Nathan ford wearily climbed the darkened stairwell to his apartment envisioning his soft bed with a certain amount of pleasure. He had cut his "vacation" week in Ireland short and arrived in Boston at 3am feeling bitter and emotionally raw from the confrontation with his father. Sophie had encouraged him to reconcile with the man and had even purchased him the ticket; her disarming smile and unreasonably logical arguments eventually won over and Nate had taken the long flight to the UK. He spent a grand total of seventy-seven hours in the country and had then boarded a plane home in a fit of rage. Now here he was, home, badly wanting a drink…or even better, to hear Sophie Devereaux's voice coaxing him out of his mood. Nate dropped his suitcases abruptly onto the dusty hardwood floors and started searching for his keys.
That's when he heard it. Her voice. It wasn't unusual for Sophie to be in his apartment, or any other member of the team for that matter but he glanced at his watch to make sure he had the right time. In the dim lighting he read forty-seven minutes past three. What in God's name was Sophie doing up at this hour and who was she talking to?
Nate finally located his key and silently inserted it into the brass lock. The investigator in him took over and he slipped silently into the room. Sophie's voice was clearly coming from the kitchen table. She couldn't see him enter from where she was seated. Nate came around the corner and frowned at the sight before him.
Scattered papers covered the table dotted here and there with empty coffee mugs and corresponding stained papers…they looked like mostly legal documents from where Nate was standing. Sophie was frantically typing on the laptop in front of her, glancing occasionally to the second laptop computer on her right. She was arguing with herself, low-pitched muttering mixed with the occasional outburst of "fool" or "bloody bastards."
Nate's apartment was looking worse for the wear but it was Sophie's appearance that troubled him the most. Her hair was pulled back loosely in a pony-tail and her face was devoid of any make-up; dark circles clearly surrounding her blood-shot eyes. The loose-fitting, grey t-shirt she was wearing looked like she had been wearing it for several days along with the rumpled jeans.
"Sophie." He said her name as quietly as he could but she jumped up as if she had just been struck by lightning.
"What are you doing here?" she looked frightened, not just startled, but truly frightened to see him.
"I live here, remember?" he walked into the kitchen, trying to keep his face passive. He poured himself a cup of coffee from the freshly brewed pot Sophie had apparently started (he knew at this point he wasn't getting to sleep any time soon).
"Get out." Her voice was laced with panic and Nate frowned with his back to her. What had she gotten herself into?
"Sophie," his patience was worn thin after the hellish three days with his father, an exhausting flight home, and now no hope of sleep in the near future. "What the hell is going on?" His tone was probably harsher than it needed to be.
"Nate, please!" her eyes were wide with fright and Nate found himself wondering when she had slept last. "I can't explain this to you. You just have to get out right now!" She glanced at the clock and then walked towards him, removing the coffee cup from his hand. "Wait downstairs. Anything. Go. Get Out!"
The urgency with which she pressed herself against his body startled Nate and he found himself backing up towards the door.
"Sophie, this is ridiculous. Can't we just—" The quiet buzzing of Sophie's cell phone cut him off as she lurched towards the device.
"Get out!" she screamed frantically before turning her attention completely to the phone. She typed furiously on the laptop and then took a deep, shaky breath as she answered the phone with a curt hello. Sophie was so deeply entrenched in what was being said that she was oblivious to the fact that Nate had never left the room and was still watching her intently.
"Put it on speaker." He ordered, standing by her side once again. A look of dread came over Sophie's face and Nate was unsure if it was due to his persistent presence or the conversation she was having.
"No please," she mumbled into the phone. "It's only a…a…a roommate. He came home early. There's no reason to…" she grew as still as a statue and closed her eyes, Nate could hear the grating sound of an electronic voice on the phone. "Listen to me!" she cried desperately. "It doesn't matter. Nothing has to change. We can go on just as planned…" her breathing was erratic and shallow and Nate could feel anger bubbling up inside of him towards whoever was toying with his friend's emotions like this.
"Give it to me." Sophie flashed him the angriest glare he had ever seen and continued with her entreaties to the unknown party.
Before Nate was even sure of what he was doing he had snatched the phone away from Sophie and was shouting into it. "My name is Nathan Ford. I am not her roommate. I am her coworker. I track down low-life bastards like you who threaten others and push them into corners. I help them out of those corners by eliminating people like you. Do not underestimate me." At this point Sophie's shock wore off and she lunged for the phone. Nate tried to hold her off with one arm as she scratched and clawed in a vain attempt to reclaim the device.
"If you want to continue the conversation you were having with her you may call me, and only me. She is out of the picture, understand?" With that final statement Nate hung up the phone and dropped it onto the table. Sophie immediately stopped her advance and stood frozen in place with an expression that Nate couldn't quite interpret.
Sophie's blood-shot eyes slowly began to glaze over with unshed tears. Her breathing was still erratic but had now dropped to a slower rate. Nate was unsure if he should speak. He began with a hesitant "Sophie" and when that didn't elicit a response he continued. "Sophie, you need to tell me what's going on. I can help you. You know I can. Are…" he sighed deeply. "Is someone after you? Threatening you?"
Sophie took a sudden, ragged breath as she seemed to come out of her stupor. "What have you done?" The horror read clearly in her voice and it caused Nate to shift uncomfortably and begin to stutter.
"What have you done?" she repeated her former statement as her breathing rate increased once again and color rushed back into her cheeks. Nate saw her sway and reached out an arm to steady her. It seemed that his touch was all it took to set her off.
"Do you have any idea what you have just done?" she screamed at him at the top her lungs, clearly no longer in control of herself. "Bastard!" She took a swing at him and made full contact with the left side of Nate's jaw. He staggered back in both shock and pain. Her warm brown eyes seemed to turn a cold black and she rushed at him, both arms swinging wildly as she showered him with curses, punches, and slaps. "Do you have any idea? Do you? You fucking bastard!" Her screams were becoming louder and her swings more and more out of control.
Nate tried desperately to shield himself from the onslaught of blows but he quickly became more concerned for Sophie than for his rib cage. "Sophie." He kept his voice low, repeating her name over and over again as he attempted to grab hold of her arms. As she continued to scream and kick at him Nate wrapped his arms securely around her…not to comfort her but in an attempt to subdue her. He could sense her growing weakness as she continued to struggle. Nate wrestled her to her knees all the while whispering into her ear.
When she hit the floor she let out a garbled, heart wrenching cry that broke Nate's heart. She stopped struggling against him and went limp, falling the rest of the way onto the hardwood floors. She didn't try to speak or to hide her grief. Nate could do nothing but sit and listen to her sob until she finally fell asleep.