Five Interrupted Dates (and one left alone)

1

Riley's first date is her junior prom. A boy asked her out of the blue. She accepted without a second thought. Who else would ask her? Ben? When the infamous night - the supposed perfect night - comes around, she wears a pretty dress. It falls to her knees, and her mother tells her she looks gorgeous. Her father isn't there to tell her. Ben and Danny are coming over to her house. It's their prom, too. The parents needed pictures of everyone to mark this pivotal moment in their lives, never to let it be erased from their memories.

The doorbell rings, and she hopes it's her date: John. It's Danny and Ben. Bonnie and Ray stand behind them. Bonnie is adjusting Ben's hair while Ray stands nonchalantly beside Danny, who is staring at Riley in awe. Sometimes he does that. She fears it's because he's noting her weight and deciding that their friendship should cease, as soon as possible. It hasn't happened yet. He clears his throat and smiles, "You look pretty, Riley."

She blushes, "Thanks, Danny." She turns to Ben. He's fidgeting as his mother messes with his tie. "Ben." She crosses her arms. Ben moves away. Hate is the only way to evade her true feelings. "Come in," she smiles to everyone.

Their dates come and flashing lights fill the room for the next ten minutes. They all hop into Danny's truck, squished. Danny drives to the prom, talking to his date and sending glares back at Riley's when she laughs at something he says.

The prom is loud, boisterous. People are jumping to the latest pop hits. Riley's date gets her punch while Danny's roams off to find friends. She didn't choose Danny to actually converse with him, just to have the teen hockey sensation as her date. He can't dance with anyone else, either. He has a date. It's a paradox.

No one has seen Ben or his date since the car ride, so Danny goes over to Riley. "Having fun?"

"We just got here." She yells over the pounding music.

"Very true. So who's the bozo you came with?"

"He's not a bozo, moron." She laughs, "He's John, and he's a gentleman. He is getting me punch." Danny looks over to the punch bowl and sure enough, John is pouring two glasses. Great. She might have found a diamond in the rough with this guy. Not good for Danny.

He comes back not one minute later and smiles as he hands Riley her punch. "M'lady."

She giggles. She never giggles. "Thanks, my lord." They laugh, etching Danny out slowly. He doesn't want to encroach if she's actually found someone else she can be herself around. It pains him, but he makes his way to the other side of the room.

His eyes remain on Riley the whole time. She drank punch. Recently she was dancing. Now she's waiting while John does whatever it was he told her. He detects the first warning signs when Riley's smile changes directions. He follows her gaze and sees John, the stupid head. He's dancing with a girl, if it could be called dancing. They are laughing loudly and making the gestures of bigger pants. They point at Riley and guffaw. How can they do that, and while dancing like that?

Riley stays strong. She turns the other cheek and moves away from them, out of view. He can see others catch on. More people start doing the "Fat Pants" gesture. He sees his date laughing while doing it. He can't take it. Riley is about to cry, he can sense it. He slowly pushes himself off the wall and makes his way across the dance floor, through several sporadically-placed crowds. He walks up to Riley and holds out his hand. She looked at him confused, "What?"

She's being defensive. He knows her walls are up right now. "I want to dance with you."

Her lip twitches. "But you have a date."

"I realized that my choice of dates was horrific." He grins his dopey smile, "Besides. I'd rather be with you." His hand is still outstretched. People have stopped making the "Fat Pants" gesture to see how this plays out, his date especially. Some people are still dancing, which is used in the loosest of terms.

"Well then," Riley takes his hand. "Lead away." He smiles and pulls her out onto the dance floor, in front of the crowd that has slowly stopped to see what is happening. They are very confused. Danny Wheeler is dancing with Fat Pants? Danny and Riley are oblivious to them now. At the center, he pulls her close, but not too close. He doesn't want to do the unspeakable things he saw a select few doing earlier. He dances with her, formally. His hand at her waist while one holds her hand. Her position is similar. The exception being one of her hands is not at his waist, it's at his shoulder. They sway back and forth, slowly. Riley is smiling at Danny's kindness. He stuck up for her.

The song ends and they sit down at a table. They are soon forgotten and more dancing ensues. Some appropriate, others not so much. It's high school, though. Danny and Riley spend the rest of the night talking. When time comes to leave, neither Danny's date nor Riley's accompanies them to the car. Eventually, they find Ben and his date. They drive home.

2

The second date Danny witnesses Riley on takes place in New York, after the weight loss. He is visiting New York to see his brother, Ben, to tell him the good news: Danny is being drafted to the Rangers and will be able to live in the same city as his younger brother. He is walking along the street when he spots her. She's in black jeans and a white blouse. She is laughing and sitting with a man he doesn't know. When did Riley get a boyfriend?

He is happy to see her none the less. They have talked since Danny left high school, but never actually seen each other. She had told him about her weight loss and moving to New York. He told her about hockey and his team. Romantic interests never came up in conversations.

"Riley?" She turns around and looks for the owner of the voice. "Riley Perrin?" Danny walks closer until she spots him and smiles.

"Danny Wheeler is in New York. How does that happen?" She stands and walks over to Danny, giving him a big hug. "What are you doing here?"

He smiles and looks at her, "I was drafted to the Rangers."

Riley's face brightens as her lips move slowly into a smile. "Congratulations!" She grabs his arms and shakes lightly, "That's amazing! You're going to be in New York. Have you told Ben?"

"Going to tell him soon." Danny looks over to her date, who is currently sitting awkwardly and twiddling his thumbs. Danny whispers, "Who's the nimrod?"

Riley laughs quietly, "He's not a nimrod. I met him a couple weeks ago." Her lips quirk, "He's going to be in law school with me."

"You made it?" Danny couldn't contain his happiness. He knew she had been struggling.

"Yeah. I finally tackled the LSAT and succeeded!" He hugs her and she chuckles.

"I'm really happy for you." Danny looks at her date, "I still don't like this idiot, though."

"Calm down," Riley turns and waves at her date. He smiles and waves back, nervously eyeing the six foot six inch giant beside her. "He's sweet."

Danny eyes the man suspiciously. "Well, be careful." He smiles, "I have to go talk to Ben, but I'll see you soon, ok?"

"Ok." Riley hugs Danny, and they say goodbye. Danny can't help but look back at her when he's far enough away. She's morose as the man pats her shoulder only to leave. Great, Danny ruined her date. He shouldn't be glad, but he is.

3

The third date Danny interrupts is with Jack, her stupid lawyer wannabe friend. He bursts into Riley's apartment after Ben. He notices her low-cut formal dress, first. She looks pretty. Wait, why is she dressed up? He sees candles and wine. He questions her about it when a man walks out from the bathroom. He ignores his introduction, Jack.

He tries to belittle everything Jack does. He's happy when she says Jack should leave, but sad when she says she's leaving with him. He feels like the belittled one. Not even his size intimidated Jack.

He's heartbroken when he enters the apartment with Ben and his mother. The lights are off. Riley and Jack are awfully close. When Tucker implies something between them, he's angry. Tucker knows he likes Riley! Danny wishes he didn't know, but you can't change the truth.

He voices his suspicions. Riley seems concerned when Jack says he lied. He's suave. Too slick for his own good, but Riley falls for it. He tries to get their attention, "He wasn't holding the baby!"

Ben and his mother come back in happier than when they left. They forgave each other. Thank the Lord. Riley and Jack left. Danny didn't want to let her leave, but it'd be too suspicious. He hopes he'll never see Jack again. That wish, he is granted. He never did see him again.

4

Riley's fourth date is with a hockey player from Danny's team. Danny knows the guy. He doesn't like him. He uses women. Though, Danny shouldn't be talking. His track record isn't the best when it comes to women. However, he could never use Riley. He loves her.

They meet at an after party for one of the Rangers' better games. He flirts with her the whole night, and an hour before she leaves, she starts to flirt back. He asks her out to dinner; she accepts. They go to a fancy restaurant near the hockey rink. They leave after practice.

Danny isn't proud, but he follows them. He waits a reasonable twenty minutes before he starts his car and drives to the restaurant he knew they currently occupying.

He sees them talking and laughing. The womanizer gets up to the bathroom, he presumes. Danny follows. He doesn't trust the womanizer. He walks into the men's bathroom, but all the stalls are empty. Danny's confused. He leaves and spots a couple in the corner. He scoffs because they're stuffing their tongues down each other's throats.

Danny suspects that the womanizer didn't go to the bathroom when he does a double take at the couple. The womanizer is womanizing another woman. (Quite an alliteration.) Danny storms over to the couple and shoves the womanizer back. "Dude!"

He's shocked. "What, man?"

"Riley!" He huffs and pouts and throws his arms in the air. "Get out of here! Never speak to Riley again, or I won't hold back when I hurt you." He towers over the man. His stature is bigger than the six foot hockey player.

"Fine! She's yours." He laughs, "She wasn't that pretty, anyway." This earns him a very hearty punch from Danny right to the face. He stumbles and leaves the restaurant quickly, careful not to be seen by Riley. He wouldn't want to ruin his reputation.

Danny stumbles slowly over to the table seating Riley. "Riley?" She turns and smiles. She looks behind him and is confused to not see her date.

"Danny, what are you doing here?" She looks behind her. "And where is-"

"Couch sent me here," he interrupts. "He said he needed to him. I offered to go get him. It was very important. Couch needed him ASAP, so he left pretty quickly. I'm sorry it interrupted your date."

She sighs, "It's ok."

"He wasn't good enough for you anyway, Riley." Danny sits across from her at the table. "Riley, you're an amazing women. You just have terrible taste in guys."

She feigns offense. "How rude!"

"It's true," Danny laughs as she does. "You can't see the best guys, who truly want to be with you for you and who love you."

"And who would that be?" She puts her face on her closed hands.

Danny stutters. He hadn't been expecting that question. "Uh, well."

"Yes?"

"You just have to look harder." He smiles.

She laughs, "You'd think I wouldn't be the oblivious one, seeing as my relationship with Ben is determined by his oblivion." They leave the topic alone for the rest of the night. It's almost like a first date. But Danny wants their first date to happen when Riley knows his feelings, and he knows they're mutual.

5

The fifth interrupted date isn't even a romantic date at all. Riley had finally released herself from her childhood crush. She's happy to be free. Danny notices. "Why are you so happy?"

She wants to be coy, "It's something to do with my crush on Ben." Danny suspects the worst. Ben finally realized how great Riley is, and now they'll live happily ever after because Danny is too afraid to tell Riley how he feels. Before she can elaborate, she receives a call. "What? Oh my," she looks worried, "I'll be right there." She starts to gather her things from the infamous couch where she and Danny spend all their time. "I'm sorry. I have to go, but I'll see you later." She kisses Danny's cheek and walks out of the bar.

Ben is working at the bar when Danny spots him and approaches. "So, Riley?"

Ben smiles, "She told you we were going out to lunch then?"

"Yeah, she told me." He scoffs and walks away.

Ben obliviously says, "See you at the apartment."

Ben and Riley are going out to lunch. Emma is joining them. It's two friends, eating together. Riley is happy to be over her crush so she gladly accepts his platonic offer for lunch. Ben doesn't suspect that she ever liked him, and he will probably never know.

Danny wants to stop their date. He assumes it's romantic. Riley said she was happy about something related to her crush on Ben. They were going out to lunch. They're dating. He's sitting at home when Tucker walks into the apartment. "You here alone?"

"Yeah." His eyes are downcast in sorrow.

"Where's Ben?" Tucker walks over to the kitchen. He really does love food, with a passion.

"With Riley." He spits.

"Oh yeah! He told me about that. He said he had something to tell Riley. Yeah, they're at the café down the block." He says with a food-stuffed mouth. Danny can't take it. He gets up and slams the door on his way out. "What's his problem?"

Danny slings his arms through the black leather. He walks down the street and spots Riley and Ben. Riley is smiling. Ben is too. Riley hugs Ben next.

"Ben, congrats!" Riley laughs when she pulls away from Ben. She's happy for him. He just informed her of his promotion. After weeks of constant debate and pondering, Ben was finally given the job of his dreams. Manager. So, it's only his dreams for this year.

He's smiling brightly as he looks down at Emma. "I'm happy. I keep thinking this will mean Emma can have a better life."

Riley smiles endearingly at Emma, "Well she has a great father." Danny walks up next to them. "Oh, hi, Danny." She stands up and looks at him confused, "What are you doing here?"

"I'm sorry, Riley. I couldn't let this happen without you knowing." He rubs his sweaty palms against his black jeans.

"Let what happen? Without knowing what?" Riley looks at Ben. He doesn't know what's going on either.

Danny starts, "Riley, I love you!"

She is shocked, "What?"

Danny continues, "I love you, Riley. I know how important this date is to you. I'm happy that you finally told Ben you loved him, but-"

"What?!" Ben asks, shocked. He looks at Riley questioningly. He never suspected a thing. How could Riley love him?

Riley pinches Danny, who falls in pain. "Danny!" She turns to Ben, "I don't love you."

"Yes, you do." Danny's voice comes from the ground. He is pinched again.

"I used to love Ben. Danny, I told you I got over my crush yesterday!" Riley looks at him. "Danny, I don't love Ben."

"Oh," he picks himself up from the floor. Riley and Ben are looking at him incredulously. "This was all a big misunderstanding."

Ben takes in all the information, "Wait, Riley, you used to love me?"

"Yeah," She shoots daggers at Danny. "It was supposed to be a secret."

"Sorry." Danny holds his arms up in defense. There is an awkward air around this conversation. Danny wants to leave soon.

"Danny," Riley's gaze softens, "You love me?" Danny freezes. That's what he was hoping wouldn't arrive. The big question.

"Well," he chuckles nervously, "I, uh. Well. Uh. I just. Well. I, uh." He can't speak. Nothing intelligible will exit his mouth.

"Well?" Riley crosses her arms. Her gaze is still soft, but her voice is stern. She expects an answer and she wants it sooner than later.

Danny figures he owes it to her to tell her the truth. After all, he did just tell Ben that Riley had loved him. One truth for another. Just because he has to tell the truth doesn't mean he has to see it all fall to hell. He closes his eyes and sighs, "Yes. I love you."

Her arms encompass his body. He doesn't move. He keeps his eyes closed. She closes hers, "Thank you."

1

The first uninterrupted date happens at the movies. It's simple and sweet. Nothing fancy or out of the ordinary. They don't care. As long as they're together. As long as it's them. They'll start slow. Danny knows she doesn't love him, not yet at least. He's willing to wait. He's had ten years to kindle his love. Riley had two weeks until their first date. She didn't have any striking revelation of love. But there was an enlightening. She had never seen Danny in that way until he told her the truth. Then, it came into focus. She started to see Danny in that way and liked it.

They go to see a superhero movie. Naturally. Both have quite an appreciation for the superheroes. Danny offers to buy her ticket.

"I'm not going to be a lawyer for nothing," she laughs as she hands money to the person on the opposite side of the glass. Danny does, however, buy her popcorn. His defense is that he'll eat most of the popcorn anyway. She knows he's lying.

Halfway through the movie, he does the yawn move. It's cliché. It's classic. Riley loves it. No one has ever done that for her before. She shifts closer into his arm. They smile. It's a simple date, but they enjoy it. They have a great time.

Dinner is afterward. It's take-out, and they eat at her apartment. Burgers. The best kind of food. They talk about different things, varying from the movie to his crush on her, and her new kindling crush on him. She finds out he wasn't lying when he told her and Ben about when he first realized he loved her. She apologizes for saying it was corny. She almost cries because he's loved her for so long, even when she had the extra pounds. Her insecurity was for nothing. Someone did love her despite that.

They have a great time. It's a normal first date. Nothing over the top. No shooting stars. No romantic singing Italians on a gondola. Just them. But that's enough for them. And she thinks it always will be.