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Veiled Malice

The Date

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Ren had been up all night, just as he was every night, but he still didn’t feel ready. Going into this engagement half cocked would get him killed. Preparation, then, became paramount. He’d checked over his instruments a dozen times. He made sure everything was in its proper order, ready to find and employ at a moment’s notice. The game plan was on a constant loop in his mind, every inch examined with a mental microscope for the slightest of flaws. His uniform had been carefully chosen for maximum impact. There was no way the enemy would stand unimpressed after seeing it. But there was still one problem.

He couldn’t find his damn shoes!

“

But this, this thing he had with Lynn… it was completely different. She’d stormed into his life with intense force and blown away all his previous preconceptions about damn near everything having to do with the opposite sex. She was funny, witty, mischievous, kind, and supportive all at the same time. It made him want to be a better person for her, frankly, and that wasn’t easy to pull off. He’d been in a deep depression since his transformation, but when she was around… none of it seemed to matter.

Of course, seeing as how they had literally met right before he had to fight some superheroes that had a problem with him, and were subsequently sucked back in time thanks to a faulty teleport, (thanks a lot, Icarus!) Renichi hadn’t had the time he might have otherwise liked to get to know her. She felt the same way, which is why she’d suggested they try a date. “See how things goâ€Â, was the phrasing she’d used. And he was ecstatic she’d even allow him that. Up until he’d met her, Ren had been heading down a bad path. Armed robbery, drug deals, that kind of stuff. The fact that they were on different sides of the crime equation had not escaped either of them. He was willing to change, though.

But only if he could find his damn shoes!

Ren stumbled out of his closet, tripped over a stack of old magazines, and fell to the floor. “Chikusho! †Renichi reached under his bed and scooped up the shoes he’d chosen for today. Nothing special, but he felt they went along with the rest of his outfit. He’d collected a fair number of fashion magazines to pick out the “look†he wanted. From them, he’d figured out an approximate style choice he figured he could be seen in public wearing – something called “Indieâ€Â, whatever that meant. It was supposed to mean independent, but at the point where celebrities were wearing it and name brand designers jumped on the bandwagon, didn’t that make it mainstream? He’d never understand Western culture, apparently.

Starting with a fairly standard pair of black slacks, he added a reversible bomber jacket with the patches “Bomb Iceland†and “Give Peace a Chance or I’ll Shoot You†on alternate lapels. It was the little touches that mattered. His shoes were actually overly loose boots whose laces only came up halfway. How new boots could look so beat-up was beyond him, but the lady that sold them said they would hold up just fine as long as he didn’t get them wet. Ren had declined to comment about that.

The pièce de résistance was his shirt. He really hoped Lynn would appreciate it, since he had to have it made custom. A black t-shirt to start with, with the words “Villains Have More Fun†in badly-scrawled red letters. By the end, the effect felt more like a billboard than a fashion statement, but he hoped Lynn would look past that.

His hair, however, was not cooperating the way his ensemble was. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get the stuff to lay down. The time he’d spent in his armor had apparently had a detrimental effect on his ability to control it. Even that “Bed Head†stuff he’d bought had no chance against the monstrous bad hair day his life had turned into. He looked into his bathroom mirror, grimacing. Ҡhe mumbled. But maybe not all was lost. He took one more stab at it, this time combing his hair straight upwards in a spiky doo that made him look a little like a character from Final Fantasy. “â€Â

He gave himself one more look in the mirror before walking to the door of his apartment and undoing the half a dozen locks to be found there. Southside was a dangerous place, after all. He would have gotten a place in a better part of town, but anything to the north of there was ludicrously expensive, and anything south was hardly better. But he didn’t mind too much. No one bothered Renichi there, and as long as he made his rent on time, no one would.

Now he was off to Riverside, to where Lynn was waiting. He offered up a quick prayer to whomever was listening that today would go well. Perhaps this “Valentine’s Day†would give him some good luck there.

Wait, did he need to get her a gift?

“â€Â

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Ren had been up all night, just as he was every night, but he still didn’t feel ready. Going into this engagement half cocked would get him killed. Preparation, then, became paramount. He’d checked over his instruments a dozen times. He made sure everything was in its proper order, ready to find and employ at a moment’s notice. The game plan was on a constant loop in his mind, every inch examined with a mental microscope for the slightest of flaws. His uniform had been carefully chosen for maximum impact. There was no way the enemy would stand unimpressed after seeing it. But there was still one problem.

He couldn’t find his damn shoes!

“

But this, this thing he had with Lynn… it was completely different. She’d stormed into his life with intense force and blown away all his previous preconceptions about damn near everything having to do with the opposite sex. She was funny, witty, mischievous, kind, and supportive all at the same time. It made him want to be a better person for her, frankly, and that wasn’t easy to pull off. He’d been in a deep depression since his transformation, but when she was around… none of it seemed to matter.

Of course, seeing as how they had literally met right before he had to fight some superheroes that had a problem with him, and were subsequently sucked back in time thanks to a faulty teleport, (thanks a lot, Icarus!) Renichi hadn’t had the time he might have otherwise liked to get to know her. She felt the same way, which is why she’d suggested they try a date. “See how things goâ€Â, was the phrasing she’d used. And he was ecstatic she’d even allow him that. Up until he’d met her, Ren had been heading down a bad path. Armed robbery, drug deals, that kind of stuff. The fact that they were on different sides of the crime equation had not escaped either of them. He was willing to change, though.

But only if he could find his damn shoes!

Ren stumbled out of his closet, tripped over a stack of old magazines, and fell to the floor. “Chikusho! †Renichi reached under his bed and scooped up the shoes he’d chosen for today. Nothing special, but he felt they went along with the rest of his outfit. He’d collected a fair number of fashion magazines to pick out the “look†he wanted. From them, he’d figured out an approximate style choice he figured he could be seen in public wearing – something called “Indieâ€Â, whatever that meant. It was supposed to mean independent, but at the point where celebrities were wearing it and name brand designers jumped on the bandwagon, didn’t that make it mainstream? He’d never understand Western culture, apparently.

Starting with a fairly standard pair of black slacks, he added a reversible bomber jacket with the patches “Bomb Iceland†and “Give Peace a Chance or I’ll Shoot You†on alternate lapels. It was the little touches that mattered. His shoes were actually overly loose boots whose laces only came up halfway. How new boots could look so beat-up was beyond him, but the lady that sold them said they would hold up just fine as long as he didn’t get them wet. Ren had declined to comment about that.

The pièce de résistance was his shirt. He really hoped Lynn would appreciate it, since he had to have it made custom. A black t-shirt to start with, with the words “Villains Have More Fun†in badly-scrawled red letters. By the end, the effect felt more like a billboard than a fashion statement, but he hoped Lynn would look past that.

His hair, however, was not cooperating the way his ensemble was. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get the stuff to lay down. The time he’d spent in his armor had apparently had a detrimental effect on his ability to control it. Even that “Bed Head†stuff he’d bought had no chance against the monstrous bad hair day his life had turned into. He looked into his bathroom mirror, grimacing. Ҡhe mumbled. But maybe not all was lost. He took one more stab at it, this time combing his hair straight upwards in a spiky doo that made him look a little like a character from Final Fantasy. “â€Â

He gave himself one more look in the mirror before walking to the door of his apartment and undoing the half a dozen locks to be found there. Southside was a dangerous place, after all. He would have gotten a place in a better part of town, but anything to the north of there was ludicrously expensive, and anything south was hardly better. But he didn’t mind too much. No one bothered Renichi there, and as long as he made his rent on time, no one would.

Now he was off to Riverside, to where Lynn was waiting. He offered up a quick prayer to whomever was listening that today would go well. Perhaps this “Valentine’s Day†would give him some good luck there.

Wait, did he need to get her a gift?

“â€Â

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Ren had been up all night, just as he was every night, but he still didn’t feel ready. Going into this engagement half cocked would get him killed. Preparation, then, became paramount. He’d checked over his instruments a dozen times. He made sure everything was in its proper order, ready to find and employ at a moment’s notice. The game plan was on a constant loop in his mind, every inch examined with a mental microscope for the slightest of flaws. His uniform had been carefully chosen for maximum impact. There was no way the enemy would stand unimpressed after seeing it. But there was still one problem.

He couldn’t find his damn shoes!

“

But this, this thing he had with Lynn… it was completely different. She’d stormed into his life with intense force and blown away all his previous preconceptions about damn near everything having to do with the opposite sex. She was funny, witty, mischievous, kind, and supportive all at the same time. It made him want to be a better person for her, frankly, and that wasn’t easy to pull off. He’d been in a deep depression since his transformation, but when she was around… none of it seemed to matter.

Of course, seeing as how they had literally met right before he had to fight some superheroes that had a problem with him, and were subsequently sucked back in time thanks to a faulty teleport, (thanks a lot, Icarus!) Renichi hadn’t had the time he might have otherwise liked to get to know her. She felt the same way, which is why she’d suggested they try a date. “See how things goâ€Â, was the phrasing she’d used. And he was ecstatic she’d even allow him that. Up until he’d met her, Ren had been heading down a bad path. Armed robbery, drug deals, that kind of stuff. The fact that they were on different sides of the crime equation had not escaped either of them. He was willing to change, though.

But only if he could find his damn shoes!

Ren stumbled out of his closet, tripped over a stack of old magazines, and fell to the floor. “Chikusho! †Renichi reached under his bed and scooped up the shoes he’d chosen for today. Nothing special, but he felt they went along with the rest of his outfit. He’d collected a fair number of fashion magazines to pick out the “look†he wanted. From them, he’d figured out an approximate style choice he figured he could be seen in public wearing – something called “Indieâ€Â, whatever that meant. It was supposed to mean independent, but at the point where celebrities were wearing it and name brand designers jumped on the bandwagon, didn’t that make it mainstream? He’d never understand Western culture, apparently.

Starting with a fairly standard pair of black slacks, he added a reversible bomber jacket with the patches “Bomb Iceland†and “Give Peace a Chance or I’ll Shoot You†on alternate lapels. It was the little touches that mattered. His shoes were actually overly loose boots whose laces only came up halfway. How new boots could look so beat-up was beyond him, but the lady that sold them said they would hold up just fine as long as he didn’t get them wet. Ren had declined to comment about that.

The pièce de résistance was his shirt. He really hoped Lynn would appreciate it, since he had to have it made custom. A black t-shirt to start with, with the words “Villains Have More Fun†in badly-scrawled red letters. By the end, the effect felt more like a billboard than a fashion statement, but he hoped Lynn would look past that.

His hair, however, was not cooperating the way his ensemble was. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get the stuff to lay down. The time he’d spent in his armor had apparently had a detrimental effect on his ability to control it. Even that “Bed Head†stuff he’d bought had no chance against the monstrous bad hair day his life had turned into. He looked into his bathroom mirror, grimacing. Ҡhe mumbled. But maybe not all was lost. He took one more stab at it, this time combing his hair straight upwards in a spiky doo that made him look a little like a character from Final Fantasy. “â€Â

He gave himself one more look in the mirror before walking to the door of his apartment and undoing the half a dozen locks to be found there. Southside was a dangerous place, after all. He would have gotten a place in a better part of town, but anything to the north of there was ludicrously expensive, and anything south was hardly better. But he didn’t mind too much. No one bothered Renichi there, and as long as he made his rent on time, no one would.

Now he was off to Riverside, to where Lynn was waiting. He offered up a quick prayer to whomever was listening that today would go well. Perhaps this “Valentine’s Day†would give him some good luck there.

Wait, did he need to get her a gift?

“â€Â

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The great thing about being a shapeshifter going on a date is you have an infinite number of looks to choose from; the bad thing is...the infinite number of looks part. Lynn spent the better part of the afternoon standing in front of the dusty full-length mirror leaning up against the wall of her squat, trying to come up with a cool outfit as well as figure out what to do with her hair. At first, she thought about doing something crazy, just to see how Ren would react; she went through various tans and skin tones, every eye color known to man, gave herself more curves, a bit more height, then a lot more height, until she gave herself a headache.

Just go with what you know he likes, dummy; maybe later on, if things are going smoothly, you can play around if he seems to like that.

Once she settled on just being herself, the agony continued for another hour and a half, and even then it was only brought to a halt by feline intervention.

"Alright, I'll feed you little monsters, stop your cryin'!"

She'd opted to name her three cats by randomly picking words out of an old dictionary, since she couldn't settle on any, and ended up with 'Drawbridge', 'Mafia' and 'Plaque'. She was tempted to pick again, but that would be defeating the point of the exercise; her one concession to practicality was to shorten Drawbridge down to 'DB' for casual use, though curiously she often lengthened Plaque to 'Plaque Attack'. While the cats gobbled up their food, her hair morphed through a number of looks (up, down, long, sleek, frizzy, bob, lulu) and a few colors until she was finally satisfied.

If he doesn't notice I'm wearing my hair long, I will bop him with a scone or other baked good.

After memorizing the look to the best of her ability, Lynn shifted into a more practical set of climbing duds, made sure the cats had plenty of water and checked all the windows for drafts, slipped out the window, crawled down the face of the Imperator and at last headed for the monorail...

It is now 5:53, and Lynn is standing under the Meadow Street station waiting for Ren; she checks her look for the hundredth time in the window of the Monorail Cafe, and wishes for the thousandth time she owned a watch as she cranes her neck to see the clock inside over the counter. She'd tried waiting in a booth but had gotten too antsy, and since the cold doesn't bother her she opted instead to stand around like an idiot in the street. The art school kids with their black plastic frame glasses amble past her, messenger bags over their shoulders and smelling of Lucky Strikes and patchouli.

I really hope we have a good time tonight; temporal distortions have a way of creating false intimacy, at least according to Dr. Phil.

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The great thing about being a shapeshifter going on a date is you have an infinite number of looks to choose from; the bad thing is...the infinite number of looks part. Lynn spent the better part of the afternoon standing in front of the dusty full-length mirror leaning up against the wall of her squat, trying to come up with a cool outfit as well as figure out what to do with her hair. At first, she thought about doing something crazy, just to see how Ren would react; she went through various tans and skin tones, every eye color known to man, gave herself more curves, a bit more height, then a lot more height, until she gave herself a headache.

Just go with what you know he likes, dummy; maybe later on, if things are going smoothly, you can play around if he seems to like that.

Once she settled on just being herself, the agony continued for another hour and a half, and even then it was only brought to a halt by feline intervention.

"Alright, I'll feed you little monsters, stop your cryin'!"

She'd opted to name her three cats by randomly picking words out of an old dictionary, since she couldn't settle on any, and ended up with 'Drawbridge', 'Mafia' and 'Plaque'. She was tempted to pick again, but that would be defeating the point of the exercise; her one concession to practicality was to shorten Drawbridge down to 'DB' for casual use, though curiously she often lengthened Plaque to 'Plaque Attack'. While the cats gobbled up their food, her hair morphed through a number of looks (up, down, long, sleek, frizzy, bob, lulu) and a few colors until she was finally satisfied.

If he doesn't notice I'm wearing my hair long, I will bop him with a scone or other baked good.

After memorizing the look to the best of her ability, Lynn shifted into a more practical set of climbing duds, made sure the cats had plenty of water and checked all the windows for drafts, slipped out the window, crawled down the face of the Imperator and at last headed for the monorail...

It is now 5:53, and Lynn is standing under the Meadow Street station waiting for Ren; she checks her look for the hundredth time in the window of the Monorail Cafe, and wishes for the thousandth time she owned a watch as she cranes her neck to see the clock inside over the counter. She'd tried waiting in a booth but had gotten too antsy, and since the cold doesn't bother her she opted instead to stand around like an idiot in the street. The art school kids with their black plastic frame glasses amble past her, messenger bags over their shoulders and smelling of Lucky Strikes and patchouli.

I really hope we have a good time tonight; temporal distortions have a way of creating false intimacy, at least according to Dr. Phil.

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Ren had found out something new about himself while waiting in line at a Hallmark Gift store. Despite his new body and all its benefits, he couldn't destroy someone with his mind. This had been proven to him after many long minutes of attempting to glare at the back of the woman in front of him who had paid for her purchase with pocket change in the vain hope she would spontaneously combust.

As if he wasn't already late enough, the monorails - the pride of Freedom City - were running late today. Something about a super battle somewhere downtown or something like that. At the point were Ren was checking his watch every couple of seconds, he was seriously contemplating absorbing the damn train and flying to Riverside, and to hell with the consequences. He figured Lynn wouldn't take his eagerness to be on time in the spirit it was intended, though.

To keep his mind occupied and off his more fervent wishes to annihilate the train car and everyone on it, he started screwing with the more annoying people on cell phones around him. Having control over the computer switching boards allowed him some truly great moments, like when the man that only a moment before been taking to his wife about the ingredients of tonight's quiche suddenly found himself on the line with a rather explicit Bavarian woman describing what she was going to do to his naughty bits.

Ah, the wonders of technology, he thought with a grin as the man stared at his phone as if had suddenly sprouted horns.

Finally Ren disembarked from the monorail of the dammed, and hurried towards their meeting place. He nearly skidded down the center railing in an attempt to get off of the elevated walkway quicker. Once he got to street level again, he looked around at the fancy bohemian shops and ritzy eateries, trying to find Lynn. There were a fair amount of people walking past, some with others, some not. For the first time in a long time, he wasn’t angry it wasn’t him.

Hope she's not mad I'm late.

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Ren had found out something new about himself while waiting in line at a Hallmark Gift store. Despite his new body and all its benefits, he couldn't destroy someone with his mind. This had been proven to him after many long minutes of attempting to glare at the back of the woman in front of him who had paid for her purchase with pocket change in the vain hope she would spontaneously combust.

As if he wasn't already late enough, the monorails - the pride of Freedom City - were running late today. Something about a super battle somewhere downtown or something like that. At the point were Ren was checking his watch every couple of seconds, he was seriously contemplating absorbing the damn train and flying to Riverside, and to hell with the consequences. He figured Lynn wouldn't take his eagerness to be on time in the spirit it was intended, though.

To keep his mind occupied and off his more fervent wishes to annihilate the train car and everyone on it, he started screwing with the more annoying people on cell phones around him. Having control over the computer switching boards allowed him some truly great moments, like when the man that only a moment before been taking to his wife about the ingredients of tonight's quiche suddenly found himself on the line with a rather explicit Bavarian woman describing what she was going to do to his naughty bits.

Ah, the wonders of technology, he thought with a grin as the man stared at his phone as if had suddenly sprouted horns.

Finally Ren disembarked from the monorail of the dammed, and hurried towards their meeting place. He nearly skidded down the center railing in an attempt to get off of the elevated walkway quicker. Once he got to street level again, he looked around at the fancy bohemian shops and ritzy eateries, trying to find Lynn. There were a fair amount of people walking past, some with others, some not. For the first time in a long time, he wasn’t angry it wasn’t him.

Hope she's not mad I'm late.

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Yeah, he totally doesn't see me.

Lynn learned long ago that short brunettes really don't stand out in a crowd, and the fact that Ren's gaze had scanned right past her was further proof of this maxim; she decides that dignity is nice but not terribly useful, and procedes to jump up and down while waving her arms and screaming like a manaic.

"Ren! Reeeennnnn! I! Am over! Here!"

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Yeah, he totally doesn't see me.

Lynn learned long ago that short brunettes really don't stand out in a crowd, and the fact that Ren's gaze had scanned right past her was further proof of this maxim; she decides that dignity is nice but not terribly useful, and procedes to jump up and down while waving her arms and screaming like a manaic.

"Ren! Reeeennnnn! I! Am over! Here!"

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Someone was calling his name. Ren looked around again, and finally spotted Lynn over by the Monorail Cafe, jumping up and down while waving her arms. He jogged over to her quickly, trying to keep a blush off his face over the embarrassment he felt. Of course, all that was quickly swept aside as he caught the full effect of... her. "Wow," he said. "You look... yeah, wow's good."

Ren gave her an apprasing look and grinned sheepishly. "You changed your hair. I... I kinda forgot you could do that. Benefits of being a shapeshifter, I guess."

"Oh!" Ren reached into his bomber jacket and produced a small black cat Beanie Baby, complete with a witch's hat. "You have no idea how hard it is to find those things. You'd think they were the cure for some horrible disease or something. I think this one was left over from Halloween."

"So... do you like it?" he asked anxiously.

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Someone was calling his name. Ren looked around again, and finally spotted Lynn over by the Monorail Cafe, jumping up and down while waving her arms. He jogged over to her quickly, trying to keep a blush off his face over the embarrassment he felt. Of course, all that was quickly swept aside as he caught the full effect of... her. "Wow," he said. "You look... yeah, wow's good."

Ren gave her an apprasing look and grinned sheepishly. "You changed your hair. I... I kinda forgot you could do that. Benefits of being a shapeshifter, I guess."

"Oh!" Ren reached into his bomber jacket and produced a small black cat Beanie Baby, complete with a witch's hat. "You have no idea how hard it is to find those things. You'd think they were the cure for some horrible disease or something. I think this one was left over from Halloween."

"So... do you like it?" he asked anxiously.

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"Wow," he said. "You look... yeah, wow's good."

Ren gave her an apprasing look and grinned sheepishly. "You changed your hair. I... I kinda forgot you could do that. Benefits of being a shapeshifter, I guess."

Lynn grins and self-consciously runs a hand through her hair. "Thanks. Yeah, I only changed it about eighty times trying to find the best look." She then does a little appraising of her own, and nods appreciatively. "You're looking pretty 'wow' yourself, buster; I like the jacket."

"Oh!" Ren reached into his bomber jacket and produced a small black cat Beanie Baby, complete with a witch's hat. "You have no idea how hard it is to find those things. You'd think they were the cure for some horrible disease or something. I think this one was left over from Halloween."

"So... do you like it?" he asked anxiously.

She takes the small plush toy and turns it over a few times in her hands; at first, it's hard to tell what her reaction is, but finally she starts nodding very slightly, as if to herself, until she lifts her eyes up, showing just a bit of sparkle in the corners. Her smile is oddly crumpled, but very sincere.

"This...is wonderful."

She pulls it to her chest and tucks it up under her chin.

"When I was a kid, we all got into Pokemon, y'know? And then we made Mom rent all this anime from Blockbuster, and my all-time favorite one was Kiki's Delivery Service; I wanted a Jiji doll so bad, the little black cat she had, but you had to order them from Japan, so we never got one."

Lynn holds the Beanie at arm's length and smiles.

"So this will be my Jiji."

She suddenly stands on tiptoe and pulls Ren's head down to kiss him on the cheek, and then just rests her forehead against the side of his face for a few moments.

"I love it; thank you."

The tiny heroine suddenly pulls away, wiping her nose with the edge of her hand before digging in her bag. "Of course, this totally blows my little Valentine out of the water, but oh well." She finally thrusts a piece of slick paper folded into quarters into Ren's hand. "All the cards at Walgreen's were lame, so finally I stopped by Kinko's and just made my own."

The front of the card features a color picture of Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons and a word bubble that says, "The Leprechaun tells me to light fires!"; inside is the caption, "And to 'bee' your Valentine!" It's signed 'Love, Lynn' and there's a happy dancing stick figure skeleton. Lynn scrunches up her face and shrugs. "I'm not sure about the accuracy of the quotes, but the sentiment's the same. Still kinda lame, I know."

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"Wow," he said. "You look... yeah, wow's good."

Ren gave her an apprasing look and grinned sheepishly. "You changed your hair. I... I kinda forgot you could do that. Benefits of being a shapeshifter, I guess."

Lynn grins and self-consciously runs a hand through her hair. "Thanks. Yeah, I only changed it about eighty times trying to find the best look." She then does a little appraising of her own, and nods appreciatively. "You're looking pretty 'wow' yourself, buster; I like the jacket."

"Oh!" Ren reached into his bomber jacket and produced a small black cat Beanie Baby, complete with a witch's hat. "You have no idea how hard it is to find those things. You'd think they were the cure for some horrible disease or something. I think this one was left over from Halloween."

"So... do you like it?" he asked anxiously.

She takes the small plush toy and turns it over a few times in her hands; at first, it's hard to tell what her reaction is, but finally she starts nodding very slightly, as if to herself, until she lifts her eyes up, showing just a bit of sparkle in the corners. Her smile is oddly crumpled, but very sincere.

"This...is wonderful."

She pulls it to her chest and tucks it up under her chin.

"When I was a kid, we all got into Pokemon, y'know? And then we made Mom rent all this anime from Blockbuster, and my all-time favorite one was Kiki's Delivery Service; I wanted a Jiji doll so bad, the little black cat she had, but you had to order them from Japan, so we never got one."

Lynn holds the Beanie at arm's length and smiles.

"So this will be my Jiji."

She suddenly stands on tiptoe and pulls Ren's head down to kiss him on the cheek, and then just rests her forehead against the side of his face for a few moments.

"I love it; thank you."

The tiny heroine suddenly pulls away, wiping her nose with the edge of her hand before digging in her bag. "Of course, this totally blows my little Valentine out of the water, but oh well." She finally thrusts a piece of slick paper folded into quarters into Ren's hand. "All the cards at Walgreen's were lame, so finally I stopped by Kinko's and just made my own."

The front of the card features a color picture of Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons and a word bubble that says, "The Leprechaun tells me to light fires!"; inside is the caption, "And to 'bee' your Valentine!" It's signed 'Love, Lynn' and there's a happy dancing stick figure skeleton. Lynn scrunches up her face and shrugs. "I'm not sure about the accuracy of the quotes, but the sentiment's the same. Still kinda lame, I know."

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Lynn holds the Beanie at arm's length and smiles.

"So this will be my Jiji."

She suddenly stands on tiptoe and pulls Ren's head down to kiss him on the cheek, and then just rests her forehead against the side of his face for a few moments.

"I love it; thank you."

Ren blushed from the kiss, but in a good way. He was getting used to the physical closeness Lynn seemed to prefer, and liked it. "I'm glad. I used to watch 'My Neighbor Totoro' all the time as a kid. Guess we're not so different. 'Course, it was a bit easier for me to get things from Japan, but..." he left off, just basking in the afterglow of her kiss. "I'm glad."

The front of the card features a color picture of Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons and a word bubble that says, "The Leprechaun tells me to light fires!"; inside is the caption, "And to 'bee' your Valentine!" It's signed 'Love, Lynn' and there's a happy dancing stick figure skeleton. Lynn scrunches up her face and shrugs. "I'm not sure about the accuracy of the quotes, but the sentiment's the same. Still kinda lame, I know."

"It's not lame," he insisted, though he had no idea where the quote came from. "It's special. Thank you." Summoning up every bit of his courage, Ren leaned down, kissed Lynn on the forehead and hugged her closely. "And more than that, you made it yourself. It's more than I can boast."

He started to put it into his jacket, but stopped after a moment, having a better idea of what to do with it. "Hey, you wanna see something cool? Check this out." Ren held the card out in front of him so it was in clear view, then made like he was stuffing it into his sleeve. Before it got there, the nanomachines that made up his body broke the paper object up into it's component molecules, incorporating it into his body. When he pulled his hands back, they were empty. "Neat, huh?"

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Lynn holds the Beanie at arm's length and smiles.

"So this will be my Jiji."

She suddenly stands on tiptoe and pulls Ren's head down to kiss him on the cheek, and then just rests her forehead against the side of his face for a few moments.

"I love it; thank you."

Ren blushed from the kiss, but in a good way. He was getting used to the physical closeness Lynn seemed to prefer, and liked it. "I'm glad. I used to watch 'My Neighbor Totoro' all the time as a kid. Guess we're not so different. 'Course, it was a bit easier for me to get things from Japan, but..." he left off, just basking in the afterglow of her kiss. "I'm glad."

The front of the card features a color picture of Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons and a word bubble that says, "The Leprechaun tells me to light fires!"; inside is the caption, "And to 'bee' your Valentine!" It's signed 'Love, Lynn' and there's a happy dancing stick figure skeleton. Lynn scrunches up her face and shrugs. "I'm not sure about the accuracy of the quotes, but the sentiment's the same. Still kinda lame, I know."

"It's not lame," he insisted, though he had no idea where the quote came from. "It's special. Thank you." Summoning up every bit of his courage, Ren leaned down, kissed Lynn on the forehead and hugged her closely. "And more than that, you made it yourself. It's more than I can boast."

He started to put it into his jacket, but stopped after a moment, having a better idea of what to do with it. "Hey, you wanna see something cool? Check this out." Ren held the card out in front of him so it was in clear view, then made like he was stuffing it into his sleeve. Before it got there, the nanomachines that made up his body broke the paper object up into it's component molecules, incorporating it into his body. When he pulled his hands back, they were empty. "Neat, huh?"

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The kissing was very nice, and part of Lynn really wanted to kiss him on the lips (I bet they're soft), but she held back; it was too early for that, this was only their first official date. Everything was just so right, so special...and then Ren did the thing with her card. Lynn frowns and points at his sleeve.

"So what, you just ate it? That thing cost me five bucks to make! If I knew you were that hungry, I would have just bought some Robo-snacks or something."

She hotly folds her arms and turns away from him slightly; she's not shutting the door completely, but her hand is on the latch :x

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The kissing was very nice, and part of Lynn really wanted to kiss him on the lips (I bet they're soft), but she held back; it was too early for that, this was only their first official date. Everything was just so right, so special...and then Ren did the thing with her card. Lynn frowns and points at his sleeve.

"So what, you just ate it? That thing cost me five bucks to make! If I knew you were that hungry, I would have just bought some Robo-snacks or something."

She hotly folds her arms and turns away from him slightly; she's not shutting the door completely, but her hand is on the latch :x

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"Wha... what?" Ren's expression goes blank suddenly, then a desperate look worked it's way onto his face. "No, you don't understand! Here, look!" As suddenly as the initial disassembly, the card reintegrated in same condition it had been in when he first made it "disappear".

"See? It's fine. I just did that so I wouldn't loose it or get it damaged." He looked downcast after her rejection, but was still eager to prove he didn't mean anything by it. "Do you really think I would have just destroyed something you gave me? I just wanted it to be close to me; to be safe. Please, Lynn... just... just give me a chance here."

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"Wha... what?" Ren's expression goes blank suddenly, then a desperate look worked it's way onto his face. "No, you don't understand! Here, look!" As suddenly as the initial disassembly, the card reintegrated in same condition it had been in when he first made it "disappear".

"See? It's fine. I just did that so I wouldn't loose it or get it damaged." He looked downcast after her rejection, but was still eager to prove he didn't mean anything by it. "Do you really think I would have just destroyed something you gave me? I just wanted it to be close to me; to be safe. Please, Lynn... just... just give me a chance here."

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Lynn looks at the card for a second, then into Ren's pained fearful eyes; she still hasn't uncrossed her arms, but her frown is starting to crack. "Huh. Okay." She turns and looks up the street for a second. "I'm sorry, I didn't understand how your powers worked." She's still looking up the street as a crooked smile begins to form. "I only spent four twenty-five on the card; I was rounding up because I was pissed."

Finally she turns back to face him, and she drops her arms to her sides as she looks down at her boots. "I've had a lot of bad experiences, I guess you can tell, but some of them have been with guys." She scuffs the slushy sidewalk with her toe, then squints up at him. "Sometimes I'm too quick to assume the worst, y'know? Like I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop, or to be disappointed by people." She shrugs with embarrassment. "It's a thing; hopefully I'll get over it some day, but from time to time I will do something reeaaally stupid, and that's probably why, so...."

Lynn takes a deep breath, lets it go, and then gently grabs both of Ren's arms, tugging at them just a bit. "I'm really sorry I flipped out." She smiles as she points to the card. "You can go ahead and eat that now, y'know, if you want."

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Lynn looks at the card for a second, then into Ren's pained fearful eyes; she still hasn't uncrossed her arms, but her frown is starting to crack. "Huh. Okay." She turns and looks up the street for a second. "I'm sorry, I didn't understand how your powers worked." She's still looking up the street as a crooked smile begins to form. "I only spent four twenty-five on the card; I was rounding up because I was pissed."

Finally she turns back to face him, and she drops her arms to her sides as she looks down at her boots. "I've had a lot of bad experiences, I guess you can tell, but some of them have been with guys." She scuffs the slushy sidewalk with her toe, then squints up at him. "Sometimes I'm too quick to assume the worst, y'know? Like I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop, or to be disappointed by people." She shrugs with embarrassment. "It's a thing; hopefully I'll get over it some day, but from time to time I will do something reeaaally stupid, and that's probably why, so...."

Lynn takes a deep breath, lets it go, and then gently grabs both of Ren's arms, tugging at them just a bit. "I'm really sorry I flipped out." She smiles as she points to the card. "You can go ahead and eat that now, y'know, if you want."

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Ren sagged with visible relief as Lynn let him off the hook. "Well, I guess it's not too much of a stretch to believe I might do something like that, considering... well, what I was before you found me. I'm trying to become more than that, though." He grinned. "And not just because I couldn't be a villain if meant saving my life. I swear, if I had to steal candy from a baby, I'd have starved to death long ago."

He smiled as she mentioned "eating" the card again. "How about I just put it here?" Ren opened his jacket, and with exaggerated slowness, slipped it into his pocket there, keeping his hands in full view at all times. "There," he said, patting the coat where he'd placed it. "Now it's safe, and you don't have to yell at me anymore," he finished with a wink.

"But speaking of eating, I think I already made us late enough, so..." He held out the crook of his arm for her to take and pointed at the Monorail Cafe. "Shall we?"

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Ren sagged with visible relief as Lynn let him off the hook. "Well, I guess it's not too much of a stretch to believe I might do something like that, considering... well, what I was before you found me. I'm trying to become more than that, though." He grinned. "And not just because I couldn't be a villain if meant saving my life. I swear, if I had to steal candy from a baby, I'd have starved to death long ago."

He smiled as she mentioned "eating" the card again. "How about I just put it here?" Ren opened his jacket, and with exaggerated slowness, slipped it into his pocket there, keeping his hands in full view at all times. "There," he said, patting the coat where he'd placed it. "Now it's safe, and you don't have to yell at me anymore," he finished with a wink.

"But speaking of eating, I think I already made us late enough, so..." He held out the crook of his arm for her to take and pointed at the Monorail Cafe. "Shall we?"

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"But speaking of eating, I think I already made us late enough, so..." He held out the crook of his arm for her to take and pointed at the Monorail Cafe. "Shall we?"

Lynn takes his arm and holds her head like a 'proper lady.' "We shall!" Her posture is erect, and she holds her left hand out with the wrist slightly bent as she continues in the same upper crust accent. "Ah, Mr. Sonada, you rally know how to show a young lady a night on the town." But she can't keep up it up forever, and finally doubles over and laughs in her hand as they enter the cafe. The hostess tells them to sit anywhere, and Lynn picks a booth by the window that looks out on Meadow Street; it's a little cooler by the window, but neither teenager seems to mind.

The cafe is decorated to evoke the Golden Age of passenger travel, with sleek chrome and deep red leather used throughout. Art Deco murals of trains, dirigibles and steamships help convey the boundless enthusiasm America once had mass transportation, and the menu is no different; Lynn orders the 20th Century Limited Club made with veggie bacon, with cole slaw and fries on the side and a large chocolate malt, but adds a cup of hot joe for starters. Once Ren has placed his order, she leans across the table and whispers.

"The weird thing is, I was a really good crook for the better part of last year; I was making money hand over fist." She snaps her fingers with a flick of a wrist. "Setting up marks and knocking them down." She shrugs and sinks back into the red leather. "Sad to say, my first instinct once I got my powers was to rip off rich guys. Now, I'm almost as bad a crimefighter as you are a crook." She raises up her water glass once the busboy sets them out. "To doing the right thing, no matter how much you suck!"

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"But speaking of eating, I think I already made us late enough, so..." He held out the crook of his arm for her to take and pointed at the Monorail Cafe. "Shall we?"

Lynn takes his arm and holds her head like a 'proper lady.' "We shall!" Her posture is erect, and she holds her left hand out with the wrist slightly bent as she continues in the same upper crust accent. "Ah, Mr. Sonada, you rally know how to show a young lady a night on the town." But she can't keep up it up forever, and finally doubles over and laughs in her hand as they enter the cafe. The hostess tells them to sit anywhere, and Lynn picks a booth by the window that looks out on Meadow Street; it's a little cooler by the window, but neither teenager seems to mind.

The cafe is decorated to evoke the Golden Age of passenger travel, with sleek chrome and deep red leather used throughout. Art Deco murals of trains, dirigibles and steamships help convey the boundless enthusiasm America once had mass transportation, and the menu is no different; Lynn orders the 20th Century Limited Club made with veggie bacon, with cole slaw and fries on the side and a large chocolate malt, but adds a cup of hot joe for starters. Once Ren has placed his order, she leans across the table and whispers.

"The weird thing is, I was a really good crook for the better part of last year; I was making money hand over fist." She snaps her fingers with a flick of a wrist. "Setting up marks and knocking them down." She shrugs and sinks back into the red leather. "Sad to say, my first instinct once I got my powers was to rip off rich guys. Now, I'm almost as bad a crimefighter as you are a crook." She raises up her water glass once the busboy sets them out. "To doing the right thing, no matter how much you suck!"

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