Ninety Minutes

Eliot dreams.

It's why he rarely sleeps more than ninety minutes at a time. Ninety minutes is enough for his brain to explore the darkest corners of his mind and pick something out of his memories for a closer look.

The dreams always start the same way.

He's fighting.

.

.

Tonight he's in a warehouse, one he recognises from Chechnya. The dream is so vivid that he can smell the dust, feel the cold striking through his boots from the concrete floor.

He watches the men circling him. In his dream, they have no faces. They are impossibly tall and they stalk him silently.

Eliot spins, trying to keep them all in sight. They are just far enough away to be blurred, and he curses the quirk of fate that makes him nearsighted.

The fractured concrete crunches under his feet as he turns again.

And again.

And again.

As he turns, one man is suddenly right upon him. Eliot can smell garlic on his breath as he stabs the man with a knife he hadn't realised he was holding. Blood pours hot over his hands and his attacker's blank face resolves into that of a mercenary he'd killed years before, in a jungle half a world away from Chechnya.

.

The other men pounce, punching, kicking, slashing at Eliot. He fights back, but they are as strong and fast as his imagination can make them, and he knows he is losing.

He chokes one out, only then looking down to see his assailant's dead face morph into that of the Chechen's sister, smiling her pretty smile up at him.

.

He recoils in horror, scrabbling backwards away from her, and the rest quickly have him pinned.

Eliot sees the world sideways, his face pressed against the gritty floor of the dreamscape. A faint scent of expensive cologne wafts through the warehouse. It's familiar, but Eliot can't immediately place it.

He sees polished shoes just in front of his nose, but he can't turn his head to see who wears them. The owner of the shoes takes a step back, raises one foot and stamps on Eliot's hand.

Eliot's mouth opens in a soundless scream. The shoe grinds down and Eliot struggles frantically in the grip of the faceless men. The shoes move out of sight, he hears a step and then a vicious kick to the ribs drives all the breath out of him. He curls up to defend himself, gasping.

He looks up, and the last thing he sees before he wakes is Damian Moreau laughing down at him.

.

.

Eliot thrashes awake in a tangle of sweat-soaked sheets. His ribs ache and his hand is sore from fighting their latest mark's better-than-average security. For a moment he stays curled up in bed, his heart racing and his eyes squeezed shut.

He becomes aware of his surroundings gradually, and then uncurls, his breathing ragged. He pushes his long hair back, scrubs a hand across his face and forces himself to calm down.

Moonlight lays stripes across his bed. His room is cool and quiet. He is safe.

He looks at the clock.

Ninety minutes.

.

Eliot swings his legs out of bed, rests his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands.

His ribs stab at him again and he straightens, turning this way and that.

He gets up and heads to the kitchen. The tiles are cold under his bare feet, reminding him uncomfortably of his dream.

Now that he is awake, he can identify the parts of his dream, though knowing doesn't make the dream any less horrifying: The faceless men in the warehouse had worn balaclavas in real life, and Eliot is responsible for the deaths of at least two of them. Moreau had sent him to Chechnya, though he hadn't been there himself. He'd also left Eliot to make his way out of Chechnya alone, with cracked ribs, a concussion and a broken arm. It had taken Eliot nearly a week to get somewhere he could safely seek medical help without attracting unwanted attention.

Eliot waits for the kettle to boil, brews tea and takes it into his living room. He watches the rain slide down the windows and waits for sunrise, knowing that he won't sleep again tonight.

.

.

In the morning, Hardison will wonder why he's more than usually grouchy today. Parker will notice that he's sitting stiffly, and will decide he's just sore from yesterday's fight. Sophie will see the dark shadows under his eyes and assume he's had a late night with Miss Right Now. Nate will put the facts together, compare them to his own experiences of nightmares and probably come to the right conclusion. He'll ask Eliot if he's OK, and Eliot will frown and say that of course he is.

He won't tell the team about his dreams.

They don't need to know.