you,” Dawn yelled at the room in general before slamming the door behind her.
“I don’t know why everybody thinks this age is so awesome. I liked them better when they were two and those were supposed to be terrible,” Parker said, befuddled.
Connor, beside her, snickered. “Don’t worry, Mom. Teenagers hate it, too.”
Hardison fought the urge to cackle, spinning his chair back towards his computer and stuffing his fist into his mouth. His yelp was muffled when a sharp rap of Eliot’s fist to the back of his head shoved his fist into his teeth.
“It’s all part of growing up,” Eliot intoned grouchily. “She’ll get over it.”
“I still don’t get why she wants to go to prom, anyway,” Parker grumbled, sincerely baffled. She adjusted Connor’s hands on the pick so that the lock he was practicing on popped open and he grinned, delighted, before snapping it closed and starting again. “She doesn’t even like to dance.”
Hardison risked a glance at Eliot and, if scowls could kill, there would be one very dead high school senior out there for daring to ask his daughter on a date in the first place.
“It’s a party,” Connor shrugged, still focused on his lock. “And she’s the only Sophomore that got asked. It’s kind of a big deal.”
Now Eliot was scowling at Connor as Parker’s face went blank. She didn’t like denying the kids the little bits of normal they could dredge up, especially if, in teenage terms, it was a big deal. Connor knew that; Eliot did, too.
“I thought what’s-her-name asked you to go at the beginning of the year,” Eliot said, trying to shift Parker’s focus. No way he was letting a Senior
take his little girl on a date.
Hardison spun in time to see Connor’s face squish up into a look that’d come straight from Parker’s repertoire: the normal-people-are-weird-and-discomfiting look. For them not to actually be mother and son, they certain had similar mindsets and ticks.
“I said no,” Connor said, scowl mirroring his father’s. He really was a damn cute kid and that wasn’t just because Hardison was biased. “I don’t dance and I don’t give a damn about making friends.”
“Language,” Hardison snapped before he could stop himself. It was pretty much a lost cause, the twins had been swearing since they were three and heard Eliot swearing like a sailor on leave while Nate sewed him back together, but some habits were hard to break.
Connor’s face flickered and he mumbled, “Sorry, Pop.”
Hardison pursed his lips to keep from telling him it was okay. Connor did hangdog just as well as Eliot and it was instinctive to try to sooth that look away.
“I think she should go,” Parker announced, frowning. “And I think Connor should go, too.”
“Mom,” Connor said, drawing away from her in betrayal.
“It’ll be good for you,” she said, chin jutting out. “It’s…normal.”
“Well, I can’t go, anyway, because Wednesday’s already decided not to go,” Connor said, both a touch defiant and a touch relieved. “And Jared’s weird. You don’t want Dawn dating him.”
And Hardison could’ve told Connor that those were both the wrong arguments to take because Parker’s face went crafty and Eliot, leaning back against his desk, muttered, “Oh, hell.”
“You ask Wednesday to prom,” she ordered, standing. “And I’m going to get Sophie. We’ve gotta take Dawn to look for dresses.”
Her face squished up in dismay at the idea of shopping, with Sophie no less, but she twirled and marched resolutely for Dawn’s room. Eliot practically growled, but Hardison knew he wouldn’t try to make her change her mind. Strange as it seemed, Parker made a lot of the decisions about the twins’ welfare and they usually turned out for the better.
“Dad!” Connor practically wailed, whirling on them. “Pop! Do something!”
“Oh, son,” Hardison said, shaking his head. “One of these days, you’re going to realize that women rule the world and men just don’t realize it. Your mother has spoken.”
Eliot grunted before saying, “She wants Dawn to be able to go but she knows I won’t let her go without backup.”
It was a ridiculous reason but, a. Probably true and b. Made Connor melt in relief.
“I could just sneak in,” Connor pointed out, scowling.
Hardison rolled his eyes. “You like Wednesday. Just ask her to the damn dance.”
He winced at the swat Eliot landed on his shoulder and made a mental note to drop some cash in the swear jar.
Panic flickered across Connor’s face and he said, “I don’t know how to do that.”
Hardison felt a little bad for him because he remembered the terror girls could instill at 16 and he’d never wanted to date a girl like Wednesday.
Eliot, though, snorted. “Just pick up the phone and ask her. But don’t tell her you’re only going to babysit your sister.”
Connor was pale and a little dazed, but he turned towards his room. You’d have thought he was a dead man walking for all the enthusiasm he showed. Then again, Wednesday was terrifying so maybe he was a dead man walking.
Hardison looked up at Eliot and said, “I don’t know how it happened but he really is a little bit of the three of us, your scowling and attraction to scary women, Parker’s people skills or lack thereof, and my geek power.”
Eliot looked down at him and his scowl slowly faded. He wrapped one callused palm around the back of Hardison’s neck and murmured, “Could’ve turned out worse.”
“Yeah,” Hardison said, letting Eliot’s smile distract him. “He could’ve turned out like Ria.”
Eliot gave a short laugh before kissing him.