Her expression told him that she had finally got the car working - something finally going according to plan for once is definitely an omen. When things would go uncharacteristically well for them, something must be around the corner…well at least he was mentally preparing himself for it as he pulled at the door handle, finding it stuck, so instead he hopped over and into the passenger seat.
"Not long now", he smiled reassuringly. "If this is the last stretch then we can walk our separate ways with wads of cash"
They were in the end, just thieves - what mattered was the money, right?
As time passed and the drive was going smoothly, Nathan decided to throw up some conversation to keep them both from getting too bored as he kept his eyes on their surroundings, his rifle at the ready.
"So you got any big plans for that money you’ll be getting?"
There was barely time for him to settle in his seat. As soon as his legs cleared the door she was off. The engine gave a satisfying roar, the tires spun a few times in the dirt before they gained purchase. With one smooth circle of the wheel, she had them turned 180 degrees around, and on their way out of there.
Chloe carefully arched an eyebrow, her head tilted slightly to the side, but she did not divert her gaze from the road before them. This was not a time to take one’s eyes off the road. Not if one glance away could mean a blown out tire, or give enough time for some gang of thieves packed in a car, tight as clowns, to roll up beside them. She might be good at get aways, but they weren’t always so simple.
This was always the clench point for any joint operation. The moment where you judged your partners worth, as well as your own self worth. Did you take your equal share, part ways with a good solid shake of the hand, and then move on to the next deal with a comrade made? Or did you take the alternate route? The one any self serving thief would - making sure your partner was left off thoroughly screwed. Chloe didn’t put it past Drake. But that didn’t mean she put it past herself as well.
"Don’t speak too soon," was all she said before she fell silent.
It was Drake who broke the silence, and Chloe, now feeling safe enough to divert her gaze, looked over to him.
"That’s a curious question to ask…"She paused, as if seriously considering it, but the light playing in her eyes gave her mischievous answer away. "But if it makes you feel better to imagine me swimming naked in it, you probably won’t be too far off from the truth. What brings that up anyways, Cowboy, you have some big plans in the works?"
They used to tell me at the orphanage that if you’re at a loss in life then all you need to do was trust in God. But I was never really interested in the idea of some guy in the sky deciding what was going to happen to me.
So I should forget what they said right? But instead I think about it every time I’m in some shit situation like a pistol aimed right in-between the eyes. So beard-guy in the sky… you going to let me live?
And at the very last moment-
A loud cracking sound was heard when Nathan’s fist smashed against the mercenary’s nose, leading to a shot ringing out into the sky. Satisfaction reigned the smile he had across his jaw.
Like hell as if I would let anyone except my own fist decide that.
He was moving quick on his feet again, slipping the additional pistol into his belt as he moved out of the door and slipped across the grass over to his partner who was already busy trying to hotwire- yeah, Hotwire an old jeep. Talk about jumping back a decade.
"How is it going Chloe?", he inquired as he leaned over the door, his dirty beaten face mirrored with hers, their reward already sitting in the back seat, ready to be driven off into the sunset… well… when the car was moving.
The word was barely audible, muttered through clenched teeth as she touched the wires once more. The jeep was in worse condition than she had initially thought, but soldiers for hire usually didn’t come with the latest in equipment either. But it seemed that the one easiest for Nate to get to had to be the one with a stubborn complex against acutally working for her.
Speaking of the devil, his face popped over the side of the door just as she heard the car turn over. Her look of frustration melted easily into a smirk, one that lifted the corner of her lips ever so slightly. Blood trickled down his cheek, his nose smudged with dirt, but his cheery demeanor told her there was nothing to worry about.
Unfolding herself from beneath the steering wheel, she settled into the drivers seat. “Better than you, I suppose…”
She’d be a fool if she thought that working with Nathan Drake would go smoothly, or that he could snatch some artifact without setting off at least one person. Even then she knew that, yet still, for some time on into the future she’d still be foolish enough to agree whenever he asked.
"As much fun you’re having with your new found friends, I think we should really get going." She tilted her head towards the seat
Charlie had been napping when his cellphone rang. He groaned inwardly, his mood already plummeting. The thought of Nate calling him and asking him to come along on some life-threatening job made him want to ignore the phone and fall back asleep, but, can’t laze around forever. The man rolled over on his side and sat up on the edge of the bed, grabbing his phone off the nightstand. He flipped it open and put it to his ear after checking the number.
Chloe. Why was she calling him? It’s important. A small twinge of panic made itself known in his stomach, but he ignored it, in case he was getting worried for no reason. He had made that mistake before, and he recalled the other calling him a ‘mother hen.’ “I’m coming,” Cutter said before he shut the phone. He snatched his jeans off the floor, rushing to slide them on. He stuffed the cellphone in his pocket and headed out, grabbing his wallet and jacket on the way.
Chloe was waiting for him right outside the door. She didn’t seem too upset. Actually, the opposite, and a bit sheepish. “Hello to you too,” Charlie said to her as she started walking off. He followed. “What are you up to?” he asked from curiosity, but no answer, only an amused hum. The thug decided not to pry into it too much since he had a feeling he would be finding out what was in store for him soon.
Chloe didn’t waste a breath with introductions and hellos as she saw the man finally appear in the doorway. What had taken him so long? She would have laid a large sum of cash on the bet that he was lazing around, probably in a some state of undress, dreading leaving his flat. She walked ahead of him, but not so fast of a pace that he couldn’t catch up in a matter of a minute or two.
Finally when his steps fell in sync with hers, she looped an arm through his, locking it as if they were a couple taking a slow evening stroll. And in fact her steps relaxed a bit. She had him now, out and about, and there was no way he was going to say no to scurry back into his flat. At least, she wasn’t going to let him scurry away that was for sure.
A giddy smile tugged at her lips, and she had to fight for some control of it. “You moved so slow out of your flat, I wasn’t sure we’d still have time to make it.” Still, she made no mentions of what ‘it’ might be. Though her steps steered them in the right direction. Surely if he took recent survey of the town he would know what was going on. Then again, he might not peg her as the sort of woman who would enjoy such a place – which would be a mistake on his part. Carnivals were just a different sort of thrill, but a thrill all the same.
“In any case, I hope you didn’t have anything terribly important to do for the day. You’re mine starting from now.”
A soft, if not exasperated, sigh passed Chloe’s slightly parted lips as she pressed the phone closer to her ear, as if that might help the call go through faster. Her weight shifted from one foot to the other, her hip cocked out to the side – the only tell tale signs of her impatience. Excitement, which bubbled within her, made it not only hard to keep still but also made it hard to not count each ring on the phone until he finally picked up.
The idea had struck her on a whim, like so many of her other ventures tended to do. As she moved through the streets after her latest drop off, the bright colored canvas of a tent caught her attention. It was at the entrance to some pier, a name she couldn’t be bothered to remember as there were so many of them in a country surrounded by water. A man with a straw hat, and traditional red and white striped coat waved her his way, with promises of a good price for a pretty lady. She had ignored him, of course, but her eyes had been drawn down the board walk to where the sounds of whirling rides, and the ringing bells of sidewalk games sounded.
A carnival. Something that each child had probably dragged their parents to at one time in their life, fingers pointing to whatever vividly colored object caught their eye. And it was an event that Chloe had never quite gotten the chance to attend. Even in adulthood, when she had spotted one strolling down the streets of Chicago with Nate on one of their joint heist, his feet froze in fear at the silly painted faces of a clown. She had no partner to attend with. And strolling alone with so much laughter about you, while you dully munched on cotton candy just sounded like the chapter to a very sad and long existence.
But this time Chloe wasn’t lacking a partner, or at least she refused to. Before she rightly thought it out, she found herself outside the door to none other than Charlie Cutter’s flat, the phone pressed to her ear as she summoned him out. Finally when she heard him pick up, she spurted out. “Come out and meet me,” before he could properly great her. Then, after a slight thought and with a smirk curling the corner of her lips she added. “It’s important,” in hopes that he would rush just that much more.
There was a silent pause. Charlie looked down at Chloe, meeting her eyes again. Oh. Shit. He hadn’t even thought of the bullet still being lodged in there; too hopeful to think he was in the clear from digging it out. It was worse that he had never seen nor heard of the other digging a bullet out of someone else. This must be his lucky day.
Cutter gave her a look of gratitude before biting down on the remains of his shirt. It’ll be fine. He went through this before, he had a high pain tolerance, and it’s a hell of a lot better than breaking your leg. The thug waited for a searing pain in his side, tensing slightly. He trusted Chloe, he just wasn’t sure if she trusted herself.
“Christ—” the Brit croaked, clenching his fists, trying not to struggle. He had almost forgotten how much it hurt like a bitch. Charlie was certain Chloe wasn’t enjoying this any more than he was; he had never seen her so ready to throw up. He groaned in pain as the bullet was taken out of him, fresh crimson spilling onto his side. He tried his best not to have a fit, especially in front of Chloe.
It wasn’t enough to use the small pliers to dig beneath Charlie’s skin. The bullet found itself at an angle that would take more pressure to remove. Her jaw locked, her brow furrowed concentration as she did her best not to grimace. Her fingers pressed forward, warmth surrounding them as blood dripped down his side. She did her best not to remember the feeling of flesh, did her best not to think of the thick red liquid dripping from his side. She wanted to whisper words to him, utter some sense of comfort to him, but no words would pass her lips. Her tongue flicked out to wet them, but they remained dry, tense as they might crack as she worked.
Finally she seized it, the crushed metal casing of the bullet, and pulled free. It dropped to the wooden floor, a thin spattering of blood around it as it clinked softly.
And it was over, the worst of it was over. If she had to stitch another wound close, well that she was sure he knew how to deal with that sort of pain. She reached for the kit, grabbing a large piece of gauze. “Easy love, its over…the worst is over..” She said, looking up to Charlie with a grateful sort of smile. Weak, but the expression was meant to comfort him.
"Not so bad was it?" She shot of a sad bit of humor, and it bothered her that it perhaps sounded too much like something Nate might have said. But he always knew how to make even the worst situations a little better - perhaps the same could work for her now.
Carefully, the thug shifted into a more upright position, listening to his own breath as he waited for Chloe to return with the kit. Charlie didn’t move— he only looked at the other, getting to work on his bullet wound. No way in hell were they getting his shirt off the normal way. If he lifted his arms, most, if not all his aches would come back to life full force, and the side of his stomach would start becoming drenched in fresh blood.
Yet again, another shirt ruined. Cutter would have to worry about finding new clothes later. He perked slightly as her voice, glancing down and meeting her eyes. He smiled back, though it was weak. The Brit’s skin was chilled to the bone, the exposure to air not helping at all.
Looking away from Chloe and instead at his exposed abdomen, he saw somewhat dry blood caking his skin and sticking uncomfortably. Charlie looked like a mess. Everything hurt like a bitch. he couldn’t tell if he had broken bones or just plain aching bruises in certain spots. On the positive side, at least none of his legs or arms were broken, so he wouldn’t be completely immobile.
Cutter didn’t say anything to Chloe as she started fixing his most severe injury. At this point, he didn’t feel like moving his jaw and forming words. He just braced himself for the worst of stinging, resting his head back against the couch. “Try to be gentle,” he muttered in request.
Try to be gentle. Right.
Chloe grimaced as she looked at the wound, briefly touching her fingers to it, applying pressure. Perhaps it would have been easier to ‘be gentle’ if closer inspection of the wound hadn’t revealed that the bullet was still lodged firmly into his side. She swallowed thickly, her gaze faltering for just a moment. This wasn’t going to be easy, and she couldn’t lie to him for long enough to tell him that. Words of comfort were lost as she dragged her gaze from the wound to meet his eyes.
"Sorry Sweetheart, but that’s got to come out…" She chewed on every word, as they filled her mouth, coming out thick. The last thing she wanted was to hurt him more, but if she left the metal in there, they’d have even more problems on their hands.
"Just..bite on this for me, alright?" She asked softly, fighting to make sure her tone didn’t waver. The sliced remains of his shirt she brought to his mouth, letting him part his lips so that he could grind his teeth into the destroyed fabric.
As she settled back down, searching through the kit for a tool to aid her in grasping the bullet, her stomach lurched, the room blurring behind her. She had seen Nate do this a thousand times, wrench a bullet from his skin after digging with his fingers, but she had never dared try. Her hands were steady as a surgeon, her brow drawn as she focused, but she hesitated.
Breathe, she told herself softly, before the room spun and the world faded into black. She considered counting to three, or offering him up some warning. But the suspense would terrify her, it would give her enough time to back out of the deal. So she moved, using her fingers to part the skin, and the small plier like scissors to grasp for the bullet
Grimacing, he was finally back on his own two feet, with the help of Chloe, of course. He had to lean against her to actually stand, otherwise he would collapse. Charlie made sure to keep applying pressure to the gunshot wound so he wouldn’t leave a trail of blood in the building. The last thing they needed was the employees coming to investigate.
Chloe was worrying too much. Hell, he survived jumping off a tower in Syria for Godssake. Granted, he broke his leg, but he was still alive. He didn’t want her to worry; she deserved to be happy and worry-free, no cares in the world…
Cutter shook his head, realizing his thoughts where drifting off. He hadn’t even realized they finally made it to his flat. He sank into the couch with relief, the aches and stings dulling to a mere annoyance for now. He’d think that the bullet in his stomach would’ve hurt a lot more than this.
‘You are going to owe me for this.’ I already thought of that, he mused inside his head. Right, first aid. “It should be in the…” Where should it be in? Charlie was going to say the exact location… Right, right. “It should be in the cabinet to your right in the bathroom,” he clarified, shaking his head as if it would make his mind more clear. Everything was going a bit… fuzzy.
A frown crossed her lips, turning their corners down as she watched Charlie struggle to remember something so basic. It wasn’t his mind struggling to figure out its location, so much as the words were having a hard time finding his lips, his tongue growing slow and thick. This wasn’t good. She might not know a lot about how the human body worked, but she’d seen enough men die from gunshot wounds to know how it shut down when it lost too much blood.
She pushed the worries away. Right now there was only the business she had to take care of, no chance at any failure for the future. And there was absolutely no chance that Charlie wouldn’t survive a little gunshot wound.
Quickly she moved through the flat, throwing opening the cabinets with shaking hands to find the kit. This was her moment of weakness, a small fraction of a second where she could allow her breath to waver, to draw her lower lip between her teeth and bother it in worry. But the moment she emerged from the bathroom she was composed again.
"Come on then, off with this…" She set the kit down on the floor next to her as she kneeled before Charlie, bringing her closer to the gunshot wound. It had to be taken care of first, before the bruises and broken bones and god knows what else. Her fingers grasped at Charlie’s shirt before she realized that making him lift his arms above his head wasn’t going to work.
Reaching into the kit she found what she needed, a small pair of scissors for cutting bandages. She took it to the rags of Charlie’s shirt and cut from the bottom up, until it was split in half and she could peel it away to work. "Well I can’t say that I haven’t done this before…," She mused. Her eyes kept flicking from her work to meet his eyes, a little smile crossing her lips to make sure that he was still focusing on her, that she was calm so that he could feel free to.
Cutter hummed, smiling at Chloe’s statement, because he knew it was true, even if he wouldn’t admit it. He always was trying to help the ones he liked and trusted most, not caring what would happen to him. It was mostly a disadvantage with all the trouble he’d been getting into, but it was occasionally an advantage. Occasionally.
Charlie had started drifting off again when the car parking and shutting off jolted him back into his sense. Becoming a bit slow, he just stared blankly at Chloe for a split second before realizing she needed his keys, sticking his free hand into his jacket pocket and fishing out the keys, handing them over.
Slowly and stiffly, the thug started climbing out of the vehicle. He hated being such a slug, but he also hated bleeding to death, which was never fun. Didn’t want to push his limits. Cutter felt like he owed the other an apology for bleeding all over the seat, but he felt like he’d be paying for it soon with Chloe fixing his wounds.
"Careful, darling…" she said absently, guiding his stiff body out of the car. She had to silently remind herself that she should be thankful that his mind was still in that body, and it wasn’t just a shell of a dead body. The thought, not the effort of moving, made her grimace. Really she needed to stop tangling with men who didn’t know when a situation needed backed out of.
"You’re alright, you’re alright…"She muttered more meaningless words as she guided him towards the door, slipping the keys from his fingers. "Lets just hope we can use the bloody lift.." A little grunt punctured her words as she shifted his weight completely on herself to push him up the stairs.
The entire journey to his flat went on like this, painfully slow, as she took on most of his weight. She did her best to complete no jarring motions, muttering an odd word of comfort in his ear until finally she lowered the man to his very own couch. “You are going to owe me for this…” she said looking over him before she glanced around. “First aid.”
Charlie winced at the harder-than-it-need-to-be touch, but was still grateful. It was much better than just using the palm of his hand. He would’ve made a snarky comment, but he had no energy to. Finally getting out of the sodding alleyway, they sped past the scenery of the city, a heavy silence broken only by the vehicle’s motor as he braced himself for the million dollar question.
Cutter heaved a sigh, shifting slightly to get more comfortable, but all it did was awaken his aches. He stared ahead at the road, gathering his thoughts. What had exactly happened again? Saved a guy which wasn’t the ex-client’s cup of tea if he didn’t get the artifact, right…. But there had to be a bit more.
“Well… let’s see,” the bookworm started. “This is just the short version, mind you. A bloke hired me to do business with him and obtain,” he paused to take a tired breath, “an artifact of sorts. It wasn’t that important, really; it was just worth a sum of money. Apparently…” His mind blanked out for a second. Where was he going with this again? Maybe he was just exhausted.
Oh, right. “Apparently, a group of other bastards had the same idea and attacked us. Partner was hit, so we had to evacuate so he could live. Which means we didn’t get what the client wanted,” he sighed, rubbing the back of his head with his free hand. “He went on a bloody hissy fit and his jocks did this,” Cutter said, motioning to his current physical state.
Chloe could care less about what happened. Sure it was important so that she knew who ever this creep was who pulverized Charlie wouldn’t come looking for them, but her question had a hidden angle. If Charlie kept talking, kept answering her mundane questions, then it wouldnt leave him too much time to focus on the pain. It wouldn’t leave him any time to drift away in his thoughts, to be so silent he passed out. And it wouldn’t leave Chloe any chance to panic that he might be slipping away from her.
She kept both hands locked on the wheel, her fingers squeezing it tightly - so much so that her knuckles turned white before she forced herself to relax. But she wanted to reach over, to grasp at his hand, or clasp his knee, so that she kept him close. Only Chloe had no idea at this point of where he was injured. Blindly reaching over could result him in only hurting more. Ands he wasn’t going to purposely cause him pain just yet. He was already paying for his actions now.
"Your heart is too big for this sort of job," She tsked, shaking her head briefly. It only proved what being nice got you in this world.
Charlie’s flat was the easiest place to go, and she only headed there once she was sure they weren’t being trailed. She pulled the car into the lot, parking in a handicapped zone - she figured this situation was dire enough.
"Give me your keys." She said holding out her hand after she climbed out of her side and opened his door.
“I’m just being optimistic,” Charlie defended in a joking manner, smiling up at Chloe. He hoped to God she wouldn’t start scolding him in the car since she wasn’t doing it now; he already felt like hell had spit him back out. As his arm was draped over Chloe, he braced himself as they stood.
A few grunts from the aches escaped him, but the place that hurt worst was the side of his stomach. Feeling the warmth of the other’s body heat made him realize just how could he was becoming. How long had it been since he was dumped in the alley way? Cutter couldn’t remember. His movements were stiff, and it was slightly harder to breathe.
He was guided to the other side of the car. Charlie climbed into the cushioned seat, keeping a hand clamped on his bullet injury so his blood wouldn’t go everywhere. The Brit closed his eyes and laid back his head in an attempt to relax a bit, but he wouldn’t let himself sleep, just in case… He opened one eye to look at Chloe as she got in the driver’s seat. He’d have to make up for all this tomorrow, somehow.
He’d need something to staunch the flow of the blood. She glanced desperately over the car but found nothing inside. Huffing she reached to the hem of her shirt and pulled it over her head. It was already stained with blood, but it hadn’t soaked completely the black tank top she wore underneath. This was enough, she hopped, for him to press to that wound instead of just his bare hand. “Here..” she said, carefully lifting that hand of his to press against the wound.
She might have pressed too hard - Chloe had never been too light handed. That was why she didn’t handle the other aspects of hunting, the light handed delicate things. But if you needed a girl that could blow something up? Well she had that base completely covered.
"Just try not to make a mess, yeah?" She scolded lightly, reaching around him to ensure that his seat belt was at least fastened. Now wasnt the time to break too many laws, as she sped out of the alley.
"So are you going to explain this to me or not?" She asked after moments passed, the overhanging street lamps allowing her brief glimpses of him as they illuminated the car.
He perked at a rustling, growing noise coming towards him. A vehicle… a vehicle was coming. Was it the filth? Charlie didn’t hear any sirens blasting away. As headlights shown into the alley, he stiffly lifted an arm to shield his eyes and get a better look at the car. Chloe’s car. He lowered his head to stare at the hard, cement ground in shame. Never had they missed a meet-up to forget about the world, if only for a few hours. Cutter thought he could’ve gotten out of the men’s hold in time to drive over to Chloe’s place.
The thug found himself being forced to look into her eyes. He couldn’t help but smile sheepishly, like a little boy who couldn’t help but enjoy the thrill of unwanted attention. “It’s all right now, darling,” he ground out, forgetting the jabbing pain in his jaw. “I just… I just need some patching up,” he breathed tiredly.
There was only one flaw with Charlie’s plan. Last time Chloe tried patching him up, it didn’t go very well. She got most of the job done eventually, but it probably would’ve been less painful for the wounds to just get infected. But, then again, last time he hadn’t been shot, it was just little small cuts here and there, and a few big ones. He’d have to put up with it. “Could you help me up, love?”
At least he could talk. Chloe felt the rushing urge to punch him several times over for getting himself into this sort of situation - he was better than this really. But now was not the time for more violence, she was sure she’d cause him enough pain trying to get the proper bandages on these wounds. In their line of work strolling into a doctors office was usually out of the question. A private physician worked best, but even then they demanded information that none of them had any business giving out.
That stupid grin, she had half a mine to jab his wound until it disappeared int a grimace, but once again she restrained herself, only slightly. If he was cocky enough to smile at her then it was a start. “Just some patching up…” She mocked his words with a scoff. “Really, just a bandage here and there will work wonders for a bullet these days.”
She didn’t need to assess the damage to know he’d been shot. The blood which stained his clothes was more than enough for her to tell. She’d patch him up, then ask questions later. There was no time for her to ask him ‘what the hell happened’.
Chloe shifted so she was under his shoulder. “Easy now..”She muttered softly to him, guiding his arm around her so that he could support himself as they stood. “I just had my car cleaned…” A small lament as she glanced at the glaring headlights.