back alley brawler

So, rewatching Leverage, and here is a thought:

None of the team’s heists, except a couple of very specific episodes, could ever really be pulled off with three people.  The average con by the fine team at Leverage Incorporated has so many moving parts that they’ll often enough recruit even more somewhat-unwitting help from other people peripherally involved in the case.  Having five people on a team lets them grift from multiple directions and still save somebody to work from the background, lets them come from multiple angles, and means they’ve usually got backup somewhere.

So I’m thinking about Parker, Elliot, and Hardison, post-S5, and what I’m thinking is, their problem won’t be a lack of skill.  Sophie and then secondarily Nate are very much the primary grifters for the crew, but the trio have all got some solid-enough skill there.  Their problem is going to be a lack of bodies.

They’ll try a couple of jobs just the three of them, I’m sure, but after the first or second time that somebody almost gets seriously hurt because Eliot is on the other side of the city doing what ordinarily would have been Sophie’s job, it’s very clear: they need help.

It doesn’t need to be a full partner on the team, of course.  They can just add one or two people to be, like, employees for a bit.  Probationary crew members.  Parker’s all pleased about getting to boss people around.  Eliot Does Not Trust these new people.

So obviously there’s a revolving door of one-off helpers for a while, but what I’m thinking actually happens is, a couple of months in, they’re working a job with yet another really annoying temp, and they discover halfway through that somebody else is working the mark from the opposite angle.  Then they discover that it’s the mark’s fifteen-year-old adopted-for-publicity’s-sake foster kid and said foster kid’s seventeen-year-old sister.

Foster kid does not really enjoy being a poster child for the mark’s Goodness and Kindness Towards Humanity, but they do enjoy the cash.  The two girls have been playing marks since they were eight and ten.  The younger one has a great eye for details, quick fingers, and pulls off ‘sad unfortunate waif’ fantastically well.  The older one fights like a back-alley street brawler who’s won every fight she’s ever taken on the dirty way, and reads people like only a grifter who’s been working since near-birth could.  Before this job, this mark, it’s been a dozen different homes and schemes, mostly successful, in three different states.  The hope is to rip the mark off for enough cash and prizes to flee the whole Pacific Northwest and set themselves up for good.  However you do that.  How do you do that?

Of course, Annoying Temp Of The Week almost blows everything and gets them all caught, and of course, upon realizing what’s up with these two teenage girls, Parker-Hardison-Elliot almost blow everything even harder, going in to save them–but then the girls in their cleverness and gratitude get in there and repay the favor by saving the whole con, taking the mark out, and getting everybody home free.  Even the annoying temp of the week.

So once that guy’s been cut loose with his pay for the job and a ‘don’t call us–we’ll call you’, you get the trio upstairs from the brew pub, surveying these two teenage girls who just bailed them out of trouble and now have nowhere left to go but back into foster care.

“Now what are we going to do with you?” Hardison asks.

“You could keep us,” suggests the younger girl, as winningly as she can.  Three professional thieves with this kind of sweet setup?  Hell yeah.

“Uh, no, we can’t,” says Elliot.

“He’s right,” Parker agrees.  “The kinds of jobs we pull are no place for amateurs.”

“That’s not what it looked like before,” points out the older kid.  She means their temp.  She’s absolutely right.

“No, what she means is, our lives are no kind of place for kids,” Elliot growls.  He knows that’s not what Parker means, but it’s what he means.  They need decent homes and a shot at a real, non-criminal life.

“How old were you when you started?” asks the older girl.  “How did you know you were going to be thieves instead of doctors or lawyers or airline pilots?”

“We could take apprentices,” Parker muses, and that’s when Hardison and Elliot drag her back into a side room for a hurried discussion.

(The words child abuse and child endangerment get hissed around a lot.  Parker, who blew up a house at age seven, does not really get it.  She does however point out that Hardison was ripping off banks and infiltrating federal databases by the time he was sixteen.

“Yes, but I had a Nana who loved me and a safe place to live and a semi-normal experience in high school, Parker,” he points out.  She shrugs.

“I had Archie,” she says.  “He’s the only family I’ve got.  If we try to send them to anywhere safe or normal, they’re just going to leave.”

“We could ask Nate and Sophie,” Elliot points out.

“Dude, Nate and Sophie just got rid of us, you think they want to go adopting a couple of teenage mini-thems?” Hardison asks.  Elliot rolls his eyes.

“I meant for advice, not to–”

“If we send them away, they’re just going to keep doing the same things,” Parker says.  “They’re going to steal, and cheat, and they’re going to get caught, because nobody ever cared enough to teach them the right way to do things.  And they’re probably going to turn out selfish and mean, because that’s what happens to people who don’t spend time around good people.  Especially thieves.  They’re not going to be safe.”

“Oh, as opposed to our safe lives of ripping off multi-national corporations and the mob?” Elliot demands.

“Look,” Hardison says.  “I’m not saying Parker’s right and I’m not saying we need them, but they did save our asses out there on this one.  They’re good.”

Elliot groans.  “Okay, we are setting some ground rules.”)

“Rule number one,” Elliot says to the girls, because he was elected most intimidating actual authority figure by a huge margin.  “You go to school.  Both of you.  That means you enroll in high school and you actually show up.  You do your homework.  Friends, extracurriculars, all that.  You start skipping classes, we will find out.”

“Rule number two, thief training,” Parker steps in.  “I can train you like my mentor trained me.  Hardison and Elliot can teach you other things.  You work hard, you get better.”

“If you want to,” Elliot adds.  “Nobody’s going to stop you if you decide you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or a professional violinist.  We’ll help you get on that road too.  And it’s okay to change your minds about it later.”

“We may use you on jobs,” Hardison says.  “When we say you’re ready.  And that means you listen to what we say out in the field, okay, all three of us, because we have a vested interest in keeping you alive and out of prison.  Parker’s the boss but we all have a decade’s worth of experience on you, not to mention we’re the people who were out taking down multinational corporations and the Italian, Russian, Irish–which mobs am I missing, guys?  Anyway, we were doing that while you was still in grade school.”

“That’s also something to keep in mind if you try to rip us off,” Elliot adds.  “We overthrew a country.  We will find you.”

“But you’re not going to try to rip us off,” says Parker.  “Because you want this.”  She knows them.  They’re like her, like she was.  And they are probably planning on how to rip Leverage off once they learn enough–but that’s okay.  By that point, they won’t want to any more.

“We’ll work it out,” Elliot says.  “Might be a little rough going while we figure out how this is going to go, but you’re making yourselves our responsibility now.  We take those seriously.”

“So what do you say?” Hardison asks.  “Are we sitting down and creating you two some shiny new identities and paperwork saying you belong here, or do you not want to see how to do that?”

“We’re in,” the older girl jumps in before Hardison even finishes his sentence.  “We’ll do it.”

.

Basically I want all the shenanigans where the team accidentally adopts a couple of baby teenage thieves badly in need of guidance and tries to train them up right.  Whatever that ends up meaning.

(None of them are actually sure.)