avali asked: Terrible things: Order AU Chloe and Talbot + Charlie stuck in the middle of a painfully heated disagreement between the two.
It’s quiet; the calm before the storm in the back of that long, sleek black town car. Cutter can practically hear the space someone will soon be very angry in -like the smell of ozone before it rains.
Absolutely no one speaks on drive from the airstrip so the only sound is the vibration of the car’s wheels on the pavement. If he closed he eyes, he would know instinctively where they were by the sound of asphalt, paving stones, cobblestone, back to asphalt. He spends the whole trip to the underground carefully constructing and dismissing escape routes he’ll take once they’ve reached their destination; the closer they get, the more knotted his stomach becomes. He can’t quite pinpoint why.
There’s things to be done, which is how he’ll excuse himself. He’ll point out that he’s got two chapters to cipher through by tomorrow afternoon and he doesn’t have time to play witness to whatever knock out, drag down fight Talbot and Frazer are planning to have. Charlie thinks, very secretly - the smallest thought so it won’t show anywhere on his face - that he might try to slip away and call Nate. Hell, Sully even.
—(It’s early enough in the day. There’s no reason to think they won’t answer this time.)—
But when the car’s parked, Frazer slides out of the sedan’s backseat like a snake dropping from a branch. She waits until they’re all outside the car before she says, almost dismissively, “Well that went well,” to Talbot across the top of the car.
A muscle in the man’s cheek jumps as he sets his jaw. He closes the sedan door and moves around the rear bumper of the car. Charlie follows him with his eyes from where he’s standing at Frazer’s heel (which is a matter of happenstance, not habit) but that doesn’t actually make him prepared for when Talbot rounds to their side and casually, like he’s been thinking about it since before they even left Singapore, grabs him by the throat and forces him back against the side of the car.
"Talbot!" Frazer shouts, but only because Talbot has a knife. In the pause her voice breeds, Charlie punches Talbot so hard he can feel the shock of it go right up through his knuckles and elbow, lodging in his shoulder.
It gets Talbot off him anyway.
"What the fuck’s that all about?" Charlie demands, closing in on him as Talbot staggers back. His nose is bleeding. There’s blood all over his mouth and chin, staining the collar of his expensive, pressed, beautiful white shirt.
Talbot’s looking at him, but then he’s not: he’s looking past him, across his shoulder to where Frazer likely still is. He drops the knife, spreads his hands. Lets his nose bleed freely. “You did nothing, Cutter,” he says. Charlie doesn’t know if it’s a personal attack or not - some comment on his character or how he performed on the job (and he did well, hadn’t he? Fucking hell, he’d smashed that poor bastard’s face in because he’d been told to and if that isn’t enough to earn some respect, to earn some trust, he doesn’t know what is). Whatever it is, it’s offensive so he goes for him: reaches for the lapels of Talbot’s jacket. He’s going to get him under his arm, punch the side of his head until the man sags. He shouldn’t have dropped the knife, Cutter thinks.
Frazer’s needle lodging in the side of his neck stings. He winces, nose wrinkling. Lip pulling back. He twists away from under her hand and Talbot steps out of the way so he won’t get caught by Charlie’s shoulder.
There’s a moment there, taking three steps back from them, that Charlie can almost close his hands on something - how the taste in his mouth is familiar, how his neck’s peppered with small scars he’s convinced himself was a bad fall on gravel or something like it, but then it’s sliding away and his fists are empty. He slowly lowers himself, breathing heavy - crouches to touch the ground and steady himself off it. Or off the sedan’s bumper. The driver must still be there, the keys still in the ignition. The tail lights are still on.
The red glows hot on his skin. He squints past it as Frazer moves in, looking past her to where Talbot is mopping at his bloody nose with his sleeve.
"That was stupid," Talbot says.
Frazer’s hand falls on the back of Cutter’s neck, heavy like a something he’d need a key to get out of. Yes,” she bites back. “It was.”
Charlie gets the distinct feeling she’s not talking to him.