Nightmares were nothing new to Eliot Spencer. What was new was not suffering through the aftermath alone. Even if sometimes he preferred it that way. If he fell asleep near the team. Which he did not do.
The dream started like many others. Except now the faces of his found family replaced those of young soldiers. Brothers in arms of a different sort.
He sat in a dimly lit room. Hands bound behind him. Ropes around his ankles and chest, secured him to the chair. He hurt. Everywhere. Hazard of the profession. At least his family was safe.
He told them to leave him, knowing he could handle any punishment better than any of them.
The thought of any member of the team going through this caused a pain he could not handle. Sophie or Parker in this situation, or even Hardison or Nate, would be worse than death. He welcomed pain or death if it kept them safe. Until his dying day was a promise he could keep.
The door creaked open. He turned his head toward the sound. The sounds of footsteps filled the room as one pair stopped beside him. Blindfolded as he was, he couldn't read their expressions or be braced for any kind of onslaught.
A hand dove into his hair and yanked his head back, baring his throat. Air rushed into his lungs as he sucked in air. The unmistakable cold of a knife blade slid up his chest to his neck.
"Tell us where your team is." The whisper was so close to his ear he could smell the mint of the man's gum.
"Go to hell," he spat.
A chuckle rumbled by his ear. "Go to hell? I think you will join me there, yes?"
Eliot remained silent until pain sliced across his shoulder. Then he only allowed a small grunt. Damned if he'd give him the satisfaction of making more noise.
A punch came in from his right, catching him in the ribs. He yelped in surprise and pain but couldn't protect himself being held as he was.
"Where are they? Tell us and we maybe don't hurt you so much."
"Fuck you," he ground out.
Laughter surrounded him. "Maybe I don't need you to tell me where they are. You've already told me all I need to know."
"What? I din't tell you anything. You're...crazy." He couldn't have said anything. Wouldn't have. He'd die first.
"How sad. You don't remember do you? You gave me everything I need. Details. Locations. Everything."
What if he had? What if he sold out his family? "There's no way I...no. I din't. Not them. You're lyin'."
A hand rested on his shoulder. "You won't beg for yourself." The hand disappeared and tugged the blindfold down. Light flooded his eyes. "Maybe you'll beg for them."
Tears filled his eyes first from the sudden brightness. Then, from the sight in front of him. His team. His friends in a line in front of him. Looking at him with wide, terrified eyes.
"No," he whispered. "This can't be..."
His captor stood beside him. "Real? I assure you it is." The man smiled. "Now...about that begging. Beg for them. Or I tell my men to shoot one at a time."
Parker shook her head. But, how could he refuse when they were in danger?
"Please," he whispered. "Don't...don't hurt them."
Hardison locked eyes with Eliot. "No. Don't do that. Don't give in to them. You need to wake up, man. "
"I..I have to. I don' care what happens to me." He looked to his captors. "Jus' please...do whatever you want with me. They're...they didn't do anything."
"Fuck no, Eliot! They can't do whatever to you. You're more than that. More than just a hitter!" Hardison struggled against the person holding him.
"Stop it, Hardison! Let me do this. Let me protect you. 'S my job. Please." Eliot's heart hammered in his chest. He felt the tension build as surely as the ropes that rubbed his skin.
He saw the change in the man before he could warn the hacker further. The gun raised.
"NO!" Hardison fell. Eliot surged forward as much as he could.
Arms circled him and held him. "No, Hardison!"
"Eliot, Eliot, it's okay. I'm here. Everyone is safe. You're okay."
Eliot's chest heaved and his heart banged inside his chest. "Hardison..." he hated the weak quality of his voice. Slowly, the dream faded, and he realized Hardison was there.
The arms tightened around him. "I got you," Hardison said. "You're okay. Home. You're safe."
The last grasp of the dream dissipated, and Eliot clung to the hacker. "Oh my God...he shot...you..."
"No. I'm fine. You kept me safe again. Let me keep you safe now, okay?" He helped Eliot lie back against the pillows. "Yeah?"
Eliot nodded and drifted back to sleep.