Summary: Yang hosts a dating show, Blake's a contestant.
"Cameras ready," a voice buzzed in Yang's ear as she crossed the stage, smiling and waving to the crowd in the stands.
"Lights ready," another confirmed, referencing the hot, bright lights that would probably blind her after a few more years (if they didn't melt her first).
"Is the last contestant here?" a third voice asked while the stagehand counted down from five on his fingers.
"She's here - we're good to go."
As soon as the stagehand reached zero, a red light appeared on the camera in front of her, and she threw on a big smile.
"Hello everyone!" Yang began in what she affectionately referred to as her 'stage voice.' "Welcome back to You Pick 'Em - the only show where one lucky lady picks the man of her dreams - or at least, one of the three selections we have in the studio today."
After pausing for the obligatory laughs, she beamed and continued her back-from-commercial spiel.
"We've already watched our first two contestants ride off with their dream dates. Now it's time for our last contestant of the day to have her turn!"
Another pause for a round of applause, then she waited three full seconds before looking at the small notecard in her hands. 'The Card of Everything' she jokingly called it - because really, it held nothing more than a few hobbies and a name.
"Let's see..." she mused, pretending to be hyper-interested in what was written on the top line. "This contestant is a self-described 'bookworm,' who loves curling up with a good story on a rainy day."
That hobby wasn't at all what Yang expected, but somehow she held a straight face while reading it aloud. No 'long walks on the beach?' No 'hiking with friends?' Who admitted to reading as a hobby when going on a dating game show?
Writing off that unexpected tidbit, Yang let the audience digest that first piece of information before scanning the second line and continuing the introduction.
"When not reading, you'll find her working at one of the downtown research labs -"
Briefly pausing, she raised the notecard to her lips and whispered "Probably still reading" to collect another round of laughs. Chuckling to herself at the unique contestant about to appear, she shook her head and decided to get this show on the road.
The last line on The Card of Everything was the most important - the name.
"Please give a warm welcome to our next contestant - Blake Belladonna!"
Moving to the middle of the stage, Yang clapped along with the audience while their final contestant walked out to join them. As soon as Yang spotted their next guest, however, her hands subconsciously slowed and her eyes widened in surprise.
The girl was so beautiful that Yang's heart literally skipped a beat. With long, dark hair, piercing amber eyes, and a sexy-yet-subtle saunter to her step, this girl had it all.
The contestants were always beautiful - most of them could seriously consider careers as models - but this one was different. She was absurdly attractive, but there was something else about her...something that set her apart from the line of girls clamoring for attention.
Based on the hobbies written on the card in Yang's hands, she was responding to Blake's aura of intelligence - an attribute severely lacking in most of the participants walking through that doorway. And she had a big thing for intelligence…
"Yang," the voice in her ear prodded her, making her flinch in surprise before remembering she had a job to do.
"Right!" she said out loud before internally cringing at the mistake. Shaking off her shock at Blake's entrance, she rushed over and extended her hand.
"Nice to meet you, Blake," she said with a warm smile, shaking Blake's hand before motioning her to the contestant's chair (nothing more than a glorified barstool with 'contestant' written across the back). "Welcome to You Pick 'Em!"
Keeping that smile in place, Yang took the only other seat on stage and watched Blake analyze the entire room before finally locking onto her.
"Thank you for having me."
Blake's smooth, confident voice was something Yang immediately wanted to hear more of. Thankfully, getting the contestants talking was a large part of her job.
"So," Yang began with another smile and one or two butterflies. "What brings you to the show today?"
"My friend and I made a bet...I lost."
The audience laughed at the response, which was accompanied by a hint of dry, playful humor.
"Well we're grateful to that friend," Yang replied with a laugh of her own.
After sneaking another glance Blake's way, Yang focused on the second notecard in her hand. As much as she wanted to start a personal conversation with Blake right then and there, six different cameras were broadcasting this moment for the world to watch.
"Can you tell us what you're looking for today?" she asked in an effort to keep the show on track.
"A way out, possibly."
The sarcasm made the audience laugh again, and Yang didn't hesitate to join in. Usually, contestants tried too hard to be funny, witty, sexy, or some combination of fake emotions they hoped got them more attention. They soaked in every second of their fifteen minutes of fame. They batted their eyes for the camera. They laughed and flipped their hair with their manicured fingernails. They played up every possible avenue for attention (or for that modeling contract).
In three years of hosting, this was the first time Yang met someone so disinterested in being here. Having three potentially-hot suitors didn't even seem to help, which only made Yang's interest grow.
"If you really want to leave, the exit's right there," she offered with a wave towards the side of the stage. "But I hope you stay. We all do."
She threw in that last part when Blake's brow rose - not much, but just enough that Yang realized she gave away more of her interest than intended. Thankfully, Blake turned away when the audience responded with loud cheers.
"Then of course I'll stay."
Blake's playful, shy smile melted right through Yang's heart. The expression was so cute that Yang wouldn't have believed it possible if she hadn't just seen it herself.
"Great," she replied with a smile of her own. "Then let me rephrase the question - what're you looking for in your dream date? What type of person do you hope to find?"
Most people had a canned answer to that question - something that flowed without hesitation due to hours or days of practice. Blake, however, thought about it for so long that Yang nearly prodded her for a response.
"Someone...with a good sense of humor, a great smile, who I can have a long conversation with and who...understands me."
After nodding along with the list, which was standard yet thought-out at the same time, Yang flashed a smile hoping to meet the second criteria. People often told her that she had a nice smile, so...hopefully Blake thought so too.
"Well, you won't get to see your three choices," Yang explained, moving through her lines on autopilot. "But I'm sure they have great smiles - hopefully."
Again, the audience laughed, but she was too caught up in Blake's smile to pay much attention. From Blake's expression, she thought the joke was funny. Which meant...maybe Yang met the first criteria too.
What was she thinking? The show wasn't called 'Yang Pick 'Em.' She wasn't supposed to be picking up contestants. Her job was making sure everyone played by the rules and had a good time.
Could anyone blame her for wanting to pick up this particular contestant though? Stumbling across someone like Blake - a real, gorgeous, intelligent woman - would be a stroke of luck under any circumstances. So to have her walk right into Yang's workplace? That seemed beyond lucky. Except that Yang's workplace involved matching gorgeous women with eligible bachelors...
"Anyway -" Knowing she had limited time to gather information, Yang pushed that thought aside and focused on doing her job. "Have you watched the show before?"
"Yes, I have."
"Does that mean I'm your favorite host?"
"You are now."
Yang blushed at the answer even though, for all she knew, Blake didn't watch any other reality shows. Blake might not watch TV at all, but she still called Yang her favorite - and that made Yang over-the-moon happy.
But again, this wasn't 'Yang Pick 'Em.' She knew that. She was just really happy that someone so beautiful and interesting called her their favorite anything.
"I'll try not to let that go to my head," she replied, although it had very much gone to her head.
Unfortunately, a silent alarm told her it was time to move on. So, rather than talking to Blake about her other likes and dislikes (what she wanted to do), Yang turned towards the three giant red doors on the other side of the stage.
"In case you or anyone watching doesn't know, the rules of You Pick 'Em are simple. Three very eligible bachelors sit behind those doors. Each of them would love to take this beautiful girl on a date, but only one of them will earn that opportunity. Blake will ask a series of questions and use the answers to make a decision."
With the summary done, Yang turned back to Blake.
"Are you ready to play You Pick 'Em?"
"Ready if you are."
Disguising her surprise with a laugh, Yang suddenly wished that she was playing. The opportunity to take Blake on a date? She'd play any game show for a shot at that.
"I'm always ready to play."
The two of them shared a smile at the response, and it felt like a good few seconds before Yang tapped her notecards on her thigh and tore her gaze away.
"Alright - let's get started!" As soon as the words left her mouth, a signal caught her attention. Chuckling at the timing, she quickly added, "Right after this break!"
As soon as the red light on the camera turned off, she relaxed and turned towards Blake.
"Lost a bet, huh?"
"I wouldn't say that...it brought you here, didn't it?"
When Yang smiled with the question, she was pleasantly surprised when Blake smiled back.
"I guess worse things could have happened."
"You could've fudged the application," Yang added, resituating in her seat and waving off the bottle of water offered to her. "Made up something the producers wouldn't pick."
"I thought I did."
"No way," Yang replied, laughing now. "The reading and research stuff is fake?"
"No…but I thought it would sound boring enough that they'd never select me. Apparently, boring is in."
"I don't think reading is boring…but hey, if you really don't want to be here, you can leave." Blake tilted her head at the suggestion while Yang nodded. "I'll make up an excuse for you," she explained. "Or just say you feel like you might throw up - they'll get you out of here in a hurry, and we'll pull someone from the audience. You already fulfilled your part of the bet, right?"
"Not quite...I actually have to go on the date." After a short pause, Blake smiled and Yang's heart fluttered yet again. "Thank you though. That's sweet of you to offer."
"No problem." Yang tried to keep her smile to a minimum, but it felt like someone just stuck a hanger in her mouth. "I don't want you to be uncomfortable."
"Well...it's only a date, right?"
Playfully scoffing, Yang sat back and prepared for the next segment to start.
"Didn't they tell you? Tuesday's shows end in marriage, not just a date. So...choose wisely."
When Blake laughed at the joke, Yang felt like she just won the lottery. Although...the lottery would be the two of them having this conversation outside of work, like at a nice, quiet restaurant where they could enjoy some privacy and great food.
"Alright everyone!" one of the stagehands shouted, bringing Yang's attention back to the task at hand. "Back in five."
While he counted the rest of the way using his fingers, Yang winked at Blake and turned back to the camera.
Talk about a good sport. Going on a reality dating show for losing a bet? That must have been some wager. If time permitted, she would ask about it at the end of the show. Hopefully Blake stuck around…
When the red light reappeared, Yang did her best to focus on running the show rather than getting to know the interesting and alluring girl sitting beside her. Easier said than done...
"Welcome back to You Pick 'Em," she began with a bright smile. "Where our resident scientist-extraordinaire is about to embark on a journey to figure out which of our eligible bachelors will accompany her on a date."
When the camera changed, she swiveled in her chair and gestured towards the red doors blocking the three boys from view.
"Behind each of those doors is one of your options: Bachelor #1, #2, and #3." Red numbers lit up above each door as Yang spoke, marking each one with its corresponding number. "For this first part, you'll ask each of them one question, then use their answers and your gut instinct to send one packing. Got it?"
"Yes," Blake answered with a quick nod. As expected, since the rules were simple and she was clearly very bright.
"Good! Which one would you like to start with?"
"Going in order - I like it." Yang leaned back in her chair and turned slightly towards the audience. "Makes my life easier," she added, earning their laughs before turning back. "Ok, Bachelor #1 - our lady has a question for you."
Once the light illuminated above the first door, she motioned for Blake to ask away.
"Ok...what's your idea of a dream date?"
Yang nodded her approval at the question, which was a great way to see what interests the other person had. Since the boys were shooting blind, they would either say what they wanted or make up what they thought Blake wanted. Either way, they were almost guaranteed to be wrong.
"Bachelor #1 - thirty seconds to answer."
"Great question!" The boy's voice came through the speakers so the audience could hear him while he remained tucked behind his door. "I'd start with dinner at one of the hippest restaurants around. I have connections at all the best joints, so I can get us a table, no problem. Fancy dinner, cocktails, then head out for a night on the town."
"That sounds...nice…" Blake replied, looking unenthused by the response so far.
"Definitely! Most likely, we'll end up at a club partying with some friends. But, uh, no dancing. I don't dance."
A loud beep cut the answer off there, and Yang tried to hide a cringe while turning towards Blake. Impressively, Blake held a mostly impassive expression at what was probably her nightmare date.
"So..." When laughter rippled through the audience, Yang couldn't help but smile. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the girl who loved reading in her free time probably wasn't pining for a night on the town. "What do you think?"
As soon as Yang asked the question, Blake laughed - just about the most beautiful sound ever.
"What do you think?"
Taking the opportunity to mull over the question, Yang shifted in her seat and playfully tapped her chin.
"If I had to guess...you aren't super interested." When the crowd laughed again, she smiled. "Probably looking for something more low key. Oh! I got it - a scavenger hunt in a bookstore."
Blake's eyes lit up while the crowd cheered the suggestion.
"That sounds really fun."
Thrilled at her genius idea, Yang nodded and tried to wipe the idiot grin from her face.
"Get her to talk about #1," a voice said in her ear, reminding her that it was her job to make every candidate look like a possible selection regardless of how poor of a match they seemed.
"Ok, ok," she said, waving her hands and throwing on another smile. "He mentioned having connections at a lot of restaurants - that means he's probably a friendly guy, right? Knows lots of people - could be really successful."
Blake nodded at the rationale, but Yang could tell that she wasn't very interested in either of those qualities.
"That's true..." Blake said anyway, presenting just enough of an opening for Yang to continue.
"Plus, he admitted that he's a bad dancer. Honesty's a good thing, right?"
Yang turned to the crowd to back her up, which they did with cheers. As soon as she turned back to Blake, however, she knew one person who didn't care if someone could dance or not. That was a little unfortunate considering Yang was a pretty good dancer, herself. Not that it mattered what Blake thought about her dancing...
"It does sound like it could be fun..." Blake mused, but Yang couldn't shake the feeling that she was only playing along to make Yang's job easy. If true, that was awfully kind, especially since most contestants seemed to go out of their way to make Yang's job harder.
"Keep that in mind," she added with a small shrug. "But we've got two more options for you. Who do you want to talk to next?"
"You got it. Ok Bachelor #2 - your question is incoming!"
When Yang gestured for Blake to ask another question, Blake thought about it for a couple of seconds before nodding to herself.
"What would you say your best quality is?"
The question was met with a good-natured laugh by the person sitting behind the door.
"Definitely my humor!" he replied. "I'm the guy who can always keep the mood light - oh! Or, abs. Does that count? You've gotta like a guy with abs, right?"
"I'm certainly not against them…" Blake answered, amused by the sudden turn in conversation.
"Then I change my answer! Best quality - my abs, hands down. Why do you think I hardly ever wear a shirt?"
The bell rang then, and Blake chuckled at the end of that conversation.
"Not bad, not bad," Yang added with a smile of her own. "He went with abs, but I think that also proves his first choice - good sense of humor. Isn't that high on your list?"
"I suppose so." Again, Blake sent Yang a smile that made her heart flutter with all kinds of butterflies. "I worry about someone who jokes all the time though," Blake added as her expression turned more thoughtful. "What happens when you want to have a serious conversation?"
"Pretty sure he just takes his shirt off and the conversation ends," Yang joked, drawing another laugh from the audience before responding to the earnestness in Blake's eyes. "But I see your point. He could be capable of a serious conversation though! He might just lead with jokes before sensing the mood."
"That's true. It's hard to tell from thirty seconds."
Even though Yang smiled, Blake's easy acceptance of that argument was a bit of a letdown. It was the truth though - listening to someone ramble for thirty seconds wasn't a lot to judge by.
"I have abs too, by the way," she added, reveling in Blake's surprise and the audience's cheers before moving on. "Now let's get to Bachelor #3 - know what you want to ask?"
Still slightly taken aback, Blake smiled at Yang for several more seconds before eventually nodding. Happy with that response, Yang did the same before gesturing towards the third door.
"Alright Bachelor #3, get ready for your question!"
Turning back to Blake, she smiled and motioned for Blake to ask whatever she had in store.
"If you could change anything about the world, what would it be?"
Like the questions before it, this one was smart, impactful, and would reveal a lot about the answerer.
"Good one," Yang couldn't help commenting before turning towards the door. "Ok Bachelor #3 - you have thirty seconds to answer."
"That's an easy one," a low, smooth voice replied. "I would end racism, discrimination, and all forms of inequality."
"Oh." After sharing a surprised glance with Yang, Blake nodded. "That's a great goal."
"And a necessity. The world is rife with prejudice and bigotry, like a plague that needs burning out. If given the power, I'd light the match myself, and watch it all turn to ash."
Silence followed the answer. Blake's eyes were wide with shock...or horror - an expression undoubtedly reflected on Yang's face as she tried to figure out how to respond. Fortunately, she quickly snapped out of it and attempted a very forced laugh.
"What you really mean is...uh...you'd volunteer your time to help with fire safety, right Bachelor #3?"
The producers had already turned off his microphone, so he didn't have the opportunity to provide an even creepier answer than the one he already gave. Instead, it was Yang's time to save the day and keep the segment from getting dark and dreary.
"Oh, darn, his time was up," she said before throwing on another smile. "But I'm sure that's what he meant."
"Right…" Blake replied, looking just as disbelieving as Yang felt.
"He sounds very...passionate." That was the only positive word Yang could think of while silently hoping the producers were doing a second background check...and checking for any fires in the building. "And civic-minded," she added. "Ending inequality is a noble goal."
"It is. But I think we have different thoughts on how to go about that."
Yang laughed along with the audience at the diplomatic answer, which at least confirmed that Blake wasn't a psychopath. Not that Yang ever thought she was, but apparently that information wasn't to be taken for granted these days.
"Let's hope she gets him outta here," the voice in her ear said, prompting her to hide a smile while moving on with the show.
"Ok, you know what happens next?" After Blake nodded, Yang smiled for the camera and explained for the viewers at home. "Now that we've heard from each of our bachelors, our beautiful contestant will narrow her selection by removing one of them from contention. So...which of our bachelors is unlucky today?"
Surprisingly, the answer interested her more than usual. She wanted to know (or confirm) who made a bad first impression. Or, equally likely, she wanted one less competitor for Blake's attention.
"Who are you least interested in spending time with? No-Dancing Guy?" When Yang motioned towards the first door, the light above it lit up. "Funny Abs Guy?" The second light illuminated. "Or...Pyro Guy?"
Once the third light lit up, all attention turned to Blake - the entire studio waiting for an answer.
The red light on the camera disappeared, and Yang relaxed as they moved into another commercial break.
"So what do you think?" she asked, waving another assistant away so that she could give her full attention to Blake.
"I'm having a good time."
"Yeah? That's great!"
Technically, making sure everyone had a good time was in Yang's job description, but she was ecstatic to hear that she succeeded in this particular instance. If she impressed Blake enough, maybe she would -
She would what? Go out with Yang instead? As amazing as that sounded, the show served another purpose - setting Blake up with one of the guys behind the doors, not the massively-crushing host sitting in front of them.
"I hope you have a good time with whoever you end up with." That seemed like the right thing to say, though Yang didn't really want to say it. "Any idea who it'll be?" she added. "Please tell me it's not fire guy."
When Blake laughed, Yang's smile grew larger.
"I don't think so. I know that type, and I know to stay away."
"Then abs guy?" Yang asked. "He sounds like fun to have around. Doesn't have to lead anywhere or anything."
Jealousy pricked the corner of her mind at that thought, but she shook the feeling away before her smile faltered. The only times she'd felt jealous at work were when the contestants had impeccable hair or flawless skin. In this case, she wasn't jealous of Blake; she was jealous of whoever got to take Blake on a date. That was...different.
"Try not to make him fall in love with you," Yang joked as one of the crew members ran on stage and signaled that the commercials were nearing an end. As soon as she heard how that sounded, however, she closed her eyes and quickly shook her head.
Why the hell did she say that? For all she knew, Blake was looking for love. In which case, falling in love was her ultimate goal.
This was none of Yang's business. She just needed to get them through the last segment then send Blake on her merry way. But she saw the way Blake looked at her while the stagehand counted down from five. The look was distracting - Blake, in general, was distracting - but she plastered on a smile and prepared for the cameras to turn back on.
"Welcome back, everyone," she said as soon as the red light appeared. "We've reached the first moment of truth - our contestant has posed a question to each of our bachelors, and now she has to send one of them home. So -" Still smiling, she turned towards Blake. "Whose journey to your heart ends here?"
"It's a hard decision…" Blake replied, though Yang suspected the comment was nothing more than polite. "But I'm saying goodbye to...Bachelor #3."
Yang practically heard the producers breathe a sigh of relief at that choice, but she pretended as if they were sad to see him go.
"Aww - alright Bachelor #3. Sorry, but you haven't been picked. Thanks for coming out though!"
A large video screen cut to the view behind the door, where a tall, lean gentleman shook his head and walked out. No smile for the camera. No winks, finger guns, or any other cheesy hand gesture. Yang needed to ask where the producers found him...and request that they never look for participants there again.
"Well, now we're down to two bachelors," she continued without much pause. "But we're switching it up a bit. Now they get to ask you a question. How you respond is up to you - you can turn the question back on them, answer honestly, have a conversation - whatever you want."
"Whatever I want?" Blake repeated with a playful smirk.
"I mean, there are some limitations." Even though Yang laughed, she wondered what else Blake had in mind. "But if you stick to talking and keep things PG, you should be good. Ok?"
Satisfied that Blake understood the next segment, Yang waved towards the big red doors.
"Alright - you get to pick who goes first."
"Funny Abs Guy."
When the audience immediately laughed, Yang grinned.
"You know...I'm glad that name's sticking around," she joked before turning towards the middle door. "Funny Abs Guy - let's hear your question."
"Is that what you're calling me? Cuz I dig it."
Again, the audience laughed.
"Yes, that's your new nickname," Yang replied with a smile. "Do you have a question for our contestant?"
"For sure! Ok, would you rather get your arm stuck in a vending machine or walk all the way to work before realizing you never put pants on?"
A startled laugh slipped through Blake's lips at the question, but Mr. Abs wasn't done yet.
"Because both have happened to me," he continued, much to everyone's amusement. "So I definitely know which is worse, but I want to know what you'd choose."
Once he fell silent, Yang smiled and motioned for Blake to answer his...unorthodox...question.
"Well...as long as I don't get hurt, I'd choose the vending machine. At least that way I'm fully clothed." After a brief pause, Blake sent Yang a nearly undetectable wink. "Besides, some dashing hero's going to save me, right?"
Laughter rippled through the audience, especially when Yang turned towards the nearest camera and playfully mouthed 'me' while pointing a thumb towards herself. That's what Blake meant, wasn't it? Because Yang would be that hero any day.
"I'd pick the same!" Bachelor #2 replied. "Mostly cuz HR wasn't so happy about the no-pants thing...but I got a free bag of chips after they got my arm out of the machine!"
He sounded so happy about the experience, Yang couldn't help laughing along with Blake.
"So whaddya say?" he continued as time wound down. "Wanna get your arm stuck in a vending machine with me?"
The microphone cut off before Blake could answer, so her sparkling eyes and amused smile were all they had to go on.
"That was kind of romantic, right?" Yang asked, much to the audience's delight. "I mean, he wants to get his arm stuck in a vending machine with you! That's…sweet."
Unsure if the offer was actually sweet or just...unusual...she shrugged at the camera before looking at Blake.
"Alright, now that Bachelor #2 asked his question, we'll let Bachelor #1 try his best. Ready?" Yang waited for Blake to express any hesitation but nodded when she found none. "Ok Bachelor #1," she called out towards the doors blocking the two boys from view. "Do you have a question for our gorgeous contestant?"
Noticing the look Blake sent her, Yang kept her eyes trained forward and did her best to focus. If all those cameras weren't pointed at her right now, she'd make a bigger fool of herself trying to win Blake over for herself. But this was a game show not a soap opera.
"Uh, sure." Even though the rules were explained to everyone up front, Bachelor #1 sounded caught off guard by the request. "So, uh...what's your idea of a dream date?"
This time, Yang did cringe. Repeating the contestant's question back to them was incredibly tacky, not to mention somewhat insulting. Miraculously, the lack of effort didn't seem to bother Blake.
"I heard a good one recently," she said before sneaking a smile Yang's way. "A scavenger hunt in a bookstore."
Yang playfully pumped her fist while the audience laughed, and Bachelor #1 laughed along with them for several seconds before falling silent.
"Wait, really? But...why a bookstore?"
"Because I like to read," Blake replied matter-of-factly. "So I like bookstores. If someone spent the time setting up a scavenger hunt just for me, that would be...very sweet."
Earning yet another heart-melting smile, Yang realized she needed to figure out how to set up a scavenger hunt. Not right now though. Right now, she listened to Bachelor #1 sputter.
"Well, uh, I can do that if you want! I'm sure I know someone who works at a bookstore…"
The bell cut off the rest of his response, but they didn't need to hear more than that. In only a few sentences, he lowered his chance of success from 'maybe good' to 'not at all good.'
Obvious winners happened from time-to-time, as not every contestant got along with every bachelor. This appeared to be one of those cases, as Blake sat back in her chair and directed a bemused expression towards Bachelor #1's door.
"A well-connected guy!" Yang said in an effort to keep that option on life support. "And he sounded more than willing to do that for you - that's something, right? He's agreeable?"
"Plus, if he does know someone at a bookstore, maybe you can score a discount."
That idea interested Blake much more than Bachelor #1 did, as evidenced by the sparkle in her eyes and smile lifting her lips. The expression had Yang's thoughts wandering in no time, imagining how delighted Blake would be about that scavenger hunt. Would she rush through it as fast as possible? Or would she take her time, maybe humoring Yang - or whoever happened to be there - with a tour of her favorite novels?
The voice in her ear ended that daydream, and she threw on another smile while leading them towards the highlight of the show.
"Ok Blake," she said, finding a unique thrill in saying Blake's name aloud. "Now that you've heard from both bachelors, and they've heard from you, you get to choose who you'd like to go on a date with." Right when Blake opened her mouth, however, Yang turned away from her. " - right after this break!" she added with a smile for the camera.
As soon as the red light clicked off, Yang gave Blake an apologetic smile.
"Sorry," she added while crew members prepared the stage for the end of the show. "I hate cutting people off like that, but they make me do it."
"That's ok. I figured that would happen."
With Blake's reassuring smile, Yang relaxed into a smile of her own.
"Either of them seem like a winner?" she asked while she still had the chance.
"They could be worse..." Blake mused. "For not knowing what might happen, I can't complain."
"At least we're not setting you up with a psychopath, right?"
"Not like you didn't try," Blake replied with a smile that made Yang's heart work overtime. "But you're right. At least they both seem like...average males."
"Average males," Yang repeated before laughing. "That's literally what the casting call says."
While she chuckled at the idea of the show searching for 'average' bachelors, Blake smiled at her.
"You know...you're different than I expected you to be."
"In a good way, I hope?"
"In a great way."
With the way Blake was looking at her right now, Yang found it impossible to turn away. Was she the only one who felt that subtly-flirting energy? If only she could throw her hat in the ring...on any other day, that would be a nightmare - she saw the way some of the contestants looked at her. But today, the idea of offering herself up for a date grew more compelling by the second.
"Back in five," the voice in her ear reminded her, bringing her focus back to her job and away from planning dates. After throwing on a big smile, she watched the stagehand count down before motioning for her to speak.
"Welcome back to You Pick 'Em!" she began with enthusiasm perfected over the years. "The reality-dating show where one lucky girl chooses one lucky guy to take on a magical date. Our last contestant of the day has heard from all of her options, sent one packing, and is ready to make her final decision."
Spinning towards Blake, Yang smiled and motioned to the doors across from them.
"You have two options," she added, though she briefly considered saying three instead. "Who would you rather spend a day with? Will it be well-connected Bachelor #1, who can't dance but might get you a discount at a bookstore?"
When she motioned to the side, the light above Bachelor #1's door illuminated.
"Or will it be Bachelor #2?" she continued. "AKA Funny Abs Guy. Who's...well, funny, has abs, sometimes forgets to wear pants, and gets his arm stuck in vending machines."
The audience laughed while the light above Bachelor #2's door lit up, and Blake smiled in turn. The moment of truth had arrived, though Yang already knew the answer. In this case, however, she felt no joy in watching Blake mull over the decision before responding.
"I'll go with…Bachelor #2."
Cheers followed the decision, and Yang masked her disappointment with a smile.
"You heard her, everyone," she called out as the applause obediently quieted. "Sorry, Bachelor #1, but you won't be dancing out of here today."
The camera view cut to the scene behind Bachelor #1's door then, as a boy with bright blue hair shrugged before winking at the camera and tossing up a pair of finger guns. Several girls in the audience swooned at the response, but Yang did her best not to roll her eyes on live TV.
"And Bachelor #2," she continued with fake exuberance. "Congratulations on being picked! Come on out and meet your new date."
When the door opened and a blond boy with honest-to-goodness abs walked out, the audience burst into cheers for their newest winner. Having no idea just how big of a winner he was, he smiled and waved at the crowd rather than running right over to Blake and doing everything in his power to sweep her off of her feet.
"You can go meet him now," Yang whispered to Blake, earning a second glance before Blake stood and crossed the room. The cameras always recorded first interactions - for posterity and for laughs - and this was no exception.
"Hey, I'm Sun!" the blond finally introduced himself. He stuck out his hand and never lost that charming, at ease smile.
"Blake." After shaking his hand, Blake glanced at Yang before adding, "It's nice to finally meet you."
That wasn't even close to the most awkward first meetings the show had witnessed, but good enough that the audience could imagine the rest. A fairytale evening followed by a happily-ever-after? Or a disaster date that ended early? Wishing for the latter made Yang a horrible person, but at least she managed a smile for the camera.
"And that wraps up this episode of You Pick 'Em." Yang noticed Blake quietly interacting with Sun out of the corner of her eye but did her best to maintain perfect eye contact with the camera. "Another three lovely ladies picked three lovely dates, which I'll count as a job well done, don't you think?"
After giving the live audience time to applaud, she chuckled and nodded to their audience at home.
"Make sure to tune in next week, when three new contestants will try to find their dream dates. Until then, I'm Yang Xiao Long, and thanks for watching You Pick 'Em!"
With the crowd cheering that signoff, she smiled and waved at the people sitting in the front row until the camera's red light turned off. As soon as that happened, her attention shifted back to Blake and her ongoing conversation.
Actually, his ongoing conversation was more accurate seeing as how Funny Abs Guy did most of the talking while Blake nodded along. Apparently, he was a talker, and Blake nodded several more times before catching Yang's gaze.
Yang wanted to interrupt, but that would be rude and unprofessional. Rather than be either of those things, she sighed.
The voice in her ear, which was now right beside her, made her jump in surprise. Finding her younger sister, Ruby, giving her a curious look, she let her shoulders slump and sighed again.
"I really like that girl," she admitted, knowing that Ruby's laser-focused producer vibe disappeared the instant the show ended.
"Then ask her out?"
"But I just set her up with that guy!" After motioning towards Abs Guy, Yang ran her hand through her hair to avoid being obvious. "Well, the show did," she corrected when Ruby frowned.
"So? You could still ask her out. They don't even have to go on a date. All they have to do is talk on camera for like three seconds, which they already did."
"Besides," Ruby added with a grin. "You falling for a contestant would make a great special."
When Ruby playfully nudged Yang in the ribs, Yang shook her head and swatted Ruby away.
"You're the worst," she added, only to perk up when Sun made a detour to talk to the blue-haired Bachelor #1. In doing so, he left Blake standing alone near the side of the stage - a golden opportunity Yang might never see again.
"Sure you're ok with it?" she asked first. Ruby's nod was all the approval she needed to take a deep breath and walk over.
She'd never asked out a contestant before, but some unspeakable force compelled her to give it a shot. At the very least, now that the cameras were off she wanted Blake to know that it was an option - she was an option. If Blake still wanted to go out with Abs Guy, then so be it.
It wasn't often - or ever, actually - that Yang clicked so quickly and easily with someone. Not only was Blake gorgeous, but she had intelligence and a dry sense of humor that Yang couldn't get enough of. Dinner together was bound to be a great time, and the possibility of more was both intoxicating and exciting. She could spend the rest of her life wondering what this feeling led to, or she could bite the bullet and figure out that answer.
"Hey," she said as soon as she was close enough for a private conversation, drawing Blake's amber gaze her way. "He seems…"
Failing to come up with a polite-yet-descriptive word, Yang made a face and waved a hand instead.
"Excitable?" Blake offered, and another smile found its way onto Yang's lips.
"I haven't even spoken to him, but that looks accurate."
Yang chuckled at the joke before fading into silence when Blake gave her a curious smile. That smile suggested Blake was open to hearing whatever Yang walked over here to say, meaning she needed to spit it out. Preferably sooner rather than later.
"Hey, so this might sound a little…" Rather than say the word aloud, Yang waved a hand by her ear. "But I just wanted to say...you actually have another option."
When Blake's brow rose, Yang's heart really started pumping. But she could do this; she could ask Blake out. If she couldn't, then she'd apparently learned nothing from years of setting up other couples.
"If you're interested," she began slowly, watching Blake's eyes for a response. "I'd love to take you out to dinner."
There. She did it.
But the worst part was waiting for an answer.
"Are you..asking me out?"
The smile creeping onto Blake's lips offered a ray of hope while also stirring Yang's heart into an even bigger frenzy. Now she was nervous. And when she was nervous, she fidgeted - something she only did off camera.
"Yes," she admitted rather than beat around the bush. "I think you're funny, smart, and awesome to talk to. And I've never felt this way about anyone on the show - or anyone, in general - so...I just think it'd be a shame not to see where it goes."
"But what about -?"
When Blake's gaze drifted to the side, where Sun and the blue-haired boy were laughing about something, Yang glanced at them before waving the concern away.
"If you say yes, I'll handle that."
"Oh." For a second, Yang worried that response was too blunt. Then Blake smiled. "Then yes. I'd love to go on a date with you."
"Yes," Blake replied with an even brighter smile and a sexy quirk of her brow. "Why're you so surprised?"
"I don't know...because you're here to pick an eligible guy -"
"I'm here because I lost a bet, remember."
Elated by the response, and Blake's no-nonsense answer, Yang couldn't help but laugh. Blake's eyes sparkled at the sound, and those sparkles made Yang overjoyed that she showed up for work today.
"Well ok, then...that's what we'll do." She could probably stand here forever, grinning like an idiot while Blake smiled at her, but an important task needed to be taken care of first. "Hold that thought," she added while slowly backing away. "I'll be right back."
Once Blake nodded, Yang turned around and walked over to the two boys. From their gregarious conversation, they were well on the way to becoming friends. Great for them, and possibly great for her if a new bromance eased the sting of pseudo-rejection.
"Hey," Yang said once close enough, capturing their attention in no time. "Congratulations," she directed towards Funny Abs Guy, who readily shook her hand. "You killed it today."
"Thanks! Just spreading some charm, you know."
When he flashed a smile, charming as described, Yang responded with her made-for-the-silver-screen version.
"That's great, but hey - the producers were so impressed, they want to offer you a different prize. Something better than a 'dream date.'"
She had no idea what she was saying. Fortunately, neither did he.
"How about we switch things up?" she spitballed. "How would you like to be our first male contestant? Same rules, but you get three girls to pick from. You'll have more time in front of the camera, which means more time to show off your abs."
Ruby was going to kill her for making that up on the spot, but his growing smile confirmed it was a winning idea.
"That sounds awesome." After high-fiving the blue-haired boy, he briefly glanced Blake's way. "Can I still take her out?"
"Oh…" When Blake looked over and smiled, Yang's heart stuttered. "Actually," she replied with a big smile of her own. "I'll be taking her out."
For a second, both boys looked shocked by the admission. Then the blond laughed while the other continued to stare.
"Right on!" Sun raised his hand for a fist bump, which Yang willingly gave him. "So she actually picked you, huh."
His smile suggested no disappointment in the turn of events - a relief considering the show didn't need bad press for hosts poaching dates.
"More like...we chose each other," Yang hedged while backing away from the conversation, eager to return to Blake now that their goal had been accomplished. "The producers will get in touch with you!" she added before waving and hurrying over to Blake with a growing smile.
"What'd you have to give him?" Blake asked as soon as Yang was close.
"His own show." Blake's brow rose at the response, but Yang waved off the surprise. "I just stole his date - only fair he gets to pick another one, right?"
"That's very kind of you."
"Not really. I got the better end of the bargain."
The compliment brought another smile into being, and Yang's heart responded in turn. Rather than get stuck staring, however, she cleared her throat.
"So...I don't know if you're busy now…"
"You're not," Yang repeated while her smile grew. "Ok, then we could grab dinner? I'd love to just...talk, I guess."
"And ask me what my dream date is?" Blake teased, much to Yang's delight.
"Well I already know the answer to that," she replied with a laugh. "But you'll have to give me a few weeks to plan it."
"I'm more than willing to wait." Stepping forward, Blake scrambled Yang's thoughts and sent butterflies fluttering through her chest. "I've been wondering though...what's your dream date?"
Of all the years Yang had hosted this show, not once had anyone ever asked her that question. As such, she didn't have a canned response. Instead, she swallowed and tried to think while Blake edged closer.
"I think...it'd be any date with you."
When Blake laughed at the response, the sound filled with delight, Yang cracked a smile too.
"I knew you were the right choice," Blake added, but Yang's brow hardly rose in surprise before Blake turned and motioned after her. "Ready to go? I have more questions for you."
Yang couldn't stop smiling by this point, especially as she nodded and fell into step by Blake's side. If this was how the bachelors felt when they were picked, no wonder they all looked so happy.
She'd always questioned how effective the show's strategy was. A few minutes of conversation leading up to a date? How could a legitimate relationship ever spawn out of something so...insignificant?
If how she felt right now was any indication, a few minutes was more than enough time to develop a sizable crush. As for where it went from here...she was about to find out. Considering she was already thinking of what else she could plan in a bookstore, it would probably be somewhere good.