July 8, 2013 by Lyn
Friday, March 20, 2004
The collars had stopped.
Well, not entirely. After their… discussion… there had been one more collar. This one was gold, beautifully worked, a piece of jewelry that just happened to lock.
He’d left the key, too. Xanthia had noted it, and left a note on the collar this time. I’ll think about it.
The collar had vanished. In its place had been a plateful of cookies.
She’d ignored the first plateful of cookies, but the second one had come with a shame-faced Hemlock actually knocking on her door. She’d accepted that plate, and the dinner invitation that had come with it, and the party invitation after that.
Tonight, tonight was a little more nerve-wracking. The dinner had included Lemon (who, had seemed, was fond of Hemlock and had scorched his ear about his tactics) and her… um… whatever he was, as well as the rest of Hemlock’s crew, and their Kept, who actually seemed happy in a relatively non-zombie sort of way. The party had included half the school, including Belfreja, who was most definitely not a zombie in a way that made Xanthia question her own sexuality. This, tonight, this was a date.
A date. She had been on a few in high school, of course, several with the same guy. But this, well, this was Addergoole, and a date with someone who had thought of collars and choking as appropriate courting tactics was a bit different than…
…someone who had thought penis jokes and musical belches were appropriate courting tactics. Put in that light, Hemlock didn’t look that bad.
She hadn’t brought all that much in the way of Date Clothes or date make-up or any of that to school. High class prep schools did not lend themselves to being dating environments, not when you needed every cent of scholarship money you could get to be able to afford even a bush-league Ivy League.
(Her parents’ lie about the school had been, all things considered, not that much of a lie. She had managed to forgive them when Dr. Mendosa had told her that the Addergoole project would actually pay her tuition to any school she wanted, and help her get in.)
She’d raided the Store for most of what she needed, and, for the first time since she got here, really missed having female friends. Having friends at all, really. There was something about getting ready for a date that really went better with someone to talk to.
Lacking that, she talked to herself as she put on her eye shadow. “What’s the worst-case scenario… okay, that was probably a bad question. The worst-case scenario probably involves mind control, shackles, a collar with no key, and waking up a zombie. So what’s the best-case scenario?”
That was an interesting question. It tied in with why am I even doing this, a question she’d asked herself more than a few times.
“Well, the best-case involves him scaring off the other stalkers, for one. It involves a nice dinner, with good food, and maybe getting to know someone… someone who wants to stalk me and own me, but, well, when in Rome, shoot Roman candles.”
“So that’s the top and bottom of the range.” She adjusted her makeup and fluffed her hair. “The truth is probably somewhere in the lower ranges of middle. Which would be, let’s see. A collar with no key, no other stalkers bothering me, and a tolerable dinner. Hopefully with a minimum of zombie-dom.” She straightened her dress just as the knock thudded on her door. “And there’s the zombie master himself.”
She opened the door, making sure she was doing something like smiling. And then she caught sight of him and actually smiled.
He’d slicked back his magenta hair with something that made it look almost purple, and put on a suit, complete with a lime-green tie. He was holding a bouquet of flowers – in a vase, which was nice, since she didn’t keep vases around.
“I brought you this.” He gestured with the flowers. She took them from him, still smiling. He was being adorable. Maybe it would last at least a few more minutes.
“Thank you. They’re lovely.” They were primarily pink and blue, not all types she recognized, and they smelled beautifully. “They don’t have sleeping gas impregnated in them, do they?”
“My word that, as far as I know, the flowers have nothing in them but flowers. I’d say you were being unduly paranoid, but we go to Addergoole.”
“And we’re both cy’Fridmar. And you have been stalking me all year.”
“All valid points. Do I still get my date?”
“Well, since the flowers aren’t poisoned, and they are very pretty, yes.”
“I think I could have managed a date if I’d poisoned you.”
“A roofied date totally doesn’t count.”
“I would have counted it.” He made a little bow before she could argue anymore. “But I will cede that it would have been cheating, in the current situation.”
“And what is the current situation?” She felt as if he was reading a script he hadn’t quite shared with her.
“I’m attempting to court you in a ‘normal’ manner.” He made air quotes around normal; Xanthia didn’t blame him. “Not stalking, not kidnapping.”
“Cookies and a date?”
“The cookies were Lemon’s idea.” He shrugged, clearly a little uncomfortable. “The date was Speed’s idea.”
“Speed?” She made a gesture, wrapping both hands around her throat. The collar that boy wore was thicker than any other three collars.
Hemlock smirked. “Speed, the career boy-toy, yes. As a point of interest, he approached Gregori about that one, not the other way around.”
That explained a lot about him, and about that relationship. “Very interesting. So. Do you promise me that you intend me no harm and no ambush tonight?”
“You really are paranoid.”
“‘It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.”
“It’s still paranoia, it’s just coincidentally justified. Yes. I promise you that I mean you no harm and no ambush, magical or physical, tonight. Tonight, all I want is a nice, normal-as-we-can-get-here date.”
“Then let’s.” She stepped over her threshold, her heart pounding, and offered him her hand. “I’d like to see how you manage that, here.”
This is a free extra story, written because Xanthia’s story required the context.
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