"Of Loss, Life, & Love"
A Ranma ½ Fanfic by Luna12
Chapter 35: "Finally"
Warning: This chapter earns its "T" rating. Suitable for teens, 13 years and older, with minor suggestive adult themes. As a mother, I would be okay with a mature middle or high schooler reading this. If you strongly disagree, please review/PM me, and I can adjust the rating.
Shortly after Ukyo's departure, Akane was officially discharged. Nodoka was to remain under observation with extra oxygen support for a few more days, but it would still be a nice homecoming with both her and Ranma returning to the Tendo household.
"I am NOT using a wheelchair." Akane's bandaged arms were crossed in defiance. She absolutely hated to appear vulnerable. Especially after the groping incident with Kuno, she wanted to be independently mobile. She hadn't used one when her leg was broken last year, so she hardly saw the reason why she needed one for a minor knee cap injury. So what if it hurt like hell? It was braced properly and the physical therapist gave her the okay to put some weight on it.
Kasumi tsk-tsked softly. "Akane, you can't use crutches with your hands like that," her sister pointed out matter-of-factly.
Akane's frown deepened. "With the brace, I can manage to walk on it." Or at least hobble, she mentally amended.
Ranma rolled his eyes. That was his Akane all right; stubbornly macho and independent to a fault. Ranma longed to lure Kuno to a proper fight so he could beat the crap out of him. That bastard had really rattled Akane's self esteem, making her more touchy than usual about asserting her self reliance. He could relate, though. That time when his strength was locked away with the Moxibution pressure point, he was willing to run away and never return - just so no one could see him so weak. He and Akane had a lot in common that way, just like he knew he could out stubborn her.
"Really?" Ranma challenged. "Then show me."
Akane bravely took the bluff. She rose awkwardly from the bed, favoring the injured leg. The moment she put weight on it, sharp pain lanced through her knee. It took her breath away and she struggled to hide the instantaneous wince. In the end, she managed to stand, mostly putting the weight on her right leg.
"See?" Akane responded, forcing her voice to sound as confident and pain free as possible.
Ranma glared. "Standing ain't walking."
Akane frowned back, then gritted her teeth and took an awkward step away from the wall.
One step...okay, that hurt, but it was doable. She took another step. Without a crutch or wall to lean upon, she had no way to limit and balance the weight shifted to her injured knee and it was rightly complaining. She felt sweat trickle down her back from the effort not to shout or wince. She could do this!
Akane mentally prepared herself and took a third, tentative step. It was too much. Her knee refused to take any further punishment. She was about to make a bad fall when she suddenly felt warm arms embrace her off the ground. It had happened in one elegant movement - as if he had been waiting to do this all along - - and she was being carried bridal-style.
Ranma grinned triumphantly. "Told you!"
Akane stuck her tongue out at him in retort.
Ranma's smirk simply widened. "So take your pick: the wheelchair, or me. Either way you're not walking."
Akane crossed her arms in frustration. Part of her enjoyed the feel of Ranma holding her, his strong arms lending their support, but she firmly wanted her independence, too. Yet, with her hands useless with throbbing pain and incapacitated with thick bandages, she couldn't even maneuver a wheelchair. These injuries were a million times more annoying than when she broke her leg in gymnastics. At least then she could use crutches and move herself!
Akane sighed in resignation. "Fine. If I'm not too heavy for you, you can carry me."
Ranma spoke without thinking. "Even a thick-thighed tomboy like you doesn't weigh too much for me. Ow!"
Akane had elbowed him in the ribs. Even without her hands, she wasn't going to let him insult her.
"Hey, I happen to like thick-thighed tomboys,"
"Ranma!" Akane growled warningly, unsure how else to react to the backhanded compliment.
"It's not weak to let others help now and again...you're the one who keeps telling me that, right?"
Akane's face flushed, at a loss for further words. He would chose this moment to parrot her advice back at her. Deciding this was one battle she could afford to forfeit, Akane allowed her head to lean on Ranma's shoulder. He could feel her tense muscles slowly relax.
"Thanks, Ranma," she murmured. If she had the use of her hands, she would have given him an encouraging squeeze...instead, she settled for a light kiss on the cheek.
He was so surprised, he nearly dropped her.
A bright flash of light broke the moment. Nabiki was chuckling behind her camera. "Now that was priceless!"
Once everyone was discharged from the hospital and comfortably back in the Tendo home, life continued with surprising ease. With Nodoka stepping in to help the household, Kasumi was enjoying some extra free time, enabling her to go on - of all surprises - a date with Doctor Tofu. Ranma continued to make his mother proud as instructor of the dojo, although it proved a harsh reminder of how different teaching was compared to being the protégé; being the substitute sensei for Akane's beginners was a headache!
Akane sat in for these lessons, unable to physically participate but able to call out and verbally redirect mistakes before Ranma lost all patience and reverted to his father's brand of rough teaching. Brutal insults and sparring injuries may be well and good for advanced and dedicated pupils, but it was no way to run beginner classes for hobbyists and kids.
It had been over a week since the fire, and Akane was rapidly on the mend, able to limp around most of the house unaided (though the stairs still gave her trouble - something Ranma secretly enjoyed as an extra excuse to carry her around). She was eager to be physically active again, and with Ukyo's special balm most of her fingers were already free of blisters.
It was nearly evening when the last of their students left the dojo. Ranma shook his head and couldn't help but grumble a little loudly after they departed. "How can they be so slow to learn the basics? I can't believe you managed to teach them anything, Akane."
Akane shook her head amusedly at him as she got up from her chair. "Not everyone learns the same way or at the same pace, you know."
The dojo doors slid open again, and Nabiki entered carrying a cardboard package. "This arrived today for you, sis."
Akane's grin broadened in expectation. She reached out and belatedly remembered she couldn't properly hold it with her bandaged palms. Well used to being Akane's second pair of hands these days, Ranma took it from Nabiki for Akane to examine. Ranma was about to rip it open when he noticed the tape had already been pried off. "Huh? It's already been opened."
Akane gave her sister a dubious glare. "Nabiki!"
Nabiki shrugged, nonplused. She had wanted to see what was inside. If it had been clothing or shoes, she wanted a chance to "borrow" them first. Being a university student put a big crimp in her spending budget, and that's what sisters were for, right?
Nabiki waved her hand dismissively. "Never mind that. What the heck is it?"
Ranma peered over her shoulder in curiosity. They looked like some of the karate hand guard armor he'd seen some martial artists use, with thick padding for the palms and a curved area to protect the fingers. However, these also had a large, thick, flat, rectangular metal box near the knuckles. Unbeknownst to Ranma, it was similar to the internal construction of a ballerina's pointe shoe.
Akane eyes brightened with excitement. "They're protective sparring gloves, from a weird school I heard about that does Martial Arts Magnetism. I'm still not supposed to have anything touch my blistered palms, but the doctor didn't say I couldn't have something else act as my hands."
For a moment Nabiki looked at Akane like she'd gone crazy, before she remembered exactly how gung-ho her tomboyish sister was about the Art. She settled for rolling her eyes. "If you want to smash your hands, it's none of my business."
Akane stuck her tongue out at her sister. At Nabiki's words, Ranma's mouth pulled into a distrustful frown.
Akane turned her brightest smile on him. "Would you help me slip them on?"
Ranma crossed his arms, trying to defend himself against the onslaught of her cute smile. "Whatever happened to you resting until your hands healed up, Akane?"
Akane let out a puff of air in frustration. "I'm not going to 'smash' my hands. That's why I got these. The padding will protect the blisters. Don't you want to see what they're like?"
Ranma sighed and grudgingly obliged in helping her. His curiosity over a new martial arts tool was winning him over, as well she knew. Once they were on, Ranma couldn't help but chuckle.
Akane's nose scrunched, feeling offended. "What's your problem?"
"You look ridiculous." It looked like the kind of over the top armor from a manga or anime, rather than what any real-life martial artist would use. Then again, it was certainly better than the time she set her protective arm bands on fire to spar with him. The Tendo-ryuu was always more open to incorporating any and all weapons and armor for a potential advantage.
Akane refused to be deterred. "Hmph. It is 'Anything Goes', isn't it?" She gave him a devilish smile, "Only one way to see if they work."
It was the only warning he got before she launched herself into a handstand balanced on the metal boxes. The placement of the little blocks took all the force and pressure away from Akane's blistered palms, putting all the weight onto her undamaged knuckles. Finding her balance, she shifted briefly to a one handed stand before bending her arm to leap into the air, righting herself to land solidly on her good leg.
Akane face was alight, like a kid granted a free trip to Disneyland. "These are great!"
Ranma was not as amused. "Hey, this isn't funny! You could hurt yourself!"
Nabiki just rolled her eyes again. "I will never understand you, sis, but enjoy." The middle Tendo turned to leave, but before she reached the doors she gave Ranma a side glare and in sotto voce told him: "Make sure she doesn't go overboard, okay?"
Ranma's eyes widened slightly, surprised that Nabiki would openly express any sisterly concern, but he quickly nodded in conspiratorial agreement.
Akane was too busy enjoying some new found freedom to notice her sister's comment or concern. Her smile, (large, contagious, and utterly cute) curbed Ranma's impulse of wanting to snatch her out of the air and force her to take it easy. He also couldn't help but appreciate Akane's improved balance as she tried a variety of back flips and handsprings.
Akane paused, and turned to Ranma, nearly giddy. "So, ready to spar?"
Ranma's eyes furrowed. "No way. Just 'cause you can do handstands again doesn't mean you're up to sparing."
Akane frowned, but refused to be discouraged. "Please? Just some defensive work. I'm going stir-crazy having everyone do things for me!"
Ranma felt his resolve partially dissolve. He couldn't outright refuse a plea like that. He could imagine all too well how antsy he would be with his hands forcibly inactive for so long. As it was, even when Saffron trapped his arms in crystallized threads, he refused to stay out of the fight.
Ranma gave a mock-sigh, softened by a hint of a devilish smile at the corner of his lips. "You're such a tomboy."
Akane crossed her arms huffily, but recognized the tone was without vehemence, just gentle teasing. "Well, at least I'm not turning into a worry-wart like you."
Ranma stiffened. "I am not a worry-wart," he denied in a tone reminiscent of a five year old about to start a playground argument of "am not/are too!"
Akane stuck out her chin, defiantly. "Then prove it."
Akane entered a modified defensive position, an altered form of a crane stance almost unrecognizable with the large braces on her hands. Her injured leg was still tightly wrapped at the knee with a support brace, so that she was only standing firmly with the uninjured leg. Her left leg was kept behind her with only the toes skimming the ground for additional balance.
Ranma wondered if it was worth trying to out stubborn her, but realized if he didn't stay and watch out for her now, Akane would probably come back and try something even more stupid later when he wasn't around.
"Fine," he agreed reluctantly, "but I'm only using the marker. No hits."
The marker was a training technique they had come with together as Ranma continued to worry about the amount of force used to spar with Akane's weaker students. The marker would visibly show the holes in a defense for examination later, without resorting to bruises.
Ranma was surprised at how much the armor forced Akane to change her typical moves. Like any true practitioner of Anything Goes, Akane was fast to improvise and was adapting her weaknesses into strengths. She quickly realized the arm braces gave her a wider ability to block, almost like having shields instead of fists. The two danced around and explored the varying ways the armor deflected blows. Akane hadn't been able to be this active since the fire, and she was relishing every moment of it.
Ranma knew if he really wanted to get serious, her bottom defense was really sloppy right now. With only one leg able to take her full weight, all it would take was one solid connecting swipe to stop her. Even if he could guarantee no injury, he couldn't bring himself to do it; despite all expectation, this strange sparring was fun.
Fun, until Akane lost her footing. She overextended herself and lost her balance. From behind, she instinctually placed her left foot down hard to catch herself, and crashed to the floor when it refused to hold her weight.
Tears filled her eyes as pain shot up from her injured knee. She was flat on her back, defeated.
Ranma no longer cared about being the worry-wort she accused him of, and he was instantly at her side.
"You okay?" he asked, his voice strained with concern. He was already removing her hand braces. He was half determined to bury them for the next month.
Akane nodded. She was no longer clutching her knee and her breathing had returned to normal as she steadied herself back into a sitting position. "Yeah...so save the 'I-told-you-so'. I just hated having to wait. I wanted to be able to train again."
Ranma heard the heavy disappointment in Akane's voice, her previous joy quashed.
He didn't want to encourage her to spar again too soon, but she needed to hear the truth. The discouragement and depression in her voice compelled him. "That was pretty good, considering. Looked like you were incorporating a lot more Saotome-Ryuu style there."
Predictably, Akane cheered up a bit at the compliment. "Seemed the natural thing to do when you don't have both feet under you."
Ranma nodded thoughtfully in agreement. "Pop had me develop some of those moves after he stuck stinging nettles in my shoes. You really don't want to be on your feet long when that happens." Ranma tried to pass the remark off casually, but a haunted look flickered across his face to linger in his eyes.
Akane frowned and felt her chest tighten, thinking of all the tortuous things Genma did to Ranma as a child, all to mold the perfect martial artist. It worked, but Akane worried at the cost. Desperately, Akane wished she had the full use of her hands again, to reach out and form a meaningful physical connection. Instead, she had to settle for a bandaged palm on his shoulder with only the tips of her fingers making skin to skin contact. Ranma looked up briefly and Akane seized the moment, leaning forward to bring her lips to his.
The kiss was warm and tender. Her soft yet tantalizing pull drew him away from his gloomy reflections, replacing it with wave after wave of sensual feeling. Eventually the needs of air required them to gently break away. The haunted look from before vanished, and Ranma was left staring at Akane in awe, drinking in her beautiful face as she smiled at him.
Surprised both by the suddenness of the kiss and the tenderness behind it, Ranma's puzzled thoughts tumbled out of his mouth. "What was that for?" his voice came out low and soft. "Not that I'm complaining!" he quickly interjected. Akane blushed, but her eyes never left his. "A lot of things…" she paused briefly, her voice grew softer in a mixture of shy embarrassment and genuine concern. "...and it looked like you needed it."
"Oh?" Ranma's eyes twinkled mischievously. "And what about your needs?"
Akane felt her heart pump fiercely in anticipation, and was not disappointed when his lips met hers, hot with an undercurrent of passion as he slowly, sensuously probed, lingering to savor the sweetness of her touch. She returned the kiss wholeheartedly, pressing herself even further against him, bringing her exposed fingers up to gently rake through his hair. Ranma deepened the kiss at her eager response, a thrilling tingle washing over him from her ministrations.
The teasing kisses became deeper and longer. Without thought, Ranma gently eased Akane onto her back, lowering her to the dojo floor, their lips never once breaking contact. Buried instincts took over as their world condensed to nothing but sensuous touching, teasing, and thrilling exploration. Akane's healed fingertips found their way past the loose folds of Ranma's gi. At first slow and tentative, they roamed over the fine contours of his chiseled chest and abdomen. Her touch painted waves of heat and longing across his skin. Ranma quivered and a soft groan of ecstasy escaped his lips. At his reaction, Akane received an unexpected boost of pleasure and confidence, her body screaming out a desire for more. Her heartbeat steadily rose along with his, matching pulse for pulse. Ranma closed his eyes, reveling in the feel of her intimate touch.
Not to be outdone, he slid his hands slowly and purposely, starting at her collarbone and moving down along her shoulders. He lingered, briefly hesitating, before lust and courage combined and he brought them under the layer of her rumpled gi. She made no move to stop him or pull away, but the small part of his conscious mind made his face pull back to check her reaction. Her fingers were still at work, exquisitely gliding along his rock hard abs and starting to circle around to his back. Akane's cheeks were flushed an arousing and healthy pink, her liquid brown eyes warm and wide and welcoming.
He smiled at her and simultaneously slipped one hand under the elastic fold of her sports bra, daringly cupping her breast. His thumb brushed against her nipple, hardening it instantly, and she gasped as it sent arrows of sensation to ignite a fire at her groin.
"... ahh... " she cried out softly in wondrous pleasure, completely at a lost for words. Ranma cut her off with a searing, long kiss that left her senses reeling. Akane thought she was going to burst, or combust, or both, from the joyous and beautiful sensations he was giving her.
Ranma felt his own body react strongly to Akane's arousal, his loins tightening and member hardening. He gasped at the sudden bolt of desire that shot through him, greater than anything he'd ever experienced. It was so much more than sexual longing; it was a bone aching need for Akane. Her and only her.
Akane could feel Ranma's hardened and ready response against her thigh, making the smooth cloth of his gi seem thin and insubstantial. There was a tidal wave of sensation threatening to drown out all rational thought, but Akane's mind was still aware and began to feel the stirrings of panic. As beautiful as this was, it was too much too fast.
"Ranma…." Her voice trembled, laced with need and a vague sense of resistance as she struggled with her conflicting thoughts and emotions.
Instantly he paused, hearing the hesitation and buried fear within her. With every ounce of willpower he possessed he reluctantly pulled back. Their faces were only a few inches apart as they searched each other's eyes, questioning. After what seemed like an eternity, Akane let out a shaky breath, closed her eyes and reluctantly shook her head. She opened them in time to catch Ranma nodding, and he carefully changed his position from seductively looming to sitting beside her. He felt a strange mixture of relief and disappointment. They had been right to stop it. It was too much too soon...for now.
Akane was no longer on her back, as she straightened to sit next to him, her hair slightly disheveled, somehow making her seem wild and cute at the same time. Ranma watched her as she nervously fumbled with her stiffly gauze-wrapped hands in her lap, sneaking glances between them and his face.
Ranma could sense her uneasiness, and that was not how he wanted her to feel with what they had dared to share. His hand came up to brush aside a stray lock of hair from her cheek with a loving caress. "Wow." He finally managed, his voice still a bit husky with desire.
"Yeah," she agreed in a breathless tone. "That was really...wow." For once it was Akane who felt uncertain with her words, a mixture of embarrassment and fear of the unchartered waters they found themselves in. "Thanks for not...pushing."
Ranma tried to gather his thoughts into a proper response, feeling an upwelling need to reassure her. He never wanted Akane to be afraid or guarded around him. Unlike the many immature perverts who had bothered her at school, he would never pressure or force her into more than she was ready to give. Silently he promised himself to be the type of man who put her needs before his own, despite the raging hormones within him demanding otherwise.
He opened his mouth to speak, but his planned words were for naught when he was interrupted by a familiar, hard swipe at the back of his head. "Oww!"
Akane's eyes were wide and Ranma whipped his head around to face his attacker. Only one other person could sneak up on him without revealing his battle aura's presence.
"Pop?!" He growled.
"How could you stop now, boy!" Genma whined, his camping and traveling pack still strapped to his back. His presence shimmered into better focus as he brought himself fully out of the umisenken. "You were so close to uniting the two schools!"
Akane was crimson faced, mortified beyond any level of embarrassment she had ever felt in her entire life. She let out a little "eep" as she realized her top was open and her bra, badly askew, was mostly exposed. Stiff fingers quickly grasped her gi closed.
Ranma helped Akane to her feet before protectively standing in front of her, placing himself fully between her and his idiotic father. "What the hell, Pop?! You really did train under Happosai too long if you're playin' Peepin' Tom on us."
Before the confrontation could escalate, the dojo doors slid open and Kasumi gracefully stepped inside. "Dinner time! Oh, Uncle Saotome. How nice to have you back. Please come join us for supper."
Surrounded together at the kotatsu dinner table, the events of the past month were quickly recapped for the returned Saotome. It was a lot to take in, but no stranger than most of his life. When the storytelling was at an end, Genma sat up straight and directly declared "How about a wedding this weekend?"
Ranma and Akane both blanched. As if matters couldn't get any worse, Genma bluntly continued. "You'll want to make an honest woman out of Akane-chan soon."
Shocked, both teenagers' faces went red from chin to ear tips.
Kasumi murmured an expected "oh my" while Nabiki nudged Akane with her elbow. "Hoho! Do tell little sis."
Akane was utterly mortified and sputtering. "We didn't! Not really!"
Ranma decided to go the more direct route to shut up his father, and dumped his glass of water over the bald man's head. To his utter shock, there was no furry panda bear beside him - just the dripping wet and very human form of his father.
Jaws hung open around the table.
"Pop?" Ranma questioned, his eyes growing wider and wider as he took in the implications.
Genma's mouth cracked into a satisfied grin. From his robe he pulled out a bamboo canister sealed with wax. The Chinese characters were clearly visible and all around the table knew their meaning:
Spring of Drowned Man.
Bounding in from the open window, Happosai clutched a bag of looted 'lovelies' across his back. He paid little heed to the stunned faces around the table, only taking in the reverent way Genma was holding out the sealed container.
"Whoo hoo! Celebratory sake!"
Ranma's foot connected squarely with the old coot's open mouth, sending the venerable master of their school into the koi pond.
"Not this time, old man."
The women immediately stepped back several paces, making sure they were far away from the cursed water. In one smooth move, Ranma twisted off the sealed wax, and dumped the contents over his head. The water was cool but not overly cold at room temperature. He stared down at his hands, still large and calloused, and cautiously felt his chest. It was flat and muscular, void of any bouncy, soft flesh.
He was almost afraid to ask. His mother had tears in her eyes, but they were of joy. Tentatively, Ranma grabbed another glass of water from the table, it's contents frigid with chips of ice floating on top, and poured it over himself.
There was no change. He was a man.
He was whole.
His mind briefly recalled all the little annoyances that vanished along with his curse. Trips to the beach meant he could forgo the embarrassment of wearing female swimsuits. He could go shirtless, and swim as a man, less buoyant but stronger. There would be no more awkward tan lines and mocking in the men's locker rooms. Public baths were accessible again. Never again would he have to worry about an opponent splashing him with water to weaken him. And in the rain, umbrella or no, he could walk side by side with Akane as a true man. No amount of ladle splashing would interrupt him ever again.
A whoop and holler escaped his lips as unbridled joy overwhelmed him. He leapt to his feet, and in one smooth motion he grabbed Akane and twirled her about. "I'm a man! I'm a man!"
Akane felt her own eyes well up in happiness. "You always were, Ranma", she told him seriously, in a voice low enough that only he could catch.
He set her down, his energy no where near expended but still aware enough that he shouldn't jostle her injuries. In his exhilaration, Ranma forgot the presence of all others in the room. Akane's words managed to penetrate through the exuberance, filling him with a confidence and reassurance that surpassed anything he had ever known. Without thinking, he brought his lips crashing down onto Akane's, full of victory.
"Oh my," chimed Kasumi with a grin, while Nabiki just smirked and whipped out her camera for some candid shots.
The couple eventually pulled away, their cheeks flushed and their faces alit in large smiles.
Genma interrupted with a hearty slap to Ranma's back. "Well boy? You owe your old man. So marry the girl already!"
With liquid grace, Ranma flipped his father and launched him out via the engawa. He crossed his arms defiantly and yelled out, "When we're ready, old man!"
He looked at Akane hopefully, his face turning crimson as he realized just what had slipped out of his mouth.
"That is, uh..."
Akane's face was bashful, but her mouth managed to quirk into a mischievous smile. "Is that a proposal?"
Ranma felt his face grow warm. "Does it need to be? I mean, aren't we already engaged?" He challenged, trying to regain control of the situation.
Akane felt the pressure put firmly back on her shoulders. "Well, technically we're not engaged anymore, remember?" She gave a quick glance towards Nodoka, who wisely made no comment as she busied herself in the kitchen, pretending not to listen.
Ranma realized Akane was right. That for once, it really could be his call. His mother - although she assumed they were going to get married - had not officially reinstated the betrothal, and without Tendo Soun, his pop couldn't arrange another official engagement, either.
Ranma gulped, feeling the full weight and importance of anything he said or did at this moment. He knew what he wanted. More so, he knew who he wanted, and had learned not to take the time they had for granted ever again.
Fumbling slightly, he reached for Akane's hand. Belatedly remembering the bandages, he pulled away awkwardly.
Akane could sense his embarrassment and insecurity as clearly as if they were her own. She felt nervous, too. Time seemed to stand still. For once in their tumultuous relationship, they were given real say as to their next step.
Reminiscent of just a month before, Akane gave Ranma a challenging smile, and with only a touch of nervousness, her voice managed to come out light and soft. "I wouldn't say no... if you had the guts to ask me."
The familiarity of the words was not lost on Ranma. He felt returned to solid ground, vividly remembering the beautiful outcome of finally asking Akane out on an official date.
"Akane, would you marry me...eventually?"
Akane smiled at both the words and the phrasing. It had taken them so long to journey to this point, and she was proud of both of them for reaching this moment. Suddenly, her throat tightened up and her eyes watered, and she wasn't sure if she'd be able to get her tongue to move, let alone speak. Through sheer force of will, she managed to regain control. With a warm smile she answered him, ready to embark on the next journey in their lives together.
Nodoka gave up all pretense of pretending to be washing dishes, and gave her future daughter-in-law a large hug while sending a beaming, proud smile at her son. Kasumi had her hands clasped in joy, with only a tinge of sadness as she wished both mother and father could be present to witness this.
Breaking the tender moment, Nabiki drolled out, "About damn time, you two", earning a hearty chuckle from everyone present.
And on the Tendo family altar, the osenko incense stick next to Soun's framed portrait burned brighter.
Original Publication Date: February 13, 2015 – Happy (early) Valentine's Day!
Angela Jewell rocked out and gave the brilliant suggestion of having Happosai traipse in. Many, many thanks to her and to PurseMonger for brainstorming with me and editing.
Last but by no means least, thank you - the readers, the followers, the reviewers. You've kept me going and have inspired me to never give up on this story.
After nearly ten years of writing, I hope it was worth the wait. Please, please, pretty please review and tell me your thoughts.
I'm labeling this story complete, although there will be an epilogue, too...eventually. Just a cute tying up of loose threads, but for all practical purposes, the story is complete. Finally.