Disclaimer: I do not own the characters. They are humbly borrowed. This story is not for profit of any sort, but solely for the enjoyment of other fans.

Hiroshi's eyes widened appreciatively the moment he opened the door. Pop music wafted out behind him. There was a comfortable crowd of his fellow students mingling inside his home for his costumed Halloween party.

His best pal, Daisuke, was right behind him. Had Hiroshi bothered to turn around, he would have seen a similarly dumbfounded and enamored expression.

"What, is there something wrong?" Tendo Akane looked around, puzzled by their silent, gaping jaws. Her oversized, crooked witch's hat started to fall over her face again and she readjusted it nervously.

Saotome Ranma, Hiroshi's good friend, was right behind her. He was, somewhat comically, dressed as a mummy-man. Loose white cloth wrapped around his neck like a strange scarf, and a separate series of gauze partially wrapped around his more-unruly-than-usual hair, forming a haphazard path across the bridge of his nose, eventually wrapping across the martial artist's mouth. It was hard to tell if he was in costume or simply badly injured and ineptly nursed. Given this was Ranma, and Akane was usually the one to bandage him back together, either answer was equally likely.

Daisuke and Hiroshi snapped back to reality to answer Akane's question. "No, no…! Nothing wrong!"

Daisuke nodded vigorously, his red devil horns nearly falling off his head. "You're looking good Akane-chan!"

And she was.

Akane's decolletage was beautifully framed and more revealed than usual, in an umber orange dress with a very, very low heart shaped neckline and black ribbon detailing. The fabric hugged the girl's frame, revealing exactly how trim and fit the athletic heir to the Tendo dojo was … and how much Ranma was either blind or a liar for ever insulting her figure. Though come to think of it, Hiroshi hadn't heard Ranma say any of the typical insults and denials of Akane's positive physical attributes in some time. Maybe his pal wasn't a lost cause.

It didn't take long for Ranma to realize exactly why both of his closest school friends were gawking at his fiancee. Ranma's blue eyes hardened and he gave them the universal stare all young men knew to mean "back off...she's with me."

Of course, Ranma only gave such looks when Akane's back was turned. He wasn't foolish enough to give Akane any extra ammunition in calling out his jealous behavior.

Hiroshi chuckled nervously and led his guests inside.

"Akane, over here!" Sayuri and Yuka were near the refreshment table, and eagerly called over their friend.

Ranma turned to Daisuke, who was now openly admiring the view of Akane's posterior in the cute ruffles of her skirt, her black witch's cape fluttering behind her but ending at her slim waist. Ranma flicked the plastic devil's horns on the boy's head and quipped quietly, "So what are you, a horndog?"

Hiroshi laughed, his werewolf headpiece bouncing. Daisuke readjusted his costume forlornly. "Hey, you can't blame us for admiring the obvious. Akane is the hottest chick at Furinkan, even if you deny it."

"Whatever…" Ranma mumbled, neither confirming or denying. Not wanting to be questioned further on his relationship with Akane (which was an annoying constant with the school crowd), he wandered off to the buffet table.

Daisuke sighed. "He's hopeless! Engaged to the cutest girl in school and he never makes a move. What a waste."

Hiroshi studied the two from across the room, his felt wolf paw resting under his chin as he considered Daisuke's concern. It was obvious the two cared for each other. Constantly rescuing each other, the cat kiss, the sleep incense, the cursed umbrella... the evidence kept piling up. Especially, after the bombed wedding fiasco, there seemed to be fewer insults and petty arguments, replaced with more frequent blushes and sidelong glances. "Those two are such late bloomers! But…" He gave Daisuke a devilish grin that would have suited his compatriot's costume much better. "Why not give them some help?"

Sayuri and Yuka were joined at the hip, as usual, chatting animatedly with Akane. Sayuri was dressed as a zombie nurse and Yuka was Sailor Jupiter.

"Oh, what a great witch costume, Akane!"

"Thanks. Ranma's mom helped me with it after, I, uh, had some trouble sewing my first attempt." Akane frowned at the memory of the awful mess she had made attempting her own tailoring. At least the hat and cape she made were usable. Self consciously, she adjusted her dress' neckline, worried it might be too low. "There wasn't as much fabric left after that, but she assured me it's fine."

Yuka chuckled. "That explains the sexy-cute look! You can totally pull it off," she quickly reassured her friend, "but I know it's not your usual style."

Sayuri nodded in agreement. "We just bought ours, but you and Ranma look great with your homemade ones. Too bad you didn't do a couple's costume."

Akane rolled her eyes. "Don't you start, too! Our dads already tried to push themed couples costumes on us."

"Oh, what did they have in mind?"

"Lots of over the top romantic pairings. They even tried to lure us with costumes of some martial artist superheros named Nightwing and Batgirl. I think it's from some American comic series, but -"

"Attention everyone!" The music was abruptly cut off. Hiroshi was standing on top of a chair with a hollowed out party cup as a megaphone.

Everyone stopped to look, and for a moment, Hiroshi looked like he was about to lose his nerve. He cleared his throat and continued.

"We, uh, have a Halloween party game to start, called Monster Mash!"

Next to him, Daisuke held out a large stack of old newspapers.

Hiroshi continued. "Daisuke will be dividing us into dancing teams and giving out a sheet of newspaper. The rules are simple: dance away, but when the music stops, both people have to fit onto the sheet of newspaper. The difficulty—and fun!—starts when you have to fold the newspaper into a smaller sheet every round, which means you have to get closer and closer, and try not to lose your balance! The winners are the last pair standing."

Daisuke tapped Yuka on the shoulder. "Would you help me set up?"

Yuka nodded agreement and followed him. Quickly, Daisuke whispered something into her ear. Yuka's eyebrows shot up and her eyes darted between Ranma and Akane before breaking out in a mischievous smile.

As Daisuke and Yuka helped pair up the boys and girls, Ranma found himself carefully watching who was getting assigned. He tried to tell himself he didn't care who the tomboy got. It was just dancing. Close. And then closer.

Then again, maybe he should try to get teamed with Akane. Just to win, of course, not out of anything like jealousy over another guy touching her, he quickly tried to tell himself. Akane simply had the same competitive spirit. Ranma sighed. Lying to himself was getting harder and harder these days.

Gosunkugi, dressed as a ghost (or maybe it was a shinto priest? It was hard to tell if he was wearing white face paint or if it was his natural unhealthy pallor) was moving closer to Akane. Ranma felt his eye twitch. There was no way he was going to let that pale pervert be paired up with Akane.

Before he had to directly intervene, Yuka was handing him a piece of newspaper with Akane's name written on it in black marker. "Oh, look who you got! What a coincidence!" For a moment, Ranma could have sworn Yuka winked when she handed it to him. Were his feelings that obvious? He decided to just accept the good fortune without question.

Ranma walked over to Akane, his usual confident stride in place knowing he had beat Gosunkugi without even having to try. Akane saw her name on the paper in his hand and felt her heart speed up. It was a relief not to be paired up with some of the more perverted classmates (even if it had been over a year since any of them had been in Kuno's horde of 'suitors', she still didn't trust them), but there was an added level of excitement knowing she was going to dance with Ranma, without anyone directly intervening or their fathers forcing them to it.

"So, ready to win?" Ranma asked her.

Akane smiled. "Of course. I know how you hate to lose," she teased.

Daisuke and Hiroshi were watching the exchange and giving each other high-fives. Sayuri was quickly being filled in by Yuka, who was now giggling in excitement of their shared plot.

The music started, and the teenagers began dancing in their confined paper, which unfolded was only about 60 cm by 70 cm. Even in the first round, two couples didn't manage to hold their balance on the small space and either fell or stepped out of the paper.

Ranma tried to keep focused on the physical task, which would have been more than simple enough for him if it wasn't for the close proximity of his fiancee. They had enough space to not have to directly touch, but not by much. The motion of dancing was also causing inherently distracting bouncing of Akane's perky breasts. It was taking all of his willpower to not be caught staring like a pervert.

The music abruptly cut off mid song, and Hiroshi used his make-shift megaphone to announce instructions. "Okay everyone! Those remaining now fold your papers for the next round."

Ranma and Akane stepped off their newspaper, but then remained frozen, neither one making the move to retrieve it for folding.

Akane broke the silence first. "Aren't you going to fold it?"

Ranma looked at Akane in a near panic. "What, and be accused of being a pervert if I fold it too small?"

Akane sighed in frustration. "Fine! Give it to me, then."

Akane swiftly folded the newspaper in half and set it back down.

Before Ranma could properly think, his mouth was already speaking. "In half? Eager to get close?"

Akane's eyes narrowed. "Don't get a swelled head. I'm just following the rules of the game."

Ranma smirked. "Yeah, it had to be folded, but not that small. But it's okay. I understand if you need a flimsy excuse to flirt with me. I am such an irresistible stud, after all."

Akane's mouth gaped open like a fish, momentarily stunned in her anger. It didn't last long. "You-you're such a JERK!" She quickly swiped the paper off the ground and half crumpled it into Ranma's arms. "Then you do it!"

"Uh, guys?" Daisuke tried to interrupt.

"WHAT?!" They both chorused, momentarily stopping their escalated bickering.

Daisuke gulped, suddenly the attention for their frayed tempers. "The second round already started. And, uh, ended."

The paper was still crumpled in a mess between them, and as neither of them were properly standing on it, they were obviously disqualified. Behind Ranma and Akane, Daisuke could make out Hiroshi yanking on his werewolf headpiece in frustration, while Yuka and Sayuri face-palmed and shook their heads in disappointment.

The quarreling couple huffed off, oddly enough still together, towards the punch bowl.

"We lost because of your temper," Ranma griped.

"Oh be quiet," Akane growled, half recognizing the truth of his statement, but her pride was still badly stung. "It was your fault for being such an aggravating jerk."

Daisuke sighed deeply in disappointment and returned to his fellow conspirators while the rest of the partygoers continued the game. "Well, that backfired horribly. Any other bright ideas?"

Hiroshi perked up. "When in doubt, we could get them drunk!"

Sayuri looked at him like he had grown an extra head. "He asked for bright ideas."

Hiroshi looked offended. "Hey, it's not that bad a plan. Lower their inhibitions and let the truth come out!"

"Or in their case, hopefully make out," Daisuke snickered.

Sayuri glared, but Yuka looked thoughtful. "But Akane doesn't like to drink."

Daisuke nodded glumly. "Yeah, and Ranma avoids it, too. Says he doesn't want to be like his old man and Happosai."

"All the more reason to sneak it in! Who's with me?!" Hiroshi pumped his fist enthusiastically.

Yuka shrugged. "Until we can think of anything better, I guess it's worth a shot."

"Or five," Daisuke chuckled, adding to Yuka's unintended pun.

Before Sayuri had a chance to groan at the bad joke, the doorbell rang. "I'll get it!" she offered, more than eager to skip out on this crazy plan.

Sayuri's eyebrows rose up in dismay. "Ukyo?"

The okonomiyaki chef stood with a smile on her face, wearing a very cute vampire costume. "Hi!" When Sayuri still stood flabbergasted at the entrance, Ukyo gave her a quizzical look. "Uh, aren't you going to invite me in?"

Sayuri's brain was in full panic. This was not part of the plan! Having another one of Ranma's fiancees here was a grade-A disaster.

At a loss for what to do, Sayuri realized she still needed to be polite. "Oh right. Sure. Come on in." She stepped aside, albeit reluctantly. For a moment Sayuri remembered how vampires couldn't actually enter a home without permission. She shook it off. Nerima was a pretty crazy place, but even she was sure Ukyo was only wearing a costume.

Regardless, Sayuri ran to the kitchen, where her fellow conspirators were preparing shots of colorful drinks. "Ukyo's here!" She announced in a loud, panicked whisper.

"What?!" cried Yuka. "That will definitely NOT help. Did she just show up, uninvited?"

Hiroshi grimaced and he bashfully shuffled his feet. "Oh...right. That would be my fault. She was invited."

"Hiroshi!" Yuka looked at him appalled. "What were you thinking?! She hurled bombs at their wedding! Or did you forget that little act of terrorism?"

"Hey!" he protested in his defense. "I invited the whole class. I didn't want to be rude. Besides, I didn't exactly plan this party as a matchmaking scheme."

"That's obvious…" muttered Sayuri as she shook her head.

Daisuke's fist hit the palm of his hand in excitement. "I got an idea!" He raced to the phone and dialed. "Hello...Ucchan's? Is this Konatsu?"

The other three looked at each other in confusion, but Daisuke ignored their pointed looks. "Can you join us at the Halloween Party? Yeah, uh...Ukyo needs you. Yup. Really. She asked me to call. See you soon. Bye!"

Daisuke returned the phone to the receiver and gave his friends a thumb up. "Hey, at least we got back up coming."

Ukyo shrugged off the less than enthusiastic welcome and looked around the room. It took her a moment to find Ranma, as his handsome face was mostly obscured by his mummy wrappings, but the moment she spotted Akane at the punchbowl (dammit, when did that tomboy get the confidence to wear such a sexy-cute witch costume?) she recognized her beau right beside her. Unconsciously, Ukyo ground her teeth in aggravation. Lately, those two seemed as attached as bread and butter. Her only solace right now was that it looked like they were in the middle of a tiff. Feeling her confidence rise, she strode over to the refreshment table, only to trip on something large and soft.

She caught herself before falling, and looked down. "Gosunkugi?" she queried, recognizing her classmate. "What the blazes are you doing on the floor, sugar?"

The teenager still had his finger over the shutter button on his camera. "Uhhhh….just, uh, taking photos."

"On the floor?" Ukyo helped him up off the ground. Was it her imagination, or had he been crouching down so he could spy on Ranma and Akane? As Gosunkugi had never interfered with her aims to pursue Ranma, she let it go. The boy always struck her as a bit odd.

"Well, great make-up job, Gosunkugi-kun. You really look like a corpse." His eye sockets and cheeks were sunken in, his face was even paler than the all-white gown he wore.

"But...I'm not wearing any make-up," the boy looked genuinely confused.

"Oh...uh," Ukyo felt decidedly embarrassed. "Great costume, I mean. Excuse me." Ukyo quickly made for Ranma before anything else could stop her.

"Ran-chan!" she chimed cheerfully, doing her best to sound cute. They both turned to her in surprise. Ukyo grabbed onto Ranma's arm, and instantly Akane bristled. Good. Ukyo thought to herself. It's time to remember that I'm the cute one.

Yuka peered out at the party and saw the disaster unfolding before her eyes. "Get over here!" she whisper-yelled to Daisuke and Hiroshi. "We got to start NOW"

Sayuri quickly went for the stereo system and stopped the music. Just like before, Hiroshi climbed on a chair and used his make-shift megaphone. Daisuke stood next to him, holding a tray of small shot glasses each filled with unnaturally bright colored liquid: neon green, hot pink, and a shade of blue more appropriate in a toilet bowl cleaner.

"Okay, everyone! Time for another game with…" Hiroshi paused dramatically, "...magic potions!"

Ranma and Akane's heads whipped to attention, their eyes bug-eyed and their faces contorted in horror.

"Are you crazy?!" "What the hell?!" Akane and Ranma chorused respectively. Instinctively, Ranma shook Ukyo off his arm and took a protective step in front of Akane.

Although the rest of the party guests were completely unalarmed (who in their right mind believed in magic potions as anything other than a Halloween gimmick, anyway?), Daisuke paled, suddenly very worried about his personal safety as Ranma glared at the tray he held like it was a coiled snake.

Hiroshi came to his rescue. "Hey, relax! They're just jello shots! See?", and quickly downed one of the bright blue concoctions.

"SWEET-TO!" The joyful cry was instantly recognizable, and equally terrifying to the students.

Akane and Ranma both took on defensive positions as Happosai came hurtling into the room like a canon; an old, bald, shriveled canon, and just about as destructive.

"Catch, sonny-boy!" Happosai tossed a large jack-o'-lantern at Ranma. Instinctively, the young man caught it with both hands before remembering to check it for explosives. Finding the insides empty, he let out a deep breath.

With Ranma occupied, Happosai instantly alighted onto the tray of drinks and began guzzling them all down. Finished, he wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "Not bad, but a little too tutti fruity for my taste."

Yuka simply let out a big sigh. "Guess I'll go back to the kitchen and fix up more - YEEP!"

Happosai's grubby small hands were fondling her breasts.

Ukyo instinctively reached for her battle spatula and cursed. Of all the times to have left it behind!

Ranma moved to snatch him, but suddenly stopped. "What the hell?" He couldn't let go of the pumpkin. "It won't come off!" He pulled and pulled but the only result was his skin throbbing in painful protest. "That bastard super-glued it!"

Akane was not encumbered and charged. The old letch bounced from girl to girl in the room, copping feels and lifting skirts as he went. The room erupted in high pitched shrieks and a stampede of departing guests.

Akane finally managed to snatch Happosai off a screeching girl's breasts, shaking him by the scruff of his collar like a naughty puppy. "Grandfather! That's enough!"

Happosai gave Akane the biggest, brightest doe-eyes while he hid his hands behind his back. If you ignored the wrinkles and gray hair, you could almost believe he was an unruly toddler caught sneaking cookies. "But Akane-chan, you'd really deprive your dear old Grand Happi of these beauties in their costumes? It's a fantasy land!"

Akane pointed with her free hand toward the exit. "Out!" she demanded.

Happosai's innocent look disappeared. "Tsk. Tsk. Disrespecting your grandmaster. You leave me no choice, then, Akane-chan. Show me your pretties!" From behind his back Happosai swiftly pulled out a pair of oversized scissors. In a flurry of snips he sliced through the criss-crossed black ribbon ties in the front bodice of Akane's dress.

Akane felt most of her dress flutter free while Happosai stood gaping in wondrous, lecherous, awe. Unadulterated fury made her battle aura flare to life, and with enhanced strength, she punted the stunned letch through the open window.

There was a round of applause and cheers from the remaining guests. Akane was breathing heavily, and turned away from the window, feeling mildly victorious until she noticed some of the boys begin to faint with nosebleeds and the rest of the guests gasp and stare. (She failed to notice the rapid fire click-click of Gosunkugi's camera).

With the front lacings on the corset-closure snipped away, Akane's dress was split wide open, the orange outer shell slipping off her shoulders. Only the thin, white, lacy underslip remained intact, and it was very, very translucent. In essence, Akane was wearing little more than risque lingerie.

One look and Ranma's eyes bulged and his face went crimson. His hands spasmed closed and the attached jack-o'-lantern exploded into a gooey mess of pulp and rind. Miraculously, the goop missed him… but it sprayed all over the hovering Ukyo.

"Eek! RAN-CHAN!" Ukyo was frantically trying to get pumpkin seeds and stringy pulp out of her hair. Goobs of squash were even splattered over her cheeks.

Amidst the chaos, Akane looked down at herself and turned crimson in embarrassment. Snatching the remaining material of her outer dress she tried to cover herself and ran into the bathroom. Sayuri ran to follow her in solidarity (Yuka was still seeking shelter in the kitchen).

Meanwhile, Ukyo was relentlessly screeching, "Get it out! Get it out!", while tugging Ranma's arm.

"I'm coming Ukyo-sama!" At that moment Konatsu burst through the door, dressed in his full kunoichi attire. "I came as soon as I could!"

Ukyo ignored him, still shaking Ranma's arm. "Just. Get. It. Off!"

Ranma rolled his eyes. He still had parts of the jack-o'-lantern glued to his skin, but you didn't see him wailing. "Hey, it's just pumpkin, Ucchan. No need to act like such a girl about it."

Ukyo longed to have her battle spatula and hit him. "I AM a girl, jackass!"

Konatsu nodded. "Indeed. Ukyo-sama is surprisingly squeamish about slimy things, Ranma-sama. Let me fetch some water and a towel for you right away, mistress!"

"Hey, do you know any way to get superglue out?" Ranma held up his hands to Konatsu before he could dash to the kitchen. His fingertips and palms were still firmly attached to thick remnants of pumpkin rind.

Konatsu nodded and took off, returning with a bucket of soapy water, towels, and an open jug of cooking oil.

"Here you go-o-o!" In Konatsu's haste, he slipped on some pulp covered seeds splattered on the floor. Oil and water flew through the air. As the curse dictated, water would always find a way to the Jusenkyo shapeshifters, and Ranma received a chest full of soapy water, cool enough to trigger his transformation into a petite, busty, red-haired girl. The oil, meanwhile, splattered all over Ukyo's face and hair.

"KONATSU!" Ukyo bellowed. The dripping oil and the pumpkin guts on her body were now even more slimy than before. The chef was shaking in utter disgust. "That's it. I'm going home."

"Ukyo-sama! Oh, forgive me!" Konatsu loyally trailed behind his employer like a whimpering dog.

Hiroshi looked at the disaster in his home (his parents were going to kill him) and wanted to sink into the floor. At that point, Yuka came out of the kitchen, carrying a new tray of jello shots. "Is he gone?" she asked, looking carefully around for Happosai.

Daisuke nodded. Hiroshi strode over to the tray and quickly downed two shots. "If I'm going to catch hell for this mess, at least I better enjoy myself."

"Where's Akane? And Sayuri?" Yuka asked, looking around in puzzlement. In fact, most of the party goers had cleared out.

"They're both in the bathroom. Akane-chan had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction, courtesy of Happosai."

"I'll say." Hiroshi agreed, a dreamy look on his blushing face.

Ranma - still a girl and still stuck with pumpkin-adhered-hands - knocked on the bathroom door in worry. "Akane, you okay? My shirt's wet, but you're welcome to it."

Akane's voice drifted back from the closed door. "Sayuri's helping me fix it...but...thanks, Ranma."

Ranma stared down at his petite, female hands and sighed. "Anybody know how to get rid of superglue?" The shrunken hand size was making the glue pucker and pinch his skin painfully where it stayed firmly attached to the rind.

Yuka tapped her cheek thoughtfully. "I think oil does it. Let's give it a try, Saotome. But in the kitchen sink this time!"

Ranma followed dutifully.

Hiroshi drank another shot and turned to Daisuke. "Think we got another chance to bring Ranma and Akane together?"

Daisuke shrugged, trying to get back into the same enthusiasm as earlier. "At least he appreciated Akane-chan's hotness. No mistake there."

Hiroshi nodded. "Then on with the Magic Potion Drinking Game! Cheers!"

"Dude...that means leave enough for them!"

Ranma came back from the kitchen, with pumpkin-free (if slightly red tinged) hands and the rest of his body restored to his natural sex and shape. His mummy wrappings looked uncomfortably tight and askew, likely from having to drastically transform back-and-forth while still being enwrapped in them.

Still concerned about Akane, he walked over to knock again. Before his knuckles could make contact with the door, he noticed Gosunkugi studying the digital preview on his camera. Particularly, he was drooling over a perfect shot of Akane, overly exposed in her torn dress.

Ranma felt a very primal growl try to crawl out of his throat. His vision narrowed and he stalked over to the pale boy.

Just as Ranma snatched the camera out of Gosunkugi's hands, Akane stepped out of the bathroom.

With Sayuri's help - the girl kept an emergency sewing kit in her purse - Akane's cape was shortened and the fabric repurposed to replace the bodice ribbon. Mortified, but overall grateful, Akane exited the bathroom. She wanted to thank Ranma again for the chivalrous offer of his shirt. Those warm thoughts came to an abrupt halt as she witnessed her betrothed bullying poor, weak Gosunkugi-kun. The obviously outmatched, scrawny boy desperately made a jump to retrieve the camera from Ranma's hand. The martial artist gave a purposeful squeeze. Much like the pumpkin, the electronics didn't stand a chance. The mangled machine gave out a spark of green electric light and went dead.

"Ranma!" Akane was agasp. "I can't believe I came out to see you being a bully!"

Ranma looked between his irate fiancee and the ill-looking evidence in his hands. "You don't even realize what he was doing, do you?" he accused, hoping a good defense was a proper offense.

Akane was tapping her foot in irritation. "What he was doing? Probably just taking photos for the school paper, like he usually does, Ranma. Even if he annoyed you, that was no excuse for you breaking it!"

Ranma threw up his hands in disbelief. "You are so dense, it's unbelievable!"

Akane visibly bristled. "Dence? I'm not the one acting like a caveman!"

"I'd rather be a caveman than clueless like you!"

The argument only seemed to go in immature circles from there.

Watching in dismay, Hiroshi, Daisuke, Yuka, and Sayuri staggered to the couch like battered soldiers of a failed war campaign. Hiroshi, who was now drunk, had his arm slung over Daisuke to keep from falling over.

Daisuke plopped onto the couch, mentally exhausted. "I give up!"

"I * hic * can't believe we * hic * failed!" Hiroshi bellowed drunkenly.

"Shhh! They'll hear you!" Sayuri scolded.

"What's the use?"

"No..no, seriously, be quiet and look!" Yuka pointed discreetly.

The party had cleared out, with only the six of them remaining in the home. As if a switch had been flipped, Akane and Ranma, being the considerate guests they were, were automatically straightening chairs and tidying up used paper party plates into the trash.

The work was silent, but not awkward. It was rather a peaceful harmony as the two moved perfectly in motion without exchanging words, often a quick glance or gesture and the other was instantly acting like a second set of hands for a task. It was, all said and done, rather domestic and all the more surprising in it's calm. Usually they seemed such a whirl of chaos, fending off suitors and martial arts challenges, supernatural curses, pineapple-head-wearing principles, and matchmaking schemes, that to see them calm and working together left the gaggle of friends speechless.

Hadn't the two been arguing moments earlier?

Akane's arms were full carrying the heavy cooler of drinks back to the kitchen, when her hat fell over her face again.

In one swift gesture Ranma took the cooler to the counter and turned to his fiancee. "Chee. What a clumsy hat." Bandaged mummy hands reached out, turning the hat 180 degrees around before gently placing it back on the raven haired girl's head more securely.

Ranma bent over slightly to accomplish the action, bringing their faces close together.

Gah...she's so cute!

Ranma desperately hoped his mummy wrappings hid the blush he could feel forming across his cheeks. Part of him wanted to back away quickly, while the other part of him longed to stay put, his hand still resting on the top of her hat as he feigned another adjustment.

At first, Akane's expression was simply of surprise, but to his pleasure, Akane's cheeks were beginning to brighten to a deep rosy pink as he lingered.

"For a mummy-man, Ranma's awfully red!" Hiroshi slurred loudly, his head peeking out a little too far above the sofa cushions.

"Shhh!" Sayuri slapped her hand over his mouth while Daisuke pulled him back down.

Blessedly, the two martial artists were so engrossed in each other that they were oblivious to the antics of their friends.

"Are the bandages too tight?" Akane asked gently, noticing the redness to Ranma's ears and the little bit of exposed flesh in his upper cheeks. Maybe she had overdone it with the wrappings? It just seemed the ideal costume after Ranma's fight against that Sandpaper Martial Artist last week. His skin was still a little raw.

Her fingertips gently brushed over his cheek. She could feel the warmth of his face radiating through the white strips of gauze.

Ranma swallowed. His adam's apple bobbed strongly, but he made no verbal response. Taking that as permission, she carefully thread her slim fingers between some of the wrapping to loosen them. Ranma's hand lifted and cradled hers against his face. The moment stretched out, with both of their faces blushing warmly. Eventually, Ranma murmured a quiet "Thanks," and slowly let go.

Akane graced him with one of her uniquely stunning smiles, the kind that made his whole body feel buoyant, contented, and full, like a draught of warm cocoa on a snowy day.

Akane casually reached out and grasped Ranma's free hand. "Ready to head home?"

He nodded.

The quad of friends blinked in awe. After all their plotting, and having to watch their efforts backfire again and again, it was hard to believe what they were witnessing once the two were left to their own devices.

Daisuke sighed, a mixture of exhaustion and dumbfounded relief as he tossed his costume's devil horns aside. "They'll be fine."

Author's Notes:

Story inspired by images found here:

pin. it / MNlcYe and pin. it / DZFJHzP

Innumerable thanks to AngelaJewell for being my muse, fixer, editor, and sounding board for this story. Special thanks to Jeremy Harper's Batman/Ranma crossover series for providing me so much entertainment. Anyone notice the inside joke/shout-out?

Original Publication Date: October 12, 2017