She’s safe. And now she’s not.
The panic in his mind is past ten, off the scale right now because Elena is hurt, and she’s not getting better, not when they’re going forward instead of back. He can’t help but think of the time back in Nepal, just days ago, where she was okay. He had vaulted over the wall, turned to grab her and put himself inbetween her and the gunfire at their backs, ready to go down with a fight. He remembers that smile she flashed him when they met eyes - just like old times, huh?
.. Just like old times, from keeping her safe, to being scared out of his mind for her.
The coast is clear for now, the gunfire has stopped but all he can think about is Elena. Nate’s on his knees in no time at all, reaching a hand out to her - but it’s too quick so he stops for a moment, settles for her shoulder instead of her face, her hand, anything else.
He doesn’t want to make it any worse, whether it’s irritating a wound or making her go through more pain than she has to. She’s come this whole way with him, stayed despite the warnings and here they are now. Away from the danger that lingers further on, for only a moment.
“Elena?” His throat is dry, he can’t even swallow. “How’re you doing…?” His voice shakes, cracks even.
Brown eyes lift and spare him a glance; they fall back down just as quick and send a chill through him. The breath that leaves her is more of a gasp than anything, a plea for them to leave her behind because she can’t. Not like this.
He’s going to lose Elena if he keeps going, brings her and Chloe along because he can’t let them out of his sight, not if he wants to protect them. But he’s heading straight for Lazarevic, and how is that protecting them at all? His eyes go to Chloe and she recognizes it, not .
“No, you’re not-“
“I have to. If Lazarevic reaches the stone..” His words hold truth, no matter how much Miss Frazer would like to protest. Once he’s said his piece and she’s said her own, Chloe moves to pick up Elena, who can’t even make a word. Her eyes just stay on him for as long as they can, and then they’re out of sight. Nate turns the other way, towards the foliage, to the stairs.
Here goes nothing.
He remembers how it feels to be that useless, to feel like there was nothing he would do but watch Elena get hurt, because it was his own fault - he let her come along. But not this time. Nate can’t handle that, doesn’t even want to think about how he would cope with that, because now he can’t. He’s not ready for a third time, not willing to push his luck, not because he doesn’t want to, but because it’s Elena.
He stares her down through the fence and weighs his options. His eyes go everywhere but Elena for a moment - to the plane, then back to the gate and finally his eyes drop down to that spot where both their hands are, together.
Hers is so tiny, on top of his, trying to reassure him that she’ll be fine, he’s not going to lose her, but he can’t take that chance.
“This a million-to-one shot.”