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A/N: I always seem to start with author’s notes; and this can be no exception. So a HUGE thank you to vivi749 who’s great fic Parker and the Word 'Why' totally inspired this. And to Gaben for tirelessly being my beta.

Books Books Books Books

You could always tell a person by what they’d read. At least that’s what Nate’s mother had always said. She’d usually had a copy of the bible in her hand; and often it seemed like she was either going to Mass, or just getting home from church.

Nate looked down at what he was reading and wondered what “Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft” would say about him. He took a sip of his whiskey and pictured in his mind what the rest of the team would say: Sophie would sniff and say “Typical.” Parker would probably demand to see more pictures and then point out the errors and items that had actually been stolen by other people (including her). Hardison would pooh pooh the fact he was reading a physical book and try and then try to hand him one of those tablet things. Or something like that. And Eliot probably wouldn’t say anything at all. Or if he’d read it he’d say “Good book.” Or “Their research was a little spotty.” Or “Keeping your hand in?” Something along one of those lines.

Being as it was a really lazy and rainy Boston day everyone had decided to congregate at the offices thus disturbing what Nate had hoped was going to be a quiet day for him and his book. Maybe a little sports in the afternoon and possibly some take-out Chinese for dinner. Or maybe he’d walk to the Vietnamese place down the street and get some Pho. Noodle soup on a rainy day was always a good thing. But, then he’d been invaded: First by Hardison, then Sophie and Eliot, and finally Parker.

Eliot was sitting on the couch, in his normal spot, which Nate defined as where the retrieval specialist could keep an eye on the rest of the team. He’d brought a book and a bag of groceries. The groceries were to make pasta e fagioli. The perfect gloomy day meal. The book was nicely protected in a plastic dust jacket protector and titled “Fading Feast.” Honestly, Nate had no clue what it was about until the retrieval specialist had started cooking and he’d read the inside of the dust jacket. It was a rather arcane book about rural American cuisine. It gave the mastermind pause, and had him looking at Eliot in yet another new light.

The layers of the true Eliot were extraordinary. He was someone that at first glance was very easy to overlook: Just a man who hurt people for a living. The second glance showed a competent grifter, a third showed a very well educated Renaissance man. A man who understood the differences between contemporary and traditional ballet; the differences between college ice hockey and the NHL; the difference between brawling and fighting, and blindfolded could tell the differences between white and black truffles. Last week he’d been reading a biography on Albert Einstein, the week before it that had been one of Sophie’s novels. Something by Nora Roberts, truly he was an amazing man!

Nate’s eyes went from Eliot to the chair where Sophie was curled up with a cup tea. Earl Grey if he remembered what the hitter had said when he’d brought it over to her. She was reading Wuthering Heights, but, there was a stack of books next to her. Breaking Dawn? Nate mentally scratched his head on that one; he thought it was a teenybopper book. “Headed For Trouble,” which looked to be a romance novel. And then a couple of scripts: “Around The World In Fifty-Four Days” and something called “Zombie Nightmare.” God! The mastermind hoped he didn’t have to sit through either of those shows.

Glancing over to where Parker was doing her imitation of a cat, stretched languidly across the couch while flipping through the channels and simultaneously glancing through a comic book. It looked like one of Hardison’s comic books; but, with a closer look it was actually: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. Jules Verne’s classic book; but, the comic book version?

After a glance at the rest of the team, it kind of made sense. Sophie loved all things Brontë, and romance; hence, Twilight. Which Nate had heard was inspired by Wuthering Heights or something like it. Eliot; well, there weren’t a lot of books that he hadn’t read. And Alec devoured information, all kinds of information. Then there was Parker, who had never finished school. Nate wasn’t really sure how much school she’d actually gotten through. She was amazing at anything that involved thieving; and incredibly intelligent, she just hadn’t had the opportunities that the rest of the team had. It wasn’t like she couldn’t read, just that she hadn’t read as extensively as them. So, it made sense, in ways that Nate that wouldn’t have thought about before he started working with this team. Start off reading the classics in a very approachable method. At least it wasn’t that weird Japanese cartoon stuff that Hardison liked.

Nate’s eyes drifted over to Sophie before they went to what the team’s hacker was doing. He wasn’t reading a book. Hardison was fiddling around on his laptop. Which was pretty normal for him; the ever present bottle of orange soda is next to him. Nate went to take a sip of his whiskey and realized that his glass was empty. He sighed to himself and went to refill his glass. Two fingers before dinner would be nice. As he crossed behind the hacker he looked down at the screens in front of the young man. Some weird gibberish on one, the Wall Street journal was split-screened with some other website: Geekology, at least that’s the thing at the top said.

“Parker.” Eliot growled and Nate turned his head from Hardison’s screens to see the hitter grabbing the remote control.

“Hey I was watching that!”

“No you weren’t.” The hitter picked one channel showing something about animals and then sat on the remote; one spot where the adroit thief wouldn’t easily be able to get it.

Nate sighed, filled his glass, and stared out the window. It had started to rain more heavily in the last half hour or so; which meant that they were all going to stay. Sophie wouldn’t leave in the rain; it would make her hair frizzy. Hardison didn’t like being cold and wet. Eliot would just mumble something about more sports channels here. And Parker, well if they were all here, she was going to be here too.

Just another rainy day in Boston.

Chapter Text

It was a snowy Sunday in Boston. The type of day where no one wanted to go outside except, for children; and then only for a few minutes. It was a dense wet snow that was falling; perfect for snowballs, but too wet to stay out for long. Bone chilling his mother called it. Nate stared down at his cup of coffee and wished for something a little more bracing. Maybe later during the game, he thought. Eliot would be sure to come over, multiple screens. Sighing a little, he turned from the window and picked up his book. “Killing Lincoln;” it looked at the events surrounding the assignation of President Lincoln. Sophie had picked it for him last week when she’d been in a bookstore casing a potential mark. So far it was pretty good; an interesting examination of John Wilkes Booth.
Reading a page or so Nate glanced up at the sound of the door opening. Eliot came in shaking his head free of snow; pretty much like a dog shakes when it’s wet. The team’s mastermind cracked a smile at that thought. Their hitter pulled off his heavy boots so he didn’t track snow and salt through the apartment, carried three bags of groceries into the kitchen, and then walked back into the living room dumping a book on the side table. Huh… It was going to be one of those days. Looking down at his watch, Nate wondered when the rest of the team would show up.
Sophie had left her book on the coffee table last night. Nate could hear the shower running, which meant she’d be down soon.
“You want breakfast?” Eliot asked from the kitchen where he was wrapping a bandanna around his head gesturing at the sound of the shower.
“No. I ate.”
“Parker’s gonna want pancakes.” Eliot stated gesturing at the stairs, asking without words if he should make Sophie brunch.
“Parker always wants pancakes.” Hardison yelled over from the door he’d just come in carrying a bottle of orange soda, his laptop and a stack of comic books. He eyed the grocery bags on the island. “What cha gonna make?”
“Ciopinno.”
“Cio… Wha?” The young hacker asked.
“Chi-oh-peen-oh.” Eliot carefully enunciated the words. And at Hardison’s blank stare he added “Italian seafood stew.”
Nate watched the by-play with a smile on his face. Ciopinno was a wonderful meal on a cold day. He remembered eating bowls of it in the Back Bay with his family when they’d go out for dinner on Sunday after Mass.
“Huh. Sounds pretty good.” Hardison shrugged and dug into his stack of comic books while booting up his laptop. After all this time together as a team he trusted that Eliot would make good food. It was as good as his nana made; but, he’d never tell her that!
Nate shrugged at the hitter and got a shrug in return. Part of the non-verbal communications Sophie talked about now and then. The mastermind glanced over at the book Sophie had gotten herself when she’d gotten herself when she’d bought his Lincoln book. Parker had pooh-poohed the whole purchasing a book thing; it hadn’t so much been the book part, but the purchasing part that she’d objected to. Yeah, that book was all Sophie: Fashion. It had a white cover and a bunch of people on it. It was a history or something like that and had a lot of pictures in it. Parker had gone off on one of her rants about how the people were all in really bad clothes. Clothes that weren’t good for climbing, crawling through vents or repelling.
Speaking of which where was their thief? He could still hear the shower going; she’d be in there for a while. Parker seemed to have an uncanny ability to show up when the rest of the team was in residence. In fact Eliot had already started to make pancake batter, and Nate could see the bag of chocolate chips on the counter.
Eliot glanced over at the comic books which Hardison had spread across the coffee table. Something called The Watchman, and The Walking Dead. The one about dead people could be interesting; it looked like it had zombies or something. And zombies could make for an interesting story line. Nate was reading some kind of book on President Lincoln, huh… Maybe he’d need to borrow it.

“Oooh! Pancakes!” Parker announced as plopped herself down on the counter next to where Eliot was finishing the batter. “Chocolate chip?”

The hitter just grunted and held up the bag of Ghirardelli chocolate chips.

“Yeah, my favorite!” Parker snagged a handful of the chips before grabbing the book she’d brought with her. She hadn’t come through the front door; but, he hadn’t seen where she’d come from. More typical Parker behavior. After all she wasn’t one of the best cat burglar’s in the world for nothing!

As the blonde thief settled in on the couch and Nate caught a glance of what she was reading. Gemology. It looked like a textbook… As she flipped through the book, Nate realized two things; one the book had a lot of pictures and two it had a section on imitation and synthetic gemstones. Yes, she was the best for many reasons. One of which was: She did her research.

Sophie started coming down the stairs dressed in leggings and a slouchy sweater thing; she looked elegant as always. She gave Nate a smile saying that she’d enjoyed last night. As he smiled back, she sniffed the air and looked at the kitchen where Eliot gave her a nod holding up his spatula. She nodded back and he pulled out another plate.

Yes, it was just another snowy day in Boston. A great day to be with teammates, friends, and in many ways; family.

Chapter Text

Monday was the only day the old Brew-pub and new Gastro-pub was closed. It was a restaurant tradition; and one that Eliot wasn’t willing to break. Hardison growled and said that Applebee’s and TGI Friday’s were both open on Monday’s.

“Applebee’s is a chain restaurant! They don’t have chef’s, they have untrained line cooks who are only taught to use a microwave! A microwave for God’s sake! My food doesn’t come from a microwave!”

“Uhhh…” Hardison scrambled to think of what would most irritate the hitter. “They’ve got great vegetables.”

“Vegetables! You call those vegetables!” The hitter brushed the hair out of his face and slammed his German steel knife down on one of the tomatoes he was cutting. “This is a vegetable. It was raised with love and care, and harvested by hand.” He pushed the ripe plum tomato into the bowl with the rest of the ones he’d been cutting. “Those… Those things they call vegetables are raised on corporate farms, fertilized with chemicals, harvested unripe by machines. Those are not vegetables!”

“Mmm… Hmmm… “ Alec chuckled to himself, riling Eliot was always fun. Although this time he did have a carrot for the hitter. He looked over at Parker and nodded, it was time. “But, the steamed veggie thing at ‘Outback’ has lots of color. It’s got orange, and green, and…”

“Rrrr….” Eliot diced the tomatoes a little bit more ferociously. He’d already blanched and skinned them; he was going to can them so that he could make tomato sauce, soup, chili, and the such over the winter. The team liked that type of comfort on cold winter days. In fact when they’d been in Boston they’d always gathered at Nate’s for food and well… Whatever had come up, usually sports, the latest con, or whatever book one of the team was reading.

Hardison continued “Now those little sprinkle things that they put on the vegetables at Chili’s.”

“Rrrr…” The hitter kept chopping as the team’s thief approached with something behind her back. He wagged the knife at her. “Don’t you join in this too.” He warned.

“I like Cocoa Puffs.” She shrugged and pulled a book out from behind her back. “And I wasn’t trying to sneak up on you.”

Eliot arched an eyebrow at her and the tall man behind her; who he knew was her co-conspirator. “If you weren’t, what were you trying to do?”

Parker was not good at surprises, she tossed her hair around and looked helplessly at Sophie who just lifted up the copy of Vogue she was reading to cover her face. “We…” She gained confidence in her words and the words tumbled out of her mouth “We got you this.”

She whipped out a book from behind her back and carefully found a tomato free place to put it on the counter before announcing, “Can we have the spaghetti stuff for dinner?”

“Which spaghetti stuff?” Without looking up Eliot asked, he’d made many things over the last four years which had involved some type of delicious pasta dish.

Hardison laid down a wooden box on top of the book Parker had laid down. “The green stuff is what I think she wants. That garlicky stuff.”

“Pesto.” Eliot grunted, still not looking up. He knew his teammates well enough to know that his not looking up was driving them nuts.

“Yeah, the cheesy green stuff!” Parker bubbled; “but, with more cheese and less green stuff.”

Eliot rolled his eyes; leave it to Parker to want to remove any kind of beta carotene from a meal. Or for that fact, anything healthy from a meal, in that aspect she wasn’t really that different than the team’s hacker. Hardison had his love of orange soda, and anything which was full of chemicals with unpronounceable names.

“What’s in the box?” Eliot figured he’d strung them on long enough.

“Open it.” Parker jumped up and down like a little kid. “Open it! But first, look under the box.”

Very carefully, Eliot put down the knife, and methodically washed his hands. He deliberately washed his hands twice concentrating on getting everything out from under his fingernails. Tomato was a bitch to get out from under fingernails. He took the flour sack towel from its place by the sink and just as deliberately dried his hands making sure that there wasn’t a drop of water anywhere on his hands, wrists, forearms, or elbows.

“Come on! Open it!” Parker was bouncing in place, barely able contain her excitement. It was like Christmas; just not in the winter. “Open it!”

Knowing that it was driving the two youngest team members’ nuts, Eliot carefully wiped down the counter; delayed gratification made presents even better. And the upside was that he also got to drive both Parker and Hardison nuts!

After making sure that the counter was both clean and dry the hitter, carefully pulled the box on top of the book towards himself. He lifted the box off what was underneath and found a book. “Stocking Up: How To Preserve The Foods You Grow Naturally.”

Perplexed he looked up and Park shrugged. “We see you putting all the stuff in bottles…” Her eyes lit up. “And then the yummy stuff that comes out of them.”

Hardison added in, “We got it at the antique show last week.” The unspoken part of that sentence was; “The antique show Sophie dragged me to because you were out looking at vegetable suppliers for the gastro-pub. And Nate just had to go with you.”

“Cool thanks.” The hitter opened the carefully protected dust jacket and looked inside. “Wow, this is the first time I’ve seen a first edition in this good a shape.” He smiled and gently placed the book where it wouldn’t get damaged while he was canning tomatoes.

“You like it?” Hardison asked eagerly.

Sophie smiled as she watched the exchange, her magazine sliding into her lap. Parker and Hardison had been so excited when they’d found the one booth in all of the Portland Antique Show that was dedicated to cookbooks and antique cookery equipment.

“I love it.” Eliot smiled fixing his ponytail so that hair wouldn’t end up in the canned tomatoes, and thinking to himself that he’d make homemade pizza for dinner. It was one of both Parker and Hardison’s favorite meals. They really liked his Pizza Margerhita.

“Open the box, open the box!” Parker’s enthusiasm was infectious and had Sophie smiling as Nate walked in carrying a book.

The mastermind went to ask what was going on; but, Sophie sshh-ed him and pointed over at the interchange going on at the island in the kitchen.

Eliot was sliding open the stained wooden box and staring in fascination at what was in the simple velvet lined box.

“Whaaa… Wh…?” He stuttered. It was the first time Nate or Sophie had ever seen him truly speechless. The hitter carefully drew out the wooden handled knife and stared reverently at it. “Where did you find a Zwilling in this kind of condition?”

“Zwilling?” Hardison looked quizzically at Parker and then Eliot. “It’s a Henkel’s knife. The… The guy said that it was made in something like 1750.” A pissed off look crossed his face “Did we get a bad knife?”

Eliot chuckled, and then started laughing. “Peter Henkels registered the trademark, Zwilling in 1731with the Cutlers’ Guild of Solingen. In 1771 Peter’s son, Johann renamed their knife company Henkel’s. So you’re completely right; it is a Henkel’s knife but, it was made by Johann’s father Peter before the formation of the company Henkel’s.” Without looking up Eliot lovingly caressed the simple cooking knife, “Do you have any idea of how precious this knife is?”

“Thought you’d like it.” The hacker tried for a manly tone; but, the touchdown like dance he was doing around Parker and the open area of kitchen kind of belied that.