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 Four: Cry
Nate walked up the staircase to his bedroom; the doctor Eliot had brought in had left about an hour ago, and Eliot had disappeared soon after. Nate suspected that he had gone out to hit something; he hadn't pressed too much. He opened the door and peered inside. Parker was curled up on the far side of the bed, her body curved towards Sophie but not touching her. They had gotten rid of Sophie's old clothes, and she was now dressed in an old dress shirt of his and a loose pair of shorts. She looked like she was sleeping.
Parker sat up as he walked inside, and she scooted to the edge of the bed. "She's asleep right now."
"I gathered that." Nate sighed and tugged at a wrinkle in the bedspread. "Why don't you go get some rest?"
Parker shook her head. "She needs someone to stay with her in case she wakes up."
"I'll be here," Nate replied. When she didn't move, he motioned for her to move over and sank down beside her. "Look, none of us have gotten much sleep, but we all need to take care of ourselves if we're going to be able to help her. I have a spare bedroom you can take."
"How long can I stay there?"
"As long as you want."
She tilted her head to the side, considering his offer, and then she stood up. "Okay. But, let me know when she wakes up. I need to wash her hair."
Nate almost laughed. "Is that really important?"
"It is to her." Parker started for the door and turned back. "The pills are on the bedside table. She took one dose two hours ago. She'll need another one soon."
"I can do that." Nate offered her a strained smile. "I promise, I'll come find you."
Parker nodded her head and left, closing the door behind her. Nate let out a long sigh and looked over his shoulder at Sophie. Her jaw was swelling up from where she had taken too many hits; he would have to get some ice for that later. He unbuttoned his shirt, shrugging it off until he was left in his undershirt, pants, and socks. He eased his way up the bed and settled down beside her, reaching out to stroke some of her hair away from her face.
He woke up exactly two hours later to Sophie's stirring beside him. He rolled off the bed and launched himself towards the pain pills on the table.
"Nate?" She tried to sit up but fell back with a whimper.
He shook his head and eased onto the bed beside her. "Hey, maybe that's not the best idea. I've got some more medicine for you."
She blinked and shook her head weakly. "They make me sleep too much."
"Sleep is good for you right now." He shook out two pills and held them out to her with the opened bottle of water. "Come on, Soph. You've got to be in pain."
"That's true." She swallowed the pills. "Where is everyone?"
"I hope they're getting some sleep. We've all been running on caffeine and adrenaline for longer than normal."
"But you don't know?"
He groaned and moved back to the other side of the bed. "You're the priority right now. They're all adults. They can take care of themselves."
"I'm an adult."
"Yes, but you're also hurt." He relaxed back onto the mattress and shifted so that he could pull the sheets over his body. "Which is why I'm here. I'm supposed to wake Parker up."
"Why?" Her eyes fluttered closed, but she forced them back open; the medicine was either really strong or was just working very fast because she hadn't eaten anything in over a day.
"She said she was going to wash your hair." He shrugged. "I thought it could wait until she was a little more rested."
The laughter bubbled out of Sophie's mouth before she could stop it, and he stared at her, a little incredulous, as she hiccupped her way through one laugh after another, tears falling down her cheeks as the pain and mirth mixed together. Soon, the laughing was gone, though, and the tears still dripped out of her eyes. He edged closer to her, reaching out to place a hesitant hand on her arm. She flinched but didn't move away.
"Soph?" He tried to look her in the eyes, but she turned her head to the side. "Are you okay?"
"What the bloody hell do you think, Nate?" she forced out even as she sobbed. "I...I just...oh, God, Nate."
She collapsed against the pillows, her hand flinging out blindly to clutch at his arm in a death grip; she was choking even as she tried to negotiate the crying and breathing, and he realized that she was well on her way to a panic attack. He moved closer, lifting her a little into his arms so that he could cradle her head against his chest.
"Come on, Soph," he murmured, pressing a kiss to her head. "Breathe. In and out. Slow, deep breaths."
She was still clinging to him, but she focused on his calming voice and the rise and fall of his chest as he mimicked the breathing pattern he was describing. She could feel herself sinking again the welcome oblivion the medicine brought with it. She shut her eyes and turned her face inwards towards his neck, inhaling the familiar scent of cologne and alcohol and sweat. With a sigh, she let go; he felt her slip into sleep again and arranged her back against the pillows.
He waited for a little while to make sure she was actually sleeping before he headed to the bathroom to get a wet bathcloth. When he came back, he used the cloth to wipe away the salty tracks of her tears, wincing even as he ran the cool fabric over the bruises. He finished and laid the bathcloth to the side, sinking back into the bed to catch a few more hours of sleep before she woke up again.
Hardison flinched when Eliot slammed the door to Nate's apartment closed. Eliot walked over to the couch, and Hardison looked up at him, grimacing when he saw the sweat drying on Eliot's clothes.
"You couldn't shower first, man?" Hardison asked as he hunched over his laptop.
"Came to see if you had checked through the rest of the footage," Eliot replied. When Hardison didn't answer, he rolled his eyes. "Well, have you?"
"Hmm, I'm sorry, can you repeat that? Because I certainly didn't hear a 'please' in that last sentence."
"Fine, fine." Hardison typed for a little bit and nodded towards three pictures that came up on the television screens. "Those guys were involved, but they weren't there when we got Sophie back. Carlisle wasn't there, either."
"I already knew that." Eliot wandered over to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of water. "You got any addresses or something?"
"You know, when will you people ever learn that I don't just pull names out of my ass?" Hardison shook his head and lounged back into the couch. "Of course I have addresses for them. I also have social security numbers, credit card numbers, details of everything they do on the Internet... Whatever you could want to take them down, I've got it."
Eliot mopped the residual sweat from his forehead with a towel. "Has Nate said anything to you about taking down the rest of these guys?"
"I haven't seen him since he went up to his room. He's been with Sophie for the past, um, five hours."
"Sleeping in the spare bedroom. Either that, or she's back with Sophie. The only reason she even left the room is because Nate pretty much kicked her out."
"Oh, okay." Eliot paused, curling his hand into a fist and looking around the room. He forced himself to relax. "Well, I'm going to make some supper. We all need to eat something, and Sophie needs to get some food into her system."
"I'll be right here if you need me."
"Don't count on it."
Sophie woke up to find Parker staring down at her. She just blinked at the sight, having gotten used to such unusual wake-up calls a long time ago.
"How long have I been asleep?" she asked as she rolled her head to the side in an attempt to get a glimpse at the clock; it hurt too much to move more than was absolutely necessary.
"Six hours." Parker leaned over to the side and shifted the clock so Sophie could see the display. "Nate left an hour ago because Eliot made food. He has something for you. Says you need to eat."
"I'm not hungry." Her stomach almost turned over at the thought of food.
Parker shrugged. "I wouldn't argue with him. He's been really quiet. And scary. I don't like it."
"Nate mentioned earlier that you wanted to wash my hair for me." Sophie attempted a smile and winced at the movement of her lips. She settled for a look that she hoped was a little reassuring. "I would really like a bath, too, if you wouldn't mind."
"I would have to ask Eliot," Parker replied softly. She smirked and flung herself off the bed towards the door, leaning out to shout down the stairs, "Hey, Eliot, can Sophie have a bath?"
Eliot groaned and slammed a pot down onto the counter. "Just don't get her bandages wet!"
Parker turned from the door and grinned. "He said that it's fine."
Parker walked around the bed, her eyes on Sophie the entire time. She tilted her head to the side, nodded her head, and walked promptly into the bathroom. Sophie waited. She could hear Parker turn the water on and off a few times, possibly filling a bowl or something. Parker eventually trotted back into the room bearing a large bowl, two washcloths, a bar of soap, a bottle of shampoo, and two fluffy towels.
She moved to the head of the bed and set the bowl down on the table. "Okay, it'll probably be easiest if I get the table close enough to the bed that you lay down and sort-of lean over it."
She helped Sophie manoeuvre into position; luckily, the table was lower than the bed, so it meant that she didn't really have to hover over the bowl. Parker wrapped a towel around Sophie's shoulders and proceeded to dip Sophie's dark hair into the water, using her hands to move the liquid through the thick curls. Sophie focused on keeping perfectly still and not thinking about the fact that her back and chest were burning. Parker's fingers massaged the shampoo into her scalp and then washed the soap away. Holding Sophie's hair above the water, she squeezed out the excess liquid and took the towel from her shoulders to wrap around her hair.
"Okay, now, back onto the bed," Parker told her even as she guided Sophie into a sitting position and then back against the pillows.
She marched out again and dumped the water into the bathtub, running a combination of cold and hot water back into the bowl. Her hands trembled, and she leaned over the cool marble, closing her eyes against the tears that were stinging there. She took two deep breaths, and satisfied that she was once again in control, she turned off the water and took the bowl back into the bedroom. She pulled the towel from around Sophie's hair and combed out the tangles with the comb she had grabbed from Nate's dresser.
Once she was finished with that, she slipped Sophie's shirt over her head, careful to avoid touching any of her bandaged wounds. She did the same with the shorts. Sophie watched Parker as the lithe girl dipped the washcloth into the warm water and lathered it up with soap. This was why she had asked Parker and not any of the others. It wasn't because all the rest of them were men. It was just that it would bother Hardison to see Sophie so exposed; Eliot would be willing to bathe her, but he was so much of a gentleman that, outside of caring for her when she was hurt, he wouldn't be able to keep from feeling like he was taking advantage of her; and, with Nate, he would look at her and want her, and proceed to feel guilty about desiring her when she was hurt.
Parker, on the other hand, simply worked. She didn't take the time to examine any feature of Sophie, simply running the washcloth along her battered skin, so careful not to touch any of the bandages. She didn't attempt to say anything, and for that, Sophie was grateful. She wasn't much for conversation at the moment, not when everything was crowding on in her head and the pain was pulsing back through her very bones.
When Parker was finished, she helped Sophie into a clean shirt and pair of shorts. She disposed of the towels and washcloths and the water. Then, she left. She slipped out of Nate's apartment and took the stairs to the roof two at a time. When she was outside in the cold air, she wrapped her arms around her middle and wandered over to the edge. She hoisted herself over it and perched there, waiting. Tears fell down her cheeks.
It only took him two minutes to find her. She felt his hand on her shoulder, and she swiped at her running nose in anger. Anger at the fact that she was crying when she wasn't the one who was hurt.
"I know I'm being stupid," she whispered.
Hardison shook his head and wrapped a gentle arm around her shoulders. "No, mama, you're not. It's okay. I'm right here."She didn't turn around and collapse into his arms. But, she did reach her hand up and lace her fingers through his.