The kid’s scared of guns.
It really shouldn’t be that surprising, all things considered—Nate still hasn’t provided an age (or a birthday, a hometown, a country of origin, or a favorite color), but he can’t be more than fifteen. That mess on the roof was probably the first time he’d held a gun. Probably the first time he’d had anyone shoot at him, or corner him with a gun trained on his chest. Being scared makes sense.
But Sullivan sorta wants to keep the kid around, just for a while, long enough to make sure he won’t get himself killed. And traveling with Victor Sullivan requires a basic knowledge of firearms, if only so the kid can return fire when people inevitably start shooting at them.
Which is why they’re sitting in the back of a “borrowed” pickup truck a few miles outside a little town in southern Panama with Sullivan’s gun collection laid out before them. Nate’s leaning against the side of the bed, trying to feign nonchalance and failing miserably. His hands are balled into tight fists and he keeps inching away from the guns ever-so-slowly.
Sullivan sighs. “They’re not gonna bite ya,” he says.
Nate flinches, startled, then arranges his face into a picture-perfect teenage scowl. “I know.”
He wonders, not for the first time since leaving Cartagena, why in god’s name he decided that picking up a teenage apprentice was a good idea. Then he shakes his head and picks up the middle of the three guns. Nate tracks the movement with his eyes, tensing a little bit as though he’s bracing himself for a shot. “First rule of gun safety,” Sullivan says, making sure he keeps the gun aimed well away from both of them, “is to always treat a gun like it’s loaded. I don’t care if you just pulled the clip out yourself. You’re holding a gun, act like it’s loaded.”
Nate just nods and scoots away another inch. “Second rule,” Sullivan continues. “Don’t point a gun at something you don’t plan to shoot.” Another nod. “Third rule—don’t ever, ever shove a gun down the front of your pants. There’s always somewhere else you can stash it and it ain’t worth the risk to your nuts.”
That, at least, gets a smirk and a snicker out of the kid. Sullivan grins back and tilts his head towards the back of the truck. “C’mon. I didn’t set up all those bottles for nothing. Let’s see if you can hit something by sunset.”
Nate snorts and jumps to the ground. “I can hit them,” he says.
Behind him, Sullivan rolls his eyes. Misplaced confidence isn’t much better than misguided fear. “We’ll see,” he says, sort of diplomatically, and puts his hands on Nate’s shoulders to square up his posture before passing him the gun. Nate glances at him, but he doesn’t pull away. That’s progress.