alinaandalion: (quinn02)
Title:  The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most
Author:  alinaandalion
Rating:  M/NC-17
Spoilers:  Through the end of Season 3.
Characters:  Nate, Sophie, Eliot, Hardison, Parker, Maggie, and Tara.  And some various minor original characters.
Pairings:  Nate/Sophie, Parker/Hardison, Sophie/Tara, and mentions of past Nate/Maggie and Eliot/Aimee
Summary:  The team takes on a job that leads to double-crosses and choices they never expected. They all find out you never leave the past behind and it can change the present.
Notes:  This is a nonlinear story.  I've laid out the basic premise of the con in the first chapter and will give all vital information as the story progresses.  This was originally intended for this year's Leverage Big Bang, but my muse decided to take a six month long vacation, so that didn't work out.  I liked the idea too much to let it go, so here it is.  As a warning, there is explicit language and sexual themes.

Chapter Three:  tell me, do you dream?

“Check it out.”

Parker swings the duffel bag off her shoulder and shakes out bricks of cocaine, a smile of glee on her face.

Hardison raises an eyebrow.  “Damn, that’s a lot of cocaine.”

“Well, we need enough for Sophie to be considered legit,” Eliot says as he collapses into a chair with a groan.  “Hey, toss me an ice pack.”

“Drug boys cause you any trouble?” Hardison asks as he leans over to grab an ice pack from the fridge beside him.

He tosses it underhanded to Eliot, who catches it and immediately presses it to his right shoulder.

“Not too much.  Shoulder is just kind of stiff.”

Parker pokes at his shoulder while she’s tossing around a package of cocaine.  “This isn’t shaped like a brick.”

“Just what they call it, girl,” Hardison replies.

“But, why?  It doesn’t even look like a brick.”

She pokes a finger into the plastic and makes a face at it; leaning closer, she sniffs it.

“And it doesn’t really have a smell.  So why would you want to snort it up your nose?”

Hardison grabs the bag from her and says, “To get high.  The smell don’t really matter when that’s what you’re after.”

“But, if I’m going to snort something, I want it to smell good.  Like strawberries.  Or orange soda.”  She smiles a little.  “Or chocolate chip pancakes.”

“Good thing it don’t, then.  Don’t need you snorting some and getting high off your ass,” Eliot grumbles.

Hardison nods his head.  “Exactly.  So, seriously, how many kilos do you got there?”

“Twenty,” Parker announces as she stuffs them all back into her duffel bag.

“Jesus.”  Hardison nudges the duffel bag with his foot.  “How much is all that worth?”

“According to if they cut it to make it go further,” Eliot says as he pulls the ice pack away from his shoulder and rotates his arm.  “A kilo costs about $10,000 at the least in the U.S.  Selling it just like that would bring in about $200,000.  More if you cut it.”

“How do you cut it?  It’s a powder.”  Parker looks inquisitively at Eliot.  “And how do you know so much anyway?”

“I’ve done jobs with drug dealers before.  You pick up a few things.”  He pushes his hair out of his face and pulls it into a ponytail.  “Cutting it is mixing in another substance, like sugar, so you can sell less for more.”

Parker frowns.  “Well that’s cheating.”

“So how does Sophie’s deal with this dude work?  Because he could always sell it, make a shit-ton of money and then tell her it only sold for so much, pocketing the rest,” Hardison says, turning back to his computer.

“He’ll pay for it upfront,” Eliot explains as he stands up and starts to pace the room.  “Probably at around $20,000 a kilo.  He’ll sell it, bring back what he takes in, and if it’s more than what he paid, she’ll take the difference before giving him his cut.”

“But what’s going to make him come back?” Parker asks, pulling her box of locks over to her side and pulling one out.

“His cut should be larger than the extra money he makes.  Besides, she’s a supplier and you don’t screw over your sources if you can help it.  Too easy to run out of anyone to do business with.”

Hardison spins in his chair and fixes his eyes on Eliot.  “And exactly how trigger-happy are these guys?”

Eliot frowns.  “Well, that’s the dangerous part of all this.”

***************

She’s come to equate seeing Sophie with bad news.  Maggie feels a little bad about the instant judgment, but it stands to reason since the last time Sophie showed up outside her door, she was telling Maggie about blackmail and an Italian and death as a possible future for at least part of the team.

Thankfully that all turned out all right.  For all of her efforts to stay on the right side of the law, Maggie constantly finds herself liking this weird group of thieves.

She’s in the middle of debating whether she wants a cup of tea or glass of wine when she hears the knock on the door.  When she opens the door to find Sophie standing in the hallway, looking a little disheveled and fidgeting, she decides a bottle of wine is in order.

“Come in.”  Maggie’s learned that while Sophie is very good at reading people, she’s unusually hesitant around her; Maggie has yet to work up the courage to ask the reason why.

She heads to the kitchen, figuring that Sophie can find the couch on her own.  She grabs two wineglasses and a bottle from her wine rack (a pretty wooden one that Sophie had sent to her the Christmas after the job with the two Davids) and opens the wine before going to her living room.  She sees that Sophie has taken a place on the far end of the couch, and Maggie smiles when her eyes light up at the sight of the wine.

“I thought you could use a drink,” Maggie says, making sure to keep her voice even and pleasant despite the fact that she’s holding back a barrage of questions.  She pours the red liquid into a glass and hands it off to Sophie.  “What pleasant and completely not dangerous reason has brought you here tonight?”

Sophie has the good grace to look abashed at the pointed question, but she takes a sip of wine before answering.  “It’s about Nate.”

Maggie swallows some of her own wine as she muses over that piece of information.  “What about him?”

Sophie shakes her head and tilts her glass back to her lips; Maggie doesn’t blame her.  Discussing the man you love with his ex-wife isn’t exactly an ideal situation.  As Sophie continues to avoid speaking again, Maggie decides it might be a good idea to start drinking some more; maybe getting a little closer to being drunk will make this conversation easier.  Besides, she needs to keep up with Sophie.  The woman drains her glass before five minutes go by, so Maggie graciously refills it.  Thankfully she grabbed the cheaper bottle.

It’s not until two glasses later that Sophie looks ready to talk again.

“I’m sleeping with him.”

Maggie blinks.  Jealousy surges first before she remembers that she left him; she forces herself to not take another long swallow of wine because she does not deal with her problems with alcohol, and she takes a calming breath.

She says the only thing she can think of, “And?”

For a moment, she worries that Sophie won’t understand what she’s looking for, but luckily Sophie has managed to either get some confidence or some of her inhibitions are gone.  Whatever works best.

“I want more, though.”  Sophie blushes a little, and Maggie thinks that this woman really is exquisitely beautiful in a way that’s completely unfair.

“Does he know that?”  It’s the simple role of girlfriend, and it’s easier to fall into than actually thinking about Nate moving on.

Sophie shrugs and lets out a bitter laugh.  “We don’t talk anymore.  And, I can’t talk to Tara about it because I don’t know how she really feels about the idea of me being with Nate because she can get very jealous if she wants to, and…”

“Why would Tara be jealous?”  Maggie cuts her off with the question because she’s curious about what Tara has to do with this and, well, she can do without the word vomit.

Sophie’s eyes widen.  “I shouldn’t have said that.”

“Well, you have, so just tell me about it.”

Sophie starts to fidget again, so Maggie fills the woman’s glass and waits for Sophie to take a few swallows.  Sophie seems to settle down, so Maggie relaxes and wonders if she’ll eventually get an answer.  If she even wants it.  There are some things she can do without knowing.

“Tara and I…we have a sexual relationship.  It’s not romantic, more like friends-with-benefits.”

Maggie reaches for the wine bottle and pours a liberal amount of red into her glass because she does not have the words at the moment to say anything useful.  Sophie takes the opportunity to finish off her wine, and Maggie wonders absently if she might need to pull out another bottle before the night is through.  She can’t take many more surprises after the past…she looks at the clock on the opposite wall and is surprised to see that an hour is already gone.

Honestly, she needs to say something, so she just spits out what’s floating around in her head.  “You’re really fucked-up.”

Sophie laughs, and it’s like a barrier between them falls away so Maggie laughs with her until her sides ache and she’s crying.  And this is the closest she’s been to anyone in a long time, which is kind of fucked up in its own way because Sophie is a thief and Maggie isn’t, and really, Maggie needs to make friends with normal people.

But Sophie doesn’t feel the need to constantly bring up Sam’s death like Maggie doesn’t know it happened, and she never looks offended when Maggie laughs at a joke, unlike that morose group of people at her support group who really need to dig the sticks out of their asses.  And, this feels better than therapy because Maggie is pretty sure there is no moving on from losing her son.

In the end, really, it’s stopped mattering so much that she will always resent Sophie a little bit for managing to have parts of Nate that Maggie never had, even when they were married.  Maybe part of that is the fact that Sophie is so clearly damaged that it’s a lot harder to hate her than it should be.  And maybe it’s because she doesn’t really want to be with Nate because he’s worlds away from the blue-eyed boy she married.  Whatever.  Maybe it doesn’t matter at all.  

***************

“I’m done, Sophie,” Tara says tiredly as she starts throwing clothes into a suitcase.  “All this stuff with Ford, almost getting caught on every single fucking job…I’m not doing it anymore.”

“Like that’s my fault?”  Sophie launches herself off the bed and steps between Tara and the suitcase.

“You certainly aren’t going out of your way to avoid him.”

“He knows who I am, Tara.  But it’s not like we haven’t gotten away every time,” Sophie says softly.  “I can’t predict where he’s going to turn up next.”

Tara shakes her head.  “See, I don’t believe that.  You know him.  Face it.  You’re in love with him, which is stupid, reckless, and completely putting my life at risk.  And I don’t fucking appreciate it!”

“I’m not in love with him!” Sophie shouts back.  “He’s married with a kid, and I’m not that kind of person!”

“Deny it all you want, but you know it’s true.”  Tara pushes her way past Sophie and keeps packing.  “He’s too close.  If he figures out that you have a partner, we’re beyond screwed.”

“Are you jealous of him?”

Tara snorts.  “Yeah, no.  You’re a good fuck and all, Soph, and I like you, but I’m definitely not jealous.”

“Are you sure?”  Sophie slips her arms around Tara’s waist and presses her lips to Tara’s neck, sucking lightly at her skin.

Tara shrugs out of her grasp and snaps, “I know what you’re doing, and you can’t manipulate me.  I’m a grifter, too.”

Sophie flops down onto the bed and asks, “Well, what do you want me to do?”

“Get rid of him.”

“What?”  Sophie looks quizzically at Tara for a moment before realization dawns on her face.  “Forget it.  He has a wife and a child!”

“That hasn’t stopped you before,” Tara tells her in a sharp voice.

“But he…he’s a good man, Tara!”  Sophie shakes her head and sets her mouth into a firm line.  “And he’s never arrested me even though anyone else would.”

“Yeah, and every time he catches you, he takes away everything you steal, leaving you with nothing,” Tara replies as she zips up her suitcase.

“That’s a sight better than losing everything and rotting away in jail,” Sophie shoots back.

Tara sighs and picks up her suitcase.  “I’m going to lay this out for you.  You can be in love with him all you want, pine after him, whatever.  But don’t ever forget who you are.  He might be the knight in shining armor, but you’re not the princess in the story.  And you never will be.”

“I know that.”

“If you did, then we wouldn’t be fighting about him,” Tara replies quietly.

She starts for the door, pulling her suitcase behind her.  Sophie turns her head away, blinking back tears, but the second Tara turns the door handle, Sophie runs across the room to her.

“Wait, Tara, don’t.”  She’s breathless with tears in her eyes, and she forces herself in between Tara and the door.  “You’re the only person in the world I trust.”

Tara leans her head against the wood and stares at Sophie, narrowing her eyes.  Sophie just looks right back, her dark eyes pleading.  Tara drops the suitcase, tugs Sophie closer, and kisses her.

When she lets Sophie go, Tara murmurs, “I’m not going to walk out on you.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

***************

Tara lounges on the loveseat and watches Nate hover over the minibar.  Honestly, the last thing they need is to be left alone, but here they are.  Sophie is, understandably, hiding out in Parker’s hotel room, Parker has disappeared with Hardison, and Eliot is refusing to get involved, so he’s taken up residence elsewhere.

And, she’s stuck here because they all have to lie low for the moment, and Sophie is pretending like she can’t hear Tara beating on the door.

Nate pours two little bottles of whiskey into a glass and downs it all in one gulp.  She would be impressed if he hadn’t been doing the same thing for the past hour.  She’s a little surprised that his stash hasn’t run out yet.  He still hasn’t turned around to look at her.

“You don’t like me very much anymore, do you?”  She’s always hated silence.

His fingers fumbling for his glass are the only indication she has that he even hears her.  She sighs.

“Sophie’s right.  You deal with things by avoiding them.”

That gets his attention.  “Don’t talk to me about her.”

“I wasn’t.  I’m talking about you.”

“Don’t.”

“What else am I supposed to do?  I’m stuck here.  On your orders.”

“Do what you want.  I don’t care.”

“So if I end up shot, you won’t feel guilty?”  Her eyes glimmer a little as she leans forward.  “I bet it would actually make you pretty happy to get rid of me.”

“Why did you do it?”  He turns around, finally, and she’s taken aback at the cold fury on his face.  “You knew.  You had to.”

“Actually, I was high off my ass, so I wasn’t in any condition to figure out that you’re screwing my best friend.  However, I did guess a little.  Maybe I just didn’t care.”

“Why not?  You know….”

“What?  How you feel about her?  To be honest, I don’t give a shit about your feelings.  And, if we want to get technical, I had her before you ever came into the picture.”

“But you never…”  His voice trails off again, and she wonders how in the world Sophie ever manages to have a conversation with the man.

“Loved her?”

He clears his throat, but the lack of a real answer is what she needs to confirm her suspicions and her long-standing opinion that Nate is an idiot.

“You know, you really don’t have any room to be angry with me.  It’s not like the two of you are exclusive.”

“How do you know that?”

“Surprisingly, I actually talk to Sophie.  You might want to try that every now and then.”

“I do talk to her.”

“Since you started fucking her?”

He reaches for the fridge door, and she knows she’s losing him, and the last thing she wants to do is ruin this weird relationship for Sophie.  For whatever reason, the woman actually likes this man.

“You do know that you always give her the higher ground in a fight, right?”

And, with that, she has his attention again.  It’s a little sad that he spends a large portion of his time with a grifter and still doesn’t know when he’s being played.  At least it makes this easy enough.

“What do you mean?”

“You let her get to the moral high ground when, honestly, you normally have the better standing, and if you can keep her from getting there, then you can’t lose.”

“You’re her friend.  Why are you telling me this?”

She shrugs because she’s not exactly sure why, but she does know that neither Sophie nor Nate are going to be able to manage an actual relationship on their own.  And, well, the only other option is stepping in as Sophie’s girlfriend, and she has no intention of doing that.  She’s never been second-choice.

“I think you can use all the help you can get.  She’s a lot better at this than you.”  She flips her hair over her shoulder.  “Besides, I share secrets when I’m bored.”

“Anything else you want to share?”  He’s smiling a little and moved away from the minibar, so she feels like her job is done.

“Go talk to her. Or, better yet, fuck her.  She’s horny as hell right now.”

“We just had a fight.”

“Make-up sex, then.  Just make the first move for once.”  She grins up at him.  “Or, I can go for you.”

“Yeah, no thanks.”

She waits until he leaves to raid the small fridge for little bottles of vodka.  While she wants Sophie to be happy, it’s taking a lot more work than she feels is necessary. 

***************

Sophie groans as she wakes up and rolls to the side.  Her head is pounding, and she feels like if she makes any sudden movements, she’s going to throw up.  She curls up into a ball and sorts through the vague details of the previous night she can remember.  She recalls fucking Tara in front of the mark, coming back to the hotel room; the ache between her legs isn’t as bad as it was last night, but she squirms a little on the sheets at the memory of her fight with Nate and the way he had pinned her to the wall.

The last thing she remembers is falling back onto the bed and Parker’s arms wrapping around her waist.  Her fingers stroke absently against soft fur, and she looks down to see Bunny still wrapped up tight in her arms.

She slips the stuffed animal off to the side and pushes herself up into a sitting position, swallowing against the dry tightness of her throat.  Parker is no longer in the bed, so Sophie manages to get up and stumble to the bathroom in search of some water to drink and maybe splash on her face.  She rubs at her eyes, grimacing when she pulled her hand away and saw a black smear of eyeliner.

She grabs a bottle of water from beside the sink and sips at it as she studies her reflection.  She looks like shit, her make-up in a ruined mess, her eyes bloodshot.  She has a meeting with Cruz that afternoon, so she decides to skip straight to a shower.

The hot water is a relief on her tingling skin, the nerve endings flaring to life, still a little overly sensitive from the cocaine.  She resists the urge to trace her fingers along her body, dip them between her legs, because she would prefer for it to be Nate’s hands, his mouth.

When she feels clean and a little more human than before, she switches the water off and steps out into the steamy bathroom, starting when she sees Parker.

“What are you doing in here?” Sophie asks, groping behind her at the towel rack before realizing there isn’t a towel on it.

Parker shrugs, unconcerned about Sophie’s lack of clothing.  “You missed the morning briefing.  Nate was worried you wouldn’t be able to make your meeting this afternoon.”

Sophie crosses the floor and pulls a towel from the linen closet, wrapping it around her body.  “I’m fine.  Did I miss anything important?”

“Tara showed up.”

Sophie furrows her eyebrows but smoothed out her expression before turning back around to Parker.  “And?”

“I think Nate hates her,” Parker replies with a grin.  “Oh, and she’s helping us now instead of keeping with the con she was running.”

“Nate can get over himself.”

“Why is he so mad at her?  Is it because you fucked her last night?”

Sophie sighs and leans against the counter.  “Maybe.  I don’t know why he cares.”

“Because he wants to be the one you sleep with,” Parker says with a sage nod.

Sophie pauses, and she realizes too late that Parker is watching her with unusual intensity because Parker smirks a little.

“He is sleeping with you.  I knew it!”

“Parker, please don’t tell anyone,” Sophie pleads quickly.  “It’s complicated between us, and I don’t want to mess it all up.”

Parker studies her for a moment then smiles.  “I won’t tell.”

Sophie lets out a relieved breath and grins back.  “Good.  Thank you.  Now, I need to get ready.”

“Yeah, you only have two hours, and you need to eat,” Parker says as she skips past Sophie back into the bedroom.

Sophie groans.  “Why didn’t anyone wake me up earlier?”

“I thought you needed the sleep.  You looked so much happier.”  Parker stops and cocks her head to the side.  “I’ll help you, if you want.  Even though I don’t really know what to do.”

“I would really appreciate it if you could help me,” Sophie replies quickly, knowing she needs to take advantage of the offer before Parker panics and withdraws it.

“What do you want me to do?”

“If you could get me some food, then dry my hair while I eat, that would be a great help.”  Sophie fumbles her fingers along the dresser until she locates her comb.

Parker gives her a small salute and bounds out of the room as Sophie starts to drag her comb through the tangles of her hair.  She winces against the sharp pull and starts the process to turn back into Annie Kroy.

 



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July 2012

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