Disclaimer: Naturally, I own nothing. I make no money off this (or anything else, honestly) and I don't really want to go through any legal processes because of it.

It had taken an enchanted talking cello, another planet-threatening ugly green immortal menace, some breed of 'scarf fairies,' and liberal help from the Sailor Suited Soldiers of Love and Justice, but Ranma had survived. He had not failed math. In fact – well, perhaps we should start at the beginning.

The fiasco had ostensibly begun when Ranma had been reconciled with his mother for what he was, and at the same time, passed that fatal test of being the world's biggest macho jerk. He had also – eventually – convinced her that it was safer for all involved if he continued to live at the Tendo Dojo after the Saotome house was rebuilt. The trouble began when the Tendo sisters made a very subtle attempt to find out what Mrs. Saotome considered 'manly' (subtle for anyone in this town, anyway. Let us not go into the specifics). After all, she had already demonstrated some odd preconceptions on the matter before; the woman watched her own son molest his future wife and was ecstatic to the point of throwing a party. This is not to even mention the peeping and the bra-raiding. At any rate, the Tendo sisters discovered that her complete list of 'requirements for manhood' involved things like a general interest in women's bodies (instead of their clothes), a developed interest for 'active play,' as she called it, a commanding presence at all times, and perfect marks in school. No one had any idea where that last one came from. But regardless, it was now a matter of life and death, and Ranma had spent the last weeks leading up to exams cramming like they had challenged him to a fight. He trained with everyone and anyone who knew math, history, science, geography, grammar – anything. He studied at his mother's house on weekends, mostly due to the fact that it was now a 'fiancée/rival-free zone' on pain of death/dismemberment/castration. He ignored obvious attempts to bait him into meaningless fights, he brushed off fiancées new and old, and he even wisely ignored the panda signs that tried to give advice. Kasumi, of course, helped him with home economics and biology. Akane tutored him in math and physics, two of his worst subjects (just trying to explain Newton's law was nightmarish – he'd blatantly violate them right in front of her face to contradict her). Nabiki was so impressed with his new behavior that she rewarded him with free instruction in economics and business. Well, he was cleaning her room during the lesson, so it wasn't totally without recompense.

The day test scores were returned, Akane was only a little miffed that he scored first in the class out of the entire school. After all, Ranma had put in monumental effort, and to tell the truth (which no one heard from her mouth, certainly), Akane was proud of him. Also, she was glad he was not dead. But you'd really have to twist her arm to get her to say it. As in, literally. Seriously.

To say that the rest of the general populace of Nerima prefecture was amazed at his performance was something of a titanic understatement. As for Mrs. Saotome, well, she pretty much gloated wherever she went about her fabulous, healthy, and brilliant son.

Akane was happy for him, and that is where our story catches up with itself. No really. She was! But did he have to continue to spend every weekend at his mother's house now? Did she have to live in Juuban prefecture? Akane tapped her foot impatiently on the veranda some more as she waited for Ranma to return home. It was getting late – she shouldn't have postponed going shopping for that idiot. He wouldn't know how to be on time if someone stapled an alarm clock to his forehead!

The real question of the matter was whether or not he had picked up another hussy somewhere in Juuban. Akane suspected (and she did not think it was too far-fetched) that he did not spend all that time in Juuban with his mother, who, after all, had not lost the habit of carrying around the razor-sharp blade of honor. Ranma also had the sad tradition of picking up girls that were really too brainless to realize that he was not much more than a worthless jerk. She didn't generally bother to correct the hopeless nitwits. And she couldn't really blame them, either – Ranma was a good-looking martial artist, tall and dashing – complete with devastatingly handsome cheeky smile. Akane was stubborn, not blind. Ranma was a looker, but she dared not tell him – if his head got any bigger, he'd never make it through the school gates. As his somewhat reluctant, yet official, fiancée, Akane took it upon herself to let some of the air out of Ranma's towering self-image once in a while, to give the citizens of the world a breather from living in the cocky young lad's own personal ego-trip.

She put her hand to her forehead at the thought of one of the infamous Sailor Scouts falling in love with the stupid boy. They were definitely his type: young, pretty, magical… air-headed. If even one of them knew how to cook, that'd probably be the last she'd see of the jerk. She had definitely noticed one or two of them at least giving him those looks that every girl on the planet seemed to have for Ranma, a long speculative glance that spoke volumes about their future plans. Even Sayuri and Yuka, Akane noticed, couldn't help but give the 'wild horse' that speculative look, when they thought she wasn't watching. Akane had expected better of them, since she frequently ended up lecturing them on Ranma's many faults, and why he would make a lousy boyfriend, let alone a disastrous life-partner. They didn't seem to care, but Akane could still hope that they were merely eying him and not really considering some kind of fantasy romance with him. The experience of others served to elucidate the realities to most of the girls after Ranma; last week's new contestant in the Great Ranma Race had attempted to first dispose of the competition, ensuing in a painful education for the potential bride. Shampoo and Ukyo had both disdainfully put her on her behind and sent her out of her respective restaurant with a wave and a complimentary boot to the butt. Nerima lost more girls that way, and its population was definitely beginning to lean toward the elderly and the male. The (Akane sighed here) perverted, teenaged, often super-powered male.

It began to rain, and Akane sighed again and went back inside to put a kettle on the stove. It baffled her how these girls kept falling for that fool. He didn't even have enough sense to carry around an umbrella!

Maybe this time with his mother would help improve his dismally under-used social skills. Then, as the possibilities unfolded in Akane's mind, he would ask one of these floozies out on a date, they'd eventually see how horrible he behaves toward females in general, and they'd get over him in a hurry. There were, after all, lots of good-looking boys out there, and who really needs or wants a martial artist for a husband? To quote an irate ChiChi from Dragonball Z, "Life is not just interludes between kung fu battles!" They really were better candidates for romance out there than the stock found in the Nerima prefecture, and Akane wished she could get that point across to the beguiled girls who trailed after her fiancé(e).

However, she had absolutely vowed to never get involved in other people's relationships. Heaven knew how much meddlers in hers drove her up the wall. She stuck to that promise as much as she possibly could, only occasionally making a subtle attempt to nudge people closer together. Kasumi and Dr. Tofu were just perfect for each other! And Ryoga and Ukyo did make quite the cute couple.

Ranma dragged herself in the doorway with a tired greeting, and Akane brought the kettle out to the currently female boy. Ranma was shedding his outside shoes in the front entryway, dripping water all over. Akane wordlessly handed him the kettle and a towel before noticing that he gripped his side with his hand and a pained grimace contorted the pretty features of his feminine face. With a shock, Akane saw a trail of blood following him into the house.

"Have you been injured since you left Juuban?" She gasped in incredulous horror. Only Ranma would have walked all the way home from another district, bleeding the whole while. She firmly dragged the sodden girl-form inside to the main room before he had even a chance to use the hot water. The medicine kit was stocked and ready, sitting within easy reach of the table, and Akane snatched it up and pulled out bandages and antiseptic with practiced ease. He had been coming home more and more often lately with increasingly grievous wounds, even before he had begun disappearing to Juuban. Akane could not say that his skill in the Art was slipping – he'd never stand for that, but she did not know what else she could pinpoint as the cause. Carelessness, perhaps? But Ranma was never careless when it came to battle. She had seen him take out monsters and masters without garnering so much as a scratch. Had he started to become reckless? Overconfident? She frowned in worry as she forcibly sat him down near the kit and began unbuttoning his shirt with cool professionalism.

Perhaps Ryouga had returned once more with a new and deadly technique. Sometimes the rivalry between them seemed like friendly competition, but sometimes, it seemed that one or the other was out for blood, and it frightened Akane as much as it confused her. Ranma never wanted to lose to Ryouga, and went to ridiculous lengths to defeat the unfortunate boy on many occasions. Often, they would both be heavily injured after intense battle, but they rarely ever spoke of their reasons for fighting. Sometimes it seemed that there was more than just a simple grudge at stake in their matches, but neither one would admit to anything. Even more baffling was that every now and then, Ryouga offered to look for a cure for Ranma in a completely selfless gesture, or Ranma would volunteer to lead Ryouga to his or Akari's home, and they would behave as if they were never anything but friends.

Akane pushed away the torn red silk shirt, and Ranma's hand fell limply away from the wound. His eyes seemed a bit unfocused, and he hadn't yet said a word, which worried Akane to no end. She patted his cheek a bit to rouse him slightly from his stupor.

The wound looked deep, but clean. At first glance, it seemed to be a sword cut, or some other sharp, straight edge. With folk like Ukyou lurking about with razor-sharp kitchen implements, it really could have been anything. Akane quickly cleaned it, bringing a sharp hiss of pain from Ranma, and began to dress it carefully. She could be a klutz, so she had learned to concentrate very hard while wrapping the wound, so the bandage applied the correct pressure – a trick she had learned from Dr. Tofu, who was of the opinion that it was essential that someone, at least, could care for Ranma immediately after his daily battles without aggravating his wounds. He had, in his patient and caring voice, explained to her the rudiments of first aid and provided her with this extensive kit. All this had been fortunate, for it was around that time that Ranma started cropping up with an injury a day, and they really couldn't consume so much of the good doctor's time. He was, in truth, more of a moxibustion expert than an ER physician, and with her new training, Akane could handle most of the damages without professional help. Ranma was a quick healer, after all, and he could bounce back from most things with some rest, provided that he was bandaged up properly.

This wound appeared to be more serious than usual, but not immediately requiring Dr. Tofu's services or a trip to the ER. Ranma looked pale, however, even for the fair complexion of his alternate form. After she had finished the careful wrapping of the bandages that would keep Ranma in one piece for now, she packed away the medical kit, and eyed him seriously.

"Ranma, have you been fighting the demons that show up in Juuban? You know you should leave that to the Sailor Scouts. They've got magical weapons and the expertise that you don't have." She helped him to a sitting position.

He shrugged half-heartedly, still not quite as life-like as Akane was used to seeing. He looked down at his curvaceous female form.

"What about… all that talk about… feminine modesty?" he breathed slowly, one eyebrow upraised.

"Please. I'm a girl. You currently don't have anything that I don't." Though, she added silently, I wouldn't mind having some of what you have! It's not fair! He's not even a girl half the time, and he has a bigger bust! Akane sighed enviously. "Feminine modesty is not flaunting what you have in front of pervert boys," she said sternly. "In your case, that means: 'Don't Look'!" She tossed the towel over Ranma's exposed chest. He snorted, but did not spend the energy framing a barbed reply, and that worried Akane most of all. She went back to repacking her kit, and had just shoved it back into the corner when she heard a ripping sound behind her.

Ranma was once again himself, and looking down stupidly at the ripped bandages strewn all over his lap and the floor around him. Akane heaved a much-harassed sigh and pulled the kit back toward her and dug out fresh bandages. Ranma gave her a sheepish grin and managed to look at least slightly abashed.

He continued with his silence as she bandaged him up a second time, noting as she did so that she'd need to obtain more bandages soon. At the rate he was burning through them, she'd be out before next week. She thought to herself that she ought to make Ranma go fetch them, since it was him, after all, that kept using them up needlessly.

"Ranma," she scolded him as she finished up her second wrap. "You need to stop risking your life at every chance you get. Even if you do survive to see your eighteenth birthday, you won't enjoy it much if you're totally broken. One of these days, you'll die, or get some kind of life-altering maiming, and then what will we do with you?" She poked gently at the wound to emphasize her point, trying not to sound overly concerned. She kept her voice in her 'lecturing' mode.

"Would you be sorry?"

She looked at him sharply. "What?"

"I said, you'd be sorry all right, since I wouldn't be around to save your butt all the time." He put on the familiar macho grin, though it lacked a bit of substance through the blood loss.

She rolled her eyes and jabbed him again in the side, a bit harder. The smirk became a grimace, and she re-packed the kit once more. As she turned back to him, she noticed his hands held protectively not over his side, but over his hip. Akane frowned as she recalled last week's fight with – who was it? Mephistis, Demon Lord of Math Tutors? Or was it Delphis, Overlord of Deviled Eggs? Oh, whoever.

"Is that injury still bothering you –" She was brutally interrupted by the standard fanfare of both fathers, carousing and toasting to the joining of the schools. Akane had heard it so many times now, it was close to making her physically ill. Using Genma's trick of speed-writing, she scribbled Ranma a note on a ripped bandage and shoved him up the stairs before confronting the two inebriated older men with a scowl and a threatening mallet.

I'll take care of these fools, you get to bed. I'll come check on your injuries later tonight, the note in his hand read. Ranma stumbled blearily to his room.

With practiced ease, she denied everything the fathers might have been babbling about, booted them both into the pond (somewhat gently, out of a dim but lingering respect for the foolish pair), and retreated to the safety of her room. It had been decimated once again by Kodachi, apparently, since black rose petals were everywhere. She must have been looking for something, and Akane hoped that lunatic didn't find it. With the mess in her room, who was to know. Well, better check on Ranma, in case that loony drugged him up and kidnapped him again. He didn't seem like he was in any shape to handle the laughter of the Black Rose.

He was face down in his futon, out cold, but so was Kodachi, about five steps away, lying in a heap of gymnastic instruments and rose petals near the window. There had been an apparent struggle over the bouquet of black roses, and a fine film of dust was settling over the entire area. Akane carefully held her breath, scooped up Kodachi in her own ribbon, and sent her whirling out the window in the general direction of her own home. Though it was most of the way across town, Akane had gotten very good with her aim, and could be reasonably sure she had landed Kodachi in her own garden. Or maybe Mr. Green Turtle's pond. She had an uncanny knack for hitting bodies of water. Not only did it soften the landing, it also transformed most of the martial artists around here into smaller forms, so it was actually an advantageous quirk.

She turned around and contemplated booting Ranma out of the room also, but the fresh bandages peeking out from under his tank top made her think twice about furthering his injuries. She rolled him out of the room and dusted the powder away from him.

Peeling back an eyelid, she figured he'd be out for probably another twenty minutes. She heaved an exasperated sigh at the prone body in the middle of the hall before grabbing one arm and dragging him toward her room. At least she had carpet.

He was a lot heavier than he appeared, but she was a lot stronger than she seemed, also. She tossed him negligently into her room after clearing a space in the rose petal mess and fetched a warm, damp cloth to wipe down his face, to make sure no love-dust, dream powders, or magic separators would further invade his system. After finishing with that, she figured she'd go ahead with that inspection of last week's injury before going back downstairs and getting him a late night snack.

It must have been about two weeks ago or so (during a match against the Anything Goes Master of Sleep Fighting) when she finally solved the mystery of how to effectively wake Ranma in the mornings. Food. It was enough to simply say, cheerfully, "Time to eat, Ranma!" or "Come and get it!" and his eyes would snap open instantly. If there wasn't a feast immediately on hand, however, his mood was ruined for practically the entire day.

Well, it surely worked better than saying "Ranma, time for school!"

Akane mused about that as she pulled his tank top over his head and let it fall. He seemed to be able to subconsciously assess what you were saying, and decide whether or not he would awaken. It was Akane's job to wake him every morning, rain or shine, school or weekend, so she had a lot of experience with his reactions. She first developed her theory after noticing that Ranma woke quickly on weekends, and had to be dragged out of his blankets on schooldays. Since reaching her conclusions, she had found it most expedient to simply bring a plate of food up to his room, call him for breakfast, and then walk backwards out of the room until he was at the table, eating.

She sighed at his antics and probed at his waist, where there was still a semi-fresh scar from last week's pitched melee running down to his hip. She gingerly pulled his boxers aside to preserve decency while making sure the stitches were holding.

"I dun wan … roses…" he murmured restlessly, turning his head to one side. Akane patted his cheek sympathetically and was flipped onto her back for her trouble. Meddlesome Sleep Fighting Master! Had to make Ranma a better fighter in his sleep than half the occupants of this town!

One hand pinned to the floor, the other caught underneath his hip where she had been touching the stitches, Akane forced herself to remain calm and unmoving. She had been there for the entire Sleep Fighting ordeal, and she recalled that Ranma's sleep-fighting instincts worked on movement. As long as she kept perfectly still and her aura quiet, she was in no danger. She opened her mouth and spat out a black pigtail to initiate the Anything Goes Sleep Fighting Final Attack: Wake Up Call, when someone knocked on her door.

She hadn't really closed it all the way, so the force of knocking swung it open.

Akane's luck wouldn't have it any other way. Nodoka, the quiet, beautiful, stately mother that Akane never had the chance to know, stood on the other side of the door as the hallway light spilled onto the highly compromising scene in the bedroom.

Akane's face went fire-truck red, but she forced herself to keep calm.

"Auntie Nodoka, I can, um… explain," she began falteringly, as she attempted to subtly move her right leg up into a position where she could push off the ground and shove Ranma away from her with her hips.

Nodoka watched calmly, expressionless, as her recently-returned son used his free hand to grab Akane's knee and push it back to the ground. Akane realized two very important things about this move. Her fighting instincts told her that his mastery of the (admittedly stupid) art of sleep fighting was truly a thorough one, as he had her pinned down, left leg underneath his, and right down and away from her body where she could get no leverage.

The second realization was that her position had increased from 'compromising' to 'pornographic' in nature.

Nodoka blinked at the utter disaster of Akane's room; the curtains had fallen from the windows, the door was somewhat broken, the shelves had their contents spilled about the floor, the drawers had been removed and over turned. The bed had been mutilated almost beyond recognition and sheets were everywhere over the floor, along with black rose petals, and ribbon. She raised only one eyebrow at her mostly naked son, face down in Akane's neck, holding one of her wrists and her opposing knee out away from her and completely covering her upper body and lying between her legs. She smiled indulgently at Akane's flushed face and slight struggling movements. The stately lady only had a twinkle in her eye to indicate that she clearly saw Akane's hand down her son's boxers. Akane's mouth worked helplessly, opening and closing in a dozen different attempts to explain, to deny, or to even ask for help.

Ranma chose that moment to groan loudly and begin to stir.

"Perhaps later," Nodoka murmured simply. With a devilish little smile, she closed the door gently.

A/N: Don't review. Don't you do it. Don't click on that button. Don't even think about it.