"Where should I put my jacket, grandmother?" she said aloud, as she pulled the sleeves off of her arms.
"Throw it on the fire. You won't need it anymore," she answered herself. She did not, however, instead hanging it up in her closet.
And so it went. Turtleneck, trousers, socks and shoes, taken off and neatly put away. Now she stood in a simple, sleeveless blue dress, reaching down to mid-thigh, a white flower pattern on the skirt and a white bow tied around her waist. Her green leaf pin was put on a stray metal chain, and hung around her neck. A pair of black slip-ons adorned her feet. She took a blue wool coat for the cold.
Erin: She took the subway down to the candy shop, Home Sweet Home. It was late, but the shop was still open. Mr. Martin always kept the store open.
Erin sat down at a table, politely buying a small bag of jelly beans, so she wouldn't use the store without giving anything back. She put them into the brown satchel at her side, and waited.
Erin: http://i30.tinypic.com/2h2p15e.jpg <- going in that, with a bit shorter skirt]
The Storyteller: Aleksander Melikhin arrived only a few minutes later, entering the shop and looking around for Erin. He was dressed an open-necked polo shirt and designer jeans, an expensive red sports jacket thrown over his shoulder. He looked rich, fashionable, and just a hint predatory.
The Storyteller: His expression turned into a wide smile at the sight of Erin, and he made his way over towards her. "Erin, you look lovely."
Erin: Erin looked up. "You look very nice," she greeted in return, letting the compliment slide without comment. They would have looked a very strange sight to anyone else in the store, were the store not the occasional hang out and gathering place of half the Spring Court in London.
The Storyteller: "Thank you." The corner of Alek's lip quirked up. Something was amusing him, it seemed. He held out an arm for Erin in a gentlemanly fashion. "I was thinking something quiet and cozy for the evening, perhaps a show afterwards? They're showing old movies out on Hyde Park."
The Storyteller: "Dinner first, though." Aleksander said, smiling gently. "Would Mediterranean suit?"
Erin: "Mmm. So long as we are back in time to meet with the others," Erin replied, with a polite smile. "Wherever you wish to take me would suit. You are the one who knows what he is doing." She stood up, taking his arm. "I do not think I have often had Mediterranean."
The Storyteller: "Now what in the world gave you the idea that I know what I'm doing?" Aleksander said, arching an eyebrow and grinning. He was still apparently excessively cheerful. He led Erin outside, dipping into his pocket with his free hand. A car (a recent Corvette, to be precise) beeped as it unlocked.
Erin: "You are the one who asked. Do you not? Oh dear." Erin waited for him to get in to the car first, before joining him. She seemed very interested in the car, though more on a mechanical level than an aesthetic one.
The Storyteller: "I didn't actually expect you to say yes." Aleksander said, flashing a grin of very white teeth at Erin and starting the engine. The car hummed appreciatively. "So, I am going to just be making things up as I go along. Hopefully you won't hate me completely after this night is over."
Erin: "You didn't have a plan in case I did?" Erin asked, fingers placed over an amused smile at his admission. She didn't think she believed that. "You like to live dangerously, Aleksander."
She fastened the seatbelt, seeming pleased that the car seemed pleased, though it took her a while to adjust her wings in the seat.
The Storyteller: "Excitement is the spice of life." Aleksander declared as the car pulled into the street. He grinned as the machine drove down the street, moving with silken smoothness. Aleksander had a very nice car. He cast a look at Erin. "Besides, it's never a good idea to plan a date out too thoroughly. Romance doesn't blossom right on schedule."
Erin: "I wouldn't know," was all Erin replied, her antenna giving a wry quirk that was easy to miss. She was not being terribly easy tonight - likely because Aleksander reminded her much of a languid tiger. Beautiful, powerful, utterly charismatic, and no way of telling if it was hungry and would gobble you up.
She instead paid more attention to the car, which was a machine, and machines were things Erin felt safer around. These newer models of cars had their inner workings better hidden, making them seem like magic.
The Storyteller: "That," Aleksander said quietly, "is a crying shame."
The Storyteller: The car pulled up to a red light, and Alek stretched out an arm to touch Erin's hand, just for a moment. Then the light turned green, and the car was off once again.
Erin: Erin resisted the urge to snatch her hand away, feigning calm. She gave Alek a marble-eyed stare, much the way you'd watch a sleeping viper.
"Well," she said, simply enough, "that is why you are the one who knows what he is doing."
The Storyteller: Aleksander glanced at Erin's reaction. She had kept calm, but the Russian knew how to read people. His earlier smile disappeared. "Why?" He said quietly.
Erin: "Because you have done this before, and I have not," Erin answered with a shrug.
The Storyteller: "Right answer, wrong question." Aleksander said. He seemed serious, perhaps more so than Erin had seen him in a long time. "I'm wondering why you agreed to come. We can stop right now, I can take you home, and we'll never mention this again, if you want."
The Storyteller: "But don't you understand?" The Russian said, taking advantage of another red light to look at Erin. "You deserve this. You deserve to be taken out to dinner by pretty men, to be wined and dined and treated as something precious."
The Storyteller: "And if Sergei is too dense to do it, then I'll just have to demonstrate how it's done." Aleksander said, a small smile entering his expression. "Maybe it'll rub off on our favorite rabbit."
Erin: Erin stared at him with complete incomprehension. "I don't understand," she said in reply, lost and confused. "I don't understand at all. Why?"
She twiddled her feet. "I agreed..." She'd agreed for a lot of reasons, including a fair amount of momentary whim, and a fair more of the expectation he didn't expect it, and the heavy suspicion he had found a mental trigger and was doing his best to wrap her around it. But mostly... "You were the first person who ever asked me."
The Storyteller: "I think I should be honored, then." Alek said, grinning for a moment. He really was entirely too cheerful today. The Russian grew more serious after a moment though. "But what's not to understand? That you deserve this?"
Erin: "Why? I haven't done anything for it," Erin asked.
The Storyteller: "Don't be stupid." Aleksander said without rancor. He turned his attention back to the road for a little while. Nice car or no, someone still had to drive it. "Where do I start..."
The Storyteller: "Sergei worships you, even if he is an idiot about showing it. He thinks you saved his life, and maybe you did." Aleksander said. He continued. "And despite the occasional bursts of creepiness, you've been nothing but good to me as well. If it weren't for you, I'd be dead, or in jail. Instead, I'm driving a nice car, to an expensive restaurant, with a pretty girl. As for the occasional creepiness... Hell, I can be creepy too if I want." Aleksander said, grinning suddenly very much like a wolf. "I don't mind, Erin."
The Storyteller: "Besides. What does doing have anything to do with anything?" Alek said. He shrugged. "We're talking about a date, not the Nobel Prize. You're a pretty girl, you're nice, and both Sergei and I like you. I just asked you first."
Erin: "Things must be earned to be deserved. I am not sure that any of that was right," Erin mumbled. She stared at him and let the rest pass without comment, weighing the words of a manipulative liar against what she'd been told her entire life.
The Storyteller: "So." Alek said, falling silent. If the Russian didn't manage to get through to Erin, it was going to be a rather excruciating evening. "What would you have to do to think that you deserve this?"
Erin: "I don't... know?" Erin replied, staring straight ahead in thought. "You either did, or did not. I... did not."
The Storyteller: "Let's see. You got me out of jail, which I suppose not everyone would consider a good deed." Alek said with a faint smirk. "But you've also got me going honest, so there's that."
The Storyteller: "And Sergei is fixing people's sinks now, and is repentant and so on." The big Russian continued. "So, two career criminals either reformed or at least on the road to it. Not to mention Sergei's been mentioning a few of your other adventures. Banishing elves, exploring Wormwood's mansion, killing demons..."
The Storyteller: "And you still don't think you deserve a date." Aleksander said, sneaking a glance at Erin. "It ever occur to you that you just might have too-high standards?"
Erin: "I am not sure anyone would consider that a good deed," Erin mumbled under her breath about his jail sentence. "And Seryozha is the one who got the demon eaten by hellhounds."
"I don't know. This has never happened," Erin said, twisting her fingers together. "I am frightened."
The Storyteller: "That's alright." Alek said, seeming just a little amused by this admission. "If you want to back out, we can turn around. But think of this as a practice run, maybe?"
Erin: "It would be easier if you were not so dangerous, Aleksander. I think if I am not careful, you will eat me right up to my shoes." There was a certain amount of wry humor there, if a certain amount of genuine concern as well.
"I will... try," she agreed, though a bit wistfully. He was good at prying concessions out of her. Not so much the other way around.
The Storyteller: "I generally don't eat people I'm not invited to." Aleksander said with a wry smirk. He pulled the car over into a parking spot. Apparently you had arrived. "So try to enjoy the evening, and remember you can always slap me if I get fresh, yes?"
Erin: She waited for him to open his door before getting out as well, giving the seat a small pat. "Is that how it works?" she asked him, with a bit of a fish out of water look.
The Storyteller: "Usually, yes." Aleksander said, offering up an arm and leading the way into a restaurant with a generally Arabic theme. "If you're ever with someone you don't like, you can always leave. Dates are supposed to be fun, after all."
Erin: "I think I've only ever seen it done wrong," she gave a small admission, so softly he might not have been able to hear her.
She snapped her head back up towards him. "You're weird," she said, abruptly. Then she took his arm, rather primly, and let him guide her inside.
The Storyteller: "I am? How so?" Alek said, speaking quickly with the maitre d' and escorting Erin to a seat. It was a quiet sort of restaurant, with Middle Eastern music playing in the background and a generally half-lit ambiance. It felt warm and dark, oddly cozy for all that.
Erin: Erin just sniffed and gave him a face.
"What on here is good?" she asked, opening the menu and looking over the entrees. She'd normally stuck to cooking foods that Sergei professed to like, and Mediterranean hadn't been on the list.
The Storyteller: "They serve pita bread with cheese and olive oil to begin with. The spinach pies are excellent, and I rather like the falafel." Alek said, smiling a bit at Erin's expression.
Erin: "Is there anything sweet?" Erin asked, shifting her eyes from side to side. Now that Aleksander could see the white orbs behind the mask, it was harder to tell.
The Storyteller: "Have you ever had baklava?" Aleksander said with a slow smile.
Erin: Erin shook her head, looking curiously at his expression.
The Storyteller: "It's a dessert pastry. Little wafers full of nuts and then the whole thing is covered in honey. You can also get it with whipped cream and pistachios. Sweetest thing I've ever eaten." Alek said, enjoying this facet of education. "We'll get you one after the main course. You should like it, I think."
Erin: Erin just nodded, though now that he'd brought it up she wasn't sure she felt like bothering with the main course. She shrugged off her coat in the warm atmosphere, turning to place it on the back of the chair, momentarily revealing the skull marking on her back, between her wings.
"Why don't you pick something out?" she suggested, closing the menu.
The Storyteller: This Aleksander did, speaking quickly with the waiter when the latter arrived. In short order, the two had pita bread with olive oil and cheese as their appetizers, and the waiter was pouring out a very sweet champagne for Erin. Aleksander drank a darker wine for his part.
The Storyteller: "Care to say a toast?" The large Russian asked.
Erin: "Ah..." Erin looked around, slightly at a loss. "To what?" she asked, hesitantly picking up the glass.
The Storyteller: "What do you think is most worth celebrating?" Aleksander said, smiling faintly.
Erin: "Ah... my friends- no, my family." Her small, screwed up, morally dubious little family, but her family. It occurred after a moment this had a somewhat different meaning for Aleksander at the moment, but that just caused her to smile slightly. He could stand to be tweaked now and then. "To family."
The Storyteller: "To family." Aleksander said, raising his glass. If he considered this toast to be interesting, he gave no sign. But then Alek had a very good poker face. "Present and absent, remembered and never forgotten."
Erin: Erin grew slightly sober at the last, eyes turning distant as she recalled the memories of memories, accessories without faces, last seen over eighteen years ago. But she raised her glass as well, and then raised it to her lips.