By Lana Atkins
The school bell rang gaily for the last time that day, and with it came the sounds of stomping feet, moving chairs and gleeful laughter as classrooms were emptied of their students.
Akane Tendo started suddenly at the sound of the bell and looked at the watch attached to her slim wrist. She gasped loudly.
"Oh no, I totally lost track of the time – Yuka, Sayuri, we're late!''
With that, she shoved her books in her bag, caught hold of her bewildered best friends and fled the classroom, in the process creating quite a mess in her wake. Her classmates stared after the trio, stunned, and then around their classroom, looking at the clutter made by the tornado Akane had caused in her eagerness to escape.
Daisuke and Hiroshi stared with the rest, then grabbed their own things. Stepping over the overturned tables and chairs, and tripping a couple of times on the books and pencils that littered the ground, they went over to the back where their friend, Ranma Saotome, was leaning on the wall polishing off an apple noisily.
"Geez, at least chew with your mouth closed, man, all the bits're flyin' everywhere.." Hiroshi said, watching a shred of apple fly overhead and smack splat against a wall.
Ranma shrugged, but didn't say anything, busy putting the finishing touches on the bit of fruit.
Daisuke leaned on the wall beside Ranma, and looked away nonchalantly as he asked, "So.. Akane looked like she was in a hurry today.''
Ranma regarded him indifferently. "So?"
"So," Daisuke continued patiently, "don't you wanna know what she's up to?"
The pig-tailed boy shot him an annoyed look as he tossed his apple core skillfully into the class dustbin a few metres away. He crossed his arms.
"It don't matter to me what that uncute tomboy does," he muttered.
Daisuke shook his head. "She's your fiancée, you dog. It's your job to know."
The 17-year-old pushed past the other two in an effort to get to the door, a scornful expression marking his face. "Feh. It's not like I hafta watch the girl 24/7. She's free to do what she likes, and I couldn't care less. Stupid tomboy can take care of herself. With all that brute strength, you'd have to be an total idiot to attack her anyway.."
His friends exchanged a knowing look. After the heated argument Ranma and Akane had shared in the school compound that afternoon, something to do with, as normally the case was, Akane's extreme lack of culinary skills, they knew better than to question Ranma's foul mood.
Nevertheless, Daisuke frowned and eyed his friend through slitted eyes. "You know, Saotome, sometimes I feel you don't deserve Akane. She's one of the cutest girls in school, she has a bod to kill, and she even makes you lunch! I mean, what more could you want, man?"
Ranma slung his satchel over his shoulder and made a face.
"Her?" he spat. "A nice body? Please. An elephant has smaller thighs than she does. And, god, have you even tasted that stuff? I could eat stuff out of the garbage and feel less sick! And it'd taste better too!"
At that moment, for some unknown reason, an image flitted across his mind. It was accompanied by a sudden rush of guilt.
An excited Akane faced him, holding out a bento to him with such childlike pride, she simply shone. She was smiling.
It was that smile that made him halt in his steps for a moment. It struck him that the first time he'd seen it, he'd been so frightened of whatever she had planned on poisoning him with today that he'd completely missed out on the unexplainable feeling of euphoria that surfaced every time he witnessed that expression of innocent joy on her face. It was the smile that he dreamed about sometimes, or pondered when he was alone, or lamented over when he was the one that took it from her face..
The image resurfaced again, and he grinned a little goofily, not even surprised that he wasn't mad anymore. Image-Akane smiled still softly at him, her eyes slightly closed, as the sun shone around her form, bathing her in an almost heavenly light..
It was the sensation of heat rising in his cheeks that brought him back to reality. He cursed under his breath, turning away from his friends who had stopped to stare bemusedly back at him in the hallway.
"What's up, Ranma?" asked Hiroshi, walking back and bending around to catch a glimpse of Ranma's flaming face. "Why're you all red?"
Ranma started and mumbled something about summer colds, which somehow deepened the colour that tinted his cheeks.
"Funny, you seemed fine a moment ago.." Daisuke said. "Until you spaced out and started grinning outta nowhere -"
Hiroshi watched as Ranma sent a silencing death glare Daisuke's way, the latter stepping away a little fearfully.
He exhaled and closed his eyes, shaking his head. It was truly a terrible curse, to be so blatantly obvious. He felt for his friend, he really did.
But for Pete's sake! Everyone knew that Ranma liked Akane but the guy himself, the dolt. It was that apparent. There were times where he contemplated smacking him on the back of his dense head and yelling, "WAKE UP AND SMELL THE DOGGIE-DO! YOU'RE IN FRIGGIN' LOVE!" but then he'd remember Ranma's background and knew this was probably something they'd have to sort out themselves, sooner or later.
He glanced to his left, and eyed Ranma's still slightly crimson face. He had no doubt gotten over his anger and would eventually be thinking about how he was going to apologize to Akane later. Then, after he did, it would end up this brief awkward moment and everything would be fine again.. until the next time.
It didn't help, though, that nothing ever seemed to change. It was the same never-ending cycle, day in and day out, and somehow neither of the two could decide to stop all the nonsensical bickering and just get together already. Kami knew it'd save them, all of them, a lot of grief.
This infrequent moment of depth ended abruptly and was forgotten when Hiroshi decided to change the subject. The three made it out the main door and he slung an arm on Ranma's strong shoulder.
"So, anyway, did you check out the news on the school bulletin board? About the senior prom night coming up?"
Ranma shrugged at his side. "Heard about it. Some of the girls were talkin' about it in class."
"SO? Who're you taking, eh? I can't believe you have four drop-dead gorgeous fiancées to choose from. FOUR!" Hiroshi held up four fingers and shook them. "Huh.. If only we were that lucky, ey, Dai?''
Daisuke nodded ruefully. "Yeah, some guys just have it all."
Ranma, far from the image of a guy who had it all, just looked tired. "I only got three fiancées. Kodachi is a loon. She doesn't count," he grumbled.
Hiroshi scoffed. "Only three fiancées, he says. Well, my friend, you don't have much time left to make a decision. Prom's this Thursday. And knowing your fiancées and your current track record, well.." he clapped a hand on Ranma's back and closed his eyes, shaking his head solemnly. "My heart goes out to you, man."
They passed the outdoor bulletin board. Ranma's eyes lingered for a moment on the big colourful heading of its newest addition: Senior Prom Night; One To Remember.
He had an inkling it would keep its promise.
Akane stopped at the entrance of the Sakura Boutique. Letting her friend's hands go; she bent down and put her own hands on her knees, trying desperately to catch her breath. When she did, she looked up triumphantly at the sign in front of the shop, which read:
SAKURA'S BIG SALE
ONE-TIME DEAL! Get your dresses, gowns, handbags, watches, jewellery and anything you fancy at half-price or even better discounts! For one day only. From 12.00p.m to 3.30p.m.
Akane glanced at her watch. It read 2.15p.m.
"Well,'' she said cheerfully. "We may not have much time, but at least we got here before the sale ended."
She looked behind her at her two friends who were still panting and wheezing for breath.
"Hold on a minute, Akane," coughed Sayuri, holding a hand up. "Give us time to recover for a bit."
"Yeah, we don't all have your stamina," Yuka added.
Akane blushed, smiling sheepishly. "Sorry I dragged you out so quickly, guys. But you know how hard it is to get decent dresses for reasonable prices in this town. And we don't have a whole lot of time either. The prom's on Thursday, remember? That's only two days away.''
Yuka straightened up. "I remember. And I guess we are a little late in picking our dresses, that should have been done months ago, but with the exams and.. now hold on just a doggone minute."
She placed a hand on her hip, smiling slyly at her short-haired friend, but speaking in an innocently sugar-sweet voice that reminded Akane of a cat that had just got the canary.
"Well Akane, you've never taken an interest in any of our school dances. Whenever we asked you to go with us, you'd say it was all a waste of your time. Why the sudden change of heart, hmm?''
Akane turned yet a brighter shade of red, feeling like the canary.
"Well ..you know.. it is our last year here at Furinkan. Don't I get the chance to enjoy at least one of the school's proms?''
"Sure you do, Akane,'' Sayuri said, straightening and coming forward. "But you know, given your previous record of 'candidates' for these events, we thought you wouldn't want to go."
Akane sighed, remembering. For the past five or so years she had been in this school, dances had always been an issue. She hated to admit it, but almost all the boys in school did have the hots for her, and every few days before the prom, she'd have to fight an even larger than normal army of boys screaming, "Akane! I'm taking you to the dance!" and Kuno.. Oh, God, Kuno was worse than ever. He'd pay out the whole Kendo team to fight her even after school, all so he could take her to the dance if they beat her. She always kicked their sorry asses in the end, but still.. the thought of Kuno taking her to the dance, or anywhere for that matter.. she shivered just thinking about it.
Yuka's sugary voice cut into her thoughts. "But, oh, that's right, I just remembered. You have Ranma now," at this the girl smiled cheekily as Akane practically glowed from the red on her cheeks, "and this year is different. Isn't that right, Akane-chan?"
Akane was shaking, her fists already clenching at her sides. She cursed herself inwardly for being so easy to read.
"Ranma? As if I'm doing this for that no-good, insensitive, insulting, stupid, egomaniacal jerk! I'm doing this for me!"
"Sure, Akane, whatever you say.." Sayuri said unconvincingly, winking at Yuka.
Akane caught the wink, and didn't like where this was going. At a loss for what to do, Akane's body acted fast as to not let them dwell any further on the subject. She tugged her friends into the boutique. "Enough talk, more movement! We don't have all year you know!''
Then she stopped, letting go off their hands again.
And stared, bug-eyed, at the horde of people swarming the place.
"What a battlefield.'' Sayuri commented somewhat hollowly. Akane smiled, knowing that the topic before had now been forgotten at the sight of the craze.
"Well, girls, we've got a lot of ground to cover— So I say we get started.'' Yuka shouted over the noise.
Ranma walked home alone.
He was thankful for the peace. If he'd walked home with Akane, they'd probably be fighting about now. All his apologies always ended up landing him in even deeper trouble, so he supposed it was better that they were apart now anyway.
He wondered where she'd gone. Probably to cool off somewhere. He sighed, bowing his head, his bangs flopping over his eyes.
He wanted to be grateful. He really did. He knew she had tried really hard to cook that lunch, she always did.. and for some odd reason, it made her happy to do so. The bad news was that his body was often more in control than his mind.. his mouth, to be more exact. The moment he set his eyes on the.. the things she'd presented in that bento, he had belted out an insult faster than his brain had time to tell him that that was the stupidest thing he could do.
Maybe he had some sort of mental illness? Why did he always put his foot in his stupid mouth and sign his own death contract?
Ranma uttered another sigh, a more theatrical one than the last. He supposed he was going to have to apologize sooner or later. Maybe Akane'd forgive him and then..
And then what? he thought. Ask her to the prom?
He stopped and stared heavenwards.
It was his very first one. He didn't really know much about dances and stuff, but apparently it was a pretty big deal to the seniors at Furinkan High. Ranma couldn't see what all the hype was about. It was just a dance. A silly, meaningless dance.
And he knew that this silly, meaningless dance was going to cause him a lot of trouble.
He wrung his hands.
How the hell am I gonna make this work?
He stopped to kick a pebble. Why was it always so hard? If he picked one girl, three other girls would either be very upset, very angry, or very homicidal. And only too ready to vent their frustrations on him.
The teenage martial artist looked around. The streets were clear.
He walked up to the nearest telephone pole and started banging his head on it.
Akane pushed and nudged her way through the hustle and bustle, trying to catch a breath and ignore the yells and shrieks of at least another hundred women, screaming:
"Hey, you! Get me a size smaller!"
"Give me that dress back, you hussy! I saw it first!''
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN MY BUM LOOKS FAT IN THESE PANTS?! "
Akane finally burst through the crowd, closed her eyes and sighed. She was developing a headache from the noise, her feet hurt from being stepped on and tripped over and she was feeling claustrophobic from the lack of space. She wanted to go home, maybe a lie down a while..
No, she told herself, determinedly shrugging her weariness away. You've waited too long for this. You're not leaving without a dress.
She was picky. The dresses were either too big, too plain, too tiny, too skimpy, too old, or too frumpy. She was just about ready to decide she'd have to go to the prom in a potato sack when suddenly, something on top of a pile of clothes caught her eye. She hurriedly ran over and picked it up gently.
It was a silk blue gown with tiny white flowers sewn along the straps. A few big roses darned the top left hand corner of the gown. She ran a finger along the roses, and then across the soft fabric of the gown, which had a long, sort of graceful slit at one side. It was simply gorgeous.
As she smoothed a thumb over the sleek material, she wondered why something as beautiful as this hadn't been snatched up already. Then she grinned. Maybe the forces that be were on her side today.
Sayuri appeared before her and peered over the mountainous pile of clothes she was struggling with. She squealed.
"Oh Akane, that gown is darling! Go try it on. It will look so perfect on you."
So before she knew it, she was in the dressing room trying the gown. She had to slip it on carefully; the dress was very delicate, and she prayed silently that she wouldn't be struck by the sudden 'bouts' of clumsiness that she was inclined to.
Finally it was on, and she straightened the remaining crinkles out. Then she turned around and faced the mirror.
It fit - perfectly.
It was as if the gown was tailored for her. It wasn't too tight, nor was it too loose. Every nip and tuck accentuated her slim figure, and the split played peak-a-boo, showing off a creamy, milk-white thigh. She turned around, noticing how the crisscross of the straps and low cutting made her back look almost elegant. The soft blue of the gown even complimented the blue highlights in her hair, making them shine in the light of the dressing room.
After checking it out from every angle, and liking what she saw, all the doubt in her mind was removed. This was the dress.
Her mind suddenly spun off in fantasy.
She was descending from a marble staircase. White gloves adorned her hands, and her hair was twirled in the most elegant of fashions, with diamonds that sparkled with the light of the chandeliers. She swept across the gleaming floor, capturing the eyes and attention of everyone present.. but she had eyes for but one.
Ranma turned slowly to her, looking as handsome as ever, and she saw the shining, mesmerized look in his eyes, one merged with utter devotion. He took her hand and kissed it gently, lovingly, as he bent down and said sensually, "You are the most beautiful, elegant, womanly thing I've ever seen. May I have this dance?"
She smiled happily down at him. "Oh, Ranma, I -"
Akane jumped and bumped against the mirror, shocked out of her daydream. She faced the door and spoke, unable to keep the tremble out of her voice.
"S-sayuri! Did you have to shout?! You almost gave me a heart attack!"
"Sorry!" called Sayuri over the door of her dressing room. "It's just you've been in there a while, Akane, and you weren't answering my knocks. I was wondering if you needed any help with the zippers."
"The zippers are fine, Sayuri, thanks!" Akane said, more than a little embarrassed.
She blocked out Sayuri's next reply, instead staring into her reflection in the mirror. A slightly dazed, confused Akane stared back at her.
How? How could she allow herself to think that way about.. about him?! After what the stupid pervert had DONE? She should have been dreaming about bashing his moronic SKULL in, not..
She closed her eyes in resignation, uttering a small sigh.
She guessed she couldn't expect much more from Ranma. He was more mouth than brain, really, and he usually just told the truth. Maybe she shouldn't have tried to force-feed him her cooking again. And she really didn't have to kick him into the fountain for refusing.
She knew her food always ended up terrible, no matter how hard she tried to follow the recipe... and Ranma was the one who usually ended up with the stomachaches after. It was just.. this small hope she had. That one day, she'd come to him and give him her food, and instead of pushing it away he'd try it, and then he'd grin her way and tell her it was the best thing he'd ever tasted.
It was stupid, she knew.
But she'd keep trying.
Still. She'd lost her temper again, and caused him a lot of trouble having to stay out of Kuno's way until he was male again. She supposed she was going to have to apologize sooner or later.
And when she did, maybe - just maybe, she admitted to herself quietly, smiling a little in excitement as she swished the beautiful gown around, that little daydream.. would come true.
Meanwhile, Ryoga was returning from another all-around-Japan trip. He was originally planning to stop at Fukuoka before coming to Nerima to get Akane some souvenirs, but had somehow gotten lost again and ended up in Osaka. However, he still managed to get her the souvenirs, and was now making his way safely back to Nerima. If you counted bruised, dirty and exhausted as returning safely.
He had been looking at the ground, bent over his red umbrella, when he looked up for the first time in what seemed like days.
I must be there by now..
His eyes grew wide as he read the sign in front of the building: Furinkan High. He grinned wearily, but couldn't bring himself to do anything more.
Yes! I made it. Now, to find her house.
He walked pass Furinkan's front gate when he caught sight of the school's outdoor bulletin board of recent events. As his eyes flew over the words, a grin broke across his worn face, exposing a fang. He started to giggle fanatically.
A prom, eh? Now's my chance to make Akane see how much I adore her! I'll ask her to the prom! That's what I'll do! MUAHAHAHAA!
Feeling newly energized, he skipped and jumped and ran; blissfully unaware that he was going in the same direction that he had come from.
Akane threw off her school shoes and stepped through the front door. She put her shopping bags down by the staircase.
"I'm home!" she called out.
Ranma came out from the dining room. He had obviously just finished another workout; he wasn't wearing a shirt, his white gi slung over his shoulder with one hand. His body was drenched in sweat that glistened off his taut, muscled chest, and she couldn't help thinking that sweat was a good look on him, that she could definitely get used to this, he looked pretty darn good..
She instantly blushed, ashamed. Hadn't she seen him without a shirt more times than she could count? Why was she blushing?
They stood a good, long moment, not knowing exactly what to say or where to begin.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Ranma opened his mouth.
"Um.. hey, 'kane." He gave her an awkward little wave with the chocolate bar he was munching on.
"Hi," she responded shyly. She looked down at the floor.
They stopped and looked at each other. Then they broke into quiet laughter.
"I guess we've both been jerks today." Akane smiled softly.
"Speak for yourself." Ranma grinned at Akane's dangerous glare. "Just kidding. Sorry 'bout what I said earlier, Akane."
"I'm sorry too. Let's not fight anymore, at least not today. I'm exhausted!" She stretched as she said this, emphasizing her point.
Ranma bit off another chunk of his chocolate bar and, chewing loudly, asked, "Yeah, where've you been, anyway?"
Akane froze mid-stretch. She picked up her bags hurriedly and clutched them tightly, later cursing herself for how suspicious this looked. It was just reflex. She just ..didn't want Ranma to see her prom dress just yet.
"Oh, nowhere.." she waved around a careless hand. "Just, y-you know, out with Yuka and Sayuri.."
The boy, on the other hand, thankfully seemed oblivious. "Oh, okay. Hey, uh, Kasumi and the others are out seein' a movie, so I guess it's just you and me. She didn't have time to make dinner. Now," he put his hands up, "I don't wanna get into another spat, so since both of us aren't exactly gifted in the cooking department, let's just go out for dinner, 'kay? My treat this time."
Akane nodded, surprised at this unusually generous offer, and glad that he didn't seem to notice the package she was clutching so protectively. After getting over the previous shock, she smiled brightly at him.
"Okay, let me go upstairs and get out of this uniform; I've been in it the whole day. Need to take a shower too. I won't be long."
Se bounded up the stairs, bags in hand.
"'Kay," Ranma said to none in particular, throwing on his red Chinese shirt and retreating into the dining room. "I'll be watchin' TV."
Twenty minutes later, she was downstairs again.
"I'm ready! Let's go!" she said cheerfully, abruptly turning the television set off.
"Hey," Ranma protested. "I was watchin' t—" Then he looked up.
Akane smelled fresh and clean, and from the scent, he knew she'd even added a dash of perfume. Clad in an orange tank top that bared her midriff ever-so-slightly and low rise jeans, which was a far cry from all the dresses she was used to wearing, she looked almost—adorable. Sexy even. It was a battle just trying to tear his eyes away from her.. a battle he actually, for once, wanted to lose.
Akane smiled inwardly, watching him scan her body. She was surprised; usually she'd have been furious if Ranma had so much indicated any sign of perversion. Now.. she found she was actually flattered by his attention. Sure, she wasn't all too comfortable wearing such things; she liked her big, loose, comfortable clothes better, but she decided that tonight deserved a significant change in dressing, even if it was a little on the revealing side for her.
After a minute of this, she waved a hand in front of his face. "Anyone home?"
Ranma snapped out of his reverie and cleared his throat. "R-right. Let's go." He got to his feet and made for the front door.
"Wait a second." Akane said, putting a hand on his chest, stopping him in his tracks. "You haven't taken a shower yet, have you?"
"Nope." He said nonchalantly, resuming walking towards the doorway.
Akane applied more pressure to her finger, and stopped him again. "Ranma! You can't go out all sweaty and in this dirty old shirt!"
"I'll have you know that's my favourite shirt you're talking about.."
Akane glared at him.
Maybe it was a signal from God or something that told him that getting into another fight was NOT exactly what he needed right now. He threw his hands up in surrender.
"Fine, fine, I'm going already. Geez. Give me five minutes."
Exactly five and a half minutes later, they had locked the house and dojo and set off, this time with Ranma in a clean, decent-looking (if not overused) blue shirt and his normal black pants. It was dark, even with the streetlights, and the normally busy walkways of the neighborhood were quiet and strange. Instinctively Ranma put a protective arm around Akane's shoulders without actually realizing what he was doing. The way she was dressed— who knew what kind of perverts could be lurking around?
"What are you doing?" Akane quizzed him, a hint of suspicion in her voice.
Ranma gulped, realizing what he'd done. If he backed down now..
"Well.. It's late and all— You know, it's always better to be safe.. and to, erm, watch out for.. um, perverts and stuff, you know—" He replied uncomfortably. His grip on her shoulder loosened a bit.
"Oh," She relaxed and pulled his arm tighter around her. "Okay. But this doesn't mean anything. Merely a safety precaution."
"Yeah, a precaution," he affirmed. Ranma quietly sighed in relief. That was close.
Unbeknownst to him, Akane smiled secretly, and tucked into his side, out of his view.
They walked a little further and finally reached town. It was bright there, and somehow friendlier, aglow with the neon of signboards, streetlamps and the taillights of the passing cars. Akane noticed that although they'd left the dark neighborhood, his grip on her shoulders had not so much as slacked.
And she liked it. She liked it very much.
Smiling still, she asked, "So where are we going?"
"You're treating me and you don't even know where we're going?"
"Hey, I just thought we could walk around till we found somethin'. But now that I think about it, there's this new Western restaurant down on Yokidao Street I've been dyin' to try. You wanna?"
Akane looked doubtfully at him. "You sure you can afford it?"
"Just whaddya take me for?" He grinned cockily. "Don't worry s'much. Nabiki gave me a little money before they left. Said I gave her more than I was supposed to for my last debt. She had this strange grin on her face though.. wonder what that was about. Anyway, relax. I guess I need to make up for earlier anyway."
Akane rejoiced inwardly. He was finally being nice to her! This wasn't such a bad day after all.
She smiled at him and touched his arm. "Then, sure, I'm up for it."
This simple motion was enough to send a surge of incredible warmth through his body, turning his ears bright red. Ranma gulped. "Great. We'll – we'll go there then."
The two made their way over to the centre of town, and walked into a restaurant called Sunsets of Texas. Taking a place at the back, they settled comfortably in and began talking quite easily while waiting for the food to arrive. It was nice – getting a moment alone to just sit and talk without the usual bickering and insults. It was a change they both liked.
Halfway through dinner, Akane half-snorted, half-giggled. Ranma looked up from his tenderloin steak.
She looked at him, then played with her salad with her fork. "Can you imagine what your other fiancées would do if they saw us?"
Ranma swallowed. "Oh, nothing, really. Shampoo and Kodachi would probably try to kill you first, and Ucchan would seize the opportunity to latch on to me, and then the other two would see me, and they'd try to latch on to me, and then they'd all forget we were here and start beating the crap out of each other."
Akane giggled. "Yeah, that's about right. But it's so silly. I mean, it's not like we're on a date or anything, right?"
They both looked at each other at the sound of that word, then looked awkwardly away again.
Was this a date? It couldn't be one. No. It was just a dinner between two people who just happened to be betrothed to each other.
Not a date.
With this new bit of information still fresh in their minds, they were quiet, not quite knowing what to say to each other.
Ranma gave a nervous cough, not wanting the awkwardness to go on much longer. "The steak's great."
There was a momentary pause. Then Akane suddenly burst into laughter.
"Ah well, you tried," she said to him chummily.
Ranma found himself staring at her again. She had a beautiful laugh, like tinkling bells he could listen to all day..
He turned red almost instantly.
You idiot, why are you thinkin' these things? He told himself furiously. Just eat and try not to look like a dork, okay pal?
He tore into his steak again. They ate in silence for another few minutes.
Ranma quietly observed her from his side of the table as she daintily continued picking at her food. She opened her lips slightly, and he swallowed, his heart ramming against his rib cage at a rate that he didn't think was possible. She really did look good.. she had no idea how attractive she could be when she wasn't trying to beat him up. She was such a contradiction - it was times like this where he almost forgot how she could ever be a violent maniac.
She intrigued him more than anyone he'd ever known.
A thought came out of nowhere and a quiet voice whispered at the back of his mind.
Ask her to the prom. You know you wanna. Ask her now.
"Yes, Ranma?" She looked into his eyes and he found himself unable to speak for a moment. He stared at the white napkin spread across his lap.
"Would you, um, possibly.." He twiddled his thumbs.
"Yes?" Her brown eyes widened, threatening to rival the size of their dinner plates.
She leaned closer to him.
His hand crept to his heart, trying in vain to stop it from thumping so fast. He could hear it, in his brain, becoming louder and louder as if threatening to explode..
"What is it, Ranma?"
Then he finally burst it out.
Akane pulled back. Her eyes dropped downwards.
"Oh. Yeah, sure."
She handed it to him.
You did it again didn't you, whispered the same quiet voice dryly. You chicken.
But he knew— he couldn't bring himself to do it. He just couldn't.
The rest of dinner passed on like a quiet dream. Akane wasn't even aware of how she walked home. She couldn't remember coming home, or climbing into her bed and pulling up the covers.
She sighed softly under the edge of her quilt, staring at the ceiling, Ranma's handsome face appearing where her mind could see him.
The night had started off so perfectly. She had even thought that he was enjoying their non-date. And she was sure, so sure, that he would finally ask her to be his date for the prom, and say that he wanted it, as much as she wanted it.
But apparently he hadn't felt the same way she had. Because he still hadn't asked her.
Maybe he doesn't want me as his date. Maybe he's taking Ukyo, or Shampoo, or even Kodachi. They are more his matches anyway. Who'd want to be seen with a fat, unfeminine tomboy?
She tried blinking back her tears, but she soon felt them fall faster than she could stop them. Her eyes blurred, somehow blurring his image with it.
Ranma, you idiot.