Waking Up
By M. Zephyr

Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 is a trademark of Rumiko Takahashi and VIZ Communications, and its characters have been borrowed without permission. This story was written for non-commercial purposes only.

Ranma x Akane. The things which happen to Ranma are just a bit too fantastic to believe, don't you think?

I'm afraid this story requires a rather large suspension of disbelief. I am aware that there are plot holes big enough to drive a truck through, but it was still fun to write.

I have rated this story M to be on the safe side, because of incidents near the end of chapter 2, but it's sort of borderline T/M.

Chapter 1. Remedy

A man hiding in a dark corner, late at night, whispered to his companion. "Look, there she is now. What did I tell you?"

The other man replied, equally quietly. "Yeah, maybe. I'll grant you she shouldn't be here, but there's no proof yet of what she's up to. Let's wait and see what else she does before we grab her."

The girl they were watching was a teenager, with long hair pulled back, and a long, flowing black dress. She stepped up to some sort of hatch, then slowly turned the wheel on it. When it stopped turning, she pulled, opening the hatch and feeling the cool, dank air spilling out of it. She then opened the flap of a pouch on her belt, and pulled out a plastic bag. As she prepared to dump the contents of the bag through the opening before her, the girl was suddenly grabbed from behind.

"Unhand me, peasant!" the girl screeched. "I am Kodachi, the Black Rose of clan Kuno! How dare you lay hands upon me!" She turned her head to the side to see two men. The one who was holding her was wearing the uniform of a police officer, while the other was wearing the sort of shirt that an ordinary worker might wear, one who occasionally must face the prospect of getting his hands dirty. He picked up the plastic bag and sealed it again.

"So what do you suppose is in that bag?" the policeman asked.

The other man shrugged. "We'll need to get it analyzed, but if my hunch is correct it's a drug of some kind. The question is, just what kind? And how long has she been dumping it in the town's water supply?"

Kodachi gave a sudden twist, pulling herself out of the policeman's grip. "You shall regret this, you bumbling simpletons!" she cried, then pulled a long ribbon out of her pouch and swung it at the two men. It flapped uselessly against the pair, and the officer quickly grabbed her arms again, and this time secured her with handcuffs. Kodachi was staring in shock at the men who appeared totally unaffected by her blow.

"Let's get her downtown, and find out what that stuff is," he said to the employee of the water department. Turning to the girl he held, he added, "And by downtown, I don't mean the local police station. I mean someplace where I can be sure she'll stay put."

Ignoring Kodachi's curses, they carried her outside and into a squad car. The three of them drove off, leaving Nerima ward and its water utility building behind.

Three days later, the two men from before were in a room with four others, one of whom was the original police officer's captain. The other three were professors from Tokyo University, an organic chemist, a neurologist, and a psychologist. On the table before them rested a plastic bag containing the powder which had been taken from Kodachi, minus the small amount which had been removed for chemical analysis.

"So that's the verdict," the neurologist was saying. "It's quite a mixture, which will make people borderline psychotic, highly suggestible, and cause them to experience hallucinations."

The psychologist contributed his own bit. "It is designed to make the victims suggestible in a peculiar manner. Anyone who describes to another victim the hallucinations or delusions he is experiencing himself, is likely to cause the other person to start sharing the same hallucinations or delusions. Before long, you end up with a group of people who all commonly believe the same crazy things."

The police captain spoke morosely, "In this case, the group of people is a city, the entire ward of Nerima."

"I've heard rumors," the chemist mentioned. "How bad is it really?"

"Pretty bad," the captain grimaced. "The police force there was affected like everyone else, and apparently came up with some idea as to why they shouldn't report the peculiar things that they all believed were happening. It seems they thought we would fire them for filing reports mentioning events that were so weird, without ever questioning whether any of it was really possible. Like you, I'd heard rumors, but just dismissed it as so much nonsense."

"Another interesting note," the psychologist pointed out, "is the effect on someone who is less suggestible than the others. Such a person would also share in the hallucinations and delusions, but not in all of them. He would quickly come to be regarded by the others as delusional himself, simply because he isn't sharing all of their delusions. To everyone else, all of the quote - normal - unquote people, he would seem to be a little crazy."

The utility employee, who was actually a manager, sighed and said, "Well, we're working on purifying the water, getting rid of the contaminant, and warning people not to drink it in the meantime. The announcement said the water has a high bacterial count. We were a bit concerned about telling the truth, especially before we knew exactly what that stuff did." He shook his head, and rubbed his forehead with the palms of his hands. "How long will it take for everyone to return to normal?"

The psychologist frowned. "Months, if you just leave them to recover naturally after they've stopped ingesting the drug."

"Fortunately, we have another option," the neurologist told them. "My colleague and I," he nodded at he chemist, "have come up with a counteragent, a cure if you will. A small dose, administered orally, will guarantee recovery in just a few days. I imagine we're going to have a hard time convincing all of the residents to take it, however."

"Not to mention the bad publicity," the utility worker added.

"Perhaps ... we should consider an alternative," the police captain suggested. "The people who were subjected to this drug received it by drinking the town's water, right? What if we put the antidote in the water supply? That way it would reach almost all of the affected victims, without having to convince them to take it, and if all of us keep this secret, then the publicity will only arrive much later and hopefully softened by the passage of time. I admit such an approach would be rather unethical, but ..."

The other men frowned, then one by one they nodded. "We'll have a sufficient supply ready for you tomorrow," the chemist told them.

Two nights later, a little before midnight, a small group of men gathered once more in the building where Kodachi had been caught. Without much ceremony, they watched as the manager from the water department poured in the antidote.

"Will we see any effects tomorrow?" he asked.

"Not likely," the neurologist responded. "It will start taking effect right away, yes, but don't expect anything observable tomorrow. People should start to begin noticing things the day after, as the hallucinations come to an end. Their minds should clear up most of the rest of the way the next day, and they should be fine the day after that."

It turned out as he had said; there were no noticeable differences the next day. Concerning the most famous martial artist in town, Ranma was glomped by Shampoo, had fights with Mousse, Kuno and Happosai, and argued with Akane. He was drained by Hinako, and berated by Soun and Genma for not making any progress in dealing with the fiancées and rivals so that he could marry Akane. The day drew to a close, and another night passed.

Shortly past dawn on the second day, Ranma came downstairs sleepily, only to be grabbed by his father Genma and thrown outside with the announcement that they needed to spar. The boy somersaulted and landed on his feet, then motioned for his father to attack. The older man did so, and soon they were going all out, as Akane emerged from the house in her jogging outfit.

After watching for a few minutes, Akane rubbed her eyes and looked again. It was a bit puzzling, but Ranma and his father didn't seem to be quite as ... acrobatic ... this morning. They were certainly sparring strenuously, but with none of the huge leaps through the air which she had come to expect. Instead of going out on her jog, she stood there and watched, trying to figure out why the two were fighting with such a different style that day.

"Look out!" Akane shouted, much too late, as an attempted throw ended up dropping both father and son into the koi pond. With an audible groan, she picked up a towel which was lying out there on the engawa, and walked over to the pond to hand it to onna-Ranma. She figured that the panda could look after itself.

When the two heads broke the surface of the water, Akane nearly fainted. "Bu-bu-bu ..." was all she managed to say, while pointing a shaky finger at the two. Staring at her, Ranma worriedly asked, "What's wrong, Akane?" Then he tried to turn his eyes downward to stare at his mouth. His voice had not been soprano, just then. Looking down further, he placed his hands flat on his chest, then moved them down to check further south. "I'm not a girl? I'm not a girl!"

He turned to the side and saw his father staring back at him incredulously. His father was just a rather stout, bald man, extremely wet but undoubtedly not a panda. "We're cured!" Ranma shouted, then leaped out of the water and grabbed Akane in a hug. Spinning her around in a circle, he danced across the yard, crying "we're cured!" periodically. The other members of the family stuck their heads out of windows or doors to stare, shocked at the sight of Ranma dancing insanely with an unprotesting Akane.

Eventually he calmed down enough to go back to the pond and drag his catatonic father out of the water. The families sat down to breakfast and discussed what had happened, or perhaps, not happened, trying to figure out what event might have removed the curses. None of them were able to come up with any good explanation, and eventually they were left with little more than Genma's, "Maybe they just wore off."

Ranma was still in a state of euphoria, and Akane beginning to recover from the shock, as they left the house running, headed toward school. Akane kept darting puzzled glances in her fiancé's direction, trying to figure out what was bothering her apart from the missing curse. She hadn't felt like arguing with him all morning, she realized. Even the couple of mildly stupid things he had said so far had only caused her to feel a fond exasperation, instead of the fury she would otherwise have expected.

When they approached the first of the walls along their route, Ranma crouched and then sprang. However, he found himself giving a startled yelp as he almost fell short of the goal and barely avoided tripping over the wall instead. As he got his balance, he looked down at the wall in consternation. It was only about four feet high; he was certainly able to jump much higher than that, so what had been the problem? Seeing that Akane was already moving down the sidewalk, he started walking quickly along the wall, but stopped short of running as he found a fast walk already requiring significant concentration to maintain his balance.

As Ranma reached the end of the wall, and the beginning of a chain link fence, he stepped out confidently only to find himself waving his arms, trying to maintain his balance. He had walked on this fence every day, hadn't he? So why had he never noticed that it was impossible for his feet to step on the top bar due to the ends of the wire links which protruded above it? With a final cry of frustration he toppled over, landing on the sidewalk, and immediately grabbed his left ankle in pain.

Akane came running back. "What happened, Ranma? Why did you fall?"

Ranma was looking up at the top of the fence in considerable confusion. "I dunno. It's like I couldn't remember how to walk on the fence anymore. It wasn't so much a question of balance as ... look at the top of the fence. See how the wires stick up? How did I ever manage to walk up there before? I can't remember?" He looked at Akane, beginning to feel a little scared. "I can't remember."

Akane stared at the top of the fence, frowning, looking perplexed. Then she shook her head. "Right now we need to get you over to Tofu's clinic so that he can look at that ankle. Can you walk on it? We can worry about the fence later."

Ranma stood up with her help, and tested the ankle. "I can manage to walk on it, but it's kind of tender. I wouldn't say no to a shoulder to lean on, if you don't mind."

Akane's frown melted into a startled look. Ranma, admitting he couldn't overcome any injury? That he wouldn't mind a little help? What had gotten into him? Wordlessly she stepped over and, allowing him to lean on her, they shuffled off toward Tofu's clinic. Thankfully, it was only a couple of blocks away at this point.

As they stepped into the clinic, Tofu spotted them immediately and called out. "Hello, Akane, Ranma! What brings you here? Did you hurt your foot, Ranma?"

"My ankle," the boy replied. "Fell off of a fence."

"Well, step back into the examination room and we'll have a look at it." Tofu held the door to the back open, and the two teenagers walked past, where Ranma then climbed up and sat on the table. After a brief examination the doctor pronounced it as a mild sprain and began taping it up.

"Now, you can walk around on it a little," Tofu said to Ranma, "but try to stay off of it as much as possible. Akane, would you fetch me that pad over there so that I can write you a note? I can already see that the two of you are going to be late getting to school."

At that moment, the three of them heard a voice outside of the room. "Ono-sensei, are you here?" Ranma looked down in fear where Tofu was still wrapping tape around his ankle, and started trying to pull it away before his injury became much worse. He wanted to get out of the room as fast as possible, before Kasumi walked in. Akane was looking equally worried.

"Please hold still, Ranma," Tofu said sternly. "You're making this very difficult."

Ranma looked up to see Kasumi walk through the doorway and moaned in despair, realizing it was too late. Gritting his teeth, he awaited his fate, while Akane sidled as far away from Tofu as the room would permit. With heart rates increasing, they watched Tofu's face turn up to face Kasumi.

"Hello, Tofu," the older girl said cheerfully. "I've come to return the latest book that I borrowed."

"That's very nice of you, Kasumi," the doctor replied. "I hope you enjoyed it. Would you please leave it on the counter, over there?" He nodded his head in the direction of the counter on the side of the room, and then turned his attention back to Ranma's ankle, finishing the job.

Akane and Ranma both watched in amazement as Tofu calmly finished his task, then motioned Ranma to stand up and test his weight on the ankle. "Uh ... seems fine, Doc. Uh ... are you sure you're okay?"

"Why, yes, Ranma, I'm fine." Tofu's voice was just a little puzzled, wondering why the two teenagers were staring at him so intently. As he stood back up, he turned and saw Kasumi standing behind him. "Ah Kasumi, as a matter of fact, I'm quite happy you're here. I was wondering ... would you care to join me for dinner tomorrow night?"

Kasumi's smile widened considerably. "Why, yes, Tofu. I would enjoy that very much. Thank you."

The doctor turned back around to regard the young couple who were staring at him, jaws hanging. "Shouldn't you two be leaving for school? You're going to have to take it slowly with Ranma's ankle, and you're already late."

"Uh, yeah, right," Akane got out. "Um, thanks, and ... we'd better be going, like you said." She took Ranma's arm and steered him out the door, where they slipped their shoes back on and headed off to school. Along the way, they discussed the startling development of Tofu's sanity, speculating futilely on its cause.

In the meantime, in a senior classroom at Furinkan High School, Tatewaki Kuno was sliding into the seat at his desk, grumbling under his breath. He had waited outside until the last minute, but neither Akane Tendo nor Ranma Saotome had yet shown up. Turning to Nabiki Tendo he muttered, "Your sister and her paramour did not show up this morning."

"Sorry, Kuno-baby," Nabiki replied dismissively. "I don't know anything about it. They should be here, so I guess something must have happened after they left home."

Kuno grumbled some more. "Do you have any photographs for my purchase today?"

Nabiki's arm moved to her bag, with an odd reluctance. She pulled out the package with the latest photographs, and opened it. As she looked them over, she saw with surprise that in addition to the photographs of Akane, the photographs of Ranma were unaccountably of his male form. ‹Where did these come from?› Nabiki asked herself. ‹I don't remember shooting any of his guy side lately, and I wouldn't put them in here with the pictures I'd be selling to Kuno. Am I losing my mind?›

Turning to the boy beside her, she put on a false smile. "I seem to have mixed up my photographs a little. I do have some of Akane here." She turned back to look at the photos again, the feeling of reluctance growing stronger.

"Very well. How much for those?" Kuno asked.

Nabiki hesitated, feeling torn. What was she doing? Why was she selling photographs of her own sister to this colossal jerk? Not fully understanding her own feelings, she shoved everything back into her schoolbag. "Sorry, Kuno. I've got nothing for sale today."

"What do you mean, Nabiki Tendo? I saw you holding the photographs."

Nabiki glared at him and snarled, "I said that I don't have anything. Now shut up!" She turned her head back to the front of the room, and refused to respond any further to the boy beside her.

A little later, Akane and Ranma slowly shuffled through the school gate, and groaned as they saw the principal approaching them. Something, however, seemed to be a little off. "Uh, Ranma?" Akane asked. "Is it my imagination, or is the principal's palm tree missing today?"

Ranma stared at the man, and then agreed, "You're right, it is."

When the principal strode up to them, he looked stern rather than insane. "All right, why are you two coming in so tardy? You're going to find yourselves in detention if you don't have a good excuse!"

Wordlessly, Akane held out the note which Doctor Tofu had given her. The principal took the note and read through it, then looked down at the ankle Ranma was favoring, noting the tape which was visible above his shoe. The man gave a sigh, then handed the note back and said, "Very well. But hurry up and get to class, no dawdling along the way." He turned his back on them, and walked off.

Akane and Ranma turned and regarded one another. The same thoughts were running through both of their heads. No Hawaiian words? No crazy antics? Just "get to class?" Shaking their heads over the strangeness of a day in which nothing strange seemed to be happening, the pair headed for their classroom. On arriving, they were slightly surprised to see that Hinako-sensei was in her adult form, but assumed that she must have already drained some delinquent.

The school day passed without further incident, and Akane and Ranma started their walk home, both wondering what else the day might bring. They had gone perhaps a block, when they simultaneously noticed something unusual, and looked down between themselves to see that they were holding hands.

"Uh, Ranma?" queried Akane. "When did ... when did that happen?"

"Um, I think it was right after we walked out of the school gate," the boy answered, looking at the hand which was still holding hers, as if it were an alien life form beyond his comprehension. "Uh ... you didn't seem to mind."

Akane's cheeks flushed a little. "I, uh, guess I don't ... as long as you don't."

Ranma didn't seem to be able to get his brain working. The heat pouring up his arm from his hand must have fried it. "Um, okay," was all he managed to respond, then turned his feet toward home and continued walking, never letting go. Both of their faces wore stunned expressions, with cheeks which were considerably more rosy than normal.

Their revery was interrupted when a little old man splashed Ranma with a pail of water, and then latched onto his front, grabbing at his chest. Both teenagers stared at him, and Happosai began to realize that something felt wrong. "Wh-where are your beautiful boobies? Why aren't you a girl?" the old pervert wailed.

Ranma peeled him off of his front. "We don't know. Both my pop and I seem to have been cured today, but we don't know why. Now why don't you go and pester somebody else for a change?" He dropped the old man to his feet on the sidewalk.

"Well, I won't have to look far, will I?" Happosai chortled. His hands slipped under Akane's skirt, and started to tug down on her panties. With a scream of outrage, Akane pulled him away, then proceeded to clobber him with her fists until he was lying on the ground unconscious.

Ranma looked over at his fiancée, standing there panting with her fists clenched. "Not that I'm unhappy that he didn't get away with that," Ranma started, "but doesn't that seem a little strange? Normally he's able to slip someone's underwear off without anyone noticing him doing it. This time it was just plain obvious, it's like he was moving in slow motion. You think he might be sick or something?"

Akane harrumphed. "I don't care. I'm just glad I was able to give him what he deserved for once." After taking a moment to readjust her undergarment, the couple headed down the street once more.

It was obviously their afternoon for unfortunate encounters, as they turned a corner to see Shampoo coming straight at them on her bicycle. She leaped off as the bicycle continued past, arms outstretched to wrap Ranma in a full Amazon glomp. Ranma stepped to the side and watched as the girl flew past him and smacked into a wall.

"Ranmaaaa ..." Akane growled, and purely out of habit reached for her mallet. The boy cringed, awaiting the blow as he saw Akane lift her hands. Then both of them stopped and stared at those hands, which were empty. There was no mallet to be seen.

"Something wrong, Akane?" Ranma asked, straightening up, looking a bit relieved.

"I ... I don't know," mumbled Akane. Her hands were going through the motions of reaching for her mallet, and preparing to strike with it. "I can't ... I can't seem to remember how to pull out my mallet. Where do I get that thing from, anyway?"

"I dunno," Ranma replied, "but I for one am not going to complain if you can't remember that." Akane stuck her tongue out at him, and went through the motions once more, worriedly, before giving up. They both turned at a sound from behind them as Shampoo picked herself up.

"What are you doing with my husband?" Shampoo asked angrily. There was no immediate answer other than both Akane and Ranma staring at her. "Why are you looking at me like that? Is there something wrong with how I look?"

"Um, Shampoo?" Ranma asked. "When did you start speaking Japanese correctly?"

Shampoo put her fists on her hips. "What are you talking about? I don't need to learn proper Japanese. As soon as you agree to come back with me to China, I'll never have to speak it again. I only need to know enough for people to understand me while I'm here."

"Uh, yeah, whatever." Ranma scratched his head. "But my point is that you're speaking it perfectly right now."

"I am?" Shampoo asked. Akane and Ranma both nodded their heads. "Well, it doesn't matter. You'd better keep your hands off of my husband, Akane, or I'm going to make you regret it."

"You and who else?" Akane growled, raising her fists in front of her.

"Would I count as 'who else'?" a voice questioned from behind. Akane and Ranma both turned their heads to see Ukyo Kuonji standing there, a massive spatula held in her hand with the butt of its handle on the sidewalk. "I want you to keep your hands off of my Ran-chan as well."

Ranma was looking worried, but Akane was becoming angry. "For the last time, Ranma is my fiancé. I will walk home with him if I feel like it, I will hold his hand if I feel like it, and I will do anything else with him that I feel like. So why don't the two of you just take a hike?" Realizing what she had just said, and that she had said it in Ranma's hearing, Akane started blushing furiously. She also noticed out of the corner of her eye that Ranma was blushing equally. Nonetheless, she didn't back down.

Ukyo sniffed. "Someone needs to be taught a lesson. Just remember, you asked for it!" She swung the massive spatula at Akane.

However, the blow didn't even come close. Akane sidestepped it easily, as the air resistance on the massive blade slowed it to a crawl. She then stepped back in and efficiently disarmed the chef and gave her a couple of blows which left Ukyo lying on the ground, stunned. Akane traded a puzzled look with Ranma, since Ukyo hadn't put up any kind of an effective fight at all, but had no time to discuss it as Shampoo was now attacking.

Akane and Shampoo started trading blows, and there was a repeated thwack of flesh meeting flesh. Akane did not at first press her attack, as she was growing confused yet again. While Ukyo's attack had been completely ineffective, Shampoo was putting up a strong, skilled fight, but ... she really wasn't giving Akane a lot of trouble. Finally putting these thoughts behind her, Akane went off the defensive and counterattacked. Within moments, Shampoo was on her hands and knees, shaking her head to try to stop her ears from ringing.

Akane stepped back, putting her closer to her fiancé. "What's going on, Ranma? I mean, I am a martial artist ..." She looked at him hotly, daring him to deny it. "But ... it shouldn't have been that easy. It was almost as if Ukyo couldn't fight at all, and even Shampoo didn't give me any real trouble. What's wrong with them? Or what's happened to me?"

"I dunno, 'kane." Ranma shrugged. "When we get home, you and I can spar in the dojo. That ought to tell us whether you've suddenly gotten a lot better. But I don't think that's it. I was watching the fight, and the other two just seemed ..."

He didn't get any further as a sudden shout interrupted. "Ranma Saotome, what have you done to my Shampoo?" Mousse came running down the sidewalk, his robes flapping behind him.

Ranma immediately entered a fighting stance, ready for anything that the Chinese boy might throw at him. "I didn't do anything, Mousse! She attacked Akane, and got what she deserved!"

Mousse just shouted, "I'll make you pay for hurting her!" then reached into the wide sleeves of his robe. As his hands pulled out in a throwing motion, Ranma tensed, ready to deflect or dodge as necessary. Then he blinked, as absolutely nothing came toward him. Mousse had stopped and was looking at his sleeve in betrayal.

"Did you forget to load your robe today, Mousse?" Ranma asked sympathetically.

"Shut up, Saotome!" the other boy growled. He reached up his sleeve again and felt around for a minute. Then he pulled his hand back out, and started patting himself down all over. He stopped, and stared off into space as his hands made slight motions, and his face held a look of confusion which was becoming very familiar to Ranma.

"Forget how to do it?" he asked this time. "There seems to be a lot of that going around."

"No matter!" exclaimed Mousse. "I'll just defeat you with my bare hands." Having said so, he immediately attacked.

Ranma chuckled. "Oh, come on, Mousse. You couldn't possibly take me in a bare-handed fight. Whooof!" The last shouted grunt was caused by a roundhouse kick from the Chinese boy catching Ranma square in the chest and knocking him off of his feet. Ranma quickly rolled and came back to his feet, deciding that perhaps he should take this match a little more seriously.

The fight continued, with Ranma now defending himself more effectively, and pushing the other boy backward. Finally, a punch knocked Mousse's glasses off of his head, and Ranma relaxed slightly, figuring that the fight was now effectively over with. A moment later, his head rocked as a hard fist caught him right above his ear. Ranma sprang away to give himself a moment, shaking his head to clear it.

With a bit of a shock, Ranma realized that Mousse was headed straight for him. He blocked the next kick and punch, and then started attacking again. "Hey, Mousse," he called out, hoping to distract the other boy. "How come you aren't attacking a mailbox or something? I mean, you don't have your glasses on, right?"

"I can see you perfectly well, Saotome!" Mousse shouted. "You're a bit blurry, maybe, but ..." The Chinese boy suddenly paused, as it struck him that he was seeing reasonably well, if far from perfectly. This of course was a mistake, as Ranma's next kick caught him squarely on the side of the head, and left him sprawled on the ground unconscious.

Ranma and Akane gazed around themselves, surveying the damage. Ukyo's eyes were open again, but she was still lying there, looking scared. Shampoo had managed to climb to her feet, but was leaning with both hands flat against a wall, and appeared to still be rather groggy. Mousse was lying on the sidewalk against the same wall, out cold. With a sudden crack of thunder, those who were conscious looked up to see a wall of rain coming down the street toward them. "Oh, crap!" declared Ranma, disliking the idea of any rain out of long habit.

As the rain washed over them, Ukyo finally stood up and ran in the direction of her restaurant. Mousse started to stir, and Shampoo looked up, letting the spray hit her in the face, the feeling reviving her somewhat. At Akane's gasp, Shampoo looked over to see her staring wide-eyed, with Ranma standing beside her, nodding. It suddenly struck Shampoo that she was looking at the two of them from eye-level, and her head jerked down to look at her body.

"I'm still me! I'm not a cat! I'm wet, and I'm not a cat! I'm cured!" She looked up again, joy written across her face, and noticed the others. "And you're not a girl Ranma! You're cured, too!" Spinning she looked down beside her, and the boy who was starting to wake up from the rain pouring on him. "Mousse, too! Everyone's cured! But how?"

These words penetrated Mousse's fuzzy thoughts, and he forced himself back to consciousness. He held his hands in front of his face, looking at the water pouring across them, and shuddered from the strong emotions which passed through him.

"We don't know how, Shampoo," Ranma said. "My pop and I found out we were cured this morning, but I'm afraid it didn't even occur to me to wonder whether everyone else was as well."

Shampoo just nodded, as Mousse leaped to his feet and grabbed her into a fierce hug, spinning her around. Shampoo was in so much shock over her sudden cure that she didn't even object to this treatment. Ranma smiled, then seized the opportunity to take Akane's hand, and walk off quickly, disappearing into the rain.

Once they reached home, both Akane and Ranma changed out of their soaked clothes, donning gis instead, and then met out in the dojo. With a bow to one another, they met in the center, and began trading blows. Ranma found himself forced to block, unable to move quickly enough to dodge Akane's punches and kicks. As he tried a high leap, Akane kicked his legs out from under him, and a palm strike sent him crashing to the floor.

Ranma bounced to his feet instantly, and attempted to close the distance between them with a single leap. He came down well short, leaving himself exposed in his surprise, and paid the price as a heel caught him in the chest and sent him skidding across the floor on his back. He was back on his feet immediately once again, but this time closed a little more warily. Akane attempted the same kick which had worked a moment ago, only to have her other leg swept from under her, causing her to land heavily as Ranma spun back out of range.

As they closed again, Ranma attempted the speed of the Kachuu Tenshin Amiguriken, only to find that the speed of his hands was well below what he remembered, and that he was out of rhythm as a result. Consequently, Akane's own fists slammed into his chest, followed by a kick which took him in the side and sent him sprawling once again. He rolled out of range, and came to his feet once more.

‹Okay, time to get serious,› Ranma thought to himself. ‹No more special moves right now, there's something wrong with me. I'm not performing them right. Stick to the basics for the moment.›

The boy attacked once more, sticking to ordinary punches and kicks, but performed with all of the skill which he could manage. His blows started getting through, although Akane was still defending much better than he expected. A kick to the side sent her sprawling just as he had a minute ago, and after she got back up, he got a blow through her defenses into her gut which knocked the wind out of her. As Akane knelt on the floor trying to get her breath back, Ranma called a halt to the practice.

After a minute Akane seemed to be breathing almost normally again, and Ranma knelt down in front of her. "You okay now, Akane?" he asked her seriously. He was then nearly knocked off of his knees as Akane threw her arms around him and squeezed him in one of the hardest hugs he had ever felt.

"Ranma! You fought with me! You really fought with me! You took me seriously, finally! Thank you, thank you!" Akane was sniffling slightly in his ear as she exclaimed all of this, but Ranma guessed from the words that these were tears of happiness.

"Well, yeah," Ranma responded, pressing a hand against her back. "I had to. You were pretty good, gave me a real workout. If I hadn't, you'd have trashed me."

Akane pulled back a little, and looked him in the eye. "But you weren't going all out, were you?"

Ranma shrugged. "I was going as all out as I could. For some reason, I didn't seem to be able to do any of my special moves. I wonder if it has anything to do with our curses being cured, and not being able to walk on the fence, and Shampoo not giving you much of a fight? I probably ought to be frightened by that, but ... I dunno ... it doesn't seem to be bothering me too much at the moment. I feel almost like all those skills were a dream. Hang on, I wanna try something."

He pulled back from her, and held his hands out in front of him, pointed in another direction. Ranma concentrated, trying to summon his chi, watching for the light to form around his hands. Nothing happened, which under the circumstances did not surprise him at all. Turning back to Akane, he said, "Looks like I can't do any chi attacks right now, either. It's like ... like something is making me normal. And ... I'm not sure that I mind. It might be okay to be almost normal."

Akane looked down at her knees shyly. "Normal might be kind of nice, at that."

Ranma looked at the girl in front of him, strings of hair plastered to her forehead, sweat streaks running down her face. However much he might have been denying it publicly, he'd known for some time that he had feelings growing in him for her. Suddenly, he didn't feel like keeping them to himself anymore. He reached out and took hold of Akane's fingers with his. She looked up at him, a question in her eyes.

"Akane," he murmured. "I know I've said a lot of unpleasant things to you in the past, and I want you to know how sorry I am about that. You really are pretty, not uncute at all. In fact, personally I think that you're the most beautiful girl I know."

Akane sucked her breath in. "You ... you really mean that? I mean, Shampoo, and Ukyo ... even Kodachi ... you don't mean it, do you? I mean, look at me, I'm a mess ..."

Ranma smiled at her. "Hey, sweat looks good on you!" He looked her in the eyes, feeling his resolve growing stronger. "With your permission, I'm going to kiss you, right now."

Akane looked at him with eyes gone very wide, and gave a barely perceptible nod. Ranma leaned forward and, ever so slowly, pressed his lips against hers. Equally softly, Akane started kissing him back. They broke the contact, looked into each other's eyes, then both moved back together for a second kiss. The second was followed by a much longer third, and they lost all track of the world around them, as two years worth of dammed feelings started eroding the barriers which had held them back.

Among the kisses, Ranma freed his mouth long enough to mumble, "I fought the engagement for so long that I didn't know how to stop. But somewhere along the way, I ... fell in love with you. And I don't want to fight it anymore."

A couple of happy tears slid down Akane's cheeks. She pressed her lips to his again, letting out a soft moan at this contact which she had been imagining for so long. Ranma took her into his arms, and pulled her onto his lap, where they continued hungrily, letting themselves be swept away by the feelings they had denied since they first met.

Eventually, of course, they had to come up for air. When their lips separated a final time, Akane lay her head against Ranma's chest, her eyes closed. She was still sitting in his lap, with his arms wrapped securely around her, and she didn't want to ever get up. Softly she whispered, "I love you, too." Then silence reigned, as they just sat there like that, holding one another, until Kasumi called them in to wash up for dinner.

Later that night, the young couple were up on the roof, where Ranma had invited Akane to join him. For a while, they just sat together, enjoying the stars which were bright enough to shine through the city lights. At some point they started to kiss, and spent a time exploring this new behavior, letting themselves caress the other's arms, sides, back and similar 'safe' areas. By unspoken agreement and a great effort of will, they stayed away from more sensitive zones, each realizing that if once they crossed that line, they might not be able to stop themselves at all.

Finally, as the rest of the house below them fell quiet, they separated, leaning their cheeks together, enjoying one last embrace before seeking their beds. "Ranma," Akane whispered, "please promise me. Promise that you'll still be here when I wake up tomorrow. That you'll still love me."

"You feel it too, don't you?" Ranma whispered back. "Like our lives together have been some sort of a dream, and we're just now starting to wake up. Don't worry, Akane. What I feel for you is too real to be some sort of dream. I promise. I'll still be here when we wake up tomorrow. I'll still love you, tomorrow, and the day after, and every day after that. Forever." He gave her one final, brief kiss, then helped her down off of the roof, as they each went to their separate beds.

Author's note:

Stay tuned for the conclusion of this story in chapter 2. I hope to post it in a couple of days.

I just want to emphasize that I am aware of the gaping plot holes in the story above, which would be difficult to explain even using the cop-out of entire story arcs being entirely a shared hallucination. To list just a few:

The other students saw Ranma transform into a female before they had been given any suggestion of Ranma's curse.

People should have been injured, or even killed, by attempting stunts such as jumping off of roofs.

No one would really have suggested administering the antidote through the town's water supply. Aside from the ethical and legal implications, it would be impossible to control the dosage received by each person.

etc. etc. etc.