Disclaimer: I do not own Tenchi, or any of the characters listed below, so please do not sue.  I have nothing you would want anyway.

Ryoko's Birthday: Chapter 01: The Day Before Morning: (August 2)

As the morning sun slowly began to cast away the shadows of night, and warm the land with it's rays of light, the Masaki house began its daily routines.  Yet today was going to be different from every other day.  Today was a prelude to an event, which would take this unique family's lives, and flip them upside down forever more. 

Ryoko flew disheartened into the living room slowly, her shoulders sagging, and a grim expression chiseled into her normally inquisitive and mischievous face. To anyone who gazed upon her, it was obvious that something was deeply troubling the former space pirate.  Whatever it was that had happened, had cause her to become so depressed, in fact, that she had not even bothered to change into a one of her many seductive dresses.  Instead she merely wore the nighty from the night before.  Of course those who knew the sultry space pirate knew she was always able to turn any outfit into the right one for whatever fit her mood.  Bags had formed under her golden eyes, showing that the past few hours had been neither restful nor pleasant.  Flying over the couch, Ryoko beamed herself down to the comfortable cushions on the couch and land with a heavy thump. 

Hearing the silver-haired resident make her rough landing, the little chef, Sasami, merrily skipped into the living room, a smile on her face, as she welcomed the new day, and all the fun she would have with her family and friends.  In her usual cheerful manner, the young Jurain leaned over the back of the couch, a beaming smile upon her face as she looked down at her sulking friend.  "Good Morning Ryoko," the little princess roared.  It was then the short princess saw just how sad and tired the normally energetic and troublesome space pirate was.  "Gosh!  You look awful, Ryoko! Are you sick?  You didn't catch that cold that's been going around, did you?" Sasami asked, backing away as she covered her mouth protectively.

"What do you mean by that?" The demon of the Masaki shrine growled, seeming to regain some of her usual violently energetic personality, as she instantly sat up, looking ready for a fight.  "Are you saying I look like an old woman just because tomorrow is my birthday!?"

"Tomorrow's your birthday!" The pink-eyed girl screeched excitedly, her face practically glowing with the awe and wonder that only a child can generate.  "Ooh!  We'll have to have a party to celebrate!"

Oh damn it all!  That's right she didn't know that… me and my big mouth…. Ryoko slouched, crossing her arms over her ample chest, as she pouted like a spoiled child.  "No party, I don't want to remember my birthday.  It's too depressing.  I hate getting older!"

"OHHHH!  Come on, it'll be a lot of fun!"  The little Jurain proclaimed, shaking her friends shoulders in a vain attempt to get her interested in the planned events.  "I'll make a really nice dinner, and we'll have a great big cake."  Sasami announced, moving her arms out as she stressed the last few words of her speech, as if to show the size of the enormous cake she had planned.

"No Cake!" The silver-haired demoness added still slouching childishly, going unheard as the blue-haired chef continued her list.  "Just forget I said anything."

Putting one of her tiny fingers to her lips, the little companion looked up at the ceiling, as if pondering the meaning of everything, as she repeatedly listed the things she was going to do and make.  "Let's see, I'll need to go shopping, so I can buy the food for the party, and get you a gift…."

"No..." Ryoko paused, realizing what the short Jurain had just said, and instantly coming out of her depressed state, her voice becoming melodious and friendly. "A GIFT!" She cooed, followed by a hiss of matter being rearranged, as she appeared floating over the pink-eyed girl.  "So, Sasami, what are you going to get me? Hmmm? Come on you can tell me," the space pirate begged.  "I won't tell anyone, and I'll act REEEEAL surprised when you give it to me, I promise." 

"I can't tell you that silly," the blue-haired Jurain giggled happily, "It would ruin the surprise.  Besides I still have to go get it, and…."

"Come on tell me, " the former space pirate demanded in a light friendly tone. "Pleeeease," she begged tickling the small girl frantically, hoping to lower her defenses with this particular move.

"Ryoko!  Leave my sister alone," a proud voice screamed from behind the two friends.   Glancing over their shoulders, the two visitors from space saw none other than Princess Ayeka Jurai, as she descended daintily down the sturdy staircase.  At that instant, the two archrival's eyes met, and lightning leapt from one person's eyes to the other instantly.  As always, the first princess of Jurai was dressed in a nice conservative dark blue kimono with a lighter blue dress underneath, and every hair was in place on her royal head. 

"Oh good morning Ayeka, you're looking lovely today."  Ryoko remarked, sarcasm lacing her every word.  "Well," the silver-haired demon remarked, beginning to correct herself,  "as lovely as someone as homely as YOU could hope to look."

Hearing Ryoko's statement, and knowing her sister as well as she did, Sasami made up her mind to return to the kitchen.  However the younger sister continued to watch the warring duo, as always they were probably going to fight, and despite how upset it made her to see it, the young princess always enjoyed a good show.  Deep in her heart, the blue-haired child knew the two women were friends, but she also knew that no matter what happened, they would always fight.  I guess that's how they show their friendship to each other, she often told herself when thing really got out of hand.

"I see you still haven't figured out how to dress yourself before breakfast, Ryoko." Ayeka replied, pointing accusingly at the nearly naked woman before her.  "It must be so hard for you having such a low intelligence, well let me help you out one leg, then the other."

"Now you two don't fight," Sasami pleaded pointlessly, knowing that her plea would go unheard.  Desperate to avoid a battle, which would only end in something getting smashed, the clever princess decided to take a different approach to talking to the two combatants.  "Ayeka, can we go to the market today?  Tomorrow is Ryoko's birthday, and I wanna pick up some food for the party we have planned for her." 

At that moment the sparks seemed to stop leaping from the two warrior's eyes, as the silky skinned princess kindly addressed her sister, while the golden-eyed woman plopped back down on a nearby couch, continuing to dread the coming day.  "Of course we can, Sasami.   Just make sure you ask Lord Tenchi and everyone else."  With a squeal of delight, and even more energy than she had prior to Ryoko's announcement, Sasami darted into the kitchen, to prepare breakfast. 

Smiling to see her young sister so happy, the purple haired princess calmly took a seat next to her archrival, using all her self-control not to laugh as she spoke.  "So, tomorrow is your birthday, eh? How old are you going to be?  I must say however old you are you certainly look the part." The golden-eyed demon's face contorted in anger, as the red-eyed woman lost what little control she had, and began to bellow loudly.  "I mean really, Ryoko.  I've seen trees on Planet Jurai have smoother skin than you!"  To stress her point, the laughing princess held out one arm, displaying her beautiful, silky skin, which she took such pride in. 

A Few Moments Later:

While Ryoko seethed in anger, and Ayeka continued to try to goad her into, yet another, fight, one more member of the Masaki family joined the ensemble.  "Hey is breakfast ready, Sasami?" Kiyone called out, not wanting to barge in on the busy super chef, while she was making her masterpieces.  As she came down the stairs, the teal-haired woman quickly noticed the two archrivals were already glaring at each other, prepared to start trading blows at any given second.  Although that was not enough to merit the detective's interest, what set today apart, was the busty space pirate was not wearing her favorite tartan and blue striped dress, instead she wore only her nighty from the day before. 

"It'll be ready in a few minutes Kiyone," Sasami replied loudly, so as to be heard over the bubbling kettles, and smoking pots, as she checked each item with a master's eye.  "Would you please tell Mihoshi and Washu?"

"Okay," Kiyone shouted back, placing a hand by her mouth so she would be heard.  "I'll let Mihoshi know." What is taking that goofball so long?  She was almost ready when I left her.  Turning, the unlucky detective began to climb back up the stairs to retrieve her slow, in so many ways, partner.

Upon hearing her sister's plea, the first princess of Jurai broke her icy glare with the golden-eyed demon, and rose to her feet, brushing away the wrinkles in her dress unconsciously.  "I shall let Miss Washu know that breakfast is almost ready, dear sister."  Turning to leave, Ayeka was quick to add one final comment to her verbal war with Ryoko.  "Oh, and Ryoko, darling, you really should put on some clothes.   It is very unlady-like to walk around in such a fashion, especially for one as old as yourself!"  Sinking into the floor, the buxom woman muttered a few extremely vulgar phrases directed towards the purple-haired Jurain.  As soon as her main competitor for Tenchi's love had vanished, the young princess quickly made her way towards Washu's lab, to tell her about breakfast and the exciting news regarding Ryoko's birthday.

Upstairs:

"Mihoshi! Aren't you ready yet!" the teal haired woman yelled throwing open the door.  Sadly, Kiyone forgot to add in one detail when walking into a room with her blonde haired partner.  That factor being rather simple, her partner was Mihoshi, and where the blue-eyed detective was involved, nothing ever ran smoothly.  Almost the instant she had finished speaking, Kiyone received a blow to the face from one of Mihoshi's flailing arms.  As she landed hard on the floor, the quick-thinking officer noticed that somehow the tanned woman had managed to get head stuck the collar of her turtleneck sweater.  Still slightly dazed, Kiyone rose back to her feet, and did her best to take in this strange situation. 

Mihoshi continued to run around in circles, muffled screams escaping her sweater.  If such a thing had happened to anyone else, the teal-haired woman might have laughed, since her partner currently looked like a chicken with its head cut off.  However this was Mihoshi she was dealing with, the same person who had an uncanny knack for making a bad situation worse.  Rushing forward, Kiyone made her way over to her thrashing partner, and grabbed one of the flailing arms, to prevent the slow-witted woman from hurting herself, or anyone else.  After what seemed like hours of pulling and tugging, the unlucky Galaxy Police Officer was rewarded as the blond woman's head finally emerged from the top of the sweater.

"Thanks Kiyone!" Mihoshi said happily, a big smile on her face, as if nothing had happened.  Before the tanned-skinned woman could say anything else, a mighty growl erupted from her stomach.  Laughing weakly, the blue-eyed detective placed a hand on her roaring stomach, and with an embarrassed look, met her partner's eyes.  "Is breakfast ready yet?"

"Sasami said it should be ready any minute, but I saw Ryoko downstairs before I left, and you know how Ryoko eats….   If we don't hurry it may all be gone before we get there." Kiyone quickly informed her partner, as she made her way to the door. 

Downstairs:

Reaching the top of the stairs, the teal-haired detective made a terrible mistake, she went down first, leaving Mihoshi without anyone to supervise her.  As the ditzy blonde passed a large window, located near the large stairwell, her blue eyes saw a spider, perched on the ledge, waiting for some morsel to pass by.

"AH!  KIYONE! A SPIDER," the tanned woman bellowed, stumbling forward in a panic.  Hearing the busty detective's words, the green-eyed woman merely sighed, as she could already see what was going to happen.  Barely a moment later, her prediction rang true, and the frightened woman slammed into the descending officer, causing the two of them to come crashing down the large staircase, landing in a pile at the bottom of the stairs, bruised and battered. 

Just as the unlucky woman prepared to yell at her flighty partner for her extreme clumsiness, a yelp came from the lab, followed shortly there after by a very angry Ayeka, who stormed passed the collapsed duo with Washu in two. 

"Honestly princess, it was just a little prick!  You make it sound like it really hurt!"  The generally overeager genius proclaimed, as she did her best to catch up the seemingly deeply offended princess.  "Besides," the red-haired mother began, as if pleading her case to a jury, "it was for your own good.  Everyone should get a flu shot."

It was with that statement, which caused the red-eyed woman to spin about, as she reached the breakfast table, barely controlling herself from throttling the little genius.  "Mrs. Washu!  I do not doubt the importance of a flu shot, what angers me is your methods!  You simply can not go around poking people, especially the first princess of Jurai, in the - the - the place reserved for seating without their permission!" To accent her point, the offended woman dropped to her seat on the floor, quickly shooting back up, howling in pain as she held her now sore rear. 

"Oh quit your whining."  The diminutive genius said with a wave, no longer feeling sorry for the Jurain princess.  "It's your own fault!  You wouldn't have felt a thing if you had came down to the lab more often.  Then I wouldn't have to sneak around to prevent you from getting sick."  Sitting down, the red-haired scientist made herself comfortable, as she began inspecting the wonderful delights which had been created for their eating pleasure.  Wow!  Sasami really outdid herself this time, just like everyday!  She's a genius in the kitchen, just like I am in the lab.  Hmmm… maybe I should get her a plaque that says 'the universe's greatest cooking genius.'

Wouldn't HAVE to sneak about? Ayeka thought, her fists clenched in balls of rage, as she glared at the sitting woman, her teeth grinding.  The very notion was so bizarre, that the purple-haired woman couldn't help but laugh to herself.  Even if I did visit her in that lab more often, she'd still sneak around experimenting on me!  That's what she loves to do!"  

It was then the two women noticed, although she was heard before she was seen, Ryoko.  The silver-haired woman had already begun eating, and wolfed down her food as if there were no tomorrow.  Not wanting to hear any more of her archrival's insults, Ryoko had taken her advise, and changed clothes, now wearing one of her favorite dresses, an all red dress, with a light pink collar.  It was the busty space pirate's most formal attire, reserved usually for any time she felt especially seductive, despite the fact that it was not very flashy at all, merely a simple red dress.

"Really Ryoko you have no manners at all, you should have at least waited for Lord Tenchi," the angry princess declared casting a disgusted look at her rival.  Who looked up from her breakfast only long enough to extend a solitary finger at the critical woman.  Sitting down slowly, the young Jurain took extra care to avoid the tender spot on her posterior, wincing as she nestled into her place.  Of course all this did not stop the red-eyed princess from continuing to berate the silver-haired woman, "instead of shoveling food in your mouth as fast as you can like a wild animal."

"Tenchi said to eat without him, he went to work in the field a little early today, " Sasami commented, not wanting to sound as if she were defending Ryoko, as she arrived with a final dish, and took her spot among the others at the table.  "He said he had a lot on his mind and he needed some time to think."  Picking up her chopsticks, the little girl appeared worried as she placed morsel after morsel into her mouth.  I wonder what's wrong with Tenchi?  I hope he's not depressed.  Maybe he already knew it was Ryoko's birthday tomorrow, and he was trying to think of a good gift for her?  Oh yeah, I almost forgot! 

Looking up from her food, the blue-haired girl had unbelievable excitement in her eyes.  "Oh, by the way everyone," she announced, causing everyone at the table to stop eating, and look in her direction.  "Tomorrow is Ryoko's birthday!  Who wants to go shopping with Ayeka and me?"

Shaking her hands back and forth nervously, the tanned detective nearly exploded with excitement at the news.  "Ah, I love birthdays, and shopping! I want to go with you guys!  I haven't been to the market in a long time!" Mihoshi screamed, holding one arm very high, so she wouldn't be missed when they counted who got to go. "Oh can I go to shopping with you guys? Pleeeease…."

"Oh course you can silly," Sasami laughed, waving off her friends foolishness, as she relocated her chopsticks. 

Man, doesn't she ever get sick of being that air-headed?  Kiyone mentally grumbled, never in a mood to hear the blonde woman's complaining as she continued to eat a few more noodles.  "Well then if you're going, Mihoshi, I better tag along, to make sure you stay out of trouble," she said in a light tone, trying to keep the bubbly woman from crying.

"What's that supposed to mean," the blue-eyed woman pouted, turning to look at her best friend. "I'll have you know…"

As Mihoshi rambled on unendingly about Kiyone's last statement, the little princess turned her attention to the one woman who had not spoken up yet on the issue.  "Washu, do you want to come with us?" The little girl asked politely, moving a few empty plates to the side of the table, so they could easily be gathered for cleaning later on. 

"No thanks, I have plenty of work to finish up in the lab, and-" the little genius began, apparently shocked by this news.  I can't believe I forgot my own daughter's birthday…. Oh well, it's not like I was there for the other ones; I'll just have to make sure I get her something nice.  Now let's see…  Of course!  That's the perfect gift!   She might even be kind enough to thank me for it, although that seems like a stretch….  After all, it would really help her win Tenchi I'm sure.  What woman doesn't need a new…?  Stopping mid-thought, as she noticed all eyes were turned on her, the little genius laughed, realizing she had stopped talking mid-sentence for her thoughts. "Besides, I may already have something for you, Ryoko.   At least my new invention might be nice for you, once it's finished."

"I hope it's a book on manners," Ayeka said coldly under her breath going unnoticed by all.  Noticing she had not been heard, the purple-haired woman spoke a little louder as she continued.  "Or maybe some instructions on how to get dressed for breakfast…."

Ignoring the negative princess's comments, Mihoshi closed her eyes as she smiled proudly.  Quickly she turned her attention from Kiyone to the place where Ryoko always sat.  "So what do you want Ryoko?" the ditzy blonde chimed, "what kind of gift should I look for?"  However the only reply the dim-witted officer got was silence.  "Ryoko?" she asked confused by the silence.  Opening her eyes suddenly, expecting to see what was preventing the silver-haired woman from answering, the blonde detective, as well as everyone else, discovered why the golden-eyed seductress had been so quiet lately.  It was actually rather simple, Ryoko could not answer because she had already slipped away from the table, teleporting herself to parts unknown.

"Such horrible table manners!  How she even considers herself a suitable match for Lord Tenchi is beyond me."  The purple-haired woman sighed as she shifted in her seat, try to find a more comfortable position, wincing as she bumped the sore spot on her rear.  

"Did someone say my name?" Tenchi Masaki asked as he entered through the front door, still wearing his field clothes, dirt clinging to him heavily. 

"TENCHI! " Sasami shouted leaping from her seat at the table to go give the young man a big hug, ignoring his filthy state, despite all the warnings she had been given in the past from her sister.  Craning her neck, to look straight up the young man's body, the little princess smiled happily.  "Guess What?  Tomorrow is Ryoko's birthday, and we're gonna have a party!  But first we're going shopping!  Do you wanna go with us?"

"Sure, that sounds like fun.  Just let me put my work clothes away, and get cleaned up, then we can be on our way." Tenchi answered, doing his best to seem carefree, despite the fact that memories of their last party still haunted the depths of his mind.  It hadn't been much different from any other day in his life, Ryoko was drunk, and flying after him the entire night, trying to get him to kiss her, as well as do OTHER things with her.  Ayeka, of course, had felt it her duty to defend his honor, and thus a terrible battle ensued, which meant one thing, a big mess for him to clean up.  The thing, which seemed oddest to him, now was that Ryoko's seduction attempts no longer bothered him.  As a matter of fact, Tenchi realized he had actually started to feel flattered, as he became more and more comfortable around the silver-haired beauty.  Recently, he had even toyed with the idea of flirting back with the seductive space pirate, just to see her reaction.  Of course, his timid, gentle, and, nearly overly, compassionate nature prevented the Jurain prince from doing so, that coupled with the fact that Ryoko and Ayeka, he knew, would blow his attempt at a joke way out of proportion. 

"But just one thing… let's not go buying too much saki…. Okay?"  With a few weak laughs, the girls continued eating, knowing full well why the young man made this particular request. 

One Hour Later:

With the dishes done, and everyone cleaned up, the extended Masaki family, excluding Washu and Ryoko, who had been forced against her will, to stay home, headed to market.

"I can't believe they're leaving me behind!" Ryoko snarled as she watched the happy group heading off down the path, her belt, which seemed almost tail-like, darting back and forth behind her, a pure manifestation of her anger.

"Oh don't worry, Little Ryoko.  They'll be back soon.  Besides, they ARE going to get stuff for YOUR party." Washu told her wild spirited daughter.  "Just take a nap, go have some Saki, or watch some TV like you always do." 

"I do a lot more than just that!" The lithe space pirate replied furiously, twirling in the air to watch her mother heading towards the lab. 

"Oh yeah," the super genius proclaimed, reading a science magazine that had just arrived in the mail.  "Name one thing you do to help out around here?"  As the lithe woman opened her mouth to reply the little scientist saw her thoughts, and interrupted her, "and no you can't count that."

"What about the time I…"

"Nope, that wasn't you anyway, that was something you saw on television."  The red-haired woman declared turning the page in her magazine, as she mentally glimpsed each thought her daughter had, answering her questions before they were asked.  "I don't mean to be rude, little one…" as she called the silver-haired woman by that nickname, the buxom space pirate's body quivered with anger.  "But when you really think about it you don't do much around here.  It's not a very attractive quality.  Now then mommy has some work to do in the lab, if you want to talk."

"Yeah right, well who cares what you think!" The young demoness snapped shaking her fist at the leaving scientist.  "Tenchi likes me just the way I am.  I don't need to constantly do things around here to make him happy.  I may not be a bookworm like you, Washu, or little miss manners, like that ugly princess, Ayeka, but I know my Tenchi, and he loves having me here."

Having finished shouting at the departing woman, the golden-eyed woman spun about, her mind whirling as she tried to figure out some way to prove the green-eyed scientist wrong. 

Washu smiled as she opened the door to her lab just enough to peer out.  That's my little girl.  Sorry to be so rude to you, but I knew you'd get into all kinds of trouble if you were just left to your own devices.   Now, at least, you'll be too focused on trying to prove me wrong to do anything destructive.  Almost the instant she thought this, the small scientist heard a crash of some pots in the kitchen, followed by her daughter's loud cursing.  Well, maybe not completely out of trouble…. As a large sweat drop appeared above Washu's worried head, she laughed meekly to herself.  I hope she cleans that up before Sasami gets back, I really don't want to be responsible for making the kid get upset.  Not that it takes much to make Sasami cry.  She's such a good, emotionally stable kid, unlike Ryoko.  Oh well, it's not like anything bad can happen.

2 PM:

Okinawa Market:

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the market strolled Tenchi Masaki and his unique family.  Suddenly, the first princess of Jurai stopped, as she stood by a rather refined and quiet looking shop.  "Lord Tenchi," she began, causing all the others to halt in their march as well. "I believe I will do my shopping for Ryoko here, if that is alright with you." 

Casting a quick glance at the old building, Tenchi couldn't help feeling confused.  A bookshop?  What in the world would Ryoko want from a book shop?  Shivering suddenly, the young man felt a chill go down his spine, as he recalled a book he had heard of called the Karma Sutra.  Still this is Ayeka we're talking about, he told himself, trying to calm his nerves.  She'd never do anything like that to me.  She's probably going to get Sasami a new cookbook, while we're here. Ayeka is always doing little things like that for her sister.   Realizing he had been lost in thought for a long time, the young Jurain noticed everyone was now staring at him, waiting for his answer to Ayeka's request.  "Sure, Ayeka," the brown-haired youth laughed, placing a hand behind his head nervously, "Why don't we all meet back at the bus station at about five o'clock."

"Well I should only be a few moments, Lord Tenchi," she began, and I do not want to leave Sasami with you.  I can watch my sister after all."

"Ayekaaaa," the little Jurain whined, hating to be treated like a little child, despite the truth of the matter.

"Don't worry, Ayeka," the young man smiled, patting Sasami's head, "there are a lot of stores I was going to check out, and I can show Sasami where the best shops in town are.  That'll give you some time to look around, without having us rushing you.  We can all meet at the bus stop about five o'clock, that'll let everyone do whatever shopping they want to do for the party, as well as check out the area.  It's been a while since we all came here anyway."

Nodding her in understanding, the slender princess smiled at her young sibling.  "Be good while you are in town Sasami," she said needlessly, "and mind Lord Tenchi.  I will meet you all back at the bus stop later."  With her usual grace and dignity, the Jurain noble quietly entered the small shop. 

"Well, I think Mihoshi and I are going to go look around," Kiyone said, "unless you want us to stick around?"

"We'll be fine," Tenchi smiled, shooing them off, "go ahead and have a good time.  Just remember to meet back at five o'clock…."

"Tenchi," Sasami asked pointing to the sign over the store Ayeka had just entered, "What does that word say?"

Looking up, the young man's eyes nearly bulged from his head as he noticed a word he hadn't before, laughing nervously, the brown-haired youth quickly grabbed Sasami's hand, "it means we really should get going…." Walking as quickly as he could, the nervous Jurain could only picture Ayeka's reaction, when she realized the store she had just entered was an erotic bookstore.  It was not something he wanted to be present for.

Later: (3 PM)

The Grocery Street:

"This place is perfect, Tenchi!" Sasami shouted as she inspected, and selected ingredients for the feast she had been planning, ever since she heard about Ryoko's birthday.  "It has everything I need!" Sitting atop the little girls head was her constant companion, Ryo-Oki, who eyed the carrots lying nearby with hungry eyes. 

"MYA…" the little cabbit complained, desperately wanting the forbidden vegetables. 

"No, Ryo-Ohki," the little girl laughed, "you can't have any, just wait until we get home, then you can have as many carrots as you want, right Tenchi?"

"Huh?  Oh yeah, right Sasami," the young man replied, his mind drifting as he looked around the market.  Despite having looked around for the last hour, he was no closer to finding a gift, than he had been when he arrived.  I have to think harder, what can I get Ryoko that won't end up with her trying to sleep with me?  Why is it I get this tense feeling in my chest every time I think about getting her something?  I could just buy her some saki, and be done with it, but that just doesn't seem right to me.  

As the small girl finished gathering ingredients, she walked over to Tenchi, her arms full of fresh food.  "So, Tenchi, have you figured out what you're going to get Ryoko yet?  I mean your gift will be the one she remembers best of all, right Ryo-Oki?" Ryo-Oki meowed in agreement.

"What do you mean, Sasami?" the young man said, "I'm sure Ryoko won't give any of the gifts a second thought, once she opens them.  You remember the last Christmas Party we had, don't you?  Ryoko got drunk, and after she tore something open and saw what was inside, she would move onto the next gift."

"I guess so," the young princess declared, as she handed some money to the vendor for the food. "But I think a birthday is a lot more personal, and besides, you know Ryoko likes you best!"  Laughing happily, Sasami hopped back over to stand beside her friend, "I know what I'm gonna give her, it's gonna be great!  I've been working on it for a long time, and her birthday is the best time to give it to her.  But I do need to get some pretty wrapping paper.  Do you know where I can get some?"

"Yeah, I know a great place, come on I'll show you."  Taking her hand in his, Tenchi smiled at his young friend, wishing the answer to his own problem would be so easy.  Yet no matter he thought, he simply couldn't come up with something that properly displayed how he felt towards the silver-haired seductress.  It was the main thing he had been thinking about earlier, when he was out in the field.  It's all so confusing, all these girls, but I can't seem to get my head on straight.  I need to think this through logically.  Then maybe I can figure out why I've been feeling funny around Ryoko and Ayeka lately, for some reason, I get the feeling that this gift is going to be important in a lot of ways, so I have to make it a good one.  "Say Sasami," he politely began, grinning ear to ear as he met her large pink eyes. "What do you think I should get Ryoko?"

"I don't know, silly.  It's your gift not mine," the young girl said with a smile.  "As long as if comes from the heart, I know Ryoko will like it."

From the heart… The brown-haired youth thought, as once again his mind raced, and his chest felt a little tighter.

Sometime later (around 5 PM)

Having found the gift they were looking for, everyone was ready to go home, everyone except Tenchi.  "I just don't know what to get her," he complained. "I mean what do you get a space pirate who can fly and walk through walls, among other things?"

"How about a ticket to the moon." Ayeka snarled under her breath. Everyone looked at her, wondering what she said.  Realizing she had been caught, the purple-haired princess quickly attempted to amend her last statement with a cheery face "What I mean to say is… it is getting late Lord Tenchi.  I'm sure any old thing will be fine for that space pirate."

"Tenchi," Sasami complained, tugging on his pant leg to get his attention.  "I need to be getting home too, to get dinner ready. Besides it is starting to get cold out, and you didn't bring your heavy jacket.  "

"OH NO! We've got to hurry!" Mihoshi screamed looking at her watch with a panicked look, running in place to show her impatience.  "If I don't hurry home, we're gonna miss our soap opera!"

"My feet are getting a little tired, I think I could sit down for a while," Kiyone added.  Having spent the last three hours chasing Mihoshi around was making her feel a little tense, and going home to a hot meal and bath was sounding better and better with each passing moment. 

From the heart… the words echoed once again in his mind, as anxiety over having failed in his task took over the young man's heart.  It was at that instant an idea sparked in his mind, filling him with energy, and giving a hopeful end to his quest.  Quickly, the young man tallied up how much he had on him, and smiled.  That'll be perfect!  "You girls go on home.  I figured out what I'm going to get Ryoko." Noticing Ayeka was about to say something, Tenchi held up his hands, as if trying to sooth her own anxiety.  "This might take a while, since the shop I need to go to is on the other side of town, and they work pretty slow. So it might be pretty late when I leave here.  There's no reason for all of us to have to wait here since it took me this long to make up my mind.  Don't worry; if it takes too long the worst that will happen is I'll see you in the morning.  Besides, there have been a few things I've had on my mind lately, and a few more hours of shopping, and a quick walk home should give me plenty of time to think things out for good."  As he spoke, the young Jurain looked solely at Ayeka, who almost squealed with delight when he said there was 'something on his mind.' 

With shrugs and muttered disapproval, the young man finally managed to convince each woman to venture off towards home, and at that moment he turned, heading off towards a little shop on the far side of town, not realizing how true his last few words to them had been.  There was no reason for him to keep all the girls waiting, for his heart had found it's answer long ago, however his mind was just now catching up. 

A short time later: about sunset (6 PM)

As the sun slowly set in the west, casting long shadows across the small yard of the Masaki's and guests, a single woman sat on the dock, her legs crossed, as her tail-like belt darted back and forth nervously, as she waited for the return of her friends and beloved.  They had been gone for quiet some time, and the silver-haired woman, whose hair took on a cyan hue in the dim light of sunset, was becoming more upset as the day went on.  It angered her greatly that they had yet to return, especially after all she'd been through with the kitchen fire and all.  She even changed into her light green and pink dress, which she would always cherish as it was in this dress she first met her beloved Tenchi. 

Finally, her sharp eyesight spotted their approach.  However to her dismay, she did not see Tenchi, only Sasami, Ayeka, Ryo-Ohki, Kiyone, and Mihoshi.  In the front, as usual, was the purple-haired princess who chatted endlessly to Kiyone, while Mihoshi followed a few steps behind, completely lost in the day-to-day sights surrounding her.  Behind them all was Sasami, who hefted two massive bags, which Ryoko figured was food, with a strained look on her face.  To the young Jurian's credit, she was not crying nor begging for help, despite how badly it seemed she needed it. 

With a hiss of dissipating matter, Ryoko left the docks, appearing suddenly atop Kamidake, who, with Azaka, stood guard at the main gate.  "Hey what's going on here?"  She asked furiously glaring down at her archrival as if she had somehow wronged her.  "What did you do with my Tenchi?"

Her patience with her cyan-haired rival having finally ran out, Ayeka addressed her nemesis with utter contempt.  "Lord Tenchi had a bit more shopping to do, and decided to walk home.  He also told us had a lot on his mind."  Taking a few steps further, the purple haired princess suddenly came to a halt once again, nearly knocking down both Kiyone and Mihoshi.  "Oh and one more thing, Ryoko."  The red-eyed woman proclaimed, as if she were issuing a challenge.  "I know it's a hard concept for one as slow-witted as yourself, but please try to remember… HE IS NOT YOUR TENCHI!"

Ignoring the angry princess, who continued to insult her as she walked away, Ryoko finally noticed the bags in everyone's hands.  The gifts each had picked out for her.  Yet for some reason the allure of those things wasn't as strong as thought they would be.  Instead she merely stared down the road, wondering what could possibly be keeping Tenchi. 

Suddenly a muffled grunt caught her ears, and the lithe woman turned her attention downward, seeing Sasami still struggling with her bags.  "You know Sasami, that Tenchi can be a real jerk sometimes." She began, a smile on her face.  "After all my hard slaving in the kitchen," at this the little girl's head shot up, a look of horror on her face as she heard the silver-haired woman mentioned the one room in the house where Sasami took the most pride.  "Not to mention how horrible it is to make all this," Ryoko said, motioning at herself, "wait up all alone.  What am I to do?"

"I don't know, Ryoko," Sasami laughed weakly, "but did you clean up the kitchen?"

Looking down the road, the golden-eyed woman suddenly returned her gaze to the small blue-haired girl.  "Huh?  Oh yeah I did.  I even made a really good chicken dinner."  Hopping down form the large wooden guardian, the lithe woman stretched herself for a long moment.  "Come on, I'll show you," she happily replied, hefting the heaviest bags up as if they were made of air.  Touching the little girl's head, the two women, and their cargo, disappeared.

"Just another night on Planet Earth, eh Azaka?" Kamidake asked, turning to his companion.

"Yes it is…" the guardian from Jurai sighed, before turning back to his post.  It was definitely going to be a long night.

Inside: Moments ago

The Kitchen:

Still angry about her rival's ever-annoying claim of ownership of Tenchi, the silky-skinned Ayeka stormed into Sasami's domain.  I really cannot believe the gall of that woman.  Furious, the purple-haired princess looked around the cozy kitchen for her tea, which always soothed her nerves in times like this.  At that moment the young Jurain paused.  I didn't know Sasami had a chicken dinner prepared…looking around, seeing that no one was around, the red-haired woman smiled, it looks so delicious.  I am sure no one will mind if I have a little taste…. 

Picking up a nearby fork, the slender youth smiled deviously as she picked up a large portion of the chicken dish.  Quickly sticking the food into her mouth, the happy thief chewed ecstatically, yet only for a moment.  As soon as her taste buds kicked in, Ayeka's eyes shot open, becoming huge and contorted, while her cheeks bulged.  Never in her life had the young woman tasted anything so horrible, so tasteless, so vile. 

Blasting out the door, on her way to a bathroom, the young princess seemed to be a blue blur. 

As the door to the kitchen swung back and forth, a hiss of matter being displaced filled the air.  It was at that instant Ryoko and Sasami appeared in the kitchen, their bags of food, and Ryo-Ohki, piled at their feet. "HEY!" the silver-haired woman yelled, as she looked at her chicken dinner.  "Who ate off it?  It was supposed to be for Tenchi?"

Taking one whiff of the space pirates cooking was enough to nearly turn Sasami's stomach.  Picking up the dish, the little girl laughed weakly.  "You know Ryoko, you saved me a lot of trouble making this dish, I'm sure everyone will love it.  But I don't think Tenchi will be home for dinner tonight.  He's still looking for your gift."

"What?" the busty woman replied, anger in her voice.  Well if he's gonna hide in town all day and night, leaving me here alone and hungry after all I've done, then fine!  Don't expect me for dinner!"  With that the silver-haired woman vanished, leaving the pink-eyed Jurain holding the deadly dinner. 

Throwing out the nearly toxic cooking of Ryoko's, Sasami got started on the strange families real dinner, shuddering as she wondered who would ever eat such a thing.  "I feel sorry for whoever ate that, Ryo-Ohki."  The little chef said, looking at the cabbit who happily watched her chop vegetables.

Almost as if in reply, the door suddenly flew open, and in staggered Ayeka, a sick look on her face.   "Sasami…." She moaned, "I think that chicken you made was spoiled.  I am sorry, but it looked too good, and I tasted it a few moments ago. You really need to be more careful thought, or someone could get sick…."

"But sister," the blue-haired princess began.  "That wasn't my cooking.  Ryoko made it while we were gone."

"What? That monster woman!  She was trying to kill me.  I just know it."

Sighing, the younger sister reached into a cupboard behind her, finding the ingredients for her sister's tea.  As the tea's water boiled, the little girl did her best to be polite, while Ayeka continued to complain about not only Ryoko's cooking, but also Washu's methods for delivering a shot.  This is going to be a looong night; I can tell… the blue-haired princess sighed, adding another helping of chopped vegetable to the pan.

As the two sisters held their conversation, the two GP officers engrossed themselves in the activity they had been planning for quiet sometime.  In the living room, Mihoshi watched her soap opera, hanging on each and every word as if it were the end of the world.  Meanwhile, Kiyone did her best to relax in the Onsen, trying as hard as she could, to forget that soon she would have to leave that wonderful state of relaxation, and return to a place where Mihoshi roamed free. 

Dinner Time:

"I didn't see here anywhere, but it was hard to see since it's so dark out tonight." Sasami told the others, who had already gathered to eat, a metal ladle clutched firmly in her hands.  "I hope I didn't offend her when I through out that dish she made."

"Ryoko won't care," Washu shrugged, nestling comfortably in her seat.  She tried, barely, to hide a sinister grin as she saw Ayeka try to sit down, only to shoot up, as her still sore rear hit the floor.  "Now come on and eat, Sasami.  Everything you made looks so good." Breathing deep, the super genius took in the wonderful aromas given off, each one sending her senses to new heights of ecstasy. 

"Besides you shouldn't worry about that monster woman anyway, Sasami," The first princess proclaimed her voice showing her disdain for the silver-haired woman.  "She'll manage on her own.   Besides, she could stand to miss a few meals."

"Well…if you're both sure she'll be okay…" Both Ayeka and Washu nodded, and ever so slowly, the blue-haired child moved to her seat, kneeling in her place.  "But I still don't like the idea of eating with out Ryoko, or Tenchi."  As the five visitors to the Masaki home began eating, the pink-eyed girl turned her eyes to a nearby window, worry filling her face.  I sure hope Ryoko's gonna be okay.  Today's been so exciting, but she did say she didn't want a party, and I did insist.  I hope she isn't mad at me now. 

Despite having only eaten a few bites, Sasami suddenly stood, looking at everyone who slowly turned to face her.  "May I be excused Ayeka, my stomach hurts."

"You didn't eat any of Ryoko's cooking did you, sister?" Ayeka asked, concern showing heavily in her red eyes. 

"No, it just hurts.  I wanna go lay down."

"Very well then, go right ahead, I will be up shortly to check on you."  Curtsying as her sister had always taught her, the blue-haired youth ran off to her room, as the little cabbit, Ryo-Ohki, bound after her.  So concerned for her friends well being, that she abandoned her carrot at the table, and followed. 

7

"Poor kid," Washu, said, swallowing down another piece of food.  "She really needs to not let herself get so worked up, or she'll end up like…" pausing the diminutive genius stopped looking at the purple haired princess, and quickly deciding against angering Ayeka twice in one day.  Especially when the young princess was still angry about the last incident.  "Other people we all know…."

"Yes, I couldn't agree more," Ayeka said pointing at Washu with her chopsticks as she chewed, appearing to forget her manners.  "I'm glad you think Ryoko is a bad influence for Sasami as well." 

Kiyone coughed, as she realized that the purple-haired woman had completely missed the point of Washu's statement.  Swallowing hard, the teal-eyed woman quickly resumed eating, as if nothing had happened.

"Wow you're really hungry, huh Kiyone?" Mihoshi noted, swallowing down a bowl of noodles.  "You know you should have taken a snack with you when we were out shopping, or said something.  We had time to stop, y'know.  It's not good to not eat.  I remember this one time…."

As her shoulders slumped, the teal-haired woman reached for a bottle of saki nearby.  She knew it was going to be a long meal, just like she knew it was the start of a long night.

Hours Later: Nearly Midnight The Road home:

"Brrr," Tenchi shivered talking to himself," Maybe I should have wore a coat today, but the day was so pleasant, who'd have thought the night would have gotten so cold.  Well, Tenchi old boy, you have only yourself to blame.  Sasami did try to warn you." As he slowly made his way home, the brown haired youth caressed the gift in his pocket tenderly.  I sure hope she likes it.  Working for dad doesn't always pay that well, and I know Ryoko has… expensive tastes, so I really do hope it's enough to make her happy….

But it did come from the heart, at least sort of.  I mean it does now, but when I… what am I doing?  Why am I getting so nervous?  I'm only talking to myself, and I know why I bought Ryoko this thing, right?  Don't I?  Sighing the young man pulled a gold locket with a silver chain from his pocket, dangling it like a fish before his brown eyes. "'Gold to match her eyes, and silver to match her hair,'" he said as he watched it glimmer in the pale moonlight.  I could have been out of there a lot sooner if that engraver was a little faster, and I hadn't fallen asleep in the corner until they closed….  The young man blushed, as he recalled that embarrassing memory, placing a hand behind his head, to show how uncomfortable his own foolishness had made him.  At least it gave me time to start thing about all the stuff I wanted to.  So much has happened in these past few years, between me and the other girls.  It's really about time I started looking into where all these relationships are headed.  With life being so hectic lately, more than usual, I just haven't had a minute to sit back and try to take everything in.

Stopping for a moment, Tenchi pulled a small case from his pants pocket, and gently placed the necklace inside.  With a smile, he began walking once again, his thought turning to the women he loved so dearly.  Let's see whom to start with?  Relationships and all… what about… Ryo-Ohki?  I better not even go down that path, I like her and all, she's a nice little… uh… cabbit, but she's more like a pet.  I still think of her as a member of our family, but not like a…. 

Who to start with then… Rubbing his cold hands together, Tenchi quickly breathed into them, trying to warm them, as he settled on his first analysis for the long walk home.  Sasami's like the little sister I never had; so innocent and full of life.  I wish I had a friend like her when I was growing up.  It gets kind lonely when you can't go play with the others since you have to train at the shrine that day, or clean the house while dad's at work.  I don't think much is gonna change between me and Sasami in the next few years, I'm sure no matter what happens we'll still be best of friends.

Pausing in his thoughts, Tenchi kicked a pebble from the road, as he drug his feet, his attention shifting from Sasami to others.  Mihoshi and Kiyone are great friends, always doing their best to be helpful.  I sometimes wish I could have Mihoshi's heart, I think she may be more loving than Sasami.  Of course, she's nowhere near as caring as Misaki, but then who could be?  Kiyone's really lucky to have a best friend like that.  Although I know she knows that, I bet it's not really something she thinks about much.  Kiyone's a nice girl, but to be honest I don't see myself with either her or Mihoshi, I like them and all, but not in that way….

Let's see whom else… The young brown-haired man asked himself, as he looked skyward, noticing the moon come out from behind the clouds, finally illuminating the road before him.  Washu, he thought with a nod.  I love having her around, no matter how much trouble she may cause, because she just… I don't know… she has that glow about her.  The one that makes me remember my own mother.  She's kind and understanding, yet at the same time strong and independent.  I don't honestly see myself doing much with her, I mean that whole changing into a kid and then an adult thing is just a little too weird for me.

This was all old material to the young man however, during his early morning chores and stay in the jewelers, he had went over those 4 women numerous times, and by now it was becoming repetitive to think about any of them.  Now he only had the hardest two left, the ones that he knew had a lot riding on his feelings.  Swallowing, Tenchi shook his head, and bravely thought of a purple-haired woman.  Lady Ayeka is so proper and friendly I always feel that we DO share a bond, something more than just our blood.  There are times, when it seems like only Ayeka really understands what's going on in my head. 

Unsure where to go with that thought, the young man turned his attention to his final mental entry, Ryoko….  I don't really know, every time I think about her, I get this weird feeling in my stomach, something I can't place.  I always feel uncomfortable around her, but as soon as she's gone I wish she'd show up.  Life seems too weird with her around, but completely boring when she's gone. 

Sighing, the young Jurain stopped.  Looking at the full moon above.  I've been thinking about this all day, and I still am no closer than I was when I started all this thinking.  Right now all I want is to go home.  Once I get something to eat, and some rest, I'll figure it out in the morning.  As long as I take my time to think it through carefully, I'm sure I can figure out what I want, and then my heart won't be so torn.  Shivering once again, the young man wrapped his arms around his shoulders and facing the path in front of him, walked towards home.

Not Too Far Away:

Ryoko flew high in the air, scanning the ground for any sign of her beloved Tenchi using the light from the full moon to illuminate her search.  Where is he?  I can't keep this up much longer, she yawned. I've been looking for him since almost 8 o'clock, and still no sign of him anywhere.  I hope nothing's happened to him.  Of course he was alone, and he's still pretty naive to the kind of people a kid like him would attract in the middle of the night.  Breathing deep, the silver haired woman tried to calm her jaded nerves.  It had been a long day, and the few drinks of Saki, drank only to take the edge off her waiting, coupled with all the chores around the house she had done just to prove her mother wrong, had left the silver-haired seductress completely exhausted. 

Yet despite how drained she felt, in here heart she KNEW it would be impossible for her to rest until she had found the man she loved so dearly, and was sure he was safe.  After three hours, her endless searching had finally paid off.  Down below, she saw something.  What appeared to be a young man, who looked up at her for a split second, before tucking his head down and running quickly towards the Masaki residence.  Is that?  It is!  Gasping, her heart nearly completely stopping, Ryoko swooped downward heading straight towards the man she cherished, a single cry of joy echoing from her lips as she descended, "Tenchi!"

Huh?  The brown-haired youth thought, what was that?  It almost sounded like… uh oh…Glancing up barely a second later, the sought after youth saw the silver-haired space pirate mere seconds before she collided with him, and literally knocked him off his feet and flat onto his back.  Of course, the golden-eyed beauty arranged the fall so she landed squarely on top of him. 

"Ryoko! Get off me!" he complained as the shock faded and he struggled to get up.  Yet the golden-eyed woman did not hear him.  As her heart sighed with relief at the sight of seeing him safe and sound, the silver-haired woman instead took his hands into her own, clasping them on his chest.  A frown came over her face as she looked at their hands, hers surrounding his, as she noticed how frigid they felt. 

Sliding off to the side, allowing him some room, Ryoko quickly rose to her feet.  Looking down at him with her weary eyes.  It almost scared her to look at him now, knowing that he was out her vulnerable to the elements as he was, and how close he was to freezing to death, just so he could get her a gift when all she wanted was for him to come home, specifically to her, of course, safe. 

As the young man rose he dusted himself off, Tenchi made a quick glance at his silver-haired attacker, finally noticing how exhausted she appeared.  It almost seemed as if Ryoko had been running a marathon or something.  Shaking his head, the young man merely figured it was just his imagination working overtime because he was so tired and hungry.

"Tenchi… your hands are like ice. Come on let me get you home." Ryoko cooed softly with concern, a wild look returning to her eyes, instants before she grabbed him, and leapt into the air, flying toward the house.  As she rose over the trees, Tenchi's complaints were quiet audible, as the young man screamed in her ear about being seen by neighbors.  The silver-haired woman laughed.  "Who cares what others think," she asked him.  Think?  That's right, that little princess, Ayeka, did say Tenchi had something on his mind… and Sasami mentioned this morning that he was out in the field doing some thinking as well.  That's an awful lot of time spent 'thinking,' he must be up to something, and whatever it is it's big.  Well it better not be that Tenchi's out here cheating on me, or I'll… I'll… I'm not sure what I'll do yet, but I know he won't like it.  It was at that moment a wave of dizziness came over the silver-haired woman, causing the two of them to dip in the air as she did her best to stay in the sky.  Damn it!  I'm too tired; I shouldn't have been doing all that other stuff all day.  I need to rest, but where….  Pausing mid-flight, Ryoko and Tenchi vanished as she teleported the two of them to a new destination. 

Midnight Ryoko's Birthday The Stairs to the Masaki Shrine:

Barely a second later, Tenchi Masaki and Ryoko Hakubi appeared on one of the platforms on the staircase leading to the old Masaki shrine.  Shaking her head, the silver-haired woman did her best to shake the dizzy spell that had come over her just now.  One look at her beloved, and her problems no longer mattered, seeing him safe and on the ground beside her, helped her find the strength to act as if nothing was wrong.

"Tenchi I know a few other ways we can warm you up," she said in her most seductive laugh as she cupped his hands with her own.

"Ryoko..." he replied flatly casting her a look, which suggested he was not in the mood for her seduction attempts. Hesitantly the golden-eyed woman released his hands, not used to this level of anger, and making her wonder what she had done to make Tenchi so upset with her this time.  "You landed us in the middle of the stairs, now I have an even further walk than I had before you showed up!"

Being on the verge of passing out from weariness, Tenchi's words hurt the golden-eyed space pirate rather badly, yet Ryoko did her best, as always, not to let it show.  I don't want him to think I've gotten soft, and unlike Ayeka, I don't need to play the part of a weakling to win him over.  "Don't worry, we can walk together, Tenchi darling.  I'll protect you, and keep you warm." She offered, throwing back her silvery hair as she tried her best to sound happy, "it's such a nice night, and all I figured you wouldn't mind walking with me a while."  Saying nothing, the young man merely began to make his way down the stairs, grumbling slightly about 'just wanting to get home.'

"Can't you just beam us home, Ryoko?" he asked, not sounding like his usual jolly self. 

Unable to think up a lie, the golden-eyed woman shook her head.  "I could, but I'm real tired.  I've been busy today, and after looking for you since Eight o'clock, I'm feeling pretty wore out.  That's why I beamed us here.  Trust me it's a lot better than falling." She replied placing a hand over her forehead, and looking as if she might faint.

Sniffing twice, the young man frowned.  "Smells like you might have had few bottles of Saki as well.  I wondered why you beamed us the wrong way from the house.  Oh well, C'mon let's go home." Muttering another complaint under his breath, the young man began his march toward the house, oblivious to anything beside his own goals.

So he doesn't believe me, oh well.  She commented to herself mentally, trying her best to trick herself into believing what she was thinking.  Smugly she continued her inner monologue.  Once we get home, and the others tell him what a good job I did cleaning the house, he'll be sorry.  Walking a few moments in silence, the golden-eyed seductress quickly grew bored, and turned towards Tenchi, deciding to end her curiosity from earlier.  "Ayeka says you had a lot on your mind, was one of those things me?" Ryoko asked her sweetest, most innocent tone, trying to change the topic of conversation from walking at least, and get back on Tenchi's good side.  It was a trick that almost always, in the past, had caused the brown-haired young man to either laugh nervously, or at least ease his mood a little. 

"Yes, Ryoko," he answered abruptly as he walked back down the long staircase.  Tired, out of patience, and having not eaten all day, it was obvious the youngest Masaki was in no mood for anything at this moment, least of all Ryoko who had just added several more minutes to his already very long walk home.  Right now all he wanted was to go home, eat a quick snack, and get into bed.  Yet, even though he wished her away, at the same time Tenchi couldn't help but feel glad she was here, since most of the day, it was her he had been thinking about.  Of course, to find her a perfect gift, and also to discover what feelings, if any, he had for her.  At that instant, Ryoko floated up beside him easily keeping his pace.

Smiling, even more exhausted as she pushed herself to appear as if floating next to him like this was simple, the busty woman decided to continue her interrogation.  "What were you thinking about me?" she asked expecting either the uncomfortable look he often gave her when she asked him a personal question, yet each time she asked him, she always thought, by some slim chance, it might be something romantic.  His response, was intense, and shocked her to the core. 

It had been a very long day; and Tenchi's normally endless patience had finally and completely run out.  Stopping suddenly, causing the silver-haired woman to float in front of him, the young man lashed out at her verbally, and only because she was the nearest target.  Ryoko became the target for all the stress and strain he had place on himself these past few hours.  "Yes, I was!"  He said slightly angry.  Ryoko's eyes lit up like twin stars, upon hearing this good news.

"And…" she asked inhaling as she spoke, her hands clasped before her showing her unparalleled joy, as she levitated even further off the ground. Never in her entire life had she felt so happy, the man she cherished with her entire heart, with ever portion of her being, had been thinking about her, just like she always was about him. 

"And I was thinking how much better my life would be if you would quit bothering me! How my life has been a wreck ever since I met you."  Gasping at his own words, the young man wished he could take back the terrible things he had said; yet he was too late.  Even a split second after his outburst, Tenchi had already heard his conscious asking him the same questions over and over.  How?  How could you say that?

 

"A wreck…" The lithe woman muttered, feeling her heart being torn into pieces in that moment, before descending from her flight, landing hard on her feet.  Taking a few steps further down the stairs, the golden-eyed seductress crossed her arms over her chest a sharp pain in her stomach. Tears freely rolled down her cheeks, and for once in her life, she did not try to hide them.  After all, no one could see her tears, no one who cared about her at least.  Besides, if Tenchi hates me that much, he should enjoy this.

Tenchi turned trying to apologize, but every word he thought seemed too puny to convey what he had truly meant to say.

" Ryoko...I... that is...." Tenchi stammered he was still stunned he had reacted so hateful to Ryoko, or that he could say such a thing to anyone for that matter.  "It's not like that…  I mean it's me… the cold it…and having not eaten today…plus I'm kinda tired and…." Finally, unable to form a complete though, the young man gave up, and silence hung heavily between them, like a thick fog, for many long minutes. 

Finally it was Ryoko who shattered the silence. "Tenchi..." she began sadness clinging to every syllable. "You don't need to lie anymore.  It's times like this when people's true feelings come out.  I thought, or maybe it was wished, maybe it was an act all this time, and that you really loved me.  I hoped you were just too afraid to admit it.  I guess I still considered you to be what I always thought you were, the quiet adorable kid I watched grow up.  But now that I know truth..."  Sighing the golden-eyed woman kicked a pebble down the stairs watching it skip into the darkness, like her hope and happiness.  "Now that I know the truth, then if you give me my gems back I promise I'll be gone by morning.  Just let me say this one thing." Ryoko paused.  It was hard to hear what she said over her crying, and her hunched stance added to her quietness. 

After taking a few moments to composed herself, the lithe space pirate continued, "I've been a space pirate my whole life, Tenchi.  I know every way to steal anything, and I know how to stop anyone from taking anything from me.  But you, Tenchi Masaki, have stolen something I could not protect.  You stole my heart, but in its place you left me joys and happiness I didn't think a woman like me could ever experience."  Soon, Ryoko's voice started to crack, faintly at first, but soon that crack in her self control became a chasm, allowing all her emotions to come rushing to the surface.  "I ... never meant ... to hurt you Tenchi... honest!  I just wanted you to feel the same kind of love toward me that I've always felt toward you.  I only wanted you to be happy...." 

Tenchi stared at his feet he couldn't have felt lower if Ryoko had of punched his as hard as she could.  Slowly he walked over to her and placed his hand on her shoulder, slowly turning her to face him.

"Ryoko... I'm sorry, I don't know how else to say it, but I am sorry. More than I have ever been for anything else in my life.  It's been a long day, and I'm tired, cold, and hungry, but that's no excuse for what I said."  Looking into her teary eyes made what he was going to say next harder, yet all the more important.  For a brief moment, the young swordsman in training looked away, gathering all his strength for what was to come.  "I won't lie to you Ryoko, since I've met you, my life's been turned upside.  BUT, I can't deny that each day, since then, has been better than the last because of you.  We've had our share of arguments, and fights, yet I was wrong to ever call you a bother.  I hope you can forgive me for that."  The slender woman said nothing sniffing as she looked away. 

I want to believe you Tenchi, and of course I'll forgive you, I just don't want to be hurt again.  She thought as she pretended to focus on the ground beside them.

Moving his hand from her shoulder to her chin, the young man slowly turned her face so she stared into his brown eyes.  "If anyone here is the one who bothers the other it's me.   I've always ignored you, and made your life harder than it had to be."  Tenchi declared sincerely as he looked into her golden eyes.  "All day long, Ryoko, I have been thinking about you, mostly because I couldn't figure out what it was I truly felt for you.  I thought I could figure it out on my own, but I guess I'm just too dense for that, and I had to see you like this in order to understand.  I'm sorry, but now at least I know.  I love you Ryoko." Stunned once again, Ryoko looked up at Tenchi, and fell into his chest drying her tears on his shirt.  "I love you with all my heart."  He whispered as he stroked her silvery hair.

After a few moments she gazed up at him through eyes, which were still brimming with tears, yet these were not tears of sorrow and defeat.  Rather they were tears of joyous rapture.  "When I heard you were out here walking alone, I got worried.  I knew what kind of people lurk out in the dark waiting for men like you, Tenchi.  I knew what could happen to you."  Hugging her beloved tightly, nearly snapping him like a twig, the silver-haired space pirate looked up at him, with concerned eyes, "Oh, Tenchi, if anything happened to you I'd...."

At that moment her words went unheard, as Tenchi Masaki's lips touched her own.  Magic, Ryoko thought as she experienced her first kiss.  Yet even the grandness of this joy paled compared to how she felt when Tenchi put his arms around her, securing her in his embrace.   This was no ordinary kiss.  This display of affection had been born of a deep passion, which had been burning inside each person longer than he had ever known, perhaps since before either was ever born.  It was not a loving kiss coming from the heart, as so many romantic fools declare.  No instead this had taken root, had grown, from the depths of Tenchi and Ryoko's souls. 

In her long life, Ryoko had been blasted, hit by missiles, even survived in the cold empty vacuum of space, yet that simple kiss, had crippled her, causing her to loose all feeling in her knees, the result causing her to lean further into the young man's arms for support.  Closing her eyes, she slowly wrapped her arms around Tenchi's neck; to not only steady herself, but also to draw him nearer.  His lips felt so warm pressed against hers.  It was the greatest pleasure she had ever know in her entire life.  No amount of gold or diamonds could come close to comparing to what she felt now.  As their lips parted, Ryoko gazed back into his eyes joy twinkling in her eyes, taking a long sharp breath of the cold night air before she spoke.  "Tenchi..." was all she could say, before she smiled, and leaned into him to feel his warm embrace once again. Of all the places the former space pirate had ever been in the entire universe, there was no place where she felt happier, or safer than in his arms.  Ryoko felt comfortable there, like she could stay in his arms forever.

Tenchi looked down at the top of her head, resting on his chest, silver hair blocking her face from his view.  "Ryoko, I think I know why I've always treated you so harshly, because from the moment we met, I have been in love with you," the young Jurain prince realized. "They say you always hurt the one you love.  Well I guess that's why I acted the way I did…pretty lame excuse, huh?" the brown-eyed youth laughed.  Clearing his throat, the young Masaki continued, "All I want right now is to have you here with me.  It feels like that's how it's meant to be.  I don't want you to leave, not because of something I said out of haste, especially something I didn't mean." The silver-haired demoness moaned happily too lost in the moment to say anything. 

Holding her against himself a few seconds more; the young man finally broke this new happy silence.  "Well, lets go home Ryoko..." the brown-eyed youth whispered kindly.  However when no reply came, the young man's face grew puzzled as he repeated himself, "Ryoko?" Leaning back slightly, so he could see her face, as he was curious why she had made no reply, Tenchi continued to hold the busty woman close.  It was then a small laugh shook his sides, as he discovered she had fallen asleep in his arms, so exhausted mentally and physically from her day that this last emotional high had taken the last bit of her energy away.

I guess she really was tired.  Checking his watch, Tenchi smiled as he quietly spoke.  "August third.  Ryoko's Birthday.  Well then Happy Birthday, Ryoko.  I guess you got what you wanted," Picking her up into his arms, the Jurain Prince grunted under the sleeping woman's weight.  Looks like I'll have to carry you home.  With that thought, Tenchi slowly began to make his way down the staircase towards his house.   It's been a wild night, as all of them are with you around, Ryoko.  But you know, I'm glad this happened.  I'm sure you'll tell all the others and things will go ballistic.  But in the end they'll understand, after all we are a family, and if nothing else happens between us, at least I'll always have been the first one to give you a birthday present today.

Reaching the house, Tenchi looked completely worn out.  Normally such a walk would have only taken the young man a few minutes, possibly ten if he were lounging about on the way, but thanks to his unexpected passenger, the short walk had taken closer to twenty.  Staggering into the house, the agile youth did his best to not make a sound as he scanned the room for somewhere to rest his weary companion.  Finally his eyes found a place, and with heavy footsteps, the young man made his way into the living room, and nearly fell onto the couch.  Who would have thought that anyone who flies and walks through walls could be so heavy?  Despite his heavy breathing, Tenchi laughed timidly, imagining what Ryoko would do to him if he ever said such a thing aloud.  I wouldn't like it, he imagined with a final timid laugh. 

Exhausted from his long day and strenuous workout of carrying the silver-haired woman he now realized he cared so much for, Tenchi still held onto the silver-haired sleeper, resting her slumbering frame in his lap.  His arms almost felt stuck to her, and the idea of moving anymore seemed like one of the worst he had ever heard.  I'll just sit down here for a few minutes, until I catch my breath.  Then I'll go to bed.  Ryoko should be fine down here, after all she usually sleeps in the rafters, and that can't be comfortable…. Making one final motion, the young man let his head fall back, resting on the cushion to the sofa.  The silver haired woman who sleep happily in his arms, seemed almost on fire, as the heat from her body warmed his own and made Tenchi feel extremely comfortable in his current position.  Time and again, the young man's eyelids tried to close, and using all his will power the brown-haired youth forced them back open.  However it was a losing battle and in only a few short moments, the youngest Masaki lost the war against his eyelids and fell asleep.

A few moments later:

As Tenchi dozed off to join Ryoko blissful slumber, the golden-eyed sleeper awoke.  Rubbing her head, the silver-haired seductress looked confusingly around the living room.  How did I get here?  Did I just dream that whole thing with Tenchi?  Ugh!  What is that sound, a chainsaw?  Man can't Ayeka keep it down, not everyone can sleep through her snoring…  It was then, Ryoko looked at the floor, seeing a pair of shoes right below her.  Man this couch is more uncomfortable than I remember, and who left their shoes in the- oh.  Rolling over, the silver-haired woman paused, smiling at what she saw. 

A smile crept over her face as she noticed the slumbering young man whose lap she was sleeping on.  I guess I was tired.  I must have fallen asleep while we were talking.  Tenchi probably carried me home. "Tenchi, " she sleepily whispered, a warm smile on her face.  With the back of one of her lithe hands she tenderly caressed his youthful face, enjoying the way he felt against her.  Thank you so much, Tenchi.  For tonight, for what you said, for… everything.  Moving her hand downward, the lithe space pirate took one of his hands, and coupled it in her own.  Still… she breathed in a hushed voice, looking at the rest of the living room slowly.  I don't think the others would approve of this.  You did tell me you love me Tenchi, and I know you'd never lie to me, but I also know how much you care about Sasami, Ayeka, and all the others.  You probably are ready to face whatever happens, but as I think about it, I'm not.  At least not just yet, I still have too many things to do to Ayeka, and I know you don't want to give up everyone, so…. 

Tenchi's Room:

With yet another hiss of matter being rearranged, Ryoko and Tenchi appeared in the young man's room, lying side by side on the young man's bed.  With stiff motions, which showed she was still weary, the lithe woman pulled back the covers and set the unconscious youth inside them, so he could finally begin to warm up. 

I still would have preferred to use MY method of warming up, Tenchi….  Grinning, the golden-eyed woman crawled in beside him, lying by her beloved.  Slipping under the covers, Ryoko moaned happily as she felt his young warm body next to her own.  Well, at least I can sleep in here tonight.  It already sounds nicer than the rafters.  "But if you have any objection, Tenchi, just say so," she whispered in a voice so quiet only Washu's instruments would be able to detect it.

With a sigh the golden-eyed woman's mind continued to echo a single thought infinitely.  For as long as she continued to draw breath, as long as she could muster the strength to control her own fate, Ryoko wanted to never leave the brown-haired youth's side. 

With the last remaining burst of energy in her body, a surge brought on by being this close to the man she loved, and who loved her, Ryoko sat up, smiling hungrily down at the young man beside her.  "No matter what happens between us Tenchi, " she whispered into his ear, "I will never forget tonight."  Leaning down, the lithe woman gently kissed the young man's forehead, brushing back a few strands of brown hair.  Then with phenomenal agility, the silver-haired seductress slipped in beside him, pressing her slender frame against him, taking comfort in his presence.  He had given her the greatest gift in all her life, the best birthday she had ever known, and she could tell it was only the beginning.

Next Time: Washu and Tenchi have an interesting conversation during the night, as we prepare for the big party!

Chapter 02: A Night Interlude