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kith and kin

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“How are you, dear?” she asks, offering him a mug of warm tea. “My sister said that you work with a team now.”

His grin is small and shy, a gentle expression she hasn’t seen in… oh, must be years now. Does her heart good to see it. “I do, Aunt Junie. They’re good folk.” His grin widens. “Almost as good as you.”

She pats his hand, grinning back. “Tell me about some of your adventures, Spence.”

He settles back in the chair, and she knows anything he tells her will be heavily edited. The boy doesn’t want to worry her, never has. He’s sweet that way. She still worries, of course. She’ll always worry, and so will her sister, the saint who took in a starving child two dozen years ago.

“Okay, so Hardison has a smart mouth, right?” Spence begins, and she listens. She will always listen to him, because she remembers how silent he was, those first harrowing months. She also soaks up any detail about his team, because she will have them researched. If she can eliminate any threat, she will.

He’s happy, her sister’s boy. Her boy. And this team will watch his back, or they will suffer her wrath.

Neal wanders in, hat at a jaunty angle, and June smiles at him. Spence stands, but she waves him back down. “Neal Caffrey,” she says, “this is my nephew, Eliot Spencer.”

“So you’re her latest stray,” Spence says. Neal smiles. “Try connin’ her,” Spence continues, “I’ll cut you up and bury you in a dozen different places.”

Neal keeps smiling. “Break her heart,” he counters, “I’ll only bury you in one.”

June sighs. “Boys.”

Neal tips his hat and saunters upstairs. Spence watches him go, then turns back to June. “He’s dangerous, Aunt Junie.”

She nods, a small smile twisting her lips. “I know, Spence.” She sips her tea, meeting his eyes. “But so am I.”

Chapter Text

Not much is known about Eliot Spencer. He showed up one day, some snot-nosed punk, and quickly proved his worth—when he was sent to retrieve something, it got retrieved. He shook off pain and completed his task and vanished until the next job. And while he used aliases, he always returned to the name Eliot Spencer.

People researched that name, but nothing was found. He had a record based only on conjecture and hearsay, and he was wanted in a dozen countries on facial recognition alone.

A few months after Eliot joined Nate Ford’s band of mercenaries, Nate gets a visit from June. In the business he used to belong to, she was a ghost. In the business he’s in now, she is a legend.

“Mr. Ford,” she says regally, settling across from him at the table as elegant and terrifying as a panther. “I have researched you. Someone very dear to me recently fell in with your group and you would do well to remember that I care for mine.”

His mouth is dry, hands shaking. He wants a drink, so goddamned bad, but June waited till he finished his glass. Nate tries to figure out who she can mean, but the only two he knows next to nothing about are Parker and—

The way she moves is like Eliot.

“My nephew,” June says, meeting his eyes, “is Eliot Spencer.”

Nate swallows.

“I understand this business is dangerous,” she says. “I know that my nephew will not leave it until he is dead. But while I live, I will not explain to my baby sister, the best woman I’ve ever known, why her son has died on any venture where his death could have easily been avoided.”

Five years ago, Nate remembers, someone tried to betray Eliot Spencer. That individual went missing. Without a trace, without a sound—his second-in-command arrived to find him completely gone. Considering his position—as head of a powerful family—his disappearance shocked everyone. Nobody could figure out if it was an inside hit or outside punishment.

Looking at this woman, Eliot Spencer’s aunt, Nate Ford thinks he might have discovered the answer.

“Do you understand me, Mr. Ford?” she asks, hands placed delicately on her purse, eyes locked on his, piercing him to the core.

Nate is sure he has never been in the presence of someone so dangerous before, and he takes a slow, deep breath before answering.

“Yes, ma’am,” he says. She smiles, a baring of teeth as frightening as any panther. “I’ll do my best to keep Eliot safe.”

“See that you do,” she commands, rising to her feet. She inclines her head, reminding of him of ancient goddesses, and then she takes her leave. He turns to watch her go.

Nate exhales, counts to ten, inhales, and tries to calm down. If anything happens to Eliot on a job Nate planned…

Well. He just met his death, and she was utterly terrifying. He needs a drink, or twenty.