Disclaimer: I do not own.
This started off as a short one-shot that was then expanded and then became a monstrosity of a plan which kind of spilled over onto my laptop. Still, it more or less cured my writers' block, so not entirely a bad thing. Reviews are welcome.

28
Before

"Blossom, you coming?"

"Huh? Oh, give me a minute, I just want to finish up here. It won't take long." Buttercup rolled her eyes as her sister flipped over another page of her notebook and started writing down even more notes.

"Bloss, we are leaving now."

"This is important Buttercup, and I want it done as soon as possible." As Buttercup opened her mouth to complain again, Bubbles' voice rang out from downstairs.

"Blossom, Buttercup, we have to go now or we're going to be late. The table was booked for 8; it's already quarter to and you know I can't fly in this dress." Blossom looked up briefly and continued writing, prompting the sister standing in the doorway to turn on her heel and head for the stairs.

"Bloss isn't coming. She might catch up with us, if she gets done with whatever the heck she's doing anytime soon." Bubbles said something indistinct, but Blossom detected a sadness in her voice. Sighing, she decided to sacrifice some of the neatness of her handwriting for speed.

xxx

Why did they have to choose tonight to go out? she thought, rather spitefully, as she straightened her skirt and fixed the collar on her blouse forty five minutes later. She stuck a few more kirby grips into her bun as an afterthought and grabbed her handbag from the bed before stepping into her shoes and heading for the door. Bubbles had announced the night before that she'd made reservations at the new French restaurant that had opened up in the city centre for them all and she wasn't talking no for an answer. Of course, Blossom had attempted to protest, but Bubbles, for once, had put her designer shoe clad foot firmly down and told her to cancel any plans she might have made.

However, that was not about to happen. Blossom's plans could never be cancelled. They were always important.

As she locked the front door behind her, her phone started ringing, and she let out a little hiss of frustration as she dug through her handbag. It was Buttercup.

"Where the hell are you? The table was booked for half an hour ago. Bubbles is getting really upset."

"I'm on my way now, calm down."

"Calm down?! You're the one who always screams at us if we're so much as five minutes late for anything you plan out. How can you be so bloody hypocritical?"

"Buttercup, I will be there in five minutes. There is no need to raise your voice." She hit the end call button as Buttercup started up a string of expletives in a barely restrained volume.

To save time, she decided to fly; it would be worth slightly ruffled hair to stop Buttercup verbally attacking her again. She arrived at the restaurant within ten minutes, and immediately took a dislike to the décor as she entered. The walls were a mixture of powder pink and cream stripes clashing terribly with other walls that were a deep cranberry red. The table cloths were all blindingly white and trimmed with rather badly made lace. A fake rose in a pink monstrosity of a vase was sat on each table next to a menu that appeared to have a rose or some other form of flower pattern edging it. Overall, the effect was extremely tacky and not at all French. She made her way through the maze of tables and oddly placed mahogany screens until she finally caught sight of her sisters and the Professor sitting by a big portrait window that appeared to look out onto a garden. Bubbles caught sight of her first, and waved her over.

"You finally made it!" Blossom smiled weakly and slid into the empty seat opposite her blonde-haired sister.

"Sorry I took so long. There was just some new tactics I had to draw up and I had some ideas I think we should run over while we're all…" She tailed off as she noticed Buttercup shaking her head and Bubbles fidgeting with the edge of the tablecloth.

"Is… something wrong?" The Professor cleared his throat quietly.

"I believe Bubbles brought us here to tell us all something." Blossom blinked while Bubbles nodded awkwardly.

"I'm sorry. Bubbles?"

"Yes, I umm… I have some good news." She took a deep breath and linked her fingers together while grinning widely, and both of her sisters saw the sheer excitement playing over her features. After a short pause, she tucked a stray hair back behind her ear and said;

"Well, you know how there was the city cheerleading tournament last month? There was a scout there for one of the regional teams. She invited me to try out for a professional squad next month in New York!" There was a stunned silence at the table before Buttercup and the Professor launched into a chorus of congratulations and hugs. Blossom on the other hand, started wide-eyed at her sister.

"But, you're not going, are you?" she said abruptly, making Buttercup stop in the middle of practically throttling Bubbles in an extremely enthusiastic bear hug.

"What d'you mean? Of course she's going! This is so much better than cheering for our school's lameass team."

"But, she can't." All three of them were now staring at her, and Blossom felt her throat constrict slightly. The Professor coughed and gestured to a passing waiter.

"I think," he said gently, "that we should talk about this once we've all had something to eat, alright?" The girls mumbled a general consent, and when the waiter came over, they all gave their orders in a monotone. However, when the food came, Bubbles was already reverting to her usual cheery mood, and Buttercup was following suit. Blossom, on the other hand, still felt a rising unease that she somehow knew was not going to go away.

xxx

Surprisingly, the food somehow managed to make up for the interior design of the place, and Blossom was quite happy to eat all of her goat's cheese and tapenade crouton with the walnut and herb salad, and was halfway through her canard a l'orange when the Professor left to use the bathroom and Buttercup casually asked Bubbles when she would be leaving for New York.

"Buttercup, she's not going." Blossom said lightly, causing Bubbles to squeak and choke slightly on her drink.

"Blossom, where are you getting this idea?" Buttercup shot back, sounding irritated.

"She can't go. We need her here. None of my plans will work if there are only two of us, therefore, there is no way she can go to New York. What if something happened?" Her two sisters stared at her slack jawed.

"But Blossom, I really want to go. This is a really big deal for me."

"Bubbles, I appreciate that, but don't you think it's a little selfish of you to put yourself before the city?" At that, Buttercup stood up abruptly, slamming her hands down onto the table and rattling the dishes and cutlery.

"Selfish? You're calling Bubbles selfish? What about you? You're the one who wouldn't quit writing down your precious plans for one night even when she told you that this was important. Then you swan in here almost forty minutes late and you're telling her she can't go?"

"Buttercup, you are causing a scene." Blossom hissed, conscious that people were ceasing their conversations to watch the local celebrities having what was shaping up to be quite an argument.

"Damn right I'm causing a scene because it's the only freaking way I'll ever get you to listen! Bubbles wants this really badly. She's going. End of story. You can take your stupid plans and shove them up alongside that huge stick you've got in your ass." She retook her seat and started eating again, keeping her eyes on her plate. Blossom sat in stunned silence.

"I… How dare you talk to me like that?!" she spluttered eventually. Buttercup didn't so much as look up, she simply swallowed her current mouthful and speared a piece of chicken with her fork, ignoring her sister completely.

That was it. Blossom's head started pounding and now it felt as though her sisters were deliberately attempting to destroy her perfectly ordered world. It was a direct challenge to her leadership, and not something that she was accustomed to.

"I can't believe you would do this to me," she hissed, her eyes pricking slightly as tears welled up at the corners. With Bubbles staring silently at her plate and Buttercup pointedly ignoring her, Blossom, pushed her chair back and rose quick enough to see stars as the blood rushed to her head. Without pausing, she spun on her heel and ran for the door, almost crashing into the Professor on his way back to the table.

"Blossom, what-" She didn't allow him to finish, instead brushing him aside and weaving between the tables between her and the exit. She almost broke the glass panelling of the door as she wrenched it open and fled outside.

xxx

"Stupid, stupid, stupid," she spat, stalking along the street and wishing she had thought to pick up her jacket and bag before making her abrupt exit. In fact, she wished she had never even gone to the restaurant in the first place. She had skipped a lot of work to do so. Suddenly, the heel of one shoe snagged on an uneven paving stone and she stumbled, before angrily kicking both of the impractical shoes off her feet, scooping them up and carrying on, wishing that just one thing tonight would go right.

"Someone's happy this evening."

Just one thing; is that so much to ask?

"Leave me alone. I don't have the energy to deal with you right now." She kept on walking, and was less than impressed when he brought his lazy stride level with hers.

"Brick, I'm serious. Just go away."

"And miss out on a chance to see the Ice Queen all hot and bothered? Hardly." Blossom stopped dead.

"Leave. Me. Alone." He stopped short and put his hands up as she snarled at him, the casual smirk never leaving his face.

"Easy, Red, easy. I didn't show up to cause trouble. Well, not just to cause trouble anyway." Blossom's response was to growl menacingly under her breath and keep walking, becoming increasingly irritated when she realised that he was still following her.

"Look, what do you want?" she snapped eventually, whirling on him. He kept on walking for a few steps until he was ahead of her before putting his hands in his pockets and facing her.

"Nothing too disastrous. You've got something I want, and I've heard good girls like you think it's nice to share."

"I have nothing of yours. Why would I want anything belonging to you?" He rolled his eyes.

"I didn't say you had something of mine. I said you have something I want. There's a difference." She glared at him suspiciously.

"Well then, enlighten me."

"You."

"Excuse me?" He leaned forward and tapped her on the forehead, making her flinch backwards and swat at his hand.

"You heard me Red. I want you. I figure you'd be good for me."

She barely registered the action, but the next thing she knew, Brick was flat on his back around ten feet away with a very vivid red hand print on his cheek.

"You sleaze! I am not some… cheap harlot you can just pick up off the street. How could you possibly think I would ever… Ugh!" Brick picked himself up and dusted himself off.

"Anyone would think you didn't like me or something Bloss. Owwie; that was one hell of a slap. Anyway, I think you've misunderstood my intentions."

"And what, exactly, could I possibly be misunderstanding? You are a villain, a bad guy, in simpler terms; some might even call you my archrival. What possible motivation could you have other than some scheme to get rid of me somehow?" He shrugged and straightened his hat.

"I watched you long enough. Something clicked. Now I wanna see what happens next."

"There is no 'next'. There was no 'click'. This conversation is just ridiculous. I'm going home." She stormed past him, wrapping her arms round herself defensively. This time, he didn't come after her.

"It's January the 31st," he called out after a short pause. She stopped and looked back over her shoulder.

"So? You know the date. You must be so proud."

"Ha ha. But my point is, February starts tomorrow. That means you have twenty-eight days." She turned back fully this time.

"Is that a threat?" she asked carefully. He shrugged.

"Call it a wager. I won't be holding much back Bloss. You have twenty-eight days. I'm betting I can win you over before February the 28th."

"That is too idiotic for words."

"You won't say no."

"Of course I-"

"You can never resist beating me at anything Bloss. You'll take the bet, and I'm telling you, you'll lose." She stared long and hard at the stupid, smug smirk gracing his features and felt her own expression harden.

"Fine, I'll take your stupid bet, just to prove that I really am too smart for your stupid tricks."

"Blossom, Blossom, Blossom. You're missing the point sweetheart. No matter what the outcome, you lose either way." And then he was gone, streaking away between the buildings. Blossom stared after him before shaking her head angrily and continuing on towards her home. Brick was an idiot, plain and simple. She had no need to worry about this little 'wager' of his; it was obviously just another transparent scheme.

She tried to shove the thought of it from her mind, but the words were still there. When he'd said that he liked her, in his typically chauvinistic way (or at least, that's what she was telling herself it was), he'd seemed fairly genuine. As genuine as Brick could be anyway.

There's no use thinking about this. Just go home, go to bed, get plenty of sleep and go to school as normal. Everything is fine.

Or so she hoped anyway.