Disclaimer: The Power Rangers are not mine.
"Dance with me?"
The quiet voice in her ear took Ashley Hammond by surprise even as a grin broke out across her face. Slowly turning, she caught the eye of the man nearly stepping on her heels. A tentative smile crept across his too-serious face when she nodded, becoming an all-out grin when she slipped her hands into his.
"Of course I will," she murmured, leading him out onto the dance floor as the soft strains of a slow song began to play. "I asked you here, didn't I?"
"Well, yeah, but..." His hesitation was a lengthy one. "I didn't know if you meant it like this."
"How else could I mean it?"
Ashley slipped both her arms around his neck, silently counting to see how long it would take him to wrap his arms around her in return. He surprised her in taking only a second to curve his arms around her waist, his grip on her a strong one for someone who had been intensely uncomfortable with any sort of physical contact only a few weeks before.
"No one was dancing like this a few minutes ago," he muttered uncertainly, keeping his voice low as they swayed back and forth in time to the music.
Ashley thought back to how her less inhibited classmates had expressed themselves the song before and suddenly understood why she had hardly seen her date until now. Though he had loosened up considerably since she had met him, Andros was extremely self-conscious and very reserved, especially when large crowds of people were concerned--it would be just like him to disappear into the woodwork until a slow song came on.
"I meant it like this," Ashley assured him, oddly charmed by his shyness. It had never been something she had looked for in guys; she had always been drawn to the open, joking types, the ones with an easy smile and a carefree attitude. Andros was neither open nor carefree, she had never seen him crack a joke, and it was still a rarity to see a catch a smile on his face.
Yet she was drawn to him, plain and simple, and it wasn't her attraction to the stubborn, brooding red ranger that startled her. No, it was the way she nearly melted every time he smiled for her that unnerved her; the way she found herself speechless and blushing every time he had awkwardly stuttered out a compliment; the way she felt so completely safe and secure in his arms whenever he worked up the courage to hug her, or just hold her the way he was now.
They weren't dancing any longer, Ashley realized vaguely. Not that they had ever really been dancing; Andros had done little more than shift his weight between his feet and shuffle through a turn every now and then. The last note of the song was just dying away, but she was sure Andros hadn't been moving for some time now.
"Ashley?" Andros murmured. The next song was fast and wild, and though she felt him tense as the crowd around them moved to the beat, he made no move to release her.
"Yeah?" she said softly, lightly brushing his cheek with her fingertips. The anxious, nearly uncomfortable expression on his face was a sign that Andros was screwing up his courage to say something. Ashley was startled to find herself holding her breath in wait to her whatever it was.
"Thanks for dancing with me," he said finally.
When she saw him frown, Ashley had a feeling that wasn't what he'd wanted to say, but she kept silent, not wanting to push him. The moment the words were out of his mouth, it seemed to dawn on him that they were still in the middle of the dance floor. Blushing slightly, he quickly headed for the sidelines, but Ashley was delighted to see that he never dropped her hand.
"Do you... um, would you like to get something to drink?" he suggested hesitantly. "You must be thirsty. I mean, you were out there for awhile..."
And she had been, Ashley realized with a guilty flush. It had surprised her that Andros had even agreed to go with her. He hated crowds, loud music, and dancing after all, and there wasn't anyone around that he knew besides her and their teammates. She had hung around with him for the first few songs, attempting every now and then to drag him out onto the dance floor, but to no avail.
Finally, he had practically shoved her out there, insisting that he was perfectly all right waiting a few songs for her to come back. Ashley had promised herself that she would go back and talk to him after two songs, but two had quickly become three become four become five before he had asked her to dance.
"Ash?" Andros tapped her on the shoulder, concern and bemusement mingling in his expression. "Are you all right?"
"Why wouldn't I be?" Ashley shifted, trying not to show how flustered his attention made her.
"I asked if you wanted to get something to drink," he reminded her, amused now. "You've been thinking about it for three minutes now."
"Have I?" Ashley felt herself blush. "Well, then, why didn't you say anything before now?"
"Because," he informed her, "you're pretty when you're thinking."
"And you're... Okay, I don't know what you are," she admitted, her cheeks turning even redder at his words. "But when I figure it out..."
Andros laughed at her, pulling her into an impulsive hug that was more welcome than anything else he could have done. Ashley returned the embrace without second thought, melting into his arms.
"You know, I think I could go for one of the Synthetron's specialties," she said when she finally drew away, slipping her hand into his. "Let's go back."
His look of relief was fleeting, and quickly hidden beneath an uncertain expression. "We don't have to," he offered, carefully avoiding her eyes. "You're having fun."
"But you're not," she said simply. "And this is a date and we're both supposed to be having fun."
With that, she took his hand once again and tugged him towards the door. "Come on."
He relaxed the moment they pushed past the doors and left the Surf Spot behind, but Ashley glimpsed the guilt on his face and sighed. Catching ahold of both his hands, she tugged on his arms, trying to get him to turn and face her. He did, finally, but carefully avoided meeting her eyes.
"Andros," she murmured. She laced their fingers and squeezed gently, hoping he would look at her. He did, his eyes flickering up to meet hers while he hesitated.
"You didn't have to leave because of me," he told her again, studying her expression intently. "I'm not... very good at this kind of thing."
"Don't worry about that," she protested, though it was true. This was only their third date, but she'd let Andros choose the other two. After Haley's Comet, he'd taken her to see a meteor shower up close. It had been perfect, but Ashley had understood then that not only did Andros have no clue what she considered to be a typical date, he was still happier when he didn't have to interact with more people than was absolutely necessary. And she wouldn't have him any other way.
"It's enough that you came," she added, giving his hand a quick squeeze.
He surprised her by smiling "I'm glad that I did." A gentle tug on her hand got her moving again and they continued walking silently, still hand-in-hand.
They came to a halt on the corner, where Andros stammered out her name nervously. She looked over at him with a slight frown, her eyes widening at the determination set in his face, but before she had time to wonder at his expression, he had stepped closer to her, carefully narrowing the gap between their faces.
Her breath hitched in her throat when she felt the gentle pressure of his lips against hers, and for a moment, nothing else registered but the fact that Andros was kissing her. Before she could enjoy it, though, Andros drew away,
studying her with uncertainty written all across his face.
"Was that... your first kiss?" Ashley ventured softly. The wince that crossed his features was all the confirmation she needed.
"Was it that obvious?" Chagrin was evident in his voice and she could see his blush even in the dark.
"Yeah," she admitted, a smile forming on her lips. "Look at me for a minute?"
He didn't right away, continuing to avoid her gaze with characteristic stubborness. Then, slowly, his head began turning back towards her, and certain that he would push her away if he realized what she was doing, she almost pounced on him, stepping forward and pressing her lips lightly against his.
Caught off-guard, Andros didn't tense the way she had expected him to. For a moment he just stood there and let her kiss him, then she felt his arms slide around her shoulders as he kissed her back. Flinging her arms around him in return, she held him tight, turning her head to the side and resting her chin on his shoulder.
"Andros?" she murmured.
"Yeah?" he whispered back, his voice uncertain and full of something else that she thought might have been worry.
"You're a good kisser," she informed him with a slight giggle, resisting the temptation to pull away to watch him blush. It wasn't worth leaving his arms.
"So are you," he told her softly, and she bit her lip to contain her smile. "Ash?"
"Can I kiss you?"
Ashley couldn't help giggling. Butterflies started dancing in her stomach the way they always seemed to when he was around and she decided he should never find out just what he did to her. "You didn't have to ask."
He drew back slightly, just enough to give him room to see her face. Andros smiled nervously, though his kiss was warmer this time. Ashley let her eyes slip shut as his mouth covered hers. His fingers stroked her cheek and she shivered involuntarily, not noticing the flash of gold behind her eyelids.
When she opened her eyes again, she was on the Megaship and Andros was smiling innocently at her. "Come with me," he said before she could speak, giving her hand a gentle tug. She followed him without question, glancing at him curiously when he paused in front of the Simudeck.
"I wasn't a very good date tonight," he said apologetically, turning to face her. "I'll make it up to you."
"Let me finish," he said, and she nodded. "Come in here."
Ashley followed him in. "What are you doing?" she demanded to know.
Andros shrugged. He was lucky he was cute, Ashley decided. That smug look on anyone else's face would have been irritating beyond belief. She didn't have to wait long to see why he was suddenly so sure of himself--the Simudeck came to life a moment later, and her eyes widened as she found herself standing on a small ridge overlooking the lake in Angel Grove Park. It was her favorite spot for picnics or just to sit and think... but she had no idea how Andros knew that.
"Dance with me?" he asked softly, coming up beside her. When she opened her mouth, he went on, "I promised to be your date for a dance... So, dance with me?"
Ashley couldn't speak for a moment. All she could do was stare at him. He was blushing again but he was smiling at her this time, and she noticed for the thousandth time just how gorgeous his eyes were...
Slowly, she took the hand that he offered her, some part of her acknowledging that she'd fallen way too hard for him. The rest of her didn't care. "I'd love to."
A/N: Happy birthday, JDPhoenix! I hope you all like the story... review?