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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 late afternoon
Eliot had dallied as long as he possibly could at Trudy's house, getting her family set up for lunch (most of them had already eaten breakfast) and chatting with his nieces and nephew, telling them increasingly outlandish, invented stories about his 20 years away. He even made it so far as offering to help Jake clean out the garage before Trudy managed to glare him down and remind him why he'd come all this way in the first place.

So it was mid-afternoon by the time he made it to the hospice. He half-expected -- or maybe it was half-hoped -- that when he asked for Emerson Spencer, the man behind the desk would just stare at him blankly. Instead he smiled and pointed out the way without having to look anything up. He hurried down the hall before she could start telling him what a lovely, amazing person his father was. Emerson Spencer had always been a pillar of the local community; the whole town probably still saw Eliot as the ungrateful kid who'd ditched his family first chance he got.

He knocked a couple times on the door and tried not to think too hard about how this was where he'd stalled out the last time he'd tried to reconnect. He wondered what was happening with his father's house, if Trudy was going to have to sell it. For the first time in a long time he thought about just how much work went into picking up after someone when they died; his job usually ended when the brain activity did.

Bad timing. Don't think about being an assassin. Or a disappointment. Just open the door, go in, and say --

"Hi, Dad."


Emerson

Emerson Spencer looked up from the book he was reading and frowned at the man standing in his doorway, his expression completely unreadable.

"I thought the army didn't let you have long hair."


Eliot

Yeah, there it was. "They don't." Eliot rolled his shoulders back, standing up straighter, and stepped fully into the room, closing the door behind him. "I ain't been army for a long time."


Emerson

Emerson gave a long sigh. "Shouldn't even be surprised. You never could stick to a damn thing 'sides football."


Eliot

Eliot rolled his eyes. "Who the hell're you to talk hair anyway? You even try doin' chemo?"


Emerson

"You got some damn gall comin' in here an' judgin' me, boy."


Eliot

"I came in here," Eliot said, "because my little sister called me up damn near in tears and asked me to. You think about her before you up and decided to quit?"


Emerson

"Gertrude's strong," Emerson said, voice low. "She survived the loss of her momma and her big brother just fine. I ain't happy to leave her and the kids --"


Eliot

Eliot didn't lose his cool easily, not on the big stuff. When he was angry and it mattered, he did just what his father was doing now: he got quiet.

He'd never been able to be quiet in the face of his father, though. "Then why the hell're you doin' it?! Jesus christ, Dad! You just checked yourself into hospice without even trying?!"


Emerson

The last time these two spoke, the two of them shook the walls. Emerson didn't have the energy anymore for loud.

"75% of pancreatic cancer patients die in the first year, Eliot. That's a number that ain't changed appreciably in 40 years. More'n 90% of 'em are dead at the end of five, treatment or no. I ain't throwin' away what's left of Gertrude's inheritance on odds like that. Might as well throw it all away on ol' Willy's busted up horse."


Eliot

Eliot frowned. "You mean -- you mean Baltimore? You heard about that?"


Emerson

"Willy was my friend long before he was yours, son. Where you think he bought the supplies for his first stable?" Emerson pushed himself up a little higher in bed, grimacing with the effort. "I heard all about you and your new friends. Just like I heard all about how you came swoopin' through and ruined his little girl all over again."


Eliot

"I didn't do anything to Aimee she didn't want," Eliot said. He made his way over to the chair by his father's bedside. "You knew about all that, 'bout what I been doin'. . . . Why the hell didn't you try to call?"


Emerson

Emerson shrugged. "You left."


Eliot

"I was eighteen," Eliot said. "I was an idiot."


Emerson

"Still are, if you ain't worked out a phone works both ways."


Eliot

Eliot's lips twisted up in a pained smile.

"I got money, Pop." He reached out and rested his hand on the back of Emerson's, careful of the IV. "More'n enough to take care of any bills you rack up. If you'd called me -- you could have tried."


Emerson

Emerson snatched his hand away. "You think I want your blood money? You think I want any of that near me? Near my daughter? My grandchildren?"


Eliot

Eliot sat back in his chair, feeling cold. "Pop --"


Emerson

"I know what the army pays, boy, and I know what sorts of things men do in a war to get rich. You coulda made an honest living, taking over my store. You coulda done something to be proud of, instead of goin' off and killin' other men's sons for profit. I never wanted any part of that."


Eliot

"N-no. No, Pop, I don't do that anymore. I don't."


Emerson

"Anymore." Emerson folded his arms over his chest. "No real son of mine woulda done it at all."


Eliot

Eliot shoved out of his chair and stalked across the room. "You didn't kick me out, Pop, maybe I wouldn't've done it at all."


Emerson

"Don't you lay that on me, boy! Don't you dare. I thank God everyday your momma didn't live to see what her sweet child's become."


Eliot

Eliot let out a laugh at that, dry and cold. "What her son's become. You don't know the half of it, old man. Her son ain't even killin' anymore, and he's still living in sin. God says man can't lie with a man like he does with a woman. He say anything 'bout a man who does both at the same time?"


Emerson

Emerson's eyes widened. "Get out."


Eliot

"See, 'cause I think Momma might be proud of her boy for findin' any love at all, much less two of 'em. I bet she wouldn't even mind too much that one of 'em's a black man."

He'd regret this later, using his relationship with Hardison like a weapon. Right now, he just wanted to see his old man hurt.


Emerson

Emerson couldn't catch his breath. "Out of this room. Out!"


Eliot

"You know what I'm glad for old man?" Eliot asked. He was looming over his father now, but he hardly noticed. "I'm glad Momma never lived to see what a selfish, self-righteous, stubborn son of a bitch she really married. A man who'd throw away his own son over a god. Damned. Store."

He spun on his heel and stormed out, his hands balled into fists at his sides. He barely even glanced up at the receptionist as he stormed past.

He never should have come back here. This had all been a mistake from the start.


Emerson

Emerson laid his head back on the pillow, shaking. "Jesus, Dottie. Our boy. I'm so sorry for our boy."

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