"You can't play a player..."
A snort of amusement interrupted the well-worn line that Darien had used in an attempt to turn the conversation away from the grumbles of discontent that had been emanating from the woman who strode stiffly beside him, and to something lighter and far more appropriate for the spirit of the occasion. "Come on, you can't tell me you aren't having any fun."
"I most certainly can," she grouched, shaking her head and causing every loose curl to bounce and sway about her face. "You know I prefer hiding today."
"Yup, I do. Not that that is a valid excuse..." He trailed off as she stopped dead and turned an icy glare upon him. The cold effect of Quicksilver had nothing on this look. She was anything but happy, and was about to verbally flay him unless he could divert her attention. "You could be stuck in some cheesy costume," he pointed out, and sighed internally as the evil eye routine toned down a bit.
"For a birthday party?" she snarked, her hands coming up to rest on her hips.
"Halloween party," Darien corrected, in his best put-upon voice.
"Halloween party, my ass." She wagged a finger at him when he made to jump on that turn of phrase. "Since when do Halloween parties include gifts for only one guest?" she questioned, with a single delicate eyebrow arching upwards.
Darien shrugged. "Since now, I guess." He closed the distance between them in one long stride and reached out for the curl that had fallen before one eye. When she didn't bat his hand away, he brushed his fingers along her cheek, his touch causing her head to tip downward and his heart rate to triple its speed. "'Sides, it's not really a Halloween party no matter what the decorating makes it look like. It's the Audubon Society's 4th Annual Harvest Faire, and we just staked out our corner of it."
She lifted her head to meet his eyes. "You mean the Official got hornswaggled into hosting a booth by Fish and Game. Which I managed to get out of with some creative blackmail and yet... here I am." She slipped away from him, her arms going wide as she spun about slowly twice.
Darien chuckled softly. "So have some fun, play some of the games, win me a kewpie doll or two."
"Hey, isn't it supposed to be the other way 'round?" she complained, but with a hint of a grin brightening her features.
He strode forward, draping an arm about her shoulders, and encouraged her to begin walking towards the center of the Faire. "Skills, kitten. My skills are more suited to lifting the prizes and making off with them like a thief in the night. You, on the other hand, are far better with the accuracy thing."
"What? You want me to actually use my hands?" she queried as one of hers slipped downwards to momentarily rest on his tush before smacking him a solid one on said body part.
Darien bit back the yelp as she connected with the impressive bruise she knew was there from the tumble he'd taken off the hood of Golda the day before. One of the reasons he was not stuck working the booth, that and making Hobbes feel outrageously guilty for hitting his partner with the rattletrap of a vehicle in the first place. "Not nice," he muttered as he grabbed her hand and moved it northward to rest on his hip. "Hands, no hands, however you wanna play it, babe."
She just sighed, plainly still not sure about this.
"Just relax for a bit, no work, no worries..."
"No birthday," she added wistfully.
"Sorry, no can do. You can blame your parents for that one. Don't worry, I'll make sure you get your birthday spanking later." He paused, thinking. "Which age do I use, the real one or the one on your license?"
"Darien," she protested, but he didn't let that stop his musings.
"Could be painful if we go by your real birth date," he stated aloud, and got himself pinched quite painfully for his troubles. Using his height to his advantage, he got his arm wrapped solidly about her and attempted to pry her hand away from his side before she attacked again. She, of course, fought back, but playfully, laughter outstripping the muttered curses by three to one. It didn't end until Darien found his foot hooked by some mysterious object on the ground, which caused him to tumble the two of them into a pile of hay acting as a wall behind one of the gaming booths.
"Uncle," he mock cried out, as her fingers had found their way beneath his shirt with what was sure to be damaging intent. She failed to heed his cry of surrender and exploited his known weakness - well, one of them anyway - and proceeded to tickle him unmercifully for several laughter-filled minutes. He finally got his hands about her wrists and wrangled them away from his abdomen and above her head. He panted harshly with his forehead resting against her shoulder as she giggled merrily beneath him, not fighting his hold upon her at all.
He finally managed to suck in one long breath, which he released raggedly, and lifted his head to look down at her. "No fair," he groused, pleased to see the smile on her lips and in her eyes. He'd been worried her mood would never improve.
"Tsk, tsk," she admonished. "As Quote-boy, you should be cognizant of the fact that 'all's fair in love and war'."
"And this would be?" Darien inquired, his mood turning suddenly serious. It wasn't often the word love made a vocal appearance between them.
She obviously caught the tenor of his mood - how could she not? - and responded with a sarcastic, "A Mexican standoff?"
Her words may have been saying one thing, but her thoughts, her emotions, were telling him something entirely different. It wasn't anything new to him, but it still made his heart melt when she dropped her defenses and allowed him to truly feel how much she cared for him. She wasn't just attracted to him, or cared about or even loved him; it was something far deeper and more meaningful, and the only thing he'd ever been able to liken it to was the love a parent felt for a child. Not that she saw him as a child, per se, more that she simply accepted him for who he was and placed no demands upon him to conform into some idealized vision of who he could be, like so many others in his life had. She wanted him, liked him, was made outrageously happy by him and quite plainly wouldn't have it any other way. It was the closest thing to unconditional love as he could ever hope to experience in his lifetime.
"Miss, is this guy bothering you?" a basso voice asked, and both Darien and she turned to look at the orator in question.
She grinned evilly. "Yep, but lucky for him I like it."
Darien clambered off her, stood up and held out a hand to help her up. "Just goofing around and got carried away," he assured the glowering stranger. Now was not the time to get tossed into the clink for assault, either because they'd gotten too playful or because the wrestler shaped man before them felt a sudden need to defend her honor.
"I'm fine, thank you for your concern." She gave the man her impish grin number two and, after taking another moment to glare at Darien, he nodded and walked away. "Hay," she stated cheerily.
"Hey what?" Darien asked, sighing in relief that she'd defused the situation so easily.
"No, you twit, hay," she reiterated as she began to pluck pieces of the dried grass from his shirt.
Darien snorted. "Well, that's what happens when one goes for a roll in it." He reached out and tried to untangled some of the more obvious bits of detritus from her hair, but as usual her curls we reluctant to release their hold.
She laughed lightly and batted his hands away. "Just leave it or we'll be here for hours. I'll let you play with the hair later... in my bathtub, if you're good."
Darien gulped audibly; spending a couple hours in her monstrously oversized bathtub was always a fun, if soapy and squirmy, experience. "So I'm forgiven for the birthday thing?"
"That'll depend on what you got me, I suppose," she responded with mock seriousness, but after holding the lopsided grin for a few seconds she sobered. "I... Thank you."
"Welcome," Darien assured her. "So what first? Bobbing for apples? Jacob's Ladder? Pumpkin carving?"
"How about the dunk tank? Hear tell Bobby got suckered into taking the first shift," she suggested with a dangerous glint in her eyes.
"Oh man, he's gonna get drenched," Darien said with a laugh and then grabbed her hands as he bounded away, pulling her along. "This is gonna be such a blast."
"Until he gets even," she pointed out.
"Worth it, kitten. More'n worth it, just to see the look on his face when you put him under."