Spoilers: Through the end of season 3, but nothing major.
Characters: Sophie Devereaux, Nathan Ford, Alec Hardison, Eliot Spencer, Parker, and Tara Cole.
Pairings: Nate/Sophie, mentions of Parker/Hardison, Eliot/Tara, and past Sophie/Tara
Summary: When a con goes south, Sophie is kidnapped by the mark. The team scrambles to save her, and even when rescued, they discover that some scars run too deep to ever be forgotten.
Chapter Two: Retrieval
"If you had done your job, this wouldn't have happened!" Eliot snarled, curling his hands into fists as he tried to keep from beating Hardison into a pulp.
Hardison didn't look up from his computer, his fingers flying across the keyboard. "I did my job, man. What about you? Aren't you supposed to have our backs?"
Eliot growled and punched the wall, nearly breaking through it. Hardison shuddered at the low thud and let his head fall into his hands as he sighed; Parker appeared at his side, her gaze far away even as she rested her hands on Hardison's shoulders.
"We need you to find Sophie," Parker whispered, her fingers digging into Hardison.
He almost flinched away from her but simply removed her talon-like grasp and patted the couch beside him. "I'm working on it, mama. Where's Nate?"
"What do you have, Hardison?" Nate asked as he walked into the room, his coffee cup clutched tightly in his hands.
Eliot turned from where he had been staring at the wall and eyed Nate's coffee cup. Nate met Eliot's gaze, and Eliot backed down first, satisfied that his unspoken question had been answered.
Hardison pulled up the security footage he had collected. "I pulled everything from the cameras, but after they left the building, I lost track of them. Now, see that car?" He pointed out a black SUV. "That's the one that left with Sophie. If we can find the SUV, we'll find them."
Eliot stepped forward. "They want to know about the rest of us, so they won't have gone far. It'd be a security risk until they know we won't take any further action against their company. They probably didn't leave the city."
Nate looked at him. "Where would be the best place to keep a hostage?"
"Somewhere quiet." Eliot shrugged. "Warehouse, abandoned building, basically anywhere there won't be a lot of people."
"Thanks, man, that really helps," Hardison snapped.
"Eliot," Nate warned when Eliot flexed his fingers and took a few steps in Hardison's direction. Eliot backed down. Satisfied, Nate said, "I need all of you to stay focused. Blame isn't really important right now. Hardison, get to work and let me know if you find anything. Eliot, we'll work on a rescue plan. And, Parker…just don't leave."
Parker had collapsed onto the couch beside Hardison a few minutes earlier, and she didn't look up in acknowledgment of Nate's instructions.
Nate sighed. "Parker?" When he again didn't get an answer, he reached out to touch her shoulder; she shied away from him. He sighed. "Parker, I'll let you know if we need your help. I just…. Just, please, stay here for now."
He left with Eliot in tow, and Hardison looked over at her, his eyes wide with concern. He reached out with his foot and nudged her leg.
"Hey, mama, are you doing okay?"
She looked up at him. "I want to help."
Hardison reached behind him to grab a spare laptop before handing it off to her. "Here. Let me pull up a list of possible locations, and you can research them."
She ran her fingers over the keys, and he saw the tremble in the slender digits.
"We're going to find her. I promise."
He offered a small smile when her eyes flickered up to his, and he reached over to give her hand a small squeeze.
Sophie let out a small moan as she opened her eyes. She squinted against the harsh fluorescent light and focused on locating the source of the pain rippling through her body. Wriggling her fingers, she shifted her right arm; her left arm followed the movement. They had chained her wrists back up to the wall, then, probably after she had passed out. She attempted a deep breath and immediately regretted it when pain exploded in her chest, causing tears to well up in her eyes. She cataloged that action under the category of "very bad ideas" and settled for listening to see if she could hear anyone near her. The fact that her clothes had been put back on dimly registered in the back of her mind. The sound of pacing echoed back to her through the large building. That was a good thing; they didn't know she was awake.
They didn't like that she hadn't answered their questions. Who do you work with? Where are they now? It was like a bad action movie when the hero was captured and tortured for information; the movies never did mention how badly it all hurt, though. The hours had bled together to the point that she would almost believe that she had been there forever, and her world had never consisted of anything past the pain and fear. She hadn't told them anything; she wondered if Eliot would be proud of her resistance. Of course, her motivations to protect the team weren't purely noble. She wasn't stupid. She knew they would kill her once they got the information they wanted. And even though death seemed like an attractive option, she had a damned stubborn survival instinct that was working on full blast.
Fingers prodded at her abdomen, and she tensed. They were talking over her prone body, but she knew that they knew she was awake. She had hoped for a longer respite. The questions came at her, rolling over her ears, but she didn't really hear them. It didn't matter. She wasn't going to answer. She couldn't help smirking a little at their increasing frustration; that smugness earned her a slap that snapped her head to the side. Hands pulled at her, forcing her to a kneeling position where she supported her weight on her hands and knees. She knew what was coming and closed her eyes, her teeth digging into her bottom lip. She couldn't keep the scream from tearing out of her.
Hardison finally had a location after spending the past thirty-six hours searching without rest. Parker had passed out on the couch after they reached the thirty-hour mark, and though Eliot and Nate had floated in and out, they had stayed out of his way and in a self-imposed exile. A lot of guilt was being passed around with no absolution to ease the burden. He shook Parker awake.
"Hey, mama, do you think you can find Eliot?" he asked gently as she blinked and attempted to focus on his face.
She sat up. "Did you find her?"
She knocked the air out of him when she lunged into his arms and wrapped her arms around his neck. Within a moment, she released him and left; he shook his head and set out to find Nate. It only took one guess to figure out where the older man had gone. Hardison found him downstairs at the bar, staring down a glass of scotch. Hardison put a hand on Nate's shoulder.
"Hey, Nate, we need you upstairs."
Nate didn't look away from the glass. "Did you find her?"
"Yeah. Come on, man. You're kind of freaking me out."
Nate got up with a groan and followed Hardison out of the bar and back up to his apartment. Hardison paused outside the door and turned back to face Nate.
"Have you been down there the whole time?"
"Yeah." Nate rubbed at his eyes and swayed on the spot.
"Maybe we should rest before we go rescue her."
"No." Nate's eyes were blazing, and he gripped the door knob in a white-knuckled fist. "Sophie is our first priority. As soon as we go over the plan, we head out."
"You're not in any shape to be able to pull off a rescue mission."
"That's not your call. Now, let's go. I need you to tell me where she is."
Hardison relented and let himself into the apartment, taking note of the fact that Eliot was now present and looked like he hadn't slept either. Parker was waiting for him on the couch, her taser in her hands. Hardison eyed it nervously before pulling up photos of the warehouse where Sophie was located, along with the building's schematics.
Parker and Nate waited as Eliot approached the warehouse, shadowing him by a few feet. He disappeared inside the building, and once the grunts and sounds of Eliot's fist smashing into someone's face reached their ears, they ran inside. Parker was the first to spot Sophie, attached to the wall near the back with a chain and handcuff combination. Nate fingered the gun he was carrying; he wasn't taking any chances in case one of the guards got past Eliot. However, Eliot seemed to be handling it, a storm of fury unleashed, and Nate wondered if some of them would ever get up again. He joined Parker at Sophie's side; Parker had already picked the lock and freed her.
Sophie groaned and opened her eyes. "Nate?"
He knelt beside her. "We're here to rescue you."
He picked her up with ease, and Parker whipped out her taser when a guard attempted to sneak up behind them. He went down, twitching as Parker let a sadistic smile spread across her face. Sophie curled into Nate's body as he took off at a run with Parker close behind.
"Eliot, let's go!" Nate ordered as he approached the entrance.
The couple of guards not already on the ground were backing away as Eliot grinned.
"I'm almost through here," Eliot replied.
Nate started to argue, but at the cold anger in Eliot's eyes, he decided to leave it alone. From the looks of it, Eliot would be with them in a few minutes anyway. Hardison was waiting with the van. Parker pulled open the back doors and scooted into the cool interior, kneeling at the top of the air mattress they had brought with them. Nate laid Sophie out on the mattress, wincing when she let out a whimper of pain.
Eliot appeared at the back and jumped inside. "We're clear. Let's go."
Hardison hit the gas pedal and peeled out of there. Eliot shoved Nate aside and reached out with a gentle hand to touch Sophie's cheek, pulling her attention in his direction.
"Hey," he said in a soft voice. "I need to check out your injuries. Figure out if you need a hospital."
"No hospital," she murmured. Her dark eyes were clouded over with pain. "I just want to go home."
Eliot didn't reply to that and moved to pull her tattered blouse up so he could examine her abdomen and rib cage. Nate couldn't keep from hissing at the sight of the dark bruises that mottled her skin. Eliot explored the area with ginger hands.
"You've got a broken rib, Sophie," he said. "And a few more are cracked."
Sophie shook her head. "No hospitals."
Eliot started to protest, but Nate intervened. "We're going to respect her wishes, just like we do for you. Is this anything you can't take care of?"
"No." Eliot started to say something else but bit it back. "I don't think so."Parker had scooted forward until she had managed to get her knees on the top of the mattress so she could cradle Sophie's head in her lap. Eliot sighed and leaned against the wall of the van as Nate reached out for Sophie's hand. Her fingers curled into his, and she didn't let go of him until they reached his apartment.