Connor had made it his solemn duty to educate Emily on life in the twenty-first century. Emily had certainly never asked him to do anything of the sort, but Connor had taken it upon himself anyway. The rest of the team seemed to find it all quite amusing.
It started simply enough, with the PCs for Dummies book he bought her in advance of offering her personal lessons. Emily studied it carefully, though she was a bit insulted at the title. Especially when much of it was gibberish to her, implying that she was dumber than a “dummy”.
Connor was surprisingly patient, however, when he started giving her computer lessons. He hadn’t even shouted when Emily crashed the computer three times in an hour, though she could tell he dearly wanted to.
Before their next session, he gave her another book. Windows for Dummies. Emily wished that Lester would simply hire her a clerk. After all, he had one.
Connor introduced her to all sorts of food, pizza and Thai and sushi. He brought her takeaway for lunch and took her out after work, sometimes with Abby or Matt but sometimes not, which prompted Becker to make the kind of joke that made Connor blush and Emily feel as though her character was being insulted.
When they all went to a club together, it was Connor who insisted Emily be taught how to dance. Emily of course maintained that she could dance quite well, thank you, but once they arrived she realised Connor’s point. This was certainly not the type of dancing she was accustomed to. In fact, she noticed, heat flaring in her cheeks, in some cases it looked little like dancing and more like the sort of activity that should be restricted to the privacy of one’s own bedroom.
Emily tugged self-consciously at the low collar of her shirt and Jess squeezed an arm around her waist, whispering, “Relax, you look beautiful,” before dragging Becker off to dance. Emily watched the other woman in her tiny skirt unashamedly pressing up against Becker and thought that there were things about this century she was never going to get used to.
Matt bought her a drink and they made their way to a just-abandoned table, where talking proved nearly impossible due to the ear-splitting level of noise in the place. What they called music Emily would call anything but.
Abby and Connor were shouting at each other in order to be heard and eventually Connor grabbed Emily’s arm, tugging her up. He leaned in to say into her ear, “Come on, I promised to show you how to dance! Abby says I shouldn’t be allowed to teach anyone about dancing, but I’m definitely better than Matt.”
Deciding it would be a waste of breath to protest, Emily let herself be led into the mass of sweating, writhing bodies. She quickly arrived at the conclusion that Connor was easily one of the worst dance partners she had ever had, two left feet and absolutely no sense of rhythm, but he was enthusiastic and good-hearted and Emily couldn’t remember the last time she had laughed so much.
The following morning, Emily awoke with a headache, a mysterious bruise on her bum, and a text from Jess claiming she had the ‘most embarrassing pictures of you and Connor EVER!!! :)’, but also the memory of a good night.
Connor compiled a list of books, television shows, and films he felt Emily needed to be introduced to. It veered heavily into science fiction and fantasy, or so the others told her. Connor claimed that after computers, the internet, and mobile phones, this was the most crucial part of Emily’s education.
Emily personally felt it was probably more useful to have a basic understanding of things like recent history and the state of the government, but she didn’t argue.
He started leaving books for her to find. The first one was a comic book, something about zombies. Emily really didn’t understand this century’s fascination with zombies. As far as she had been able to discern, they were nothing more than walking corpses. What was so enthralling about that? Connor had tried to explain it but Emily had simply nodded when it seemed like she should and accepted that she would never understand.
Regardless, Emily tried gamely to read the comic but found it hard to follow. It was such a mish-mash of words and images that the pages looked like an explosion of colour, impossible to keep straight in her head. She mentioned it to Jess who then probably told Connor, which had been Emily’s intent all along. Jess was good at breaking bad news without hurting anyone’s feelings and Emily was sure it would look better coming from her.
Next she discovered a set of seven large books called Harry Potter. There was a note in Connor’s scrawl set upon the top that explained why Emily definitely had to read them. She skimmed the list, which claimed things like, cultural phenomenon, British author, and written for kids (should she be offended by that?).
The last reason was, MAGIC SCHOOL!!!
Slightly bemused, Emily started the first one at lunch. About five minutes later, Connor came in and sat next to her. “You’re reading Harry Potter!”
“You did give them to me.”
Connor’s smile was almost shy. “Yeah, but… Never mind, what do you think?”
“I’ve hardly started.”
“Oh, right. Well, let me know what you think, okay? And don’t… don’t feel obligated, or anything. It’s okay if you hate them.” He paused and then went on, almost sadly, “It’d be a terrible thing for your education but I’m not the sort of teacher who wants to force things my pupils hate on them.”
Emily nodded in sympathy. “Bad experience?”
“Just because something’s called a classic doesn’t mean it’s good,” Connor informed her as if it was a tidbit of tremendous wisdom.
“Very true,” she agreed seriously and returned to her book.
She liked it.
Afterwards, Connor informed her that she had graduated and thus could move on to the next stage. Which, it turned out, was Tolkien. Connor was very passionate about Tolkien.
On an evening Matt was out drinking with Becker, Connor came over to watch something called ‘Star Wars’. Matt had laughed when Emily told him, but he wouldn’t explain why.
Connor showed up not with one film, but three. He was bouncing a little on his feet, beaming and saying, “I’ve been waiting for this all week, Abby said I was driving her crazy. This is going to be so much fun! There’s nothing better than seeing Star Wars the first time. Ooh, and I brought popcorn, I don’t trust the sort of food you and Matt have probably got in your kitchen.”
Emily refrained from taking that as an insult. She was unashamed to admit that she found living without a cook difficult and frankly, she didn’t know how her friends had managed to cope their entire lives without one.
“You can’t possibly mean for us to watch all three of those,” Emily said as she led him inside.
Some of the enthusiasm went out of Connor’s face. “Um. Well, they are great to watch all together, it’s basically just one long film, really. I thought... But if you don’t want to, I guess I understand.”
Emily regretted her statement when she saw the effect on Connor, how disappointed he seemed when he had been so excited only moments ago. “Perhaps you’re right. You’ll have to forgive me; I know so little about the proper way of things like this.”
Connor’s expression brightened immediately. “We’ll see how you feel after the first one, maybe you’ll love it! Then you’ll have to find out what happens.”
“Perhaps,” Emily said with a small smile. She hoped she enjoyed it, for Connor’s sake. He so resembled a puppy, eager to please, that Emily hated disappointing him.
They settled onto the sofa with their big bowl of popcorn and Connor said, “I want you to remember one thing. Han shot first.”
“Um... okay,” Emily said. She supposed it would make sense later. Probably.
There was a startling blast of music and then words began scrolling down the screen. In Emily’s still limited film watching experience, that was an unusual occurrence, but she shrugged it off and started to read. “It says episode four. I thought this was the first one.”
“Yeah, it’s kind of complicated. You see, he started with episode four and then later went back and made the prequels. But trust me, it’s better to start with the original trilogy.”
“If you say so,” Emily said dubiously. It seemed terribly strange in her opinion.
The words were replaced by a spaceship being pursued by a much larger one over the surface of a planet, with lots of coloured blasts of light. It looked impressive, at least to Emily. But then the scene switched to what she presumed was the interior of one of the ships, focusing on a human-shaped gold-plated robot thing and a smaller, rounded robot thing. And the gold one actually spoke. Emily couldn’t contain her disbelief. “They’re… robots?”
“Droids, actually, but yeah, basically.”
“And the beeping? The gold one understands that as language?”
“Right. He’s fluent in over six million forms of communication,” Connor said, as if he were quoting from something.
Emily decided to let it go. On screen, a bunch of men had gathered in a corridor and some other men - well, she assumed they were men - in strange white plastic suits of armour came through a wall they’d blown up. They all started shooting at each other, but it was a bit pathetic. “They’re terrible shots, all of them,” Emily observed. Becker would doubtless be appalled. “I’m amazed they’ve managed to kill anyone.”
Connor laughed. “That’s definitely a recurring theme. Now if you ever hear anyone say ‘shoots like a stormtrooper,’ you’ll know what they mean.”
“I suppose I will.” Not that she knew which ones were the stormtroopers, the armoured ones or the ones in the funny helmets. “Their guns are strange. Why do they shoot out light?”
“They’re blasters,” Connor supplied helpfully. “I expect they fire bursts of some sort of particle beam energy. It’s not exactly realistic, but, you know. Sci-fi and all. Doesn’t really conform to actual physics.”
“I see.” After a moment, a tall black-caped figure with definite breathing issues appeared. With all their technology, you’d think they could design a better breathing apparatus. “He looks ridiculous. They all look ridiculous.”
Connor stared at her, betrayed. “But… but that’s Darth Vader! He’s basically the greatest villain ever. Give it a chance, you’ll see.”
Emily nodded to appease him and managed to stay silent for a while, but then she simply had to say, “What is on that woman’s head? Is that her hair?”
Connor paused the film, his knuckles whitening around the remote. “Okay, now that’s uncalled for. It’s Princess Leia! She’s… she’s the perfect woman.”
“Oh? And what would Abby say about that?” Emily teased.
A flush appeared in Connor’s cheeks. “Abby and I have an understanding about Princess Leia,” he said, a smile tugging at his mouth. “Now please, will you just watch the film? You’re never going to enjoy it if all you’re doing is picking it apart.”
“All right, I’ll try to be quiet,” Emily promised, settling back and returning her gaze to the television.
And somehow, Emily did find herself enjoying it. A small part of her balked at the silliness of it, the way the heroes should have been dead dozens of times over, the huge hairy bear thing that roared at everyone but they talked to it like it was normal, the old man vanishing like magic just when he was killed. But she was still swept up in the story and she could easily see why Connor, who had undoubtedly first watched it as a young boy, loved it. By the end, when Luke blew up the Death Star and they all got their medals, Emily was beaming at the screen. She supposed that perhaps she simply had a soft spot for small groups of misfits banding together and succeeding against all the odds.
The credits began to run and Connor shifted at her side. “So…?”
Emily turned to him, still smiling. “Well, go on, put the next one in. I want to know what happens.”
Connor grinned from ear to ear. “Brilliant! I told you you’d like it.”
So they watched the second film and Emily could tell she was gasping in all the right places, completely captivated by the events unfolding in front of her, and at the end of course she had to find out how they would rescue Han, so Connor put in the third disc.
Matt came home while Luke and Han were being taken to be executed. “Hey, you’re still watching this?”
“Quiet!” Emily shushed him, not even taking her eyes off the television.
“Sorry,” Matt whispered and sat next to her. “I may as well join you.” He looped his arm over the top of the sofa behind Emily’s head and she leaned into him, his fingers absently stroking her arm. If she happened to press closer against him at the more tense moments, no one said anything.
When it finished, they all sat in silence for a while watching the credits until finally Connor said, sounding a trifle apprehensive, “What did you think?”
“It was wonderful,” Emily said truthfully. Completely silly, but wonderful.
“Really?” Matt sounded surprised.
“You didn’t think I would enjoy it?”
“Not exactly, but I thought it might be... a bit fantastical for your taste.”
Emily really wasn’t sure if she should be offended or not at that, so all she said was, “Well, I thought it was amazing. And now, Connor, I want you to explain what you meant about Han shooting first.”
“Connor, I think you’ve turned her into a geek,” Matt said and kissed Emily’s temple. “You two have fun, I’m going to bed.”
Emily watched him go and then turned back to Connor. “Is that a good thing?”
He laughed. “Depends on who you ask but I think it’s a very, very good thing.”
They stayed up talking through the night, about Star Wars and all sorts of things, laughing and trying to be at least a little bit quiet so they wouldn’t disturb Matt.
Emily woke up to the smell of coffee and bacon, her head in Connor’s lap. She sat up, rubbing her eyes, and smiled at the sight of Connor sprawled against the back of the sofa with his head tilted back and his mouth open. He was probably going to have a dreadful neck ache for the rest of the day. She shook him gently. “Connor, wake up.”
He came awake with a start, blinking at her. “Emily? What... Did I sleep here?”
“We must have fallen asleep. Matt’s making breakfast.”
“Hmmm. I’d better call Abby.” Connor reached his hand into his pocket to pull out his mobile.
Emily pushed her hair out of her face and asked tentatively, “I don’t know if you... Are we still going to watch Doctor Who next weekend?”
A smile spread across Connor’s face. “Oh, absolutely.”
If this was what it meant to be a geek, Emily decided she didn’t mind.