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Let's Start Living Dangerously

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The kid was still up when he got back, because of course he is; six months in and he still wasn't willing to take the chance that Sully was gonna go out on a job and forget to come back. They're getting there. When Sully cracks the door open, Nate was sitting at the table, leaning over one of his notebooks, looking like – like any other kid doing homework.

"Did the key work?" Nate asked without looking up. From the scattering of pens by the window, he'd probably been watching for the car and had to hurry to the table to make it look this nonchalant. Nate had turned out to be a little too paranoid to take it on faith that it was always Sully coming in. "I'm guessing they didn't notice it was gone or you wouldn't be back yet."

"They noticed," Sully said, locking the door before he limped over to the table. Nate looked up as he dropped into the chair, and just said "Holy crap."

"It looks worse than it is," Sully said, pulling out a fresh cigar and a lighter. One of his eyes was swollen shut, and there was a gash on his forearm where the guy he'd robbed had got lucky with a flick knife. "Seriously kid, it's nothing."

"If that's nothing, I'd hate to see something." Nate pushed his notebook as far from Sully as he could – trying to hide something? Or just keeping it away from any blood drips? Sully didn't care – and stomped off. Sully let him go, figuring they'd get to the "this is why I should be your back-up" argument later, and dropped his bag on the floor by his chair. He'd been taking pretty safe jobs since he met the kid, should have realised Nate might freak out at the blood.

Except that the kid came back, a box tucked under his arm and a beer in each hand. He held the open one up near Sully's face. "To put on your eye," he said, glowering. Sully hesitated, then took it. He was probably going to regret it later, but for now he rolled the bottle beside his eye and let the cold seep in and soothe. The kid planted the other one, still closed, on the table in front of Sully. Didn't even try to steal a sip.

And then, still glaring at Sully, Nate kicked his own chair out to face him and slammed a first aid kit down on the table. He grabbed Sully's arm by the wrist – the look Nate gave him when Sully raised his eyebrows was kinda cute, kid was never gonna have the face to look tough – and then proceeded to... Do a pretty good job of patching him up, actually. Cleaned the blood off without flinching, then bandaged it up like he'd done it a hundred times before, while Sully didn't have do anything more than hold his beer against his face and occasionally sip it.

Sully almost asked. He could taste the question on his tongue, under the beer, like acid and gun smoke. Nate glanced up at him though, mouth quirked like he knew, and said "I keep telling you, I can take care of myself."

"I know, kid, I know," Sully said, and that must have sounded too sincere because Nate glanced up at him narrow-eyed. "You trying to look after me as well now?"

"Someone has to. It's not exactly like anyone's gonna call me to let you know if anything happened to you."

Sully had a horrible feeling that he might have misjudged why Nate waited up for him. But Nate kept his head down, concentrating on snipping the bandage off the roll. "I've got contingency plans, kid. No matter how far south things go, I'll make sure you're looked after."

Nate looked at him, suspicious, but whatever he saw in Sully's face made his lip tremble. Nate swiped a hand over his face, then fished in the box, covering so blatantly that Sully didn't have the heart to call him on it. He surfaced with a plaster in hand that he stuck right in the middle of Sully's forehead. Sully wasn't even sure he had a cut there, but it was clear that feelings talk was over. "You finish the job, at least?"

Sully leaned forward and heaved his bag on the table one-handed. He flicked the bag open, and the gemstone eyes of one of the ugliest gold statues Sully had ever seen glared back at them. Nate stared from him to the statue and back again, laughter bright in his face, then he picked up the extra beer bottle and clinked it against Sully's.

(It wasn't until later when he went to wash up that Sully noticed the plaster had some pink and white cartoon cat all over it. ... And that there wasn't anything underneath.)