"How long has it been since you slept, Eliot?" The hitter looked tired enough to fall over.
Eliot rubbed his eyes. "I told you I don't sleep much.
Nate sighed. "Yeah, yeah. I know. Ninety minutes a day. You really expect us to believe that? You're allowed to sleep. You're still recovering after all."
"I'm fine. I wish you'd all just let me go home where there's no one hovering over me every second of every day."
Nate couldn't stop the sigh. "You don't have to be so grumpy. We're just trying to take care of you. There's nothing wrong with needing help."
Eliot rolled his eyes and limped down the stairs.
"Where are you going? Don't you think you should stay in bed? Get some more rest?"
"I don't need any more sleep," the hitter called over his shoulder.
"Quite possibly the most stubborn man I have ever met." Nate followed him to make sure he navigated the stairs okay. "He's going to be the death of me."
Eliot didn't need anyone to tell him when he needed to sleep. If the team had just let him go home to recover, they wouldn't be having these discussions.
Four pairs of eyes burned into his back on the way to the fridge. "I can walk across the room, guys."
"Just watching to make sure you don't grab a beer. Concussions and alcohol…not a good mix, man."
Eliot turned as fast as he dared prepared to throw a glare at the hacker. But Hardison sat at his laptop looking up at him with those wide, innocent eyes, nothing but concern on his face. Damn.
He eased back toward the fridge and replaced the ice cold bottle of beer and grabbed a bottle of water instead. "Fine. I'm gonna drink water. Just this once." Because fuck if Hardison wasn't right. He really did need sleep. He knew better than to drink a beer with a concussion.
But if he slept, the nightmares came. And if the nightmares came…he was lucky he hadn't hurt the young hacker the last time. As it was, he became uncomfortably aware of being held and rocked by the man when he awoke. Not good.
His steps dragged and he only managed to get to the barstools before collapsing onto one. He held his tongue only because the team finally turned their attention back to Hardison's presentation. Some job that can wait until their hitter healed up. Something about financials or something.
Eliot was just too tired to follow anything the poor hacker was saying. And he put so much work into …wait a minute. Now I know I'm tired.
He shook his head. Tried to keep himself awake.
He propped his elbow on the counter and leaned his cheek in his hand. Not going to sleep. Just resting for a minute. No harm in that.
Time stopped when Parker's line was cut. More like slowed to an impossible pace. Slow enough to allow him to experience every tiny particle of horror.
Parker fell. Blonde hair creating a halo around her head.
Hardison called her name. "No! Parker!" He ran toward her.
But Eliot knew. A fall from that height…she was gone. The light of the team extinguished in an instant.
The hacker fell to his knees beside her. "No. No, no, no. You always get back up. C'mon…get up, girl." Tear soaked words spoken like a prayer.
He watched the red blossom out from her head. Knew she was never getting up again. Her empty eyes stared up at him. Accusing.
"Hardison, we gotta…"
"No, help me get her to Lucille." The younger man slipped his arms under Parker's body.
He hated himself for not being there to save her. Hated what he had to do next. "Hardison, we can't. We have to go, man." He swallowed around the knot of tears in his throat. He gripped the hacker's shoulder. "C'mon-"
Hardison shook his hand off. "No! I'm not leaving her. Everyone in her life has done that to her. And I ain't, Eliot. I ain't leaving her like you did."
The betrayal in his eyes knocked Eliot to his knees. "Hardison…I couldn't…"
"You didn't, man. You weren't there. And now Parker is dead! Dead, Eliot!"
He repeated the word dead over and over. Impossibly, Parker's mouth formed the word in sync with Hardison.
Eliot sat flat on the pavement. Scooted himself backwards until his back met something solid. "No. I didn't…I couldn't get there in time. I tried…"
"I know, Sparky." How was Parker talking to him? She died. Because of him. He was out of position.
"I'm sorry. I tried." Any other time, tears would piss him off. But this was Parker and she would never eat fortune cookies for breakfast or poke his bruises to annoy him ever again. And his thoughts swirled and were too fast. Heart pounded. He couldn't breathe. He was having a panic attack. And God, wasn't that poetic? Join the friend he couldn't get to in time.
Feather light touches wiped the tears from his cheeks. Strong hands cupped his face. "Wake up," she whispered.
Parker watched Eliot's eyes move at a frenetic pace behind his eyelids. He terrified them all when he crashed to the floor and scrambled to press his back against it.
She knew what was happening and sent the others downstairs. She had dealt with panic attacks before. "Wake up." She cupped his face in her hands. Brushed away tears.
Eliot's eyes sprang open and his hand clutched his chest. "P…Parker fell. I couldn't get…there."
"Shh. I didn't fall, Sparky. Deep breaths for me okay?" She demonstrated for him. "In through the nose." Blew the breath out through her pursed lips. "Out through the mouth."
He struggled to control his breathing. Wide eyes never left her face. A shaking hand reached for hers. "I...I saw you. On the pavement. I couldn't get there. I was out of position and they cut your line."
Sweat poured down his face and neck. Soaked his shirt. "I let them kill you," he whispered in anguish.
Parker swallowed her own tears and shook her head. "No. I didn't fall. You were just dreaming. I'm okay. See?" She wrapped her arms around him and held tight. "You did good, Eliot."
A shudder ran through his body as he clung to her. A choking sob escaped him.
His arms tightened around her, so she whispered again, "You are good."