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Gratitude of Touch

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The longing to touch / be touched. I feel gratitude when I touch someone - as well as affection, etc. The person has allowed me proof that I have a body - and that there are bodies in the world.

Susan Sontag, As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks

         Rain falls softly against the windows outside, thunder booming in the distance every so often. The lights are off in Nate’s living room, leaving it lit only by the sunlight filtering in through storm clouds. Alec and Eliot sit on the couch in front of the television, watching a movie play on the screen. On insistence from Alec, they are watching the first of the original trilogy Star Wars films, and while Eliot isn’t entirely sure what the big deal is about, he’s content to sit here and watch them if it makes Alec happy.

(If asked, he would say it was to get his friend to shut up about it already, but in honestly it’s worth it to see the grin on Alec’s face when he agreed to this.)

         The rain falling from the slate grey sky beats a staccato pattern on the panes of glass in the living room windows as the intensity of the weather picks up. Inside, it feels to Eliot as if it is steadily getting colder, and he wonders absently, eyes still fixed on the television screen, if Nate has the heat off for some reason.

         At the nearly imperceptible sound of light footfalls on the stairs, Eliot looks over his shoulder at the person who has now entered the room. Parker, an exceedingly comfortable looking throw blanket under one arm, looks back at him and waves. The fact that she clearly didn’t enter the living room via the front door is an anomaly Eliot doesn’t even bother questioning. It’s Parker, he figures. They’re lucky she didn’t swing in through the window.

         Parker approaches the couch, waving her free hand around at the two of them.

         “Scoot over,” she orders, and Eliot obliges, making room on his right by moving to the middle of the couch, crowding Alec over on his left. Before they were comfortably curled on opposite ends, sprawled out over their halves of Nate’s sofa, but now Eliot’s hip and shoulder are almost touching Alec, close enough to feel the warmth of his presence.

         Eliot and Alec are expecting Parker to flop down on the cushion next to Eliot, but instead she decides to deposit herself across their laps, head against the arm of the couch, lower body draped across Eliot, upper body resting against Alec. They exchange a look over her, not really that bothered or, if they’re to be honest, surprised. It’s never exactly been easy to predict what it is Parker’s going to decide to do next, and with the temperature in the room it’s nice to have her there.

         The movie continues to play and the three of them settle into their new configuration, Parker heavy across Alec and Eliot’s laps like a blanket, warding off the chill that had previously settled over them. She has curled up a bit, head resting low on Alec’s chest, as turned towards him as she can manage while still being able to see the movie playing on the tv.

         One of Eliot’s hands has casually fallen across Parker’s knee, and after a few minutes one of hers drifts over, absently playing twisting her fingers through his. It’s not as weird as it feels like it should be, sitting there with them. Somehow he’s shifted over even further, and his left side is now flush against Alec’s right. His larger, rougher hand is entwined with the small, nimble hand of the thief laying across his legs.

         Alec looks over at Eliot and catches his eye, a small, warm grin on his face. A look downwards to where Parker’s cheek is pressed to the front of his soft dark blue t-shirt shows him that she is drifting fast. With the familiar sounds of a movie he’s seen countless times before and the warmth of Parker and Eliot lulling him into a heavy contentment, Alec can feel himself getting sleepy as well.

         The ache in his head begins as a slight pressure behind his eyes, but grows to a dull throb before he can drift off though, and Alec’s smile morphs into a grimace. It’s not enough to be worth getting up and getting medication for, but it’s enough to distract him and keep him awake.

         A tiny nudge against his shoulder draws Alec’s attention over to Eliot. Eliot frowns and speaks in a low, quiet voice, so as not to disturb Parker.

         “Headache?” he asks.

Alec nods, and immediately regrets it.

         Eliot’s next question is slightly more hesitant. “D’you mind if I…” His voice trails off and he raises his free hand a bit.

         “Sure,” Alec answers. If it might help, then, may as well.

         The feeling of Eliot’s hand against the back of his neck is pleasantly heavy, the hitter’s fingers digging in carefully to try and work the tension out. Eliot seems to know what he’s doing, and under his kneading fingers and the warmth of his palm at the base of Alec’s neck the pain seeps away. After a while Eliot stops the movement and just lets his hand rest, curled lightly at the side of Alec’s neck.

         The movie runs down in the background as Alec joins Parker in sleep, his head slumping slowly to the side until it rests against Eliot’s shoulder. When the last scene plays out and the credits roll, they’re still asleep, and Eliot quietly grabs the remote, making the executive decision to play the film over again, and restarts it. This time he figures he’ll actually pay attention to what’s going on, letting Alec and Parker stay asleep.

         It’s nice like this. Comforting. There’s a way being able to be here with them, trust them to be close to him and not take advantage of the vulnerability, the trust offered in return, the ultimate sign of faith that is guarded thieves falling asleep on someone… It makes Eliot feel warm, somewhere deep in his chest, a walled up place in his ribcage that hasn’t been warm in a long time.

         That’s how Sophie and Nate find them when they walk in the front door, all three curled in a tangled heap on half of Nate’s sofa. The end credits of Star Wars are playing at a low volume, with Eliot, Alec, and Parker, asleep in front of it.

         Nate walks over to the tv and switches it off. He pulls the edge of the blanket up from where it has slid to the floor, draping it back over Parker’s legs. He meets Sophie’s eyes over the couch and smiles a little, motioning to the door. The two of them can hang out downstairs for a while.

         It’s about time the younger three got some rest.