He didn't remember falling asleep on the couch, but he sure as hell felt it in his neck and back when he woke up.
Sully passed a hand over his face and blinked, groaning. It was dark in the house, save for the small overhead light above the stove in the kitchen. He took a glance at his watch—six in the morning. It was still dark outside, which was a small blessing. Hopefully he'd have his headache under control before the sun showed up.
He heard movement in the kitchen and looked over the couch armrest. He could see Nate fiddling around in there, trying to be quiet and only half-succeeding. It looked like he was making a peanut butter sandwich, fidgeting with the unending energy of a sixteen year-old as he assembled his breakfast.
“You makin’ coffee with that, kid?”
Nate jumped and looked over his shoulder, butter knife held out in defense. He relaxed when he saw that it was, obviously, just Sully. “Oh um, yeah. Sure.” He set the knife down, and then began to root around in the fridge for the coffee tin.
Sully sat up off the couch, seeing that he'd thrown off his Havana shirt and left it crumpled on the floor. He frowned, struggling to remember what the hell he'd been doing last night.
“There was a woman at the door for you,” Nate called, and he looked up. “About an hour ago. She um, she wanted… ah….”
Ah, yes. Catholic propriety had been hard wired into the kid, even if Nate wasn't exactly what Sully would call the ideal Christian teenager. Although Nate didn't take to practicing, he wasn't able to talk about anything indelicate without going red in the face.
Then his memory clicked. Right. “You can say the word prostitute, kid. It's not a swear word.” Not that he cared if the kid swore, either, which Nate seemed to handle just fine.
The teen’s cheeks flared a predictable red, and he fidgeted in place. “Yeah, well, she wanted you to um, pay her.”
“What?” He shoved a hand in his back pocket to dig out his wallet, and felt that it was light on bills. No, he did remember paying her. “What did she say, exactly?"
“‘The old man did not pay in full. I still need four hundred’,” Nate relayed, doing a half-decent job of mimicking her accent. “She said she’d be back later when you woke up.”
He winced at the “old man” comment, but shoved that aside in favour of wondering how he could have possibly underpaid—that shit was bad for business. The good news was that at least she wasn't pissed off enough to barge into his house, offering to wait instead. He’d have to work something out with her.
“You told me you never needed pr—prostitutes anyway,” Nate added, testing out the big bad P word again. “Didn't like paying for—”
“It wasn't for that,” he grumbled. Sully stood up and made a beeline to the coffee pot, which Nate had brought to life. “She had information on the guy we’re planning to get those books from.”
“‘We’?” Nate echoed.
Sully looked at him as he poured coffee. “Yes, we. As in you and I. We’ll be off to France in a few days.” First he needed to work out what exactly he owed Joseline. He swore he'd given her enough—
His train of thought halted. Nate was prone to bouts of silence, usually when discussing something he didn't want to talk about, and this “oh” of his spoke volumes.
“What is it?” Sully asked. He stirred his coffee and took a sip. Nate always used a lot more coffee grounds than necessary, but right now he needed the caffeine.
Nate began to fidget again, picking at the ring hanging around his neck. “Um, well. My—my brother, he gets out of prison tomorrow,” he muttered, his eyes trained on the kitchen tile.
“Oh.” It was Sully’s turn to be quiet. He took an extra-large pull of his coffee, not caring that he burnt his tongue, then looked at Nate. “How old?”
“What?” Nate looked up, startled out of his study of the floor. “Oh. He's twenty-one, now.”
So an adult. Yeah, this was about to get really goddamn complicated. “Where’s the prison?”
“It's not all that far.” Nate began to look excited, his fidgeting turning into jitters. “A plane ride would probably only take a few hours—”
“What country, kid?”
“Belize,” Nate said, leaning on the counter and still avoiding Sully’s gaze. “It's in Belize.”
“Ah.” Yeah, that would probably be a five or six hour flight from Miami. “You realise this is really short notice?”
Nate nodded his head with more energy than necessary. “I'd, um, forgotten. With how much we’ve been travelling—I kept thinking it was a while away, because it's been a while away for, well, a while, and now… well, he gets out tomorrow.” Nate dared a glance at Sully. “We could take your plane, that way we don't have to buy tickets—and I'll pay you back if we do! If—if you wouldn't mind—it shouldn't take long. Just a few days extra, at the most. It won’t really interfere with your job in France—we just need to pick him up.”
Jesus, was the kid ever acting weird. Nate didn't ask for pretty much anything—he just stated his intentions and dared Sully to argue with him.
There was something unpleasant rising in his chest, and he couldn't quite make out if it was dread or panic. “And I'm guessing you’ll be off to live with him, after we pick him up,” Sully continued, keeping his tone neutral as best he could. The kid had said your job, not our, something that didn’t escape Sully’s notice.
Nate’s eyes widened. “Oh. I hadn't actually—I thought maybe he could stay here.” He looked at Sully, then hurried to add more. “We can share the spare room; that's fine—I mean he's already been sharing a room in prison anyway.”
“Does your brother know you've been crashing here?” It's been two years since Sully first took him in already, so “crashing” isn't really the right word, but Nate seemed to still struggle with the concept that the spare bedroom was in fact his room, not just a space he occupied.
“I haven't really been able to get a hold of him,” Nate replied. “He can't make phones calls out of country. And I didn't have a proper phone for a while.” He did now, Sully made sure of that, but of course he couldn't just call up his brother all the way in central America.
Yeah, this was really fucking bad. One Drake was a handful—now he was toying with the idea that he'd let an older, potentially more aggressive version of Nate stay with him, too.
He shook his head as he finished his coffee. He was already planning on letting another person stay here instead of doing the rational thing and letting Nate’s brother handle living arrangements on his own—and why not? He was awfully attached to Nate by this point, even if the kid didn't know it, but he owed the older Drake nothing. Hell, he'd just gotten used to living with Nate, and the kid still had a hell of a lot to learn about work.
But then, if Sully let the brother live on his own, then he'd probably insist that Nate live with him instead, and the thought of that happening was hard to swallow.
“Belize,” Sully muttered, shaking his head. Good god, the kid must have travelled a fair distance on his own to wind up in Colombia. He wondered, not for the first time, how Nate had managed to avoid being abducted by human traffickers or drug cartels all that time on his own. The kid was a quick thinker and could run like the goddamn wind, but—
“You know what, nevermind. I'll take the bus in the morning, get there on my own,” Nate said, his face now unreadable. “You don't have to come.”
He must have interpreted Sully’s silence for disapproval—and on some level, he was right. “Hold up, kid,” he said, putting a hand to Nate’s shoulder. Nate looked about ready to bolt, which hurt more than he wanted to admit—Sully hadn't seen that look from him in a while. “I'm still getting over the fact that you have a brother. You didn't think to mention it to me?”
“You said we didn't hafta talk about our lives,” Nate argued, but at least he looked less flighty now.
“Yeah, but your brother—what the hell is his name, anyway?”
“Okay, well Sam is still around, meaning that if you're staying here, that makes him something you need to tell me about.” Sully paused for a moment. “Anyone else in the picture? Any other siblings? Or maybe a dad in prison, a mom—”
“No,” Nate said harshly, and jerked away from Sully’s hand. “No one else. Just me and Sam.” There was a sharp edge to his tone, and Suly made a mental note to avoid any mention of parents again.
Sully sighed. His mind had been made up a lot quicker than was probably rational. You're off your rocker. “Well, we can go pick him up, then.”
Nate looked surprised, his anger fading, then nodded his shaggy head, hair bouncing around his face. Kid needed a haircut again. “So what—what do we do?”
“I'll call and confirm he's getting out tomorrow,” Sully said, the panic not subsiding. What the hell are you getting yourself into, Sullivan? “Make sure everything is good to go, buy plane tickets if we can this late, then we can pick him up tomorrow, one way or the other.”
Nate beamed at him and nodded again, then went to run to his room, probably to pack. “Okay, sounds good!” he called and quickly shut the door, coffee and sandwich forgotten.
“Goddammit,” he muttered, pulling out his phone and looking up a list of prisons in Belize. “Goddamnit.”
The Belize Central Prison was South-East of the relatively small town of Hattieville. There was no public transit to or from the prison, so Sully rented out the cheapest car he could and drove them down the thin backroad to the facility.
There hadn't been a lot of information on the prison when he’d looked it up, but the lack of news articles about potential gang fights or prison riots was a good sign. The less trouble, the better.
Nate was practically vibrating with excitement in the passenger seat beside him. He hadn't seen the kid this worked up over anything besides old books and ancient ruins.
Sully tapped the steering wheel with his fingers, thinking, and Nate looked up at him. “What?”
“How long has it been since you've seen your brother?” he asked him, instead of answering the question, because he didn’t think Nate would appreciate Sully sharing the obscene amount of personal doubt he was feeling right now.
“Three years,” Nate replied, pulling on his ring again. “So a while.”
“You two close?” Sully asked, trying make it sound casual. He could see the prison in the distance—the small facility rested in the middle of a big, open field, the better to catch any escaping inmates.
Nate looked at him oddly. “Why? You afraid I'm gonna go run off with him?”
That's exactly what I'm afraid of. “Just wanting to take the temperature on your relationship, kid,” Sully responded. “If he's gonna be staying at the house, I’d like to know something about him.”
“You didn't know anything about me when you agreed we’d be partners,” Nate pointed out.
“Yes I did. I knew you had some talent with lifts, and could climb around like a goddamn monkey.” That, and a smartass mouth. “All I know of your brother is that he's in prison.”
The prod worked like Sully figured it would. Nate instantly went on the defensive. “He's a good person,” he shot back. “Taught me all of that stuff. He just… got caught doing it, is all.”
“That's what he's in prison for? Stealing?”
“Breaking and entering, theft, that kinda stuff,” Nate said, sounding like he was being purposefully light on details. He looked out the window, avoiding Sully’s eyes.
“Well as long as he doesn't steal from me we won't have a problem.” He refrained from adding that he considered Nate someone who could be stolen away. No way in hell was he going to just let the kid go after two years of working together.
“He won't, I promise. Sam doesn't steal from good people.”
Nate was quiet after that, flipping through his journal and occasionally scribbling something down, which Sully was thankful for. He was still reeling from the fact that Nate considered him “good people” when they pulled up to the prison.
Nate jumped out of the car before Sully came to a full stop, and was bouncing on his heels as he tried to get a look inside the main building. The walls had the trademark barbed wire framing its edges, and guard towers at each corner, but other than that it looked… kinda nice, actually. Better than Sully had expected.
“Are we—do we go in? And like, ask to pick him up or something?” Nate asked, shifting on his feet nervously.
“You never done this before?” Sully asked when he got out of the car. Somehow that surprised him, but then again the kid was only sixteen.
“No. Sam always tells me to stay away—meet him at a bus stop somewhere.” Nate tapped his fingers on the hood of the car, craning his neck to look around them in case someone happened to also be on this back-road highway street in the middle of a huge field.
Ah. So Sam’s been in prison before. It wasn't a judgement—hell, Nate wound up in Juvie little under a year after meeting Sully, and he'd been in jail once or twice himself. But Sully still preferred to associate with people who didn’t jump from prison to prison. Too much paperwork, delays, and the considerable risk of someone snitching to lower their jail time.
Yeah. This was a great idea. “Let's go in, kid.”
“Uh….” Nate suddenly went still and frowned at the door. “Wait.”
“What is it?” Please don't tell me you have another brother in prison somewhere.
“I don't think it's a good idea for me to go in there,” Nate said. “I just—they were gonna put me in foster care again when Sam got arrested, and I kinda ran away. I haven't been in the prison, but I don't know if someone will recognise me.”
“That how you ended up in Cartagena?”
“Yeah, sort of.” Nate poked at the car handle door. “Maybe… maybe I'll stay here, then.” He sounded disappointed, but didn't move to walk with Sully.
“Alright. I'll be out soon.” He watched Nate shove his lanky body into the car, and head up to the gates. “Don't get out of the car until the guards have all cleared.”
Here goes nothing.
Sam Drake was a bean pole of a young man, just like his brother. His arms were wrapped with wiry muscle, and there was a hard set to his eyes, making him look older than his years. No visible prison tattoos, though, which was a relief. He probably didn't make ties to any gangs, then. Not for the first time, Sully wondered why he'd ever agreed to turn his home and his life into a makeshift daycare for young offenders while he waited for the out processing to finish.
The guard guided Sam out of holding and into the small reception office where Sully sat. He signed all the paperwork he needed to—which admittedly wasn't much—and spoke up before Sam could blow their cover.
“Sam Drake,” Sully greeted, reaching out to shake the kid’s freshly uncuffed hand and giving him a significant look that he hoped Sam would understand. “Good to see you again.”
Luckily, Sam didn't share his brother’s total lack of a poker face. He rolled with it, thank God, giving Sully a wary nod.
“Hey,” was all he said, in a practiced nonchalance that made Sully think this wasn't the first time a stranger had picked him up from prison.
The act worked well enough, and after some final signing over and a flash of a well-made fraudulent work Visa on Sully’s part, they allowed him to walk out with Sam.
A guard guided them out to the front gates of the prison. Sam and the guard swapped a terse exchange in Spanish that Sully didn't quite catch—he really needed to brush up on the language again—and with a final nod, the guard closed the gates and walked back towards the facility.
They walked down the prison road in silence, long enough to make sure they were out of earshot of any potential guards hanging around, and then Sam spoke up when they were at the highway.
“So who the fuck are you, again?” he asked, tone casual. He had his hands in his pockets as he walked, and the shrug of his shoulders eerily echoed Nate’s typical I-don't-care teenager look.
“A friend,” Sully replied. “Victor Sullivan, but your brother just calls me Sully.”
Sam stopped in his tracks and looked at him, hard. By this point they were walking along the side of the highway, and the car was only forty feet away. “Nathan’s with you?” His face finally betrayed his thoughts—happiness, mistrust and a bit of anger struggled to all pull at his features at once.
Sully jerked his head to the car. “Over there,” he said. When Sam didn't move, instead keeping a glare on him, he raised a brow. “There a problem?”
“Why do you got my brother with you?” Sam asked, eyes narrowed.
Yeah. He figured this would happen. “Kid tagged along a while back in Colombia,” he explained. “Been given him work, and for that he has a roof over his head.”
“What kind of work?” he ground out. Sully could see his hands, balled into fists in his pockets.
“Not anything like that,” Sully assured him calmly. “Just some—”
He didn't finish his sentence. Instead he experienced the unique pleasure of being socked in the face on a Belizean highway just off the entrance of a prison.
Sam moved even faster than his brother, and Sully stumbled away from the guy. He grabbed at his nose, feeling it bent at an odd angle, and began to bleed like a pig.
The next punch he anticipated, and held out a forearm to block it. Sam’s face was a twist of rage, pent up anger and fear lashing out.
“What the fuck did you do to my brother, huh?” He switched to Spanish, vile words flowing out in sharp, short bursts in time with his fists. Sully landed a hook to the kid’s stomach after taking a few hits with his shoulder, hard enough to make Sam double over. He landed another blow to make sure the little shit stayed on the ground.
“Jesus H Christ,” he muttered breathlessly, holding his nose and limping out of arm’s reach. “I didn't do anything to your brother, you idiot. He asked me to fly out here to see you.” His hard tone was somewhat undermined by the muffled sound the cup of his hand made over his mouth and nose, but he figured the kid would get the message. “And how about you don't start a fistfight outside the gates of a goddamn prison? You wanna go back in there? I'm more than happy to walk you to the front desk.” That would be an awkward conversation with Nate if he actually followed through, but Sam wouldn't be able to call his bluff without risking it.
Luckily, at the very least, it looked like no one at the prison had taken noticed—they were on the highway road now, and Sam wasn't an inmate any longer, so it wasn't their concern either way.
“Where is Nathan?” Sam snarled, looking up at him from the pavement not unlike a wounded, enraged animal. “I swear to god, if you touched him—”
“In the car,” Sully replied, using the corner of his shirt to wipe away some of the blood from his nose. “Like I told you. He’s fine.”
Without another word, Sam limped off ahead of him, making sure to keep at least ten feet between them, which was fine by Sully. He had a horrible headache pounding behind his eyes, and his nose hurt like a son of a bitch. How the fuck am I gonna pay medical bills on top of all this? Jesus, this was a dumb idea—
Sully looked up. Nate popped out of the car, eyes bright and fixed on Sam. He bolted around the vehicle, hopping over the trunk and barrelling straight into his brother, who laughed and grabbed Nate’s shoulders to stabilise them both.
“H–hey! Nathan, whoa!” Nate had a fierce grip on his brother, momentarily forgetting his usual teenager indifference, and was practically whooping with joy.
“Jesus, you've gotten big,” Sam said, managing to pull a few inches away from his brother. He grabbed Nate’s face, looking him hard in the eye. “You okay, little brother? You doin’ alright? Did he hurt you? You remember what I told you about—”
“Yeah, yeah! I’m good!” Nate replied, still vibrating with excitement. He glanced over at Sully, standing a few feet behind them, and his starry-eyed smile slipped off his face. “Sully? What the hell happened?” Nate pulled away from Sam, eyes widening. “Did something happen at the prison? Shouldn't we drive away?”
“No,” Sully cut in, before Sam could launch another verbal assault. “Your brother didn't let me finish my goddamn sentence.” He probably looked like a mess, but part of him was happy about that—he wanted Nate to see what his brother had done.
“What?” Nate backed up a few steps, looking back at Sam. “What did you do, Sam?”
“Why the hell you hanging out with this creep, Nathan?” Sam pushed his brother roughly behind him, coming back to face Sully. “What the fuck does this old man want with you?”
Oh, Jesus. With the old man thing again. He didn't even have any grey hairs yet…. “As I was going to tell you before you punched me,” Sully began calmly. “The kid is my partner.”
“Oh, partner?” Sam shot back. “That what you call it nowadays?”
“No, Sam, listen—” Nate had a hand on his brother’s shoulder, trying to get him to turn around, but Sam pushed him back.
“Stay back, Nathan—”
“He's not—Sully’s a good guy! He hasn't done anything to me—”
Sam did turn around then. “Then what the fuck does he want from you, huh?”
“He's—we’re partners!” Nate said, sounding breathless. He looked frazzled, and fiddled with the ring again. “Like business partners, you know? He's teaching me how to smuggle and do lifts and—”
“I taught you that,” Sam shot back. “Not some crusty old dude—”
“There's a lot I still don't know! That we don't know! Sully's cool, really!” Nate looked over Sam’s shoulder, eyes turning panicked. “We need to get you to a clinic somewhere, Sully.”
Sully went to snort, then thought better of it. “Yeah? You got any cash, kid?”
“We can figure something out,” Nate said, false confidence in his voice. “You have a doctor friend somewhere in the country, right?”
“Yeah, but she’s a long drive east of here,” Sully replied, wiping at his nose again. “Just—get in the goddamn car.” It's not the first time he's set a broken bone in his own, and doubtful it’d be the last, either.
Sam’s face was still the image of distrust, and he kept himself between Sully and Nate as they walked. As for Nate, he seemed torn between being happy his brother was out of prison and angry and guilty that Sully had a broken nose. He'd feel bad for the kid if he didn't have a blinding headache and a ruined fifty dollar shirt.
Sully shoved into the driver’s seat, and Sam called shotgun, with Nate sliding obediently into the back. Making a power play already, huh?
“Are we going back to the hotel?” Nate asked, his head poking out between the front seats.
“After I clean up, yeah.” He had two bags packed in the trunk in the event they needed to make a quick getaway. Thankfully they could just drive the speed limit, so he'd use the extra clothes to clean up and change.
Sam turned in his seat and began speaking to his brother in fluid, rapid Spanish, and Nate went back to being a happy, excited kid again, responding with enthusiasm. Sully couldn't make out what they were talking about—which he knew was Sam’s intention—but Nate was holding up the ring he had looped around his neck, and there were a few name drops of “Drake”, so Sully had a rough guess of their topic of conversation.
So this is how it was going to work. Sam was already working at shutting Sully out, establishing power lines as only older siblings could. And Nate didn't put up a fight—not like he did when Sully tried to set up boundaries and guidelines.
His hands tightened on the wheel, and he felt a surprisingly strong burst of rage. No way in hell was Sam going to destroy the two years of trust and friendship he'd slowly, painfully built up with Nate. No way in hell.
But for now, he'd stay out of their conversation. For now, he'd let Nate be happy about seeing his brother, even if the kid was blind to the wall Sam was already trying to build between Sully and his brother.