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 Nine: Bend
Tara popped her neck and glanced over at Eliot. "Ready to roll?"
He grunted. "Yeah. Still don't like this plan. Bastard is getting off too easy."
"Well, can't we do something about that?"
"Things happen, you know. If you change the script, then you can do what you want." She grinned. "Explain again why we're playing by Nate's rules?"
He gave her a grim smile. "Okay, I'm in. What do you want to do?"
"I do believe karma is a bitch. I'll give you a signal, okay?"
He just hummed in approval; she raised her eyebrows but didn't say anything.
Hardison was going to kill them. Eliot and Tara were currently off his radar since they had taken their earpieces out, and Nate was refusing to go after them. In the meantime, he was left to keep Sophie from finding out anything. The woman had been a mess of nerves since Tara's first meeting with Carlisle, and she was currently pacing the floor of Nate's bedroom. He hoped she stayed up there until he got Eliot and Tara back on their comms.
"Messing up all the work I put into this plan." He was typing a little harder than he should. "Didn't sleep for two whole nights, and because he wants to go bust some heads…"
"Shut up, Hardison." Parker sighed and readjusted her position on the roof of Carlisle's office building. "He deserves this."
"Yeah, and we're not throwing out the plan," Nate said. "We're just…delaying it."
"Well, you can be the one to explain that to Sophie."
"Explain what?" Sophie was looking at him from where she was standing on the staircase.
"Why we don't have any orange juice?" Hardison offered weakly.
She narrowed her eyes and crossed the room, swiping an earpiece before he could stop her. "Nate, tell me what the hell is going on."
"Hardison, you were supposed to keep her occupied."
"Me? Okay, you're just asking for miracles now." Hardison shook his head. "I'm supposed to keep up with four crazy people who can't stay on script and entertain a woman who is five minutes away from a nervous breakdown. Seriously, not cool."
"I'm not about to have a nervous breakdown." She looked at the computer screen, but she couldn't make out what was going on. "Talk to me, Nate. What's happening?"
"Nothing, really. Everything is going according to plan."
She rolled her eyes. "You're lying. Parker? You wouldn't lie to me, would you?"
"Eliot and Tara have Carlisle, and they're probably torturing him right now," Parker blurted out in one breath.
"That's all she has to do to make you tell her anything?" Nate asked. "You could have lied."
"She would know."
"Sophie just knows." Parker huffed and dangled her feet over the side of the building. "I'm bored now."
"Don't go anywhere." Nate sighed. "Soph, they're fine. I promise."
"I have no doubt they are." Sophie's voice bit into him like acid. "I hope you know what you're doing."
"The smart thing," Hardison muttered. "Eliot's been looking for blood, and Tara is right there with him. Carlisle is going to wish they would just kill him."
"I told you to keep an eye on them, Nate. Next time, listen to me." Sophie pulled the earpiece out of her ear and tossed it onto the counter. "Let me know when you get them back, Hardison."
"Will do," he called after her as she started up the stairs. He turned back to his computer. "So, what do we do now?"
"We'll wait." Nate glanced out the window of the office building he was currently in. "Parker, you have the files?"
"Okay. Stay where you are. Got that?"
"Fine." She sat down and looked over the edge of the roof. "I never get to do anything fun."
"Parker, you're sitting on a roof, waiting to jump off," Hardison put in. "I thought you liked doing that."
"This is too easy. I didn't even get to use my taser."
"I thought Eliot took that away from you."
She snickered. "Yeah, he did."
Nate groaned. "Hardison, what about those three guys you tracked down?"
"I've got all their information and linked them to the prostitution rings. We just have to make sure the police get the paper trail."
"Can you handle that?"
"Yeah. Nothing else to do."
"Are you sure that I can't go clean out the other safes in the building?"
"What do you people want?" Carlisle struggled against the ropes binding him in a wooden chair. "I'll give you whatever you want. Just name it."
Tara sighed heavily and wandered over to him, pulling out a knife. "I thought I told you to shut up."
Carlisle shrank away from her. "Please don't hurt me."
"Is that what she said while you held her down and raped her?" Eliot joined Tara, lashing out at Carlisle's right leg and hitting his shin with a well-placed kick; they all heard the bone crack.
Tara traced a path down Carlisle's chest with her knife to his thighs, dangling the point over his crotch. "You know, I could take your balls. You would probably make it to the emergency room and survive. What do you think?"
"Please. Why are you doing this?"
"You hurt our partner." Eliot knelt down so he could stare Carlisle down. "We take that kind of personally."
"She was trying to con me out of my money!"
"I'm getting bored. Maybe I'll take a few fingers as well." Tara flicked the knife's edge against one of his thumbs, grinning when he whimpered. "It isn't as much fun when you're not doing the torturing, is it?"
Eliot reached out and wrenched Carlisle's middle finger in the opposite direction of the way it was supposed to bend. Carlisle screamed as the bone snapped in half. Eliot repeated the action on the opposite hand. A dark patch spread along the front of Carlisle's pants.
Tara snorted. "This is pathetic."
Eliot shook his head and forced Carlisle to look at him. "Listen, this is the way this is going down. The police are going to come and take you away. You will not tell anyone about us. If you do, well, I promise, we can do much worse than this without killing you."
Tara grabbed his thumb and cut it off. Some blood spurted onto her clothes as the appendage fell to the floor and Carlisle's yells rebounded off the walls.
"Much worse," she whispered into his ear, trailing the knife's point along his cheeks, pushing a little harder and breaking the delicate skin.
Eliot stood back and watched as Tara lit a cigarette and crossed in front of Carlisle, taking a long drag and blowing the smoke into his face. As Carlisle choked on the contaminated air, Tara pressed the butt to his forehead in one swift movement. The stench of burning skin drifted into the atmosphere, and Eliot wrinkled his nose. He didn't move to stop her. Tara moved back and cocked her head to the side, admiring her handiwork.
"You should break some of his ribs. I'll call the cops."
Eliot nodded his head and moved in as Carlisle said, "You're calling the cops?"
"Of course. How else are they supposed to know how to find you? Of course, we'll be long gone. Eliot, work quickly?" Tara turned away from the two and pulled out her phone.
Eliot hefted a crowbar he had liberated from the trunk of Tara's car and swung it into Carlisle's chest. The crack was audible. Eliot repeated the motion, this time aiming a little lower. Carlisle was doubled over in pain, trying to keep Eliot from attacking again. The crowbar just caught him along the jaw and broke it.
"Well, I guess that will work." Eliot slung the crowbar over his shoulder and wandered over to Tara. "Ready?"
"Yeah. We'll let the others know what's going on after we get to the car."
Eliot looked back and said, "Remember, one word to anyone, and I will find you."
Tara lit up another cigarette and inhaled as they walked out. "We do good work together."
"We have three others to take care of."
"Really? I thought the police were picking them up."
"Do you really want it to go that way?"
"Of course not."
Eliot shrugged. "Then, come on. Hit hard and fast."
Tara smirked and crushed her cigarette under her heel before climbing into the driver's side of the car. "Get in, Sparky."
Sophie walked the length of Nate's bedroom and back again to the window, her thumb resting against her bottom lip. Nate and Parker had gotten back, but there was still no word from Eliot or Tara.
"You shouldn't worry about them."
She whirled around to look at Nate. He was standing in the doorway, leaning against the frame, his hands shoved deep into his pockets.
She laughed in bitter amusement and shook her head. "I didn't want this to happen. I told him that."
"There are some things that you can't stop."
"Like you didn't stop them even though you knew they would go off on their own?"
"Whatever happens to those men, they deserve it." He sighed and walked into the room, closing the door behind him. "You know that."
"I've seen what Tara can do. Back when we worked together, it wasn't just art that we stole. The people we worked with, the things we did…." She trailed off and looked back out the window. "It's not something I wanted to happen here, no matter what those men did to me. I left that part of my life behind me a long time ago."
"You're not the one hunting them down and torturing them."
"It's because of me. Pretty much the same thing."
"Why?" He moved in some, brushing his fingers against her arm.
She withdrew, wrapping her arms across her chest. "I want them to hurt. I've never…what happened…it haunts me constantly. I screamed, begged, and…nothing. They held me down. Hurt me. Raped me. Because they wanted to."
He pressed his lips together, his hands clenching into involuntary fists. He breathed deeply and forced his fingers to relax; moving slowly, he reached out for her and pulled her into an embrace. Her hair fell into her face as she rested her forehead against his shoulder, a shudder coursing through her body.
"I don't care what you've done in the past. It doesn't matter anymore. You're here. What we do, that's part of who you are now." He smiled a little. "And, no matter what, I'm right here with you."
"Small comfort," she sniffled through the tears that were falling down her cheeks.
He laughed. "Yeah, I get it. I'm a bastard who drinks too much."
"You forgot control freak."
"Are you ever planning on saying something nice to me?"
She tilted her head back and met his eyes. "I trust you."
He wiped away the tear tracks on her face with his thumb, his other hand curving with familiarity around her waist. "Yeah, me too."
"Hey, Nate, Eliot and Tara are back!" Hardison yelled up the stairs.
He sighed and stepped back, his hand traveling down her arm to catch onto the edges of her fingers. "I should probably get down there and chew them out."
"I'll be down in a minute," she said quietly, turning away.He ran his fingers through his hair, wincing when he hit a snarl. He scuffed his shoe against the floor and walked out, leaving the door open. She drifted back to the window and peered up into the sky. Her hands rested against her abdomen; she could feel the outlines of the bandages wrapped around her ribs. The scars were almost gone. She wished it was as easy to forget.