Sophie and Nate both decided the time in San Lorenzo didn’t count.
They were as drunk as skunks, and high to boot from the results of an excellent con gone well. She couldn’t remember losing her bra; he couldn’t remember why he didn’t lose his vest. All in all, it was a crazy mess, and so Sophie and Nate agreed that it totally did not count.
That decision didn’t account for her giving him a blow job in the airport bathroom after check in took waytoo long (both Nate and Sophie could swear they hadn’t started out with that much stuff, but the others muttered something about souvenirs and wouldn’t meet their eyes) nor did it account for during the flight when his hand found its way under her blanket and under the hem of her skirt, brushing up the heat and softness of her inner thigh and underneath the elastic of her cotton panties. She could have killed him, especially when Parker started up a conversation from the seats behind them, but she wouldhave killed him if he had stopped.
Nor did it account for the trip home, where they conveniently had to split into two taxis to get everything home, and Nate steered Sophie into one and paid the cab driver not to notice as they made out like sex starved teenagers for the whole drive. She just couldn’t bear for his hands not to be on her, and he had the same problem, obviously in the reverse for if Sophie was Nate and had Nate’s clever hands available 24/7 she would never leave the bathroom, ever.
When they got up to headquarters, she felt itchy and feverish and it took all her willpower not to jump him when he made the blessed announcement that the kids had to get the hell out of there and store the souvenirs in their own places and not clutter up headquarters. As it was, she leapt on him the exact moment Hardison closed the front door. He didn’t take long to respond, and worked his way into her with quick, maddening little thrusts and she welcomed him into her body a little more loudly than she would have liked had she at all been in control.
By the time they finally made it to Nate’s bed, via the kitchen counter, Parker’s favorite spot by the couch (Nate’s fault – they were aiming for the corner and missed), the stairs (Sophie’s fault – she accidentally sat on him, okay, so not accidentally, but she would stick to that story until the day she died) – and by the time they made it to the bed, legs wobbly, clothes discarded all over the place, they had to agree that somewhere in there, one of those times had definitely counted.
Or all of them.
Sophie was about to try and start that awkward conversation, that what the hell is this and where are we going and holy shit is this the crappiest idea out of all the crappy ideas they could have come up with this really takes the biscuit conversation, when he looked at her, those ridiculously boyish blue eyes on hers, and he said, in a low voice that shouldn’t have been so hot, “I’m in love with you.”
Sophie stared, and her thoughts went along the line of who even says that and whu---? and that is totally stupid, I’m a grown woman, this sort of thing doesn’t happen at this point in your life, but her mouth had always run ahead of her brain, and the surprise of him saying it at all, let alone saying it first, led her to blurt out the truth, the honest goddamned truth, “I’m in love with you too.”
So they stared at each other for a good deal of time, which was about a minute in real time, but even a minute was getting to be too long away from him, and then it was too long and even though she was bound to be sore and regretting it for the rest of the week, they had sex. Again. Twice.
“How long is it until we have to be wearing clothes again?” Sophie asked, ignoring how nice it felt to be in his arms because if she thought about it she might start purring or something else completely embarrassing. He looked down at her through terribly mussed, terribly adorable bed hair, squinted, and calculated it.
“Parker’s closest safe house is that one by the river front, and she’s closest,” Nate said. “We’ve probably got-“ His face furrowed, in that way Sophie had always thought was cute, but she had never been able to tell him because-
Oh. She could. She did. He blushed. She stared at him archly. “After the last twenty four hours, that’s what makes you blush?”
He shrugged enigmatically, and then turned his neck to look at the clock on the side table, and Sophie licked it just because, okay and he turned his face back, smiling.
“Fifteen minutes,” Nate said.
“Shit,” Sophie said, and leapt up from the bed, and grabbed for the sheet to cover herself, but he arched one eyebrow and she let it drop. She tilted her head at him like a challenge. “Shower?”
“You can go first,” Nate said, struggling to push himself up on his elbows.
Sophie raised both eyebrows. “I thought you were smarter than that,” she said, and turned, sashaying away to the shower. She smirked to herself as the penny dropped and his feet hit the floor. She didn’t think she had seen him move so fast since the time Parker had laced his favourite bottle of Bourbon with chilli seeds and laxatives.
The shower took about twelve minutes, which gave them three minutes to find their clothes, and Sophie thought Nate was cheating because he kept pulling her over and putting his mouth on hers, and she kissed back eagerly, addicted to the taste of him. She finally found her left shoe by the oven, and he found his shoes by the TVs, but neither of them could find Nate’s right sock.
Sophie settled onto the sofa, and Nate hid his head in the fridge, just as Parker pushed open the front door, whistling happily to herself.
“You look hot,” Parker said, instead of hello, but that was normal.
“Uh,” Sophie said, “I felt weird after the flight so I borrowed the shower. The water pressure here’s amazing, but the temperature controls are ridiculous.”
Parker squinted at Sophie, and Sophie froze. Nate’s face appeared over the fridge door, a faint look of panic on his face. She glanced over at him, and then back at Parker.
“What?” Sophie said.
“Just wondering how you got your hair wet,” Parker said, turning her gaze away from Sophie as she threw herself down on the sofa. Sophie tried really hard not to flashback to what they had done there, but it was really hard. She winced, even though no one could hear inside her head and know which bad pun she had just thought.
“I was in the shower,” Sophie repeated slowly, not getting it. “Where water falls down and you try and get clean by not avoiding the water?” She felt proud that her face didn’t heat up as it should as vivid memories of Nate holding her against the tiled wall with his body paraded across her memory like a frenetic flick book.
Parker’s face twisted like a teenager’s. “I know that,” she said disdainfully. “I find it a game when I shower to make sure my hair doesn’t get wet. Ever.”
“Then how do you wash your hair?” Sophie said, blinking.
Parker turned to her, her face blank. “What do you mean?”
Sophie was about to give up, because Sterling thought he was the guy who would always win, but he was no match for Parker. Parker was the true definition of someone who always won. Mostly because you could never figure out what rules she was playing by. Thankfully she was saved from trying to decipher Parker by Hardison and Eliot trooping in.
They were arguing, as usual, but Sophie could make neither heads nor tails as to what had kicked it off this time. “I know that you didn’t,” Hardison was saying, and Eliot’s face did that thing where it turned purple and he was thisamountofclose to showing his skills off and turning Hardison into a human fruit roll-up, but he was manfully holding it back, and then Hardison, in a deeply suspicious voice went, loudly, “Uh, is that Nate’s sock on my monitors?”
Sophie was glad she was sat down – she was sure she would have crashed to the ground in mortification, especially as her brain provided the very cheerful accompanying memory just of how Nate’s sock got there. Nate wasn’t so lucky. They all turned in unison for an explanation, and in a spectacular moment of sheer clumsiness, Nate somehow managed to faceplant himself into the refrigerator door.
“He’s been that clumsy since getting off the flight,” Sophie improvised, and got away with it, mostly by coming up with a new identity. That new identity was Sophie “there’s no way in hell you are finding out that I’m sleeping with Nate Ford, no way at all, nu-uh, no chance” Devereaux, and it was going to be a very cunning, very motivated, very sneaky identity indeed.
Eliot kindly said something about air pressure, Parker immediately theorised his in-flight whiskey was clearly poisoned so it had to be Sterling because who else was that much of a wiener dog, and Hardison started up with this theory about computers being able to make people feel disoriented through a series of binaural beats and maybe Nate’s earpiece had been acting up in San Lorenzo and picking up those beats, and then Eliot looked angry again (but that was his default expression anyway and didn’t look a whole lot different from his peaceful expression so Hardison didn’t have a clue) and Parker wondered out loud if you could bake dog biscuits like you bake smoke bombs, and that kicked off a whole other debate (like, really, how had Parker survived this long in life), and Nate would have gotten away with it completely had he not shaken himself and poured himself a glass of orange juice.
It was a small thing to foil an otherwise seamless plan, and an honest man would have gotten away with it, but Nate – while still highly strung on the moralistic front – had left honesty a thousand miles behind. Probably along with his dignity. He was, as he would loudly repeat at intervals in case any of them forgot (and really, he had known it for a fraction of the time they had, so it was kind of insulting but they couldn’t tell him to his face because he would sulk, and Nate could throw a hell of a sulk on occasion), a THIEF, and thieves sometimes lost track of the lies they were telling and therefore the littlest things could give you away. It’s why most of them worked on their own, after all, because if someone knew you too well, you couldn’t continue Getting Away With Things, which for a THIEF was really the fundamental skill.
(They tended to capitalise the word thief into THIEF when they had to write it down, and poor Nate was incredibly clever but hadn’t realised yet that they were mocking him with it. He also hadn’t yet realised that when they said the word THIEF, all of them could clearly hear the capital letters in it. THIEF was a word they said surprisingly often, even for a con crew, so Nate didn’t realize he was being mocked all day long.)
Still, Nate messed up big time - he drank the juice from the glass. Eliot’s eyes narrowed, and Hardison squinted and Parker went “huh?” and Sophie, well, Sophie just had to resist the urge to thump her face against her hands several times.
“Did you just-“ Eliot said, as if the words were very difficult for him, (in the same manner he occasionally had trouble with ‘in a peaceful manner’ and ‘thank you, Hardison’), “-hit your head so hard you forgot where the vodka is kept?”
“It’s in the-“ Nate started, and caught Sophie’s frantic head shaking too late, and tried, in a strangled tone, “yes?”
“That was a lie,” Parker said, “he’s lying. To us.”
“We did teach him how to lie,” Hardison mused. “It is kind of our fault.”
“That’s true,” Eliot said. “I sort of feel proud.”
“It’s not a lie,” Sophie said, rolling her eyes. “There’ll be vodka in the carton to start with. He’s analcoholic.”
Hardison and Eliot made an “oh” sound of realisation at exactly the same time, which Eliot somehow interpreted as an insult and that it was obviously Hardison’s fault, so they started bickering again, until Parker said, in a strange voice, “It doesn’t smell like vodka.”
Sophie hadn’t noticed Parker move, but that made sense – she was the greatest thief (sorry, THIEF) in the world and as such must have developed really awesome ninja skills at some point – and it definitely made more sense than the way Parker had decided to smell the orange juice (the carton had been killed with a bread knife, and Parker had practically her whole head in its remains.)
“Vodka has a smell?” Hardison said, frowning. “Seriously?”
“It does,” Eliot said, nodding knowledgeably.
“I drank enough on the plane,” Nate said. “I just thought I should top up on my vitamin C before adding more alcohol to my system.”
Sophie considered the response. It was decent enough. It might pass as truth.
It would have, too. Except Parker said, “Alcoholics think?” and Eliot said thoughtfully, “Vodka has a very distinctive smell; I once dated a Russian bar girl” and Hardison said “I guess you must be drunk enough, because there’s no other way your sock would end up on my monitors unless you were, I don’t know, having crazy monkey sex on the couch.”
It really would have passed as a truth. It really, really would have.
Later, he would blame her blushing as crimson as Eliot’s really angry face. She would blame his short hesitation before trying to answer.
There was only one way out of it all.
Before Nate could blurt out an uncomfortable lie that everyone would see through, Sophie took a chance. It was a chance based on the fact that they had been working together for three years and if something was going to happen, it really should have happened before now. It was a chance based on the fact that any heat between them was normal and routine, because flirting was how Nate and Sophie worked and had worked for the last (Christ, had it been that long since they met?) decade. It was a chance based on the fact they were both liars, both thieves, and their team expected them to lie.
“Yes, Hardison, when you three were out Nate and I had sex all over the place,” Sophie said, in as dry a voice as she could manage.
Parker’s face froze, Eliot got a bit squinty, Nate pretty much face vaulted, and then Hardison, with an unimpressed exhale of breath said, “Okay, fine, you keep your strange post-job sock and orange juice rituals to yourself in the future, no ditching it on my equipment, 'mmkay?” and that was the end of that.
Nate mouthed thank you through the air and Sophie smiled, and that was the moment she knew they were on the same wavelength – that while they were very much in love and needing to touch each other like, all the freaking time, it was not something they knew how to do between themselves, let alone with letting the three ‘kids’ in, and if it wasn’t going to work, it was best not to get anyone else emotionally invested in it.
So that was the day their very secret relationship began. It was complicated and involved some fancy dance steps here and there, and Nate was much more careful of where his socks ended up (although they ended up in the couch once and they never heard the end of it from Eliot, who found them) and more importantly, the sex somehow got hotter and the love didn’t go away and they were just about thinking things were perfect the way they were and then they went on a job to Las Vegas and accidentally got married for real.
- - -
So, it was Nate’s fault. He found a client who had been scammed by some super rich mark who couldn’t be wooed by teases of money, drugs, sex, Hollywood, power, prestige or prowess – no, the mark only had one weakness, and that was weddings, he only went giddy at the scene of a wedding and so Nate had the super mega awesome brilliant plan of them throwing one and inviting him.
Sophie blamed it on the alcohol. Not Nate’s alcoholism because that was a thing of the past, not that anyone but her knew. She liked to think it was her calming influence, but it turned out in actuality Nate’s alcohol thing wasn’t his coping strategy to get over a painful past at all like they had all assumed. No, apparently he just had an addictive personality. Before, he was addicted to chasing criminals, then came alcohol, and then came sex with Sophie. Well, Sophie actually thought it was just the kissing part he was addicted to, because he did it a lot, when they were hiding out somewhere together or in the middle of a con or just in the middle of a mall putting in some quality shoe shopping time. She never voiced it, because she was quite content with the current situation, and if she made him voice that it was just the kissing he was addicted to, he might stop the other awesome things he could do with his tongue and that would just not do.
The alcohol was to blame for something else entirely, but that wasn’t phrasing it right at all – it was theabsence of the alcohol that was a problem, and got them into sticky situations that unfortunately had nothing to do with sex. In the end, Nate ended up using all the techniques that he had used as an alcoholic (alcohol in soda cans, Sophie telling him off, swigging directly from the bottle) to cover up the fact that he was absurdly tee-total. He pretended to put alcohol in his soda. Sophie pretended to yell at him for drinking whiskey when it was really just cold tea. He had orange and vodka without the vodka. At one point he even tipped half a can of beer down himself just so he would smell right.
It was ridiculous. They really should have come clean about their new relationship dynamics sooner, otherwise it wouldn’t be so hard (okay, intentional pun, because sneaking took out crucial sex time from their timetable) but the problem was that it had been going so well, and they both had the unspoken feeling that letting everyone know about it might break the magic spell.
Of course, they didn’t keep it secret from everyone. Nate told Maggie, because apparently that moral thing was hard to break, and Maggie was delighted. Sophie told Tara, because she wanted to balance things up, and if one blonde on Nate’s side knew, well, hey. Tara had looked at her over the shaky web connection of their Skype conversation with an and….? kind of expression, like she was bemused that Sophie had expected her to be shocked. In her surprise at that, Sophie ended up telling her way too much about how well Nate was endowed, and in Tara’s resultant flailing, their conversation cut off halfway before Tara could tell Sophie something apparently important.
Anyway, back to the accidental wedding.
It turned out the mark also liked computer games, and there was a convention going on at the Bellagio about some Italian plumber dude who had a penchance for a flaky princess who kept letting some lizard dude run off with her. (It was something like that. Sophie stopped listening when he got to Gumba, because that was a village in Nepal she had bad memories of that place, mainly because it had been raining and Sophie lost a pair of freaking Louboutins in the mud there while running away from some Maoists.) Hardison had an instant in with the guy, and invited the guy to “his dad’s ex-mistress’s” wedding, and the whole thing was absolutely set up.
Until they ran through a quick rehearsal for the wedding, and Eliot pretended to be Elvis (every classy Las Vegas wedding has an Elvis, it’s in the rulebook that no one knows about because it stays in Las Vegas) and Parker pretended to be a tree (no comment) and Hardison managed to play the full goddamned wedding march on a 24 key toy Casio keyboard (the boy was way too talented for his own good) and they went through the whole ceremony word for word, action for action, and even got through the “kiss the bride” bit without the others realising Nate was using tongue, and it was going right, right up to the toast, and everything was going so well, and then Nate went and refused the sample glass of champagne Eliot offered him without thinking about it.
Sophie smacked herself in the face with the palm of her hand, Nate broke down in inconsolable laughter, the kind where you crouch down on the ground hiding your face in your knees, and Parker, Hardison and Eliot just stared at them nonplussed for all of ten seconds before figuring it out. Sophie repeatedly thudded her face into her hands, because for all their idiosyncrasies and idiocies and crazies, they really did work with the smartest people in the world.
“Ohhhhhh, that’s why your orange juice smells of orange juice all the time now,” Parker said, carefully covering herself with confetti (she was still pretending to be a tree. Most of them the time they just gave up and left her to things. It was simpler) probably because she thought they were tiny, paper leaves. “Right, then,” Eliot said, because he was the most practical of them all. “SOCK,” Hardison said, and they knew what he meant, even though it had technically been three months ago since the sock incident.
Oh, and it turned out that Eliot had once gotten ordained on the Internet, which Hardison got peeved at (for trespassing in “his domain”) and then Parker pointed out that Hardison hadn’t printed the fake registry certificates off yet, but it was okay, she used Nate and Sophie’s real ones in lieu of the fake ones for the practice ceremony, and Eliot looked really shifty at that, because apparently he shouldn’t have been using the real words for the ceremony.
So that was how they accidentally got married, and everyone found out about them having sex, and no one was really bothered about it.
Until Parker found out they’d had sex on her part of the couch. And then Hardison managed to retrieve all of the team’s Skype conversations, and he accidently played Sophie and Tara’s conversation online about Nate’s penis during a con briefing. And Eliot kept threatening to beat Nate up if he hurt Sophie at all, which was sweet for the first hundred times, but after that it just made Nate jumpy. Those all made everyone’s expressions a bit odd now and again. But apart from that, because they had proved Nate and Sophie could be at it like rabbits and they could still save the day, everything went on like normal.
Well. Normal for them included a small trip back to San Lorenzo to make a time that did count, and it included stealing the Taj Mahal and Einstein’s brain and a photocopier repairman named Bob, and it included approximately nine trips to Dairy Queen a week when Sophie and Nate’s libido eventually calmed down and ice cream became his next addiction.
But they had it, and no one could take it from them, and no one could steal it away, and it was magnificent, and it was forever. They became the stuff of legends.
Well. They stole the book of legends and wrote themselves in it. Close enough. And Nate and Sophie never, ever lied about their relationship again.
Except to marks.
And to Sterling, because the idea of Nate as a sexual being made his brain bleed (that kind of death was too easy/painless for him, Nate decreed.)
And to Eliot, Parker and Hardison because the three of them liked to pretend Nate and Sophie werecelibate life partners.
And to some nuns who were staunchly conservative and Nate’s Catholic guilt got the better of him but it was just that once so Sophie let it pass.
And to pretty much everyone else, but never to each other, and that was all that really ever mattered in the end, wasn’t it?