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vdistinctive


What, was "Rudy" on cable last night?

. . . Yes.


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Eliot Spencer vdistinctive
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Nana's house, Calumet Heights, Chicago, Illinois, Wednesday night, FT
Eliot was quite used to being up at all hours, sneaking around to make sure he didn't wake up anyone else. So when he found himself up in the middle night, when the rest of the house had finally gone quiet, he made his way silently to the kitchen with a book under his arm.

"Ah," he said when he came in. "I didn't think anyone else was awake."

Walking in on someone else moving around silently in the middle of the night -- someone else who wasn't a threat -- was new.


Nana
"You don't tend to need a lot of sleep at my age," Nana said, waving Eliot into the kitchen. "You can come on in, sweetheart, I'm not gonna bite. Unless you'd rather sit and read by yourself? I can head back to my room and give you some breathing space if you'd like."

Eliot
"You kiddin'?" Eliot said with a small smile. "My momma taught me better than to kick a woman out of her own kitchen." He came in and set his book down, moving automatically to the coffee machine. "I've never needed as much sleep as most people. Suppose if I'm lucky enough to make it to your age, I might not need any at all."

Nana
"Lucky enough?" Nana asked with a small chuckle. "How old do you think I am, boy?" Raising her mug, she added, "Would you mind, darlin'? I could go for another cup myself."

Eliot
"It'd be my pleasure," Eliot said, coming back to take her mug so she wouldn't have to get up. "And Momma warned me against guessin' a woman's age, too. But -- well, ma'am, I didn't take an easy route through life. The one I picked tends to end sooner, rather than later."

Nana
"Ah, I see," Nana said, with a nod of thanks. Eliot had such lovely manners. "Now come sit down and tell me about yourself, young man. You don't like to give much away, do you? You know that since you've given me an opening, I'm gonna pry for as long as you're willing to indulge an old woman. I wanna hear all about the people in my Alec's life. He's not always forthcoming about what y'all get up to."

Eliot
"You take cream and sugar?" Eliot asked as he brought the two mugs back over to the table, not yet sitting down. "I don't talk about it much because it makes other folks uncomfortable," he explained. "I've made peace with it, myself."

And that was almost always even true.

"I'm a soldier. Started out army, got twisted around into somethin' of a mercenary along the way. Had only just started sortin' myself back out when I met Hardison. He . . . helped."

Nana
"Baby, I worked the last forty years at Trinity Hospital. I marched on Washington in the 60s and bussed down to Montgomery. And I've been bringing up boys and girls who ended up in the system for one reason or another since the mid-seventies. Believe me, there's not a whole lot you can tell me that's more than I can handle." She took a sip of her coffee and smiled at him. "This is perfect, Eliot. Thank you, sugar."

Eliot
"You were a freedom rider?" Eliot asked, finally sitting down. "I've worked in more'n a few countries fightin' similar fights over the years. That sorta courage is an inspiration." He smiled a little ruefully. "And I ain't just sayin' that to try to change the subject."

Nana
"That's where I met my husband, in fact," Nana said proudly. "We were arrested together in Birmingham. Got to talking while we were in lockup, got released at the same time, and pretty much stuck together like glue after that, least until he got sent to Vietnam."

She sipped her coffee, giving it another smile. "Now what did you mean by 'worked in,' hon? Is this more of that security work that Hardison likes to talk real fast about so I don't ask too many questions?"

Eliot
"Some of that," Eliot said, nodding. "Wish I could say I was fightin' the good fight while I was at it, but at best I stayed out of it. I got a reputation as bein' the kind of guy who can retrieve items and persons of interest, even against impossible odds. Worked for some men who didn't mind takin' advantage of local unrest, before I got myself sorted out." He studied the surface of his coffee, then looked up to meet her eye. "I don't want you thinkin' Hardison was ever involved in any of that. Far as I know he never was. What we do as a team -- you'd be proud. It's given me a chance to use the skills I learned on the wrong side of the fight to help out those who don't have the power to fight for themselves."

Nana
"Oh, honey, I didn't think he would be," Nana said with a laugh. "I know my Alec well enough to know that. I may not know all of what y'all get up to very well, but I do know that whatever it is, he's not hurting anyone that doesn't have it coming."

She looked at him with dark, penetrating eyes, the kind that had seen through generations of people. "You got some violence in you, sweetheart. But you're not a slave to it and that's what's important. And sometimes, violence is necessary, to protect the ones you love. I feel better knowing Alec has you. He doesn't have that violence and the world has hurt him for it. You mighta done some rough things in your life, but you left all that behind."

That, she knew as easy as breathing. Alec wouldn't love someone as completely as he loved Eliot if Eliot was the type of person who still hurt good folks for bad reasons.

Eliot
Eliot looked back at her searchingly then smiled and nodded, faintly enough that you might not see it if you weren't looking at him head on. "I'm lucky to have him," he said softly. "Him and Parker both. Lord knows I don't deserve 'em. You raised a damn fine young man, you don't mind my sayin'."

Nana
"You can say that as much as you want," Nana said with a hearty chuckle. "I'm proud of that boy, I am. I've had many, many children come and go, but Alec--he's mine. There's something about that boy that just worms right into your heart and takes up residence there and won't leave, no matter what."

She gave him a knowing look. "But I have a feeling you know that already, don't you, sweetheart."

Eliot
Eliot nodded again. "He's sneaky enough that it took me awhile to notice properly. But he most certainly does." He spent a moment fussing with his coffee as he worked out how to say what he wanted to say next. "It's killin' him to lie to you. Even just leavin' things out. He's afraid you'll be disappointed in him. That you won't approve of the man he's grown up to be."

Nana
"As if I could ever disapprove of who that boy is," Nana snorted. "Sweetest, smartest, gentlest boy I ever met and none of that changed as he got older."

She drained her cup and then sat back in her chair and sighed. "It's my fault," she told Eliot. "Never told him I knew. I wanted him to come to me and tell me, you know? When he decided he could. Didn't realize until he was grown and out of the house that he might have felt worried he couldn't. I never said anything bad about anybody, but the church wasn't as tolerant then as it is now, and I didn't gainsay what we heard there."

Things had been different, fifteen, twenty years ago. She'd been different. "I didn't bother educating myself on the subject until after I found the pictures on the computer." She chuckled at that. "Now, mind you, I always made a point of not prying into that part of their lives growing up. What they did by and to themselves was none of my business. Alec was the first of the kids to really use the computer for that sort of thing and the silly boy had them hidden in a folder called 'Homework'. So of course I looked in there! If he'd labeled it porn, I would have known not to stick my nose where it didn't belong!"

Eliot
Eliot snorted. "I don't think there's a teenage boy alive who'd actually label his porn folder 'porn'," he said. "Family ain't ever easy, is it. Even when you're lucky enough to get a good one."

Nana
"Ain't never is," Nana agreed. "Ain't much good that ever is. But, yes, he had pictures of both boys and girls in there and so I knew--but, like I said, I thought it would be best if he came to me with it. I didn't want to push, you know. And now here we are, him worried that I'll disapprove of something that makes him happy, just because it's outside the bounds of what's socially conventional."

Shaking her head, she said, "I marched so he and Parker could be together the way they are. And the Supreme Court's just said that the two of you can be together now, too. But I might have to let you youngins do the heavy lifting for the three of you together. But know you got my approval for it."

Eliot
Eliot nodded. "Thank you," he said softly, then smiled ruefully. "Got a bit more than the government working against that, to be honest."

At least he hadn't had that frisson of panic run through him at the very mention of it, this time.

Nana
"So did we, back in the day, baby," Nana reminded. "But you can't let that stop you." She sipped her tea and eyed him. "Not saying that's something you gotta get the jump on right away, of course."

Leaning forward to cover one of his hands with one of her own, she asked, "You're not mad at him? For this little charade he's trying to pull?" Snorting, she added, "Boy overplays it, though. Never was that great at lying."

Eliot
Eliot chuckled. "Truer words, ma'am." He turned his hand over to give hers a gentle squeeze. "And no, I ain't mad. I lost my family's good opinion of me a long time ago, so for me it was easy. I can't blame Hardison for not bein' ready to risk losin' yours."

Nana
"Glad to hear it. I'd hate to be a source of trouble between y'all," Nana said. "You're all too old for me to fret over, but I never let little things like that stop me."

Eliot
Eliot blinked, surprised. "I ain't had anyone frettin' over me in quite some time, ma'am. Don't know that I'd quite know what to do with it."

Nana
Nana tutted at him. "Now I know I told you to call me Nana already," she reprimanded. "You're family now, which means you're gonna get scolded, fretted over, and hugged just as much as Alec does. I'm too old and set in my ways to adjust how I react to family now." She smiled at him, and even with as wrinkled as she was, Eliot could catch a glimpse of the beauty she'd been in her youth in that smile. "As for how to handle it--may I suggest acceding in good grace?"

Eliot
Oh, Eliot had already noticed it. In her smile, her mannerisms, her demeanor. Beauty like that held on, shining through whatever age decided to do to a person.

"I'll do my best ma -- uh. Nana." He smiled back, a quirk of the lips that carried more than a touch of sadness with it. He hadn't been mothered in a very long time, and he was startled to note that he'd missed it. "I hope you'll forgive me if it takes a bit of practice."

Nana
"You might be the oldest one, but believe me, sugar, you're hardly the first boy I ever mothered that's fallen out of practice." She regarded him slowly, much the way she would a puzzle she was halfway through to solving. "How long's she been then gone?"

Eliot
"Almost 25 years, now," Eliot said. "It was -- sudden."

That was one way to put it. What'd been a stomach ache in the morning had ended with his mother bleeding out internally by the time he and Trudy had gotten home from school. Eliot had done much worse to a lot of people over the years, but the mental image of his mother lying pale and vacant on the couch still choked him up.

Which he supposed was at least better than her becoming just another dead face in the night.

Nana
"Aww, sugar, that ain't an easy time to lose your mama," Nana clucked sympathetically. "Ain't never easy to lose a parent, but you were just a child. An' with no time to prepare." She clasped his hands again, offering what comfort she could for a wound that had scarred over long before they'd met. "Did Alec ever tell you why I had the kids call me Nana?"

Eliot
Eliot shook his head. "Never came up."

Nana
"It's what I told every child who came through my door," she explained. "I told each one to call me Nana, because I was never trying to replace their mother. God gave them each one and I wasn't her. Never told them that their mothers all loved them--to many of them knew that wasn't always true, hurts me to say--but that no matter what happened here, I was never trying to be something I wasn't. I couldn't never replace the mothers and fathers they'd lost for whatever reason, but that didn't mean I couldn't still be family."

Eliot
"Hardison was really very lucky to find you," Eliot said. "Don't imagine the system offers kids a lot of that sort of honesty."

Nana
"Not enough of them, unfortunately," Nana said softly. "One of the things I regret most about getting old is that I can't keep taking kids in. Not anymore. The social workers are worried I'll just keel over unexpectedly any minute now. I mean, I still get to see the kids of my old kids now, and they're lovely, but they don't need me. I'm Nana to them because I'm Nana to their parents. Not because I need to be Nana."

Eliot
"But you get to spoil 'em a little," Eliot said. "I hear that's the best part of bein' a grandparent."

Nana
"It is," Nana said, giving Eliot a giant smile. "Can't wait to have more."

HINT HINT.


[ooc: NFB, natch. Preplayed with the incomparable age_of_the_geek]

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