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How I'm Living Now

Title: How I'm Living Now
Fandom: Leverage
Series: Jukebox Musical
Pairings: None
Warnings: Minor angst, canon backstories
Word Count: 1085 or 910 depending on who you believe
Disclaimer: If I owned it, the good guys would kick ass.
Summary: All of them are broken, but somehow they fit together anyway.


They all know that they're broken but somehow they fit together anyway. Somehow the jagged edges of their demons break against each other's armor and the open wounds don't hurt as much as they did before.

Because as often as Eliot gripes about Parker's sanity, she knows that he would never try to change her and “Dammit, Hardison,” is really just another word for love. Sophie may still be the worst actress that anyone has ever seen but that doesn't stop Nate from thinking she's fantastic and knowing that she has a fan makes her slightly less manic when the cameras start to roll. Even the mastermind is more stable with his team around him, the drinking and the vengeance no longer the only things that fill the chasm in his heart.

Sure their work is still to the left of honest living, but they're helping people and it's not like any of them would really be comfortable with a nine to five. So while the entire team could have retired after they took down Dubenich, only Parker had ever been in the game for the money anyway.

It's always been about the thrill of the chase, the pride as a plan works perfectly, and now it's also the way that people smile when their lives are restored. It's the nights when Eliot cooks dinner for the whole team back in Nate's apartment, the hitter trying out a new recipe while Hardison makes sure their tracks are clean. It's the days when the team doesn't have a job but they hang out anyway.

Not that the transition from lone wolves to teammates was a smooth one, at least not entirely. Because Parker had never had friends before, not people who liked her even when she stole their wallets, and Hardison had never had friends that he could touch.

The hacker had always lived his life through usernames and avatars and he wasn't sure what to do when he couldn't hide behind a stranger’s face anymore. So Hardison needled at the others in lieu of conversation, pushing and pushing to see if they would break. But even when Eliot was obviously struggling not to kill him, no one ever threw the hacker out, and eventually he started to believe they never would.

After all, it was hard to take the hitter's threats too seriously when he was always throwing himself between the team and any danger that dared to menace them. In truth, Eliot's grumpiness was largely a cover for his terrified conviction that he'd be too slow on the day it really mattered and he would have to live with his friends’ blood on his hands. This would send him over the edge that he'd been dancing on for ages and there would be no climbing back again.

So the hitter cajoled Hardison into learning how to throw a punch and bought Parker her first Taser, pepper spray and a stiletto snuck into Sophie's purse. Not that the grifter really needed protecting when she could talk Eskimos into buying ice machines without even trying, but Eliot rested easier knowing that she'd have a weapon if Nate ever went too far.

This was a valid concern in the early days when alcohol and obsession drove their leader to recklessness, the mastermind willing to sacrifice anything to bring his clients their revenge. Because the rest of his team might have been the criminals, but Nate Ford had never been a good man.

He was brilliant, yes, and inspiring and almost terrifyingly prepared, but none of this meant that he was nice. Instead he was cruel and defensive and certainly alcoholic, the loss of his son stripping away whatever civilized veneer had kept his tongue in check. So Nate sometimes wondered why his team put up with him in his more sober moments even as he thanked god for giving him this chance. The chance for vengeance, of course, since he would never admit to wanting a new family.

But his team helped to ease the pain that even whiskey couldn't touch, although none of them would acknowledge how much they cared at first. After all, caring was a weakness that thieves could not afford and the team still deflects whenever someone asks if they're happy with how they're living now.

Though, in truth, they are. For they are a family of misfits and renegades; the five of them learning to fit together even when all their instincts screamed to run, Sure it was a little dicey at times since there were few things more terrifying than Parker when she's afraid of being boring and Hardison ended up with his mouth taped shut from time to time.

But gradually Eliot learned tolerance and Parker learned to trust them; Hardison stopped hiding his vulnerabilities beneath a wave of gibberish and Sophie discovered a new persona beneath all the masks. The team learned to rein Nate in if his schemes grew too complicated or too vicious and now when Hardison balks at an idea, they invent another plan.

Because the hacker has become the moral center of their little family, the only one with any real concept of what is right and wrong. He knows what Eliot has forgotten and Parker can't hope to understand and somehow he holds them back from the lines that Nate wants to charge across.

Somehow they're better people than they used to be when they're together and none of them would go back for all the money in the world. Not even Parker because as much as she loves money, and she really, really does, the thief has finally found people she loves more. Eliot has friends whom he'll live as well as kill and die for and Hardison has that family he always claimed he didn't want.

Of course, Nate and Sophie have each other, but the mastermind also has a reason to let go of his vengeance and in some ways, that's a far greater miracle. For even though revenge was the coin that brought this team together, it's not the glue that makes them stay.

That is love and trust and laughter, inside jokes and frustration and the bonds of fraternity. It's scheming, thrills and family, guilty pleasures, down-home cooking and the way that they miss each other when they're gone. So it may be unconventional; it may be strange and awkward and on Interpol's most wanted, but none of them would change a thing about their lives right now.


End