Opening A/N: I found this on my computer last night and I thought it wasn't finished but it WAS and that's pretty great! So here you go, a Christmas miracle - me actually posting a completed piece of work. Merry Christmas to you all! I hope you behaved yourselves and get some rad presents.
Disclaimer: If I owned Uncharted, I would not be agonizing over my lack of a PS4 and thus, Uncharted 4. Tragic, I know.
"You can only hold a smile for so long. After that, it's just teeth."
Nathan Drake's smile was a legend. Always bright and brilliant and genuine, something that no one who had earned it got to see. He didn't have a fake smile – in the line of work that he and Sully were in, there was no room for social niceties of the such. You either smiled, or you didn't – you were real, or you weren't. But getting to see Nate's smile was worth it. It said hi, nice to see you, lovely day we're having, I've heard that joke a thousand times, old man. That smile said I love you in all the ways that Drake never did.
But that day in the desert, that smile was broken. After that point, it was never quite the same. At first, it was notable because it wasn't there – the face behind the gun was angry, frightened, eyes bloodshot from poisoned water and crying, jaw clenched, bottom lip trembling. Even when Sully took the gun from him and sat him down, it was confused and uncertain, like that of a dog who had been kicked one too many times.
Then it was there – but at the same time, it wasn't. A flash of teeth, corners of the mouth upturned, but just enough different to feel horribly wrong. There was something distinctly Not Right about Nate's smile, and if anyone would know, it was Sully. The smile that had not been affected by years of strife, betrayals, lying and stealing and killing, had finally been cracked by little more than a drink of water.
But it wasn't just that, as Sully discovered later. It took a long time, many sleepless nights, and some behavior that was alarmingly close to suicidal (too many risks in too short a timespan, reckless leaps from ledge to edge, a little too slow finding cover in a firefight) before the truth came to light. And then it became clear. Drugged, beaten, shipwrecked, dehydrated, burned by a merciless desert sun, and poisoned, all within the span of 3 days – it was little wonder that seeing Sully die had done the infamous smile in.
He spoke of it all without flinching, without emotion – but Nate had never been too good at poker. He had the logistics down, but the kid was too passionate, too full of life and energy, to conceal what he was really feeling – especially when it came to people he knew well. Fingernails dug into the surface of the table, a tic in his jaw went through erratic spasms, he didn't make eye contact and his leg jerked up and down in an incessant, uncomfortable blur.
"And then you died," he finished. "I – I thought you were dead, but – but you weren't. Haha. That's the last time I ever drink unfiltered water." His eyes finally met Sully's, and he smiled, and it was all wrong. It was too controlled. The perfect smile. It wasn't lopsided enough, it wasn't spontaneous enough. Fast and polite and expected. "Sorry… about that."
The sound he made as Sully pulled him into a hug was startled, then muffled, as his face hit fabric covered in a garish Hawaiian design.
"Shut up," Sully told him gruffly, his voice taking on an extra masculine quality as he forced his tear ducts into submission. "Just… shut up. Jeeminy Christmas, kid. You know, you haven't – you haven't been all there, lately. I was wondering when you'd – tell me. When you'd come back to me." He patted Nate's back, less instinctual and more of an attempt to hide the fact that the brunette had started trembling in his arms. "The next time anything like that happens, you call me right away. Obviously it was a mistake to let you go off on your own. Damn, every time I think I can finally settle down and retire, you just have to prove me wrong."
They stay like that for a while. They don't hug the whole time – that would be dumb, and girly – but it's nice just being together, quietly, without anyone trying to shoot them or arrest them or do anything else. Sully attempts with every fiber of his being to convey his concern to his protégé without actually saying words to that effect. Nate says a lot of things in between the lines of small talk and bad jokes that are the only words that leave his mouth.
It all culminates in a smile – a real smile – and Sully feels a sudden pressure lift itself off his chest and shoulders that he hadn't even felt until then. He laughs, and Nate startles at the sound – he startles at everything unexpected, these days, as if he's afraid that something unknown and horrifying lurks around every corner.
"What's so funny?" he demands, and Sully snorts.
"What do you think? You are, you big monkey. Now come on, it's getting dark out here. How do you feel about pizza?"
Nate's eyes light up, his teeth flash, and all is right with the world once more.
"I feel many ways regarding pizza. Go Fish decides who plays?"
Sully snorted. "I'll pay if you promise not to tell anyone that I was being sensitive."
Nate laughed. "Well, now that you mention it…"
"Don't push your luck, kid. I might make you pay, and you know how I get around food when somebody else is paying."
"Yeah, sure, whatever. Hey, what if we invite Elena? We could make her pay."
Sully raises an eyebrow and breaks out in a smile of his own. "Ah, I've taught you well, young padawan."
And just like that, everything is back to normal.
A/N: Because CAN WE TALK ABOUT HOW DRAKE GOT MUGGED, SHIPWRECKED, AND STRANDED IN A DESERT IN RAPID SUCCESSION IN 3 DAYS ON ABOUT 3 HOURS OF ACTUAL SLEEP, ALMOST DIED 9000 TIMES, AND THEN SAW HIS MOST IMPORTANT PERSON GET KILLED IN FRONT OF HIM. Dude can't go through that and not experience some Serious Trauma.
I think about this a lot and I'm not sorry and I'm probably going to write another fic about this