Chapter 3

Nate watched them all troop out the door, with Eliot bringing up the rear. He could see the worry on their faces, especially Eliot and Sophie. Well too bad he said to himself as he downed his glass. I cannot do this again.

Nate poured himself another glass of whiskey, then pulling out his phone he called the airport to book himself a ticket to LA. Nate then packed his bags, called a taxi, and headed towards the airport. They should be in the air by now he thought to himself. He knew they could not track him; he had made sure of that. Arriving at the airport he made a short detour and then then to the bar to wait for his flight.

Landing in LA Nate took a taxi out to the Holy Cross Cemetery. Getting out of the cab he paid him and told him he could go. He was going to be here a while and there was no point in the cabby hanging around waiting for him. Then he turned and walked slowly up the path and made his way to a little bench that was placed directly in-front of a headstone. Nate put his bags down and sat down leaning forward with his arms on his legs.

"Hello Sam." He said softly. "I miss you son."

Behind him unseen, four people stood and watched as Nate spoke to his dead son. Arriving shortly before Nates plane landed, they had waited and then followed the man here. They had no idea what was going on but the sadness in Nates voice touched them all deeply.

"Sam I need somebody to talk too, and, and well I thought I needed to explain something. I never thought I could care for anybody as much as you son. Then, well I met these four people. They are good people Sam and I really care for them." Nate said closing his eyes as he spoke. "I love them."

Sophie suppressed a sob at those quiet words. This was the first time she had heard him verbalise the fact that he cared for them, that he loved them, loved her.

"I have a problem Sam." Nate said shaking his head sadly. "I can't lose somebody I love again and a few weeks ago I came very close to doing just that."

"Oh Nate." Sophie whispered. That is what had been bothering him that is what was eating at him. The con had gone wrong, and he could not prevent them from getting hurt.

"First though I need to tell you that I am sorry. You know, I let you down. I believed that IYS would pay son and that we could get that treatment, I don't know if it would have helped, but it's too late now. If I had been a better dad I would have stolen something, like a Monet. You know Eliot he told me I should have and maybe you would still be alive. He was right, I let you die instead of… instead of, I don't know." Nate stopped taking a deep breath tears falling from his eyes at the thought that he could have done something but didn't that he could steal now and not then, not to save his only son's life.

"I didn't, I mean I didn't mean that…" Eliot said his voice heavy with regret thinking back to their first job and the words he had said just before Nate told him they were not friends.

"I was the good guy. I wanted to be an example to you, and I had fought hard to NOT be like my dad you know. But if I had been a better dad, I would have made a plan." Nate stopped to take a deep breath again, this was so hard, admitting to his son that he was a thief now but then he had not even considered breaking the law. "You know I steal things now." Nate said softly, a hint of shame in his voice. "I do that now and it is not to get rich son, it is to help people. But then, then I could not get hold of the money that would get you the treatment that may have saved your life. I am so sorry son."

Nate stood up and walked a short distance away from the grave as emotions threatening to overwhelm him and wiped his hand over his face. This was hard. This was the first time he had really spoken to his son, the first time he felt he could thanks to the people he was planning to leave, and now he felt like he had to tell Sam everything. Walking back to the bench he sat down again.

"Sam. It is not like I am replacing our family. Replacing you." Nate said with a heavy heart. "But these people. They have become my family. They are my family. That son is my problem."

"Why, why is that a problem?" Hardison asked under his breath. He was absorbed in this speech that Nate was giving, and like the rest of the team he was touched by Nates words, until he said something about his viewing them as a family being a problem.

"Sophie. Sophie is a wonderful woman. You would have liked her." Nate said softly. "It's not that I don't love your mom Sam. I mean, I do love her, and I always will. But, well after you. After you left us, we just couldn't, we." God this is harder than I thought Nate said to himself. "I love Sophie Sam. I love her as much as I loved you and your mother. She is." Nate looked up at the sky and contemplated the words he should use. "She is generous, caring, loving, and most of all, she is my rock. My anchor. My compass. I know that it may seem to you that I am betraying your mother, but I am not. What we had son died with you, and it was not your mom's fault it was mine. She tried, but I just couldn't deal with losing you and I started." Nate hesitated slightly before continuing. "I started drinking, and it consumed me. I didn't want to live without you and I couldn't forgive myself for letting you down, for not being able to save you even after I had told you that everything would be fine, that I would make everything ok. I could not and that. Well son it killed me."

Tears rolled unheeded down Sophie's face as she listened to Nate speak to his son. He had admitted his love for her, that he needed her and the team. She could tell that the others were just as affected by his words. It was taking everything she had to stop herself from running out and flinging herself into his arms.

"So that brings me to my problem."

"Again with the problem?" Hardison said sotto voice.

"I can't do this again Sam. I never wanted this. I just wanted to fade away into nothingness. I just wanted everything to end. Then there was that first job, then the next and it just happened. We became more than just a team, more than just people who worked together. We became a family. A family I could lose. A family I do not want to lose, but I can't, I can't take that chance." Nate said then looked up into the sky again with a pained look on his face. "I'm not explaining this very well am I son?"

"No Nate you aren't." Eliot said softly.

"Well son. I have only one option open to me. I mean let's face it, I am a drunk, and when cases involve certain types of people, I get them in trouble, just like the last job. Sam, I almost lost them, Sophie, I nearly lost Sophie. I stood there looking through the glass and I watched her die. Just like. Just like you. She didn't though, the doctors were able to bring her back thank God and she is fine, but. But I watched her die and I felt the same way I felt when I saw. It broke me son. It broke me and I don't think I can put myself back together. I just can't go through that again son."

"That son of a bitch is planning to leave us." Eliot hissed under his breath realising what all of this was leading up to.

"What?" Parker said alarmed but was interrupted by Nate.

"So son, what do I do?" Nate asked his dead son. "The only option is to leave them. To run as far and as fast as I possibly can." Nate said confirming Eliot's thoughts. "But if I do that, then I am throwing away the best thing that has happened to me in, well since you and your mother. It is a choice, like I had way back then when I let you die. This time, I will make the right one, for them." Nate said resting his head in his hands.

"Damn stupid man." Sophie said softly her voice full of emotion.

Sophie wanted to go out there and tell him just that. But she knew if he knew they were there, that they had followed him it would just make it even more difficult so she stayed put watching the man. She saw Parker start to stand but put a hand on her shoulder and shook her head. They could not reveal themselves to him.

"Anyway son thank you. Thank you for being there for me. I love you Sam, I always will." Nate said standing up and placing his hand on his son's gravestone. Nate took out his phone and ordered a taxi before picking up his bag and walking back down the little path, away from his son's grave and his watching team.