On the night of the dance, Zoey and Ferris got a ride with Zabrina and Ted to the school. Ferris had actually dressed up slightly for the occasion in dark wash jeans and a button up shirt which may or may not have belonged to Doug. The girls did most of the chatting on the way over, but Zoey didn’t really know Ted, so she had no idea of what to talk to him about other than school. Zabrina, however, seemed quite entertained by everything he had to say, so Zoey was really glad for her friend that Ted had said yes to going with her.
Brie and Chad, as well as Stacy and Aisha were apparently already there when they pulled up to the school, digging out their tickets and checking their phones before heading towards the lineup outside. Ferris had been rather quiet, but reported to Zoey that Calder, Brinly, Lynda, and Oscar would be there soon as well, and asked if they could hang out with her group of friends.
“Not that I think anyone’s in danger tonight or anything, they just want to hang out,” he added. She guessed that he was trying to be uplifting since this was supposed to be a night of fun, but also wanted to make sure that their group of friends didn’t intrude.
“Sure, the more the merrier,” she replied, giving him a small grin. “They’re my friends too, and they’ve met Zabrina so it’s not as if it’s uncalled for.” He gave her a quick smile back, before looking quickly to his phone to type a text.
After getting into the gym where the dance was being held, Zoey let her eyes adjust to the sudden darkness, punctuated by spinning colored lights and loud music. There were streamers and balloons taped around the walls, and plastic tarps spread haphazardly across the floor in order to protect it from the scuffling of shoes, dotted with ancient chewing gum crushed into its plastic exterior.
Spotting Stacy through the crowd, as she was the tallest out of all of her friends, she signalled to Zabrina and they all headed towards their group. Greeting Stacy, Aisha and Brie warmly, they all began to listen to the music, dancing a little as they spoke to one another. Zoey caught up a bit with Stacey, as they only normally got to see her at events like this when she was with Aisha.
Aisha was looking so cute next to Stacey, as always since there was such a difference in height between them. She also had on a new blue headscarf, and dress that was a few shades lighter, and Zoey could tell she was feeling good about her wardrobe choices. Stacey could barely keep from looking at her and it was so nice to see her two friends so happy together.
Brie seemed pretty happy to be there as well, but she had picked a bright red dress and put on a ton of golden jewelry to go with it. Zoey couldn’t say it looked bad, but she did feel a little twinge of jealousy over the sheer amount of jewelry she was wearing. That quickly passed however as everyone was having a good time. After a few moments, Zoey heard Lynda squeal behind her, and felt her grab her arm.
“You’re wearing it again!” she told her excitedly, giving Zoey a quick hand squeeze before backing off. Zoey had worn the first bracelet that Lynda had made her, and obviously that was the best thing she could have done in Lynda’s eyes.
In Zoey’s eyes, she had to adjust again to the brightness of the younger girl’s outfit, but she was overall glad to see her there, even if it was in neon. Oscar followed up swiftly behind, as if Lynda had rushed off and left him, which she probably did, knowing her. Lynda had moved on to passing bracelets out to Zoey’s other friends, and didn’t seem perturbed at all when Brie refused to take one, claiming it would throw off “her look”. Zabrina seemed a little miffed at that behaviour, however, she didn’t press it and neither did Lynda.
Brinly had decided to wear the lavender dress Zoey noted as she approached, also considering the very different choices the two friends had made, one in pastel and one in neon. She thought about her own dress choice, having gone with a simple coral dress because of the warmer weather they had been having. She was still no closer to figuring out what Brinly’s powers were and she wondered if she was missing some sign.
Calder walked up behind Brinly, but one of his feet got caught in a curl in the tarp laid on the floor and he stumbled forward, catching himself, but not before he bumped into Brie.
“Whoops, sorry about that!” he told her honestly, very apologetically waving his hands.
Brie huffed, clearly upset about something, and looked away from him. “Be more careful,” she warned him.
His smile froze on his face, but he shook it off, noticing Zoey and Ferris glaring at Brie’s rude behaviour. He used Brinly’s shoulder to balance as he adjusted one of his below the knee prosthetics through his pants. He sort of towered over her during this, and Zoey wondered if he had any magical powers too. Lynda had mentioned to her before that she was trying to learn electro kinesis, and even though she had no idea what that really was, she nodded and smiled the same. It had ‘electro’ in it, so she wondered if Oscar was teaching her somehow to … do something electric. It didn’t sound possible as they had gained their powers in a much different fashion, but her eyes were lit up so bright that it was probably difficult to convince her otherwise.
Zoey almost wished Ferris had said something snarky about Brie’s behavior, but also didn’t want to cause a scene. She also didn’t want to pit her new friends against her old ones; she wished they would just get along. Brinly and Calder appeared to be getting along with Stacy and Aisha, but Ferris seemed to not want to talk to the others quite so much. He didn’t look upset though, just as if he was enjoying being there even though he was sort of on the outskirts. Maybe he found the music too loud, or he was just happy enough observing rather than interacting with anyone.
“Do you want anything to drink?” he asked her suddenly, pointing to a table where student council members were selling bottles of water and pop in order to make money for the sport teams. She nodded, and he wandered off with Ted to get one. She had meant to offer to give him the money for a drink, because she hadn’t expected him to buy one for her, but when she mentioned it to Brinly she laughed.
“He’s on his best behavior tonight, that’s why. He might grumble a bit but if Doug asked him to do something, he’s going to do his absolute best at whatever that is,” she told Zoey.
After a little while at the dance, everyone had seemed to settle into hanging out together, when a slow song came on. Zoey automatically started dancing with Ferris, glad to see her friends partnered up as well, especially those who were hoping that their date might become something more. Ferris smiled at her, not dancing very closely to her.
“How’s everything going?” he asked, and she could tell he actually meant it, to see how he was doing in his mission.
“Good, good, I’m glad to see everyone getting along, for the most part, of course,” she told him, wishing Doug could be here to see their friends getting along. Certainly, not all his friends were hanging out with them, but she figured this was because they didn’t want to overwhelm her other friends. They had stopped by to say hello throughout the evening though.
“Doug really wished he could be here, you know,” Ferris added, as if he could tell what she had been thinking previously.
“I know, but I also understand why he couldn’t. Do you guys have to go off often?” she asked.
“Not particularly, we can plan better for the next time as well,” he told her, pausing for a second before continuing, “I feel like I should tell you that… although it wasn’t particularly planned for us all to become friends, I am glad it happened, and yes, that is coming directly from me, I wasn’t told to say anything tonight. And even if it is just because of a misunderstanding, you get along really well with everyone who I consider my family. If it was under more appropriate, less evil, researcher-centred circumstances, I’d be honored to have you as my sister, just to let you know.”
Zoey was shocked for a moment, at his friendliness and also at his honesty. He didn’t seem abashed by this reaction, but instead added, “I know, I know, I’m being nice for once.”
She smirked, but then thought about what he had said, “to be honest, I wish it was under better circumstances, somewhat. I don’t regret becoming friends with you guys, even if your ‘family’ is very extended.”
This made him smile, even a little bit. “I figured, you’re pretty easy to read,” he informed her.
She was shocked for a second, but then told him, “well maybe I’d like to be one of your ‘sister-in-laws’ as well, is that easy to read?” she asked. That was a pretty bold statement but it was easy to be honest to Ferris because he was so honest in return. The song was starting to end.
This made him give her a quick grin, and then he glanced at something past her shoulder. “Yeah, actually that was easy to read too. We better stop talking about that though,” he told her.
“Hey, I don’t want you reading too much into that,” she began to say, but then the quiet song ended and she didn’t want to yell over the music. That’s when Doug walked up and she felt her face get red thinking about why Ferris had been trying to end the conversation there. She suddenly had a strong appreciation for Ferris. Oscar charged over, happy as a clam. With Doug’s sudden appearance, Zoey wondered if this had somehow been planned but one look at his innocently smiling face told her it wasn’t. He looked genuinely happy to have made it with only half the dance done.
“You actually made it back in time!!” Oscar cheered, clearly proud of his friend.
“Yeah I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I set out at like 4 am and really went along at a nice clip for the most part,” Doug reported. The people who knew about the whole flying thing were slightly more impressed than the people who were assuming he had taken his truck.
Zabrina smiled, asking, “is Zoey going to have her two dates fight over her now?” jokingly of course. Brie gave a dramatic sigh to that, as if thinking, perish the thought.
Ferris ducked his head and gave his best friend a smile. “Ahh no offence but I will happily duck out of this race,” he told them, “I’ve been on my best behavior and its really wearing on me.”
“You can still stay and dance!” Lynda demanded, showing up like a small rocket of energy. Ferris nodded and gave her a smile.
As everyone began to dance again, Zoey leaned over and tried to talk to Doug over the loud music.
“You made it back, I can’t believe it!” she exclaimed.
“Well, I didn’t want to get your hopes up but I thought I might if I hurried,” he replied, smiling again.
“Did your meeting go well?” she asked him, still dancing.
“Yes-Well, as good as it can go. They’re not going to intervene or anything, they just want to be kept updated,” he told her, trying to word it in a way that didn’t give anything away to anyone who might be eavesdropping. He tried to give her a reassuring smile, and Ferris moved over towards them again.
“You guys do realize this is a dance, right? We’re supposed to be having fun so stop talking about such serious matters,” he instructed them, pushing them closer to the group, and slightly closer to one another. He was easily in one of the best moods Zoey had ever seen him in.
They danced with the crowd and joked, even Brie warming up slightly and managing to add in a few quips. Lynda didn’t try giving her a bracelet again, which Zoey was grateful for, as she just knew that that would cause her to freeze up again. Zabrina had brought up the notion recently that Brie might be being bothered by something but Zoey wasn’t sure that Brie would have opened up to her. Chad seemed to be nice enough to her the whole time though, and for that, Zoey was glad. When Zabrina had brought it up over a month ago, Zoey had hoped things would turn around for Brie, but had also hoped her other friends would be the ones to deal with it, especially since she had to deal with this whole ‘dragons’ thing currently and for the immediate future too.
The music selection was fairly good, even Stacy mentioned that it was better than what they played at her school usually. Aisha made a joke that that must be the only reason she comes back for every dance. Zabrina and her date were getting along pretty well too, and whenever he said or did something really funny or nice, Zoey received a text a few minutes later that was a group of exclamation points. She thought that he must also be glad to be getting along with her, and she hoped her friend would ask him out again, maybe to the movies. She made a mental note to bother Zabrina about that later, telling herself she was a little hypocritical for bugging her friend about asking a guy out when she was being so awkward and confused about Doug. She told herself that this was different, but was it really? Mulling all this over was the opposite of what you were supposed to do at a dance but admittedly it crept up a few times.
Doug didn’t seem to notice when it did, but when he wasn’t looking at her she caught herself looking at him. She mainly caught herself because she would realize that Ferris was smiling at her in an almost maniacal way. Was she supposed to take this as a sign that Doug liked her too, or did Ferris just hope he did? He did know him better than the others, but she didn’t want to assume and feel awful afterward. He was interesting to talk to, and she didn’t want to have to stop talking to him. She wasn’t concerned that if it became awkward he would leave her to the mysterious organization or anything like that. She knew that he took the threat seriously and that they would help her if she needed it.
Zoey wondered if she could ask Brinly or Lynda about it, but she wasn’t sure that Lynda wouldn’t take it upon herself to ask Doug, because she was so straightforward. Brinly of course would be more subtle about finding out, but she didn’t seem closer to Doug than any other member of their ‘family’. Saying it like that, even to herself, made her feel a little awkward. She returned to dancing, and whenever she danced with Doug she hoped she didn’t blush, or that it was dark enough that he couldn’t tell.
She did notice Ferris glance around a few times during the dance, but other than that, they all seemed relaxed. She was able to dance with Doug a few times, and Ferris didn’t seem perturbed at all by this change. He wasn’t asked to dance by anyone else, probably because his regular behaviour was so cold, but he didn’t seem upset by that either. He looked to be deep in thought, and Zoey wondered who was on his mind, but thought better to ask Doug at a later time. She didn’t want to upset them while they were still so happy and relaxed.
Maybe that was why it happened, but she knew she couldn’t blame anyone for the event. She could of course, blame the corporation that did this in the first place, in the name of science, but also all the pain they caused. After the dance, they all went their separate ways, and she thought about the evening on her way home. It had gone beyond well for the most part, and everyone had said that they had had fun. She steeled herself again, changing into her pyjamas first, before texting Doug.
Thank you for showing up tonight, she told him, not thinking he would respond until the morning. She was surprised to hear a buzz from her phone shortly after, and she quickly checked it.
No problem, I was glad I came, was his response, and she decided to ask him a bit more about Ferris. That would be a safe topic of conversation, but one that he would probably feel comfortable talking about.
Listen, maybe this is none of my business… she began, pausing to try to come up with the best way to ask this. Is Ferris interested in anyone? He didn’t really seem to be at the dance tonight, but I don’t think he was upset? He is kind of hard to read, and even though I feel like we had a good chat tonight, mostly about how you guys are family, she decided swiftly not to continue telling Doug what they had spoken about so she didn’t talk herself into a corner, He seemed to be deep in thought, she finished. She knew it was a long text, and wondered if she had made herself clear at all.
She got a response after a few minutes, but her head was starting to feel heavy. She pulled on a hoodie and zipped up the front, feeling chilled. He wasn’t dancing with anyone really because he’s already in love with someone… but that group… they killed her. I don’t want to scare you, but that’s what they did. And they made sure he saw. They told him to go to a certain spot, and she wasn’t even able to say anything to him before she was shot. He ran to her, and they took her away before he could even get close. It was all just to hurt him. That’s why he’s so fiercely protective of everyone. He doesn’t want it to happen again.
Zoey had just read the last sentence, her blood running cold, when her head began to swim. She found her arms too tired to push herself up. Closing her eyes, she realized she could faintly smell gas coming from somewhere in her room. She stretched her arm out, feeling like every muscle was swimming through thickening cement. She grabbed a hold of her bed post, having previously been lying on her stomach on her bed, reading the text messages, and managed to pull, spinning herself around. There, at her window, was a small tube, fit just under the window, open a crack. Barely noticeable, just like the smell.
Her heart was thudding in her ears, and she had very little strength left, but she reached blindly for her phone without turning her head. Clumsy fingers brushed it twice before pulling it towards her, and she managed to hit the button to call Doug. Laying her head down beside the phone, she heard his voice as if it was far away, but it sounded worried.
“I’m sorry, that was too much for me to tell you over text, I should have told you in person, or in a better way, or something…” he trailed off. She was glad for this pause, because she didn’t think she could say anything with very much force to her voice.
“Gas in my room…” she whispered, feeling as if she were yelling and hoping she was close enough to the phone for him to hear, or that he had super hearing or something. She didn’t think he did though.
He must have heard something, because his tone changed, even though the words were starting to sound smaller and smaller. There was a pause, and then she realized he must be shouting because she was able to make out her own name. She didn’t think she could reply, even as the voice sounded more and more distraught. That was when everything turned black.