Ranma 1/2 and all related characters are property of Rumiko Takahashi. No disrespect intended for this simple fanfic.

For Better or For Worst-Case Scenario

Chapter 7

My Last Consort

Morning drew up upon the Tendo house sooner than it should have, or at least that's how Nabiki felt. Her eyes unwillingly opened to face the muted sunlight doggedly trying to barge its way into the room without impediment. She yawned, her brain taking some time to get the rest of her into gear.

She coaxed one leg after the other to slip from the warmth and comfort of Ranma's body and the bed to—

Wait a second!

The brunette jerked back mentally and gave the bed a good look.

There was no Ranma in bed with her. She breathed a sigh of relief, then she mentally smacked herself. There was no Ranma in her bed! He should have been there! He was there last night! She wanted him there!

Her heart scrunched up in panic. Where was he? Where did he go? Why did he—

She had to slap herself physically before she got her wits about her again. She did not go around panicking like a chicken with its head cut off. She wasn't a wimpy, crying, little girl. Or, at least not usually, she had to correct herself. Last night was an exception to the rule. However, she still lived on.

Very much awake now, her cheek stinging slightly, Nabiki took a few moments to get suitable attired before heading downstairs to see if Ranma was there. However, she found no one downstairs but Kasumi who was scribbling something down on a pad.

"Oh, good morning, Nabiki," she said, looking up with a smile.

"Morning, sis. Where's Ranma?"

"Oh?" Kasumi put down the pad. "Didn't he say goodbye to you this morning?"

"'Goodbye?' For what?" Nabiki gave her older sister an awkward eye. Why would Ranma want to say goodbye to her?

"He and his father went to see Shampoo at her place of work."

"Really? I thought he would take Daddy with him for that."

Kasumi resuming her writing. "Father was willing, but Ranma felt that he would be best suited for defense of the home."

More like he didn't want Daddy getting in the way, Nabiki mused, a little surprised she was getting angry over the thought. True, her father may not be quite the fighter now as he supposedly was back in his heyday, but still…

Dismissing the thought, Nabiki pried on. "Akane went with them, too, then?"

"No," Kasumi responded in the same tone of voice that she uses whenever their little sister tried to do some cooking in the kitchen. "She's at school. She did want to stay with you, though."

"Mmm… well, she wouldn't have been much company after Shampoo's attack last night." Saying that, Nabiki started to leave.



"Would you like to help me with the grocery shopping today?"

Nabiki stopped partway out the room, looking back in at her sister oddly. "Uh, why?"

"I would imagine that, with you being married to Ranma, you would wish to understand…" She looked up. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be presumptuous."

"Oh, presume away. Anyway."

"It's just that…" She bit her lower lip.

Nabiki sighed loudly, walking back in. "Stop worrying so, sis. I know you're really worried and all, but at this rate, you're going to start inviting me to the toilet every time you need to pee."

"I'm just so worried about Shampoo."

"Huh?" Her brows doubled over in concentration. "Why are you worried about her?"

"She is a fragile girl, no matter how she may seem."

"Yeah, about as fragile as a mountain."

"She is not so strong as to withstand pressure on her heart."

Nabiki sucked on her bottom lip for a moment. "Look, sis. While I can imagine you are in tune with every aspect of Shampoo's romantic notions—"

Kasumi ducked her head in a bow. "I'm sorry, I did not mean to pry again."

"No… no, It's not your fault. Just that… Shampoo's got her own issues and she's the one that can't deal with the fact that it's over. There's nothing she can do, short of killing me."

The older woman nodded sadly. "That is what worries me more. If she did… if she did kill you… she would kill herself, too."

Neither woman moved for a long moment. Finally Nabiki turned away. "I need to take a bath, sis."

She let her go on, not looking at anything. "Please, Mother…" she said under her breath. "Watch over your daughter Nabiki."


"Yeah, pops?"

"Perhaps we should give this more thought."

"Give what more thought?"

"Confronting the Amazons head-on like this. It is a reckless plan."

"I'm not confronting the Amazons. Just Shampoo."

Genma coughed. "Son—"

"I should have done this a long time before all this mess got started. Now I don't have a choice but to deal with it now. Someone's gonna die if I don't."

The older man studied his son carrying a cloth bag slung over his shoulder for a few moments as they marched towards the Cat Café. "You've truly grown, my son."

The compliment caught Ranma off-guard. He stopped to look at Genma, a question forming in his eye. Genma clapped a hand on his shoulder before he could voice it, though.

"Truly, you are becoming more and more a man every day now." He smiled. "So, let's end this madness."

Ranma grinned. "Yeah. Let's."

The two men traveled for a while longer until they came upon the Cat Café building. "All right," Ranma said, standing before the restaurant. "Let's settle this once and—"

"Actually," Genma interrupted, drawing Ranma's attention. "You go in and confront Shampoo."

A snake of anger rose unwillingly. "Wait a minute, pop, I thought—"

"As you said, this is something you must deal with."

"Why're you're chickening out now?"

"I am not 'chickening out.' This is your own battle, your own path to manhood. However," he saw the venom forming from behind his son's lips. "This is not the time to abandon one's blood without need."

He pursed his lips. "What're you getting at?"

"I will assist when needed. Until then, you are capable of killing the poison with your own strength."

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Ranma knew that his father was making sense. Become a man, solve your own problems. However, it felt weird to hear those words from someone who had done decidedly less than manly things himself. It felt stranger knowing that he had been more dependent on his father in a tough pinch.

He snorted and shook his head, the pigtail snapping against his back. "All right, but don't go getting yourself into too much trouble now. I ain't bailing your old ass out of a fix."

"Heh…" Genma grinned a little too mischievously. "They'll never see me."

"Hah, I doubt that."

The men broke up with Ranma stepping through the front doors of the restaurant. A few customers were seated, enjoying their bowls of noodles with various meats and vegetables. A quick scanning of the premises turned up no Shampoo hopping to and fro tables. Another perimeter check revealed no obvious traps. A third scan had him lancing out one arm to snare a length of weighted chain, snapping it around his forearm and holding fast. "Afternoon, Mousse."

"Saotome!" the blind waiter fumed, balancing a tray of noodles in his free hand. "What are you doing here?"

"Came looking for Shampoo, dunce. What are you doing here?"

Mousse grunted, dropping the weapon and take a moment to serve a waiting customer who was startled to see a fight break out. "Doing Shampoo's job. She's still not back."

Ranma frowned, shaking the heavy chain free from his arm. "What do you mean she's not back?"

The near-blind Chinese adjusted his spectacles in arrogant attitude. "If you don't know, I'm most certainly not going to tell you."

"You better start talking if you know something, Mousse."

"I. Refuse. Not as though you can beat it out of me."

He bristled, cockiness roaring forth his posture. "Wanna bet?" He cracked his knuckles in a tight fist.

Just then, a wooden spoon smashed into Mousse's temple, knocking him over. "Mousse! Stop flirting with the customers and get back to work!"

He cursed. "I'm not flirting with anyone!" He was rewarded with another spoon that cracked him across the throat. He fell to one knee clutching the damaged area, gasping hard for breath.

"No more backtalk! Now, get back to—"

Cologne had come out from the kitchen to berate the Chinese boy further, but stopped upon seeing Ranma. "Ah, Ranma. I'm surprised to see you here. I would have assumed you would wish to not see us again."

"After the stunt Shampoo pulled last night? You're crazy and senile, you old crone!"

The wizened old woman regarded him much as she had Mousse a moment ago – a belligerent child. "I'm afraid you're mistaken. Shampoo hasn't been in the area for a few weeks now, and is not to return for another week."

"That's a damn lie, and you know it!" As proof, he tossed the bag open, divulging the three weapons that imprisoned Nabiki last night. "Where're you hiding her?"

For the first time in a long time, Ranma saw Cologne's eyes widen almost in fear and then narrow severely.

"Where did you get these from?"

"Ask Nabiki; she found them pinned around her head last night."

A specter could not have appeared more pale and lifeless as Cologne at that moment. "How, exactly?"

He bristled, though one brow quirked in some confusion. "What does that matter?"

Cologne chose to not answer. Instead she knocked Mousse, who was starting to breathe again, flat onto his back, picked up the weapons, and arranged them into the exact pyramid form around her unsuspecting subject. "Were they set up like this?"

Now, he was thrown off. "Well, yeah… but—"

The weapons disappeared in the blink of an eye. Mousse had been propped up onto his feet again, holding his neck gingerly. Cologne turned her back to Ranma.

"Leave," she simply said. "Mousse, close up the restaurant."

"Hey! What gives?"

"Ranma," Cologne spoke with slow, measured words. "This is none of your concern now. Leave, and don't return here."

"Like hell!" One foot skidded back like lightning, and his hands turned into fists.

She spared him a glance before disregarding his violent intentions. "Now is not the time for melodramatics, Ranma. You will leave here now."

He growled at the slight, and started to move. However, he found himself eye-to-eye with his father, as though he just appeared from thin air. His face was neutral and unassuming.


"Let us leave. This is not our place."

The walk home wasn't fruitful, as Genma told his son everything he noticed and discovered. Most importantly, Shampoo hadn't come back to the Cat Café in some time. Ranma fumed impotently.

"And that mummy acts like this is Shampoo's fucking idea! 'I don't know where she is.' 'What are you doing?' That old bitch got her hidden away somewhere!"

"Are you certain of that, son?"

"I know it is! What the hell does that have to do with anything?"

"Just a thought. Shampoo is the one you slighted. If it were Cologne's idea, then wouldn't she have tried something in the restaurant?"

"Feh! Like that dried-up plum can do anything about me and Nabiki. She already tried once to make me marry her grand daughter, and I put a stop to that!"

"Exactly." Genma was smug. "You've defeated Cologne magnificently, and she would never again meddle in your romantic life."

"You're damn right she—"

Genma chuckled as a ton of bricks crunched Ranma into realization. Some days, even his cleverness surprised him.

His son swore so loudly, a flock of bird raced away from a nearby tree. "This is Shampoo's idea?!"

"I would imagine so."

"Dammit! What's gotten into that crazy chick?!"

"That, my son, is what we must deliberate on. On full stomachs, of course."

Nabiki inhaled deeply as she dried herself off and threw on her bathrobe. Perhaps she should have taken Kasumi up on her invitation. It wasn't as if she had planned on anything to keep herself occupied.

Well, there was her new room… correction she and Ranma's new room. How the hell did their parents manage to redesign and construct it under their noses without their acknowledgement? Some things still boggled her mind about her family at times.

Opening the door, she crossed Kasumi as she was scribbling down a list on a small notepad.

"Enjoy your bath, Nabiki?"

"Mm hmm…" She peered over her sister's shoulder. "Could you pick me up some Boba tea while you're out?" She cut off her sister before she could say something about money. "I'll reimburse you when you come back."

Kasumi shook her head. "Honestly, I don't understand why you would want something like that."

"Blame Junko. She introduced it to me."

She went rigid at the name. "…please… please tell me she didn't…?" Kasumi couldn't finish the sentence; she was turning red way too fast to keep talking.

Nabiki grinned, despite herself. "Yes, there was a comment about her loving to suck the balls through a fat straw."

The most Kasumi could do was lift a hand that begged no more comment. "I… will… never… understand today's Japanese girl."

"So, will you—"

"Only because I love you. Only because I love you."

"But, Cologne—"

Mousse was normally inured to the elder's disavowing silence. After being raised in a culture that heavily emphasized the woman, her physical prowess, and birthright to lead, while relegating the male counterpart to more menial domestic tasks and occasional breeding bulls, it was to be expected. For the most part, he never thought one thing was wrong about it.

However, with the rapidity Cologne was moving throughout the kitchen after having an apparent bombshell gift hand-delivered to her, he had to question what it meant. It was a simple pyramid of toys to him, and pretty crude in the end; he could construct a more lavish setup with chains and yo-yos. So why was the old woman so brutal and severe?


"Never raise your voice at me, Mousse." She never spared him a glance, but her words alone made his legs quiver, as though the bones within were being turned into pudding.

"I-I don't understand. What's going on? Where is Shampoo?"

Abruptly, Cologne whirled on him, the gnarled end of her cane punching him dead-on in his sternum. Mousse skimmed air over a table and crashed heavily onto his back, grunting a mixture of surprise and pain. Blinking, he found his attacker standing on his chest. She barely weighed more than a child, but he found himself gasping for breath in short order.

"Listen well, Mousse. I will only say this once…" Her owlish eyes narrowed in firm concentration on the young man, stilling any objections he might have raised. "You will obey me, to the letter, on what we are to do about his unexpected development. No questions, no protesting. My will is your aim, and all you can do is serve me until no more need be done. Is that understood?"

He grunted in discomfort, and tried to open his mouth. For his trouble, the pointy end of Cologne's staff pressed a little too firmly against the hollow of his throat.

"I understand your spirit, but this is not the time to argue with me." She looked at him with an uncharacteristic softness, almost maternal in vibrancy. It went unnoticed. "Lives are very much at stake, so please, help me as I need it."

He bit the inside of his lip at that. Puckering his mouth inwardly, Mousse slowly unwound his tension. "What do you need for me to do, Cologne?"

The old woman stepped off his chest. "Prepare to kill Shampoo."

Soun was enjoying a nice smoke outside. The sun was warm and inviting, the day was crisp. Even the water in the backyard pond looked more like a mirror, it was so still.

He let himself reminisce for a minute, thinking back to when he and his wife would sit out here, watching the day pass by. Of course, it was well before they had children of their own. He had inherited the house for his father, who also took pride in the martial arts.; however, he never saw fit to teach his son the art, as apparently, young Soun had chosen otherwise when he was still an infant. "Choose the fist and live, my son, or choose the ball and join your mother, boy" it had been explained to him later in life. Soun had chosen the ball and played on.

As a result, his father ostracized him from his life, never acknowledging him beyond the simplest of things. Never was he a human, just property to be kicked out of the way whenever it was in the way. The neighbors' pets were accustomed to far better treatment that his own father afforded him. Nevertheless, Soun sought to prove himself to the older man day in and day out. Though he loved his mother, he could not become what she wanted him to be – a doctor, or an accountant. He wanted to become a better man than his father in the Art.

When Soun was fourteen, his mother died from what could only be described as SADS – Sudden Adult Death Syndrome. Some closer to her would say she died of grief for her son. No matter, Soun mourned her passing, but his father was like ice. "And this is the fate you ascribed yourself to, boy." Those frozen words sparked an inferno in young Soun, and he declared that he will leave home and return a strong fighter, stronger than even his father.

"Do that, and you will own all that I have."

For five years, he struggled and trained with the toughest of men, learning the Art. He was so enflamed that he surprised and surpassed every expectation had in him. At the end of the five years, a grown man of nineteen years, he returned home to confront his father.

They stood out in this very backyard – there was no pond at the time – to do battle. The squared off, measuring each other. And then—


Soun slumped over, a knot swelling on the back of his head.

"Sleep," Shampoo spoke softly as she pulled the man into a posture to foster the image of one who has dozed off. Stubbing the cigarette on the porch, she dropped the butt down in the grass. And without a look backwards, the Chinese girl slipped inside the Tendo residence.

Dressed in simplistic jeans and a tee shirt, Nabiki came downstairs. She made a beeline for the kitchen.

"You know, maybe I should have went off with sis after all."

"It no matter."

Nabiki's blood chilled. The quiet voice was behind her, but she would not turn around. She refused, in fact, to empower it anymore than it was already allowed.

"It's no big deal to sneak around in the middle of the night either, is it?"

"Challenge must be delivered."

"A challenge."

"Final challenge. You no live."

Nabiki swallowed hard. Blinked hard. "Funny you challenge someone that can't fight back."

"It no matter. Challenge not of fight but of honor. Take Shampoo honor, must be challenged."

"Bull. You just want revenge."

"Revenge not only reason."

And on that, Shampoo's sword slipped around Nabiki's head, the sharp steel hovering close to her throat.

"Final challenge. We no live."

"So, this is were I'm to die? In my own backyard?"

Shampoo had marched Nabiki, broadsword holding her life hostage, out of her house and into the backyard. This is how they remained standing for the better part of five minutes.

"Not kill in home. Taint home. No taint sister. Only Shampoo."

"Funny… you respect my little sister's life, but not—"

"No mistake. Older sister."

Nabiki bit her lip. "Kasumi…"

"Respect, yes?"

"She's the one—"

Shampoo looked at the back of Nabiki's head for an odd moment. "Say something?"

"It's nothing. You leave her out of this."

"Shampoo do. Kill here."

"Good. Now we got that out of the way, why do you want me dead so badly? You could have killed me last night?"

"Coward way."

"Like sticking your damn weapons around my head was any better!" She bit off the rest of her explosive fury; she felt the blade quiver serenely against her throat.

"Challenge delivery. No choice."

"Bullshit… you always got a damn choice."

"Never choice. Only do."

Nabiki forced herself to not cry. "Dammit, Shampoo… you're so hard up for revenge that you want to kill a pregnant woman?"

It suddenly grew unnaturally quiet. Nabiki herself didn't know why she had said it, but the thought, long since buried, roared to the surface. Was she really pregnant? It wasn't something she put a lot of credence in since before Kodachi's blackmail plot.

Was this… her sense of motherhood forming?

The silence started to hurt her ears after a few moments more. "Shampoo…?"

A roar of violence escaped right behind her head, and stars burst into full bloom in Nabiki's sight. She felt weightless for a moment, just before she ate grass and dirt, spiraling vehemently across the yard.

"You lie! You lie! Ranma no give you child!"

Nabiki forced herself to rise up on one elbow, and she spat out earth to gasp in horror at her captor. A wave of vengeance descended upon the Amazon, mixed in with her tears that went unnoticed, and became vices of murder and depravity.

She evolved into an emotional monster.

"Oh gods…"

Like lightning, Shampoo pounced upon her, sword forgotten, and struck with her fingers like claws, grabbing, clutching at Nabiki's throat, squeezing tighter and tighter.

"Wo xi ni! Wo xi ni!!"

The sky and everything turned rapidly purple, bleeding darker and darker. The very air and sounds were suffocated. Nabiki tried to break her grasp, but was no match for her towering rage. Her strength drained, she started to let go of life.

"WO XI NI!!"

And then, it was all over. Nabiki no longer felt Shampoo's hands on her throat. In fact, she no longer felt Shampoo on her at all. It was peaceful, tranquil.

It was nothing like how she expected death to feel.


Her eyes opened of their own accord, and she found blue eyes staring down into hers.


"Yeah. You all right?"

"I'm not dead?"

"No… not dead."


"You stay here with Pop."


"Cause I'm gonna have to stop Shampoo again. She won't. Stay DOWN!" Snarling in staccato, Ranma ripped himself out of her view.

She could hear the sounds of flesh impacting against flesh, but the scream never came. Instead, "Ranma understand. Do all for Ranma sake."

"Goddammit, you crazy girl, stay down! Don't make me kill you here…"

"Shampoo no leave challenge."

And it all clicked into place for her. In moment, everything that had been said to her up until now, made no sense. However…

Nabiki sat up like a shot, accidentally headbutting Genma, who was leaned over her. Her skull throbbed like fire, but she ignored the pain. "Ranma stop!"


The scene was clear. Shampoo, bleeding from her little mouth, struggling to remain standing, using her now-broken broadsword – the missing part of the blade was a few feet away from Nabiki's head – to push herself upright. Her face was as serene as her voice earlier. She was even smiling, ready to throw herself at Nabiki again.

And Shampoo did – the sword handle barely escaped Nabiki's head by inches, thanks to Ranma shooting out his foot just in time to catch the pommel hard and deflecting the clumsy projectile. Nabiki took no note of it, only of the rationale that laid before her.

"She's trying to make you kill her!"

Shampoo faltered, but said nothing. "Mercenary Girl trick Ranma. No live like pet. Shampoo save Ranma."

"You crazy chick! I love Nabiki, so don't even start that shit!"

Nabiki's heart caught in her throat. Her face burned, and she fought like hell to not duck like an embarrassed school girl.

Shampoo, on the other hand, froze. Like a wax doll. She remained painfully frozen for a moment too long, then, continued advancing on her. "Shampoo know Mercenary Girl trick Ranma. Trick Shampoo. Trick everyone. No love Mercenary Girl. No love… no love IN Mercenary Girl."

"That's enough, Shampoo. This challenge is complete."

Everyone craned their heads towards the new voice. Cologne and Mousse stood in the doorway of the Tendo residence. Soun, still unconscious, was as Shampoo left him.

"I am deeply regretful for what my great-granddaughter has sought to do against all of you. I assure you, this will never happen again." As she spoke, Mousse quietly produced two lengths of chains. He didn't look at anyone, not even Shampoo.

"Yeah, right, old lady. Like you're going to keep her from coming after Nabiki."

"The challenge," Cologne spoke surely to Ranma. "Is at an end. I do not expect you to believe me, but you will most certainly never see Shampoo again."

"Don't!" Nabiki tried to stand, but suddenly got dizzy and had to remain seated. Her skull cried out, and she grabbed where she had slammed it into Genma's face. Still, she carried on with her plea.

The old woman looked older, if possible. However, she remained steadfast, her large eyes glancing towards Nabiki. "This is what she ascribed herself to. An ancient challenge rite that hasn't been practiced in almost a hundred years. She sought this one specifically while away from Japan. This is the path she chose to walk."

"There's got to be another way. Like… like I forgive her or something… she doesn't have to—"

"No more, Mercenary Girl."

Nabiki cut her eyes at the young Amazon. "Shut up, you idiot! I'm trying to—"

"Great-Grandmother right." The normally bubbly girl resembled nothing of her former self. Instead, she stood rigidly like a mannequin, beaten badly, bruises slow to form on her skin. Most of all, her eyes were near lifeless. Like looking into a void of resignation. "Path chosen. No look back."

Ranma bounced his eyes from one player to another, getting more and more confused. "Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on! What the hell's going on here?"

"A matter that is not of your concern."

"Wait a second! You saying Shampoo's life is not my concern?"

"It okay, Ranma." It took every bit of willpower to walk towards him. All hostility and aggression was gone. She looked like a fragile doll. His instincts growled to life – protect the girl! – but he suppressed them sharply without knowing why.

"It okay." She reached out slowly, winching in pain from the thousands of blows her body absorbed, and touched his bleeding hand. Her eyes held him captive, the weight of her resolve restraining him from conscious action for a moment. All she needed to land a final blow.

One kiss. A bloody reminder of her presence.

And then, Mousse had her giftwrapped in loops of steel.

"Sorry about this, Saotome," he said, his eyes shaded into obscurity; he did not wear his glasses at that moment. "But we must deal with our own lives our own way."

Nabiki noted that Shampoo now held her eyes closed firmly. Resigned and broken, but still hanging onto the one thing she held dear. Her heart.

Never before had the seventeen-year old felt so much grief than now. That it was towards Shampoo tore her apart. She wanted to speak out against the scene falling bare before her, but one look from Cologne silenced her. Ranma, for his part, fared no better. He couldn't even seem to free himself from the spot he stood.

With Mousse now out of the yard and out of sight, Cologne finally spoke. "Farewell, young Saotome. May you have more patience for this world than she." She, too, parted company, disappearing from view unmolested.

Long moments passed by before the silence was broken again. "Ranma? Is that… is that all we can do?"

The indomitable fighter collapsed to his knees, numb with disbelief. Nabiki stifled her anguish, but her tears flowed regardless. Genma did his best to not interrupt their private grieving as he checked on his unconscious friend.

The newlywed's room. Ceaselessly dark, save for the illuminated digital clock. 10:01 PM



A pause. "Did you love her?"

"Dunno… never though about it."


They were laying on their bed, clothing changed. His hand bandaged up. Her throat wrapped.

"Think we'll be having a baby, you and I?"


"Thought you'd be more positive about becoming a parent."

"Well, yeah, but I don't know if you're pregnant."

Embarrassed chuckle. "And I'm too afraid to find out right now."


The clock – 10:24 PM.

"Will you love me like you did today?"

"Wh, where'd you think that I love you?"

Nothing harsh, only wistful. "It's all right if you don't… I just—"

"Sorry, it's not, it's not easy to, y'know, love you… I mean—"

"Don't consider a career in politics." One light kiss. "But I know what you're trying to say."

"Sorry… I'm just…"

Laying beside him, her leg coiled around his. Her arm around his waist.

"I think you loved her. Shampoo."


"I'm not talking romantically. Just that… you love her."

"I dunno. I guess. But—"

"It's okay. It's really okay to say it."

His arm around her body. One hand under his head.

"I still don't get why she tried to kill herself like that. I just don't get it."

Her head on his shoulders. Eyes closed.

"Because she couldn't bear love without you in it. She didn't want to live without knowing you in her life as her most cherished love. I wasn't her plan. You were. She just wanted your face to be the last thing she saw before she died."

His mouth quirked. Eyes heavy with exhaustion.

"Gods, she's stupid. She could have just said it."

"No. Girls are completely different. I think I would have done the same thing."


"If it were me, probably."

"Man, that's crazy."

"I know."

Her hand on his hip. Lips on his collar.

"I really don't know why it bothered me, but you really would have slept with Shampoo."


"It's true. Given a better day, you could be laying with her right now instead of me."

"Why you say that?"

"Because she's everything I am. Fragile. Tough on the outside, but fragile inside."

"She's not—"

"She wanted to die at your hand, just so you're the last thing she saw."

"Well, okay… but still that's—"

Wetness against his mouth. Warmth surging through his body. Her weigh on his.

"Understand now?"

"Not really, but… are you telling me—"

"Yes… I think I'm ready for this marriage. To be married to you."

"Um… dunno if I'm ready."

"I know. You still love the hero role."

Pause. His nose flaring slightly.

"You could stop me at some point."

"No. I love you just the way you are… Well, okay, sue me. I can think of a hundred million things I want to change, but you'd just ignore me and do whatever you want anyway…"

"Like this?"

One finger. Shivers dancing down her spine. A soft purr escapes her lips unknowingly.

"Yeah… something like that."

Silence. The clock read 11:17.

"So, is this what marriage is like?

"I don't know. You still want to be the hero?"

"Gods, I don't want to think about saving anyone right now."


"You could always save me."


"Since when did Nabiki Tendo need saving?"


"Since she became Nabiki Saotome." Beat. "She wants to be a little better than before."

11:21. A slit of lunar light on the wall.


"I dunno… what do you want to be saved from?"


"How about these clothes I'm wearing?"

11:22. The house softly settling down.

"I think I can do that…"