Nate Ford encounters Archie Leach in Majorica. The man releases a flock of white doves into the museum, overwhelming the sensors, distracting the cameras, and makes off with a Picasso.
He never caught Leach, but he did get the painting back—Leach had fenced it to a buyer who was a far bigger catch.
And then, ten years before Nate Ford even thinks of the name Leverage, Leach dies in a car crash in Paris—or so he wants people to believe. It's a pretty grand retirement statement though. Sterling frames the article about it in his office.
"I wonder," Sterling muses, pouring Nate a glass of whiskey. "Do you think he got bored? Or did the world just get too small? Security's getting better… and we know his face. Has to be hard, for a thief like that."
"A gentleman thief," Nate says, swirling the amber liquid around in the glass. "Guess there aren't too many of those left."
"Why else would he quit?" Sterling says, and neither of them have an answer. "The greatest thief in the world, just leaving it all behind?"
Parker pushes open the door. (She doesn't have a key and would be offended if she'd been given one.) "Dad! I'm home!"
"Parker!" Archie, waiting in the entryway, opens his arms, and Parker throws herself into it, ignoring her mother's pleas for her to be careful about his bad knee.
"How was it, kiddo? Your sister saw you on the news. Wearing an FBI coat, at that."
"It was fun! And we made so much money—I think I'm going to frame the check, put it right up next to the Monet you stole."
"Do not," Marilyn Leach crosses her arms and glares at her. Parker beams up at her, and then lets go of Archie to kiss her on the cheek. She relents, smiling. "In the office, maybe. But I already have to explain to my book club that my husband is a painter who likes imitating the classics, I am not explaining why my daughter hung a check on the wall."
"Yes ma'am," Parker says, her smile a little too wide to be believable.
Marilyn sighs. "Go, then. Go tell your dad all about your big scheme, I'm going to go pick up your nephews from school."
Parker frowns. "Why? Is Camille okay?"
"Camille is fine," Marilyn says. "She's on a business trip, remember?"
"Oh! Right. Where's Georgie?"
"Napping. You can wake her up if you want but no thief talk in front of the toddler."
Archie and Parker both look askance at that.
"I don't get why," Parker complains, but she knows better than to challenge Marilyn—or Camille—on that subject.
"Yes indeed," Archie agrees. "Now c'mon kiddo. I saw Nathan Ford on the news with you—did I ever tell you about the time I met him in Majorca?"
She takes his arm and they walk into his office, which could be considered a museum in its own right, with all the stolen artwork hanging from the walls.
Archie Leach is the best thief in the world.
He grows up in a grand era of glamor and intrigue. He steals lost paintings and forged masterpieces, he does things for the challenge, and the thrill of it.
Over the years, he accumulates far more money than he needs. He gets a job as an accountant to stave off boredom between jobs. He meets his wife, Marilyn, and they fall in love.
They have a daughter, Camille, and he adores her more than anything.
He steals a Rembrandt and places it above her crib. He fences diamonds to form a college fund for her.
She grows up though, and Camille has no interest at all in being a thief. She's like her mother, kind and thoughtful and law-abiding. Her fingers are slow and clumsy, even when it comes to the innocuous activities that he signs her up for, like piano. She loves sports, instead, and doesn't have much interest in art, although she remains fond of Landscape with Cottages.
Parker likes New York. It's much nicer than the last city—she's already forgotten the name of that one. She left it behind, and it doesn't matter anymore.
But things are easy in the city. People don't notice her, and even the ones who notice never see her, or at least they don't see where her hands are.
Boosting cars, okay, she's learned her lesson there. Too risky. But no one goes out of their way to look for someone who picks pockets. And no one's ever caught her in the act. She's too fast, even for the handful of people who do realize that she has their wallets.
She should be done for the day, but then she sees him.
He's tall, that's the first thing she notices about him. His hair is white, and he carries a cane, and he looks. His eyes are pale blue, and they sweep over the crowd, and, for the first time in her life, she realizes that he sees like she does. He sees wallets and watches and earrings, he sees security cameras and windows perfect for climbing. He sees, and Parker is drawn to him like a magnet, unable to resist.
He sees, but does he see her?
She stumbles into him, her nimble fingers managing the lift easily, and she starts to move away, her eyes low to the ground, when the cane lightly touches on her shoulder.
"My wallet, please," he says, and those light blue eyes are right on her. She glances over his shoulder. He's standing casually, not at all upset, but the cane is heavy on her shoulder, despite the lightness of how he'd put it there.
She stares at him, and wonders what he'd do if she runs.
"What wallet?" She asks. "I don't have a wallet."
"Kiddo," he says, and something in Parker relaxes at that. "You're very good, but you'll have to be a lot better than that for me not to notice."
"Why?" Parker says. "No one else does. Why do you?"
He holds out her hand. "My wallet, please."
It's the 'please' that does it. She hands it over.
"Thank you," he says, putting it back into the pocket of his coat. "Now. Introductions. I'm Archie Leach. And you are?"
"Parker," she says. He offers her a hand, and, remembering how she's seen other people do it, she carefully shakes his hand.
He withdraws his hand, smiling, and then shows her the watch she was wearing, the one she'd stolen out of a woman's purse yesterday, now resting in the palm of his hand. Parker gapes at him, checking her wrist. But the sparkly silver band and the white watch-face with the black Roman numerals remains in his hand. "I didn't feel that!"
"Of course you didn't," he says, and he smiles at her. "I'm a thief."
"How did you do that?" Parker says, staring at him, her mouth hanging open. "Can you teach me?"
He gives the watch back to her. "Now, Parker. Why don't you come with me, and I'll buy you dinner?"
"Dinner? Why?" Parker is instantly on edge now, eyeing the edges of the crowds, the best places to blend into. Running away sounds like a good idea, before he starts asking about her parents and calling social services or worse, juvenile detention.
"Because, you might not be as good as me yet," Archie says, and he sees her, he really does, and that makes her feet stay still. "But I think you could be. You want me to teach you?"
"Yes!" Parker puts her watch back on. He places a hand on her shoulder, warm and comforting and not at all trying to keep her in place, so she accepts it, and he steers her into a nearby café.
He buys her a sandwich and a cup of hot chocolate, and Parker scarfs them both down, while he drinks tea and watches her.
"So, Parker," he says. "Do you have any family?"
"Yes," Parker says automatically, because that's what you're supposed to say, because she's too young to be on her own. "No," she corrects herself, because he's not like everybody else, he doesn't expect her to say certain things. At least, she thinks he's not like everyone else. He's a thief. Like her. "No family."
Archie hums, and she can't tell what he'sthinking. "So, Parker. Tell me, what do you steal?"
"Cars. Wallets. Jewelry. I once stole a book, because it was in a locked case and there were a lot of dollar signs."
Archie nods, and then pulls a padlock out of his pocket. Parker's eyes go wide. It's a nice lock, the kind that's a proper challenge to pick. Picking locks is one of her favorite things to do, but she's been picking pockets lately, and so she hasn't done it in a little while.
"Pick this," he says, setting it down in front of her.
She grabs a pin out of her hair without hesitating, and sets to work, the familiar feeling of the process calming her down even more than the food in her stomach.
The lock opens easily under her guidance, and she looks up, and Archie is smiling at her.
"Very good," he says. "Now, lock it again."
She does, wondering what the point is, before he reaches over and takes it out of her hands. "Now, watch me."
Watching Archie pick a lock is the greatest thing. His fingers are almost a blur, his every moment confident, and there's not a single moment wasted with a false start or a wrong turn. It opens, much faster than it had done for Parker.
"Oh," she breathes. "Oh."
"Have you ever robbed a museum, Parker?"
"No," she says. "Well, I tried. Once. There are cameras. And guards. I almost got caught. And I didn't get paid."
He hands the padlock back to her. "Would you like to learn how to avoid those?"
Parker sits up straighter. "You'll teach me?" She says, even as she starts to pick the lock again, trying to feel out the pins like she'd watched him do.
"If you'd like."
"Yes! I'd like." She shows Archie the lock, now undone in her hands. It was much faster than her first time.
"Very good," he praises her. "You paid attention." He tilts his head and looks at her. "I'm getting older, Parker. My daughter doesn't want to be a thief… and I'm starting to think that it might be time to pass on what I've learned."
"I'll learn!" Parker says. "I want to be a thief. I want to be the best thief! I want to break into museums."
"Excellent!" He says. "Now…" He pauses, looking at her. "How old are you, Parker?"
"Fourteen. I think." Wait, that's too young, isn't it? "I mean sixteen. Eighteen?"
"Fourteen is fine, Parker."
"Oh. Good. Because that's how old I am."
He smiles at her. "Well then, Parker. Do you want to meet my wife? She's expecting me home soon, and I wouldn't want to worry her."
Parker freezes. Her instincts begin to clamor at her to run, but she's not sure why. "What?"
"You see, Parker, Marilyn has been talking about how empty the house is, now that Camille is off at college. She worries about me, you see. But I think if I can show her that I've found a nice young lady to take under my wing, she might stop suggesting we get a parrot."
"A parrot?" Parker asks, curious. "Why not a dog?"
"She's allergic. And honestly, I can't stand parrots. They're always making so much noise."
"Parrots talk! They talk a lot. Once, one of them started yelling because I climbed through the window." Parker nods. "Okay. I'll meet Marilyn. To save you from parrots."
"Thank you, Parker," he says, offering her his arm. "That really does mean a lot to me."
Cautiously, she takes it and they start walking.
"Wallet, Parker," he says, as they leave the café.
She puts it back in his pocket.
Victor Dubenich strikes Parker as pathetic, when he manages to arrange a meeting. He found her through one of her fences—she makes a note to stop selling to that fence—and enticed her with a job.
The job sounds challenging, and there's good money in it. Parker likes a challenge, and she likes money, so it seems like a good offer.
She'll have to work with people, but she can handle that for one job.
Camille Leach first meets her little sister when she comes home from college and there's a fourteen-year-old sitting on the couch eating Rocket-O's with Dad, watching a crime show and critiquing the techniques of the criminals.
"Uh… who's this?" Camille asks, because she's twenty-one and insensitive, and also, there's a kid on her couch.
"I'm Parker," Parker says, with a mouth full of cereal.
"She's my daughter," her dad says.
"No, I'm not," Parker says stubbornly.
"We're still working on it," Dad says, as if that explains why there's a skinny blonde kid with her feet on the furniture.
"Cam!" Mom comes out of her study, with a book tucked under her arm. "You're early! I see you've met Parker."
"Mom?" Camille asks. "Is she—"
"Your father has a bit of empty nest syndrome," Mom says, but she's looking at Parker fondly. "It's good for him."
"I stole his wallet," Parker says. She's no longer watching the television, instead watching Camille with intense, wide eyes.
"It was very impressive," Dad says, proud the way he was when Camille had brought home straight As. "I nearly didn't notice."
"He's teaching me to be a thief," Parker says, her smile wide and familiar, and Camille feels small.
She's known Dad is a thief for years now; has known ever since she happened to take an art class where the teacher liked to talk about stolen art, and she'd realized that the painting above her bed was a famous stolen classic. He's talked to her about it proudly ever since she and Mom confronted him about it. She tries to tell herself it's a weird hobby, like how some dads play golf or collect bugs.
She wonders now, if she's a bad daughter, if her dad had to go and find a random pickpocket, to find someone who gets the same kind of smile when talking about theft as he does.
Camille shakes it off. Of course it's not like that. Dad loves her, she's confident in that, and it's good that he has someone who understands him.
"Nice to meet you Parker," Camille says, extending her hand. "I'm Camille."
"Parker, don't steal her bracelet," Mom says, and Parker pauses in the middle of their handshake with a guilty expression.
"Sorry," she tells Camille. "Habit."
"Oh," Camille says, looking down at the charm bracelet she's wearing and realizing that the clasp has been undone. "I… see."
After everything goes wrong, after the mess with the Davids, and Sterling, and the team scattering, Parker goes home. She isn't planning on staying—Hardison has said he was going to go looking for her, and he is a good kisser, and he's nice, and Parker thinks that she might like that.
But she gets home just in time for Marilyn to get sick.
She can't leave, not after that. Not when Archie needs her, not when Camille is busy with John and Robbie and Georgie, and there are hospital visits to be driven to, and…
In the end, the cancer goes into remission, and they all breathe again.
But Parker looks at Archie, holding Marilyn's hand so tightly that she worries that one of them might break, might shatter into a thousand pieces like the time she was carrying a Ming vase up an elevator shaft and dropped it, and she thinks that she understands Nate a little better.
If anyone had tried to stop Marilyn from getting the treatment she'd needed, maybe Parker would be a little more like Nate.
Hardison tells her, later, that he was looking for her, and Parker, in her own way, tells him she needs more time.
That's how, Marilyn tells her, she can be sure that he's a good one.
For Parker's sixteenth birthday, Archie gives her a fake birth certificate, passport, driver's license, and social security number, issued to the name of "Alice White."
He also gives her adoption papers but tells her that she doesn't have to use that one unless she wants to.
He and Marilyn sign them right then and there, after Parker tackles them both in a hug.
"I hear you faced down Apollo," Archie says, when he calls her, the weekend after Sophie leaves. She's glad he doesn't want to talk about Sophie, because she's not sure how to talk about Sophie. "How was he? I never did get to meet him, but I heard good things."
"He used a North American Kestrel instead of a Scarlet Tanager," Parker tells him.
"Size over distraction?"
"He is good, though."
"But you're better."
Camille gets married, and Parker (or rather, Alice White-Leach) is her maid of honor.
She gives a speech at the wedding, awkward and stilted, and many of the other women in the audiences don't know what to make of Camille's adopted sister, whose idea of a bachelorette party had been to go to a museum at night. (They were unaware that Parker had planned on the party being a heist of a famous painting, but Camille had managed to realize what was going on and talked her out of it at the last minute).
"Thank you, sis," Parker says at the end. "For making me a part of your family."
Camille Neel (ne Leach) cries, and her new husband reaches over and squeezes her hand.
"Nate's in jail," Parker complains to Archie.
"Oh dear. Are you breaking him out?"
"No, he won't let us."
"Honestly, he needs to decide what color that hat of his is."
"He says he's a thief! But he says he should be in jail!"
"Now, what kind of world would that be, where thieves go to jail?"
"Dad!" Camille yells in the background.
Camille makes the familiar noise of her frustration about Parker and Archie's jobs.
"I wish he'd let us do the plan. I love jumping on elevators. Nate even got me a special elevator rig for Christmas!"
"He did?" Archie says, with a strange note in his voice. "You don't say, kiddo."
"We'll kill your family," the person on the phone explains to Archie. "Marilyn, Camille, Alice, Robbie, John… how old's little Georgie now?"
"You've quite proved your point," Archie says, even though he's perfectly still with fury and fear. "What do you want?"
"Wakefield Building. There's information in your mailbox. You're to steal the cannister described in those files."
Archie goes out to the mailbox, and, sure enough, there are blueprints, codes, and files. "I see you've thought of everything."
"I have. Now get to work."
Archie stares at his phone. He looks over his shoulder, at the house, where his grandsons are visiting.
He can't allow them to hurt them.
"Aunty Parker!" The three kids tackle her bodily as they spot her on the couch.
Camille, arms full of groceries, gives her a long-suffering look, but she's unwilling to enquire about Parker's method of entry when Robbie is draped over Parker's shoulder, Georgie is firmly attached to her left leg, and John is wrapped around her waist.
"Hey! I brought you presents! Me and my team were just in Kiev!"
"Where, where?" John demands.
"My pocket," Parker says, and Camille has to resist the urge to bang her head against the wall. Parker isn't allowed to teach her kids to steal things directly, but she's managed to figure out a way to get Camille's kids comfortable with putting their hands in other people's pockets. Dad does it too.
Parker pats Georgie on the head, awkward but fond, and Camille melts, just a little, even as John fishes out keychains and chocolates out of Parker's pockets.
Her sister loves the kids. She's sure of that.
The Steranko is nothing like anything that Archie's encountered in his entire career. It's terrifyingly smart and complicated, and learning what it can do is only the beginning.
He calls up Parker, just to help him plan, but then he makes the mistake of letting it slip that his employer is threatening him.
Parker goes in, without question, without hesitation, and Archie has no choice.
"Parker's in trouble," Archie says, without preamble, ducking his guards.
"Who the hell is this?" Nate Ford, on the other end of the phone, sounds very irritated.
"No time for that, Ford. She went in without me. She's alone, and they have a Steranko security system. You of all people know what that means."
"A—a Steranko? Parker tried to crack a Steranko?" There, that's what Archie has long suspected was there, from Parker's stories—the protectiveness, the fear, the same fear that Archie is feeling.
"You've got to help her, Ford. I can't get to her. I'm on the building across the street."
Of all of the crazy things Parker has ever done, nothing's come close to taking on a Steranko. Nate is going to kill her, after they get her out of there, of course.
The sightlines needed for the photos of the Wakefield Building lead to this particular rooftop.
"Good place to supervise a heist," Nate says, glancing around.
"Nothing can get past us—" Eliot starts to say, when they spot him.
"Nate Ford," Archie Leach says.
The world's greatest thief… here? And he knows Parker? Nate frowns, beginning to shuffle the pieces together. She'd had his name in her home, he can see that connection now, but how did they intersect?
"Lisbon," he says, a stalling tactic while he thinks. Archie Leach… He did know, he supposes, that it's his real name, but he's never put in the time to look into a man who only rarely kept his prizes, usually stealing them more to prove he could rather than anything else.
"I think… Florence," Leach says, striding past him.
"You know this guy?" Eliot demands. He's not happy, not about any part of this situation, and Nate can't blame him.
"Mr. Ford and I once moved in similar spheres. It was Majorca."
"Right, white doves," Nate says, still not finding the connection. "Eliot, I'd like you to meet Archie Leach, the world's greatest thief."
Men arrive, with guns, and Eliot gets to work, leaving Nate to talk to Leach.
"You're, uh, pretty spry for a dead guy." Nate thinks about the framed article in Sterling's office.
"You mean the car crash in Paris?" Leach raises an eyebrow. "Nobody fell for that one. What color is that hat of yours these days, white or black?"
Okay, this guy is really irritating Nate, and he still can't see the connection to Parker.
"Come on, boy," Eliot says, taunting the last of the guards, distracting Leach for a moment.
"Pardon me, sir!" Leach yells, before taking the guard down with two heavy strikes of his cane.
"Well…" Nate muses.
"Nice," Eliot says, probably appreciating the help. Well, Nate had things to do! "Those guys weren't with you?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Leach says dismissively. "They're here to make sure I get the job done. I'm their hostage. Barely got away from them long enough to call you."
"Parker's your partner," Nate says. It still doesn't make sense, but it's an undeniable conclusion."
"Parker…" Leach hesitates, as if he's unsure of something. "Is rescuing me."
"Why would she rescue you?" Eliot demands, eyes narrow.
"Because," Leach says simply. "I'm her father."
Nate tilts his head, and the pieces slip into place. "Adopted?"
"Of course," Leach says. "New York City, twelve years ago. The little scamp lifted my wallet." He looks impossibly, infuriatingly, fond. "When I first met her, she was wild, dangerous to herself and to others. But she had the gift."
"I brought her home. I trained her, honed her—my perfect thief."
"She was your legacy."
"Just so. My eldest had just gone off to college, so the house was all empty. My wife and I supposed that adoption was a better choice than doing cruises after we retired." He takes out his wallet and shows it to Nate. "This is my wife, Marilyn. My grandsons. My daughter, Camille. My granddaughter. And… Parker."
Parker has her arms wrapped around the woman, smiling the most genuine smile that Nate has ever seen her wear. She's comfortable, in a way that he usually only sees when she's rappelling down the side of the building or holding a wad of non-sequential bills.
"So you sent her into a deathtrap, huh?" Eliot demands.
"I made a mistake," Leach admits. "I told her about how they threatened our family. She got it into her head that she had to do this right away. I told her, it was my job—"
"What was the job?" Nate interrupts.
"I was retired. They found me, whoever they are. Told me to break into Wakefield and steal some canister from the labs there. Or they would kill my family. My grandchildren." He pauses, smiling just-so-slightly. "And, of course, my youngest daughter, Alice."
"Alice?" Eliot growls. "Oh, are you kidding me?"
"We need to get her out of there," Leach says. "She has no plan, and no exit!"
"Not how you taught her?" Nate asks, finally feeling a twinge of sympathy for this guy.
Leach looks at him. "Not how either of us taught her, I suspect."
Nate frowns, not sure what the guy's implying. "I suppose not."
"Dad!" Parker says, when they finally get out.
He wraps his arms around her. "Kiddo," he says severely. "You realize, your mother is going to kill us both for this."
"Why? We fixed it."
He laughs and kisses her on the forehead. "You changed," he observes.
She stiffens her shoulders. She knows she disappointed him, by going back into the building, rather than making her escape with Eliot. It was the right thing to do, she knows it, but… it's Archie. It's her Dad, even if she almost never says it out loud. "Yes, sir."
"I'm proud of you," he says.
She looks up at him, suddenly shy. "Even though…"
"Parker," he says. "You made your own family. That doesn't mean you're not in mine anymore."
She sighs, relieved, and hugs him tightly.
"My wallet, Parker."
She laughs, and lets it fall out of her fingers, back into his jacket.
A/N: A few notes!
-Camille is named after Camille Monet, Monet's first wife. Alice, Parker's favorite alias in the show, and her "real name" in this AU, is the name of Monet's second wife.
-Georgie is Archie's granddaughter, as seen in the Last Dam Job. She's named for Georgia O'Keefe.
-Landscape With Cottages is a real stolen Rembrandt. It was stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1972 by armed robbers, so I guess Archie probably stole it from someone else!
-Robbie and John are named after John Robie, Cary Grant's character in To Catch a Thief. Cary John's birth name was Archibald Alec Leach, and Archie is, according to the Leverage Wiki, named after him.
-Camille's married name is Rogers, after John Rogers.