Fries With That?
***For Gyspy's Birthday***
Part Eleven: Fries With That?
Jesse had made a complete spectacle of himself during the shopping trip. His only saving grace was that he was invisible to all other people, otherwise she’d be well on her way of severing all ties to him. It was bad enough that he jumped into the fountain just outside the campus bookstore, but he also keep sneaking extra things into her purchases just before they were rung up so she ended up buying a ton of extra stuff she didn’t need. Most of it was okay, she just explained the oversized men’s shirts as gifts for family members back home, but she was pretty sure she didn’t need Washington U shot glasses or an authentic pub-styled dart board.
At least Larry didn’t make too many comments on all of her purchases. He just happily scooped up the bags as they piled up, and then tossed all of them into the back of his Jeep before leading her towards the notorious Lunatic Café. Jesse was practically skipping with joy as they neared the establishment, which should of amused her but only made her even more nervous. Jesse said that there were likely to be werewolves inside there. Funny thing about werewolves, when they weren’t changing shape, they weren’t obvious to the naked eye. So if she couldn’t see them, how was she supposed to avoid them?
“Why would you want to avoid them?” Jesse stopped his skipping and gave her a weird look. “These werewolves are way more interesting than the ones in our world.”
Was that a good or bad thing?
“Good thing,” he insisted.
Like the vampires being more interesting has turned to be for the good?
“You know, sarcasm isn’t good for the soul.”
And monsters aren’t good for the physical well being.
“I’m surprised at you. So judgemental without even meeting one.”
She was being stalked by one. Doesn’t that count for anything?
“It was hardly stalking. It was more like sinister gift-giving. Besides, not like he knows you’re still in the city.”
What if he finds out?
Jesse was quiet for a bit too long. “Well, we’ll have to run screaming to cross that bridge later.”
Willow’s heart sank down to the pit of her stomach. It must have shown on her face, because all of a sudden Larry was looking at her in concern. “You all right, Willow?”
She blinked and hastily put on a smile for the man. “Fine, just adding up the money spent today and realizing that I might be broke by the end of the week if this keeps up.
Larry laughed at that. “Don’t worry, everyone should splurge every now and then.”
“Yeah, but given that I’m on a fixed income, it might be a good idea to keep that down to once in a blue moon,” Willow wrinkled her nose. “Larry, I think I’m going to have to find some sort of part-time job or something. Be responsible and whatnot.”
“Well, responsible might have to take a back seat to working on the whole oblivious thing,” Larry chided her gently. “Didn’t you notice all the help-wanted signs at the bookstore?”
No, she had been too busy making sure Jesse didn’t cause the place to collapse.
“Oh sure, blame everything on me,” Jesse rolled his eyes at her. “See if I ever try to liven up any other experiences for you.”
“No, I didn’t see them,” Willow said, ignoring her dead friend for the moment. “But I was kind of more in frivolous spending mode than observing mode. But the bookstore? That’d be really . . .convenient, actually.”
“I can pick you up an application on my way back from work tomorrow,” Larry offered. “You can use the morning to whip off a resume on the downstairs computer, if you want.”
“That’d be great,” Willow said with an appreciative smile. “Thanks a lot Larry.”
“Not a problem,” the man shrugged off her gratitude, motioning towards a building off to her left. “Well, there’s our destination. Best burgers around.”
Oh right, the werewolf restaurant. She had managed to forget about that for all of two minutes. Now, it was looming over her, surprisingly friendly looking from the outside. But she wasn’t going to be fooled by that. There was always the chance that evil lurked inside, just waiting to spring out at her.
“You know, that’s what Xander used to say about the school toilets,” Jesse said thoughtfully. “And that’s enough stalling out of you. Let’s go already! I’m famished!”
He wasn’t allowed to eat anything.
“Oh yeah,” Jesse pouted at her. “Way to spoil my good mood.”
And that little bit of news made her feel immensely better.
Jesse stuck his tongue out at her. “Ingrate.”
She wasn’t even going to comment on that. She turned her eyes away from her moping friend and smiled at Larry as he held the door open for her. She stepped into the café and was not immediately confronted by anything evil and decided the night had the potential of ending almost happily.
“Oh great, now you’ve jinxed it for sure.” Jesse gave her a disappointed look. She spared him a quick glare before following Larry down an aisle of tables before sliding into the booth the man selected. A waitress appeared almost instantly and menus were quickly placed in front of them and Willow turned her attention to the task of dinner.
“Well, I already know what I want,” Larry snapped his menu shut before looking up at Willow. “I’m going to the washroom for sec.”
She nodded almost absently, her eyes still on the menu. Her eyes traveled down the page, stopping occasionally to read into greater detail on one item or the other. Jesse was being very well behaved, his chin on her shoulder as he read the menu along with her. He tapped the menu every now and then, indicating something of interest, and in the end she picked one of the burgers, along with a batch of fries that Jesse could probably get away with eating if he felt like it.
“Aw . . . I love you too Willow.”
She bit her lip to keep from laughing as Jesse plastered an overly adoring look on his face. Shaking her head slightly, she let her eyes travel the room. They stopped as she sighted Larry, standing just outside the washroom doors, talking to two other men. Willow frowned and blinked. Did one of those men have heinously long hair braided down his back?
“All to the way to his ankles, if I’m not mistaken,” Jesse snorted in disgust. “That is so not manly.”
Actually, it wasn’t that bad. And getting a better look at the man’s face, Willow came to the conclusion that overall, the man needed to be bumped up from not-bad to very-good.
“Ew. Please don’t drool on the table.”
She was not going to drool on the table.
“Fine, but at least be coherent when he gets here.”
“Yeah, Larry’s bringing him and his little blonde friend over to say hello. Now be a good girl and remember to say hello back. And try to not freak out just because they’re shifters.”
“Shifters. You deaf or something? Sit up straight, here they come!”
Willow looked up to see that Larry was bringing them over, and there wasn’t even enough time for Willow to have a panic attack. She did not do well with cute boys! Especially not those who were of the supernatural quality as well.
“Well, no better time to learn like the present.”
Her irritation got the better of her and she smacked him in the stomach as hard and as discreetly as she could. It was hard enough because Jesse gave an ‘oomph’ before doubling over with his hands on his stomach. He seemed to be in actual pain.
Served him right.
“Hey Willow.” She looked up as Larry slid back into the booth, and continued to slide over until he was sitting next to her. His two very gorgeous friends slid in behind them and soon they were all seated in the same little booth.
She was going to spaz.
“This is Jason and Nathaniel. Friends of mine. I invited them to share our booth, if that’s okay?”
Not okay! Too cute to be okay!
Willow swallowed any scream threatening to erupt from her throat and smiled at the new arrivals the best she could. “Not a problem. Nice to meet you, I’m Willow.”
“Tammy’s cousin,” the blonde one, Jason, added with a very dazzling smile. He held out a hand to her, which she shook calmly despite the fact that her insides were slowly turning to mush. Did she mention that his smile was dazzling?
“Yeah, you mentioned it.” Jesse had recovered and was now sitting on her other side, glaring at Larry for taking his old seat.
Well, it was.
Nathaniel, the one with the hair, held out his hand next. “Pleased to meet you,” he murmured, turning violet coloured eyes on her. Willow nearly bit her tongue to keep herself from saying something stupid. She just shook his hand and gave him the best smile she could muster.
“Same,” she managed to say before the waitress reappeared and thus rescued her from having to think of something else to say. Willow gave her order and sat back as the others placed theirs. Jesse had apparently decided that this wasn’t going to be as much fun as he wanted and was currently dancing around the waitress, pulling on her apron strings and other little things that the woman barely noticed. Willow herself spared him only the slightest glance before turning to her tablemates.
“So Willow, how you are liking our fair city?” Jason asked when the waitress departed with their orders. “Not missing your home yet, are you? Family, friends . . .boyfriend?”
There was a bit of a leer with that last one, and it actually took Willow a second to figure out the man was flirting with her. Not altogether familiar with such a predicament, Willow couldn’t keep the blush off her face. Her eyes fell to the table top as she stammered an answer. “No, uh well, a bit, but not the boyfriend bit. Can’t miss what you don’t have.”
“That’s great!” Jason’s smile was luminous.
“What he meant was that it’s good that you’re adjusting well,” Larry said with a resigned sort of voice.
“No, what I meant was that it’s great she doesn’t have a boyfriend,” Jason shot back, his smile devious and totally unrepentant. “So Willow, what are your views on short blonde men with washboard abs.”
“Hey!” Jesse had taken offence to the obvious flirting. And he wasn’t the only one.
“Jason,” Larry began, his voice sort of threatening.
“What?” the man was all wide eyes and innocence, something that made Willow giggle because from the look in his eyes just moments ago, Jason was definitely anything but.
“Relax Larry,” Willow spoke up before anything got started. “Besides, Jason’s going to have enough to deal with once I break the news that blondes with washboard abs aren’t really for me.”
“And the whole redheaded witch with a werewolf boyfriend thing has been done to death,” Jesse grumbled as he glared at the smiling shifter who was quite shamelessly winking at her.
“Will Jason get a reason for why not?” Jason asked with a theatrical pout.
“Jason won’t because he’s going to be too busy not flirting with my girlfriend’s cousin,” Larry informed him seriously.
“You tell him, ginger-haired man!” Jesse was giving Larry an approving look. “This guy, right here, is gold.”
“Man, all you animators just live to ruin my fun,” Jason carried on, his attention more on Larry now.
“Anita doesn’t ruin your fun, she just won’t stand for it. And you’re smart enough to know that getting shot isn’t the best experience.”
“Shot?” Willow repeated. “Um, this Anita person wouldn’t really . . .would she?”
“No,” Jason quickly assured her. “Well, not right away. But if it really bugs her, and she’s really tired, and possibly had just had an argument with someone, then maybe she might. Maybe.”
“She’s not that bad,” Nathaniel said quietly, surprising her by suddenly joining the conversation. “Some people just like to over exaggerate.”
“I don’t over exaggerate,” Jason retorted quickly. “I may embellish, but never over exaggerate.”
Willow laughed. “I’m pretty sure those are basically the same things.”
“Let’s not argue semantics,” Jason replied smoothly. “Let’s get back to our discussion about why blondes with washboards abs don’t appeal to our lovely Willow.”
“Or get down to eating,” Larry interjected, motioning to the waitress who was bringing out their food. “And drop any discussion of washboard abs altogether.”
Jason pouted, but seemed to pick up at the sight of his food. Willow too felt better at the sight of the food. After what seemed like an eternity of hospital food, this girl was finally getting her hands on actual food. She picked up her burger and delved into it, the others also immersing themselves in their meal. Jesse was waiting patiently at her side, snagging a fry and stuffing it into his mouth whenever the opportunity arose. After his fourth fry, he nudged her with his elbow.
“Don’t look now, but Hair Boy is staring at you.”
She raised her eyes almost immediately and caught Nathaniel looking very intently at her.
“I told you not to look!”
But she had, and now she was stuck looking at Nathaniel, who was obviously staring at her, and wondering if she should say something. Her discomfort was plain to see, and it kind of bothered her that Nathaniel didn’t even seem flustered that she had caught him staring. Instead, he just looked some more before giving her a small smile. “Pass the ketchup, please.”
Willow blinked and looked down, seeing the ketchup bottle right next to her left hand. She let a strained smile cross her face as she picked up the bottle and handed it to Nathaniel. He took it from her, that small smile on his face, eyes widening slightly when his fingers brushed against her hand, but covering it as quickly as it happened.
What the hell was that about?
“Aw, nothing really,” Jesse offered from his spot next to her. “See, the others didn’t even notice, so it was nothing in the end.”
Larry and Jason were indeed carrying on like nothing had happened, probably because they didn’t notice it happen, but that didn’t mean nothing happened. Willow was sitting right here when a whole lot of something happened. And it would be nice if Jesse just listened to her for once and answered her question without any riddles.
“I don’t talk in riddles!”
“Okay fine, maybe sometimes. And maybe sometimes I keep stuff from you until the last moment. And I might just be behaving like a jackass for no other reason than to make you laugh at the wrong time. But I do all that for your own good. Well, not the acting like a jackass part. That’s mostly for my own amusement. But the other stuff, totally for you. Just trying to keep you from freaking out about the littlest things.”
Her question remained unanswered.
“Fine, don’t have to get all snippy about it. It’s nothing nefarious, or it might be, I don’t know. I can’t tell the future or anything. Well, not all of the future.”
Stop with the nonsense and explain why Nathaniel was watching her like a hawk!
“Maybe because he just realized that you’re Skye Storm.”
“Yeah, he kind of met you before, and I guess he recognizes your smell or something. It’s all about the scents and the sniffing with shifters.”
Okay, about to hyperventilate here.
How? Why? Her cover had just been blown to bits!
“Yeah, but look on the bright side.”
What bright side?
“Uh, not too sure about that. But you better look to it, because the situation might get a bit sticky from here on out.”
Could her life get any worse?
“Well, yeah, because that Anita woman they’re all talking about is Anita Blake. The Executioner. And the girlfriend of our sinister gift-giving Master vampire.”
Willow swallowed back the screams of fear and pure frustration that were building in her throat. She looked down at her plate and realized that her appetite was long gone. The urge to get far away from this place and never return was immense, but she forced herself to be calm. Finish dinner, get in the car, go home, and never set foot outside her bedroom again. Yeah, that was a good game plan.
“Too bad it’ll never work,” Jesse commented in a bored sort of voice.
Yeah, too bad.