This was, hands down, the most date-like date Meenah had ever been on.
Yeah, that was a stupid sentence, but she was having trouble putting into words exactly the impression she was getting from this troll. Like, listen. On paper, this was absolutely fuckin’ perfect. He’d picked her up at her hive a few minutes after he said he’d meet her, meaning they would be just late enough to the reservation to let her yell at the host a bit, and also she didn’t need to spend any cash on gas. He’d pulled her seat out at the table for her, and deftly pushed her chair back into her spot, even though she had been positive he had absolutely no muscle under that cashmere sweater. He’d asked her opinion on the wine selection, and made it clear he was shelling out for ----EV---ER---EYTHING, which would cost a pretty sanddollar by the time she was finished eating. Shell, it was even a boutique seafood restaurant that she knew you needed to make reservations at perigees ahead of time. This date should have been absolutely dreamy, by all accounts.
It’s just that it was Kankri who had taken her here.
The fussier Vantas was sitting across from her, black button-down and red cardigan combo lit warmly by the candles between them, perusing the menu.
“Meenah, d9 y9u think that the gum69 here w9uld 6e g99d, 9r sh9uld I g9 f9r s9mething simpler?”
Oh glub, he wanted her opinion on the food. Okay, okay, fuck, she could definitely care about this enough to have an answer.
“I-d-sea-spray, Kankles; gumbo sounds pretty fuckin’ good to me. What do they got in it ‘sides shrimps?”
Kankri purses his lips. “Meenah, while I respect y9ur aut9n9my as a fell9w tr9ll 9f s9und mind and 69dy, I must ask that y9u refrain fr9m using such language while we’re in a restaurant 9f such high cali6er. They have a dress c9de, s9mething I’ll admit I am n9t used t9 in a restaurant, f9r Peeteh’s sake. Als9, my ankles are a6s9lutely distinct fr9m the rest 9f my legs, as y9u may 9r may n9t 6e aware.” He makes an aborted move to quite possibly show her the ankles in question, seemingly thinking better of it.
“Shell-oh-shell, dude. Shore.” She had adhered to the dress code that was attached to the invitation he’d mailed to her hive after she asked him out, which honestly wasn’t that difficult. She had plenty of fuck-me dresses that fit the bill: no spaghetti straps (hidden under her shawl), must not show skin above the knee (as long as she didn’t move too quickly, no one would see the slit in the skirt), and closed-toe shoes only (yeah, that one was doable). The guidelines for women were waaaay stricter than for the men, for stupid dumb reasons, and Kankri was sitting comfortable in his sweater-shirt getup and some starchy slacks.
The waiter came over just then, looking to Kankri first. “Are vwe ready to order?”
“Jegus h shitting Sufferer. Cronus, what the everglubbing fuck are you DOING H--ER-----E??”
The greasiest Ampora, decked out in a very fancy waiter’s uniform complete with a frilly black skirt and pressed white apron, held a small notebook and golf pencil up extremely professionally and not at all suspiciously. “Vwhat, a guy can’t get a side job? Jeez, chief, you’re really harshing my wvibes tonight. I'm just trying to get an idea of hovw the other half liwves, you knowv?”
Meenah pressed her fingers into her temples. “Cronus, I swear to all that is slimy and oceanic, are you seriously fuckin’ FLARPing as a poor person right now?”
Cronus winked at her. Ugh. He vwinked? There was almost an audible sound when he did so. “Nah, babe. I’m actually fuckin poor right novw. Gotta pay off my nevw T-bird somehowv!”
Ever the placid and even-tempered voice of reason, or at least of progressing the date along, Kankri holds out a hand. “Meenah, I’m sure that 9ur… Anachr9nistically-inclined friend is telling the truth. Why d9n’t we 9rder 9ur entrees? I’m sure y9u’re starving 6y n9w.” He smiled warmly at Meenah, who stuck her tongue out. “I’ll take the seaf99d gum69, and my dining c9mpani9n will have the l96ster meunière.”
Raising her eyebrows, Meenah leaned back and took her elbows off the table. Alright, crabsnack had taste, at least. And lobster wasn’t fuckin’ cheap.
Cronus turned to her. “Are you gonna let this guy order for you, Meens? Ain’t you your ovwn gal?”
“Shut the fuck up, Ponyboy. I want my dinner and you’re holdin’ us up now.”
“Damn, no need to be so feisty, jeez. I get it.” Cronus threw up his hands and rolled his eyes, spinning on his heel. “Dinner is coming right up, babes.”
Meenah rolled her eyes so hard she expected them to pop out and bounce out the door, something she had wanted to do for the last forty-five minutes. She couldn’t really explain why she was indulging Kankri on this, besides the fact that she was the one who had originally asked him out after Aranea gave her a stupid dare for twenty boonbucks and a gold necklace. That, and the bit where had actually been, unironically, really sweet to her? Like, right now, he had turned back from glaring a hole through Cronus’ well-ironed dress shirt and was reaching across the table to take her hand.
“I’m s9 s9rry, Meenah. If I had kn9wn he’d 6e here, I never w9uld have taken y9u here. 9r, at least, I w9uld have requested we have a different waiter service 9ur ta6le.” He flushed bright red, matching his sweater. “I really wanted y9u t9 have a nice night 9ut.”
Cod glubbing DAMN IT!! Why was this fucker so sweet for no fuckin’ reason?? Meenah found herself involuntarily smiling back, more softly than she ever thought she could. What the fuck what the fuck what the fu- “Thanks, Kankl- Uh. Kankri. I’m actually having a pretty glubbin’ good time.”
Kankri absolutely beamed, still holding onto her hand. “I’m s9 glad t9 hear that! I haven’t exactly, um.” Oh shit, he was blushing MORE, how did he still have more blood to go to his face? “I haven’t ever had the chance exactly t9 take s9me9ne 9ut, s9 I have a l9t 9f ideas I want t9 use all at 9nce, and, well. I’ve admired y9u f9r quite s9me time. Y9u’re a hands9me, p9werful, kind 9f intimidating 6ut c9nfident and stunning y9ung tr9ll. Pard9n my use 9f a d9u6le-negative, 6ut I c9uldn’t n9t d9 my 6est t9 impress y9u.”
Meenah couldn’t speak, just sitting there with her mouth open. Well that was. A lot? But in a good way? Kankri was still holding her hand, but the soft, embarrassed smile on his face was slowly slipping.
“Um. I, uh. Did I say s9mething wr9ng, Meenah? I’m s9rry, that was may6e a 6it much f9r a first date.” The smile was gone, now, and he started to pull his hand away.
Wait, shit. Did Meenah want him to keep smiling? Was she… enjoying this?? She shook her head. “No, no, not at all. I honestly wasn’t expecting this, Vantas. Like, I didn’t think you liked me all that much? I’ve spent a LONG TIM---E givin’ you carp.” She gripped his hand tight, not letting him take it or his words back. “This is, fins down, the nicest date I’ve been on in a WHIL------E. Fuck, it’s probably the nicest date I’ve been on, ever!” Kankri’s eyebrows shot into his hairline, and he opened his mouth to say something, but Meenah steamrolled over him. “Everyone always expects me to be the one in charge, to plan the dates and pay for shit and make all the decisions because I’m the big bad empress and no one wants to fuck with me. But you sent me a goddamned formal invite on H---EAVY CARDSTOCK in the glubbin’ MAIL like it was enn bee dee and not the cutest fuckin thing -”
Fuck. Hang on. She liked Kankri. Meenah had been on approximate an hour and a half of date, total, including the car ride and the short wait in the lobby, and she was fucking smitten because this dude pulled out all the stops because he thought she deserved it.
Right, she had stopped mid sentence. Pull it together, Peixes. She grabbed his other hand and leaned forward a little. “Vantas, I feel like for once you’re actually listening to me. Maybe that’s a bit mean, but you took me to a fancy-ass restaurant that only serves my fav kind of food, picked out the most expensive and most tasty entree for me without me even tellin’ you I wanted it, and you almost fought Ampora for me. Which, props to you because the fucker has so much hair grease on ‘im that he’s impossible to get a grip on.”
Kankri smiled. “Actually, I saw y9ur eyes turn int9 saucers when y9u l99ked at the menu and saw the l96ster, s9 y9u did s9rt 9f tell me,” he said, leaning in conspiratorially.
“See, this is what I mean! You’re paying attention.” Meenah smiled wide, wider than she thought she could. Oh, this guy was good.
“Y0ur l0bst3r, madam3,” said a voice from her left. Thank glub it wasn’t Cronus this time; some short and squat indigo waited for Meenah to move her arms back before setting her plate down in front of her.
Hot criggety crustacean, if those weren’t some tasty looking lobsters. There were three, each split down the middle, pan-fried with white wine and a garlic-butter sauce ladled on top. Ooh, was that arugula as an accent? She popped a leaf into her mouth. Yeah, that shit was peppery. The waiter placed a bowl next to her with an arugula-parmesan side salad, pouring balsamic vinaigrette onto the greens until she put out a hand. The rest of the room sort of faded out into the periphery as Meenah picked up one of the lobster halves and bit directly into it, shell and all.
To be completely honest, she sort of blacked out for a moment there, and when she came back to reality, all of the lobster was gone and she was shoving the salad into her mouth with her hands. Most of the other restaurant-goers were very pointedly not looking at their table, and Kankri was staring at her with a shrimp tail between his lips. She snorted, and the tail disappeared.
“Did y9u… Enjoy the l96ster?” Yeah, she had definitely been making a lot of noise while she was eating if that was his reaction.
“SH--ELL yeah I did, Vantas. I gotta admit, you have pretty good taste.” She licked her fingers off one by one. Can’t waste good garlic-lemon butter.
Kankri smiled. “9f c9urse. I asked y9u 9ut, didn’t I?”
“Bitch, I asked YOU out, don’t get it twisted.”
“I can think 9f s9me things I’d rather get twisted,” he said, raising an eyebrow.
Meenah gasped, throwing a hand to her chest. “Kankri! Are you being rude? Are you making a sex joke in this fine dining establishment?”
“That didn’t exactly st9p y9u fr9m swearing up a st9rm earlier, dear,” he shot back, sliding a foot between her ankles under the table.
She shrugged. “Eh, not like they can really do much to me, y’know? I probably already own the place through some shell corporation without me really knowin’.” Meenah waved a hand. Rich stuff, he knew how it was. Probably.
“Well, that makes my next surprise a little easier f9r us, then,” Kankri said, picking his napkin up from his lap and placing it on the table. He’d eaten seemingly as quickly as Meenah had, the bowl in front of him empty even of broth.
Meenah raised an eyebrow. “The next surprise?”
He stood up and grabbed her hand. “We’re dining and dashing. I kn9w the 9nly thing y9u like m9re than expensive f99d is expensive f99d y9u didn’t pay f9r.”
“You’re after my mother glubbin’ pump biscuit with this shit, Vantas, glubbin H-----ELL!” She stood up too, swinging him into her arms bridal-style and booking it for the front door. This was exactly why she wore a dress with a gigantic slit up to her hipbone. Other than, like, the thong. They barrelled through the waiter’s station, knocking some very well-dressed midbloods to the ground, and burst through the front doors. Cackling, Meenah sprinted down the street, Kankri bouncing a little in her arms. She took a few sudden turns, nearly clocking his head on a brick wall but just missing it, before bringing them to a stop on a pier overlooking the water.
Meenah carefully set Kankri back on his feet, panting. He put a hand on her shoulder, steadying her as her chest heaved. “Did we…. PH-EW. Did we lose em?”
“I d9n’t 6elieve they were chasing us at all, t9 6e quite h9nest.”
“Good, I don’t want to meet that lobster again. It was fuckin’ stellar the first time, beats the shit I make at home by a nautical mile.”
“Well, I’m n9t sure we’ll ever 6e a6le t9 g9 6ack there, s9 I’m glad it was t9 y9ur liking.”
She finally caught her breath and stood taller, looking down at him. Meenah put her arms on Kankri’s shoulders, backing him up against one of the solid wooden pillars on the dock. “And what makes you so shore we’re doing this again, crabcake?”
He smiled. “This,” Kankri murmured, leaning up on his toes to press a kiss to her mouth. He pulled her even closer, and Meenah felt the buttons of his shirt on her stomach through the thin fabric of her dress. She was kissing Kankri Vantas, and to her surprise he was a pretty damn good kisser.
Meenah pushed him against the pillar a little harder, making him gasp. She took the opportunity to bite his lip and open her mouth against his, feeling a shiver run from her neck down to the base of her spine. God, she was really doing this. She’d lost the shawl somewhere on their mad dash, but couldn’t bring herself to care now. He was almost fever-hot in her arms, so much warmer than her and staving off the mid-night chill.
She was so, so tempted to see if he’d be down to fuck right on the pier, but it was the middle of the night during peak tourist season, and anyone could walk by whenever. When she pulled away from him, he went further on his toes and leaned up, trying to go with her. His eyes blinked open slowly, pupils blown out to the edges of his irises.
“Why’d y9u st9p?” Kankri said, a little petulantly.
Meenah smooched his nose. “I wanna take you back to my place, duh.”
He frowned. “The scuttlecar is still 6ack at the restaurant.”
“I can call us a Scuber to come pick us up and we can swing by to get your car tomorrow, shell boy. C’mon.” Meenah pulls her clamshell phone out of her bra and flips it open, pulling up the rideshare app and unsilencing notifications.
As soon as she did that, her phone started vibrating uncontrollably. “What the shell…” Her Chittr DMs were blowing the fuck up.
Kankri pulled out his phone as well, swiping down to check his own notifications. He frowned, then kept frowning, brow knitting together like a sweater with dropped stitches. “D9 y9u remem6er h9w Cr9nus was at the restaurant?” he said slowly.
Meenah was still trying to punch her address into the Scuber app. Stupid fucking nails. “Uh, yeah, how could I forget that blown-up puffer fish.”
“He t99k a picture 9f us,” Kankri said, holding up his phone screen for Meenah to see.
She grabbed his phone. There was a grainy, zoomed in image on the screen, clearly of them at the restaurant when Meenah was holding both of Kankri’s hands. From an outside perspective, Meenah could see that she and Kankri had been so close their heads were almost touching, confessing something she hadn’t even been aware of a few minutes previously. ‘Son of a FISH!”
“I 6elieve he’s the s9n 9f a seah9rse, technically.”
“Seahorses are fish, bonehead.”
“S9 we’re 6oth right, then.”
“Whatever you say, crabface.” Meenah stopped looking at the picture and handed Kankri’s phone back, finally looking at her own notifications. It looked like Cronus had tagged her and Kankri in a post on Chittr with the picture, and she had DMs from Porrim, Latula, and Aranea. Serket was still sending messages as she was looking through her notifs, so she opened that conversation first.
[@antiquatedGalleria direct messaged @cuddleplumCrusher at 11:26 PM]
[AG quotemessaged a photo tweet by @campbellsAprilia]
AG: Meenah, this is photoshopped, r8?
AG: You didn’t seriously go out with him and enjoy it, did you?
[AG quotemessaged a text post by @campbellsAprilia: "haha vwovw, peixes and vantas couldn’t ewven pay for their meal. lol vwhat losers”]
AG: MEENAH I KNOW YOU HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO PAY FOR THAT MEAL WHAT ARE YOU DOING??
AG: MEENAH PEIXES I SWEAR TO HER INCANDESCENT COMPASSION I WILL TURN ON FIND MY SHELLPHONE TO FIGURE OUT WHERE YOU ARE!
CC: oh, clam it, serks
CC: i’m fine, okray?
CC: i didn’t think it would, but the date went reely well.
CC: i’m takin him back to my place so dont call the seapigs on me, alright?
AG: YOU ARE DOING WHAT????????
CC: sea you later, serket
AG: WHAT AM I GOING TO TELL PORRIM? >::::(
CC: not my prob, spidey
CC: nite nite
Meenah’s phone buzzed. “Fuck yeah, the Scuber is here.” Sure enough, a large, black scuttlesedan idled at the end of the dock. She held out her hand to Kankri, who was typing furiously. Presumably he had similar DMs. “Ready to go?”
He looked up at her. His hair was a little mussed up, curls falling around his eyes and ears. The shoulders of his cardigan had fallen around his elbows, and the top button of his shirt was undone. He looked a bit less uptight than he had in the restaurant, and not particularly upset about it. Kankri glanced down at his phone, then up at her, and pocketed the device without looking at it again. “A6s9lutely.”