Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma 1/2 or any copyright there of. The intellectual work is property of Rumiko Takahashi and her various licensed distributors. This work is only for entertainment purposes and reader enjoyment.

I didn't know some of the rules in effect in this world, but I quickly learned to hate them. Not ten minutes out of the house and we were passing a yard where children were playing. It was a warm day so they were messing around with the water hose.

Wasn't hard to guess who took a shot full in the face. Several inches shorter and mass shifted in various places, I didn't even notice the switch. It was still weird to not immediately sense it until I really paid attention.

We made an about face to the dojo and gathering hot water and a small bag with a change of clothes, just in case, and a towel. Then Shampoo and I were off to investigate this portion of Nerima. Avoiding that same house, just in case.

Didn't help.

As we passed one of the newer apartment complexes in the neighborhood, someone spilled water from the top of their balcony. I guess they were watering plants. Whatever the case, I was wet and female again.

A thermos of hot water and a dry shirt later and we were off again, although this time I took one minor precaution and slipped on one of the sports tops I had purchased in China. Hey, don't judge, you had those boobs you'd want some support every now and then too. We peacefully explored the neighborhood awhile until we found a cinema playing movies even this early. Didn't have much money between us, but we had enough. Our first real date as a couple, why not?

Who knew that soda fountains could spontaneously spring a leak in one of their feeding lines? Wasn't a surprise by this point. I was hit with carbonated water that was cold enough. The poor kid behind the snack counter apologized profusely and then just stared at me in confusion. Somehow, he didn't faint, but he kept looking between me and the drink dispenser in wide eyed wonder.

Did he think such a thing might happen be some freak occurrence, or the gods might bless such a thing to happen again? Well, my pity if he gets it in his head that he might somehow transform other jock looking boys into pretty girls. The legend of the Mystical Girl Making Fountain will probably become a workplace legend that sticks with the place for years to come.

At least we got our drinks and popcorn free as an apology for the 'accident.' I blame no one, but what kami, spirit, or simple universal force find this amusing. I didn't bother changing back, to Shampoo's minor frustration. I had no desire to spend any more of the morning damp, nor stain or ruin my shirts. I just went to the girl's restroom, oh shut up where else should I go? I adjusted my bra comfortably and then sat down to our movie.

It was some kind of low budget, Z-grade Chinese martial arts comedy. Was still pretty funny. The best part was the horrible job the studio had done on the subtitles. Not many people were in the room with us, so we didn't spare much effort to tone our laughter down at jokes no one else in the audience seemed to get. Some things just didn't translate well. We would whisper to one another in Chinese, giggling some and made it through the whole flick.

We returned home hand in hand and cracking jokes the whole way. Despite the setbacks of my curse, I had fun. Shampoo was smiling and looked happy with the affair. I stopped her just inside the front gate. Giving her hand a gentle squeeze and looked into her eyes.

I watched her expectantly a moment, and she just grinned.

"Pervert girl, Airen."

The kiss was like a lightning bolt down my spine and curled my toes. I'll never get tired of this. I'm also happy that she has gotten past my curse body and we can do this without reservation, except for decorum.

I only just caught the gasp from the door and only dimly turned to catch Akane watching us. Her cheeks were burning and that blush went right up into her hairline. This is where my expectations and reality broke with one another.

My imagining of her reaction was simple.

She screams "Pervert! You're both girls!" Slaps me hard enough to turn my body full around, and then probably gets into a fight with Shampoo.

Instead she looked like she was about to transform into a human tomato. Was that longing in her eyes? Now, I won't call myself an expert, but it certainly seemed like it.

Not an 'ooo, I want him' kind of way, but that kind of 'I wish I had what they have.' The idea of romance was not yet ruined for her, good. We just kind of stared at one another for a long minute before she seemed to recall herself.

"Umm, lunch is almost ready, I need to go carry Ryoga's up to him." She blurted all that out in a rush and then quickly turned and vanished in a blur of her pink skirt and dark hair. Her feet could be heard pounding up the stairs so rapidly they might have been heartbeats.

Shampoo just kept looking at the empty front door and shook her head, "Poor Akane need get boyfriend quick." Her elbow hit my ribs before I could say anything, stupid or otherwise. Damn she was getting good at predicting me. "Hope she and Ryoga hit off good, both too too shy. Need get catching up."

"Yeah." Was all I could mutter as we went inside to go enjoy something to eat besides junk food and popcorn.

Akane showed us the route to school and we fetched the needed paperwork for transfers and whatever else. I was beginning to see how Pops was so ready to throw me into school without any problems. The requirements for getting into Furinkan were surprisingly low. There was even a waiver for the entrance exams.

Long as a member of standing in the community signed off it was basically guaranteed entry. Now I hadn't asked directly, but if Soun was on the City Council, that effectively qualifies, I believe. No wonder the panda thought his odds were good to get me tossed into school so soon. I hope I've sufficiently punished him by taking an extra couple folks to bring along.

I was tempted to try and test Akane's skills. Was she 'good' or better? Or possibly even worse? My expectations were more often met than not, but I was being introduced to some surprises here and there I never would have foreseen. So far it was fairly subtle things, but I was getting the feeling something big might wind up breaking. Upturning my happy little apple cart before long.

Never got the chance to see her talent though, today at least. Nabiki proved to be the wrench in that idea. She had coaxed Shampoo and Akane into some 'girl talk.' I guess trying to be friendly, but also trying to get any kind information of potential worth to the middle daughter's own personal interests. I kind of imagined it was probably more to try and tease the saucy details of our steamy romance out of my girlfriend.

Shampoo would likely hold back little. Both from her simple comfort with her own sexuality and keeping our relationship moving forward at quite a pace. She probably also would take no small bit of pride in being able to brag about having experiences poor Akane didn't have at all. I have no idea what kind of dating and romance Nabiki had in her life.

Ah well, gave me a chance to go to the dojo alone and begin trying to formulate some plans for what I wished to do in the coming weeks as I had the time. I had a rather expansive knowledge of otherwise useless techniques from various anime and manga. However, as it stood in this world? I imagine many of them were far from useless. I just had to figure out how to make them work.

I was going to have to rely on this life's experiences and innate talents to even have a hope of accomplishing that. I knew a bit of some Shotokan karate from college. Still chuckle at the words from my instructor: "Hardest hitting of the non-contact forms." So, not going to teach you to hit people, but if you ever have to, you'll be hitting them hard. That and a little kenpo as a way to make myself work out during the week while I was working, was the extent of my practical knowledge.

Ranma though? As I poured through memories, I couldn't count the number of teachers Pop and I had studied under. More than a dozen different styles from across Asia learned from the ground up. Then refined to keep what worked for us. It galls me to admit, but Genma is a good teacher. Even if his methods are insane.

With all that knowledge to call upon, I was just going to have to break down what I knew of outside ideas and try to piece together something that would make them work. First, I was going to have to know my exact limits and where to improve them.

Gotten the integration of my mind and body together pretty well. Like having to relearn to walk, I guess. In even intense spars with Pop, Shampoo, and Ryoga I was now very confident in my ability to react and think tactically. No more moving on sheer instinct and autopilot. Pretty sure now I can really start to push myself.

Why not start with that staple of the Chestnut Fist and go from there? Of course I don't think Soun or his daughters would appreciate me starting a fire anywhere. A fishtank and whatever items I could get my hands on that wouldn't float, and no one would miss, would probably be a good substitute.

I had no reasonable expectations of what I was looking for. Then vacillated on whether I wanted raw numbers and data, or just some kind of reasonable marker to measure how well I was working toward my goal. Finally, being a mix of lazy and not wanting to needlessly waste time trying to dissect every little nuance, I settled on just trying to find high bars I could use to push myself toward a goal.

Lacking said fishbowl and not wanting to get curious questions by playing in the koi pond or the bath, I settled on trying to get a feel for the current limits of my abilities and go from there. A striking post behind the dojo was the target I abused for a full minute. Getting a feel for my muscles moving with the most speed they could manage.

As it was my hand was moving at speeds I couldn't really believe even though I was experiencing all of it directly. The blows weren't particularly hard, just incredibly fast. Had to be at least double what I might expect from my other life. If this was 'slow' then how fast was the technique I was going to try teaching myself?

My workout did not go unnoticed, to my annoyance. Any further exploration was killed by a certain bald idiot in a white gi coming to investigate, and probably ready to try and vent from his lingering anger over the morning face bash he had endured. The knot on his temple was mostly gone, that was good. Genma was stubbornly tough and healed quickly. Body conditioning must be capable of going to ridiculous extremes in this world. Or he had a skull made from mysteriously dense substance not of simple bone.

"Good, you're training boy, but you need a serious workout. You've had a whole day to mess around and rest. It's time I put you through your paces."

Seeing as I wasn't going to get any more time to myself, and I couldn't very well volunteer information of what I was trying to do, I just let my anger bubble up and flow out. Beginning to crack my knuckles and the usual, confident grin spread on my face. I could feel it stretching my cheeks pretty wide. It was perhaps wrong, but there is always something so satisfying about the thought of slapping Genma around.

"Okay Dad, if you insist. I could use a pre-dinner workout. Help my appetite. Just hope you're up for it, cause I aint gonna take old age as an excuse for going easy on you."

"Watch your mouth, Ranma. There's still plenty I haven't taught you yet." He frowned, a growl on his throat as he jammed a finger almost to my nose. "You may be good, son, but you're still nowhere near ready for me to call you a master of our style.

"Now stop stalling and let's get to it."

Any further discourse was ended. His call for action punctuated by a fist aimed for my floating ribs and we were on. It's still galling to me, but the old man … no, I'll be polite, my father is still good. Genma was stocky, but it was well maintained muscle. For all the man's laziness he still found time to keep himself in fighting shape. He also possessed superb control of those muscles.

He was the master of the Saotome School of Musabetsu Kakuto Ryu. I knew the man was holding out at least two powerful sets of techniques, that he had designed himself. One counter to the other. In the forms of the Umisenken and the Yamisenken. What other knowledge was floating around in that head of his that the man was too lazy to use? Or maybe he was just holding out to keep himself needed for my training?

Right then, it didn't matter much. He had very refined coordination of his power. It was how we kept from actually causing each other serious harm. How he had taught Ranma from a fairly young age. Drilling practical combat situations into my memories without actually causing too serious an injury during practice. Then using more powerful strikes as my physical conditioning improved.

Perhaps, it was one of the things that made these sessions so enjoyable. We were both able to fight seriously without too much worry of causing a maiming wound. Not that we were holding back that much. If I made a mistake and he tagged me, it was going to hurt like hell.

We moved back and forth in the yard beside the dojo. Blocking or turning aside blows with sharp cracks of flesh striking flesh. This was a mixture of fun and physically appealing. Something about working the muscles and keeping up the coordination between tactical thinking and simply acting was extremely satisfying.

A sweat began to build up and we were both soon working through controlled panting to keep our muscles fueled with air. He really did want to push my limits today. Fine with me. It had to be a mark of pride for Genma that he could keep pace fairly easily with a person less than half his age. Still, he was Genma Saotome and it was time I wrapped this up. I had my own training I wanted to do, without tipping the old man off something was 'strange' about his son.

A hand quickly dove into my pocket and I sent a handful of metallic objects flying. Pop's eyes lit up at the sight of tumbling hundred and five hundred yen coins flying toward his face. How the man could be a master with that level of easy distraction still puzzled me. Yet, my evil trick had worked. 'Anything Goes' after all.

His guard opened as his hand lashed out to grab the change swiftly. Without a pause I jumped into his face and ran my knuckles across his cheek. A soft dusting, I didn't want to actually hurt him. We don't get to pick our parents in life, and Genma was still my Pop. Want him or not, he was what I owed a significant portion of my life to. Affection burned deep in my heart, even if the rose colored glasses of childhood had long since been broken off.

"Game over, Dad." I quickly seized his arm with a grin and performed a quick and basic over shoulder throw. Now, I know the man has plenty left to teach. I know he's full of dirty tricks and sneaky methods. I was still surprised that somehow found the leverage to tuck his body with the throw.

Rather than plant him on his back, I found him landing on the balls of his feet and his rump. His hands quickly grabbed my collar and I noticed him grinning.

"Almost, son, almost." With shear strength alone I was hauled over his head and found myself slamming onto my back instead. I blew out a breath quickly and tightened muscles in my limbs, getting them in position quick as I could. The worst of the landing was taken by my legs. My head was actually shielded by his lap and my ass absorbed the bump rather than my torso.

I lay there, view of the old man inverted. He adjusted his glasses a bit and gave a triumphant snort. Giving my cheek a firm but not really painful slap. It was louder than it was stinging. Just a demonstration I was momentarily at his mercy.

"Not bad, Ranma. You've still got a long way to go, though. Don't get flashy in a fight, boy. When you have a chance to end your opponent, end him. That was also a dirty trick."

He tried to sound angry, but his face cracked into a manic grin and soon he bounced up. The yen signs already in his eyes as his normal greed reasserted itself. "And this change is mine. Hahaha!" He opened his palm to show my failed distraction and then bounced over the perimeter wall. His laughter carrying far off into the distance as he fled with the remains of my allowance for the week.

I didn't bother to give chase. Instead, my arms crossed and I lay there a minute, frowning. Pride wounded but contemplating. Alright, so he did still have a rung or two advantage on the ladder over me. I was going to take the lesson to heart and not repeat the mistake again.

When I finally sat up and glanced around I took comfort in the fact no one was around to share my humiliation. Sure, Shampoo and Ryoga had seen the panda put me ass over teakettle a few times. He'd done the same to them. They'd never seen me try a strategy and have it backfire though. Defeat was an experience best not shared sometimes.

I bounced up and went back to work on my training exercises. The panda had run off, probably to buy a beer or a quick shot of sake. He wasn't going to get much with my leftover change. I hadn't more than a couple thousand yen in various bits of coinage. If it bought him something to eat and beer, fine with me though. Would keep him occupied and out of my hair for a bit so I could keep organizing my thoughts on how I wanted to test my skills and develop new techniques.

About dinnertime, Kasumi called upon me to perform a service.

"Ranma, would you please go check on Ryoga? If he's feeling well enough, he should come join us at the table."

"Sure thing Kasumi." I hadn't been doing anything in particular just thumbing through some of Akane's manga. I was curious to see if he was feeling alright anyway. This weird illness the two of us seemed to have picked up now cast that whole ...dream I had experienced into doubt. I had no way of knowing if it was some fever caused weirdness or a real spiritual experience.

{Probably best to play it safe and be on guard in the future, just in case.}

It had been so real, I couldn't rule out the possibility that at least some bit of it had true meaning. I've had serious fevers before, both in this life and the previous, and I don't remember any dreams of the like of significance from any of them.

My thoughts were set aside as I crested the stairs and slid open the door to the guest room. Ryoga was turned onto his side and snoring peacefully. I hated to be a bother, really. Never liked having my sleep interrupted, I felt bad about bothering others' in turn. The shaft of light from the hallway though seemed to be enough to intrude on his slumber. That, and his stomach made a loud growl.

Had he been awake enough, no doubt the boy would be blushing and stammering in embarrassment. The rumble was loud enough to wake him up in any means.

"Nnn?" Sitting up slowly and rubbing on his eyes to clear the gunk and take stock of his surroundings. "Ranma?"

"Yeah, it's me, buddy." He didn't recoil at the idea of us being friends. That was a sign in the right direction. I popped down beside him and glanced about. Finding the thermometer still there along with the medicine, I promptly cleaned it off.

"How you feeling? Open." I commanded, treating him like he was my little brother and not my self-declared rival. Popping the thing under his tongue and letting him just glower at me.

"Beyyah'" He mumbled around the offending object, best he could with his tongue holding it flat. His belly began to go a rumble again and his cheeks pinkened as I expected. "Almos' 'inner 'ime?"

"Yeah, Kasumi sent me up here to check on you and collect you for our evening meal if you feel good enough."

I glanced at the rising liquid in the glass tube and when it seemed to have settled I removed his from his mouth. Passing him some fresh water in turn.

"Hmm, 37.1. Looks like your fever is gone. Let's see if you can stand up." I wiped off the glass again and bounced up. Keeping him in my peripheral vision as the boy tossed off the futon and stood. Moving gingerly at first but he never seemed to lose his balance.

"My legs are still a little rubbery but I think I'm okay." He quickly turned to his pack and fished out some pants and a clean shirt. I let him dress in peace as I collected the medicine and what not from this morning. Stepping out the door quietly.

"Glad to hear it pal. If you need any help … "

"I don't need any help, Ranma. I'm fine." He growled at my retreating back.

"Happy to know you're back to your old self, but if you do feel off balance or something, let me know. Don't need you breakin' the steps or somethin' while you're tryin' to get to the table."

"Ranma, you jerk, I'm fine!" He snarled again and just prompted me to laugh as I left the room completely. Having to pause as the youngest Tendo child was rounding the corner from the hallway where the sisters' rooms were located.

"Is he feeling better?" Akane glanced over my shoulder to the door and caught sight of Ryoga behind me. I assumed now dressed as I took note of her gaze tracking movement.

"Hmm, sounds okay to me, but you should ask him yourself, Akane." I grinned to her and quickly turned on my toes and took a two step bounce backward toward the stairs. Contrary to my prediction, his hand did not lash out to try and pull me into silence.

Instead the boy was standing there, blushing. I tried to school my expression and put the smile off my lips. It wasn't working through. Neither of them seemed to notice, for the better. I had to look really weird with my lips trying to fight the tug of the muscles pulling them into an open sign I was pleased with something.

His hand scratched the back of his head and he gave one of his forced, nervous laughs. "Yeah, I'm feeling great, Akane. Thanks for asking. You don't have to worry about me though, I'm healthy as a .. "

"Wild boar?" I offered helpfully. Sure it was a very inside joke, with only me knowing the context at all.

"Oh shut up, you jerk." His anger snatching his focus back to me.

Akane glanced between us and just laughed. It was a very pretty laugh, fit her very well. This complete package was more attractive than I ever would have imagined, and I did kick myself a bit for not letting it have a chance to go anywhere. Still, no point crying over the 'shoulda, woulda, coulda.'

"I don't get 'guy' friendships, but you two get along so well." She giggled, glancing between us and smiled.

"We .. we do not! Tell her Ranma! We're not friends, we're bitter rivals and enemies!" I don't know what prompted that bit of embarrassment from him. Maybe it was just Ryoga's natural pessimism about everything in the world.

"Ryoga, you wound me, man. Don't be afraid to embrace our bromance. Don't you and I have too few friends as it is?"

"Wha .. that… but … we're enemies … damn it." He looked like he was going to pout now. His voice dropped to a whisper and his anger fled him. Akane just giggled all the more and shook her head.

"He's right, Ryoga. Would your enemy really worry so much to actually help bring you breakfast and check on you when you're sick?

"And come on Ranma, stop teasing. He's only just started feeling better." Punching me softly in the arm as a reprimand.

"Okay, okay, I'll let up."

Ryoga was spared any further embarrassment from either of us as Kasumi's call for dinner sounded from the kitchen below. That brought Shampoo and Nabiki from the latter's room and they joined us on the way down the stairs. Forming a rough line with me in lead.

I returned to the medicine to the proper cabinet. Then assisted joined Akane and Shampoo in helping Kasumi with bringing the meal to the table. It was quickly obvious that me that one, or several of us were going to have to hunt work. Feeding teenagers required a lot of food as it was. Supplying proper caloric intake for four extremely active teens that were also martial artists AND my father required substantial portions of food.

Kasumi seemed well prepared for this. Of course, she now had five meals of experience notched into her apron for her new house guests. So the amount of food we were bearing to the table was not a surprise. It would also not be a shock if the Tendo bankroll could not long sustain this level of consumption. I was betting on it being a very safe conclusion.

If Ryoga was in good enough health tomorrow we should go by his house, and I suppose it would be a good idea to find Doctor Tofu and ask him about work. Or maybe Shampoo and I could go find a cafe and play waitress. The thought wasn't particularly appealing, but if I could use the curse to benefit, why not?

Although, I was going to have to work hard on keeping certain behaviors under control. Something in my nature found the flirting a bit too easy, and somehow amusing. Without a whole life of other experience to call upon, I would have been otherwise petrified of intimate encounters with the opposite sex. Yet, the exaggerated 'girly' behavior came a bit too easily. Push came to shove, I could always just use Shampoo as my model for the right mix where it came to waiting tables.

The fanged wanderer seemed to be capable of moving without much trouble or wobbling. Very good to see. So we set down the food and assisted with portions and serving, and slid into what was becoming the regular seating order. Mr Tendo and Pop on one side, Kasumi and Nabiki on the other. Akane and Ryoga both blushing as they were stuck together, since Shampoo refused to yield the space beside me. It also gave her a perfect place to help Kasumi with service and I could pass around food to our fathers, mostly I did this out of respect for Mr. Tendo as he was putting us up in his home without asking for anything in return.

Once everyone was served, there was momentary silence as we ate and conversation was something of a minimum during the initial inhalation of nutrients. Shampoo and I tried to be polite so we didn't just cram our mouths full. Ryoga was fighting the call of his stomach and I guess not trying to embarrass Akane. Genma didn't care to be polite so just stuff everything in reach down his throat hole.

The chaos eased off after a moment and Tendo took up the beginning of discussion. "So, Ryoga, you seem to be feeling better, son."

"Yes, sir, thank you. A good night's sleep and I'll ready to beat Ranma up first thing in the morning."

"That's the spirit, son." Soun just laughed and tried to ignore the fact a pair of chopsticks were sneaking below his bowl of rice trying to grab a piece of fish off his plate. One of his eyebrows twitching slightly at my father's audacity. I stole Genma's fish in turn, flipping it onto Tendo's plate following Genma's theft. The man had been repaid with interest.

"Hey … " The weak protest was quickly cut off as he saw his best friend's frown. Ever the weasel, the bald man coughed and changed tracks swiftly. "So, Ranma, did you take care of the paperwork for school? We need to get it all set up and out of the way quickly as possible."

"Sure did, Pop. Akane showed us the way there, we got all the papers and stuff. Mr. Tendo was even kind enough to sign, for all three of us." I just grinned a bit. The poor patriarch had succumbed without much fuss on the issue. Akane was very persuasive with her father. Big, doe eyes and all, asking for her father to let 'all of her friends' get into school together. I'm sure the unspoken threat of her anger had nothing to do with his swift cooperation.

"Thanks by the way, Mr T." The man frowned a bit at that name but quickly chuckled and rubbed the back of his head.

"Think nothing of it, Ranma. Education is important and all of you shouldn't neglect it. Besides, we're practically family in all but name." Laughing a bit as he spoke.

Were they still planning something? Or was he just clinging to a fool's hope? Guess it really didn't matter. I'd deal with whatever stupid plans these two chuckle-heads came up with to try and leash me to one of the girls.

And if I failed to deal with it, well I'm not going to put a lot of effort into trying to restrain the anger of Akane and the mace-wielding Chinese lady's fury. Much safer to be on the sidelines and out of the potential fires from that one. Those two were would be far less likely to show mercy or control upon anyone they vented such frustrations upon.

"We're gonna swing by Ryoga's place tomorrow and see if we can't get hold of his mom or somethin'. Let them know he's okay and maybe they can help with gettin' stuff taken care of for money and junk. And … err .. Granny, is gonna wire money for Shampoo."

Genma already had the look in his eyes with the thoughts of cash. Now I doubt he'd be foolish enough to try stealing anything substantial. Any pocket change or the like, that I wouldn't put past him. I subtly rose up a bit on one leg and gave a quick shove to one of his knees. It worked and he suddenly spun sideways on the tatami. Finding himself looking out the open doors at the pond.

Our eyes met and he glared, looking very strange as he was now back to Soun and facing outward. I just smirked and gave him a hard look. Mouthing at him.

'Don't even think about it. Steal from me is one thing, but not my friends.'

Kasumi just blinked, "Oh, Mr Saotome, is there something outside? You moved so quickly."

"Oh, just admiring the scenery, Kasumi dear. Your father keeps such a lovely yard, and the rising evening. It's very beautiful to look at. Almost calming."

"That's nice." She said in that typical, naive and gentle 'Kasumi way.' Giggling a bit and serving seconds of rice to many of us.

The evening continued peacefully enough without the old man trying anything stupid, for now. After dinner, Shampoo and I helped Kasumi clean away the table and the dishes. We were going to make ourselves as useful as possible until we can start paying the Tendos back. Although, somehow I got the feeling there was going to wind up being a Neko Hanten in this universe as well. I can't see Cologne staying away long. Besides, I really wanted to start training under one of the best martial arts masters in this world.

Not that Pop was bad, but I can't be sure what advanced techniques he really knows. Training under someone more sensible, relatively speaking, was be a nice break of pace from my lifetime routine. I was also pondering if, in our little adventure we should try and find a certain Nodoka Saotome. That thought has me leery for so many reasons. Can't be sure what my mother will be like.

The group of myself, Shampoo, and Ryoga were pulled out to the dojo by Akane. We didn't do any sparring or the like, however. Instead, since it was a large room with plenty of space we went about doing things that 'friends' do. Talking and playing games. She had pulled out three or four games she had played with her sisters in the past and some cards.

Thus, we killed the evening getting to know one another better. Or more to the point, we welcomed Akane into our little circle. Turning the informal trio into a quartet. It was nice to see Akane smiling and laughing at my occasional bad jokes. Seems we were off to much better starting position than the violent squabbling we might otherwise have had.

She and Shampoo were coming along nicely as friends as well. Of course, when there wasn't a boy to fight over, seemed only natural. We all had in common martial arts and being around the same age. They could discuss 'girl' issues together. While Ryoga and I could share various tales from the road and our strange encounters.

Akane and Shampoo still found it very difficult to believe that the Lost Boy had roamed the Japanese islands at least twice, and probably had found his way into Mongolia and Russia as well if some of his descriptions of China were to be bought. I didn't doubt it.

It was a nice evening all around. Pretty sure we were going to get on just fine through the whole mess. Now if I can work out a solution to our fathers and the engagement that will be satisfactory. That particular issue would require time to solve. Not that I was lacking in that particular resource.

We goofed around till we were all yawning messes. I yielded the bath to the girls, gently soothing Shampoo before she could raise a protest. We'd been bathing together for well over a month now, if only out of convenience and not wanting to break Ryoga at the sight of bare, female flesh

Might not have been wise to be up so late given that school was back in session in roughly a week. The time had just run away from us in our fooling about. I settled for a quick scrub down and rinse. Though the furo and all that wonderful steam promised a soothing, hot soak. I'd probably get too comfortable and pass out.

No, just get clean enough to avoid waking to morning funk and I returned to the small room I was sharing with the misses. She was running a brush through her hair giving it delicate attention from roots to tips. I could never find that level of dedication. Was quite a ritual for her, especially given how she wore her hair down to her hips.

We shared some mumbled sweet nothings and I assisted her brushing out the full length of her dark tresses. I'm fairly certain it was mixture of desire for pampering and her own subtle form of seduction. By now she had a full catalog of scents that I appreciated and to what degree I liked them.

Tonight it was one she didn't use as often, but I enjoyed the most. A strange mixture of floral scents, most of which I couldn't identify. Whatever it was-maybe some secret Amazon recipe, or just an expensive brand of soap and conditioner-it stroked the parts of my brain she wanted stimulated.

I was probably spending more time nuzzling her hair and taking in the scent than I was actually brushing it out. Occasionally she'd giggle when my breath tickled her. Never complained though, I think she was enjoying the attention. I was quite happy to give it to her in any amount she desired.

I lost track of the timeline as it followed. At some point we were in lip lock and making out. As you do. How long that lasted to the point we fell asleep, I have no clue. Nor did I care to have it all pinned down. It was enjoyable and overwhelmingly delightful. I'm very confident in my choice.

At some point we curled up and passed out, too exhausted to continue further linguistic practice. By mutual agreement, anything else was on hold till later time. I don't know how long that would last, but for now we were comfortable with behaving.

I held Shampoo close and enjoyed her warmth and scent. It made sleep's arrival easy and last comfortably through the night.

"Ranma, are you sure my house is this way? I'm positive it's that way." Ryoga pointed off down a side street that ran tangent to our current course.

I just bit my cheek to keep from letting out a soft growl that wanted to escape my throat. Between Akane and myself, the district map we had in hand, and getting directions from either police officers or the locals we'd gotten the course pretty well nailed down. Would figure we'd have to go the near opposite end of Nerima, but once we got the middle school located it wasn't that hard to pick up the route from.

"Ryoga, you trusted me to walk you to and from school almost every day for year. Is it really that hard to trust us to make sure we've got the way to your house right?"

I was rewarded with a frown and a snort, "Fine, but I still think we're going the wrong way."

My eyes just rolled, but I managed to keep my peace. Was likely going to wind up tearing a chunk of flesh off my own cheek at this rate though. We'd been at this most of the morning. Getting a proper map and using Ryoga's address to give ourselves the best path we could figure on. Then a lot of walking and making sure we were on the correct heading.

Akane didn't know this portion of Nerima very well, given its distance from her home. Had been months since I'd been this way, and my memory was fuzzy on some details. And for all the help Ryoga's sense of direction was doing us. We were still making good progress though. The older residents were very polite and happy to point us on our way. At last we found a street that looked familiar enough. Some of the buildings looked to have been remodeled but we were on the right block.

"Alright, we should be close, any of this look familiar, Ryoga?" I was confident that at least he'd have the proper path in mind. Usually if he had familiarized himself with the path and wasn't distracted he could find his way about. That wasn't the most reliable thing, as experience had taught me. His mind roamed a lot, and he was the most pessimistic sort I've ever known-in either lifetime. So, he'd get lost most often than not.

"Yeah, I think we're going the right way. Hey … is that Checkers?" His eyes squinting as he glanced down the street to a small form.

Shampoo tilted her head curiously, "Who? Is very strange name for friend, yes?"

Akane was also curious but she seemed to get the idea it was a pet name of some sort. No human being could possibly be called 'Checkers' unless it was very off nickname. We all glanced down the road and took in the growing point that was moving in our general direction.

Indeed, it looked like a four-legged, furry creature. Too large to be one of those foul, demonic … ah damnit, I loved cats too. A shiver tried to climb my spine at the memory that came along, unbidden and unwanted. That was quickly banished back into the void. My attention returning to the approaching shape.

Fairly large, sturdy built canine. The fur was long and the breed fairly indeterminate. That hair color was unmistakable though. One half was a golden blonde and the other was a soft chocolate. She like a mismatched Oreo cookie. By the slight roundness of shape, either the dog was getting fat or she was carrying a liter.

"Hey, it is! Checkers! Come 'ere girl!" Ryoga cupped his hands over his mouth and gave a quick holler and whistled. That got the intended target's attention and she broke into a trot. Soon almost barreling Ryoga over as she bounced up onto her hind legs and immediately began to sniff his face and lick along his throat.

Ryoga just laughed and rubbed behind her ears. "Stop it, that tickles … down girl, come on, down. I missed you too." After she was satisfied her affections had been conveyed the animal dropped back to all fours and began to circle around Ryoga. She was a tall dog, just shy of his hips, causing even the stout Lost Boy to struggle for his balance.

"Oh, is this your dog Ryoga?" Akane grinned kneeling down and holding out her hand slowly.

"She so pretty, Shampoo never see one like this before."

This got the animal curious to the strangers and she eagerly broke from Ryoga to be 'polite.' Now, silly as that might sound, I knew from experience this dog was sharp. Sometimes you'd swear she was as smart as a person. Certainly was the most capable member of the Hibiki family, if you ask me. Capable of fully taking care of herself alone, and when she caught scent or sound of a family member she'd quickly drag them back home. Unlike the parents or the son, she didn't get lost.

She sniffed the girls' hands and walked closer to them, presenting her side for petting and attention. Tongue hanging out of her mouth and panting a bit while her tail wagged. Head raised and cocked at an angle almost like she was trying to strut. Or maybe she was presenting the look of a 'proud' canine. Checkers always was a little silly.

"Hey there, Checkers. Remember me?" I finally got in the act and gently stroked her under the chin. The animal quickly tried to pounce upon me and lick my face as well. And like everyone else, I couldn't help but laugh. An affectionate pet was always a happy thing. "Yeah, it's nice to see you too."

My hand ran along her side and I gave her a curious look, "Are you carrying a litter of puppies?" She was wide enough it was an easy guess. I was remembering not just this dog, but in the not too far off future she had made it to a tv station asking the news to broadcast a message to summon Ryoga home to see her puppies after they were born.

Checkers began to sway on her feet and barked once, tail becoming even more animated. Her head even bobbed in a mimic of a nod. Dog was too clever, I tell you.

Ryoga blinked a bit and then laughed softly. "You must've gone and gotten real lonely, I'm sorry girl. I didn't mean to be gone for so long." Scratching his loyal companion behind her ears and finding just the right spot she liked having touched.

"Oh, puppies? Ryoga, you think I can have one? If Daddy will let me keep it anyway." Akane suddenly looked hopeful at the Lost Boy.

As per his norm, he broke into a blush. "I don't see why not Akane. I know Checkers would like her babies to go a good home."

A thought ran through my mind and I grinned, "Well it looks like it'll still be awhile till they're born, and then they need to be weaned. Hey, Ryoga old buddy … "

Ryoga's expression fell a bit into a look of guarded distrust. The boy leaning back as if I were about to present something disgusting to him and dare him to eat it or the like. He was really too easy to tease. "What, Ranma?"

"I was thinkin' … "

"Oh, is that why I was smelling smoke?"


{Touche! He's learnin' yet.}

"Anyway, since we're all stayin' with the Tendos, why don't we bring Checkers home with us for awhile? She can have a house full of people to play with, and we can get the puppies used to us from the time they're born. If she wants to patrol the neighborhood and keep her ears out for your parents, she can do that too. She's a sharp pooch."

The dog in question glanced between us quietly, head tilting while we debated the merits of letting her move in for a little while. Didn't see the harm in it myself. She could help keep Ryoga from getting lost when no one was around. And she could pull a small duty of keeping certain, furry and fanged beasts from our doorstep.

"I dunno, Ranma. You think Mr. Tendo would be okay with it?"

Akane's face was lighting up to the suggestion of being there to meet her future pet. She stroked her chin thoughtfully and seemed to be running the cost-benefit report in her head. Or maybe she was plotting how she was going to pout her father into submission.

Shampoo also seemed to like the idea. I think she was ready to claim a pup for herself as well. The look she shot me told of approval for this suggestion. I would possibly be rewarded later for my bold thinking. Like the rest of us, she was just a sucker for a cute animal too. Good thing she hadn't picked up her particularly, horrid curse. Although, had she been a cat and been able to bond with a dog from a young age she'd likely have a pet and bodyguard in the future. Better on the whole I spared her that event.

"Why don't we call home when we get to your house and ask? Worse that happens is he says no. Then we bring her home anyway." I grinned innocently, whistling as I looked to the sky. "Not our fault if she follows us."

"Ranma, you're horrible." Akane scolded. Punching me in the arm, as was her quickly developing habit. This one actually stung. "Besides, all we have to do is get Kasumi to say 'yes,' Dad can't say anything negative to her." She winked at me and grinned.

"Good point." Rubbing my arm a little and shaking my head with a laugh. Slipping my hand into Shampoo's and lacing our fingers together. That earned a wistful look from Akane and there might have been a flash of longing and jealousy in her eyes. They never rose to look at me, just our joined grip.

{Don't worry, Akane. I'll get you hooked up. Whether with blockhead here, or someone else. There's a boy out there for you.}

Not as though Ryoga was the only option. Maybe they were only capable of being friends. There was always that Shinnosuke guy. He loved Akane, if I recall. That was an adventure long in the future though. For now, friendship and go from there.

"Come on girl, why don't you show us the way back the house?" Ryoga smiled and rubbed Checker's behind the ears. Her teeth softly took hold of his sleeve and she began to 'guide' the boy in the proper direction. We couldn't hold in our laughter as he protested but gave up. So we were off to find the Hibiki household to tend to our matters.

Well, luck of luck, we caught BOTH of Ryoga's parents at his home. They are a sweet pair of folks. Hard to see how he can be so easily depressed while his parents tend to be so positive even in the midst of their roaming lot in life. He was who he was though, and no help for it right now.

His mother was happy he was around friends, and somewhere safe. They both promised to visit when they found themselves in the area. Assuming they could find the dojo in a timely fashion, at least. They did have the phone number, so there was that. And getting Ryoga set up for school wasn't going to be terribly difficult. I don't know what his parents do for money, but they had enough to afford him a uniform and books.

Akane phoned ahead to report our success to Kasumi, and our new four-legged house guest. Ms Hibiki even made us all lunch, and she was quite a master of the domestic craft. Poor Akane had another high bar to set herself against. If she and Ryoga became an item anyway. Although, that's going on the idea she's to meet my expectations. So far, she had been nothing but polite and friendly. Maybe her cooking isn't totally inedible?

Errr … I think we'll avoid that particular bridge till we're forced to the crossing. I've no desire to test it at the moment. The deviations I was experiencing weren't quite that far off the mark, after all.

With matters settled and the hour approaching evening, Ryoga parted with his parents none too happily. Can't blame the guy, really. Saw his folks a few times a year if he was lucky. I would reason that to be the largest source of his depression, constantly being alone. He did surprisingly well for himself, all things considered. Still couldn't be fun.

For all his flaws, least I had Pop. Annoying as he was, he'd always been there.

The return home had been a bit somber, but Akane and Checkers managed to cheer him up. While we conversed about nothing in particular during the trip. Mostly I was quiet, letting them grill Akane on the class and her friends, and whatever else came to mind. My silent musing went unnoticed by two, but Shampoo was no one to be so lax in her attention. Just taking hold of my arm and cuddling in close. Making sure to press some soft, frontal attachments in just a bit more firmly than needed.

My self control was going to wear away quickly with this girl. She wasn't annoying aggressive, but certainly worked on keeping some portion of my attention focused upon her. Resistance steadily being sheared off as I just accepted and got used to each new action she performed. Making it to marriage was seeming like a long shot. If she would even want to be patient enough to wait a few years for that.

It was getting dark by the time we returned to the dojo. Kasumi was sweeping off the front walkway as we were coming in. She smiled in her normal 'Kasumi' manner, and welcomed us home. Then locked eyes upon Checkers and actually got a few watts brighter.

"Oh, hello there. You must be Checkers?" Kneeling down and almost immediately smothering the dog with affection. Which was took to immediately. Happily nuzzling into the Tendo homemaker and getting properly introduced.

"Yup, this is Ryoga's family dog. Checkers. This is Kasumi." I knelt down, smiling and playing introductions. "Kasumi, this is Checkers, probably the smartest dog we will ever meet … outside of someone falling in a Spring of Drowned Chow Chow or somethin' at Jusenkyo … " I added with a little quip.

The canine lifted up a paw, placed it immediately into Kasumi's hand and waited. The oldest sister blinked a moment and finally returned the 'shake' properly. Checkers seemed to grin, if that's possible for a dog, and then proudly stood back up and waited politely at the door.

"Oh my, she is smart and so well behaved." Sliding the door open and admitting herself, the new family pet, and the rest of us.

"We're home." Came the round house call as shoes were shed and we moved off to the family room.

"Welcome back everyone." Soun called from the family room. Then a fairly audible 'clack' which was followed by, "Ha, got you on the ropes now Saotome."

"What? Do over Tendo? … " The pleading in my father's voice was just sad. Well, mock pleading I guess. He was stalling for some way to cheat, no doubt.

And an ever curious Checkers began moving around the house. Sniffing everything and mapping the layout of her new surroundings. Identifying things of interest and perhaps seeking territorial rivals, or getting familiar with the scents of the local 'pack' living in this 'den.'

She had darted off into the family room likely to make her proper introductions to our parental units. And promptly provided just the distraction my father required.

"Sorry Saotome, but, oh hello … you must be the pet Kasumi spoke of?"

*Clack* "Oh ho, would you look at that Tendo, seems things aren't so bad after all?"

Poor Soun quickly whipped his head back to the board, "What? … I'm sure I was close to check … " He frowned, knew full well my father had cheated, but didn't say anything. Those two were quite an odd pair.

Genma's laughter proved short lived, however, as Checkers was promptly in his face. Sniffing and then giving him a long lick. "What the … Ranma! Who let this dog in the house … wait, you seem familiar … "

*Click, clack*

If his head had jerked any faster from me, to the dog, to the board I'm sure an eye would have popped out of socket, or perhaps he'd snatch a muscle.

"Hey, you cheated!"

All I could do was roll my eyes. Leave it to Pop to be the first to cheat, the most often to do so, then be the first to blame someone else for doing the same. It's only cheating when you do it, not when I do.

Soun just rolled something about in his mouth, giving a noncommittal grunt. Slowly beginning to sweat under the intensity of the glare he was being fixed with from across the board. He was quite obviously guilty, red as he was turning. To say nothing of the fact he was doing a poor job of hiding the fact he'd promptly shoved two of the pieces into his mouth in the brief moment of inattention caused by the canine.

"Oh Mr Saotome, it seems Checkers likes you." Kasumi giggled, kneeling down and holding out her hand. From somewhere she'd fetched up a couple left over rice balls. I'll not try to guess where she had hidden them. My father would have inhaled them without thought if they were there otherwise, of course I could be said to be guilty of the same thing … but hey, I'm a growing boy!

It got Checkers suddenly interested in Kasumi once more, but also pulled Genma's eyes with it. His stomach suddenly decided it was in dire need of nutritious contents. Glad I ate with the others while we were coming back, I might have embarrassed myself in the same way. Dinner probably wouldn't be far away, but I was sated for the time being.

For his part, Mr Tendo was quick to pass the tiles in his mouth to his palm and then quickly under his thigh. Still don't know how competent a fighter he is, but he'd probably give my old man a run for his money in sneaky hand sleights. I almost missed the movement it was so quick. Very well disguised as a yawn, then the pieces were in the pinch between his hamstring and calf.

Akane finally turned on the big eyes and smiled to her father with a coy expression. Good grief she was laying it on thick. She seemed to be rushing headlong into the position of being able to have her puppy, and it wouldn't be here for weeks yet, and several weeks more till the pup was weaned and ready for heavy play.

"Dad, Checker's looks like she's pregnant. If she is, do you think I could have one of the puppies?"

Soun looked to his daughter and melted under the intensity of the "cute brights" she turned on him. Just blushing a little and rubbed the back of his head. "Well, you're a responsible girl, Akane. As long as Ryoga doesn't mind, I don't see why we couldn't keep a dog around the house. Just make sure you house train the puppy well.

"It takes a lot of patience to care for a pet, sweetheart." Sweat slowly began to form on his forehead as he tried to tiptoe around one of Akane's biggest faults, which I had yet to see demonstrated first hand. By his reaction, I got the impression that the baby Tendo was a hothead in true form.

Her face fell a bit as a tick developed in her brow. Guess one of the sparks for her fuse was mentioning that particular flaw. Soun looked ready to bolt for safety in case of the eruption of Mount Akane, his sole bead of sweat becoming a slow trickle of perspiration. Then the girl remember her goal, and to whom she was speaking, and caught herself.

"I know, Dad, I promise I'll take good care of the puppy. By the time I'm done, it'll be the most well behaved animal in the neighborhood." The strain of her control could be heard in her voice. Then her pride manifested in one of those "I'll show you patience!" forms and her eagerness to demonstrate her skills as a care provider took over. By the time she was done speaking, she was almost glowing with anticipation of proving herself, and pumped her fist to whatever dreams she was imagining already being successful.

A slow breath escaped her father's throat as he felt the tremor pass without danger to his house, or himself. "Well, that's taken care of then … ah I suppose it would be a good idea to perhaps visit the animal shelter in your free time and ask about training a dog."

Akane's beam turned from pride to one glowing in worship at the wisdom received from another. "That's a great idea Dad! Thanks." She beamed and hugged him, latching on tight. I winced as I almost heard his bones creak under the vice she had placed upon him. The poor man turned an interesting shade of blue under her intense affections.

{Lack of control while at any emotional extreme … check. Note to self, stay away from Akane when she is in any kind of strong mood … far away.}

"No … prob...lem … dea..r … " Soun just managed to croak out began fairly savage breaths. He looked torn somewhere between pride at his baby's intense power and panic of his chest being shrunk about three feet in diameter.

Three of us watched in shock at the byplay. Genma recoiled in horror, probably at the thought of that being him in Soun's place. So stunned he couldn't work up the nerve to try and cheat the game. Kasumi just clapped her hands and laughed. Sweet, unflappable Kasumi. Naively seeing it as nothing more than sweet, the bond between her sister and father.

She did, however unintentionally, diffuse the situation quickly. "Well, dinner will be in about an hour. Akane, would you mind helping Shampoo clean the bathroom before then? I got so busy shopping this afternoon I forgot to do it."

Almost immediately the girl released her old man and gave a happy chirp as she bounced up. Her mood too good to be even dented by late evening chores. "Sure thing Kasumi. Let's go do this Shampoo."

So fired up in anticipation and happiness she didn't even stop to really consider her assistance in matters of cleaning. Just shooting out of the room and bounding up the stairs to her room. I assume to change into something she didn't mind getting soap or water on.

"Ranma, you come too, keep Shampoo safe? Think Akane might not know own strength right now." She whispered into her my ear, looking up at the ceiling in the approximate direction of the baby Tendo's room.

"Uh, sure, it'll go quicker with three people. Ryoga, you think can help Kasumi in the kitchen, without getting lost in the pantry?"

"Hey!" Snapped said offended fangboy. "Umm, yeah, I can help Kasumi just fine. Try not to spend too much time getting distracted by your girlfriend." He barked back, blowing his tongue at me while quickly jumping up to his feet. "Kasumi, wait!" If he lost her in the hallway, he might well wind up lapping the ground floor until dinner was on the table.

Rubbing on my temples I just groaned, "Okay, let's go change into something else and get started." Shampoo happily hauling me from my feet and into the bedroom we were using.

"Airen keep his Shampoo safe from Monster Girl."

"Ranma, I said I was sorry."

Akane whined for the, I forget what number we were on. Dinner conversation had been going on like this for awhile now.

"I said s'ok, 'kane." I mumbled around a mouthful of noodles. Holding all emotion out of my voice. And that was, I don't know how manyeth time I'd said it. I wasn't really mad about our cleaning adventure. Kind of figured, since I attracted moisture like bees to flowers.

Her demure submission and almost begging for her apology to be accepted was kind of getting annoying. The fact we now had no furo, and the repair bill was going to be a likely high amount, was a source of bitterness though.

Everyone else was a bit tense themselves, and trying not to blame Akane, but her own self blame was killing everyone's mood on the whole. Silence reigned over the table as a result.

So I sat and ate. Still damp. Female. Slowly putting food to mouth and looking on with a flat expression. Shampoo was doing a very good job of imitating me, perhaps without thought but there she was. Her purple hair tight up in a bun, frizzy and still drying. Both of us in clothing appropriated from Akane, as there was not a dry article of our own between us. That was all hanging on the line, catching the late breeze.

Shampoo had brought the collection of our dirty things to wash. Which was almost every bit of clothing we owned. Neglected it a bit too long, so performing laundry duty was a necessity. Since we were cleaning the bathroom anyway it had seemed a good idea to get it out of the way at the same time.

That proved to be unwise. With almost everything in the wash, we then joined Akane in cleaning the bathroom. Her fervor continued unabated and in what I estimate to be fairly typical fashion she had gotten too eager in her work without mind to certain facts. Such as she was not simple a hundred pound woman, but a very physically powerful martial artist.

Having forgotten a need to keep her strength in mind while polishing the faucets, and gotten carried away in her zealous burning of energy quickly broken it. Not that big a deal, sure water sprayed everywhere, but we were in the bathroom. It was built with a drain and almost tile everything.

We quickly went from two girls and a boy with simply damp hands, to three girls in drenched clothing. All I could do was give a flat expression, shrug and continue cleaning the grout with a stiff brush. Shampoo yelped. "Aiyah! Akane turn off water, turn off!"

"Wah, I can fix this!" She panicked and rational thought fled her mind. She tried to stymie the flow or even pinch off the pipe so it couldn't leak any further. There was no traction to be found on wet, smooth steel and she wound up just sliding off.

She argued with herself, with the faucet, and even with us while trying to apologize and say it was all under control.

Then she began to grow angry.

Then things began to break as she became more zealous, and more careless in her efforts to contain the initial mess.

I really didn't pay attention to how it all played it out. That was all background noise as she and Shampoo stumbled over one another and then started arguing. Insults or whatnot were drowned out, as was the following smashing of the lip of the bath itself.

With a resigned sigh I just found my way out of the room, dripping like I'd come fresh out of a pool. Located the master knob for the room and twisted it off. The flow of water stopped and we were spared further problems on that front.

Everyone in the house coming to investigate the ruckus, though. Well there was a new headache altogether. Soun collapsed when he took stock of the situation, weeping openly over his poor home. Genma tried blaming me, as expected. Ryoga never found his way out of the kitchen.

"My, my ladies. What ever triggered this catfight?" *click, click, click* Her favorite camera snapping shots as evidence, and probably attempted 'for sale' when school was back in session. She promptly wandered off to get a contractor out soon as possible for repairs.

Kasumi checked herself, looking very disappointed and sad but never raising her voice at us. That somehow made it sting more. Even though neither Shampoo or I had anything to really do with it there was no good mood to be salvaged from it.

Seemed like forever to get the mess cleaned up. Then no dry clothes to wear, so we had to raid Akane's closet. Nabiki offered, but half her things had been pilfered from her younger sister's stock, and her 'modest fees' were too much of a headache to deal with.

Now we ate dinner in comparative silence. No good mood in the house. Even Checkers was a bit subdued by the worry and seemed to think it wise to let this pass rather than force the ice to break. She simply sat with her head in Ryoga's lap after eating the portion Kasumi had given her.

I'm sure Akane's mood was not aided by the fact Shampoo and I both would occasionally fidget and give a tug on the shirts we were wearing, or have to play with the straps of the borrowed bras. Extra insult on top of her humiliation and shame. We weren't trying to be mean, but it was simply an objective fact. Akane's tops were too tight, and it was fairly uncomfortable.

Not my fault our genes expressed themselves the way they did.

"Wuugghh." I was so happy to be free of the accursed chest binder. Dinner done, our clothes off the line and finally, FREEDOM!

Her shirt hadn't been too bad, but if I'd gone without the bra. Well I'm sure Ryoga would have made a second mess on the table and the tatami. I didn't feel like cleaning up blood following the small pond we had just cleared from the bathroom.

Shampoo gave a similar sigh of relief behind me. I turned after a minute to glance at her. She was sorting through our belongings and neatly folding up clothes into separate piles.

"Shampoo I can get … woah … " I quickly snapped back around, almost giving myself a wonderful case of pulled muscle with the speed. It shouldn't have bothered me, her sitting there topless, almost naked but for her panties. Her bare flesh was nothing new to me, not after several streamside baths while in China.

Something about being in someone else's house and the whole idea of privacy just reinforced decades old habits in my brain. I always turned my back when she was changing, and normally she was polite enough to inform me when she was or wasn't decent. Respect for my own modesty I guess.

A patient sigh escaped her lips as she dropped a pile beside me. I then heard her moving through the closet and putting things away. Her voice in Mandarin, she found it much more useful for expression since I could understand most of her meaning now.

"Airen, does it still shame you to see my body?"

A blush crept across my cheek as I sighed, "No, Xian Pu …just habit. Try do I, but still … "

Soon I was jut blushing even harder. Feeling so flustered I was having a hard time even getting out coherent wording. Probably wouldn't have sounded my better in my native tongue. Eyes looked at my knees and I began to squirm around on my thighs.

Arms slid around her sides and a pair of soft, wonderful things pressed into my back. Hot breath tickled my ear as she whispered and her scent crashed in around me. Enveloping me in its intoxicating warmth. I was addicted to that feeling and it caught me off guard and swept away my willpower with it.

"You've seen many times, I guess it's time we tried something … different." She cooed into my ear, yanking me down and under the covers of our futon.

I had no power to resist, and the fact I was wearing a girl's body didn't seem to be a bother for her. At some point in the kisses, my top went flying, and I got an even more direct feel of fleshy contact.

The day had been good, the evening had been a bit tense, but it all flew away in the swirling storm of hormones, kisses and cuddling. She was controlled aggression, expressing herself without ever crossing that line we were both carefully toeing so far. Not that it stopped her from getting touchy in place, very touchy.

Still, all in all, it was a very nice night. I remember that much, and whenever it was I fell asleep I had a stupid grin on my face, ear to ear. And I hadn't even gone all the way yet.

{Damn is this girl amazing.}

We slept very well, whenever we did fall asleep. Many more interesting nerve clusters and various 'manipulation' techniques in mind I would need to try out at a later time. Hopefully, with less people around, or in a place where noise wasn't going to be a worry.

A/N: Well this was a long time in getting out, I was on a good pace there and then work kind of crashed into my hard and I haven't felt much like putting things out. I toiled on this story or that and then got sidelined. Only to wind up I'd written most of this chapter and just kept feeling like it wasn't finished. Oops. Anyway, trying to get back on my intended work of one chapter a month, but with the Summer, we'll see how well that happens.

Thanks as always and hope the chapter comes out well.

Till next time,