characters: Sophie, Nate
title: A place for us
notes: Prague, Damascus, Paris, etc etc. basically 10 years and 8 glimpses into Nate & Sophie’s relationship -- I think these characters and this relationship has such incredible potential in fanfic, so here’s my go at it. spoilers for all 3 seasons. feedback aaaalways appreciated. one-shot. title taken from PJ Harvey's 'a place called home'.
disclaimer: do not own! these characters are the property of those lovely folks at Leverage.
summary: “I’m flattered.” Those dark eyes are sparkling in the Syrian moonlight, and her sharp mind is reeling, lightning-quick. “Well, Nathan Ford.” She takes her time saying his name. Each syllable makes his heart beat faster. One stiletto heel is already taking a step backward. “You’ll have to catch me first.”
one day I know
we’ll find a place of hope
just hold onto me
one day there’ll be a place for us
-pj harvey, ‘a place called home’
I. Prague – 10 years ago
It was one of those moments that pass quickly, seemingly irrelevantly, just like any other. A passing glance, a lock of the eyes, a smile – you don’t realize that everything about that moment will come to haunt you, shape you, destroy and confuse you in years to come.
You’ll see the curve of her lips in every woman’s smile, see the dark of her eyes in every night sky.
It’s your job, you’ll tell yourself, and you’re damn good at it.
The trouble is, she’s good at it too.
You won’t realize it’s become a game until it’s too late, until you’re sucked in, until you have no choice but to keep playing – to finish it.
But you won’t want to finish it. You’ll want to keep playing. She wants to keep running, and you want to chase her.
II. Damascus – 8 years ago
“Sophie Devereaux,” she declares at length, turning around to face him. She’s using a very specific smile – calculated, purposefully disarming. “I’d shake your hand, but something tells me you wouldn’t trust it.” Her lips widen to show a hint of white, and Nate can’t help but grin back.
“Nathan Ford,” he replies casually. “The man who’s going to take you to jail.”
“Is that so?”
“Oh, yes. About time, too. I think two years chasing you is plenty. I’m ready to move on.” But his eyes aren’t blinking as he stares into hers, and for some reason he doesn’t believe his own words.
“I’m flattered.” Those dark eyes are sparkling in the Syrian moonlight, and her sharp mind is reeling, lightning-quick. “Well, Nathan Ford.” She takes her time saying his name. Each syllable makes his heart beat faster. One stiletto heel is already taking a step backward. “You’ll have to catch me first.”
He blinks, and she’s gone.
III. Paris – 7 years ago
They bump into each other outside of the George V, and both she and his weapon are gone before he can stop her, before he even realizes exactly what’s happening. The soft beige fabric of her jacket slips through his fingers as she disappears into the crowded street.
He has a hard time explaining this one to IYS, but it only takes a few days for the paperwork to clear and for a new firearm to be issued.
It doesn’t even occur to her that he might shoot back.
“You… wanker!” She gasps, and her shoulder blade is throbbing, stinging, screaming, but inside she’s on fire for an entirely different reason. She’s outraged, stunned, and more than a little aroused.
She deserves it. He’s the good guy – it’s his job to chase her, and to stop her. At this point, she might admit she likes the challenge. The attention.
“Still chasing,” she says brokenly, but her lips begin to curve upwards.
“Still running,” he replies, staggering, one hand clutching his chest.
Had an outsider glimpsed the look that passed between them at this moment, that outsider might well have assumed that this man and this woman were old lovers who shared a dangerous, thrilling secret.
IV. Tuscany – 6 years ago
“Nice lift back there.”
“Why thank you, Mr. Ford.”
Sophie lifted the small leather pouch to eye level, twirled it between her fingers. Nate found himself thinking that only she could make a smile that self-satisfied beautiful.
“How about a drink? Before we get to the whole, you know. Raphael business.”
She crossed the Piazza to join him. “I’ve really no idea what you’re talking about,” she lied.
“Frankly, I would have thought you could do better.” And with a smile he walked on, leaving her stopped in her tracks, eyes narrowed.
When she finally joined him at the table of the outdoor café, there were already two glasses sitting out. Nate was pouring a fragrant red wine into each of them.
“Nobody can do better than Florence,” Sophie informed him haughtily as she sat beside him. “And for your information, that Raphael happens to be a personal favorite of mine.” She took the glass as he offered it. “Not that I still have any idea what you’re talking about.”
“Of course not.” And he clinked their glasses together. “Really though, was that necessary?” He waved a hand vaguely in the direction of her jacket pocket, indicating the wallet she’d stolen.
“Not really. I just like to keep on top of my game. I was bored tonight.”
“He…seemed very taken with you,” Nate said lamely, not at all sure why he’d said it except that he’d been watching her all night and was surprised to find himself jealous of the man she’d ‘bumped into’, all red smiling lips and deft, slender hands.
“I should hope so.” Her face was full of mirth, and she looked like she knew exactly what he was thinking. “It’s my job, you know. I can make a man’s heart beat instantly faster. I can make it so he can’t look away from me, even for a moment. And a moment’s all I need.” While she was saying this, she was proving her point. Her dark eyes held Nate’s steady as she leaned closer, and because she didn’t blink, neither could he; he felt trapped in the most pleasurable way he could imagine.
“See,” she murmured quietly, and Nate closed his eyes, gave his head a little shake: a man waking from a reverie. As she leaned away her foot brushed his calf – and she held up his insurance badge. After a measurable beat she leaned in again, tossed the badge back to him across the table.
“Well-played,” he said. There was a sudden, small noise, like a mechanism being clicked into place. “But I’m still the one with the cuffs.”
Sophie looked down to see the metal enclosed around her outstretched wrist, Nate’s knuckles brushing the inside of her palm. She glanced back up to see him smiling. She smiled back. “Well-played, yourself.”
V. Rio de Janeiro – 4 years ago
“Sometimes I can feel you in my head,” she said to him, and as her breath fluttered against his cheek he closed his eyes. “Everywhere I go now, I look for you. It’s the strangest thing.” There were goose bumps rising along the back of his neck where her fingertips had laced themselves.
“I’m married,” he told her. “I have a wife. Maggie.”
“I know.” His wedding ring was one of the very first things she'd ever noticed about him.
“And a son. Sam.”
“I know what you’re doing,” she interjected. By telling her their names, he was making his family real. He was shattering this make-believe. “Trust me, there’s no mind trick in the world you could put past me.”
“I just need you to know.”
“I need to stop doing this, you mean.” The music was slow, a sensual swirl of Brazilian notes – each painted so brightly, so poignantly. The dance floor was full; the smell of sea salt and limes lingered on their skin, the taste of rum and sugar on their lips. “Nate. Why aren’t you stopping it?”
She was wearing this dress, this unbelievably ridiculous red dress, and it hugged her curves in all the right (wrong) places and he could feel her underneath it and it was almost too much to take.
He didn’t answer her, but he let her hand wander towards his chest. He let it rest there, right above his heart. He let her eyes wander all over him – his grey blazer, the crisp white shirt beneath, his tousled hair and unshaven face.
“How do I know you’re not playing me? This is what you do, isn’t it?” He asked, but it was a silly question. They both knew it.
“Nate.” Her voice was serious, a shade incredulous. “Come on.” Like he’d just tried to trick her into thinking the sky was red when she knew full well it was blue. “I’ve been waiting here two weeks longer than I should have. I should be in Paris right now.”
He chuckled. “Paris.”
“Paris,” she repeated softly. “But I’m not. I’m here.” Her hand slid back to his neck, and her fingers pulled lightly through his hair. “With you.”
VI. Los Angeles – 2 years ago
“How did you find me?” He’s swilling a few ounces of whiskey around in a tumbler and not looking her in the eye.
“I tried to think like you.” She’s pulled up a stool and waved the bartender away. “Only I took a shortcut. Breaking the law has the advantage of speed. Also,” she sighed, tugging her coat off, “I’ve been to a hell of a lot of bars this evening.”
All he can manage to say is: “Why are you here?”
She stares at him. “Nate.”
“What?” His eyes are out of focus and he’s seeing two of her. He almost wishes one of them would reach out and touch him, slap him, anything to make him feel still anchored to this earth instead of floating alone miles and miles above it.
“I heard about what happened.”
Sophie bites her lip and pauses. “All of it.”
“Congratu-fucking-lations. So you’ve read the papers. Or heard something down the proverbial grapevine. Grifters and thieves everywhere rejoice – another insurance man off the streets.” Having finished his current tumbler of whiskey, he motions for another.
“Charming.” Sophie’s voice drips with sarcasm, but she still can’t bring herself not to care. And then before she can think better of it, she’s speaking again: “I’m worried about you.”
Nate actually laughs. Loud, barking, humorless. “You’re a thief. You’re not worried about anyone but yourself.” The sound of glass slamming back onto the counter after he throws back another mouthful of amber liquor makes Sophie flinch.
“What does Maggie think about this little habit of yours?” Her eyes flick from the empty tumbler to Nate’s eyes. She holds the gaze, and it’s equal parts steely, equal parts pleading because she does care. So much more than she will admit even to herself.
He snaps like a rubber band stretched too thin. “Don’t talk about her.”
Sophie catches up with him down an alleyway just off the Sunset Strip. The sky is the color of blood oranges and champagne and Sophie thinks it might be magnificent if the man before her weren’t crumbling himself into tiny pieces, if the world he’d tried so hard to make beautiful weren’t dissolving before his very eyes.
He’s sobbing into his sleeve, his hands limp. He looks half-dead.
She’s beside him in an instant. It doesn’t even matter that the ground is cluttered with broken bottles and chewing gum wrappers – she puts her arms around him, and he squeezes her like his life depends on it. A thought occurs to her now: maybe it does.
They’ve never been quite this close before. Sure they danced in a club off the beach in Rio and after a dozen Caipirinha’s each their lips brushed: just once, and Nate pulled away before the kiss became anything but chaste.
But this was different. This was real.
“Nathan. I’m so sorry about Sam.”
He says nothing, but she can still feel him shaking, feel his hand desperately seeking hers.
Later when she’s back in her hotel room, she can feel his tears dry against her neck and she runs two fingertips across the skin there. In her entire life she’s never wanted anything as badly as she wants him there with her in that moment, and her whole body aches with the honesty of that desire.
She turns out the lights and, fully clothed, lies down onto the bed. She hugs a pillow close, her fingers clench and unclench against it, and finally – after hours of enduring unbidden thoughts of his mouth on her neck, of her arms wrapped across his bare back – she drifts to sleep.
VII. Chicago – 1 year ago
“You’re the last person I would have expected this from,” she says, and even as the words quietly fill the space between them, they both realize it’s a lie. But she’s smiling, and her tone is only an inch shy of loving.
They’re in the middle of a con – Sophie and Nate, in the middle of a con, together – and it’s late on a Wednesday evening in downtown Chicago. Hardison is at his computer. Eliot and Parker are playing pool. Time has slowed in this moment, and things seem peaceful in his life for the first time in months.
He smiles back at her. “You being here means a lot. It makes me feel like…” And he trails off, not sure what he wants to say. Like you care. Like I’m not alone. Like you understand. “…like I’ve earned something. Loyalty, maybe. Or respect.”
“I told you I wouldn’t miss this.” She’s looking at him in that intense way that he loves and hates all at the same time, and she wants to kiss him so badly she considers getting up and leaving – but the thought of not being with him right now, in this moment, upsets her, and so she stays right where she is.
“Well…thanks,” he says to her, a touch awkwardly. “Thanks, Sophie.”
“Anytime.” She leans over, and suddenly her hands are at his chest and alarms are going off in his head, but she simply takes hold of his tie, straightens it gently. “I’m not running anymore.”
It was late, far past any self-respecting sleeping hour, and they were sitting on the ‘office’ sofa – she with her arm slung across the back and a steaming mug of mint tea in hand, he nestled comfortably into a far corner with an untouched glass of water sitting on the coffee table in front of him.
They were laughing together over some long-lost shared memory, something littered with inside jokes and years past and foreign landscapes, something that might have been painful had either of them acknowledged this fact. But they didn’t.
She had slid closer along the cushions, mumbling quiet somethings in-between the laughter hung between them like popcorn on a string, and he’d turned his chin towards her. Their gaze met now, and the laughing stopped – although Sophie’s eyes were still dancing.
“A different time.” he said.
“A different place,” she replied with a smile.
“Kind of like now.” His eyes had dropped to the floor, and after a beat bounced fleetingly back to her. Apprehensive. Almost a question.
His careful uncertainty touched her, like so many things about him did, and always had. He had changed so much over the past six months, some for the better, some for the worse. But he’d stopped being destructive, stopped making excuses, stopped breaking her heart and his. No longer was he undecided.
She paused, reached out to place her mug on the table, and turned back to him.
His eyes were closed. He felt her fingers slide into his hair.
“I think I’ve punished you enough,” he heard her murmur. “We can talk about that kiss now.”
A breath barely passed between them before she was scrambling over him, taking his face gently in her hands, her two jean-clad thighs straddling his. She wanted to envelop him completely, to cover him, to hide him in a secret place only she knew so that nothing could ever hurt him again.
And she kissed him. She kissed him like the world might be ending, like men in black coats might be coming for them any second to take them away. She kissed him like she meant it and yes – she meant it, she meant it, and all the broken words they’d never said and all the I-love-yous and apologies began to fill up the spaces their lips couldn’t while their hands trembled and then steadied themselves along the paths of fabric and skin they’d longed for years to take.
Nate slid his hands inside her shirt, across bare hips and mustered the courage to whisper: “Tell me your name.”
A shudder ripped its way through her chest like a tremor but she closed her eyes, smiled, and pressed her lips to his ear. “Don’t worry about that, Nate. You’ll know before the night’s through.” Her hands were at his waist now, slowly stripping his belt away, and her teeth nipped gently at his skin. “I daresay you’ll need it for later.”