A(nother) Prom Story
by Aeris Tiniel Mirime

Disclaimer: Neither the Show The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, nor any of its characters belong to me. They belong to Disney, It's a Laugh Productions, and the actors who bring the characters to life. And the special guest star belongs to himself (or something?).

The month was April, and the end of the school year was approaching. At this time, Maddie was currently concerned with what concerns most high school girls in the spring - the prom. She and London had already picked out their dresses, along with matching shoes and accessories. The only thing they did not have picked out yet were escorts. As the two of them entered the Tipton lobby, where the dance was, as usual, going to be held, they discussed their plans concerning this subject.

"London," Maddie said, "Dare I even ask who you're planning on going with?"

"Well, I haven't checked with him yet, but I'm sure Aaron Carter will be free," London replied, unaware how unusual it was for a schoolgirl at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow to be in close contact with rockstars and actors. "What about you? I think Bruce Thomas, you know, from our english class - would be good for you."

"I don't know, London. He doesn't really interest me." Maddie said. "No one at school really does."

"Well you have to go with someone."

" I know, I know. I'll find somebody eventually."

"Better hurry up." London warned, "Prom is coming sooner than you think."

After Maddie had changed into her work uniform and taken her place behind the candy counter, Esteban came over to say his usual hello. "So," he said after greeting her, "What were you and Miss London talking about?"

"We were just talking about finding dates for our prom."

"So your prom is coming up. In my village we did not have proms. I wonder what they are like."

"I'll be asking the same question if I can't find someone to take me." Maddie said.

"But you went to your prom before, remember?"

"Yeah, but that was the junior prom. This is the senior prom - it's the biggest event in the whole school."

"I see. And it's important to have someone as your date."

"Uh huh. I only wish I knew someone who I wanted to go with."

"Oh," he said absently, examing the patterns of the marble countertop. "Well I've got to get back to work," he finally said, gesturing to some guests who had just entered with their luggage. "Bye, Maddie."

"Bye, Esteban," she said, watching him leave. As she did so, a thought formed in her brain. She needed a date to prom, and Esteban wanted to see what they were like. Why not ask him to take her? They could both benefit from the experience, and after all, they were pretty good friends. Better friends than she was with any of the boys at school. She smiled at the thought and resolved to ask him on her next break.

When her break eventually came, she waited for Esteban to get back to the lobby from whatever errand he had been on. While she was waiting, London, walking with Ivana, stepped off the elevator and bounced over to her. "Hey Maddie," she called. "Have you found a date yet? 'Cause I have!"

"It's a good thing Aaron Carter was available," Maddie remarked, not looking up from the stack of magazines she was organizing.

"Oh, he wasn't. But the good news is that I saw Esteban right after I got off the phone, and he's taking me to the prom!"

Maddie's head snapped up instantly. "What? But why would you want to go with him? You're the princess of this whole hotel, and... and he..."she stuttered, looking for an excuse for London not to go with Esteban. "He's only the bellboy." she finished lamely.

"Now Maddie, I am astonished at you. I wouldn't think that you, of all people, would care about differences in social position."

Maddie braced herself to be reminded of the fiasco that she referred to as the "Jason Harrington and the Imperial Suite Incident."

"Didn't you learn anything from Scamp and Ivana?" London asked instead, holding up the fuzzy Pomeranian.

The candy girl groaned. She couldn't tell London the truth, that she didn't want her going with Esteban because she had planned on asking him herself. "You're right, London," she sighed. "It doesn't make a difference who you go with."

"I'm glad you agree. Now Ivana is off to get her nails done. See you when we get back."

As she and the dog left the lobby, the bellhop in question appeared. He waved at Maddie, who could only smile weakly back. She had lost her chance. How was it possible that he and London were going together. Did she ask him? Was she paying him? Or did he ask her? And if that were the case, what would make him ask London over herself? What did London have that she didn't have? Well, besides money, that is.

True to London's prediction, the night of the prom was soon approaching, but still Maddie could not bring herself to ask any of the boys at school. The idea of going with any of that immature lot was much less than appealing. And when the night finally came, she was still dateless.

She decided to get dressed in the Martins' suite, (after Zack and Cody were sent away, of course) because she could not bear tonear London, whohad a million people to choose from, and had chosen the only one that Maddie wanted.

"Why did she have to pick him?" she lamented out loud. "She could have picked any other guy she wanted. Someone famous, even. And he was the one person I actually wanted to go with!"

"Hey hold on a second, Maddie," Carrie said as she came into the living room. "Who are you talking about."

"About London!" Maddie cried.

"You wanted to go to the prom with...London?"

"No," she sighed,"I guess I should explain myself better. I didn't like any of the boys at my school, so a while ago I thought I would ask Esteban to take me. Butbefore I could, London came and told me that shewas going with him. And I couldn't tell her that I hadwanted to go with him too."Maddie told her, finishing with a dejected "And now I have no one."

Carrie said nothing at first, only looked at the younger girl. It seemed that Maddie was getting strangely worked up over a simple matter of not having a date."Ok so, Maddie," she said slowly. "Are you sad because you don't have a date, or because you don't have a date with a certain person?"

Maddie scoffed. Of course she didn't want to go on a date with Esteban. As friends maybe, but not a romantic date. Like the time they messed with London's horoscope, and they went to the Fleer concert together. They had gone as friends and...she wouldn't rather have gone with anyone else. And when they were supposed to go to the Firemen's Ball - that was a "friend date." She remembered that she had been so happy to have that blue dress. Blue was the color that looked best on her, and... she had wanted Esteban to see her at her best. He had looked dashing in his tuxedo, but his tie had been...cutely askew.

Maddie opened her mouth to speak but could only close it again silently. She was for the first time realizing that she had been thinking of him in these terms for - who knew how long? She sat down abruptly and put her head in her hands.

"I take it the answer was behind door number two?" Carrie said as she sat down beside her.

"Mrs. Martin, what am I going to do?" Maddie asked frantically. "I didn't know that I liked him. And how can go and watch him be London's date now that I do know?"

"Well, chances are that he and London are looking at this as a strictly friends deal."

Maddie looked at her in surprise. She had been so caught up in her own emotions, t never occured to her that, knowing London, she probably wouldn't even think of Esteban as a romantic interest. Plenty of people went to dances as friends. After all, that was what she had thought she wanted to do with Esteban. "You're right," she said to the twins' mother. "I'm going to go down there and have a good time," she said, hope filling her for the first time since the the day of she found out London's date plans.

When her elevator reached the first floor, she stepped resolutely through the doors only to find a huge crowd of girls blocking her way. Pushing her way through, she spotted London at the center of the group, on the arm of ...Aaron Carter?

"London!" she called, trying to be heard over the din. "London, how did this happen?"

"Aaron just called me and said he was on his way over here to take me to the dance."

"I thought he was busy!"

"He said hehad a change of plans. So, yay me!" London cheered

"When did this happen?"

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe ten minutes ago?"

"But what about Esteban?"

"I'm sure he's around here somewhere"

"You mean he's here! But how could you just dump him like that?" Maddie asked, her heart beginning to flutter. She might still have a chance!

"Don't worry, I still paid him," London said, confused as to why Maddie would see a problem with the situation.

Maddie didn't respond. She turned and fought her way out of the crowd, intent on finding Esteban. Now that his date was otherwise occupied, Maddie still had a chance to get him to take her. She didn't have to look far for him, for when she finally made it out of the throng, her momentum almost made her fall right into him, dressed in full tuxedo. Maddie guessed that London really did just get Aaron's call.

"Oh, hi Maddie," he said. "You look nice."

"Esteban, you're not taking London to the prom!" she said, so nervous she could think of nothing more to say than to state the obvious.

"Nope, she said I didn't have to go with her anymore."

"You didn't have to? What do you mean? I thought you wanted to go with her?"

"Well sure, " here he hesitated. "But I thought it would be nice to go with you. You know, since we always do stuff together."

"I thought so too but - wait, what?" Now it was Maddie's turn to pause. had she heard him right? The noise from the crowd suddenly seemed deafening. "You wanted to go with me?" she asked, unbelieving.

"Yes, but I know you wouldn't want to go with me."

"Of course I would, Esteban! What makes you say that?"

"Don't you remember the day you first told me about your prom? You said that you wished you knew someone you wanted to go with."

Maddie gasped as she realized that she had, in fact, said that to him. At the time, she hadn't thought of Esteban as a possible date, and had only meant that she didn't want any of the boys at school. But he... he must have been thinking of her as date material all along! Why else would he have interpreted her words to include him? And he did seem preoccupied during that conversation. She remembered how he avoided her eyes, looking everywhere else - at the patterns on the countertop, at the newly arriving guests - but not at her. Her stomach did a flip. Could it really be possible that he felt the same way about her as she now knew she felt about him?

"Look, I didn't mean you when I said that," she told him finally. "In fact, I had planned on asking you to take me right after that conversation. But then I found out about you and London, and I didn't think you wanted me. I guess we both just misunderstood each other."

"Well if that's the case, do you think I could still take you to your prom?" he asked, looking at her sideways.

She smiled, and on an impulse, stepped forward to hug him. "I would like that more than anything," she said, burying her face in his jacket.

A surprised Esteban patted her on the back awkwardly "Come on, Maddie," he said gently.

She stepped back and looked up at him, a questioning look on her face. What was that supposed to mean? Had she read him wrong? Did he still only think of her as just a friend? She began to blush, thinking that she had just embarrased herself by her actions.

"Let's get going. It's not everyday I get to take the prettiest girl in Boston to the prom!" he exclaimed, grinning at her.

Her embarassment dissolved at his words, and the blush on her cheeks was replaced with pink of a different kind. Beaming, she took the arm that he offered her, and together they made their way into the ballroom.