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Date Night

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“I’ve never stolen a space cow before.”

Hardison felt he almost should have expected that, but he was still wary as he glanced over at Parker. She sat cross-legged on his living room couch, stirring her hot chocolate with a glow in the dark straw. Thoughtfully, she added, more to herself than anyone, “I’ve never stolen a cow before.”

“That’s--I mean--” Hardison frowned, glancing from Parker to the TV and back again. “It’s not really a cow thievery how-to guide, girl.”

“It might be fun. After we watch your show, we should go out stealing.”

“Dammit, Parker.” Eliot’s voice carried from the kitchen with the smell of warm cookies. “I ain’t stealing no cows.”

“Space cows.”

“There are no cows in space.”

“Imagination, man,” Hardison called back. “That’s your problem.”

Eliot poked his head out of the kitchen long enough to glare at them both, but it was softened by a smile. When he joined them five minutes later, he handed the plate of chocolate chip cookies to Hardison--Parker was a hoarder. “Scoot over,” he said, giving her a gentle nudge with his foot.

Parker wasn’t a cuddler. She was more comfortable with them than she used to be, but she liked her space. What it amounted to was that she claimed two-thirds of the couch and stretched out, occasionally nudging the one in the middle with a finger or toe, while Eliot and Hardison sat thigh to thigh.

Which wasn’t a complaint. Eliot passed a cookie to Parker and snagged one for himself, before sliding an easy arm around Hardison’s shoulders. Hardison leaned closer, feeling his strength.

“Right,” Eliot said, relaxing against the couch and drawing the cookie plate a little closer. “Let’s watch Hardison’s stupid show.”

**

Parker’s ideas met resistance from both Eliot and Hardison whenever it was her turn to choose what they did for date night. They both gravitated towards comfort--when it came to his home theater Hardison had the best that money could buy (and maybe a few things that it couldn’t). Eliot took an obvious pleasure in food.

Parker, on the other hand, found pleasure in the adrenaline rush that came from throwing herself off of the tallest buildings she could find, or pitting herself against state of the art security systems. There was something about falling, flying, as the wind rushed up to meet her--something that was hard to find in lazy nights indoors, but she was learning.

And so were they. Hardison hadn’t even flailed or screamed (much) the last time she’d pushed him off a building, and for all his grumbling about stupid, unnecessary safety risks, Eliot had been smiling after she’d dragged them off to go zip lining.

Her current desire, though, was proving to be a harder sell.

“No,” Hardison said, with a barely repressed shudder. “Hell no.”

“But--”

Eliot folded his arms. “It’s a goddamned airplane.”

“Haven’t you guys ever jumped out of an airplane before?”

“Not for fun,” Eliot said, as Hardison sputtered, “What do I look like to you, some kind of bird or something?”

He flapped his arms around for effect, and Parker couldn’t help giggling. “You’re not going to die. That’s what the parachute is for.”

He wrinkled his nose at her. “Can’t we, I don’t know, climb through an air duct or something?”

“An air duct?” Eliot glared at them both when Parker paused to think it over. “I’m not climbing through a damn air duct for fun.”

“Would you rather jump out of a damn airplane?” Hardison muttered to him. “Keep your mouth quiet, man.”

Parker frowned at them both in thought. “You really don’t want to jump out of an airplane?”

“I really, really don’t want to jump out of an airplane.”

“Fine.” Parker sighed and caught their hands. “Let’s go steal something, then.”

**

Quiet nights were hard to come by, in their line of work.

Deep down, Eliot was still something of a traditionalist, so maybe it wasn’t such a surprise that he was the romantic one. His idea of a date didn’t involve Star Wars conventions. (But, okay, that hadn’t been so bad. He hadn’t had to wear a costume, and there was something about watching Hardison be giddy with excitement--which he certainly had been when, after mysteriously disappearing, Parker had turned up in their hotel room several hours later with a lightsaber.) Nor did it involve base jumping, zip lining, skydiving, bungee jumping, or dancing across laser grids (though it was worth it to see Parker flushed with excitement and dancing around in joy).

But really, what Eliot liked was to go out to a restaurant. A nice one, one that didn’t have a drive thru. The kind where the three of them could get a little table tucked away in a corner, maybe with some candles on the table (Parker liked watching the light dance) and a bottle of good wine split between the three of them. Well, two of them.

And then he liked to take them hand in hand and go for a walk, somewhere away from the city where it was quiet and they could enjoy each other’s company in silence, undisturbed. That part was hardest, but they made do, somehow.

Tonight, though, there was too much rain for a walk and he didn’t feel like driving anywhere. Instead, he set three places at his dining room table, with the good tablecloth and the nice dishes and then he busied himself in the kitchen. The chicken he’d set out to marinate the night before, and that he set carefully on a tray with potatoes to roast while he braised the asparagus in garlic butter and tossed vegetables for a salad.

They arrived just as he set the last bowl on the table. Eliot took one more critical look at his lovingly prepared meal, smoothing the tablecloth here and there. Then he slipped off his apron, loosed his hair free from his ponytail, and, with a smile that came easily now, went to meet them.