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Tyler silently shook his head, looking up from his shoes. "I'm guessing you have one." He said quietly, looking into the water.
Nate frowned in concentration, seeing a fish swim within range. Suddenly, he brought the spear down in a swift movement. He missed by a few inches. Not only that, a sudden increase in water flow made him lose his balance, and he toppled over. “Oh yeah, clearly I’m the most dangerous criminal that ever lived,” he said, inwardly laughing at himself. He rose from the water to try again. “I’m kidding. But technically, yes, I do have one. It’s not that bad though—I’m a con-man.”
Tyler just nodded silently, holding out a calloused hand to help Nate up. The corner of his mouth flickered up for a moment.
Nate nodded thankfully and took Tyler’s hand. Then, feeling as though he should explain his criminal behavior, “I knew I had to provide for my folks, and it was the best way. I was too young for a traditional job when I started, and you can’t just leave after you’re sworn in.”
"I understand." Tyler nodded again, gravely, solemnly. He slid his hand back into his pocket, watching Nate carefully, studying his face.
Nate positioned himself to try again for the fish. It was personal now. “You seem to know a lot about the woods,” he said after a moment, It would be weird to go into how his parent’s died and all that.
"Yes." Tyler nodded, kicking at a stone. "I've spent a lot of my time in the woods." He said quietly. He closed his mouth after that, not caring to go on about how he and his sister had practically lived in different forests, camping and hunting together, tracking and picking berries and flowers.
“That makes one of us,” he said, sensing that Tyler didn’t want to go into it. Just like him and his past. “My time was spent proving myself to the boss. I guess you could call me a city boy, but it’s not totally accurate. The streets are tougher than they seem.” Nate used to practice throwing knives at rats. He just had to pretend the fish was a small street rat. I have you now…
Tyler shrugged. "I wouldn't know." Of course he wouldn't know. The closest he'd been to a city street was driving past a city on his way to another national park. But his sister would've known. She always knew those kinds of things. She'd joke about the concrete jungle on the quiet nights by the campfire.
"Strange, we don't seem to have many similarities. There goes that theory, I guess," Nate advanced on another fish, holding his breath as the tip of the spear sliced through the water. This time, it hit it's target. "Yes!" He exclaimed, subconsciously raising his fist in the air. He drew the impaled fish out of the water, and moved to toss it over to Tyler. "Catch," he said.
Tyler blinked a split second before the fish hit him. He took a surprised half step backwards, trying to catch the slippery creature before it hit the dirt. He blinked again, his mouth dropping open a little.
Nate stared at Tyler, unblinking, unsmiling. Within a few moments, unable to hold himself back a second longer—he bursts out laughing. It wasn’t long before tears appeared in his eyes, and the current took advantage of his distraction. He fell into the water again, and in turn just laughed even harder.
Tyler blinked again, closing his mouth. His cheeks went a little red as he struggled to hold onto the fish, gripping it tightly in his calloused hands.
Finally, he managed to stop his laughing. He could see that Tyler was gaining a light crimson hue, but there wasn’t anything he could’ve done. He dragged himself out of the water, soaked one again by the stream. “Sorry ‘bout that, I couldn’t help it.” He was still smiling, and he still had an amused twinkle in his eye. “It reminded me of something. My first day as an apprentice con-man—“ he chuckled a bit more, remembering that day. “The boss himself took me out to show me the ropes. We scammed this lady real good, but I was shaking so bad I dropped the cash everywhere. It was because of that she stopped and investigated--turns out she was a cop. We were both arrested, and the boss, he just laughed at me.”
"Oh. Well." Tyler finally got a grip on the fiish, clearing his throat a little as the redness slid away. "I guess it isn't the first time I've been a butterfingers. Or laughed at." The corners of his mouth hinted at flickering up, but they didn't quite follow through.
Nate noticed the smile. To say it was microscopic would be an astounding understatement, but it was the beginnings of a smile, nonetheless.
“Nor will it be the last,” he said, “At the very least, I’ll let you live this one down. Well, maybe. The guys back home never let me forget my screw ups, but there’s a possibility I’ll be a little more generous,” he winked, “It’s just a possibility, though. You probably shouldn’t get your hopes up too high.”
"Right. Thank you." Tyler said seriously. He nodded his head a little. "You're more generous than...others."
Nate tilted his head slightly, confused at what Tyler had meant. He was usually pretty sharp, but the combination of that and answering his joke with seriousness threw him off. He could imagine Barrett and Jake commenting on what a fail that was—a con artist not knowing another person’s thoughts. He thought about what sarcastic remark he’d make in response, and the light fighting that would follow. And how the boss would break them up, saying that if a man is to fight, he has to throw real punches. Nate stepped out of his mind. “I should get back into the water before I dry off,” he glanced angrily at the stream, “otherwise, it might have the pleasure of soaking me again.
The corners of Tyler's mouth flickered again. "Yes. Right. You'd better go do that while I hold this...fish." He glanced down at the fish in his hands. He was clutching it tightly to his chest, like a slimy teddy bear. It sort of reminded him of the first time Leah had taken him hunting. He had clutched the body of the tiny squirrel to his chest, the only thing they had managed to shoot that time.
Nate observed how Tyler was hugging the fish. “But of course,” he smiled, “you two are so close, it’d be absolutely cruel of me to tear you apart.” Splashing back into the water, he added, “Until I eat him, that is. I’ll apologize later for eating your new friend.” He posed with his spear raised high, ready to knife another rat.