alinaandalion: (hanna03)
Title:  Haunted
Author:  alinaandalion
Rating:  M
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 Eleven:  Confusion

Nate woke up the next morning and smiled at the sight of Sophie sleeping peacefully beside him.  Judging by the light coming through his curtains, it was early in the morning; he kissed her forehead and slid out of the bed.  He shivered a little when the cool air hit his bare skin, and he fumbled around for his boxers and shirt from last night.  Pulling them on, he wandered out of the room and down the stairs.
            He made a beeline for his coffeepot.  The first strong whiff of the brewing coffee drifted against his nose; he sighed and released the tension remaining from the previous night.  While he couldn’t say he was unhappy with the current turn of events, he still felt taken by surprise and a little off-kilter because he didn’t know the next step to take.
            It was too early in the morning to be thinking so much.  He turned his attention to the refrigerator with the intention of making Sophie an omelet and having breakfast in bed with her.  He amended the idea to just giving her breakfast in bed when the door opened, and Eliot and Tara walked in.
            “Good morning.”  He ran a quick hand through his hair and tried to put on a smile.
            Eliot frowned at him, and before Nate could do anything, Eliot reached him in two strides and punched him across the jaw.
            Nate fell back onto his ass and slid a little along the floor.  “What the hell?”
            “Where is she?” Eliot growled.
            Tara immediately stepped in between the two men.  “What is wrong with you, Eliot?”
            “The bastard slept with her last night!”
            She raised an eyebrow and moved out of Eliot’s way.  “Okay, then.  Have at him.”
            Nate was saved from Eliot’s fists by Sophie’s voice floating down the stairs.  “Nate?  What’s going on?”
            He looked up and saw her in a rumpled dress shirt with her hair still messy and her eyes squinted with sleep.  He couldn’t help grinning at her; she didn’t notice him, however, since her attention was focused on Eliot and Tara.
            “What are you doing here?”  Her cheeks started to color with embarrassment, and she clutched the shirt tighter to her body.
            Tara spoke up first.  “We were coming to check on you, and Eliot was going to cook breakfast.”
            “Wait, were the two of you together last night?”  Nate hoped that maybe he would be able to shift the focus onto a new topic.
            “No.”  Eliot was still growling, and he looked like he wanted to break Nate into very tiny pieces.  “I went and picked her up from Sophie’s apartment.”
            “But, now, the two of you.”  Tara grinned and Nate was reminded of a shark before the kill.  “It seems you’ve had an exciting night.”
            Nate didn’t think it was possible before that day for Sophie to blush as much as she was at that moment.  He felt a little bad for her.
            She looked around and stammered, “I’m going to go, um, get a shower and, well, maybe put on some clothes.”
            She retreated up the stairs, and Nate started edging his way in that direction because he really wanted to talk to her and make sure she was okay.  Besides, it seemed like a safer idea than remaining in the same room as Eliot.
            Tara noticed what he was doing and nodded her head.  “Yeah, go take care of her, and I’ll keep Eliot busy down here.”
            “I don’t need a babysitter,” Eliot growled.
            “Just give them some alone time.”  She started herding him toward the kitchen.  “Besides, I was promised breakfast, and I’m starving.”
            Nate left them to the task of breakfast and walked up the stairs.  The door to his bedroom was closed, but he left himself in, suspecting that Sophie was already in the shower.  He wasn’t entirely correct.  She was standing with her back to him, clad only in her underwear; she turned to face him, and he shut the door behind him.
            Her lips curved upward in a shy smile.  He crossed the room and rested his hands on her hips in a light grip, dipping his head down to kiss her.  She pressed forward into him and slipped her hands into his hair as she traced her tongue along his lips and pushed it into his mouth.  He rubbed gentle circles against her skin and held her a little tighter when she moaned and shuddered against him. 
            She moved away first.  “I need a shower.”
            He reached for her again, but she brushed past him and grabbed a towel out of his second closet.  He was already aching for her again, so he tried to follow after her.
            “Alone, Nate.” 
            She slipped into his bathroom and shut the door in his face.  He sighed and lay down on the bed to maybe catch some extra sleep while he waited.
            When she finished with her shower, she wrapped a towel around her body and padded back into Nate’s bedroom.  She smiled at the sight of him sleeping; she moved silently to the dresser and ran a comb through her hair before turning to contemplate his prone form. 
            She moved to the left side of the bed and slid along the mattress to his side.  She reached out a tentative hand and brushed some of his unruly curls away from his face, smoothing her fingers along the furrows in his forehead that never really disappeared.  She leaned over and kissed his cheek, drifting her fingers against the skin her lips were just pressed against.  When he stirred, she withdrew and waited with bated breath. 
            His eyes opened, and she murmured, “Did you not get enough sleep last night?”
            He grinned lazily, a byproduct of hovering in between sleep and wakefulness.  “Hey.”
            She chose to not respond and brush her mouth against his, letting him cup the back of her head with his hand and hold her close.  She pulled back first but let her hand fall to his chest where she rubbed small circles close to his heart.  His smile filled her with warmth and an ache that she wanted to give into; she forced it away even as he pulled her hand up to his lips and kissed her fingertips then her palm. 
            Shivering, she left the bed in a quick movement and started rifling through one of his drawers for her underwear.  “I’m sure Eliot will have breakfast ready soon.  You should probably get a shower.”
            “Sophie.”  He got off the bed and made a move as if to join her at the dresser.
            She held up her clothes as a shield and nodded her head to the bathroom.  “Go.  There should be plenty of hot water.”
            He sighed and stopped, grabbing a towel on his way out.  Sophie let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding the second he closed the door.  She looked down at her trembling hands and regarded them like they belonged to someone else.
            When Parker and Hardison showed up for breakfast, Sophie wondered if it might not be time for her to move out.  She felt oddly displaced, something she had never equated before with the idea of sleeping in Nate’s bed.  With him.  Of course, she had always imagined everything from last night happening under different circumstances, but she wasn’t thinking about that at the moment because then she would have to reflect on what he had said and whether he meant it and what that would mean if he did…
            “You look different.”  Parker’s voice broke her out of her thoughts, and Sophie turned to address the other woman, just catching Tara’s worried gaze.
            “What do you mean?”  Sophie tried to keep her voice light and unconcerned, but she was certain the truth was written all over her face; not that she lied anymore to the team, but she liked her privacy.
            Parker shrugged and picked at the banana Sophie was sure she had stolen on the way to Nate’s.  Nate actually hated bananas and never kept them in his apartment; from the way his face would darken at the sight of one, she suspected it had something to do with Sam, and she wished that Parker had picked a different day to bring the offensive fruit with her.
            “I don’t know.  You just look…different.” 
            She felt almost positive that Parker could see the change that had made Eliot attack Nate and had Tara staring at her like she would break or something.  And, if the looks Hardison was giving her were any indication, he had noticed it as well.  Great.
            “I’m thinking about moving back into my apartment,” Sophie said, a little desperate to change the subject in case Hardison got it into his head to ask probing questions Parker couldn’t find the words for or Eliot decided to just share what had happened. 
            Too bad that Nate was walking down the staircase at that exact moment.  “What?”
            She flinched and ducked her way past Parker to the kitchen; his timing could not be worse if he had actually tried.  Parker’s eyes followed her, full of questions, and Sophie turned to the coffee pot and started fixing a cup to distract herself. 
            Tara shrugged.  “Makes sense.  You are back to normal now.”
            Physically was what Tara left off, but everyone could hear it in the silence anyway.  Sophie felt the irritation spiral inside her chest and forced it down; she wanted a peaceful breakfast in the hopes that if feelings didn’t run high, there wouldn’t be any unwarranted confessions from Eliot or Nate.  Eliot’s mouth was closed so tightly that Sophie could see the muscles in his cheek jerking as he looked at Nate.
            Parker was distracted by the pancakes, and Eliot slapped her impatient fingers away with a growled, “No, Parker.  Go sit at the table.”
            “But it smells so good,” Parker complained even as she slipped off her stool and wandered in the direction of the table.
            Hardison trailed after her, and Sophie watched the two of them; she should ask about that later, maybe when Parker started asking questions again that she didn’t want to answer.  She stayed close to Eliot for the moment because that meant Nate would keep away.  Tara leaned over and kissed her cheek, and as much as Sophie appreciated the sentiment, it was not helping. 
            “So, Parker, Tara, do you think you can help me gather up my things after breakfast?” 
            She needed to have this decision made now, before Nate could protest and ruin any illusions she had about keeping what happened last night a secret from Parker and Hardison; they would take the events to mean the wrong thing, much like Nate seemed to be doing. 
            “Of course,” Tara agreed easily while Parker nodded.  “It shouldn’t take too long, and maybe we can even go see a movie later or something.”
            The idea of going to a movie theater where there would be a lot of people and a dark, enclosed space with loud noises made her almost shudder, but she held it in.  She needed them to believe that she could handle herself in the normal world. 
            “That sounds like a good idea.”  She wished she could muster up more enthusiasm, but she didn’t have it in her to actively lie to any of them.  Not at the moment, anyway.
            “I thought you were comfortable here.  Will a change of environment, um, mess you up?”  Nate kept his eyes locked on her and his voice on an even keel.
            She flipped her hair over her shoulder and settled into a chair.  “If anything, being back in my home will help.”
            His eyes darkened at that, and she looked down into her coffee cup, her hands tightening around it; Tara and Eliot took the seats on either side of her, and Parker nearly dove across the table in a bid to reach the pancakes first.  Sophie just sipped on her coffee and watched as the others dug into the food.  A plate piled high with eggs, bacon, pancakes dripping with syrup, and fresh strawberries slid in front of her.  She glared at Nate even as he grinned at her.
            “I’m not a child.”
            “No, but you should have a kid,” Parker said as she twirled her pancake-filled fork through a puddle of syrup.  “It’d be really pretty.  Like you.”
            Crimson stained her cheeks, and she studiously avoided Nate’s eyes because memories of the night before had helpfully popped back into her head.  Eliot chuckled into his food, clearly amused by the level of discomfort at the table.  Even Tara was having a hard time holding back a giggle; Hardison was just looking between Nate and Sophie, realization growing on his face.
            “Oh, no, do not tell me that…the two of you,” he spluttered around his words, and Sophie desperately wished she could launch herself across the table to stop him.
            Parker turned to look at him, her head cocked to the side.  “What?  Is something going on?”
            “Are the two of you sleeping together?”  Hardison finally managed to get the question out, and Parker’s curious expression froze and melted into blankness.
            Sophie was pretty sure that she didn’t have to answer because her cheeks were flaming, and Nate was ducking his head and trying to stammer out something that clearly meant, yes, it was true. 
            “Does that mean you and Nate are together now?”  Parker asked her the question, and Sophie knew there was no getting out of this.
            “No.”  She pushed her plate aside and stood up.  “I don’t think I’m all that hungry, so I’m going upstairs to start packing.”
            “I’ll come with you,” Tara offered.
            Sophie felt a rush of gratitude for the gesture of solidarity and left the table as quickly as she could.  Nate didn’t really deserve to be left alone with the others and their questions that would be asked, but she could not deal with any of that without revealing more than she wanted them to know.  About her tenuous relationship with Nate or herself.
            Nate watched Sophie and Tara head up the stairs and waited for the inevitable questioning and rebukes that should start any moment.
            “Why aren’t the two of you together?”
            The first question was from Hardison, which was pretty much what he had expected.  Parker always took a bit longer to process information and figure out what to ask to find out what she wanted to know. 
            “It’s complicated.  We haven’t had a chance to talk about anything yet.”
            “Why not?’
            “Because we’ve been interrupted by unwelcome visitors,” he replied pointedly and with mild irritation.
            Eliot coughed and started gathering up the dishes from the mostly forgotten breakfast.  Parker was the only one still eating.  Hardison’s face hardened, and Nate remembered that as easy as it was to treat them all like kids, they were adults.
            “If you hurt her, it’ll be hell to pay, man,” Hardison warned. 
            “You won’t, will you?”  Parker finally spoke up, and her voice was so soft and unsure that Nate felt the stab of the aching feeling that accompanied his memories of Sam.
            “Not on purpose,” he responded in a quiet voice. 
            Parker looked worried by something, but she just slipped away from the table and bounded up his stairs.  Hardison glared at him again, but the expression was losing its impact.
            “Be useful and help me with the dishes,” Eliot said, dragging Hardison away from the table.
            Nate contemplated his coffee cup and longed for a shot of Irish whiskey to make the morning go down a little easier.  He had no clue what was going on with Sophie, and it looked like he would be left in the dark for a good while longer if she had any say in the matter.  Damned stubborn woman. 


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July 2012

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