With grateful thanks as always to beta's Mirth and Jay, who put up with all my whining and moaning :D
Nate wasn't sure when it happened, couldn't identify a moment in time. Just knew that at some point he had been given control of something very, very dangerous and that up until now he had used it wisely, for the good of the team and their clients.
He had been given the power to rain down destruction with a nod of his head, or hold it back with just a finger.
He reached out and grabbed Eliot's left elbow to stop the younger man from heading further in the wrong direction, gently tugging him back and letting go again as soon as Eliot was shuffling in a straight line. Eliot's gait was uneven and wavering and Nate kept level with him, side by side. Nate had known better than to waste time commandeering a wheelchair from the hospital ER as he knew Eliot would refuse to use it. Not because it was a sign of weakness but because Eliot always got back up and walked away, because the day Eliot couldn't do that was the day Eliot was finished and Nate understood that.
He reached out and corrected Eliot's course again, this time keeping his hand cupped around Eliot's elbow.
"I'm fine, Nate," Eliot told him hoarsely, Nate silently disagreed with Eliot's assessment. A fractured right arm, concussion, with seventeen stitches to close up the wound at his hairline, four cracked ribs, soft tissue damage and bruising. Nate was certain Eliot had received worse injuries in his time, but not on Nate's watch and not due to Nate's negligence.
Nate had thought he could talk his way out of trouble, keep the con intact, so he had held Eliot back. With an almost unnoticeable finger on Eliot's arm, Nate had held him back. And Nate had been wrong.
Talking made no difference, the con busted wide open and the second they knew it had all gone to hell and their very lives were in danger Eliot had looked at him and Nate had nodded, sending their hitter in, having lost the advantage, up against too many even for Eliot, so Nate could save the others.
It humbled Nate to have such trust, such faith, placed in his hands. Knowing too well that the last person Eliot had allowed that level of trust was Damian Moreau. Who had taken it, along with Eliot's honour and deadly skills and used them to their fullest, vicious, murderous intent, leaving Eliot forever scrambling to save some part of his soul.
"Your damn thinking is making my head hurt worse," a rough voice chuckled, causing Nate to look over at the shorter man, a distorted smile gracing the swollen face. "It's what I do, Nate. Protect the team, keep the exits clear, you know that," the smile disappearing to be replaced with a penetrating look.
"Eliot…," Nate stopped walking, turning to face the hitter. "I should've…."
"It was the right call, Nate," Eliot's voice matter of fact, as if pointing out the obvious.
Nate shook his head. "It isn't about that, Eliot. Okay, in part it is but you shouldn't have…. You shouldn't put so much trust in me. You…" He trailed to a stop as Eliot smiled again.
"Nate, you've got a good idea of some of the things I've done, what I'm truly capable of. But what we're doing, as a team, we're helping people. You took us and you showed us another way to use what we're good at," Eliot said as he shifted his feet, trying not to sway. Nate tightened his hold. "You've given me a chance to right some wrongs. Given me a chance to help rebuild lives, instead of destroy 'em and if you gotta send me in against the odds to make that happen, then I'm going to do it, every time. I trust you, Nate. I trust you to get the job done, I trust you," he paused, eyes flickering down, before looking back up, "to make me a better man."
Nate shifted his grip as Eliot swayed again, shocked at the vulnerability in the other man's gaze, surprised that Eliot had allowed it to show. Nate took a deep breath and nodded, understanding now what he had been given and why.
"I can do that," he promised quietly as he started them moving again.
Nate would never be able to pinpoint the day he had been given that power, but he would always remember the day he truly learnt what it meant to wield it.