|Summary||Eleanor comes home to the States after a year abroad.|
Washington National Airport -- definitely no one calls it after a certain president anymore -- is almost always busy. Arriving at an international terminal from overseas is a headache, and an eternally prompt arrival by one Adam Rutledge means that he's actually waiting a good while. So it is that when customs and security finally releases Eleanor into the wilds of American soil, her father is standing there past security, yes, but what he's actually doing is working: on the phone, on his email, squeezing out every second of responsibility so that he can presumably take a break once his daughter is here. That's what he'd tell you, anyways. Precedent suggests otherwise.
He's looking crisp as always, his suit pressed and impeccably tailored. In his sixties now, Adam's hair has gone silvershot blond, his fair-skinned face beginning to grow lined. He's grown well into his age, though, and he certainly has the sort of dignity and self-possession that comes from experience, competence, and a certain amount of power and importance in the world. He's a handsome man who resembles no one so much as his father at that age -- not that Eleanor would remember much of her grandfather that young.
After her year gone, he might be forgiven for a slowness of recognition when she strides down the terminal. Gone is the flowing cloud of honey-colored waves that last graced her head, replaced by a short clip of tousled blond hair growing out over her ears. Her skin is darker and a little rougher despite all the efforts of skin care she undertook for the past year. There's a few more freckles on her arms and face than there might usually be. And there's something about the way she walks now, and about the way her eyes linger, as though she is seeing something invisible just beyond people she passes.
She has, however, retained the impeccable sartorial impression of both her parents. Eleanor lopes through the airport in a fitted blouse and slacks, with the loose coil of an emerald scarf accessorized with the elegance of a tie about her throat. The roller bag of her carryon bounces in her wake.
It's a few moments: even with the occasional scanning glance at the shifting crowd in case his daughter finally appears, Adam skips over her freckled, hair-shorn appearance for the briefest moment before his gaze resettles and focuses on her. The first reaction of his expression is purely parental: there's a moment when the concern of work slides from his expression and his whole face softens with a quiet, yearning sort of joy upon being reunited with his wild, erstwhile offspring. He says something into the phone as she draws nearer, then repeats it with a bit more emphasis, and she's able to catch something along the lines of "--I don't care who it is, unless it's the President or the Director you'll /hold them/--" before he's hanging up. "Your hair," he says with a faint, fond sadness before enveloping her in a hug. He still has height to rest his cheek on said hair.
For a moment, as she watches him across the distance, her gaze is abstracted, distant, as her eyes tease out invisible shreds of dream, astral echoes for which she offers no one the slightest hint of privacy. This the first real instant of return home since Eleanor stepped off the plane, she squeezes her father with crushing pressure, temporarily burying herself in the press of the familiar. "Oh, but it's practically grown back already," she mumbles against him. After a long beat holding onto him like an anchor, she starts to pull back already, drawing breath on a long draw with eyebrows darting up over her eyes. "Hi, Dad."
"Hi, Ellie." Adam studies her, his gaze attentive to every little detail of the familiar and the changed, and then reaches to try and take her bag like it's just so hard for to drag along rolling luggage?? Idk man this is what my dad does. "I don't even want to think about what it looked like /shorter/. How was your flight? Are you hungry?"
Rolling her shoulders in a loosening gesture as she takes half a step back, ceding her luggage without a fight with a slight roll of her eyes, she says, "It looked a lot like a bare naked skull, actually." Eleanor straightens her scarf, which doesn't need it, and dusts imaginary dust off clothing she has already straightened into excellent order, and smiles a slight, sidelong smile that suggests the hook of a darker shade of humor as she says, "Actually I slept through most of it," and swans forward, adding, "and I'm afraid we'll have to get my other bag at the claim, but yes, I am /very/ hungry."
Adam's expression goes a little pinched, which is such a familiar expression to Eleanor that she's probably old friends with it by now, given that she's so often the cause of it. "I see," he replies, an eternal response of neutrality. "Well, we have the entirety of the city at your disposal for lunch. Dinner. Whatever in between. Probably dinner by the time we make it through traffic." He starts off towards the baggage claim, although not without a sidelong look at her as she swans forward, bright and vivid and very much his.
"Really? Can you stop yourself from working for /that/ many hours in a row?" Eleanor slants a look over her shoulder at him. "Isn't the entire government going to collapse?"
Adam frowns at her, still not having grown very well into having a sense of humor about himself. Or his work. "I told Carol to hold my calls," he says, as if this proves everything. After a beat, he adds in a dryer tone, "Although your skepticism is noted. I suppose we'll see if everything comes tumbling down over appetizers."
"Whole world, crashing down around our ears." Eleanor swings her arms wide, mimes with a finger-wiggled gesture as though something is falling out of the ceiling onto her head, and then swats her hands at her clothes again with a slight shake of her head, moving through the airport toward the baggage claim. Once they reach it, she hooks her thumbs into the belt loops and turns back to face Adam. "Can't remember the last time I ordered an appetizer."
"Possibly the night before your trip out there?" Adam suggests with steady, reasonable logic. "I didn't get the impression that eating appetizers was a part of your overseas plans, in any event." One finger taps, light and a bit restless, on the handle of her suitcase while they wait for her larger bag to appear. "Have you spoken to your mother?"
"No. There's a lot of hunger out there." Eleanor falls quiet for a moment, pensive and distant about her expression. Then she looks back at him, shaking free of some weary abstraction, and says, "Her email said she's in a three day depo, so she said she'd call me this weekend. I'm assuming she can figure out when the weekend actually is if she tries."
"I seem to recall a few times when she correctly identified a Saturday," Adam agrees, the words just as reasonable and logical as the others. "It was a long time ago, though." He glances back over at her for the quiet and distance. "How's your head?" he wonders with utmost casualness.
"Never better, actually." Eleanor lifts her chin, sliding back a step as she lets her arms fold loosely across her chest. "I spent some time a little ... out of it. It cleared my vision. I know what you're going to say," she adds, dropping a shoulder in a partial shrug as she looks aside at the slowly turning luggage carousel. "So you don't have to."
"/Eleanor/," Adam says, his voice firming, likely entirely as she predicted. "You /know/ how I feel about that. You /know/ it's not safe for you to go -- wandering around. Not to mention the invasion of privacy--" He finally clamps up on that one, jaw firming impotently as he finds generalizations and euphemisms inadequate for public consumption.
"I'm not stealing bank account information," Eleanor says coolly. She starts to say something else, and then her lips close, breath hissing out past her nose instead. Her foot slides backward as she turns back the rest of the way to watch the items of luggage circling at them.
"I should hope not," Adam replies crisply, watching her with disapproval writ clear across his face, "but spying is spying whether or not you steal someone's money at the end of it."
"It's not about /spying/. It's about-- /understanding/." Eleanor leans down and snags a heavy duffel by its strap, which she hauls on with a mighty pull. "Which," she says tightly as she hauls, "is clearly something you have no interest in--"
"Of /course/ I want to understand, Eleanor," Adam is immediately replying, round and round they go on the familiar carousel. "But I respect your right to choose what you share with me and when you share it, and it's a right you should be respecting for anyone else--" Of course, he still tries to grab the duffel, because dads.
"Ugh!" Eleanor throws up her hands in the air as he hoists the duffel off the carousel, running her nails back through the short blonde fluff of her hair. "It's not my fault you choose to go around your entire life with your eyes closed." She takes the strap back from Adam and slings it across her shoulder, bracing it against her hip.
"I am not particularly interested in discussing times of my life during which you were still unable to feed yourself." Adam offers a moment's resistance when she snatches the bag back, but gives it up quickly enough, face creased with a frown. "What I have tried to teach /you/ is a sense of responsibility, both to yourself and others, for your own safety and for everyone else's."
"And?" Eleanor straightens strap aggressively across her shoulder, even though the weight and angle of the bag is definitely wreaking havoc with her elegance. "I never wandered far. Sometimes safety is another word for just ... being cowardly. And there's different kinds of responsibility, too. I've learned a lot about that." She turns and starts walking again, although her step slows quickly, and says, "Where are we going?"
This time, when Adam's gaze snaps to his daughter, there's some buried hurt behind his eyes. But he looks back ahead when she changes the subject, and his response is a diplomatic: "Wherever you like. You're the one who's been going without."
For a moment she doesn't say anything, frustrated pressure building up in her silence, and the heel of her hand presses briefly against her eye. "I really--" and then she turns back to face him again with a hard shake of her head. "I'm not trying to fight you. I know it scares you that I'm like this. But when you've really walked that mile in another pair of shoes, it's not because you're spying or -- or /invading/. It's not something ugly or ... or lost to morals, to sense. I wish you could see through my eyes and know what I've learned, Dad." She inhales a long breath, puffs out her cheeks a little as she holds it.
"I know you think you're not doing anything wrong," Adam says, and his voice is weary now in the midst of the well-treaded argument. "There's certainly no use arguing over it on an empty stomach," he concludes with an air of finality before moving again to change the subject as they make their way out to the short-term parking lot. "What are your plans now that you're back?"
She doesn't keep pushing the argument; she looks a little sad and troubled for a moment, and then shakes her head as if to clear it and simply answers him. "Medical school," Eleanor says with firm conviction. "As soon as I can find one that will take me." After a beat's pause, she adds with sudden crispness: "Although my immediate plans, I think, are to make you eat tacos. With your hands."
"I don't know where you get that vindictive streak from." Adam unlocks his car, which is taking up some particularly prime parking lot real estate, remotely, pausing at the trunk to open it for her suitcase and duffel. It's an expensive car. "I /am/ glad to hear your vision of your future has -- coalesced so ambitiously, Eleanor. I wasn't sure what to expect when you came back."
"Shaved head," Eleanor says promptly, "wild orgies." The second certainly casts the first more into doubt, based on her track record. Once she has divested herself of the duffel, she wanders around toward the passenger's side of the car, folding her arms over her stomach as she moves. "Part of what I saw out there ... it's what I meant, about kinds of responsibility. Maybe it's too concrete, but I never did have the hang of subtle." She smiles and adds, "Thus the tacos."
Adam goes a little choked, because of course he still hasn't learned to roll with sex jokes in his sixties. At least not from his daughter. He slides in the driver side, buckles up, turns the engine on, checks the things, etc. "I don't know where you get that, either," he admits. He is SO SUBTLE guys. So -- subtle. "Your mother," he decides. Continuing more to the point, he says, "Eleanor, of course you'll be an amazing doctor. I always knew you were going to do something great."
"I think I'd better get to be a medical student first." Eleanor stretches out her legs in the front seat as she settles into it, and slants the sidelong hook of a smile at him. "But thanks, Dad. I love you, too."
That earns a smile, warm earnest, as he looks over at her. Adam reaches over to pat her knee briefly before he's backing out of the parking space and zooming his way towards the city. "Tacos, tacos," he says, thoughtful, searching his memory. "I think I can remember a few places.""Our fate is in your hands," Eleanor says. Although she does let her eyes fall closed as she rests her head against the seat, it's not her cue to leave her body. She's right there with him, to tell the stories of her adventures that don't involve leaving her body behind, while they hunt down delicious, messy food.