Author Shona (aka Mara)
Disclaimer Neither of these are my sandboxes, I'm just playing in them for a while.
Fandoms Buffyverse, Leverage
Master Post here
Notes thanks to telaryn for the look-over and handholding on this part!
Summary Just when it looks like things couldn't make less sense, Faith meets the team.
She almost hauled off and hit him - again - before the pounding footsteps passed them and she realized what he was doing. Sure enough, the moment she heard the soft click of the auction house door closing he stepped back and she was a little amused to see the wariness in his eyes.
"This would be the part where we clear out before they figure it out, right?" She said flashing him a small smile that she hoped didn't look as shaky as it felt.
"Yup. Walk, don't run." He said and she rolled her eyes.
"Honey, this ain't my first rodeo."
"Yeah, I could tell. Nice exit strategy, by the way. " He shot back, but there was no fire in his tone and she let him put his arm around her waist once more as they started away, losing themselves in the growing crowd of spectators.
Faith managed to reign in her curiosity for a full ten minutes, during which time they made so many random turns into side streets and changes of direction that she could almost believe he was trying to maze her. If so, he was in for a helluva surprise - she'd always had an above average sense of direction and the added situational awareness her calling had given only helped her. Besides, this was her back yard.
Finally her patience ran out and she stopped at the next corner and crossed her arms.
"So, what do you want?"
His hand twitched and she wondered if he was going to try to grab her and drag her along to wherever he was heading, but the moment past almost before it registered and he crossed his own arms across his chest, mirroring her own stance.
"Could ask you the same question." He said.
"Me? What do I want? I want you to answer the question. Oh, and while you're at it, you could also tell me what the hell happened back there and - and this is the kicker so don't skip it - who you are."
He smirked. Honest to God smirked at her and Faith had to fight down the spark of anger that took her by surprise. "It was you, wasn't it? You did something to me. What was it? A spe- a drug? Man, did you ever pick the wrong girl to roofie."
He held his hands up in a placating gesture and it was only then that she realized her own hands had been bunching into fists.
“Hey,” he said, “Not my style sweetheart. And as for that other thing? Magic ain’t my thing either.”
“Magic?” She tried to bluff her way out of that one, knowing full well she was already busted. “Who said anything about...?” She gave up before she could dig herself into an even deeper hole. “Okay, okay... but that still doesn’t explain what happened or who the hell you are.”
“Look, sweetheart,” he said, “I’d be happy to tell you what I can but how about we take it off the street?”
She tilted her head to one side, trying to gauge if he was leading her into a trap. She didn’t think he was but how could she be sure since something’d been screwing with her all day. Finally she made up her mind, trusting that she could handle anything that might happen. Probably. Maybe.
“Your place or mine?”
Nate glanced over to where Parker was trying - in vain apparently - to show Hardison how to play darts. The hacker seemed to have absolutely no sense of direction and Nate noticed the rest of the bar's patrons were leaving a wide circle around the pair apparently because of the wildly unpredictable rebounds and downright misses. He found himself smiling a little at the kids - and part of him did think of them as kids - pleased that they had found something relatively normal to do for once.
He settled back into the booth, rested his arm on the back of the worn leather bench and took another sip of coffee. Maybe it wasn't such a mistake spending time down here after all - his adopted family gathered here and he honestly couldn't think right now of any place else he'd rather be.
"What's on your mind, Nate?" Sophie was watching him curiously having abandoned the latest issue of Variety in disgust on the table between them.
"Hmm? Sorry, what?" He said, "Nothing. Just thinking how good it is for all of us to be here without someone trying to arrest us or kill us for once."
"Not quite all of us, but I know what you mean." Sophie replied with one of her patented wistful smiles - the kind he still wasn't one hundred percent sure were genuine.
"Yes, where is Eliot anyway?"
Sophie shrugged. "He said he had something to do today but he'd be around later if we needed him for anything."
Nate nodded. "He's probably got a date or something." A cheer from the bar caused him to look up to see Hardison grinning like a lunatic - apparently one of his wildly flung darts had actually hit the board. Nate smirked a little as the young man used the opportunity to steal a hug from the little blonde beside him. That particular situation would inevitably lead to trouble down the road, but they were both grown ups and it was probably a lot healthier than the countless one-night stands their hitter persisted in indulging in.
Right on queue there was Eliot holding the door open for an attractive brunette - one thing to be said about the man, he knew how to turn on the charm. Eliot scanned the room quickly and spotted Nate who nodded at him, expecting him to lead his date to one of the empty tables near the door and he was more than a little surprised when the hitter headed straight for his booth.
"Eliot," he said.
"So that's your name, was that so difficult?" The girl with him said with a tight smile that did nothing to hide the wariness in her eyes. Not a date then, probably. "I'm Faith, wanna tell me what's going on here? Your boy here's being kinda tight-lipped."
Nate could see Eliot's jaw clenching just a little at the jibe and waited for even the slightest hint as to what this was about.
"'Faith' here got in the way of a... project no one else should have been in on. Seems like it's blown up a little and I..." Eliot paused just for a fraction before saying, "I could use some help finishing it."
Something about the way he'd said the girl's name tipped Nate off that it wasn't just Eliot who was being tight-lipped about things. And none of this was explaining just what was actually going on. Sometimes Eliot could be so damned hardheaded that Nate wanted to throttle him.
Sophie had been glancing between the two men and apparently picked up on the growing tension so turned to the girl and said, "Faith, was it? Nice to meet you, I'm Sophie. Can I get you a drink or something?"
Faith snorted, "Why, so you can slip another mickey in it? I'll pass."
The look of shock on Sophie's face was only there for a second before her carefully maintained mask was back. "Well, at least take a seat won't you?"
Instead of sliding into the booth, Faith grabbed an empty chair from a nearby table and swung it round to sit facing the door.
Nate forced himself to take a deep breath and stood. "Eliot? " he said as he walked towards the back room; trusting the hitter would be right behind him.
"Did you drug her?" Nate didn’t think the younger man would do such a thing but there was a lot about Eliot that they still didn’t know.
"What? Jeez, no! Why would... No!" Unless Eliot was a better grifter than Sophie, the surprise in his tone convinced Nate he was telling the truth.
"Ok, I believe you," he said. "But she clearly thinks you did - so what happened? Where did you meet her? What were you doing?"
"At Skinners' Auction House. Faith was there and... something happened."
"What were you doing there? Wait, were you were on a job?" Nate asked, not even trying to keep the surprise from his voice but hoping nonetheless that the hurt he was feeling wasn't showing. "Alone?"
Eliot crossed his arms and leaned back against the doorpost. "Yeah, I was on a job. Why? You got a problem with that?"
"Why didn't you bring it to me?"
"Hey," Eliot said, obviously biting back this annoyance. "I ain't a kid. I don't need your say-so."
"No, I get that, but we could have helped-"
"It was a simple job, I didn't need your help."
"Clearly it wasn't that simple." Nate countered. "What were you after?"
Eliot closed his eyes for a moment, breathing deeply and Nate found himself wondering just how much the hitter was keeping from them. "A knife." he said
"A knife." Nate repeated in a flat voice. "Really?"
"A particular knife. It has... a history."
"Eliot, what aren't you telling me? Why is this knife important? And just what's it got to do with that girl out there?"
Eliot looked around, and Nate was aware that Sophie was watching them even as she tried to keep Faith distracted. Even Parker and Hardison seemed to have noticed something was going on.
Not here." Eliot said. He left the bar heading for the stairs leading to the upstairs apartments.
"Eliot!" Nate called after him, trying to get him to stop.
"Not here." He repeated without turning around.
Over the last few years Faith had found she'd gotten pretty good at reading people and the Englishwoman currently trying to keep her attention away from the testosterone display/pissing contest going on in the other room only gave her a moment's pause. She was good, Faith had to acknowledge that, but she was also lying to Faith. The too-constant eye contact, the lean forward, the conspiratorial tone of voice as she - Sophie, that's what she'd called herself wasn't it? - made some inane comment about how she was sure they could get this whole thing sorted out and how had Faith met Eliot anyway...
Faith snorted a little and leaned back in her chair, tuning the woman out so she could listen in on the conversation she was obviously not supposed to hear. She was aware of a couple over near the bar watching her and figured they too were part of this weird team - just what kind of operation had she stumbled into here? - but she decided to make out she hadn't seen them. Let them think they had some advantage over her if that made them happy.
The two men made an abrupt exit - with Eliot taking the lead, she noticed - Faith leaned forwards mimicking Sophie's body language.
"So tell me," she said sweetly. "Where are they going?"
Sophie blinked rapidly. "Huh? Oh, don’t worry about them. They'll be back soon. Probably just stepping out for some fresh air or something."
"Yeah right," Faith said with a snort of laughter. "Listen, long time ago a smart man told me something: 'Don't kid a kidder'. So how about you cut the crap and tell me where your base is?"
A little to Faith's surprise, Sophie smiled back and raised her glass in a kind of salute before taking a sip and tilting her head to one side. "You're right. I'm sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have tried to play you; you're understandably upset. I get that. I just want you to know you're safe here. Nate and Eliot will be back soon and we can get this sorted. Why don't you and I have that drink and you can tell me what happened."
Faith shook her head, still smiling. "The 'shoulder to cry on' act won't work y'know. And if you won't tell me, then maybe Blondie over there, or the studmuffin she's with, will." She let the smile drop from her face. "Or I could tear this whole place apart until I find them. And trust me, the way my day's going right now, that last option's currently my favorite."
Sophie narrowed her eyes, assessing Faith, trying to see if she was serious no doubt. Problem was: Faith wasn't so sure it was an idle threat herself. "Look," she continued. "No offence, I'm sure you're all having fun here with your whole... whatever the hell it is you do here. But some unbelievably weird shit went down today that I need to deal with. Seems like your man Eliot knows something about it and you obviously don't. So tell me where he is.
Finally Sophie nodded once to the pair on the other side of the room and put her hand to her ear. "Nate?" she said, and somehow Faith wasn't all that surprised to realize they were working with some kind of comm devices. "We're coming up. Faith wants to... talk."
As Sophie led her up to the second floor, Faith wondered for what felt like the millionth time just what she'd gotten herself into here. Before she opened the door, the Englishwoman stopped for a moment and took a breath. "Faith," she said. "You're right, I don't know what's going on, but Eliot wouldn't have brought you here if he didn't think we could help you. We do want to help you figure this out."
There was something about the woman's voice that made Faith think that for the first time since she'd introduced herself she was telling the truth. She nodded an acknowledgement and Sophie gave her a fleeting smile as she opened the door.
Faith blinked a little, as she walked in. She wasn't completely sure what she'd been expecting but this wasn't it. Six giant flat screen monitors dominated one wall and the way the rest of the furniture was positioned made her think this was definitely more of a working space than an apartment, but then she could see the odd sign of domestication that showed someone lived here despite that. Nate was doing that same talking while holding his ear thing she'd seen Sophie do downstairs.
"Yeah, Hardison." He was saying. "I need you up here to do some researching." He paused, obviously listening to the other side of the conversation and Faith wondered which one Hardison was - the blonde or the overgrown kid - and made a tiny bet with herself it was the guy. He'd seemed a little on the geeky side. "I don't care what she called you." Nate replied and she smirked, she'd been right. "No, I don't. Get up here." He sounded exasperated as he turned towards the two newcomers.
Nate took a step towards them with a worried smile on his face. "Faith," he said. "Eliot's explained things to me and I think we can help each other out if we -"
"He explained things?" She interrupted. "He feel like sharing some of that with me?" Faith nodded towards Eliot was standing at the window talking quietly on a cell phone and apparently not paying any attention to what was going on.
The man actually started fidgeting and she found herself thinking there was no way any of these people were going to be able to help her figure it out. "He's, um. He's talking to his contact. The one who sent him to Skinners' today. Maybe this can wait until he's done."
Eliot was walking towards them. "You got it, man." he said and took the phone from his ear. He didn't hang up the call; instead he held it out to her. "He wants to talk to you."
Faith frowned at him as she took the proffered handset. "Who the hell is this?" she snapped into the receiver.
"Faith, what are you doing in Boston? You weren't supposed to be in Boston!"