A/N: Last chapter, folks. It has been quite a journey, and I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. I'm sorry it has taken three years to finish, but glad we're finally there. Thanks to all of those who have read, followed, favorited, and reviewed. You've made this writer feel loved and your encouragement has helped me finish this story. Thank you very much!
Usual disclaimers apply. I don't own, and I don't profit. Enjoy.
"Understood, Kat." They sat in an amicable silence for a while.
Finally, Kat broke the silence when she said, "Now, about the woman in my morgue?"
"Who is she?"
"Her name was Gabriella. She was Rachel's sister, and was apparently married to David Kelley."
"Those poor parents. How did you all get involved in this?"
"Parker didn't show for a meeting, and when we tracked her signal, we found Gabriella wearing her clothes and earpiece and carrying her telephone, in pretty bad shape. We went to rescue Parker, but I couldn't leave her there."
Doc nodded. Another thought occurred to her then, and she smiled. "Tell me, Eliot, what would you have done with Gabriela's body had I not come along? Would you really have waited until dark and buried her in a shallow grave?"
"Do you really want to know the answer to that?"
Doc thought for a moment, and then nodded. His response to this question would tell her what she needed to know about how he was doing.
"Yes, I really do."
"I don't know. I'd like to think I'd have figured something out."
Doc nodded. Good to know.
"So, what are you planning to do with Kelley?"
"Well, that depends on Parker. Last we spoke, she wanted answers, and then she wanted to kill him."
Seeing the way she was looking at him, he said, "She's the one he hurt. She deserves to decide what happens to him. And you know better than to ask questions to which you really don't want to know the answer."
Well, he had her there.
"How are you feeling?"
"I'm tired and sore. Nothing a hot shower won't fix."
"Then I suggest you take one while I go release your illustrious leader from care if he's awake. We still have to meet with Parker."
Eliot nodded, and pushed to his feet.
Eliot finished toweling his hair dry, then drew his phone out of his pocket and dialed a number.
"We'll be ready in five," he said, and hung up. In the privacy of the bathroom he was using, he gave a tired sigh, ran a comb through his hair, and walked out to meet Parker and Doc.
Parker was tired of staying in one place for too long, and that made her cranky. Hardison had been trying to keep her company, but by this point, even he was finding other things to do, which she understood was kind of her fault, but that didn't improve her disposition any.
Doc knocked lightly on the door to announce her presence, and without waiting for an answer, she opened it and walked in. Parker frowned when she saw her, and said, "What are you doing here?"
"I think it is time you and I talk about what happened."
"I don't want to talk about it. I just want to go home."
"I realize it may be difficult for you to talk about this, and I don't want to make it harder for you than it has to be. I would like to ask Eliot or Hardison or Nathan or Sophie to sit in here with you, if you like, while we do this. Or, if you have someone else in mind, we can arrange that as well."
Parker thought for a moment, and then said, "I think I'd like to ask—"
She was interrupted by the sound of the door opening. Both she and Doc turned their heads to see the person entering. Eliot stood in the doorway, holding David Kelley by the back of his collar. Eliot held him tightly, his arms secured behind his back. Eliot roughly prodded the man forward, and said, "Parker, when we went after Kelley, you told me you wanted answers. Here he is. Ask any questions you like, and then decide what you'd like to do with him."
Parker hesitantly got off the bed, as though she wasn't sure whether her legs still worked or not. Slowly, she made her way over to Eliot and Kelley.
"You were there. And you were such a tough little bitch that I wanted to show you you weren't as tough as you thought. Besides, blondes are worth more."
Parker didn't really know what she expected him to say. She started to turn away, then, on impulse, turned back and slammed her fist into his face. Kelley's eyes rolled back in his head and he crumpled to the ground. Eliot didn't try to catch him. Parker started kicking Kelley while he was on the ground, then she fell on top of him and started pounding on him. He was soon unconscious, so it wasn't as satisfying as it should have been. Eliot let it go for a few minutes because he knew she needed her own kind of reckoning.
Eliot winced inwardly. The girl was shaking with anger, and her adrenaline was the only thing keeping her on her feet. She would regret this later. Moving over behind her, he gently pulled her off of Kelley, and turned her toward him, folding her into a bear hug. Then he held her at arm's length and looked at her. "Now what?"
Parker stared at him, as though confused by the question.
"You said before that you wanted to kill him. That still what you want, darlin'?"
She shook her head. "No. I know you would do that for me, if I asked, but if I've learned anything from this team, it is that if we do that, we're no different than they are. And I don't want to associate you or any of the rest of the team with them. Turn him over to Bonanno or give him to Vance for target practice. I don't really care. Just promise me he won't be able to do this to anybody else."
"I'll make sure of that," Eliot said, his pride in Parker evident in his voice. "I'll be right back."
Roughly, he stood Kelley up and frog marched him from the room. He was back a few minutes later sans Kelley, and he immediately moved over next to Parker and took her hand.
She looked at him, and in a growly whisper, he said, "Doc can help. Talk to her."
She nodded and didn't answer.
Doc looked at her appraisingly for a few moments, and said nothing. Parker grew uncomfortable under her unrelenting scrutiny. She started to squirm a bit, and Doc relented.
"How are you feeling, Parker?"
Parker lowered her eyes and didn't answer. Gently, Doc spoke again. "I can't help if you don't talk to me."
Parker nodded, but didn't say anything. Doc was beginning to think she wasn't going to say anything, when Eliot leaned over and whispered something in her ear. It was too low for Doc to hear, and Parker didn't acknowledge that he had spoken, but she said, "I feel used."
"I see. Tell me about that."
She hung her head. "He violated my trust."
Doc nodded. "That's what abusers do. It's normal for you to feel as though he used you, and violated your trust. You aren't alone."
Parker shook her head. "You don't understand. Street kids take care of the newbies on the street-show them the safe places to sleep, help them learn how to get into and out of places without being noticed, help them learn to stay away from the police and sniff out those who will rat on them. Trusting other street kids is a matter of life and death. You learn quickly who you can trust and who you can't.
"It bothers me that I misread him, yes, but it doesn't bother me that he betrayed me—I knew that about him when he left me behind as bait for the police a long time ago."
"If that's not bothering you, what is?" Eliot asked.
"The fact that I trusted Nate, and he did the same thing."
"Not quite the same thing, Parker," he reminded her.
"Of course there was no physical abuse with Nate. No sexual assault. Trust wise, it was exactly the same thing. I was a kid when Kelley did it, so I can cut myself some slack for letting him fool me. I'm not a kid now. I knew what Nate was doing—the minute he started planning this rendezvous without me—I knew." She paused and looked at Doc. "I knew it when I asked you for help, but I ignored those instincts because I trusted him. What is wrong with me?"
"Nothing. Nathan's an interesting man. Fully deserving of your trust, except when he's not. I doubt he sees it as a violation of your trust, Parker, nor does he realize it bothers you this much." She studied Parker. "What are you going to say to Nate?"
"I don't know. I haven't really thought about it."
"I think you should say something. He needs to know how his actions are affecting you."
"I agree," Eliot said, and the grim look on his face suggested that if she didn't say something, he would.
Seeing the look on Parker's face, Doc said, "You have some time."
Eliot spoke very gently, "Did Kelley attack you again?"
Parker shrank back into herself and pointedly studied the floor. Finally, she shook her head. "No. At least, not the way you mean. He tried to kill me, but he didn't do anything else."
"Good. Would you like for me to sit with you while you talk to Nate?"
"No. I can do it."
"All right. I think we're done here, unless you have any questions for me. I would like for you to rest until dinner, and take it easy for a day or two, but then I think you can start back to normal activities. Parker, I will be by to check on you in a week, and I'd like for us to discuss this again, at that time. If you need to talk to someone in the meantime, you can either seek out Eliot or you can call me. Eliot knows how to reach me."
"Thank you, Doc."
Eliot asked, "Are you staying for dinner?"
"Well, I still have a few loose ends to tie up with the hepatitis cases and all of this requires a bit of paperwork, so if that's an invitation, then, yes, I will."
Hardison walked back into his private office, looking for something he needed. After a moment or two, he noticed a box on his desk. Hmm. He wondered what it was. It was a plain cardboard box—nothing fancy. Pausing in his search for a moment, he circled the box, studying it from all angles. Finally, curiosity got the better of him, and he picked the box up. It wasn't particularly heavy. He gave it a shake and a folded piece of paper fluttered to the ground.
Ignoring the paper for a moment, he sat the box down and retrieved a box cutter from the drawer. He carefully cut the tape holding the box closed, and lifted the flaps gently, as though he thought the box might explode. Looking inside, his mouth dropped open.
He lifted out a smaller box, faded with age. Peeking out of the clear plastic window in the box were four green turtle figurines wearing masks, and a rat, who wore a reddish brown kimono. Suddenly, he realized what they were—these were the original action figures he had wanted so long ago. Someone had done their homework, as these were not the ones that came out later, but the original ones. Doc! It had to be.
He wondered where she had found them. They must have cost her a small fortune, too. He would have to be sure to thank her when he saw her.
Hardison sat in Nate's living room, working on his computer. He was happy that things were getting back to normal and that Parker was on the mend. Speaking of Parker, she was about due a visit. He rose and climbed the stairs, and then stopped outside of the room Parker was in, and knocked. He heard a quiet "Come."
Hardison opened the door and stepped inside, to find Doc seated in a chair next to Parker's bed. She smiled at him. "Mister Hardison, Parker is sleeping. You may sit with her for a while, though."
He sat down. Doc looked up to find him studying her.
"Something I can do for you, Mister Hardison?"
"I wanted to thank you."
"For the box you left on my desk."
"I didn't leave a box on your desk."
"No. Have you checked with your team?"
"I'll do that. Thank you."
He sat there a minute longer, and then got up and left. He ended up in the office, while Eliot worked in the kitchen, testing some new menu item or other. Finally, he couldn't stand it any longer, and went to talk to Eliot. When he walked in, the other man held out a spoon. He took it, put it in his mouth, and ate what was on it.
"Man, that's really good."
"Thank you. What are you doing here?"
"What? I'm not allowed to visit my own kitchen?"
"Sure, but you don't usually do it at this time of day."
Hardison wasn't at all sure what he wanted to say, but when he opened his mouth, it all rushed out before he could stop it.
"The box on my desk—did you put it there?"
Eliot looked at him appraisingly for a moment, and then, his face giving nothing away, he asked, "Are you sure you want me to answer that?"
Hardison just stared at him for a moment, then he nodded, and his mouth was suddenly super dry. He didn't want to know, but he had to know at the same time. Still watching him, Eliot just nodded.
"But that means…"
"That means, you really should be sure you aren't wearing an earbud that connects you to other members of the team, if you are wanting to have a private conversation."
Hardison blushed and sputtered a little when he said, "So everybody on the team knows then?"
"No. Nate hardly ever wears his earbud unless we are on a job, and if you remember, we were in possession of Parker's earbud. As for Sophie, you never can tell with her, but I doubt she was wearing hers either. We weren't working."
"I thought you were sleeping."
"Not exactly. I was starting to drift off. Can I ask you a question?"
"Why didn't you want me to know?"
"I-I didn't really want anybody to know. I had never told anyone before. I didn't even want to tell Doc, but there's something about her—she just pulls that kind of information out of you."
"That's her super power."
"How do you feel about all of this?"
"I'm not sure. That's something that's really personal to me."
"I'll be honest. I debated not telling you I knew. Then I thought about it, and I decided, if it were me, I'd want to know that someone else knew something I hadn't told them, and didn't know they knew. Not telling you would feel like I was hiding it, and I didn't want that, either."
"I see that."
"And I wanted you to know that your secrets are safe with me, brother. All of them. Always." Eliot playfully smacked Hardison on the shoulder, hard, leaving Hardison to rub it."
"I know. Thanks, man."
Hardison left the kitchen, feeling lighter than he had in a long time.