Chapter 1

"Morning Parker what can I help you with today?" Nate asked as the young blonde Thief appeared as if miraculously in his kitchen.

"Nothing." Parker said sitting on the counter munching her cereal.

In the beginning it had really bothered him that the woman would just appear, and that she was often to be found in his apartment in the mornings with no signs that she had come through the door at any stage. He often wondered if she stood and watched him sleep and decided not to dwell on the subject. Parker was who she was, she was unique in so many ways and he tolerated her odd behaviour because she was somebody who needed acceptance of who she was without criticism. Not that he did not criticise her often, but he only did it when it was constructive.

"What are you doing here Parker?" He asked as he turned on the kettle for coffee. It had been a long night and he had been drinking quite heavily, the job they had just finished was again one of those that touched a nerve and although it had ended well it had brought back memories he could have done without.

"Oh you know." She said swinging her legs and smiling at him like a little girl.

Nate just rolled his eyes and then made his coffee adding a liberal dash of whiskey to it before taking a seat at the table.

"You know we have the day off today right?" Nate asked as he sat and sipped the steaming brew looking at her. He had decided to give them the day off to recover, well actually more for him to recover than them but anyway.

Parker did not respond she just nodded still sitting on the counter swinging her legs and munching on her dry cereal. He decided to just let it go and sipped at his coffee. After he had finished he told her he was going upstairs to shower and change. When he returned an hour later Parker was seated on the sofa watching TV with a bowl of popcorn. He just shook his head slightly and then made his way to the kitchen for another Irish.

"You intending to stay here all day?" He asked as he went to go and sit at his desk, he had some research to do on possible new clients he hated sitting around doing nothing it just led to him brooding and then drinking.

"You need to go shopping." She said as she popped some popcorn in her mouth. "There is no food for Eliot to cook in your fridge."

Nate smiled briefly at that. No food for Eliot to cook in his fridge he thought, it wasn't his fridge anymore, it was their fridge and Eliot did most of the cooking in his apartment, which seemed to be their apartment which they had also adopted as their HQ. He sighed taking a sip of his Irish and then opened the file on the desk. He looked up at her still sitting watching some inane movie and shook his head, he supposed she was the designated caretaker for the morning. The three youngest members of the crew had taken to watching over him since the debacle on the Falcon and his stint in jail, and particularly now when they knew somebody was watching them, had bugged his apartment, he was not drinking as much as he had been although there were times when he did, like last night, and that was when they became protective of him. He was sure that Eliot and Hardison would troop in later with Eliot ready to prepare dinner for them. Sophie would no doubt also make her appearance sometime as well although it was still way to early for her to be up and around unless they were on a job.

The rest of the morning was spent with him working on the files on his desk and Parker sitting watching television, the apartment was quiet, and Nate almost forgot the woman was there. By the time one o'clock rolled by he looked up and she was standing at his desk.

"Yes Parker."

"I'm hungry." She said looking down at him.

"Ok well let's go to lunch."

"Really?" She smiled at him and he nodded. "We can also pick up some groceries on the way back."

"Ok." She almost sang the word and then bounced back to the living room picking up the keys to his car. He sighed and then stood and walked to her holding out his hand for the keys.

"I'll drive." He said and then smiled at the pout that appeared. She was not a great driver, well that was not strictly true he thought, she was a great driver, just not a slow one. "So what do you feel like eating?"

"Oh anything." She said as they walked out the door. She was not particularly hungry, but he needed to eat, she had watched him the night before and he had eaten nothing, just drank, and he had eating nothing the whole morning either, although apart from the two Irish coffees he had not indulged in whiskey. "What about pizza?" She asked knowing it was one of his favourite foods.

He nodded and then they climbed in the car and he headed to one of his favourite Italian places for lunch. Parker sat babbling in the car about this and that and he only half listened to her as they drove.

"Ah Mr Ford." The manger said as they entered the establishment. "It is good to see you again."

Nate smiled and shook hands with the man and then was shown to a table. They ordered their food and Nate ordered a whiskey and then sat and chatted about all sorts of things before the food arrived. Nate had found out over the years that Parker was surprisingly well read and could speak on a lot of topics and he enjoyed chatting with her at times, although he found her thoughts sometimes a little chaotic for him and she seemed to flit from topic to topic. The meal done they left the restaurant and decided to walk the short distance to the nearest convenience store leaving the car where they had parked it.

Parker bounced along beside him expounding on some topic or the other and Nate walked along listening to her, this was the first time in a long time it had just been her and him alone. He looked up and stopped in his tracks as a man appeared before them.

"Parker." The man said then pulled out a gun.

Nate acted instinctively moving quickly in front of the woman shielding her as two shots were fired, and he fell onto her with the impact pushing them both to the ground his body lying limply on top of hers. The man with the gun turned and ran as bystanders started to gather.

"Nate…" Parker cried out as she struggled out from under him. "Nate…" She called out again as she knelt beside him. His eyes were open as he looked up at her, blood trickled from his mouth as blood started to pool beneath his body. "Call 911." She shouted out as he put her hands-on Nate's face trying to anchor him. "Stay with me Nate, please stay with me." She said softly as she bent her head so that she was inches from his face. She could hear the wheeze in his breathing and knew that if he did not get help soon he would be dead. "Stay with me Nate, please, please just stay with me."