Francis expected the date to be a wash. Somehow, deep down, he knew it would be a complete bust. A waste of time, if not more drama he wanted nothing to do with. At some point, he expected her brother to show up and make a scene, leading to a screaming match that will inevitably give way to a new spine to hang over his bed and a fresh necklace of teeth that will go handsomely with his “suit”. It was only a matter of time.
Until then, though, as he rode in Tiny’s car, he needed to give credit where it was due. Tina had dope taste in music. He suspected her tastes given her fashion sense outside of dating (which that cream dress -DRESS- looked so alien on her), but the car rumbled with the fast beats of the drums. The metal frame shuddered and surrendered to the shrieks and riffs of the electric guitars, while the glass vibrated with the guttural growls and screams of the singers. Rather, it did when Francis joined in.
He exhaled as the song ended, settling back in his plush seat. It had a liner on it, but, if the arm rest and interior of the door were anything to go by, it was black leather under the velvet top. There was one over both seats, as well as across the bench that made the backseat. The interior glowed with the lights from the display, showing the next song in crystal clear detail, as well as the time, the date, where they were, what the temperature was outside- and, if it felt really anal about it, what they most likely ate for dinner about a month ago. There was a matching, shifting display for the meters before the custom wheel in Tina’s hands. Francis never saw such a change, but he supposed it wasn’t too strange to have a dual-grip set-up instead of a round wheel. What difference did it make for a being whose reflexes did circles around the normal human?
Though he was enjoying his time, letting go and relaxing, his “date” was anything but. Tiny seemed to only grow more tense by the minute, until even the soft whining of the wheels that could make it into the cabin made her eye twitch. She glared at him, glowered when he drummed on the airbag, grimaced as he sung and growled and- pretty much existed really. As the next song got to the chorus, she seemed to have had enough and turned it off, returning her hand to the bar of the wheel, knuckles blood red. Francis huffed, shaking his head... and turned the music back on- only for her to turn it off again- for him to turn it on a- off- then on- off- on- off- ON-
“Do you mind?” She exclaimed, catching his hand before it could hit the button.
“Aww... You wanted to hold my hand,” he said, and clasped it, “cooing”. “If you insist, but this is scandalous for a first date, isn’t it? Really showing how easy you are.”
She scoffed, wrenching her hand free, but it didn’t return to the wheel, instead creasing her brow.
“I knew this would be a mistake... I’m already getting a headache.”
“Your choice. I simply offered.”
“Don’t remind me... My brother’s going to kill me.”
“If he tries, I’ll pull his head out of his ass personally.”
“Don’t you mean put it i-”
“Nope... Last I checked, though, I’m on a date with you. Not your brother. Who gives a fuck what he thinks?”
She growled, slapping the “wheel”.
“It’s not that simple-”
“It really is.”
“I know this might seem hard for you to understand, but I have a family name to uphold. I can’t just gallivant around. My actions have consequences, and reflect upon the rest of my family.”
“Huh... and what your brother does, with hoeing out every girl he meets to join his harem? How does THAT reflect upon the family?” He yawned, stretched... then tried for the radio again- slapped away. As expected. He caught her hand instead, pushing it down on the arm rest, and twiddled and etched his thumb into the back of hers as he sighed. “Look. If you can’t get that stick out of your ass right now, you might as well turn around and take me back home. This is your day off to chill. You know what that word means, don’t you?”
She scoffed... but didn’t turn the car around, still roaring down the interstate towards the tri-state area. There was a... cultural intersection there, a crossroads of all things that made America the inbred cesspit it was. After taking a ramp off the interstate up to it, one had the choice to go left and find a row of hotels, one of which housed the Italian restaurant they were going to, as well as a strip mall with American’s favorite big box chain at its end. To the right was America’s fourth best box chain, fast food places, car dealership, car repair, and enough grifters in between offering other services that you could place a flag at each and be almost certain you were right... and, as one could predict, a Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet.
They went left, and parked right before the hotel. Right in a handicapped parking place. Francis would have said something, but it was dark o’clock with the majority who would be coming in already well and tucked away in their dark dealings above. The Italian restaurant was, also, mostly cleared, with those left looking like rejects from mob films –though were probably closer to the real deal. Francis felt their eyes upon him as he followed the Fang into a back room, a more... intimate environment. There were only three booths, all of them empty –save for one, now.
The waitress handed them their cutlery and menus, stating she will be back with a basket of garlic bread, then her padded feet plodded off, almost skipping with the force behind those tawny legs. Each step rose her olive green skirt, showing off the bushy, white tail under, showing where her spots truly began. Francis licked his lips, drinking in her fine curves, her medium breasts just peeking out from beside her arms as she swayed, her head covered in soft yellow curls around a pair of nubs-
“Do you need a moment in the janitor’s closet?” Tiny blurted, snapping her napkin and laying it upon her lap. She glanced after the doe for a second, long enough to see her slip through the door, and scoffed. “Thought you would have better taste than that.”
“I’m a simple man,” he stated, picking up his menu.
“Clearly... You do know what they serve here, right?”
“Nope. Not at all. The closest thing I had to I-talian was pizza.” He scoffed, and shot a dirty look over the menu. “You do realize I used to eat at places far nicer than this all the damn time?”
“No. I didn’t.”
“Oh right! None of you really know my history, do you? By now, you all know I’m a bloodthirsty convict, but not how I came to be one.”
“You’re a drachan. What more needs to be said?”
“You’re a Fang. For centuries your kind has been condemned and treated as a plague upon the world. All media treats you as monsters, and those that don’t... well, there’s a reason most label them as ‘comedies’.” He chortled, flipping the page of the menu. “Funny thing is there’s more love for dragons than vampires, so, in truth, what is there to really say about you?”
“There we go! You’re finally letting your hair down-”
“Just shut up.”
He hummed, focusing on the menu... Really, he was the one starting to feel insulted. They dare call THIS Italian? The roots of the meals, maybe, but the way they were described, the process; it was more Americanized slop. The calorie count would come more from the salt and preserves use that actually made it harder to make the meal than if they simply went with the traditional recipes- his time with Gordon’s crew really spoiled him. He never gave much thought before on the culture of the food, but, after almost two years with that fruity foodie, he could tell the difference between grits and polenta at a glance... and most restaurants that served “polenta” actually lied.
He sighed, annoyed, as he looked over the bloated meals, the unnecessary extras to classical dishes. Which seemed to have struck a nerve with his company.
“Fine,” she muttered. “Tell me about yourself.”
“You don’t have to act anymore. I get it... Tell me.”
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about but okay.” He closed the menu, set it before him- and realized the lovely little lamb had returned. With... “garlic” “bread”. He wasn’t sure which one was more a technicality, looking upon those radioactive orange discs. They sizzled and steamed, smelling of “garlic”, but he could tell what they did. They grabbed a bit of bread, hacked it up, spread butter on it then coated it with salt that dared called itself the vegetable and, the final disgrace, put bagged cheese on top to melt.
The doe left, retrieving their glasses of water after Tiny told her they needed more time, and it dawned on him as the Fang reached for one-
“Ah,” he uttered. “That’s why.”
“Huh?” She bit into it. Confirming his assumption. His deduction.
“It’s not real garlic bread because of you. What do they substitute for it, though?”
“You really do know your stuff... They use a synthetic clove to replicate the taste of garlic-”
“Or so you believe.” He picked up one of those abominations, bit into it- and spat it out. “Yeah. No. This doesn’t even taste like it. Nothing but chemicals.”
“Now who has the stick up their ass?”
“Whatever... Anyways, I’ve been out on the streets since I was fourteen-”
“No surprise there. Dad kick you out? Get into a fight?”
“House burned down. With dear old dad in it.”
“That’s a shame. What did he do? Ban you from your Nintendo? What did he do that pissed you off?”
“Bold assumption to think it was done out of spite-”
“Is it? Because you have yet to show a side that hasn’t been raving and vindictive.” She sighed as she closed her menu, as well. Glaring at the doe as she returned with the water. Francis could finally focus on her face, and saw it was both heart-shaped yet pointed at the same time. It was her eyes, though, that pulled him. They seemed to have two pupils, two irises, but not, as if they began to split, like a cell, but decided to stay together. They were a shade of pink, too, seeming to burn in her burnt-orange face.
“Are you finally ready?” She said, her voice just as surreal, as if at war with itself. Her eyes seemed to swivel, and her thin, purple lips curled into a smile, looking at Francis’s lapels. “Might I say that is a striking look, sir. Very unique.”
“Thank y-” He began, but was cut off by Tina.
“We are ready,” she said. “For appetizers, we would like mozzarella sticks and onion rings.”
“And for the main c-” The doe began, but it was Francis’ turn.
“I would actually like cheese fondue,” he said. “Pair it with breaded-then-lightly-fried portobello halves, sliced and braised eggplant, and... ‘onion rings’.”
“I’m... I’m not sure if we can do that, si-”
“If you can’t, then a base cheese fondue with herb-soaked bread will do... Unless you can’t do fondue at all... In that case, I would like a stout. Put a shot of hot sauce in it, preferably one with a vinegar base. That way I can wash down the swill I will most likely ingest tonight.”
“V...very well... and the main course?”
“I will have the seafood medley platter,” Tina stated. Her tone was wavering, her hands shaking as she picked up both menus, handing them to the doe. They rattled softly, waiting for the woman to write it down, humming away, but relieved them before she turned to Francis.
“Tell you what. How long have you worked here?”
“About five years.”
“Five years? That’s a long time. Do they pay you well? Do you get paid fairly, or is it all by tip?”
“Francis,” Tiny grumbled. Growled.
“They do,” The doe said. “Tips are added to the final total, but I still make above minimum.”
“Most places like this do tally tip into the cost, but that’s great. You must have met a lot of people while here, coming and going-”
“Francis.” Tiny repeated. Far more curt. So he cut straight to the point.
“How about you surprise me. Pick an entree you think I will like. With your five years of experience, I have confidence you can... Okay, darling?”
He winked, smirking at her, and the dear lass tittered- cut off as Tina cleared her throat. The waitress did the same, and closed her notebook, hurrying off... Leaving the two alone again-
“You really do love to push people’s buttons, don’t you?” Tiny blurted. “It doesn’t matter where you are. You have to either be trying to get into someone’s pants or antagonizing them.”
“With you, it’s both. At the same time... After all, is this what you imagined your first date being?”
She laughed, a derisive thing, and shook her head.
“Oh, no. I’m not counting this atrocity as a ‘date’-”
“Oh? Then we’ll simply have to go on another one-”
“After tonight, I’m with my brother on you. You are such a repugnant, vile, malicious, sadistic-”
“Go on. I can only get more erect. The table isn’t even lifting yet.” She growled, slamming her head down on the table while he chortled, shaking his. “Besides, you don’t believe that.”
“And how do you know?”
“Because you would have already tried to shove my head through that wall... Where was I- ah! Yes. I have been homeless since I was fourteen after an unfortunate Taco Tuesday.”
“I can’t tell if you’re being serious or not and that’s scary.”
“Isn’t it, though?” He creased his hands on the table, and loomed over her, glaring at the back of her head. “Imagine. Being a teenager, and you not only lose the only place you called home but also the only person who ever gave a damn about you. All in one night... The media thought I was dead, and, when I went to family, they turned on me. Called me a monster, a bastard... I was alone. I was only a kid now forced to survive in the urban jungle. I needed to turn to its dark underbelly. I needed to become a part of it... I was a runner for so many different gangs, then an enforcer, and, finally, in most of them, their destroyer. And I was good at it. I destroyed so many, ruined so many lives, all for survival. I have seen the worst of humanity, ate sin for most of my life... so yes. I’m a bit vindictive towards others. I’m spiteful. I give no quarter when people fuck with me, because I know it can be far... far worse.”
“Wow... Um... I’m... sorry-”
“No! No. Don’t apologize.”
“But I should. I have been-”
“You have been acting as one should. If there’s one thing that pisses me off more than dickheads it’s false sympathy... I get it. I’m a big guy, an imposing guy. My background, what I am, terrifies most people when they first see me... and, given my backstory, it is justified. However, I’ve stated it since day one: Don’t FUCK with me... and I won’t fuck with you... You said I wouldn’t understand, that I wouldn’t ‘get’ family and reputation and prestige-”
“I didn’t say prestige-”
“It was implied... Want to know what I learned? Even the highest members of society all have to shit. We are all dirty shitters at the end of the day.” He clapped his hands, and looked to the doe to the right. “You came back at the perfect time, didn’t you?”
“You’re right, though,” the doe said, and placed two small dishes before them after having set the plates of onion rings and mozzarella sticks on the table. She, also, placed his amber savior by him, the red of the hot sauce slowly working its way down into the depths. “Never gave it much thought, but we all do have to crap.”
“And when we do we all have to either sit or squat. Some might use bidets, but paper is still used as no one has figured out a better way to wipe their ass. If they are so great, why haven’t they figured out a better way that saves the environment?”
“Or like in that one movie with the three seashells-”
“Don’t remind me of that. I love the movie, but every day that passes it’s becoming more like a documentary.”
“I know, right? I am so sick of-”
“How are our entrees coming?” Tina cut in.
“Oh. Let me go check.”
She was off... and Tiny sighed, shaking her head.
“What?” Francis said.
“How is it you can strike up conversations with almost anyone? How is it so many people seem to just... like you?”
“Eh? They do? Most run away.”
“But I’m talking about those that do stay, that don’t... How? You are so crass and arrogant and bullheaded and hot-tempered-”
“And honest... I’m not afraid to tell it like it is. I don’t sugarcoat what I say, and, if I don’t like someone, I make sure that they know... but I don’t make it a business of making enemies. Why burn a bridge before it can be used?” He took a drink from his glass- and regretted it. “Good God! They couldn’t even spring for good booze?”
“But, again, I don’t understand it. You come off as this... ahem... ‘raging hard-on’-”
“Because I am. I am always horny, and have reason to be angry... I might have learned to tune out the whispers, the hushed hisses, but I know they’re still there. I know they are still insulting me... Take the rat pack, for instance. They might have made it clear, but they and others that scurry away all have been doing it since before I arrived, since I was but a rumor.”
“And... you are okay with that?”
“No. It’s kind of why I’m always angry... but it’s that sort of anger that doesn’t amount to anything, you know? The kind that keeps you warm, that keeps you alert... They aren’t worth more than that.”
“You do know that even keeping that little bit of anger isn’t normal, right? Most people aren’t always angry... Then again, who am I one to talk-”
“Yeah. Your brother is a right cunt, isn’t he?”
She gasped, and sat straight up.
“What did you just say? What word?”
“You said it again!”
“That is incredibly offensive.”
“For a rightly offensive person. The cunt deserves to be called what he is. Goodness knows he is surrounded by enough vapid twats.”
… She laughed, and once more that smile returned, now in full. It was like the door to her gilded cage was opened at last, and she finally let herself go. Their conversation became far more civil, discussing hobbies, finding hobbies she would possibly like. How does one go twenty-four years without finding SOMETHING that truly interests them? She was surprised to hear about his card hobby... but understood why as he explained its origin. What intrigued her the most, though was the harpy that ran it.
“I remember Beatrice,” she stated, shucking one of her last two mussels. She tore through the crab legs and lobster first, with only those and the oysters left. Francis, meanwhile, was given a nice, light chicken Parmesan. An actual chicken Parmesan; the doe, Debbie, talked with the chef apparently and told her to make it a more traditional recipe than the Americanized goo she is used to serving. Given the extra garnishings on the side, it seemed she was pleased with i- “Are you listening?”
“If you’re not careful, I might make you eat these oysters.”
“Are you coming on to me, Tina.”
“Maybe I am.” He guffawed as she cooed, both of them laughing then sighing. She finished the mussel she was on then picked up the last, working her knife into the meat. “As I was saying, I remember her. She was rather standoffish in school. Tended to stay to herself... I think she tried at the beginning to make friends, but people thought she was weird.”
“Makes sense, given her history.”
“What about it?”
“She had a compromised immune system and had to live in a bubble for over a decade.”
“Oh my God. I didn’t even know... Why didn’t she tell anyone?”
“And be pitied? Again, I understand why-”
“Which is why she opened up to you... You know. I think I’m starting to get it.”
They finished eating then bee-lined to the drive-in. Literally. There was no straight path to it, and more often than not they pulled over to try to mess around. The hills, the area was alive with their laughter, with their bickering, more playful than it had ever before been. But they did make it to the drive-in- and decided upon the other double-feature. Turned out the movies she “chose” were her brother’s “recommendations”. The other two were back-to-back horror classics, which they enjoyed in the backseat, huddled together. For as strong as she tried to be, she still scared rather easily... and she was nice to hold.
The last movie’s credits began to roll... and she unwound from his lap. Begrudgingly. She got back into the driver’s seat, but Francis decided to stay in the back, stretched out upon it. She shot glances back, which he pretended not to look, and it became another game between them until the car slowed and left the highway, back onto the grumbling, rumbling path to Paradise.
He groaned as it pulled into the parking lot of the apartments, sitting up, and opened the driver’s side door of the backseat, stepping out. He yawned, but smiled as he saluted then waved Tiny off, racing against the coming dawn. It might not harm Fangs, but it was still irksome to them. As it was to him at that moment-
His phone buzzed in his pocket. As it had all night. He didn’t think it was wise to pull it out around her... even though he really should have given her his number, but... another day. Another day. He finally pulled it out, though, now that he was alone, and saw there were only two new pictures from the lamia... as well as one new message from his ‘admirer’.
I don’t expect an answer right away. After all, you had a date. Just label me as... Destiny in your phone. We’ll talk later.
Not with that attitude- oh, who am I kidding? This sounds like fun, he thought, and chuckled as he yawned again, lumbering up the steps to his apartment and into bed with a very antsy harpy. She accepted him even in her sleep, nuzzling his neck, smiling as his eyes slid shut.