AN: I guess some of you will hate me for this, so before the story let me get a few things clear: This will get slashy BUT you'll be completely free to disregard this part and read the rest of the story as usual. Nothing will change in the ordinary storyline, so if you haven't read this you're not missing anything, okay? (The first 1500 words or so should be interesting for everyone, but it's up to you.)

With that said I'll take the time to disappoint the slash-fans as well, because while this gets slashy, I won't turn it into slash (there's a difference). I guess you can read it as you like, but the rest of the series will be friendship and this might land somewhere on the platonic-slash line.

This builds from the end of 'Wrong side of okay', if you haven't read that I'd recommend you start there. Now, let's get on with the story:

.oOo.

It slips into a habit so smoothly Eliot never really notices the transition, but one day he realizes he's trusting Dean to drop by at regular intervals. It's usually two or three weeks in between, and the time it stretches out to two months Eliot is beginning to fear Dean's lying dead in a forest somewhere. When the hunter finally shows he blames a broken rib that needed healing and Eliot wants to punch Dean for making him worry.

Dean shows up in the evening, usually looking tired. If Eliot's home the hunter knocks on the door, otherwise he simply lets himself in and waits. It goes so far Eliot gives him the code to his alarm. It's better than getting laid-back about triggered systems.

They don't speak much and it's never long before they end up in the training room. They teach each other specific techniques or combinations used in their respective fields, but most importantly they spar. A few times they even come dangerously close to beating the crap out of each other. It's a surprisingly good way of getting a few hours of decent sleep.

Generally Dean seems to be the one who suffers more from insomnia, but Eliot can't claim to get a lot of great rest himself. It's rare that he gets more than three hours and even if the nightmares have abated in the last years Eliot seldom sleeps soundly. With some exceptions; like when he has spent the hours before going to bed sparring with Dean.

The effect comes from far more than simple physical exhaustion, even if that is a part of it too. Running never has the same results and neither does a round against the sand bag. Eliot thinks some of it is the meditational value of fighting someone who's so skilled he can think of nothing else if he's to hold his own. There's also the simple comradery of knowing that neither of them will honestly hurt the other. It's a simple yet efficient kind of drug; the mix of aching muscles, clear mind, and friendship. Eliot finds it relaxing in a way no chemicals can ever provide.

.oOo.

There's always breakfast the next morning, where Dean looks more alive and is firing off jokes. Sometimes he stays to see Parker and Hardison, and when he doesn't Eliot makes a point of not mentioning it to them.

.oOo.

A couple of months into Dean and Eliot's new, silent agreement Parker gets injured on a job. Eliot is unable to get to her in time to stop a thug and she gets a cut across her clavicle. It's not deep and afterwards Eliot is more shaken than she is, even if he does his best to hide it. He nearly stops sleeping, to tightly wound up to relax. It had been way too close, and he needs to be more vigilant, faster, better… Anything to keep it from happening again because next time they might not be so lucky.

The daily fifty minutes of rest Eliot gets is filled with dreams of him letting his friends down, getting them killed. His brain gets muddled and disorganized from lack of sleep. It's a downhill slope if Eliot's ever seen one, because he can't focus enough to get the images of his dead friends out of his mind.

Eliot almost calls Dean then. He sits with the phone in his hand but can't make himself push the buttons. Asking for help isn't a habit of Eliot's, just as it isn't one of Dean's. The difference is that Dean doesn't have a house where Eliot can just happen to drop by.

When Dean finally shows it's been almost two weeks and for once Eliot is the one looking more exhausted. That night Eliot sleeps six hours, and he wakes feeling ten years younger.

.oOo.

The wet asphalt reflects the streetlights and rain is hanging in the air. It's not enough to soak through clothes but Eliot needs to use his wind-shield wipers to see the deserted streets. The very last leaves have fallen from the trees and are hurled back and forth across the road in the wind. It's a harsh and unfriendly night, and anyone who can has sought shelter indoors and are now asleep. It's the kind of night the hitter usually loves, finding them invigorating. Yet tonight, as he drives home from movie night at the Brewpub, Eliot cannot enjoy anything. The festering dark cyst that is lodged in his stomach takes all his attention, making him nauseous. He wishes it would be possible to simply throw it up.

Arriving at the driveway Eliot sees light from his kitchen window, which he knows can only mean one thing. For a second the hitter is unsure whether he is terrified or grateful that Dean choose this night to show up. Doesn't know if it will make things better or worse. He allows himself a few seconds in the car before steeling himself and stepping out. It's his home after all.

While Dean offers a brief greeting Eliot continues to his liquor cabinet, pouring a liberal amount of amber liquid into a tumbler. He can feel Dean's eyes tracking him and knows he might be revealing more than he should, but he needs a drink and he won't let the other's presence keep him from that. He empties the glass and the sting of alcohol burns in a good way, making breathing marginally easier. Eliot pours himself another and moves to lean on his elbows on the divider between the living room and kitchen.

"Bad day?" Dean asks from his seat at the kitchen table. His face is illuminated by the blue light of his computer screen and he looks reasonably awake for once. Eliot allows himself a second to wonder if Dean is showing up even without the urgent tiredness now.

"Bad evening." The hitter finally answers. Dean simply raises an eyebrow in further question. "Movie night." Eliot clarifies.

"What did Hardison have you watch?" Dean sounds honestly curious. "Requiem for a dream?"

The reference passes far above Eliot's head. "Face/Off." He answers instead and regrets it immediately. He really, really does not want to have this conversation.

"Okay." Eliot can feel Dean's eyes on him but he looks at his glass instead. "And Travolta and Cage make you wanna go for the booze?"

"It's unrealistic." The words are out before Eliot can stop them, or maybe he doesn't care enough to really try.

"It's Hollywood, it's not supposed to be realistic." Dean supplies, obviously getting nothing.

"I know that, I was just reminded how it actually looks when you peel someone's face off." Dean only hums in answer. A quick glance shows Dean to be disgusted.

The remaining liquid in Eliot's glass goes down and the hitter is suddenly sick of it all. He might as well alienate Dean now and get this so called friendship over and done with. The hunter might understand a lot, but the sheer magnitude of the shit the hitter's done? No one can comprehend it all, not even Dean can possibly relate. He hunts monsters after all, not humans.

"Don't get me wrong Winchester." He says, and it comes out as a growl around the knot in his throat. "I wasn't an innocent bystander, I held the fucking knife."

Of all the different scenarios Eliot imagines as he spills that particular part of his past, laughing isn't one. Granted, it's not a joyous laugh that escapes Dean but it's enough to make Eliot look up and meet his eyes.

"I spent forty years in hell." It's Dean's turn to look away now. "And obviously I'm not as strong as dad 'cause I could only take it for thirty before I got up and took that blade. Ten years in a place where no one sleeps and no one dies and…" Dean trails off but meets Eliot's eyes for a second. "So yeah, I know what it looks like. I know how it feels, how it smells… In my dreams I still fucking enjoy it." Dean's voice fades out.

The silence stretches. Eliot realizes he might be more tired than he feels, because his thoughts have slowed and like paper planes they lose direction. Dean is a good man, Eliot knows this, maybe not honest exactly, but far less evil than most respectable men. Of course Eliot has always known that Dean has a history, that he seems to understand in ways others doesn't. Now it's confirmed. If Dean can be all that, and have done things that are up to par with Eliot's own low points, maybe there's hope for Eliot as well.

Or they're both equally screwed.

Nate especially, and the team in general, knows his reputation of course. They've seen snippets of who he's been, but they have less than one percent of the true picture. Dean knows enough of the darker sides of humanity to get more than that, but so far Eliot has believed that the difference is marginal. Now Dean sits here and tells him how in his dreams he still enjoys it, and Eliot knows that feeling so well he has to fight to keep upright. It's something he thought no one will be able to understand and it's the very reason he can never let his team in all the way. He's fucked up in ways they can't imagine.

The exhilaration and the power rush and (later) the enormous guilt and self-hatred is something he's been certain no one will ever get, mainly because he won't let them. Then Dean blunders in and sum it up so neatly in eight small words. In my dreams I still fucking enjoy it – and Eliot does too. No matter how bad his nightmares get they are nothing compared to when he wakes with tingling skin and a smile on his face. If he'd had a gun within reach on those mornings his brains would be splattered across his bedroom wall, Eliot's sure of it.

"Damn, we are out of our minds aren't we?" Eliot finally says and Dean laughs.

"Speak for yourself farm boy, I'm right as rain." The lid of Dean's pen comes flying and Eliot snatches it from the air before it hits him.

"Yeah, yeah, and I'm Gandhi."

They spar, and Eliot goes to bed with bruised skin and an aching knee. He sleeps better than he deserves.

.oOo.

Parker tries her very best to get Dean to come by for Thanksgiving, but it's futile. Eliot can tell both she and Hardison are disappointed, and he thinks maybe he is too. One thing he is not is surprised.

.oOo.

Eliot doesn't know when it changes.

It's the beginning of December and it's been a weird day, shit it's been a weird week, and he's tired and his head hurts from the way he's constantly been battling his own mind. He knows he gets this way sometimes, he also knows it will pass. Still he's embarrassingly relieved when Dean shows up at his door that night. Not that he shows it of course.

The hunter is quiet in the bad way, like he's got too much he wants to forget but can't. Usually Dean's visits are solely about sleep, but Eliot's getting the feeling it's just as much about distraction this time as it was back in May. Neither of them asks, which is a tremendous relief. Words have a way of getting far messier than beatings in Eliot's experience, and much harder to come back from.

An anxious, destructive energy has been crackling under Eliot's skin the last few days, making him restless and itchy. It scares him, because it's happened before when he's been in these moods that he's snapped and killed somebody. So far one of the bad guys, but he'd prefer it if no one has to die at all. He's got enough blood on his hands as it is.

Parker and Hardison are amazing people, and they are really good at what they do. They are also defenseless in so many ways Eliot's stomach turns. Because what if he finally loses it? What if all the violence suddenly takes over and he hurts them or someone else without even meaning to? This week it has felt like that scenario is only a breath away. It's making him paranoid.

Years ago when Eliot went into one of his high-strung periods he used to just keep moving, but he has people tying him down now and for his life he can't leave them. At the same time he's jumpy, and keeps praying to a god he can't believe in that no one will jokingly try to surprise him. He might break their neck before realizing who it is.

With Dean it's different though. With Dean Eliot doesn't have to worry about forgetting himself and thus causing irreparable harm, and that calms his desperate routines somewhat. Dean can defend himself, even against a world class hitter, and it's like the snarling angry beast inside Eliot stills slightly with that knowledge alone. It might be because he's not focusing so desperately on containing it.

Eliot doesn't know when it changes. They are fighting - it's rough and fast and oh-so-needed because he can let go of the iron grip he's had on himself lately, he can let the brutality loose with the hope it will withdraw when it's had its way- then suddenly they are not. There's no in between, no conscious choice. It's like flipping a book page and finding a whole other story on the next side.

What should have been a fist to the stomach transforms and becomes a tight grip on a cotton t-shirt. The intended block is suddenly fingers trailing from elbow to shoulder as their bodies gravitate towards each other and come in contact from their knees to their chests. Dean's free hand has found its way to the nape of Eliot's neck and Eliot's left palm is resting on the hot skin of Dean's lower back. He has no idea how it got there.

Dean's face is pressed against Eliot's shoulder and Eliot leans to his right, letting his cheekbone rest against the back of Dean's skull. Dean takes a deep, unsteady breath and Eliot closes his eyes. The hand untangles from Eliot's shirt and finds a place above his hip, calloused thumb caressing the jagged scar at the bottom of his ribcage. Eliot is suddenly glad that Dean's legs is keeping his knees from giving out.

It's unclear whether it happened during the sparring, or if it's because of the sudden, unplanned intimacy, but the violent beast inside Eliot is finally gone. He only feels a calm sort of desperation, of need, like Dean's the only thing holding him together.

A ladies man, that's how Eliot sees himself, and then this. Dean's hands caressing his torso, the hunter's every breath and heartbeat transferring through Eliot's ribs, and it feels so good. Because this is Dean, and Dean knows him. Even after hearing some of the worst things about Eliot the hunter sticks around, not judging but understanding. It's almost too much to comprehend and it's definitely more than Eliot can express by words. He has a suspicion Dean might be feeling the same. Maybe it's not so strange then, that they ended up here.

The small bumps of the hunter's spine register under Eliot's fingertips, and he can feel Dean shiver from the touch.

Their shirts have been lost in a manner Eliot is carefully not considering, or he'd be very embarrassed. The feeling of skin against skin and hands on backs (and sides and necks and shoulders) is heavenly. Eliot's body is reacting to the contact, and he can tell Dean's is doing the same, but he's not actually turned on. His sexuality is more of a lazy feeling in the bottom of his stomach, he knows it's there but it is insignificant. What Eliot craves is the intimacy, the kind he never gets with the girls because they don't know him.

They come to a temporary halt, foreheads resting against each other and the tips of their noses touching. "We shouldn't be doing this." Dean's voice is hoarse, and his breath tastes of bourbon and coffee all at once.

"Probably." Eliot agrees. This could destroy everything, they might never be able to look one another in the eyes again. "You wanna stop?" He asks and his stomach lurches at the thought. If they've already ruined things he wants more before it's too late.

"Not really." Dean admits.

"Good." Eliot says. Dean's neck smells of sweat, dust, and the Impala.

.oOo.

Eliot only ever wakes slowly if he's drugged, injured, or both, yet he cannot remember either of those things happening as he fights his way back to consciousness. He is in his bed, he recognize the textures, the smells. He feels safe here, wants to go back to sleep for the first time he can remember. For a full second he's confused about who's shining a light in his face before he realizes it's the sun. From the angle of it he surmises it's around noon without even opening his eyes. He doesn't feel like he's got more than the regular amount of bruises. Not injured then, and from the way his mind is clearing not drugged either.

There's a warm body very close to his. The only place they touch is where Eliot's forehead rests against what might be an upper arm, but he can feel the radiating heat and hear the rustle of the sheets as the other breathes.

Dean, Eliot's brain informs him.

Two strong impulses rush through Eliot at the realization. True to his habit he acts on neither but stays still and keeps his breathing pattern unchanged. Feigning sleep and ignorance will give him time to figure this out. On one hand Eliot wants to get up and run, preferably without ever looking back and thus never having to acknowledge this. On the other wants to stretch out, eliminate the thin strip of air between him and Dean, and go back to slumbering. The hitter can't remember when he last woke feeling this good. If pressed he'd say it probably was before he turned sixteen and his life started to go downhill. In a lot of ways that scares the shit out of him.

Years and years have passed since Eliot last slept with someone, in the literal sense of the word. He's gone to bed with a lot of girls, obviously, and has spent the night with quite a few of them, but slept? No.

It has a simple reason and her name is Amanda. He'd met her not long after he finally managed to leave Moreau. She was gorgeous, and fun, and they hung out for a while as he was in town for a job. The two first nights they spent together was amazing, on the third Eliot had a nightmare. Amanda tried to wake him and got her arm broken in two places before he realized where he was.

She'd been stoic at the ER, telling him that 'shit happens' and 'really, if we make it through this it can only get better, right?' Eliot had smiled and nodded and done his best to take care of her until the cast was gone, but he'd known it wouldn't get better. It was only luck that saved them from worse and with time that luck would run out. The next time it would happen it might be her neck that was closest.

After that Eliot has never allowed himself to fall asleep next to anybody again, he can't take the risk. So either he waits for them to drift off and then slips out, or he dozes lightly until he can get up and make breakfast. The only girl whose safety he hadn't worried about was Mikel Daylan, but that night he was too concerned about his own security to relax.

That it is so tranquillizing to lay next to someone who can not only protect himself but also understands him is chocking to Eliot. It's a long time since he subconsciously ruled it out as impossible to ever find such a person, and dubbed it even less likely that they'd stick around if he did. Yet here he is, next to Dean, and the simple intimacy hurts in the sweetest way Eliot can imagine.

"I'm beginning to wonder what's more awkward: The two of us laying here all day pretending to sleep, or simply acknowledging the situation?" Dean's voice is playful enough, at least on the surface.

"Dammit Winchester." Eliot cracks open his eyes and moves his head back to look at Dean. "Why ask the question if you've already decided on the answer?"

"Well, I'm a brave guy!" Dean smirks and Eliot's glad for the easy banter, it takes the edge of the embarrassment.

"What time is it?" The hunter rolls out of bed, filled with more energy than Eliot's ever seen him. They've both slept well then.

"Almost twelve." Eliot answers and Dean looks at him quizzically. "The sun." Eliot clarifies and nod toward the window.

"Why would you even know that?" Dean shakes his head. "Come on, I'm hungry."

"You're not my date, make your own damn lunch." Eliot throws a pillow at Dean and gets out of bed. The hunter disappears down the hallway to the guestroom before reappearing in a clean t-shirt and the jeans he's slept in.

"Whatever, as long as you don't complain that it's too salty or whatever." Dean runs a hand through his hair and drifts down the hallway.

Eliot shrugs, even if he can no longer be seen. "I've survived Hardison's beer and Parker's cooking, I'm sure I'll be fine." He states and a chuckle can be heard from the direction of the kitchen. Eliot grabs a set of clean clothes and moves to the master bathroom.

Apart from the initial awkwardness of waking up in the same bed they turn out to be astonishingly good at pretending last night never happened. It's not that Eliot has in any way forgotten what transpired, he's just content to act like he has. Evidently Dean feels the same, and if the hunter's mood is easier than Eliot's ever seen it he sure won't bring it up.

They spend the afternoon and evening helping Parker create and hang Christmas decorations in the pub. Or rather; Dean helps Parker and Eliot joins the kitchen in the dinner preparations. Hardison's camped out at a corner table with his laptop, researching their next case and running commentary on how the decorations should (but doesn't) look. He's punished later when Dean and Parker gang up against him and pick a movie they know Hardison'll hate.

When Eliot's front door has slammed shut and the silence of the house engulfs them it's suddenly harder for Eliot to feel relaxed around Dean. Midnight has come and gone, and Eliot knows this is the point when they go to the sparring room for a round or three. Yet last night deviated from their routine quite spectacularly. It was brought on by desperation and an unnamed need that Eliot has a hard time relating to today because it's not there anymore. So now what?

As they're ascending the stairs Eliot doesn't know if they'll be able to keep up the appearances of everything being as usual. He's also unsure if he wants to. The insight hits him hard enough that he can't ignore it, even if he wishes he could. What if he doesn't want to go back?

The groping Eliot can live without, might prefer to live without even. It had been amazing, he's not above admitting that, but the circumstances had also been highly unusual. The part Eliot wants a rerun of is what came after: Falling asleep with his body pressed against someone he can trust, only to wake a full eight hours later with no memories of dreaming and an overwhelming sense of safety and belonging. Maybe he's getting greedy, asking for such a thing to happen twice in his adult life.

One good thing with defending himself against Dean is that Eliot has no time to think about anything else. It even works better than meditation, and it is one of the most important reasons their fights have become such a necessity. Eliot is relieved, because it means he doesn't have to ponder whether he'd take a repeat of all of last night - if that is the only way to get the sleeping part once more. Not that he would deliberately instigate anything like that anyway.

Nothing happens. They spar until the eastern sky turns a pale blue and Eliot is too worn out to be upright. He stands, his hands on his knees and the taste of vomit sharp on his tongue, and wonders if it's worth to keep going simply to not have to make an actual decision. Dean seem to be struggling with the same question where he lays on the floor after a particularly well executed maneuver from Eliot. If he keeps going Eliot is sure he will throw up for real though. Something that will be humiliating and messy in a way he has absolutely no energy to deal with at the moment.

Sheer physical exhaustion has always had a way of clearing Eliot's mind. It's probably why he has managed to survive a lot of the crap he's been through. At the moment it makes him realize that exhaustion might be what had him swallowing down bile in the first place, but that it should have begun to fade by now. Even so his heart is beating just as furiously as it did a minute ago, and maybe the explanation is that he's close to panicking.

Eliot feels like he's balancing on the edge of a razorblade. It's a given fact that he can't remain here sparring with Dean forever, and now he'll have to choose which side he wants to fall on. Even more importantly he should make sure to keep well away from any kind of middle ground if he wants to keep all his limbs. He wishes he could read Dean's mind, it would make this so much easier.

The only part of the hunter visible from Eliot's current position is the feet, and they don't offer any clues about the man's thoughts. Looking up would be too obvious so Eliot doesn't. Instead he comes to the decision that he won't risk this. They have been impressingly good at pretending last night never happened, so they should be able to keep doing it. Because no matter how much Eliot has to possibly gain he feels he has far more to lose here.

The insight calms Eliot, even as it leaves a small aching emptiness in his stomach. He will not risk destroying what he and Dean have, will not get greedy and ask for things that Dean probably doesn't want to give. It will just make everything awkward and wrong. They are straight men after all.

"I'm going to bed." Eliot declares, and he's surprised at how normal his voice sounds. He stands up and walks toward the stairs, muscles protesting the movement.

As he crosses the room Eliot looks over at Dean. The hunter doesn't respond but lethargically lets his head fall to the side, meeting Eliot's eyes. The hitter can feel his breath pause for a second as his movement falters and he freezes with one hand at the banister.

Dean has looked away again but Eliot has already spotted the hollowness, and it's something he can't forget. It's a stark, painful reminder that this – whatever they have – is temporary at best. They both live dangerous lives, and with that look in his eyes Eliot doesn't doubt that Dean will self-destruct soon enough. Eliot managed to get past that point in his own life and he's sure Dean can as well, but it has to happen while there's something left to rescue.

Eliot knows what he wants, and from the look in Dean's eyes he thinks it's possible that Dean wants it to, or at least needs it. Maybe, with that in mind, nothing else matters? Maybe convention and even his own pride matters less to Eliot than the two of them getting another good night's sleep? Because he will be losing Dean at one point, it's merely a question of sooner or later.

"Are you coming?" Eliot hears himself say, and the words doesn't betray his constricted throat or the way his guts has turned to lead. Dean's eyes snap back up to meat Eliot's, a contemplative crease residing between his eyebrows. For two full heartbeats the hitter's unsure whether this will be the day he loses Dean.

Then Dean nods, once.

Neither of them speaks as the hunter struggles to his feet and Eliot walks down the stairs. Eliot's stomach is filled with a heavy mess of relief and terror and a bunch of feelings he couldn't name with a gun to his head. He doesn't look at Dean, afraid to break this temporary spell where everything seems upside down and just right at the same time.

As they get ready for bed, acting for all the world like the other isn't around, the jumbled mix of emotions gets more and more dominated by anxiety. What question did Dean answer? Eliot knows what he meant to ask, but how was it received? This could all be a misconception from his side.

The life Eliot's leading has taught him to never let his insecurities show, and no matter how much he tells himself that Dean isn't the enemy that doesn't change a thing. So when Eliot finally gets to lay down, he doesn't curl up the way he wants to; protecting all his most vulnerable body parts from the blow he's quite sure is coming. Instead he forces his limbs to stretch out and his expression to be relaxed.

Eliot never goes to bed with his door open. He knows it, Dean knows it, Dean should know that Eliot knows that Dean knows it…and from the way his thoughts spirals out of track Eliot realizes he might be freaking out just a tiny bit. He's not getting up to close the door now though.

It's not until Dean leans against the door frame, looking too calm in his slacks and t-shirt to be anywhere near it, that Eliot manages to ground his thoughts properly again. Not prepared to risk speaking Eliot tilts his chin just enough to nudge Dean towards the empty half of the bed – if Dean wants to interpret it that way. Dean rubs his cheek and the gesture reveals his nervousness.

"I just…" The hunter breaks off almost as soon as he's started. "It's just…" He tries again. "I'm not… You know?" Dean makes a grimace.

Relief once more floods through Eliot, and everything turns simple once again. He can't help the small chuckle that escapes him. "Dammit Winchester, neither am I." He confirms, and it feels good to have it out there. Dean looks eased as well. "Now just get over here so I can sleep." Eliot makes sure to put clear emphasis on the last word. It's all he wants after all. Sweet oblivion.

The other man ambles over and they both lay on their backs, shoulders inches from touching. It's awfully close on the king size bed. Holding on to his pride is futile Eliot decides. He might as well go all out because this is about as weird as it gets anyway.

"I haven't slept like that in years you know." Eliot admits and it's Dean's turn to huff out a laugh.

"Don't be such a girl Tardar." He punches Eliot's arm hard enough to add another bruise to his collection.

"You're the one in my bed." Eliot retorts and it shuts Dean up efficiently. "Now good night."

Dean never returns the platitude. Instead he simply rolls over, back to Eliot, in a confined motion that allows him to remain just as close to the hitter but without so much as brushing against him. Eliot shuts his eyes and slowly breaths out through his nose.

Waking up this morning stands out clearly in Eliot's mind, and how he'd wanted so bad to just close the distance between them. He still wants it. Wants to go back to that safe, soothing place where he's next to someone he can relax with. Eliot's tucked the feeling away as far back of his mind as he can, but it's there and even now it manages to terrify him. Because whenever there's something he wants, there's even more he might lose.

Eliot's been alone for so long. The loneliness has abated a lot in the last couple of years, as the team has wormed their ways into his life, but he's been alone. It hasn't really been a choice as much as it's been reconciling to the fact that he can't allow anyone that close. Psychologically because no normal person can, or should, begin to understand how he's lived his life. Physically because someone might end up injured, or worse.

The last thirty hours really have been Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition, and the hitter can't quite believe any of it's real. Dean's carefully regulated breathing next to him, the burn of the air against his left arm. It's all FUBAR, and while Eliot doesn't want to scare either of them away he wants more. Not to mention that he'll never be able to sleep with the tense, scorching distance between them.

Dean turned his back on him, and Eliot respects that show of distance. Yet Dean didn't increase the space between them, even when it would have been so easy for him. Therefore as Eliot turns to his right he makes sure to do it in a way where he ends up back-to back with Dean. Eliot can feel the slight change in Dean's breathing against his spine as some of the tension leaves the room.

Eliot's almost asleep, drifting away on the shared rhythm of their breathing, when Dean does what Eliot's wanted but hasn't dared to. He turns around. For a second there's a distance between their bodies and Eliot feels cold and rejected. Then Dean's back, folded up against him much closer than before. Eliot can feel Dean's heartbeat against his shoulder blade, and his breath is warm through the t-shirt at the base of Eliot's neck.

When Dean snakes a hand around Eliot's waist the hitter doesn't manage to hide the small startle it causes, and the hand retracts. Before it completely gone Eliot lashes out and grabs it, suddenly afraid to not get it back. Everything is a jumble of emotions, and Eliot doesn't know if crying or laughing is closest as Dean's hand comes to rest on his ribcage.

.oOo.

They wake simultaneously. Eliot lays on his back with his left arm around Dean and tries to grasp what woke him. Then the doorbell rings again, thrice this time, and Eliot is pushed in the side.

"Make it stop or I'm gonna shoot someone." Dean grumbles. Eliot checks the time. It's ten in the morning which should mean they got at least three hours of sleep. It feels more like three minutes.

Parker and Hardison looks slightly shocked when their retrieval specialist opens the door dressed in pajama bottoms and a t-shirt. "Man, where you sleeping?" Hardison says. "Are you sick or something?" A lightning fast hand darts out and touches the side of his neck.

"You feel warm, maybe you've got a fever." Parker claims and Eliot huffs at her.

"It's cold outside Parker, you're not wearing gloves, of course I feel warm."

"Then why are you asleep?" She says, looking puzzled. "You never sleep past six o'clock."

"That's… How do you… Never mind, don't tell me that." Eliot holds up his hand, realizing he doesn't want to know how Parker picked that piece of information about him up. "Did you want anything?" He asks instead.

"Waffles!" Parker exclaims, at the same time that Hardison says "Never mind, go back to bed man."

"Did I hear waffles?" Dean shows up from the hallway leading to the bedrooms with a smile on his face.

Eliot can't help the small chuckle that escapes him as he resigns. "Blueberry or chocolate?" He asks, only to immediately regret it when Dean goes for blueberry and Parker for chocolate. He should have known; now he'll have to make two batches.

.oOo.

After that second night they get two more before Dean gets a call about a rogue spirit. Eliot wants to ask him to stay, but knows it would be futile. Just as Eliot can't leave his duties with his team, Dean can't leave his towards the hunting community. In a way it's almost good, because Eliot's life isn't made for sleeping like a sane person, there's simply not enough time.

Eliot wonders sometimes what his dad would say, if he would say anything. The old man might just kill him on the spot. His dad ain't around anymore though, and neither are his insular beliefs. His current family, his team, they'd probably just smile and tease him to show they're okay with this, whatever this is. Not that he's planning to ever let them know.

In the end the sleeping together part slips into habit almost as smoothly as the sparring thing did, even if Eliot's still not comfortable with even thinking those words. 'Sleeping together' sounds way too much like something else, which it has never been and will never become. Eliot hasn't stopped chatting up girls in bars, and even now he follows them home - occasionally. He knows Dean does the same. But there's only one person he sleeps with, no matter how that sounds, and only one person he eats breakfast with, and that is Dean.

Nothing else between them change, and that's the way they both want it. They hit each other just as hard, keeps out of each other's personal space just as rigorously (during the day), and never really mention how or where or why any of them sleeps. It just is, and it works.

As for Dean, getting a couple of nights of proper sleep each month seems to do him a world of good. He hasn't stopped drinking, and Eliot would never go as far as calling him happy, but at least he seems somewhat alive. If nothing else that should be a good place to start.