She came to slowly through a haze of pain. "Sophie, please, wake up. Come on, Sophie." He was begging, and the way she was laying was stretching her back painfully. "Talk to me." He whimpered. She could feel soft hands brushing her hair back from her eyes.
She obliged. "You…. Shot me." She gasped.
"I know, I know." Nate murmured, relief visible on his features. "I'm going to pick you up, okay? You need to get to a hospital.
"No! No hospitals." Sophie demanded. "Do you know how to deal with bullet wounds?"
"Do it, Nate." He sighed and picked her up, cringing as she winced and murmuring an apology. He set her down carefully, letting her lay on her stomach and gingerly taking off her coat and shirt to reveal the wound. "There are things in the bathroom cabinet." He murmured tiredly, half asleep.
"Stay awake, Sophie. Tell me about how you got the Degas out of the museum." Nate suggested, searching frantically through the bathroom.
"It was a… rip deal." Sophie told him, wincing slightly. "I went in, pretending to be an art expert." She shrugged, then hissed in pain.
"Hey, be careful." Nate warned, sitting himself on the edge of the bed. He had a warm washcloth in his hand, carefully cleaning away the blood with a gentle touch. She relaxed under his capable hands. "So how did you pull it off?"
"It really wasn't that difficult." She murmured. "All it took was telling the art director that it clashed with the Picasso and that I could find it a better place. He had it moved and I snuck it out of the restoration room.
"Sneaky." Nate approved. "I have to dig the bullet out, Soph. This is probably going to hurt, but I need you to try to stay still, okay?"
She rolled her eyes. "This isn't the first time I've been shot, Nate. Just do it." Nate took a hold of what looked like an enormous pair of tweezers and carefully dug for the bullet.
"It doesn't look like anything got damaged." Nate murmured. "The bullet isn't very deep.'
"Of course nothing got damaged. You know your anatomy and you're a good shot." Sophie said through gritted teeth as Nate pulled the bullet out.
He wiped away the extra blood and dug through the little kit for something to clean the wound with. "You put a lot of faith into the belief that I won't hurt you. Are you sure it's not misplaced?"
"Nate, you shot me, panicked, and now you're taking care of me." Sophie replied calmly. "I'm fairly confident that it's not misplaced. "
"Fair point." Nate ceded, cleaning the wound. "I heard about what you did for that hospital. Gabriel sends his thanks for his sister's life."
Sophie smiled. "Gabe's a sweet kid. He reminded me of you."
"Why's that?" Nate asked, threading a needle.
"It's the eyes." Sophie admitted. "He has big blue eyes that are almost as easy to read as yours."
"My eyes are easier to read than a twelve-year-old's?" Nate asked. "I'm stitching it up now."
"You really have no idea how expressive your eyes are." Sophie chuckled, then winced.
"Stay still." Nate ordered. "What do you mean expressive?"
"I mean that your moods are easy to read. You're a horrible liar, you know."
"I never saw a reason to learn to be a good liar. I never had to be." Nate replied, carefully pulling the thread taut. "Not around you, at least."
"Ow. That was your first mistake. Don't you know, Nate? You can't lie to a liar."
"Then why should I bother trying to?"
"Why do you bother trying to?" Sophie shot back.
"Old habits, I guess." Nate shrugged. He tied off the thread and cut it close to the knot, then taped gauze over the wound. "You're all done."
"Grab me a shirt?" Sophie asked, her head laying on her crossed arms.
"Sure. Where are they?"
"Closet, on the right side." Sophie murmured, pushing herself to slowly sit up. Nate dug through the closet and emerged with a button-up shirt, helping her put it on. "You're annoyingly helpful."
"Yes. I'm trying to be mad that you shot me."
"Are you?" He sounded amused.
"Yes. You know that this is going to scar."
"So? It's just a scar."
"Just a scar?!" Sophie's voice was approaching octaves that only dogs would be able to hear. "It's going to be huge and ugly and impossible to miss! It's going to take an entire bottle of foundation to cover it up!"
"It's on your lower back. Do you intend to show that off to all your marks?" Nate snapped. Sophie flushed.
"Well it's certainly none of your business if I do." She retorted, her voice barbed.
"What? Are you serious, Sophie?!"
"I don't see why it should matter to you."
"Because, Sophie, you're supposed to con people to get what you want, not seduce them!" Nate exclaimed.
"Nathan, I've been a grifter for a very long time. I know what I'm doing, thanks. I don't need your input!" She rolled onto her side, facing away from him and ignoring him pointedly. He sighed and grabbed the box of first aid supplies before striding into the bathroom. His shirt was stained with blood, his jacket and tie ruined. He took them off and wrapped a bandage awkwardly around his shoulder, just a thin layer, since he was sure he would have to replace the bandage Sophie wore, and he didn't want to waste them. He felt the bullet still in his shoulder, and he knew he would have to dig it out, but that could easily wait for a while.
Sophie was either asleep or convincingly faking it when he got out and he settled himself uncomfortably on her couch, leaving her with the bed. His shoulder throbbed painfully, driving him to want to sleep, but he resisted, wanting to be awake in case Sophie needed him. Still, blood loss and fatigue got to him and he sank into unconsciousness. His dreams were dark and confused. They were full of color; bright reds and blacks and oranges and yellows. Fire colors that made him too hot and uncomfortable. He woke up in an uncomfortably cold sweat, his shoulder burning painfully.
He got up slowly, just for something to do, and went to check on Sophie, who was tossing in her bed. "Sophie. Sophie!"
"Nate!" She woke up quickly, sitting up. The sudden movement made her cry out, but she didn't stop moving until she was in his arms, her face buried in his shoulder. "Oh, Nate."
"Sophie, what is it? What's wrong?" She shook her head and just held him, shivering. He held her tighter, his face in her hair. "It's okay, Sophie. It was just a dream." He promised. "You're okay."
She laughed tearfully. "I've been shot, Nate."
"Well, you're going to be okay." He promised. "Whatever it was, I'm here."
"God, Nate. I hate falling asleep. She still shook, he still held her. "I always have such bad dreams."
"Do you want to talk about it?" Nate asked gently. "It might help."
"It's never the same dream. I've made so many bad choices. So many mistakes." She whispered.
"What do you mean?"
"I'm a grifter, Nate. I've gotten myself into so many bad situations. I've gotten my comeuppance for it."
"What are you talking about, Sophie?"
"I mean that I've missed out on more than a few good things I could have in my life."
"Like you, for example. You and Sam. That little boy brings you such happiness. I'm jealous of you. I'll never be a mother."
Nate balked. To him, it was the worst fate imaginable. "Why not?"
"Too much scarring." She admitted. "I've always had that problem."
"Scarring? How did you-"
"How do you think, Nate?" Sophie snapped. "My life isn't as simple as yours. I might not make an honest living, but that doesn't mean that I don't work as hard as you do, and it doesn't mean that I don't have as many, if not more problems. You have a lot of enemies. I have even more, and my enemies are dangerous people."
"I mean that sometimes I do what I have to and take what I'm given. I mean that I've been beaten before, and pretty damn badly."
"You had no idea. I'm not surprised." She stated dryly. "People don't often think about what happens to people like me. Criminals, as it were."
"What happens to you?" Nate asked, already sure he knew, but morbidly curious anyway. Sophie looked away and tugged her skirt up, revealing smooth skin. She pulled it up higher and Nate could see dark, fingerprint bruises on her skin. He touched the spot gently and she hissed in pain. He gritted his teeth. "Who did this, Sophie?"
She glanced away, flushing. "Ah… Jean."
"Jean Girard?" Nate clarified. "The art director?" She nodded. "Sophie, did you try to stop him?"
"No." She replied. At his appalled silence, she looked up defensively. "I was running a con. He was easier to handle if I just shut up and dealt with him."
"So he did this?" He looked at her, his eyes dark and cold with fury that both terrified and excited her. To be on the receiving end of that hateful look would be a horrible thing, but she knew that his anger was for her. "I'm going to bring him down, Sophie."
"Nate, no! You'll ruin me if anyone finds out what happened with me and Jean."
"I never said I was bringing him down for that." He replied. He went to dig through her closet and came out in a shirt that some man left there once upon a time at some point. "I'm taking the Degas with me."
She started to protest, but the look in his eyes told her that she really didn't have a choice. "Will you be gone long?"
He smirked cruelly. "Only as long as it takes to catch a criminal." He strode out.
Nate was gone all night and well into the morning, but when he came back, he looked satisfied. She was watching the news, where art director Jean Girard was being arrested for theft. He stood behind the couch, watching with a pleased expression on his face.
"You know that he was innocent." She murmured. "I took the painting."
"He was only innocent in that aspect. Not in other ways. He deserves jail, even if he never stole the painting." Nate replied derisively. "How are you feeling?"
"A little tired, but other than that, I'm alright." She turned her head to look at him. "What about you?"
He settled onto the couch beside her. "I'm fine." He lied. She raised her eyebrows.
"Did you even dig the bullet out, Nate?"
"Not yet, but it's not-"
"Nate!" She pushed him down. "Don't move." She commanded. She went into the bathroom and got her little emergency kit, then returned to the couch, where Nate was staring at the ceiling, looking annoyed.
"It's really not a big deal, Sophie. It doesn't even hurt." He said. She pinched his shoulder lightly and he gasped sharply.
"That's what I thought. Off. Take the shirt off."
He sighed and unbuttoned the shirt, pulling it off. The thin bandage wrapped around his shoulder was worn, and she could see blood ready to bleed through. She removed the bandage and set to work cleaning the wound, all the while lecturing him on why he should take better care of himself, because stunts like this could get him killed and didn't he know that he could get lead poisoning?
He stayed patiently still through her treatment, nodding or murmuring agreements or apologies in all the right places, and she wasn't entirely sure that he was even listening. She decided that it didn't matter as she finished stitching the wound and re-bandaged it. They stayed together in her safe house for a few more days, until responsibility finally called him and he had to leave. His departure wasn't bad tempered or irritable this time, and she found that when she wasn't constantly flirting and he wasn't in a bad mood, she really, truly enjoyed Nate's company. She hugged him tightly around the middle. "I'll have to steal something again soon." She teased.
"So I can arrest you?" He shook his head. "Give up theft."
"Be realistic, Nate."
He chuckled. "Take care of yourself until I come to arrest you. No more Jeans."
"You have my word."
He snorted. "Because that's reliable." She swatted his chest, feigning offense.
"Get out of here, Nathan."
"Bye Sophie." She found herself watching him until he was gone. What she told him in Damascus was true. There was something special about Nathan Ford. Something different. Something that she found she really liked.