10

Nate cupped his fingers around a large warm mug and stared down past the thin wisps of steam rising up from his murky black coffee. Though they've had some time to unwind, the last few days seemed to be nothing more than a blur. After making their exhaustive trip back to Chile; he, Elena and Sully hopped aboard the nearest plane and made a quick stop at his and Elena's apartment in Key West before heading out here to Charlie's and Chole's in the heart of Edinburgh. As it turned out their house was a little over an hours drive from Williams estate and made a great place for a base of operations for what he hoped would be a smooth exchange.

Thanks in large part to his globe-spanning adventures, he had witnessed many things that made him question his assumptions of what was really out there. Whether it was the horrifically infected Spanish explorers of the El Dorado vault or the monstrous guardians of Shambhala, he thought he had seen it all. His foray into the Cooper vault though, forced him to add yet another impossible thing into his increasingly flexible definition of what was real. Just thinking about the very concept of stealing from a family of talking raccoon's sounded too absurd to be true, but he couldn't deny what they had all just been through. His eyes drifted to the other side of the room to the two objects they had taken from the thief and knew that despite the itching feeling of guilt in the back of his mind he had made the right call. And yet, the ridiculousness of going toe to toe with a giant raccoon monster wasn't the only thing that had kept him up all night.

Nate's brow furrowed at the thought of what the meeting with his father would be if he was able to trade the Cooper cane and the artifact back to William's without the deal going south, he wouldn't know where to even began when he and his father came face to face. Sure, he could do the normal thing and tell him his crazy life's story, about his travels across the planet and how he'd encountered sights that you'd have to see to believe. How his journeys lead him to meet a life long friend and his wife. There was also the matter of telling him what had happened to Sam.

Nate sighed and leaned forward running a rough hand over his face. His bloodshot eyes started to tear up as the image of his brother falling into darkness flashed before his mind's eye. Like most things about his past, it was a bleak memory he regretted thinking about. Nate shifted his position in the kitchen chair he sat in and winced, though he wasn't sure whether the pain was coming from his new set of wounds or the thought of digging up yet another part of his past he had hoped to forget. No matter how much he wished for his reunion with his father to be a joyous one, deep down he knew it would be bittersweet at best. As much as he wanted to see him again, the deepest parts of him still swelled with a rage that wanted to beat the living shit out of the old man for abandoning him and his brother like he did. A pair of arms gently embracing him from behind broke him from his thoughts.

"Hi there," Elena said hugging him.

"Hey." He smiled, her company lifting his mood somewhat.

"How are you feeling?" Elena took a seat next to him, setting down her own tea filled mug.

"Like a million bucks," Nate said dryly.

"Yeah me too," Elena said. "I'm still trying to make sense of what's happened over the past few days."

"Tell me about it," Nate smirked. "You've been zoning out a lot."

"We all have." She said taking a sip of her steaming hot drink.

"How's Sully holding up?" Nate asked. "I haven't seen him all day."

"Okay, I guess. It seems the news of George's death hit him pretty hard, he's been up on the balcony most of the morning smoking. You never told me how close they were."

"Up until a few days ago, I didn't even know he was a friend of Sully's. I met him when you did."

"Guess you and Sully are still full of surprises huh?" See said before looking into his eyes. "You haven't been sleeping well have you?"

"What are you talking about?" He scoffed. "I'm fine."

"We share the same bed, Nate. When you don't sleep, I don't sleep."

"Sorry..." He rubbed the back of his neck. "I guess flying half around the world in a few days still can kick my ass."

"I know it's more than just that." She cupped a hand over his. "I can't imagine what's going through your head right now but if you're struggling with something, please tell me, I'm here for you."

Nate nodded. "I know that it's just... what am I even going to say to him? It's not like I can say 'How about them Marlins' or anything remotely close to normal."And to think she doesn't even know half my story, He thought. He knew he would tell her about his brother eventually, but today wasn't that day. Having to dig up memories of his father he had put to rest ages ago was painful enough and he didn't know if he could handle bringing up the brother she never knew he had. He wasn't ready to tell her, not just yet.

Elena cracked a smile. "Honey, I think using the word 'normal' to describe our lives stopped being relevant several years ago. Hell, after seeing you go face to face with Cooper, I think the only words that would work now would be either 'crazy' or 'insane'."

"Can't argue with that." Nate chuckled. "If it wasn't for these," He overturned his arms to examine the large gray-blue bruises that were evidence of the brawl he had with him. "I would believe these past few days have all been a part of some elaborate surreal dream."

"At least they look a bit better than yesterday," Elena observed, looking them over.

"It's still going to be a while before they heal up. That cheeky freak was a lot stronger than he looked." Nate grimly thought back on the fight with the thief. If Myers righteous, trigger happy attitude hadn't interrupted their brawl, Nate doubted they would have gotten away with the artifacts like they had.

"You come in and crash the place and you don't even bother to spend time with your gracious hosts?" Charlie's voice caused the both of them to turn towards the dining room's entrance in time to catch their friend walk in with his spouse following closely behind. "Can you believe the manners of these people?" He tried his best to sound genuinely insulted.

"Give them a break," Chole chimed. "They can't help it, they're American."

Nate couldn't help but crack a smile. Charlie had an uncanny talent at being a charming ass. "Well, at least I had enough manners not to headbutt anyone."

"Really?" Charlie a raised an eyebrow. His stone-cut features regarded Nate with a dull expression.

"I'm just telling it like it was." Nate smugly took a sip of his coffee.

"You bring that up every time we meet." Charles' eyes narrowed. "Get it over it mate."

"Yeah, well it was hard enough to hurt my pride."

"So, how are you darlings doing?" Charlie said giving Nate a hardy slap on the back, causing him to flinch in pain.

"Still licking our wounds," Elena said noting Nate's cringed expression.

"We've noticed," Chole said brushing a long strand of pitch black hair away from her eyes. "Sully's still taking in the view upstairs." She caught a quick glimpse of Nate's arms. "Ouch looks like that Cooper fellow really did a number on you."

"It hurts, but I'll live."

"That can't be the only thing that's causing you to be so chipper today. What else is on your plate?" Charlie said pulling out a seat for his wife who had fetched their own cups of coffee.

"Oh I don't know," Nate said, his voice full of more sarcasm than he intended. "maybe it has something to do with seeing my dad for the first time in thirty years."

"Yes, and you'd figure you would be just a little more enthusiastic about such an occasion." Charlie scratched an itch on his balding head. What gives?"

"Let's just say we didn't exactly part on the best of circumstances. It's...complicated."

"Is there anything about you that isn't?" Chole asked.

"Probably not." Elena offered as Nate shrugged.

"So, how did Charlie find life down under?" Nate said hoping to liven the mood and shift the conversation away from himself.

"Besides complaining that everything on the content was out to get him? He seemed to enjoy himself."

"What? It's true!" Charlie defended himself. "Every critter in the country is a walking killing machine! Even the bloody koalas will claw your eyes out given the chance."

"That's nothing." Nate waved him off. "You didn't see the spider things that chased me and Sully back in France. I don't care how much of a man you say you are, those things give you nightmares."

"Spiders are nice but how about Snakes that can swallow a man whole?"

"I really think you making it out to be a bigger deal than it really is. I didn't move to England until I was in my mid-twenties and turned out just fine."

"That's easy. You're one of the lucky ones my dear."

"Uh-huh..." Chole amusedly glanced at her spouse, her dark complexion contrasting her near perfect smile. "So was all that talk you told my parents about how lovely Sydney was just lip service?"

"How else was I supposed to get on their good side? I wanted their blessings for our marriage."

"I know we've said it before but all joking aside, we are really happy for you," Elena said.

Nate nodded in agreement and raised his mug. "I'll second that. To the retired life. May you find it longer lasting than I did."

"Amen to that. I think I've seen enough adventure to last me through my next life."

"Cheers," Chole muttered as she raised her mug. "Though, knowing you we'll probably never truly be out the game."

From what Charlie had shared with them upon arrival, he and Chole had managed to score big when they were hired to acquire a relic for a greedy old man whom they promptly double-crossed and sold it to very generous, even wealthier buyer. With the combined money that the deal had netted them and some leftover funds they had from previous jobs, they decided it was high time to tie the knot and settle down. Though Nate had never given much thought to the kind of house he and Elena would settle down in given the nature of the life he once lived, he had to admit that the Cutter's could have done far worse. The house had room to spare and was tucked away on over an acre of private property. If and when things returned to normal he could see himself and Elena enjoying some time out here.

"Got room for one more?" Sully poked his head into the dining room. His wrinkled face looked haggard, it wasn't hard to tell that Nate wasn't the only one who had trouble getting sleep in the past few days.

"Of course," Nate said slowly getting to his feet to greet his friend with a hug. Over the years Sully had never been the touchy-feely type but Nate figured the old man could use some compassion right about now. "How are you holding up?"

"As well as I can be I guess. I'm sorry I've been a bit of recluse today."

"Thinking nothing of it mate." Charlie shook Sully's hand in greeting as he joined the four of them at the table. We've all been there before." All of them shared a moment of silence before Sully looked Nate's way.

"Well, I can see that you're still looking black and blue. I haven't seen you take such licking since our run in with Rameses's and his merry band of pirates."

"They were pirates, they fought dirty."

"And you don't?" Charlie shot back.

"What can I say?" Nate cracked a smile. "When in Rome?"

"Dirty or not, that Cooper guy clearly gave you trouble," Chole said. "After all of the freaky stuff you've put yourself through I'm surprised to hear that a mere thief got the best of you."

"Yeah, well let's just say there was nothing 'mere' about him." Or his girlfriend for that matter. He thought.

"The next thing he's going to tell us is that he was some sort of freak of nature," Chole said jabbing Charlie with an elbow.

"That wouldn't be too far off," Sully said, flashing Nate a quick glance.

While he, Elena and Sully all agreed to fill Charlie and Chole in on what had happened over the last few months, they decided it best to keep some of the finer details about the Cooper families "unique" heritage out until they could confirm what it really all meant. Well that, and fear of sounding like they had lost their minds.

"In any case, I made sure he won't be a problem. I'm more concerned with how the exchange is going to turn out tomorrow."

"Well, I think the plan we've hammered out is as good as it's going to get," Chole said.

"Just to make sure everyone's on the same page, that plan is?" Elena asked.

"You guys trail me to the perimeter of Williams property and hang back while I get the goods to her. If things get too dicey, you guys jump in and provide backup until I can get my father out safely. You guys will jump in only if things start going south, I really don't want to test William's patience."

"Right, right." Charlie cut in. "Only if it starts going to shit... which knowing you, it probably will."

Nate shook his head. "Oh, ye of little faith."

"If you can even call that a plan." Sully scoffed. "I still don't think this is going to work out for the better kid. That Myers fellow clearly said that William's has more in store than just letting you and your father walk free"

Nate nodded. "Yes but like I said before, we don't exactly have a whole lot of options here, Williams has made sure it stays that way."

"Have you heard back from her since you made the deal?" Chole asked. "How do you know your father is even still alive?"

"Yes. She's sent me a couple of videos through an encrypted E-mail address of him alive over the past couple of months." He flipped through his phone and showed her one of the clips.

"That's it?" Sully asked after watching the short clip. "Just video?"

"Yes, a few seconds here and there but nothing else."

"Why didn't you say anything about them before?" Sully asked.

"What good would it have done? I didn't want you to worry about things more than you guys already have."

"Just enough to keep you going," Elena said with disdain. "I hope we can find a way to put her in her place."

"You know my stance on the whole thing." Charlie crossed his arms. "I really don't think you can trust her. If it's true we are dealing with the new head of the Order; God only knows what they want with those things." Charlie mentioned to the Cooper artifacts. "I have this bad feeling the next time we cross them, I'll come out with more than just a busted leg."

"I know, I've thought of that too." Nate sipped his coffee. "But William's isn't stupid. If we try to pull anything I'm sure my dad is as good as dead."

"Well, it looks like we are really going to go through with this," Chole said.

"So... now that the plan set." Nate looked around the table. "Everyone in?" One by all of them confirmed they were ready. "Really, I can't say how grateful I am."

"Aye." Charlie was the first one to speak up. "Before you get all sappy on us, you do realize you owe me and Chole like three times over right? You better be ready when we call in the favors you owe us."

"I'll be there. No questions asked."

And, I'll be sure to hold him to that." Elena offered.

"Which means now all that needs to be done is to head to town to stock up. Will you darlings be so kind as to join us?"

"I'll tag along." Elena stood up and stretched. "I think getting some air will do me some good."

"You kids go out and have yourselves a good time. I'll stick around here if that's alright with you."

"Fine by us," Cutter said.

"And you Nate?" Chloe asked.

"I'm good. I think I should lay low and try to conserve as much strength as I can... You know, just in case."

"Alright, suit yourselves. Hope you darlings get the rest you need."

"Yeah, yeah. Just get your smug ass out of here and get us what we need."

"Feel free to help yourselves to anything." Chole offered, getting up from the table to follow her husband.

"See you when we get back." Elena gave Nate a quick kiss before she followed Charlie and Chole. Both Nate and Sully waved them as they made their way out of the kitchen. Nate couldn't help but let his gaze follow Elena's backside for longer than it should have.

"Heh. Careful. If you keep that up your going to become the 'dirty old man' you claim that I am."

"It's different, we're married," Nate said cracking his back. "So when are you going to settle down with your bride to be?"

"You already know the answer to that."

"Yeah, yeah." Nate waved him off. "That ship sailed a long time ago."

"For now, I would rather focus on keeping the friends I still have."

"You and George were pretty tight I take it?"

"Back when we were young and touring on board the Nimitz, but not so much in recent years. I didn't talk to him much after he moved back to Chile once our time with the Navy was up. He helped me through a rough patch and I never got to really repay him. I always told him I would, but I never got around to actually doing it."

Nate nodded. "Yeah, it wasn't hard to tell he was a good guy. You do know if he was really bothered by you asking for his help, he would have said something. We know plenty of people who would have said no given the circumstances."

"I know, I know." Sully exhaled loudly. "It's just a goddamn shame, now that it's too late, it's kind of eating at me. Especially considering the only reason why he's dead now is because he got us out of a bind... damn Order."

"We'll get them back; for everything... I promise." Nate trailed off. The two men let the next few minutes pass by in silence before Nate's cell went off. He glanced down expecting it to be Elena or one of the Cutters but was surprised to find that it was a number he couldn't recognize.

"Who is it?" Sully asked.

"Dunno, it's blocked." Nate frowned before answering: "This is Drake."

"Hey, Pal." He couldn't quite place it but he could have sworn he had heard the smooth masculine voice somewhere before.

"Who is this? I think you might have the wrong number. " Nate couldn't quite place where he had heard the voice before but now he was positive he had.

"Oh no, I'm positive you're the guy I'm looking for."

"Okay...what can I do for you." Nate was starting to grow worried. Being treasure hunters meant that he and Sully had rubbed shoulders with some rather unsavory characters and this guy seemed like he wanted more than him than just to talk.

"Well returning what you took from me would be nice."

"That doesn't really narrow it down all that much." Of course, this guy would have to call a time like this.

"Well, I'm still nursing a nasty bump on my head. Is it a human thing to bash a good man upside the head when he's down or it just part of your charming personality? Does that help any?"

"No way," Nate muttered. Not him!

"What, who is it?" Sully asked putting down his cigar after seeing the look on Nate's face.

"It's Cooper," Nate grumbled.

"Cooper? You mean the old guy back in... oh shit." Sully trailed off, now sharing Nate's stunned expression. "You can't be serious."

"I really wish I wasn't." Nate put his phone on the table with the speaker on. "Hear for yourself."

"I told you I would find you." Cooper's unmistakable voice came from the other side of the line.

"How'd you get this number?" Nate demanded, his cell wasn't something he readily just gave out to anyone.

"Oh, I have way more dirt on you than just your digits... Mr. Morgan." Nate's eyes widened at the mention of his true last name. He and his brother did everything they could to make sure their identities had been permanently buried after they had struck off on their own. "In fact." Cooper continued. "I know where you and your gang of friends are at this very moment."

"This isn't good," Sully said with a worried expression etched on his brow.

"He's full of shit." Nate scoffed crossing his arms. "Knowing my name is one thing, but there's no way he has any idea where..."

"3246 Green Grove Park, Engberg." Cooper cut him off. "I can give you the coordinates too if you'd like?"

"Shit," Sully muttered under his breath as Nate and he exchanged nervous glances at the mention of Charlie and Chole's address.

"I warned you that you don't want me for an enemy." Cooper had an almost menacing tone as he growled the words. "The Cooper family didn't get its reputation from being some cut-rate pickpockets." Nate swallowed hard, knowing full well that he was right. Not only had Cooper bested him in a brawl back in the vault, within just a few days time he somehow knew more about his past than even his wife did. He was starting to realize just what kind of caliber of a thief he had pissed off.

"Dammit, kid! I told you to leave it alone, didn't I?"

"You should've listened to your old pal. No one has ever crossed a Cooper and gotten away with it."

"What was I supposed to do Sully?"

"You need to stop pretending that you're the good guys here." Cooper cut in. "I gave you a chance to walk away and you still screwed me over. I don't care why you need my families stuff, one way or another I will get it back."

"And I suppose that's a promise?"

"Against my better judgment and my fiance's insistence, I'll give you one last chance to take the high road and resolve this without you being on the wrong end of my cane." All Nate could do was look in Sully direction. He was about to blow off the thief but Sully cut him off.

"Nate, before you say another word...think. You and I both know you can't beat him, not after seeing what he can do."

"So, you expect me to just walk away? I'm not going to give up."

"And neither will he. If you want any chance at seeing us all get out of this unscathed, give him what he wants. I don't care how lucky you are, we can't fight a war on two fronts."

Dammit, not now! Not when I'm so close! Nate's mind raced as he clenched his hands into fists. Not even a day left before he was going to make good on his side of the deal and yet another roadblock was thrown in the way, forcing him to choose between two equally crappy situations. He felt sick to his stomach thinking how Williams would make good on her threat but in the end, Nate really didn't want to see what the master thief was like when he was pissed off.

"Swear to me that if we give up your stuff, my wife and friends will remain unharmed," Nate said through clenched teeth. Considering they knew almost nothing about the raccoon and he apparently had tabs on where they were at this very moment, put them in a very compromising position. "Your beef is with me, leave them out of this."

"Look, pal. All I want is my cane and the box back. If you give me those, you have my word as a man of honor no harm will come to anyone. I don't care what you of think of me; I'm no monster and hate using violence to solve my problems. If you meet me at the coordinates I'll be sending you at 16:00 hours tomorrow and give me back what's rightfully mine, I swear you'll never see me again." Nate faulted, still trying to think of a way he could fix the shitty situation.

"Kid." Sully stern tone told him that he knew what he was thinking. "Don't be stupid and make the same mistake twice. Take his offer and walk away."

"What about." Nate started to say but stopped short and stayed quiet for several seconds. "Well... it looks like I've got no other choice, you've got yourself a deal."

"You best listen to the old man." Another voice came from the other line cut in, it was Cooper's girlfriend. "If you cross my ringtail again you'll find that having the Cooper gang for an enemy will be your undoing. We will track you down no matter what corner of this backward world you hide in and take back what is owed to Sly, one way or another."

"I couldn't have said it better myself." Cooper agreed. "The ball's in your court pal. For your sake, I hope I see you tomorrow." The line went dead, leaving the two men in a deafening silence.

"He's right you know."

"What? I can't believe you're on his side."

"We screwed him over, it's as simple as that."

"It's not like we haven't looted other stores of treasures before. If I recall correctly wasn't it you who said that it was an 'occupational hazard'?"

"Cut the crap Nate, this job has been a hell of a lot different than any we've encountered before and you know it."

"How? Besides our target turning out to be a fuzzy freak of nature, I don't see the slightest bit of difference."

"How about the fact we barged in and took something that rightfully belonged to the living owner of the loot? For years now we've been in a constant race against the competition to lay claim to what has pretty much community property. Every owner of the treasures we've fought for has been too dead to care what happens to their shit."

"They're just some dumb heirlooms Sully, just things. I'm far more concerned with keeping what's left of my family alive than worrying about some freaks collection of dusty old relics remains intact. He needs to deal with it and learn to let go of a stupid stick and an old box."

"This coming from a guy who had a piece of jewelry strung around his neck for close to thirty years? Just tell me this Nate, if Sir Francis Drake himself came up to you and asked for his ring back when you had it, would you have given it to him?"

"I..." Nate looked down in thought. "I never thought of it that way before."

"Until we ran with the loot like we did, neither had I. No matter how we look at it, we can't deny that we're in the wrong here."

"Us, in the wrong?" Nate waved him off and laughed in spite of everything. "You act like we've committed some huge injustice or something. Come on, we're dealing with a talking raccoon here. I don't have have to know how ridiculous this whole thing is."

"Still the same wise ass," Sully muttered under his breath. "Have you ever wondered why I still call you 'kid' despite you nearing forty?"

"Well, I" Nate started to joke before Sully cut him off with a sternness Nate rarely heard from the old man.

"I'm not finished." Sully looked him straight in the eyes. "I would give my life for you Nate, really I would, but despite all of the time I've spent by your side I still sometimes see the same scared boy I picked up on the streets all those years ago." Sully shook his head in disappointment. "If you don't get your head out of your goddamn ass for once and think about the consequences of your actions, your dear old dad is going to end up just-like-Sam."

"No, no no, you're not going to shoehorn him into this. This conversation is over." Nate said, trying to keep his cool. "You swore to me that we would never bring my brother up again."

"Yeah well, it seems to me that the only way I can get you to listen is for me to remind you what you've already lost."

"So, what?" Nate raised his voice. "Are you implying that his death was somehow my fault?"

"Of course not, it's just that we've had this same conversation on more than on one occasion and I don't know else I can get it through your thick head that you tend to blow off things you need to take seriously. Yes this whole thing with Cooper maybe one big joke, but you know your fathers isn't." Nate tried to speak but Sully raised a hand to stop him. "Which is why we need to give Cooper back his shit before we find out what he'll do when pushed too far."

"But Sully..." Nate protested. "What about..." He faltered. "No, that won't work."

"What did we say outside the vault a just a few days ago?"

"'We'll find another way...'" Nate trailed off, cradling his head in his hands. No matter what he would suggest, there was nothing he could say to change Sully's mind. "Dammit! Nate pounded his fists on his table. "I'm so close to being done with this whole. All of this is just..."

"Bullshit?" Sully finished. "We of all people know that life isn't fair. Especially one as crazy and unpredictable as the one we've chosen to live."

"Yeah I know, this whole situation just sucks big time. I'm sorry I got hot headed, it's just that, you know. It's still hard to hear Sam's name."

"And I guess it was a kind of a low blow bringing Sam up. I just want to make sure you come out of this one okay. No matter what direction things go, I'm still not going anywhere. In order for me to do that, I kind of need you alive for me to stick around."

"I hear you, thanks for being clear headed when I can't."

"I think it would be wise to go back to the drawing board when everyone gets back. We'll work it out, and get through this."

"Alright, I guess all I can do now hope for the best and prepare for the worst right?" He said, sounding as optimistic as he could, but deep down, he couldn't shake the feeling that wouldn't be enough.

What other choice did he have?


Nate stared silently up into the slow spinning blades of the ceiling fan. It had been hours since everyone had turned in for the night but he found it impossible to sleep. Besides him, Elena's still form and loud snoring (she would never admit she snored.) told him that she had knocked out some time ago. He had lost count how many times he had turned around the whole scenario before him in his head. If his first visit to William's estate was anything to go by, a frontal assault was pretty much suicide and he had a strong feeling that her paranoid obsession with keeping a guard close by at all times meant a stealth job under the cover of night wouldn't go well either, she just had everything too well defended. No matter what angle he looked at it from he came to the same abysmal conclusion: if he didn't get William's what she demanded his father's life was forfeit.

Everyone within the group had agreed that best course of action was to return Cooper's possessions, but despite putting their heads together, none of them could come up a solution that would enable him to get his father back safely without meeting William's demands. While it was true that she hadn't given him a specific set of time to get the artifacts to her, the longer it took him to get the Cooper artifacts, the more likely she was to doubt he could actually get them to her in the first place and he knew that one way or another, something had to give. It all seemed to boil down to who he would double cross: William or Cooper?

From the moment he had looked into his father's bruised and beaten expression Nate could tell that William's prim and proper appearance was nothing more than a facade. Not only did she have a virtual army of devoted followers, if the skills she showed that day was anything to go by she would prove to be formidable to handle just by herself, she was as cold and calculating as they came. Her personal vendetta against him and willingness to gamble others lives to get what she wanted made her a daunting adversary. Cooper, on the other hand, was something else entirely. Setting aside that he wasn't even human, his motivations seemed to be far less sinister than Williams. Despite his beastly appearance, Cooper seemed to be giving him every opportunity to return his stuff without further conflict, which meant he would likely never resort to killing. Nate knew that if he faced the master thief again, he had little hope of winning. No matter how he looked at it, both choices were risky.

God. What the hell am I supposed to do? He thought, his mind unable to rest.

A thin stream of moonlight slipped through the curtains and illuminated Elena's face, causing him to take in her soft beautiful features. He glanced at the ring on his finger and thought it funny that it was the second one to change his life. He was certain of one thing: he could not and would not put her in danger anymore. She would be willing to follow him into hell, and it would be selfish for him to entangle her or anyone of his friends for that matter in this shitty situation anymore than he already had. If he wanted to be sure that none of them would come out of this one hurt or worse, he would have to tackle this one by himself, his friend's faith in him be damned. He let out a deep sigh and he ran a rough hand over his face. He knew what he had to do.

Careful not to wake his wife, he gently rose from the bed. He grabbed a pair of clothes along with his holster, journal and car keys. With the low moon's pale glow providing just enough light, he quietly stepping into the hallway and ducked into the guest bathroom. Wasting no time, he slipped into his clothes making sure that his gun was securely snapped into his holster before he strapped it over his shoulders. After washing his face off with a splash of cold water, he took a long hard look at himself in the mirror.

"Let's try not to mess this one up." He whispered before he carefully made his way into the loft, and laid his eyes on the two artifacts that would be the key to his father's salvation. With trembling hands, he carefully placed the mysterious box inside a small satchel and grabbed Cooper's cane. Satisfied with his preparations he used the Canes though leather strap to sling it over his shoulder and headed for the front door as quietly as he could. He placed his hand on the knob of the door and paused, taking a deep breath. No turning back. He spurred himself onward setting outside into the cool night air, cautiously closing the door as quietly as he could behind him.

Thankful that the Cutter's new house came equipped with a long walkway to the driveway, he headed to the rental jeep him, Elena and Sully had grabbed for the trip out here. The stars shone clear above as a cricket's song rose over the otherwise silent night. Being mindful of making as little noise as possible, he quickly placed his cargo in the passenger's seat before he took to the wheel. Taking a quick look at the map he had neatly folded away in his journal via his iPhone's flashlight he started the jeep and started to drive away.

Looking back in the jeeps rear view mirror with tired eyes, Nate could see the Cutter's residence slowly shrink from view. Welp. He thought. If Elena didn't have a reason to ditch my ass before she sure does now. He chuckled, trying to make light of his decision but found it did little to make him feel any less guilty. He had this sinking feeling that no matter how the next few hours turned out, he was screwed.