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28 April 2011 @ 07:47 pm
Leverage: Reverberate  
Title: Reverberate
Author: kshar
Rating: G/K
Pairing/Characters: gen; Nate, Sophie.
Summary: "Nate is the last one to wake up." Set mid-"The Two Live Crew Job".

Author's Note: I know TPTB's explanation for the two gravestones ("Katherine Clive" and "Sophie Devereaux"), but I've changed it around a little here. I think it suits the story (and my sanity) better.

Disclaimer: Characters are the property of TNT, and are used without permission.

Nate is the last one to wake up. Of course, he'll think later, over a splitting headache and a cup of black coffee he wishes was something harder, he's always the last one to wake up in this ensemble.

As the fog surrounding his brain starts to clear, he thinks Sophie is way too chipper for someone who was just the-skin-of-her-teeth from being blown up, and he can't catch everything she's saying because his ears are ringing, but her hand's on his cheek and he's only just now figuring out that his legs are still attached.

But her hand's on his face, and even though he's rediscovering parts of his body that hurt, he's never been able to ignore her touch, and she brings him back to earth.

"The others," he says, blinking to try and clear the blackish ash from his vision. It takes him a moment to realize that the ash is coming from the sky, that he can feel the sidewalk beneath him, ridges and broken stones.

"Everyone's fine," she says, or rather mouths, because Nate's world is still humming too loud to hear anything else, and she steps back, clearing his line of sight. He sees Parker and Hardison, covered with ash but apparently unharmed; Parker looking back over one shoulder at a gathering crowd. Eliot with a scrape of blood beside one eye and a carefully offset arm that could mean a break, could mean a dislocated shoulder.

Nate needs to see, because this is his team and there are some things he needs to do for them. But gravity's sucking at him, pulling his bones down to the ground, and he closes his eyes again, just for a moment, and everything goes black.

"Fine, thank you," Sophie's politely telling Eliot when Nate wakes up again. Through fuzzy vision he sees her rub her palm along her jawline. "Nothing a lot of pancake won't cover up."

"Pancakes?" he hears Parker say from somewhere behind him.

"Oof," Nate says articulately, pushing his elbows underneath him. It's softer than the sidewalk. He's on his couch, he realizes belatedly, recognizing his apartment from his couchbound angle. The monitors are off: he can see slight streaked dust and a reflection of grayish light that doesn't help him reacclimatize.

"Oh hey, look who's awake again," Hardison's voice floats in from what seems to be above and behind him, and Nate turns his head much too quickly to locate him, and regrets it.

The ceiling spins, and he thinks he might throw up. Sophie, in the chair beside him, and Eliot, in front of her and no longer favoring his arm, come back into focus when the room slows down.

"All right, Nate?" Sophie asks mildly.

"How are you in better shape than me?" he asks her.

"You noticed," she says with a flirtatious smile, and when he ignores her: "I'm very resilient."

He tries to think of a witty retort; for a moment, even, it's on the tip of his tongue, but then it's gone again. "Good," he says instead, finally, gruffly. "But really."

"Doorway," she says, almost apologetically. "The others were already down the stairs. You were in the hall, and the roof--"

"It kind of fell in on you," Parker tells him brightly, appearing from out of nowhere to kneel in front of him. She pulls a flashlight from her back pocket; flicks it on and directs it into his eyes.

Nate flinches and raises a hand to block her.

"I have to check you for concussion," Parker says, frowning.

"No, you really don't," he says.

"See if his pupils dilate, Parker," Sophie says.

Hardison hangs over him, ghosting into his view from above. The back of the couch, Nate's brain catches up, just a little behind events. "What does it mean if they're fixed?" Hardison asks.

"That would mean he's dead," Eliot answers, and Parker jumps backward, dropping the flashlight.

"I should have been suspicious--more suspicious," Sophie's saying. "Seriously, when's the last time someone sent me flowers, anyway?"

It's a rhetorical question, Nate thinks, but he answers it anyway. "Opening night of The Sound of Music?"

Her cheeks flush just the tiniest amount, but her expression doesn't change. "Oh, yes, of course," she says. "I...um, I said thank you for those, right?"

"Very graciously," Nate says, although honestly he doesn't remember; his memory of the night fogged by Sophie's truly wretched rendition of "The Lonely Goatherd" and the minor concussion he'd sustained later. He'd woken in a similar state of disorientation after that night, he remembered, although that time he hadn't felt so much like he'd been hit by a ton of bricks.

This time, he supposes, he has been.

He remembers the roses, though. Two dozen, which was not a small amount for someone on Nate's budget, and the softest kind of orangey peach because it had reminded him of her.

Sophie would have preferred the symbolism of the eye-catching deep red he'd seen first, he thinks still, but the orange was right.

It's getting weird, lying here thinking about the past. "Need coffee," he says, and drags himself off the couch. The ground's surprisingly steady beneath him, and he feels a little better for being up.

Sophie, he sees, is still regarding him steadily, her bare feet hooked underneath her on the chair. Her jawline's covered in spiderweb-fine scratches; there's a darkening bruise on one cheek. There are scratches and a deep gash on one of her arms, too, and she notices him looking; covers the worst of them with one hand, as though she's ashamed. She's wearing one of his t-shirts, and belatedly he notices her hair is wet. He must have been out for longer than he'd thought.

Eliot follows him, a silent shadow; finds coffee cups and even washes one out with surprisingly efficient domesticity.

"How's the arm?" Nate asks him; sees emotion flicker for just a second in Eliot's face.

"Hardison and Parker set it for me," he says. "No big deal."

"So much shrieking," Sophie adds, solemnly, from the chair. They'd been talking quietly, but Sophie has ears like a wolf. "You're lucky you were unconscious."

"Eliot...shrieked?" Nate asks, unable to picture it.

"Hardison," she clarifies.

A few feet's distance from the others gives him space to think more clearly. He finds filters and fills the coffee machine with water, pushing two empty cereal bowls out of his way. He flips switches; waits for the hiss and drip.

It hasn't escaped his notice that his fridge and liquor cabinet are constantly filled. Orange soda. Milk for Parker's cereal. Cream for various coffees. Bags of fruit that he guesses are from Eliot's trees, but they always appear when Nate isn't looking, so he isn't sure. There isn't much room for anything else, which he thinks might be deliberate, although none of the others but Sophie would ever broach that subject with him. Instead, things just appear, filling up the space in his life.

He can never quite decide how it makes him feel.

Parker and Hardison have moved immediately to take over his vacated space, seated side by side on the couch. Sophie looks back, catches Nate's eye, then quickly turns her head back to the others.

She looks too small, sitting there. Usually she fills up a room, but her eyes are too dark in her face; her wet hair too straight. When she catches his eye again, she gives him a dazzling Sophie smile before she looks away a second time. It's meant to reassure him, but he isn't reassured.

"So what now?" Eliot asks him, breaking into his reverie.

"Now," Nate says, and starts getting out coffee cups; more for a reason to think, since the coffee won't be ready for a while. "Now we figure out who did it."

Eliot gestures with the bad arm, so Nate registers with some relief that he really seems to be okay. "And...how do we do that?" It isn't like Eliot to push him, Nate thinks. He's rattled.

He looks over at Parker and Hardison; notices Parker's quick, nervous hands; the drawn look around Hardison's eyes. They're all rattled.

"We play along," Nate says.

"I can access police records," Hardison's saying later. "Forensic reports. They'll probably have information on how it was made. Uh, eventually, anyway."

"Yeah, it'll take a while," Nate agrees. It's time they don't have. "And there's no guarantee they'll find anything to tie the device to anyone. Sophie, you're sure you didn't notice anything odd about the flowers?"

"You mean aside from the bomb planted in them?"

"Apart from the bomb, yes," Nate says patiently.

"Nothing," she says with a sigh. "There wasn't a card. I didn't see them delivered. They were just there, and I picked them up to bring them in, and then..." her voice trails off. "They were pretty," she says finally, her voice uncharacteristically small.

There's a long, silent moment.

"I liked the vase," Parker says eventually.

"Where are we going to bury me?" Sophie's voice is curious, unemotional. Her fingers are steepled in front of her: it's Sophie's thinking look. He's seen it before, with marks, and these days with clients.

Nate is fiddling with the lights, dissatisfied. His head hurts, and he's never realized before how bright it gets in here. He's already turned off the kitchen light. No-one commented or complained, even though it left half of the room dark. Streetlight from outside the window zebra-stripes the floor; Parker and Hardison and Eliot and Sophie, in various states of repose in the lighted half, are all sharp edges, hard for him to look at.

"I was thinking Fairlawn," Nate says. "Mid-sized, non-denominational. Nice views."

Sophie claps a hand against her mouth; obviously regrets it when she hits her slightly puffy upper lip.

"Problem," she says. "I'm already buried at Fairlawn."

Parker looks horrified.

"Well, Sophie Devereaux is. It was an insurance thing."

"It makes me nervous when you talk about yourself in the third person," Hardison says.

It bothers Nate, too. He realizes that he's never really thought about the fact that Sophie's aliases don't generally get to live happily ever after. He's followed in her footsteps for years, known her for years. Never thought too hard about the idea that her stories, inevitably, have to end.

It's a sobering thought.

Suddenly and irrationally furious, he bites back the urge to snap at her, and rubs his neck, instead, making a fist with the other hand and then slowly opening his fingers; breathing through his teeth. "I don't remember that," he says, when he recovers his composure.

Sophie shrugs. "It was mostly paperwork, honestly. I didn't even go myself."

"To your own funeral," Hardison says, uncertainly.

Sophie shrugs again. "Well, you never know when you'll need a gravestone with your name on it."

"Seriously?" says Hardison. "Because that's really creepy."

"We'll need you at this one," Nate says.

"You're burying her twice in the same cemetery?" Hardison asks, but it's pretty clear he already knows the answer.

Nate does consider, gives it at least a moment or two of thought. "Different names," he says. "The apartment belongs--"

"Belonged," Sophie corrects helpfully.

"Belonged to Katherine Clive, right? You've had that identity set up?" Again, it's not really a question, because he knows how Sophie works, but she nods anyway. "Okay. Okay. Let's plan ourselves a funeral."

Eliot, the most practical of them, is considering his hands and clearly giving some things thought. "Soph, you'll need somewhere to stay," he says after a long silence.

"Hotel," she says. Quickly, breezily.

"You're supposed to be dead," Nate objects. "Someone could see you."

"I can keep a low profile."

He looks steadily at her, until she sighs and tosses her hair back, then deliberately leans back, pulling her feet up on the chair beside her.

"Well, I have a summer house I could go to," she says irritably. "But it's in Dubai."

"Why would you go to Dubai in the summer?" Parker asks. "It's crazy hot."

"I think "summer house" is code, here," Hardison tells her.

"For what?"

"Place you go when people want you dead."

"She'll stay here," Nate says.

In unison, the gazes of the others flick to Sophie, and then downward again.

"I don't think that's a good idea," she says. "I've slept in your bed before, and it's ungodly lumpy. And," she flaps a hand at him dismissively, "And you don't have any of my things."

Nate grimaces. "Sophie, you don't have any of your things. Your apartment blew up, remember?" Sophie looks stung, and he relents a little; softens his voice. "Anyway, it seems like my spare closet's full of your clothes."

"For emergencies," she says indignantly. "Sometimes I need to change quickly. I can't exactly travel halfway across town--in the middle of a con--for a new pair of shoes, now can I?"

"Observation, not complaint," he says, and catches Hardison's eye. "Maybe my landlord could build you your own closet."

"Not in your lease agreement," he hears Hardison say smartly before Sophie goes on.

"Look, I'll figure something out," she says.

He steps in toward her, then: puts a hand on her elbow and ignores her straightening her spine. "Can I talk to you in private," he says, and it isn't a question.

Sophie stands; walks to the kitchen with exaggerated movement. "I always think this is going to be sexy, you know, and it never really is."

Nate doesn't look at the others, but out of the corner of his eye he sees Parker wrinkling her nose.

He deliberately moves into her space until she crosses her arms in front of her. They stand in silence for a minute before the others start talking in a hushed, hurried kind of way on the other side of the room.

Sophie caves first. "What?" she asks him, and he can tell she's trying to sound petulant or defensive or aggressive. What she sounds like, to him, is worried.

It isn't like her. Sophie isn't afraid of anything, that he's ever noticed; there isn't a social situation in the world she can't talk her way out of (or into), and as far as he can tell there isn't anything anyone can say to her that will make her uncomfortable.

But she's uncomfortable now. She takes a step away from him and he hears a clunk that sounds like it might be her knee hitting the dishwasher, and she curses under her breath.

"Damn you, Nate, can we turn the lights back on now?"

He ignores the question. "Stay here," he says, and adds: "It's safer."

She rubs a hand against her shin sullenly and ignores him back for a while, stares off at a point beyond his head, and he leans back against the counter, prepared to wait her out. He can see stars outside the windows, and light pollution graying the darkness of the sky. His eyes take a second to readjust when he looks back inside again, to Sophie.

"Is that the extent of your argument?"

He feels his lips curve into a smile. "Bed's yours," he says.

"It's lumpy," she reminds him, but he can tell he's already won.

The others dissipate over the course of the night. Eliot clears out first; downs the last of his coffee in a gulp and leaves the cup upturned in the sink. It doesn't escape Nate that he does a careful, visual sweep of them all before he leaves, eyes resting longest on Sophie and Nate.

"We're fine," he wants to say, but it would make Eliot uncomfortable, and it's not what Nate does. It's Sophie who shores up everyone's emotions. Not without some bitterness, Nate knows that that's because someone's had to do it while Nate himself has concentrated on running the scam and researching the marks, and being drunk out of his mind.

So he doesn't say anything.

Hardison, next, keeps passing a hand over one eyebrow while he sits, laptop balanced on one lanky knee. Nate thinks it's simple tiredness, but Sophie divines (over orange sodas, which Hardison gulps and which she sips slowly, bottle cap held out to her side in three fingers) wood splinters from the explosion, driven into his skin.

Nate doesn't own tweezers--is kind of confused by the question, in fact--so Sophie does her best with a needle sterilized in boiled-water steam and Parker on flashlight duty.

Parker gets distracted easily when there's no work to pull her in, and Nate counts twice that she moves away at critical moments, to Hardison's dismay. Nate himself sits apart, his hands between his knees, not-watching-them in all the ways that count.

"There," Sophie says when she's finished, and she rocks back on her heels, knocking into Parker, who'd moved in close again.

Nate drops his head into a hand for a moment; suddenly his brain's made of lead, his patience running out. "Okay, guys, I hate to cut all this short--" he looks at his watch; sighs. When he looks up, they've righted themselves, but Parker is approaching him with something held behind her back.

"Someone take the flashlight away from Parker," he says quietly.

Sophie laughs, but she corrals the others toward the door with skill Nate's never been able to reproduce. He hears her showing them out, as though she owns the place, and silently stands and walks over to lean against the counter, watching.

Parker doesn't want to leave, and she keeps up a steady line of questions about what they're going to do next and whether Sophie's ever been blown up before and how she can run so fast in heels that high, until Hardison takes her sleeve at her elbow between fore-and-index fingers; gently tugs at her.

"C'mon, Parker," he says. "We've got a lot to do tomorrow."

"It's tomorrow already," she's saying as she turns.

"Keep it clean," Sophie calls after Hardison.

"Always do," he says, with a wink and a salute. "Wish I could say the same for the rest of you."

"I meant--" Sophie starts, gesturing to her own forehead, and then gives up. "See you tomorrow."

Parker opens her mouth to respond: "It's tomorrow al--", and this time Hardison wraps his hand around her arm and pulls at her far less gently.

"She was worried about you," Sophie says with a hint of reproval. She takes his coffee cup from him with firm fingers; dumps the rest of his second refill. Nate's hand closes reflexively in her wake. "She has trouble expressing things like that."

Nate can't think of anything to say that doesn't sound churlish, so he doesn't answer. "You should get some sleep," he says finally, and gestures to the stairs.

Sophie pushes a strand of hair out of her eyes. "I should wake you up in the night," she says, uncertainly.

Something fascinating happens to Sophie's voice when she's very tired. The received pronunciation starts to fall away, and Nate thinks he's getting closer to what she really sounds like, underneath all the layers and the lies.

"Why would you wake me?" he says, his voice quieter. He has ideas about why, of course. He has suggestions.

"Concussion," says Sophie, matching her volume to his. Their voices are dwindling to whispers, ghost-trails of words rising to Nate's high ceiling, spiraling gently off the bookcases and furniture and screens. "Make sure you haven't--haven't slipped into a coma."

"If I had," Nate says logically, "You wouldn't be able to wake me."

There's a long moment, and Sophie steps backward against the wall, too-precise fingers pushing that strand of hair back again. "At least I'd know," she says finally.

When he finally gets to sleep, he sleeps hard and late; wakes with a scratchy feeling inside his mouth and a tightness in the muscles of his back. Too old to sleep on the couch, he thinks ruefully, and then remembers the night that came before, and thinks he's probably too old for the scams and the gunshot wounds and the motion-sensitive explosive devices, too.

Sophie's in a sunbeam at his kitchen table; reading his newspaper and picking at a bowl of what he assumes are Parker's Cheerios.

The cereal reminds him of Parker, but it also reminds him of Sam. Sam liked chocolate milk on his cereal, and sunny mornings like this soak Nate up in memories of his son. Of course, so do rainy mornings, and cloudy mornings. Long shadows in the afternoons. Flickering fluorescent lights. Cartoons--sometimes Hardison's and Parker's taste in television is enough to drive Nate out of the room. Grape jelly. The smell of baby powder. "Take Me Out To The Ballgame". Seagulls, because they were Sam's favorite bird and when he was little he'd pronounced them "geegulls", and for Maggie and Nate the name had stuck; become part of their lexicon, the shared language of their family.

Hospitals. Surgical soap. Scrambled eggs, vomited up on white sheets and knit blanket when the pain and the treatments had nauseated him beyond the point of keeping any nourishment in him; when Sam had been so tired and so hurt and so sick that Nate had almost let himself wish it was over.


Ribs Nate could trace with a finger, stretched tight against parchment skin.

Certificates, and coffins, and black suits, and a surreal tilt to the world because this couldn't possibly be happening, and yet, and yet, it was.

"Stop doing my crossword," he says finally, running a hand through his hair, feeling it stand up in peaks. His voice sounds rough to his own ears.

"Didn't see your name on it," Sophie says, not looking up.

He steps closer. Feels the morning light hit his skin; warming. He looks over her shoulder. "Fourteen down's wrong."

"No way," she says. "Chekhov's rifle. What else could it be?"

"I've seen the play, that's not the answer."

"I was in that play, thank you very much."

"You'll find out when you try to finish that," he says. There's a pause. "You're not going to finish it, are you?"

"Not now, no," she says, pushing the newspaper away. He catches a word muttered under her breath--it sounds a lot like "smart-arse". Nate smiles in spite of himself.

"How are you doing?" he asks her gently.

"Oh, y'know," she says. This time, she looks up at him--a shy smile for this shared bad joke--and suddenly it's quiet in here. He's aware of her proximity, of the faint thunderstorm scent of her, of the magnetism of her skin. His hands, all of a sudden, don't want to stay still, and he wrings one in the other; moves to one side of her and pulls the coffee pot out of the machine. He tips stale coffee into the sink, rinses until the water runs clear.

His kitchen cabinets are always full too, he thinks while retrieving coffee, although there never seems to be anything substantial that he can actually eat. Boxes of cereal, microwave popcorn, cookies. He's bemused to find two more cereal bowls, complete with spoons and milk residue, shoved into a corner, and extracts them to rinse and put in the dishwasher.

No wonder he never has enough bowls to eat out of.

His laptop, still set up on the counter from last night, catches his eye, and he leans into it, wakes it from sleep to check his email. He can hear Sophie turn in her chair, without looking at her, and he clicks through spam until he finds what he's looking for.

"Hardison's got a photo for me," he tells her. "Of Sophie Devereaux's gravestone. We can use the same typeface on the new one, if you want."

Her eyes meet his, above the laptop screen. "That's a little dramatic for you, isn't it?"

"I'm learning to embrace my inner showman." He puts the statement to the test by turning the screen to her with a flourish.

Her eyes light on the photo, but her expression doesn't change. "Yeah," she says. "They did a pretty nice job."

Nate knows how Hardison's been feeling, all of a sudden. She's entirely too calm, and his stomach has been clenching like it's being clawed.

"If we dug up that grave," he says, and his voice sounds a little strained even to his own ears. "What would we find? Sophie Devereaux's bones?"

Sophie pushes back from the table and wraps her arms around herself. Maybe she's not as calm as she looks, but when she opens her mouth her voice is as even as ever. "Don't you worry about my bones, Nate. I've got them covered."

Nate can't think of a reply, so he busies himself with clearing his inbox; sets his laptop back to hibernate, tapping the fingers of his free hand against the counter, awkwardly.

"Have you thought of anyone who might want you dead?"

"Who on earth," Sophie says, deadpan.

"Insurance companies?" Nate suggests, only slightly tongue in cheek.

"Oh please, Nate," she says. "You worked for IYS. Would any of those muppets--no offense--"

"None taken."

"--organize a hit? A bomb that took out my apartment, my floor and half the building?" It seems to resettle itself on her again, then, and she sighs deeply.

"It's not very subtle," Nate agrees, setting up the coffee machine again. Her eyes, he notices, follow his hands. As an afterthought, he fills the kettle with water, too, and switches it on. He finds lemons in a bag in the fridge, takes one out and tosses it from one hand to another before placing it on the bench.

There's a hurried knock at the door almost immediately before it opens, and Parker and Eliot come in. Parker has a hoodie pulled up over her hair, and Eliot, Nate sees, is wearing a shirt with press-stud buttons that are easy to close with one hand.

"You're supposed to wait until you're invited in," Nate says, looking hard at Parker, who's carefully filing her picks away in their case and slipping it into a pocket.

"Eliot knocked," she says, slumping onto the couch sideways, her knees over the armrest.

"How's the arm, Eliot?" Sophie asks.

"Fighting fit," he tells her, making a fist and flexing the arm.

Nate picks up the lemon again, loops it to him underarm across the room. Eliot catches it and whips it back, much harder, in almost the same movement.

"Oh stop it, you two. You'll break something," Sophie says, standing up from the table to join Parker on the couch.

Nate's hand stings a little from the lemon rebound, but he'll never admit it. The kettle clicks off, long before coffee is ready, and he pours hot water into a cup for Sophie's tea; slices the lemon.

When he looks back at the others, Parker is the only one watching him. "Can I have coffee?" she asks.

"It's not ready yet," he says distractedly, thinking, feeling the corners of his mouth turn up as they always do, involuntarily, when he's working on a problem. "What do you do when life hands you lemons," he says, almost to himself.

Sophie answers, turning to look at him. "Freshen up my lipstick, undo the top button of my blouse, and convince life to buy me a shandy instead?"

"Lemon butter," says Eliot. "Lemon curd. You can make a nice citrus salad." When Nate's gaze lands on him, he shuts up, folds his arms across his chest, like he hadn't noticed he'd started talking and had to block any more words from coming out.

"How many lemons will I get?" Parker asks suspiciously.

Sophie really does have a disturbing amount of her clothes at his apartment, Nate thinks. She's come up with a dark, conservative skirt and jacket that she pronounces perfect for being buried in.

Nate managed to avoid making the joke about whether she'd be caught dead in it, but Hardison didn't show the same restraint, and got a puzzled glance followed by delayed laughter from Parker; a steely look from Eliot; nothing from Sophie, who was buzzing around trying to "think dead", whatever it was she meant by that.

Nate had been trying not to think too much about it, himself.

"You don't have to cover up that bruise, Soph," he tells her. She leans into the mirror, the door to Nate's tiny downstairs bathroom hooked open by one tanned leg. Nate moves into the doorway himself, to assist, even though he knows the door will stay open by itself if it isn't pushed closed. That seems beside the point, somehow.

He watches her smooth some kind of lotion along her cheekbones, using her pinky finger to blend it in. "It's probably best if you look injured. You are supposed to be dead, after all."

Sophie looks scandalized. "If I were really dead, the funeral home would have made me up to look..you know, pretty."

"This is just weird," Hardison calls out. Nate, from his doorway, has a good view of both rooms. Hardison's sitting on the couch, chin resting on one hand while he taps away at the laptop balanced precariously on one knee. Parker, blonde hair bright wisps against her black hoodie, sits cross-legged on the floor, nibbling on popcorn from the bowl beside her.

"Parker, you need to get changed soon," Nate tells her. "We'll have to go set things up."

Parker doesn't respond, but Sophie drops one container of makeup and picks up another. "I'm not ready yet!" she tells him indignantly, and drops that one to outline her lips in red.

"But if I got enough lemons," he hears Parker say, "I could stockpile them and then sell them."

"Yeah, I'm not sure you're understanding the point of the exercise here," Hardison says.

Nate listens to them argue with half an ear while Sophie fills color into her lips; deep red, like blood from a vein.

"I can cover that bruise on your forehead, too, Nate," Sophie says.

"No, thank you," he says.

"Really," she says. "You weren't there, remember? Why would you have a bruise on your face?"

Nate pauses; sighs, knowing when he's beaten, and doesn't object when Sophie moves in to sponge goo along his browline. He flinches when she presses too hard; tries to pull away, but her hand lightning-fast grips his collar, pulls him back into place.

"Hold still," Sophie says.

"Well, hurry up," he says, trying to shift away again.

"I need a little time to work my magic, Nate."

"Nate's going to wear makeup," he hears Parker say, sotto voce.

Nate opens his mouth to protest, but Sophie gets there first. "It's just coverup," she tells him reassuringly. "Although I have been saying for years that a little mascara would really bring out your eyes."

"Sophie," he says, his warning voice. She smiles, directly into his eyes. He can feel the warmth of her, inches away; he's reminded of how easy it is to fall in love with Sophie. He sees it happen to marks every day. She puts the sponge down and traces her thumb from his hairline in an arc to the side of his face, rubbing slightly back and forth like an artist smudging charcoal.

"When life hands me lemons," she says under her breath, and she's close to him but she barely vocalizes the words, and Nate isn't sure he heard her right; is about to ask her when she goes on.

"I call you guys," she says, pressing featherlight thumbprints along his cheekbone before dropping her hand to her side and taking a step back. In her orbit, Nate misses her immediately. "And you help. You save me."

No, Nate thinks, that's not the right way around at all.


lmx_v3point3: Sophie leverage the_windowbirdlmx_v3point3 on April 28th, 2011 12:36 pm (UTC)
Your characterisation is PERFECT. I love it. Totally. The discussion of lemons was fantastic, Sophie's methods for dealing were spot on, Eliot knocking after Parker's picked the lock, and Hardison putting his foot in it... just right. :D I love it. I know I've said that already, but I'm saying it again. :D Awesome
(it's a bird)kshar on April 29th, 2011 09:37 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading and for commenting. I always worry about the characterization, so I'm really glad it worked for you.

Thanks again!
Perri: genius!neonhummingbird on April 28th, 2011 01:54 pm (UTC)
This is really excellent. Your Nate POV is unfalteringly perfect, and the way the team roams around him, and the ongoing tension of his give-and-take with Sophie, reflects the show exactly. Really excellent work; I particularly love the little details of how the team has moved in and made themselves at home in his kitchen and, by extension, his life. Very well done.
(it's a bird)kshar on April 29th, 2011 09:39 am (UTC)
Thank you for reading, and for the comment. I am oddly fascinated by the details of Nate's kitchen :).
Astridastridv on April 28th, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC)
This was really good! I love the whole mood of the story, Nate's kind-of-hazy point of view, the nuanced and subtle description of the way he relates to Sophie, and his team's sheer presence. It all feels so spot on. Really enjoyed reading it!
(it's a bird)kshar on April 29th, 2011 09:50 am (UTC)
I really appreciate your comments. I am surprised and delighted by how detailed people seem to be with feedback in Leverage fandom <3. Thank you so much, and thanks for reading.
mystizan: Leverage: Sophie Eliot homemystizan on April 28th, 2011 07:25 pm (UTC)
I never even...look. This is just brilliant. There. Love Parker stockpiling her lemons, E talking abt lemon curd, the crew filling up Nate's apt & life & heart & just..wow. Also, how perfect is Sophie ALREADY having a headstone in the cemetery? lol What explanation did TPTB give?
(it's a bird)kshar on April 29th, 2011 09:55 am (UTC)
Thank you.

According to the DVD commentary, Sophie changed the name on the gravestone herself, because she wanted to lay her Sophie persona to rest. They didn't go into detail on why the graves were located in what were clearly different parts of the cemetery :), so I took the liberty of messing around with the idea a little.

Thanks again for reading and commenting!
mystizan: Castle:armed & dangerousmystizan on May 4th, 2011 03:34 am (UTC)
ur welcome. & oic. Ok cool.
randomstasis: eliothermitsoulrandomstasis on May 7th, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
You've just given me new fondness for that whole gambit. The aftercare scene was so very IC- Hardison's disturbed shrieking through first aid on Eliot (but not noticing his own splinters) was a bit of genius. As was Eliot making sure Nate at least got a warning knock;P
Eliot and his lemons!LOL- weapon, or a nice lemon curd? and I noticed Hardison would have nothing to do with the fruit motif at all;)
(it's a bird)kshar on May 8th, 2011 09:35 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you! ♥ I really appreciate the comment. I loved writing the team.
Havochavocthecat on May 23rd, 2011 11:27 pm (UTC)
This was lovely. I adored Sophie and Nate, and Nate's POV on Sophie, and the whole team dynamic.
(it's a bird)kshar on May 24th, 2011 07:29 am (UTC)
Thank you for reading and for commenting!
All the letters I can write: Leveragewendelah1 on December 9th, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
I had to get a Leverage icon before I could comment on this. You capture the team dynamic perfectly, which is what I love most about the show.

I love this paragraph.

The cereal reminds him of Parker, but it also reminds him of Sam. Sam liked chocolate milk on his cereal, and sunny mornings like this soak Nate up in memories of his son. Of course, so do rainy mornings, and cloudy mornings. Long shadows in the afternoons. Flickering fluorescent lights. Cartoons--sometimes Hardison's and Parker's taste in television is enough to drive Nate out of the room. Grape jelly. The smell of baby powder. "Take Me Out To The Ballgame". Seagulls, because they were Sam's favorite bird and when he was little he'd pronounced them "geegulls", and for Maggie and Nate the name had stuck; become part of their lexicon, the shared language of their family.

Oh Nate. So many lovely, illuminating and painful details. For him, everything always goes back to Sam. It's like he's trapped in one of those time-loop episodes.

But there is something funny or sweet or just plain insightful in every paragraph. Your character voices are perfect, the details you use are, too.

"Sophie," he says, his warning voice. She smiles, directly into his eyes. He can feel the warmth of her, inches away; he's reminded of how easy it is to fall in love with Sophie. He sees it happen to marks every day. She puts the sponge down and traces her thumb from his hairline in an arc to the side of his face, rubbing slightly back and forth like an artist smudging charcoal.

That little bit of description of how she puts the makeup on is so right, too, for the act, and for Sophie'S entire approach to disguise and deception.

The ending is great, too.

"I call you guys," she says, pressing featherlight thumbprints along his cheekbone before dropping her hand to her side and taking a step back. In her orbit, Nate misses her immediately. "And you help. You save me."

No, Nate thinks, that's not the right way around at all.


Excellent story.

(it's a bird)kshar on December 10th, 2011 11:32 am (UTC)
Thank you for reading, and for this amazing comment. It really means a lot to me that you liked this.