One child grows up to be

Somebody that just loves to learn

And another child grows up to be

Somebody you'd just love to burn

Mom loves the both of them

You see it's in the blood

Both kids are good to Mom

Blood's thicker than mud

It's a family affair

--Family Affair by Sly and the Family Stone

When I knocked on the door, I didn't expect the runt to be there in place of my mother. The runt never even crossed my mind. Well, that was a lie, he had crossed my mind, but I had decided it was a dream.

Unfortunately, that four foot tall dream was scowling at me at the moment and I had no clue how to deal with this.

I decided to use my natural tact to diffuse the situation.

"So, how was ballet, meet any other girls to be best-friends-forever with?" I smirked, folding my arms across my chest.

The kid squeezed the door knob. "Shut up! You're a freak! Why're ya here again?"

"Geez, ya always speak in fragments, Runt?" I asked.

The kid jumped at me, growling through clenched teeth. I had to smile. He jumped to conclusions, fought first, and didn't like to talk about his short comings; one hundred percent Saotome.

"Stop moving, I gotta pulverize you!" He squaked, punching at the air I had left several seconds before.

"Not a lotta incentive for me to stop then, is it?" I asked, watching the little guy stall.

"Fine." He crossed his arms and walked over to the couch. "When Mom comes home she's gonna be maaaad. You're here so I guess I can't go to my jewelry making class. Darn, shoot, dag nab it all." The kid moaned, in the worst fake-upset voice I had ever heard.

I walked in, closed the door behind me and dug my hands into my pockets. The hallway was small and had hard wood floors. That family picture still alluded me but wasn't of as much consequence as last time.

Considering one member was dead I figured it was a little outdated.

I walked into the living room and threw myself down on the comfy pale orange couch. It was a three cushioned blob that sat at about a foot on each leg off the floor.

"Nice sofa." I quipped, hearing the short coils creak under my weight.

"Psh, careful ya don't break it, fatty." The squirt said from the door jamb with enough venom to tranquilize a small horse. His arms were crossed over his tiny chest and it was obvious he had not gone through a growth spurt or two yet.

"Sorry, didn't hear ya, maybe I couldn't hear over all the suck in your voice." I snipped back, smirking.

His face was cross and he walked over, with much ceremony, seeming to use as much restraint as possible and sat down next to me. He was about a ruler away on the high couch and still has his short arms wrapped protectively across his chest. He pouted and furrowed and tried his best to look angry until his mother would come rushing in the door and slam me in the face with a pot. Sadly, his fidgety nature, adopted by all true Saotomes, held true and he dropped the act for something different a few minutes later.

He kept his arms folded and stared at the television screen opposite us in silence.

Now, I'm not really a man for silence. I used to be afraid of it, embraced it for a little while, and now silence and I are just friends, acquaintances really. At this point I wanted to say something until the old lady came home and I could talk to her aboutsomething else.

I stared at the twerp, looking down and noticing my own arms folded.

"What're ya wearin' your gi for, Runt, got practice or somethin'?" I gruffly asked.

I didn't even expect the kid to answer. It just felt good to have something beingput out there. My voice kind of resonated through the empty house.

I would not resign to talking about the weather. That is the plague of conversation and makes it obvious you don't truly care what you are talking about.

So it surprised me very much when he looked to me, with passion in his eyes, and told me. "I'm afraid if I take it off Mom won't let me be a martial artist anymore."

I raised a brow. "What're ya, an idiot?"

The Runt made no sense at all; why would he even think something as dumb as that?

Still, the kid looked pretty sincere.

He hugged his arms tighter to his chest. "Whatever, never mind, jerk."

I don't know why, but at this moment I felt sort of close to the little guy. Sure, we didn't really have a lot in common, except blood, but martial arts bound us closer than anything else. I understood what he would do for the art. Hell, I changed sexes for it.

"Naw, c'mon kid, um, sorry?" I said, pretty weakly, but still a Saotome sorry; those are worth a thousand words.

He stared back up at me, with a gleam of jealous rage in his eyes.

"Mom says Dad and you lived on the road. Mom says you guys left her behind. Well, she don't want me leavin' her so she figures if she cuts out what made ya leave, I'll stick around." He spat with hatred and confusion. "Why'd ya have to leave her? Now, I gotta stay forever. I'm even in girly stuff like ballet and junk."

He slunk back in the sofa cushion and coughed. I smirked, the kid was annoying but kind of cute.

I relaxed into the cushions too, kicking up my heels and yawning. Therunt peeked over his nose at what I was doing and copied with a bigger kick and a louder yawn. His feet didn't even reach the floor.

"I dunno, ballet doesn't sound too bad." I said.

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah, I mean, ya got good balance and junk, right?" I asked, inching a bit closer to hear him better.

"Yeah totally." He bragged, inching a bit closer so that we were only a little too distanced to be brothers.

"Plus, I bet ya look so cute in a tutu, eh?" I said in the highest voice I could, staring down at the kid with a huge smirk on my face.

He tried to get mad but the familiar grin came across his face.

"Shut yer trap, I'm the man of the house." He tried to sound fearful but gave up and started laughing.

I punched him in the shoulder and he punched back and in a second we were in a rag tag wrestling match. I grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt and gave him the biggest noogie, maybe the only one, of his life. He fought back by grabbing my nose, while in headlock, and pulling it hard, hollering "Got yer nose! Got yer nose!" at the top of his lungs, giggling like only kids can pull off.

Finally it got too much and we wrestled completely off the couch. He fell on top of me and, in a move that I still can't quite depict as an accident or on purpose, he fell after me and jabbed an elbow into my ribcage.

He let out a big breath and toppled back on the floor. "I look awesome in a tutu, all the girls in my class phone all the time. I tell Mom they just wanna practice pirroettes, but I'm totally lyin'."

I grinned from ear to ear and mussed his shaggy hair. "Why, ya little scoundrel. Your a regular Casanova."

He tilted his head, confused. "A casa-what-a?"

I grabbed him and grabbed the little guy. "A lady's man. I can help ya get all the girl ya want. I'm actually pretty amazing in that department. It's a Saotome curse."

He nodded and snorted.

I leaned in and held my hand in front of my mouth. "Plus, it's the Saotome blessing."

He beamed from ear to ear and punched me square in the face. I recoiled for a second and grinned like a mad man, rubbing my cheek.

"Oh you're getting' it now, Runt."

And that's how I found my brother.

In all my life, relationships had normally taken a long time to develop. It was not even until the last few years of my life I even understood my father as a participant in my life. Everyone came, went, and sometimes returned for once last hoorah. I never got too close to many people, I didn't know my own mother at all.

With a select few, though, I let my guard slide down and wither away and, in their place, I would let the new people in. This happened with Jin on the plane, Kit in a matter of seconds, and with my brother, Tommy. It was weird; he was so foreign, even his name was Western. She was really trying to get away from all that was traditional.

I stayed with him, talking about anything we could think of, not one lull in the conversation, until my mother came home and, with a stern look on her face, asked just what I thought I was doing.

Truth is, no matter how undeniably gorgeous and rich I was, I didn't have a clue where I was headed. The reunion was still a week or two away and I still didn't know if I was taking the fair maiden I squandered last time. There was only one chance for Cinderella, but I was no fairy following chick; I could be flexible, in more ways than one.

So with a shrug of my shoulders, and a tug on my sleeve, my brother Tommy, I'll never get used to the name, pleaded and whined until my mother caved and let me stay for dinner.

"I wanna sit next to you, Ranma. We can share peas." Tommy told me, blinking hisbest puppy dog eyes.

I poked the bugger between the eyes and raised an eyebrow. "Nice try Twerp, but I ain't takin' your stinkin' peas."

He jumped at me and we started fighting again. He pulled my hair, I growled, and my mother sighed, deep and low.

"Well, there goes the neighborhood." She muttered. She wrung out the dish cloth in her hands until it was dryer than a desert, but kept a stern smile on.

Oh Mom, how I love thee.

My mother had two ways of dealing with things; she would either get mad or try to be as sweet as possible and strike when you least expected it. She also enjoyed water works.

I had always been a sucker for a girl with tears in her Bambi eyes. Just last year I was doing a simple bounty mission on this French guy's boat and the waitress he brought along as 'company' wouldn't take "I'm not gonna shoot ya" for an answer. She kept whining and pleading for her life while Jin and I just sat there and stared at Frenchy in disbelief. If you could take one chick on the road, after running a pretty large bounty, why the hell would ya ever take a whiner like that? That's the problem with relationships, there's always something. We took off the tape on his mouth to ask him just that.

"She's got a good rack." He shrugged.

"Good enough for me." Jin quipped.

This response only set the girl off again. Thank goodness for the extra tape.

Dinner at the Saotome residence had changed. It was going to beodd; sitting at a table just the three of us. There wasno one jumping in with some refreshing and dangerous news of another catastrophe. My mother didn't break out the fine china for my return. She cooked and prepared as Tommy and I sat on the couch.

Here's the thing; we did nothing. We seriously sat there, couch potatoes, rubbing our grumbling stomachs and staring at some television show selling knives that could be substitutes for saws. Tommy was upside down, resting his body on the couch and his head, staring at the upside down television, on the floor.

His feet kicked up at me and I swatted them away and let out some low growls. I ran my fingers through my hair and closed my eyes for a second. The smell of the home cooked meal, at a real home with family, felt like a dream.

I looked over to the open kitchen and saw my mother stirring a pot of something delicious and staring straight at me.

I heard the faint snore of my sleeping brother and grinned.

"What is it Mom?" I asked. I scratched the back of my head and half laughed, not knowing what else to do.

She kept staring, unfazed by anything I did. She broadened her smile.

"It's good to see you, Ranma." She said, turning back to her soup.

She didn't notice my stare linger. This acceptance was remarkable. The fine lines she had acquired mapped her face and her years perfectly. She had laughed a bit, cried a little more, and had been out in the sun a little too much this summer. She looked just like a mother, it was remarkable.

"Uh, Mom?" I coughed, losing my strength.

She turned back to look at me, something I couldn't understandradiating from her eyes. I had to win the rest back, I supposed.

"Ranma, I love you. We may disagree and you might do things I just don't understand. You might join a circus, become a televangelist, eat only bark and bamboo, or wear tin hats and look for Martians, but you will always be my son; even if I do not see you for another ten years after today."

I wanted to hug this woman, this saint. She knew exactly what to say, exactly how to quell the nerves, which had dissipated completely now, and she cradled me in her arms from across the room.

I forgot how nice it felt to be accepted, even if you were a fuck up.

"Thanks, um, I, uh, well . . ." I trailed off, scratching my head again.

She laughed quietly to herself. "It's my fault you can't say it."

My face went bright red. The woman could read me like a Dick and Jane book.

She radiated another three hundred watt smile at me. "You can't lie to me though, Ranma, so I know by how you walk, since your first steps, and by how your features contort, since I warned you for the first time that your face would stick that way if you stuck out your tongue, and by your actions. I know that you love me too."

It really hit me then. The majesty I had created, the terrible reckoning I was expecting was a mirage. This whole self destruction thing in general; it was a hoax. This utter acceptance had broken down barriers I didn't think were even there.

She had forgiven me.

I started to think about things that hadn't mattered for years; terrible, beautiful things. I regretted leaving; that was one of the best and worst things I had ever done. I wanted to hug her, wanted to explain why I couldn't tell her I would die for my family, and that my pride was too much for me sometimes. I wanted to explain that I had missed her so much over the years, and when I was surrounded by obstacles, flesh or inanimate, I thought of how nice it would be to just lose for once.

I kept my mouth shut though. I kept my eyes dry. I kept myself guarded.

I wasn't ready for the whole shebang yet, the feeling of ultimate truth in my stomach was really getting to me. That or I was really hungry.

"I'm sorry for abandonin' everybody, I owe ya one." I muttered, staring up at her expectantly, feeling about four.

She put down her whisk, walked across the room,stepping from hardwood to carpet, and stopped right in front of me. She grasped my head in her hands, squeezed my cheeks, and kissed me on the forehead.

"You're still a little boy, aren't you?" She stated more than asked.

I looked up at her; the wrinkles adorning her similar features were proud medals of motherhood.

I gazed at her in silence, both of us trying to make up the time and tragedy we had missed. Her other son; draped over the sofa carelessly, asleep and dreaming of dragon fights and ninjas. Her apron; frayed at the edges and the border singed by an abrasive soufflé of the past. I looked up at the woman that had given me life, and just now, given it to me again. She didn't even have to say much, she just had to tell me it was okay, that I was okay.

I heard a grunt from the floor and a loud crash. "Ugh, oh hey Ma, dinner ready?"

A/N: I wonder if any one of you guys will guess where the story will go next. Probably, hopefully, it will be smooth. Oh, and the next chapter will be all Ranma and Akane, plus a little bit of Ranma's work ethic. You should look forward to it, it's Akane first day on the real new job.

Lady Mokodane: No, that's my fault. I gave a little bit of Jin's charcter, but I didn't really leak out any substance. Thanks for re-reading you rock my socks! Yes, all those elements you mentioned will be present next chapter.

WhiteTigress666: Thanks so much, yeah I was worried it was a little too serious, but I really didn't care about that considering this is what I had planned since the start. There will be much more into that as well as everything else in Jin's life.

Achava: Aw, thanks, yeah his Dad is a real jerk, eh?

Rio Grande: Sorry for making it confusing, I'll try to explain it better and re vamp. Awesome idea for Ukyo though, maybe you should try it out as a story yourself!

Lisiegirl: This chapter wasn't as much "funny" as I had hoped but I'm really pumped for the next chapter.

JohnnyG: As always, thanks for the wicked feedback..

Review or I'll steal all your paper clips (it may not seem like a lot but just wait).