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Parker's Week Off
Parker's Week Off: But Take A Body Too
Fandom: Leverage
Pairing: Don't be silly, old people don't have sex.
Warning: Contains much research, and much research cheerfully ignored.
Disclaimer: This document is not certified to be free of doctrinal error.

Notes: By brown_betty and emeraldwoman. Beta by mari_luvs_gcfa. Part of the Odd Jobs series, and the Week Off sub series. Sequel to Hardison's Week Off: What We Talk About When We Don't Talk About Love.

Day One

It was a little awkward sharing the elevator with Sophie, because she thought Sophie might be angry about the milkshake. Also, it had been a really bad throw. It must really suck to have bad aim.

Sophie took off her jacket and blouse and, while the elevator descended, mopped the worst of the milkshake off using the blouse. On the ninth floor, the the elevator stopped.

The man in a suit waiting to get onto the elevator stared. "Is this-- is there a hidden camera?"

"Do not," said Sophie, "I am in no mood," and the man backed up instead of getting on the elevator. The doors closed.

That had been pretty cool. "That was pretty cool," Parker said, and Sophie put her jacket back on, and buttoned it so you couldn't really be sure she wasn't wearing anything underneath.

"Parker, for both our sakes... let's not chat."

Parker had never really understood chatting, so she was okay with that.

At the airport, she stood in the crowd for a moment, and tried to catch the feeling--the feeling of a new place, new target, just her against everyone, against all of them. The feeling didn't come, so she tried again, harder.

"Hey, this isn't a park. Some of us have planes to catch," said a lady, and hip-checked her. Parker scowled, and took her boarding pass, but got out of her way.

Parker had forgotten that air-travel was boring. It hadn't been so bad, travelling with Nate, and Sophie, and Eliot, and Alec; Nate and Sophie would get into one of their funny fights, and Alec would have one of his TV shows on his computer, which he would try to make them watch, and explain who all the people were. Eliot would try to sleep and then half-way through the flight would make Alec explain his TV show from the beginning, and then Alec would decide they had to watch some other show in order to understand the one he was in the middle of showing them, and then Nate would make her put everyone's wallets back in the same order she'd taken them.

There was no one to make her put the air-steward's wallet back, and the seat-back television was showing CNN. The air-steward's wallet only had 10 Euros, 5000 yen, and a condom. She swapped the condom with the stick of gum she'd taken from the old lady sitting next to her, and stuck his wallet back in his pocket the next time he passed.

She got some cash out in Frankfurt--new Euros smelled good, something in the ink or paper--and took the train to Paris.

Day Two

The Louvre's new security measures were a joke. There were holes in the laser system that Nate could have gotten through. She checked it twice, to make sure, and then three times when she had the happy thought that maybe the system was so good that she had somehow missed it.

But no. She didn't have much of her gear with her, but she could easily find replacements, and with those, she could take pretty much whatever she wanted.

Without a challenge.

"Miss," said the boy behind her. "Miss, I want to see the picture."

"We all want things," Parker snapped, and turned her back on the Mona Lisa's smirk. Maybe a drink in one of the Louvre cafes would make her feel better.

In the Richelieu, she pulled the postcard out of her back pocket and smoothed it against her thigh. She hadn't paid much attention to the picture when she'd bought it at the airport, but now the sight of LA at night made a weird feeling in her throat, like the time when she'd worried that she might not be able to save all the kids in Serbia, or the long moment after she'd told Alec that she was also feeling attracted to Eliot and she didn't know what to do, before he'd steepled his fingers and said, "Okay. How about this."

But both of those things had worked out okay, so this feeling would probably go away as soon as she got what she wanted.

She didn't have a pen, so she got up to fetch more sugar packets and stole one from the man two tables over. Returning to her seat, she turned the postcard over, wrapped both ankles around the chair legs and frowned. She was pretty sure everyone knew she didn't write that well, and the boys wouldn't laugh at her anyway. But she wanted to do this right.

Wish you were here was what people said on TV. And it was true, sort of, except that she also wanted the cats here, and her house, and Hardison's penthouse, but not Eliot's apartment, because he had celery in the kitchen, and celery was wrong.

She wrote WISH I WERE THERE, pressing down to make the letters as even as she could, licked the stamp, and stuck it in the corner.

"Excuse me, miss," someone said. "You appear to have my pen."

"No, I don't," Parker said automatically. The man was old with a shock of white hair and liver spots on his pale, wrinkled cheeks. She didn't like hitting old people, but she was always faster, so she didn't need to.

But this was the Cafe Richelieu. The windows were bulletproof glass, and there were four security guards between her and the nearest exit. Not impossible, but a challenge. She smiled.

"You do, my dear. You slipped it out of my pocket not five minutes ago."

"No, I didn't."

"It's in your hand," he said patiently. The accent reminded her of Sophie, who would know how to talk her out of this. She scowled at him and tried her best.

"It's my pen," she said. "I'm leaving now." She stood up, but the old man put his hand on her arm and she shied away from the contact. Now other people were looking.

The old man noticed that too, dropping his hand, but leaning closer. "My dear," he whispered, "I don't mean to get you in trouble. I used to be in the same business, you see. Honour between thieves, and all that."

Parker hadn't noticed much honour between thieves; mostly it was fear of getting the wrong sort of reputation that stopped people from turning on each other every second job. Though Eliot said in his line of work it happened a lot. He had the scars to prove it too, and her scowl deepened at the thought of that.

"Do you have any second-storey experience?" he pressed.

Parker rolled her eyes. "I'm the best."

"I have a job you might be interested in," the old thief said. "A Vatican job. But we have to do it tomorrow."

A Vatican job with a time limit. She felt the smile spread across her face. Most people stepped away from that smile, but the old man stayed eye-to-eye with her. She liked that. "Sure," she said. "I'm on vacation."

And though the old man's eyebrows rose in polite inquiry, she didn't tell him more. Her team had honour, a twisty kind, and she didn't need to bring them into this.

She dropped the postcard in the mailbox on the way out, and wondered how long it would take to get home.

Day Three

They had to drive through the night to get to Rome in time, but the old thief had everything they needed in his white van. He said his name was William Goldsmith, and she said her name was Carole Jones, which was the name on her current passport. Neither of them pretended that they were telling the truth, which was nice.

Somewhere after Milan, William told her about his friend, who didn't have a name. He was just "my friend". "My friend" was back in Paris, and very sick. "My friend" wanted to see da Vinci's St. Jerome in the Wilderness; had wanted to for years, but was now too sick to travel. "My friend" wouldn't approve of this at all.

Parker snorted. "How're you going to explain it to him?"

"I'll say the Pope granted the request of a dying man." William's mouth twisted, but that might have just been from concentration. The autostradas were a lot of fun to drive. "He'll want to believe me so much that he will. He believes in the grace of the Church."

"But you don't?"

"I don't believe in much," William said. "But he wants a miracle."

"I helped fake a miracle once," she volunteered. "Actually, two."

"Three for a trinity," Wiliam said, and laughed. "Batter my heart, three-person'd God." He kept talking, but once Parker figured out it was poetry, and not important conversation about guard schedules or alarm systems, she settled into the back seat to nap. White vans were great. No one ever noticed them, and they were so roomy.

It was the end of the month, which meant free entry to all the Vatican museums, and lines that stretched for blocks. They waited from early morning with all the normal people, and Parker hated it. She'd spent hours waiting in airconditioning vents and elevator shafts, and, once, an empty furnace, and that was fine. But it was hot, and there were people everywhere, loud and annoying, like fibreglass insulation prickling at her skin. Talk-talk-talking all the time, about their boring jobs, boring people they knew, how standing in line was so boring. Parker didn't know how they even noticed, since as far as she could tell their whole lives were like that: boring jobs, boring people, boring lines.

But they kept on standing, anyway. Technically this was good, because maximum capacity meant overworked guards, but sometimes the man behind her bumped into her back. She couldn't even talk to William; he was nearly a block ahead.

For a while, in line, she entertained herself wondering what the guys were doing; maybe they were having sex. This pleasant possibility shaped her fantasies until she remembered the time-change, and realized they were probably snoring like horses. She glared at the Swiss Guardsman who passed across her line of sight.

Once inside, she stole the irritating man's wallet and drifted through the crowds, always a room or two behind William. When he headed for the Pinocateca, she felt the first thrills of adrenaline. She moved a little faster, skipping through the crowded Raphael room to hit Room IX.

Parker didn't know why William's friend wanted to see St. Jerome; he wouldn't make her feel any better. The saint looked sick, collarbones standing out like a starving man, staring into the distance with a hopeless expression that didn't look very comforting to her. There was a lion at his feet, yawning; something about the curl of his tail reminded her a little of Benjamin. She pursed her lips, working out trajectories and timing.

When she was done, she scratched her left shoulder.

Even in that tiny room, the reaction took a second to ripple through the mass of people, but when it came it was in a dozen languages, questioning and concerned. Parker turned when the tall women beside her did, in time to see William mid-slump. He was turning an interesting purple colour as he gasped for breath; Parker thought Sophie would have been impressed. One of the security guards was holding his arm to help him down, already muttering into his walkie talkie.

"Oh my gosh," Parker said to no one in particular. "I'll get help."

She hurried out, past several guards - "He's in there!" she said, pointing helpfully - and towards the nearest bathroom. William had timed this perfectly - no line, and no one to see her pull the sign from under her blazer and stick it to the door.

You had to cover up for the Vatican, which was a thieves' dream. No one ever wondered why someone would be wearing a jacket and floor-length skirt in summer; as long as nothing metal set off the security check, you could walk right in with a climbing rig, a canister of binary foam, a device that Hardison would probably want to hear about and various other handy bits and pieces strapped to yourself, all covered up by the Vatican's modesty rules.

No one ever ignored an "Out of Order" sign, either. Especially a sign that was an exact copy of the official ones.

Parker thought about that while she waited, first in the toilet stall, and then in the cupboard under the sinks, while the security guards gave the bathrooms a desultory check and settled in for their night patrols. The little device William had given her looped thirty seconds of security cam footage.

Thirty seconds was sort of insulting.

She skipped noiselessly down the passage, deactivated the motion sensors, and took the teeny ceramic saw to St. Jerome. Normally cutting things in half reduced their value, but St. Jerome had been in pieces before. The wood panels were old and light, and she strapped them easily onto her back. She went back to the bathroom while the guard passed, then to the nearest window.

By the time the guard noticed Room IX was missing something and raised the alarm, they'd find a hole in a window whose vibration sensors had never gone off, half a tennis ball, and Jim Sterling's business card, with the phone number circled.

Just for fun.

Day Four

They stopped in Milan to eat breakfast. William had a croissant and a cappuccino. Parker had some crackers smeared in ketchup and a Diet Coke.

"There isn't anything on the news," William said.

Parker wasn't surprised: St. Jerome would be "away for cleaning" until the Vatican had some idea of who they were dealing with. More artworks went missing every year than the public ever heard of.

"I should call my friend. Tell him the Pope said yes."

"He'll really believe you?"


"But it doesn't make any sense."

William shrugged at her, and wandered away. A private call, then. She could call the boys, if she wanted, and be private too.

"It doesn't make any sense," she said again, feeling the words open into a confused space inside her.

Parker hated being confused.

She didn't understand why Hardison apologised to Jesus every time he said fucking Christ, or why Sophie ordered her caesar salads without bacon. Eliot didn't do any of that, but the one time she'd brought it up, he'd gotten all accent-y and tried to explain something about how when he was a kid his dad had washed their shirts every Friday night and hung them to dry so they'd have clean shirts to wear to church on Sunday. It hadn't explained anything at all, and she felt like maybe this was one of those times when you were supposed to say "there, there," or hug the other person, or any of the other things Sophie did with clients, and it was very awkward, and she'd been glad when there had been a sudden Grover-emergency.

Now it seemed important to understand. She needed an expert.

Nate took a long time to answer the phone.

"Parker," he said, before she said anything. Nate had one of those phones that told you who was on the other end. If you gave your phone number to just anybody, she guessed that was probably something you needed.

"You were a priest," she said, to let him know why she was calling.

"I wasn't a-- Parker, I can't hear your confession," he said, and then something in the background made a noise like a bunch of beer cans falling over.

"My what? Never mind," she added, in case Nate was going to explain. "I need you to tell me about god."

There was silence from the phone.

"Hello? Are you ignoring me and hoping I'll think you've all moved away over the weekend and changed the locks without telling any--"

"No," said Nate, sharply. "No, I'm just. What do you want to know, then? About God? I might not be the best person to ask-- I never was a real priest."

Parker snorted. She didn't know anyone who was a real anything, but they were mostly good enough. "Whatever. But why do people--" she hesitated, looking for some way to describe all the strange, pointless things people said and did about god.

"Believe?" suggested Nate.

"Yeah, I guess. This old lady started crying at the Oddi Altar. Why would she do that?"

"Parker, are you at the-- " Nate cut himself off, suddenly. "Parker, are you where I think you are?"

"No," she said, reflexively, and then realized virtuously that she wasn't, any more. "Why? Where are you?" she demanded.

"I-- " Nate gave his more-drink sigh. "I don't really think I can explain why people believe in God to you over the phone, Parker. People believe because... because they want to. They want to believe there's something-- that someone--"

William was bending over his own phone at the opposite side of the restaurant, talking into it like there was a mark at the other end, all focused attention. His mouth was a little bit sad, like some of the angels at the Vatican, who looked so disappointed in humanity. Parker imagined one of them saying "Oh, humans," with the fond exasperation Eliot sometimes used on the cats, and snickered.

"Something funny?" asked Nate.

"You were telling me about how people believe in god because they want something," she reminded him.

"Well," said Nate, "there's that-- Listen. You know how money isn't really worth anything?"

Parker hissed in wordless outrage.

"It's just pieces of paper, right?" continued Nate, blatantly.

"Bite your tongue!" She glared at the phone. Out of her own phone.

"Sorry, sorry, I mean. It's fiat money, right? You know what that means."

Parker snorted. "Duh." William had noticed her shock at Nate's obscenity earlier, and was looking at her trying to decide if he should come over and bother her with questions, so she shook her head at him. "It means there's not enough gold, even in the federal reserve, to pay for everything."

Nate paused. "Right. Well, God's like-- Money works because people believe in it. God's sort of like that. In a way."

Parker considered that. Really, Nate was awfully smart. And annoying. But smart. "Okay," she accepted. "Thanks. I understand that." And she did. She thought it was dumb, because she could always get more money, but she didn't see how someone who needed it could get more god. But then again, some people couldn't get more money, either.

"Is that all?"

"Yep." She hung up, just as William came over.

"Well, Carole," he said. "I've transferred the two million to the account you gave me. I suppose this is where we can part ways."

"Can I come?"

His mouth opened slightly, and there was one of those silences, the ones you were supposed to fill.

"I'm not trying to cheat you," she said. "I want to be there for the miracle."

She thought he was going to say no, because this was the part of a deal where things went wrong. That's what she would do. But he nodded. "Honour among thieves," he said, and put some euros on the table.

The waitress would put it in the register, and she would be paid for her work, and spend it on things, and it would all work, because people believed.

Day Five

"My friend" was English too. His name was Jacob.

"Who wrestled the angel," he told her, and laughed, a tearing noise that became coughs that shook the bed. He reminded her of one of her foster fathers, with his long, thin face and awful breath, but that wasn't his fault.

"And wouldn't let go, until he was blessed," William said. He was standing at the far side of the room, close to the door, the wrapped St. Jerome leaning on his legs. Parker sort of liked hospitals. They smelled clean and sharp, and most of the things that happened inside them made sense. Even when someone coded, and everyone ran and shouted, the response was a series of steps that everyone understood. But this wasn't a real hospital -- just a place for people to die.

Jacob blinked at William. It looked like a lot of effort for a movement so small. "I won't let go anyway, Willy. Is that what you think?"

"I-" William said, and cleared his throat. "I thought... you kept saying, if you could just see it, before. St. Jerome repented his sinful youth. I thought-"

"Oh no," Jacob said. "Willy, I've been blessed since the autumn of 1963. You're God's best gift to me."

William's face did something: dissolved around the edges; brightened in the eyes.

"Oh," Parker said. Her skin prickled; she felt sort of happy, she guessed, but also there was too much something in the room, and no space for her. No one had said miracles felt prickly. She'd ask Nate about it later. "Okay. Bye."

Jacob looked a little baffled, but William smiled and took her hand as she slipped past him. She tried not to yank it away, and was rewarded when he put something in it -- a golden pen, pure and heavy in her palm.

"But I stole this," she said. And when exactly had he stolen it back? He must have been good.

He nodded. "Now it's a gift."

"Huh. Well, thanks," Parker said, and left them. Before the door swung shut, she heard Jacob say, "So how did you really get it here?" and grinned all the way to the airport.

Day Six

The trip home was longer: it stopped in London before it headed for LA. Parker wished she could sleep on planes, like Eliot could, but there was no way she could sleep surrounded by all those people, all dressed up and serious and responsible. While she was at Heathrow, she went into an electronics shop, and stopped a skinny salesman who reminded her of Hardison, a little.

"Do you have one of those things you can play TV on?" She made a rectangle with her hands, to show him how big.

He blinked at her. "Are you thinking of... an iPhone?"

"Maybe? I don't care. I want it to fit in my pocket, and I want it to have TV on it."

"We have several products that-- er, they don't come with video pre-loaded, though, you would have to purchase video from, er-- Is this a gift for your fellow?"

She scowled, and pulled out her euros, and started counting hundreds. "I'm leaving in forty-five minutes. I want a little thing that plays TV, because my flight is eleven hours long. Do you want money?" He gaped at the bills in her hand, and she changed her mind. He didn't remind her of Alec at all.

"I, er-- I can-- er," he said. He ran a hand through his hair so that it all stuck up. "I can have it in half an hour."

Her little TV thing had a lot of videos on it, although one of them was a training video on safe handling procedures for air-plane de-icer, but it also had a home-video of someone's hamster running on a wheel, The Little Mermaid, a documentary on whales, and one on the Tower of London, and a whole bunch of Doctor Who, which she thought might be the same thing as the one Alec made them watch out of Prague that one time, except this was in black and white and didn't have any of the same people.

She watched the hamster one on a loop for fifteen minutes. The little hamster was never going to get the thing at the end of the wheel, whatever it was. It seemed mean.

She got into Los Angeles at 3:00 AM local time.

Day Seven

She entered her bedroom through the ventiliation shaft, to work some of the kinks out. Benjamin was sleeping on her pillow, paws tucked under his chin. Susan and Grover were in the kitchen, having one of their dominance face-offs. The apartment looked very clean.

"Hey," she said, walking into Alec's room. He and Eliot were lying on his bed, half-dressed and watching some sports thing.

"Hey!" Alec said, and started flopping across the bed to make space between them. Eliot hooked his arm around Alec's waist, rolled them both over, and beckoned Parker down beside him instead.

"Something smells good," she said, pulling off her shirt. She kept her pants on, to match.

"Cookies," Eliot said. "Plenty of oatmeal raisin left." He traced his fingers over her belly, and she wriggled.

"Raisin? Ew."

Alec laughed. "I told you, man."

"Everyone likes my oatmeal raisin. Y'all are philistines."

"I did a miracle on my vacation," she told them, and put one hand flat on Eliot's sternum. "What'd you do on yours?" There was room for her here, in this bed.

Eliot coughed. "Um, you know. We--"

"I ain't gonna lie," said Alec. "There was sex." He propped himself up on an elbow. "Hey, you still on French time?"

"No, I stayed up thirty-two hours, counting the plane. How come the Doctor changes people?" Parker asked.

Alec sat straight up. "The Doctor? You mean, you watched Doctor Who?"

"Some I just listened to. There's lots missing."

"Yeah, y'see, the BBC destroyed, actually just destroyed over a hundred episodes. On purpose. I'm talking about a massive cultural desecration, here, y'all don't even know." He paused for breath, and Eliot did something with the hand that Parker couldn't see that made him gasp. "But we can talk about that later," he concluded.

"Does one of you want to go down on me?" Parker asked, and made an annoyed sound as her phone went off.

"One of us?" Eliot muttered as she clambered free.

It was Sophie, so she answered. "What? I'm trying to have sex."

Sophie's voice was fast and low, and Parker felt her face change as she listened. Alec and Eliot saw it, and left the bed, finding shirts and shoes.

"What is it?" Eliot asked when she was done.

"It's Nate," Parker said, feeling the skin around her mouth tighten. "Vacation's over."

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Yis, my bad. They should be gone by now if you reload.

I completely and utterly less-than-three Parker. this is such a lovely look at her on her own honour among thieves! that miracle was terrific, and I'm glad she was able to do good while having fun on vacation.

and once she got home, and just when things were getting interesting, Nate interrupted with a job. hopefully there will be undisturbed sexy fun times for them all soon

Isn't she glorious? I'm not sure she thought of it as doing good, so much as having fun, and having a feeling, but I think all in all, she counts it as a good experience.

Somehow I missed the other one of these. This was great fun, yay!

I've never actually done a series so far, I'm losing track of all its pieces myself, and tagging is going to become critical /o\

She didn't understand why Hardison apologised to Jesus every time he said fucking Christ, or why Sophie ordered her caesar salads without bacon. Eliot didn't do any of that, but the one time she'd brought it up, he'd gotten all accent-y and tried to explain something about how when he was a kid his dad had washed their shirts every Friday night and hung them to dry so they'd have clean shirts to wear to church on Sunday. It hadn't explained anything at all, and she felt like maybe this was one of those times when you were supposed to say "there, there," or hug the other person, or any of the other things Sophie did with clients, and it was very awkward, and she'd been glad when there had been a sudden Grover-emergency.


That, frankly glorious, paragraph, is very much a collaborative effort. Em had the brainwave that Parker wants to know about religion, and wrote the first line, and then I started writing the rest and had to stop and work out Eliot's backstory. I think that paragraph represents two hours of effort.

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Don't be sad! There will be more!

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parker is awesome. she's one of my favourite things about the show.

you guys are really, really awesome for getting her voice, her cracked out crazy mostly human thief voice perfect.

Ys. She really makes it. And, it's almost not so much that she's crazy as that her world is very uncomplicated, and she likes it that way.

Aww man, it's fics like this that make it so hard to comment because all I can really do is go "D'awwwww!" and *Flail!*. I love your Parker and I love this fic! D'awwww! *flail*

(Are we going to find out what's up with Nate?)

*evil laugh*

I mean, I have no idea! How mysterious!

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Hee! I was sort of cackling while we wrote that bit.

This makes me beam until my face hurts with the pure unadulterated Parker of it all.

This series is so awesome. ♥

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Hahaha, I think the money metaphor was mine. And when you think about it, well, what does Parker believe in: Money! So its obvious, really!

Eliot would try to sleep and then half-way through the flight would make Alec explain his TV show from the beginning, and then Alec would decide they had to watch some other show in order to understand the one he was in the middle of showing them, and then Nate would make her put everyone's wallets back in the same order she'd taken them.

He's pimping his fandoms!

Oh, Parker. Three different kinds of crazy, all of them fun! Great fic and absolutely spot on.

<3 this series continues to be made of 100% awesome!