Nick had seen Mae excited before. Like the irritatingly numerous times when she pulled him up to dance, or just before the goblin market met each month…
But now, as she stood in the doorway, he knew that this level of excitement was something else. Quit possibly a sign of some underlying medical condition. More likely than not dangerous.
In a strange way, she reminded Nick of a puppy. Except that Nick can scare puppies off and Mae was proving to be a lot more resilient.
"Are you coming?" She called out, hair flooded with the sunlight. She'd dyed it a darker pink this summer. Instead of it being luminous, it now reminded Nick of the red flowers that were the ticket to the goblin market.
"Not until you tell me where we're going." Nick said, pulling his car keys from his pocket and holding them, resisting the urge to waggle them under her nose.
"It's a surprise." She argued, and Nick tried not to laugh.
"Is Jamie coming?" He asked, knowing full well wasn't. "Or Alan?"
"No. I could drive, if that's what's making you so reluctant? I like to think I'm getting very good."
Nick just looked at her. Mae's last driving lesson hadn't gone down well. "Horror" was a new word Mae was teaching Nick the meaning of. With Mae behind the wheel of his car, Nick understood it. All too well.
"Fine!" Mae huffed, "But seriously, we're going to miss the start!"
"Start?" Nick mused. "So – It's obviously a date, because we aren't bringing the double act, and it's something that starts…"
Mae looked like a disgruntled rose. "Yes. Nicely done Sherlock. Let's go already."
"And," Nick carried on regardless, "you won't tell me anything more. So this leaves me with only one option that I would ever consider…" Nick walked over to where Mae was leaning against the door. Her breath hitched when Nick bent down so that his mouth was next to her ear..
"Oh yeah?" Mae said, her tone nonchalant.
"I shall have to seduce your secrets from you." Nick's lips slide down from her ear. Mae laughed, a weird breathy noise, and pulled away.
"Nope. As nice a way as that would be to spend an evening - My idea is better."
Nick had been driving for over two hours before Mae had started to sit up in her seat and take navigating seriously. Nick could have done it himself, and then Mae could have entertained him..
"No." Mae had said flatly, which just hadn't seemed fair. So Nick had reluctantly made a deal. Mae could have her stupid map, but Nick got the stereo.
"Okay. Turn left here." Mae said, suddenly. Nick flicked on his turn signal and they headed down a tiny little street between two old brick walls. The two walls were so close that Nick was watching his wing mirrors against the walls, feeling that "horror" thing again.
"Hmm." Nick said, taking his mind off of his poor car. Pity, there's another feeling. "So the date is meeting your dealer in a back alley. I've heard of worse."
Mae threw her head back and laughed.
"Not quite." She answered, and pointed to an upcoming gap in the wall. "Turn off into there and park."
Wincing, Nick tried not to think off his paintwork and turned into a surprisingly spacious car park in front of an old stone café. The front of the building had a large window, and yellow light spilled out.
"It's not a meal by candlelight, is it?" Nick asked cautiously. "We had one of those last week."
"Only because you didn't pay the power bill."
"How quickly you dismiss my gestures of love."
It was easier to bicker than contemplate what might be waiting for Nick inside the crooked old building.
So that was what he did as they entered the café. Nick even remembered to hold the door open for Mae. Alan, Nick thought, would have been proud.