Debutante

A Ranma ½ / Batman Fan Fiction

by

Jeremy Harper

Disclaimer – Ranma ½ is the creation of Rumiko Takahashi. Batman is the creation of Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Both are used without permission.

Chronological Note: This story takes place after Looking For Trouble and before The Talk. There are slight spoilers for Looking For Trouble and an as of yet unwritten story, entitled School Daze, in this chapter.


Part 1 – High Society

Chapter 1

"How do I look?" Akane asked shyly, playing a little with a lock of her short hair.

She felt nervous, dressed the way she was. She had always prided herself on her fashion sense and her capacity for picking clothes that were both cute and flattering. But never in her life had she worn anything like this. She ducked her head slightly, not able to look at Ranma or Alfred directly. A small, irrational part of her was afraid they would laugh at her, as if she were a little kid playing dress up.

Alfred beamed at her, a large smile creasing his face and his eyes bright with grandfatherly fondness. "You are a vision, Miss Akane," he declared. "So beautiful and fetching. Don't you agree, Master Ranma?"

It took a moment for Ranma to respond. He was staring, his blue eyes wide and practically glowing. His mouth had fallen open slightly and his cheeks burned with a blush. He had always been distinctly aware of how beautiful Akane was – the memory of her dressed in a golden tank top and tight leather clubbing pants was a favorite of his – but seeing her in a formal gown was a revelation. It was strapless, baring her toned arms and creamy, shapely shoulders, the top a glittering buttercup yellow bodice which dipped modestly to show off her proud breasts to excellent effect. The skirt was pleated tulle of powder yellow, falling to her ankles. Her strappy shoes were silver with rhinestone studs, and she wore tastefully simple silver bracelets with small sapphires on her strong, supple wrists. Perhaps most daring was her necklace, a fine silver chain with a silver and sapphire heart that drew the eye to her decolletage. Her makeup was subtle, her nails painted pale-pink.

Ranma closed his mouth and swallowed. "I do," he answered, his voice steady despite his hormonal turmoil. "Very... uh... cute!" He winced internally, once again frustrated with himself for using a word that was completely inaccurate in describing just how beautiful his fiancee looked.

Akane lifted her head, her brown eyes shining, and smiled at him. Ranma suddenly discovered that air was very hard to come by.

"Do you really think so?" she asked softly.

Ranma nodded vigorously. "Very much so," he answered, his voice a little hoarse.

"Thank you," she said. She dipped her head again, blushing. "You look great yourself, Ranma."

She had never seen him in a tuxedo before. It was custom-cut for him, of course, showing off his broad shoulders and athletic frame perfectly. The sight of him dressed like that was making her heart flutter in interesting ways. She did not see Ranma's blush intensify. He ducked his head himself, reaching back with a hand to tug at his pig-tail.

Teenagers, Alfred thought with pleased amusement. "I have to head back to the ballroom to oversee the refreshments," he said. "Try not to tarry too long." He bowed to his young charges and headed off, leaving them alone in the living room.

Ranma and Akane stood silent for a minute, peeking at each other from beneath their bangs. Suddenly they both laughed, realizing how ridiculous they were acting. Ranma gave his pig-tail a final tug while Akane simply shook her head.

"Well, are you ready to make your debut in Gotham high society?" Ranma asked, walking up to her.

"I guess," Akane said, sounding hesitant.

Ranma canted his head slightly. "Nervous?"

"A little," she said, making a face.

"Don't be. You're handling all the training Bruce and I have been throwing at you easily. This will be a walk in the park in comparison. Besides, you'll be surrounded by friends. You're not going to be alone."

"I know." She sighed. "I guess I'm being silly."

"Maybe a little, but nothing wrong with that. You'll fit right in, since most of the people at these functions are silly." He offered her his right arm. "Shall we?"

Akane nodded, smiling gently at him as she laced her arm through his, and Ranma again wondered just where the air went.


Akane could not help but stare in wonder when she and Ranma entered Wayne Manor's ball room. She had only seen it in brief glimpses, empty and dark, its only illumination the sunlight coming through the large windows. Now it was lit up gloriously, its chandeliers bright with luminescent light, and filled to capacity by elegantly dressed men and women eating and talking. Music she vaguely recognized as classical thrummed softly in the background while black-clad waiters bustled about unobtrusively, seeing to the patrons' needs.

"Oh," she said.

"Need a minute?" asked Ranma.

"No, I'm fine." She giggled softly. "I just... well, the largest party I ever attended was a big sleep-over Yuka threw for her birthday last year, and trust me when I say it wasn't anywhere near as fancy as this." She waved her free hand around the ballroom.

"Maybe, but I bet you had more fun there than I ever had at one of these events."

She looked at him curiously, feeling a swell of trepidation. "Is it really that bad?"

"Eh, ignore my bitching," Ranma said with a self-depreciating shake of his head. "These social functions can be okay. At least the food is really good – or it is when Alfred's supervising. It's just not my sort of thing, but as Bruce's ward I'm obligated to attend." He shrugged a shoulder. "It's a small price to pay, all things considered." He smiled at her, his eyes darting up and down her well-dressed body. "And at least tonight I'm with very good company."

Akane blushed and returned his look through coy, half-closed eyes.

"Flatterer," she murmured, squeezing his bicep, her fingertips stroking his arm. Ranma swallowed, his own eyes widening slightly in response to the caress.

"Photograph, sir?" Both teens started at the question. One of the photographers Bruce had hired for the event stood before them, holding up his camera. "Would you like me to take a photograph of you and your date, Mr. Saotome?"

"We're not-"

"She's not my-"

Both teens' protests stuttered out. They glanced at each other then looked away with a blush. The photographer blinked in confusion at their reaction. Ranma recovered first, steadying himself with a deep breath.

"That sounds great. What do you say, Akane?"

The young woman took her own breath and nodded. "I'm fine with that."

They posed, smiling for the photographer as he took several shots of them, becoming more relaxed as their embarrassment passed. The photographer showed them the pictures on the screen of his digital camera; they gave their approval and he promised them copies within the next few days. After he moved on Ranma and Akane looked at each other, both feeling unaccountably shy.

"I guess we do look like a couple, the way I'm hanging on to you," said Akane. She pulled her arm away from Ranma's reluctantly.

"Yeah," he agreed laconically. It was an effort not to frown in disappointment. He had enjoyed the feel of Akane's hand on his arm.

"Ranma! Akane!"

They looked in the direction of the call, Ranma grinning and Akane's face lighting up with pleasure at the sight of Roy Harper approaching them. The red head was dressed in a dark-brown Western cut suit, matched with a bolo tie, a round silver and turquoise slide gleaming against his white shirt.

"Hey Roy," said Ranma, shaking his friend's hand and giving him punch in the shoulder.

"Hey Ranma." Roy grinned back and slapped Ranma on the arm. He turned to Akane and let out a low whistle. "Damn, Akane. You clean up great."

Akane giggled. "Thank you, Roy. You don't look too bad yourself." She gave him a quick hug. As she stepped back she tapped his slide with a fingertip. "I like that. It's very nice."

Roy smiled with pleasure. "Thanks, kid. It belonged to my grandpa. One of the few things I like about shindigs like this is getting a chance to wear it."

She frowned a little. "You too? Ranma doesn't care for these events either."

Roy looked at Ranma, amused. "You trying to scare her already, Saotome?"

"Hardly, Harper," Ranma answered blandly. "Just giving her fair warning, is all."

"Fair warning?" exclaimed Akane. "It's not like a fight is going to break out."

"Trust me, after a few hours cooped up here you'll be itching for a good fight," Ranma joked. Akane rolled her eyes.

"A brawl would be a nice change of pace," said Roy with a laugh. "But I'm afraid all that you have to look forward to is dull conversation with stuffy bluebloods, occasionally spiked with patronizing comments."

"How many times so far?" Ranma asked his friend.

"None, actually. But I've been here only fifteen minutes and the night is very young."

Akane's brow furrowed in confusion. "How many times what?"

"That someone's made a comment about our lowly origins," answered Ranma.

"We make a contest out of it," said Roy. "Overhearing one snob mention to another something like 'oh, isn't that dirty little redskin/grubby little Jap so fortunate' is worth one point. We get two points if the snob tells us straight out how lucky we are."

"The game ends early if someone is stupid enough to say directly to Bruce or Ollie how generous and charitable they are in making us their wards."

"Not that we mind – the verbal smackdown that follows those comments are epic and totally worth it."

"I gotta say, Ollie was in fine form last time that happened."

"The dope being somewhere to the right of Bill O'Reilly helped goad him. Tea Party morons make his teeth ache."

Akane's eyes had gone wide. "Please tell me you're kidding."

"Well, we may be exaggerating," said Ranma. "But only a little. They're usually not so blunt."

"Yeah," said Roy. "Typically they couch their comments behind euphemisms: 'disadvantaged', 'unfortunate circumstances,' 'those people.' Garbage like that."

Akane scowled. "Couching their comments... I'll hit them with a couch if I hear anyone talk about you guys like that," she said with heat.

The boys exchanged looks and laughed.

"Maybe tonight won't be boring after all," said Roy. "Seeing Akane rampage through Gotham high society will make flying in from the West Coast worth it."

"I can see the news report now," added Ranma. "Small but fierce exchange student clobbers snob in the library with an antique stool. Details at 11."

Akane glared at them, the effect spoiled by an uptick of the corner of her mouth.

"I don't know why I bother. I try to be sympathetic and you two make fun of me. Jerks."

"But you like us anyway," said Roy.

"We definitely like you, Akane," said Ranma, smiling. "We only act like jerks to our friends."

Akane let out a put upon sigh, shaking her head as she crossed her arms beneath her breasts. "Now I know why Bruce wanted me to stay close to you tonight, Ranma – he needed a babysitter. I thought I was going to spend the night in the company of two sophisticated young men. Instead I'm stuck with a pair of kindergartners." Ranma stuck his tongue out at her. "Just proving my point."

The three teens laughed. Ranma held his hands up in surrender.

"Okay, okay. I'll do my best not to embarrass you too much tonight."

"Thank you."

"Now that we've got that settled, Ranma," said Roy, "I'd like to introduce Akane to Ollie and Dinah."

"Lead the way," said Ranma, offering Akane his arm again, which she took with a smile. Roy's brows lifted a little, and he turned away to conceal his pleased smirk.

Ranma and Akane followed Roy deeper into the ballroom, weaving their way through the throngs of Gotham notables, heading towards a couple standing near one of the large windows. Both were tall, blonde and athletic-looking. The man sported a well-trimmed beard on his angular face, and like Roy was dressed in a Western-cut suit, though his was black, matched with a deep-green tie. He was speaking with heavy-set gentleman wearing a thousand dollar tuxedo that hung on him like a poorly cut one-hundred dollar seersucker. The blonde man was smiling with bland politeness, but his keen green eyes were narrowed, and he was swirling the champagne in the glass he held in his right hand with increasing agitation.

His companion was less stoic, her lips quirked in a sharp frown and her blue eyes glittered with barely-repressed annoyance. She was simply yet gorgeously dressed in a long spaghetti strapped dress of black silk, its neckline plunging with a deep notch and the right side of the skirt slit to reveal a shapely and well-toned leg. Strappy black heels completed her outfit – she wore no jewelry. Her golden hair was styled in a straight, shoulder-length fall and her make-up was subtle and well done. She took a deep breath, breasts heaving, exhaled it in a bored sigh then sipped from her champagne flute.

The heavyset man gave her a sharp look, his expression an ugly mix of condescending annoyance and ill-concealed attraction. "I'm sorry I'm boring your companion, but you know I'm right about this. You got to climb down from your ivory tower and face reality, Queen. He's our best chance – hell, maybe last chance – to make this country great again."

"Right," said Oliver Queen, dropping his bland smile for an open sneer. "Because a bloviating blowhard who has gone bankrupt more times than I can count, leaving anyone foolish enough to partner with him holding the bag, someone who openly embraces racist rhetoric that would make George Wallace blush, and has as much of a grasp on the intricacies of foreign affairs as a punch-drunk spider monkey is someone you want making the big decisions. Frankly, I'd sooner see Luthor back in the Oval Office. He may be a crook, but at least he has a functioning brain."

The heavyset man sputtered in indignation before spinning on his heel and marching off.

"I think you offended him, babe," the woman murmured.

"Terrors. How will I ever fall asleep tonight?"

"With a smile on your face and a song in your heart," she deadpanned.

He grinned and winked. "Damn straight."

"Chee, Ollie. We haven't been in Gotham half a day and you're already ticking people off," said Roy as he walked up to his guardian.

"Hey, I wasn't doing anything. I was just chatting peaceably with Dinah when that waddling caveman came up and buttonholed me, blustering on about the virtues of the conservative cause." He shook his head then grinned. "My reputation for being a pinko-socialist-liberal truly proceeds me."

"Maybe," said Dinah thoughtfully. "Though I think he was using the argument as an excuse to look down my dress. His eyes kept on straying over to me, so much so that I was about to offer him a footstool so he could get a better view."

"Well, for that I can't blame him," said Oliver with an exaggerated leer, waggling his eyebrows. Dinah snorted and tapped him on the forehead. He looked back at Roy and spotted Ranma and Akane standing behind him. "Ranma! Good to see you. How are you doing?" He reached out to shake the younger man's hand.

Ranma slipped his arm from Akane's and clasped hands with the older man. "Pretty well, thanks. Happy to see that at least you're finding a way to keep yourself entertained here."

Oliver snorted. "Nah, that was just dealing with a nuisance. If I really wanted to get some political entertainment I'd fly down to St. Roch and pick a fight with Carter. At the very least he's capable of challenging my preconceptions with some original thought."

"You're looking good, Ranma," said Dinah. She walked up to him and gave him a peck on the cheek. "I think spending time back home in Japan has agreed with you."

"It was interesting at the very least," said Ranma.

Dinah nodded as she looked past Ranma at Akane, who had also drawn Oliver's attention. Ranma stepped to one side and gestured at his fiancee to join him. She did so, smiling a little nervously.

"Ollie, Dinah, this is Akane Tendo," said Roy. "Akane, allow me to introduce you to my guardian Oliver Queen and my friend Dinah Lance."

"It's an honor to meet you," said Akane, bowing to the couple. "Roy and Ranma have told me so much about you both."

"I was afraid of that," replied Oliver with a smile, returning her bow. "Hopefully you'll give us a chance anyway. But in all seriousness I'm glad to finally make your acquaintance, Miss Tendo. Roy's spoken well of both you and your older sisters."

"Please, call me Akane."

"Then feel free to call me Oliver. No need for formality here and now. How have you found living in Gotham?"

"It's quite different than what I'm familiar with, especially with me staying here in Wayne Manor. But so far I've liked it. I feel like I'm adapting well." She smiled at Roy and Ranma. "It helps that I have some very good friends to help me adjust."

"How has your education coming along?" Dinah asked. "As usual, Bruce is being infuriatingly closed mouthed about such things."

"Well, Miss Lance-"

"Dinah," she corrected.

Akane smiled at the older woman. "It's being going well, Dinah. I've learned so much since I came here in January. It sort of makes me dizzy, thinking about it."

Dinah nodded thoughtfully as she gave the young woman an appraising look. "I've been told you've been practicing martial arts since you were a child."

"Oh, yes. I love it. It's a family tradition."

"She's very good," said Ranma. "She was pretty good when I first met her, when she was practically teaching herself. Now," he flashed a cocky smile, "I bet she could give you a run for your money, Dinah."

"Ranma!" Akane exclaimed, embarrassed by his boast.

"Oh really?" murmured Dinah, returning Ranma's smile with a toothy one of her own. "I wouldn't mind putting that to the test, and we will be staying in Gotham for a few days. What do you say, Akane – would you be up for a training session or two with me?"

"I... I..." Akane stuttered for a moment before her face lit up with an excited grin. She was very much aware of Dinah's reputation as a martial artist within the heroic community. "I would love to!" She bowed deeply. "Thank you so very much!"

Dinah smiled, pleased by Akane's enthusiasm, and bowed back. "You're very welcome. It will be a pleasure."

"My love, you're the only woman I've ever know who makes friends with people by beating them up," commented Oliver.

"Would you rather have me nattering all the time about shopping expeditions to Rodeo Drive like the charming Ms. Vreeland over there?"

"Hell no! I'm only a billionaire. My black cards wouldn't be able to take the stress. Besides, I'd miss watching you work. You're so sexy when you're kicking ass."

"Oh Ollie, you really know how to make a girl feel special."

Oliver gave Dinah a jaunty bow then took her hand and kissed it reverently. Akane giggled. Ranma rolled his eyes. Roy made gagging sounds.

"And on that note we'll bid you kids adieu for now," said Oliver as Dinah took his arm. "We have to fulfill our social obligations and make the rounds."

"Get my number from Roy and give me a call tomorrow, Akane," said Dinah. "We can arrange for a good time to meet then."

"I will! Thank you again, Dinah." Akane watched the older couple leave, her grin unabated. Roy snickered at her expression.

"She looks like a little kid who just got told Christmas is coming early," he commented to Ranma.

"That's because that's what she is right now," replied Ranma. "Dinah isn't the only woman around here who bonds through violence."

"Oh please!" said Akane. "Like you're any different."

"Really? Do I have to remind you who challenged whom to a spar the first time we met as civilians?"

Before Akane could reply, they heard all three of their names called. They turned and saw Donna Troy walking towards them, a happy smile on her face. The tall young woman wore a short sleeved white chiffon dress with an empire waist, the long skirt ending just at her ankles, showing off her matching white shoes. The cloth covering her shoulders was transparent, fringed with an elegant flower pattern. Her black hair was piled in a bun ornamented with pearls. Teardrop earrings gleamed at her ears and her familiar golden bracelets were clasped around her wrists.

"Looking good, babe," said Roy, opening his arms for a hug, which Donna happily gave him.

"Thanks, Roy," she said. "And you're very dashing tonight." She ruffled a hand through his short red hair, which he playfully swatted away with a laugh.

"I'm shocked, Donna. I didn't realize you owned anything with a skirt." Ranma teased.

"Further proof you're not as observant as everyone thinks, Boy Wonder," she teased back as she hugged him. "Believe it or not I am capable of dressing up when the occasion demands." She turned to Akane, her eyes becoming bright with admiration. "Oh wow, Akane. You look gorgeous!" She quickly gave her newest friend a patented Amazonian glomp.

Akane blushed a bit at the praise. "Thank you, Donna. You look lovely too. I'm very glad to see you right now – Ranma and Roy are ganging up on me."

"Are they now?" Donna rounded the two boys with a mock glare.

"We are not!" said Roy, holding up his hands. His protest of innocence was belied by his smile.

Donna continued to look at them skeptically.

"Well, maybe we were making a few comments on her, umm, energetic nature," conceded Ranma with a smirk.

"Hmmph. Typical. Since it's obvious you two goofballs don't know how to treat a lady, I'm going to steal Akane away from you for a little while. I want her to meet Diana. You game, Akane?"

Akane's eyes went wide. "Uh... Yeah, of course! I'd love to."

"Great!" Donna hooked Akane's arm. "We'll be back in a bit." She led the young martial artist off.

Roy glanced at Ranma, smiling as he noticed how the pig-tailed young man was laser-focused on his fiancee's bare back and swishing hips. "Akane's looking fine tonight," he said.

"That she is," Ranma agreed, a small smile on his face.

"Seeing her dressed up is making me miss Nabiki."

"Oh really?" Ranma was careful to keep his voice neutral. Roy noticed the effort and gave his friend a narrow-eyed look.

"I thought you were over your dislike of her."

Ranma grimaced. "I'm not going to lie to you, Roy. I don't know if I'll ever like her, not after finding out she was selling pictures of Akane to Kuno and those idiots at her school. I know you're over it, and Akane has forgiven her, and both of your feelings count for a lot. But honestly, I don't think I ever can forgive her."

"She regrets it, Ranma," said Roy, a little unhappily. "She honestly does."

Ranma shrugged. "I know, and that's why I'm polite to her and I'm trying to keep an open mind. Even so, I still wonder sometimes what you see in her."

"Do I need a reason besides 'biki's smoking hot?" Roy snagged two glasses of ginger ale from a passing waiter and handed one to Ranma."

"Despite the way you act I know you're not that shallow, Harper."

Roy shrugged. "What can I say? She suits me. She's got depths to her that she keeps concealed to most people, and I like having the privilege of being one of the few she shows those too. She's smart, and she's got an edge to her that appeals to me. I also like that she doesn't fawn over me the way a lot of other girls have in the past. She isn't afraid to give me shit and doesn't mind when I sling it back. I find her challenging, and I'm always up for a challenge."

Ranma nodded and took a sip of his ginger ale. Roy suddenly grinned like a cat spotting a canary.

"And the fact she can suck the chrome off a bumper is a big plus," he added in a low voice.

Ranma choked. He brought up a hand to shield his face as he spat his soda back into his glass. Roy threw back his head and laughed.

"Bastard," growled Ranma. He pulled a handkerchief from his jacket's inner pocket and wiped his mouth. "I did not need to hear that."

"You're such a prude, Saotome," Roy replied with a grin. "You really need to loosen up a little." Ranma grumbled in response. "How are things going with Akane?"

Ranma shrugged as he put away the handkerchief and downed his soda in one go. "Fine. She's happy and comfortable here in Gotham, and her training is going well. Bruce and I are planning on taking her on her first field mission next Friday."

Roy nodded and sipped his drink. "That's good, but it's also not what I was asking about. I meant how is your personal relationship with her going?"

Ranma's brow furrowed. "What do you mean?"

Roy sighed, sounding vexed. "I mean have you asked her out yet? Taken her to dinner and a movie, maybe gotten to first base afterward."

Ranma frowned. "We're friends, Roy. Friends and soon to be partners. That's all."

"You don't look at her like you want to be just friends."

"That's because I'm straight and have a pulse," he replied somewhat caustically. "Yeah, I think she's hotter than Firestorm, but she's not interested in me that way. She thinks of me as a friend."

Roy stared at him in disbelief.

"What," asked Ranma.

He did not answer, simply shook his head.

"What?"

"Nothing," answered Roy slowly. "I'm just wondering how someone so sharp can be such a dumbass."

"Thanks a lot, Harper."

"I'm just telling you the truth, Saotome. I've seen the way she stares at you, even if you haven't, and trust me, she is not giving you 'this guy's my buddy' looks. More like 'I wanna have my wicked way with this boy right now'."

Ranma stared at Roy, stunned.

"You serious?"

"Like a broadhead to the throat. I may take the piss out of you a lot of the time, but you are my brother in all but blood. I would not kid you about something like this."

The young man stood speechless for a few moments, tugging at his pig-tail as he struggled to comprehend this new information.

"I didn't know," he muttered. He shook his head. "But even if that's so, I... I don't know if I want to make things weird between us."

"You make hardened criminals piss themselves with a single look," Roy said slowly and softly. "You ride herd on a bunch of super-powered teen hotheads. You regularly get into pissing matches with Slade Wilson. Are you seriously telling me you're afraid of asking a girl out?"

"I dunno," Ranma said quietly. He looked away from Roy, gazing in the direction where Akane and Donna had gone.

Roy shook his head slightly, reminding himself of the odd way his friend had been raised for the first ten years of his life. "Okay, I'll lay off for now. But just do me a favor and think on this." Ranma nodded. "Come on, let's go hit the buffet table."


"How have you been, Donna?" Akane asked as they made their way through the ball room, walking slowly to give themselves time to chat.

"Not too bad, but things have been boring. It's been quiet up in Boston, so Diana and I haven't had much excitement recently." She laughed and winked at her friend. "You know things are slow when I was actually looking forward to coming to this charity ball."

"Not you too," Akane said with dismay.

"What do you mean?"

"Ranma and Roy were complaining about being here tonight."

"Really? They're usually not that vehement about these things."

"Well, maybe 'complain' is too strong a word, but they don't seem to like it. Not that I blame them; they've told me how some of the people at these gatherings treat them."

Donna nodded in agreement. "Yeah, these social elites get real nasty. Some of the rumors that make the rounds are gross."

"What rumors?"

"Think about it, Akane. Rich bachelors taking cute young boys into their homes as their wards..." Donna trailed off, allowing Akane to draw her own conclusions. After a moment she suddenly stopped walking and stared aghast at the young Amazon.

"Seriously?" Akane exclaimed.

Donna nodded, smiling a little sadly.

"That's sick!"

"I agree."

Akane scowled, taking a deep breath in through her nose. "I will kill anyone I overhear talking about the boys like that."

"Please don't," laughed Donna. "You're far too pretty for prison and I'd miss you terribly. Anyhow, no one is stupid enough to say anything like that where word can get back to Bruce or Ollie. Or, at least not anymore."

Akane hummed thoughtfully, her expression softening a little. "Do you have to deal with that, too?"

"Not really. I'm not an outsider the way Roy and Ranma are. I'm adopted, true, but very few people know that. I was only two years old at the time. I have no memory of my life before Themyscira, so I'm culturally an Amazon, if not ethnically. It also helps that I'm royalty – most people tend to be polite to princesses, at least in social situations."

"Huh."

Donna grinned. "I will admit I occasionally get accused of being a man-hating dyke. Usually not to my face, though."

"No one's that stupid," Akane said wryly.

"You'd be surprised."

"Does it bother you, Donna?"

She shrugged dismissively. "Why should it? I don't care what idiots say about me. I know it's not true – I like men just fine and I'm not a dyke." She pursed her lips. "Wait, I'm bi-sexual. I guess that makes me a part-time dyke." She grinned at Akane's laughter. "And truthfully, such things don't really bother the guys either. Annoys them sometimes, maybe, but they know their own worth."

Akane nodded. "That's good to hear."

"So how are you doing? Life in Gotham treating you well?"

"Yes. I'm happy, if very busy. I've had to learn a lot the past few months. If Ranma and Bruce hadn't taught me that sleep-meditation technique they use, there's no way I'd be able to keep up. Even with it, sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by everything I have to do in one day."

"That's natural. Any regrets?"

Akane grinned. "I'll never regret this. And all the hard work is paying off; I'm going out officially next Friday."

"Cool! How are you feeling about that?"

"Excited. I'm just going to be observing for the most part, but I'm looking forward to getting out on the field."

"Are you nervous about it?"

"A little, but in all honesty not much." Akane laughed. "I actually have more nerves about being here," she waved her free hand at the ball room, "then going out on the streets of Gotham."

"You're a girl after my own heart, Akane." The two teens started walking again. "How are things with Ranma?"

Akane was surprised by the question. A little buzz of trepidation flitted in her stomach. "Fine. He's very happy with my progress, and I can't thank him enough for all the help he's given me in getting adjusted to living in the States."

"I see," said Donna. The expression on her face indicated that that was not what she expected to hear. "Has he asked you out yet?"

Akane stutter-stepped to a stop. "What? No!"

"Okay then. Have you asked him out?"

"No!"

"In Hera's name why not?" Donna asked, exasperated.

"He's... He's not interested."

"Not interested..." the Amazon repeated, looking intensely at the blue-black haired girl.

"Yeah. He's a friend. A very good friend, but that's all."

Donna said nothing for a moment. Her sky-blue eyes were bright with piqued disbelief. "Did he tell you that?"

"Tell me what?"

"That he's not interested in you."

"Well... not exactly..."

"Then why do you think he's not interested in you?"

Akane frowned unhappily as the pain of her unrequited crush rose up to grasp at her spirit. She looked down at her pink-painted toes.

"Why would someone like him be interested in dating me?"

Donna looked at Akane silently for a few moments. She had never seen her friend, usually so energetic and confident, display such self-doubt.

"Akane, please look at me." Akane gazed up at her from beneath her bangs. "May I speak to you honestly?"

"Of course," she said softly.

"I've only known you for a short time now, only half a year, but you have become a dear friend. I love you, and since I love you I'll only speak the truth to you. I also love Ranma. I care for him deeply and consider him my older brother. In the five years that I've known him, I've never seen him look at anyone the way he looks at you, nor heard him speak of anyone the way he talks about you. Trust me, Akane, he's very much interested in you."

Akane looked directly at the taller girl. "Really?" Donna smiled, nodding in reply. "Oh... oh my..." She brought up a hand to her mouth.

"Are you okay?" asked Donna, taking gentle hold of Akane's arm.

"I don't know." Akane laughed shakily. "You must think I'm stupid.

"No. A little silly sometimes, but never stupid." Akane laughed again, more steadily this time. "Do you need some time?"

"I think I do. Do you mind?"

"Of course not. Diana will be here all night. Do you want a drink?"

"Yes, please."

"Okay." Donna led her to the nearest refreshment table.


Author's Note: The first part of this story is going to be fairly self-indulgent, with a number of appearances by various DC personalities. There's a lot of geeky fan service coming up. Hope you don't mind.

Akane knows English thanks to a crash telepathic language course given to her by J'onn J'onzz when she arrived in Gotham.

In case you haven't seen it, the wondrous and talented PurseMonger has done me the honor of writing side-stories for the Shadows-verse. Her story is called A Tendo in Gotham, and deals with Akane adjusting to life in Gotham and the States, and her interactions with various other DC characters. She has one chapter published, another waiting in the wings, and the idea for at least one more. Go read it and give her reviews! She certainly deserves them and hopefully it will encourage her to write more. I definitely would not mind that.

And again, many thanks to PurseMonger for taking the time to beta my work and giving me invaluable suggestions and encouragement.