A/N: Regarding cannon timeline: I've made some assumptions and took some artistic liberties, but I can't find any glaring reason Nate could NOT have been in prison during Christmas. This is meant to take place not long after he surrendered himself to Sterling on the Maltese Falcon, so between seasons 2 and 3.
Hardison clicked his remote, and the picture changed on the big screens. "...which brings us to our client...Nick Clausen." He paused, eyes flicking toward Parker. Sophie went still, teacup half way to her mouth. Eliot rolled his eyes and slouched further into his seat. The room went completely silent.
Parker glanced around, suddenly and very uncomfortably the center of attention. "What? Why are we staring?"
"Parker...sweetie...we just want to be sure you know that our client is not Santa Claus." Sophie took a sip of tea and returned the cup to its saucer on the table with all the dignity of a queen.
Parker giggled and it degenerated into a snort. "Of course he's not Santa Claus!" She rolled her eyes, it was completely obvious! "He's too thin to be Santa!...Unless Santa was being starved in prison by an evil grinch..but his elves could easily break him out before he wasted away...Sterling's an evil grinch. I wonder if Nate is in the kind of prison where they starve people?"
Everyone went completely still again and Parker thought she might have made one of those crazy mental leaps: the ones that made Eliot growl, or Hardison stutter, or Sophie draw her aside to explain something about feelings...she liked it better when Nate would just ignore her and press on with the job. She never really meant to upset people by saying things, it just made more sense to her to say what she was thinking than try to get all grifter-y. But this time, Sophie's eyes went distant and misty, and before anyone else could break the silence, she abruptly stood and made for the door, tugging her winter coat off the rack and wrapping it around herself as she pulled the door shut behind her.
That was enough to break Hardison's paralysis and he tried to fill the silence, "they...they don't do that in American prisons, mama..."
"What's wrong with you?" Eliot's words were harsh, jagged. They didn't have the soft edge Parker had grown used to, the almost-smile she could see in his eyes even if he didn't want it to show. It didn't sound right. It sounded like...black trash bags and doorbells and will you please try to make this one work and stop being so difficult or you'll have to be moved again.
Eliot pushed off his chair and stalked across the room and out the door as well, in a fair if unintentional imitation of Sophie's departure, save that he slammed the door after himself, hard enough to rattle the pictures on the wall next to it.
There was another beat of frozen silence, then Hardison picked up his phone and ordered a pizza, large, with toppings he and Parker could both agree on. They spent a quiet lonely evening watching corny Christmas movies in Nate's empty apartment, and they didn't see Sophie or Eliot again until it was time to leave for Pennsylvania.
Eliot stepped back from the punching bag and started unwrapping his hands. He had finally worn himself out, though it had come at the expense of another bag. The weakest side seam was now split pretty thoroughly. He showered quickly, then went to his kitchen to throw something together for dinner. He found physical exhaustion combined with food prep helped keep his temper down enough to organize his thoughts more fully.
It was stupid really, to get so worked up over one of Parker's idiotic but ultimately innocent comments. It had upset Sophie, yeah, but Sophie would know Parker hadn't meant anything by it. She would only have needed a bit of time to pull herself together and she would have returned, and forgiven Parker like it had never happened.
He was snapping at these idiots a little more than usual, and it was with a little more venom than usual, too. Eliot realized it was a symptom of what was wrong with the crew right now. They were all, according to Sophie, "emotionally distraught." Eliot snorted at the thought. If any one of them was "emotionally distraught," it was Sophie. She alternated between diatribes against Nate, tears for Nate, mothering everybody, and trying to be Nate. To use her own psycho-babble against her, Sophie was overcompensating.
In the immediate aftermath of Nate's arrest, just a bare few weeks ago, Eliot had insisted on a temporary safe house. They were NOT returning to headquarters until he was certain Sterling would hold up his end of Nate's bargain. But even before they had time to sit and breathe and take stock, Eliot had directed Hardison to hack the local hospital intakes. And hadn't that freaked the team out? What, no one else had noticed Nate was SHOT?
And Eliot had left him behind. No matter Nate had told Eliot to get the others out, but in that last moment, his eyes had locked on Nate's and Eliot knew Nate knew that he knew. And the silent plea Eliot saw in his eyes told him Nate was hiding it for a reason. Eliot was certain he could take these Feds (he'd have three at least dropped over the railing before anyone could get a shot properly lined up, and Eliot's body would be between the Feds and his team the entire time. He might take a round or four in the melee, but Eliot doubted any would be immediately lethal...hell, they hadn't even brought any decent snipers. Idiots.)
But no, Eliot knew an order when he heard one. And damnit, Eliot would back Nate's play, just like he always did. And maybe guilt was fueling his temper. He left Nate behind. You never leave a man behind. And you don't leave an injured comrade without treating him first. Damnit.
After Hardison's hacking had satisfied Eliot that it wasn't a life-threatening injury, and that Nate would suffer no complications, they had turned to surveilling Nate's building, and the arguing commenced: Return to headquarters or bug out? Hang together or scatter? Lay low or continue working jobs? They had opted for together, and familiar, but they lacked real cohesion, and it was wearing on Eliot who found himself being too short with everyone. So he cooked...a lot. He had been planning to cook for them tonight but...no. Best to stay away for a bit and start the job with a cooler head.
The first time Parker saw the little gray plush animal, it barely registered in her subconscious. It was on the darkest end of a high shelf, perpendicular to the big front window. In Parker's mind, it only warranted the status of an item in a location as she explored and noted the interior layout of Clausen's Vintage Toys, Collectibles, and Memorabilia shop that was ground zero for the new job. It was located in the historic downtown corridor of a little community just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, an unscrupulous developer had his eye on the real estate.
The tiny cameras Parker had placed to supplement the store's security system provided Eliot (who had refused to set foot in a "geeky toy store") with a better view of entrances, exits, and possible security concerns. Unfortunately, it also provided Hardison, who had lamented quite loudly the fact he was "stuck" sitting in Lucille, a view of everything he was missing out on.
"C'mon mama! I can see it right beside you! 'Member Gremlins? Cute furry Gizmo? Just read the tag an' tell me if it's an original prop from the movie or a reproduction. Please, Parker!"
"Hardison, we'll be done with this con in a few days, you can go shopping afterward..." Sophie's cajoling over the coms as she approached the land-owner's corporate office, was only half-hearted, and overrun by...
"Damnit Hardison, we're here to do a job, not shop for your little goblin toys. Sophie, focus, would ya? The mark's approaching from twenty feet off your left..."
Parker made a face. Eliot still didn't sound right. His self-imposed time-out two days ago hadn't improved his mood much, and it made something inside Parker curl and twist in an uncomfortable way. It was almost Christmas, but it didn't really feel like Christmas. Christmas was happy, lights, presents...and Christmas was also supposed to be families, but Parker didn't know much about that. She had thought they might have the family kind of Christmas this year, but Nate left just when Sophie returned, so...probably not. Nothing was as it should have been. The team didn't feel right.
They were "in shambles" (according to Sophie), and "completely idiotically self-destructive are you trying to get yourselves killed 'cause I'm about ready to let ya!" (according to Eliot). Only Hardison wasn't acting much different since Nate got arrested, but Parker kinda thought he was just hiding it better than the rest of them.
But it was almost Christmas and at the heart of the matter, these shop owners needed some leverage, and no one else could provide it. So here they were, short one mastermind, overtired, snippy with each other, and could they just get this done?
And to top everything off, there probably wouldn't even be any snow.
"I am well aware of the mark's location, Eliot. Do your job and let me do mine." Sophie's words, delivered with more than a slight air of scolding set Eliot's teeth on edge. Was she deciding to be the boss now?
Despite their constant differences of opinion, Nate had long acknowledged, if not in so many words, that he trusted Eliot with the team's care. And the team (mostly) acknowledged Nate's authority so, damnit Nate, couldya have made it clear to everyone before you left? Could you have laid it out in black and white? Could you have said, 'you will pay attention to Eliot' or something?!
Could you have made it clear who is supposed to be in charge?
Hardison had talked of running his own crew, but he sure as hell was not stepping up now, most of the time he just looked like a lost little kid whose parents were fighting. Parker seemed...scattered, and that was actually strange because she was usually confident and decisive, no matter her decisions weren't always sound.
And Sophie...Sophie was trying to hold them together like some sort of family, but half the time, she could barely hold herself together. Not that Eliot really blamed her. He would always back Sophie, same as Nate: all the way down, but she needed to either step up and lead this team, or step back and let Eliot take point. She could seem to commit to neither.
That cooler head Eliot had tried to cultivate since he stormed out of Nate's apartment two days earlier hadn't lasted very long once they arrived in town and set up shop in the only motel with any vacancy. Damn the holiday travelers. Not that Eliot figured he'd be doing much sleeping. Nate being shot and captured by Sterling had become the fodder of his restless nights, and Eliot's imagination was not a fun place to be, apparently. Right now, he was lucky if he managed ninety minutes of sleep at a stretch. This lack of sleep fueled his temper, which fueled his overactive mind, which fueled his lack of sleep...it was becoming a vicious self-feeding cycle.
Eliot wasn't even sure how they ended up taking this job. He had been pushing for a break. Scatter, just for a short while, then regroup and revisit The Nate Problem, before taking on any more clients. But then Hardison had brought them this case, and he and Parker had united to press Eliot and Sophie into agreeing to look it over. Sophie had left it to Eliot to make the final determination, damnit. And he had agreed to take it, against his better judgment, because Sophie had been hinting at the four of them having a traditional Christmas dinner. Yeah, and guess who would be stuck cooking that? No way in HELL. Ain't gonna happen, bubba.
He was NOT gonna slave away in a hot kitchen all day with these ingrates hanging over his shoulder (in Parker's case, literally) trying to steal food. And he was NOT gonna make Hardison's horrendous "green bean casserole." Nope, don't care if his Nana always made it, that affront-to-side-dishes would never make an appearance in any meal Eliot presented. And then there was Parker, who had mentioned she stole herself a pumpkin pie to eat every Christmas. Like, the entire thing at once...and Eliot found himself surprised at being unsurprised that he believed her. Nope, not cookin' for them this Christmas.
Lurking unseen in the shadows of a maintenance hallway, Eliot sighed and rubbed at his lower back, and the base of his neck simultaneously. To top everything else off, the motel beds sucked.
December 23, morning
The second time Parker noticed the little gray plush animal, she had longer to look...It was early morning and they weren't expecting a visit from the mark for a little while yet. Hardison was off with Sophie on the next stage of the con, so he wasn't bugging her to check the provenance of everything on the shelves.
She did check the Gizmo figure anyway, it was cute and fluffy and reminded her of Hardison. She'd have to remember to let him know it was an original prop from the movie. If she told him now though, he'd never shut up until he had a chance to see it for himself, and Eliot would snap at her for setting him off again.
While Parker tried to ignore the churning inside her at the thought of Eliot's recent growly-growly moods (and not his usual fun-growly moods), she took the time to study the contents of the shelves. This time, the dusty gray plush toy drew her attention.
She pulled it down from the shelf, sneezing softly at the puff of dust raised from its somewhat threadbare gray pelt. It was a wolf puppy, plastic nose scraped and askew, one plastic eye hanging just a bit loose, but its expression was happy and innocent. It was by no means valuable, monetarily at least, and seemed out of place among these collectible and nostalgic toys...but there was something about it that called her. As Parker gazed into those shiny lively eyes...something niggled at the back of her mind.
"C'mon Sparky, hurry it up!" Little Matthew (who, much to their parents' chagrin, tended to answer better to his sister's bestowed nickname) toddled determinedly after her. Even at just barely two years old, he adored his big sister and followed her everywhere. That Christmas morning when she was five, and mature for her age, when her world was still whole and beautiful, she stumbled down the hallway, rubbing sleep from her eyes to behold...the bright and beautiful tree, lights glowing and glinting off the frosted windows and bright wrapping paper, in the big living room warmed by a crackling fire.
And it was snowing outside.
Sitting atop the pile of gifts were a plush bunny and a plush wolf pup, necks adorned with red bows, and leaning against each other like two old best friends. And she hugged the bunny to herself, and pressed the wolf into Mattie's little hands, though he was much too young to really appreciate the thing. Still, his eyes shone bright as he squeezed its soft body, and started gnawing on its ear...
She rescued it then and, to forestall tears, promised, "I'll look after him for you. Bunny and I both will, until you're a little older. Okay?"
But she hadn't, had she?
On the night her parents didn't come home, the only thing that left their house with them and the social worker was her Bunny, clutched forgotten in one hand while she desperately tried to hold onto Mattie with the other.
Parker blinked away a sudden dampness in her eyes and hastily placed the plush wolf back up on the shelf. She wasn't quite ready to deal with that memory, maybe never would be, and anyway, she had caught sight of their mark crossing the street toward the store.
"Quit playin with the toys Parker, the mark's on his way over." Parker glared in the general direction of the alley across the street where Eliot had stationed himself to deal with the four dirtbag thugs that accompanied their mark.
Hardison's indignant squawk over the coms as he tried to come to Parker's defense made her snort a small laugh. It was a little reprieve at least, from the doorbell-and-trashbag Eliot-growl.
"Children, might I remind you we're all here to do a job?" Sophie, dignified as ever, tried to steer them back on track. She had pulled Parker aside and apologized for the way she had left the briefing a few days back. Parker had just shrugged. She was uncomfortable accepting apologies she wasn't sure she deserved.
Sophie was apparently omniscient, because she knew of Eliot's "temper tantrum" as Hardison had called it, and had confided in Parker that Eliot was "overcompensating" for Nate being gone, and they would just have to be understanding and not let his snippiness get to them. Parker just nodded, because agreeing with Sophie was the quickest way to get her to go away.
Hardison attempting to defend Parker's honor would have been adorable, had it not stung Eliot so unexpectedly. He knew Parker was solid on the job, so he didn't know why he had snapped at her like that again.
And he hadn't missed how, lately, Hardison had been replacing "hitter" with "hitler," as though it was no more than a slip of the tongue. Well, he didn't care. He'd bust their damn fool heads himself to keep them safe if he had to. His part was to make sure none of them got dead, and that was the plain and simple of it.
Eliot attempted to redirect his anger, and stepped silently out from the alleyway behind the thugs, smiling with anticipation. "Hey, you Santa's little elves?"
December 23, evening
The third time Parker saw the wolf pup, she was staring at it through the window, standing in the dark and cold, and hoping not to be seen by Mr. Clausen as he closed up shop for the night. It was late, the con wrapped up and arrests made. The gloating, and the thank-yous and how-can-we-ever-repay-yous, were over and done with.
Parker had wandered here after dinner, instead of returning to her motel room. She didn't know why the battered old toy was still stuck in her head, why she felt drawn to see it again. It couldn't be the same one, anyway. It just wasn't possible. She had intended to wait in the shadows across the street until all the shops had closed, then break in and just check then...Mr. Clausen would never know she had been there, but she found herself staring through the window instead. The sudden ring of the bell above the door startled her.
"Can I help you, miss White?" It took Parker a moment to remember she was supposed to be Alice, still.
"I just...wanted to see something. You're closing. I can come back tomorrow." She felt suddenly flustered. This was something that needed a normal-people conversation, and she didn't feel up to that right now.
"Well, I'll be closed tomorrow too, and Christmas Day. Gonna be with the family. Why don't you come in, miss?" He may have looked like an underfed Santa Claus impersonator, but his eyes were kind, and Parker slipped past him, into the store and over to the shelf by the window. Tentatively, she reached for the plush wolf.
"What will you name him? This is Bunny." Mattie was too young to understand the entire concept, but she had already thought of a good name, and took the black marker from her mother's outstretched hand...it really was the perfect name! She pulled on the tag attached to the wolf's hind leg, flattening it out, and in a somewhat untidy five-year-old scrawl started to write...
It simply wasn't possible...it had been left behind on that terrible night. They hadn't understood what was going on, and she had been more worried about keeping Mattie in her sight that she hadn't even noticed she still held Bunny, much less paid attention to who was left behind.
Parker's hands, which were always steady, shook just a little as she grasped the crumpled tag on the wolf pup's back leg, and stretched it out.
Parker couldn't breathe suddenly.
She wasn't sure she believed in miracles. Or, even if she did, that this would qualify as one. She found herself frozen, unsure what she should do, or what might happen next.
Parker must have been staring at the pup for a long time, and starved-Santa must think she really was nuts to be so intensely interested in a worthless toy that had seen much better days. But his voice was kind and not at all impatient when he finally did speak up. "That little bugger came in a box lot I picked up a while back. Didn't think anyone would be interested in him, but couldn't bring myself to toss him out, either. You want him?"
Parker didn't trust herself to speak just yet. She nodded and blinked back the prickly-wet feeling in her eyes. Finally, she managed to get control of her voice again. "How much?"
"You and your team did so much to help everyone here, and you wouldn't take any payment. Let that lil pup be my Christmas present to you, okay?"
Parker glanced up into kind blue eyes, eyes that were all too knowing though it really didn't bother her. Of course Santa would know this. Santa knew everything.
She nodded her thanks, not trusting herself to speak again because that would require normal people words, and she was sure she'd mess it up. But as she turned for the door, Parker suddenly remembered something else. She hurried over to the lighted display in the back of the store, grabbed the Original Movie Prop! cute and fluffy Hardison-Gremlin from the shelf in the middle, and plopped it on the counter.
"I want to buy this." No stealing from clients. Mr. Clausen, with a bemused smile, rang her up and she paid in cash, leaving him looking quite surprised that she carried a wad of hundred dollar bills that large in her pocket. Parker just liked to be prepared.
Mr. Clausen held the door for her as she stepped outside, where the first few flakes of snow were beginning to fall. She tucked Sparky into her jacket and hoped Mr. Clausen's wrapping job would be enough to keep the fluffy Hardison-Gremlin dry...she didn't need more than one of those!
And as Parker turned the corner toward their motel, she thought maybe the Gremlins wouldn't be so testy if it was Eliot's food they ate after midnight...
Parker pulled Bunny out of her travel bag and set her together with Sparky at the foot of her motel bed, just as she had found them on that bright and beautiful Christmas morning. Then she settled herself cross-legged on the bed, facing them. She always brought Bunny on out-of-town jobs with her, but she usually didn't bring quite as many other things with her as she had been lately; only the necessities. Eliot had noticed the extra bulk lately when he'd load Lucille, and would just look at her with an eyebrow raised in question, but he never asked. Sophie, she thought, wanted to ask, but Parker never gave her the chance. How could she put into words that lately, she was feeling like she hadn't in a long time: like at any moment, a social worker would show up with a black plastic trashbag and an ultimatum, and if she forgot to pack something, it was gone forever?
Parker supposed she should hate Christmas now, but she didn't. It was the one time of year when she had the happiest memories of Mattie. Christmas in foster care usually hadn't been too horrible. They'd at least get token gifts most of the time, and no one could stop them from looking at the beautiful decorations, and that was enough to make Mattie happy, which made her happy too. And after Mattie died...well, she was determined to enjoy it for him.
Parker wasn't sure she believed in miracles, but she believed in Christmas and Christmas was all about miracles, wasnt it? And wasn't it something of a big strange miracle that this team had come together in the first place? And that she would even want to stay with them? Shouldn't finding Sparky now, when she felt more lost than she had felt in a very long time mean something?
But why should she even keep this dusty old thing? She didn't like things...well, except Bunny, and her harnesses...and money...
Through the thin wall between her room and Eliot's, Parker heard the shower start up.
This toy was tattered and threadbare, scarred and stitched. It was a survivor. It looked like Eliot.
Bunny had been her anchor, her one constant through so much, her reminder of happier times.
Gifts were supposed to come from the heart, right?
Eliot had been pleasantly surprised to find the four thugs were decently competent fighters, though he still laid them out easily, stacked neat as fireplace logs. After, he tried to ride the post-fight high through a team dinner that, while not life-threatening, had been dubiously palatable. Not that Eliot was a food snob. He had eaten in plenty of small-town diners where the food, though simple, was wonderfully delicious. This wasn't one of them.
No one spoke much though dinner. The silent brooding all around, sideways glares from Hardison, concerned glances from Sophie, and a Parker who barely touched her food and wouldn't look at anyone, had dumped his mood back in the gutter. He never thought much about Christmas, not since he left home for good. His sister had always loved it, but it had never been quite the same after Mama died. He usually just ignored Christmas now, but between the cheesy decorations in the diner, the overly-cheerful waitress in the elf costume, and the tinny Christmas music over the speakers, he knew he was becoming more than a little grinch-ish.
Sophie had left first, claiming they needed to be on the road early to beat the Christmas Eve traffic, though Eliot knew he'd be lucky if he got them piled into Lucille by 10 am. Hardison went next, and Parker immediately after. He didn't miss how she slunk away, looking as though she were both reluctant to leave, and hoping to escape unnoticed. He briefly wondered if she had ever had a happy Christmas in her childhood, but the thought brought his irritation to the forefront again, and he tipped back the last of his beer before pushing back from the table, and stalking out of the diner.
Now, back in his motel room, Eliot was left with nothing but aches and exhaustion. His long shower wasn't hot enough, damn cheap motel. Not that he was a snob about cheap motels either, but just this one night he would have appreciated scalding hot water.
Barely fed and barely showered, Eliot, dressed in tank and boxers because the motel room heater was all or nothing, stalked out of the bathroom, trying in vain to dry his hair with a cheap threadbare towel. He stopped short at the bizarre and incongruous sight of a small plush animal, neck adorned with what appeared to be a leftover red bow from their earlier set dressing for the con, seated on his pillow in the weak lamplight.
Eliot's first thought after damnit, Parker! (because only Parker could have gotten into and out of his room without him knowing it) was to just dump the old thing in the trash can. He snatched the offending toy off the pillow, but paused as his gaze landed on the old scratched plastic eyes, and he noted the threadbare pelt. Why the hell would Parker give him this, even as a joke? He turned it slowly in his hands, considering, until the battered old leg tag caught his attention. There was something written on the tag, and Eliot smoothed it out. Scrawled in faded ink, in a hand that was obviously a child's but still recognizably Parker's no-nonsense sharp lettering, was a single word: "Sparky."
All thoughts of plush animal decapitation immediately dissipated, and Eliot dropped heavily to sit on the edge of his mattress. Well hell. The exhaustion settled heavily on him again, but much of the carefully hoarded anger seemed to have gone. Eliot stretched out on his back on the torturous motel mattress and set the plush wolf, for that's what it seemed to be, on his chest. The better to stare at it and brood.
Whatever reason Parker saw fit to give him this, he couldn't fathom. He was well aware of what the nickname meant by now, but this was a strange thing for Parker to do...no, it was exactly what the "new" Parker would do. The Parker who was learning to use her emotions, learning to work with a team...the Parker who still needed a family? but who didn't really know how to communicate things like that.
Maybe it was Eliot's exhaustion, but the little wolf seemed to be staring right into his soul.
"Guess I've been a jackass, huh?" The plush wolf didn't reply, but Eliot thought he saw it nod. No, that was just the rise and fall of his own chest.
"Guess maybe it wouldn't hurt to sit Sophie down when we get back and have a mature discussion about the state of this team and leadership, huh?" Another not-nod from the wolf.
Ah hell, they had all been solid on this job, even given the lack of clear leadership. They all played their parts well, and everything slotted into place as usual. Their little "family" was already cracked and chipped. He didn't have to make it harder on everyone. They were trying, they really were.
"Guess I owe them an apology, huh?" Not-nod.
Eliot didn't do apologies, but he did do cooking. He sighed, and the little wolf nodded enthusiastically. What the hell, why not? If he could wake these idiots up early enough tomorrow morning for the drive back to Boston, he might have time to track down a fresh organically-raised turkey. Of course he could track down a fresh, organically-raised turkey on Christmas Eve. He was Eliot Spencer. He had contacts.
If he planned it right, Eliot could spend a quiet, solitary, Christmas Eve at his own apartment, prepping side dishes and dessert, then cook the damn turkey on Christmas Day, at Nate's while he worked on the other parts of the meal. It would give him an excuse to run the others off for a while. Yeah, that wouldn't be so bad. He'd set booby traps at all possible entries to the apartment, especially those Parker might use.
Sophie would definitely appreciate a traditional meal. Hardison, who had spent Thanksgiving with his Nana, and therefore didn't feel as guilty about running this last job at Christmas, was always thrilled with whatever Eliot cooked, whenever, but he'd also appreciate the family atmosphere. And Parker...he'd make sure Parker got an extra-large slice of pumpkin pie. It did almost qualify as a vegetable, after all.
Hell, maybe he'd even have time to experiment with that disgusting casserole Hardison claimed to like. He could put his own spin on it because the sauce sure as hell wouldn't be comin' out of a can!
Eliot drifted and eventually sank into a rare dreamless sleep with the plush wolf still perched as sentry on his chest. Very early the following morning, he and Parker packed Lucille, working companionably and sharing smirks at the complaints from Hardison and Sophie. Eliot would never admit it to her or anyone else, but Sparky was tucked in his bag, between his softest shirts. He was pretty sure Parker knew it anyway.
A/N: Thank you for reading, and please consider reviewing!