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Cabo Wabo

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It had been about a week since he met Zoe for the first time. But they had yet to go out on an actual date. Eddie decided that it was about time that changed. He grabbed the cell phone off his desk from where it had sat while he was studying it, trying to decide on a plan of action...

He quickly dialed the phone number for Zoe's room in their dorm. She had yet to get an actual cell phone that he knew of. "Hey, Zo!" He said cheerfully when she picked up. "If you're not doing anything tonight, do you want to come hang out on the boardwalk with me? We could make an actual date out of it!" He smiled to himself, almost expecting to see her standing behind his desk chair any second now...

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"Hey, Zo!"

Zöe smiled. "Hey Eddie." She absent-mindedly brushed some of her hair behind her ear. "What's up?"

"If you're not doing anything tonight, do you want to come hang out on the boardwalk with me? We could make an actual date out of it!"

Zöe's eyes widened a bit, and her smile expanded into a toothy grin. "Like, a date date? Other than just making out in the locker after band practice? ...Yeah, I'd love to. Didja wanna pick me up here, or should I meet you somewhere?"

After she hammered out logistics with Eddie, Zöe walked over to her closet to take stock of her wardrobe. "Hmmm. Pretty bare-bones. Just whatever I happened to have in my pack during the Earth-shattering kaboom. Alrighty." She reached into her pockets and pulled out a series of wadded-up bills in various denominations, then laid them on the bed and counted them. "Good thing most of the kids on campus with cars don't know how to change their own oil. Time to go shopping!" She took off running in a flash, leaving behind a trail of scattered papers, machine-gun steps, and gusts of wind that confused various passers-by.

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Zöe's approach to the shopping trip was surgical. Today, she was a hunter, not a gatherer. There'd be time a-plenty to goof off later. For now, she was on a mission! She returned to her dorm room about 20 minutes later. She could have been back sooner, but standing in line at the checkout counter was the one part of the experience even she couldn't accelerate.

After she had showered, brushed her teeth, and (mostly) dressed, she sent a telepathic message to Psyche. Hey, Alex. Looks like the whole freak-out and vomit-kiss thing didn't scare Eddie away after all, because he finally stopped reacting and took some initiative. He's taking me out on a date tonight. Kinda soon, actually. I'm almost ready, but there's a couple things I could use a hand with. If you're not busy.

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Zöe almost looked like she belonged in a music video. She had on a black sleeveless minidress with spaghetti straps. The chest and back had corset-style lacing through metal D-rings. A decorative zipper coiled around the bottom half. Zöe had it open, exposing a layer of cobweb mesh, the same material that gathered in a ruffled underlayer poking out the top and bottom of the dress. She had layered a long-sleeved fishnet shirt underneath it, with pointed ends that wrapped around her middle fingers in a loop, covering the back of her hands while leaving her palms exposed. Her legs were covered in a pair of black-&-purple striped tights, which terminated beneath a pair of knee-high black leather combat boots. The boots had thick soles, flat heels, and lots and lots of buckles. A pair of black leather bracelets studded with metal spikes and a matching choker completed the ensemble.

When Alex walked in, Zöe turned her back to her and looked over her shoulder. "Hey! Couldja tie me up back there? Thanks."

"I was hoping maybe you could help me out with my hair, too. I was thinking maybe something that would take it off my ears an' neck." Her fiery red-orange hair trailed down to her waist. She brushed a lock of it behind her ear and twisted the blue gems studded through her lobes. "Like a messy French twist or something. Not like prom-formal, nothing elaborate like that. Just something that looks a little special, you know? Whatta ya think?"

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Alex blinked at the tinkerbell-meets-morticia thing that Zoe had cobbled together but she gave it a judicious look and commented, "It's an awful lot of black, don't you think?"

She did however dutifully scoot around to quickly lace together the back of the dress. She looked at the laces, more black, then brightened. "Wait, I got something better for this."

Alex returned in short order with a long length of purple ribbon with silvery glitter stars that she threaded through the rings of the dress instead. Once she'd fastened Zoe into the dress, she began twisting Zoe's hair up with quick efficiency. "I think I can manage something like that. I might even have a clip for it. One without sparkle butterflies or flowers, even. I know not everyone shares my fashion tastes."

She pressed Zoe down and, after quickly brushing the thick hair out, began to slowly twist the mass of straight waves into the beginnings of an up do. "Are you nervous?"

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"It's an awful lot of black, don't you think?"

"...You say that like it's a bad thing."

She did however dutifully scoot around to quickly lace together the back of the dress. She looked at the laces, more black, then brightened. "Wait, I got something better for this."

Alex returned in short order with a long length of purple ribbon with silvery glitter stars that she threaded through the rings of the dress instead.

Zöe cocked her head, considered the purple ribbon for a moment, then nodded. "...I like it."

Once she'd fastened Zoe into the dress, she began twisting Zoe's hair up with quick efficiency. "I think I can manage something like that. I might even have a clip for it. One without sparkle butterflies or flowers, even. I know not everyone shares my fashion tastes."

Whew!

"Yeah...I wasn't gonna say it, but your whole happy-sunshine-hearts-&-flowers thing isn't really my scene. And I know my black-on-black-with-MORE-BLACK isn't your cup of coffee, either. That's kinda why I asked for your input. You know, balance, an' stuff. I don't really do this whole girly-thing very often, y'know? I just...I wanna surprise him."

She pressed Zoe down and, after quickly brushing the thick hair out, began to slowly twist the mass of straight waves into the beginnings of an up do. "Are you nervous?"

"Honestly...yeah. I'm excited, and really nervous. For the last week or so, I've been able to distract him with shiny objects. Whenever he starts asking questions, I start making out with him and that shuts him up. But this is like, a date date. That means we're probably gonna, you know, talk. I don't think I can distract him with kisses any longer. And if...when he finds out that I was just a fan, a friend of a friend at best, well, what if he thinks I'm just a starfaaah-...I mean, a groupie? Or what if he winds up getting bored with me once we start talking about something other than music? What if he wants something I'm not ready to give him? What if he just gets tired of trying to keep up with me? I mean, I know I'm not easy to know. I'm not stupid. But it's not my fault my entire life feels like I'm waiting in line at the DMV. What if he meets some hot leggy blonde cheerleader at a concession stand, tells me he's going to the bathroom, and never comes back? ...Well, OK, if that happens, then he's a jerk and I'm better off finding out sooner rather than later. But I don't think he's a jerk. He never seemed like one before. And I'm talking too much again. Come on, Z, pull it together!" She blew a raspberry.

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Eddie was actually really surprised when Zoe DIDN'T show up behind him immediately. They had decided that they would meet outside the school in a few hours time, because Zoe needed time to get some things at the store.

Never thought SHE would HOURS to shop... He thought to himself. Well..I guess everyone else isn't as fast as she is...The Checkout line must be awful for her. He chuckled to himself as he thought of her having to stand still for more than a few seconds.

Eddie's style of dress was far to casual for him to care much about what he looked like. But this WAS a date. He would have to pick something a little more special than usual. He picked out his nicest pair of jeans from his closet, as well as a white and vertically black-stripped button down which he wore over a Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt.

He looked himself over in the mirror one final time before he headed out to meet Zoe. Clean, plain. He wasn't dressed like any rock star, and he hopped she would be okay with that.

"Well... Here goes nothing." And he left his room to meet her in front of the building.

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Alex smiled and in the mirror, Zoe could see the pins and various things float in the air around Alex and into her hands as she needed them. "It's not really girly, so much as childish. I like bright colors. I always have. It seems silly to tone it down because of what other people think. I don't pick my clothes because they make anyone but me happy. Well, most of the time at least. If you're happy with yourself and comfortable in your skin, you really don't need to worry about what other people think. After all, you can't please everyone."

She pinned the mass of it and then started turning the knot that came out of the top into thick curls with the help of an iron. She frowned, trying to follow Zoe's rather tangled concerns, "Well, I don't know the Eddie you know but this Eddie is very sweet and certainly nothing to be intimidated about. He talks about girls but, honestly, I kind of doubt he's done much more with any of them than it sounds like you've done with him. You certainly shouldn't do anything that you're uncomfortable with."

Alex stopped curling her hair and rested her hands on Zoe's shoulders, her hazel eyes solemn, "Don't rush through this, Zoe. It's not all about making out and you certainly shouldn't be making out because you're scared of what he'll see in you other than sex. Enjoy this time. It's not about the end of the road, its about the journey. Relax, have fun, and take things slow. I know you're impatient but there are moments that only happen once. You don't want to rush them. Just have fun, and be yourself."

She squeezed Zoe's shoulders and went back to finishing making up the curls before she began brushing them out so they were less corkscrews and more waves. After a moment of silence, she added, "And if he pressures you to have sex, let me know and I'll send Mike out to have a chat with him."

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Alex smiled and in the mirror, Zoe could see the pins and various things float in the air around Alex and into her hands as she needed them. "It's not really girly, so much as childish. I like bright colors. I always have. It seems silly to tone it down because of what other people think. I don't pick my clothes because they make anyone but me happy. Well, most of the time at least. If you're happy with yourself and comfortable in your skin, you really don't need to worry about what other people think. After all, you can't please everyone."

"Heh. You've been telling me that all my life." Even when it wasn't convenient. Even when I wore clothes or listened to music or hung out with friends you couldn't stand. I gotta admit, you were nothing if not consistent.

"Well, I don't know the Eddie you know but this Eddie is very sweet and certainly nothing to be intimidated about. He talks about girls but, honestly, I kind of doubt he's done much more with any of them than it sounds like you've done with him. You certainly shouldn't do anything that you're uncomfortable with."

"Don't rush through this, Zoe. It's not all about making out and you certainly shouldn't be making out because you're scared of what he'll see in you other than sex. Enjoy this time. It's not about the end of the road, its about the journey. Relax, have fun, and take things slow. I know you're impatient but there are moments that only happen once. You don't want to rush them. Just have fun, and be yourself."

"He's been nothing but kind and sweet to me so far. But I'm not sure if he actually likes me, or if he just likes making out with me. I know I shouldn't have moved so fast on him. I just...we could all die tomorrow, you know? Everything could just go BOOM! in one minute. I saw him, and we started talking, and...I mean, have you ever met someone and just clicked with 'em? It was like a bolt of lightning. So I went for it. And when I kissed him, it felt electric."

"And if he pressures you to have sex, let me know and I'll send Mike out to have a chat with him."

Zöe laughed. "I appreciate the offer. I really do. But I've seen what Eddie can do. And trust me, the whole "big strong protector" thing isn't part of his appeal. I'd murder him in a fight. But he totally hasn't been pushy at all."

After Alex finished with her tinkering, Zöe stood up and examined herself in the mirror from every conceivable angle. She smiled and turned around in front of Alex. "Awesome. Well, how do I look? ...Wait, maybe don't answer that. I forgot who I was talking to for a second. You think he'll like it?"

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"Nope, never had that moment of instant attraction. The one boy I might have had that for, I've known since we were in pampers." Alex said with amusement, as she put the decorative clip in. It was a more subdued clip that was a pure silver rather than anything that sparkled. The design was abstract and small and it nestled into the curls of her hair. It was something that Zoe had seen in her mother's jewelry box when she'd played dress up as a kid. "You can't base your judgments on what may or may not happen. Instead, you should decide what you want to have happen and pour your efforts into making that come true. Then, even if things go poorly, you never have to wonder because you'll know you tried."

With that last little bit of advice, Alex gave her a quick hug and a small smile, "You look very pretty. More importantly, you look happy. Don't run too fast or you'll blow that hairdo all around. Now go have fun."

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Zöe gave Alex a hug and a big smile. "Thanks!" ...Mom.

She bolted out of the room and down to the quad. OK, like she said, take it slow, don't break the sound barrier, or all her hard work goes POOF! She moved "slowly" enough ("slow" always being a relative term when Zöe was concerned) that Eddie could actually see a black and orange blur racing down the stairs and out the door before Zöe appeared next to him. "Hey!" She gave him a hug, then stepped and leaned back, hanging onto his hands as she looked him up and down. "Wow...you look...'respectable!'"

She winced internally about a half-second after she spoke. "Respectable?" God you are such an idiot. Stop talking!

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Eddie stood in front of the school. After a week of going out with Zoe, a little of her had rubbed off on him. He was getting impatient. He looked at the clock on one of his iPods. Where IS she? She couldn't have forgotten...And I've never known her to keep me waiting...

He then noticed the blur coming down the steps in the school. There she...

"Hey!" She gave him a hug, then stepped and leaned back, hanging onto his hands as she looked him up and down. "Wow...you look...'respectable!'"

...is.

"Hey you!" He said to her, all smiles. He looked down at his outfit. "I was afraid you'd say that," he joked, "Is it really that bad?" He smiled again.

As she leaned back, he used the opportunity to get a good look at her, now that she wasn't super-speeding towards him. His eyes widened a little bit. "And you look stunning!" Big smile.

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"I was afraid you'd say that," he joked, "Is it really that bad?" He smiled again.

Zöe shook her head frantically and laughed. "Nonono! I totally don't mean it in a bad way. You just..." She looked him up and down again, then stammered and shook her head for a moment. "...You look really good."

As she leaned back, he used the opportunity to get a good look at her, now that she wasn't super-speeding towards him. His eyes widened a little bit. "And you look stunning!" Big smile.

Zöe blushed. "Thanks. You really think so? I know it's not quite my usual thing. Is it too much...?" She rubbed the back of her neck and tugged at the ruffles of her dress self-consciously.

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The Eddie Ozan that Zoe was used to was a rock star, in every sense of the word. At any time he wanted, he could have any girl he wanted. The guy had money, cars, houses, fame, everything. But this Eddie was very different. The more she spent time with him, the more she realized it. It was almost like at some point between now and the future she knew, something had changed him. Because it was difficult to see this Eddie ever becoming the one she knew. You kidding? I think it's hot! Was what she expected to hear from Eddie Ozan, the rock star.

"It's perfect." Was all he said. He smiled at her, took her hand, and began leading her away from the school buildings. "Come on. I can't wait to play some ski-ball!"

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Zöe once more concentrated on sharing her speed with Eddie. He felt the tingle in his stomach again, as the world around them seemed to slow to a crawl. Even at what felt like a leisurely stroll, they found themselves at the Boardwalk within seconds. She bounced back and forth between leaning into him and stretching so far apart that their hands barely touched, but she was careful never to completely let go.

Once they arrived at the Boardwalk, she eagerly ran from one booth to the next, occasionally so fast he couldn't see. Then she would remember herself, slap her forehead, smile, and proceed with the festivities. Eddie destroyed her at skee-ball, but she showed him up when it came to bringing the hammer down at the strongman booth (she got more than a few puzzled looks when the meter ran all the way up to the top bell).

When Eddie reached into his pocket to pay for the next booth, she placed a hand over his and shook her head. "Nope. That's two in a row. My turn. You're not footing the whole bill for this." She slung the tiny backpack/purse hybrid off her shoulders and rummaged around for some cash.

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Eddie knew he wasn't the strongest kid in school, especially not when compared to kids like Mike. But he still considered himself to be in pretty decent shape. So when Zoe showed him up at the strong man competition he was almost a little embarrassed, being beaten by his girlfriend. Then when he thought about it for a second he actually rolled his eyes, Oh yea... he laughed to himself, It's Zoe! Of course she's super strong on top of everything else she can do. Then after the third time she hit the bell it didn't matter to him anymore.

When she stopped him from paying for the next attraction, he simply shrugged, smiled, and said, "Whatever you want, Zo." He helped hold her bag so that she could more easily find what she was looking for. "Just remember that I'm taking YOU out here. If you want something, all you have to do is ask for it. But if you feel like you have to pay for things, then that's fine too."

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Zöe smiled, reached up, and cupped Eddie's cheek in her hand. "You're really sweet, and kind, and generous, and I really like that about you. I know you'd get me anything I asked for, just to see me smile. But I don't want you to think you have to buy my affections. Or that you can." She stopped digging through her pack. "Tell ya what - you get the rides and booths, and I'll get the food. Deal?"

You'll understand why real soon. I just hope he doesn't get too grossed out when he sees me pig out. Of course, this is the guy who kissed me right after I threw up, so maybe he's made of stronger stuff than that. Fark, Z, shut up. Relax. Deep breaths.

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But I don't want you to think you have to buy my affections. Or that you can.

"Oh, I'm not trying to, don't worry." Eddie said, releasing her pack. "In fact, you're probably the last person I would believe could have their feelings bought out. I just really like it when you smile." Eddie gave her a huge smile and let her continue.

"Tell ya what - you get the rides and booths, and I'll get the food. Deal?"

"Sounds good to me!" Eddie still remembered the smoothie incident the week before. He wasn't really sure he wanted to see what this girl's meals were like. Actually, it would probably be incredibly entertaining. I wonder how fast she can say, "Are you gonna finish that?"

Eddie kissed her on the forehead before stepping around her to resume his place in line, pulling some money golf from his pocket as he went. "You think you can handle Monkey Madness Miniature Golf?" He beamed at her.

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"You think you can handle Monkey Madness Miniature Golf?"

Zöe laughed and shoved Eddie in the chest. "I can handle anything you can dish out! Just watch me!" She grabbed her club and ball and raced off to the first hole.

About halfway through the course, Zöe's demeanor calmed noticeably. Her tone grew serious. "I gotta admit, I really didn't expect this. The whole 'you asking me out thing,' I mean." She looked down and nervously twirled her finger around a loose lock of hair before shoving it behind her ear and visibly forcing herself to look Eddie in the eye. "After that night in my room, when you saw me with the freakout and the blood and the puking and the crying an' stuff. I kinda assumed you'd just think I'm some kind basketcase drama-factory and flee for the hills." She lined up her next shot, but knocked it a few inches off-course. "Fark!" She shook her head and laughed. "Unless you're into the drama. I'm not into the drama. The drama and I, we are not good neighbors. The drama snoops in my mailbox, and I shovel my dog's sprak into the drama's backyard."

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Try as he might, Eddie simply could not keep a straight face as Zoe went on about "the drama". "Hey, no way man, the drama and I don't see eye to eye. We are not, as you might call it, friendly acquaintances, the drama and I."

He hooked her with his club after she took her shot and brought her in close to him. "Basket case or not, I still think you're adorable. And for all I care, you could turn the drama production on that factory of yours up to full speed. It still wouldn't change how I feel about you." He didn't make a move to kiss her like he normally did, he just held her for a moment and looked at her. "But if there's something going on, or if you need my help, all you have to do is ask. You know that."

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Zöe laughed and went limp enough to allow Eddie to fold her into his arms. "OK, I gotta admit, that golf cub stunt was mad stylin.'" She let her club fall to the ground, wrapped her arms up under his, and hugged him for a moment. Then she kissed his chest and looked up into his face.

"You've been really patient with me this last week. Don't think I haven't noticed. And I appreciate it. I really do. I know as far as you're concerned, I just kinda fell outta the sky. Which isn't that far off from the truth." She inhaled and gulped. "It's not fair for me to keep answering your questions with makeouts, as fun as that is." She grinned for a moment. "But I'm sure you've got ten questions rattling around in your head for every one you've tried to ask me. So now's your chance. Ask away. I can't tell you everything right now. There's some stuff I have to take care of, and I gotta play it close for now. But I'll try to be as honest as I can."

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"OK, I gotta admit, that golf cub stunt was mad stylin.'"

"Hehe, thanks. I try."

So she's finally ready to answer my questions. But how do I tell her that I don't have questions? Maybe I just like hearing her talk. About anything. Oh hell, I'll just go for the easy ones, maybe she'll forget to stop talking.

He rested his chin on top of her head while he thought about what he would ask. "Hmmm." Then when he was ready, he pulled back and looked at her again. "What's your favorite color? How fast can you run the mile? What's your favorite flavor of ice cream? What type of flower do I buy you? Hell, what are your parents like?" He paused for a second, I gotta say it. Then he found the nerve to continue. "I don't need to ask you questions, Z. I just want you to be able to talk to me. About anything. I don't care what it is." This time when he smiled, it wasn't the usual confident, proud, self assured beacon that lit up his face. This time it was different. It was more like the fireplace at the end of a room during winter. It was like a sun bathed window box that you can lay down on. It was like that worn out old teddy bear you've had for longer than you can remember. This smile was warm, and comforting. But most of all it was inviting. This was what Eddie was truly like...

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Zöe chuckled at Eddie's inquisition. "In case you're curious, that whole 'making me laugh thing?' Big part of why I like you. Huge." She buried her face in his chest. "I do. I really do feel like I can tell you anything. And you'll just shrug and accept it and let it roll off your back like you do with everything. There's just some stuff I shouldn't tell you yet. I can't really explain it better than that right now."

She looked up and began to answer him, kissing him each time.

"Black. Blue. Purple. The ones that aren't 'hot pink.'"

*kiss*

"Thirty-six thousandths of a second."

*kiss*

"Orange Creamsicle. "

*kiss*

"Orchids." *kiss* "I like orchids."

*kiss* Zöe kicked that last one up a notch, and let it linger for a while.

But eventually, she came back down for air, and her mind came back down to Earth. How to ruin the moment, by Zöe. Step One:

"My parents were a total drag. She faked her best deep news announcer voice. "'Shining paragons of courage and virtue.' It was like living in a bad 1950s sitcom about superheroes, that you could never turn off. You felt like a pile of sprak just standing next to them, because they really were just that farking perfect and choke-on-the-diabetes wholesome." Her eyes teared up, but her remained relatively steady. "And they were amazing, and awesome, and they were always there for me when I needed them, and they treated me like a princess even when I acted like douche, and they're dead because I couldn't save them the one time in my whole awesome life when they needed my help."

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Eddie didn't say anything. He just stood there, hugged her, and held her close. Normally he was speechless because he had no clue what to say. But sometimes are just not the time for words. Even he knew how to spot those times, and this was one of them.

A few moments went by, and Eddie was glad there wasn't anybody on the course behind them. And then it hit him, So her parents really are dead...What a bummer. Mike was right. She really does have a lot on her plate. But hey, nothing I can't help her handle. I hope.

After a minute, he forced her head away from his chest just so that he could look into her eyes again. She likes it when you make her laugh. Here goes nothing. He smiled at her. "choke-on-the-diabetes wholesome?" he asked, "Where do you get this stuff from?" The smile left his face for a moment and he actually put on a serious face. "But seriously, cheer up, Zo. Don't ask me how I know this, but something tells me they know you miss them, and they're proud of how hard you tried. Dunno how I know, but I'm sure they just know. Seems like a mom and dad thing, anyways." He gave her that comforting smile again.

Eddie was never really that good with words. Songs came to him more naturally. As he looked at her he started humming.

"She's got eyes of the bluest skies,

and if they thought of rain,

I'd hate to look into those eyes,

and see an ounce of pain..."

He brushed some of the hair out of her eyes. It was the first time she had actually heard him sing, and it was amazing!

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This isn't like listening to one of his albums. This isn't even like drunken karaoke on St. Patrick's Day. Wow. Wow. Even this young, he's incredible. Especially this young.

Zöe closed her eyes and rested her head against Eddie's shoulder as he sang to her. She didn't speak until he finished, terrified that she might stop him prematurely. "Wow. I just wanna like, take your voice and grind it into powder and snort lines of it off a table somewhere." She kissed his neck, just a quick peck. "Forget about making me laugh. Just promise to never stop singing to me and I'm yours." She giggled. "I don't even like this song."

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