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I have this dream that I am hitting my dad with a baseball bat

And he is screaming and crying for help

And maybe halfway through, it has more to do with me killing him

Than it ever did protecting myself

 

Eliot woke with a start. He had that nightmare again. It had been years- he was supposed to be over this by now, but here he was at three in the fucking morning wide awake and filled with thoughts he tried so desperately to forget. Eliot got up and walked to the bathroom, hunching over the sink as he stared at himself in the mirror.

He felt sick.

WHAM

Before he could even think, he slammed his fist into the mirror, shattering it into a million little pieces. Eliot ignored the pain in his fist- welcoming it, if anything- desperate for something to focus on besides the thoughts surging through his brain.

 

And I believe that yeah, dad, maybe no one is perfect

But I believe that you are pushing your luck

It just sucks it played out like this, a terrible movie

You can tell none of the actors even give a fuck

 

Eliot ran. Down the stairs in Nate’s loft and out the door, ignoring Hardison and Parker’s sleepy forms emerging from their bedroom, filled with concern.

He had to go. He had to get out of there. Eliot couldn’t think of anything but the burning in his lungs and the pain in his hand.

Eliot ran until his legs buckled. Then he vomited.

Finding the nearest tree Eliot collapsed against its trunk and pulled his knees to his chest. He had no phone, no shoes, no idea where he was, and a bleeding hand.

And he couldn’t care less.

 

But you look good tonight, girlfriend

Can I sleep in your bed?

And when I crawl out in the morning

Can I stay inside your head?

 

Eventually, Eliot fell asleep, curled up in a ball and shivering. When he woke, the sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon. In the new light, he took stock of where he was. Some wooded park he’d never seen before. Not a soul around.

Eliot picked the glass out of his hand to stop the thoughts in his head.

 

'Cause you were high school

And I was just more like real life

And you were okay, okay as a girlfriend

But I was just more like his wife

 

He knew he should go back, or at least call. Explain what happened. Or at least show he wasn’t dead. But he couldn’t make his body move from his spot at the bottom of the tree.

They would look for him. They wouldn’t stop until they found him or died trying. Eliot loved that about them, though it generally made his job a lot harder. They cared so much, even though it would probably get them killed one day.

Eliot tried not to think about death, despite his line of work.

But now he couldn’t stop his mind from wandering.

 

I'll do the push-ups, I'll wear the makeup

I'll do whatever he wants all night

'Cause you were okay, okay as a girlfriend

But I was just more like real life

 

It was Nate that found him. Of course it was Nate. The fucking mastermind of the whole crew, the self-sacrificing asshole who always stood up for the little guy. Nathan fucking Ford.

It was about eight in the morning when Nate found him, and Eliot actually heard him before he saw him.

“Eliot! Eliot! Guys, I got him!” He was yelling into his earbud.

Eliot just wanted him to shut up. Wanted to fight, to run, to make it all stop.

He wasn’t even sure if he could stand.

 

A long, long time ago, my great great great great grandfather

Took something that did not belong to him

And that is why today I have an eagle in my veins

I am part Native American

 

Nate was breathless as he approached Eliot- he’d clearly been running. Eliot wasn’t sure how he found him, though he wouldn’t be surprised if Hardison tracked him through damn street cameras or something.

“Eliot, Jesus man. Want to explain what that was all about?”

Eliot just looked down in shame. He couldn’t make eye contact.

Nate sat down beside him.

“Eliot, please. Whatever it is, I can help you. We can help you.”

He couldn’t help but let out a derisive snort.

“Nobody can help me.”

Eliot cringed at how broken his voice sounded.

“That’s not true. We’re a team, Eliot. We’re in this together, and we will do anything to make sure you’re okay. Do you know how worried everyone was? Do you know how scared everyone was? We’ve been up since you left trying to find you.”

Eliot tried to hide the tear that slipped down his cheek, but he knew Nate saw it.

 

And I am leaving as soon as I come

As soon as I come, you will probably forget my name

I hope I fall asleep at the wheel and crash my car

(On the way home)

Or I could just stay here, because

 

“It was my dad. I have this dream sometimes that I’m back home and I have this bat in my hand. And I just hit him and hit him and hit him and I can’t stop.”

Sensing he wasn’t done, Nate said nothing. Eliot ignored another tear sliding down his cheek.

“I haven’t been home in years. I haven’t seen my dad in years. I haven’t even had this dream for years! But here I am, having this fucking dream again, and it scares me and it makes me feel so goddamn guilty. I’ve done terrible things, Nate. Terrible things, but this is the dream that always gets me. That scares me so bad I can’t think straight. That makes me so angry that I feel like I’m gonna explode.”

 

You look good tonight, girlfriend

Can I sleep in your bed?

And when I crawl out in the morning

Can I stay inside your head?

 

Nate’s heart broke. He didn’t need to know the details to know that Eliot had been through hell with his dad. To know that the hell would never leave him. Some scars just don’t heal.

He wrapped his arm around Eliot’s bare shoulders and tried not to show how much the way Eliot just sagged into his side hurt his heart.

“You don’t have to tell me- or any of us- the details if you don’t want. Just know that we will always be right behind you. We’re here to catch you when you fall.”

Eliot said nothing.

“Eliot, you carry the weight of unimaginable things on your shoulders. We can’t take back what happened to you in the past, but we can help you carry the weight.”

 

'Cause you were high school

And I was just more like real life

And you were okay, okay as a girlfriend

But I was just more like his wife

 

They sat there for another 20 minutes, before Eliot felt like maybe he could finally breathe again.

“You ready to go home?”

He nodded silently and rose to his feet, before collapsing forward into Nate.

“Woah, okay buddy. This is gonna be a two-person effort.”

Eliot wrapped his arm around Nate’s shoulder as he wrapped his arm around Eliot’s waist, and they slowly began the journey out of the park. It wasn’t long before Eliot saw Parker, Sophie, and Hardison waiting by the van. Parker was sitting on the roof, looking like it was taking all of the power in her body not to run at them. Sophie tried not to show her worry, but it was clear in her eyes. Hardison was jittery and mumbling to himself.

 

I'll wear the makeup, I'll do the push-ups

I'll do whatever he wants all night

'Cause you were okay as a girlfriend

And I was just more like real life

 

The moment they reached the van Parker launched herself at Eliot, wrapping him in a hug so tight that it hurt. But maybe, just maybe, he felt some little part of his heart heal.

Hardison was next. His hug was just as tight, and he was rambling about Eliot could never do that to him again, or he would purposely give all of his electronics the worst virus he could find. Or at least that’s what Eliot thought he was saying. It’s kind of hard to understand someone who has their face pressed into your hair.

Sophie’s hug was gentle, but it was clear that she felt just the same as Parker and Hardison.

Nate just gave him a nod. A nod that said lets go home.

 

More like real life (More like real life)

More like real life, more like real life

 

Eliot was silent on the ride home, and the walk back to the loft. He was silent as Parker gave him some of her favorite chocolate, as Sophie got him his softest pajamas, as Hardison found his favorite comedy, as Nate took care of his hand. He was silent, but he was thinking about how maybe Nate was right. That they would always catch him when he fell. That he had a new family.

 

You were high school

And I was just more like real life

And you were okay, okay as a girlfriend, girlfriend

I was just more like his wife

 

They eventually all fell asleep in a pile on the couch, watching some goofy movie Eliot couldn’t remember the name of. He woke to his stomach grumbling at about noon, but he couldn’t be bothered to move.

He was right where he needed to be.

 

And it is okay, I'll wear the makeup

I'll do whatever you want all night

'Cause you were okay, okay as a girlfriend, girlfriend

But I was just more like real life

More like real life

 

He’d explain to them all eventually, but now was not the time. Now was the time for dumb movies and comfy clothes and goofy stories that couldn’t be true (but probably were) from Sophie and Parker’s chocolate.  Now was the time for love. For healing.