To conquer the date, I reckoned, I needed to understand the date. I needed to get inside the mind of a date. Not Venus, the date process itself.
At first, I thought a date was like a tryout. People went on one to kick ass and show off why people should want them. Then I remembered how all the dates stop and people get lazy once they got into relationships.
Dates involved more bluffing. People try to look better to a date than they really were. Some dating person would show up out of nowhere, put on a false front, give their damnedest, and hope they achieved enough victory to force an opposing force to give up. And, if someone failed, they were to hide for awhile, then go out and try on another vulnerable target.
Those tricky human bastards. Dating is asymmetrical warfare. Asymmetrical warfare I could deal with. For the entirely unknown reason that I requested a date with a heroine who would never feel anything but utter contempt for me, I would deal with it. Though, with the end of the date already decided, that should have taken the pressure off. I couldn’t ruin a date destined to go badly.
I needed to plan this mess out like an ambush. I possessed ill-gotten money and superficial charm in my arsenal of assets. I had the pick of Empyreal City, a town full of restaurants. I’d just never been on a date before.
Oh, sure, I’d had relationships. I only arrived here in this dimension because of my ex. Even if she broke up with me much sooner, I think she still would have turned on me and left me laying against that Dimension Bomb on principle. She and the others took it personally that I wanted to blow up the planet. Before I played revolutionary and dealt with the occasional groupie, my time as a supervillain still earned me attention. Those were the sorts of women and men who married convicted serial killers, though. That’s just low, getting involved with someone so incompetent that they remained in prison.
They all wanted something. I learned that from the proposition when I worked in Intelligence over there. They hoped to gain something from pursuing me. At least the ones in Intelligence attempted to off me a short time after meeting me. That saved me a lot of time in those relationships. The only one of them I never quite pegged was that last one. The whole “revolutionary movement” thing meant I never took her out on a formal date, so there’s no use dwelling on that anymore.
Instead, I needed to think up an entire new way of dealing with Venus. Dancing? No…no that’s just what she’ll be expecting.
Just like Venus expected to wear some fancy dress, a notion I dispelled when I left her a message about the date. She probably didn’t want to talk to me, but a GPS check confirmed her continued presence in the city. She’d been checking up on the scenes of my crimes. I’m sure I left some clues around, but nothing that gave her any idea what I planned to do. When I committed those crimes, even I didn’t know what I’d do.
Now, courtesy of my long-awaited shipment from Michelangelo, I knew what trials to force on Venus. 3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate, or BZ, caused all sorts of interesting effects in people: hallucinations, delusions, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech, stupor, erratic behavior, crying, laughing, pleading, clinging, mumbling, vomiting, euphoria, stumbling…y’all get the picture.
I knew this sort of thing. I just needed to integrate that with the American dating experience. It couldn’t be worse than covering my weaknesses with wine. That, and the laser-edged butcher’s knife were an essential part of how I planned to end the date.
Said date began on Tuesday. Venus never called me back, so I suspected she would stand me up. Imagine my amazement when the driver pulled up and she stood. In a dress! And flats! She looked like a regular person. A person who didn’t punch things. I’d seen her without the mask before, but she looked…weird. Still, I enjoyed seeing her outside the skintight costume.
As the car stopped, I lowered the window and jumped out of it. I rolled and popped up to my feet beside Venus. I popped up and offered a purple wax-dipped rose to her. Venus blinked as she looked between the rose and me. “That’s for me?” she asked.
I nodded vigorously and smiled.
Venus tentatively reached for the flower, eyebrows scrunching up. She even stopped to look over the rare sight of me in a button-down shirt and tie. That’s right. The big night was so special to me, I went out and bought entirely new boxers so I would seem especially fresh.
Remember, do right by your balls, and they’ll do right by you. That goes extra for the ladies out there.
As skeptical as a glorified cop going out with an infamous serial killer, Venus took the flower. She didn’t take me up on it when I offered her my elbow, though. Then the driver rushed out to get the door for her. It killed my thunder. Suddenly, all I’d done on the date was kinky things to a rose using candle wax.
I did stop the car to try and salvage the start of the date, though. I dropped off a jacket and a roll of money with a homeless guy seated near the pickup address.
Birds and the bees aside, at least Venus spoke to me. “You’re not going to have me dress this way, drive me around in a non-stretch limo, and give me this flower thing just to embarrass us both at a fancy-restaurant, are you?”
I noticed she sat as far away from me as she could. “Nope. That’d just make the whole situation much more awkward than it already is. Extra rules, a sommelier, bleh. It’s not a knock against you. You’d wear high heels and I’d almost certainly make a scene. You’ll still probably hate all this, but at least you’ll be slightly less inconvenienced. How are you doing tonight? Did you bring enough in that purse to take me out if things go bad?”
Venus held the purse a little closer. “I brought enough to make you regret trying anything. Where’s your emergency stash?”
I spread my hands. Then I pulled up the sleeves of my shirt. “As you can see, I have nothing up my sleeve, and at no time does my hand leave my wrist. Well, that part depends on you and any knives you get a hold of, but this is it. Heck, I even told the driver I hired that he’ll take orders from you once we reach the restaurant. You and I have a habit of getting into fights when all I want to do is talk, but that’s on you tonight. You’ll have to be less honest than the criminal.”
She rolled her eyes. “You’ve got something planned. You’re can’t even stop trying your mind games. You even did that for that bum so I’d think better of you.”
I held up my hands, then remembered my sleeves and rolled them back up. “Ok. That’s instinctive. I’m sorry. Maybe we should stay away from talking about our…work.”
Just then, her phone rang. Except the phone that rang wasn’t the phone I had wiretapped. I still received a signal from that one. “Excuse me, I need to take this. I have friends checking on me. If I don’t answer, they’ll bring every member of law enforcement in the city down on your head.”
I shooed her away then. “Alright, enjoy your conversation. As much as I like it to rain men, that’s not what tonight’s about.”
The good news: I used that time to trace her wiretapped phone back to City Hall. The bad news: she used that call to avoid talking to me all the way there.
The date did pick up once we got to the restaurant, a quirky place that featured grills at each table.
“I’m going to have to let you go. I think Gecko brought me to a torture chamber,” Venus spoke into her cell before hanging up. Then, to the host who seated us, she asked, “Excuse me, what kind of restaurant is this? My date didn’t warn me about the tables.”
The host shot her a smile. “So inconsiderate of him. Here we let diners prepare their own food at the table. It’s very simple, hon, but we recommend you are careful with the burners and come with enough time to spend with us. Are you ready to order drinks, or would you like me to slap your boyfriend first for springing this on you?”
“He’s not my boyfriend, but go ahead.”
Campy motherfucker had one hell of a wrist, I’ll give him that. I didn’t want to ruin things, but I had comebacks for Venus.
“Ow. Careful, hon. If you keep this up, I’ll take this fine fellow home instead. He’s got nice hands.”
“Ooh,” our host squealed, but didn’t allow himself to be baited into any more banter. Instead, both Venus and I opted for soft drinks over alcohol.
“You don’t have to hate me at the moment, Venus. In fact, I hope you’ve been well. And Leah, too. By the way, do you actually teach over there at the academy?”
“What do you teach?”
“Oh come now, that’s a waste of a mind if that’s all. You have to have some other interests and ideas about what young superhumans need to know.”
“Sometimes I lecture about fight psychology…”
I had to coax the conversation out of her, but I soon got Venus talking about herself. People love to talk about themselves. I remembered that from my experience being hit on by guys a few times. Unfortunately, talking about myself scared them away, but at least it made me feel like they cared before they screamed and ran off.
“What about for fun? I know I don’t get out much for reasons other than, you know, the job, but I can still read and watch a few things. I bet you exercise that formidable mind of yours too, eh?” I said after the waiter took our order. It was a good time to mix things up, but she turned it around on me.
“I know what you’re doing. You’re trying to learn about me. Let’s turn this around, Gecko. You tell me what you like to read and watch. I bet you’re an anime guy. You like tentacles, don’t you?”
I stuck out my tongue at her. “I don’t watch much anymore. I’m afraid the last one I viewed for any significant amount of time was this ‘Strawberry Eggs’ thing about a male instructor who crossdresses to teach at a school that will only hire women.” I made a show of peering at her throat.
“What are you looking at?”
“He disguised his voice with a little heart-shaped collar. Not that it’d make much of a difference to me what genitals you have.”
“Get off my genitals and get back to talking, Gecko.”
“It’s a sign of a bad date to hear something like that. But fine. I find Russian literature to be quite interesting. I think I was too new to your world to consider the full ramifications of War and Peace, but there’s this fellow named Mikhail Bulgakov who had a great sense of humor…”
And so I went, boring her with discussions of my journey into the depressing world of vodka-induced literature. Which isn’t so much a generalization. Bulgakov was plagued by criticism and mental illness to the point of burning an early manuscript of his work, while another guy I read, Shalamov, was forced to claim that his stories about Soviet prison camps were no longer true. Something tells me they needed a few stiff drinks.
But then, why bore y’all with the same stuff that Venus sat through? It was, as the cat Behemoth once said while complaining, too bitter. And while that’s normally a call at Russian weddings for the bride and groom to sweeten the room up with a kiss, that wasn’t going to happen on this occasion. Despite my wish to help Venus relax, she remained cold and distant, like Siberia. Though she did actually look at my face and seem to pay attention.
Still, time flew, and we soon faced a platter full of pork strips ready to be cooked with all sorts of sauces and vegetables, and even a wok to fry some rice and eggs on.
“I suppose you know what you’re doing?” Venus asked as I got cookin’.
“Not entirely, but now’s a good time to learn.” I tossed some teriyaki on the pork.
Venus at least made it sound a little like she was joking as she said, “And now you’ll poison me, I suppose?”
I waved a pork strip at her. “Venus, trust me, I have every intention of murdering you. However, I have your death perfectly planned out. No way would I ruin that by killing you here and now. If you won’t take me at my word that I’m not going to kill you tonight, then at least trust that I won’t kill you because I want to murder you later. Ok?”
She shook her head, but she smiled a little. Victory! “I wouldn’t believe that from anyone else, but you are exactly weird enough that you’d think that.”
I held up a cooked strip for her. “Enough! It’s time for you to masticate my meat.”
She raised an eyebrow. “What’s that?”
“It’s priest,” I said. Then, as I continued, I waved it around. “Have a little priest. Is it really good? Sir, it’s too good, at least. Then again, they don’t commit sins of the flesh, so it’s pretty fresh.”
Venus didn’t know what to make of me then, singing to her with food as I implored her to eat pork with a song about cannibalism. I laid it down on her plate along with some fried rice that I fried a little too much. I suppose it confused her that I sang both roles in the song. Monologuing is one thing; mono-dialoguing is quite another.
“Awful lot of fat. Only where it sat. Haven’t you got poet, or something like that?” I moved my hands up and down to indicate something skinny. “No, you see the trouble with poet is how do you know it’s deceased? Try the priest.”
I grabbed up a bit of it for myself and shoved it into my mouth. My eyebrows shot up, prompting giggles from Venus. “Forgot to let it cool off?” she asked.
I kept my mouth closed and shook my head, then quickly gulped down three-quarters of my drink.
Of course, the food also meant an end to most of the talking, though Venus did somewhat loosen up the more she suspected I didn’t mean to try anything. Finally, after picking a bit of egg out of my teeth, I leaned back and asked. “So, I assume this evening wasn’t a complete waste as far as spending time with each other?”
“I only did all this because you said I’d get a clue,” she answered. When I raised an eyebrow, she realized she set herself up for a joke and continued. “About this so-called plan to destroy the city. I’m beginning to think you made it up to say you went on a date with me.”
I smiled wide, eyes closed. “You’ll want to call in and check on things. If my timing’s right, Laser Bum should just be starting.”
I felt the hard-won ease flee the room. “Laser Bum?”
“A super villain who stays beneath the radar by disguising himself as a hobo, one of those invisible dregs that society doesn’t like to acknowledge. I asked a favor of him; he’s carrying a message for you and the next hint is on a timer.”
Venus called in and confirmed the rampage of a homeless man with some sort of laser knife. Tasers and pepper spray failed to put him down. Bullets knocked him down but failed to penetrate his coat.
I laid down a roll of money similar to the one I’d wrapped a capsule of BZ around earlier in the evening. “I’ll pay for dinner and the tip. I dragged you out here and it’d hardly be fitting to expect you to cover dinner. The driver’s paid up, too, but he’s now at your beck and call.”
I peeked one eye. Venus pulled a mask out of her purse and donned it. “What’s your game, Gecko?”
“You’ll figure it out,” I said with a smile. “Then you can hate me. Now, don’t you have a city to save?”
She rushed off then to fight the so-called Laser Bum. After beating him up, she’d realize where she saw the bulletproof jacket the guy wore. She’d find the message hidden within the same pocket that earlier held the laser knife, and possibly the money roll I handed the homeless man earlier that night when I cracked a capsule and contaminated him with that lovely BZ chemical.
At least she won’t hate me because I’m a terrible date. She’ll just hate me because I made her beat up a confused homeless guy. Maybe, in all that passion, she’ll get the joke. Not the one where I plan to drag her through the mud and make her do villainous things, nah.
The real joke is that after finishing her date with me, I still got her to spank my bum.