This was it. He was finally ready to finish the trap that he had been plotting for almost an entire week. Actual research wasn't something Ataru Moroboshi was particularly fond of, but the possible benefits were just too much. He stifled an excited giggle as he walked upstairs after his bath and sat down at his desk. Lum, the subject of his latest scheme, was quietly reading a manga in the floor nearby. She glanced up at him with a friendly smile, and Ataru forced himself to smile back.
Casually opening a magazine he'd stashed on the desk, he scanned through the pages until he found the article he had carefully picked out. He spent a few moments pretending to read it, while actually pondering excitedly over the fun to come.
Suddenly he stood up and looked down at Lum. "I'm going to go buy a drink," he stated as normally as he could.
She peered up at him excitedly. "I'll come too," she blurted quickly.
"Sheesh, I'll be right back," Ataru assured her in an exasperated tone. "I don't need you following me around like a child!"
Lum looked hurt for just a moment, and Ataru felt his first twinge of guilt. But this plan absolutely hinged on her staying in the room. He lowered his tone to a friendlier one. "Look, I'll buy you a drink too if you'll get off my back for five seconds."
Lum considered for a moment. Unsolicited offers from Darling didn't come very often, and she was loath to refuse it. Still, she was suspicious. If he wasn't back in five minutes, she was going hunting, and his reception would not be kind.
"Ok, Darling," she finally decided. She flashed him a big smile. "Just hurry back."
"Yeah, yeah," he said in a dismissive manner while waving his hand. "It's just down the street."
The second Ataru made it outside, he slowed down as much as possible. He had to give her time to get curious, after all. He glanced up at his window as he walked down the street and saw her slender silhouette watching him. Ordinarily her suspicious nature would have annoyed him to no end, but tonight he actually was up to something. He sped up his pace just a bit to get out from under her gaze faster.
As soon as Darling had disappeared into the night, Lum sighed and turned away from the window. Spying the open magazine laying on his desk, she was immediately curious. Ataru didn't often read anything other than comic mangas, let alone what looked to be an electronics magazine. Quickly scanning the page, her brow soon furrowed. She sat down and began reading the article in more detail.
Ataru, true to his word, returned a few minutes later, two cold drinks in hand. As soon as he neared the house, he forced the idiotic grin from his face and tried to look as nonchalant as possible. Entering his room, he was surprised when Lum immediately sprang on him and wrapped him in a tight hug.
"I didn't know!" she wailed directly into his ear. "I'm so sorry, my poor Darling, I swear I just didn't know."
He affected a look of confusion and gently set her back on her feet. "What's wrong, Lum? What didn't you know?"
Between her sobs, she managed to choke out an explanation. "I... was reading your magazine...and it said that repeated strong electric shocks... can permanently damage Darling's heart!"
Ataru's face grew serious as he put his hands on her shoulders. "Lum." As she glanced up at him, his usual silly face reasserted itself. "There's no way a little bit of electricity could hurt me for long. Although I wouldn't mind if you laid off the zaps just a bit..." He kept smiling and kept his hopeful face up.
Lum's crying tapered off, but she still wore a look of worry on her face. "It's not worth the risk, Darling," she admonished him. "Our bodies thrive on electricity, but that article was very specific on the damage it can cause earthlings. If only I'd known earlier, I wouldn't have done it at all!"
Ataru tried to hide his great joy. This was all going exactly as he'd wanted, perhaps even better than he'd thought. "So does this mean you won't be zapping me every time you get angry?" Lum nodded contritely. He decided to push his luck. "Even if I go chasing girls?"
"Darling!" She glared at him and pushed him away. "This is serious. If you get me too angry, I might not be able to control what I do..." She looked down, refusing to meet his eyes. "I think we have more serious problem."
Deciding not to push things any further as well as genuinely wondering what she meant, Ataru took the bait. "What's that?"
"I can't really control it when I'm sleeping. I thought eventually you'd get used to the shocks, but it doesn't look like that's the case." She sniffled. "How are we supposed to live as husband and wife if we can't even sleep together?" she broke into renewed tears.
Ataru's eyes widened as he realized what she was talking about. Turning away and nervously scratching his head he replied, "Well, I guess I could just wear that insulated suit like that one time..."
But this suggestion just made Lum cry harder. "Darling! How can we be close like that?"
Ataru sat and thought a moment. That night had actually frustrated him as well. His parents had won a trip for a couple of days, and despite his best efforts he'd ended up totally alone in his room with Lum. He'd had a temporary lapse in judgment and actually been excited to sleep next to her. After all, either way she wasn't wavering on thinking they were married. To his disappointment, at the time at least, he'd had to wear a large uncomfortable suit all night to protect him from her nocturnal shocks, and couldn't even move an inch. Not an experience he really wanted to repeat.
"What am I thinking?" He thought angrily. "There's no way I'm sleeping next to her again anyhow. That'll just tighten her hold on me." Still, he couldn't help but think about her lying so close... "No! Can't think like tha-" He suddenly realized Lum was in front of him again, peering quizzically into his eyes.
"Darling, you were thinking about me, weren't you?" She pursed her lips and continued staring.
Ataru suddenly realized he was blushing furiously, and being caught didn't help matters. This wasn't the direction things were supposed to be heading at all. "Wha? No, of course I wasn't thinking about you," he stammered out. He crossed his arms and turned away. "I'm going to bed.
Lum dutifully retrieved his futon in silence and laid it out for him. Ataru continued staring intensely at the floor until she was done, then quickly crawled under his blanket and shut his eyes.
"What is it?" Ataru curtly replied without opening his eyes.
"Good night." He heard the closet door slide closed and finally opened his eyes. His face cracked into a wide smile. Aside from that one dangerous moment, things were going just as he'd planned. Tomorrow he'd test just how firm her conviction to stop shocking him was. He stifled another giggle. This had to work better than the time he made her a deal about not losing her temper. He'd gradually accepted that just wasn't going to work. But this plan? Flawless.
Maybe it wasn't so flawless. It was almost lunchtime, and to her credit Lum hadn't zapped him a single time. That didn't mean she wasn't using her teeth and those damnable mallets, however. Ataru sighed heavily as he munched the last of his food. At least those punishments didn't hurt quite as bad. "Everything is relative," he told himself without much conviction. At least without her long distance attacks, she actually had to catch him first now.
He snuck a discreet glance to his left. Good, Lum wasn't watching. The only thing that bugged him more than her controlling ways was her catching him thinking about her. He kept watching her, noticing that she certainly wasn't paying attention to her book or Onsen-Mark. This in itself wasn't unusual, as he knew that she barely paid more attention to English class than he did. What was unusual was how red her eyes seemed today. Perhaps the springtime pollen was getting to her again. Or perhaps she had been crying last night more than he thought.
"Bah," he thought, "Not my fault she can't control her shocks. Still, I guess I did start all this..." He grimaced. "No, it's not my fault! All I did was let her know the risks of those constant damned shocks."
Returning to reality, he noticed two things right off. One was Onsen-Mark standing directly over him, the other was Lum looking his way again. He decided instantly that Onsen-Mark was the easier opponent at the moment.
"Moroboshi, for the last time, stop eating and pay attention in my class," Onsen roared.
Ataru wasn't new to this game. "Sure, sure," he agreed readily, nodding way too much.
The hapless teacher cocked an eyebrow, surprised at his worst student's way too easy surrender. What was the trick? He decided, in the interest of class to back off, just for now. "That's better, Moroboshi." He rambled back up to the front of the classroom. "Now Moroboshi, since you are paying attention, how about you read the first paragraph on page 61 for us?"
Ataru grumbled as he hastily flipped through the pages of his book. He had only fumbled through about two sentences full of nonsense before Onsen got irritated enough to stop him.
"Ataru, you're getting extra homework tonight." The teacher paused, holding his head. Why did he have to teach these particular kids? The classroom of failure indeed, between the constant arguments, warfare, and flat out abandonment of classes, they were weeks behind the curriculum. And he suspected, no he knew, what was the sole reason. Lum, Shinobu, Megane, even Mendou, they would all sit there quietly only if Moroboshi wasn't constantly stirring things up.
What's worse, he couldn't even transfer away from this hell. Other teachers wouldn't dream of switching with him, and he had even become notorious with other schools districts away. Flat out quitting was unquestionable. Teaching was in his blood, his only passion. And it was the only way he managed to have any contact at all with Sakura, the school nurse. It was mostly for her that he kept returning day after day.
To his surprise, Ataru and his classmates actually paid attention the rest of the period. Or at least pretended too, which was good enough for him. When lunch came they rushed out, and he lumbered off to eat his own pitiful lunch in private.
Ataru also headed off on his own, but that had become a regular event. All the girls tended to give him a wide berth, and most guys knew his mooching ways. Sitting behind a tree and opening his bento, he was discouraged to see the meager remains. "Mom never gives me enough," he complained to no one in particular.
"She packs plenty, Darling, you just always eat it all during class." Ataru looked up at the familiar voice; sure enough Lum was perched delicately on a branch overhead. Holding her own bento, she gently glided down and settled next to him. "Here, I'll share my lunch with you."
"Thanks, Lum," Ataru quickly muttered as he started snatching food as fast as his chopsticks could go. He was in the midst of gobbling down his newfound feast when he heard his benefactor sigh loudly. Risking a glance up, he saw Lum staring off into space, not eating at all. "Aren't you hungry?" he asked, a bit of rice spraying out.
"Not really. And you really shouldn't talk with your mouth full, Darling, it's not civilized," she replied without even looking.
"You always yell at me while you're biting me," he snarkily replied. "Not that biting someone is particularly civilized either."
Lum didn't answer. She didn't even give him a frown, but just kept staring away. This wasn't good. Usually she'd have yelled at him about why she had to bite him, or make some remark about how shamelessly chasing girls was the ultimate in being uncivil. Ataru began to sweat. When Lum didn't act normal, well normal for her anyways, things usually turned out badly for him.
"Lum, are you ok?" He tentatively asked after devouring the rest of her lunch. Ataru was never one to let troubles get between him and food.
Finally looking back at him, Lum sighed again. "I'm fine." She glanced down at her lunch, noting that it was now completely empty. "You could have saved me a little," she complained with mild annoyance.
"You specifically said you weren't hungry," Ataru quickly fired back.
"That didn't mean eat it all!" she fired back. Ataru replied with a wide grin, glad she was back to her temperamental self. Lum, however, took it to mean that he was making fun of her. "Darling, what are you smiling about?" she said between gritted teeth.
His grin instantly changed into a look of innocence. "Nothing at all." Being happy that she was behaving normally didn't mean tempting fate. A quick escape was called for.
Glancing around quickly, he soon found that escape. "Shinobu-chan!" he cried as he jumped up and chased after his classmate. She met him with a ready elbow, planting him firmly into the ground. She attempted to continue on her way, but found her ankle firmly in Ataru's grasp.
"Ataru, let go!" she shrieked. A few mallet strikes and kicks later he complied.
Getting up a few moments later, little worse for the wear, Ataru waited for the inevitable call of "Darling!" to ring out, but none came. Then he made the mistake of looking over at the tree where Lum was sitting. He immediately wished he hadn't.
He expected the usual sparking mad oni girl he usually faced. What he got instead was a beautiful girl merely gazing at him with sad eyes. The first Ataru was well equipped to deal with. This, however, was totally unexpected. Lum's temper was legendary; even on occasions when she didn't come after him she would still be furious. Even during the 3 days when she pretended she was keeping her temper, Ataru was highly aware of her taking out her frustrations on Tomobiki as a whole.
Ataru was still trying to think of a good way to resolve this when Lum suddenly rose up and flew back inside the school without giving him another look. He was just breathing a sigh of relief when the familiar wisp of steel slicing through the air caught his attention. Instinctively he spun and caught the katana just inches from his face.
"Damn you, Moroboshi! You gutless swine!"
"What's your problem, Mendou?" Ataru deftly maneuvered the blade away from his head, and then jumped back to a relatively safe distance.
"You bastard, once again you've upset poor Lum-san." At least Mendou was his usual furious and pompous self. "Not to mention constantly bothering poor Shinobu-san."
"Well, that's rather a lot to accuse someone of, so… bye!" Ataru spun on his heels laughing, with Mendou hot on his heels. At least some people could be depended on to react normally. A few frantic loops around the school building, and he was home free. Relatively speaking of course. He still had to go back to class soon and face Mendou again. Not to mention those idiots in Megane's little troop. And even worse yet, Lum would be waiting there. He didn't know if he could stand seeing those eyes again so soon.
Ataru Moroboshi was a brave man. But even a brave man knows better to walk into his own doom. Going inside, he took a quick detour away from room 2-4 and instead headed directly for the school nurse's office. After making sure no one was watching, he quietly slipped inside.
"Oh Sakura-chan!" Ataru excitedly began as he rushed towards the resident school counselor and nurse. Then he noticed not only was Sakura not alone, but was sitting right next to the very person he didn't want to see right now. "Oh, Lum, what are you doing here?" Ataru asked lightheartedly. Darn. They didn't say he was the king of bad luck for nothing.
"Darling!" Lum seemed happy to see him, surprisingly. "You came down here because you were worried about me, didn't you?"
"Uh…" Ataru had no good answer. Either choice wasn't one he really wanted to deal with right now, but he couldn't flat out lie to her, not with her looking at him like that. "Actually, I came to see Sakura-chan. My stomach's killing me. Ohhhh…" His theatrical gestures and groaning didn't impress anyone.
"Darling, you did eat two lunches and then go running right afterwards." Lum looked slightly annoyed. "We saw you go yelling past the window at least 4 times."
"Moroboshi, does your stomach really hurt?" Sakura didn't sound very friendly right now. He nodded yes enthusiastically; the stress was starting to make his story true. "Lie down over there," she gestured toward the far bed, "and if you don't stay there and keep quiet, I'm booting you out."
"Yes, Sakura-chan." Ataru knew when he was beat, at least for the moment. He lay down quietly and pretended to be falling asleep.
"Lum, do you want to continue this talk later?" Sakura sounded much friendlier now. Ataru slightly opened his eyes and shifted around a bit until Sakura's glare transfixed him.
"No that's ok." Lum looked over at the prone Ataru. This concerns Darling after all." She paused as Ataru swallowed deeply. "I was just verifying that article of yours, Darling. Sakura says it's true, but doesn't think you've suffered any lasting effects so far."
Crap. His carefully laid plan was crashing down around his ears, and there wasn't a thing he could do to stop it. Bumbling priestess or not, Sakura was the school nurse, and Lum would trust her word over his.
"But that doesn't mean you won't if I keep it up. And she's pretty sure that people can't ever build up a tolerance to shocks either. So I was trying to find out if there was some way just to suppress my electrical shocks completely."
Ataru's eyes shot wide open. The game was still afoot! Not only that, but Lum was actually going further with it than he had ever planned. His mind was so busy imaging all the girl hunting he could do with little interference that he almost missed Sakura's next words.
"Well," she began dubiously, "Uncle did tell me a while back of a ribbon he had blessed to suppress your powers for a time." She cast another withering glare back at Ataru. "But from how he said it turned out, I really doubt you'd want to trust Ataru with something like that again."
Ataru blushed heavily. He wasn't going to live that little trick down anytime soon. "No, no, that was all a misunderstanding," he began, but shut his mouth after noticing both girls staring needles at him.
"Darling, I fell out of the window because of you! I thought I was losing my powers for good, and that's not even the WORST part." Lum paused for a second to catch her breath. "That was STILL the only gift you've EVER given me!"
Reaching inside her uniform, Ataru was shocked to see Lum draw out the very same yellow ribbon. "You kept that thing? What for?" He was truly flabbergasted. After repeatedly getting shocked in revenge that night, he'd just figured it had been incinerated in the confusion after it was no where to be found.
Lum sniffed. "Even though you gave it to me just to trick me, it was still the first thing you'd given me." She looked down, noticeably blushing a bit. "And even though it was probably all just an act, it was still the first time you were nice to me. I didn't want to forget that."
Ataru was taken aback by her answer. "Lum," he called softly. Remembering just in time that Sakura was still in the room, he looked away shyly and didn't continue.
Sakura got the hint and started to excuse herself.
"Don't go, Sakura-chan!" Ataru was up and latched onto her waist before she'd moved three steps. Luckily a single punch was all she needed to leave him on the floor long enough to make her escape.
The door smoothly slid shut, leaving Ataru trapped. He glanced nervously behind him and saw that Lum was watching him intently. Normally she'd be angry over his grabbing Sakura, but yet again she seemed calm. It was very unnerving.
"Darling," she finally called, "why don't you sit down and stop looking so nervous?"
Sitting next to her was the last thing that would ease his agitation. Ataru decided to compromise and pulled Sakura's chair over near the window. Turning mostly away from her, he stared out at the late afternoon sky.
"Lum, I never apologized for that, did I?" Ataru knew he hadn't. It was one of the few schemes he honestly had felt guilty for. Most of the time he relied on trickery to outwit her, but not by playing with her feelings like that. It had been early in their relationship when he still actually resented her presence, and even then he had felt sorry for her, though not enough to abandon the scheme.
"No, Darling, you never did." Lum's words were tinged with a touch of sadness. "But you never tried anything like that again either." She paused for several long minutes as Ataru continued to sweat. "You know, I considered not coming back after that."
Ataru whipped his head around to stare at her. He affected his usual idiotic grin and quipped, "What made you stay?" He regretted his choice of words as soon as they left his mouth. At the time, he would have rejoiced at coming so close to getting rid of her. Now, after all they'd been through together, he knew he couldn't bear losing her.
"Darling, you really are an idiot, you know that?" Lum stood up. "You know how I feel about you." She slowly walked over to him. "But if you did something like that to me again, I don't know if I could still make the same decision." She placed her hand on his shoulder, noticing him jump slightly and look away again. "I lost a lot of my trust in you that day. Until then, I always thought it was just a matter of time until you recognized that I was your wife."
The guilt was piling on faster and faster. Ataru tried to think of something to say, some way to get out of this uncomfortable conversation, but for once his mind was running on empty. He finally decided silence was probably his best friend at this point.
The minutes ticked on. Lum finally decided that waiting for Darling to say anything was a waste of time. He was always so stubborn. Or shy, she honestly wasn't sure which at this point. Either way it was annoying.
Finally she decided to take the plunge. "Here," she said, grabbing his hand briefly.
Ataru looked down confused at the long ribbon she had pressed into his hand. What game was she playing now? He looked up and saw her staring expectantly at him.
"Well?" she finally asked.
"Well what?" Ataru shot back, utterly confused and on the verge of exasperation.
"Give me a present, Darling. And this time, do it sincerely," she warned, an edge back in her voice.
Ataru stared down at the ribbon, still confused. Lum turned away and knelt down in front of him, her small horns in easy reach. He finally realized what she was offering him. Knowing full well that only he would be able to untie the ribbon, she was actually giving him the choice.
This was perhaps the hardest decision he'd ever made, but paradoxically, he knew there was only one path he could take and live with himself. He also knew he would never have this chance again.
Sakura pretended to stand guard outside her office, but actually was trying her hardest to hear what was going on inside. What she was hearing wasn't encouraging. Lum was actually letting Ataru seal her powers? She shuddered as she thought of the havoc that a fully unleashed Ataru would wreak upon the town.
Busy thinking about the carnage, she almost fell through the door when it suddenly slid open behind her. She was surprised to see Lum drift past with a wave, followed more quickly by Ataru.
"Sakura-chan! Did you miss me?" He was clinging to her again. She shuddered, then broke loose, knocking him down the hall.
"Get away from me!" she shouted harshly at him. She then caught sight of Lum, floating over to her fallen Darling. Confused, she noticed a bit of yellow ribbon peeking out of Lum's hair.
"Lum, doesn't that ribbon seal away your power to fly too?" Sakura asked tentatively.
Lum looked around happily. "Yes, but only if it's tied around my horns." She twirled around, showing Sakura that Ataru had merely looped it around her hair and finished it with a single cute bow.
"What's the point of wearing it then?" Sakura was starting to get irritable now.
"Darling gave it to me!" She turned around. "Darling, where'd you go?"
Sakura watched Lum zoom out of sight in hunt of her errant husband. "Maybe there's some hope for that fool after all."
Just a couple of important notes. As far as fitting this story'stimeline to the show, don't worry about it too much. The show seemed to stretch out Ataru's second year of highschool indefinitely. This story begins in mid spring of that year, not too long after the events in the fifth movie.
As for the school calendar, assume vacation and holidays to follow the Japanese dates as closely as possible, but the semesters follow the American system, where summer vacation will mark the end of the their second year of highschool.