The idea of going 'out' promptly hit a roadblock. Oron came stalking toward her as entered the flat.
"Where were you?" he demanded.
"I just went to the shops," Zoë said mildly.
"You're not to go outside alone," Oron snapped.
"I'm aware of that rule, yes." Calmly, she hung her scarf and coat on the pegs by the door.
"Do not ignore me, highness. We made a deal. You play by the rules we agreed on, or you go home."
Zoë sent him a pleading look. "It was just a little walk! I was wearing my sunglasses, no one recognized me."
"Not everyone who recognizes you is going to come running up for an autograph."
"And they're not all going to be serial killers, either." She walked past him to the kitchen. He followed, dogged. "I would have asked you to come with me, but you were on the phone and I know how you hate to be interrupted…"
Oron's jaw tightened. Gods give him patience. "That is not a valid excuse."
She grinned cheekily. "It's a good one, though. I got you something."
"Don't change the subject, Zoë."
Too late; she was already unpacking the bag. "Thank you for the tea this morning, by the way. You see, I realized how nice you've been to me all week, and then I saw you'd run out of those candies you like… So I got you more." Oron found himself being offered a bright pink and green box, covered in dancing toys with balloons.
"What is this?"
"It's for you." She gave the box a shake, like she was enticing a dog.
Feeling awkward, Oron took it. The drawings were… insipid. He couldn't imagine a child alive that would be fooled by them. But Zoë was looking at him expectantly, so he untied the ribbon holding it closed.
The sickly sweet smell that rose up was nauseating. He thrust the box away. "Deus, what are they?"
Zoë's nose was wrinkling as well. "Peach? I don't know, they smell awful." She took one off the top and turned it over. "Ugh, it looks molten! Look at its face!" she thrust the poor gummy bear at him.
Oron held a hand up to ward her off. "Highness, I thank you for the thought, but—"
"Look at this one! Is that supposed to be a tail or its nose?" Zoë peered at another piece, then bravely put it in her mouth. Oron stared at her. She sucked on it for a moment, making a moue at the sugary, flavorless outer coating. It began to melt away and her eyes watered. "Oh my Pan!" She spat it into the sink. "That is disgusting!"
"What? What is it?" Oron looked at the other candies in horror. Perhaps they had been poisoned.
"It's sour!" She took water straight from the tap in her hands and swished it round her mouth. "Ugh, I think my tongue is injured…" She looked over her shoulder to see Oron looked furtive. "Don't you dare say I deserved that…"
His face smoothed instantly. "I would never suggest such a thing."
She stuck her tongue out at him and rinsed her mouth again. "Mm… I want to try the green one…"
"You're not serious."
"Sure I am. Oh, I got a bag of the normal ones, too." She rinsed her mouth out once more and inspected another candy, eyeing it like her enemy across a battlefield.
Oron edged away from her, certain that one would be spat out soon enough as well, and not wanting to be hit by a sour projectile. He rifled through the shopping bag and found the sweets he had been eating since his Roman supply ran out. He sniffed them suspiciously but they seemed alright.
"PAH! Oh, deus… I'm going to have my father ban these… augh… You think Devon will eat it if I tell him they're a specialty?"
"Mmm, fair enough. Better send some to Daddy instead."
Oron looked at her sternly. "It's my duty to protect your father."
Zoë tsked. "Lighten up, Oron." She closed the box and pushed it well away from either of them. Then she grew thoughtful. "We could mail them to the rebels, though…"
The sudden image of various secretive insurgents spitting out sour bears made Oron's lips twitch. He tried to retain his usual stern look, but it was too late, she had seen him smile. Zoë grinned. Finally, he did as well.
"I'm going to go take a shower. Then I might be ready for lunch." Zoë skipped out of the kitchen.
Oron suppressed a sigh. He was hardly old but he didn't have that amazing ability to spring back from a hangover the way she did. He looked down at the candies. He hadn't anticipated her doing something nice for him. Perhaps their stay here wouldn't be so terrible.
It was time to call the Centurion and check in.