What, was "Rudy" on cable last night?

. . . Yes.

Eliot Spencer vdistinctive
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Outside Oklahoma City, Wednesday evening
Trudy had said Eliot and his family were going to be her guests, so he wasn't allowed to cook dinner. He'd said she shouldn't have to cook it either, and they'd both refused to make everyone eat leftover funeral casserole.

So Eliot pulled the rental car — rental van, because four adults was a lot to fit into a sedan and renting a van was almost tradition — into the lot of a little mom&pop Italian restaurant.

"There's Tru's car," he said as he set the parking break and turned the car off. He looked back towards Kathy and Parker. "Y'all ready for this?"

[ooc: FAMILY DINNER TIME! For those who know, and epic slow play.]

Kathy was doing her best to look more confident and ready than she actually was. "Uhhh...yeah?" she said, keeping her hands by her sides rather than letting them wring each other in her lap the way they wanted to. "They know I'm coming, right?"

This was the fourth time she'd asked that since getting to Oklahoma. It was possible she was the tiiiiiiiiniest bit nervous.

And the fourth time that Eliot nodded and said "They do."

He left off the "they're excited to meet you" part this time, since it might just make her even more nervous, what with thinking she had to live up to expectations or something.

Good call, Eliot.

"Well, what are we going to tell them?" Kathy asked. "We should get the story straight. They're not the kind of people you can mention zombies and dead girls and magic wishes in front of, right?"

"I wouldn't bring it up all casual-like, but, darlin'. You ain't gotta tell 'em anything if you don't want."

"But if they ask how this happened," Kathy persisted. "You realized you thought of me like a daughter when you were grieving."

You needed a plan Eliot! One agreed on before you all went in!

"Sure. Because I thought I lost you. Then I got you back." Eliot shrugged. "The sum total of things from my life I ain't never tellin' my sister about could fill a phone book, darlin'. If we don't offer details, they ain't gonna press."

"O-okay." Kathy nodded, still looking uncertain, then realized that she was still buckled into her seat. They were never going to enter the restaurant at this rate.

Quietly, she murmured as she unfastened the seatbelt, "They'll like me, right?" She wasn't the quality of niece she'd been last year, with her scholarship to Stanford and her plans to become a doctor and her future that still existed. Now she had no plans, no goals, no nothing beyond 'try to have tomorrow suck less than today.'

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"They know I'm weird, right?" Parker hadn't asked this before. But Kathy's nerves might be infecting her.

"You'll be fine, Parker," Eliot assured her. "You haven't stabbed anyone in ages."

"Are any of them really stabbable? Should I avoid sitting next to any of them?"

"Well. Ellie's kinda much, and I don't really know Jake too well, but I'm sure they'll be polite."

"Okay. Maybe I'll just eat with a spoon tonight." Parker was biting her lower lip now, but seemed a little calmer. "Ellie, Jake. Cassie, Trudi. Wait, who am I missing?"

"Johnny. He's the youngest. Not much of a talker." Eliot shrugged and opened the door to the restaurant. The hostess showed them to a back table, where Trudy and co. were already seated.

"Hey Tru," Eliot greeted, then pointed around the table. "Parker, this is Johnny, Jake, Tru —" Only one of the twins was at the table, and she raised an eyebrow at him with a little smirk. "— and I'm ninety percent sure that's Cassie. Where's your sister?"

Cassie rolled her eyes. "College. Like a nerd."

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"They may start thinkin' you're weird," Hardison said, because you didn't try to con crew and you didn't try to con at all over something obvious. "But they'll still end up thinkin' you're great. They're a damn open an' lovin' family. Nana would like 'em."

Parke gave him a hopeful grin. "Well, if Nana would like them..." Because clearly Nana was the last word in Okay People. "I still feel like I should've brought them a present. Or a money basket. Something." A sorry-your-dad-is-dead-present? Parker had no idea what one of those would be like.

"But they might feel weird they didn't get you somethin'," Hardison pointed out. "It ain't like Nana, when we were stayin' with her for awhile. This is just a meetin' where we can all be on equal footin'."

"Soooo, initial surveillance," Parker said, putting this in her own kind of terms. "To get the layout. And the basic specs. And see if there are any places to avoid."

Parker, you can't steal Eliot's family.

Sure she could!

"Exactly," Hardison said. "We meet 'em on their terms to get to know them when they're most comfortable. Remember, mama, they're just as nervous to meet y'all as y'all are to meet them, an' just as eager to make a good impression."

Well. Maybe not Cassie.

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Hardison was thankfully free of any self-doubt when it came to spending time with Trudy and the family this time around. He'd gotten it out of his system last visit. Sure, he still had some lingering guilt about yelling at their dying dad, but Eliot wasn't holding it against him, so he wasn't giving it much weight.

Which meant he could take the lead a bit and keep the spotlight off of Parker and Kathy. "Hey, hey folks," he said, walking into the restaurant. "Y'all brought the baby pictures, right?"

When in doubt, throw Eliot under the bus.

"Now now, over exposure makes them stop being special," Trudy said. "C'mere and give your sister-in-law a hug."

Eliot rolled his eyes so hard he might actually strain something.

"But I didn't actually get to see the bowl cut!" Hardison said, wrapping Trudy in a fierce hug. He was very, very good at those. "How you holdin' up?" he asked softly, for her ears only.

"Bowl cuts are in middle school pics," Trudy said. "Not baby pics." She squeezed him back just a touch too hard at the question. She had a grip to rival Eliot's any day. "Just thankful for the family I still got, hon. Thanks for askin'."

"Really?" Hardison teased. "Cause the stories Eliot told me 'bout that aunt of yours makes me wonder."

He rubbed her arms gently for comfort before taking a step back. "An' anytime. Gotta take care of my sister-in-law right, right?"

"Nah. Every family's gotta have a few idiots. Keeps the rest of us humble."

"...See, that's where I'mma have to disagree," Hardison said, taking a chair. "Bein' around stupid people makes me the opposite of humble. Just ask Eliot how annoyin' he thought I was when we first met."

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