Hardison stirred, tense even before he woke and not sure why. He rolled over and then froze, brain coming online quicker. Eliot was sitting upright in the middle of the bed, but he didn't look. . .

Eliot's fists clenched. "I don't like guns!" he shouted, shuddering from the tension cording his muscles. From Hardison's position, he was mostly a silhouette against the moonlight streaming through the open curtains they'd abandoned last night. A moment later he slouched back down to the bed, still trembling, and gave a quiet whine. Hardison bit his lip.

He reached out, then hesitated, uncertain if he should touch or not, his fingers trembling slightly. Parker, sitting up on Eliot's other side, smiled wanly at him, but she caught his wrist and pushed it aside. Hardison glanced down at Eliot. He was clearly still asleep. And still tense.

Parker frowned down at him, then slid her legs back down the bed and stretched out along Eliot's side, pressing herself firmly against him without hesitation. Eliot stiffened at the touch, but Parker only tucked her chin into the thick swell of muscle leading down from his shoulder and stayed put.

Eliot actually relaxed slightly as she made herself comfortable, and Hardison nodded at his lover, shifting to nearly mirror her on Eliot's other side. He sighed, resting one hand on Eliot's chest, near where he bore the blazoned images of a slim, winged key fluttered over a magpie with a laser held in one claw over his heart.

"What was it?" Hardison asked quietly, and Parker made a soft sound. She rolled one shoulder but did not lift her head.

"I don't know if anything set him off." Parker said, snuggling a little closer. "I woke up when he started breathing faster."

Hardison frowned and lightly stroked Eliot's chest. He could feel the heavy thump of his lover's heart beating faster than usual beneath his fingers. Parker was a much lighter sleeper than Hardison - and though he had learned to naturally tune out the small sounds from Parker and Hardison, Eliot was far more alert than either of them, even in his sleep.

Hardison glanced at Parker again. Her eyes were open, but she didn't look like she was focusing on anything in the room. Hardison held his tongue and looked at Eliot's face again, what he could see from his prone position beside his lover. He stayed still, waiting for Eliot to calm - hopefully he would; he was already getting there, lying down and no longer yelling at the terrors that sometimes haunted him.

Eliot's breath caught, and Hardison lifted his head immediately. Eliot groaned, reaching up and catching Hardison's hand, his fingers tightening a little too much around Hardison's own as his breathing quickened.

"All right, baby?" Hardison asked softly, leaning up a little without leaning too close.

Eliot groaned again. "Don't . . . call me that." he mumbled, drawing a deep breath and letting it out. "What's wrong?" he added.

"Uh, nothing." Hardison said, licking his lips.

"Something's wrong." Eliot said groggily.

"You were having a nightmare." Parker said bluntly, brushing one hand - despite her fine bones, almost as strong as Eliot's, Hardison knew - over his brow. "You're still keyed up with it." She sat up properly and she didn't hold back from leaning over Eliot.

"I'm fine." Eliot said on a low breath that was almost a sigh, but he tilted his head into Parker's hand. She lightly stroked his hair back from his brow. "I'm sorry I woke you." he added softly, his mouth tightening.

"It's okay." Hardison soothed, sliding his fingers between Eliot's and shifting to lie down properly again. ". . .was it bad?" he asked quietly.

"It's always bad." Eliot said, and Hardison kissed his hand even as he made a muddled noise and began tripping over his tongue, likely trying to take it back.

"Do we make it better?" Parker asked, her voice even, and Eliot's hand tightened, but the rest of him relaxed. "Then don't bother over us." she said, smiling at Hardison and then moving to wrap herself around Eliot. Hardison saw the shadow of her own Mark high on her breast as she moved - the same magpie, but curled beneath it a hedgehog sitting on a china plate, one of its paws curled around the edge. "We're here to balance you. Right?" Parker coaxed.

"Exactly." Hardison confirmed, rubbing his thumb over the side of Eliot's wrist. His chest warmed from the soft background pulse of their bond with their focus actively poured into it, and Hardison couldn't hold back a happy hum.

"All right." Eliot said, a little gruffly, and tugged Hardison against him again. Hardison would never describe it the same way to anyone not in this room right now - not even Sophie - but . . . Eliot was snuggling between them.

Eliot had proved surprisingly prone to snuggling, actually, from the beginning, although it had taken some time to chip through his tendency to be standoffish when preparing to sleep. He had never hurt either of them, but on one late night, after a job that had nearly gone far worse - though it had been bad enough already - he had confided that he was afraid he would, if he was startled or if he didn't wake fast enough one night. One night like tonight, when his demons taunted him.

Knowing that made Hardison's heart ache, but he tried to keep it back from his lovers.

Hardison trusted Eliot completely, and so did Parker, but that could do little to sway him into trusting himself, no matter what they told him or how often. Time, Hardison thought; it was what his Nana would have said. They could do nothing to sway him but wait, and let time prove it to him.

And until then, they would balance and be there for each other. No matter what happened. Together.


This was written for the prompt 'Nightmare' as part of a multi-fandom soulmate AU challenge.