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

Another day and another severe test of my patience. Well more a test of my sanity, if anything, not like I didn't already have enough of those under my belt. I was sure this particular issue would cause me no end of panic and horror. If I didn't have an entire past life behind him, it just might.

Hadn't felt all that good when I went to bed. When the horrid rays of the infernal sun came peeking through the shoji and began burning through my eyelids, I knew I was in for a rough day. I could concentrate enough to work through the symptoms and try an amature diagnosis of what I might have.

Someone had smuggled a full percussion line into my skull and they were doing a warm up session. Hadn't had a headache this bad in a long time, well over a month. Pretty sure I didn't get migraines in this life, so it was a bit weird. Didn't feel hot or flush, so doubt there was a fever. Maybe I had just let myself stress out too much over Mom and was paying for it?

A particularly sharp twinge in my stomach, and not just my usual morning hunger, caused me to groan and other thoughts began to cause me to develop an eye twitch while I performed a slow examination of how I was feeling.

{Cramps? Check. Sore breasts? Check. Wicked headache, double check. Oh you've got to be kidding me … yet, somehow I'm not surprised.}

Whether I felt too crappy, was too tired, or just burned out on shock, I didn't scream like I might otherwise have. Question unasked, now answered in a fashion I really didn't want. Just one more complication. I'd spent more time than not as a girl since picking up this 'curse.' Guess I shouldn't be all that shocked by the biological functions working to par.

{So it's going to be one of 'those' types of stories. Fine. If every other woman in history can handle this, I can deal.}

Wouldn't look very manly in front of Mom if her son couldn't handle something she had dealt with for decades, to say nothing of Shampoo, and the Tendo daughters. So, I could do this, didn't seem to have much choice. Just breath and relax.

Although, trying to ignore the angry twinge trying to climb through my spine was becoming something of a hard fight. Forcing my movements to be gentle and measured, I slipped carefully out of Shampoo's grip. She gave a disapproving moan and grabbed my pillow harder. Mumbling to herself a bit, most of it naughty and not age appropriate.

That gave me something to smile at. Dressing quietly, my twitch threatened to return as my bra was notably uncomfortable. Feeling too small and like it was pinching my chest hard. Was just getting a nice bag of symptoms right now.

I wasn't ten feet out the door and veering for the bathroom when the voice I least wanted to hear rounded the corner. He growled at me, but seemed to be keeping himself restrained from his usual, post dawn bellowing. I imagine fear of the beast that could be my girlfriend when she was disturbed from her slumber, and Mom's ever present katana were motivation enough for him to remember his manners.

Today, however, was not the day to come pushing my buttons. I didn't have the best restraint from hitting my old man at the best of times. With how I was feeling now? Well, exercise was supposed to help with the discomfort, but creating a panda pretzel wasn't that appealing.

"Ranma, you've been slacking too much boy, get dressed right now. I'm going to give you a workout to remember."

I just grunted and moved past him. "Not in the mood Pop, we can play punt the bear after my bath and breakfast."

A hand grabbed my shoulder and spun me around. Not hard for him given my current lack of mass or set up for resistance. It was also the wrong move. The discomfort, wild hormones, and general sour mood all combined into a sudden and intense molotov cocktail and my moronic father, with no sense of self preservation where I was involved had just tossed out the match.

It was all fire and reflex, well drilled muscles moved on only the flash of impulse and I couldn't have stopped myself if I wanted to. And I didn't want to. Using the momentum of my spin, my arm pulled back and tensed. Then shot out, corkscrewing as it moved and aimed for the first open target I could see. His throat was on display, so my fingers tensed and went for the mark.

"Mood? There's no 'mood' for training, now stop being stu ... " He cut off mid rant and clutched his windpipe as the blow struck home. Hadn't planted my feet so I didn't manage to get all the power I could have put behind it. That 'love tap' still lifted him two feet off the ground and he crashed onto his ass.

He managed a wheezing hack, furious at the surprise attack, but still trying to belt on just in a slightly weaker voice. "What was that for Ranma?"

Fists still clenched, and I can only imagine how ridiculous I had to look. All less than five foot nothing, and hundred pounds of me glaring at my father. Something about my bearing must had struck a chord of worry in him though. His teeth clicked closed and he started scooting back slowly toward the end of the hall. As if sudden movement would provoke another attack.

"Don't touch me." It was a seething hiss, and somewhere in my wild anger I managed to get a picture of just how ridiculous I was being. I grabbed the reins, hehe, and yanked hard. Heaving a breath and tried to keep my voice calm. It was still strained with anger I couldn't keep down.

"Dad, I'm sorry, just … please, not right now. I feel like crap and I need to talk to Mom. Go play with Ryoga or something." He scooted back a bit quicker as I broke out the rarely used 'D' word on him. How rare for me to call him something other than 'Old Man' or 'Pop?' I should work on that.

Still, message received and he found his footing quickly enough, while still backing up and around the corner. Out of my sight, the safest place for him to be right now. I spun on a heel and resumed my stalk to the bathroom.

Akane was just stepping out, cleaning up from her morning run. She smiled and was about to give greeting, when her mouth made like my father's. I must've looked like a she-demon at the moment, or some psycho murderer. Her expression quickly morphed into something of worry and she eased back a step.

Though she did manage a soft, whispered, "Ranma, what's wrong?" Trying to make herself look small and not catch my wrath. I was hit by a pang of guilt and managed to force myself to soften a bit. Was almost a hilarious inversion to see the person with the only temper that rivaled Ryoga's quailing back from me.

"I'm sorry 'kane … I don't feel well." My head spun on a pivot and I shot every corner of the hall a suspicious glare. One pair of ears had retreated but there was another I didn't want to deal with either. She could take great delight in plotting how to torment me with the information. Yet, it was unlikely Nabiki was even awake yet.

Turning back to Akane I exhaled slowly and whispered gently. Don't know why I was sharing this particular piece of soul crushing embarrassment, but even after the near couple weeks we'd become friends, somehow I just knew I could trust her.

"It's this stupid curse, now I'm having … ya know … girl problems."

Her cheeks did a wonderful impersonation of a neon sign done in hot pink and her hand quickly covered her mouth. Yet, there was no titter nor giggle in her expression. Just genuine shock. While she couldn't understand what it was like to be of ever shifting sex, the girl still had a deep empathy for others. It was just one of the reasons I knew I could trust her. She might not be able to fully understand how weird this could be for me, but she at least took it seriously.

"Oh, Ranma, I'm so sorry. I … umm, hot bath. You should take a hot bath. Hopefully that'll take it go away, it solves most of those problems right?" She managed a smile, even if it was thin and a bit strained with the awkward conversation. I imagine it must've been hard talking to her sisters about the birds and bees, certainly her father never managed to be brave enough to do that, so sharing with a new person in her life, and a BOY of all things.

"Yeah, quick fix." I managed a tense smile of my own and she relaxed a little more. "Thanks 'kane, I'm glad to have one friend who won't mock my weird suffering."

The girl just nodded and stepped aside so I could make use of the furo and the wonderful, steamy contents. I stripped quickly and scrubbed even faster. It was more cathartic than cleansing to wipe off the sweat and body soil of the previous night. I just wanted into the water as quickly as possible.

A nice hot soak, and a cure, if only temporary to situation. As I sank down into the bath, a problem with that situation became quickly apparent.

My scream filled the whole house.

Well 'scream' was the wrong word. My anger resurfaced, erupted, and I was freely shouting words not fit for polite company. Especially as I was a guest in someone else's home. But I couldn't help myself. I went through every piece of filth and vulgar I knew in Japanese, then English, then what random words I'd picked up over the years from other languages.

I wanted to break things, but we were still in debt for the previous bathroom incident. So I managed to console myself by stalking around the bath area, freely shouting obscenities and wildly waving my arms around. Somehow I had the presence of mind to pull on my boxers and top at least.

Akane was the first to break into the bathroom, suddenly in a panic as she looked in on the scene. Her worry quickly giving way to confusion.

"Ranma! What's … wrong …?"

Footsteps weren't far behind and soon the wash room was packed with people. All crowding in and worried over what I was shouting about, then just watching rising confusion and worry as the tiny woman stormed around the room cussing out Life, Fate, the Universe, whatever kami thought this joke was funny, and most of all my father.

"Airen, what's wrong?"

I was too far into my rant to pay Akane or Shampoo any attention. The fathers just recoiled by the door. Hiding behind Kasumi and Ryoga to keep out of the range of my poisonous tirade. I had to look half insane as I paced a circle in the bathroom but no one was brave enough to approach.

"That stupid idiot, I'll break every bone in his body. Do this to me just because he's a moron. Get me stuck like this. I'm going to turn him into a rug. Mom won't kill him, I WILL." Knuckles white as I squeezed them so tight my nails threatened to break my skin. My anger was just running wild and I was too lost in the flow of emotion to try and pull it back this time. Getting more and more wound up, if I had an objective hold to grab I'd be worried I just might hurt Pop. Seriously.

It took well over a minute, but finally someone took control of the situation and it wasn't me. While I was lost in the ever growing circle of wrath, Mom banished everyone from the room and took it upon herself to brave my tantrum and bring me back to something of a semblance of composure.

A hand on my shoulder broke my fuming and I almost turned to put my fist into someone. So out of control was my rage, but I managed to still myself when I took note of who it was. I wouldn't have flinched to smash Genma through the wall. Thankfully, my temper didn't have such hold on me I couldn't recognize people.

"Wha … Mom? I … " The rage bled out of me and without the fiery fury sweeping through me I was suddenly just cold and drained. I didn't break into tears, thankfully, I didn't need to further add to my shame and embarrassment as I realised how I must have looked.

"I'm sorry, Mom … I … " The hand never left my shoulder while her other gently lifted my chin so our eyes met. Where I expected some stern anger at my foolish, no straight on barbaric behavior, there was just concern.

"Ranma, come upstairs with me, and you can tell me about it." From her tone, soft as it was, I could easily guess it wasn't a request. All I could do was nod and follow behind her as she took over the upstairs guest room and left Kasumi to finish breakfast. We had a long talk coming.

I wasn't really comfortable having this conversation, but if I couldn't work my way into trusting my mother with something that was so upsetting then we would never really be able to bridge the gap caused by more than a decade of separation. I needed someone I could talk to, more than just Shampoo. Might as well be the woman who brought me into the world, and I know desperately wanted into my life again.

I still might present her with a panda skin rug.

I'm was going to run on the hypothesis that my particular curse carried some strange glitch. My female form was running on its own hormonal clock, and whether it paused or not in times when I was male something about it must've turned the water mechanism off when it was most inconvenient. It was a 'curse' after all, so maybe it was just part of it. I don't know, can't pretend I know crap one about magic or the rules there of. I'd have to ask Cologne later.

My running hope was that I'd go back to my normal, bothersome enough routine when my biological torment ran its course. Which likely meant this was going to be an ongoing fight, month to month.

While I was having a talk with my mother. Shampoo had run to the phone and placed another of her long distance call. The fact I was locked as a girl seemed to have disturbed her a bit more than she wanted to let on. At some point Cologne had wanted to talk to me directly.

"Son-in-law, from what I can gather of Shampoo's hysterical babble, you are currently locked as a girl?"

Seemed unusual for her to address me in Chinese, but my communication skills had improved tremendously since we had last spoken.

"Yes, Elder. I woke up feeling terrible, I am familiar enough with the symptoms. I tried to take a hot bath, but I did not turn back."

There was a moment of silence as she hummed to herself. "This is unusual, but sadly I cannot say unexpected. The magic of Jysenkyo can be wildly chaotic. From what limited cases I have found in our records this is highly unusual, yet there are a few recorded instances such as what you're going through. I had hoped you wouldn't suffer this, but on the bright side you should be able to return to normal after this passes.

"I'm preparing to journey to Japan soon. I need to see this directly to understand more. Until then, I'm sorry Ranma you will just have to bear with it."

"I know Elder, thank you."

"I'll be seeing you in a few weeks. Try not to break anything, or anyone until I arrive. You're strong enough to get through this."

All I could do was chuckle in reply. "Thank you again, I look forward to seeing you."

We said our goodbyes and then I let Shampoo speak with the old women once more. Returning to the guest room and told Mom the news, both good and bad. As Cologne was the closest thing we were going to get to an expert on the matter we just had to hope she was right and this would pass in a few days.

After unburdening my heart to Mom, we had eaten in the bedroom, and I had been all but yanked off into the neighborhood. She decided on some mother-child time. As I explained my dilemma and worries, her face grew tight. Oh she could hide it well, but I could see the strain as the truth of my problems became ever more manifest for her. She was having to deal with a lot of impossible things. She just wanted her son back, and had been given a pile of problems that would have broken most people.

Not Nodoka Saotome, however, she took it in stride. Possibly with the help of medication, but she handled it well. Hid her upset well too. After an hour of letting me just spill my emotions and never offering more than gentle compassion she made me get dressed and we were off on a private shopping excursion.

Given the tense set of her shoulders, it was probably better for Pop's health that neither of us were in the house. I still wanted to skewer him, and Mom looked even more eager to put the family honor blade to use and turn him into panda fillets.

Shampoo didn't have terrible symptoms with her cycle, so far as I had observed, bless her. My medicative relief came from Nabiki of all people. For her part the girl didn't crack even a grin, something in her eyes spoke of empathy more than amusement. The way she held my gaze as she shared her pills with me - at no charge, that was almost scary - spoke to me that she had some serious suffering month to month for the trouble of being female.

After the pills kicked in, a rather potent prescription indeed, I was feeling much better physically. My mood, not so much. It wasn't Mom's fault. I just didn't feel like playing dress up today. There was no point in arguing on it though. By matriarchal fiat it had been declared I would be attending school as a girl. My new situation just helped reinforce the notion that Mom was correct in making me do it.

Oh well, my situation could always be far worse, and probably would be several times. No point in complaining over something like this. My masculine identity wailed in protest, but pride can do some incredible mental gymnastics to deal with reality in a 'positive' manner. If I was going to be a 'Man among Men,' well I was going to be so manly I could destroy this challenge by facing it head on.

Nodoka had grilled the Tendo sisters on their favorite places to shop, both in the district and nearby wards. Fortunately we were sticking to Nerima today. The area around the train station were rife with shops. Mom easily found the ones catering to teenage fashion, female in particular. A shudder ran down my spine at the sight, but I quelled it from showing.

"Mom, are you sure about this?" I kept my tone as level as possible, though it was still spoken through clenched teeth. I wasn't angry, just tense at the prospect of what I was about to subject myself.

The reply was no less tense and there wasn't a spark of much happiness there. Just firm determination to show Hell it had no business messing with a Saotome. "Yes, Ranma, we have to do this. Like it not. I am the wife, and you are the son and heir of a martial artist. You will face all kinds of strange challenges in life, this one just happens to be one of the more difficult, in complex ways."

"Mom, I'm ready to sacrifice a lot for my Art, hell I'm ready to give my life, but my manhood? This isn't exactly 'manly.'" The situation wasn't really that bad, but my hormones were driving me mad, fighting to keep my tone from cracking with the stress I was feeling.

Her hand touched my cheek and stroked softly. Her eyes were heavy with a kind of resigned weariness, I imagine Genma caused her that kind of strain often. Her voice was soft, but there I can hear there was going to be no compromise.

"Sweetheart, I wish these were even remotely more normal circumstances. Unfortunately, your father has caused us to be in anything but normal. You've already shown me that the trigger for your … condition, comes readily, and now not even hot water helps. Shampoo's grandmother is the closest thing we have to an expert opinion, and she believes this will pass with your period."

I winced as she said that word so easily, Mom said nothing of my flinch.

"I want you to have the most normal life possible. Since you're going to be a girl at least one week out of every month, we don't have any choice. You'll just have to get used to being in your female form at school. To make that work you're going to need to cover all your bases. No doubt you'll have friends visit you, won't they think it rather strange you don't have a full wardrobe?"

My mouth worked slowly to try and come up with a rebuttal but all I could do was sigh and nod. "What about gym? It just wouldn't be right for me to be in the girl's locker room, even if I am … like this ya know?"

Her mouth quirked to the side as she pondered that objection for a moment. It seemed to both be a concern, but I was disturbed to see something that looked like a flash of excitement bolt through her eyes. There was a moment of hope that her doubt was overcome her, but whatever process her logic went through cleared the hurdle and she was satisfied with her conclusion.

"You've seen Shampoo and yourself naked several times. I believe you are mature enough to behave and not be a pervert. So, you'll just have to make do, Ranma. I know this isn't ideal, but it's the best we're going to get. You don't want the whole school knowing about your curse, do you?"

Blowing out a breath, I shrugged, "I guess not."

"Then we're both just going to have to learn to adapt. So will your father. Think of this as just another training session, and besides, it would drive Genma insane. You're strong enough to make this work Ranma, if not for yourself, do it for me?" A desperate plea creeping into her voice.

I held her eyes for a long minute, seeing the resolve and hope I'd see how hard she was trying to come up with a plan for this chaotic situation. I could already see Genma's face, and it did give me a wicked glee at the prospects.

{Alright, I can do this. Besides, I do look good in this body. Now to make the other girls jealous. Heheheh.}

That spark of feminine pride should have worried me, but I didn't bother fighting it. I was a girl right now, and there no harm in letting some of my vanity help me fight through this. Mom was right, it was just one more test in my growth as a person. I was going to come out of this stronger, if not weirder for it.

With a breath, I nodded and shoulders set we marched into our waiting doom.

For the next three hours I was touched and prodded by sales reps who went through the whole gamut of displays. Those who were in shock at my figure, admiring of it, jealous of it, and everything in between. In two shops, the sales ladies swooped in smelling blood in the water, so to speak. They would have done Nabiki proud being able to sense a potential, fat commission check at a hundred paces.

To my mounting annoyance, I learned things I really didn't want to know. I was an almost perfect size four, with curves that were out of ratio for my height. No wonder Akane would get get mad if it was rubbed in her face. My chest was bigger, waist thinner, and hips a tad wider. The "Oh my, 32 G, you're a blessed girl" comment set my eye to a twitch. Really didn't need a formal number on my bra.

I learned more numbers about every possible dimension related to my female body than I ever wanted to hear, and soon it had my head spinning with every quoted bit of information. Along with the "Oh you're a lucky girl, I'd kill for a figure like yours." Mom was stoic through the affair, but there was a gleam of pride she didn't quite manage to hide behind her eyes. I guess if her son excelled at being gifted with various bits of ideal female proportions, it was somehow manly in its own odd way.

She was evasive on where the money was coming from. I couldn't tell you silver from shinola where it comes to credit cards and their buying power. Context clues told me Mom may as well having been swinging a bag full of gold coins with how the associates took to scanning her rather benign looking card. It was almost with a kind of religious reverence. They became even more polite and accommodating in behavior when they that holy relic of spending power.

For the life of me I don't know what in the world is so magical about it. Maybe Mom is just fiscally responsible and has a stupid good credit line, but these people were acting like she owned the shop. As far as I knew, we were just slightly above dirt poor. My father only held down a job only as long as required before he got bored with menial labor. The man certainly never had more than a few yen to his name at any given moment.

When he did have extra cash after taking care of the most bare bones needs he was stuffing his face, washing it down with sake, and on very rare occasions I my allowance was enough I could buy something for me.

I don't think Mom had any kind of employment. She had shown no need to hurry anywhere after she had crashed her way into my life. Maybe she had wealthy relatives I didn't know about? My gentle queries were softly brushed aside. More important things to do, like building up the collection of things to be in my closet.

What I thought would be a meager assembly was quickly turning into a hoard. We weren't burdened by many bags. Aside from some quick necessities, Mom paid extra to have the store box and ship it … somewhere. I didn't get to look at the address she put down on the forms.

"Mom, I dun' mean to be a nag, but the Tendo's dun' exactly have the room for everything we've bought today."

{And are still buying .. gez how much is she gonna get? This is two complete wardrobe's worth. It'd take me a month to wear all this crap.}

"Don't worry, it won't be a problem." Was her hand wave reply. Dismissing my question with no further allowance of follow up.

{You're hiding something, aren't you? Mom, please don't be like that moron you call a husband. What are you planning?}

I could only cock my brow and watch her repeat this process in five shops. Underwear, fine, I submit on that ground. My Spring and Winter school uniforms, another fair surrender. Even a few day ensembles for effect, fine. But this was becoming ridiculous. Woman was shopping for two people named Ranma, and we didn't buy artifact one for my male persona.

The blouses and slacks, I was tolerating. I almost lost my temper for the third time today when she had me trying on skirts and sundresses. Looking at Mom's concentrating face quelled my fury. Until we got to the shop to purchase some yukata and kimono.

My twitch returned, but I somehow channeled it into my legs. My calves twitches in rising annoyance at this particular cannard. I was reduced to my skivvies so the little granny who ran the shop could measure me to within every possible millimeter. She was neither subtle, nor gentle in her work. Looking me over, she made no comment on my form, thankfully, but the look in her eyes was somehow even more annoying.

While I was allowed to get dressed once more, Mom set about looking over bolts of fabric with all manner of patterns on them to pick out for the kimono that would be made for me. My mother was then neither gentle or subtle in her selection. Loud, bright colors with decidedly feminine patterns on them. Before I was able to voice an objection, she had picked out two for summer yukata, and three more for formal dress.

I couldn't keep myself belted up any longer and now I was going to raise cain. In my building annoyance, my already rough language took on a new level of course.

"Ma, ain' this nuff … " I was just as swiftly cut off by a gentle voice that was sharper and stronger than the sword she'd left in Shampoo's capable hands.

"Ranma, stop fidgeting." My legs arrested with that command, and I can't easily say why. Mom was hardly intimidating in her person or aura, but something about her just made he go still and clam up. "Every girl needs a few kimono for formal occasions and festivals. Besides, these patterns will be lovely on you, sweet heart."

My jaw would surely have dropped open at those words but it didn't. My eyes did develop a tea saucer size. That my mother could say that wasn't shocking. It was how she said it. Dripping with saccharin that almost sounded sincere.

"I'll be just a few more minutes, then we'll go get lunch, darling."

The prospect of food banished the rest of my worry. I felt even hungrier than normal, and that with the heavy breakfast I had consume to satiate the fury my situation had put in me. We had spoken as adults for the first time ever, and with nothing more than superficial knowledge of the person I had become, she had a master's practiced hand at corralling my mood.

And deep down, a horrid fear I couldn't give more than a ghost of a whisper to. A part of me I didn't want to acknowledge, but had a louder and louder voice than ever before, was enjoying the clothes shopping. Some of the clothes I had tried on just clicked for me. I haven't clue one about good fashion as a guy, like hell I can make it work as a girl. Yet, some strange fragment of my pride, which had been steadily morphing into something frightening.

It liked how good I looked as a girl. It liked the prospect of how good some of the outfits had looked on me. I liked how good I looked. This was just becoming more confusing by the day.

Food. I could focus on food and banish this strange demon, for awhile at least.

When the trails of shopping had been concluded, Mom found a place Nabiki liked to frequent. It was almost like an old style diner. With a pretty large menu of popular foods, both of traditional Japanese, Chinese, and imported American and various European styles. It was most popular as an ice cream parlour.

My mouth watered at the prospect of two of my favorite things. That was food in general, and ice cream in particular.

For an experiment, I tried the spaghetti. Now I like ketchup, but the idea of it being the base of the sauce was just weird to me. However, my ideas were destroyed and a new love was born after I all but inhaled that plate. Doing my level best to keep from slurping it up like a vacuum cleaner.

I couldn't make up my mind from the sweets menu, so I just picked the best looking parfait from the pictures on the menu. What was delivered to me was lovely enough, but the first spoonful. I almost dropped the spoon as I stared at the treat before me.

{Ice cream has NEVER tasted that good before. Holy crap that was almost … orgasmic. Is this why I liked this stuff so much in the series?}

I'd have to do some testing, but I'm almost convinced that my sense of taste was much sharper as a girl. Or at least my senses for sweet flavors. I was to keep myself under control so Mom wouldn't think I was losing my mind.

"Wow, that was really good." I said in a soft tone, trying to keep from moaning allowed as each spoonful followed slowly. Trying to actually savor this rather than inhale it like I did everything else.

"You like sweets too?" Nodoka giggled, "So you did get something from me than just my eyes."

{Well, hypothetically I do look somewhat like I would if I had been born a female. Mother's tongue wouldn't be all that weird.}

I just laughed a bit and shrugged, "Maybe so, all I know is this is delicious. Thanks, Mom, for everything today." My smile was probably five hundred watts, and I reached over and gave her hand a squeeze. She returned it gently and soon we were full, paid, and just exploring.

The ice cream did wonders for my mood. Short term though it might be, I was feeling significantly better both body and mind. By the time we got home I was all but floating in compare to how my morning had begun.

Shampoo nearly tackled me before I had my shoes off. Mom made no comment, simply smiled and made her way deeper into the house to begin helping Kasumi, or whatever she was going to turn her attention to. Arms too full of Chinese Amazon to even query if she would like any help, I just turned my attention onto the girl whose affections I was about to receive.

My day was looking up.

How quickly the pendulum can swing too and fro in the course of just twelve hours. This week was just turning into a stupidly long roller coaster. There had been a nagging thought about where Mom was shipping my new clothes, and how evasive she was being on the issue. Hadn't given it much thought for awhile, but it was slammed forward to an answer when dinner was on the table.

Mom and Kasumi had passed out the portions to everyone and we had settled in to eat. Admittedly the table was fairly packed now. My parents on one side, Shampoo and I sat opposite them, Kasumi sat beside her father, while a blushing Ryoga sat beside Akane. Still mildly funny and cute to see him like that, even though we'd been here for almost a couple weeks now.

No sooner had we offered our thanks and chopsticks up than Mom dropped the bomb she had been keeping to herself all day. Breaking the subject in her soft, almost innocuous manner.

"Soun, I need to thank you for taking in my family for the past few weeks." Smiling to the man and nodding her head to him in a modest tilt of politeness. Pop paid it no mind, working to put rice to his mouth as quickly as she'd let him get away with.

"Oh there's no need for that Nodoka, I'm happy to put up my old friend and his son. You're welcome to stay here as well. Our home hasn't been so lively in years." Returning her smile just as wide. He was a good man, almost always soft mannered and polite. Had to be patient and kind to put up with my father for terribly long, and probably a bit spineless.

My eyes tracked the conversation slowly. Eating with a subdued pace compared to normal. It caught Shampoo's attention, ever alert for unusual warning signs. No one else seemed to pay it any mind. Still, something was up. Had to be.

"That's most kind of you, but I can't ask you to do that for a long period of time. It's not fair to you or your daughters. To say nothing of the burden it must place you under, having so many extra mouths to accommodate." That cocked my brow.

{Okay, this is kind of soon, but then so is her showing up. I think I can see where this is going. I just don't know how to feel about it.}

The man just chuckled a bit and shook his head, "Oh, think nothing of that. It's not a burden at all."

It was all I could do not to snort. {Right, no burden at all, just like a hole in the roof is just a skylight.}

Checker's head popped up from where she had been lazily nappin. Tilting to the side in that way dogs were prone to do when giving something a quizzical glance. Even she could get the sense something was up. Dog was scary smart, I tell you. If you she wasn't following the conversation word for word, she was at least cueing into the tension settling in.

"Soun, you are too kind." That earned a chuckle as the man puffed up just a bit. He wasn't my father, but he still liked his ego to be stroked all the same. "Still, it's not proper for my family remain under your roof for an extended period of time with no means of repaying you."

{And Other Shoe meet Drop.} I still held my peace, there no argument to be made. She had a point, and I was still ambivalent at best on how to feel to what I had a feeling was coming.

Everyone had finally zeroed on the conversation now. Eyes all watching Mom as she spoke, Pop and Tendo both beginning to look nervous. They could piece together the puzzle easily from here. A corpse could figure this out by now.

"After we finish the registration for the children to attend school, we will be departing for home." Chopsticks fell from nerveless fingers of the two men. Shampoo's shoulders became tense and she had a sudden worry in her eyes. Ryoga looked confused and lost. Akane? I wasn't sure what to make of her expression, but I think a slight hint of hurt was forming there.

The old man coughed and covered his mouth. "Dear, what do you mean? The training hall is the best place for so many reasons. It's closer to the school than our house. The dojo is perfect for the kids to train together and ..."

Whatever else he had to say turned to a halting silence as he took note of Mom's soft expression. It was gentle but there was that steel behind it. The sign of the only person on earth who could bend this man to her will like a reed in the wind.

"Genma, all these people under Soun's roof is not fair to his family. Besides, the house has been empty for so long. We've only just come together again, I feel it will be best for our family to be under our own roof. Dear, I want us to be a proper family again.

"I want the last few years of Ranma's youth to be spent with us before our son goes off to find himself as an adult." She didn't try holding the longing in her voice. It may as well have been tattooed on her face. Even I felt a sharp pang at the sight. My ambivalence was driven away by that plea. She'd been alone for so many years. It was only right we enjoy what time we had left together.

Pop's will was beginning to falter and he couldn't even find the traction to begin to protest. Shampoo also was getting wound up in his place. Her name had not been dropped yet, and it was causing a tension in both of us, her most visibly. Her fingers were trying to introduce my bones into a new position.

Mom cut both of them off just as swiftly. "You do have a point that the dojo is an excellent place for all of the children to train. I see no reason we can't put together a schedule for that, and as long as Soun doesn't mind you all can come over to do that."

"Yes, of course, you're all welcome here, always." Said patriarch of the Tendo family was quick to interject. Quickly accepting the peace offering tossed to him.

"I would also like to spend more private time with my future daughter-in-law and help prepare Shampoo for her eventual married life." Both father's suddenly began to crack at that. Seems the matter was settled as far as she was concerned. It also quickly allayed said lover's concerns. Her worry suddenly became a look of pleased admiration as she listened to Mom's proposals.

"Well, if that's how you feel, Nodoka. I understand. You are always welcome here, we should make certain to get our families together and have dinner from time to time." Soun broke under Mom's reasoning and her emotion. Unable to bring up an argument to something that had struck close to home for him.

His home had been absent his wife's presence for many years. The happiness could never be fully regained, but he and his daughters had moved forward as she would have wanted. Mom had tended an empty house for many more years, under protest perhaps, but she had willingly sacrificed the spirit and comfort that made a proper home. Now she wanted to pull it back and grab what memories could be captured in the remaining years left before I was an adult.

There was no argument or logic to deny her something she had one last chance to recapture. Just as the Tendos would give almost anything to have their lost matriarch back. The matter was more or less ended. The mood at the table was somber from there forward as the aftershock moved through us. Checkers moved around the table, sniffing people and finally plopped her head into Ryoga's lap. Though it was Akane who stroked her behind the ears more vigorously than her owner.

Ryoga had gone beyond shell shocked into completely numb. His chopsticks moved mechanically and no emotion flared in his eyes. Confusion and loss, and I couldn't quite piece together the full of why. He'd spent a year under shoe in lunchroom fights. Then another two years chasing me halfway around Asia. Then was stuck with my company on the way home. Now he was looking like I was going to just run out of his life?

I wasn't sure if I should be flattered or annoyed.

His life had been a fairly constant state of loneliness and always lost on the road. On second thought, having us as his companions for the past month had given him something more to look forward to. We'd become something of a normality to him, the parting might hit him harder than I thought.

I wanted to give out some words but nothing came forth. All I could do was just keep eating slowly. Mulling over the matter and unable to formulate any positive reply. We were only moving … actually, I didn't know how far our house was from the dojo. Couldn't have been too far, we'd run into Mom pretty early in the day. However, Ryoga would probably never find my house.

Unless, he had a talented guide.

{Heheh, problem solved, just get Akane and Checkers familiar with the way and they can pull Ryoga along every now and then. We can can all study, do homework, train. Here or Mom's, it'll be fine.}

The smile didn't touch my lips, but the thought mollified me. Not as much as I liked, but it would have to be my comfort for now. Even Shampoo was pensive as she took in Mom's words. She wasn't being left behind, but she and Akane had become pretty good friends in our time here.

It was just too sharp a change I guess, even after only a few weeks together.

We just ate, cleaned up the dishes, and retired to the dojo. I could at least do my best to help cool worries and ease the shock, even I was still feeling it too.

"You're just trying to make excuses for trying to run away AGAIN." A sharp left jab that would have taken my head off if I haven't been paying attention. I'd suggested some serious sparing and trying to burn out the gloomy energy we were all suffering.

As usual, Ryoga's aura of perpetual depression had gone through its usual hoops and contortions to spin the logic that somehow this was all my fault. Of course. Now he was mad, but no real target for his aggression just seemed upset things were changing on him again. He was still taking 'sparring' to the breaking point.

Fortunately, I was paying attention and just growled in reply. Curling my legs and dropping under the blow. My reach was significantly shorter but several weeks of intense training had allowed me to not only adjust and compensate, but take advantage of my increased speed in this form. His leg curled to try and launch a kick, but just a tick too late. I tagged his ribs with a glancing blow and was back a couple steps out of reach.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence. It was Mom's idea, not mine."

Duck. Slide back a step. Give ground to his assault. As usual, his frustration was making him sloppy. Unlike Akane, his moves weren't telegraphed as clearly. Ryoga was also much better at chaining attacks and keeping up an assault. Still getting sloopy.

Like the fairly predictable pattern he fell into in reply to my dodging. He moved to launch another quick snap kick. From which I had retreated four times now after ducking under a punch. However, I had given all the ground I could. Now I was almost back to the wall. No matter.

As his leg came up to make a quick tag toward my calves I changed tactics. Going backward in a quick hop. I got the force and distance right. My feet touched the wall and I managed to coil up my legs. Then shot forward. He was taken off guard and I got far more solid blow against his left rib.

We were pulling blows, but this one was going to sting.

"Ooof!" Was his elegant reply, cutting him off mid rant and sent him backward a few steps. I didn't wait for him to catch his wits and continued forward the instant my feet were back on solid ground. Launching a quick series of kicks. Low, low, high, low, mid. He just had enough time to get up his guard to prevent solid taps that would have hurt.

"You'd say that, nothing is ever your fault. Dammit Ranma, why are you suddenly leaving? We have a fight to settle, and you think you're going to pop out on me a second time?"

"Oh for cryin' out loud! We're not movin' that far! Mom says it's not more than a half hour walk from the dojo. For us four, if we take the quick route, won't be ten minutes"

My hormones had settled a bit but were still running a bit wild. His moping wasn't helping my mood any. I let myself get sloppy and he caught my ankle.

"You know I'll never find your house!"

"Uhgggg!" A sharp yank forward and suddenly I was leaving my feet involuntarily. He seemed intent to turn the grab into a toss. I just reacted quickly, finding my wits enough to lash out. The heel of my back leg smacking his forearm hard enough he yelped and let me go. Dropping to the ground I took the rough thump to my ass. Thankfully, it was well padded.

I swept his legs and dropping him onto his tailbone as well. Wasting no I quickly wrapped his leg and put it in a harsh lock. Twisting his ankle enough to get the point across I wasn't in the mood for his crap.

"I'll show you how to get there, doofus. Akane and Checkers too. You'll just have to ask someone to walk with you, and you'll be fine, moron. You don't think I'd just leave my friends behind do you?"

He growled in stubborn resistance but while he had far superior strength I wasn't going to give him the time to battle for leverage to use it. Turning his foot at a sharper angle. He let out a pained sound as he was biting back admitting he was in a vulnerable position.

"You promise? On your honor? We're going to settle our duel like men? And .. I could use your help with English, you always were better with that." His fury dying a bit and I loosened up a bit in response.

{Oh Ryoga, you silly fool, English will be an easy help.}

"Yes, you dope, we'll settle our fight. Like men … if that's even possible with my 'condition.' Yes we'll all study together, and hang out. We're all friends, you dummy."

That penetrated him enough that he nodded and finally tapped the floor a few times. I released his ankle and bounced up. Panting a bit from the workout we'd been putting each other through. Grabbing a water bottle and sipped on it.

"I just don't get 'guy friendships.'" Akane said from the otherside of the dojo, shaking her head in complete bemusement. Working through some cool down exercises. Shampoo nodded in agreement.

"Is too true, boys very strange." Helping Akane stretch her back and be helped in turn like they might in gym. Holding hands on the floor and one leaning back and tugging a bit to assist the other in pulling muscles taunt. Unlike Ryoga, who I'd almost had to beat some happiness in to, Akane was almost glowing.

Her skin was flush from effort and sweat streaked her brow, but she was happy. The kind of look one got from a sense of accomplishment following hard work. The struggle was tiring, but the effort paid off in the end. None of her sisters practiced, and her father had given up serious teaching months ago.

Having not one, but three people her own age who shared her passion for martial arts was a new spark of delight in her life. While she did lag behind in terms of ability, it wasn't for lack of talent. Just she hadn't had a serious teacher for a long time. I had Pop, and every possible master of esoteric martial arts we could find in Japan and into China. Mind you, esoteric but still martial art in the recognizable sense. Not the madness I was going to wind up encountering in the months to come.

Shampoo had her great grandmother, one of the truest and greatest grand masters alive. Ryoga? I think his father taught him the basics of a fairly general style of kempo, but he had a knack for finding skilled teachers while on the road. Men and women who shared little secrets and tricks to help him improve.

Akane had none of that, until now. We'd paired off. Two doing serious training against one another. While the odd one out helped Akane with something lower tier, but focused on helping her tighten up and improve. The girl had talent, real skill. I suspect she could be almost good as me, someday … far off in the future. She just needed people who could help her push herself and improve.

I could see the improvement in short order in just the couple hours we'd been practicing. Rotating partners after about ten to fifteen minutes of hard work and a five minute rest period. Exposing her to three different habits and styles of fighting. The last half hour, Shampoo had been showing her some of the conditioning techniques her tribe used. Not just to build muscle strength, but also to strengthen the ligaments and tendons. A way to provide more power, but also resistance to injury.

The girl was happy to be taken seriously. She was positively elated that we also wanted her to improve and get better at the fastest pace we could help with. Her talent had plateaued without more instruction but now we could help her push past that limitation and rise to the next level.

"What 'guy' friendship? I'm the only guy here." Ryoga quipped, being a guy for certain. Snipping at me in a good hearted way. The jab got at me, just like he wanted. But the normal needling didn't quite sit well with my still moody frame of mind.

"You want to take my PMS for a bit? I'll happily share." I snarled, launching a swift kick he hadn't been expecting. It tagged his calf and almost sent him right back onto his ass. It got a sharp hiss of pain and he growled in rising anger.

"What was that for?!"

"You wanna find out?" I snapped back, turning and glaring daggers at him. Something in my expression must've been unsettling because he suddenly looked ready to shrink into himself and hide under a rock. Bet he would've been behind Akane in a second if he could.

Forcing a slow breath, I rubbed on my temples. "I'm sorry Ryoga, that was uncalled for. These mood swings are really messin' with me, and my cramps are tryin' to kick me in the gut again."

He just nodded, still sliding back a bit in case it was a trap and I lashed out again. Akane's look was sympathetic, but still had a hard edge of stern rebuke. I needed to work on keeping myself more firmly controlled. Until I got used to his, I could possibly be dangerous. I wasn't as violent as Akane like this, but my trigger was pretty close to being with a hair touch.

Arms wrapped around me and began to tug me backward. "Airen, come take hot bath. Shampoo give massage that help relax." Cooing in my ear as she drug me out the room before I could further make a bitch of myself. I submitted without complaint and was soon pulled off to the furo.

A hot soak sounded divine right now.

I didn't get much time to relax from the torment. Somehow Mom had gotten me an appointment squeezed in with a doctor … a gynecologist. This was a jump I really wasn't ready to make, but she had insisted and I was in no position to complain. I felt even worse than I had yesterday. If I could get a prescription that would take away the worst of this suffering, I'd bear almost any indignity.

Hitomi Harada was a sweet woman, who looked entirely too young to be a doctor. She also had a figure that was nearly unreal. Even made me feel a tinge of odd jealousy. Her hips were generous, her breasts might as well have been pillows, and to add insult to injury she was tall. The woman had couple inches on Mom, who was not a short woman herself. I think she might actually be taller than me in my male body.

{Wonder if my figure will develop like hers? … } I was giving up trying to contain those weird thoughts. Don't know where they came from, whether it was hormones or something deeper in my psyche. They kept coming despite my efforts to stop them, so I just let them be.

"So, Ranko," I couldn't hide the wince. That name was going to be a serious part of my identify from now on. "You're having a rough time with your monthly cycle?" Looking over the chart before turning her large, brown eyes on me. The woman was stunningly beautiful, I felt a weird ping jealousy at such a mature woman, but also a wave of heat and desire.

Rather than let me answer, Mom just did all the speaking for me. "Yes, Dr. Harada. My daughter has been training very seriously in our family martial art. This is her first period, actually, so it seems to be rather intense. Although, personally, mine were quite uncomfortable at her age."

Without missing a beat, the woman just gave a bright smile and nodded. "So you're a martial artist, Ranko? And this is your first cycle?"

Putting down the general bad mood I was in, I put on my best smile. My lips felt so tight they might crack under the strain. "Uh, yeah Doc, been trainin' my whole life. Pop is all kinds'a serious in makin' me the best. So, I've never had one, a period." I had to fight to keep my teeth from grinding as I forced out the word. I wasn't even bleeding yet, this was just the uncomfortable precursor.

Making notations in her chart for a moment, she glanced up and gave what she must've assumed was her brightest and most comforting smile. "It's nothing to worry about. It's not uncommon for girls who perform intense physical training, like gymnasts for example, to have their puberty delayed until later years.

"And many girls have uncomfortable cycles in their teens. Somewhere up to forty percent, actually, so this is nothing strange. I had the same issue when I was your age. Some months were almost unbearable." She was sweet and had a good bedside manner. Trying to reassure a 'girl' she wasn't strange. However, poor woman didn't know she was talking to a part-time female at best.

I still managed to keep the wince down and just nodded. "Yeah, I think I heard that before, back in health class in middle school."

{Please, just gimme something to help and no exams. Kami no exam! I'll never survive the embarrassment.}

"Well, I don't see anything unusual in your symptoms. Discomfort, tender breasts, your moods are erratic. I'm going to prescribe you some higher strength ibuprofen and a trial run of a low dose antidepressant. We'll see how that works for three months. If you still have problems, we'll have to consider a contraceptive." Whether she sensed my tension, or the gods decided to answer my prayers, her words washed over me in relief. Medication I could deal with.

{Uggg, thank you, no exam. Birth control? How many more ironies am I going to go through? Better talk to Cologne about that.} Mom and I shared a look at the last bit, she had to fight down a frown more than I did.

Still, if it would help me get through this madness with a clearer head and less discomfort, I'd suffer the torment Nabiki and my father would deliver onto me. Almost anything to stop feeling so crappy.

"Normally though, after your body adjusts to a regular cycle it should become something you can control with regular over the counter treatment. Just keep a record of how you feel over the next few months. I'll schedule you another appointment in a month to see if the medication helps."

"Thanks, Doc … err Doctor Harada." Mom was giving me a sharp glance. She was fairly keen on me cleaning up my speech a bit. Especially as I was, by nature, using a firmly masculine form of speech.

"It's what I'm here for." She smiled and pulled out her script pad and jotted down a couple of medications. Unlike most doctors I was used to, her handwriting was very neat and controlled. Then jotted down her name and pressed her stamp do it. She passed them to Mom and bowed.

"I hope this helps you and the next time we speak you'll be feeling much better. I'll have my receptionist set you up with a meeting next month and you're free to go. Thank you for coming to see me."

Mom and I both bowed and thanked for her for her care. After we had been set up to return a month hence we were off to explore the area for awhile. From her movements and posture it wasn't hard to see Mom was preoccupied with something on her mind.

"Mom, somethin' on your mind?"

Pausing, she took a slow breath and turned to look into my eyes. For the first time since we'd been reintroduced, I saw Nodoka Saotome as something other than the optimistic matriarch of our family. She looked tired and frustrated. The weight of all the shocks to her expectations of being reunited with her son had met some harsh collisions with reality.

"I'm just a little tired, Ranma, don't worry sweetheart." She kissed my forehead and kept on walking. Just browsing windows while we waited on my prescriptions to be filled at the closest pharmacy.

I wasn't in the best state to be trying to help someone else's problems. My mood was still a bit foul and I was feeling just a few levels above complete crap, but Mom didn't have anyone to talk to. Wasn't fair if she'd listen to me whine and moan and me not to the same for her.

"Come on, Mom, talk to me. I know I might not be able to help much, but talkin helped me feel better. Maybe it'll help you too?" Putting on my best smile, which was still strained and tight but she returned it in fashion.

"Let's go get some ice cream and sit down a bit."

The thought of the sublime confection brought a far more real smile to my face. Even Mom perked up at the thought. So, moods improved we found a treat shop and a quiet place we should talk without worry of prying ears. Eating in relative quiet and not yet breaking the tense mood, despite the satisfaction the sugar was bringing to our taste buds.

"Ranma, are you angry with me for what I'm making you do?" Nodoka finally managed to say in a soft voice. As if she were scared of the answer.

Taking a long breath, I sighed and shook my head. "No, Mom, none of this is your fault. It's all Pop's fault. Jusenkyo, this curse, now being stuck as a girl at least a third of the month. Sure it's kind of stressin' me out, but I understand why you want me to do the whole be a girl thing.

"Although, don't see how this is 'manly.'" I teased with a soft grin while putting a new spoonful of my parfait into my mouth. It got a soft chuckle out of her and some of the stress lines in her face relaxed. Leaking out the tension a bit in her muscles.

"Yes, this isn't what I had in mind for my son. You don't have to act feminine, in fact I'd prefer if you didn't. I'm not ready for that shock, but Ranma … if, if you're happier as a girl … "

Reaching over I gave her hand a soft squeeze. "Mom, I'm still me, boy or girl. Not gonna jump into a dress, start actin' girly, and go flirting with boys. My brain chemistry might be a bit funny, but I'm still your son. We're just gonna have to get use to me being in this body, a lot." I sighed a bit and shrugged.

Her head just shook as she sighed, "This is going to be a long adjustment, but thank you dear. I can't imagine how hard this must be on you. When I let your father take you on that trip, I never imagined this kind of madness would take place."

"Makes two of us. Pop can be short-sighted, and he doesn't like to think long term, but magical curses?" I just sighed myself and let the sugary delight work away my other concerns. Silence fell between us and we just concentrated on the icecream for a time.

After that was gone, and Mom watched me inhale two other types in short order, she finally coughed and smoothed back her hair. "Your prescription should be filled soon. We need to go take care of that. Then we have to sort out the little issue with school."

I was on a sugar high at the moment, and I couldn't work up the kind of eye twitch I wanted to develop. That 'problem' was the simple matter of discrepancy between the sex under which I was registered, and the one I was currently in. I don't know how Mom was going to sort it out, but I just silently went to see how this was going to play.

"So you see, Mr. Tanaka, this is just a simple misunderstanding. I thought I made it clear that our daughter was going to return home after visiting relatives in China and attend high school, while our son continued his training journey." Giving an exasperated sigh, Mom was doing a scary good job of making her ridiculous story sound believable for the the vice principal.

Don't know how in the world she expected the man to buy it. Now I was playing the role of Ranko. That name was just going to stick with me, naturally. Just it was an inversion, rather than fooling Mom by playing that role, I was going to be fooling the wider world.

Tanaka was a kindly looking man. Someone who would be more at home in a library or research lab. Thick glasses on his face, the plastic frames long worn with age and oil from his skin where he gripped them. His hair was thin to the point of balding.

"Well, that is quite a misunderstanding, Mrs. Saotome, but I believe we can correct the issue." It was all I could do to keep my mouth clicked shut by locking my jaw. He was buying that pile of horse crap?

"Do you have Ranko's birth certificate by chance?" There we go, this ridiculous charade was going to implode before it even gained any traction.

"I brought it with me, just in case." Something on my face was going to break at this rate. Without hesitation Mom produced a proper, legal copy of the proper document. Name, sex, time and place of birth. The seals from both birth parents, a seal for the attending physician, and a public notary stamp. It was either authentic, or a near flawless forgery. I couldn't even guess which.

Taking the document, the vice principal went to work starting a new file for Ranko Saotome. Quietly and efficiently going through the forms with a well practiced hand. After a few minutes he returned my alleged birth certificate and dropped a manilla folder into a slot outside his door. I'm guessing for his secretary to process.

"If I recall, isn't the young student Ms Xian Pu living with you as well? Are you her guardian?"

Mom just smiled and nodded, "Yes, she's my goddaughter. it's a very complicated story, but her father is a friend of my husband. Her family is from a very rural part of China, and her family wants to get a very good education, perhaps even attend university. She'll be home staying with us until at least graduation."

My lips quirked tight as I fought to keep in the snort that wanted to escape. Covering my lips quickly I faked a soft cough to keep from being caught. Though neither adult paid me much attention.

{'Complicated' she says. She's got this story down pat, no way she's thinking of this crap on the fly. How long has she been building this bologna sandwich?}

Tanaka just smiled and nodded, making a notation in Shampoo's file. When all was said and done, he rose and bowed. We returned the gesture in a formal manner.

"Well, I want to thank you for entrusting both of your daughters to our care and instruction. I'm sorry to hear your son won't be attention, but my well wishes in his journey. To have such dedication for martial arts in this day and age. It's admirable."

Mom beamed that much more for the compliment while the principal turned to me. "I hope you find the school to your liking, and make any friends, Ms Saotome."

"Uhh, thanks, tea..Mr Tanaka. I'll be in your care from now on." Kami catching my verbal tics was becoming harder to do. I'd fallen hard into my personality, and 'correct' speech took more and more effort to produce. I wasn't terribly concerned if I did sound like a country rube. Mom, however, wouldn't appreciate me not being polite and respectful.

"I'm glad we sorted this out quickly. If you need anything else, please don't hesitate to call us." Mom bowed once more and soon we were out of the office and onto the next course of what was proving to be a busy day.

{Least me medication is helping. I don't feel like crying, or strangling someone.}

When we were at a safe enough distance from the school, I turned and had to ask. "Mom, where did you …?"

"Oh,your birth certificate? Cologne and Nabiki helped, that girl is quite crafty. It's a shame you won't be marrying one of the Tendo girls. She'll make quite a business woman with that head on her shoulders." A whimsical look crossed her face as she began running 'what if' scenarios in her head. "Although, I hear she's not much for housework or bridal efforts."

Before I could inquire further, a shiver just ran up my spine at the thought. Sure, Nabiki was attractive. All the Tendo girls were, but of the three, the middle child was the most frightening prospect. She had looks and brains, sure, but also a mercenary streak wider than a canyon. Girl was the only person I knew who just might be more greedy than Pop.

Who knows, maybe she'd be a fox in bed, but I already had a wild kitten for that. Whenever we started. Nabiki, however, too self-serving, lazy and scheming. The vast difference between her and my old man, she was actually very clever and good pulling traps on people.

Mom just kept on her train of thought. "Kasumi would be the ideal bride. So sweet and dedicated. Still, I worry what her family would do without her. Her father in particular, I don't know if Soun could handle the separation.

"Akane, though I think she would be a perfect match."

I coughed and cleared my throat, "Ma, I think that issue is already kinda settled, yeah? I got Shampoo, and I don't need another girl." I didn't need Mom running along those lines. I don't know if she'd go for it, but she'd bought into more than one of my old man's wild schemes before. The whole training trip for example, and thinking my idiot of a father could be 'responsible.'

For the most part I turned out alright, sure. But there were some glaring flaws. Like the 'Cat Fist' training I had endured. Repeatedly.

Better not to risk her being talking into some kind of stupid, dual marriage thing. I don't know how that would work, or if it could even happen. Wouldn't stop the panda from trying, and if Mom was onboard for it, he'd grab that horse and ride into the ground whether or not it could cross the finish line. A lot of feelings would be hurt, and potential problems along the way, no matter the outcome.

Her mind was off galavanting in some kind of fantasy. Only seeming to notice me after the second, louder sound. "Oh, what? I'm sorry dear, don't mind me. Yes, Shampoo is an excellent girl. She is an excellent cook, can sew, and has all the right skills to be a perfect wife. She also shares your passion for martial arts, and being stronger. You two were almost made for one another."

Her smile widened and she began to titter a bit. "My grandchildren are going to be so beautiful. A father as handsome as my son, and a mother as divine as Shampoo."

Turning my head, all I could do was roll my eyes and fight down a groan. {What happened to 'I'm too young to be a grandma?' What's the qualifier, when you turn forty, then it's a'ok?}

Seeing as I wasn't going to get any more information out of her on the subject of just how she'd been helping cooking up her story, or someone had banged out a forged document, I decided to change the subject.

"Mom, I aint ready for kids. Wayyyy not ready for 'em. But you know, if I had a little brother or sister, it'd be great practice for when I'm ready." Letting the suggestion hang in the air as I smeared it on as nonchalantly as possible.

Nodoka Saotome, the ever stable fixture of calm and unflappable matron-hood turned beet red. The blush rising all the way up into her hairline. All of a sudden she looked like an embarrassed teenager, not a woman in her mid-thirties.

Yeah, I'd squeezed it outta Pop. It was only fair I know my mother's birthday. Hard to get her a present when I didn't know the proper time. With that came her age. They'd gotten started with the whole family thing early, and popped me out when she was just nineteen. Still funny to see her blushing so much.

"Ranma! You shouldn't talk about such things to your parents. The very idea of having a child at my age."

I just gave her a half lidded stare. "Mom, you're thirty five. The only thing keepin' you from havin' a bigger family was a certain panda I know not bein' around. The only thing to stop you from havin' another kid or two, is if you and Dad don't want anymore. And I'm sure Shampoo wouldn't mind helpin' care for 'em as practice for when her time comes."

She became practically incandescent by this point and could stand in for a cherry on top of a sundae. However, there was a certain gleam forming in her eyes. Looks like I'd planted a seed there, a thought at least. Now if a certain moron could plant a real one.

Hey, didn't bother me, I wasn't gonna be watching. I'm too old to get jealous of a baby in the house. Besides, they were adorable. Causes of a lot of stress, puke, and pop, but still adorable.

It would also give my parents something else to focus on besides me.

"Ranma, I'll hear no more talk like this. It's not proper for a son to make such suggestions to his mother. If you were five it could be one thing, but you're almost an adult." Her hand swatting at me, but a grin had settled on her lips hiding just behind the hand hiding her embarrassed expression.

"Alright, alright, I'll quit teasin'. I'm just sayin'. That kinda stuff is all up to you and Pop."

"Good, now let's hurry on. We need to get back to the dojo so we can get your things moved." The grin remained plastered on her face the whole way back. Seems I just might have struck a proper chord with her. Hell, even if all it did was keep the old man out of my hair for awhile, fine by me.

"And here we are. I know it's humble compared to the Tendo house, but this is our home." Mom was beaming as we walked through the fence and into the yard of the Saotome property. Which quickly shattered my expectations.

Well, I don't really know what I was expecting, but this wasn't it. Oh sure, it wasn't the Tendo house by any means. Which was both spacious in itself, and occupied by a comparatively huge yard for a crowded, Tokyo suburb. You could've fit four houses like ours into that space. We still had a yard, wasn't huge, but it big enough.

Our house wasn't huge, but it was … big enough. I don't know, I just wasn't expecting comfortably middle class. That was narrow, but relatively deep, and two story. The furo and kitchen were compact, to make room for my parents' bedroom and a family space almost the same size as the main main room in the Tendo home.

Shampoo and I were on the second floor, sharing an equally small bathroom, but our bedrooms were only slightly smaller than any of the Tendo girls'. With a third space Mom had set aside for storage. That space was 'Ranma's' room. To keep all my male clothing while I was on my allegedly training journey. Hopefully, in time it'd be a perfect space for a young sibling to be in, but we'd see how that went.

Sure, the rooms were a bit tighter than my apartment from my old life. Yet, the space was used quite efficiently. Just the fact we owned such a house still blew my mind. It was nothing special in this neighborhood. There were countless dozens of similar construction all around us. Yet, I expected they were all worth many hundreds of thousands of yen. Possible millions more like. All of these houses were signs of comfortable, middle class living.

How under the brilliant rays of Amaterasu-okami's shining face did my family own a place like this? My mother had no job I knew of outside of 'house wife.' And my father? The man who refused to hold down a job out of anything other than necessity, and even then only for a few weeks at most. Never with more than a few thousand yen to his name. Somehow owned a comfortably sized house, with a good sized yard?

Had to be inherited from someone. Had to be. Likely with a trust fund to cover the taxes. Aside from my training, I'd never seen Pop do more work than he had to, or have more money than required to keep us just above starving. I can't see him sending every other red cent he had to Mom to pay the bills.

Still, I avoided asking questions. All my inquiries into matters financial had been casually deflected and hand waved away. Mom finally told me it wasn't really my business, point blank. I was be a good son. Become a master of the family Art. Be the best possible student. And honor my parents by being the best man I could be. How I was provided for wasn't a concern for me to worry over. She all but said it was an insult to ask. So I quit trying.

My father was also too tight lipped to pry any information out of. Either he didn't know, or more likely he was under pain of skinning for talking about it. All of which just frustrated me to no end. Why shouldn't I worry about how we were paying for things? I was old enough to get a part-time job and help out with food expenses at least.

When I broached the subject, Mom did everything short of looking offended at the suggestion. If I wanted to work a little and earn money to bolster my allowance, that was my business so long as my grades stayed up. However, she'd hear no talk of me trying to help pay bills. I wasn't even allowed to publicly repay Soun for putting us up for most of the month.

{Looks like my ego isn't all Pop. In fact, I'm thinking it isn't much Pop at all. Most of it seems to come from Mom. Heh, get a huge load of pride from someone I hardly know. Go figure.}

When we finally got settled in, I dropped my bag to the floor and collapsed back into my bed. My bed. That was still a strange idea. Hadn't ever had a permanent one before, and rarely ever a real mattress. It felt new and not well broken in. Yet, somehow Mom had gotten the comfort level near to perfect.

Grunting a little and sighing a bit. Both in relief and stress. It was nice to sink back into the wonderful embrace of a real, proper bed, but there was still so much stress. Things had been moving rapidly the past week and I was still trying to adjust to it all. Curse. Shampoo. Tendos. Stuck as a girl. Soon to have a regular period. Now moving into Mom's house, our house. And in a few days, school.

And this wasn't even the kind of real craziness I knew as going to be forthcoming. Dropping an arm over my eyes I blew out a long breath. Being stuck as a girl and experiencing the fun roller coaster of menstruation seemed a far distant worry compared to the things I recalled. Both in detail and the vague stuff I only just remembered.

After a moment I began to feel restless. While the bed was wonderful, I wasn't really feeling a nap right now. Instead I regained my feet and moved around the room. Time to explore my new dwelling in detail. This space was now officially 'mine.' Might as well become familiar with the landscape. Such as it was.

The fact it was stunningly similar to Akane's room almost made me snort with laughter. The bed was set in the corner, opposite the door to the hall on one side, and the closet on the other. I was beside a small writing desk, which sat close to the floor, no room for a chair. The window looked out over the backyard. The dresser beside the closet was probably the largest piece of furniture in the room.

Curiosity getting the better of me, I began to plunder through the drawers. Could one plunder through their own clothes? It certainly felt like I was spying through someone else's things. My eye twitch tried to return as I looked. Socks in the top, fine enough. The full ensemble of bra and panty sets the next one in. The volume of clothing was about as full as it could get.

"How the hell did Mom get all this put away in the few hours she was over here? And did we really buy this much? I couldn't wear all these in a month." Probably an exaggeration, but I was blushing and feeling guilty anyway. I was looking at my own clothes, and I still felt like I was being a pervert. This crap was just hitting me too fast.

Blouses next down, then slacks, then pajamas in my size. Nothing frightening or unexpected, I'd been there when we bought them. Then. Ugh. We had bought swimsuits, hadn't we? Like all the rest of it, I didn't have much choice in the matter. It was this or go topless. However, in the mix of one pieces I had swallowed my pride and settled on, there were more than a few bikinis. Mom had been doing some shopping on the side without me it seems. I really was twitching now as I let my curiosity get the better of me.

While I couldn't get the most accurate assessment with my bra and shirt on, holding the top in place it looked like just the right fit. Another top, however, seemed to be purchased with the thought I'd grow in to it.

"Ugh … Mom … seriously … " I growled and shoved the drawer closed. "Last thing I need is MORE." Hefting both, heavy spheres in my hands and letting them drop a bit. Many girls would be plenty jealous of me. Shampoo teasingly was, and I'm pretty sure Akane wasn't happy how good I looked as a female.

Secretly, I freely admit that if I had to be a girl part of the time, being a sexy one didn't hurt my pride any. If anything, it just made it worse. The strange flashes of feminine vanity were more frequent and intense as the days wore on. I never managed to stop them, and by now I gave up. They were some of part of who I am, and I'd already had one brutal clash with trying to stop being who I was.

I did kind of enjoy this, even if was strange. Suppose if I didn't take some pleasure in it my psyche would break and I'd go batty. This was my body, might as well take some pride and delight in it. Even if that wasn't particularly healthy. Taking some pride and encouragement in how I looked helped me all the same.

Blowing a rude noise to banishment my philosophical rambling, I turned to the closet. It was decently sized. And as expected, Mom had filled it end to end with outfits we'd purchased. My uniforms, a series of skirts and dresses. Some which I had submitted to. Others she had taken it upon herself to buy on her own. Seems we were going to carry this deception to its maximum possible effort.

Pinching the bridge of my nose I just closed the sliding doors with a sigh. An entire false identity filled this room. Something about it just felt so wrong. I was still male in whatever fashion I could claim. The core part of my personality. Who I was. All of it was built around some sense of manliness, even if that concept had a strange meaning in my family.

However, something about it also felt frightening right. This was just proper and to be expected. Maybe I was just normalizing to these changes faster than I thought I would. I just didn't know anymore.

One last thing to do, I grabbed my travel pack and started to sort through what outfits I owned. It had certain things that were to go into 'Ranma's' room. Mostly boxers and wife-beaters. A girl wouldn't be wearing those, after all. A few minutes of separation and I carried them down the hall. The room was spartan in compare to mine. No mattress, no desk. 'Ranma' wasn't living here after all.

A futon was packed away in the closet. It was spare of clothing. Mom would take me for a second round of shopping so we could fill it up properly. Hard to properly size clothes for a growing teenage boy when he wasn't on hand to wear them. Even if I knew what fit me, she had insisted.

{I think she just enjoys having me play dressup and model. Oh well, she hasn't gotten to do that for over fourteen years. I'll live.}

So, tucking the underwear and shirts into the top drawer of the small dresser in the room. I gave it a look around, and then departed. I needed to take my mind off all this for awhile.

I knocked on Shampoo's door, and was promptly snatched into her room. Smothered in kisses and tight hugs. At some point I finally managed to drag her out into the yard to train. Not that I tried hard, for a very long time.

She was just the balm to relax my overtaxed mind and put my attention on other things. Like martial arts, and most importantly. Her.

School. Fights. All that crap could wait till later. Right now I just wanted to unwind and get comfortable in my new home.

A/N: An update has been a long time in coming, more than a year in fact. Since then the story has climbed over 100 favs (O.O) Things have settled down, so I can get back to trying to work on a regular routine in my writing and keeping stories moving along. This chapter originally didn't exist, I had another one almost entirely written and then I got the thought for this. So, here is the new Chapter 7 instead, and I can do a twofer update.

I'm hoping to keep the next one from being long in coming, just a couple weeks, maybe three depending on my work schedule.

As always, thanks for reading.

Dorin