Shall We Dance?

By Tig Jones

Disclaimer: Shall We Dansu? and Ranma ½ do not belong to me. I am using their characters and plots without permission but for no profit.

Chapter 1: Mambo

Akane propped her head in her hand as she listened to her cram school teacher drone on about velocity. It was too hot inside the small classroom to think and the whirl of the ineffective fan made it impossible to concentrate. These summer cram classes were dull and useless, but they were already paid for and Nabiki would have her head if she wasted all that money.

She let her eyes drift to the window, taking in the busy Tokyo street below her. She took pleasure in the hustle and bustle of the city, along with the anonymity that being in a crowd brought. In the quiet suburb of Nerima, there was always a commotion that she was somehow attached to and everyone knew it. And usually her role was victim or punisher, neither of which she enjoyed. Leaving Nerima, she felt like a normal girl, and she liked how that felt.

Finally Akane looked to the window directly across the road from her classroom. DANCE, it proclaimed in big letters. Everyday Akane had found herself watching couples glide past the glass in beautiful, sweeping motions. The dancers had such grace and poise that she, a martial artist, was jealous. Her cheeks warmed as she thought of how close the men held their partners, and she wondered what it would feel like to be held with such care.

She jumped when someone shook her shoulder. "Tendo, class is over."

Akane laughed as she stood up and faced her classmate. "Sorry! I was daydreaming again."

"Why don't you try it?" her classmate asked.

Akane blinked in confusion. "Try what?"

"Ballroom dancing. You stare at that window everyday."

"I don't know what you're talking about!" Akane reddened, and walked past them, out of the room.

If only it were that easy, she thought. Not only did she not have the money for it, she could just imagine the ridicule she would receive from Ranma and his fiancées. She was always too thick, too clumsy, too slow, and too weak for everything. Dancing would be no different. A stupid graceless tomboy had no right dancing. Oh, but she wanted to try it so badly. Maybe she should, and then she could show Ranma that she wasn't so thick and clumsy as he claimed.

She crossed the street and apprehensively began to climb the narrow staircase that lead to the dance studio. The studio itself mostly consisted of the large airy dance floor, with open concept reception and waiting areas. A young woman sat behind the desk and snapped her gum when she saw Akane.

Akane was feeling a little embarrassed. "I'd like to sign up for a dance class..."

"Expert or beginner?" asked the woman.

"Beginner..."

"Group or private?"

Akane knew there would be no way she could afford private. "Group..."

"There's a class available Tuesdays and Thursdays from one to two-thirty. Okay?" the woman asked briskly.

Right after her cram school; perfect. "That's fine."

"Please fill out this form. Your first class is next Tuesday and your payment for the first week is due then. Got it?"

Akane took the clipboard from the annoying woman and filled out the forms. Soon after she was sitting on a bus back to Nerima, wondering how she was going to pay for her lessons. There was Nabiki, but she dreaded to think what Nabiki would require for payment. That left her with gaining some sort of employment, but she had no idea where. Who did she know who would give her a job? Glancing at a building the bus was passing, she suddenly had idea. She ran off the bus and across the road.

Ukyo sat on a stool, Ucchan's empty after the lunch rush. She ran through her stock in her head, making sure she had enough to rest the last of the week. Summer vacation was a blessing since she could keep her restaurant open all day, making as much money in the summer then she did for five months during the school year. She just began to fret about having enough bodies working when the chimes above her door tinkled.

"What can I get for you...? Oh! Akane, what are you doing here?" Ukyo asked in surprise.

Akane looked a bit sheepish. "Actually, I have a huge favour to ask of you."

Ukyo looked at her suspiciously. "What kind of favour?"

"I was wondering if you could give me a job." Akane saw Ukyo open her mouth so she pressed on quickly. "I realize you have no obligation to, but I know how busy you get and I figure you could use an extra body to help out. I promise to work very hard and I won't disappoint you. So please, let me work here!"

Ukyo was taken aback. She folded her arms as she regarded the girl standing in front of her. Akane's eyes were pleading with her, and Ukyo felt her resolve weakening.

"Okay," Ukyo responded slowly, making Akane's heart soar, "but there are a few ground rules. First, you can't harm the customers in any way, whatsoever. Secondly, any damage you cause you have to pay for out of your check. Thirdly, under no circumstance are you going to prepare any food in this establishment, or in the name of this establishment. Go it?"

Ukyo, the hardened proprietress, Akane thought and smiled. "Thank you so much. You have no idea what this means to me. When do I start?"

"Tonight. Be here by four-thirty, before the dinner rush starts." Ukyo walked behind the counter and pulled out an apron and handed it to Akane. "This is your uniform."

Akane took it and clasped it to her chest. "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" she exclaimed then exited, heading home.

Ukyo sighed and shook her head, wondering when she had become such a softie.

Akane ran home in glee. She was going to dance and she was going to work. And she was going to do it all on her own. She decided that it would be best not to tell anyone. There would be a big fuss, then questions, then mockery. She didn't need it. Besides, she was dancing not because she was Akane the violent tomboy, but because she was Akane the girl, and for those who didn't see her that way, it wasn't any of their business.

Entering her home, she saw Ranma laying languidly on the sofa. Fanning himself with a paper fan, he gave her a wide grin. "How was school?" he asked, his distain evident in his voice. Who goes to school during summer break anyway?

"Fine. Boring," Akane replied apathetically. She wished that Ranma would be sincere once and a while.

"Hah! I could have told you that. Hell, you should know that. It's not like we don't go to boring school the rest of the year."

"Whatever, Ranma. What time is it?"

Ranma shrugged at looked at his watch. "'Bout three o'clock."

Akane began to walk up stairs with purpose, not saying anything else. Ranma watched her retreating back in confusion. He followed her up the stairs and stopped as she closed her bedroom door behind her. He stood at her door and talked at her.

"What's wrong with you? Did something happen today?" Ranma asked, suddenly getting worried. "Did some guy in you class try to pull something? C'mon, Akane. What's up?"

He put his hand on her doorknob, about to turn it when the door swung open. Akane walked out wearing a black t-shirt, skirt and knee socks, carrying a messenger bag. She had tied a white bow in her hair and a bright smile on her face.

"Nothing's wrong with me, Ranma. I can take care of myself." And then she was gone, walking down the hall, down the stairs and out the door.

Akane figured she had time to do some shopping before she started her shift, so she headed over to the small dance supply store nearby. Half an hour later, with her purchase safely in her bag, she entered the okonomiyaki restaurant. Ukyo was behind the counter, filling the orders of the handful of customers. She smiled gratefully when she saw Akane hang her bag on a hook near the backdoor and pull out the white apron.

Ukyou motioned her to come closer. "Here's a pen and a pad of paper. Table numbers are written on the side of each table. If someone asks for the 'usual,' just write that down and I'll deal with it. I'll cover everyone at the counter. If it gets too busy, you'll need to seat people. Got it?"

When Akane nodded, she turned back to the grill. "Good luck."

An hour later, Akane was happily running around, taking orders and serving meals. She had made few mistakes, collected numerous tips, and Ukyo praised her on her customer service. She heard the chimes above the door and called out a "be right with you."

Looking up she saw a surprised Ranma staring at her in shock. Pushing down the annoyance she felt rising, Akane just stared back.

"How can I help you?"

"What? No 'idiot,' 'pervert,' 'freak'?" he asked sarcastically.

"How can I help you?" she repeated.

"What are you doing here?"

"I work here, quite obviously. I'm sorry, there's no room at the counter. Can I show you to a table?"

Ranma was confused. Akane was working at Ucchan's? Why? When? He dumbly followed her at a small table in the corner.

Akane pulled out her pad. "What would you like? The usual?"

Ranma just nodded, still unable to get his head around Akane being there. He watched her walk to another table to take an order, then another to get the bill. She was friendly and cheerful and, well... cute. Perplexed by this thought, Ranma just watched her. Minutes later she returned with his okonomiyaki.

"Here you go," she said, placing it in front of him. "Is there anything else?" He shook his head no. "Ukyo wants to see you, so say hi to her before you leave." And she was off again. Ranma finished up, and made his way to the counter, where Ukyo was too busy to throw more than a few words at him until work called her back. He gave one more glance toward Akane before leaving, seeing her laugh with a customer. He wished that she would laugh like that with him once and a while.

Soon it was Tuesday and Akane sat nervously waiting for her class to start. She fidgeted in her pink knee length skirt before admiring her dancing shoes. The high yellow heels looked painful, but were surprisingly comfortable. She had spent all the money she had on them, and she barely had enough money from work to pay for her first two classes.

Two other girls sat in the waiting area. Twins, it looked like. They talked quietly to each before standing up and walking over to Akane.

"Hi!" they said brightly.

"Hello," Akane replied.

"I'm Mariko."

"And I'm Keiko."

"Uh... Akane."

They smiled. "Nice to meet you, Akane!" said Mariko or Keiko. They were identical, down to the matching blue dresses they were wearing. Akane was slightly afraid.

"Is the beginners class here," a male voice interrupted.

Akane was in shock. "Doctor Tofu?!"

The bespectacled man smiled. "Akane, what are you doing here?"

"I... I wanted to try dancing," she blushed. "But no one knows I'm here and I would appreciate it if you didn't tell my family." He nodded and she paused. "What are you doing here?"

"Oh, I teach here occasionally. I danced a little in college. I'm not great, but I know enough to teach up to an intermediate level." He looked over to the twins and then down the clipboard he held. "And you two must be Suzuki Mariko and Keiko."

"Yes!" they chorused in unison.

"Great, we can get started. Has anyone danced before?"

One of the twins raised their hand. "My boyfriend's sister started teaching me, but I haven't learned much."

"Well, it will be easier since you are all at the same level," Tofu said. "We'll start off with the mambo. It's a noncompetitive dance, but it nicely lays the basics for more difficult dances."

The girls stood in a line with Doctor Tofu slightly in front of them. "The first step is very easy. Taking your right foot, step forward. Then step in place with your left foot, and then bring your right foot back. Right – left – together. Then with the left foot step back, step in place with your right foot, and then bring your left foot back. Left – right – together. The first two steps are quick, while you bring the foot back more slowly. Quick – quick – slow."

They followed along with his demonstration, Akane more hesitant than the twins. Right – left – together. Left – right – together. Quick – quick – slow. Quick – quick – slow. She tried not to let her frustration get out of hand.

Tofu then split them into partners, pairing Akane with himself. "Now, in ballroom dancing, the man will always lead. They will start with their left foot, and his partner will respond with their right. Please try it."

Akane swallowed dryly and tried to concentrate. She did okay stepping back with her right foot, but when she was supposed to move her left foot forward, she moved it back as well and almost lost her balance. By the end of the class she was still shaky with the footing. Looking a little forlorn she sat down to take off her shoes. The twins stopped in front of her.

"Don't worry, Akane!" one exclaimed.

"Yeah!" chimed the other. "You'll get the hang of it soon."

"See you on Thursday!"

Akane gave them a half smile. "See you."

Tofu walked over and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Don't let yourself get down. Once you find your rhythm you'll be great. See you in Nerima."

Her smile grew. "Thanks, Doctor Tofu."

An hour later she walked into the Tendo house, where Ranma was once again lounging.

"Where were you? I thought your class ended at twelve," Ranma half-shouted.

"Twelve-thirty," Akane corrected. "I was busy."

Ranma pouted. "Doin' what?" He was put out by the brilliant smile and pink flush across her face.

"None of your business," she replied without venom, then went upstairs to her room. Ranma once again watched her leave with a hurt sort of confusion in his eyes.

Where had she been?


Author's note:

My first Ranma fic.

Whoot. I've had this idea for so long and now it's finally down. Shall We Dansu? is one of my favourite movies, and I somehow thought I could fit a modification of the premise into Ranma. I randomly enjoy movies about ballroom dancing, the other notable film being Strictly Ballroom. I highly recommend both films as they are fantastic.

Mariko and Keiko are my sisters' names, though they're not twins, and Suzuki is a generic Japanese last name.

I've only read to the eleventh volume of the Ranma ½ manga so I'm taking great liberties with the characters, since I'm not terribly familiar with them. As for the place of this story, it could be a continuation, or just an insert. It deals with no major plot lines from the series.

Please review.