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The Explanation of Eliot

Chapter Text

El was afraid of heights, but only a little.

He could fly, after all, and that should have made fear illogical. But if anything, his ability to subvert gravity was the very reason for his nerves: he’d never been able to trust himself with anything, much less his own life or the life of others. The few times his telekinetic powers had been called in as a means of escape or rescue, when he’d held an innocent stranger or beloved family member in his arms and floated with them down from the side of a mountain or building or cliff face… well, those were the things he had nightmares about, on the rare occasions when he could remember his dreams. It was that sensation of freefall, of knowing it was magic, something inexplicable, deep in his consciousness, in his soul, even, that was the only thing preventing sharp, painful, deadly impact. He knew himself well enough to know he should never be trusted with something so precious as the life of another.

And between his ability to fly, the existence of portals, and… well… Penny Adiyodi, El hadn’t had any reason to set foot on an airplane until this very day, decades after first hearing stories of man’s earliest flights. Airplanes were mundane now, for so many of the people who used them. Maybe on another day, under different circumstances, El would have been charmed or intrigued by the novelty. Q definitely would have been.

He wanted to pretend his hands weren’t clammy, his heart wasn’t pounding. He refused to let any of these things show, even as he took his seat beside Q and looked around the cramped cabin, the ugly coloring of the carpeted floor, the strange angles and curves of the metal encasing them. It didn’t help that he couldn’t take Q’s hand. Well, he could. He could glamor the air around him for a bit of privacy and then tangle his fingers with Q’s, let the ease of touch carry him to a place beyond fear. But he resented the very concept of hiding the touch from the world, resented the enclosed space around them, the tinny smell of the air, the oppressive slide of the uncomfortable seats against his clothes. He’d hold Q’s hand for the damn world to see, or he wouldn’t hold it at all.

Q, as he did so often, seemed to read El’s mind in the bare twitching of his fingers against his leg. Briefly, the touch intimate but also imminently appropriate for anyone who might care to look, reached up and gripped El’s arm, just above the elbow, giving it a squeeze. I’m here. It’s a short flight. Hold on for me.

Q hated being on this damn airplane as much as El did, though, and he wasn’t very good at hiding it from someone who knew him better than he knew himself.

(The year was 1975, and they were going to Scotland. They were leaving the tattered remains of their family behind and they were going to ground, hiding somewhere they knew they’d be safe, where they could let the enormity of loss subsume them entirely.)

When the plane took off, El closed his eyes, squeezed his own knee in his palm and pretended it was Q’s, head pressed back against the headset, staunchly refusing to acknowledge the reality of the situation, the science behind it, the utter lack of magic fueling the miracle. He entertained himself by playing out scenarios for if the plane malfunctioned, how he’d be able to save himself and his dearest love from the inconvenience, if not the permanence, of death. How they’d fare jumping from the plane at various altitudes, sans parachute. Eventually he got to the part where due to the fuel and impact, there would likely be fire in the event of a total crash, and if he and Q were stuck inside, then—

Well, he stopped thinking about it, and studied the inflight magazine instead.

(Their house in Scotland had a portal installed, but they hadn’t maintained it in years, and Kady was the one who’d established it for them in the first place. Q had said they should just ask her to spruce it up so they could walk right on through, and El had decided he honestly preferred hurtling through the air in a tube of metal surrounded by strangers he couldn’t trust. Anything so he wouldn’t have to look at her right now.)

“What’s for dinner?” Q asked him, when they’d reached their target altitude and the rattling of the plane smoothed out into a low, persistent, rumble. His voice, the soft caress of Gaelic, in honor of where they were going, instead of Dutch, from where they’d just been, gave El something to hold onto, just as Q had known it would.

El answered in the same language. “You’re becoming spoiled.”

“And you have only yourself to blame.”

The patter of inane conversation should not have helped. It should not have done anything to fill the crater in El’s heart, the gaping maw of grief and, frankly, disbelief, that still crowded through him every second of every day. The denial was strong enough that it sometimes made him forget, upon waking, a sensation so disorienting it nearly displaced him in time, making him lose sight of where and when he was. But he could never forget—not for one second could he truly forget—who he was with, and who wasn’t there.

But talking to Q did help. It always did. His existence helped, the fact of him helped. Was essential, in fact. It was important, in moments of soul-rending despair, to remember that El had not yet lost the one thing he could not do without. He’d come close, this time. God, he’d come so close.

(They had said goodbye to their family with numb, shaky embraces. Q had hugged Kady, El had not. He didn’t even know where the others were going, where they were holing themselves up like the wounded animals they had all become. It wasn’t unusual, not knowing exactly where the others were at any given point. The world was large, and time was long. It was somewhat unusual to have no end date in mind, no rendezvous, no planned coming together after voluntary separation. He wondered how long it would be, before he saw M and J again. Tried very hard to care about that, tried to miss them. But there wasn’t room inside his soul, to miss anyone else.)

The airplane jolted on the way down, worse, it seemed to El, than on takeoff. His stomach clenched, nausea rolled through him, his magic instinctively grasping for control of the situation. But this flight was not under his power. His magic was next to useless here. All he could do was trust the humans, the mortals, the magic-less, who had created such a craft, something El had never bothered to notice before. Airplanes were not a part of his world, his reality; he’d never needed to use one and thus he hadn’t cared.

They landed, and everything was fine.

(Nothing was fine.)

The urge, upon exiting the plane, to take Q’s hand in his own, was once again nearly overpowering. He didn’t know how he managed to avoid it, during the trip to their home, but once they were finally alone, away from the eyes of the others, the irrelevant, the people El could summon up the will to care about on a good day but not on a bad, he draped himself around Q, holding him tight. Their bodies became one cumbersome entity as they made their lumbering, graceless way down the slope of the hill, to the cottage waiting for them at the bottom.

El’s feet were on solid ground, now. He was safe in one of the only places he’d ever felt truly comfortable and secure. And yet the swooping feeling of freefall hadn’t left him. The last time he’d been here, in this cottage, the whole family had been together. It had been over a decade ago. El could remember the food he’d made, the silly nonsense they’d watched on television, the books Q had read out loud for them, the things they’d meditated on. A feeling of peace, now lost to him, maybe forever.

Because the truth was simple. El was not all that afraid of flying. His hands were just as clammy, his heart pounding just as hard, here on the firm ground. Alone, just him and Q, in their favorite home. What El was afraid of was something he couldn’t run from, couldn’t escape, couldn’t stop thinking about no matter what he did. What he’d been afraid of the whole time, was being alive, when Penny wasn’t.

Chapter Text

I belong to him. It is not something we discuss openly, but a secret held in sacred trust between us, that who I am, what I am, exists because of Q, above all else and all others. He belongs to me too, in a way, but this is a simplification. He could leave me and survive. I could not leave him. I would be unmade by the very act. So he will never have to face the world without me, unless it is his own choice. This separates us, and I’m sure he’d disagree with my interpretation of reality, but it’s no secret he’s the stronger and braver of us. Pride is a paltry thing, in one as old as I.

He has left me before. Not forever. Not forever. I was grateful for his return every time, would forgive him any trespass even today, although I am confident that we are past such things now, so many centuries later. Even as my life extends grotesquely past the limits of civilizations, as I see the rise and fall of ages of men, I do not despise being alive. I have people that I love. I take pleasure in art and in food and in seeing the natural beauties of the world, warped by time as they are. And none of it would have been possible without him.

It’s the first five hundred years that makes all the difference.

It would perhaps be more romantic to say that what I have with Q would have happened if we’d had only one mortal lifetime to live together, and by all the gods, I cannot conceive of a reality where I would have met him without loving him, but—it is different. How could it not be? For half a millennium, I wandered the earth alone. Every connection fleeting. All consequences washed away by the simple passage of time. I felt despair in those years, of course. Sometimes so much despair that I attempted to subsume myself into the earth, into oblivion. But even at my lowest, I never tried to sever my head from my body, or burn myself to ash. I was not aware, at the time, of holding these options in reserve, of holding anything back in my quest for an end.

But something in the universe, some kernel inside myself, must have known I’d have a reason to live, eventually.

And when I met him—I gave myself to him. He took me. It was the easiest, most natural thing in the world, to fall into him, to give up any sense of who I’d been before and make myself anew in his arms.

That’s not to say it was a simple meeting, for either of us. I threw myself at him with the desperation of the terminally lonely. In those early days, the simple fact of his existence was all I needed to know. I thought it was love from the very start, from the first dream, before I’d ever laid my eyes on him, but it wasn’t, not really. Q had to explain it to me, had to force me to see, and while I resented it, he was right, as he so often is: I didn’t really know him then. He could have been anyone, anything, and I would have wept at his feet and begged him to let me stay.

But then we fell in love. We clawed our way to love. We fought the world and each other for love. Etcetera. And so I belong to him.

It’s what I’d been missing for so long. I’d known it, in an abstract way, that I was lonely, but I hadn’t understood that the loneliness was about more than simple companionship. It was about belonging, having people—a person—something to anchor me to the world beyond the bounds of myself. I had tried any number of gods, but none of them had answered me for a very long time. Nothing in the world, nothing with consciousness, was as permanent as I was, and then there was Q, and I had an anchor, I had a companion, there was another soul capable of resonating with my own.

I remember the first time we touched each other in love. It was not the first time, not even close, that we had come to one another in need, felt each other, drawn pleasure from one another’s bodies. But as I said, what I felt for him in those earliest years wasn’t really love. Not as I know it now. And he—his feelings were more complicated. He had ties, still, at that time, to a life of mortality, even normalcy; he still belonged somewhere else at least in part, while I belonged only with him.

But this time was after he’d agreed to stay, after he’d tossed aside the last of his hesitance, finished mourning for a life now lost to him, and turned to me with his whole heart. I took my time with him, pressed all I felt into his skin with my mouth and my hands. It wasn’t enough, it couldn’t be, but it felt more wonderful than anything else I’d ever known.

And Q—he seemed to feel it too. Seemed to need me as much as I needed him, and I chased the impossibility of such a thing, hardly daring to believe my good fortune. When I was inside him I thought of the times I’d tried to give up my life, and I cursed every moment of hesitation, anything that might have put me in danger of never having this. It was worth an eternity of suffering. I could not possibly have earned such bliss.

When I touched him, he lifted to me on a gasp, mouth open and inviting, hair in disarray around the crown of his head, eyes black and endless and wanting, and I thought I would die to keep this. But then, no. That wasn’t it at all. I would live to keep this, and that was the greatest gift he could have given me.

“You’re mine,” I said to him, and it was exhilarating, overwhelming, almost terrifying, like commanding a god to worship his follower. I wondered if he’d smite me where I lay. Would have let him do anything to me, and he knew it. That was part of it.

But instead…

“I’m yours,” Q said back to me. He could have said the reverse, could have told me I was his, but he didn’t, because we both already knew. I belonged to him, and this had been true before he even existed. I belonged to him, and I knew he’d do everything in his power to be my safe harbor.

Chapter Text

El loved going under cover. It was often his favorite part of any given job, slipping into a new outfit, a new persona, new voice, becoming someone different. He didn’t actively hate himself most of the time, but after a couple thousand years, he grew occasionally weary of his own company.

Perhaps it wasn’t really the going undercover part that he enjoyed, but more the preparation, the creation of a new character. This particular gentleman was suave and wellbred, but had fallen on hard times recently. He wore the finest clothing, just two years out of style. Meticulously maintained, but lacking the sheen of newness that fellow aristocrats would be sure to notice. He would be mingling with other such second-raters, and a few of the more elevated variety this evening, and so while ordinarily it would have bothered him to be seen in anything but the finest, today it was an intentional character choice. The stink of shame, of fortunes squandered and family honor teetering on the edge, would mark him as an overeager target for the very men he wished to meet.

A dab of scent, a ribbon to tie back his hair, an adjustment of his sleeves in the mirror, and he was no longer himself, but Lord Elijah Ladock, a man whose family boasted modest titles, even more modest fortune, and who was also, unbeknownst to society at general, but known by a few intimate friends, a magician.

“You look very dashing,” a voice said from the doorway, and El turned to find Pen and Q both in the doorway. The words had come from Penny, accompanied by a sardonic raise of the brow.

“Sarcasm does not become you,” El replied. This was a lie, of course, and they both knew it. El accepted a kiss from Q, then allowed him to fiddle with the line of his already pristine collar.

“You’ll be careful,” Q said, eyes darting over El’s face like he meant to memorize something he already knew by heart.

Ah. Yes.

This was why El loved preparing for undercover jobs more than he loved going on them. The people he was meeting tonight were a mixed group of non-magical gentlemen, and a few well-placed and oddly influential magicians, who had been climbing their way slowly and subtly up to the higher ranks of London society over the past several years. El’s initial target was a man who had amassed a great deal of power, and had found himself in possession of an artifact that was capable of great harm, should it be wielded by the wrong hands. Any hands, really.

An extraction mission and nothing more, or so it had seemed when they’d first heard of the artifact and realized the need for its safe retrieval. But there was a problem. These magicians, patrons of the Eccentric Club and other such gentleman’s clubs scattered around the area, had secreted their powerful treasure away behind wards that were breakable only by the combined vocal, blood, and magical signatures of those who had locked it away. At least twelve magicians had their power mixed into the concealment charm, and maybe others they hadn’t yet discovered. El not only needed to discover the physical location of the highly cursed astrolabe they were seeking: he needed to befriend its current keepers, such that he be invited to draw on its power for himself.

The details didn’t matter. The point was, it would take time. And the safest, most guaranteed way for him to get what he needed? He had to go in deep. He couldn’t risk being followed, tracked, by the myriad powerful magicians he would soon be befriending. Any hint that he wasn’t what he said he was, and their job would become a thousand times more difficult.

He was going in alone, and his first reconnaissance meetup with Q and the others was not for a fortnight. Even this would be the quickest of meetings and then he’d be gone again, and the cycle would only repeat, for as long as it took for El to achieve his goal.

So as Q crowded into his space, fussing with nonexistent imperfections in his dress, El allowed the persona of Elijah Ladock to fall away from him. When he pulled Q back into his arms, he was fully himself again as they sunk into a deep, endless kiss. (They’d said a proper goodbye the night before, El laying Q out on their bed and pulling all of his favorite sounds out of him, holding him tight through the night, indulging in the passionate melodrama of their impending separation. El reminded Q how good it would be, when they were allowed to collide back together once the job was over, and Q, petulant, had said it was good every time and they hardly needed the assistance of absence.)

After Q had finally consented to give him back the use of his arms, he pulled Penny into a long kiss as well. and when Jules and Margaret arrived to wish him farewell, he spent long minutes with each of them in his arms, smelling their hair and impressing the memory of their bodies against his own.

Even if this job lasted months, it was no great time for them all to be apart. It was, however, a long time to let himself slip away without the anchors of his real family to keep him centered. He would be lost to them in body and in mind as he took on the role he’d been assigned, keeping the ultimate goal in focus, but shoving the others out of his heart as best as he was able. For his own protection, and theirs.

“I’ve already procured an introduction to Lady Montagu,” Jules reminded him for the dozenth time. “So I can be seen in your circles at a moment’s notice. I’m exotic and sure to draw attention away from the mysterious new gentleman making the rounds, should we need such a diversion.”

“If I’m drawing too much attention as the mysterious new gentleman, I’m not doing my job.”

But he was grateful for her over-preparedness; it had saved them all a lot of pain too many times in the past. He was sure Jules was excited to wear the lavish outfit she’d obtained in case her cover story was required, but he was equally sure she’d be there for him even if the job had required a serving girl or beggar woman on the streets. Jules liked to perform nearly as much as he did.

And this was it. Preparations made, rendezvous planned. All that was left to do was walk out the door and be Elijah, perform for a crowd of strangers who had no idea they were his audience.

He kissed them all once more before he walked out the door, a last weakness.

Lord Elijah Ladock descended the stairs and headed into the night.

Chapter Text

[A continuation from “On Covert Operations,” chapter three of The Explanation of Eliot.]

It’s been seventeen days since he’s seen Q. They’ve been apart for longer, much longer, but not any time recently, and his skin itches with wanting him. Their last meeting had been fraught and over too quickly, a tense meeting, the passing of information, a kiss bruising in its intensity but brief, far too brief to satiate the growing pit of want deep in El’s body.

During the day, he is someone else. He has a part to play, a mission to complete, and for his own sanity if nothing else, he doesn’t think about Q at all. Or anyone else in his family. They don’t exist for him, beyond the baseline knowledge that he has a home somewhere out there waiting for him when this is over. But he has to be Elijah Ladock in order to succeed, and Elijah Ladock doesn’t know Q, has never met him, would never have a reason to suspect the existence of such a person.

At night, when he’s alone in the small room he’s renting, he allows himself the luxury of remembering what he is without. There’s the existential dread and the yawning chasm of loneliness, of course, but there’s also the more immediate, more tangible, yet no less powerful longing of his flesh. Ordinarily, he does not sleep alone. He sleeps with Q curled into him, flopped on top of him, spooned into the space between his arms or, at the very least, there, close enough to reach out and touch through the sea of darkness.

He sleeps sometimes with Penny, too, his warm weight a nearly authoritative presence in the bed, the brand of a hand tossed all the way across Q’s body in the middle, resting with familiarity and fellowship on the dip of El’s knee. He sleeps with Margaret, her body heating up like fire in the night, the sharp angles and soft curves of her flailing out and stealing the blankets every time.

To be alone is to yearn for them all terribly, but he knows it will be worse if he indulges in depth, in thinking of what he wishes he could have. But tonight. Tonight. He’s hard, aching low in his gut; he hasn’t laid a hand on himself, or had anyone else to do it for him, in weeks, and he… he wants Q’s mouth, wants his fingers, the wickedness of his tongue. Wants it all bad enough that there in the dark he succumbs, palming a hand down between his legs, under the covers, gripping himself tight and trying not to groan aloud at the relief of the pressure.

He wants to make sound, but he shouldn’t. Elijah Ladock put privacy wards around his room, but Elijah is not a particularly skilled magician, and the wards he put up are weak enough to be disrupted, so his new friends, still wary of his growing place among their group of conspirators, can spy on him if they so choose.

They have so chosen. El knows this very well, having detected the tampering the second he approached his door this evening. He spares a moment to be amused as he tightens his grip on himself, pumping slow and languorous, imagining one of the men he’s met over the past couple of months, listening in at the door through magic, hearing the muffled grunts and rustling sheets of a man bringing himself pleasure. He even dares to imagine maybe the man listening is the young lad who can’t stop staring at him during meeting, who’s clearly salivating over Elijah already. El pictures him unable to resist bringing his palm down to press the crease of his trousers, listening to El’s hand, slicked with magic, speed over himself again and again. God, Q would take delight in the game, if he were here, he’d climb under the covers, he’d let El fuck into his mouth, he’d moan around him, he’d put on a show for an invisible audience, let the straight-laced men of London wonder at the shame and lust coursing through them at the sound of men, of two men together, bringing each other off—

El groans a little louder, unintentionally, imagining the wet heat of Q’s mouth around him, strokes himself faster, wishes for the brand of Q’s hands braced against his hips, can hardly stand the absence of him. If Q were here, El would flip him over, work him open on his tongue, on his fingers, slip inside him and drive forward, burying himself inside, hard, hard, the slap of their skin together the best music in the world. Maybe Margaret would join them, Q would bury his face between her legs even as El jostles him with every thrust, the cries she makes when she knows the pleasure of Q’s perfect tongue—god, he wants them, he needs them, sweat is pooling in El’s collarbone, his skin is buzzing everywhere in desperation, strung taut along every muscle. He is a man made only of wanting, of carnal, intensifying, need

He comes with a brief shout, bites down on his own fist as he writhes through orgasm, drops his shaking hand away from his oversensitive flesh and lies there, debauched and yet also indignant at the thought of how delectable he must look, flushed and frazzled and laid out against the sheets, with nobody here to even appreciate it. He has long ago tired of being alone, and when necessity dictates a return to solitude, however short, every bit of him rebels against the fact of it.

His physical longing is not sated, even now. Just as he’d known would happen, the sharpness of his want for Q and for the others is all the greater now that he’s allowed himself the paltry echo of the pleasure they can bring him.

Just a little longer. He’s close to answers, close to earning the trust of his enemies. And then he can go home to the place his heart resides.

Chapter Text

El had died in myriad gruesome ways. It didn’t bother him if he didn’t think about it, but truthfully, when he remembered the gut wounds and the head trauma and the crushing weight of stones falling on his body, the feeling of water filling his lungs, or the air squeezed fatally out of his body, the limbs he’s lost and the horrible pain of feeling them regrow, it was far too easy to freak himself out.

He wasn’t a violent man, really, despite all the people he’d killed. He wasn’t equipped for pain, and it never got any easier to bleed. Some of the others had seemingly grown used to it. Margo hardly flinched anymore when she took a severe wound, just gritted her teeth and rolled her eyes at the inconvenience and waited for the pain to pass. Q as well: he was good at keeping the pain under control, but El suspected that had more to do with keeping everyone else calm than it did about his own tolerance. El tended to—well, he didn’t handle it particularly well, seeing Q in pain.

And Alice Quinn. She had an almost supernatural ability to shut off the pain, to stare straight ahead and take whatever was coming for her, frustration the only expression apparent on her pale face as she waited for a gaping wound to close itself over.

Kady insisted that Alice felt the pain as intensely as anyone, that she’d trained herself her whole life to hide her anguish from someone who might judge her for it, or use it against her. Eliot is torn between wanting to teach Alice that she can express her true feelings in front of her new family, and wanting her to keep up the act: it’s never pleasant to listen to people he loves while they’re screaming in agony.

One time, El had been blown up.

Not entirely, not—his head remained connected to his neck, connected to his torso, and then—

Well, then, nothing.

He’d lost consciousness immediately in the strength of the explosion, awoke in the rubble of a building with his head in Margo’s lap and Q sobbing with his head against his chest. His first instinct was to comfort them; his second instinct was to ask what the fuck had happened, make sure the others were all alright.

He couldn’t follow either instinct, because he had only seconds to think coherently before the pain blinded him. It took his sight, his mind, all he could hear was his own voice, raw from screaming. At some point he looked down and saw the obvious truth, that his unnatural immortal body was forcing him through the experience of regrowing his entire lower half, right there amid the rubble of a destroyed building.

Later, he’d learn that he’d been the only one significantly injured; that Penny and Margo had failed to stop the bomb due to a light kidnapping incident, but that Jules, Q, and Kady had succeeded in rescuing the civilians in the area. Later, he’d learn that Margo and Penny had come across him ripped in pieces and crushed by rubble, that he’d been dead, and that they hadn’t been sure if he’d be able to come back.

He could have told them not to worry so much. It hadn’t been the first time he’d had to regrow a limb. But at the time, he’d been incapable of telling them much of anything at all. It would have been better, if his body had just stayed dead while it regrew itself, but unfortunately the healing didn’t seem to work that way. If one of them died, the first thing their mysterious immortality power did was restore them to life, which meant their heart started beating again before any other healing could occur. It made for a somewhat gruesome recovery, depending on the injury.

Eliot pretended not to remember much about those hours of agony.

He remembered every second.

He remembered that the pain was bad enough that it took him out of his head, reordered his priorities. For the first time in uncountable years he wished for death, just so it would end. He wished for death even hearing Q’s voice close at hand, begging him to hold on. He’d known Q was holding his hand, but he hadn’t been able to feel it. He’d known he was being moved to a safer location, that Penny was pacing a hole in the carpet across the room, that Margo was swearing up a storm and Julia was crying and trying to use magic to dull his pain. He’d known all of this, but could not react to it, could not tell them that he would be all right, because he did not truly believe, in that moment, that he would be. Wasn’t even sure he wanted to be all right, until the hours had passed and he’d had legs again, and the healing magic had started to work on the smaller lacerations, erasing the gashes caused by the falling rubble.

Realistically, he knew it was just dumb luck, a poor turn during a mission, that had landed him in that situation. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, and this job was no different than many others they’d gone on, where they’d thrown their bodies at a problem because they, of all people, had the means of surviving such an effort. Realistically, he’d suffered similarly intense pain before. But something about the utter grotesque horror of his body being bisected, of his continued existence without an entire lower half, his guts spilling out through the bottom of him… he would never forget it.

Alice liked to ask questions, and often they were morbid. How many times do you think you’ve died? What about disease? Have you ever been sick? What about decapitation? What about what about what about? What was the worst way you’ve ever died?

It might not have been the most original or interesting of answers, it might not have been something esoteric or exotic or strange. But Eliot didn’t hesitate to answer that last question: “Explosions. Getting blown up. Absolutely the worst.” He’d grinned at her, and avoided looking at Q, because he’d known he’d see the shadow of dark memory there in his eyes. “Avoid it if you can.”

“Thanks,” Alice said, expression openly curious. “I’ll take that under consideration.”

Maybe tonight, Eliot would share the full memory with Alice during group meditation. She deserved to know what she was in for. Then again, maybe he’d spare her while he still could.