Copyright disclaimers: Ranma ½ is the intellectual property of Rumiko Takahashi, SHOGAKUKAN, and is distributed in the U.S. by Viz Media.

I didn't sleep long that night, but damn did I sleep well. The evil rays of the morning sun came through the window too fast for my liking, but my rest had been so wonderful I didn't mind.

I did mind having to move from the wonderful, warm body next to me. Alas, life was not to be long ignored. If we didn't get up soon, Mom would be along to do it, and despite being given her 'blessing' this wasn't a situation I was ready to be caught in.

Fun as it might have been. Some things were just too awkward to think about going through.

Shampoo mewed and grunted as she stretched. Warming herself up and trying to banish sleep from her body. Girl was undoubtedly a succubus, as she made a point of putting on a show. Every move was innocent enough on its own but she made sure I was looking the whole time. Then took her time to slink out of bed, and was far too sensual in slipping into her nightshirt.

"You are so evil." I grinned. Shaking my head as I slipped out of bed and grabbed my clothes. Jumping into them and carefully slipping out the door. Quick snatch of my uniform and fresh under things and I soon was composing myself in the bathroom. Trying not to be glowing too brightly. I didn't want it to be blindingly obvious what had happened last night.

Just as soon avoid that embarrassment if possible. Though my mood was soaring as I braided my hair into a pigtail and secured it with a band. Scrubbed down my face and took a long moment to compose myself. The stupid grin didn't want to leave, and after a minute I gave up the fight.

Mom could think what she wanted. Probably would have figured it out anyway. Spirit buoyed and feeling bolder than I had in awhile, I decided I'd test my luck with something. Mom had dropped a small fortune on clothing for Ranko, I was curious if we had the money for a much larger purchase. Something I could get no end of use out of.

I'd been a software engineer in my previous life. While the technology of the current era was a good twenty years lacking from what I was used to, I could adapt. I had friends, my family, and martial arts in this life. Gender changing curse, and potential future chaos aside it wasn't that bad. However, I wanted, I needed, something to tie me to my past life.

Just a connection I could keep firm hold of. Even if it was as meager as writing some silly text games I could share at school. Done that through college with a group of friends. Long days of lectures and practice labs. The nights of take out and coding stupid games was a nice break, and a practical application of our education.

We'd thought of forming our own company. Just be indie developers and be our own bosses. Make the games we want to make, and maybe make that one smash hit that would make us rich. Never happened, but the dreams of youth.

Which I had all over again to recapture. With far more … excitement than would have ever been possible for me. I was stuck in this body, in this reality. Living this life. Maybe I'd pop back to my own bedroom any morning, maybe I'd be doing this for fifty years.

If I was going to be Ranma well into old age, no point not thinking about it.

What did I want to do for a career?

Sure as well wasn't going to become my father. Itinerant, roaming martial artist always one bad day away from starving didn't sit high on my favorable outcome list.

Become an instructor with Akane and Shampoo at the dojo? It was possible, I guess, but no one was knocking down the front gate to get in and learn. Would take months of dedicated advertising to make this place a profitable business. Maybe even years.

Our style wasn't really conducive to the things most people sought in modern martial arts. My old man scoffed at the spiritual aspects. There were far safer and less intense ways of doing this for exercise. Practical applications would be best, though I couldn't ponder how many people would be interested.

Outside the police, military, and professional fighters. We were probably a bit too … weird for them, to say nothing of the tainted reputation my father. Also the far worse original founder of Anything Goes have left behind all over the country.

I shivered for a moment. Was not looking forward to Happosai, our so called 'grand master' and largest pervert in Asia. No point thinking on that demon until he arrived.

Anyway, there were dozens of weird, esoteric forms people could pursue in this world. When things like cheerleading, tea ceremony, and calligraphy had some martial variant, we were almost passe and mundane.

Didn't even know if I wanted to teach. Might be a neat thing to do on the side, but not as a career.

There was, however, an alternative I both enjoyed and was highly skilled in. And that was program design. Could be a chore, and debugging was a nightmare, but I still enjoyed it. This world paralleled my old one pretty close, setting aside the magic and general oddness, technology was pretty on course at least. So, the future of computing and software was an easy field to break in to.

As someone who was well versed in that arena, I had a leg up that would be a waste not to try and take advantage of.

Couldn't hurt to see where it went, worst Mom could do was say 'No.'

The smell of breakfast reminded my stomach it hadn't been given new contents in ten hours. The living room smelled heavenly. Mom had an incredible power to turn rice, vegetation, and some salt and herbs into mouthwatering delight.

Anticipation of that meal made me momentarily forget what I was going to ask. Damn my stomach and its powerful control over my thoughts. I also noticed a conspicuous absence from the table this morning.

Strange he wasn't down here stuffing his face.

"Good morning Ranma, did you sleep well?"

My being a girl at the moment seemed to stop being an issue days ago. Either Mom was hiding it really well, or just finally got her brain to process it through her strange filters until it was acceptable.

Given how traditional she was, woman was still a bit weird on close contact. I still gave her a quick and soft hug, which she returned just as lightly, and swiftly. She still smiled wider for it. I did notice something on her neck though. Just a slight hint of purple peeking from under the collar of her kimono.

Schooling my expression so I didn't grin too wide at the prospect of what that meant, I just sat down and accepted my double helping of food.

"Slept great, thanks, how bout you Mom?" Smiling to her lifting my chopsticks to begin eating at the frantic pace which we Saotome were known for. Restrained just enough to meet Mom's household etiquette rules.

A wide, satisfied grin had settled on her lips. An airy sigh carried on her breath. "Very well dear, thank you."

{Why Genma, you sly bastard, didn't know you had it in you. I might get a sibling yet.}

"Where's Pop?"

Without missing a beat, she continued to just look dreamy as she served up a portion for Shampoo and herself. "Oh, your father was rather tired when we went to bed last night. I'm letting him sleep in. I'll carry breakfast to him later."

Too prim and proper to say more on the issue, as it was not my business in her eyes. All the tell tale signs were obvious. I wasn't the only one who'd been engaged in an extended lesson in biology last night.

There was silence between us a moment as I ate and sipped on my tea occasionally. Letting Mom just go through the familiar ritual of serving a meal. The smile never left her lips as she ate as well.

Maybe I should've been angry at the thought of Genma doing such things to my own Mom, but they were married so what did I care? Was how I got here in the first place. Only natural for a married couple.

I was impressed though. Maybe the old man had hurt himself, but I hadn't seen Nodoka this content since we cross paths again. If my father could at least do this much to keep her elated, he should go for the gusto, even if he broke his hip.

Worthy sacrifice for my mother's happiness.

Putting those otherwise disturbing thoughts aside, I put myself back onto the course of attack I had planned. Well, not much of an attack, just a question. Seeing her good mood, I think she'd be even more amenable to my request.

"Mom, I've been thinkin', and I dunno what our budget is or nothin', but I was wonderin', you think maybe we could get a computer? Ain't got to be new or fancy or nothin', just something I could use for school and stuff."

Without even pulling her head out of the clouds, she just glanced to me, smile still in place and her mind somewhere far off in the little Nirvana she'd been put in. "Diction dear, your words are still too gruff and masculine for a girl."

"Ah yeah, sorry, still workin' …" I coughed a couple times. "I'm still working on that, hard habit to break."

Nodoka nodded and looked thoughtful as she kept eating. When she had the moment to pause between bites, she finally hummed. "Well, I understand those are a bit expensive, but they're becoming more affordable every year. More than a few articles in the newspaper predict they'll be indispensable in the next decade or so."

{Oh Mom, you have no idea how prophetic those words are. Just wait till the internet becomes a thing.}

I just kept stuffing my mouth to keep from grinning at the sealed fact she was speaking. Letting her reason along and begin to arrive at an answer. Mom wasn't one to go waxing lyrical about things. This was an interesting side of her, to say the least.

"I'll need to see some models and prices, but I don't see why we couldn't get one. As long as you take its use seriously, and don't let it get in the way of your training. This is a serious investment for your future and university, but your training can't lag dear. Promise me, Ranma, on your honor if you have to."

Her eyes took on a serious look as she took hold of my gaze and the smile dropped off my face. Like Shampoo, my mother could shift on a dime. Why all the women in my life had to have such an easy, mercurial nature to their moods.

"I promise Mom, won't let my training go soft. Just know a computer will be good for school, and going to college, and I'd really like to learn how to use one."

{Heheh, yeah, already know that one forward and backward.}

Seeing me be serious on the issue, her smile returned and she nodded. Sealed deal. Shampoo finally came down from her morning shower and preening. As beautiful and radiant as ever. Mom paid her greeting and meal.

Before long we were darting off to collect the other two and begin our trek to school. I was riding a high, and I clutched it tight. Was going to need that peace to bolster my fortitude for later today.

I hadn't forgotten Ukyo, I just wasn't looking forward to that meeting.

No hoard of rabid, hormone crazed perverts was waiting to greet us. Thank the kami. One less worry to intrude on my good mood.

Though one idiot hadn't gotten the message, naturally.

He stood just in the front gate. A lone sentinel dedicated to a hopeless labor which had neither meaning or purpose except to his own, addled mind.

No amount of face pounding, bone fractures, or general amount of pain could penetrate the thick walls of the delusions he had built for himself. I'd pity him. If he weren't a direct cause of frustration, anyway.

A full back support contraption had been added to the brace locked around his neck. His eyes carried the glassy look of drug induced euphoria. Probably from being heavily medicated on pain relievers. There was an obvious twinge of suffering still twisting his face, but he was too doped up to notice.

Until he did something stupid anyway.

"Ah, my fair visions of loveliness, as you can see I still stand and prepare to meet you in honorable combat. Which of you would challenge me for the right to a date this weekend?"

We just parted around him and continued on. The river moving around a stone, ignoring its interference without a second thought. That seemed to have stunned him a moment, as he was silent to our passing. For once.

Then came low grunts of pain as he pivoted on his feet and tried to turn and face us once more. I guess I'd screwed up his back a bit more seriously than I thought. The simple act of performing a one eighty turn was requiring great effort and causing him no small amount of suffering.

Good. It probably wouldn't teach him any lessons, but if he was going to be too stupid to get a clue, he might as well get a karmic treatment for it.

He began to launch into some monologue about mighty trees bending to the wind but never surrendering the strength of their roots. The doors just closed behind us as we continued to give him no thought.

I was having too good a morning to bother sparing him a neuron of focus, and had other things to put my mind to later.

"Okay, I can do this. She's a childhood friend. Sure, we've got issues, but I can do this." Sweet kami was it weird to be having a self-motivational pep talk, all for some teenage drama that I wasn't even responsible for.

I was just outside Ukyo's restaurant. Trying to work up the courage to proceed inside. The girl hadn't given me much more than a second glance in school today. We'd both been tense all day, with no real words to exchange. Just the demand that Ranma had better show up after class.

Here I was in my normal clothes, and still female. Figured I might as well present the whole story to her upfront and just get it out of the way. Then proceed from there. I'd been running scenarios all day, and nothing made me feel any more prepared for what to say.

Oh well, wasn't going to get anything accomplished standing out here grinding my slippers into the pavement.

Pulling the door open I proceed inside. A small bell chiming as I proceeded over the threshold and into the waiting maw of danger. Didn't know how she was going to react, or what she was going to demand, but nothing was going to be resolved standing out here.

The smell of something cooking immediately caught my attention. She had two of her signature 'Kuonji specials' frying on the countertop griddle. So absorbed in the action she didn't take immediate notice of who had proceeded inside. She seemed as tense as I was.

"Sorry, not open for business yet, that's next Monday." Her eyes not rising from the frying batter to pay me any attention. She looked as nervous as I felt. Pouring her concentration into the cooking as a distraction.

My mouth suddenly watered at the scent of food, but thankfully my stomach didn't voice its agreement. Coughing a bit, I just cleared my throat from the sudden spot of gunk that seemed to block it.

"Ukyo, it's me, and before you say anything, there's a lot I need to explain first."

That got her attention and she raised her eyes to me, frown settling onto her lips. Lines creasing her face as if she'd swallowed something with a foul taste to it.

"You better start explainin' fast, Ranko. You said Ranma'd be here, you better not be here to tell me he's sick, or got stuck up in the mountains or some other lame excuse. Guy'd send his sister to do his battles for him is just a coward."

Seems the cover story that was in effect had school had gotten around to her. Though she didn't look quite like she bought it. Not that I blame her. Having a sister close to, or right on my own age and never spoke about would be kind of a hard sell.

Arms crossed under her chest and she glowered at me, eyes trying to bore through me and see the truth of whatever I was hiding. I couldn't help but notice, unrestrained by the chestwrap she wore, the girl was pretty well blessed. Not to my level, but she looked bigger than Akane … poor Tendo.

Her frown only deepened as she noticed my eyes flicker over her body. Giving an obvious, forced cough as her impatience was giving to anger.

"Look, can you please just get me some hot water, it'll make what I'm about to say make sense."

Her frown didn't ease, just took on a bit of bemusement coloring her tense face before she shrugged. Turning to the sink behind her in the kitchen area and filled it from the hot tap. I got a look at her backside in the leggings she wore.

{Okay, damn, she is hot. Calm down, quit ogling before she puts that combat spatula over my head.}

My eyes rose to the ceiling quietly as I waited, returning to the counter when she slapped the glass down with an audible thump.

"Here, now get on it with it. Where the hell is that jackass, and your old man? They both got a lot of explainin' to do and I ain't long on patience today."

Scooping up the cup, I sighed and lifted it over my head. Seeing was believing in this case. Proceeding to dump it over my head. The girl cracked open her mouth to begin wondering what the hell I was doing, then it dropped open when she saw the barely perceptible transformation.

"First off, I am Ranma, so I ain't runnin' and hidin' anywhere." Before I could launch into any further words there was a soft crash. She had been backing up from the shock. Until her butt hit the backcounter and she couldn't go any further.

White knuckles gripped the metal frame of the prep station and a few plates fell off their neat stacks. Her eyes widened into tea saucers and all the color drained out of her face. I was sure she might pass out, but she remained standing. Disbelief filling her gaze.

"Ra-Ra-Ranchan? How .. what …"

Pinching the bridge of my nose, I just moved and sat on one of the stools at the counter. "Long story, why don't you get those before they burn, and I'll try to explain. I know it's gonna sound crazy, but it's true."

Blinking a bit, she suddenly remembered the okonomiyaki cooking on the griddle. Suddenly with a sense of purpose she could focus on, she hopped over and gave them a toss. Platting them and set them on the counter. She was far more stiff in her motions than normal, a sign of just how rattled she was by the revelation of my curse.

Once she came around and sat beside me, I went into the story behind Jusenkyo and some of my adventures since then. Omitting a few details, like my dating Shampoo. Right now I wanted to be brief and cut out any details which would upset the cart more than it already was. The food helped settle us both.

By the time I finished, she seemed grounded and calm .. well calmer. Not looking at me like I had just crawled up through the floor like some reanimated revenant come to bring my wrath upon the living.

She was still tense and quiet through it. Even as we finished and she collected the plates. Moving back around the counter to drop them into the sink and poured some tea. I could recognize signs of forced calm. Her breathing was being consciously controlled. All the motions of her body were being forced, too stiff for usual, free flowing work.

"Look, I'm sorry about my old man stealin' your cart and leavin' you behind. I dunno how to make it up to you, but I'll figure it out. I could work some shifts in the restaurant, try and help you recoup some of the cost?

"Gimme some options, and I'll do whatever I can to help make it up to you. I want us to be friends again. Until recent, I ain't had a whole lot of those in my life, and I don't think you have either. So, what do you say, Ucchan, can we patch things up and be buddies again?"

She was quiet for a long minute, sipping on her tea. Nostrils flaring a bit as emotions were finally moving back into her, and they didn't look like ones I hoped would move through her. The girl swiveled her stool to look at me and held a flat gaze as she looked to me.

"You think that's how it's gonna work? You just walk back into my life, apologise, gimme a bit of money and that we just patch everythin' up? Just go back to bein 'buds' like when we were kids?"

Her fist slammed on the counter and she began snarling. "Your dad abandoned me Ranma! You were my fiance, we were supposed to get married when we turned twenty! Maybe run a place like this together, maybe travel the country and train and cook together. I don't care what, but that was supposed to our future. MY future.

"Then that sleaze you call a father steals part of that future, and leaves me behind. Do you have any idea how much that hurt? I spent ten years afraid of making friends with other boys. I got bad mouthed all over my hometown cause of that crap your old man pulled."

She was becoming progressively louder and amped up as she went on. Not shrieking, she was too much a tomboy for that. Though she was still working up into hysterics. Jumping up and beginning to animatedly stomp around the front of her place. Filling me in on the details of how she'd abandoned being feminine and given up on her ideals what it meant to be a girl.

How she'd spent almost a decade alone training for revenge, hunting us down, and the heartbeat since then. Suddenly spinning on a heel and jamming a finger into my chest.

"And you think an apology is gonna make up for that?! Ranchan, it ain't gonna be that simple. Oh, not by a long shot are you gonna be able to grovel way back into my good graces! Not after a decade of all the hurt and toil I've struggled through to get here!"

Blowing out a sigh, I nodded, sagging my shoulders. "Ucchan, I know it ain't gonna work that easy. But I need a place to start. To patch things up and move on, so you can find your footing and go to your future.

"I mean look what you've got goin for yourself. Sixteen and you got your own business, how many people can say that?"

{Never mind HOW she had gotten it, didn't really matter, it was. So moving on.}

"You've got incredible skill as a chef, and look at you." My hand swept over her. Long hair freely swaying behind her. The long, toned legs, the curve of her hips and butt, and the just hinted at breasts under her coat. She'd grown up to be downright gorgeous. "You grew up to be so pretty, come on, you can have your pick of men when you want to find one."

My words pierced her anger and her thoughts tumbled to a harsh stop. Swinging around to face me, a blush began to rise into her cheeks. I made penetration and arrested her mood, but like a lot of people around me, she had heard my words and her brain had run them through some contortions to hear a different meaning to them.

"Wh-what are you sayin? I ain't .. I ain't pretty or nothin." Looking away suddenly, becoming all shy and embarrassed. "Don't like to a girl like that, Ranchan, it's just cruel."

{Oh boy, damnit, I wanted to avoid this and I stepped right in to it. Oh well, where the wind blows.}

"I ain't just sayin it, you are pretty. I wouldn't lie to you about that."

"Am not … am not … " She began a slow mantra, shaking her head and sending her hair waving as she did so. Even slapping me on the shoulder as she spoke. Trying to dispel something. Whether it was some lie she didn't want to believe, or just not feel so embarrassed.

"Ucchan, come on, talk to me. I want to patch things up. I know it ain't gonna be easy, but at least let me try. Gimme something to work with, please?"

Approaching her slowly and trying to calm her down and get back on track. It was dangerous to try and force the situation, but she wasn't going to be amenable to anything if she just stood there trying to convince herself I was being a lying, cruel bastard.

A long silence filled the room. Teeth chewed on her finger as she looked down to the tiles and kept her gaze away from me. Hopefully it was a good sign and she was taking my offer seriously.

As hard as she was trying to cling to her anger and hate me, I'm pretty sure she wanted to be friends just as much as I did. Just go back to a level playing field. However, I had forgotten one little landmine I needed to avoid.

Finally, she spoke in a gentle whisper. "Accept our engagement and make it official."

And I'd just stepped right on it. Crap

"Ah … Ucchan … I .. I would, but I'm kinda … you know … " Nervously tripping over words to try and keep her from getting mad again, but also explain the reality of current events.

"Dating Shampoo?" Came the blunt reply. Her eyes turning up to me and giving me a flat look once more.

"Ah, yeah … we're kinda dating and engaged." My hand moved to the back of my head and began to fiddle with my pigtail. A nervous habit I seemed to have little control over. Twirling it slowly in my fingers while looking back to her.

"So I've heard from the rumor mill, explains why she was so ready to knock my head off the other day on the roof. I thought she looked jealous and not just protective."

"Well, that's Shampoo, yeah. Ucchan … "

"Don't." Cutting me off before I could offer anything in the way of whatever lame words had been on my tongue. "We haven't seen each other in ten years, I understand you might find a girlfriend. My Ranchan did grow up to be handsome, but it don't matter much."

She suddenly darted upstairs and left me behind, wondering what in the world was going on. There was some rattling of things being moved around before she came back down holding a metal case. One of the fireproof type one stored important documents in.

It went onto the counter and two loud clicks as she undid the clasps. Something in that sound put an ominous pounding to my heart. She fished through the papers, looking for something within the stack.

"You want to patch things up, well there's one of two solutions Ranchan. You can start fulfilling the contract your father signed when we were kids …" She found one of the papers she was hunting. Looking over it wistfully as she calmly spoke her meaning.

"Okay, so you're datin Shampoo, that's fine, but as far as the government of Japan is concerned, we're married." Slapping the form onto the counter with a certain finality. A tense grin forming on her lips as she did so. A forced courage in her eyes as she spoke.

Arching my brow I lifted up the paper and glanced over it. Eyes going wide as I glanced over it. Indeed, the header was a contract for a marriage license. Our names, genders, fathers' names and official seals, notary and signature by a legal magistrate. Though there was a legal clause to the bottom.

" hereby consent that the couple named above, shall hereby be considered legally wedded at midnight, March 27, 1990. Authorized on the authority of Zenkou Suzuki, Justice of Osaka Prefecture District Court, July 19, 1980."

The words punched me right in the face with more force than Ryoga could ever hope so. Dropping into the stool I had vacated a second ago. There was also kinds of madness I expected, but I had again been thrown a wild curve.

"How?" All I could manage out.

"Our fathers agreed to our engagement, and that night decided to hash out the details, and get drunk. They started boasting about who was more serious, and wrote up that bit of nonsense. By chance the judge was there, and hammered too. He signed off on it that night. Genma forgot about it the same night, then stole my fiance and my dowry the next morning."

Arms crossed again under her chest as she spoke, frown set hard on her face as she went through those memories again. "Daddy still had that paper, so he went and filed it the same day. No matter where Genma and you ran off too, that was still legally binding, and so when I turned sixteen last month it went into effect."

She didn't look happy with the situation, but a grim smile crossed her lips all the same. "So, honey you gonna come home and be all domestic with me? I don't wanna force this on you Ranchan, but there it is. There is an annulment clause to the marriage, but only on a condition."

She reached into the case again and pulled out ledger. Pushing that into my face next. " You can pick up the tab for Genma. The cost of the yatai he stole, ten years of lost revenue, the cost of my lease for a year, the fees and taxes on my business license, and the cost of ingredients for this month."

There was a stack of neatly ordered figures jotted down and tallied up. The final figure made my jaw drop this time. "Eleven million yen?! Ucchan, I don't have that kind of money! Neither does my old man!"

"I kinda figured that, you offered to work it off, you can still do that. But at a waitress' salary, you're gonna be workin' for a long time to earn it, and by then I don't think an annulment will be that simple anymore." Looking off to the front wall, she went quiet for a long minute.

"So, Ranchan, what's it gonna be? Either you can accept we're married, or you and Genma can pay for your father's crimes. I don't see the second one being an option."

Sinking back into the counter I just blew out a long breath. As usual, Pop's stupidity had put me in deep. This time, it was deeper than ever. This was even worse than anticipated. It should have been a curse, and three fiances competing for my attention. Yet, not three months into this life, and the moron had gotten me the curse, a fiance, AND a wife.

My face fell into my palms and dry washed my cheeks. I was just drained. My earlier good mood felt like it had been weeks ago. A long forgotten memory of happier times. Just as soon as I got one thing settled, now an even bigger boulder came crashing down the mountain of my life to run me over.

"And what about Shampoo? Somehow I doubt either one of you are going to be willing to share."

Ukyo sighed, fingers drumming on her arm while she shrugged. "I dunno, I … just don't know Ranchan. I didn't want to beat you over the head with this. When I found you again I was gonna … I don't know.

"I wanted to beat you senseless, then we'd make up. I wanted to see you and maybe we'd just fall head over heels for each other. I dreamed of so many satisfying outcomes. That … that paper came in the mail last week." Motioning with her finger toward the marriage license.

"Daddy sent it with the final papers on the building, included it as a 'oh yeah, here's something else' as my sweet sixteen present. Jackass." She muttered, grinding her teeth as she spun and looked to me. Tears beginning to form in the corners of her eyes.

"I'm sorry, Ranchan, I don't know how it all works, but if Daddy doesn't agree then we can't annul this till we're both twenty. By then, four years of marriage, it'll be hard to convince a judge to annul it.

"I … I just wanted to find you again and, and I was wishing we could just be happy … together." By now the tears began to flow down her cheeks as she broke into sobs. That hit my weak spot. I never was good with seeing women upset. This life or the past, just wasn't something I could see and not react.

Conscious or not, I closed my arms around her held her tight. Fingers clutched my shirt and she buried her face in my shoulder. Letting her cry freely and vent the emotions running through her. We stood there a long time. Just the two of us, and the sounds of her crying.

After awhile she finally got it back under control. Purging her hurt and finding some measure of calm again. Just standing against me, breathing slowly and pulling herself back together. She pulled away and around me. Snatching a towel from the otherside of the counter and began to run it over her face.

"I'm sorry Ranchan, I don't want you to see me like this. We, we can be friends again, and … I know it's selfish, but … I want to make 'us' work. AT least, see if it will work … I never thought another girl would walk into your life and get in the way."

Moving to the sink she ran some water over her face and scrubbed it down. Trying to ease the signs of crying. Still not looking at me as she spoke. Her voice wistful and hopeful with ideas of ten years of silly, childhood dreams of romance. Being the princess in her own love story.

"I know it's complicated and I don't like the idea of you being with someone else, but …" Slamming her hand on the counter, making plates and utensils jump, she turned around and looked at me. Her eyes hard with determination, despite being puffy and red. "I'll be damned if I'm not going to try first.

"I can see how much you and Shampoo are … in to each other, but … if she can find a way to share, so I can. Please, give me a chance?"

Rubbing my palm down my face, I growled, "Damnit old man, you can't help but twist my life into a complicated knot." I let out a hard breath to banish my stress. Looking back to Ukyo with a tired expression. "Well, we're both in it, whether we like it or not. And this is gonna get out one way or the other, even if we try to keep it under wraps."

"Hell, especially if we try to keep it under wraps. Let's … go talk to my parents, and Shampoo … this is gonna be a violent talk, but we'll figure out what to do."

{Shampoo is gonna go ballistic … Mom is gonna a joygasm. I'm running out of reasons not to make a panda skin rug.}

Nodding her head, Ukyo grabbed the papers in question and locked up her shop. Then we began to long trudge back to my house. My weekend was getting off to a wonderful start.

I wasn't going to ask how much worse it could possibly get. No point inviting more possible, stressful outcomes.

"You I kill!"

Shampoo was taking this about as well as expected.

She hadn't been happy to see me return with Ukyo, and had taken the news of my marriage to Ukyo in precisely the manner I had anticipated. However, she was launching herself against someone other than my betrothed.

Chasing my father out of the house, into the yard and then onto the streets beyond. His excuses only further served to infuriate her. There was no soothing the savage beast of jealousy within her when it had been roused. She also was at least conscious enough not to risk upsetting Mom by trashing the house.

She underestimated how slippery my old man could be, however, and after an intensive search of the immediate area returned empty handed. Muttering dark curses in Chinese as she dropped back to the table.

Grabbing her tea and slurping on it far more noisely than required. The cup clinkek onto the table and she then proceeded to sulk. Glowering at Ukyo and all but putting herself into my lap. A visible representation of how much closer she was to me than Ukyo. All I could do was hold my peace while Mom silently contemplated the documents before her.

She was serious in expression, looking to be playing no favorites or have any pride in this scenario. If one looked closer though, and knew what to look for, there was a flicker behind her eyes. Already the wheels were turning.

{And how is she going to try and spin this to her advantage?}

"Well, it seems this is a complex ordeal." She sighed, exaggerated for effect. "Genma has gone and wound up getting both of you married, and I don't think there is an easy way out of this. I'm afraid we don't have that kind of money for the annulment condition."

{Somehow I doubt you'd pay it off if we did, no offense Mom, but sometimes your ideas on 'manliness' just weird me out.} I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and kept my lips shut. No point making the mood worse by voicing my thoughts.

"Is not fair or right, Mother! Ranma engaged to Shampoo and must be married! But village laws about bigamy are complicated and need approval of Tribal Elders." Her arms squeezed tighter to my arm as she pouted and leaned harder into me.

"Shampoo, I'm sorry, okay. Daddy sprang this on me just a week ago, I'm surprised too, okay? But I ain't gonna just spend four years alone, I like Ranchan too, and I have a right to see if it can work between us."

Both were suddenly leaning closer over the table. Sparks flying between their gazes and battle auras began to rise around them. Coating both in a corona of hot ki. A soft cough broken the tension with the same power as a hammer to ice.

"Girls, no fighting at the table." My mother's calm, but firm words broke into their moods and they retreated back. "The law is complicated, but it seems we have no choice, we have to accept both situations."

I chewed on the inside of my cheek while both swung their eyes to my mother. Incredulous even in the face of her soft, but potent matriarchal power.

"How?" They voiced together, voices strained to keep accepted, indoor levels of tone, and dripping skepticism.

"Ukyo, are you registered at school as a boy or girl?" Asking the question as if the answer were obvious.

"Ah … a boy, why?" The girl becoming guarded and a slow bit of worry creeping into her words as she spoke them.

"Then you have a birth certificate certifying you are boy, correct?"

"Yeah … Ms Saotome what are you …" Then she paused and blinked slowly as it dawned on her. "Oh … OH! That could work, I guess, but how could we … ?"

I keyed in to the meaning and sighed. What place did conventional logic have in a scene like this? Instead, it was time to follow an obvious line of ANIME style thinking to its simple conclusion. Shampoo just looked between the pair, at a loss for where they were going.

"Leave the details to me dear, just get me that certificate and I'll take care of it. This time Monday, we'll have the whole affair sorted out." Nodoka smiled at her own simple, clever solution to the problem. Going back to her tea.

"Mother, what you talking? Shampoo not understand."

"Oh, I'm sorry dear, forgive me. Ukyo is legally registered as a boy. Ranma, or more appropriately, Ranko, is legally a girl. So, very simply, Ukyo Kuonji is married to my daughter Ranko."

Shampoo blinked slowly, not at the obvious conclusion to this issue, but just in sheer disbelief. The cogs in her mind grinding to a halt at the sheer absurdity of the situation. My mother had just easily diffused the legal situation, and somehow I knew it was going to stick. So, objections on that front were solved.

"Now, I know this is not easy for either of you, but if you spend all your energy fighting then no one is going to wind up happy. I need the two of you to promise to me, right now, on your honor, on your love for my son, as my future daughters, you will work to get along and behave responsibly."

"Ah … yes ma'am." Ukyo mumbled slowly. Defeated before another argument could break out.

"If Mother want, then Shampoo keep word. Still not happy, but find way to make work." Crossing her arms and pouting once more.

{How the hell does Mom do that?} No martial artist could long stand before her and continue to fight. She disarmed me, Pop, and even the two girls who could have torn the house down around our ears.

"Good, I'm happy to hear you both are willing to try and make this work. I know it will not be comfortable for awhile, but make a sincere effort and I'm sure you will both be good friends. And everything will be better for everyone."

The cup returned to his lips and silence reigned once more. While she pondered a long moment. No one could find anything to fill that void, so we just waited for the follow up.

"Now, to the matter of certain arrangements. Ukyo I won't have you living alone. We will convert the upstairs bedroom into a third room. The three of you will go to school and come home together." She lifted her hand to wave off any protests before she finished.

"Learning to share a living space will help you learn to coexist. I believe the three of you should work the restaurant together as well. As Ranma is legally your husband, it is only right to share in the burden, and it would be unfair for Shampoo to not help, or be left out.

"How you work out your shifts and time off, that will be up to the three of you. I also, will take some turns at the restaurant, this seems to be a family burden which should be shared. Genma should be made to pull his weight as well."

She was on a roll, and I couldn't find the voice to bring up a protest. Would be funny to see Pop put to work, even if it was just standing outside with a sign. While being a panda, obviously. He could be the storefront mascot. Mom was muscling in on Ukyo's pride that she could manage the business on her own, especially without bothering her in-laws, and certainly without Shampoo.

Still, neither of them were any braver than I was, and just let Mom continue to dictate the peace upon her. Just laying out the conditions by matriarchal fiat. There was also an eager glint burning brighter in her eyes. Mom was an excellent cook, gourmet class without doubt. The chance to apply her skills in a professional environment seemed to excite her.

"As for the matter of dating and sharing romantic time together, that too will be between the three of you; but, it will be fair, and the other promise not to interfere. Jealousy will only breed conflict, and that will cause unhappiness. I know it will be hard, but if this is going to work, all three of you have to be committed."

The last bit was with soft finality, and the matter seemed to be wrapped up. Finishing her tea, mom began to clean up the cups and stood. "Ranma, you and Ukyo should go get some of her belongings and bring them to the house so she has some clean clothes. We'll need to go shopping tomorrow, I'm afraid yours won't fit her properly."

Ukyo's eyes swung to me and she arched a brow at that comment. Though I just looked up at the ceiling and didn't glance. Feeling my cheeks start to burn. "Sure thing, Mom."

"Shampoo, please come and help me make dinner, we'll need for a fifth spot at the table from now on."

Shampoo looked right at Ukyo when Mom's back was turned, snatching my cheeks and giving me a burning kiss. The other girl turned red at the display, both embarrassed and enraged to be shown up. Then she rose, sticking out her tongue at Ukyo and followed Mom to the kitchen.

Sighing, I just shook my head. "Let's go get some things packed up for you, Ucchan."

Slowly grinding her teeth together, eyes trying to burn a hole through the wall and strike my lover with their fury, she just growled. "Right."

Dinner was a delightfully … awkward affair. Pop still hadn't come back, likely hiding at the Tendo's until he was sure the fires of Shampoo's wrath had cooled. Leaving the four of us to eat in relative silence.

Ukyo had been tense most of the afternoon and not said much for awhile now. Just staring into her food and mechanically moved it from plate to mouth. Shampoo was pointedly ignoring her and doing the same. They maintained the peace if only for fear of Mom's disapproval for impolite behavior.

No point in trying to break the tension, so I just ate with the comfortable knowledge a panda wasn't going to try and hover up every crumb in sight. I was spared participating in the gloomy mood when the phone rang.

"I got it." Bouncing up and dashing to our front room before one of the three ladies could take the chance. There was no worry that they'd get snippy with Mom for company. I didn't want to be in the room alone with the two of them right now, so this was for the best.

Coming from a life where a cell phone was always in my pocket, and I had four cordless home units, going to answer the old rotary phone in the front room was weird. Quaint to the point of being nearly neolithic by compare. The rollback in technology was still an alien adjustment in some ways.


"Umm, hi." A hesitant female voice answered, it sounded familiar. Something was clinking in my head. I should've been able to place that voice. Over the phone could take some getting used to compared in person though.

"Uhh … is this the Saotome number?" Wasn't Akane, she wouldn't have been so hesitant.

I mentally snapped my fingers as something flashed through my memory.

{Sayuri. We were supposed to go out tomorrow with the girls and hang out. Crap, crap, crap.}

"Yup, you're tryin' to reach Ranko, right? One of her classmates? She said somethin' about expectin' someone to call."

The voice laughed a little, still nervous, but she had gotten the right number and I was easing her into the familiar. "Yes, this is Sayuri, we're in the same class at school. You must be, Ranma right? Her brother?"

"Yup, that's me, hang on, let me go get her for ya. Be just a sec."

"Thanks." I could almost hear the relief in her voice.

{Hmm, why not add for effect here. Shame 'hold' isn't an option on this damn dinosaur.}

"Hey sis, one of your buddies on the phone, Sayuri she says." Cupping my hand over the receiver a bit and hollering to no one in particular. A trio of curious heads peaked from the hallway from the family room. I just grinned and quickly shot into the kitchen and grabbed a glass of water.

Then continued to carry on a conversation.

With myself.

"Watcha shoutin' for, ye'r in the house, not a barn. I swear Dad never taught ya no manners." Coughing a bit as I lifted the cradle once more and said in a much brighter voice.

"Hiya Sayuri? That ogre didn't say nothin' rude did he?" I was rewarded with real laughter on the other end. When a familiar voice spoke in her ear, she relaxed.

"Oh he was nothing but sweet. He sounds kind of cute, shame he's taken." The girl sighed wistfully.

{Okay, this is kind of fun.}

Even as Shampoo and Ukyo were staring at me incredulously. Mom, however, had a little grin in her eyes. I was playing up her lie to full effect. Even if I looked like a loon on this end of the phone.

"Ah, I guess he ain't bad, sup? You girls set on some plans for tomorrow?" Getting things back on track, and hopefully to a quick close.

"Oh, yeah, I was talking to Akane and Yuka and we were thinking of going the ice rink tomorrow. It's been awhile since we got out and tried that."

It was a good thing the girl couldn't see me. She failed to see the twitch that developed in my eye. The first real, annoying bit of life was poking me with a pointy stick. I knew better than to hope things would go in a non-chaotic manner.

{Argggg, I don't need this right now. I'm just sorting out Ukyo.}

I could have politely declined, but that would make all of the girls feel bad. They'd been fairly eager on getting out for their first weekend. They'd been gabbing about ideas for two days now. It'd also probably upset Akane too.

Sure we'd done plenty of hanging out at the dojo, but not a lot as just 'friends.' Didn't want to think she was only good for martial arts and nothing else. Dry wiping my face, I strangled the sigh wanting out of my throat.

"Never done that before actually, sounds like it could be fun. You might get to see one of the rare moments I make a complete ass of myself."

More laughter broke out from the other end. "Oh don't be silly, graceful as you are? I bet you master it in two minutes and make the rest of us look clumsy."

{Oh sweet Sayuri, you vastly overestimate my talents.}

Grinning, I just chuckled. "I dunno, we'll see. So where do you want to meet? I have no idea where this place is."

"Let's just meet in front of school tomorrow, about eleven. It's not a really long walk from there, we can grab lunch first."

The thought of food was always a quick way to ease me into complying. "Sure thing, see ya then."

Exchanging out goodbyes I put the phone down and rolled his my jaw. Schooling my expression to a slow smile so the other three didn't see me shudder. Calmly walking back into the family room and went back into my food. That I had changed genders was no real issue.

"Who was that dear? Sounded like a friend of yours." Mom didn't let the silence linger, instead she had a grin on her lips. Seemed she was pleased I was making friends, and she was proud this ruse was working.

As I began to explain the week and our plans for the weekend, I couldn't help feel a rising dread.

How long was this double life going to work?

I was getting the dreadful feeling that Ranko was likely going to take on a life of her own, and begin to rule most of my time. Oh well, all I could do was walk the tightrope awhile and see how much I could juggle before it all snapped.

A/N: Okay, so it's been awhile in coming, but I've gotten some chapters written out. They just need editing. This was a controversial choice for me, but it was what I ultimately settled on, and the people I consult with agreed this was a good angle to run with. Hopefully, you find it a good way to make things more tense and add something more to the story.

Till next chapter,