Hardison had to sneak in his request in like November just to get it in before Sophie noticed and stole it from under his nose, but he managed to get dibs on hosting the official company Christmas and Other Assorted Winter Holidays of All Kinds party. Oh man, it was going to be epic. He hadn't called it early enough to get a snow machine all ready, with like permits and stuff, but everything else was all set.
The party, which he was definitely not calling Christmahannukwanzaa or anything ridiculous like that, was at his apartment. Hardison had decked it out. Boba Fett and his medieval suit of armor both got Santa hats, he had all kinds of sparkly things on top of his regular geek things, he'd had the place cleaned. And the tree was very good looking and green, and actually alive, which was weird. He hadn't decorated the tree, 'cause part of his whole hook to get the others to actually participate in the party - and not just get really drunk and share awesome caper stories, like every single other party they had - was that they would have to decorate it together. It was pretty genius, actually.
And his pajamas were, quite frankly, the most comfortable clothes that could still technically be classified as clothes. Hardison had on some nice fuzzy pants and the Christmas sweater that his Nana made him. It was brighter than a fire engine and had all kinds of Santa hats on it in a random pattern and she spent like an entire month on it. Wearing that sweater was like being wrapped up in a fuzzy hug all the time, and he loved it. Finally, Hardison had a Santa hat at a jaunty angle and a whole package of reindeer antler headbands just in case Eliot got drunk enough to let something touch his hair.
At about 10:00, Eliot did that thing where he showed up at the door without knocking and expected the force of his glare to open it up and it actually kind of worked. But that was only because Hardison had a thing about security cameras. Oh man, he had about four grocery carts full of food packed into two frankly enormous canvas bags. They looked like the kind of bags that had smuggled contraband elephants across borders or something. Eliot was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, but Sophie must have gotten to him, 'cause the plaid was red and green.
Eliot gave him this weird look and Hardison knew that it was probably the sweater, but he knew the dangers of looking so dazzlingly well attired in a seasonally appropriate fashion. Eliot got over it and went to start prep work, and Hardison got in his household security system and made the last couple of corrections to his devious Christmas caper.
Parker showed up next, managing to get through the locked door without knocking or alerting Eliot before the door opened. "Merry Christmas, I brought tinsel!" It was a good thing that she loudly announced herself, or she probably would've gotten an accidental baguette through the head. And it was pretty obvious that Sophie had dressed her too, because she had on a kind of trendy red dress that was all form-fitting and stuff, and some black leggings. But then Parker wore her favorite bright pink sneakers and a random gray hoodie over the top. It was pretty festive for Parker. "I hope 18 bags will be enough." She skipped over to the kitchen and pulled out some weirdly shaped cookie cutters.
When Parker arrived, she tipped it so that more than half of the party was there, so Hardison started playing his first holiday mix CD of Christmasish music guaranteed not to make your ears bleed. It consisted of songs written or performed by former members of the Beatles and the Muppets. His cool little karate robots started swaying along with the music, and it was all very awesome.
Sophie and Nate showed up together, and actually technically before the party started. Nate was walking like he was already sloshed, but Hardison was probably making a snap judgment based on unsubstantiated fact. Maybe Nate was just really emo because of the holidays, the man did have a dead kid. Sophie seemed to have a good grip on him, even though she wore black instead of Christmas colors. And Nate was wearing all black, minus a green tie that Sophie had probably forced on him. And once Hardison had the image of Nate as an emo kid in his head, he couldn't stop picturing Nate with emo bangs.
He gave Sophie a halo made of wiry gold tinsely stuff and went to go hang in the kitchen. Eliot had already made some kind of fancy dessert, and was working on his killer deviled eggs and everything smelled excessively good. Not that Hardison was really hungry or anything, he had his personal flask of orange soda and he was all set. His feet were kind of cold on the kitchen floor, but Hardison figured that everybody wasn't quite ready for the glory of his fuzzy Christmas socks.
Eliot had rolled out some sugar cookie dough and there was a batch of gingerbread men already cooked and warm on the oven. Sophie tried to convince Parker that the gingerbread men did not need to anatomically correct, but Parker would not listen. And Eliot was doing some kind of crazy karate stirring where he had two bowls going at a different pace using only one hand. Nate looked kind of balefully at his reflection in the glass punch bowl full of egg nog, and it had definitely been a good idea to secretly keep that stuff virgin.
And then, Hardison realized that everyone was distracted. Not so distracted that they would be suspicious, but enough to give him a chance. There weren't very many chances available with people of their skill set, so he pulled secret plan D out of his back pocket and accidentally set the soup on fire. He didn't actually want exclusively vegetable soup, so it was all cool.
While everyone was coughing and flipping out about the smoke, Hardison ran out of the kitchen, loudly yelling that he was going to find the fire extinguisher. As he pretended that he couldn't find it, he swiped all of the communal Christmas presents and stashed them in his super top secret hidden time-locked safe. By the time Hardison had grabbed the mini extinguisher that he always kept near his server room just in case, Eliot had gotten rid of the flames and was looking pissed at the concept of a fire extinguisher near food. Hardison pretended to be dejected, just in case.
Parker decided to decorate the Christmas tree while they were waiting for the kitchen to stop smelling. Hardison had taken the liberty of finding tiny white Christmas lights and stringing them all along the tree the day before. First Parker put up the enormous box of tasteful, classy and probably super expensive silver balls that Nate had brought. And then it was the even larger box of very similar gold balls that Sophie brought, and knowing Nate and Sophie, they probably hadn't even coordinated it. Their minds just must have been doing their Sophie and Nate thing again. And then Parker very painstakingly put a string of tinsel on every single bough of the tree.
Hardison realized that they might have a problem when the entire tree was covered and she still had three bags. And yeah, nine and a half feet of decorated tree might have been kind of excessive, but it looked awesome. Eliot brought out the homemade cannoli and gingerbread people, quirked an eyebrow at the tree, and then silently stomped back to the kitchen. Yeah, that meant he loved it.
Hardison's awesome Christmas mix switched over to the second disc: that one song by the Beach Boys, "Feliz Navidad", and the entire Nutcracker suite. He had rigged it so that the Baryshnikov ballet started playing on his biggest flatscreen in time with the music. When the screen was almost twice his height, it was frankly stunning. But as soon as Nate saw the sugar plum fairy, it must have reminded him of his son because he kind of crumpled into excessive grumpy couch-kicking and random food criticism. Sophie had to do that thing she did sometimes when she made a human shield around Nate so that he didn't end up breaking the rest of the planet.
"I'm very sorry, everyone," Sophie murmured, "But I think we're going to have to go. We'll come back for the morning festivities." She and Nate were out of the door before Eliot could even assemble them a goody bag of holiday food, but she did sound really apologetic. And Hardison had kind of expected it, so his hopes hadn't been up too high.
Hardison didn't realize until it too was too late that the amazing athletic prowess of Mikhail Baryshnikov with very bad hair was not sufficient to distract Parker from inspecting his apartment. She was gone for almost 10 minutes and she didn't come back with festive cookies.
Parker took one finger and poked him in the direct center of the chest. "You've stolen Christmas you horrible Grinch! You took our presents! Your heart is two sizes too small and made of coal!" Hardison wasn't quite sure how Parker knew the Grinch references. She yelled, "Eliot! Make sure that he hasn't stolen the roast beast too!"
Eliot stepped out of the kitchen, brandishing a dangerous-looking pastry bag. "He hasn't touched any of my food." Parker began to wrap tinsel threateningly around Boba Fett's neck. "What did you do with our presents, Hardison?" Eliot said the name like he had already inflicted physical punishment on it. And if Boba Fett were actually inside of that costume, he'd probably be in serious danger of death by tinsel.
Yeah, it was the perfect time to unveil his holiday surprise. Hardison pressed a button on his watch and the TV screen immediately began to sparkle. He used his best Vanna White hands and grinned, "I've hidden them in a safe that can only be opened after we have watched the entirety of Firefly, plus the movie and the gag reel." The Firefly logo showed up in a burst of glorious light, letters taller than Hardison himself.
Parker looked suspiciously at him. "Do you promise that we get our Christmas presents right after?" Hardison nodded, and she began to unwind Boba. "How many episodes?"
"14, but one of them is a two-parter. And the movie is 119 minutes long." He had actually succeeded, triumph tasted like delicious orange soda.
Parker grabbed a deviled egg and looked very thoughtful. "We'll marathon them. No breaks, no stopping, no sleeping. There will be an eight minute bathroom and refreshment break after each episode. Got it?" Hardison nodded.
From the kitchen, Eliot called, "Whatever. I'm gonna be cooking and not watching." And normally Hardison might consider having some concern, but he knew the power of fannish osmosis. Eliot would eventually get all wrapped up in the seductive Whedon dialog. Everybody always did.
Halfway through the first episode, Parker hit her first stumbling block. "Hardison," she called. "I don't get it. Is this a Western?"
"Yep," he said, reminding himself to never get a pair of round sunglasses. Those things never looked good on anyone. John Lennon could rock them, but he never actually looked good in them. They should be next to novelty earmuffs on the bad fashion scale.
"But it's a spaceship show." Parker looked very confused.
Hardison tried to comfortingly squeeze her ankle. She looked really precarious perched on the arm of his sofa like that. "It is."
"But it can't be both, that doesn't make sense!" Eliot made a perfect accidental interruption, especially since he had a platter of homemade crab rangoon with bacon. And he was wearing an awesome full length bright yellow apron emblazoned with "OMG WTF BBQ." Coincidentally, that was the only apron that Hardison owned. He looked awesome. It was like Eliot's obvious disgust physically manifested itself as a wind tunnel for his hair.
He could tell that Parker liked the show when halfway through "The Train Job," she started nitpicking the heist. "It's so inefficient. I mean, they have a space ship." She rolled her eyes. "A working space ship has to cut the travel time by a large number!" Hardison had a little bit of trouble reminding her that Inara's name was Inara and not Fake Sophie, but she seemed to get really into it. So he was riding the Whedon high and kind of jazzed.
And after the end of "The Train Job," Eliot plunked down on the other end of his ridiculously comfortable super oversized couch and said, "Sending that guy through the engine was pretty badass. Efficient, too."
Hardison could see a shining vision of the future blossom before his eyes. Soon, there would be days when he could make references to Browncoats, Blue Sun, pretty floral bonnets and cunning hats and his jokes would be understood and appreciated for the gems that they were. Man, it would be better than that time he'd met that girl who played WoW, although he still wouldn't mind if she was his whipped cream on top.
Right around the time that Parker started calling Yosaffbridge, "Blatantly transparent!" and yelling at the characters that they shouldn't trust her, Hardison realized that the room was kind of spinning a little bit and he had kind of a buzz. Which was weird, because he'd had nothing but his orange soda and delicious holiday food.
But by the end of the episode, Parker was on his right, with her legs curled up sideways, and his head was somehow on her legs and she was attempting to comfortingly pet his hair. "What the frak did you guys put in my drink?"
"Just some of Eliot's vodka," Parker shrugged.
Hardison couldn't help the dawning look of horror. "No, you don't mean Eliot's personal vodka. How in the name of all things holy did you manage to hide that in there?"
Eliot took a swig of his personal stash of egg nog. "I have my ways."
"But I mean," Hardison slurred, "man, Eliot's vodka is so strong that it's like a different liquid."
Eliot looked outraged. "It is not my fault that you don't know vodka! I know real Siberian man that regularly piss at a stronger proof than that grocery store swill!" Eliot probably drank with these men. Hardison was doomed.
Parker daintily bit into her anatomically correct gingerbread woman. Hardison worried about the booze a little. Eliot's vodka was so strong that it was practically illegal. It was like, legendary. Nobody had actually ever seen the bottle where he kept it. The magic vodka could have been kept in a lamp with an actual genie for all they knew. It was dangerous, man. Oh, and he was really craving some roast beef.
And man, the rest of the Firefly marathon ended up being kind of fun, even if the edges were kind of fuzzy at the end and watching River demolish those Reavers ended up making him kind of queasy. Hardison paused it halfway through the end credits, just so that he could make sure that he got feedback and commentary.
Eliot looked like he was asleep, but on closer inspection, Eliot was actually pretending to be asleep and his eyes were suspiciously wet. He didn't know how much of Eliot's own special vodka it took to have Eliot secretly cry in public, but it was probably an alarming amount. Hardison didn't make a big deal about it, 'cause he'd seen Serenity like at least 20 times and Wash still choked him up too. But yeah, he'd chosen the series right. He turned over to look at Parker's face, and she looked kind of radiant for someone who had stayed up for like 12 hours straight watching TV and eating her entire body weight in sugar. "I want the cake dress for Christmas," she announced.
Oh man, he was all over that. "Which Christmas? This one or the one that's next year?"
"This Christmas," Parker said. Hardison immediately pulled out his computer, which had a random cheese biscuit resting on top, and used his mad Google-fu to get Parker a Kaylee dress that was like an actual prop replica and not weird fetish wear. He had it super overnighted with truly exorbitant shipping prices, just because it was Christmas and he could.
When Hardison was a little kid, he used to dream about being about to do stuff like that. Parker grinned at him and stole his Santa hat. "I have considered it, and I am willing to let you eventually introduce me to that show with the guy that travels around in a box and fights the robots that look like salt shakers. Merry Christmas!"
And then Alec Hardison could see a perfect Christmas tradition form right in front of his eyes. It would be an unbreakable tradition full of introducing everybody to the geek staples every year. They could pry the forced geek television marathons from his cold dead hands, because he had made up his mind. He could see an eternity of Christmases with good TV and good friends blossom in front of him like an exploding Death Star. He was so happy that he almost blacked out.
Hardison looked over and found Parker was underneath the Christmas tree, absently singing, "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," with a pile of her stolen presents around her feet. Man, he did not know how she got those, that was just logic-defying. But it was Christmas, so he was cool. She looked happy.
Parker quietly hummed, "The hero of Canton, the man they call Jayne," and began to unwrap.