Disclaimer: No infringement is intended upon the properties owned by TNT Originals Inc, Time Warner, Electric Entertainment BBS and Paramount Pictures. This work is not for profit.

A/N: This is a work-in-progress, originally intended to be pretty short, but it's growing steadily at the characters' insistence.

Trust Issues

Chapter 1

"Damn it, Nate! Parker and Hardison could have both been killed!" Eliot had his knuckles planted on the table and was leaning over to glare belligerently into his leader's face. "You can't keep taking chances with our lives like that!"

Nate let him bellow, and then calmly replied, "Eliot, you know perfectly well that I don't ask any of you take chances I wouldn't take myself." He leaned back in the booth and lifted his glass to take an appreciative swallow of the Irish whiskey it contained.

"I don't give a damn if you get yourself killed, at this point it would probably be saving me the trouble." Eliot smacked the glass out of Nate's hand. "Go ahead and finally drink yourself to death, whatever. But do not," he was speaking each word clearly and separately now, "risk… their… lives… for… no… good… reason!"

He continued to glower as Nate gave him a vaguely quizzical look without answering. After a long moment he turned away and stalked toward the exit from the bar.

The rest of the team were gathered at another table, staring open-mouthed at the two.

"Eliot, hey, wait a minute."

"Not now, Hardison," he snarled in response. "I swear to God if I don't get out of here I'm gonna kill him myself." He slammed out the door and climbed the stairs to street level. He stood for a moment just breathing and scanning the street around him.

He knew it wasn't really Nate's fault, what had happened on their most recent job. It had just been so close, this time, and he had frankly been scared for his friends. Nate would understand. Nate always understood them better, probably, than they understood themselves.

As he was thinking this, Eliot saw a jerky movement from across the street. A lurking figure had dived behind a small crowd of tourists. He snapped into defense mode instantly. In his scan a moment before he'd automatically made note of everything close to him that could be used as a weapon or a defense, and since he'd seen a familiar glitter in the lurker's hand, he reached behind him. An empty trash can had somehow not made it back down into the areaway below when the garbage men finished with it. He snatched up the lid and spun around just in time to deflect a thrown knife with it. He leapt part-way down the stairs to use the sidewalk and areaway railing as cover.

"Eliot?" Nate's voice came at him from below, in a tone of surprise and protest.

"Screw you, Nate," he snarled back. "I told you…"

He broke off when he glanced down and saw Nate staring up at him in shock. Nate's gaze slowly dropped to his own chest and the knife hilt protruding from it. Before Eliot could react Nate crumpled, falling forward onto the stairs and, Eliot thought automatically, driving the knife deeper.

"Nate!" The lurker across the street was gone anyway, and this was far more urgent. He vaulted down the stairs to reach the fallen man and gently turn him onto his back.

The door behind him burst open and suddenly voices were babbling in his ears.

"Oh my God, what happened?"

"Nate? Are you okay, man?"

"Hey, what's that all about?"

Eliot looked up at his friends, for one of the few times in his adult life too shocked to speak, or to even know what to say.

Sophie dropped to her knees beside Nate. "He's been stabbed! Eliot, who did this?" She looked apprehensively upward. "Did they get away?"

"I'll call for an ambulance!" Parker dashed back into the bar.

Hardison stood and stared.

"He's gone, he got away" Eliot finally managed to say. "Sophie," he grabbed her wrist to get her attention. "It's my fault. I caused this. If Nate dies I killed him."

"Eliot, don't be silly." Sophie cupped her other hand to Nate's cheek and leaned close. "Nate?" She was keeping her voice very even despite the situation. "Nate, can you hear me?"

Eliot forced himself to drop the issue. Saving Nate's life, if possible, was the important thing now. Eliot let go Sophie's wrist and grabbed Nate's instead, probing for a pulse at his throat as well.

"He's alive," he told Sophie and Hardison. "He's alive."

As if in response Nate's throat spasmed, he choked for a moment, and then blood trickled in a thin line from the corner of his mouth.