanging around in my head ever since I first thought of writing Leverage fic, and has taken this long to find its shape.

Title: to reach an understanding
Ficverse: Leverage
Series: Understanding Among Thieves
Rating: Gen / PG-13
Length: 2800 ish
Characters: Sophie, Eliot
Summary: She held up the food. “Brought you some dinner. I thought you could do with it.”
Notes: A conversation that takes place after The Tap-Out Job. As far as I'm concerned, it's a friendship-fic, but I'm sure anyone who wants to read it differently can manage to. [Edited to acknowledge that the idea of where Eliot lives comes from John Rogers, on his blog, and also to remedy "Nevada" to "Nebraska", thank you deepbluemermaid. Nevada? *facepalm*]
Disclaimers: Not mine.
Spoilers: set after The Tap-Out Job. References events from The First David Job and The Second David Job.
Concrit: go for it

Sophie pulled up at the waterfront, a quick look confirming Eliot’s lights were on, his truck and bike both parked nearby. He was home, and awake.

She grabbed the takeout on the seat next to her and negotiated the dock nimbly, rapping on his hatch. She looked around with an amused smile while she waited for him to answer; she’d been here once or twice before, but she always found it interesting. The wooden houseboat was worn around the edges but strong and sturdy, comfortably lived-into, well cared for. Eliot didn’t go much for new shiny things, but he looked after what was his.

The sound of the hatch opening brought her attention back, and she grimaced when she saw his face. “Ooh,” she said, dismayed at the bruises which were darkening, even as the swelling was receding and the cuts hidden somewhat under tape.

“It looks worse than it is,” he said with a shrug. “And I’ve definitely had worse.”

She held up the food. “Brought you some dinner. I thought you could do with it.”

He took the bag from her. “Thanks. Come in.”

She did, putting her coat and purse on one of the chairs while he began unpacking the food on the galley’s counter. “Oh, let me do that,” she said quickly. “You’ve had a rough day.”

He laughed and kept setting it out, even when she came to his side and started helping. He gave her a disconcertingly perceptive smile. “It’s really not that bad, Soph. Not even a concussion.”

Her lips quirked at this. “We wouldn’t have let you get on the plane in Nebraska if it was. So you got yourself properly checked out, then?”

He nodded, taking the lid off one of the dishes and inhaling appreciatively. “Yeah. Just bruising, lacerations, the usual,” he said offhandedly, rummaging for bowls, pulling out his own chopsticks before throwing away the disposable ones included with the food.

Sophie frowned softly, scooping noodles into the bowls. “I suppose so.”

Eliot refrained from commenting on the sidelong looks she gave him while they finished fixing their bowls. He pulled out a beer for himself, then exchanged a look with her. “Wine?” he asked. “I think I have a decent red.”

“Mm ... well. If you insist.”

That done, he cocked his head toward the little deck out the back.

“Sit outside? It’s a nice night. The view’s not bad, either.”

She nodded and they settled themselves out in the semidarkness of the deck. The lights of the city danced along the water toward them, the lap and splash against the hull loud in the late-night quiet. Eliot stretched himself out, de-cricking his neck and sighing contentedly. Then he shoveled a load of noodles into his mouth and saluted Sophie with the chopsticks. “Thanks,” he said again, around his mouthful. “I probably would have just had the beer and hit the sack, otherwise.”

“Oh, I didn’t know you had plans,” said Sophie in mock concern.

He grinned. “Hey, a beer and a bed can be an okay way to pass an evening.”

She nodded, and lapsed into silence again, seeming unaware of the pensive line that had settled between her eyebrows as she ate.

After a few minutes, Eliot sighed. “Out with it.”

Sophie met his eyes, startled. “What?”

“Whatever it is that’s on your mind. Although, if you’re going to make me guess, it’s got something to do with this.” He gestured at his face.

“Well, it is a mess,” she said lightly. “And all those bruises don’t do much for you, either.”

“Ha.” He eyed her, unruffled, then said matter-of-factly, “This was not your fault.”

She tried to smile, but it wobbled treacherously. “I know that.... I do.”

He said nothing.

She shrugged, fiddling with her noodles. He waited easily, not filling the silence, although she wished he would. “I – I just hate that you had to get hurt like that.”

He frowned thoughtfully. “I told you. It’s what I do.”

“And I’m not allowed to hate that?”

“You didn’t mind it this much before,” he pointed out.

She flinched, which surprised him. When she looked up, her eyes were full of guilt. “I know. I’m....” She shook her head. “Eliot, I am so sorry.”

He sat up straighter as comprehension dawned. “Before – at Rucker’s,” he said, to clarify. “When we were talking about it, and after the fight. You were okay with it.”

“Oh.” Her face cleared a little. “Yes ... sort of.”

When she didn’t elaborate, he prompted her again. “That’s not what you meant, though.” Her expression was the only confirmation he needed. “Aha. You meant the other time. Which was your fault.”

She shook her head again, the words tumbling out. “I knew – but I didn’t see – to watch that ... I didn’t realize. I didn’t ... know. And then ... I mean, I didn’t even really apologize. What kind of person am I? You had your ribs broken – and I tried to play you. Into making it all okay. To save face more than say sorry.... I didn’t think....”

Eliot’s hand touched briefly on his side, almost unconsciously, his face giving no clue to his thoughts. He let her trail off without saying anything, just watched the play of light across the harbor for a while, letting the breeze whisper of quietude to them both.

“Sophie –” he said eventually, measuring his words, “– first off, I want you to really hear this: it’s what I do.”

She peered at him from behind her hair, mouth drawn down unhappily. He leaned forward, resting his arm on the railing, purposely invading her space just a little. Her dark eyes lowered, but she didn’t move away.

“The broken ribs, the stitches, the beat downs – all of it. It’s part of who I am. This life is a package deal.” He paused, a small smile playing on his lips in the half-light. “Like I said. I made my peace with that a long time ago. Being hurt by Sterling’s goon wasn’t really ... it’s beside the point. It was, you know, the rest of it.” He said it gently, but there was a hint of exasperation in his tone. He waited until she looked up again. “But this – us – it really is okay. You knew you screwed up, and you were sorry. We got it. That’s all it has to be.”

Sophie’s gaze dropped to his hand closest to her, the light from inside enough to reveal the callouses that he wore so casually on his knuckles.

“Thank you, though,” he continued.

She gave a little pained laugh. “For what?”

“For the apology. For meaning it. For ... just saying it, this time, instead of ... yeah.” He leaned back, still watching her. “It means a lot.”

After a moment, her tension unwound into a shy smile, which he returned. Then he relaxed back in his chair, propping his boots on the rail, with eyes closed and face turned to the sky.

Sophie decided the last mouthfuls in her bowl were too much to finish, and stood. “Done?” she asked, reaching for his bowl.

“Yeah – you don’t have to –”

“Oh, I’m getting more wine anyway.”

“I can –”

She waved him off lightly. “Just – stay.”

He shrugged and leaned his head back again. “Yes ma’m.”

Sophie poured the wine slowly, replaying the last few days in her head, disconcerted now by the cues she appeared to have missed then. He’d talked about the control that fighting could give disempowered men, with such passion that she’d honestly thought that’s why he did it. Even that conversation in the gym, with his face half hidden by the low light and the strands of his silly floppy hair, hadn’t really landed. The insights she’d shaped and screamed at Rucker were only now beginning to take their real form. Now that she took the time to actually look at it.

“You lost in there or something?”

His tone was teasing, but he was undoubtedly tracking how long she was taking. He probably couldn’t help himself, counting the passage of time by heartbeats or something. She didn’t reply, just rejoined him on the deck, studying him and not hiding the fact.

The raised eyebrow she received in response was laconic even for him.

“I’m used to getting the measure of a man,” she said musingly, finding more enjoyment than she thought she would in sharing these developing thoughts with the darkness and with him. Somehow both felt safe, in spite of the unreadable way his mouth quirked in response to her statement.

“Easily,” she elaborated. “I weigh them and size them and find their levers ... without really even having to think about it.”

He nodded his agreement and waited for her to continue.

She thought for a moment before she did. “By that measure, I knew you.”

He stayed silent, but in a way that didn’t inhibit or intimidate. If it had been Nate, she would already be fighting for control of the conversation, which was one of the many stimulating things about him, why she – enjoyed – him so much. But this unhurried space Eliot was allowing her, a friend’s gift, was very nice, too. It was a kind of relief.

“You were a ... man who knew his talent, his usefulness. A usefulness you’d decided to put at the disposal of our little group.” She gave each word as she mulled them over, selecting carefully. “A man who had survived childhood ... whatever the specifics of that was. So you took those skills and applied them to surviving adulthood –” she surveyed his colorful face with a soft laugh “– in a spectacularly dangerous career.”

When she didn’t immediately continue, he paused from working the label on his beer with an idle thumbnail and looked up. “But now that all’s changed?” he asked, seeming more amused than curious. “Please tell me I’m not just a lost little boy inside, looking for wuv and hugs and ponies.”

She snorted, laughing. “Much as that image will stay with me for a long time – no. I think you can rest easy on that score. All those things, they’re still true. You’re ... you walk into the assault life makes on you ... and you fight back, like a walking powderkeg. Sometimes, you’re so bright alive in it that I’m jealous.” She made the admittance freely, and it felt good to be able to.

For a second, pleased surprise flickered across his face. Then he gave an easy smirk. “Walking powderkeg. I like that. Should hang out with articulate chicks more often.”

She raised a playful eyebrow. “So you can ruin the moment then, too?”

He grinned confidently. “Hey, you know I can work the charm. I don’t ruin any moment I ain’t trying to.”

She stuck her tongue out at him, then was taken by giggles, making Eliot frown laughingly. “Sophie, how much wine did you drink in there?”

She would have swatted him if he’d been closer. “I’m not drunk, you pillock. Just, I don’t know, relieved. I feel ... forgiven.”

He threw his hands up, but there was no anger in it. “You were forgiven. By all of us. Ages ago.”

“I know. It’s easy to know it – feeling it is a different thing altogether. I guess I’m just not all that used to this whole ‘forgiveness’ thing. It’s not really something I do. In either direction.”

“Yeah. Caught that.”

She pulled a more dignified face at him, and he shook his head, chuckling. He stretched back again, squinting up at the starless sky. “It’s funny how some of the most hellish places on earth have the most beautiful displays of heaven,” he said after a moment. “While here, we just ... lose sight of it....”

“Oh, you’d rather be holed up in a shack on the Chinese border?”

He snorted quietly, a rueful twist to his mouth. “Sometimes, it was easier,” he said eventually, eyes searching the darkness while she watched his profile. “But, hey, home is where the heart is, right? This is where I belong right now. And besides, those noodles might not be as good as the real thing, but they were okay for restaurant food.”

Sophie sighed. “And once again, there you are. So much more than what you let people see.”

He shifted self-consciously. “Couldn’t you have just made a crack about me drinking too much, too?”

She refused to lose her train of thought again. “Eliot, how do you do it? I’ve seen you, when you play those parts on the con. You just put them on and take them off, like wearing a coat.”

He looked over piercingly, and it was clear he’d already figured out where the question was coming from. “Yeah. Pretty much.”

She looked down at her wine. “But you don’t ... lose yourself. You don’t become them. You’re always you, underneath.”

He took a deep, thoughtful breath. “No. Losing myself would be a very bad idea.”

She met his eyes, which were as calm and composed within their bruises as when he walked knowingly into the beating where he got them. Paying attention this time, she saw the control that had always been there, raising the question of what he had done that he chased it so relentlessly. In this moment, she thought if she had the courage to ask, he might have the courage to answer; she knew he could see the question written all over her face. But this understanding was too new, too fragile, and it didn’t feel right to push him about something so private.

But now that she was really looking, as he sat there letting her study him, she saw something more; she saw acceptance. As much as he accepted himself as he was, in the same way also he accepted her. Suddenly she wondered what he saw. She was so used to crafting herself to be seen in a particular way, she wanted to know who he thought she was. Which was another question she wasn’t ready to ask.

Instead, she said with a little awe, “You really know who you are, don’t you? You actually live in your own skin.”

He took a slow mouthful of beer and looked away, taking his time in swallowing. “Mm,” he affirmed eventually.

“Is that – did I say something wrong?” she asked, confused by the depth of what she appeared to have touched.

He gave an apologetic sigh. “No. It’s okay. It’s just ... not always a good thing, that’s all.” He caught her continuing confusion, and seemed almost trying to warn her. “If you ... anyone who wants to really know that, it’s a hell of a cost. It’s pain, and loneliness, and whatever it is you find, you can’t run from it any more. No matter how much you grow ... you are who you are.”

If anything, she felt even more confused. “Then – do you regret...?”

“No,” he said without hesitation. “I wouldn’t change any of it. It’s not always a good thing, but there’s nothing that’s better.... If you’re willing to pay it.”

That sounded uncomfortably final. “Hypothetically speaking, you mean,” she said in reminder.

He nodded, considerately turning his knowing look to the harbor. “Right. Hypothetically speaking.”

But she couldn’t quite let it go yet. “But, look, everyone has pain and loneliness. Why is it so different for you?”

He shrugged dismissively. “Sure. Everyone has pain and loneliness. But all most people learn from it is that they don’t want any more of it. That anything is worth doing to escape it. Why do you think there’re so many bad relationships and addicts in the world?”

“Oh, come on – you go through women like you go through pants.”

He shook his head firmly. “I don’t expect them to do anything they can’t. I’m not looking for anesthetic. I just enjoy them for what they are.”

“Disposable pleasures?” She didn’t keep all the sting out of the question, but he only shrugged casually.

“Like I am to them.”

She opened her mouth, but closed it again. Then she shook her head. “You’re not disposable,” she said, and the tremble in her voice was suddenly unbearable. “Thanks for dinner,” she said hastily. “I think – I need to be going.”

He sat straighter as she stood, but didn’t try to intercept her. “If you have to,” he said gently.

When she paused, he said, “Look, don’t go. Stay and tell me about the first time you made a guy fall wildly in love with you, or something. Help me finish off the wine. It’s ... been a long day.”

She gave him a wry look for playing that card, and he grinned unrepentantly. “I promise I won’t ruin the moment again,” he said.

She rolled her eyes. “Please. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.”

He raised his beer. “I’ll drink to that.”

She pursed her lips, then smiled relentingly and gave her mostly-empty glass to him to hold. “Let me just fetch the bottle. And then, the romantic travails of Carlos the Infatuated, diplomat’s son."

Understanding Among Thieves series:
to reach an understanding – She 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 falloutCursing all arrogant, thoughtless, high-minded do-gooders, he stomped down the stairs.


( 26 speakses — have a speak )
Jun. 15th, 2010 07:49 am (UTC)
Oh, I rather liked this! Sophie plumbing Eliot's secret depths (and really apologising to him, too); the glimpses of his past; and I especially like the voice you gave him, that thoughtful, articulate, patient Eliot that lies beneath and that the others often fail to see. Nice one.
Jun. 15th, 2010 12:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I decided it was about time Sophie got around to apologising. And who doesn't want to play around in Eliot's psyche a bit? He really felt in a contemplative mood to me after Tap-Out, and to me, he and Sophie interact as peers; they both "get it" a lot more than the two kids, and both deal with Nate's crap more, too. So this just seemed like a natural conversation. Glad you liked. :)
Jun. 15th, 2010 12:37 pm (UTC)
to me, he and Sophie interact as peers

Yes, I agree, and that's what made flow naturally...
Jun. 15th, 2010 09:56 am (UTC)
This was really cool. I love seeing Sophie's perceptions and observations of both herself and Eliot. I hadn't ever thought about her reaction to realising Eliot can become someone else but never stop being himself.

I really like this, it's given me some really neat insights into the characters and I always enjoy that. :->
Jun. 15th, 2010 11:55 am (UTC)
Thanks! As far as I'm concerned, insights into character is what fanfic is for. Well, and fun :)

Sophie is such a delightfully complex and perceptive character, and it makes sense to me that she'd be assessing the guys on the team as much as their marks. (Although sometimes I think she gets distracted just trying to keep on top of Nate's crazy, and doesn't pay as much attention as she sometimes should to the others.) And I realised, as I wrote it, that everyone has different styles of playing their parts, and it reflects something about them. But mostly I wanted to focus on her, and Eliot. Because, well ... Eliot.
Jun. 15th, 2010 11:06 am (UTC)
I am so in awe of your writing talent! There's so much depth to this - it goes beyond character study, because it's the characters studying each other. I especially like Sophie being in awe of Eliot's self-knowledge...it perfectly foreshadows her arc later in Season 2.

If you'll forgive the pun, I'm really glad you wrestled this story into submission ;-)

Just a couple of things you might want to fix:

- converstation in the gym
- Nevada (should be Nebraska)
Jun. 15th, 2010 11:36 am (UTC)
Eep – thanks! Shall fix. This is why I need to self-edit better, or just get a beta. Maybe I'm just off because of that wretched world cup game against Germany. Still – Germany. I'm up extra early to watch NZ v Slovakia right now, let's hope you guys do a little better!

You know, I just couldn't justify those character observations without making them come out in conversation. When we have the gift of two such insightful characters, why not use them? Especially Sophie. And as you said, I like it especially because she's just beginning to search for this stuff. I think at this point there's a lot going on in her head that she isn't quite aware of yet.

And thank you. Puns are welcome around here. :)
Jun. 15th, 2010 11:55 am (UTC)
I'm listening to the Slovakia vs. New Zealand game right now, on the radio. Fingers crossed! I was at the sold-out game against Bahrain, back in November, when we qualified for South Africa. It's hard to believe that the World Cup's finally here :)

Jun. 15th, 2010 12:14 pm (UTC)
Heh, I'm at two friends' place on the west coast of the US right now, and they have HD cable something, on like a 23" screen. Which is a new one for me. But they don't seem to get that waking up at ridiculous times in the early morning and huddling blearily on the couch around a cup of coffee is an integral part of the WC watching experience. Have they no soul? So I'm here on my onesies. But it's fun. I feel very ANZAC-y at the moment. :)
Jun. 15th, 2010 01:22 pm (UTC)
And GOOOOAL!!!!! \o/
Jun. 15th, 2010 01:27 pm (UTC)
YAY! No lie...I was sitting on my bed at 1.30am, dancing and grinning like an idot :)
Jun. 15th, 2010 01:46 pm (UTC)
Great story, I love how intimate the conversation between them is, but what really stood out to me was the little bit at the end where Eliot sort of asks her not to go. Very sweet and sad.
Jun. 15th, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks – I love these kinds conversations, and the show is usually moving too quickly to take a breath and spend time on them. On the other hand, it does give us all those subtle micro-expressions that we can analyse endlessly. :)

And I do my very best to never woobify Eliot, but it does sometimes just sneak in there. I think he just likes having a friend to talk to sometimes. *wibble*
Jun. 16th, 2010 06:20 am (UTC)
This was so subtle and beautiful. I really enjoyed it. The idea of Sophie apologizing and the lovely insights she had about Eliot - really nice.
Jun. 16th, 2010 07:00 am (UTC)
Thank you! It took a while to tease apart and weave together, but sometimes I just want to be there when these characters take a breath, in the middle of their insane lives. Or at least the insane pace which is the only thing the show has time to show us. I'm glad you liked. :)
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:49 pm (UTC)
This is so wonderful. It builds so well from the episode and all the little moments and details between them are just perfect (they were my favorite part from it).

I like seeing who they are around each other when they have space to breathe.
Jul. 2nd, 2010 06:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Me too – I have a feeling a majority of my fics are going to be exploring that "space to breathe" that the show only has time to hint at (which it does very well).

They're both so subtle, somehow, and complex, and ... just so rewarding to write. Their relationship definitely dwells in the moments and details – which I am more than happy to play with....
Jul. 2nd, 2010 01:12 pm (UTC)
Beautifully done, quiet and true. Thank you.
Jul. 2nd, 2010 06:09 pm (UTC)
You're welcome – thank you.
Jul. 28th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
First off, the conversation here was incredibly in-character and spot-on, which made it a pleasure to read. Second, this, I think, is what makes Sophie and Eliot's relationship so different and arguably more interesting than any of the others -- they're equals, and they see that in each other, are intrigued by their profound similarities and profound differences. It's difficult to put into words, but you did it so well. Great job. :) I was beginning to think that Leverage wasn't getting the fanfic it deserves.
Jul. 28th, 2010 11:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! For me, that's the whole point of fanfic – these are characters, not action dolls to push and pull and pose to taste. I want to hear what they have to say, and write it!

I totally agree with the appeal and the fascinating currents of their relationship. It's so subtle, so I'm glad it came across well. I'm interested to see if this season is going to explore their friendship a bit more, considering that they must have been running the team between them while Nate was in prison.

Leverage is such a fun playground, and while lots of varieties of sex and torture are all very well, I'm glad this stuff appeals too. Because it's what I want to write! :)
Aug. 25th, 2010 01:39 am (UTC)
That was genius. Mem'd.
Aug. 25th, 2010 02:04 am (UTC)
Thank you! You might like the companion piece I ended up writing to it, too.
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
Nicely written, very intuitive looks at both characters. I especially like Sophie's realization that Eliot lives in his own skin, and her uncomfortable reaction to it, since that's the one thing she can't do. Well done.
Jul. 3rd, 2014 07:20 am (UTC)
Very well written. These stories are so much in character and show us so much depth in both the characters!This stories have to be listed with my recs on my journal if you don't mind!
Jul. 3rd, 2014 11:26 am (UTC)
Re: Great!
Thank you, I find Eliot and Sophie fascinating for those purposes, since they each have a very distinct but in-depth way of reading people, along with their different levels of self-awareness. Rec away, and thank you, I'm flattered :)
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