A/N: I started this fic thinking that I remembered how the ep went down and then mid-writing I started to rewatch to try and catch details like the mark's name, etc. That was when I realized that my entire premise (Parker and Eliot missing the end of the con) was a bit off-base and so here I am slapping an AU tag on here, shrugging, and calling it a day.
I wanted to write a fic that addresses the sort of logic-gap that exists in TV shows where if things aren't able to be completed within the time window of The Event of the Episode, they can't be done at all. I adore the moment between Eliot and Parker in the cave where Parker wants to do the right thing and he tells her it's a good thing it was them and not the others bc they're able to do the hard thing & walk away. But also… once the issue with the mark is all set, there's still literally all the time in the world to go and pick up the body. There isn't a time limit on that piece of closure. So, this ficlet was born ^^;; (Can you still call it a ficlet if it's over 2k? oh well. I'm breaking all the rules here apparently)
Huge kudos to Symbioticdeath who is my rock and also a huge fucking enabler throwing kibble at all these plot bunnies I have and making them multiply.
Once the con on Drexel is completed, there's still work left to be done. Parker wants to do the right thing by bringing Alan's body back to his wife.
Alternate Universe - Canon Divergent, S04E01 - The Long Way Down Job, Canon Extension
The Unfinished Job
The aftermath of the job was a surreal feeling. Parker finally was on board with this whole stealing but not keeping (all of) the money deal, but it didn't have the same cinched-up-with-a-bow final result. Especially this time.
She and Eliot weren't even on site when the con wrapped up. That in and of itself wasn't terribly unusual - often the con would wrap in a series of Hardison's keystrokes or Sophie's fluttering eyelashes while Parker was napping in the van - but it certainly had never happened while she and Eliot were stomping through the remnants of a snowstorm and watching the sun set a little too quickly.
Nate got to one-up the mark, do some gloating, and play his white knight routine with the grieving widow while they were still coming down the mountain. Parker could more or less hear it through her ear bud, but it really wasn't as interesting when she was focusing on not twisting her ankle. She was pretty sure that Eliot had stuffed his own comm in his pocket after they confirmed the video had arrived rather than listen to every little detail.
When they had finally re-arrived at base camp, all the drama was far past its grand crescendo. There was a suitably relieved Hardison, Nate, and Sophie waiting for them, naturally, but it was all… eh. Like working on a lock for too long and still not feeling the tumblers slide into place.
It wasn't like Hardison had a laptop with big, pretty numbers showing their beautiful win sitting in a serialized Swiss bank account or Sophie could flip open a shiny, silver attaché case with neatly stacked bills. There wasn't any joy in seeing ski patrol standing around one tiny tent that held the mark in zip ties while they waited for the actual LEOs to show up. Any time that they had to rely on cops, feds, or anyone else with handcuffs and badges made Parker's skin crawl. She was happy to duck into the communications tent that they had somehow still maintained control over despite the con being over.
She would at least take getting warm as its own tiny reward. Parker stamped her boots as she felt her pinky toes finally tingle back to life while she avoided Hardison's constant eyes checking in on her. "It's not gonna be like that," she had mumbled at him when she and Eliot had reached the camp.
"I know. I know that," Hardison had insisted. He hadn't lingered, either, though she had squeezed him tightly in the hug she regretted not giving him before they had started the climb. In the tent now she could feel his focus wasn't on his screens. Parker was a thief. She knew when she was being watched. She didn't appreciate it, either, but a voice in her head that wasn't unlike Sophie's told her to let it go.
She tucked herself onto one of the pop-up folding chairs that had been stuffed into the tent. It was closer to the space heater, too. This wasn't the van. It wasn't secure enough to drop into a doze even when the warmth finally permeated her body in a hazy cocoon.
Parker kept scanning the communications tent with a ready eye. This wasn't right. This wasn't how a con should end. She didn't know what exactly she was looking for, but she wasn't finding it. Sophie and the widow with their deep conversation? Nope. Nate's painfully obvious alcohol withdrawal symptoms? Frustrating but would be easily remedied by a trip to the tent next door. The rap-tap-tap of Hardison cleaning up any loose ends? Should have been comforting since that at least was normal but it didn't quite hit right. And there was nothing else going on. The tumblers still hadn't clicked into place.
She frowned. There was nothing else going on. That didn't quite equal out. Parker twisted on her pop up chair to take a proper head count. One, two, three, four, Parker. But four here was the wrong four.
"Where's Eliot?" Parker blurted out. The conversations around her cut out and there were too many sets of eyes with that twist of eyebrows that Parker recognized as Not One of the Good Ones. "Never mind," she grunted. She was out of the tent before one of them could turn that strange expression into strange conversation and, ugh, there were already enough weird feelings going in on her stomach. She'd pick at her metaphorical lock outside.
The party had been thoroughly squashed by Drexel getting pinched. The rich-y rich vacationers were abandoning ship. Somehow it was less fun when you realized you had been rubbing elbows with a killer.
Parker crossed her arms and frowned as she surveyed the camp. The scurrying of spooked civilians was no more interesting than the cooldown of her crew. Their motions stood out in the glow of the floodlights that had been set up once the sun went down.
Her study finally turned up something interesting. She recognized from the crowd one particular helmet bobbing to and from the tents that didn't quite stick to the light in the same fashion. Shadowing him was simple. She could do it with her eyes closed on any day. Well. Maybe not tonight on the mountain after a hard climb and what felt like tiny knives in her lungs and skull. But any other day.
Any other day he might have caught on to her following him around sooner, too. At least Parker didn't have to feel too bad about being off her game. Eliot was scrounging, picking through the climber's half-prepped stockpiles for this, that, and the other thing. He was making a pile at the foot of the Russian's snowmobile. He didn't seem surprised to see Parker perched on the seat when he came back with the next round.
"You're gonna get cold. Why don't you go back inside?" Eliot remarked as he dropped to his haunches. He was sorting through the haul, pulling out a harness from the duffle at his feet to compare to another one that he had apparently just found.
Parker lifted one shoulder. "What's another half hour of wind and bad weather?" she replied.
"Nighttime means stronger wind and no sun to help with temps. Don't make me tell-"
She hopped off the snowmobile and snatched the harnesses from his hands. "If you finish that sentence with 'Hardison', I'm going to have to tell you the same thing that I told him," Parker threatened.
Eliot chuckled and moved on to the next piece of kit to inspect and approve. "And if I was gonna say Sophie?"
Parker stuck out her tongue. She didn't have a response for that, so she didn't bother to come up with one. Instead she twisted Eliot's helmet light to better see the straps in her hands. He protested, naturally, while she tossed the losing harness over her shoulder. "This one's better. It'll hold you no problem. The other one's more expensive but will never break in right. Bad brand," she said.
When Eliot twisted his lamp back where he wanted it there was a delay to the motions. "Harness ain't for me," he said.
"Oh, well, I've already got plenty in that style. If you're looking for a Christmas gift, I'll be happy to have Santa forward my list to you," Parker replied cheerfully.
She waited for the typical response - option a, "there's something wrong with you" or option b, a begrudging sigh - and frowned at Eliot when he instead grew quiet. He slowly stopped his count of the hand heat packs and rested his arm on a knee. The lamp made Parker squint as Eliot looked up at her.
"Parker, the job's not done. That's what the harness is for," he explained.
Understanding dawned on her along with the first bit of relief to the unresolved tension in her gut. There was a familiar click of tumblers falling into place. "It's for Alan."
The rest of the crew wasn't pleased with Eliot and Parker's decision not to leave the mountain. Hardison in addition was struggling with voicing his displeasure without actively breaking Parker's very straightforward rule about their something-like-a-relationship. He hovered by the pack of snowmobiles that were pointed down the mountain, back towards civilization. "You shouldn't be up there without comms. We've already seen that's a bad play," Hardison argued.
Eliot, who had already packed and repacked the Russian's skimobile twice this morning, did not have time for clingy teammates. "Dammit, Hardison," he grumbled with less vigor than usual. "You think you can maintain your NOAA cover story for another day after we burned the rest of our covers? No. You can't. Plenty of people climb this mountain with just normal radio signals, beacons, all that. And we know exactly where we're going."
It was hard to tell if Eliot's outburst was effective on its own or if Sophie piping up from behind Hardison cinched it instead. "And this time they don't need to worry about the element of surprise. They've got a vehicle this time. They'll be up and back in, what, a few hours?" Sophie offered. There were ulterior motives to her backing Eliot and Parker's play such as the cold, the slim pickings of any further marks, and Nate's brain trying to turn itself into mush in the high altitude.
Parker hopped back and forth between her feet. The morning sun had not yet taken off the bone-deep chill from last night. Eliot's head bobbed in agreement with Sophie's assessment. That made Hardison clamp his mouth shut from any further protests, but he was clearly not happy about it. He accepted Parker's conciliatory hug though and finally mounted the snowmobile.
Parker pretended not to notice when Hardison gestured to Eliot and then unsubtly pointed back and forth between him and Parker. She busied herself with tucking her hair under her cap and stuffing it all under her helmet. Yesterday it had been a mistake to let it fly around all madcap and loose.
"Ready?" she shouted to Eliot over the roar of the rest of the team shooting down the mountain back to civilization. Eliot rolled his eyes. She hadn't needed to ask.
Ski patrol wasn't exactly thrilled with letting people head up the mountain after the commotion yesterday, but there was no real reason to keep them away. They did try to give Eliot some shit about taking the snowmobile further up the mountain than the high camp at which point he got real quiet and Parker could only hear snippets of the conversation. The gist of his retort, she presumed, was that ski patrol really shouldn't have been sticking their nose into his business when they were the ones who gave up on Alan Scott in the first place. She happened to agree.
Parker perched on the back of the snowmobile until Eliot stomped over, tossed a leg over the seat, and threw the throttle wide open. Then she had to lurch forward and wrap one arm around him to keep from being tossed off.
"Parker, gerroff!" he snapped. She swapped with the other arm and held his waist instead.
Some guys could be so picky about when they did or didn't want to be strangled.
Taking the snowmobile was a great way to conserve energy, and Parker also didn't mind the fact that she could bury her chin into Eliot's back to avoid the worst of the wind shear. Not that she didn't like wind - that was a big part of the joy of throwing oneself off of buildings - but her face had stung all last night from windburn and going on day two was a bit much even for Parker.
The roar of the engine made it difficult to think, too. So Parker just basked in the thrum of the engine and the sun finally fighting to warm up her legs and arms.
They reached high camp in a third of the time it had taken them to hike there. Eliot kicked off the engine and stashed the keys in his inner coat pocket. "We have to listen to the dumb red coats, don't we?" Parker asked.
Eliot tipped his head back and forth. "Much as I don't like it, they did make a good point that anywhere higher than here we're gonna have the chance to fall into 'nother cave system. I don't really feel like reliving that part of yesterday. No offense."
Parker gave him a look before clamoring off of the vehicle. He hadn't said anything offensive. It would be pretty stupid to travel all this way only to drop themselves and a five hundred pound snowmobile into a crevass.
They divided up the bags and started back on the trail that had somehow already filled in from yesterday. Breaking a trail was hard work. Having to do it all over again was, in a word, frustrating. Parker chewed on the inside of her lip as she fought back complaining. Eliot had done the majority of the work yesterday, but today he was holding two out of the three gear bags. And more than likely he would be the one who would have to haul Alan all the way back down here. All of which meant complaining was really the last thing that Parker should be doing.
She must have been spending too much time with Sophie. Or the feeling of not-quite-enough oxygen in the air was getting to her already. Either way, Parker busied herself with running through her mental maps of the Met rather than grumbling. When she took over for the next leg of the trail she did have to crack open a second set of hand warmers, though. She nearly missed when Eliot grunted, "Left thirty degrees then we're nearly there."
All thoughts of guard patterns, sensor grids, and motion sensors swept out in a fresh wave of inexplicable emotion. Parker corrected her course and resolved to lead the way for the rest of the journey. Her pace quickened.
"We still gotta climb down into the cave. Don't burn through all your energy," Eliot barked before taking his own advice and shutting his mouth. Parker compromised somewhere between a trot and a brisk walk. She definitely was doing better at this whole politeness thing because there was no way she would have let a comment like that go before. Who did Eliot think he was talking to? Parker could climb up and down a line in her sleep.
She did slow down when they approached the wide open snowfield that had disappeared under their feet last time. Eliot came to her elbow and studied the stretch of treeless ground with one hand over his eyes. The sun was up now. It bounced merrily off of the snow, making Parker glad just for one brief moment that most of their cons took place in neat, dark cities and buildings. Trying to stay out of sight in the middle of all this pristine powder was a challenge that she didn't want to consider.
"This is it, right?" Parker pressed. She bounced on her heels while Eliot frowned. Eventually he nodded.
"Watch your feet." More advice that Parker ignored in favor of asking for a more clear cut direction they should head in now. The wind had once again covered up the gap in the ice which opened into the cave. Eliot dug out one of the many lengths of rope that they'd brought this time and tossed one end to Parker. They weren't taking any chances this time if one of them was going to fall in.
Wordlessly they agreed to a systematic approach, slowly combing over the stretch of deceptively featureless snow to find the cave. Each minute crept by. Parker would occasionally have to tug on the line that tethered her to Eliot and get him to give her some more slack, but they still had to stay close. Otherwise then there was no point to the rope at all. Being tethered to someone else should have made Parker nervous; she wasn't the kind of person to have to rely on someone. But her nerves were too focused on not finding the cave again to be bothered by being tied to Eliot. When she spotted the crumbling edge of the rocky opening she called out quickly to him.
He reached her elbow in a few strides. There was a silent exchange between them as they peered once again into the gap that they had fallen through the previous day. Parker exhaled slowly while she crouched at the edge.
"That side will be better to screw the anchors into," she said, pointing with one gloved hand. Focusing on the technical aspects was easier than thinking about what was down below. Parker felt a fluttering in her chest that she worked to swallow away. She had wanted to do this. There had been an opportunity back at the snowmobile last night where she could have nixed the whole plan. She hadn't and they had both worked to compile the gear they were unloading now.
Parker cleared off the snow and ice from the rock of the cave ceiling. Each time that she looked for the next piece of the anchor system, Eliot had already laid it out within reach. He had also gathered the ropes and harness that they would need shortly. Those were still next to him in the smaller of the bags that he'd packed.
"All set?" Eliot asked. Parker had been fidgeting with the anchor setup for a long minute, pulling on the cordelette to triple check it would hold. Of course it would hold. She could have set up this rig with her eyes closed.
She lifted her eyes to finally look back at Eliot. There wasn't any further avoiding she could do. That fluttering was still kicking around in her chest. She didn't care for it, though she knew this was what she had asked for after all. She had wanted to do the right thing to be like Hardison and Nate and Soph. Without the clock ticking around them, with just Eliot here and no ear bud in her ear, Parker had only herself to push herself to actually do it.
Eliot's face was partially obscured by his goggles, but she could hear the tone in his voice change as he asked, "Do you want me to go down and get him?" Only one of them needed to go. He was giving her the out to stay here and belay him. It would still be helping. They would still bring Alan home.
It would have been more than Parker would have done three years ago. It would be a small step, something tiny to build on the things she had done already with the rest of the crew.
She forced herself to let go of the anchor system and clip herself to the line instead. "We'll both go," Parker answered firmly. She didn't meet Eliot's gaze until she had squashed the emotions rattling around unhelpfully inside of her. They were finishing the job. That was it. She could grow as a person without it being so damn monumental. All she was doing was giving a man back his dignity. No one deserved to die alone in a place like this.
When they were down in the cave, Parker still had to defer to Eliot to get Alan's body wrapped up again and then to rig the harness around him. But she helped, dammit, and she didn't flinch away even when she had to lift up Alan's torso for Eliot to maneuver the straps. It took everything in her that she barely knew she had.
Working the climbing rig to bring Eliot up first - to re-check that the anchors would work after they had dropped down - was routine. It was all just the same movements and checks that Parker had done for herself for years. Parker had to be the one to clip Alan to the rig alone, though, and she knew that she bit a little too hard on the inside of her lip while doing it because there was the taste of copper in her mouth; but she managed it regardless. Another five minutes of rope work had all of three of them back in the wind and the sun without any spare moments to talk.
Then all there was left was just the journey back through the freshly broken trail. Parker shouldered the trio of bags and started down the mountain again.
The cheerful orange of the high camp tent lingered on the horizon for what felt like ages. Parker let out a cry of joy when she first spotted it and then maligned having given herself hope. It took another long, painful twenty minutes at least to get from the ridge they were on down to the tent. When they do reach it, Parker could tell that she wasn't the only one relieved.
"Break time?" she offered. Eliot had on a brave face, but Parker knew that even he had limits. The hitter nodded shortly and once they had the red tarped parcel tucked against the snowmobile, both Eliot and Parker stumbled into the tent. Zipping up the side didn't help with the temperature but at least it took a bite out of the wind.
Parker passed Eliot a water bottle from the bag she brought in with them. When Eliot was done taking a long draught she snatched it back to slake her own thirst. "I know I packed more than one of those," Eliot retorted.
Parker laughed because of course he had. And she had known that if he was feeling better he would say exactly that. Sophie wasn't the only one who could deduce what her teammates were thinking and feeling. "Figured your big, meaty hands would warm it up for me," Parker teased.
She dodged a half-hearted swipe and tossed him the bottle back just for good measure. The tent was too small for him to retaliate much further, but that surely wouldn't stop Eliot from trying. Parker dug through the bag again to find the second water bottle - exactly where Eliot said it would be - and more importantly some of the food that she had pilfered from the catering tables last night.
"If that's trail mix, I'm going to scream," Eliot grunted. He had pulled himself to a sitting position rather than sprawling on the tent floor like Parker was. It just seemed easier that way. She had to more or less crawl to get inside anyways.
"What's wrong with trail mix? It's basically cereal and nuts and stuff," Parker protested. She had yet to meet a cereal that she didn't like. Excluding maybe Life. That stuff was just too bland. Then again, she should have expected that Eliot would have higher standards.
Parker thumbed through her stash while Eliot replied with "Exactly." She rolled her eyes and resisted the urge to throw him one of the bags of glorified, rich people trail mix that she indeed had. So what if it had gold foil on yogurt covered raisins and fancy pre-shelled pistachios? At the end of the day it was still just trail mix. Instead she chucked a foil-wrapped sandwich at his head. Unsurprisingly Eliot batted the tinfoil missile away with one hand. Then he lifted an eyebrow and made a noise that Parker associated with good-mood-Eliot as he unwrapped it.
"Turkey and provolone. And it isn't even drowning in mayo. There is a god," he said before tearing into the sandwich. Parker allowed herself to smile while she dug into her own. She couldn't take credit for making the thing, but at least she had picked something good from what was available. She procured a pair of miraculously unbruised apples from the bag as well as some gummy fruit snacks. "Swapsies?" Parker asked when Eliot passed on the latter - surprise, surprise - because she would much rather munch on the gummies than deal with a whole apple once she had devoured her sandwich.
Chowing down on their stolen feast let Parker come back from the endless circles she'd been running in her head. She wasn't the kind of person to get caught up in her own thoughts this much. Another strange change within the past few years. The jury was out on whether it was a welcome one.
If it had been anyone else here instead of just herself and Eliot, Parker would have been poked and prodded to give up her thoughts. As it was, they ate in relative silence with the only comments passing between them being related to the food. Parker peeled open the second packet of gummies while Eliot dutifully wrapped up the rest of the trash inside of his tinfoil. He tossed it lightly into the bag, pumping his fist when it landed with a soft thunk.
"Swoosh, that's a goal," Parker offered before throwing a gummy up and into her waiting mouth.
"That's… you know… I'm not going to try and correct that," Eliot sighed.
Parker shrugged. "It's close enough," she countered. The resulting sputtering and eventual accepting grumble from Eliot brought another smile to her lips. Sometimes it really was just too easy.
"When do you want to head down?" he asked a few minutes later when Parker had run out of gummies to snatch out of the air. She had rolled over onto her back and was currently borrowing the side of his leg to keep her head from sitting on the cold tent floor. Neither one of them really wanted to move, that much she knew. The wind against the tent flaps had kicked up in the past half hour. Eliot had been spinning her untouched apple in his hands while she briefly considered trying to doze.
Parker glanced at the zippered doorway and at the unseen snowmobile and passenger that was waiting for them. "Soon," Parker said because it was what she had to say instead of voicing her suggestion of waiting out the wind. She pulled her lip back between her teeth to worry at it once again. The skin there was chapped and peeling. The more that she worried at it, the worse it would be. Getting off the mountain and back to Boston would be the smart move.
It just also meant leaving this tent and making that trip back down to finish the job.
"M'kay," Eliot replied. He pulled out a knife from somewhere - Parker squinted to try and determine if it was from just his jacket or from some kind of ninja hidden pocket and came up with nothing concrete - to cut off slices of the apple. He took the first one but offered the next to Parker. She took it without thinking.
That was when he finally struck, while she was chewing. "This was the right thing to do," he said simply.
Parker lifted an eyebrow. "The con on Drexel?" she asked through a mouthful of apple. "I mean, probably. I don't really get how this was something we needed to do. People shouldn't be able to just foreclose on things they don't own. And obviously, pfft, the murder was bad."
Eliot chuckled and sliced another chunk of apple off. "Not what I meant, but yeah, that was definitely the right thing to do. I meant what we're doing for Alan. For his wife." He gestured with the knife and the apple slice before tossing it into his mouth. Parker's eyes followed his pointing back to the snowmobile.
"Yeah," Parker agreed flatly. She busied herself with fixing the cuffs of her jacket while waiting for the conversation to die again.
No such luck. Eliot plied her with another apple slice - dammit, why was she still eating them? - and spoke again. "You were right back in the cave. This was the right thing. No one should be left alone like that. We just were there a little early the first time. With the wrong stuff."
Parker chewed slowly, listening to her own thoughts coming out of Eliot's mouth. Apparently she hadn't been the only one thinking about this on their trek. "Well, I'm just glad that you didn't let the stupid red coats talk you outta doing this," she admitted.
"We could've just left with the others," Eliot said honestly. "Would have been easier."
"Would have been warmer," Parker added. She shuffled on her back to rest her head more fully on Eliot's leg. He shifted slightly and, ah, that was perfect.
He passed her another apple slice. "See, I'm glad that you talked me into doing it, not that ski patrol didn't stop us. Because, first off, they weren't going to be stopping anything on my watch. But mostly," Eliot said, "like I said, this was your play. And you were right to push for it."
Parker was glad that she was down here and not having to deal with deciding what face to make while also dealing with looking at Eliot. She busied herself with chewing through her given apple slice and made a non-committal noise. After a beat, Parker replied lightly, "I wanted to do the right thing."
"And you did," Eliot commended. Then he grunted and Parker could feel him move slightly under her. He was doing that thing where he tipped his head back and forth, hedging. "Well-"
"We did," Parker corrected him with a roll of her eyes. Of course he wanted credit. He could have it. What did she care? Just hearing what he was saying now was helping free that fluttering feeling from her chest. There was a lightness now, the sensation that she had been looking for back at base camp.
"We will have, once we actually get off our asses and get moving again," Eliot said with a final correction. Parker groaned and threw an arm over her eyes. Eliot laughed at that. There was a moment of bickering and poking and prodding between the two of them which ended with Parker chowing down on the rest of his carefully sliced apple while Eliot cleaned off his knife.
Then there wasn't anything else left to do but to leave the tent and finish the job they'd started.
A/N: This is also my first Leverage fic that I'm posting so ahhhhh please excuse any horrific characterizations or things-which-have-probably-been-done-to-deaths which might be in here.
Blanket statement for my oneshots - Please do not ask if I am continuing these. They are single "chapter" fics which I am considering complete. Thank you. - DragonMaster65