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 Five: Stay
Sophie eyed the soup in front of her with distaste. "I thought I said I'm not hungry."
"You need to eat," Eliot replied with a look that almost made the argument die on her lips. "It's not healthy to take that kind of pain medicine and not eat. Besides, you haven't eaten in nearly two days. If you want to get better, you need some sort of stable diet."
She frowned and poked at it with her spoon before taking a small taste. It was chicken soup, and the rich flavors of the broth washed over her tongue; she swallowed back the bile that rose up her throat and forced herself to take a little bit of a larger bite. Eliot crossed his arms over his chest and watched as she struggled to keep eating. A few minutes later, she shook her head and sat back.
"I can't eat anymore," she said quietly, expecting him to berate her.
He took the tray from the bed. "Okay."
"Nothing to say about how I need to eat more?"
"You made an attempt. Forcing you to eat more will probably make you sick." He placed the tray on the bedside table and sat down beside her on the mattress. "You know, you don't have to pretend you're okay."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"We all know what happened. Hell, Nate and Hardison saw some of it when they were looking through the footage from the warehouse. You don't have to be so damn strong about it."
"Are you criticizing how I'm coping?"
"I'm saying that I get that you're used to acting and stuff. But, you don't have to pretend with us. If you want to cry or talk or anything, you need to do it. You can't keep this all bottled up inside. It'll end up destroying you."
She narrowed her eyes and snapped, "I'm fine. What happened, happened. I'll deal with it the way I want to."
He reached out to touch her arm, and she almost flinched away. She stopped herself, but he withdrew.
"See, that's what I'm talking about." He gestured at her stiffened posture and sighed. "Sophie, you need to be honest about how you're feeling. Even if that means you don't feel comfortable with being touched. Even if it means breaking down. Even if it means that you need to, I don't know, scream and throw things at me. Whatever."
"I don't want to be a burden." She sniffled and tried to hide the fact that she was on the verge of tears. "Damn it."
"Hey, we want to do this for you." He tried to smile. "Parker washed your hair for you and gave you a bath. I think that's a pretty big deal for her."
"What about Nate?"
"What about him?"
"Do you think he'll understand that it's not him that I'm afraid of?" The tears were falling rapidly down her cheeks. "I don't want to hurt him."
"Honestly, honey, I think he'll get it. And if he doesn't, I'll beat some sense into him." He reached out and offered his hand to her to hold. "You know, I'm not really good at this."
"You're doing fine." She smiled at him with trembling lips. "Do you think you can stay here until I fall asleep?"
"I'll do anything you need," he said quietly.
He grabbed the pill bottle and shook out two; offering them to her, he waited until she swallowed them down and relaxed into the wall of pillows Parker had established for her. He stroked the back of her hand and hummed a soft tune as he watched her eyes flutter closed and the rise and fall of her chest as her breathing evened out. He stayed there for a little while longer than he needed. When he finally left, he leaned over and pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead before leaving.
Nate was waiting on him outside the door. Eliot closed the bedroom door and leaned against it, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Need something?" Eliot asked.
Nate shifted his feet and glanced down at the floor before looking back up at Eliot. "I was going to stay with her while she slept. So, you know, she doesn't wake up alone or anything."
Eliot eyed him. "Why not send Parker?"
"She's busy planning out revenge with Hardison. Besides, she's a little too hyper to sit still that long."
"I'm sure she would do it for Sophie."
"Any of us would." Nate glared at him in irritation. "Are you trying to keep me away from her?"
Eliot shrugged. "Not really. I just don't know if you're the best thing for her right now."
"What are you talking about?" Nate was definitely getting angry now.
"She was raped." Eliot's voice had gone hard, and even though he was shorter than Nate, his glare was making the older man contemplate backing down. "Waking up to any man beside her probably isn't going to help her mental state. It's nothing personal, Nate."
Nate sighed. "Look, I get what you're trying to say. But, she's been fine with me. If she wasn't, I would leave her alone. I just don't want to leave her alone."
Eliot nodded his head and moved to the side. "Fine. But, one sign from her that she doesn't want you there, you leave. If not, well…"
He didn't have to finish that sentence for Nate to understand. After Nate had disappeared into the bedroom, Eliot headed down the staircase to find Hardison and Parker huddled at the long table set up in front of the wall of televisions.
"I heard you two were planning something."
Hardison looked up and grinned. "We were waiting on you. Come on, it's going to be a great plan. You'll like it."
"You get to bust heads!" Parker chimed in with a wide grin that was a little disturbing.
Eliot gave her a smile that sent a shiver down Hardison's spine; he was quickly reminded why it was best to stay on Eliot's good side.
Eliot turned to Hardison. "Well? Are you going to share your genius plan or not?"
Sophie gritted her teeth when she shifted and a ripple of pain rushed through her torso. Eliot had changed her bandages earlier that day, and even though he had proclaimed that she was starting to heal up, she didn't feel like it. The burns on her legs had almost disappeared, so she supposed that was at least one small thing. She attempted to focus back on the book in her hands, but she found she couldn't stop thinking.
A knock on the doorway made her look up. She smiled at the sight of Parker.
"This is a first," Sophie said as she put her book to the side.
Parker wrinkled her forehead and crossed over to the bed. "I've been visiting you every day. More than once."
"I was talking about the knocking." Sophie couldn't help the smile that spread across her face.
Parker shrugged. "Eliot said I shouldn't sneak up on you."
Sophie just nodded her head and patted the other side of the bed. Parker crawled up beside her, immediately curling up close but not enough to rub against Sophie's body.
"What have you been doing downstairs?" Sophie asked as Parker reached up to play with a few locks of her dark brown hair.
"Planning how to go about destroying Carlisle."
Sophie couldn't help the shudder that rushed through her at the mention of the name; Parker stiffened, certain she had said something wrong, but a moment later, Sophie was smiling at her again. Parker let out a small breath.
"Eliot's favorite plan just involves beating him into a pulp." Parker hummed under her breath and shook her head. "But, I'm not supposed to talk about that. What are you reading?"
Sophie almost laughed at Parker's attempt to redirect the conversation. "Harry Potter. Have you ever read any of the books?"
Parker shook her head. "I thought they were for kids."
"For the most part. I find them entertaining."
Parker grabbed the heavy book and looked at the cover before tossing it back to the bedspread. "I don't really read all that much."
"You're missing out," Sophie said teasingly.
"Well, then, why don't you read it to me?"
Sophie raised her eyebrows; she hadn't been expecting that. "What?"
"You like reading. I don't really like it, but I like stories. You need a distraction. Why not?"
She would have been hard-pressed to come up with a good argument for Parker's logic, if only because Parker could contest the point for hours with reasons that would become progressively stranger. And, in a way, it would be nice if she could keep Parker entertained and therefore with her for longer than thirty minutes. She didn't like spending so much time alone while the others were busy.
"Okay. It's a good thing that I'm in the middle of the first one."
Parker relaxed back into the pillows beside her and grabbed the book. "I'll hold it and turn the pages."So, Sophie scooted closer to Parker and leaned her head on the girl's shoulder. Parker patted the top of Sophie's head and opened the book to the first page. And, Sophie started to read to Parker about a world far away, where magic existed and life was tinged with wonder. They both pretended that Sophie didn't start crying halfway through the first chapter; and later, when Sophie had fallen asleep after making it through five chapters, Parker didn't move. She just stayed there on the bed and closed her eyes and listened to Sophie's soft breathing.