At the buzz in his pocket, Eliot pulled out his phone and answered. “Everything okay, Parker?”
“Yeah. Do you want to have dinner with me and Hardison tonight?”
“Uh. Okay. But we just finished a job. Don’t you and Hardison want some, you know, couple time?”
She paused for a minute, then repeated, sounding very agitated, “Are you going to have dinner with us or not!?!”
“Fine. Geez. Yeah, we can have dinner.
“You should cook for us. A really special meal or something.”
“Sure,” Eliot said, rolling his eyes. Not that he minded - but it would have been polite to ask.
“With dessert. And different courses. And a nice table setting. With a tablecloth.”
“Fine,” Eliot said, voice sharp.
“Okay, see you at 8!” she said, then hung up.
Eliot’s forehead creased. Parker sounded oddly… victorious. More than she should have been for convincing him to make dinner. But he shrugged; figuring out Parker was more hassle than it was worth.
At 7:59 PM, Eliot opened the door to find Hardison standing there with a large bouquet of red tulips.
“You someone’s bridesmaid?” Eliot said.
Hardison, for some reason, didn’t snark back. He just said, “Thought it would be nice to put these on the table.”
Eliot took the flowers. “I’ll get a vase, I guess.”
“Parker will be here soon. She’s getting a wine that perfectly complements what you’re cooking.”
Eliot frowned as he put the tulips in a clear glass vase. “First, Parker doesn’t know a damn thing about matching food and wine.”
Hardison grinned. “No, but my algorithm does.”
“An algorithm can’t replace a knowledgeable palate.” He set the vase in the middle of the table, and sat in one of the chairs.
“Aw, Eliot. That’s adorable. But anyway, yeah, I programmed it to find the ideal wine for any combination of dishes.”
“And how would you even know what I’m cooking?”
“Based on the ingredients you bought, and a cooking prediction algorithm that I also made based on your previous dishes, and by the way I made it in like 5 minutes ‘cause I’m a genius, there’s a 99.3% percent chance you’re making scallops with a vanilla-saffron crema, lobster-asparagus fettuccine, steak, fried brussels sprouts with sultanas and walnuts, and mango-raspberry creme brûlées.” Hardison just stood there then, looking smug.
Eliot paused, then blurted out, “Dammit, Hardison!”
Alec laughed and sat down in the chair right next to Eliot. He gave Eliot a strange smile.
“Wait,” Eliot said. “If I used a credit card to buy the ingredients, fine. But I bought most of them at the farmer’s market. With cash!”
Hardison shrugged. “It’s a clear day. You think a farmer’s market is invisible to satellites?”
Eliot closed his eyes, his mind running through all the ways it was ridiculous to commandeer a satellite to watch him buy groceries. He finally settled on “You’re a geek.”
“Proud of it, baby.”
Eliot turned then, at the sound of the kitchen window opening.
“Darlin’, you know I’ve said to go through the door.”
“It’s only the second story, going up was like way easier than going around,” Parker answered. She grinned at Hardison then. “I stole wine!” she announced proudly.
Eliot wasn’t sure why she would be proud of shoplifting from a liquor store - plenty of frat boys managed it every weekend. But he got out the wine glasses as she pulled out the bottle.
“Is that—” Eliot took the bottle, staring at it. “You got a 1957 Chateau Genveine? There are like, five bottles of this in the world!”
“You were right, he totally likes it,” Parker said to Hardison, smiling wide.
Eliot fawned a little more over the bottle, but then Alec got a phone call he had to take, leaving Parker alone with him in the kitchen.
“Reveal a personal anecdote,” she ordered him then.
“Uh. Why?” Eliot asked.
She got one of her looks then, the 20 pounds of crazy kind of look, so he said, “When I was young I really wanted to have a pet dog.”
“Okay.... Do I have to do one now?” Parker said.
“Oh. Really? Good.”
Hardison came back, and Parker proudly told him, “Eliot and I were just exchanging revealing personal stories. About our pasts.”
“Nice,” Alec said, not seeming to find it strange. “So when do we eat?”
“When you two stop bothering me long enough to cook the first course. Also when the wine is perfectly chilled. Because we aren’t drinking a bottle like this at anything other than the proper temperature.”
“Okay. Glad you like your present. We’ll hang out in the living room until you’re done,” Alec said.
Eliot finished the cooking then, focusing on the flavor profiles, wondering at the back of his mind why those two were acting so strange.
Alec and Parker seemed to love the dinner. There was a weird moment when Parker started making a noise, like a shriek from a small animal. She looked very annoyed when Eliot asked about it, saying “I was MOANING! Because I liked the food! I was showing appreciation!!”
Alec broke the tension then, bringing up a funny moment from their last job, putting an arm around Parker’s waist. It was nice to see the two of them so happy together, Eliot thought, the way they always had each other’s backs.
Of course, after dessert, as they enjoyed coffee on the balcony, Parker suddenly said, “Are you going to invite us back to your place?”
“We just had dinner at my place,” Eliot said, confused. Even for Parker, she was acting strange.
And Hardison seemed to be weird too tonight.
“So… that’s a yes?” Parker said, very intently.
“What — what is all this? These questions. And the personal anecdotes. And the flowers and the wine? What the hell is going on?”
“We wanted to make our first date special,” Parker said.
“This isn’t your and Hardison’s first date,” Eliot said.
Alec and Parker rolled their eyes, practically in unison. “We would like to date you, Eliot,” Alec said, as if it were obvious, though the cockiness didn’t quite stop Eliot from noting that Alec was nervous.
Parker added. “Yeah, Eliot. This is a date. I asked you. You said yes. You already said!”
Then they were both looking at him, wide eyes and a stupid question, and Eliot just wanted to list all the reasons that they were asking for bad news, all the reasons that they were lucky to get along just the two of them, that it was a miracle the two of them worked at all, and adding a third person who doesn’t do relationships was just asking for trouble.
He was really going to tell them.
If it weren’t for their nervous, smiling, stupid faces.
“Well, next time we’re on a date, give a guy a heads up,” Eliot said softly.
Alec laughed and leaned forward and hugged him, lingering a little longer than usual.
Parker hugged him next, and kissed him on the cheek. “So if we’re all dating, you’ll cook for us all the time right?”
“I cook for you anyway. Otherwise it’d be cereal and orange soda for all three meals,” Eliot grumbled.
“But now you’re cooking to seduce us,” Parker said with a raised eyebrow. “And we like to play hard to get.”
“Really?” Eliot said. “You just said to invite you back to my place.”
“Yes,” Parker said, “Really. And since we’re dating, we could all have sex now. But in the morning, I’m expecting waffles.” She looked at him defiantly, challenging him to object.
Hardison jumped in. “Baby, I think that might be going a little too fast for Eliot.”
“Oh, yeah,” Parker said, then explained to Eliot, “We’ve been talking about it, and we decided that when it comes to commitment you’re kind of a fraidy cat. But don’t worry. We’ll be gentle with you.”
“Gentle?” Eliot said, insulted by the entire ‘fraidy cat’ premise.
“You don’t like gentle? We can do it rough!” Parker offered.
“Too fast,” Alec whispered to her.
“Right,” she said. “Well, then Alec and I will go home and won’t ask you to have sex until the second date. Because that’s how lots of people date.” She used her fingers to make air quotes around the word ‘date.’
Eliot was started to wonder if Parker’s dating knowledge mostly came from reading about it on the Internet.
“Okay, darlin’,” Eliot said, trying not to roll his eyes. “You two have a good night then.”
“We’re planning to have sex while dirty talking our fantasies about you,” Parker said. “I guess you’ll just have to jerk off all by yourself.”
Eliot grimaced, and Hardison said, “Okay, great first date everyone!”
“Second date tomorrow?” Parker said, and the two of them looked at Eliot again, those ridiculous eyes full of hope.
“Fine, whatever,” Eliot said.
Alec leaned forward to kiss him on the lips then, long and slow. Then Parker, a flurry of tongue and heat, her body leaning close to his.
“See you tomorrow, boyfriend,” Parker said with a grin.
“Yeah, see you.” Eliot said. The other two turned around then to head to the door, and out of the corner of his eye Eliot saw them fistbump.
“I’m dating a couple of geeks,” Eliot muttered to himself as he started to clear the table. But he found himself smiling.