Spoilers: Up through "The Boiler Room Job."
Characters: Eliot, Sophie, mentions of Nate
Pairings: Eliot/Sophie, mentions of Nate/Sophie
Summary: He should have seen it coming. He never let anyone or anything sneak up on him, but he had let his guard drop too much. Now he was just screwed.
It had been a long day. Eliot's head was swimming with the hits he had taken on the boat (probably a concussion), and he still had to make sure the rest of the team would be all right.
God, that helicopter ride had been awful. Hardison had cried, even though he had passed the tears off as allergies or some other weak excuse; Parker had just sat there. And, Sophie, she had fidgeted and almost cried and ranted in about five different languages where all he caught were the words Nate, Sterling, and some phrases he recognized as being very violent.
Hardison and Parker had disappeared after arriving back at Nate's apartment.Well, Parker had wandered around for a grand total of two minutes before jumping out the window, and Hardison had volunteered to go after her. As much as he hadn't wanted to, Eliot left Sophie to go downstairs to explain things to Cora.
"You're going to get him back, right?"
He could kill Nate for putting him in this situation. In the end, he had made a lot of vague promises to Cora as to what exactly they would be doing about Nate, and he had retreated back to the apartment.
As he walked in the door, he saw Sophie closing her cell phone with a sigh, and he nodded to it. She caught the movement on the outer edges of her vision and turned toward him.
"I wanted to tell Maggie before Sterling did." She reached for a bottle of whiskey that he was pretty sure had only recently been put into the liquor cabinet. "I managed to convince her that she didn't need to fly out here."
He pulled out two glasses and slid one to her. "I didn't think about calling her."
"You would have."
She poured the dark liquid into her glass until it was almost full; she passed the bottle off to him and gulped the whiskey down. He watched with raised eyebrows, finally giving himself a much smaller amount. She took the bottle back and poured more into her glass; he waited, wondering if he should take it away from her, but she took small sips. She took a look at him, head cocked, then wandered over to the freezer, pulling out an ice pack from the supply they kept there.
She tossed it to him. "Here. You look like shit."
He caught the pack and pressed it to the back of his head. "Thanks."
Her lips quirked upward, but she ducked her head and drank deeply of her whiskey. He topped up his glass; he appreciated that she had picked whiskey because the burn felt good against his raw throat, and it felt perversely appropriate to follow so closely in Nate's footsteps. He could feel the warmth spreading through his body; he studied her because for all that she had to be furious and hurt and more fucked up than she had started out, she was playing too close to the chest for him to be comfortable.
She broke the silence first. "Was he shot?"
"Yes." The question was laced with his answer, and she picked up on the signal.
"I suspected, but…" Her eyes widened as she looked up at him, and she looked so sad. "I had hoped that I was wrong."
"I would have thought you would refuse to leave him if you knew."
The exasperation was plain on her face, and it confused him.
"What good would I have done then? God knows, I…I wanted to stay." Her voice broke, and she took a moment to regain her composure. "But you all would be two down instead of just one, and I wouldn't have been able to do anything for him anyway."
"I'm glad you're here." He hadn't been this openly honest with her in a long time; his thoughts wandered back along late-night conversations with her God-knew-where and him pacing his apartment before he shook his head.
She smiled at him, then, and the affection was more real than he was used to. "I think I am, too."
His lips widened into a smile, and she reached across the counter to squeeze his hand; it was the most intimate touch he had ever received from her, and it jolted him to the core. Her fingers eventually slipped from his grasp, and she stood, walking over to him.
"Come on, that cut looks nasty." She brushed his face with a light hand. "I think I remember where the first-aid kit is."
He let her lead him away from the kitchen, and she proved to be proficient at cleaning his wounds; he didn't want to ask about where she had picked up that knowledge and why she needed it. The likelihood was that he wouldn't get a straight answer, anyway.
He ended up spending the night at Nate's. And, if they happened to sleep on opposite sides of the spare bed, well, he wasn't telling.
They eventually went back to work. There was a lot of back and forth about who would plan the cons; Hardison had wanted to take that over since he already worked so much behind the scenes, but Eliot had killed that hope as fast as possible. For all that Hardison was eager, he was also way too green to run any sort of crew.
Sophie ended up slipping into the role of leader, though Eliot never figured out if it was on purpose or more of an instinctual thing; he decided later it would be a bad idea to assume anything was an accident when it came to Sophie.
She turned out to be better than any of them expected; she couldn't quite pull off the arrogance Nate had while running a con, but she did keep a quiet air of assurance that went just as far to keeping them all on task. At the very least, none of them had died or come close, so they were all silently counting that as a win.
He kept an eye on her, because he knew that there were some secrets she would never share, some things she didn't tell them, and he couldn't afford for her to break under the strain of keeping the team together. He could catch glimpses of how thin she was spreading herself at times; the breaks in her concentration while charming a mark or even the way she paced the floor when Parker broke into a vault.
It worried him, so he stayed after Hardison and Parker left for the night. He pulled out two glasses and a bottle of red wine; he had noticed the dark circles under Sophie's eyes.
She walked into the apartment, stopped when she saw him with the wine, then continued on, dropping her bag onto the couch and joining him at the table. He poured wine into the glasses and handed one to her.
She arched an eyebrow. "I thought you preferred beer."
"You like wine." He raised his glass and sipped from it.
Her eyes flickered across his face, and he watched her, certain she was reading him or looking for something. Whatever it was, she seemed satisfied, and she leaned back, drinking deeply. He would have thought the merlot was too strong for that long of a swallow, but she didn't seem fazed.
She tilted her head to the side and murmured, "I think we sometimes forget how easy it is to assume that you're going to be
there when we need you."
"It's my job." He tried to smile, but it ended up feeling awkward, so he just fumbled for his glass and took a quick sip.
She poured more wine into her glass and tipped it up to her mouth; he followed the movement with his eyes. The light was too dim to get a good idea of what she was thinking, and he wondered if she was playing him in some fashion. He never knew with her, and he was pretty sure that it was second-nature to her. It was too quiet.
He cleared his throat. "To another job well done?"
He raised his glass in a toast, and she stared at him just long enough for him to feel exposed before clinking her glass against his and finishing the wine left. She stood and started for the stairs. She paused.
"Thank you," she said so quietly he almost missed it.
She pressed a soft kiss to his cheek and walked away. He stayed at the table, listening as she moved around upstairs. Her perfume lingered in the air around him, and he breathed it in.
He should have seen it coming. He never let anyone or anything sneak up on him, but he had let his guard drop too much. Now he was just screwed.
He had fallen in love with Sophie. Sophie, of all people. Sophie, the grifter; Nate's Sophie, no matter how much she was fighting against that.
He couldn't even place exactly when it happened. Sometime in between Nate going to prison and getting Nate back, it happened. However, in a rare miracle, she apparently hadn't noticed. Or she was ignoring it.
Either way, it meant he didn't have to deal with his feelings.
For awhile, he slept with every tall, way-too-thin blonde woman who looked twice at him. It got to the point that Sophie pulled him aside and asked if he had feelings for Parker he was trying to suppress. He was shocked enough by that assessment to not give away the truth.
The reason he chose blondes was because they were the exact opposite of Sophie; he knew better than to try using other women to replace her. But, it wasn't enough. He wanted Sophie, as frustrating as she could be, as much as she orbited around Nate and pretended she didn't care. He lived sometimes for those moments when she would turn to him with a devious glint in her eyes and a smile that reminded him of the all their late nights telling each other filthy jokes.
He was pathetic.
He drove his fist into his punching bag as hard as he could, grunting with the effort. He had known Sophie and Nate ending up together was inevitable; ever since San Lorenzo, things had changed. He just wanted the ache in his chest to go away.
He heard the door open, but he didn't stop his punching and kicking because he knew it was her. She had to have seen his reaction, finally figured out what he had been trying to hide. Even Nate, of all people, had seen it awhile ago, and Eliot could really do without all those threatening glares; he was tempted to beat Nate into a pulp at times just because he could.
"You're letting your security get a little lax," she commented, her voice drifting in from his left side.
He balanced on the balls of his feet and kept his eyes on the bag. "Knew it was you."
He turned around, determined to head this conversation off. "Look. I don't care why you came here. It doesn't matter. I'm fine."
"Don't try to lie to me." She shifted her weight and clenched her hands momentarily into fists. "We need to sort this out."
"Oh, so Nate sent you?"
"No, he wanted to come himself, but I thought a 'stay away from my girl or I'll beat you up' talk wouldn't end well for him." She gave him a sad smile. "You never told me."
"Why would I? You were always Nate's."
"Sometimes I wonder if I'm just the prize in a pissing contest," she muttered.
He groaned. "Soph, don't be like that."
She stepped forward, reaching out like she meant to touch him, but then she thought better of it; he leaned instinctually towards her, and he hated himself a little for it.
"I thought about it, you know. While Nate was in jail, I wondered if I should just…move on."
"What stopped you?"
Her eyes flickered up to his then to the floor as she bit her bottom lip. "I don't know. A lot of reasons, I guess."
He waited, letting his hands heavily at his sides; he felt rooted to the spot, a little apprehensive at finding out the truth.
"I think the first would be that I never suspected you would feel the same way about me. Not that it would be that big of an obstacle if I actually wanted you."
She flashed him a cheeky grin and arched an eyebrow. "Half of my job is making men fall in love with me. Why should you be an exception?"
He narrowed his eyes, and she chuckled.
"I wouldn't do that to you. And, in the end, I would just be using you."
"You would always go back to him."
"It seems to be a pattern of mine." She sighed. "Maybe it will actually work out this time."
The words tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop them. "You deserve better." He crossed the few feet to her and placed his hands on her shoulders. "I could give you everything. I want to…"
"Eliot, it's not a matter of giving me something or the fact that I deserve someone better." She slipped out of his grasp. "Nate…. I've known him for such a long time, and loved him for most of it."
"If I had known," he broke himself off. "I never had a chance, did I?"
"Probably not. But you never tried, either."
Her eyes were too dark for him to read in the dim light, and he took a tentative step forward. Something had just changed, but he didn't know what.
"Eliot." Her voice trembled, and he reached out for her hand; she grasped his fingers in hers and tugged him towards her. "You
can kiss me."
He cupped her cheek with his free hand and leaned in, tentatively brushing his lips against her mouth; she shook a little, and he pulled his fingers from her grasp to curl them around her hip, anchoring her against his body. He kissed her again; she molded her
mouth to his, gasping when he traced her lips with his tongue and pressed into her mouth.
The world spun around him, and all he could feel and see and taste was Sophie, and it felt so right. She pulled away first, nuzzling her nose into his cheek and kissing the corner of his mouth before stepping back.
Tears shimmered in her eyes as she whispered, "It's about making a choice."
He brushed his thumb along the curve of her jaw and watched as the tears spilled onto her cheeks. Her lips were swollen from kissing him, and he knew that she had never looked more beautiful because it was the first time he could see her, beyond all the identities and costumes; and he loved her so much.
"I can't break him. He needs me."
She looked up at him, her eyes searching for some sign of understanding, and he knew then what he could give her. The choice was easy, but it was ripping him apart.
"I know, sweetheart." His lips quirked into a small smile, and he let his hand drop away from her face. "You know where I am if you ever need me."
She nodded her head and wiped the tears from her face; she straightened her back and sighed, hesitating before turning away and walking out. He listened to the door shut behind her and the sound of her car starting up and driving away; he squared his shoulders and shifted back to his bag, punching it and beginning the familiar dance again.