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beneath a different light

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Eliot can’t move.

“You could totally move,” Breanna whispers, looking up from her laptop. “They wouldn’t mind.”

Eliot scowls at her. “No, I can’t move. Hardison never gets any sleep, and I doubt he’s gotten any in the last two months with what he had to do with R.I.Z. And Parker sleeps better with him around.”

Breanna smirks. “And that means they have to keep sleeping on you?”

Eliot looks down at the twin heads on his shoulders, fighting a blush. Hardison’s face is buried into Eliot’s neck, side leaning heavily into Eliot’s; they touch along the length of their bodies. Parker’s head is pillowed on Eliot’s shoulder, arm reaching across his hip and brushing against Hardison’s knee. Eliot has his arms around both of them, because, hell, he’s not a monster, and he’s going to let his favourite people sleep in comfort.

“It’s like when a dog or cat naps on you,” he mumbles. “It’s illegal to move.”

“You regularly break the law,” Breanna returns.

“Shouldn’t you be getting to bed?” Eliot barks at her, ignoring her triumphant cackle. “You look like a zombie.”

“A cute one, though,” Breanna says, unfazed. “Nah, I need to use my youth while my body doesn’t still hate me for not sleeping five days in a row. Being a ‘computer nerd’ ain’t easy, you know.”

Eliot rolls his eyes. “You and Hardison never let me forget it.”

Breanna salutes him. Eliot raises an eyebrow at her, snorting when her eyes are pulled to the screen and a soft, besotted smile tugs at her lips. “’cept you’re not doing that. You’re texting Emily, aren’t you.”

Breanna blushes. “Sue me, I’m texting my girlfriend!” she says, throwing up her hands. “I’m allowed to have my fun!”

Eliot smiles at her, fond. “Yeah, I know. I’m happy for you. You should invite her over sometime for lunch or dinner again. It’d be nice to see her again.”

Breanna lights up, as she always does when they—her family, Eliot thinks warmly—express their approval of her relationship. She bites her lip, eyes suddenly fixed to Eliot’s face.

“What?” he says, instantly wary.

Breanna watches him for a moment longer, and then her eyes drop to her brother and Parker. Eliot fights the urge to frown, something prickling at the back of his neck.

What?” he says, more insistently.

“Just—you know what you were saying earlier?” Breanna says quietly. “About being with people who you don’t have to lie to? About people who really, really get you and—and know you?”

“Yeah?” Eliot doesn’t know where she’s going with this.

Breanna visibly ponders her next words. Her eyes drop to Hardison and Parker again, still slumbering peacefully against Eliot in the stillness of the night. “Do you ever think that maybe—maybe…”

She stops. Eliot waits.

“Maybe what?” he asks again, when it’s clear she isn’t going to continue.

Breanna takes a deep breath. “Never mind,” she says. “But…Eliot?”

Eliot is so confused. “Yeah?”

Breanna’s eyes dart between him and Hardison. Her face contorts as she struggles with her words. “Just—if you ever have something to talk to me about, I’m always here, okay?”

Eliot squints at her. “Um. I appreciate it, but, no offense, what would I need to talk to you about aside from hacking?”

Breanna smiles faintly. “Come talk to me when you figure it out,” she says. “Now, I’m going to keep texting Emily, and you should take those two sleepyheads to bed. Y’all are old now. Can’t be good for your backs.”

“Okayyyyy,” Eliot says, giving up. Sometimes, Breanna is as incomprehensible to him as Hardison and Parker are.

Eliot prods Hardison gently, biting back a smile at his groan of protest. When he moves to wake Parker, he finds her eyes already open and staring at him—only his nerves of steel keep him from jumping.

“Bedtime,” he tells her gently.

Parker looks at him for a long moment, then at Hardison, who is making a wobbly attempt at standing, and then at Breanna, who’s still watching them. There’s something unreadable in Parker’s eyes, something that sends chills down his spine.

“Bedtime,” she agrees finally, latching onto Hardison’s elbow and catching Eliot’s as he moves away. Eliot blinks in surprise. “Bedtime for you, too. Come upstairs,” Parker says, steel in her voice.

Eliot shrugs. They do this sometimes—Hardison and Parker’s bedrooms, wherever they are, always have a futon or extendable bed for Eliot, in addition to their enormous king-sized bed, which Eliot always thinks is a waste and Hardison does not. Besides, sleeping when he can hear both of their breathing comforts Eliot in a way nothing ever does.

In the darkness of the bedroom, Hardison and Parker sleeping below him, Eliot turns over Breanna’s words in his mind. “Do I ever think that maybe what?” he wonders, and he thinks.

And the conclusion he comes to…


Eliot remembers Hardison’s soft breaths against his neck, his heartbeat against Eliot’s arm. He remembers Parker’s electric gaze on him. He remembers the comfort and rightness of them against him.

Eliot’s not a fool by any means. He’s also fresh out of a relationship and this…well, now isn’t the right time.

But he knows he won’t be able to stop thinking about it for a while.

He sighs, thinking of Breanna and Emily, of Breanna’s knowing, shrewd eyes.

At some point—not yet, but eventually—it looks like he might have to talk to her, after all.