Disclaimer: I own very little.

A/N: As this is an AU, I have every right to make things not go exactly like they did in the magna. I'm making full use of that right, too.

A Pig's Life

Chapter 4:

Furious females

"Why, why, why does she hate me?" Ranma growled as she ran towards the school. "And don't try telling me she doesn't. It's obvious she aims at me!"

"Maybe you just have bad luck," Ryoga replied, too relieved at having avoided the cold water himself to truly feel much compassion for his currently girl-shaped friend. Turning into Ryo-kun in front of Ranma would be about the worst possible thing that could happen to him. It would mean telling goodbye to both spying his rival and the only proper friend he had.

Never mind the nights slept in Ranma's bed. Although he only would miss those since it was way more comfortable than camping out in some unidentifiable forest. Yes, that was it.

"At least this morning can't get any worse than this," Ranma muttered. "I'll go crazy if anything else happens."

Ryoga chuckled a bit at Ranma's foul mood. As long as it wasn't directed at him, it was almost cute – that was, amusing. The other probably didn't even realize how girlish his little pout seemed. His own morning was thankfully quite a bit better.

"There you are, my Ryoma-sama!" bellowed a voice he recognized much to his grief. …Okay, forget about the good morning.

"Isn't that the freak that paralyzed you the other night?" Ranma asked. "She beat Akane pretty good in that martial arts gymnastics match. Akane wouldn't shut up for a week 'bout how she must've cheated."

"Oh, no," muttered Ryoga, wishing with all his might it was just dome unexplained illusion and not the real thing. Of course, he wouldn't be that lucky. Black rose petals showered over them as a ribbon reached out to wrap around him. Preparing to jump aside, Ryoga cursed his bad luck.

He never got the opportunity to dodge, however, as somebody else had already grasped on the ribbon, glaring at Kodachi as the gymnastics expert landed lightly on the ground in front of them. "Leave him alone or I'm gonna make you regret this," Ranma growled. Oh, yes, friends were a good thing to have indeed.

Kodachi gave Ranma a hateful glare. "Who are you?" she asked, an unpleasant smirk on her face.

"Me?" Ranma blinked, looking at first at her newly acquired enemy, then at Ryoga and his desperate expression. She grinned self-confidently and said, "I am Ranko Saotome... Ryoga's girlfriend." At this, she jumped to her now very startled friend's side, clutching on his arm and staring at Kodachi challengingly.

"I see," the rhytmic gymnastics master said slowly. "I'll just have to take him from you, then!" Spinning a ribbon, spreading some more black rose petals everywhere, she then fled with a maniacal laugh.

Ranma sighed, shaking her head as she looked after the obviously insane girl. Then she glanced at the still shocked Ryoga. "My reputation is ruined now, you know," she said lightly. "But you could always return the favour."

"What do you mean?" asked the Lost Boy, confused. He was still a bit dazed at Ranma's sudden announcement. Sure, he knew that it was a lie, but those words still made him feel strange. To be exact, he desired to hear them from real from Ranma's lips – no, not that. It was just because Ranma was in fact quite a pretty girl and he wouldn't mind hearing some pretty girl saying them and actually meaning what she said.

"Easy," Ranma's voice broke into his thoughts. "Ya remember what I told ya about Kuno, right? Well, I'm gonna keep telling Kodachi I'm your girlfriend if ya tell Kuno you're my boyfriend. At best it's gonna save us both from a lot of trouble, and at worst we're just gonna have to fight them. I guess you'd rather fight Kuno the Idiot than try ta avoid Kodachi the Maniac, wouldn't ya?"

Ryoga gave him a weak smile. "...I guess so."

Kuno was, it turned out, quite an easy opponent. Keeping him away while Ranma looked for hot water wasn't much of a problem, and his threats sounded more like jokes than anything. It was clear none of the threats of a more violent nature were going to get fulfilled any time soon – not unless Ryoga suddenly found himself paralyzed and tied to a nearby tree with a blindfold – and the kind of "I'll steal her heart back from you, you vile beast!" were even more ridiculous. After all, it wasn't like either of them had Ranma's heart at the first place.

By the time Ranma managed to turn back into a boy, it was just about the time for the lesson to start. Ranma thanked Ryoga for his help enthusiastically, then expressed his just as enthusiastic wish nobody had seen the commotion, unlikely though that was. Ryoga himself simply wished Akane hadn't seen anything.

Of course, he didn't really expect to be that fortunate…

"Damn that Nabiki," sighed Ranma. "Only she would think of actually recording the declarations and threatening to spread them around."

"Why are you complaining?" Ryoga asked. "It's not like you said anything embarrassing near her. 'Pigtailed girl' hardly is enough to ruin your reputation as long as nobody knows it's you."

"Well, somebody's gonna figure out the truth sooner or later," Ranma pointed out. "When that happens, we'll both hear more than enough of jokes 'bout our 'relationship.'"

"If that happens, Kuno's going to realize the truth, too," Ryoga replied. "And when that happens, me being called your boyfriend is the least of your worries. How do you think the idiot will take to realizing he has been declaring his undying love to another boy?"

Ranma sighed. "I won't have a moment of peace for the next year or so… Honestly, one would think he would have realized already he can't beat me!"

Ryoga simply nodded in response. Kuno's idiocy was indeed something to marvel at.

"Ryoga?" asked Ranma then, his gaze somewhere in the horizon. "Can I ask you something?"

"Mmm-hmm," replied the other boy. "Ask away, though I don't promise to answer."

"Where exactly did ya get your combat umbrella?"

Getting lost was, most of the time, a pain. However, when it involved several transformations, a close call with an all-you-can-eat restaurant specializing in pork, and a little girl tying a bow around his neck, it was simply horrible.

Thankfully he had managed to get rid of the bow around the time he finally wandered back to the Tendo residence. Who knew how long Ranma would have laughed at him for that.

Now, Ranma didn't laugh, although he did grin. Great. At last somebody who was actually happy about him showing up, even if only as a pig. This was exactly what he needed – no sarcasm included.

"Hey, Ryo-kun!" exclaimed Ranma. "It's about the time you showed up. Look at what I got for you!" He had a small umbrella in his hand. "Now you can fight just like Ryoga! I got it from the same store, even."

The little black piglet let out a loud, happy "Bweee!" and quickly ran to Ranma. Ryo-kun took the little umbrella in his teeth and waved it around a couple of times as though testing it. Ranma watched it with a cheerful grin.

"Yeah, it's heavy," he said, grinning. "Just like Ryoga's. Just think of the damage you can do to your surroundings now!"

Ryo-kun nodded happily, glad to have at least something to make up for his ridiculous size even in his pig form. Oh, yeah, this was good. Maybe that idiotic cat he always had to fight with would finally take him seriously if he was wielding this!

Of course, his moment of happiness was rudely interrupted by the arrival of a certain pig-hating girl. Well, a girl that hated a certain pig, anyway.

"Is that thing here again?" Akane asked sharply as she saw Ryo-kun. "I hoped it would have got lost for good this time."

"You're just jealous because somethin' actually likes me for once," Ranma huffed, taking a defensive step closer to Ryo-kun. "Get over it. Ryo-kun's my pet and that's it."

"You should think again," Akane muttered, glaring at the pig. Then, however, she sighed. "Well, at least it isn't as strange as some people… even if it does like you."

"Huh?" Ranma raised an eyebrow. "Who do you mean?" Ryo-kun bwee'd in question as well.

"There was a really weird girl at the skating rink," Akane told them. "She even stole Miyuki-chan's dog and named him Georgette or something like that. She actually called the puppy kitty her own! Miyuki-chan was so upset, too!"

"Sounds stupid," Ranma commented calmly. "That kinda people shouldn't be allowed to appear in public without anybody to look after 'em. That's just freaky."

Ryo-kun added his enthusiastic agreement. Looking at the episode from a pet's point of view he sympathized more with the poor dog than with Miyuki-chan, though. Seriously, Georgette? Nothing could possibly be worse.

"I wonder what she would have named Ryo-kun if she had stolen him instead," Akane said with a bit mean tone. "Perhaps… Charlotte?"

Okay, forget that. Charlotte would indeed be much, much worse than Georgette. Thankfully, however, he had avoided both. Ranma would rather die than call his pet with any of those names.

It was almost scary, how natural it seemed to call himself Ranma's pet. Of course, this only applied when he was Ryo-kun, but still. Just a few months ago he would have beat anyone who even suggested he'd one day call himself Ranma's friend, never mind pet – even if it was only in his pig form. Real men weren't other people's pets.

Then again, real men weren't kind of happy at the thought of spending the night in another man's bed, either…

Even if it was only because a warm bed was nicer than the forest. Yes, that was exactly it.

"Ryo-kun's not as stupid as to get caught like that," Ranma said dryly. "'sides, unlike somebody as miserable a fighter as you, I'd actually be able to defend him even if his own fighting skills weren't enough to keep away any freaks that show up."

Ryo-kun didn't have the time to enjoy this compliment as he was in too much of a hurry to jump out of the way as Akane attacked Ranma. Torn between testing out his new umbrella and avoiding enraging Akane even more – after all, the girl wielded the ultimate weapon of knowing his secret, very much able to destroy whatever friendship he had managed to achieve with Ranma – he found the decision taken out of his hooves. Akane had managed to find a glass of water somewhere and expertly aimed it over Ranma, turning him into a girl.

"Now you've done it!" Ranma roared, attacking Akane with even more ferocity than before. Right now Ryo-kun had no intention of getting in the middle of their fight. Before, he could have participated; right now he doubted either of the girls would make any difference between their opponent and a semi-innocent little pig lost in the middle.

At least Ranma looked quite good, Ryo-kun decided, watching the fight. Especially with the way the now wet shirt clung to her very female chest. This was truly something a young boy – or a pig – could rest his eyes on without feeling guilty.

His musings, however, were rudely interrupted as somebody suddenly kicked the wall in. Bouncing to Ranma's side, Ryoga stared in shock at the Chinese-looking girl who has suddenly appeared where previously had been the wall.

"Ranma!" shouted the girl furiously, confirming she hadn't simply got lost – not that simply lost people usually crushed walls to ask for directions. "Me kill you!"

Ranma froze in the middle of a kick aimed at Akane. Her expression was something between surprise, shock, and nigh-terror. "Sh-shampoo?"

Next chapter: Shampoo. Enough said.