The robot fight turned out to not be so bad after all. It was actually sort of fun, especially since, in preparation, Hardison treated her to an episode of The Big Band Theorem. The TV show turned out to be an invaluable source of information for what Parker had privately dubbed “The Boyfriend Job” - which consisted basically of casing Alec, finding out what he expected of her and trying to decide if she was willing to do it (she liked to think she still had some sort of choice, and pointedly ignored the raw agony she’d felt when Hardison was locked up inside that stupid grave by that stupid drug cartel.)
Anyway. Sophie had said that a relationship was more like a plant than a heist, because most of the work went into keeping it healthy. Parker figured she’d focus on acquiring the boyfriend first, and worry about the rest later. Besides, she’d had a plant for a whole month now, thanks to the book Hardison had got her. Now all she needed was to get a book on Hardison, hence The Big Thingy or Other… which only helped some so far. Sure, now she knew why he never opened his toys, but there was no discernible pattern on what was expected of a girlfriend. Two out of three geek’s girlfriends characters were smart, another two out of three were sexually active, but there was always an exception.
Apparently, there was no foolproof path, except for drinking wine and stealing clothes. Parker figured she could do that, but not from a charity. Well, not anymore anyway.
But when she stopped to think about it, Hardison had never demanded she be anything but herself. In fact, he’d told her in as many words that he liked how she’d turned out, and let her know in other ways that she was special to him. The robot thing hadn’t been catechism, he’d just been trying to show her what he genuinely thought was a good time.
She grinned. She could do that, too.
* * * *
“NO. No no no no no.”
“C’mon, Hardison. It’ll be fun.”
“It’s a two-letter word. What-- look, mama. It’s not. Going. To happen. Sorry.”
The last word was added in a lower, weaker tone. Parker sighed.
“But it’s only the fourth floor! You do need a sixth escape route, and I’ve had all the gear custom-made for you. Has my gear ever let you down?”
He crossed his arms, steaming. He would not be jumping out of any windows, and that was final. Wii existed for a freaking reason, which was to satisfy the occasional athletic ambitions of your average geek.
“That’s not the point! Parker, you’ve shoved me off of high places twice already. It was not cool.”
“Which is why we’re having this conversation! So this time you can be ready and enjoy it with me!” she cried out indignantly and glared at him, breathing hard.
Hardison ran a hand over his hair, then pinched the bridge of his nose as her words sank in. Right. Conversation. It was a milestone for Parker, and he felt a little warm and proud about it. In those milliseconds, he also realised that she wasn’t just being her usual crazy Parker self, wanting him to jump off four-stories for no reason; that is, she was being a little crazy, but she was actually trying to offer him a treat. Oh damn.
He sighed and sought her stare.
“Parker. I, uh, appreciate your offer, but heights make me really uncomfortable.” He paused and reached out to touch her forearm. “Maybe there’s something else we could do toget-”
“Touching used to make me really uncomfortable too, you know, ” she interrupted him with the same monotone she’d pulled off at the Pretzels Talk, and went on without meeting his eye. “I didn’t like it. Not one bit. It bothered me and I was sure I’d get hurt.” He watched as she furrowed her brow. “Kinda like Sheldon, but without the germ phobia. Anyway.”
Before he could recover from the Big Bang Theory reference and pull back his hand, she caught his gaze.
“But with you, it didn’t happen. Nothing bad happened. It was... okay.” A pause. “And after a while it started to tingle and I thought it was going to be scary again, but it’s actually,” longer pause, “nice.”
She shrugged. He swallowed and blinked hard.
“Parker, I...” he pursed his lips, and decided to get it out while his thumping heart still overwhelmed his brain’s warnings. His voice came out a little croaked. “You said it was custom made?”
The grin she flashed him would’ve blinded him if she hadn’t hopped off his kitchen counter. With Eliot-honed instincts he reached for and grabbed the duffel bag that would’ve hit him squarely in the jaw. As he unzipped it, he came dangerously close to cardiac arrest.
Parker’s voice was barely able to reach him.
“I almost went with red and blue for Spiderman, but I thought it’d be too flashy, and this one works with my outfit.”
Alec looked up from the bat-branded harness to see his girlfriend sporting a black cat-themed headband.
“So, what do you think?”
It was difficult to talk around his grin.
* * * *