Title: Four Winds
Pairing(s): Mild Nate/Sophie and Parker/Hardison (but not that much more than you'd get in the show itself); some hints at Sophie/Tara
They scatter. It’s what they do.
They’re in the wind, fugitives again. Hardison blows into Tokyo on a JAL flight, with a Saudi passport and a couple cool millions in funds he liberated from the House of Saud. He disappears into the din of pachinko parlors and flashing lights of one of the city’s less desirable neighborhoods, and lays low for awhile.
When he reemerges, the cherry trees are blossoming and the city is lousy with tourists.
He’s walking through Shinjuku Gyoen at high noon when suddenly Parker is right there beside him, and he actually does a double-take before he believes it.
She makes this weird face, half smile and half grimace, and he knows she’s glad to see him.
“Hi,” she says, as though it’s not at all remarkable that she followed him across a dozen time zones and the world’s largest ocean only to ambush him in a public park.
She’s looking at him expectantly, like this is the conclusion of a conversation he didn’t know they were having. There are cherry blossoms in her hair and her pockets are stuffed with wrappers from a staggering array of junk foods, including those flavored bean jellies that he’s always thought were just plain nasty.
“I’m a tourist,” she says, chewing the word over slowly, like it’s got an unfamiliar taste. “These trees are pretty. The book says so.”
She holds up a guidebook, an outdated relic from the days before iPhone apps and travel bloggers, complete with undecipherable rating icons and a glossy photo of a torii gate with Mt Fuji in the background. The pages are dog-eared and she’s using a paper chopstick wrapper from a bento stand as a bookmark.
He just shakes his head and yanks on the wrapper. “Girl, is this stuff all you’ve been eating?”
“It’s meat on a stick. I like meat on a stick.”
“Part of being a good tourist is knowing when to expand your horizons,” he says, and takes her out for some of the most decadent and sake-fueled kaiseki that a frankly breathtaking amount of King Abdullah’s money can buy.
He books them a suite at the Park Hyatt that they stagger and slur their way back to after dinner. They wake up the next day to an American-style breakfast from room service, and in that moment – watching her dump sugar packet after sugar packet into her weak coffee – he resolves to spend the next little while (however long that may be) showing Parker his version of the finer things in life. He takes her to a hot springs resort in the mountains, and to the top of Tokyo Tower in the moonlight (just like in all those girly-girl animes). He even takes her to what has to be the fanciest McDonalds in the world.
It’s a little like a honeymoon, although he pushes that thought away before it has a chance to get too comfortable in his head.
This goes on for awhile, pretty happily. Then one afternoon they find themselves, maybe accidentally on purpose, in the Cartier boutique in Ginza. Hardison catches himself examining the diamond solitaires with something like intent… until he looks up and sees Parker gazing at the case of diamond tennis bracelets with a longing that has almost nothing to do with the jewels themselves. That’s when he knows that the honeymoon (or whatever) is nearly over. They are who they are, and even when they scatter something nearly always brings them back together again. Still, he’s going to miss this a little bit. Just the two of them, just being somewhere for the sake of being there.
When his phone rings a few days later, though, and the voice on the other end is a familiar one, he smiles. Parker senses the shift in his mood and angles her body just slightly toward the phone, listening.
“Man,” he says, “am I glad to hear from you.”
Parker has never actually been to Mexico, so that’s where she goes.
No one is likely to recognize her there, which is a plus. She speaks the language, another plus. Also, she remembers seeing a brochure for a hotel in Cabo San Lucas once and thought it looked pretty.
So she goes. She checks herself into a resort, populated mainly by middle-class American and Canadian tourists. She sits by the pool; she drinks a surprising number of margaritas. She gets a tan and orders the Fiesta Especial for dinner every night.
She waits. She’s waiting.
She must be doing this wrong.
So, just like she would if faced with an unfamiliar digital lock or a new model of motion detector, she seeks out an expert to help her solve the problem. The resort has a tiny travel agent’s office and she heads down there after lunch, still in her bathing suit and flip-flops. The table in the waiting room is littered with travel guides and printed brochures for destinations around the world. One stands out. It’s an old Fodor’s travel book with a bent spine and a picture of Mt. Fuji on the cover.
Hardison had wanted to take her to Tokyo, before. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
She pockets the book and is on a one-way flight to Narita before the day is out.
When she gets to Tokyo, she doesn’t think about not finding Hardison. It never occurs to her how hard it might be to find one man in a city of 12 million people. It never occurs to her that he might not be there. Or, if it does, she doesn’t let the thought surface. She pushes it away and focuses instead on the fact that in Tokyo you can buy both ice cream and beer from vending machines.
She eats impressive amounts of yakitori and drinks an equally impressive amount of sake, but this time she isn’t surprised by it because she’s learned that this is what you do when you’re a tourist.
On the third night, she sleeps in a tiny, coffin-like tube at a sort-of hotel near Shinjuku Station and it feels like coming home.
She doesn’t think about finding Hardison either and that’s why she does, the way she doesn’t think exactly about weights tumbling behind the lock on a safe. She just sort of feels her way, guided by luck and gut and experience.
She finds him in a park where the flowering trees are in bloom, standing near a small manmade stream, a bridge spanning its narrow banks. He stands out here. He’s too tall, too big, too American. He doesn’t blend in with the crowd – and yet he chose to come here, chose to hide here, like maybe he expected that she would come and find him.
He’s nicer to her than anyone she’s ever met, and he doesn’t ask anything in return.
She’s very happy to see him.
Even before Sophie lost her mind and ran off to steal from the rich with Nate Ford and his band of merry men, Tara had secretly thought she was a little soft. Talented as hell, but soft. All hard sugar coating on the outside, and inside nothing but marshmallow.
It’s part of the reason she was able to get under Tara’s skin.
It’s part of the reason Tara has done things for Sophie that she’s never done for anyone else. Like, just for instance, leaving a very promising vodka party at the Ice Bar, to go pick up Sophie up from the airport.
Sophie is a hot mess, huddled in the back of the taxi, her face red and eyes puffy. Tara doesn’t speak Swedish and she’s only been in Stockholm long enough to sample a couple shots of Absolut on ice and hail a taxi to head right the hell back to the airport. She doesn’t even have a place to stay yet. She digs into her handbag and points the cab driver to the first likely looking hotel that comes up on her phone. She settles back into the seat and lets Sophie sob quietly into her shoulder.
“You’ve had a hell of a year, huh?” She pauses, looking down at the top of Sophie’s head. “It won’t fix things, but room service might dull the pain a little.”
Sophie snorts softly at that, almost a laugh, and that’s progress. Tara isn’t very good at friendship or at picking up the pieces of other people’s messes – to be fair she’s usually the one making the mess and doesn’t generally stick around for the aftermath. She’s not very good at this, but she resolves not to mess it up if she can help it. Sophie might say they’re even now, but the truth is they never really will be.
They ride in silence for a few minutes, before Tara works up the nerve to ask, “Is he dead?”
Sophie wipes her face with shaking hands. “I don’t know.”
At the hotel, they kill a bottle of rosé and crawl into bed. Sophie finally falls asleep with a death-grip on Tara’s hand that Tara doesn’t shake off even when Sophie begins to snore softly. Her nose is still red and raw and it sounds like it hurts her, just a little bit, to take each breath. Tara stares at the ceiling for awhile, considering options, before she finally drops off too.
The next morning, Tara wakes up with a vague headache and an idea.
Eliot loves Istanbul. The city is beautiful, energetic, sleepless. The food is great, the drinks are strong and the women are lovely. It’s exactly his sort of town. It’s gotten more popular with Western tourists over the past ten years, which has robbed the city of some of its charm. On the flip side, the sudden influxes of backpackers and American travel show crews have made it easier to blend in.
He stays in a nice little place, close to the cafes and the nightclubs. He spends a lot of time eating, sipping coffee, working out, flirting with the girl who brings him his afternoon tea. It’s downtime, something he hasn’t had much of lately.
It ends, which he expects it to, with a knock late at night. Sophie is at his door, Tara in her wake, both looking a little worse for wear.
“I don’t know what to do,” she says, entering his place without waiting for an invitation.
“And so you came to me?”
“And so I came to you.” She’s expectant, looking to him to be the man with the plan. That hasn’t happened to him in awhile.
He looks over her shoulder at Tara, who shrugs. “Don’t look at me. I’m just along for the ride.”
He stands aside to let Tara in, and then moves to pour three stiff drinks.
“We found Nate.”
“I kind of figured.” Eliot throws back his drink. “Do I want to know how?”
Tara laughs, finishing her drink in one go. “Probably not.”
“I’m not especially inclined to go rescuing Nate from himself after the last few-“ he begins.
“That’s not what this is.” Sophie has this look on her face – broken but determined, pale, earnest as all hell – and it reminds him of Nate back when they all first came togethers. “Interpol still has him.”
“You ran a scam on Interpol?” He pours another drink, but doesn’t touch it. Not yet. If anyone could pull that off and get away with it, it was these two. He saves the second drink in case they’re about to tell him things went horribly wrong.
“We got away clean.”
The slightest glance flicks between them, though, and Eliot doesn’t like it at all. It means they think they got away clean. If they didn’t, it means they’ve brought Interpol down on his head for the second time in six months.
Tara notices his expression, but Sophie doesn’t. She just says, “He’s in Lyon.”
“Yes, he’s there.”
“Is Nate mobile?”
“Likely not. It sounded as though-“ she stops.
“They’re keeping him in a coma,” Tara says, stepping in swiftly and picking up the thread of conversation. “We don’t know why.”
“You’ve considered that they might be doing that to keep him alive, right?”
“We have.” Tara folds her arms across her chest. “Which option do you think Nate would prefer?”
That’s a fair point. But- they have him unconscious and probably strapped to a hospital bed – barely spitting distance from Interpol HQ. It’s practically a suicide mission.
There’s only one thing for it.
“Well,” he says, rummaging in a drawer for his cell phone – his extra cell phone, the special one, “I guess we’d better go get him and bring him home.”
“Oh, I hoped you’d say that.” The color comes back into Sophie’s face. She pauses. “Who are you calling?”
“Hardison. We set up an emergency contact number.” Hardison had called it a ‘bat signal.’ He shrugs. “It was risky, but it seemed like a good idea.”
“It was.” She sounds relieved.
He picks up the phone and dials.