Rating: K+ (I don't think I've rated a story that in a long time)
Characters: Nate and Sophie
Pairings: Mentions of past Nate/Sophie
Summary: Nate wishes he could change things, but they're always the same. And, the sad thing is that she'll never know about what could have been.
Warnings: De-aged Sophie, in answer to a prompt I received.
Nate hates and loves watching her. She is so beautiful and captivating. Prepossessing, all at the age of seven. He can’t separate the love he used to feel for the woman and the girl she is now.
It makes him feel like a dirty old man when he thinks about it, so he doesn’t. Mostly (the alcohol helps more with that).
But, he tries. He’s not as good at this as he wants to be (it turns out there are things you lose and never get back), and it probably doesn’t help that he can’t let go of the past.
He gives her everything. He puts her in acting classes, finds someone to give her singing lessons, teaches her French and Spanish. He’s determined that the one thing he can give her is a second chance (Eliot insists that it’s useless because being a grifter is in her blood; Parker just makes Nate give her ice cream whenever Sophie gets it, and Hardison maintains he doesn’t have an opinion).
She’s his, though, which is more than he used to be able to say, and he is trying.
Sophie knocks the air out of him when she launches herself into his arms. She smells like her strawberry shampoo, and she’s wearing one of his old T-shirts (some things are still the same) that swallows her tiny body.
“Daddy, I’m ready for my story,” she says excitedly.
Her British accent is as pronounced as ever (and he thanks God every day for it), and she bounces eagerly until he picks her up and throws her over his shoulder. She squeals with delight as he starts up the stairs.
“What story do you want tonight?”
“The one about the beautiful thief and the detective.”
His mouth twists into a bitter smile; Sophie had always been in love with their own story. It figures it’s her favorite, even now.
“Well, once upon a time, there was a woman. Now she was the most beautiful woman in the entire world, but she was a thief.”
“Was she a good thief, Daddy?” Sophie asks as he puts her on her bed.
He grins and sits down beside her. “You already know how this story goes, sweetheart.”
“Daddy.” She squirms into his lap and gives him one of her serious looks.
“Okay, okay. So, she was a thief, the best in the entire world. Everyone who saw her fell in love with her. Men, women, animals. She had everything she could ever want, from money to the most valuable art in the world.” He always embellishes the details because even if it felt like a fairytale later, it really wasn’t. “One day, she met a detective who had been sent to take back the art she had stolen.”
“What happened when he met her?” Sophie presses, her eyes shining with anticipation.
“Well, he was swept away by her beauty, but he had a job to do. So, he took back the art and decided to let her go. You see, he was already falling in love with her, and she fell in love with him because he was the only man who had ever caught her.” He smiles at the memories (that are never discussed anymore) and clears his throat. “They became friends after that, but they never told each other how they felt.”
“Because they couldn’t be together since she was a thief, and he wasn’t. Then, one day, the detective’s heart was taken from him by an evil man. When the detective went to the thief for help, he was only a shell of who he once was.”
“What did she do?” Sophie’s eyelids are half-closed, and he knows it’s time to wind up the story.
“The only way she could help him was to become one of the good guys and only steal when it would help others. She stole back the detective’s heart and gave it to him, telling him about how much she loved him. And, when he told her he loved her, too, she decided to remain one of the good guys.”
Sophie yawns. “And they lived happily ever after?”
“Yes. They lived happily ever after.”
He kisses her forehead and tucks her underneath her sheets and blankets. She snuggles into the bed, nuzzling her cheek against the pillow (he remembers different circumstances and wishes).
As he leaves the room, she calls out, “I love you, Daddy.”
“Right back at you, sweetie.”
He closes the door and goes to his own room. He never says it back. He can’t (never did tell her when he should have, when there was a chance), and he knows he’s wrong. He does love her. Just not in the way that he should. Not really, and he hates himself for it.