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 Six: Panic
Nate woke up to a fist in his face. He rolled to the side as a hand collided with his arm. Rubbing his eyes, he cursed under his breath at the sight of Sophie writhing on her side of the bed, her eyes clenched shut as she shook her head and whimpered, her legs and arms swinging wildly in the air against an invisible foe. He crept around the bed and ducked underneath an flung-out arm in order to grasp her by the shoulders and hold her still.
"Sophie!" He pushed her back into the bed and gave her a gentle shake. "Come on, Soph, wake up."
Her eyes flew open, and as he was breathing a sigh of relief, she screamed. He reached up to cup her cheek, but she tried to wrench away from him.
"Stop it, please! Please, don't hurt me." She tried to move out from underneath him and rolled a little onto her side. She cried out in pain.
"Sophie, you're okay. It's just me."
She kept struggling against him, tears streaming down her cheeks. A moment later, Nate found himself flung across the room. His back hit the wall, and he steadied himself against it. Eliot stood between Nate and the bed; Parker slipped through the door and crawled onto the bed beside Sophie, crouching near her head and stroking her hair with a tentative hand. Hardison waited in the doorway, watching.
Parker leaned closer to Sophie and murmured, "You're safe. It was just a bad dream. I'm right here. You're safe now."
Parker continued with that refrain, her hand wrapped tightly around Sophie's fingers, until Sophie turned her head towards Parker and collapsed into sobs. Parker cradled Sophie against her chest and smoothed out her dark brown hair. Nate breathed out a sigh and started towards the bed.
Eliot got in his path. "Get out, Nate."
Nate stopped and gestured towards Sophie. "But…I…"
"Get out," Eliot repeated, his voice sinking into a gravelly whisper.
Nate tightened his hands into fists; he looked again at Sophie, who was still clinging to Parker and weeping. He bowed his head and left the room in a swift stride, pushing Hardison out of his way.
"Should I go after him?" Hardison asked.
Eliot almost affirmed that question, but when he looked at Hardison and saw that the man couldn't tear his eyes away from Sophie, a mixture of horror and heartbreak on his face, he shook his head.
"No. Stay here with the girls in case Sophie needs something."
Eliot headed out of the room and down the stairs. He had a good idea about where Nate would have gone, and when he reached the bar, he growled. Nate was seated on a stool at the bar, a bottle of opened whiskey in front of him. Nate poured a fresh measure into his glass and gulped it down. He repeated the action before Eliot snatched the bottle away.
"We talked about this, Nate." Eliot sank onto the nearest stool with a groan.
Nate rubbed at his face and let out a bitter laugh. "Here to give me a lecture, Eliot?"
Eliot shook his head. "No. Just to tell you that you can't spend so much time alone with Sophie for awhile."
"So, orders, then?" Nate lifted his head to glare at Eliot. "I didn't hurt her."
"Maybe not. But, the problem is, she had a pretty violent reaction to waking up beside you. So, for the time being, you need to back off. It's what she needs."
"She hasn't asked me to go away."
Eliot clenched his hand into a fist then released it. "She's not going to. She's afraid of hurting your feelings."
Nate scowled at him. "How do you know?"
"Because she told me." Eliot saw Nate's fall and sighed. "Listen, it's not you. It's the same thing for me and Hardison, too. She needs to deal with what happened. Let her do that."
"I just want to help." Nate reached for the whiskey, and Eliot didn't stop him.
Eliot watched Nate pour some more whiskey into his glass. "I know. Move Parker into your bedroom and take the spare one for a little while. Sophie will ask for you when she's ready."
"Yeah, right." Nate swallowed the whiskey with a grimace and offered the bottle to Eliot.
Eliot got up and started for the door. "Don't stay down here too long."
Nate just shrugged and turned back to the bottle. Eliot shook his head and left.
Sophie poked at the food Eliot had brought up to her half an hour earlier. For once, he hadn't stayed to babysit; she had only eaten three bites. Parker slipped into the room and sat on the bed.
"You're not eating." Parker tilted her head to the side and looked at Sophie.
Sophie shrugged. "I'm not hungry."
"You're never hungry. But, Eliot says you have to eat."
"Eliot can sod off."
Parker drew her eyebrows together and frowned. "You do need to take care of yourself. We're counting on you to get better."
"I'm working on it," Sophie protested. "It's just, that every time I try to eat, I feel sick."
"Maybe that's because you're really hungry from not eating."
"Or maybe I just don't want any food." Sophie shoved the tray to one side; Parker's hand shot out to steady it.
"Eliot said that you might be able to get out of bed tomorrow." Parker had a hopeful smile on her face. "Are you excited?"
"Thrilled," Sophie murmured. She sank back against the pillows and huffed. "I hate being treated like an invalid."
"You are an invalid." Parker tore off a piece of the roll on the plate and stuffed it into her mouth. "But, you're getting better."
"But you're all still treating me like I could break at any second."
"You look like you will."
Sophie narrowed her eyes and looked towards Nate's window, straining to see out of it. "I haven't seen anything out of this damn room for almost two weeks."
Parker followed Sophie's line of sight and immediately shook her head. "No. No way. Eliot said you have to stay in bed."
"Parker, you love breaking the rules." Sophie's eyes sparkled. "I just want some fresh air."
"But, Eliot said…"
"When did you start letting Eliot push you around?"
Parker snapped her mouth closed and ducked her head as she tightened her jaw. She worried at her bottom lip before shaking her head.
"We're going to get in so much trouble if we get caught," Parker finally said as she clambered off the bed and wrapped Sophie's arm over her shoulder.
Sophie smirked. "I thought you never got caught."
Parker just motioned for Sophie to swing her legs off the bed and put her weight onto Parker's shoulders. Parker let out a grunt and readjusted her hands so she could keep Sophie steady. They shuffled their way towards the window. Sophie fought past the strain, refusing to let any noise escape her lips in fear that Parker would simply make her get back into bed. When they reached the window, Parker flipped the latch open with a free hand and helped Sophie position her body so she could support herself against the wall.
The breeze whispered inside, carrying the hint of a future rainstorm. "Mmm, I love the smell of rain."
"You can't smell water," Parker said, perching on the windowsill and keeping her eyes trained on Sophie.
Sophie closed her eyes and sighed. "It's a feeling, Parker."
After a few minutes, Sophie could feel her legs weakening, and she motioned for Parker to help her. Parker was off the sill in a second and pulled Sophie back up against her body. As they were adjusting for the journey back to the bed, Sophie's feet tangled up in Parker's, tripping the thief up. Parker fell towards the ground, clipping Sophie's shoulder on her way down. Sophie couldn't fight the forward momentum and fell with a thud.
Parker scrambled up from the floor and crouched beside Sophie. "Hey, are you okay?"
Sophie took a calming breath and winced at the sharp pain. "I don't think so. Help me up."
Parker grasped her by the shoulders and tried to ease her into an upright position. Sophie bit back a cry and collapsed back. Parker shook her head.
"You've probably hurt your ribs again or something." She stood up. "I'm going to get Eliot."
"No, don't, he'll yell at you." Sophie dug her teeth into her bottom lip. "Go find Nate."
Parker hesitated. "Eliot has to look at your ribs, make sure you're okay."
"Nate can do that. He's done it for Eliot." Sophie sighed. "Please, Parker."
Parker grumbled something under her breath, but she got to her feet and left the room. A few minutes later, Nate walked in and knelt down beside her.
"Parker told me that you fell down." He had a bemused smile on his face. "Want to explain how that happened?"
"I may have convinced her to help me out of bed to the window."
"What were you planning on doing? Climbing down the side of the building?"
She laughed a little and then winced in pain. "Okay, yeah, not a good idea. Help me up?"
Nate reached down and scooped her up into his arms, frowning when he realized how light she was. He placed her back on the bed and sat down beside her.
"I'm going to have to check your ribs," he said, rubbing the back of his neck. "I'm not as good as Eliot, but I get the job done."
"Why do I feel like I've heard this before?" she asked with a teasing smile.
He ignored her and pushed her shirt up until it rested beneath her breasts. He unwrapped the bandage and felt along her ribcage with gentle fingers; she still hissed at the touch. He gave her an apologetic smile and produced a roll of bandages and tape.
"I think if I wrap you up again, you'll be fine." He worked as he talked; her eyes were trained on his hands. "Of course, with this little stunt, you might have pushed your recovery back another week. Very unfortunate."
She rolled her eyes. "I'm going to die of boredom."
"You should have thought of that before you decided to get up before you were ready." He finished wrapping the bandage around her abdomen and taped it into place. "Okay, I think that should do it."
She took a careful breath and let it out. "Yeah, thanks."
He reached over for the pill bottle and offered it to her. "Here, you'll need it after that fall."
She shook out two pills and tossed them back, chasing them with a few sips of water. She motioned for him to crawl up beside her and relax against the pillows. He obeyed reluctantly. She attempted to snuggle into him but stopped.
"You've been drinking." She looked up at him with an accusing glare.
He shrugged. "Yeah, a little bit. I'm not drunk."
"Only because you've developed an insanely high tolerance for alcohol. Nate, you can't do this to yourself."
"I'm not doing anything."
She frowned and shook her head. "Yes, you are. You can't blame yourself for what's happened. It wasn't your fault."
"You know what? I do blame myself. Because it was my plan that didn't work out." She tried to protest, but he continued on. "And, I blame Hardison a little bit, too, because he was the one who accidentally tipped off Carlisle. And I blame Eliot because he didn't get there fast enough. But, it doesn't matter. I still have to see you and know there's nothing I can do to…to make things okay."
He lapsed into silence, and she took the opportunity to grab his hand, lacing her fingers through his. He stared at her; she tilted her head up and brushed her lips against his, a soft chaste pressure that was there then gone. He started to say something but stopped. She yawned.
She relaxed back into the pillows, her grip on his hand pulling him closer. "Stay with me for a little while."
"Okay," he whispered."Please don't leave." He barely heard the words leave her lips even as she drifted off to sleep.