SUMMARY: A modern-day retelling of Sense and Sensibility via the Leverage characters.
WARNINGS: Bad breakups, near-death illnesses, and not everyone's a hero. It's not my fault, Jane Austen (and mizzy2k) made me do it.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Written for leverageland's GoodWrites Challenge.
Parker and Hardison were playing Scrabble and giggling like a couple of schoolchildren. They’d been dating for almost a month now. Sophie smiled and tried to remember what it felt like to be in the throes of your first love.
Eliot was watching them, too. Sophie wondered sometimes, the way he looked at Parker when he thought no one was watching. She wondered if he even realized he was in love with her.
“She looks happy, doesn’t she?” he said when he caught her watching him.
“Almost too happy,” Sophie said. “She’s never been in love before, which means she’s never been hurt by love before.”
“That’s what makes her special. She’s not cynical about it like the rest of us.”
“It can’t last forever,” Sophie told him. “She’ll have to come down from the clouds eventually, one way or the other.”
“I hope not,” Eliot said.
Unfortunately, Sophie proved to be right. Several months passed and Hardison became increasingly distant. He began avoiding Parker, ducking her calls, spending less and less time at HQ. All the signs were there, but Parker seemed to the be only one who couldn’t see them.
She showed up on Sophie’s doorstep one night, crying. Hardison had finally ended things. Sophie comforted her as best she could, holding her hand until she’d cried herself to sleep on Sophie’s bed.
Eliot showed up a few hours later. “How’s she doing?”
“How do you think?” Sophie said darkly.
“He was cheating on her,” Eliot said. “He’s been seeing someone else behind her back.”
“How do you know?”
“He told me.”
Something in the tone of his voice made her blood run cold. And then she noticed his knuckles, which were swollen and bloody.
“Eliot, what did you do?” she asked anxiously.
His expression was hard. “He hurt Parker. What do you think I did?”
“He walked away from it, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Sophie would never understand men. How was that helping Parker? But she supposed to a man like Eliot, a soldier, it was the only recourse he had. She couldn’t bring herself to censure him for it.
Hardison left the team and Parker became sullen and withdrawn. When she was on the job she was reckless. She took unnecessary risks and refused to follow the plan.
It was raining the night she fell. She hadn’t brought her gear because the plan hadn’t involved any climbing. Nate told her not to do it, but she insisted she could get in more easily from the roof than the basement. It was a three-story building. They watched anxiously as she scaled the wall. She almost made it. They saw her reach the top and start to pull herself up onto the roof. And then the brick she’d been grasping crumbled to dust in her hand. She slipped, tried to catch herself, but couldn’t find purchase on the slick stones.
She didn’t make a sound as she fell through the air. They all heard the impact, though, clear as crystal over the comms.
At the hospital they said she was lucky. She’d suffered no signifiant head or spinal trauma, only shattered her right foot and ankle. She came through surgery to repair the ankle just fine and seemed in relatively good spirits the next day.
But then she spiked a fever overnight. She’d developed an infection, they said. The antibiotics weren’t working as well as they’d hoped. She was in danger of sepsis. Sophie stayed by her side, anxiously watching over her. Eliot stood stony vigil from the little waiting room down the hall. Nate wouldn’t even set foot inside the hospital.
For two days Parker tossed and turned, passing in and out of consciousness. The doctors who came to check on her shook their heads and exchanged worried looks. After they’d left Sophie went down the hall to find Eliot.
“She not getting better,” Sophie told him. “She’s getting worse. Half the time she doesn’t even know me, the other half she’s asking about her bunny.”
“Then I’ll go get it,” Eliot said. “The one she keeps on her bed, right?”
Sophie nodded numbly. “I suppose it might help to have something familiar nearby.”
He squeezed her hand solemnly and left.
Sophie went back to Parker’s room and sat beside the bed. And then, after an hour, Parker opened her eyes.
“Sophie?” she said horsely. Her eyes were clear and bright.
Sophie clutched her hand gratefully, blinking back tears.
The nurse who came to check her temperature declared the fever had broken. The new antibiotics were working. Even the doctors seemed to think she was out of the woods. A little while later she fell into a deep, restful sleep for the first time since her fall.
Sophie went down the hall to wait for Eliot and give him the good news. When she heard the ding of the elevator she turned expectantly—and saw Hardison.
“Parker,” he said. “Nate called me. Is she ...”
He trailed off, unable to finish. Sophie stared at him, pity and anger warring within her.
“Just tell me, is she going to be okay or not?” he finally managed.
“I think she’ll be all right now,” Sophie told him.
He closed his eyes, sagging with relief.
“Eliot will be here any minute,” she said. “You shouldn’t let him find you here.”
He nodded, started to go, then turned back. “I loved her, you know. I did. Just not enough.” And then he was gone.
Eliot came back ten minutes later, carrying Parker’s old stuffed bunny. His eyes widened in alarm when he saw Sophie waiting for him, but then he read the relief in her expression. “She’s okay?” he asked.
Sophie nodded and threw her arms around him. “She’s going to be fine.”
When Eliot stepped into the room holding her bunny, Parker’s eyes lit up with joy. Sophie knew it wasn’t all because of Eliot, but she gave him a little of the credit anyway.
Parker’s recovery was slow. The six weeks she was sentenced to wear the cast were like an eternity to her, and after that it’d take months of rehabilitation before she recovered full use of the joint again.
Eliot coached her through it every step of the way, though. He cooked for her, drove her around, spent hours at her place playing gin rummy and watching old movies to keep her spirits up. He was there to cheer her on the day she finally got her cast off and he oversaw every physical therapy session.
Eventually, things went back to normal, for a certain value of normal. They found a new hacker—Chaos, as a matter of fact. Sophie heard Hardison had started his own crew, and wasn’t doing too badly for himself. She wished him well.
Eliot’s silent devotion finally seemed be paying off. Parker had been looking at him with newfound appreciation since the accident. Sophie watched them, laughing and talking together, not like schoolchildren, but like old friends. It was good.
They could never go back to the way things were, but they were all moving forward, which was, in a way, altogether better.