Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers. (The show, I mean, as I do own some of the action figures.) -grin-
A/N: 13 pages, y'all. :D
Theme 16: Match
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Instant Seventeen: Stupid Cupid xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
They watched, cerulean eyes catching interest, auburn ones feigning indifference.
Bicker. Bicker. Glare. Bicker. Bicker. "SHUT UP." Saunter off.
It was an infinite cycle, she supposed. He was a born leader in red, and she'd always had this superiority complex.
They clash. He mused, casually crossing his arms as he was still under the pretense of disinterest.
So she had surely surprised him when one day, she mumbled with as much insight as Watanabe-sensei himself, "They like each other."
Blink. "Wait. What?"
She grinned cheekily, tapping a finger to her temple, "Woman's intuition."
And she'd definitely thrown him for a loop when she decided, "Let's match make them."
He looked at her incredulously, "Marah. You cannot be serious."
"I SO am!"
Sigh. Crazy chick. "Isn't this like, against the law?"
She tampered with the lock, tiny screwdriver working in the needed kinks. "No. And besides, even if it were, couldn't you bend the rules just a tiny bit for your friends' happiness?"
"…Well, yeah. But, geez, isn't this kinda extreme?"
"It has to be big, Dustin. So they'll finally realize how they feel and stuff. Like, pow, a slap to the face."
"I can see them now. 'Shane, I know we fight. A lot, yeah, but…my anger is just a way to hide my true feelings. …I really, really like you.' 'Kapri…Wow, I—I feel the same.'"
She grinned insanely. "CUTE."
He rolled his eyes at her stereotypic girl behavior.
"Insert some –serious- making out here."
His eyes widened a little. "No, Marah. No way. In the closet?"
She smiled something fierce and he vaguely wondered if she was like this with her boyfriends.
He bent his neck a little, blushing about finding that incredibly…hot.
"Their hormones will overcome the ego. And besides, they're teenagers, Dustin. Making out is ok, like…anywhere."
She prodded his side and he jumped. "Now go in. Test the lock from the inside."
He still couldn't believe he'd agreed with this whole matchmaking business, but he found himself fumbling with the now useless inside knob anyhow.
"Shoot, they're coming!"
She had to have done that on purpose, he swore. That is, running in with him and slamming the door shut. The very door that they had been meddling with and thus, did not open from the inside.
"…SHOOT." She realized her ineptness with a slap to the forehead.
He stared in kind.
And so they spent the better half of 34 minutes yelling for help and pounding against the door. (Seriously, were Shane and Kapri the only ones who used this hall?)
On the 35th minute, they decided to break, thinking, hoping, that someone would sooner or later need something from the broom closet.
He sat, bored, wondering what he and Marah could do to kill time.
Making out is ok, like…anywhere.
He reddened unconsciously. And to add to his already horrible predicament, a healthy dose of testosterone!
They got out eventually. Eventually, some new kid broke a vase that eventually needed cleaning, which eventually involved someone going to the broom closet. Eventually being 2.3 hours.
During which, eventually, they slept together.
The fully clothed, chastity-conserving sleep, because they were, after all, in a closet, thank you very much.
She hadn't gotten much sleep last night, what with her scheming and attempting to learn how to effectively disable a knob's mechanics.
So he, being his usual chivalrous heroic self, leant her his shoulder.
Which eventually put them in quite the predicament after a student came barging in upon the blatant display of affection. Thank goodness he wasn't one of those kids who got his kicks from running the rumor mill.
"Oh, ah, um. …Sensei Dustin? …Marah?"
They walked out as casually as they could manage. And Marah smiled what Dustin referred to as, 'disarmers'. "Thanks." She said, blue eyes warm enough to make the boy melt.
Right then, he felt the need to interrupt, "You so owe me."
She looked up at him curiously. Then conceded, "'kay. What do you want?"
"A Schwinn's Rocket Mountain Full Suspension 2006 model dirt bike."
"I'll totally make sure to save all my pocket change from now on."
Then she kissed his cheek, mumbling a quiet sorry against his skin.
And he suddenly felt that her debt had been totally cleared.
The former Rangers, all seven of them, plus Marah and Kapri of course, had decided one Friday to go have fun at the fair that came every three months.
This was their chance, she said. People always get together during carnivals.
It was 7 p.m. already and they still had yet to make any significant moves.
The tunnel of love had been their initial scheme, but it was a no-go due to technical difficulties.
Then they thought, Haunted House. Kapri could latch herself onto Shane's arm whenever things got a little too creepy. Turns out, after living with monster-reminiscent space aliens all your life, flickering lights and polyester-skinned demons just didn't faze you anymore. Shane had turned out to be the more freaked of the two, but like hell was he going to show it. Much.
The Shane-Winning-A-Stuffed-Animal-For-Kapri Plan quickly went down the drain after conceding that 1) Shane would never openly give Kapri a gift and 2) Shane had a serious bad pitching arm.
Finally, it hit them. Ferris Wheel.
If they timed it just right, their car would stop right at the top and overlook the lights of the carnival glowing underneath the deep night sky.
Can anyone say, 'AW. How Romantic!'?
So they both convinced everyone to pair up and get in line. Naturally, Tori went with Blake, the total PDA, I-love-to-snuggle couple that they were. Cam and Hunter had stalked off to who knows where to have manly talk and do manly things.
Shane and Kapri had been fighting (as usual), and therefore had not noticed any pairing up business of any sort, and had been forced to ride together.
("What?! There's NO WAY I'm sitting with that—alien."
"Ugh! I would've gladly sat with Cousin. Or hey, even Hunter, because you know what, I think he's WAY cuter than you!"
"What makes you think I care who you think is cute? All that dye in your hair must have affected your eyesight anyhow!"
"You jerk! You are SO asking for a face full of fist!")
And Dustin rode with Marah.
There were no objections, no comments.
And everyone acted so natural about it.
So they've been quite the inseparable duo the past few weeks, but seriously.
It wasn't as if they were a couple or anything. They were good friends who, what with Marah not totally understanding the concept of personal space, were a miniscule bit more affectionate.
But bottom line, (no 'fine print' to speak of) their relationship was entirely platonic and was, thus, meant to be translated as such.
So busy was he stewing over these thoughts that he barely acknowledged that it was their turn to get on. Until she took his hand in hers, that is.
"C'mon Dustin." She called, smiling.
Friends do this all the time, he tried.
What? Holding hands and doing very couple-y activities? Like riding Ferris Wheels together, huh?
After the whole closet episode, he'd honestly expected some awkwardness, a little more shyness than what their friendship usually called for.
But there was none of that. Only more of Marah's smiles, and only more of his laughs.
A lot more of them.
No. Wait. He stopped to regain his bearings a second. Shane and Kapri. Shane and Kapri. Not just Shane. Not just Kapri. But Shane AND Kapri. Together. That was the mission of the moment and he could do away with unnecessary distractions—
"Shoot!" She suddenly exclaimed, looking over the bar when their car stopped. At the top. "This was where they were supposed to be!"
The car rocked roughly, and Dustin was suddenly all too aware of his position. Not on the ground and virtually, in the sky. He suddenly remembered just how afraid he was of heights.
"Dust?" She said, noticing his tightening grip on the bar. Her blue eyes lit with both concern and moonlight.
"I'm fine." He muttered, eyes trained forward and anywhere but the sight below.
He didn't expect her to understand his fear, his thing with acrophobia.
But surprisingly, she did.
She put a soft palm over his hand, fingers sweeping over his knuckles in what was meant to be a soothing manner. He didn't know whether to relax or tense up for an entirely different reason.
"We'll be here for just a bit longer," she said, which actually meant, 'so sit tight and get comfy.'
It wasn't as if they could get to Shane and Kapri anyhow.
She laid her head upon his shoulder, just as she had before, her hand never leaving his.
He caught the subtle smell of tangerines in her hair.
His favorite fruit.
The physical approach hadn't worked.
The underhanded romantic set-up had ultimately failed.
What other tactic was there to try, really?
He looked over to the 'mastermind' of the operation, a curious expression on his features. The unconscious 'she looks really cute when she's plotting something totally sly' thought met with his brain and its 'realization function' much faster than his embarrassed subconscious could discard it.
They were sitting at a random booth at Johnny Rockets, to order milkshakes and fries to share, just as they'd been doing every other Friday for the last couple of months or so.
He gazed idly over at his friend (because that's what they were, no matter what it seemed or how many of their friends thought otherwise. Really. Seriously. Period.) and knew the figurative idea light bulb had gone on inside her head when her features lit up.
"The Jealousy Factor." She announced, grinning proudly.
He sipped at his shake and gave her a curious look.
"Oh c'mon, Dust. You know how it goes!" She exclaimed, tossing him a slightly exasperated look, "They're way too stubborn to like, do anything on their own. So we've got to throw in a little competition!"
"Dude. Marah." He said, brows knitting, "That's like, totally deceptive."
She smiled again, "Isn't it? It's perfect though! Proud people are usually very possessive too, y'know. When Kapri sees me prowling on her territory, she'll totally blow up!"
He sighed, about to humor her before it suddenly registered in his mind, "Wait, you're the 'little competition'?"
"Of course. Who else?"
His voice gained somewhat of a nervous tremor. "I—I don't know! I just…didn't expect…" He trailed off a little, before stuffing a fry in his mouth and clearing his voice, "So what, you're going to flirt with him or something?"
"Yep." She giggled girlishly, "And it's even better that it's me." At his blank look she explained, "I mean, how would you feel if your younger sibling were putting the moves on your crush?"
"Well, yeah, I guess, but—"
"Look! They're here!" She gasped surprised. She stood, waving and calling out to the (again) bickering pair. "Oh! Shane! SHANE! …and Kapri. Over here!"
Geez, this plan was moving fast.
"Hey guys! Shane, come sit next to me." Marah said, smiling demurely.
Way too fast.
The ex-Red Ranger cocked a suspicious brow, before conceding. Kapri's expression was definitely unguarded surprise, which was turning quickly into frustration.
The blonde huffed under her breath before settling beside Dustin in the little booth.
"So…" Shane began, "What are you guys doing here?"
Marah answered breezily, "Just hanging out. Telling Dustin over here of my boy troubles."
Kapri looked a little skeptic, "You tell him your boy problems? I thought he was your boy problem—"
Cerulean eyes widened a bit, before she waved it off with a ridiculous hand motion, "Don't be silly, sis. Dustin's my confidante, not my boyfriend."
He decided that Marah was an extremely good actress, because Shane and Kapri weren't the only ones getting affected by her casual brush-offs. How was he being her boyfriend, silly?
"I've been telling him how hard it is for me to hold down a boyfriend…" She gave a really exaggerated sigh. "I just can't seem to find the right man, y'know? Someone really take-charge and a total leader."
From Shane's slightly raised brows, you could easily tell that his interest had been captured. And from Kapri's slightly affronted scoff, you could easily tell that she could easily tell.
"Really?" Shane questioned a little curiously.
She nodded, "Of course, I look for strength and intelligence in my guy, but born-leaders are what really get to me…"
Kapri's glare was acidic, "Really, Mar? I thought you were into more of the fun-loving, out-going, friendly type…"
Dustin wondered if Kapri was hinting at him.
"No, no!" She said, giggling, "I like really headstrong guys…guys who really know what they want in life."
Was she suggesting that he didn't know what he wanted in life?
Shane nodded his head a little, as if saying, 'There are really only a few of us out there.'
"Then why don't you try Hunter?" Kapri, suggested, taking another route, "I hear he's really…headstrong and stuff. And you guys would look really good together!"
No, they wouldn't.
"Hmmm. I don't know, Hunter is a little too broody for me." She tapped a finger to her chin in mock-thought, "And besides, I get enough of Motorcross from hanging out with Dustin."
Was she tired of his Motorcross too?
"Really?" Shane responded, grinning, "You should try skateboarding, then. It's what I do to drown out their Motorcross talk."
Marah laughed a little, a sound that made both occupants of the opposite seat twitch in annoyance.
"You skateboard? That is totally cool!"
Man, she was laying it on thick.
"You said it. Doing all these stunts and tricks using just your skill and your board? It's awesome."
At least the plan was working, Dustin reminded himself. Kapri was absolutely seething.
Even when he was squirming in his seat at their closeness, at least everything was going according to plan.
That is, till Kapri decided to take things up a notch.
"Hmm, I think Motorcross is still tons more dangerous. Only guys with real courage can compete in that sport. Isn't that right, Dustin?"
Oh no. Oh. No.
"And also headstrong guys are way too…stubborn. The carefree ones are the keepers."
She winked at Dustin.
She was so coming onto him.
And Marah let out a tiny, barely audible indignant squeak. Which, for some unfathomable reason, left him feeling better.
Shane was responding well.
"Whatever. Girls who are bubbly are so much cuter." He sent a meaningful glare at Kapri, "Not to mention, they know when to keep their mouths shut when need be."
Hmm. Well, maybe he could help get this thing going. After all, getting Shane all worked up would just move things along faster, right? (He ignored the tiny little part of him that said he just got satisfaction from seeing Marah jealous.)
"Well, confident girls are cute too. They're strong and they don't take crap from anyone." Dustin added.
Shane and Marah reeled back in shock.
"You like those kinds of girls, Dustin?" Shane murmured, then chuckled a little bitterly, "Then you should have asked Tori out when you had the chance."
"Yuck!" Marah suddenly said, her voice a little louder and a little higher than usual, "That would be like him dating his sister!"
Dustin looked to Marah, his mind beaming. She mouthed a 'What the heck are you doing?' in his direction.
"Nah. Tor's not even all that headstrong. I mean, she can take care of herself, sure, but haven't you seen her with Blake? She becomes a puddle."
"Well," Shane semi-scoffed, "Girls who are too headstrong can get kind of…pig-headed."
"Same with guys!" Kapri fired back. "They can get so full of themselves—"
Hey, more arguing was not the direction he and Marah had planned the situation to go.
"Settle down, guys." Dustin tried, ever the peace-maker. "No need to argue. All I was saying was that willful girls can be really attractive—"
"Oops! Sorry Shane! Was that your knee that like, brushed against mine?" Marah suddenly interrupted, giggling flirtatiously.
So flirtatiously it made Dustin want to gag.
"Dustin, I think you've got lint on your shoulder…" Kapri spontaneously observed, reaching across his lap to brush off a probably non-existent peace of dust.
He swore he heard a growl.
From Shane or Marah, he didn't know which.
"Hey Marah, y'know, since you're so interested in skateboarding, maybe you should come to my skate competition next Friday…" Shane said stiffly, reaching into his pocket even as his eyes were religiously trained on Kapri, "I've got this extra ticket…"
Marah tossed him an irritated glance and Dustin held his breath.
There was no way she was going to accept. Absolutely no way.
Because not only was it going to interfere and ultimately blow their entire matchmaking scheme to smithereens, it would mean that Shane, his best friend since childhood, would be going on a date, a full-fledged date, with Marah, his…his he-didn't-know-what.
And he was not okay with that.
Before she could grab onto the stub, his hand reached out to grab her wrist.
"Mar, I think our extra order of fries is here. Come with me to get it, yeah?" He mumbled, ignoring her look of agitated confusion.
He dragged himself past Kapri and her over Shane, even before she got the chance to respond.
When they were finally far enough away, he hissed at her, "What was that?"
She crossed her arms, "What was what?"
"That! You accepted his date offer! Dude, don't you realize that just ruins the whole thing?"
"Well, you started flirting with Kapri! That wasn't part of the plan!"
"She came onto me first!"
"Well, you did a totally stellar job at not responding!" She nearly screamed, voice dripping with venomous sarcasm.
"At least I was helping the jealousy thing along." He bit, "You were about to date him!"
Marah huffed a little, "Well I just couldn't stand the thought of you two together! It made me seriously mad seeing how she leaned over you like that!"
"Well, geez, Marah! Now you know how sick it made me to see you so flirty with Shane!"
"Well, why would you have to be—" She paused, "You were sick?"
"You were mad?"
"Yeah, of course I'd be mad."
"…The same reason you were sick." And she promptly blushed.
He grinned in return. "Okay."
"Well, um, so what do we do now? Like you said, we've totally ruined this matchmaking scheme."
"Dunno. You're the mastermind."
She thought a little, before her features once again caught onto epiphany.
She smiled at him, grabbing his hand, "C'mon."
He threw her a confused look when they stopped a few feet away, not quite within Shane and Kapri's direct viewing range, but just enough for them to attract their attention.
"Dustin." She said loudly, drawing notice from not only Shane and Kapri but also other random customers at the restaurant. "I'm sorry I was mad. It wasn't like, real anger y'know? I was just…jealous."
He gazed down at her, wondering where this was going and whether or not she was putting on a show.
Something bright in her eyes happily told him otherwise.
"I like you."
And before he could respond, she tiptoed to meet her lips with his. The kiss was quick and chaste and public. But he felt he couldn't get enough.
When they broke, she winked at him, whispering, "Change of plan."
When he raised his brows in a silent plea for clarification, she grinned, "They'll totally follow by example."
He laughed, lightly squeezing her hand as they walked towards the two rather shell-shocked teens. And he responded with a highly conspicuous whisper in her ear.
"I like you, too. Is this where we insert the serious making-out?"
A/N: Because Dustin and Marah are ditzy enough to fall for their own matchmaking schemes. :DDDD
Special Thanks To:
CamFan4Ever (HEHEHEHEHE. Revenge is a great thing. :D ) Jusea Peterson (Lol. Thanks! It was meant to be bittersweet. If you thought that was sad, just wait… :D) Meloda26 (8D I finally input a new couple! Shane and Kapri as per request!) yellow power (Haha, thanks. But, um. She actually did marry the guy. Dustin didn't kiss her "at last", that had been the last time he kissed her. D:) shannon (WOW! ANOTHER REVIEWER. YAY. I didn't know I had lurkers:D) KAT-o (Thanks, love! Here's the next chapter!)