Chapter 105

So far Hershel was surprised at how easily his date was going. The conversation was flowing easily now that they’d gotten past their initial awkward hurdle and Mary seemed to be genuinely enjoying herself. This put the part of him that had been secretly wondering if she had accepted his invitation out of pity at ease. The small boost in confidence helped him return the volley of words, and thus increased the fun Mary was having. It was a self-perpetuating cycle, but an exceptionally enjoyable one.

“Hmm. The steak looks really good,” Mary said, glancing over the menu for the first time since they’d arrived.

“It’s what they’re known for,” Hershel told her.

“Well then, I think I’ll give it a try,” she said, setting the menu back down. “It’s been too long since I had a well-cooked haunch of meat.”

“Got a carnivore streak?”

“I did live in the woods for several years. Canned food can only get you so far and a girl has to eat,” Mary said.

“I bet you throw one hell of a barbeque.”

“You would not be disappointed,” she confirmed. “Once it warms up again that might be a fun activity one weekend.”

“Yeah, it would. Maybe they’ll organize one for us. The school seems to be on top of it, what with the river trip and all,” Hershel pointed out.

Mary wrinkled her nose. “I’m not sure if I’ll be going on that. Much as I miss the outdoors, the things I enjoyed were the peace and serenity. I don’t think I’m likely to find those things with thirty alcohol-saturated freshman splashing around.”

Hershel nodded. “It’s really not my scene either, but Roy is beyond-words excited about it.”

“He has been good lately,” Mary said with a sigh. “I suppose he deserves a break here and there.”

Hershel winced involuntarily at the word “break.”

“I’d say he definitely deserves a little time to cut loose,” he said.

“And you’re not just saying that because you get to share in the memories of those loose times, huh?” Mary asked.

“Not at all,” Hershel replied. “Roy has some fun, but I much prefer my own memories. Especially on nights like this.”

“Very smooth answer, Mr. Daniels,” Mary said. “Roy might have some competition for the role of charmer."

*          *          *

"Wow, this place is really nice," Bubbles observed as Nick pulled out her chair for her. The restaurant wasn't actually all that high class, at least not by Nick's standards, but as he walked over to his own seat he decided he might as well roll with it.

"Just my way of saying thank you for your willingness to drive tonight," Nick said.

"Oh, it's no problem! I mean, if you'd already promised your friend he could use your car then that’s how it is and you should keep your promises.  Even when it’s super inconvenient. ‘That’s a promise’ means you’ll do it no matter what.”

“Indeed,” Nick said, wishing dearly he had a fake ID and could order some wine.

“Besides, it’s totally worth a few minutes behind the wheel to come out to an awesome place like this with you,” Bubbles said, a rosy blush tinting her cheeks. 

“You’re sweet,” Nick replied. “But I consider myself the lucky one. After all, I’m out with the most beautiful girl in the whole restaurant. And she’s a Super at that.”

“No way, I’m barely a Super at all. I mean, yeah, I love my power and it’s really cool and fun, but let’s be honest here: I’m not going to be saving any babies trapped in a fire or knocking out bank robbers. When I was little I kept thinking my power would bloom into something really cool and then it never happened and I was bummed for a while but then I kind of figured it’s easier to be a normal girl than a Hero anyway and that’s when I got okay with it.”

“That’s a very mature attitude,” Nick said. “And for the record, I think it’s an amazing ability. It must be a tremendous feeling to conjure something out of nothingness.”

“It’s pretty cool,” Bubbles agreed. “I didn’t use it too much first semester though cause I was really scared of showing to someone in the HCP and getting laughed at.”

“HCP? Oh, that’s right, Lander has a program for Supers, doesn’t it?”

“Oh yeah, it’s a big deal in the Super community. The ones who are in it keep themselves a secret, though, so it could totally be anyone you meet on campus,” Bubbles explained.

Nick raised an eyebrow. “Anyone, huh? So you’re telling me I could very well be sitting with a bona fide Hero in training right now.”

“As if. I hear that thing is crazy hard anyway. I’m much happier being a regular girl with something extra special about her,” Bubbles said chipperly.

Nick smiled. “I can see the appeal there. We normal people just have to find our specialness in other places.”

“So what makes you special then?”

“I am spectacular at blackjack,” Nick replied.

“I’ve heard of that; it’s the game that’s like Go Fish, right?”

“My dear girl, I have so very much to teach you.”

*          *          *

“You know, I’m really not used to surprises,” Mary said as Hershel piloted them around town in Nick’s car. “I’d be perfectly okay with you telling me where we’re going.”

“No way,” Hershel said. “I get to be possibly the first boy to surprise a telepath. You think there’s any way I’m passing on that honor?”

“Honor, huh? Someone is feeling confident.”

“Well, it has been a good night so far,” Hershel pointed out. It had been, too. The longer he’d been out with Mary the more they’d fallen into the comfortable rhythm of friends. There was still a romantic element to the evening, but the thing about knowing someone for several months is that changing one aspect of being with them doesn’t affect the entire existing dynamic. People who are friends don’t shift to entirely different individuals when they date; they merely become friends who are involved.

“Besides,” Hershel continued, “I could either be upbeat or worried, and worried seemed like it would have kind of dragged down the night.”

Mary giggled. “You make a good point. I still want to know where we’re going, though.”

“And you will. Just as soon as we arrive,” Hershel assured her.

Mary stuck out her tongue at Hershel, an act made all the more humorous by her prim and proper appearance. She really did want to know, but it bears mentioning that at no point did she ever consider reading his mind to find out. Well... not seriously consider, anyway. As far as Mary was concerned, tonight she was a normal girl on a normal date.