Before I start this story I want to say how happy I am to be able to write again. I have been unable to for a period of more than two years and it has been really hard. I so enjoy writing especially Leverage and I apologise to all of those who have followed me in the past for the delay in finishing my previous story, but it is done and this is the new one. Hope you all enjoy.
"I thought we talked about this Nate." Sophie said her voice hard, cold but completely calm.
"Talked about what Sophie?" Nate asked looking at her with that look he gave her when we wanted to take him on about his drinking.
"You messed up Nate. You messed up because you are drunk." Eliot interposed gaining a withering look from Sophie. She had told them she would deal with this.
"Look he is on the hook, alright." Nate said smiling at her. "Now we just have to close him out."
"Nate. Look at Eliot, look at him." She said chillingly.
"Shut up Eliot."
"He's fine." Nate said softly. He was feeling a little guilty about his Hitter getting hurt. Eliot had a few cuts on his face, and he was favouring his left side where he had taken a bullet. "I didn't think the guy…"
"That's just it Nate isn't it? You did not think. You went in all blustery and forgot that there were other people that can get hurt. You want to kill yourself fine, but you are not going to bring us all down with you." Sophie told him.
"So, what do you want? An apology. Ok well I'm sorry." Nate said taking another sip of his whiskey.
"Not this time Nate." Sophie said quietly.
"What are you saying Sophie that you are going to leave again?"
"No Nate. This is my family as much as yours. You are the one that is disrespecting them, putting them in danger. You are going to leave." Sophie responded and she could hear the audible collective gasp she received from the others even thought they had all agreed.
Nate stopped twisting in his chair and looked intently at the woman before him. She was deadly serious he thought. Then he flicked his eyes to the other and saw the conflict in them. They had stayed for him and not Sophie. Yes, they were more than a team now, they were a family, his only family, especially after what had happened on the Maltese Falcon and after that. What the hell did she want. She knew he drank. Ok he thought to himself, he had not been this drunk in a long time, but the case had touched a spot with him and had brought back memories he would rather not have. So what if he had a few to many. The mark was on the hook, Eliot was a Hitter, he was supposed to take the knocks and anyway he was fine, and they would end the con with a win. What was her problem?
"You all agree with her?" He said his eyes going from one to the next.
"You been drinking a lot and this con…" Hardison started to say. "You are getting worse again Nate." He mumbled.
Parker said nothing just staring from Nate to Sophie unable to pick a side. She loved Nate. She respected him and he had made this family, the only family she had every really known. But she loved Sophie too and she knew that Nate was sliding back to what he was three years ago, and she did not want that either.
"You gotta learn Nate, we are not just a team but a family. When you get like this, you put us all at risk. We want to help you, but you don't want that help, not now, but…"
"Ah." Nate said slowly turning towards the Hitter. "You think if you run me off I might turn into the good little boy?"
"You did it before, you gave up drinking, you can do it again." Eliot said holding Nate's gaze. "Or at least slow it down man."
"Well maybe I don't want to Eliot." Nate said in a hard voice. How dare they. This was his life. This was his team, his family. He had put them together and he held them together.
"That's the problem Nate." Sophie said softly.
"Yeah." Nate said then downed the remainder of whiskey in his glass. "Ok. You want me gone; I'm gone." He said standing up and walking over to the wet bar of the hotel they were staying in. "We finish this. Then I'm gone." He said over his shoulder taking the bottle and stalking down the corridor to his room.
As his door closed the people standing staring at his retreating figure let out a collective breath.
"Well that went well." Eliot said looking at Sophie.
"Eliot, we have to do something, he his sinking back into… he is drinking more than he did before." Sophie said softly.
"I don't want him to leave." Parker said in a small voice keeping her eyes on the room door behind which Nate had disappeared.
Sophie looked at the thief and could see the sadness and conflict in her eyes. Hardison was looking at her with a little bit of fear and Eliot had concern etched all over his face. What if this did not work. What if Nate left and never wanted to come back? What if he went off drinking somewhere and something happened? All of these ran through her mind as well.
"I know we agreed. He needs to see reason, he needs to understand, but Sophie I am not sure this is the way." Eliot said reading her thoughts.
"Nor am I Eliot. But when I left his drinking got worse and all of you stayed, you stayed so he carried on drinking. Then he went off the rails, the con went bad because through his anger and his drinking he could no longer control himself. Then lest we forget he gave himself up to Sterling and went to jail and got shot and…" She took a deep breath remembering those moments on the Falcon when Nate had sacrificed himself for all of them. When he admitted to them that they were his family. That he had kissed her, a kiss that told her how much he loved her. "Maybe if he thinks he is losing his family he will come to his senses." Sophie said to all of them.
"What if he doesn't?" Parker asked staring at the Grifter.
"He will Parker. You know why. He loves us. He won't say it, but he does. He does not want to lose us. We just need to show him that he needs to respect us too. That we need him to control his drinking at least if he is not going to stop."
"I hope we are right in this." Eliot said sotto voice.
"So do I." Sophie softly replied her eyes also turning towards the closed door.
Nate walked into his room and slammed his door shut. How dare they he kept asking himself. He had always made sure they were safe. He had always made sure the con worked. When it came down to it, they had always won, even with Sterling. They had been safe, secure, and protected. What did they want from him? So he drank. They knew he drank; he had never tried to hide it from them. He was a functioning alcoholic. What the hell did they want from him? He sat down heavily on the bed. He was well on his way to being completely drunk he knew. He also knew they were right; he had been drinking more than he had before. This con had also just pushed the wrong buttons for him and if he was honest with himself, he had gotten out of control. Just like he had with the Bonano case. He took a long drink from his bottle of whiskey not even bothering with a glass. Then sat and stared at the wall as he contemplated what to do. He did not want to lose them. They were his family and he did not want to lose another family. But if he acquiesced to them now. Then they would use this against him, she would use it against him every time they thought he was drinking too much. Sophie hinted all the time that if he did not behave, she would leave. She had as much as said it and said she was the only one they liked, or so he had been told by her. Well damn her and damn them. He did not need a family. He did not need them. If they did not want him, then he was not going to beg, he was not going to push himself on them. No, he would leave, he would do simply fine on his own he thought anger rising within him. Nate spent the rest of the night finishing off his bottle and then fell into a dead, alcohol induced dreamless sleep.