Jack was ignoring Chase.
He didn't want to, and his need to pay homage to Evil's most powerful warrior was growing by the minute. But he had a plan now, desperate and clipped from a magazine though it was.
He touched the list rolled up in his pocket, assuring himself it was still there. That scrap of paper was the only thing keeping him from heading for Chase at a dead run. It was his master stroke, the key to finally winning some long-deserved recognition from his idol.
It also looked a lot like a cookie recipe.
He'd found it in one of the old magazines his mother left around. After reading one on a deadly dull day when there was nothing else to do, he'd been surprised to find himself hooked. Teenage boys really shouldn't be that interested in a magazine targeted at middle-aged women, but since when had he been normal?
This piece had caught his eye right away, bright headline echoing his innermost thoughts: How To Catch Any Man's Attention- And Keep It. According to the article, it took an old-time "recipe" for man catching and revamped it, explaining in modern terms how to attract the attention of even the most stubborn of males.
The recipe went thusly:
A pound of Patience
A cup of Indifference
A sprinkling of Spice
A pinch of Jealousy
A spoonful of Lust
The article below it explained each "ingredient" and how to use it in daily flirtation.
Be patient! Men don't like a woman who's too pushy, so don't let your enthusiasm make you act like a stalker. If it's meant to be, he'll come to you- eventually.
Be indifferent. Men like a challenge, so don't make it too easy for him! Act a little coy, be a little shy, or just ignore him for awhile. Running away will bring out his predator instincts.
Spice up your life! Do something that catches his attention, like changing your hair color, or just buy a hot new outfit. Knowing there's more to you then the same old thing will spark his interest.
Make him jealous! Flaunt your new look with another man. Even if it's just a friend, it will burn him up that someone else has your attention.
You know what this means. Make him want you! Don't act skanky, but let him get a glimpse of your inner vixen. He's guaranteed to come begging for more!
Jack knew it was kind of weird to follow advice intended to get women laid, but there were no handy-dandy rule books designed for getting an evil dragon warlord to make you his apprentice. This was the closest thing, and with a little twisting, he hoped it would help him attract Chase's attention.
Which led to Jack's current situation. He was patiently avoiding his evil icon, ignoring him at Showdowns and staying well away from Chase's home. He hadn't spoken to the man in weeks, and had barely even seen him. It was driving him more than a little crazy, and he'd started taking a hit-and-run approach to grabbing shen-gong-wu, ensuring that he'd spend as little time in Chase's presence as possible.
It was actually helping him nab the wu; less time spent boasting and spouting evil monologues led to better chances of actually getting to it, as well as earning him less taunting and fewer beatings. He had even won a recent Showdown, and come surprisingly close to kicking butt in two other encounters with the monks.
Aside from that, though, he couldn't tell if his plan was working or not. It was time to kick it up a notch.
Jack spread his arms to the sky as he announced to no one in particular "Jack Spicer, Evil Boy Genius, is beginning Phase 2 of his dastardly plan!" He threw back his head and gave a long, cackling evil laugh.
Chase sipped idly at his Lao Mang Long. One foot clawed restlessly at the air, signifying great agitation in the usually controlled Prince of Evil. There was something . . . missing. An aura of great stillness hung over his lair. It was a stifling, oppressive silence, and it irked him.
He considered going out to bait the monks, but it was beneath him to annoy them merely for the purpose of amusement; there were no shen-gong-wu active currently, and they possessed nothing he truly wanted to steal. Unlike that idiot Spicer, he broke into the Xiaolin vaults only when he had reason to.
By all the gods, that was what vexed him! That annoying worm hadn't been to the mountain in months. What was more, he had given up his moronically adoring behavior, going so far as to ignore Chase when they met.
His foot ceased its tapping as a thought struck him. Had Jack finally outgrown his childish adoration? It would explain his actions, and his conduct at recent Showdowns certainly hinted at the onset of some level of maturity. Telling himself he was pleased at the prospect of no longer having to deal with Jack Spicer, Chase ignored the small part of him that wondered why the quiet made him so agitated then.
He rose smoothly and headed for the garden, finishing his soup and calling a few of his warriors telepathically as he did so. Sparring would break the monotony nicely, and add some noise to his surroundings.
Peaceful or not, it was just too damn quiet.
It was much easier, Jack found, to declare Phase 2 than to actually start it. He had decided to take the third step literally, because there really wasn't much else he could change that Chase would notice. All his attempts to impress the man in the past had failed miserably.
He was unwilling to change his hair color, however. It made an in-your-face statement, and besides, it matched his eyes. He didn't really want to get a new look, either. His black trench coat and pants were a classic evil style, and his goggles were just too cool.
But he had to do something. Jack imagined Chase's rich voice filled with approval as he told Jack what a fine specimen of Heylin he had become. He could almost hear those dark, powerful tones speaking the words he yearned to hear.
"I want you, Jack. I want you to serve under me, to learn from me- and in time, to rule the world at my side."
Maybe Chase would touch him then, not with the usual intent to hurt, but in a casual way. Maybe even affectionately, like a friend.
Jack derailed that train of thought before it could get too weird. He idolized Chase, and he was desperate to learn from the man, but he knew better than to think Chase would offer him friendship. He shook himself out of his reverie, returning to the task at hand. What to change, what to change . . . he looked down at himself and made his decision. Clothes were considerably less permanent than hair, and drastic change required some measure of sacrifice.
Chase was worth it.
Chase hummed in contentment as he headed for the stone pool, the adjoining waterfall of which served him as a shower. He had just thoroughly trounced three of his warriors working in tandem, and a fourth in single combat. It was hardly a difficult feat, for him, but it made him cheerful nonetheless.
It also distracted him from the absence of Jack Spicer.
Jack shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. This had not been one of his better ideas.
And considering all the bad ideas he'd had, that was saying something.
After deciding to change his style, he had gone to his mother, freshly home from yet another vacation. He knew she kept a personal costumier on call, and he didn't want to waste time looking fruitlessly through random clothes if he could help it.
His mother had been thrilled, taking his request to mean that he was finally done with his "creepy little goth phase" as she called it.
"Don't worry dear," she assured him as she swiftly dialed her cell phone. "Bobby does men too, and I know he'd just love the chance to give you a whole new look." She placed her mouth to the phone.
"Bobby, it's about Jack. He's finally coming out of that phase . . . yes, I know darling, I thought so too. But he wants a new look . . . can you darling? How soon? Oh no, that's wonderful! I'll send him right over."
That had been several hours ago, and Jack was now thoroughly regretting his decision. "Bobby" had turned out to be a very enthusiastic blond man who thought Jack needed something trendy and bright to offset "that truly awful complexion, what are you, a vampire?" some colored contacts for his "scary demon-looking, ugh" eyes, and a whole new hair color, "maybe blonde, we do have sooo much more fun- wink wink!"
Although it would definitely have been different, Jack was fairly certain that showing up bottle blonde and wearing pastels was not the best way to gain Chase's attention. He had rejected every outfit the increasingly annoyed clothier had thrown at him, causing Bobby to pout to no end.
After being forced to try on a striped pink button-down shirt that clashed horribly with his hair, Jack finally snapped. He whirled as Bobby returned with an armload of shirts, knocking a mound of brightly colored polos to the floor.
"What don't you get?" He yelled in the surprised man's face. "I'm Jack Spicer, Evil friggin' Boy Genius, and I do not wear pink! I wear black, and red, and . . . evil colors! And I do not," he ripped off the pink monstrosity "wear button-down shirts. I want something I can look cool and kick ass in- or at least freaking move in. You got that?"
"Oh my gawd!" Bobby's squeal went several decibels past pain, and Jack was filled with dread as he imagined explaining this little argument to his mother.
"Why didn't you tell me? Here you wanted Queen of the Damned, and I've been giving you Twilight!"
"Huh?" Jack gaped in confusion. Bobby didn't seem mad at him, which was good, but what on earth was the man talking about?
"You're a little young, but that's okay. I was precocious too. Don't you worry- I have a fully stocked collection of club wear. Lots of leather and metal- ooo, maybe even a collar . . ." Bobby hurried off, chattering excitedly, while Jack stood dumbstruck. It sounded like the clothes he was trying on were about to get decidedly more cool.
Or at least, not pastel.
Chase Young sat unmoving as the steaming water cascaded down on him, running across his skin like a lover's caress. He had been in the pool for hours, letting his mind drift as he soaked. He filled his thoughts with everything and nothing, peace growing within him as he emptied himself of discordant feelings.
It was a hollow peace, as it had been ever since he lost his soul, but it was peace all the same.
Suddenly he thought of Jack, the memory surfacing with a flash, like a fish in a pond. Chase had sent his cats to bring Spicer to him once, during that fiasco with the giant spiders. When they had, the boy had been wrapped only in a towel, soap bubbles still dripping from his hair as he nattered on about his Saturday bubble bath.
He wondered if Jack still took bubble baths. If he was, perhaps, taking one right now . . .
Chase steered his thoughts to other matters. Bathing or not, the boy was a nuisance- one that was now out of his hair.
Jack looked at himself in the mirror, surveying his outfit uncertainly. It was dark, definitely, and it could certainly work as evil, but it was a little bit . . . revealing.
The pants were a perfectly acceptable black, but they were made of tight-fitting leather that somehow clung to his skin while still allowing him to move freely. The shirt was dark red cotton, with black mesh sleeves reaching from shoulder to wrist where they tucked into his usual gloves, which Bobby had eagerly hailed as "the perfect accessory". His pale skin glimmered between the holes in the mesh, and a sliver showed between the edge of the shirt and pants when he stretched too far. Bobby assured him that this was desirable, and would help show off "that adorably trim figure."
Jack had decided to let Bobby continue to think he was going clubbing, not sure how much of their conversation was going to make it back to his mother. She had never noticed his criminal activities, and probably wouldn't care if she did, but he wasn't about to clue her in to things she might disapprove of. Speaking of which . . . "This outfit is way Eviler, but I don't think mom will like it."
Bobby pursed his lips. "Hmm. You may be right. Ooo, I know!" He giggled in a way that set Jack's teeth on edge as he flounced over to the pile of discarded clothing, grabbing a pair of black jeans and a dark green shirt that Jack had announced inappropriate hours ago. "Just get these as well, wear them home, and we'll wrap those up. Then tonight you can go seduce all the pretty boys you want."
"Pretty . . . boys?" Jack meeped in shock, red eyes growing wide.
"Oh, don't worry dear, your mother hasn't noticed yet, and I won't tell." Bobby tittered "And I don't hit on customers- terrible idea, never works out well."
Jack stood in stunned silence as Bobby briskly removed his current shirt and tugged the other one down over his head. Did Bobby know something he didn't? Did he like men? Did he like. . . Chase?
Jack snapped back to reality as Bobby ran a hand through his hair. "Are you absolutely sure you don't want to do anything else with your look, dear? New boots, to match that outfit maybe? And we can do some wonderful things that will make your hair so much more high impact, without even having to change the color at all. And that makeup has potential, but there are just a few teensy improvements. . ."
Jack couldn't summon the will to protest as Bobby steered him to chair in front of a lighted mirror.