Queen Rat

Chapter 1

Cell Block Girl

"Keep moving ladies." Said the wiry looking woman behind the counter. She wore a gray and white uniform that had TWCF stitched over one breast. As each woman passed in front of her she handed the woman a orange outfit. A smock-like top and loose pants. "That includes the three of you." She said to the three women at the end of the line.

"Yes Ma'am." Chorused the three women in almost cheerful tones.

The eldest of the three was a tall, slim beauty with dark brown hair styled in a helmet cut. She picked up her orange prison outfit with two fingers of each hand. "Orange is so not my color." She complained. "Don't you have something in black?"

"Nabiki." The second young woman scolded. She was shorter than the first and her short hair was a black that was so shiny it was almost blue. She turned to the prison guard. "You'll have to excuse my sister." Akane said. "When she hasn't had her morning coffee, she can be a little, um"

"Bitchy?" Supplied the third woman. A short buxom redhead. She held the prison smock against her. "I'm going to look like a pumpkin." She complained.

"Shut up Ranma, I mean Ranko." Akane said. She sighed. "Come on let's see what kind of room we got."

The prison guard shook her head as the three women walked passed her. 'They act like they're checking into a country spa.' She thought. 'Well a couple days in the Tokyo Women's Corrections facility should fix that.'

Nabiki, Akane and Ranma followed the line of woman as they were led to their cells. As they reached a cell, the prison guard called off names and cell numbers. Finally, "Akane Tendo, Ranko Tendo, Cell 51. Nabiki Tendo Cell 52."

Ranma and Akane walked into their cell and Nabiki walked into hers. Apparently she had the cell to herself. The cell was small but not oppressively so. There was a bunk bed against one wall, a toilet, which had a privacy curtain, and a sink against the other. Nabiki could see a small table folded flat against the middle wall. The walls were painted a pale green. She sat down in the lower bunk. A moment later Ranma and Akane walked in. Akane sat down next to Nabiki while Ranma leaned against the open cell door.

"How did I get myself into this one?" Nabiki grumbled to herself. "To make money." She answered herself a moment later. "Way to go Nabs." She said in self reproach. "It's bad enough that I'm here but I had to drag the two of you along with me."

"Now you stop that Nabiki." Scolded Akane. "You're not to blame. We needed the money."

"Yeah Nabs." Agreed Ranma. "What's the big deal? It's only eighteen months." She looked around. "I've stayed in worse."

"Eighteen months, eighteen years, what's the difference?" Nabiki growled. "Tokyo University is not going to renew my scholarship."

"So?" Returned Ranma. "Why is school so important?"

"University is where I make contacts." Explained Nabiki patiently. "Contacts equal influence which equals money."

"So?" Ranma said again. "It seemed to me you were doin pretty good without it. It's your Art."

"You know I think you're actually smarter as a girl." Muttered Akane. She smiled at Ranma's 'I heard that'. Akane turned to Nabiki. "As difficult as it is to believe; Ranma's right." She said. "This is just another little problem for the Tendo's. No different than the Gambling King or any number of petty nuisances we've encountered over time. We'll get through this one just like we got through the others."

Nabiki nodded. "Yeah," She looked around the cell. "It's so damn ugly." She said moodily. "I wonder if we're allowed to put things on the wall." Nabiki tapped her lower lip with a finger. "Maybe a nice picture."

"Well if you need anything, let me know." Ranma pulled at her pigtail and looked at the end. "I could always go into town and get ya something."

"Not without me you don't." Akane said sternly.

"Okay." Ranma nodded. "It'll be good training for ya."

"You and your training." She stood. "Come on Ranma. I need to talk to you." She said. "In private."

"If anyone gives ya any trouble you get me or Akane." Ranma said. She followed Akane out of the cell.

Nabiki lay down in the lower bunk and stared at the bottom of the bunk above her. "It seemed like such a good idea at the time." Nabiki said to herself.

After Ranma and Akane had returned from Jusendo they resumed their schooling. Both her sister and Ranma had changed. They were harder, more cynical. They wouldn't talk much about their experiences but it seemed, to Nabiki, that there was an almost desperate quality to their actions And they trained. Hard. Jusendo seemed to break Ranma of any hesitation he might have had in training Akane. "We seem to be trouble magnets." Ranma had explained. "Might as well be prepared."

After the failed wedding, Ranma had broken all the engagements, except for the one with Akane. This was not to say Ukyo or Shampoo accepted his decision but, and again this was an indication of how much Ranma had changed since Jusendo, he followed up his decision with a warning. "Anybody touches Akane they'll answer to me."

Shampoo tried but Akane was able to fight her off. Ranma leveled the Nekohanten in retaliation. Ukyo looked at the remains of the Nekohanten and proceeded to get drunk for a week. Ukyo was still around but was keeping her distance. Nabiki felt a little sorry for Ukyo but family came first.

Ranma and Akane had thrown themselves into school but now seemed to throw themselves even more so, especially Akane, into athletics. Any and every sport the school offered the two of them would join. They were star athletes before Jusendo, they were unstoppable after. Any team either Ranma or Akane (and occasionally both) were on won. It stopped being a matter of if they'd win and became by how much.

Nabiki quickly smelled an opportunity to make money, a lot of money. She cornered Ranma and her sister and had been prepared to convince the two of them, using blackmail if necessary, to agree to go along with her. To Nabiki's surprise both Ranma and Akane agreed readily, even enthusiastically. "Sure why not?" Akane had said. "We have to pay the bills." All during Ranma and Akane's senior year Nabiki would travel back from Tokyo University and make book at every one of the many sporting events the two were in. With the two athletes laying off on scoring as needed, Nabiki had a lock on the outcome.

Nabiki even took the opportunity to sell fan pictures of Ranma and Akane at the events. The ones of the female Ranma and Akane together were especially popular. For those willing to spend a little extra, Nabiki provided some racier pictures of the two of them. What was surprising was that it was Akane who asked Nabiki to take the pictures of her and Ranma.

The money rolled in. Nabiki carefully funneled the profits into legitimate assets through a shell company she created.

Then, one day, soon after both Ranma and Akane had turned eighteen, there was a knock on the door.

During the trial it became clear that Akane and Ranma were not innocent dupes but rather active partners. Ranma and Akane in an act of bravery or stupidity, Nabiki wasn't sure which, convinced their lawyer to make all three of them co-defendants. In desperation, Nabiki worked with their lawyer to cut a deal. They ended up, all three of them, pleading guilty to a lesser charge. In a stroke of good fortune, the judge, apparently a distant relation to the Kuno's, refused to accept that Ranko Tendo, the girl, was actually Ranma Saotome a boy and sentenced the three of them to the same facility. He further issued an arrest warrant for Ranma Saotome. Ranma, for reasons of his own, seemed content to be sentenced as Ranko Tendo. A little behind the scenes maneuvering by Nabiki made sure they ended up close together. She made sure, though she didn't tell Ranma or Akane, that those two would be in a cell together. 'Least I could do.'

"Okay Ranma." Akane said. "Here are the rules."

"Rules?" Ranma asked in confusion.

"Rules." Repeated Akane. "Don't ogle the other women. Especially Nabiki."

"Akane." Protested Ranma. "You know I don't do that."

"See that you don't." Akane replied. "It's going to be difficult enough sharing a cell with you for eighteen months."

"Well if it bothers you so much, why don't you see if you can share Nabiki's cell?" Ranma shot back angrily.

"And have you sharing a cell with some strange woman?" Akane growled back. "Uh Uh Saotome, I'm staying where I can keep an eye on you." She marched over to Ranma and shoved her face close to Ranma's until their noses almost touched. "You're mine Saotome, you got that?"

Ranma smiled back. "Got it Tomboy." Ranma sighed suddenly. "I really need you to not get too mad at me while we're here." She said.

"Need?" Akane replied. She searched Ranma's eyes. 'He's nervous about something.' She realized. She took Ranma's arm and led the redhead to the lower bunk. They sat. "Need?" She repeated.

Ranma nodded. "If they find out I'm a boy they'll send me to a men's facility."

"So?" Replied Akane. "You are a boy, you know." She smiled slightly. "Though I do appreciate that you're here to keep an eye on Nabiki." She said. 'And me.' She thought. "But I can watch Nabiki."

"I know you can Tomboy." Ranma replied in such a matter of fact manner that Akane couldn't help but swell in pride. "It's just that I'd like to be able to sleep at night and not worry about someone splashing me with cold water. Guys can be such jerks you know." She looked at Akane. "They used to splash me after gym class every so often. Most of them just wanted a free show."

"Most?" Growled Akane. "What jerk would try to do more than look?"

"Try six, at once, in the shower." Ranma looked down at her hands.

"They didn't?" Akane said worriedly. "No, of course not, I would have heard about six students ending up in the hospital at the same time."

"They tried." Ranma said. "I broke one of their arms, the rest ran." Ranma admitted. "I can't believe they thought I'd just let them." Ranma grumbled moodily. "It's bad enough having to worry about being attacked in my female form."

Akane put an arm around Ranma's shoulders. 'I can't believe his classmates would try,' Akane's thoughts broke off as she finally realized what Ranma was worried about. "I'll try to keep my temper."

Ranma leaned her head against Akane's shoulder. "And I'll try not to be a jerk all the time."

"Now don't go making promises you can't keep." Akane giggled to take the sting out of the words.

"Speaking of showers." Ranma said a moment later.

"Damn I forgot about that." Akane said. "We'll always bathe together." Akane said decisively. "I'll make sure no one splashes you."

Ranma searched Akane's face. "You always cover my back don't you?"

"About time you noticed." Akane smiled. "We may not always be the best of fianc├ęs, but we always protect each other."

"Father?' Kasumi's voice carried softly in the evening air.

"Yes Kasumi." Soun replied. After dinner he walked out to watch the sunset. Since his daughters and Ranma had been sent to prison, dinners were very quiet. 'I wish Genma were here.'

"I just spoke to our accountant." Kasumi kneeled down next to her father.

"I see." Soun took a deep breath. "How bad is it?"

"Not as bad as we had first thought." Kasumi replied. "Apparently Nabiki anticipated," Kasumi paused. "Something like this." She sighed. "Our accountant says we have enough for the immediate future. We won't have a lot but the house is safe."

"Thank heaven." Soun said feelingly. "Oh my little Nabiki. Has any daughter sacrificed so much for her father?"

"I do hope Ranma and Akane are watching out for her." Kasumi said. A faint note of worry colored her voice. "There are some very dangerous people in prison."

"I'm sure Ranma will protect both of them." Soun said confidently.

"Hello." Called a voice from the front door.

"In here Auntie." Kasumi called.

Nodoka and a glum looking Genma entered the main room. Genma was carrying a canvas bag. "Good news everyone." Nodoka announced as she entered the main room. "Genma has secured a position." Nodoka took the bag from Genma. "Now we will be able to repay you for all your kindness."

"That's not necessary, Nodoka." Soun replied. Genma's expression cheered.

"I must disagree Soun." Nodoka replied. Genma's expression became glum again. "You and your family were more than kind enough to take in Ranma and my ungrateful husband. Before she left Nabiki showed me how much the Saotome's owe the Tendo's."

"Now Nodoka we were happy to," Began Soun only to be interrupted by Nodoka.

"This is not open to debate." Nodoka said firmly. "It was a lot of money and, I suspect, Nabiki was being very generous in our favor. No we will, we must, for honor's sake, repay you and your family." Nodoka held up the bag. "In the meantime the very least we can do is make dinner." She looked at Kasumi. "Would you care to help me Kasumi dear?"

"Of course Auntie." Kasumi replied. She stood and the two women went into the kitchen. Nodoka began to remove food items from the bag.

"How bad is it?" Nodoka asked. "Really."

Kasumi shrugged. "I was just telling Father the house, at least, is safe." She shrugged again. "As for the rest, I'm hoping to convince Father to start teaching again." Kasumi pulled out a cutting board and started slicing the vegetables that Nodoka had brought. "I may have to find a job as well."

"Why don't you talk to your nice Dr. Tofu?" Nodoka suggested. "I'm sure he could find something for you to do in his office."

Kasumi sighed. "Ono," Kasumi colored slightly. "Dr. Tofu seems to find it difficult to be around me."

"I see." Nodoka started humming to herself. 'I must do something about that as well.' She thought. "Well let's not worry about such things for the moment."

"Yes Auntie." Kasumi continued chopping vegetables.

Akane was awakened in the middle of the night. At first she wasn't sure what woke her then she heard someone moaning. "Crap." Akane said. "That's Ranma." She got out of bed and stood. Ranma was thrashing in her sleep. Akane shook the redhead. "Ranma wake up. You're dreaming."

"Huh, wha?" Mumbled Ranma.

"You were having a nightmare." Akane said. "What was it? The Cat pit?"

Ranma wiped the sweat off her face with her hand. She nodded. "I hate that dream."

Akane chewed her lower lip. 'One day I'm going to make a panda skin rug.' She vowed to herself. She tugged on Ranma's arm. "Come down from there Ranma and wash your face." She watched Ranma do as she said. When the redhead began to climb into the top bunk, Akane stopped her. "Get in." She said indicating the lower bunk. "You know you have trouble sleeping after that."

"Akane?" Ranma said nervously. "Are you sure? We're both," Ranma trailed off.

"Get in." Akane repeated. When Ranma got into the lower bunk, Akane got in afterwards. "Good thing you're so tiny." Akane commented. "Well most of you." She smiled when Ranma giggled. Akane lay an arm across Ranma's body. "Go to sleep." She commanded.

Akane stroked Ranma's red hair and was soon rewarded with a slight buzzing snore. 'Funny how almost dying helps to put things into perspective.' Akane thought. Since Jusendo the relationship between her and Ranma had become more physical. Akane smiled in remembered satisfaction. Every time though was with Ranma in his male form. Much as both of them proclaimed that the curse didn't matter. It did. Oh they had slept together as girls but only to sleep. Every time the possibility of something more physical occurring had presented itself, one or the other, 'mostly me.' Akane admitted to herself, would say or do something to ruin it. The pictures that Nabiki took of the two them together didn't count. Those were posed shots in front of others, though Akane thought of them as an attempt to get both of them comfortable with the idea. It even looked like it was starting to work and then came the arrest.

'I guess almost dying doesn't put everything into perspective. And here I am cooped up with Ranma in her female form for the next year and a half.' Akane thought in annoyed amusement. 'Some kami is having a big laugh at our expense.' Akane kissed the back of Ranma's head, closed her eyes and was soon asleep.

End Chapter 1