The runners were getting most of the credit for Prom, but really, they hadn't done much. Sure, Cameo and Kytan had found the party store and brought back a lot of margarita mix. And yes, Five and Jody had come up with the idea to hold a dance at Abel and call it Prom and had gone back out to fetch some more of Pepe's Finest British Tequila to go with the margarita mix. And it was true that the runners had been the ones to collect the fancy dress costumes. But it wasn't really the runners who were making it happen. All they were doing was bringing in supplies. The rest of Abel was doing all the hard work of making Prom actually happen.
The kitchen crew was making sure there would be decent food for everyone to enjoy, including some sweet treats and homemade crisps and the like. Rajit and his team had cleaned and rearranged all the tables and chairs from the dining hall to allow for dancing and mingling. Amber and the kids had made a disco ball out of a smashed mirror ("Wonder who took one for the team and took on seven years of bad luck in a zombie apocalypse?" Sam had said when he'd found out; “Probably Simon,” Five had replied. “Tempting fate seems to be up his alley.”) and decorated banners and made props for a mock photo booth. The camera didn't work, of course, but they'd gotten excited about it all the same and Five had to admit the mustaches and glasses they'd made out of cardboard were pretty cute.
And Sam had done the music.
He'd spent hours combing through every music file and CD he could find. Jack and Eugene had fought him on it, wanting to take on the task themselves, but Sam had argued that they got to do it all the time on Radio Abel, and it was his turn to be in charge of the music for a night. They had finally relented when he said that he would take breaks and they could DJ then.
Five didn't know where he'd found the time to put together the playlist, given that all the party supply runs were keeping him busier than ever in the comms shack. She suspected he was sacrificing sleep to do it, but he was so excited about it that she didn't think he cared if he was tired, so why should she? And he was adorable when he got excited. But secretive--he wouldn't even let her see a single song on the list.
"It's a surprise!" he said when she asked for a sample. "I want you to be totally, completely surprised."
“Because! It’s—I just do!”
She let it drop.
Five and Jody had gone out on a makeup-and-hair-supplies run, and sat on their cots in their room to look over the haul. "Who’d have thought we’d find an entire beauty supply store almost completely untouched? Look at all this. I found a curling iron, but Janine said we couldn't use the power for it," Five said.
"We can do rag curls!” Jody told her. “I'll get Rajit to give me a sheet or a pillowcase or something to rip up and I'll do them for you the night before. You'll be gorgeous. Sam won't know what hit him."
Five laughed. “Sam will be so busy refusing to let Jack and Eugene near the music that I don’t know that he’d notice if I actually hit him.”
“Where’s he getting all this music, anyway?”
“Probably from Jack and Eugene,” Five snorted.
“I wonder if he’s got any Spice Girls.”
Five blinked. “You’re a Spice Girls fan?”
“I used to dance to their songs when I was a kid, with my girlfriends. We had whole routines worked out. I was Sporty Spice. Sometimes it’s nice to remember happy things from before all this. Come on, what’s your favorite song from before?”
Five thought for a moment. “I have lots of favorite songs. But if we’re talking about guilty pleasure songs from our youths, I do remember sitting with my radio, just waiting for ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ by Savage Garden to come on, and hitting ‘record’ on a blank tape. I always tried to time it just right so I would get as much of the song as I could, without getting any of the DJ talking. I must have had that stupid song on like five or six mix tapes.”
“Okay, if you like Savage Garden, you’re not allowed to judge me for liking Spice Girls.”
Five didn't know how she had done it, but Jody had managed to curl her hair into soft waves, and had done her own in adorable fat sausage curls. Five applied mascara and lip gloss to both their faces. “You look perfect. Come on, let's go to Janine's."
"She's going to want some of this stuff, don't you think?"
"Why not? You don't think she'll want to make herself up a bit for Simon?"
"I just can't see Janine going in for something as superficial and girly as makeup, Five. And besides, we’re not supposed to know she and Simon are doing it."
"Well, we won't know if we don't try."
"I really don't go in for that sort of thing, Five. It's kind of you to offer, but I'm not much of a...girly-girl."
Told you, Jody mouthed.
"Please, Janine? Just a little bit. It's Prom, this whole night is about having fun and getting dressed up and being frivolous for the first time since the apocalypse started! Let me put some mascara on you."
"Really, Runner Five--"
"And show us the dress you're wearing."
"I'm not wearing a dress, Five, I'm not a dress-wearing sort of person."
Five stared at her for a moment, then turned to Jody. "That red one we picked up. Go get it."
Jody burst out laughing and scampered off. Janine's eyes narrowed.
Five put a hand on her elbow and steered her to a chair. "I bet you never did the makeovers-and-slumber-parties thing, did you, Janine?"
"This is supposed to be fun, Janine. Now quit looking at me like that and close your eyes so I can fill in your brows."
The assortment of party attire the runners had found meant that half of Abel came to the dance in costume or in black tie, and half of them were just dressed nicely. Jody was positively adorable in a frilly pink Scarlett O'Hara dress. Sara was dressed as either Lara Croft, or as herself; Five couldn't tell since Sara generally dressed like Lara Croft anyway. Eugene was The Terminator, with Jack as...well, she wasn't entirely sure what Jack was supposed to be, but she thought it was maybe Hugh Hefner, or possibly a circus ringmaster. The sequins on his smoking jacket were complicating the look a bit.
But some of the residents had opted for a more toned-down version of “fancy dress”. Maxine and Paula were in cocktail dresses, and Nadia wore a pretty wine-and-gold-colored evening gown that Five had picked up specifically for her, as a sort of "water under the bridge" gift. It flattered her coloring beautifully, and she smiled at Five as she walked into the courtyard, and Five smiled back. She wasn't sure she and Nadia would ever be friends, but at least they were both making an effort to let bygones be bygones.
Someone had strung up a few strings of white fairy lights around the courtyard, and everything looked lovely. Janine looked smashing, if uncomfortable, in the short red dress Jody and Five and chosen for her. Simon kept trying to put his hand up her skirt and she kept shoving him away, smiling in that way that women smile when they like what their partner is doing but don't want anyone else to notice he’s doing it. She actually looked like she was enjoying herself, and Five gave herself a mental pat on the back for her part in it.
Sam, up on the makeshift stage with the speaker and an iPod, wore a t-shirt printed to look like a tuxedo. Five grinned. Who had found that for him? It was perfect. It was just so perfectly Sam.
He was talking into the microphone, which didn't actually work (the single small speaker they had only had one port, so it was the music or Sam's voice, but he had wanted the “true DJ experience”), and his mouth stopped moving when Five walked up to him.
"Hey, Five," he said softly. "You look...you look amazing."
She looked down at the dress she'd chosen, dark teal with a swingy skirt. "Thanks."
"I don't think I've ever seen you in that color. Or with your hair down like that. It's...you look beautiful. Really, really beautiful."
She blushed. "You're making me blush."
"I know. It's cute. I'm going to keep doing it." She stuck her tongue out at him. "Oh, now, see, you've ruined the Prom magic where we all pretend we're refined and fancy and above things like sticking our tongues out at each other."
"You clean up pretty nice yourself. Never thought I’d see you in a tux." He laughed. "When do you get to take a break from DJing?"
"Five, it's only just started," he said. "You can't make me give in to Jack and Eugene so soon."
"All right. Can I help?"
"No, you go have fun. This whole thing was your idea! Go mingle! Have some really gross margaritas and half a biscuit and some fun! I'll let you know when I'm ready to take a break and do some dancing."
"I should warn you, I'm a terrible dancer," she told him.
"I should warn you, I'm worse," he said, and she skipped off, laughing, and feeling lighter than she could remember ever feeling before.
At least two hours later, Sam had still not taken a break, and Five was getting restless. She'd mingled, she'd had bad margaritas (they really were awful; even a quality mix couldn't have improved the taste of Pepe's, and the party-store mix Cameo and Kytan had lugged home was anything but quality; still, they got the job done, and she was feeling pleasantly buzzed), she'd eaten her allotted half a biscuit and some carrot sticks from the garden, and she was having a grand time but she missed Sam. It was Prom night, she wanted to dance to a stupid slow song with her boyfriend and pretend everything was normal and she hadn’t aged a hundred years in a few months and wasn’t constantly in danger of being turned into a zombie.
"Sam still hasn't taken a break?" Jody flopped down in a chair next to Five.
"Jerk. He owes you a sappy slow dance."
"He'll take one eventually. I think. I'm not sure, I might have to get Jack to pry that iPod out of his cold dead fingers." She looked over at Jody. "How's the Scarlett dress working out for you?"
"It's the most godawful uncomfortable thing I've ever worn, and I love it. Do you think I can wear if on runs? Or to dinner? I don't ever want to take it off. Look." Jody stood up and swung her hips side to side to show Five how her skirt swung like a bell.
Five giggled. "Well, I'm not sure how effectively you'll be able to evade zombies in it, but you'll be the cutest zombie in Britain after they get you."
Jody's reply was cut off by a voice from the speaker. "Hello, Abel Township!"
A cheer went up from the crowd as Jody said, "Looks like they pried the iPod from Sam's cold dead fingers. Probably you should go console him."
"Probably I should," Five said, and stood to go find him.
"Sam is taking a well-earned break for a few minutes," Eugene said, "and Jack and I want to kick off our likely all-too-brief stint as your emcees for the evening with a special request dedication from our radio operator to one of Abel's finest runners. Runner Five, this one's for you."
Some clicks and static as Eugene unplugged the mic and plugged in the iPod again, and then the opening notes of “Truly, Madly, Deeply” began to play.
Sam stepped out from the crowd and took her hand. "Hey, Runner Five," he said softly as he drew her toward him.
"You found my song. How did you know about this song?" She blinked back tears. She wasn't sure why she was tearing up, but she was so touched by the fact that he'd found her song—a song she didn’t even known he’d known about—that she couldn't hold back her emotion.
"I had Jody do some recon for me."
“And you found it.”
“Even though it was probably really hard to find, and it’s cheesy and stupid.”
"Can I tell you a secret?" Sam said, brushing his thumb over her cheek to wipe away a tear. "I actually sort of love this song. Don't tell anyone. But I put it on a mix tape for the first girl I ever really had a crush on, which of course I never gave her because a) I was too chicken to talk to her and b) she had a boyfriend, and he was bigger than me. But it's always been a song that reminds me of the innocence of young love, and I quite like that."
"I quite like you," she told him.
"I quite like you, too," he whispered. "I truly, madly, deeply do." He pulled her closer as she huffed a laugh, and brushed his lips over hers. She pressed her forehead to his, and thought to herself, This is perfect. This is absolutely perfect.
She tilted her chin forward and kissed him back, ignoring the whoops and hoots of their friends around them, watching them make out on the dance floor like a couple of teenagers at prom. Let them watch. This wasn't prom, it was Prom, and she was with Sam, and the DJs were playing her song, and for that moment, everything was truly, madly, deeply, absolutely perfect.