Snowball for Stephan! Some Leverage gang fluff. First Leverage fanfic and probably my last.

A Very Leverage Christmas

There was a certain kind of elegance in a fire, Sophie always thought. The way it twisted and twirled, its shape changing moment to moment, never to be duplicated. A fire was much like a snowflake in that way, and she could watch its mesmerizing dance for hours.

In fact – she pursed her lips and checked her watch – ten to nine. I have been watching it for hours.

Sophie buttoned up her blazer and inched her stockinged toes closer to the blazing fireplace. Nate, in a day old shirt, had just left her side for the kitchen in pursuit of his sixth drink of the night. Parker was spread across the hearthrug in a black cat suit that left nothing to the imagination and a pair of light up reindeer antlers. When Hardison had answered the door at six, the time specified on her e-vite for Christmas Dinner, he was sporting that smug smile of his and the ugliest holiday sweater she had ever seen. And Eliot, she assumed, was lightly splattered in grease, flour, and an assortment of dead animal parts as he cursed and toiled over the stove.

Why was she the only person even remotely dressed for a proper Christmas dinner? And the better question: why was she still not eating when it was ten to nine. "How much longer, Eliot? I'm starving!"

In reply she heard Hardison's rythmic voice wafting from the kitchen. "What do you mean I can't drink this with dinner? What authority do you have over my holiday beverage consumption?"

"You want to know what authority I have?" Sophie peeked into the kitchen in time to see Eliot embed his cleaver into the chopping block with a vicious thwack. "There's my authority. You are not drinking that crap with my Christmas dinner."

Sophie had to give Hardison credit. The man was either brave as lions or foolish as juvenile internet hackers to stand up to one of Eliot Spencer's classic "you will be dead before you hit the floor" death glares.

"Eliot," he said, "tell me you're not disparaging the classics." He caressed the much-disputed bottle of orange soda in his hands. "This recipe was invented by pharmacists in the 1800's, and it's still going strong, unbreakable, well over a century later."

"Seriously, Hardison? You want to talk about classics?" Eliot reached for an expensive looking bottle of red wine. "This is sophistication. This is class. Hand picked by me to pair perfectly with this meal and shipped directly from Malta." Sophie felt the wine would be better received by Hardison if Eliot wasn't wielding it like a baseball bat.

A low voice came from behind her shoulder. "Look at them. Bickering like children on Christmas morning."

"That's not a fair comparison, Nate," she replied. "Most children I know are much better behaved."

"At least they don't have to fight over presents. We've all got enough money to buy whatever toys we want." He swirled the scotch in his hand, then took a sip, his mouth forming a small moue as the acrid liquid went down. "Makes Christmas somewhat...obsolete, don't you think?"

"Not at all. Christmas, presents, the spirit of giving – it's not about the expense, Nate, it's about the thought. Finding that special gift they didn't even know they wanted. And when you see their eyes light up with delight and that small amount of disbelief – that's when you know you've scored the big one."

Parker materialized between them. "Can we eat already?" She wrapped one arm around each of their shoulders. "I love chicken!"

"It's a goose, Parker," Eliot said. "A goose."

Parker did a quick mental check. "Wings. Feathers. Definitely a chicken."

"Parker, a water fowl is nothing like a hen!"

Nate gestured towards the dining room. "After you, Sophie." The two wound their way to their seats, Eliot close behind carrying a platter of food and muttering heatedly to himself.

"It has a very distinct fat content!"

Surprisingly, dinner was not a noteworthy affair. Parker managed not to set anything on fire and Eliot nearly managed to refrain from injuring anyone.

Hardison, for his part, put on a courageous front. "No worries," he squeaked. Tears leaked from his eyes. "These typing fingers are worth a lot of money to a lot of people and have been insured for more than your life savings, and you," he pointed his disjointed hand in Eliot's direction, "good sir, just made me fifty thousand dollars."

"Next time don't insult the Marines."

"I didn't. I was talking about the Marin-a."

"That place is waaay overpriced," Parker said.

"Oh." Eliot looked sheepish. "Then you should quit your mumbling, anyone could have made that mistake," he said behind a sip of beer.

Once everyone was fed and bandaged and warmed by several glasses of Malta wine, Nate threw another log on the fire and the gang settled in for their annual gift exchange.

Hardison unceremoniously deposited a package onto Eliot's lap. "You definitely don't deserve this. But since you've saved my hide more times than I can count on my now crippled fingers, here's one untraceable, darknet ready laptop." He grinned. "The encryption's out of this world on this thing! Your IP address will be harder to track down than bigfoot."

"We've already caught bigfoot. And he was working for the Russians." Nevertheless, Eliot looked impressed. "You're seriously telling me I can surf the web all I want and no one will ever find me with this thing?"

"Dude – I'm telling you I will never find you with this thing."

Eliot growled out a laugh. "I'm going to get myself into a lot of trouble. Here." He handed Hardison what was most definitely a banged up, broken down, unrecognizable heap of electronics. "I've also gotten you a laptop."

Parker, mouth stuffed with chestnuts, pointed and said, "What's that?"

"It's a laptop, that's what I said. And you're supposed to shell those first, Parker."

"No wonder they're so crunchy." She took a gulp.

Eliot shook his head in disgust. "Seriously?"

Hardison was still inspecting his "present." "I still don't know what the hell this is supposed to be."

Eliot grinned. "Let's just call it a souvenir from one of your old friends."

A grin split onto his face. "Aw, no. Tell me this isn't Chaos' laptop?"

Eliot smirked. "Yep."

Parker snorted. "If this is what you did to his laptop, what exactly did you do to Chaos?"

"You don't want to know."

"I do, actually."

"You really don't." Eliot turned back to Hardison. "So there's your Christmas present. You are now officially the best hacker in the business."

"Excuse you? I was always the best hacker in the business."


"You were very close. Very."

Parker raised her hand and announced, "Yeah, I just want to verify that everyone got me cash, right? No sweaters or laptops or personal islands?"

"Of course, Parker!"

"What kind of friends do you think we are?"

"Unmarked, non sequential bills that I left in a bag by the door, Merry Christmas."

As the rabble-rousers bandied insults and one-liners, Sophie took another sip of wine and smiled at Nate. "I suppose it's just down to us. And what did you get me? Jewelry? A new hand bag?" She grinned. "A personal island?"

"Those are rather pedestrian guesses." He slipped his hand into his jacket. "Should I be concerned that you harbor a low opinion of my gift-giving capabilities?"

"After your diatribe against Christmas, I think you might."

His hand emerged with a small red box tied with a green bow. "Merry Christmas, Sophie." He placed it into her open palm.

"Rather a small box."

"It's how the best gifts always come."

Sophie narrowed her eyes, suspicious. She lifted the lid and held up a small, metallic object. "Is this a key to your flat?" she asked, confused. Then she gave small gasp. "Do you mean you want me to move in with you?"

"If that's what you want."

"I -" Was it really happening? After all the misunderstandings, years of waiting, missed opportunities and working at cross purposes, was it finally, actually happening? Finding that special gift they didn't even know they wanted – that's when you know you've scored the big one. "I do."

Nate's poker face fell for a fraction of a second. "You do?" His eyes betrayed a small amount of surprise.

"I really do." She leaned over and kissed him. "And here you had me thinking you didn't care a jot about Christmas and presents and all that. I think this your best con yet."

"Who knows? You haven't even moved in yet."

Parker materialized between them. "Guys! Mom and Dad are finally getting back together!" Nate and Sophie were squeezed into a Parker sandwich as clapping and commentary erupted from the boys.

"Merry Christmas, Sophie."

"Merry Christmas, Nate."

"And God blesses everyone!" Parker added. "Even thieves!"