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 Twelve: Decide
Eliot passed a cup of black coffee to Tara. "You look like shit."
"Thanks, I guess," she muttered, sipping at the hot liquid and grimacing when it burned her lips. "Haven't been sleeping much."
"What's going on? Too many hot guys taking you home?"
"I'm not a slut." She sighed. "Sophie's nightmares are getting worse, and instead of talking to me about it, she locks herself in the bathroom for hours."
"I don't get it. I thought she was getting better." He picked up his own mug and stirred some milk into it. "What changed?"
"I don't know because she won't talk to me about it."
Tara huffed with her irritation and frowned, tracing her fingers along her cup's rim; Eliot settled back into his chair and waited. He had learned a long time ago that silence was normally more productive than anything else.
"I'm worried about her. She can be so…self-destructive," Tara murmured.
"Like Nate can be?" If that was the case, then he would be staging an intervention immediately.
"She's not looking for death, if that's what you're thinking. But she's not really eating or sleeping, and I wonder sometimes if it's her way of punishing herself."
"Punishment for what?"
"I'm pretty sure she feels like she used Nate." Tara ducked her head then gave him a bitter smile. "He told her that he loves her."
"When?" Tara raised an eyebrow, and Eliot let out a long breath. "Well, that ain't good. How did you find out about that?"
"A very long rant when Sophie freaked out about him."
"And? How does she feel about him?"
"I have no idea considering she hasn't sorted herself out from her traumatic experience of being tortured and raped. The world doesn't revolve around Nate Ford, you know."
He glared at her. "Darling, I ain't really concerned about him right now."
"So where is she right now?"
"Probably still in bed, asleep. That's where she was when I left."
Sophie slipped out of her pajama pants and shirt, letting them fall to the floor. She pushed her hair back from her face and considered what in her closet she could wear without showing off exactly how much weight she had lost.
"What the hell did you do?"
Sophie jumped and grabbed her shirt to cover her chest. She turned and just looked at Parker; she was certain that she hadn't heard the door open.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Sophie stammered as Parker stalked toward her.
Parker ignored her and pushed her back onto the bed, settling on her heels in between Sophie's thighs.
"Parker, I don't really think this is a good idea…"
Parker touched her skin, and Sophie winced.
"You've been cutting yourself." Parker's voice was flat, and she traced her finger along the marks. "Why?"
Sophie closed her eyes and tried to ignore the burning from the more recent cuts; she had gone a little too deep on the last one, and Parker put more pressure on the angry red line. Sophie yelped and tried to kick Parker away.
"No." Parker got an iron-grip on Sophie's legs and leaned over. "Why?"
"How did you get in here?"
"Is that the only word in your vocabulary? Honestly, Parker."
"Get off of me!"
"Goddamn it, why?" Parker roared, slapping Sophie's thigh right on a fresh cut.
Sophie screamed at the flash of pain and lay as still as she could while she blinked against the black spots in her vision and tried to take calm breaths. She was vaguely aware of Parker's ragged breathing and her cool cheek against Sophie's blazing skin.
Sophie licked her lips and murmured, "If you'll let me put on some clothes, I'll tell you."
Parker stood in an agile movement and leaned over her. "Don't even think about trying to run away."
"Don't worry. I doubt I would get very far."
Sophie gave her a gentle smile, but Parker just stared down at her, her face as impassive as stone; Sophie hated when she couldn't read Parker. Parker finally moved away, and Sophie pushed her body into a sitting position, the dull throbbing underneath her skin pulling a gasp from her lips.
Sophie slipped the shirt back over her head and patted the bed beside her. Parker settled on the edge; Sophie sighed and combed her hair away from her face.
"Tell me why."
"It helps me," Sophie said quietly. "There are times when all I can think about is what happened, and I feel like I'm going crazy."
"How does the cutting help with that?" Parker interrupted, her eyes flickering back down to Sophie's legs then to her face.
"It hurts, but…cutting myself makes me focus on the physical pain rather than…what I can't handle." Sophie let out a long breath. "Does that make any sense?"
Parker blinked and looked again at the cuts. "Show me."
"What do you mean?"
"Make me feel that kind of pain."
"Parker, why? I can't…I won't…"
"I want to understand." Parker held her gaze for several long seconds before saying again, "Show me."
Sophie studied the woman for a little while, looking for some sign that this was all some fucked-up dream; she finally stood up and walked to her bathroom. She opened the cabinets under her sink and pulled out a razor blade she had hidden there. She returned to the bed and placed it between her and Parker.
"Give me your arm." Parker hesitated, and Sophie reached out her hand as she explained gently, "I don't want you to go too deep."
Parker surrendered her arm, and Sophie took it in her hands and picked up the razor.
"What happens next?" Parker whispered.
"I want you to tell me about what makes you want to run away, the feelings that make you want to curl up and die. What haunts your nightmares?"
Parker closed her eyes, her brow wrinkling; she looked back at Sophie and shook her head.
"I can't say it out loud."
"All right. Just, try thinking about it, then, and when it feels like too much, squeeze my arm."
Parker answered by wrapping her fingers around Sophie's arm and letting her eyes fall closed. Sophie watched Parker's face, looking for some hint of emotional turmoil. She had an idea of what some of Parker's pain stemmed from, but she was sure there were plenty of secrets Parker wanted to keep about her past. Parker's mouth tightened, and a moment later, she squeezed her fingers around Sophie's arm; Sophie waited. Parker curled her fingers in even more until Sophie winced.
She pressed the razor against Parker's skin, pushing the edge in just deep enough to break the skin; she drew the blade across Parker's arm in a straight line until the blood welled up. Sophie stopped the cut just as Parker ripped her arm away, her eyes wide and staring at Sophie.
Parker bolted from the room before Sophie could say anything else.
Hardison stepped out onto the roof of Nate's apartment building; Parker hadn't been answering any of his phone calls, and that normally meant she was hiding out on the roof. She was currently sprawled on the concrete, one of her rigs in her hands. It looked like she was fixing something, but he couldn't tell.
"Hey." He walked over to her and stopped a few feet short. "I tried calling you."
She didn't look up from the wire she was pulling on. "I just wanted to be alone for a little while."
He nodded his head and settled down beside her, careful to leave a few inches of space between them; she didn't like to be touched when she was like this.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
She slipped one of the straps free, and he noticed that it was fraying. She ran her fingers over it and sighed, flinging the entire harness to the side.
"The straps always mess up first." She turned a little toward him, chewing on her lower lip. "I have something to tell you."
"Okay, mama, lay it on me." He brushed his fingers against the back of her hand and gave her a smile.
She reached out and grabbed his hand. "I'm worried about Sophie."
"What about Sophie?" He was trying to focus on the issue at hand, but his excitement over Parker holding his hand was distracting.
Parker turned her arm over and pulled up her sleeve; he saw the long cut on her arm and grabbed her so she couldn't slip away.
"Parker, what happened? Did Sophie do this to you?"
"I wanted her to show me what it felt like."
"What, Parker? What the hell is going on?" He couldn't stop staring at the cut.
"She's been cutting herself, and I asked her to do it to me so I would understand."
"Parker…I…" He struggled to find something to say and finally blurted out, "Nate. We have to tell Nate."
He pulled her to her feet and dragged her off the rooftop and down the stairs, banging their way into Nate's apartment.
"Nate!" Parker struggled a little against his grip, but he just tightened his fingers. "Nate!"
Nate appeared at the top of the stairs, a glass in his hand. "What, Hardison?"
Nate walked down the stairs while Hardison pulled Parker in his direction. "Parker has something to tell you."
"Sophie's going to kill you," Parker hissed, attempting to twist away from him.
"What's going on?" Nate looked between the two of them; his eyes darkened when they landed on the long cut marking Parker's arm. "What happened?"
"Sophie," Hardison started, but Parker kicked the back of his leg. "Damn, girl, what was that for?"
She glared at him, and he let her go, only for Nate to grab onto her arm.
"Where did you get that cut, Parker?"
She stared sullenly at the floor and mumbled, "Sophie."
"Sophie hurt you?"
"I just wanted to understand."
Hardison watched Nate's brow furrow as he processed Parker's words, and he saw the horror blossom on the older man's face. He let Parker go, and she retreated a few steps, running her fingers over where they had both rubbed her skin a little raw. Eliot and Tara walked in the door, and Eliot stopped short of the group, his posture stiffening at the tension rolling out in waves from them.
"What's going on?" he growled, his eyes flicking from Parker to Nate.
"It seems that Sophie has been cutting herself," Nate responded, his voice tight.
Hardison eyed Eliot and managed to make it to the door to stop both him and Tara from storming out. "Hey, hey, now I think we need to decide as a group how to handle this."
"I'll take care of it," Nate said immediately.
"I don't see why someone else can't handle the situation since you and Sophie aren't exactly on speaking terms at the moment," Tara shot back.
"And this has been happening right under your nose," Eliot snapped at her. "Neither of you should do anything. Probably only cause more problems."
"Why don't we have, like, a group intervention thing?" Hardison suggested.
"And embarrass her and make her withdraw further. Yeah, great idea," Tara told him with a roll of her eyes.
"Hey, he's just trying to help," Eliot said in a low voice.
"Nate should talk to her." Everyone turned to look at Parker, and she shuffled her feet a little. "She'll listen to him."
Eliot looked like he was going to argue, but he gave her a terse nod of his head; Tara just sighed. Parker turned her attention to Nate, and Hardison didn't really understand their silent communication, but Nate seemed to get whatever Parker was trying to say.
Eliot met Nate's eyes for a moment before slipping out the door, Tara hot on his heels. Hardison decided he would ask Eliot about what was going on between him and Tara later. Parker walked up to him and took his hand; he felt another small thrill rush through him.
"We should go," she said quietly.
He let her pull him to the door, glancing back at Nate as they stepped into the hallway. The man looked tired and worn, but Hardison pushed the worry away.
Nate watched from where he was sitting on the stairs as Sophie stepped into his apartment and paused.
"What's going on?" she asked, giving him a small smile.
He stood and walked over to her; he stopped barely an inch away from her, his hands coming up to grip her hips. She took in a sharp breath, and he grasped the loops of her jeans, jerking them down her legs.
"What the hell?"
She tried to push him away, but he wrapped his hands around her shoulders in an iron grip, his eyes staring down at the red marks on her thighs.
"I don't understand, Sophie. Why…why would you do something like this?"
She tilted her head back and narrowed her eyes at him. "I don't have to explain myself to you."
He shook her a little, trembling with fury. "Goddamn it, Sophie, this stops now!"
"What are you going to do if I don't?"
"I'll throw you into a psych ward until you get the help you need." His voice broke, and he blinked away the tears gathering in his eyes. "Something has to change, and I'll do whatever it takes."
"I don't want help! Why can't you just fucking leave me alone?" She twisted out of his grip and turned her back on him, defiantly crossing her arms across her chest.
"Soph, you know you can't keep going on like this." He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. "You're going to end up killing yourself."
"Maybe I don't deserve to live." He could hear the tears in her voice.
He reached out for her. "Sophie…"
"I used you, Nate," she snapped as she whirled around and pushed him back. "Why the hell do you want to help me? Are you just a glutton for punishment?"
"I knew what I was doing when I had sex with you." She turned away from him again, and he had to fight his instincts to chase after her. "I was trying to be what you needed because…because I…love you."
Her shoulders sagged, and she looked back at him. "Nate, I can't…"
"This isn't about what's happening or anything between the two of us," he said firmly, edging around her until he was facing her. "I want you to know that I'm here. For you, no matter what you need from me."
"I don't know what I need anymore," she whispered. Tears welled in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. "I don't want to be locked up."
"Then you have to talk to us. Let us help you."
"I don't know if I can…"
"Of course you can. You're Sophie fucking Devereaux. You can do anything."
Her lips twitched with amusement at the words. "Eliot said something similar to me awhile ago."
"Yeah, I kind of stole it from him." Nate grinned and kissed her forehead. "You're going to be okay, Soph. It might take awhile, but it will happen. I promise."She nodded her head and let him wrap his arms around her waist, pulling her close; she hesitated then looped her arms across his back and rested her against his shoulder.