“Man, some of us are studying and shit, because the comp sci faculty is—”
Hardison stops short because it isn't just anyone clanging pots and pans around in the communal kitchen at three in the morning, it is Eliot Spencer, who reportedly slammed a dude's head into a tree on the quad during orientation week and who may actually be snorting like an angry bull in a bullfight cartoon. He looks like he's going to take one of the really blunt chopping knives and take it to Hardison's soft bits. “Who the hell studies at three in the goddamn morning?”
“Not to judge or anything, dude, but who bakes at three in the morning either?”
“No one, because this kitchen doesn't even have a cookie sheet that hasn't been ruined.”
There are at least three cookie sheets on the counter. They're all pretty banged up. Hardison is pretty sure there's rust on one of them, someone should talk to the RA before someone gets tetanus. “You're making cookies?”
“I would be if there were supplies for it.”
“I will get you a cookie sheet,” says someone new, and Hardison is glad he's not the only one who jumps, because that definitely came from the vent above the refrigerator, and a second later the vent cover comes free to reveal Parker, who lives on the first floor and who everyone thinks is maybe some kind of supernatural because she's always appearing and disappearing. The vents may explain that. “Are they chocolate cookies?”
Eliot looks at her like maybe he's not sure if it's the time of night when he's hallucinating or not. Hardison can sympathize. “Chocolate chip.”
Parker nods. “I will get you a cookie sheet. You'll give me some cookies. Right?”
“It's not like I was going to eat the whole batch,” says Eliot, and he sounds kind of caught between astonished and pissed off.
Hardison thinks this is maybe the weirdest conversation he has ever witnessed or been part of, and his bar is pretty high. “Do I get cookies too?”
Now Eliot's back at pissed off. “You just came in here to tell me to shut up, no, you don't.”
“I'll do the dishes. Teamwork, right? You cook, Parker gets you supplies, I do the dishes. Seems like a pretty good division of labor to me.”
Eliot and Parker both look at him, squinting really suspiciously for something that's about cookies, not life or death matters. Though for three AM coding binges, Hardison has to admit that the cookies feel pretty life or death. “Fine,” says Eliot after a second. “Help me find a mixing bowl without a crack in it.”
Parker disappears back into the vent, and Hardison decides not to comment on it. There's a certain air of surreality around this whole thing that makes him think maybe he just shouldn't talk about any of the weird things in case he wakes up and it's all been some kind of weird dream.
Eliot, Hardison discovers, is a really angry cook. That's not as surprising as finding out that he cooks in the first place, though, so Hardison decides to just go with it. He has no idea where Eliot got the ingredients, either, since he seems to have exactly the amount of everything he needs for chocolate chip cookies, but he's not going to ask Eliot's methods any more than he's going to ask Parker's.
It's maybe ten minutes before Eliot has everything set up, and Parker appears at the entrance to the vent the very second Eliot's foot starts tapping impatiently and Hardison starts pondering just how bad salmonella would really be. “Sorry, it wasn't where I thought it was,” she says, and stays in the entrance to the vent while Eliot starts filling it up with proto-cookies.
All three of them hang out there in silence while the cookies cook—well, Hardison starts on dishes, no need to waste time, but there's still a lot of silence and still a lot of hanging out. Parker still hasn't vacated the vents, but he's not going to judge, maybe she likes it up there, or she's playing a really intense game of The Floor Is Lava or something. He's done weirder things.
When Eliot deems, through some sort of baker magic, that the cookies are done, he takes them out of the oven, puts them on three paper plates that he materializes out of nowhere, and glares at Hardison until he takes the pan and starts washing that too. He even hands Parker's plate up to her and she eats a cookie even though it must be hot enough to burn her mouth and nods solemnly. “Tomorrow,” she says, “I'm going to bring you a bundt pan.” And then she puts the cover back in the vent and there's some quiet banging that probably signifies her retreat.
Eliot looks at the vent and then at Hardison, all the angry gone out of him in the face of his astonishment. Parker really is a miracle worker. “Okay then,” says Eliot. “Same time, same place?”
“I'll bring some tunes to put on, we'll have a real party,” says Hardison, and takes his cookies back to his room.