A/N: Some background info:
Having known each other since birth, Ace and Kristen have been best friends their entire lives. For Ace, falling in love with Kristen was easy, and he can hardly recall a time when he wasn't in love with her. Kristen, on the other hand, took a bit longer in realizing her feelings for Ace, something having to do with her rather cynical nature and tendency to fall for all the wrong boys. Several weeks prior to this story, Ace and Kristen finally confront their feelings for each other, and while they're incredibly happy, they have bit more trouble adjusting to 'boyfriend/girlfriend' mode than they might like.
Hit or Miss
You hum quietly to yourself as you zip up your backpack and shut your locker, eager to finally go home after a long session of after school choir. You have the song you practiced today stuck in your head. It's your last song of the year – of your high school career, actually – and you like it, but you've been forced to rehearse it way too much.
You turn around, bag over your shoulder, to see Janice and Cindy, two fellow choir friends, walking in your direction.
"Hi," you say, pushing your light brown hair out of your face. You think they're nice, though maybe a bit…eccentric sometimes. But that's how most of the choir is, anyway.
"So," Janice says as you fall into step beside them. Her auburn ponytail swings behind her. "Are you ready for next weekend?"
"Next weekend?" you say, searching your brain for any event you might have been invited to. "What's next weekend?"
They look surprised.
"Prom," Cindy says as if it's the most obvious thing in the world. She pushes a lock of her light blonde hair behind her ear to look at you.
"Oh, that," you say. Of course that's what they're talking about. You shake your head. "I'm not going."
"You're not?" Janice says, looking confused. She and Cindy glance at each other.
"What?" you say, looking between them.
"Well, it's just," Cindy says, glancing at Janice again. "We were talking to Ace about it earlier in Spanish, and he said he was going, and since you two are, you know, together now, we just assumed you'd be going…"
You readjust the backpack strap on your left shoulder. "He never told me that."
They both look at each other again, horrified expressions on their faces.
"Oh no, what if he was thinking of a surprise way to ask you!" Janice says, eyes wide. "We just completely ruined it! I'm sorry, Kristen!"
"No, no, it's fine," you say quickly, not wanting a crying Janice on your hands. "If he does, I'll…still act surprised."
They look mollified.
"Oh, good," Cindy says, relieved. You're standing on the front steps of the school now. She looks at you. "Would you like a ride home, Kristen?" she asks.
"No thanks," you say. "I think I'm just going to walk."
"If you're sure," Janice says. "Hopefully we'll see you at the prom!"
"Yeah, I don't know…" you say, starting away from them. "See you."
You start down the sidewalk, thinking of what Janice and Cindy had just told you. In the excitement of your last month of high school, and just about, well, everything else in your life, you'd completely forgotten about the prom. Today is Friday, and the prom is next Saturday. Even if you wanted to go, you couldn't get everything done in a week. So why is Ace telling people he's going to the prom?
A thought occurs to you. You've only been officially dating for two weeks, so what if he got a date before that? Ace isn't exactly unpopular, and he'sprobably too nice to turn down any girl that asked him.
So what? you think as you clench your fists slightly. You don't want to go to the prom anyway.
Instead of your own street, you change course and find yourself walking down the familiar road to his house. Prom or no prom, you want to see him. You reach his door and give a loud knock.
Derek answers. "Hey, Kristen," he says, holding the door open for you. "I'm guessing you're here to snog my brother?"
It's been two weeks since you and Ace got together, and yet the jokes are still coming strong. "No, I just want to talk to him," you say.
"God, you two are boring," he says as you shrug your backpack off. "Honestly, I've waited my entire life for Ace to get a girlfriend so I could walk in on him snogging her and embarrass the hell out of him, and all you do is talk or…hold hands." He shakes his head. "I don't get it."
"Sorry," you say, shrugging. "So where is he?"
"We're in the kitchen," Derek says, waving you along. You follow him.
You find Ace sitting on one of the tall stools along the counter, eating an apple and chatting with Zaire, Derek's boyfriend. His expression brightens when he sees you walk in after Derek.
"Hey, Kris," he says, swiveling around and smiling at you.
"Hi," you say.
"Oh, just kiss already," Derek says as he walks over to Zaire and slings an arm around him, watching the two of you.
"Shut up," you say, rolling your eyes. You look back at Ace. "Can I talk to you for a second?"
"Sure," he says, setting his apple down and looking at you.
You glance at Derek and Zaire, both of whom are watching youattentively. "I mean…alone?"
"Oh, right, of course," he says, jumping down from the stool.
"Don't get too busy, there are other people in this house, you know," Derek says.
"You should take your own advice once in a while," you say, looking at him and Zaire. Derek shrugs as Zaire smirks.
Ace follows you into the living room, letting the kitchen door swing shut behind the two of you. You turn to look at him.
"Sorry about Derek," he says, his face slightly red as he runs a hand through his short black hair. "I can't get him to stop."
You shrug slightly. "It's no less than what I would have expected, really." Ace nods mildly in agreement.
"So, what did you want to talk about?" he asks, giving you his full attention.
"Oh," you say, his brown-eyed gaze throwing you off slightly. "Um, so, I was talking to Janice and Cindy, you know, from choir." He nods. "They mentioned the prom."
"Yeah, I was talking to them about it today," he says.
"That's what they said," you say. "And…you told them you were going?"
"Oh yeah," he nods.
You bite the inside of your cheek. "Okay," you say. "So who are you going with?"
His brow furrows slightly. "What?"
"Who are you going with?" you repeat.
"Uh…" he says, looking at you strangely. "You?"
"Me?" you say.
"Well, yeah," he says. "I'd forgotten about it until they mentioned it today, so…I was going to ask you." You just look at him. He puts a hand to the back of his neck. "Would you like to go?"
"Uh," you start, not sure how to phrase it. "Not really."
His face falls. "What?"
"I don't know," you say, shrugging. "I've never really wanted to go."
"But," he starts, looking at you. "It's the last celebration before we graduate."
"I can celebrate at home," you say. "Why waste our time getting dressed up?"
"Because it'll be fun," he says. "And it's one of the last times we'll get to see everyone. Aren't you going to miss them?"
"No," you say. "Honestly, I'll be glad to say goodbye to most of them."
Ace merely stares at you, looking rather put-out.
"Ace, it's awkward," you say. "You know, putting on frilly clothes and taking group pictures with people you hardly know. Then there's the dancing and people start grinding-"
"I don't grind," Ace says quickly, his face reddening.
"I didn't say you do," you say, your own face warming slightly. "I mean, neither do I-"
"Oh, you two love to grind," you hear from the doorway. You look up to see Derek and Zaire watching you, snickering.
"Get out," Ace says, face flaming. He walks over and pushes them back through the doorway, forcing the door shut on them. He glances back at you, looking highly embarrassed and slightly miserable. "I'm sorry, Kris. I know you don't like this kind of stuff. But, just- are you sure?" He looks at you, raising his eyebrows in his last hope.
"Well," you start, looking away from him. "We only have a week. Most girls get their dresses months ahead, and you'd have to find a tux-"
"I can find one today," he says. "And any dress would look beautiful on you."
You flush again. He can be so frustrating.
"I won't let it be awkward," he goes on, taking advantage of your silence. "You won't have to be in any pictures if you don't want to be. I'll do all the talking. I won't- I won'tgrind." His face turns red again.
"I know," you sigh, looking away.
"It's just- it's a high school milestone, you know?" he says. "You really don't think you'd have any fun? Not even with me?"
You look at him. He looks back at you, his brown eyes hopeful. You bite your lip.
"Of course I'd have fun with you," you finally say.
He smiles slightly. "So…does that mean yes?"
"I- well-" you start. "I don't know where I'll find a dress-"
"I'll help you," he says.
You raise your eyebrows. "Boys don't usually go with their dates to find dresses."
"Yeah, well, I'm different," he shrugs.
You roll your eyes. "No, I just have no girlfriends."
"Call Cindy and Janice," Ace suggests.
"I'd go to fifty proms before I do that," you say.
"And how are you going to do that if you can't even find a dress for one prom?" he says, raising his eyebrows.
"Shut up," you say, shoving him. He grins.
"So is that a yes?" he says. "You'll come with me?"
You sigh, but it's hard to look away from he looks at you like that. "I'll come with you."
He beams, grabbing your hand and squeezing it. "I'll make sure you have the best time."
You can't help the slight grin tugging at the corners of your mouth. To hide it, you quickly lean forward and peck him on the lips. You pull away and see a blush creeping up his neck. You've only kissed a handful of times so far.
The kitchen door bursts open and Derek comes in. He groans. "I've missed again!" Zaire comes in after him and pats him consolingly on the shoulder. "Don't worry, babe, you'll get them next time," he says.
"I hate you two," Ace says, his face still bright red.
You tug on his hand. "Come on, if we want to go to the prom next Saturday, we have to start getting ready."
"Okay," Ace says, eager to follow you out of the living room.
You sit at a booth across from Kristen, stirring your milkshake around. After ordering you a tux yesterday, the two of you had gone out this morning to find her a dress. After five hours of shopping and no money spent, the two of you are at her Aunt Doreen's family restaurant. You are exhausted and Kristen is a little more than frustrated.
"You know, that blue one looked really- " you start.
"Blue looks horrible on me," she says shortly.
"No, it doesn't," you say.
"You just don't know how to criticize me," she says, looking at you over her water glass.
"That's because I thought everything looked nice on you!" you say.
She just sighs, looking away. You shove your straw into your mouth, having no idea what you said wrong.
Your waitress, Kristen's cousin Laurie, stops by your table with a tray of empty plates in one hand. She has her yellow-blonde hair pulled back in a neat bun and a black apron tied over her white blouse. "Hey, you two," she says. "How are you doing? Can I get you anything?"
Kristen sighs, pushing her glass away. "A prom dress would be nice."
Laurie raises her eyebrows. "Oh, are you two going to the prom?"
"Yes," you say as Kristen mutters, "Maybe."
"She just needs to find a dress," you say quickly. "We've been looking all day, but she hasn't seen anything she's liked."
Laurie looks at Kristen. "Wait, Kristen, you brought him to help you find a dress?"
"Yes," she says through her teeth. "And he's been no help at all."
"Everything just looks good on you!" you defend yourself.
"Of course you're going to say that," Laurie says, waving a hand dismissively. "You're her date."
"That isn't why-"
"Kristen," Laurie cuts you off, looking at her cousin. "Wait about fifteen minutes until I get off my shift. I'll take you to a little shop downtown, it has the best dresses. It's where I got my prom dress. I know you'll find something."
"Okay," Kristen sighs. "But if I don't, then I give up."
"You'll find something," you say, reaching across the table and patting her hand. She only looks at you tiredly. You grasp her hand instead. "Really, I promise it's going to be fun and worth it."
You give her a bright smile as Laurie walks away, trying to show confidence. Inside, however, you're starting to panic. What if it isn't worth it? What if she ends up having a horrible time? What if this is all a waste of time and money? Of course, you know that you're going to have a great time, but Kristen doesn't enjoy parties, or dressing up, or people as much as you do. In fact, she hates them.
You pull your hand away, looking at her. You'd always planned on asking her to the prom, if no one else got to her first. It just happened to work out that you'd started dating three weeks before it. But of course, just because you've always had the fantasy doesn't mean she willgo along with it.
"Look, Kris," you say, leaning back in your seat and running a hand through your dark hair. "If you really don't want to go, I'm not making you."
She looks back at you for a moment, blue eyes looking between yours, then shakes her head. "No, don't worry, I'm going."
"I just don't want this to be stressful for you," you say.
She laughs. "It's a stressful thing for every girl, Ace."
"It's supposed to be fun," you say.
"I know," she says, looking at you. "I'm sure it will be."
Laurie reappears, taking your empty glasses. She looks at Kristen. "I'll be out in five minutes, okay?"
"Okay," Kristen says. Laurie walks off to the kitchen again. The two of you stand up, making your way to the front of the restaurant. You stand with Kristen until Laurie comes.
"Good luck," you tell her. "I know you'll find something you like this time."
"At least I know I don't have to worry about you liking it," she says teasingly.
You shrug. "Less pressure, right?" You spot Laurie making her way towards the two of you. "Well, I'll see you later," you say, and, before you can think about it, you quickly kiss her. It's still new, and it still leaves your mind buzzed. You give her a slightly dazed smile as you turn to walk through the exit.
The door opens just before you reach it. Derek walks in, here for his shift as dishwasher. He takes one look at your face, then Kristen's behind you. He groans. "I missed itagain?"
"Maybe this will give you a reason not to show up late tomorrow," Laurie says, stopping beside Kristen.
Derek shrugs. "Probably not."
Before anything else embarrassing can happen (because with Derek around you know it will) you make a mad dash for the exit, out onto the sidewalk.
"Hmmm. Too many beads," Laurie says, surveying the yellow dress you're wearing. You nod in agreement, walking back to the dressing room to try on another. You don't like yellow much, anyway.
You've tried on three dresses so far and while they've all been nice, they're just not very you. You know it doesn't matter much, but if you're going to the promyou want to at least wear a dress you feel nice in. You're glad Laurie's here; she's much more helpful than Ace when it comes to pointing out faults. You know Ace meant well, but he's a boy, and now your boyfriend, which makes him even less likely to tell the truth about your appearance than he was before. And the whole thing was rather awkward, anyway.
You slip on the last dress from the rack, a simple, sleek, deep rose colored dress with lightly beaded straps that you saw when you walked in. You were about to pass it by when Laurie grabbed it and handed it to you. You shrugged, accepting it, willing to try just about anything at this point. You zip it up and turn around, examining yourself in the mirror. You survey your reflection, but you don't see anything very wrong.
You step out for Laurie's scrutiny. She looks at you for a moment, then smiles. "Honestly, Kris, this dress looks great on you."
You turn to the mirror again, running a hand through your shoulder length hair. You do feel pretty, and it's better than any of the others you've tried on all day.
"I like it," you say, smiling slightly.
Laurie comes to stand next to you in front of the mirror. She looks at you. "So, is this the one?"
"I think so," you say, nodding. You can't help the slight feeling of excitement that goes through you. You really do like this dress.
As you take it off and put your regular clothes back on, you catch sight of the price tag. Your stomach drops when you see that it's double the price of your budget.
Laurie waves a hand when you tell her. "Don't worry about it, Kris. I'll pay half."
"What? No, Laurie-"
"It's a big night," she says, taking the dress from your arms to bring to the register. "And your only prom. Just think of it as a birthday present for the next two years."
"It's hardly worth it for just one night," you say.
"It's special," she says. She glances at you. "And I'm warning you right now not to say that to Ace. The poor boy's trying hard enough for you as it is."
"I know," you say quickly, feeling slightly ashamed. You know that he would never act this way aboutsomething you wanted to do. You resolve right now to not complain about it anymore.
You walk out of the shop with your brand new dress, feeling excited despite yourself. Usually you hate dressing up, but if it's in something as pretty as this, you can't help but feel eager to put it on again. And tosee Ace's reaction.
You thank Laurie profusely for her help, then begin home, thinking that maybe this isn't going to be as bad as you thought it was going to be.
The week passes by too slowly for your liking. First of all, because it's your final week of high school, and second of all, because the prom is Saturday and all this talk about it in the halls is making you eager. And best of all, Kristen doesn't even get annoyed when you mention it.
Finally Friday arrives, your last day of school. Then, suddenly, it's Saturday night and you have to start getting ready for the big event.
"DEREK," you shout, looking around your room frantically. You had them, you had them both, right at the foot of your bed. And now your left shoe is missing and you know it didn't just disappear on its own.
"Yes?" Derek says calmly, walking into the room.
"Where is my shoe?" you demand, looking around at him. "Derek, I need my shoe!"
"Okay, okay, chill," he says, rolling his eyes.
"Kristen's going to be here in five minutes!" you say. "Now where is it?"
"Fine," he sighs, walking over to the closet. He reaches up on the top shelf, procuring your lost shoe. You snatch it from him.
"You're really not as funny as you think you are," you tell him as you shove it onto your foot.
"Yeah I am," he shrugs. The doorbell suddenly rings from downstairs.
"Oh God, she's here- " you say, jumping up.
"Calm down," Derek says, pushing you back down. "Zaire's down there, he's got it. And look, your shoe's untied. You would have fallen down the stairs and broken your arm and embarrassed yourself in front of her."
"Yeah, okay," you say, calming slightly as Derek bends down and finishes tying your shoe. He stands up and straightens your crooked collar.
"Am I ready?" you ask him anxiously.
"If you think you are," he says.
You nod, standing up. You take a deep breath. It's just Kristen, you tell yourself. You've known her since you were born. And it's just the prom. And she's just going to be in a pretty dress, and will probably smell really nice, and her hair is going to be all done up, and her skin will be all soft, and she'll hold your hand, and you'll dance together, and you'll kiss her, and-
"Ace?" Derek says, looking at you with a raised eyebrow.
"Right, sorry," you say, blushing. You walk past him and begin down the stairs to the kitchen.
She's standing in the doorway, saying something to Zaire and smiling, and she's wearing a dress that makes all the ones you watched her try on look like rags. Her hair's pulled back all fancily, a pretty rose flower clip holding it up, the same color as her dress. She looks up when she hears your footsteps, meeting your eyes.
"Hi," you say, unable to muster anything else. You don't know what's wrong with your vocal chords, but she's just so beautiful.
"Hi, Ace," she says, holding her arms in front of her in a way that makes her look shy. You suddenly realize that though you've been 'dating' for three weeks now, you haven't actually been on an official date. You've done little things like flirt, hold hands, share quick kisses, exchange small complements, but tonight you really feel like you're actually her boyfriend. A nervous thrill runs through you.
"You look beautiful," you finally say, looking at her.
A hint of a blush rises on her cheeks. "Thanks. You…look nice too."
You feel yourself smiling widely at her. "Come on, there's pizza in the kitchen," you say, starting toward the kitchen.
"But I thought they served food there?" she says.
"Yeah, but weren't you saying how you'd rather just have pizza than their reheated fancy food?" you say, raising an eyebrow at her with a small smirk.
"Well, I- I guess I said that-" she says, blushing deeper.
"So come on," you say, grabbing her hand and pulling her through the door.
"I can't – get it –" Kristen says, frustrated, as she tries to pin the boutonniere to the front of your jacket. Derek and Zaire stand waiting, watching the two of you with increasing boredom. Derek checks his watch.
"At the rate you two are going, by the time we get there the prom's going to be over," he says.
"Well you try attaching this thing," Kristen says, looking at him, her cheeks red.
"Let me be your guest," Zaire says immediately, walking over and pushing her aside. He takes the boutonniere and smoothly slips it through your lapel, pinning it easily.
"Yeah, well," Kristen says indignantly, "I've never done this fancy stuff before."
"There's always time to learn," Zaire says breezily. He walks over to her. "Just not now. Come on, the limo's waiting outside."
Her eyes widen in horror. "You- you didn't-"
Zaire just rolls his eyes, smirking slightly. "Don't worry, Little Miss Attention-Hater," he says, pulling his car keys out of his pocket. "We got nothing short of average, all for you."
Kristen's cheeks redden again, but before she can speak Zaire takes her by the arm and leads her outside.
You look at Derek beside you. "Your- your boyfriend just did my boutonniere," you say, outraged.
"He has skilled hands, doesn't he?" Derek says. He puts his own hands on your shoulders and begins steering your out the door to the car parked on the curb, where Zaire just escorted your date.
You sit beside Ace in the backseat of the car, slightly anxious. The car ride has been silent so far, but as you peek in the front at Derek and Zaire you see they look perfectly at ease. You glance at Ace beside you. He's looking out the window, tapping his left foot repetitively.
"So," Derek finally breaks the silence once you're almost there, glancing back at the two of you. "I think we need to set some rules."
"Derek," Ace groans.
"This is important, Ace," he says. "So, number one, no after parties. I want you home straight after it ends. Two-"
"We know," Ace says. Like you wanted to go to one anyway.
"Two," Derek goes on. "No drinking. Make sure that punch isn't spiked, because I will not have you two on our doorstep a drunken mess."
"Derek, this is ridiculous," you say as Zaire pulls up to the curb.
"You won't be saying it's ridiculous when you come home pregnant," Derek says, raising an eyebrow.
"Derek!" Ace says, his face burning red. He kicks the back of his seat.
"Hey, be nice to the upholstery," Zaire says. Ace mutters an apology.
"Which brings me to rule number three, no sex," Derek goes on. "So-"
Before Zaire even puts the car into park you push your door open and step out onto the pavement. You walk to the other side and open Ace's door, grabbing him by the arm and pulling him out of the car.
"Hey, I haven't even told you rule four ye-" Derek starts. You slam the door shut.
"Come on," you say, grabbing Ace's hand and walking away from the car. You glance back to see Derek and Zaire laughing as they pull away from the curb.
"Oh, I hate them," you say, fuming.
"I'm really sorry about that," Ace starts as you drop his hand. He brings it to the back of his neck.
"So where are we supposed to go now?" you say, pushing a piece of hair that wasn't supposed to come undone out of your face.
"Er-" Ace starts again.
You look around to find the smiling faces of Cindy and Janice approaching. Cindy is in a bright blue dress and Janice wears a yellow one. You grip your small purse in your hands.
"Kristen, you came!" Janice says excitedly. "Oh, your dress is so pretty."
"And your hair," Cindy says, circling you to see the back of it.
"Thanks," you say tightly. "You two look nice as well."
"Thank you!" Janice says. "Oh, hi Ace!"
Ace steps up beside you. "Hi, Janice," he says, smiling at her. "You look pretty. So, where are your dates?"
"Oh, they're over there," Cindy says, gesturing to a large group of kids. "We're waiting for the rest of our group to get here before we go inside. Would you like to join us?"
You don't see how many more people could fit into that group. You glance at Ace, who shakes his head. "No thanks," he says politely. "I think we'll go in by ourselves. But maybe we'll see you in there."
"Yeah, of course!" Janice says.
"We'll see you, then," Cindy says. The two of them walk back over to their dates.
Once they're gone, Ace looks at you. He holds out his hand, giving you a little smile. You feel your iciness melt slightly as you take it.
"Come on," he murmurs, leading you inside.
Finally you're inside and sitting, though neither you nor Kristen are very hungry after the pizza you had back at your house. But…well…you can never pass up food if it's offered.
Kristen has been quiet since you talked to Janice and Cindy. She seems a bit more relaxed, thankfully, and hasn't let go of your hand. As people take their seats around you, things begin to settle down.
"So…" you say, breaking the silence between the two of you. You look at her. "Your hair, it's really nice. I like the flower."
"Thanks," she says, looking up at you. "Laurie did it."
"She's good," you say. You gesture to your own flipped back hair. "Zaire did mine."
She laughs slightly, looking at you. She opens her mouth to say something when you suddenly hear your name.
"Hey, Ace!" You turn around to see your friend Carl walking over, dragging his girlfriend, Lizzy, by the hand. His dark suite is a contrast to his very blonde hair and freckles. Normally you enjoy talking to Carl. You think he can be funny. However, as she's reminded you many times before, you know for a fact that Kristen can't stand him.
"Ah, so you got her to come," Carl says, looking over at her with a grin.
"I told you she was coming," you say, looking at him.
"Yeah, but I wasn't going to believe it till I saw it," he says. He looks at Kristen. "Hanging in there, then?"
"Oh, yeah," she says, slipping her hand out of yours and turning away slightly. Carl raises his eyebrows at you.
"Don't you, uh, have to go to your seats?" you say, rubbing the back of your neck with your now empty hand. "I think things are starting soon."
"Haven't got any yet," Carl says. "But hey, it looks like the rest of your table's empty." He walks over and takes the empty chair next to you, pulling the one beside it out for Lizzy.
"Er, I don't think-" you start, but they're already sitting. You glance at Kristen on your other side. She has her arms folded and legs crossed, jigging her foot as she looks in the opposite direction.
"Um, Kri-" you start, but other people begin to swarm your table, grabbing your attention.
By the time the food is served your table consists of your odd, mismatched friends and their dates. And while you like them all dearly, you like the girl sitting beside you a whole lot more, and at the moment she seems rather ill-tempered and miserable.
You're not sure what you should do. You want to hold her hand, but you're afraid she'll pull away again. You've tried talking to her, but she only responds in curt nods and short answers. You just hope dinner ends soon.
"Hey, Kristen," Carl says over you. She looks up. "I've noticed you've been quiet."
"Oh, yeah, I'm just tired," Kristen says, shrugging slightly.
Carl raises his eyebrows. "Tired already? Why, we haven't even danced yet," he says. He suddenly grins at you. "Unless somebody decided to have a particular after-prom celebration beforehand, eh?" He nudges you.
Your face burns immediately, and Kristen's reddens as well as she glares at him, and then at you, and then goes back to staring in the other direction.
You think you might finally see where she's coming from with her low tolerance of Carl, because, no matter what you thought before, you definitely do not think he's very funny tonight.
Finally, finally dinner ends, and you want nothing more than to put as much distance as possible between you and Carl Underson. Of everyone you could have shared a table with…
As soon as the music commences you're out of your seat, his idiotic jokes still ringing in your ears. It takes Ace several minutes to find you near the bathrooms, and you know you're being selfish and immature, but you are feeling rather tired, and angry and annoyed and you hate Carl and this irritating pop music is already getting on your nerves and it's only the first song.
"Kristen?" Ace says hesitantly beside you. You look at him, your arms crossed. You hope he's smart enough not to ask you to dance right now.
He is. He puts his hands into his pockets, then takes them out again, hesitating. "Look, I'm really sorry about Carl-"
"Don't even say that name," you cut him off.
He sticks his hands into his pockets again. "You're right, he was pretty out of line tonight-"
"Way out of line," you cut him off again. "Not even remotely close to it."
"I know, I'm sorry, Kris," he says, pulling his hands back out of his pockets.
"And you wonder why I didn't care to celebrate with these people?" you say, looking at him.
"Well, there are more people than just…him," Ace says, gesturing to Carl across the room. "But look, I'll make sure that doesn't happen again. I promised you that you wouldn't have to deal with this."
You look up at him, deflating slightly at his words. "No, Ace…it's fine. Don't worry about it."
"I just want you to have a good time," he says.
"I am," you say.
He looks at you.
"I'll make sure of it," he says, and looking into his deep brown eyes, you hope you can trust him on that.
You wait twenty five minutes before asking Kristen to dance, and that's after making sure that Carl is nowhere in sight.
She hesitates, looking at the crowded dance floor. You notice several couples grinding. Maybe you should have waited a little longer.
"I…" she starts, then looks back at you. Her expression softens a bit as she meets your hopeful one. "Sure, Ace."
You grin, grabbing her hand and holding it tightly in your own, something you haven't been able to do for the better part of the evening so far, and lead her to the dance floor. It's packed, and instead of attempting to wade through the mass of sweaty bodies, you opt to settle near the edge of the floor.
You look at Kristen, and then at the table five feet behind her, full of people chatting and watching the dancing. None of them in particular are looking at you, but it makes you feel slightly uncomfortable to be so close. You look back at Kristen.
Meeting her eyes, you suddenly feel even more uneasy, as all of the sudden you are painfully aware that this is a date. Everything you've ever done with her before was as friends, and while you thought the sexual tension was at its highest then, it's nothing compared to now, when, instead of taking chances, you have free reign to touch her, kiss her, and complement her as much as you want. Or, well, as much as she'll allow.
The music suddenly changes to a fast paced, poppy tune, and her expression turns sour.
"You don't like this song?" you ask, glad to have something to say.
"Oh, it's fine," she says, but you can tell she's fighting to ignore the tacky lyrics and over-processed singing that bate at her musical mind so much.
"We can wait till the next song, if you want," you say.
"No, no," she shakes her head.
You stand there, looking at each other, not quite sure how to proceed. You've danced with her before, but this is different. Where do you even put your hands?
You glance around you to see what other people are doing, and your eyes land on the couple beside you, who are so close you might think their bodies are melded together. You quickly look away, feeling almost intrusive. You can't do that with Kristen, especially in public.
"What about in private?" Derek's voice says in your head.
You squirm, feeling your face reddening slightly. You shake it off.
"Oh, come on, Ace," Derek's voice speaks again. "You're a man, as hard as it is for me to believe it. Don't pretend you've never had these thoughts."
"Shut up," you say, reddening more.
"What?" Kristen says, looking up at you.
You blush. "Nothing," you say quickly. You look away from her, and your eyes land on the couple beside you again. You snap them back to Kristen.
She follows the path of your eyes, and they narrow slightly as she sees the intimate couple beside you. Awkward dancing and people grinding. One of the specific reasons she didn't want to come to the prom.
"Hey, the song's changing," you say lightly as a new but no less irritating song begins to play.
Kristen crosses her arms, and you know that means you're closed off. Okay, so no touching. You can handle that. You have for the last eighteen years, anyway.
Derek's voice laughs in your head.
She won't even look at you.
You slip your hands into your pockets, then out of them again. You knew this was hopeless. You should have just accepted her refusal when you asked her the first time. Then she wouldn't be here and she wouldn't be miserable. What kind of boyfriend are you, taking her to something you know she won't even like? Your first official date and you've already failed.
Someone suddenly stumbles out of the crowd behind Kristen, colliding with her and sending her flying forward, caught off guard. Luckily you manage to catch her before she gets a face full of dance floor, but the other person is not so lucky.
"Janice?" you say, recognizing the bright yellow dress.
"Oh, Ace," she says, pushing herself to her feet again. "Kristen-"
"Janice?" you hear again.
A boy with dark hair emerges from the crowd behind her. Cory Jackson, the kid that sits beside you in algebra. He's nice and very chatty, and you often talked to him before class.
"Cory!" Janice says, still on the ground. She attempts to push herself up, but she struggles. "My- my ankle, I think I've twisted it. Kristen, will you help me up?"
Instead of looking at her date beside her, she looks at yours. Kristen only looks at her, then walks forward to lend her a hand.
"Thank you so much," Janice says, pushing a piece of hair out of her face and balancing on her left foot. "I think it's these heels, I probably should have gotten an inch shorter, you know?"
Kristen only shrugs as Janice continues to hang on her shoulder.
"Are you alright?" you ask her.
"I think so," Janice says. She gingerly lowers her right foot and puts the tiniest bit of pressure on it. She cringes. "No, no I'm not."
"Do you need to sit down?" Cory asks.
"Yes, that'd be good, I think," Janice says. She looks at Kristen again. "Will you help me?"
"Oh, sure," Kristen says stiffly. You absently play with the crumpled prom ticket in your pocket. It seems as if this night is destined to only get worse.
"Thank you so much," Janice says again as she holds onto Kristen like a crutch. You and Cory go to follow them.
"Thanks okay!" Janice says, looking at the two of you. "You don't have to come, I'll be fine. Don't waste your time with us, go have fun!"
"But…" you say, but she's hobbling away quite fast despite her ankle, leaving you and Cory standing on the edge of the dance floor. You glance at each other.
Cory's nice, but how are you supposed to have any fun when someone just stole your date?
You bite the inside of your cheek as Janice puts her full weight on your shoulder, limping along beside you. You finally reach the nearest empty table and she falls into a chair, throwing you so off balance you almost fall over your own heels.
"Thank you," she says again, looking up at you.
"No problem," you say, forming your hands into and out of fists.
"I'm not sure I'll be able to do any more dancing on it," she says, looking down at her ankle.
Lucky you, you almost want to say. You bite the inside of your cheek again.
"I hope…I hope Cory doesn't mind," she says, sighing slightly.
"I'm sure he'll be fine," you say shortly.
She looks up at you. "You do?"
"Oh," you say, letting your hands open as you realize the insult. "I mean, he knows there's nothing you can do about it. He'll understand."
She lowers her eyes, looking back at her ankle.
"It doesn't look so bad," you say, feeling slightly guilty for your frostiness. "It's not even swelling."
She nods, reaching down to unbuckle her shoe anyway.
"And it's only prom," you say. "Just a stupid dance."
She looks back up at you, flushing slightly. "It's a little important."
"Well…" you say, getting the feeling you're only making things worse again.
"Oh, but you're right," she says, putting her elbow on the table and leaning her head on it. "It wasn't going so well, anyway. I guess that's what happens when you have high expectations."
Or none, you feel like adding.
You don't really feel like listening to the details of her problems at the moment, so before she can say more, you tell her, "Look, I should go back to Ace. I'll send Cory over, if you like."
"Oh," she says, reddening slightly. "That's okay. He shouldn't waste his night sitting here, anyway."
You look at her. "I don't think he'd mind."
"No, it's fine," she says, shaking her head as she goes to rub her ankle again. "I don't want him to waste his time."
"Janice, I'm sure-" You pause, looking at her. "Hey," you say slowly. "That's the wrong ankle."
She looks down quickly, finding that she's rubbing the ankle of her buckled shoe. She lets go of it as if it's made of hot coal, looking up at you.
"I- you see-" she starts, her face turning tomato red.
"Janice, what are you doing?" you ask her, crossing your arms.
Her face flushes further, and she looks away, unable to meet your eyes.
"I- I freaked out, okay?" she says, fidgeting with her hands in her lap. "We were dancing, and everyone was so close, and I wasn't sure what to do and it just felt so awkward."
"You're trying to escape Cory?" you say, surprised. As far as you knew, Janice had always had something of a crush on Cory.
"No," she says, shaking her head wretchedly. "I'm trying to help him escape me."
You stare at her. "What?"
"I wasn't even going to ask him," she says, sighing. "But then Cindy convinced me, so I finally did, and he said yes. I wasn't even expecting him to, so when he did I was…really happy."
"Okay," you say, following. "And the problem is…"
"Well, we'd been having fun the last few weeks," she says. "Doing all the preparations and…hanging out stuff. And I was really looking forward to tonight. But when we got here, things were just…different."
You sigh, dropping into the seat beside her. "How were they different?"
"With everyone else we were fine," she says. "But then, once the dancing started and we were left alone…it got awkward. I got really nervous. I was saying stupid things and acting like an idiot, and I could tell he just wanted me to leave. I wanted me to leave. So I…ran into you." She smiles at you sheepishly. "Sorry about that."
You shrug. "It's okay," you tell her. And it really is. You may be hard on people, but she looks so distraught you can't help but feel bad for her.
"I was looking for Cindy, but she was dancing with her date and I couldn't bring myself to interrupt them," Janice says. "I saw you standing there and didn't realize you were with Ace, I'm sorry."
"It's okay," you say again.
"You're so lucky," she says, looking at you. "You and Ace, you've been friends so long nothing must be awkward between you."
"Oh," you say, fidgeting in your seat. "I wouldn't say that."
"Well, you weren't going to run away from him," Janice says. She sighs again, looking away. "I wanted tonight to be special. And not just because it's the prom."
You look at her. "You know, the night's only just started. You shouldn't give up so fast."
"He was just so miserable, he wouldn't even look at me," Janice says. "I could tell he wished he'd gone with someone else."
You sigh. "Janice, he's probably just as nervous as you are."
"You think so?" Janice says. "I just wanted him to have a good time. With me."
You open your mouth to respond, but you catch sight of Ace near the dance floor. He's talking with a group of friends, laughing and taking pictures. The exact reason he wanted to come…and so he could dance with you.
A massive feeling of guilt comes over you, and you feel so ashamed you have to look away from him. Janice is right. This isn't about being at the prom. You've been a self-centered witch through all of this, and Ace has been nothing but nice to you, trying his hardest to make sure you have a good time. You have no clue why he even puts up with you, but you do know that you're extremely grateful that he does.
"Come on," you say to Janice, standing up.
"What? Where are you going?" she says, looking up at you.
"To spend the night with the person I came here with," you say. "And so are you."
"But, my ankle-" she starts.
"You're ankle's fine, Janice," you say, resisting the urge to roll your eyes. "Come on, Cory's waiting for you."
Janice tries to protest again, but in the end she re-buckles her shoe and reluctantly follows you back to the dance floor.
"Kristen!" Ace's friend, Toby, says as you approach. "Let me get a picture of you!" He holds up his camera.
"Wait, she doesn't-" Ace starts, walking to block you from the camera.
"No, Ace," you say, grabbing his hand and pulling him out of the way. "It's fine."
"What?" he says, turning to look at you.
"Come on you two, smile!" Toby says.
You just shake your head at Ace, nodding at the camera. The two of you smile as it flashes.
"I thought you didn't want pictures," Ace says once Toby moves on to photograph someone else.
You shrug. "I suppose I need some sort of proof that I came here."
Ace just looks at you, perplexedby your sudden change of mood.
You bite your lip, looking down at your intertwined hands. "Ace, I'm sorry. I've been acting like a jerk all night."
"No you haven-"
"Don't even try to defend me," you say, looking at him.
"Well like you said, prom is stressful for girls," Ace says, shrugging.
You smile slightly. "And whoever the boy is that goes with me."
Ace only smiles back sheepishly. It makes you melt slightly, and you reach up to hug him.
You see Janice over his shoulder, talking to Cory. They're laughing over something, and you hope they feel a little less awkward.
You and Ace break apart, your faces slightly red. You smile at him, taking his hand again. "Come on, let's dance."
The rest of the night passes in a blur of loud music, colorful lights, friends, and Kristen. But mostly Kristen.
It was still a bit awkward at first, the dancing, and as soon as the first slow song started you froze. She only smiled at you, cheeks tinged slightly red, and put her hands on your shoulders, giving you permission to place your hands on her waist.
Now, countless fast songs, crazy dance moves, and much laughter later, the last song plays, nice and slow, and Kristen is practically hanging off of you. Her arms are draped around your neckand her head isresting on your shoulder as the two of you slowly rock to the music. Your own arms are around her.
Sadly, the song finally comes to an end. You pull away and smile at her, dazed and tired. She takes your hand as the two of you walk off the dance floor.
"Are Zaire and Derek coming to get us?" she asks you.
"Nah, I told them I'd walk you home," you say.
"That sounds like a much better idea," she says.
You shrug. "When they come to me, I use them."
She looks at you and smiles, then shakes her head as she pulls you toward the exit. You grin, following right behind.
After an exceptionally long walk home, you finally arrive at the door of your flat. You stop in the hallway before going inside, and look up at Ace.
You cannot wait to take off these heels, your feet are so sore, and your body aches with tiredness, your eyes itching for sleep. Strands of messy hair hang from your once neat bun.
You smile at him.
"I guess you were right," you say. "Prom wasn't so bad."
"Just not bad?" he says, his hands in his pockets.
"Okay," you say. "It was fun."
"Just fun?" he pushes, raising an eyebrow.
You roll your eyes, unable to help the smile tugging at the corners of your lips. "Alright, alright. It was...a lot of fun. I had a really great time, Ace."
You look up again to find that he's beaming at you, and you can't help it as your face flushes. God, he's so adorable he could kill with that smile.
As silence comes over you, you begin to feel slightly nervous. It's the end of the night, you're at your doorstep…
"Thanks for bringing me," you finally say. "And convincing me to go. It was definitely worth it."
He smile again. "I'm glad you came."
You look at him. It's been a long, great night, and you know it's finally your chance to do what you've been aching to do for hours.
You lean forward and kiss him. It's quick and simple, like all the kisses you've shared before this. You pull away, but when you open your eyes and meet his, something in you, almost like a magnet, pulls you forward again. You kiss him a second time.
This one isn't so quick. You lift your arms up around his neck and his hands find the small of your back, pulling you closer. You lean into him, hands brushing the hair at the nape of his neck, his own hands soft against the fabric of your dress. His lips are sweet, warming you to the core.
You're not sure how long it lasts, but you can say without a doubt it's the best kiss you've shared so far. You're sure you could stand like this all night, despite your aching feet and tired eyes, kissing him, until-
You and Ace jump apart, hearts pounding and faces flushed, and you look around to see your father emerging from the stairwell.
"Dad!" you say in a strangled voice, your face burning.
He suddenly seems to find the grey wall paneling extremely interesting, his eyes focused on it intently. "Sorry, Kristen."
"Dad- what are you doing?" you manage to say, your face so red you might be mistaken for a tomato. "It's past midnight."
"Mrs. Hutchins got locked out again," he says. "She needed my assistance getting back in."
"Oh," you say. "I was just- coming home."
He finally looks at you, and you blush further as you imagine the scene through his eyes. He gives you an embarrassed smile.
"Well I hope you had a good time," he says, walking past the two of you to let himself into your flat.
You just nod, your insides cringing.
"Don't keep her out here too late," he says to Ace.
"I won't, er, Mr. Wood," he stutters, his own face beet red.
Your dad looks at him strangely. "Ace, you've always called me Anthony."
"Yes, well, now that Kristen and I- er, and you just saw-"
"We can chat later, okay?" you quickly intervene, pushing your dad through the doorway. You swear you hear him chuckle as he closes the door.
You look back at Ace, feeling utterly humiliated.
"Well," he finally says, running a hand through his messy hair. "I think this is the one time I would rather it was Derek that walked in on us."
"Oh, god," you say, running a hand over your face. You look back up at him, and he smiles, his face still red. You can't help but give an embarrassed laugh.
"Well, on that note," he says, putting his hands back into his pockets, "I think I should probably go."
"Okay," you say, thinking he's probably right. "Goodnight, Ace."
"Night, Kristen." He hesitates for a moment, then leans forward one more time and kisses you on the cheek. He grins as he backs away, starting toward the staircase. "Had to do it."
"Bye, Ace," you smile, rolling your eyes.
You listen to the sound of his fading footsteps as he descends the stairwell. Once he's gone, you turn to your door and twist the knob, hoping your father isn't waiting for you in the kitchen. It's been a long night, and you just want to sleep.
You smile to yourself. You have to admit, Ace was right. You really did have the best time.