Six Days the Animorphs Were Idiots
The Day Tobias Had a Date: Part Two
The Day Tobias Had a Date: Part Two
In retrospect, Tobias supposed he should have been worried. But he wasn’t. Sure, he was nervous, but it was pre-date nerves, not ‘Rachel is about to do something insane’ nerves.
Rachel had told him to come pick her up at her house at around six that evening. She had also said to dress nicely. That was currently causing Tobias more stress than the fact that she’d burst into uncontrollable laughter when he’d asked what she was planning.
Tobias owned a few extra sets of clothes, which he kept in Ax’s small scoop. But they were covered in dirt and burns and oddly-colored alien blood, so that was probably out. He quickly realized that would have to borrow something from Jake or Marco. Marco would probably make fun of him, so he decided to try Jake’s house first.
He stood on the Berensons’ front porch and rang the doorbell like a normal person would. Jake’s mom answered it, which was a relief because it meant he wouldn’t have to field any potentially dangerous questions from Tom.
“I’m a friend of Jake’s from school,” said Tobias, and that was explanation enough for Jake’s mom. She let him in and called up the stairs.
“Jake! Friend of yours is here!”
Jake came down the steps looking confused. Then he spotted Tobias.
“Hey,” he said. “What’s up?”
“I have a date with Rachel.”
Jake blinked. “What?”
“And I have no clothes.”
“Oh,” Jake looked baffled, and then he seemed to understand. “Oh. Well, uh…I guess we can figure something out. Where are you going?”
“I dunno. She wouldn’t say.” Tobias followed Jake back upstairs to his room. “She just said to wear something nice.”
“Something nice,” said Jake, leading Tobias into his bedroom. “Like ironed pants and a shirt with a collar, or like rent-a-tux nice?”
Jake threw up his hands. “Well, can you tell me anything about what you might be doing tonight?”
“She…probably doesn’t want me to rent a tux,” said Tobias slowly. “I think she knows that would be pretty much impossible for me. I think.”
“What’s the nicest possible thing that people our age can do?” asked Jake. “Maybe we could narrow it down from there.”
“She also said not to worry about not having any money.”
“Okay, so it can’t be that nice. Maybe by ‘nice’ she just means ‘clean.’ By the way, when was the last time you took a shower?”
“It rained three days ago.”
Jake threw a bath towel at his head in response.
* * *
At six o’clock, Tobias stood outside Rachel’s house, hands in his pockets. He was pretty sure he didn’t look nervous, only because he had sort of forgotten how facial expressions worked.
Well, that hadn’t been completely mortifying. Tom had stopped by to ask why Tobias was wearing Jake’s clothes, to which Jake had pulled Tom aside and whispered something that Tobias couldn’t quite make out with his lousy human hearing, but he was pretty sure he heard the word “welfare” in there somewhere.
Tom had looked suitably embarrassed and even offered to help them figure out how to tie the tie that had been hanging limply around Tobias’ neck. Between the three of them (plus Marco on speakerphone, reading aloud from a how-to webpage) they managed, in an impressive feat of inter-faction cooperation, to create something that sort of resembled what businesspeople wore.
Tobias never thought he’d take Ax’s side on the whole clothing issue.
Rachel waved to him from her bedroom window, and then vanished. After a moment, she opened the front door.
She was wearing a dress that Tobias could say with complete certainty he’d never seen her in before. It was a pale, pale pink color, but there was also lace, which was black, and beads, which were sparkly, and gold and silver…well, he didn’t know what that shiny foil stuff was called, but it made patterns of flowers across the neckline and down her hips.
The designer, in a rather odd oversight, had forgotten to give it a sleeve on one side. Also, the heels she wore made her tower above him by a few inches. And Tobias was not short.
“Hi,” she said. She was still grinning. Tobias wondered if she’d been grinning straight through the last four hours. “Are you ready?”
“Yeah,” said Tobias. “Uh. What are we doing?”
That grin widened, and only now did Tobias feel the sinking feeling that he probably should have from the very start.
“Mr. King was telling me that everyone who was at that restaurant last night got a call,” said Rachel. “To make up for chemical leak that caused a mass hallucination of a purple accordion porcupine, they’ve invited everyone back for a night, free of charge.”
“But we weren’t there,” said Tobias. “I mean, not really. And besides—”
“So we’ll just take Jenny and Erek’s spots. I know for a fact they’re not going back, they’re doing some Chee thing in the ocean.”
“Come on, nobody’s going to know we’re not them!” Rachel took his arm. “Here, practice it. ‘Reservation for two, under the name King.’ Not hard.”
But Tobias was not ready to let her pull him along just yet. “Rachel, this is obviously a trap. They’re going to make all the witnesses from last night into Controllers.”
“Duh. But we’ll be ready for them.” She smiled at him. She had a nice smile. “Come on, it’s free food and then we get to beat up Controllers and once they’re all unconscious, we can raid the dessert cart! How much better does it get?”
Tobias looked at her. She was still holding his arm. He could feel every one of her fingers pressing into his elbow. She hadn’t stopped smiling. He hadn’t seen her this happy since, well, ever.
“I guess it doesn’t,” said Tobias.
* * *
Electrifying. That was the word, Tobias decided as they waited to be seated. That was the word that summed up this entire operation. Rachel had not let go of his arm the entire way there.
Now, in a calculated move, Tobias put a cautious arm around Rachel. She didn’t pull away. She did the opposite of pull away. She snuggled in closer to him.
There was a distinct possibility that this was all a hallucination. Maybe he was actually lying in the dirt, slowly bleeding from fatal wounds inflected by an angry Hork-Bajir Controller, and this was his brain’s way of saying well, might as well let him die happy.
There were worse ways to go, he supposed.
He wondered if he wanted to risk a kiss. Then he wondered if that was even possible, with the way she was leaning on him. He’d have to turn his head like this and then tilt downward, and he didn’t want her to think that he was jostling her, trying to get her off him, because that would be horrible…
Luckily, a waiter arrived just then to show them to their table. Rachel pulled away from him, though she did not let go of his wrist. Then they sat opposite each other, with a candle separating them, which Tobias figured would put an end to any cuddling for a while.
Rachel was looking at the menu now, one pink fingernail resting on her lip. Tobias glanced down at his.
“This thing has no prices on it,” said Tobias.
“I know,” mouthed Rachel, giggling as if she was sharing a wonderful secret. Well, at least it wasn’t in French or something. He figured he ought to be safe with a steak or something. He was not going to embarrass himself by trying to pronounce filet mignon—whatever that was.
“I wonder if they’d let us see the wine list,” said Rachel.
“Let’s try not to get kicked out until after we’ve eaten,” said Tobias. Not even Rachel could pass for twenty-one. Plus, he didn’t feel like alcohol was a good idea in general. Or specifically tonight, when he was anticipating having to fight their way out.
The waiter came and went, taking their orders and telling them how cute they were together. Tobias didn’t appreciate being talked down to by a Controller, but he just gave a painful, awkward grin until the woman left, telling him how sweet he was to take his girlfriend somewhere so nice.
“I’m glad you asked me here,” said Rachel as they waited for their food.
“Oh. Uh. Well, it was sort of…your idea.”
“You asked me,” said Rachel. “Girls like to be asked places. Just, you know, for future reference.”
“I’ll remember that,” he promised.
Tobias had been afraid that they’d have nothing to talk about outside of being Animorphs, but that wasn’t the case. Rachel had tons to say, and at a very high speed. Mostly, Tobias nodded while she talked about gymnastics and her grades and her sisters. It wasn’t boring. Well. It was a little boring, but in a good way. In a safe way. In a ‘let’s pretend we might not die tomorrow’ way.
Tobias had never realized how much he’d missed mundane conversation until just now.
When Rachel started talking about butterfly knives, Tobias quickly turned the topic to her nail polish, which she discussed with equal enthusiasm. He was nodding with false appreciation at the bottle, which she had with her in her purse for some insane reason, when the waiter arrived with their food.
“I’m still mad I missed yesterday,” said Rachel, focusing more on her meal than Tobias. “It sounded amazing.”
“I missed it too, I was outside the whole time. One minute, everything was fine, and the next, there was a screaming mob running out the front door. I thought…I don’t know what I thought had happened. It wasn’t until after that I even realized, you know, who else had been there.”
“Oh yeah, that. I can’t believe they’re really trying to make that work. I mean. Really. I wonder what she sees in him.”
There was a short pause. Then:
“Wha…Tob…wh…what are you doing?”
Tobias looked up. Rachel was staring at him.
Also, the waiters were staring at him.
Actually, everyone in the restaurant was staring at him.
“Sir,” the maître d' said at last, and Tobias realized with a distinct sinking horror that the man was speaking to him, “I must request that you dine with a fork. It is located just beside your dish.”
Tobias set his steak back down on his plate.
“My bad,” he said.
That look Rachel was giving him now? Not electrifying. Not at all.
to be continued
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