three hundred sixty six.

He's throwing shit into a cardboard box when he lifts a crumpled shirt off the floor and finds tiny shards of crushed glass. He rolls one between his fingers, ignoring the beads of blood that well up, staining the glass fragment crimson. It feels like history, like it's a part of the relationship just as much as the needles of pain in his fingertips are, and if he crouches down to run a hand over the glass on the floor, it feels like a memory. Like the smell of the air in Texas reminds him that he's going home, the broken glass reminds him that, no matter how long he faked it, this apartment was never his home.

one hundred eighty eight.

The tumbler would have hit him in the face, were he not such a fast mover, a lifetime of having things thrown at him by parents, and them later pissed off spirits with a taste for blood [his specifically], but as it is, it hit the wall behind him and shattered, raining drops of glass and whiskey down onto the hunter. The room is dark but he can see Dean lounging on the sofa, a looseness to his joints that only a heroic amount of alcohol or a lot of damned good sex can give someone.

'What the hell, Dean?' he spits the words out, slamming the door behind him shut, because he's bone tired and beat to hell and back. He's got a dislocated shoulder, what feels like a cracked rib or two, a twisted knee and possibly a couple of broken fingers thrown in for good measure. He curls his good arm around his ribcage protectively, left arm hanging useless down his side, and he figures he looks like shit, but right now, he really can't bring himself to give a crap.

'When were you planning on telling me? Were you planning on telling me at all?' Dean's voice is perfectly measured, no slurring, but it's ugly, and cruel sounding. He's met demons that have sounded more welcoming.

'Telling you what?' Eliot snaps out, trying to shuck his shoes off without agitating his twisted knee. It's not going well, so he leaves them on and heads for the other couch in the room, hitting the light with the heel of his good hand on the way past. He glances over at Dean, and isn't surprised to see empty bottles littering the floor, ranging from the smaller beer bottles, to two or three bigger ones that look like they once contained scotch. Clenching his teeth, he reaches for his dislocated arm with practice; twists and pushes until it's clicked back into place. It hurts like a bitch, but it'll hurt more tomorrow morning, so he grits his teeth and rotates the socket, careful not to jar his broken fingers. He gets up, crosses to the desk in the corner where they keep first aid [just like they keep it in most rooms of the apartment, with jobs like theirs, they use it a lot more often than a normal couple] and grabs the tape to splint his fingers. Mostly superficial damage, he can shoot left handed, but if his right hand is damaged enough for him to need to use his left, then that's not a battle he's going to win.

'You know what I'm talking about.' Dean's voice is low and dangerous. Eliot very deliberately takes a deep breath and keeps taping up his broken fingers.

'No Dean, I don't. You're gonna have to enlighten us mere mortals.'

There's a laugh from behind him, but it's devoid of humour, and it sounds completely empty of all emotion except hate. 'You really can't guess, can you?'

'No, I can't. I've been thrown through a wall, down a flight of stairs and out a window, and then I've driven for twelve hours, probably with a concussion. I need food, a drink, and most of all I need sleep, so you'll forgive me for not playing your little game, Dean.' Eliot's taking another breath, trying to stay calm, and he bites out the words while he turns around slowly, looking Dean very carefully in the eye. There's something dark in there, more broken than before he left.

There's the clink of a bottle as Dean moves towards him, kicking an empty tumbler out of his path. 'Parker stopped by this morning.' Eliot frowns, confused. 'Said she hadn't heard from you in a while, she was worried her dates were wrong. She thought she was running late. By a week.'

And suddenly, like it's been swimming through concrete only to find that it's actually just in water, the realisation hits Eliot like a bullet. 'Oh Christ,' he murmurs, dropping his gaze.

'Oh, now he's got it,' Dean snarls, pacing forwards, stopping inches away from Eliot. 'Just when were you planning on telling me that you sold your fucking soul to the damned devil?' He's shouting now, and he has every right to, because while Eliot hasn't been lying, he hasn't been telling the truth about what he'd done almost a year previously.

'And just how was I supposed to bring that subject up, Dean? How do you drop 'Oh, just so you know, I have six months to live because I sold my soul for someone who turned around and threw it in my face' into the conversation, Dean? How would you have done it, huh?' They're toe to toe now, Eliot ignoring the throbbing in his broken fingers and cracked ribs, ignores the knee that feels like it's going to buckle any minute now.

'I wouldn't have lied about it for six freaking months! I would have told you somehow!' They're both shaking with rage, and Eliot's hunter instincts are telling him it's not a case of if someone hits the other, but a case of when the first punch is thrown, and who throws it. Dean takes a deep breath, and another, and takes a step backwards, fists clenching and unclenching as his eyes slide shut slowly. 'You're a lot of things, Spencer, but I didn't think you were a liar.'

Eliot knows he should back off, he should apologise because he's in the wrong here, he's the one who lied, but he can't, because his father always told him to never back down during a fight, and is this isn't a fight, he doesn't know what is. 'Yeah, OK, Dean, I lied. That's what you want me to say, isn't it? I lied to you. Do you even want to know why?' He takes the silence as a cue, but never looks away from Dean's closed lids. 'Because I thought it would be better like this. Right at the start, I never figured we'd still be here, six months later. I figured I had plenty of time, and then later on, when I realised we were in this for the long haul, it was too late, and what difference would it make? I'd still be dying, the only difference would be that you'd know about it, and that would hurt you, Dean. If you didn't know, then I planned to leave on a hunt, and I'd just never come back, because that would hurt too, but not as much, because there would be this feeling hanging over you that if only you were stronger, faster, smarter, you could have saved me. But you can't. You can't save me, Dean.'

The first punch hits him on the chin and he's sent staggering backwards into the desk behind him, fighting not to cry out as he catches himself with the taped up hand. The next punch hits him in the stomach and he drops to his knees, curls up as a defense mechanism to protect his head, cradling his broken fingered hand, trying to ignore the twinge from his twisted knee, the ache from the cracked rib as Dean kicks him once, twice, three times, before turning away to pick up another tumbler half full of amber liquid and taking a long drink. Eliot climbs to his feet, staying there only with the stubbornness he got from his mama and from years of hunting things that don't want him to get back up. He reaches out his good hand and touches Dean's shoulder, tries not to wince when he flinches away, shrugging the hand off and glaring over his shoulder. 'Don't make me hit you again, Eliot.'

With difficulty, and a shout of pain from his stiffening shoulder, he spreads his arms outwards. 'Hit me as many times as you want, Dean. I'll just keep getting up.'

He catches Dean's eye again, and there's something in those jade eyes, something lost, and broken, and so child-like Eliot feels like he could cry. 'Why?' Dean asks, and his voice cracks. 'Why can't I save you? Why won't you let me save you?'

'Because you can't,' Eliot coughs out the words, and grimaces at the pain. He pops painkillers from their blisters and swallows them dry, washing it down with a long drink from the half empty bottle of scotch lying on its side under the desk. 'I can't be saved, Dean. I'm going to die, and you're gonna,' his voice hitches, and he hates himself for it. 'You, and Parker, and everyone else, you're just gonna move on, because that's what people do.' The next bit is so quiet, Eliot himself barely hears it. 'That's what I had to do.'

With that sentence, all the anger is gone from Dean's eyes, and his face softens to something younger. Eliot feels the fight leaving him, and his muscles un-tense from the position he wasn't aware he'd been holding. Suddenly they aren't two guys fighting, they're just Dean and Eliot, and Dean and Eliot love each other. It's fucked up, and twisted, and all different kinds of painful, but it's all they know of love, and it's theirs. It's at that point that Eliot's knees give out, and he's crashing to the ground, but Dean's there to catch him, wrapping his arms around his waist. Eliot's arms are looped over the taller man's shoulders, and his head tips forward to brush his lips against Dean's neck. 'I'm sorry I lied,' he breathes, mouthing it into the soft skin just above Dean's collarbone. He feels a kiss pressing onto the top of his hair, and knows that Dean's sorry.

He wishes that this sorry meant it was never going to happen again. Wishes that Dean wasn't going to get drunk and beat on him, wishes that he himself won't get drunk and hurl abuse at Dean, lies designed to cut through his skin. He knows it will though. Because right now, when they don't have each other [and sometimes, when they do], all they have is the drinking.

They'll fight and break up, kiss and make up, they'll draw blood, paint bruises on each other's skin, throw words at each other like knives, but at the end of the day, neither of them are going to walk away, even though God himself knows they should.

Dean's cleaning up Eliot's wounds, retaping the broken fingers, probing at his torso to check on the ribs, cleaning the drying blood from his split lip up, and they're sitting on the sofa, not quite curled up like they used to, but close. Dean presses a kiss onto the scraped knuckles of Eliot's right hand, and for a second, he wonders if maybe, they might be OK, him and Dean.

He looks over at the younger man, watches the concern in green eyes, and he thinks maybe, but his head is telling him words like no and never, and damnit, he's had way too much to drink tonight to even be trying to make sense out of things. So he swallows painkillers and lets Dean stitch up a gash in his side that he didn't know was there, and he talks about the day he sold his soul to the devil.

minus one hundred eighty eight.

It's raining, but the road is wet with something that's not water.

He's lying face down in the dirt, and Eliot feels his heart stuttering, feels his feet falter, and his breath hitches in his throat, because it's Alec, and he can't die, he justcan't. Something hits the ground beside him with a soft thump, and he doesn't need to look down to see that it's his gun, the 9mm Beretta with the mother of pearl handle, his daddy's gun, before daddy went south, but right now all that he cares is that it's Alec lying in the dirt, and he's not moving. Eliot can't remember how to make his legs work, and he's just staring at the darker than black patch on the ground, the colour seeping into the ground around it, and he realises, retching suddenly, that it's Alec's blood. And Alec's blood does not belong outside his body, and Eliot's running, his legs working now, running towards Alec, curses and pleading and prayerfalling from his lips as he slides to his knees next to Alec. He can't find a pulse at first, a sob breaking free, and he tries again with shaking hands, please's and oh god no's tripping off his tongue as he glances up as the bruised and swollen clouds above him. If there's a God up there, and he's listening, then Eliot can't think of a better time to make himself known.

There's a pulse there, eventually, but it's thready, and weak, and when he rolls Alec over to get a look at the damage, he coughs weakly, and blood bubbles from his lips. There's bile in Eliot's throat, and buzzing in his head, but it's all he can do not to curl up and cry with elation. Alec is alive, for now, at least, but for now is good is enough for Eliot any day. He's murmuring something, but his eyelids are sliding shut thickly, so Eliot taps him on the cheek, putting pressure to the wound and waiting, hoping, always praying that Nate makes it in time, because Alec wouldn't dare die on Nate's watch. He's too scared of him. Eliot's hair is sticking to his face, and he sweeps it backwards with his one free hand, the other pressing solidly to Alec's chest.

He killed the guy who did it, shot him straight through the eyes the second the knife hit Alec's chest and watched him crumple. He's lying next to Alec, brown hair almost as long as Eliot's sticking to his face in the rain. There's a small hole, not even the size of a dime right in the centre of his forehead. It's not the first time Eliot's killed for Alec, and he suspects it won't be the last. They're both gasping for breath, and judging by the blood froth on Alec's lips, there's a punctured lung, which means Nate needs to be there five minutes ago. Alec's murmuring again, so Eliot leans down, puts his ear against his mouth and listens, blocking out the rain, the sirens in the distance [because this is New York, there are always sirens], and the sound of running feet slapping on the wet ground, faint voice shouting his name before it's snatched by the gale winds. He strains, listening for Alec, listening for what he has to say that's so urgent he's coughing blood. Love you, El'yut he whispers, and this time, Eliot's heart stops for what feels like for good. He feels Nate hit the ground next to him, and he's talking a mile a minute, sentences punctuated with his and Alec's names, but he just sits back on his haunches, staring at the blank face of Alec Hardison, the man he thought he'd loved.

It's raining, but the street is wet with something other than rain and blood. Tears are rolling down Eliot's cheeks, mixing with the un-salty drops clinging to the ends of his hair, and he scrubs at his face with the blood stained hand. The rivulets of rain run red, trickling pale pink through the red stains. He stares forward, and in the shadows, he sees a flash of red eyes that fade into the dark, and suddenly, Eliot knows what he can do. He leans over, ignoring Nate, and presses a kiss to Alec's bloody lips, before hoisting himself to his feet and limping off into the shadows, still ignoring Nate, the cries of Eliot getting fainter and fainter, every step he takes.

'I want ten years. Ten years for Alec's life.'

'No can do, cutie.'

'Then I send you straight back to hell right now, bitch.'

'I'll give you one year. One year with your little sweetheart.'

'Five. Five years. That's half the time of a normal deal.'

'Oh sweetie. This is not a normal deal. Haven't you grasped anything by now? Mr Hardison is far from normal. One year, or nothing.'


'One year or nothing, Eliot. Do we have a deal?'


Demon tongue tastes about as human as he expected. It tastes like iron and rust and sulphur, and he shudders as she smiles against his lips. 'You taste like death,' she purrs, as he pulls back, lip curled.

'Well ain't that strange,' he bites. 'you taste like demon bitch.'

She smirks. 'You are what you eat, honey.'

'Well, you just went out and ate a slut, didn't you, honey?'

She mock winces. 'Ouch. That one almost hurt, baby.'

'Give me back my friend, bitch,' he snarls, fighting the headrush. He hasn't slept in forty eight hours, hasn't eaten in twice that, and he's struggling to stay standing. She waves a hand absent mindedly, and if anything, the rain outside pounds down harder.

She smiles again, but it's poisonous, and makes Eliot angry, angry enough to clench his fists. He looks away from her, out of the window. Thunder's flashing across the sky, and he can see where Nate still crouches in the rain. There are more figures there now, Parker, he guesses, and maybe Sophie, he can't tell. He looks back to the demon, but she's gone. He flips the collar of his leather jacket up, and heads out into the rain, jogging in a loping gait, trying to settle into a stride that will carry the weight of his wrenched knee.

All thoughts of his knee just melt away, forgotten when he sees there's a figure sitting up in the rain, and Nate staring, open mouthed at him, and he sprints, knowing from the twinges he'll be paying for it in the morning, but right now he doesn't care, because he drops into the mud next to Alec, sprawling in a backroad in upstate New York, and he can count on one hand the number of things he cares about more, and still have enough fingers to flip someone the bird. Alec looks pale, but he's alive, and Eliot slides a hand round the nape of his neck and pulls him into a kiss that leaves them both breathing hard and leaves Nate staring at the sky, fixated very definitely on what is not the two men he loves like sons attached at the mouth. Eliot laughs, breathy, and rests his forehead against Alec's. 'Rough goin' there for a while. We nearly lost you. Nate thought we had for a while.'

Alec slips arms around Eliot's shoulders and just hugs him, holding him close. Eliot can feel his heart beating, and damnit if it doesn't feel like the best feeling in the world. He catches Nate's eye and just looks at him, trying to convey don't tell him, not yet and i know, i screwed up, but i can fix it in the few seconds of eye contact they have before Alec pulls back, half smile on his face. 'So, what'd I miss?' he asks, and it's so unbelievably Alec that a noise escapes from Eliot's throat, dangerously like a sob, and his eyes fill with tears.
'Oh, I dunno, you getting

Alec laughs 'Oh yeah, that.' He looks down at his chest, where the rain is sticking the remains of his shirt to his skin. 'Oh man. I liked this shirt.'

Eliot laughs, a choking sound, and accepts Parker's hand to pull him to his feet, and he pulls Alec along with him. 'I'll buy ya a new one. Let's get out of the rain, and wash the crap off us.' He limps away, hand curled in Alec's, and knows that the others will follow, as they always do. Because they're family, and that's what family does.

In his pocket, his phone buzzes, he flips it open to see a text from Nate. 'YOU HAVE TO TELL HIM.' Eliot sets his jaw, grim. Looking behind him, he catches Nate's eye, and nods, almost imperceptibly.

Eliot knows he has to tell him. It's not a conversation he's looking forward to.

By the time Eliot's done talking, there's another bottle of scotch rolling on the floor, empty, and he kicks it under the sofa as he stands, trying to stretch without popping out the fresh stitches. 'I'm beat,' he tries, the end of the word swallowed by a yawn.

'But, the rest of the story…?' Dean asks, looking up at him, and Eliot is suddenly reminded how much younger Dean is than him. He smiles, and holds out his unbroken hand.

'In the morning, but right now, I can't see straight.' He presses a kiss to the top of Dean's head and leaves, padding through to the bedroom, stepping over the shards of glass on the way. He can't even remember why they're there anymore. He doesn't really care, either. All he can think is that three hundred and sixty four days ago, he sold his soul to the devil, and tonight, the devil's coming to collect.

three hundred sixty six.

There's a photo frame on the desk, facedown and hidden by sheets of paper, yellow for him, white for Dean. They worked out a system when they first moved in, and found there wasn't enough room for two desks, and since there are no secrets between the two, keeping the jobs mixed but separate seemed liked the perfect solution. He's sliding all the yellow sheets into another box when his hand catches the edge of the frame, and he clears paper, scattering it to the floor as he picks up the wood and turns it over, showing him a snapshot from a happier time, from before it all went to hell. Before Dean didn't seem like Dean anymore, and before he was forced to turn into someone that definitely wasn't Eliot. The photo was taken outside, he can't remember by who, a woman walking her dog, he thinks, but he remembers the rest of the day in startling clarity.

ninety five.

It's just the four of them, and Eliot kind of likes it. It's the first time he's met Dean's brother, Sam, and christ, the boy is tall, all long legs and earnest face, and he kind of reminds Eliot of a puppy that hasn't finished growing yet, oversized limbs and feet that are too big to not get in the way every time he takes a step. He works with Dean, some kind of computer genius, and he thinks too late that he and Alec would get on fantastically. But instead he has Parker with him, the girl he grew up with, and probably the closest thing he has to a best friend, so they all meet in some park somewhere, at Parker's insistence, and they sit down to have an honest to god picnic. Parker, who can exorcise ten demons in a row without breaking a sweat, and is a devil with a .45 is insisting on a picnic. She made sandwiches for crying out loud. He sends a quick text to Sophie, telling her to check her adoptive daughter for demon possession, before settling down on the grass. It's summer, and it's baking hot in Georgia, but they're all of them southerners at heart, and a bit of heat never hurt no one.

Dean and Eliot are sitting side by side, bodies pressed together from hip to shoulder as they sip from beers, and Dean's running his fingers through Eliot's too long hair, smirking. 'You need a haircut, hippie.'

'You're just jealous you're twenty nine, and you can't grow a real beard,' Eliot returns fondly, smiling as he watches Sam and Parker sitting and discussing… whatever they were discussing. He doesn't like to ask. She's showing him a photo, and he's smiling, and Eliot decides to leave them to it, turning around and pressing a sloppy kiss to Dean's cheek. He knows they all laugh, his family, they call him domesticated; the house-proud hunter, but he quite honestly couldn't give two flying fucks. His phone buzzes again, and he answers it lazily, lying back in the grass. 'Sophie, my English princess. How's business?'

'Better now that you're in another state, darling,' she replies, cutting as always, but Eliot knows she's faking it, always has been where he's concerned.

He laughs. 'I still stand by my defence.'

'You mean your defence as in "Sophie, I honestly thought beating all their asses at pool would make them want to drown their sorrows"?' she asks, putting on a fairly good Texan accent that he guesses is him.

'How was I supposed to know that they would want to just drown me instead?' he replies, chuckling.

'Yes. Quite,' she says, back to her normal accent.

'Now, Soph, as much as I love you, I assume there was a reason for calling me in the middle of the day, when I know full well you should be busy working.'

'You know me so well, darling,' she says, airily, and he can hear papers shuffling. 'Job for you.'
'Soph,' he moans, shifting slightly in his seat. 'I'm on vacation.'

'Nice try, cowboy. You don't go on vacation. Besides, it's nice and close. Just one town over, a nice, easy, salt and burn.' She pauses, and he can hear the smirk. 'You can bring lover boy.'

Eliot sighs, and runs a hand down his face. 'Really, Sophie? It's been three months, and you're still calling him lover boy? He has a name.'

'I know,' she almost purrs down the phone, and Eliot sighs again.

'Goodbye, Sophie. Text me the details, only if you can't find someone else to take the job. Vacation, remember?' He hangs up and drops the phone next to him on the grass, before closing his eyes and throwing an arm over the top, covering his face from the bright sun. 'I hate my life,' he mutters, and curls up around Dean and naps, waiting for the inevitably buzzing of the phone to put an end to what had been a fairly good day.