“Eliot, if you don’t hurry up and get in here, we’re gonna start without you!” Parker yelled in the general direction of the kitchen.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m comin’,” Eliot Spencer muttered, strolling into the back room, his arms laden with bowls of gourmet popcorn, homemade cheese puffs, and three mugs of hot chocolate. He carefully set everything on the coffee table in front of the couch and dished out the goodies. “And yes, Parker, there’s extra milk and marshmallows in your cocoa.”
Parker’s smile widened. Eliot’s homemade cocoa was always a treat, but it was extra special when he made sure there was extra milk and mini marshmallows in it.
“So what’s tonight’s movie? And don’t say Ghostbusters again,” Eliot said, gently nudging Hardison over to sit between them.
“Nah, Parker wanted Love, Actually,” Hardison said.
Eliot looked over at Parker, who shrugged unapologetically. “I wanted something romantic,” she said.
“And that’s the most romantic thing you could come up with,” Eliot muttered.
“I wanted to do Princess Bride, but you know Parker when she gets onto something,” Hardison said.
“She doesn’t let go,” Eliot muttered under his breath. “Alright, start it up.”
Bill Nighy had only just started crooning when Amy knocked on the doorframe.
“Sorry guys, but there’s a girl out here to see you,” she said.
“We’re not seeing clients right now,” Parker said, not looking up from the TV.
“I don’t think she’s a client. She asked for you specifically. By name. Said to tell you her name’s Josie,” Amy said, leaning back against the doorframe.
The three thieves looked at each other. “Josie, from the car job about eight years back?” Hardison mused.
“I don’t know any other Josie,” Parker said.
“Must be,” Eliot agreed.
“Alright, send her back,” Parker said to Amy. Amy nodded and walked back out the door.
“You can go back,” they heard Amy say, her voice muffled by the closed door.
They heard footsteps coming towards the back room, and then the door creaked open.
“Hi,” Josie said, poking her head through the door. “I don’t know if you remember me, but you helped me out with that car theft thing a few years back.”
“We remember,” Hardison said.
“And,” Josie went on, ignoring Hardison, “you got me that job with Paul Mantlo, the landscaper? Which I’m totally appreciative of, don’t get me wrong,” she waved her hands a little frantically at that, “but it felt like it was time to go.”
Parker nodded in understanding. “Fingers start itching?” She asked.
Josie looked down at her shoes, caked in traces of dirt that would never come out, no matter how long and hard she tried to scrub them. “Yes,” she said, so quietly Parker almost missed it. “You tried to get me a better life, and I really appreciate it. But I don’t think I fit in a regular life.” She looked up at them again. “You said once that you were the good guys. Well, I want to be a good guy too. The way you are. You’re like me, you don’t fit in a regular life. But you still help people. I want that, too.”
Parker, Hardison, and Eliot looked at each other. “Excuse us,” Hardison said. His Nana raised him right, dammit. They all got up off the couch and converged in a corner.
“We can’t take her in,” Eliot said. “She deserves better than our life.”
“She wants to be a thief,” Hardison said. “Who wants to be a thief when they grow up?”
“Us,” Parker said. “We did. We all had talents, we grew up using them. If Archie hadn’t found me and trained me, I’d probably be in jail. Or worse.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “I remember that feeling she said she has. She’s going to steal things, one way or another. And she’s going to help people, whether we want her to or not. If we don’t keep an eye on her, she’s going to get herself hurt. Maybe even get someone else hurt. If we take her in, we can–” Parker stopped abruptly. “Why are you both looking at me like that?”
Hardison smiled his ‘you’re such an adorable person’ smile. “'You had me at hello’,” he said, a grin stretching across his face.
A tightness Parker didn’t even know was in her chest loosened. She looked at Eliot.
Eliot huffed out a breath. “Well, if I don’t go along with this, then you two will just do it anyway. And I’ll have to come save your sorry butts.”
“So we’re agreed?” Parker asked.
“Yeah, we’re agreed,” Eliot said.
“Ok,” Parker said, turning back towards Josie. “We’ve decided that we’re going to train you. To be a thief. Like us.”
“So I’ll get to help people with you?” Josie said, elated.
“Well, not right away. We’ve gotta train you first,” Hardison said. “We all were doing this for a long time before we started helping people.”
Josie couldn’t hide her excitement. “When do we start?” She asked.
“After we finish our movie,” Eliot said. “I didn’t spend all afternoon making snacks for us to not enjoy them.”