Series: Jukebox Musical
Pairings: minor established Eliot/Hardison & Nate/Sophie
Word Count: 1518
Disclaimer: If I owned it, the soundtrack would be Kane.
Summary: All of them have bad days even now.
Five years. Five years and counting since a double-crossing asshole first brought their team together and all of them have bad days even now.
There are mornings when Nate would kill for a single glass of whiskey. He lies awake by Sophie and imagines getting drunk, drunk enough that the ghosts of his past can’t chase him anymore. There are mornings when Nate wishes things were different, wishes that Maggie were still his wife and wonders what life he would be living if his son had never died.
There are nights when Hardison wakes up screaming, clawing at the sheets that bind him down. He flails at Eliot wildly when the hitter tries to help him, his mind still trapped inside the coffin that nearly claimed his life.
The hacker can't go back to sleep after one of those nightmares. He has to get out. Out of the dark, out of their room, out of his own head.
Hardison feels weak then and he hates it. He was too weak to stop himself from getting shoved inside that coffin and he still needs to be rescued more often than he should. The hacker is always putting Eliot in danger instead of watching his own back and the bruises that the hitter can't quite hide just twist the knife inside his gut.
So Hardison turns on his computer and disappears into a world where he's the one with power. The hacker spends hours seeking justice anywhere that he can find it, leaving a trail of sudden windfalls and shattered secrets in his wake. He hacks until the caffeine runs out and he finally collapses, too exhausted to dream of anything.
On other days, it's Sophie who doubts her choices, wondering if a life with Nate is truly what she wants. She wonders if she should have continued acting, following her dreams even though she knows she's terrible.
The grifter doesn't understand why she's never been able to translate her skill at stealing into more legal ventures. Without the thrill, without the chance of being caught, she can't seem to find the balance between reality and acting. The cons are her and she's the cons and sometimes she wonders if there's something broken in her mind.
Sophie has lived so long as a chameleon that she barely remembers who she used to be before this. She was a person once, a real person with a home and roots and family, and sometimes she curses the twist of fate that ruined Lara Stapleton.
Parker doesn't wonder if she's broken. She knows she’s broken and for the most part, that's all right. But sometimes the thief feels truly crazy, driven to flee and climb and run just in order to prove that the world can't weigh her down.
When that fey mood takes her, Parker finds some high tower in the city and slips her way inside. Not to steal but to remember that she's a thief and a thief doesn't need any other person to survive. A thief can't be tied down, can't be rooted to the ground. But Parker's teammates are an anchor and she's never been as trapped as she is now. So the thief hides from her teammates and their worry, hides from the fear that none of this will last.
She was alone before and she'd been happy. Sometimes she thinks that she was happier before she learned what lonely meant.
Eliot is sure that he'll die alone and he knows that he deserves it. The hitter's not a good man, no matter what his teammates think. He's a monster and the fact that he somehow tricked Alec into loving him just makes the whole thing worse.
Someday Eliot will fail him. Someday he won't be fast enough and so he'll break the hacker's heart. He'll die and Alec will mourn his passing with more grief than he deserves. Or maybe Eliot will survive long enough for the other man to realize that he’s not worth it. Alec can do much better than a broken down old hitter with bloodstains on his hands.
He'll leave Alec or Alec will leave him. Those are the only options for how this story ends and the longer he waits, the worse the pain will be.
So the hitter packs up his belongings, everything that he cares about still fitting in two small duffels bag. Everything but Alec and Eliot slips out of their bedroom quietly. He closes the door behind him as his just hacker sleeps on and he truly intends to disappear.
But Eliot can't do it. The hitter has never made it farther than seven blocks before turning back around. Because the thought of Alec waking up alone is worse than imagining his hatred; Eliot may deserve the latter but the other man doesn't deserve to be abandoned in the night.
What if Alec has a nightmare and no one is there to help him? Who else will make his lover eat when he’s deep in one of his hacking binges or save him from danger when a job goes south?
Eliot had promised the other man that he would be there. He promised to protect his teammates and never leave a friend behind. More importantly, he promised Alec forever or at least his dying day, and the hitter cannot break that vow.
So while the hacker still wakes to an empty bed on those dark evenings, he finds Eliot sitting on the couch. Alec urges him up with gentle hands and tugs him back to bed. He wraps himself around the hitter and holds on tightly, his every action saying that he wants Eliot to stay. Alec wants him and even if he shouldn’t, Eliot is helpless to deny him anything.
Sometimes in the darkness, the hacker whispers secrets. He tells Eliot what he knows of the other man's bloody history. He tells the hitter that he's not in this blindly and that he forgives his failures and eventually Eliot will sleep.
The two men watch out for each other, soothing what is broken and sanding jagged edges until they don't cut so deep. Eliot and Hardison do the same for Parker when her demons shout too loudly, coaxing the thief back down from the rafters with food and diamond heists.
They never push but they remind her of their presence; that they're here to listen should she choose to seek them out. Even when she disappears, her boys will leave her messages. Hardison chatters on about his latest beer or the tech he's making while Eliot tends to leave more logistical reports. He talks about the restaurant, the next dish he wants to show her, and of course, any potential clients that they've found.
Parker's boys tether her so lightly that she barely even feels it and because they let her run when the urge overwhelms her, the thief will always come back home again.
Nate and Sophie visit at least once a month, needing to see their old teammates when the shadows grow too deep. The former mastermind and grifter may have left the game, but that doesn't mean they've left their friends behind.
Parker, Eliot and Hardison are Nate and Sophie's family. A family built on love and friendship instead of blood, but a family nonetheless.
Watching them together, Nate is able to remember that his life has more good than bad these days. This may not be the future he would have chosen or the future that he saw stretching out before him when Maggie was his wife. But he loves Sophie, flaws and all, and while his life is different, that doesn't mean it's wrong.
Nate is allowed to grieve and then move on. If Parker can learn to care about other people and Eliot can put his past behind him, then he can change as well. He's allowed to find happiness even though his son is dead.
For Sophie things are simpler. When the former grifter starts to feel like a ghost in her own body, all she needs is her teammates to call her by her name.
Her real name because Sophie is the face she shows the world and Lara is a secret kept for her family. Lara is a kernel of truth amidst a life of lying and that's enough to bring her back. Sophie can be happy knowing there are people who truly understand her, people who know her and love her even when she's lying through her teeth. Sophie is always real to her teammates and they make her real in turn.
And when the grifter is feeling really depressed, she goes to her theater. She visits her students and in them she sees a future. Sophie Devereaux will leave her mark upon the stage even if her name isn't the one spelled out in lights.
None of them became thieves for recognition. They became thieves because they were missing something, whether purpose, home, or sanity, and together they've managed to find something close to peace.