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vdistinctive


What, was "Rudy" on cable last night?

. . . Yes.


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Eliot Spencer vdistinctive
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Outside Oklahoma City, Friday morning
"Right, so." Eliot stood by the rental car at the end of Trudy's driveway, suddenly realizing that this was it, this was Hardison's 'meet the family' moment. "Trudy said Ellie stayed at the hospice with Pop last night, but Cassie and Johnny and Jake'll be here -- and Trudy of course. . . ."


Hardison

"Okay, so one last time," Hardison said, stumbling over his words again like he had when he was being quizzed on wine. Because he was well aware that this was the 'meet the family' moment and there was just so much for the family to get used to. "So, Trudy's your sister and Jake is her husband, and Ellie is their...oldest?...daughter?"

He had this. He should have this. He was fluent in seven different computer code languages. Remembering names and relationships were nothing compared to that. Except, you know, the panic.


Eliot

Panic happened. Panic was natural, right?

"Ellie and Cassie are twins, 19 years old," Eliot said. "Ellie's in school in Austin so she got home faster." The front door of the house banged open, and a preteen boy came swooping out, shaggy blonde hair falling in his eyes. He froze on the stoop when he spotted them.

"Mom!" he shrieked. "They're here!"

"That'd be Johnny," Eliot said, a little needlessly. "You ready for this?"


Hardison

Hardison really wanted to say that he'd left the stove on in Fandom and run off to check it. But they were here for Eliot and Eliot needed him, so he just told all the butterflies in his stomach to hush and squared his shoulders. "Course," he said, putting on a smile. "I got a bet with Parker that I'll have the family likin' me better'n they like you by dinner time."


Eliot

Eliot gave Hardison a sidelong glance. "How much you got riding on that? 'Cause I'll give double odds they'll like you better'n me the minute they meet you."

Eliot was the family black sheep who ran off and disappeared for 20 years. He figured it wouldn't be hard.


Trudy

"How many times have I told you not to slam the door?" A voice yelled, and this time an blonde woman in her late 30s joined the preteen on the porch. She draped her arm over her son's shoulders and redirected him back to the door. "Go get your father and see if he's done fixing up the guest room." The boy sulked back into the house and Trudy headed across the yard with long, confident strides. "You made it," she greeted, giving Eliot a pointed look. "Wasn't too sure you would." She turned to Hardison and broke into a bright grin. "And you must be Hardison. Trudy Thomas. 'Bout time I got to meet you."


Eliot

"Told you," Eliot muttered.


Hardison

Her grin got one in return and he stepped forward, offering his hand. "That's what I've been sayin'," Hardison said, pitching Eliot under that bus so fast it broke the sound barrier. In fairness, he had suggested meeting the family...once. Probably. "Thank you so much for agreein' to let me stay with y'all. I know it's tough havin' a stranger around durin' difficult times. An' if it was just Eliot on his own, you could just make him sleep on the couch or somethin' an' call it good."


Trudy

"Now don't even," Trudy chided. "I'm just sorry not to get to meet Parker, too. You a hugger, Hardison? We like to hug in this family."


Eliot

Eliot groaned. "Tru --"


Trudy

"You visit once in twenty years, Eliot, you don't get to fuss when we change the rules on ya."


Hardison

"I mean, she ain't wrong," Hardison said, opening his arms wide for a hug. "I am such a hugger," he assured her, then lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper--one definitely meant to carry. "So much so I ain't even mind when Eliot pulls me in for a hug then acts like I'm the one that started it."


Trudy

"Does he really, now," Trudy said, giving her brother a bit of knowing side-eye as she gave Hardison a nice, firm hug. "Still the same giant softie, then. Good to know." She moved to give Eliot an even bigger hug, which he accepted as reluctantly as possible. "Y'all need somethin' to eat? I ain't much of a housekeeper, but I've always got cereal on hand."


Hardison

"We grabbed somethin' on the way from the airport, but we appreciate the offer," Hardison said. He held up his duffel, which had only the barest of necessities. Specifically, only two laptops. "Where should we bring our bags?"


Trudy

"Assuming Jake and Johnny got the place cleared out, we can take them right to the guest room," Trudy said, letting Eliot go to take the duffel from Hardison. "Y'all can share a bed, right? I'm not assuming too much?"


Eliot

Eliot smiled, artfully dodging her attempt to take his own bag from him. "One bed's just fine."


Trudy

"Good, 'cause otherwise you were getting the lumpy fold-out in the basement."


Hardison

"Is it too late to make Eliot take the lumpy bed?" Hardison asked with a laugh, letting Trudy grab his bag. Mostly because this was her house and he wasn't going to start arguing with a woman two feet from her front door. His Nana had taught him better than that.



Trudy

"Mmm, we'll see how much of a pain in the ass he is," Trudy said. She took Hardison's arm with her free hand to lead him into the house. "I am so glad you're here. El needs someone to keep him on his toes."


Eliot

"I'm gonna regret every minute of this, ain't I," Eliot said, as he trailed along behind them.


Trudy

"Good lord I hope so."


Hardison

"Only the parts where we're in the same room," Hardison assured Eliot, giving him a big shit-eating grin as Trudy escorted him inside. "Ain't you realized it yet, El?" Hello childhood nicknames! "I got stories to tell about the last nine years. Your sister's got stories of the first eighteen. We gon' trade."

He added, sotto voce, "I got pictures!"



Trudy

"I can beat that," Trudy whispered back. "I have baby pictures."


Eliot

Eliot sank his head into his hands, but he didn't have much time to sulk before his found himself with an armful of niece, anxious to show him her new sword designs.


Hardison

"Hold on," Hardison pulled out his phone and started flipping through them. "I see your baby pictures an' raise you...terrible haircut, trip through the jungle with no conditioner, aaaaaannn'...douchey fashion designer." Beat. "Uhh, Halloween costume."

Good save, Hardison.

Of course, while he was flipping through his phone, he was sneaking glances at Eliot, arm full of girl, talking about swords and looking fractionally more relaxed than he had since Tru's call. It was a good look on him and Hardison couldn't stop the fond smile he wore to see it.


Trudy

Trudy caught that fond smile and melted just a little inside. She was open-minded and friendly by default -- heck, she was 90% sure that they were going to get a coming out speech from at least one of her daughters by the time the year was out -- but behind that friendly smile and good-natured teasing was still a protective and hurt little sister, ready to rip a man apart if it looked like he was going to hurt Eliot.

But the look Hardison just gave him? Trudy just hoped she'd get to see the same thing on someone's face looking at each of her own kids, some day.

"Baby pictures," she said again, even as she gave the shots Hardison was showing off the appropriate delighted giggles. "Taken at bath time."


Hardison

"You win," Hardison said immediately. "You'll let me scan those, right? Parker won't forgive me if I come back with stories of Eliot bathtime pictures an' no proof."

He lowered his voice and asked, "Again, I really appreciate you openin' your home to me. This is hard on Eliot an' he needs me--but this is hard on you, too, an' like I said, I know it can be tough havin' a stranger around in times like this. So thanks."


Trudy

Trudy's smile faded, and she let out a sigh. "Hon, having to think about cleaning up that guest room was such a relief I damn near cried."


Hardison

"I understand that," Hardison assured her. "Sometimes you just need an outside project you can throw yourself into an' turn your brain right off." He hesitated before adding, "Eliot does somethin' similar."

Though his projects were usually closer to 'liberate small countries' than 'clean the guest room.'


Trudy

"It's not still punching things, is it? Tell me he's found other hobbies."


Hardison

"Make him cook y'all dinner sometime," Hardison advised. "I mean, be prepared for complaints that these chives or whatever ain't as robust as his an' the supermarket's all outta some weird plant you never heard of but he swears is necessary, an' then a lecture on buyin' local, but the end result will be worth it. Promise."

Also, he still punched things, but Hardison was trying to be helpful here.


Trudy

"Maybe this weekend," Trudy said. "Since y'all are here and all. Our mom used to cook, you know. I don't know about chives and weird plants, but she made a mean chicken-fried steak."


Hardison

"Just wait to see what Eliot can do," Hardison said with no little pride. "Pester him about it, if you wanna. He might feel weird goin' into someone else's kitchen--but it'll also help him relax a bit."


Eliot

"We got ourselves a plan, then." She smiled at him. "Thanks, Hardison. It's nice to know my brother's found hismelf someone to look after him."


Hardison

"I'mma tell him you said that," Hardison said happily. "I love watchin' him get all grumpy about stuff." He gave Trudy another understanding look as they came to the guest room door. "Look, I know Eliot's been an idiot for the last twenty years--when he commits to somethin' he stays committed--but he's grown into a damn fine man. A little scarred, a little rough around the edges, but damn fine. Ain't gonna tell you to cut him some slack or nothin', cause it ain't my place, but...he had to walk some dark roads to get where he is now. An' facin' y'all after all of that takes a lot of guts."

He ducked his head, rubbing at the back of his neck. "Just thought...just thought I should say that, is all."


Trudy

"Hon, I forgave that man for being an idiot ages ago. Wouldn't have let him near the kids if I hadn't. But it's sweet of you to make sure."


Hardison

"Well, I'mma be around for awhile," Hardison said with a self-conscious smile, speaking about far more than just the current crisis. "Seemed wrong to pretend like this didn't matter to me."


Trudy

"I need to start askin' when you're gonna make an honest man of my brother?" Trudy asked, mostly joking. "It might be nice to have a brother-in-law."


Hardison

"Yo, Eliot just stopped gettin' all wide-eyed when the word 'marriage' is even mentioned around him," Hardison laughed. "Might have to keep workin' a little more before he's ready to wrap his head around the concept applyin' to himself. Hang on, lemme show you the time I trolled him good..."

And Hardison was digging out his phone again to show her the video of him presenting Eliot with a ring box...with a set of keys inside.

"Watch his face, it's beautiful."


Trudy

"Really? He used to love the idea of marriage. I'm pretty sure he proposed to his first girlfriend in middle school." Trudy leaned in to look at the video. "Oh. Wow. Yeah, that has changed."


Hardison

"Yeah, now he's pretty twitchy that way." Hardison shrugged and tucked his phone away again. "'Course, if I cared about doin' things the traditional way, I wouldn't be with him in the first place, so...Ain't in no rush. Besides."

The look he shot Trudy was pure wickedness. "Ain't even thirty yet. I figure I got time."


Trudy

"So what you're saying is, you're his trophy boyfriend. Is Parker a baby, too?"


Hardison

"Why else would I be so pretty?" Hardison teased. "An' Parker's between us. Older'n me, younger'n him. Prettier'n both of us. I think if Eliot didn't love her, he'd murder her over how good her hair looks an' how little she has to do anything about it."


Trudy

"Now that hasn't changed at all. The haircut has -- remind me to dig out his high school photos and his amazing bowl cut -- but the vanity? That's always been there."


Hardison

"You should definitely show me these pictures," Hardison said, laughing so hard it hurt. "A bowl cut. Goddamn."

This was what you got for poking around in his old room, Eliot. Proof of bowl cuts


[ooc: NFI, OOC welcome. Preplayed with the wonderful age_of_the_geek.]

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