Chapter 28

Nate thought about Sophie's words, he knew they were an ultimatum, if he did not return now then it was over. He sighed heavily, he could never leave them, not forever anyway.

"Ok…I am turning back." Nate said as he turned the wheel and headed back to port.

"Good…good." Sophie said smiling through her tears. "We will meet you at the docks."

Eliot smiled at her and walked to the door holding it open for all of them as they made their way out of the house. Nate was coming home and this whole thing would finally be over he thought. Nate would be home, he would take the time to heal, he knew Sophie would make sure he did, and the man would acquiesce to her and things could get back to normal.

They drove towards the docks and arrived as Nate docked his boat. Tying off the boat he started walking towards them as they approached him. Eliot reached him first and looked him over. He looked tired and he could see he was trying to hide is discomfort as well. Nate smiled at his Hitter and then walked up to his wife taking her in his arms.

"I am sorry Sophie…" He whispered as he hugged her too him.

"I know you stupid man." She whispered back. "Now let's go home shall we." She said as she hooked her arm into his.

"Mr Ford?" A man asked as he approached the group. Eliot immediately stepped forward between Nate and the man, he recognised one of his profession when he saw him.

Nate made a move to step forward, but Sophie held his arm tight as Parker too moved in front of the two of them.

"It is over Moreau is dead." Eliot said his voice hard. He watched the man and weighed up his options.

"I see." The man said looking at Eliot. His job was simple, make sure that Nathan Ford died, he had taken the money and he had taken the job. The man who had hired him was dead, he was aware of that, the man he had been hired to kill had taken his life.

"If you want to get to him you will have to go through me." Eliot said menacingly.

"And me." Parker added.

"Now if you think you can do that have at it." Eliot continued.

Nate watched as his Hitter and his Thief stood between the man sent to kill him and himself. He felt Sophie's arm tighten around his and noticed that Hardison had moved in at his other side. Damn this all he thought could this just not be over. Nate sighed and then pulled his arm out from Sophie's and pushed forward to stand directly in front of the man before they could stop him.

"So you want to kill me. Well here I am have at it." Nate said locking eyes with the killer. "Moreau is dead, you have no obligation to do this but if it is what you want then well please do." He was tired of it all and one way or another it ended here.

"I have been paid and I have a reputation."

"Well good for you." Nate said sarcastically. "I am sure that killing and dying for a dead man will be your legacy because make no mistake you pull that trigger and Eliot there is going to kill you." Nate added. "Now I know you know Eliot and he will do it and you will not be able to stop him so go ahead do your thing."

Sophie watched as Nate challenged the man as did the others but made no move to interrupt the confrontation. They would not be able to stop the man from pulling the trigger and killing Nate anyway.

"Well…" Nate said sighing heavily and stepping forward so that the man's gun rested on his chest. "Pull the damn trigger or get the hell out of my way because I am done with all of this, with you, with Moreau with all of it."

The man made no move and all of them held their breaths. Then Nate was moving, he pushed passed the man and then turned and held his hand out to Sophie who smiled at him and walked forward taking his hand and walking up the pathway not turning to look back. Eliot kept his eyes on the assassin and then moved forward along with Parker and Hardison.

"Mr Ford." The words stopped them, and Nate turned to look at him moving away from Sophie once more with Eliot by his side ready to move if needed. "Moreau is dead and my obligation to him is now at an end." He said tucking his gun back into its holster. "I do believe Mr Ford that my ex-employer made a grave error in taking you on."

"Yeah well…" Nate said then turned and continued walking towards the van with Sophie once more hooking her arm into his.

"Well it is over." Sophie said sitting beside Nate in their house as he sipped his whiskey and she her wine.

"Yes it is." Nate agreed smiling at her.

"Nate, I don't want to belabour the point but what you did on the dock was stupid and dangerous and just what we were talking about before."

"I know." Nate said softly.

"But you did it anyway." Eliot said his voice tinged with anger.

"Yes."

"Nate…"

"I am not going over all of this again guys." Nate said finishing off his drink. "It is done. Now I am tired, and I am going to bed." He said pushing himself up and almost falling but Sophie steadied him then taking his arm led him towards the bedroom.

Sophie led him to the bed and helped him sit down. Then she went and got him shorts and a t-shirt and helped him changed before he lay back and closed his eyes against the pain and fatigue he was feeling. Sophie watched him for the short while it took him to fall into sleep. She ran her hand through his hair and leaned in kissing him gently before pulling the blanket up over him.

Entering the living room she took the proffered glass of wine from Eliot and sat down on the sofa with the rest sitting down around her.

"He is never going to change is he?" Parker whispered.

"No Parker he is never going to change." Eliot replied even though her question had been directed to all of them and none of them at the same time. From the first time, that time in the warehouse where he had held the door to make sure they were all out safe before he left, to now, Nate was never going to change, he would always take care of them.

"Do you think he knew the man would not shoot him?" Hardison asked.

"I don't know Hardison, but does it matter?" Sophie said looking at the young man. "He would have done what he did even if he KNEW the man WAS going to shoot. It is what Nate does and…and we are never going to change that." She sighed.

"Yip he ain't going to change and someday we are not going to be able to stop him from getting himself killed." Eliot said softly.

They all sat silently and thought about that. Eliot was right, one day they were not going to be able to save Nate from himself.

"Well he has not changed, he has always been this way so…so we just go on and if that day ever comes, God forbid, then we will deal with it." Sophie said softly.

She realised that this was a battle she was never going to win she knew it and so did they. They had to accept what Nate was and although it was stupid, idiotic really, she did admire his total commitment to her, to them, to the exclusion of all else including his own safety.

"Anyway I am also a little tired. It has been a long, hard few days, weeks in fact, I think we can all do with some rest now." She told them as she finished her wine and then disappeared into her and Nate's room.

"She's right you know." Eliot said as he turned to his two friends.

"Yes, but for now it's over." Hardison said, there was nothing they could do about it. Nate was who he was. "Movie…" He asked as he flopped down on the sofa. He was tired but he did not want to go home and sleep.

"Great I'll pick." Parker said as she walked into the kitchen and collected her box of cereal that Nate always kept in the house for her and grabbed an orange soda for Hardison.

"Ok but I pick the next one." Eliot growled as he too flopped down onto one of the comfortable chairs with a bottle of beer.

Sophie lay with her head resting on Nate's chest as she listened to his heartbeat. She loved this man so very much. It had taken them so long to reach this stage and one day, one day it would end. But it was not today, today they had won, and she was lying here with him and they were safe. But there would be other times she knew, other jobs, other dangers. She also knew he had stepped away from Leverage Inc to keep her safe, but he would not be able to stay away, he would always be involved in one way or another, and if any of those three people out there watching movies in their living room were in danger he would step in, she knew that. One day his luck would run out. But it was not now, not today and she was happy to lie here with him and a short while later Sophie drifted off to sleep.

Hope you all enjoyed the story.