Another one that got away from me and wound up longer than I had intended. I just felt sorry for poor Nate always getting crapped on and being left broke and sad and horny, so here's a moment of sweetness for him. Naughty Dog/SCEA own all the characters herein except the few I made up.


Sully's was enjoying a busy night, the bar and most of the tables inside and out packed with drinkers, smokers, and men as disreputable as him, but he was here for business, not company. That came after.

Irish Ivan stood to leave, thumping his empty beer bottle down among the other fallen soldiers on the dark wood of the bar, smiling through his beard. Irish Ivan wasn't really Irish, but the hair on his head and face was a tangle of wiry red lightly salted here and there, and Nathan Drake did not know him by any other name. "Eight weeks, then," he said, extending a hand for him to shake. "I will look for you at my summer home, my wife enjoys the mountain air in Colorado this time of year. You know the way, my friend?" To Nathan's right and Ivan's left, his two bodyguards stood as well, forming up around their boss.

Nathan smiled as he met the offered hand. "I remember how to get there." Ivan's cabin overlooked a windswept mountain valley bristling with towering evergreens, with its own lake and garden and berry orchard, and a wine cellar beneath the house stocked with enough alcohol to happily drown in. His wife bred sheepdogs on the property, and did her best to foist a wriggling ball of black-and-white fur on him whenever Nathan showed up despite his protests, but she was always willing to fill him full of good homemade food before he went on his way again. He looked forward to clean piney air and a bellyful of pepper trout and sweet berry pie in eight weeks time.

As for the husband, he paid cash, half up front and the rest upon delivery. Most people Nathan dealt with refused to give him so much as a penny until they received their goods, but Ivan insisted on covering expenses, and he trusted him for some reason. "I only wish I could afford to pay you all at once," he had apologized sadly a year or two back, "but should you meet with some… unfortunate mishap before I receive what I paid for, well, you see my concern…" Nathan could not fault him for that, though, not with a fat roll of Ivan's money tucked safely inside one pocket and another one coming.

Ivan was a collector, his vacation homes decorated with memorabilia from wars and power stuggles beyond count. The house in Colorado bristled with American Civil War artifacts while the place in Georgia where he and his wife wintered bore a collection of armor, maps, and weapons owned by Ghenghis Khan himself. Nathan had brought him the latter and knew of a third home where guns from Vietnam and both World Wars filled display cabinets on every wall. This time it was Berghof, Adolf Hitler's home in the Austrian Alps during much of World War II, looted by Allied troops in 1945 and completely destroyed seven years later. Ivan wanted anything from the place that could be found, bought or stolen, provided it had once been property of the man and monster. Chief among his desires was a detailed globe mapped for Nazi dictators, and the odds of being shot at by them or anybody else over the dead Führer's belongings were slim. Recovering anything, the globe especially, would be a challenge nonetheless if he was up to it.

He was. Ivan clasped Nathan's hand in both of his and gave a lusty shake. A coarse red pelt covered his arms from his knuckles back, almost as thick as his beard. "I will tell Irene you are coming, it will make her smile to see you again. My sweet lady, you know I live for her smiles. Careful, the dogs will whelp a new litter soon," he warned by way of farewell. His hired muscle flanked him as he followed the length of the bar towards the exit, and Nathan drained his beer happily, grinning to himself. It was his fourth, or fourteenth; he had lost count. That was a side effect of a meeting with Irish Ivan, a big man with big appetites, who bought a round for his guests for every one he drank himself.

Sully had apparently neglected to notice him swaying on his stool, but had not failed to take note of his empty bottle. From the head of the bar he uncapped a fresh pair and waved one at him, foam dribbling out onto the floor. He asked something that Nathan did not answer, or hear, or care to; he wasn't even listening. Because she had just walked in.

It was dim inside the bar, the low light playing softly across her features, washing a pretty face half in shadow. She stepped aside once beyond the door, blinking at the difference in light from the setting sun outside, and he realized that Ivan's escort had seen her too.

Both were thick with muscle, as befit men paid to protect someone worth as much as Ivan; one bald and one with short bristly black hair, like a boar. The bald one had seen her first, and he nudged his friend, who stopped to stare with an ugly smile. "Damn, I could wear that one out for hours," said the bristly one, and the bald one licked his lips and drawled, "She looks noisy, though, you'd have to stuff a rag in her teeth to shut her up, yank her hair back and-"

Nathan lurched between the two of them and slapped his arms around their shoulders, his empty beer in one hand. They were startled by his touch at first, but hooted their amusement when he confided, "She does like her hair pulled when she's in the mood for that kinda thing, but no matter how it starts she likes to finish on top."

His smile was stiff, and the men exchanged a look, a laugh. "What, you know her?" asked one, skeptical.

She moved around several tables to approach the bar, squinting slightly through the perpetual cloud of smoke in the air. He was not close enough to see, but he knew her eyes were a blue so deep they rivalled the Pacific, as bold and beautiful as the rest of her. When she saw him there leaning on the two idiots, she smiled, and he felt the sun rising in his heart. "You could say that."

Baldy wanted to know who she was. "Who cares; just pour a strong drink in the bitch and she's yours til you get bored, am I right?" suggested the other helpfully.

"My wife," Nathan answered, enjoying the twisted satisfaction he felt at the expressions on their stupid faces before whipping his bottle around to smash the bald one in the nose. He sank like a stone to the dirty floor amid a shower of shattered glass and bloody broken teeth, vacating a few tables near the door and half of the stools at the bar. As his friend collapsed, the remaining man stumbled sideways and made a grab for the pistol badly hidden beneath his track jacket, but he went down easily with a left cross.

Elena was at his side instantly, stepping over Baldy and Boar with no more concern than she had while stepping over the rest of the fallen furniture in her way. "Nate, you're bleeding," she said even though none of it was his, turning his left hand over to check for broken knuckles. The ring on one finger was twin to the one she wore, bloody where the metal had connected with skin. Her mouth sought his when he pulled her close, warm and woman and all his. He knew she could tell he was drunk, but she never cared about that because she was the coolest girl in the whole wide world.

"We have not been introduced," growled someone to his right, and then he remembered Ivan. He was standing over his men as they writhed around on the floor with their broken nose and bloody ear.

Nathan did not know how else to respond, so he said, "Elena, Irish Ivan. We do business sometimes, but I'm pretty sure he's not from Ireland. Ivan, Elena Drake. My… sweet lady."

A moment passed, and Nathan prepared himself for the argument they would have over dinner about how much money he had lost with his overprotective show of drunken heroics. They would make it to dinner for a certainty. He had known Ivan a long time, surely he wouldn't kill him over two stupid thugs, one of whom couldn't even manage to properly conceal a sidearm.

Then Ivan bowed low to take Elena's hand in both of his, and kissed her wedding band approvingly. Nathan saw her fidget as his beard tickled across her fingers. "A pleasure, my dear. I am sorry for the rudeness of my men; you have my word that they shall be sorry as well. Please, I hope you were not so offended that you will not accompany your husband to my home? Irene will be beside herself when I tell her that our Mr. Drake has found a Mrs. Drake; no doubt she will want to stuff you with pastries and tell you the sweet story of how we fell in love. Have no fear, these fools shall not be in attendance," he told her as he sent a kick at the nearest fool, and to Nathan, "Eight weeks, old friend."

Another few caresses from his boot had Ivan's men finally making their exit, and Nathan did not envy the lesson in manners they were about to receive as their boss herded them out the door. It was easier to get there now that it wasn't so crowded as before, and Sully had three drinks waiting when they joined him at the end of the bar. Nathan sucked down a third of his beer as soon as he had it to hand, and Elena flashed him a Cheshire grin and matched his pace, breathless when she set her bottle down next to his. She was so awesome. "Why are we going to Ivan's house?" she asked between coughs. "And I hope these pastries are in the near future, 'cause I'm hungry."

He could not help but kiss her again, enjoying the taste of her, enjoying the moment, enjoying the thought of adventure to come and the reward after. His mind was swimming with visions of brandy by the fireplace and a tangle of black-and-white sheepdogs squirming at their feet. "I'll tell you on the way to the restaurant," he promised her. "You ever been to Austria?"