Who: Emelda Vane, Zacharias Smith
Where: Mayor Smith’s offices
When: 18 December 2001, morning
Emma was snooping. It was something she did, fairly often actually, in her Pursuit Of The Truth. It was surprising what you could get away with if you acted like you belonged in a place, and she had overheard some very interesting conversations in her time.
Right now she was also on something of a Mission. She’d been after an interview with Mayor Smith for weeks and he kept avoiding her Floo calls and not returning any of her Owls. So, the only thing to do was to see if she could bump into him in person. She’d walked right into the town hall and had so far gone undetected as she nosed around.
Wandering along a corridor, looking for Mayor Smith’s office, Emma turned a corner and stopped as abruptly as if she’d walked into a trap. Which maybe she had, because she literally couldn’t move. “Oh rats,” she said softly. Busted.
Zacharias had wanted to secure an interview with his father for the WWN, but the older gent had staunchly refused. His own father! Didn’t he understand it was just the career boost Zach needed?
So he was especially unhappy to see Emelda trying her luck.
“What are you doing here? He doesn’t want to talk to you,” he said, scowling. He walked closer, as if he could take her arm and march her from the building — he wished — but suddenly found his movement impeded. He frowned.
“Your father is in a position of public office and as such he has a duty to speak to the press,” Emelda said stubbornly, refusing to even admit she might be in the wrong here. She noticed Zach suddenly stop and a feeling of amused delight rippled through her. Surely Zach was immune to the Wards laid down here? Apparently not. “Are you having difficulty?” she enquired politely, her face a picture of innocence.
“He has a duty to speak to the press, not a duty to speak to you,” replied Zach, scowl firmly in place. “No, no difficulty,” he added, now straining against the invisible force.
Emma scowled right back at him. “I am a reporter,” she retorted, “and so I count as press, regardless of your personal opinion of the magazine I work for. Are you quite sure you are not in difficulty? Because it rather looks to me as though you are stuck.”
Zach gave up. “Well why don’t you be useful and go get help then?” He snapped.
“Oh, I am quite as trapped as you are,” Emma said with a little shrug. “It looks like we are both stuck until someone comes along and frees us.” She made a great show of looking around the empty corridor. “No, no one appears to be — oh, mistletoe!” she exclaimed, as she looked up and spotted a bunch hanging from the ceiling. “How festive.”
Zach’s gaze travelled upwards. “Who the hell put that there,” he thundered. “This is a place of business.”
His eyes turned accusingly to Emelda. “Maybe it was you.”
“Maybe it was, and maybe it wasn’t,” Emma said cryptically, a smile tugging at her lips. Why were all men so easy to wind up? “The fact remains that it is there, and we are underneath it…” She let her sentence trail off, and looked at him meaningfully, resisting the strong temptation to burst into giggles.
Zach rolled his eyes. “It’s a childish tradition, not the law. Read my lips — no.”
“Bah, humbug,” Emma teased him, letting her gaze linger on his mouth. Well, he had told her to read his lips.
“Tristan will be along soon,” said Zach, sounding more hopeful than sure. “She’ll get help.”
Emma said pragmatically, “Kissing would help the time pass more quickly.”
Zach’s eyes flicked toward her lips. He hadn’t kissed anyone since Isolde during that godawful love potion pandemic. Which, he reminded himself, Emelda might’ve had a hand in.
On the other hand, if it would make her stop talking…
“The time doesn’t pass more quickly, you just think it does,” he said. “And I bet that only works if you like the person.” He challenged her with an eyebrow raised.
“Do you want to test that theory?” Emma asked, meeting his challenge with an eyebrow raise of her own. She didn’t have any particular feelings for Zach, but it had been a while — a long while — since she’d kissed anyone, and she kind of missed it. Not that she was going to admit to that. “Or are you not man enough for the task?”
“What’s manliness got to do with it? Most men would fall over themselves to oblige. It’d be manlier not—”
Oh, for Merlin’s sake, Zach was not going to be stuck having a debate about the finer points of masculinity. He’d sooner cut off his ears.
He planted one on Emelda.
Well, her use of reverse psychology — or whatever you wanted to call it — had worked, although Zach’s kiss definitely lacked technique. When he started to pull back, Emma leaned in towards him, tilting her head to better fit her lips against his, and she kissed him back with (she hoped) a little more finesse.
What was she doing? The wretched ward should be broken. Was she trying to school him? Didn’t she know this was just a kiss of pragmatism and should not be taken as representative of anything? Well fuck her; he could do better.
So he did. He gave as good as he got.
Emma made a surprised little noise of pleasure against Zach’s lips — now he was catching on — and curled her fingers against the nape of his neck, delighted with the way things were going. Oh yes, this really was nice. She had missed kissing.
Of course, she had no idea that it was the mistletoe responsible for trapping them in the first place. She’d assumed she’d walked straight into an intruder ward. So when she heard someone clear their throat behind her, and she found that she had no trouble twisting round to see who it was, she naturally supposed that the gentleman standing there had broken the ward.
“Mayor Smith!” Emma said, beaming at him. “How lovely to see you. Shall we have that interview now?”
“Zacharias?” said the Mayor. “Is she your new—”
Zacharias took a deep breath and tried not to fling a palm at his face in frustration. “No, she’s just a very nosy person, Dad.”
“Then why are you—”
“She’s going now.” Zach declared, steely-eyed. He grabbed Emelda’s hand. “Come on. You were just leaving.”
“I am not nosy!” Emma protested, pulling her hand free. “I have a healthy sense of curiosity, that is all. And I really came here to see your father, Zacharias, not you.” She aimed her smile back at Mayor Smith. “Is it okay to use your office for the interview?”
“Well there’s no need to be so formal,” said the Mayor. “Why don’t you come to dinner?”
Zacharias’s mouth dropped.
“I would love that!” Emma exclaimed, and on an impulse slipped her hand back into Zach’s. “We should set a date. My diary is pretty free,” she lied, deciding there and then that if the Mayor was going to invite her over to his house for dinner, she would just have to cancel any other plans she might have already made. Her family would understand.
Zacharias tried to dislodge his hand. She wasn’t budging. “How about never?” he offered with a large smile. “Never is good for me.”
The Mayor laughed. “Being reticent is not like you, Zach. How about Saturday?”
“Saturday is perfect,” Emma assured him. “Honestly, Zach, there is no need to be so coy. It would be wonderful to finally meet your family.” She bumped her shoulder against his affectionately, and shot him a look that most onlookers would have interpreted as loving. Triumphant might have been a more accurate description.
However, not wanting to push her luck, she decided that she ought to make a judicious exit before Zach could veto their plans. “I really must be getting back to work,” she said with a little sigh. “It was lovely to finally meet you at last, Mayor Smith.”
“Likewise,” said the Mayor with a smile. “I’m looking forward to Saturday.”
Zach suppressed a groan. Was it ungentlemanly to break up via journal?