Series: Jukebox Musical
Pairings: Eliot/Hardison; past Hardison/Parker
Word Count: 3651
Disclaimer: If I owned it, it would be nothing but introspection.
Summary: Alec's Nana hates Eliot on sight.
Alec’s Nana hates his new man on sight. It's not because he's a man; love is love in whatever form you find it and she's had her suspicions even if her son has only brought women home before. But as Alec climbs out of the bright orange charger in her driveway, she cannot shake the sense of foreboding that washes over her.
Because men with fast cars are usually fast talkers and the one whom she had known in her youth had taken everything. He had promised her the world and given her nothing but bruises and hungry children, theirs and more since she had never been able to close her heart to those in need. The extra mouths to feed had not made her life any easier, but it had been worth the struggle to see her foster children slowly lose the shadows in their eyes.
Alec had been the youngest of them and the last to remain single, too busy with his work to date anyone. Or at least anyone that he could bring home to meet her since he’s been living outside the bounds of legality.
She’s not an idiot and she’s always known that her son wasn’t making his fortune fixing servers like he said. However, she also knows that Alec must have had a reason for his silence and he’s a good boy nonetheless. Because he may be stealing but he hasn't been hurting anyone and without his help she would never have been able to put the new roof on her house or afford to give her eldest daughter a proper wedding gift. So she decided years ago that she would let Alec think his Nana was oblivious when it made him so happy to support her and she knew that she made the right choice when her boy began talking about all the people that he’d helped.
Of course, more recently he’s been gushing about his gastropub and this fellow whom he’s so in love with and she’d never heard her son sound quite like that before. Alec has come close once or twice but this time is different and so she tries to hide her misgivings as she opens her front door.
Instead she walks down the steps to greet her guests with a smile, pulling her son into a hug before he can say anything. It’s been too long since he came and visited, nearly four years by her last count, and longer still since he brought her a girl to meet.
Well, boy in this case, and truthfully, she would be happier if Alec were still alone since the more that she sees of this Eliot, the louder her doubts are clamoring. He’s obviously older than her Alec, at least mid-thirties by her guess, and he carries himself like someone used to being the last man standing in a fight. She grew up on the wrong side of the tracks after all and being able to recognize who was only boasting violence and who would back it up with fists or steel was a matter of necessity in her old neighborhood.
So she knows that this man is probably all the more dangerous because he doesn’t carry himself with arrogance, just lethal competence. This is the type of man whose enemies will never see him coming and she can’t imagine how Alec became mixed up with him.
“Nana, this is my boyfriend, Eliot. Eliot, this is my Nana,” her son says with a wide smile, completely oblivious to the thoughts running through her head.
With this introduction, her worst fears are confirmed and she never thought that she’d regret teaching Alec to see the best in everyone. Although, maybe she’s the one being unreasonable since she’s having trouble reconciling the Eliot that she sees before her with the one her son has talked about.
Alec has never mentioned any violence, just laughter and amazing recipes, and he obviously isn’t afraid of the other man at all. If he were, he wouldn’t be able to shove Eliot forward the way that he does without flinching, one hand pressed tight to his fellow’s back.
“It's good to meet you, ma'am,” Eliot says, a hint of a drawl coloring the words, and she should have guessed given the way that he has backwoods cowboy written all over him.
But gay and interracial isn’t her first impression when she thinks of folks from that part of the country so maybe she can be forgiven her surprise. Still, she feels awkward enough about the assumption that she takes Eliot’s hand without hesitation, unbending enough to offer an almost sincere, “There’s no need to be so formal, son. You might as well call me Nana like everyone else.”
Even if she’s still not sure that she wants her Alec with this fellow there’s no reason to be inhospitable, particularly since her son would never forgive her if she were overtly impolite. While she knows that Alec is hoping for her approval, he’s a grown man now and she can’t guarantee that she’d win if she were to make him choose. Not when he’s smiling at Eliot like the other man hung the moon and stars, an expression that she hasn’t seen on her own face in many years.
Not since William had finally left her for the last time, throwing a few suitcases into the backseat of his car and screeching out of the drive as though the Devil were on his heels. That was the last she had seen of that green charger and despite the bruises William had left on her cheek, part of her heart would always remember the way he’d made her feel.
She doesn’t want this same heartbreak for Alec even as she fears that it’s exactly what Eliot will mean. Men like that can’t help it after all.
Her impression does not improve over dinner, though perhaps it would have if she’d allowed Eliot in her kitchen as Alec thought she should. But even if the man truly is an amazing chef – and considering the sort of food her son usually eats, he’s not exactly a source of reliable critique – her kitchen is hers and hers alone.
So she sits the boys down at the kitchen table with some apple cider and sets to cooking, the familiar motions giving her plenty of time to interrogate her guests.
“What do you do for a living, Eliot? Alec mentioned that you cook, but trying to pry any career information out of this boy is near impossible. He still tells me that he works with computers as though I don’t understand technology at all; I have one of those new smart phones, I’ll have you know.”
“He’s the head chef at my gastropub, Nana; I thought I told you that. The things that he can do with food are incredible,” her son cuts in before the other man can answer and she doesn’t miss the look they share.
Eliot may be a good cook; he may even work in Alec’s restaurant from time to time, but she would bet everything that cooking isn’t what he does for a living now. No, a man like that has lived with violence daily, far more violence than any chef would find. So she stirs her rice a few more times and wonders what it means that her son is lying about this.
Maybe she’s been deluding herself all these years, thinking that Alec could be a criminal and a good person. Maybe he fell in with the wrong crowd and met Eliot at some illicit gathering. But she doesn’t think that her son was lying when he said that he was helping people so he’s probably just worried that she wouldn’t like his fellow if she knew the truth of what he did.
She can’t even deny it since she doesn’t like Eliot anyway and much of that is due to the violence that she can see on his hands. Because some people cannot be redeemed and the only way to avoid being dragged down with them is to cut them loose instead.
“So you met at work?” she asks, just to keep the conversation going and keep the grin on Alec’s face. It seems rather silly to keep asking questions now that she knows she cannot trust the answers but perhaps the things they lie about will tell her something anyway. Indeed, she’s a little surprised to see that this question draws a real smile out of Eliot and for a second, she can almost see why her son is so smitten with the man.
“Something like that, ma’am. We’ve actually known each other for some years now, but we only started dating recently. Though I swear, I spend more time trying to save our restaurant from those awful homemade beers that he keeps making than I do cooking these days.” This last is directed more to Alec than to her and if Eliot was trying to annoy him, her boy doesn’t disappoint.
“Hey! You liked that last one, El. You said it wasn’t terrible and everything,” Alec protests, turning away from his Nana to face the other man.
“Not terrible and actually good are two very different things,” Eliot retorts, his smile growing wider as her son lets out an offended huff.
From there the conversation quickly dissolves into a mess of bickering and she listens more to the tone than the words that are coming out of Alec’s mouth. Because they’re having fun here, their arguing is fond and long familiar, and so it must be true that her son has known this man for years. Yet if they have known each other long enough to have a routine like this be habit, why has Alec kept her from meeting Eliot until now?
Too many secrets and too many questions to which I do not know the answer, she thinks, wondering when the life of her youngest child became such a mystery. But this banter does give her one truth; one answer read off Eliot’s warm smile and the besotted look upon his face. For it seems that this man does truly love her son as deeply as he is loved by Alec and while this revelation should be a comfort, it does not change anything.
William had loved her once but hearts can be fickle and there is nothing to stop this man from running as soon as life grows hard. Because love makes the world seem brighter but it is not a cure for everything and that fast car of his will make a fast getaway.
“All right, boys, enough of that. Dinner is ready and I have a table that still needs to be set.” The two men snap to attention when she interrupts them, the startled look on Alec’s face making her wonder if her son had forgotten she was there. But while dinner will not ease her mind, a good solid meal will at least give her time to process and perhaps think of a plan. There must be some way for her to save Alec from the heartbreak that is coming since even the two men seem happy now, she cannot believe that it will last.
So once every plate has been scraped clean and Eliot heads into the kitchen to do the washing, she turns to her son and asks, “What happened to that girl you were dating? Parker something? You always sounded as though you were serious about her.”
“Parker is… complicated, Nana,” Alec replies with a half shrug, his expression as much rueful as it’s fond. “I did love her, still do really, but she’s happier as friends and I love Eliot too so I promise that I’m not settling. I actually would have brought Parker along but she had to go to Paris for a job and I figured it would be better if you met El by himself the first time around. He and Parker together can be a bit insane.”
“Eliot is friends with your ex-girlfriend?”
It’s a perfectly valid question since her son’s relationship is sounding stranger with every word he speaks, but Alec doesn’t seem to understand her confusion given the casual way that he says, “Well, yeah, of course. They’re my family, Nana: Eliot, Parker, Nate and Sophie and maybe even Tara in a weird scary distant cousin sort of way. We don’t see the others as often now that they’ve left the team – left the pub, I mean – but Parker is the one who got me and Eliot together and the three of us were friends before we were more. So if I could just convince Parker that we’re never going to have sex in front of her, we’d be good to go.”
She doesn’t have anything to say to that. She’s not even sure that she wants to because that was far too much information about her child’s romantic life. Yet even if she could have found the words to convince Alec that this is weird and a little worrying, she doesn’t think she’d have the heart. Not when her son is so earnest, so secure in his happiness, and happy is all she’d ever wanted him to be.
So she just gives him as honest a smile as she can manage before claiming a headache and bidding the two men goodnight.
However, she cannot fall asleep that evening, visions of disaster running through her mind until she finally tires of tossing and turning back and forth. If she isn’t going to sleep, she might as well be productive, so she pulls on her house robe and walks back downstairs again. Perhaps some tea will help settle her nerves and while the water boils, there’s a pot of beans that needs soaking for tomorrow night.
She has just finished with these preparations when she hears a noise behind her, looking back over her shoulder to see Eliot standing there.
“You don’t like me very much, do you, ma’am?” he asks after a moment and she can’t help but notice that he hasn’t called her Nana yet. Perhaps Eliot is smarter than she’d given him credit for if he knows that the name would not be welcome, but then again, her boy would not have been interested in an idiot for long.
Eliot settles against the wall a few feet away while he waits for her answer and although she is sure that he could cross this distance in a matter of seconds, she appreciates the space. She has never liked being crowded and even if she’s seen enough tonight to believe that this man won’t hurt her, it still takes courage to answer him honestly.
“No, I don’t. Even if you do care about my boy, I know that you’re going to leave him heartbroken in the end and I cannot approve of that.”
She’s half expecting Eliot to try and convince her that she’s mistaken, but the man just gives her a long look before admitting with a sigh, “You’re right, I am. But not willingly and not the way you think. How much do you know about Alec’s job? Our real job.”
“I know enough to know that you aren’t a chef and he probably doesn’t run a restaurant,” she admits, his concession prompting one of her own.
“Oh, no, that thing is far too real and keeping it afloat is easily a full time job,” Eliot corrects with a crooked smile before his expression grows serious again. “But while the pub is a decent hobby, my usual work is more hands on. You could say that I’m Alec’s security and one of these days I won’t be fast enough. He doesn’t want to believe it, but I’m going to die on him and you’re going to have to pick up the pieces when I’m gone.”
This is not what she was expecting to hear, far from it honestly. The words are far too self-aware, too unvarnished to be anything less than the truth as he sees it, and so Eliot cannot be the sort of man that she had thought.
Or perhaps he was but is trying to be better and can she truly close her heart to that? She would have taken William back in a heartbeat if he’d just apologized and Eliot is doing far more than that. This man is willing to die for her son; he’s willing and ready and-
“Alec knows what you are?”
“He knows enough. I’ve done things that I’m not proud of, ma’am; I’ve never lied about that, but Alec doesn’t seem to care about the blood on my hands. So I’m his until he realizes that he deserves much better or until someone finally manages to take me out.”
Eliot still isn’t the kind of person that she had wanted her son to fall in love with, but if Alec has truly entered this relationship with his eyes wide open then she won’t be able to change his mind. She’s not entirely sure that she wants to since he might never find another person who loves him this deeply and she thinks that she believes Eliot when he says that he’s not going anywhere.
So maybe it’s time to put old ghosts to rest. Maybe it’s time to bury William in the past where he belongs.
“Well then, I guess you had better tell me about yourself,” she says, pouring another cup of tea and handing it to Eliot. “The truth this time, if you don’t mind. I’m certainly curious about this team of yours.”
And Eliot tells her. He tells her about growing up in Oklahoma and joining the army to get away from there; about the fight that he had with his father the night before he enlisted and that Alec is the only reason that they’re speaking now. Eliot tells her about their team: the thief, the grifter, the mastermind and of course, the hacker, and somehow manages to always downplay his own accomplishments.
She’s still not sure what his role is exactly, but even if he’s glossing over some of the more sordid details, this is truth enough for her. It’s certainly more truth than Alec has ever told her and while Eliot’s words make it clear that her son just wanted to protect her, there’s been quite enough of that. It’s a mother’s job to protect her children not the other way around and she can’t support her son properly if she doesn’t know about the people who are most important in his life.
Because it seems that Alec meant it when he said that his team was his family and it’s about time for her to meet her in-laws.
So when their tea is finished and Eliot’s words have wound down with it, she is far more at peace with the hand that life has dealt. Indeed, she wakes feeling refreshed and far more optimistic than she had been when she first met her son’s fellow and she can’t even be too annoyed when she goes downstairs to discover that Alec has convinced Eliot to make him stuffed pancakes.
The intrusion on her kitchen should make her angry, and it probably would have this time yesterday, but they are some of the best pancakes that she’s ever tasted and she’s never been any good at resisting Alec’s pleading eyes. So she simply enjoys her breakfast and then takes the boys on a tour of her property.
Or perhaps more accurately, she watches while Alec drags the other man around the house and yard, talking a mile a minute as he points out all his favorite places from childhood. Eliot follows her son indulgently, nodding in all the right places and tugging Alec back when he starts getting ahead of himself.
They fit together well despite their differences and without William’s shadow hanging over her shoulder, it’s much easier to focus on her child’s happiness. Because he is happy, Alec’s whole face lighting up whenever Eliot laughs at one of his comments and she finds herself hoping that they’re still this in love when they’re old and grey. She hopes that Eliot survives that long despite what he believes to be his purpose, and she intends to convince this team of his to help if possible.
So when Alec gets a call summoning him and his fellow to Paris, she simply wishes them safe travels before adding, “You are going to bring the rest of your team home for Thanksgiving, right? You’re my son and I love you, but I’ve been letting you keep your secrets for too long.”
For once Alec is speechless, her son too busy gaping at her to reply. So it’s Eliot who murmurs their agreement, reaching out to close the other man’s mouth with a gentle shove before wrapping an arm around his waist. Alec looks back and forth between his Nana and his fellow with wide eyes even as he leans into Eliot’s touch, a score of questions obviously dancing on his tongue.
But this time she’s the one who gets to keep her secrets, so she simply locks eyes with the man to whom her son has trusted heart and life.
“Take care of him for me.”
“Of course, ma’am. I wouldn’t dare do anything else.” It’s a solemn promise despite the quirk of good humor in Eliot’s eyes and she knows that they understand each other now. They both just want Alec safe and happy and while she’s still not entirely pleased with her son’s choice of partners, she thinks that she will learn to be with time.
[I tried to give Hardison’s Nana a name and it ruined this fic. So her name is whatever you want it to be as far as I’m concerned]