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Take Me Out to the Ball Game

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"We have a surprise for you," said Parker, one morning over breakfast.

The entire Quartet clan was assembled around Mrs. Grady's kitchen table, just weeks before Del and Laurel's June wedding. The normal madness of the the busiest wedding season hadn't yet set in, so they were all taking advantage of the rare opportunity to enjoy a leisurely group meal. They all knew those chances would be few and far between in the weeks to come.

Del and Laurel exchanged looks over their cups of coffee. Slowly, Del set his to the table and speared his sister with a pointed look. "What kind of surprise?"

Parker gave him an innocent look back. "You say that like I'd give you a bad one."

Laurel snorted into her coffee. "Give it up, Brown. We're on to you."

"That's going to get confusing, you know," said Jack, in between bites of French toast. He looked back and forth between Del and Parker and Laurel. "A lot of Browns going to be running around this place."

Mac and Emma groaned in unison. Laurel and Parker laughed. Del looked down at the table.

Surprised, Jack looked at Emma for clarification. "What? What did I say?"

"Honey," said Emma, patting Jack on the hand. "I love you. But shut up."

Jack shrugged and took another bite of French toast.

"About that surprise," said Del, still eyeing his sister warily. "What kind?"

"We--" Parker gestured around the table "--well, we all thought that since the two of you were so adamantly against the idea of bachelor and bachelorette parties, we would plan something else instead."

"What kind of something else?" asked Laurel. It was her turn to give Parker the eye. "You haven't had your turn yet, Parks. There's still time for revenge. And you know I would."

"It's true," Mac said, with a nod. "Completely unjustifiably in this case, and she'll want to apologize soon, but she would."

"I haven't heard why I'm apologizing yet," said Laurel.

Parker smiled serenely at Laurel from across the table. "That's because you won't stop threatening me long enough."

Laurel barked a laugh and gestured for Parker to proceed.

"As I was saying," Parker started, "we have planned an alternate activity in lieu of drunken debauchery and strippers."

Malcolm shook his head sadly. "What a waste."

Parker shot her fiance a look before continuing. "Instead, we thought you might like to spend Monday afternoon in a suite at Yankee stadium."

"We already cleared your calendars so you can't say no," said Mac.

Del frowned at her. "How--"

"Don't be mad," Emma said earnestly. "Elves did it."

Del and Laurel exchanged another look, this time with amused resignation on both their faces. They looked back at their friends hopeful faces together.

"Well then, take us out to the ballgame," Laurel said.

Cheers erupted at the breakfast table.

***

Planning was not Parker's chosen profession for just any reason, so when Monday came, so too did the regular driver that Jack and Del hired for their Yankees games excursions. This time, however, he came with a much larger car.

"A limo?" Laurel looked at Parker and laughed. "I don't think I've been in one of those since prom."

Parker smiled and linked her hand with Malcolm's. "It seemed appropriate."

"Are you sure we can't talk you into it?" Del asked Mrs. Grady. "There's a ticket with your name on it if you want to come."

Mrs. Grady waved him away and made shooing motions towards the limo with her hands. "You all get on your way. I have many plans for this afternoon and none of them involve all of you being underfoot."

"We're going," said Malcolm, who started dragging Parker behind him to the car. "Get in or get left behind."

Laurel looked up at Del, waggled her eyebrows. "Want to?"

"Get left behind?" Del shuddered. "It's the Yankees, woman."

Laurel rolled her eyes at him, then let out a shriek of laughter as Del swept her off her feet and hauled her off to the limo. "Let me down!"

Del obliged, dumping her into the last empty seat. He climbed in behind her and shut the car door.

"Ready?" asked their driver, looking back over the divider.

"We're all in," said Parker. "Thank you."

The car slid smoothly into motion and a champagne cork popped.

Laurel raised her eyebrow at Parker, who shrugged.

"It is a Vows event," she said.

"It's baseball," Del contradicted, tugging on his sister's hair. "Where's the manly beer?"

Malcolm passed him a longneck bottle and Emma handed Laurel a plastic champagne flute.

Parker waited until everyone had a drink in their hands, then raised her own glass. "To Del and Laurel."

The words echoed around the limo as glasses and bottles tapped together. With that out of the way, they all leaned back and settled in for the ride to Yankee Stadium.

***

It wasn't a surprise that Parker had sprung for a suite, Laurel thought, as they were ushered inside. It was simply the Brown way, to do the generous thing, to do the big thing. And because they did those things instinctively, it made the rest of them want to do them too.

The boys all clustered around the front of the suite, to the seats with the best views. The women, meanwhile, were all at the back where the food was. Despite the middle school dance-ness of it all, Laurel was pretty sure that the women had gotten the better end of that particular deal.

She didn't want hot dogs and popcorn every single day, but that didn't mean she couldn't enjoy them when they were put in front of her.

"Having fun?" Parker asked, looking at Laurel anxiously.

Laurel smiled and slipped her arm around Parker's waist, setting her head on Parker's shoulder. "I have the best pals."

"You do," said Mac, who leaned over the both of them from behind. "But that wasn't an answer to the question."

"I can get rough," said Emma, who wrapped her own arm around Laurel's waist.

"I had a dream like that once," said Malcolm from the front of the box. "I'd tell you more, but I think Carter might hurt me."

Carter adjusted his glasses. "Well, yes."

Everyone laughed and Del came up to join them, extracting Laurel from the warm embrace of her friends. He drew her into his arms and she tilted her face up to meet his.

"Happy?" he asked.

She stretched up on her toes, just brushing her mouth against his. "Very."

Del tightened his arms around her waist and kissed her again, to the sound of their friends applause.

It was exactly right.