AN: Been in an Uncharted mood lately, so I started picking at some old fics I had collecting cobwebs on my computer and decided to touch them up a bit. Whoo! Just a cutesy piece of fluff that I wrote shortly after Uncharted 2 came out and never bothered to upload.
The only sounds were the fireplace crackling and the occasional whoosh of the wind against the stone walls of the modest Tibetan household. After an entire day of escorting Elena around the village and allowing her to get some much-needed fresh air, Nate had to admit that he was actually pretty exhausted himself. Their most recent adventure had been a draining one, both emotionally and physically. He wanted nothing more than to get a full night's rest, without worrying about war criminals or artifacts or whether or not they'd live to see another day...
Nate pulled his shirt over his head, feeling goosebumps raising all over his body at the sudden chill that assaulted his bare skin. Despite the fireplace providing a decent amount of warmth, the brisk air of the mountains managed to penetrate the architecture of the tiny room. As he scrounged around for one of the unsoiled shirts that Sully had brought for him, he was suddenly aware of Elena's gaze fixated on his midsection. He felt a little self-conscious, realizing that it was the first time she had seem him shirtless since they had gone their separate ways.
Nate rolled his eyes. "I know, I know... I hit the doughnuts a little too hard after we split up. Believe me, I've heard it enough."
He patted the light layer of fat atop his abdomen, making a slapping noise as Elena laughed softly.
"Don't be ridiculous, you look fine. If you ask me, the little bit of extra weight suits you. You were too skinny before."
Despite her white blouse being half-buttoned, she came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist before giving his rear a playful squeeze.
"Plus, you finally grew an ass!"
Nate grinned, glancing at her over his shoulder.
"It's great, isn't it?"
"Sure is," she chuckled. "But actually, I was looking at this."
Elena moved so that she was facing him, once again focusing her gaze upon his stomach. Her fingertips gently traced the circular scar on his left side a few inches above his hip bone, and her eyes reflected sadness at the permanent reminder of just how close he had come to stepping through death's door. Nate gave an involuntary shudder at her touch. The healed wound was no longer painful, but the vivid memory of being shot by Flynn and nearly bleeding to death in the snow was enough to make him wince. He could still feel the bullet ripping through his flesh, the warm stickiness of blood seeping through his hands, the bone-chilling cold of the Tibetan mountains and his life literally draining from his body... he never, ever wanted to visit that dark place again.
"Doesn't it bother you?" she asked quietly.
He shrugged. "It's another scar for my collection. You kinda get used to it after a while."
"Well, at least that makes one of us."
Nate's brow furrowed as he watched Elena continue to unbutton her blouse to reveal a series of irregular looking and barely-healed wounds along her left side. They trailed from her chest all the way down to her navel, marking where pieces of shrapnel had been embedded into her flesh. It seemed that their encounters with Flynn had left scars for both of them to heal. He wished it was a reassurance that he would no longer be a nuisance to them, but it really wasn't. Flynn had once been a friend, and although he was more concerned for Elena's safety at the time, Nate felt a pang of remorse over his death and the fact that he couldn't be saved.
A frown was upon his features as more unpleasant memories began rushing back into his brain, still so fresh in his mind. Even worse than seeing his own life flash before his eyes was seeing Elena in so much pain and so very near to death herself. He had made light of it, of course. They both had. But the burden that he felt as he carried her back to the village and the tears that he shed were quite real. For several days, he had been faced with the terrifying possibility that Elena might not open her eyes again... that her injuries were too grievous, and that he'd have to carry on without her. The crippling fear that he had felt in those lonely hours were far worse than realizing his own death. It was nothing compared to the possibility of a life without Elena Fisher.
"I don't imagine that I'll be wearing a bathing suit any time soon," she quipped, snapping Nate out of his reverie.
She focused her gaze downwards, touching her own scars delicately. Elena had never been a vain person, she was far from it, but the marring of somebody's flesh could always be a bit unsettling. Nate didn't blame her for her sudden interest in her appearance.
"Elena..." he said quietly, and allowed his palms to rest upon her shoulders. "Scars fade, you know."
"Yeah," she sighed. "I know."
"The important thing is we're both still here. I mean... it could have been so much worse."
Sometimes being near her, to even breathe the same air, didn't feel like it was real. It seemed too good to be true that she was alive and well. He was sometimes afraid that he'd wake up or have cold water splashed into his face, and Elena would be gone as quickly as an apparition. But here she was, as bright and beautiful as ever, a ray of sunshine even in the darkest of places.
"Getting all mushy on me, Drake?" Elena smiled, leaning into Nate as she held him tight.
"Well, you know, when the occasion calls for it. Besides, don't women like it when a guy can be sensitive?"
"Sensitive, right. Well, you make a good point. What would I do without you?"
"You'd get a lot more sleep, that's for sure..." Nate's voice took on a suggestive tone as he pulled her close. Before she could resist, he had effortlessly scooped her petite frame into his muscled arms.
"Nate," she laughed, with an arm wrapped around his neck. "I'm tired. What do you think you're doing?"
"Hey, you're still fragile. We can't have you walking all the way over to the bed, now can we?"
Nate carried her over to the bed, settling her gently onto the mattress. Elena laid back with an amused, albeit weary, smile as he hovered over her. Nate proceeded to plant kisses from her abdomen all the way up to her neck and back down again. She squirmed and giggled in protest, pressing a palm to his chest. When he allowed his lips to met hers, they were remarkably soft in comparison to his chapped ones. He felt her relax against him and Nate's heart seemed to warm within his chest, the brisk air of the room quickly forgotten.
Their kiss was gentle, not one of urgency or eagerness, but of a simple realization that they had both nearly lost each other and yet, lived to see another day. Call it a miracle or karma or fate... but Nate had never been so grateful. As he had said to Sully earlier, a little faith could go a long way.
"See?" Nate said, when at last he pulled his lips away. "Still the same old Elena to me."
"And you're still a hornball," she laughed again, punching him lightly in the shoulder. "But we should really get some rest."
"Can't really argue with that. I'd say we deserve it."
Nate settled himself against the headboard and Elena followed suit. She nuzzled close to him, resting her head upon his shoulder as be wrapped an arm around her. He loved the way she seemed to fit perfectly there. God, he had missed that...
As Nate stared at the ceiling, he could feel as Elena's hand trailed up and down his chest absentmindedly before her fingers settled on toying with the ring around his neck. He would no longer have that ring if it weren't for her. More memories that seemed nearly a lifetime ago...
For a time, there was nothing but the sound of the fireplace crackling and their even breathing. Nate hadn't even realized that he was dozing off when Elena's voice pulled him back into a wakeful state.
"Hey, Nate?" The words were soft, almost reverent.
"I love you, you know."
Regarding her with a genuine smile, Nate rolled onto his side so that his arms could encircle her. He pressed his lips to her forehead, marking where another wound was slowly but surely beginning to heal.
"I love you, too. Scars and all."
They shared another brief kiss before they began drifting off to sleep, lulled by the sound of their own heartbeats as they held each other close. There was no knowing what life would throw at them or what obstacles they might face in the future... but they would cross that bridge when they got to it, just like they had countless times before. Scars had a way of making people stronger, after all, and with Elena safely in his arms, Nate had no doubt that things were going to be just fine.