A pain in the Back

Ranma blinked, as he stared across at the three girls. The youngest one, Akane of age sixteen, stared back at him with a nervous, yet irritable expression. It was obvious she didn't trust him, and from the incident in the bathroom, Ranma admitted to himself that she may have a reason. The middle girl, Nabiki at age seventeen, seemed to watch him with a curious expression. After having the curse explained to them, Ranma figured that they would more likely be favoring him with distain, particularly this one. Yet, she seemed to observe him with a more than curious, yet guarded attitude. The eldest, the nineteen year old Kasumi, looked back at him with a polite expression that he could easily read as nothing more than being hospitable. She didn't betray any slight hostility or interest towards him; at the latter, Ranma felt somewhat relieved.

They had been told that he was to choose one of them as his fiancée; they all seemed to be taking the news rather well.

With a quick motion, Kasumi leaned towards Akane, ready to push her forward, "Oh, he wants Ak-"

"I'll give it a go, Daddy."

Kasumi and Akane blinked, turning to look at their middle sister. "Nabiki?"

The girl with the chin length hair shrugged, "Well, curse aside, he isn't all that bad, don't you think?"

Akane and Kasumi were about to protest, before noticing the expression on their sister's face. They knew the troubles Nabiki went through, and the barely veiled pleading on the middle girl's face told them that she was close to desperate. "I... I guess if you're interested," Kasumi finally stated, subdued.

Akane was almost quelled, but not quite, "You sure about this, sis? I mean he does turn into a girl! I mean, would you want to be engaged to a frea-er..." Akane realized what she was about to say, and bowed her head, ashamed.

Nabiki didn't miss the slip, and glared at her sister, "Well, us 'freaks' have to stick together, don't we?"

"But you're not a freak, Nabiki," Kasumi responded, giving a chiding expression to the youngest. Kasumi added as an afterthought, "And neither are you, Ranma."

"Gee, thanks" the pigtailed boy drolled, deciding that he most assuredly wasn't interested in the younger or older sister. He had to wonder at Nabiki's attitude, though; why was she so accepting of the engagement?"

Nabiki shrugged, causing the straps that held the cute little costume shark fin on her back to shake a bit, and waving Kasumi's response off, "It's alright, Kasumi, no harm done." The middle Tendou sister stood up, "I don't mind giving this engagement a chance if you're willing, Ranma-kun."

Ranma found it difficult to say no to her. Akane's expression had been open and friendly when she asked if they wanted to be friends, and the pigtailed girl at the time felt a certain sensation of elation at it. Nabiki's expression now had all of that, plus an obvious fear of rejection. "I-if you don't mind... well... being engaged to a 'freak' like me," Ranma said the last part sourly, turning a glance to a further shamefaced Akane.

"Well, it's settled then!" Soun proclaimed, "You'll be Nabiki's fiancé!"

"Um, Tendou," Genma interjected, not having missed the exchange between their children, "Is there something wrong with her?"

"Fear not, Saotome!" Soun quickly countered, "I'm sure our children will get along just fine!"

"That's not what I asked..."

"Well Ranma, I guess we should get to know each other, huh?" Nabiki enquired, looking visibly relieved that the engagement was accepted.

"That... sounds cool." Ranma responded, thrown off kilter by the beaming smile she was favoring him with. He wasn't all that sure about this whole engagement thing; even if the girl actually was interested in him, he had just met her. Maybe if he stalled for a little while, he could get this whole mess sorted out. After he finally found himself a cure for his curse, who knows?
Ranma approached his newfound fiancée, as she stared out into the backyard, seeming to admire the way the stars and moonlight played upon the fish pond before them, "Ah, hey."

Nabiki jerked, before turning to find the pigtailed boy behind her, "Hey yourself."

"You, uh, wanted to talk about this?" Ranma responded, scratching the back of his head.

Nabiki's expression turned wistful, as she looked back into the yard, "Why don't you take a seat, Ranma."

"Sure." The pigtailed martial artist sat in lotus position next to the girl, studying her profile. She definitely was cute, good figure, if he was any judge. The shark fin she was wearing was definitely unusual, but was cute in its own novel way. He judged she was probably some sort of cos-play fanatic, and decided to hold off any decisions about her until he did know her a little better. That was if he decided to stay for a duration; he still had his damnable curse to consider, after all.

"Ranma," Nabiki started, "I'm not going to tell you that I'm really interested in marrying you, but..." She sighed, almost slumping, "You do seem like a pretty nice guy, no matter what my younger sister wants to believe, and I haven't... well... had a boyfriend... in a while... ever, actually."

Ranma raised his eyebrows, "What? Why not? I mean a pretty girl like you not having a boyfriend. I mean... as pretty as you... er... well I thought you would have dozens of guys lined up, or something. Not that I'm saying you're easy or something, I mean..."

Apparently, Nabiki wasn't paying much attention to his rambling, cutting him off, "I'm... not the best person in the world, Ranma. I kind of had to face that realization a few months ago." Actually, she was facing the other direction, but that was beside the point. Well, actually that was the point...

"Um, you seem nice enough to me." Ranma blushed, looking out into the yard also.

"Thanks, but you don't know much about my history."

Ranma shrugged, "Well, maybe not, but you don't seem too proud about it. I guess that it's kinda like martial arts, you know you sucked at first, but as long as you wanna improve, and try to, what you were before doesn't matter all that much."

Nabiki gave him a wry smirk, "Personalities and fighting form's aren't quite the same thing."

"Sure, but, I mean if I decided that I was fine with how I was, I would stay just at that skill level. I don't see how that's much different from becoming a better person." Ranma smirked, "And you don't seem all that bad at all... at least you're not like that gorilla of a sister of yours, was she really gonna pound me with that stone lantern over there?"

Nabiki chuckled, "She does tend to overreact, but don't let her catch you talking about her like that, she'll probably brain you with the nearest convenient blunt instrument."

Ranma's subtle chuckle held Nabiki's attention, before he spoke again, "I guess I'm glad I got engaged to you instead of her, huh?"

Nabiki looked down, thinking to herself, 'You say that now'
Nabiki felt a little elation at the thought of her fiancée. In truth, she had no real intention of marrying him, at least at the moment, but it would be nice to get to know a boy, have a boyfriend that wasn't aware of her reputation, and may even accept her particular physical ailment.

Being careful to strip off her clothes and don her specially made nightgown, Nabiki sighed. Who was she kidding? She had yet to tell him of her issues. Even if he said he didn't mind her history, he may think twice when he found out the truth about her. Quite frankly, she understood he got his curse by accident; she deserved hers.

Lying on her stomach, Nabiki's good cheer was completely replaced by a tinge of fear, self consciousness, and drowsiness. She would just have to think more on the subject in the morning.
Ranma groaned, twisting her nose at the rank scent of unfiltered pond water. For the life of her, she couldn't understand why her father always tended to lead the fight into the nearest body of water. She didn't think the old fool enjoyed being a panda that much, or did he think it was amusing to bear his curse, while watching his supposed son shame himself with his own unmanly curse?

Whatever it was, Ranma couldn't wait to be male again. He really hated his girl form, as weird as it felt to have her chest weigh her down and put an awkward pressure on her spine; changing her balance so dramatically that it actually took a few days to adjust to the new center of gravity.

Ranma continued to grumble to herself, idly noting that there wasn't an occupied sign on the bathroom door, and walking in. "Stupid panda, he thinks it's funny to humiliate me like this? Well I aughta skin the old fool and use his hide for a throw rug. We'll see who has the last laugh then!"

Ranma continued to denounce her father, as she finally stripped her wet clothes, and entered the bathing room main.
"You really aren't seriously considering this engagement, are you?" Akane demanded, incredulously, "I mean, the guy's a total pervert!"

"Akane," Nabiki sighed, "I don't think he's all that bad. It wasn't as if he intentionally peeped on you."

"Well, I know he got a good look." Akane argued.

"Hey, be careful back there!"

Akane favored her sister an apologetic expression, even if she couldn't see it, "Sorry."

"Try not to lose your temper doing this, that thing is rather sensitive, you know?"

"Alright, alright already," the youngest sister huffed, "It isn't like we haven't done this a hundred times already."

"I wish we didn't have to do it at all," Nabiki sighed.

Akane frowned, and leaned over her sister's shoulder, "Listen, it wasn't your fault. Even if you did have some... poor judgment in the past, what that jerk did went too far!"

"I know he didn't, Akane," Nabiki retorted, "But if I hadn't been like I was, it would never have happened."

Akane stayed quiet for a few moments, working behind Nabiki, "I still don't see why you think you should just settle with that jerk."

"Ranma's not a jerk. He actually... seems interested in me. It's not like I got a line of suitors lined up waiting to fight me tooth and nail for a chance at a date," Nabiki responded with a false humor.

Akane missed her sister's self-directed bitterness, "I still don't trust him."

"Just remember, you walked in on him, alright?"

"Well, it wouldn't have happened if he had put the 'occupied' sign out."

Nabiki blinked, "Speaking of which, did you remember? I know we got out of practice of doing it, but now that we have guests..."

Nabiki froze at the sound of the sliding outside door, while Akane quickly turned to identify the intruder. It was Ranma, staring at both nude girls, primarily at Nabiki's back.

Nabiki didn't speak until she heard the pigtailed martial artist stumble out of the bathroom, obviously in shock, "That was Ranma, wasn't it?" She didn't have to turn to know that Akane was nodding mutely, "And he saw 'it', didn't he?" Akane nodded again.