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Drinking to Drink

Title: Drinking to Drink
Fandom: Leverage
Series: Jukebox Musical
Pairings: None really
Warnings: Minor angst
Word Count: 1059
Disclaimer: If I owned it, it would be nothing but introspection.
Summary: Nathan Ford is running out of excuses.


Nate likes to think that he has no illusions about the sort of man he is. He knows that he's an alcoholic, functioning though he may be; he knows that he's guilty and bitter and driven as much by vengeance as by the joy of helping those in need.

But even though that first job is personal, Nate likes to think that he still has a moral compass and everyone that his team goes after deserves the punishments they get. These bastards deserve to have their lives ripped away without remorse just as they used their money and power to destroy the lives of others and Leverage, Inc. is just a tool to see this justice done.

It's the truth because it has to be, because Nate commands it, and he's always been so certain that he's not a thief.

After all, Eliot said it when the team first came together – when the other four still looked at each other with suspicion – they trust Nate because he's the only honest man around. The mastermind was the glue that stopped their group from imploding and if they sometimes balked at his orders, he wasn't running a democracy.

To be honest, Nate doesn't actually remember large chunks of their first few jobs together, every con blurring into a whiskey haze of hate. All he knows is that one day he sobers up for a few hours and everything has changed; suddenly he isn't the only reason that all these thieves stick around.

His team has come together without him (or in spite of him), and while there are still hints of fracture, no one walks away. Instead Eliot cooks them dinner and Hardison watches old movies with Parker in the office, the hacker endlessly trying to convince her of the merits of Star Wars. Instead they almost seem like friends, cantankerous, violent friends, but loyal nonetheless.

It's the loyalty that throws Nate for a loop because thieves aren't supposed to be loyal to anything but the money and the thrill of the chase. That's how he knew that he was different – that he was better - because when they earned their one big score in the beginning, he just gave it all away.

Nate has a higher purpose; he is the white knight riding off to slay a score of dragons and his teammates are just the weapons that he wields. Even Sophie, gorgeous, elusive Sophie, whose mangling of Shakespeare is a thing of beauty to behold. He chose her because he needed her, because some part of his heart had always admired her, but it was never supposed to be anything more than that.

None of these people were supposed to matter, not to him or each other, and yet suddenly, they care. Suddenly they disapprove of his drinking and his methods and while Nate affects disinterest, he hears everything. He hears the worry, the frustration every time that he rejects their suggestions and he tries not to notice that Eliot is the only one who doesn't question anything. No, the hitter just frowns disapprovingly from the shadows and Nate's not sure what it means when even the hired killer thinks that you're losing it.

But the mastermind doesn't want anything but their obedience; he doesn't want friends or a new family so he pretends he doesn't see. Nate acts as though nothing has changed and eventually he starts to believe that the masquerade is real. He cons himself into being relieved when Sophie finally screws them over, proving once and for all that there's no honor amongst thieves.

Instead there is only betrayal and the fact that Nate returns for Hardison doesn't mean anything. It doesn't mean anything that Eliot was beat to hell trying to protect them and went back for more anyway.

After all, everyone knows that Nate is the honest one and he's sure that Sophie's guilt is the only reason that she risks her life for Parker's sake. Indeed, when the Leverage office explodes behind him, Nate is certain that everything is done.

This was just another chapter in his life, a foolish experiment that had ended as it must: with fire and with blood. So while he has no intention of letting Blackpoole walk, the mastermind doesn't expect anyone else to feel the same. He doesn't expect to see his team show up with shifty eyes and a mountain of excuses, but there to aid him nonetheless.

Nate certainly doesn’t expect it to hurt so much once the job is over and they're all preparing to say goodbye again. Because by all rights, it's finished – Blackpoole has been punished, Maggie knows the truth and doesn't hate him – Nate's quest should be complete.

He's not a thief; he's just a father who was tired of drowning his pain in alcohol and decided to take matters into his own two hands. Because who wouldn't burn the world to destroy their child's killer? Who wouldn't want to take that bastard out?

But as Nate stands frozen, his feet glued to the tarmac when he should be running free, the mastermind realizes that he's been lying all along. He's been lying to himself and to his teammates because all he wants to do is turn around.

He saw this same hesitation on everyone else's faces when they separated and his aren't the only steps that ended suddenly. For somehow the five of them have become more than colleagues, more than the fruits of necessity, and Nate doesn't want to go back again.

The mastermind doesn't want to be alone with his memories; he doesn't want to be alone at all. But while Nathan Ford is an alcoholic and an asshole, he cannot be a thief. He doesn't need the cons any more than he really needs the whiskey because to need something is to admit that he is weak. No, the mastermind is stronger than any damn addiction and he'll prove it to everyone.

Even if that means leaving behind some of the only people who actually care about him and the only thing that's made him feel alive in years, the sacrifice is worth the pain. Because it's a small price to pay when it keeps his world in order and so Nate squares his shoulders firmly before taking that next step.


End