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What, was "Rudy" on cable last night?

. . . Yes.

Eliot Spencer vdistinctive
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The loft above Luke's, Friday morning
Eliot woke with a start, choking on his breath for a moment -- which was weird and drew far too much attention to him if there was someone watching, waiting to use his weakness against hi -- right, okay, no. He was in the loft. On the couch. Where he'd been sitting up waiting to see if ferret!Parker would come out and eat the chicken they'd left out for her.

There was a ferret sitting on the back of the couch next to him, staring at him tensely. When he looked at it it bounced in place and chittered at him. Eliot rubbed his hand down his face, trying to shake the nightmare he'd just had.

"Well at least you showed back up." His voice was still a little choked, his whole body tensed and on the alert. This dream had thrown everything at him: people he'd lost, people he'd killed, torturers, prisons, wars, the whole nine, and his heart rate was still speeding along. Parker scrambled closer to bump her nose against his, and he managed a faint smile for her. "Yeah," he said. "I'm alright. Just --" He let out a sharp breath. "Just gimme a minute. Where's Hardison? He was waitin' up for ya, too."

[ooc: for the boyfrien]

Hardison woke, the remains of brutal nightmares still clinging to him. Nightmares where he felt like he'd relived every moment of fear, every moment of pain, every moment of loss from his life. Starting with the mother he barely let himself remember, lying in a pool of her own vomit, a needle in her arm and the smell of burning sweetness in the air. Not the first time a tiny Alec had seen her like that, though it was one of the very last; not much later, she'd be arrested for solicitation, drugs, and child endangerment and sent to jail, while he'd be sent to foster care.

That had been the first nightmare he'd had that night, but hardly the last. Hardly the worst, either.

Waking up wasn't much better, either. The first thing his conscious mind recognized was the smell of roses; a scent he'd come to loathe with an atavistic horror. And rather than the familiar feel of a couch cushion under him, his questing fingers found only silk. He was swathed in it, like a cocoon. Behind the silk, however, he felt something harder, with no give. It gave a muted thwock when he flailed at it; a layer of wood covered in padded satin.

Satin. Wood. Roses.

He couldn't see he couldn't breathe the smell of roses was too thick too close there was no air no new air he was closed off he was trapped this was a dream no this was a nightmare just another nightmare this couldn't be real but if it wasn't real is it was just a dream why couldn't he wake up why couldn't he move why was he stuck trapped no air no air alone no air he was going to die in here

A beautiful coffin rested on the floor beside the comfortable chair Hardison had fallen asleep in last night. And inside of it, Hardison was screaming.

Eliot jerked in his seat, his already speeding heart rate kicking up into full on action mode when the muffled screaming started. Parker scrambled up onto his shoulder, wrapping herself around his neck like a scarf as he jumped up off the couch and flung himself towards the sound -- and the damned coffin on the floor. The eerily, horribly familiar coffin.

"Hardison!" He grabbed at the lid of the coffin and pulled, but it wouldn't come open. Back in the graveyard it'd been easy, once they cleared the dirt off the top just came open but here it was -- locked, or sealed or -- Eliot couldn't see any nails. He yanked at the lid, bracing his legs for more leverage and grunting as he strained to get it open, but it wouldn't budge. On his shoulder, Parker shrieked in his ear, clearly as anxious as he was.

"You know what the definition of insanity is?" a thickly accented, smoky voice asked, and Eliot froze, looking up through his hair.

Bojana sat in Hardison's chair, still dressed in the dusty, tattered remains of her stage costume, her skin black and blue, one side of her head crushed in. She smiled at him.

"Not now," he growled, because yeah, that was fucked up, but he didn't have time for dead lovers when one of his living ones was literally trapped in his worst nightmare.

There was no room for dignity inside the coffin. Hardison was hammering at the lid, tearing away the padding to he could slam his fists raw on the hard, unyielding wood. "Let me out!" he screamed. "Let me out let me out let me out!"

At least the last time this happened he'd had his phone, had Parker's voice on the other end urging to be calm, to remember that help was on its way. Now he had nothing and no one. He couldn't hear anything beyond his own shrieks and the pounding of his fists. "Please let me out! Please!"

Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck. Parker scrambled down Eliot's arm and started jumping up and down on the lid, chittering for all she was worth and glaring up at Eliot, like this was somehow his fault.

Okay, that was maybe a bit of projecting.

Eliot knocked on the lid, trying to be louder than Hardison's yelling. "Hardison. Hardison! I'm right here, man, I'm gonna get you out!"

"And how will you do this?" Bojana asked. "It is hopeless, no? This is how all those you love end up."

"Shut up or help!" Eliot barked at her.

Crowbar. He needed a crowbar. He'd left a tool kit in the closet, hadn't he? He rushed over to look.

Yeah, definitely no room for dignity in here. There was room for terror and panic, most definitely. For screaming and crying also. Tears and begging? Sure. But no dignity. "Eliot!" he yelled. "Parker! Please! Somebody!"

Had be been buried again? Was he now six feet--or deeper?--under the cold earth, too deep to be heard and too far to be reached in time?

"Please, yo!" he said, breaking down into hoarse sobs. "Please--anybody--Eliot, man, please, I'm so sorry...Jus' let me say I'm sorry, please."

No crowbar, but the toolbox did have a claw hammer. Eliot pulled out that and a flat headed screwdriver to use as a chisel if need be and rushed back to the coffin. "I'm on it, I'm coming for you, man." It was pretty clear by now that Hardison couldn't hear him, but that wasn't going to stop Eliot from trying to reassure him. "I'm gonna get you out of there, Alec. I promise."

"Promise," Bojana scoffed. Something started oozing down from her hairline on the crushed side of her head. "There's only one promise you keep."

Eliot forced himself to ignore her, wedging the claw end of the hammer under the lip of the lip and prying. His growl of effort turned into a roar as the top corner started to creak, then finally started to crack.

Edited at 2015-12-18 07:50 pm (UTC)

The coffin vanished like it had never been, leaving Hardison temporarily blinded by the bright sunlight streaming in through the living room window. His knuckles were bloody, face shiny from tears, expression contorted by fear and pain. But the light, the goddamn painful, beautiful light--it meant he was free, he was out, he was safe.

He took in several large, gasping breaths, so deep they hurt, but that hurt was good it meant he was breathing, he was alive. "E-Eliot?" he gasped out and Parker crawled up his chest and buried her furry face in his neck. "El-Eliot?"

Eliot threw the hammer and screwdriver aside and grabbed Hardison's hand and pulled him up and into a tight hug. "You're okay. I don't know what the fuck that was but you're okay. I got you. You're okay."

Bojana snorted. "For now."

Eliot's arms tightened around Hardison and tried to will her away. He wanted to scream at her, but Hardison didn't need that right now.

And Hardison was going to do his best to fit his entire lanky frame into Eliot's lap if he could, wrapping his arms around him and squeezing like he would never let go. "How'd that even--it ain't--how--what even--" Eventually he just gave up on words entirely and just focused on clinging to Eliot.

Long minutes passed before he was calm enough to say, "Thanks man. For gettin' me out."

"Every time, man," Eliot promised, for once not objecting in the least to Hardison hanging onto him. "I will always come for you."

"He told me that once," Bojana said. "And I suppose he did. Eventually."

"Dammit, Bojana!" Eliot couldn't take her comments anymore. "That was sixteen years ago!"

Hardison peeked up from Eliot's shoulder to look at the strange woman currently in his living room. If he were less mentally exhausted, he would have been humiliated to know a total stranger had witnessed him in that coffin. Hell, there would have been a lot more of a reaction to, oh, everything about her.

Instead, though, he turned to Eliot and asked, in a fairly measured and reasonable tone, "Eliot, why is there a dead girl on our couch? I know I ain't asked no dead folks to come callin'." And, in a moment of bizarre hysteria added, "New livin' room, who dis?" and then laughed for a solid fifteen seconds.

Look, it had been a long fucking morning.

It really had. And it hadn't even been that long yet. "She's -- no one. I don't know why she's here."

"No one, he calls me!" Bojana scoffed, leaning towards Hardison. "You see how he speaks about his lovers once they're gone? Something to look forward to, next time you are in the coffin."

Eliot's arms tightened around Hardison again, and he growled faintly into his shoulder.

"Yo, I ain't like your ex," Hardison informed Eliot, unable to repress a violent shudder. "This ain't like a Nicky thing, right? Where she's gonna be around all weekend?"

Their girlfriend's dead brother had been hard to deal with, but at least he'd given Parker some closure. This chick seemed unwilling to provide anything but snide comments.

Eliot's eyes went wide at the very idea, and Bojana laughed.

"Nicky didn't look like he did after he got hit by the car," Eliot said finally.

"Am I no longer pretty enough for you, Eliot?" Bojana leaned forward, sticking out her bloody, partially collapsed chest and pursing her lips. "It's your own fault, no?"

"I ain't the one who dropped the bombs."

"No. But I was only where they fell because I waited for you."

Shit shit shit. This was just unfair. "Look," Hardison said, lifting his head up to stare at the dead woman. His head felt like it weighed a million pounds, but this needed to be said. "Apparently it's 'Put The Crew Through The Emotional Wringer Day' or somethin' like that, but it's stupid o'clock an' Eliot don't need you here addin' to his guilt complex, a'ight? You died. It wasn't his fault. He's sorry it happened, though. Hell, I'm sorry it happened an' I don't even like you. But you can't blame him for what happened an' you can't blame him for not holdin' a torch for the last sixteen years. Get over this, resolve your damn issues and just move on, a'ight?"

Eliot stuck his face in Hardison's shoulder. Hardison wasn't supposed to have to defend him -- but it felt good to hear him do it, anyway. Bojana huffed and rolled her eyes -- and vanished.

"Fuck," Eliot muttered. "And I thought dreamin' about all that shit this morning was bad."

"Yeah, me too," Hardison said glumly, resting his head back on Eliot like God had intended. "We need coffee. So much coffee. An' maybe booze. In the coffee. Or maybe we can just go back to bed an' hopefully when we wake up again, everythin' will suck less."

"Coffee," Eliot said. He was pretty sure he wouldn't be able to fall back asleep right now. Bojana was going to stick to him. "You dream about the coffin again?"

"Yeah," Hardison said softly. "That an' a buncha other stuff. You dream about her?"

Eliot nodded. "Among other things. That can't be a coincidence."

Fandom wasn't that nice.

"You know, I kinda miss the tiny horses an' the ugly sweaters," Hardison huffed, trying to sound more like his regular self. He didn't make it anywhere close, but he was at least making the attempt. "Can we regift this?"

Reluctantly, he started to unwind himself from Eliot. The coffee wasn't going to make itself or something. "You wanna talk about her?"

"Not really," Eliot muttered, but then he did anyway, maintaining contact with Hardison as long as possible. "She's -- she was -- a Serbian actress. Kind of a terrible one, actually. We met when I was workin' ground force in the Balkans. You're probably too young to remember, but NATO bombed the hell out of Belgrade, tryin' to end the conflict. My team was sent in to, uh. Make sure certain people didn't make the survivors list."

He'd been 23. It was his last mission before he left the army, went rogue. Back when he enjoyed taking his targets out.

"She was right," he continued softly. "It was my fault. We knew all the targets -- we had to, to make sure we were out of their way. I was supposed to come see her show that night."

In his head he could still hear the bombs going off, echoing in the distance. He'd tensed up at thunder ever since. Explosions right in front of him he was used to, could handle fine, but that distant rumble got him every time.

"Her theater was next to one of the targets. That's why she -- why she looked like that. No burns, just -- crush injuries. I thought she'd clear out when I didn't show. Everyone else did."

"Damn, man." There went all the progress he'd made towards unwinding himself, arms wrapping tight around him again. "I'm sorry. That...that's rough. I'm s'posed to be better at stuff like this, but I ain't got nothin' but that. It sucks an' I'm sorry." He hugged Eliot again. "Dammit, I'm sorry about everythin'. This past month has sucked an' I'm sorry. Can we just...not be angry anymore?"

"Yeah, man," Eliot said, wishing it hadn't taken something like this for Hardison to actually apologize -- or that Eliot himself hadn't cleared the air properly much, much earlier. Their whole crew was pretty terrible at 'I'm sorry', though. "That'd be good. I've missed you."

His own apology to Hardison would come before all this was over. But like Hardison had said, he was the one who was better at this stuff.

"Missed you, too," he said, breath warm on Eliot's neck. He lived here now, in Eliot's lap. "Ain't been all that easy on Parker, neither. We should probably apologize to her, too."

There was a small noise from where she was perched, tucked away against their sides. "When she's person-shaped again."

Eliot's laugh was a little pained, but perfectly genuine. "Yeah. That sounds like a plan."