Chapter 1: Reflections

The girl hummed a cheerful little tune as she strode along the telephone line. Ranma wanted to hug herself, things had been going so well lately, especially after the trials she had endured. Saffron, the failed wedding, the near-destruction of the dojo and the loss of a possible cure, had all combined to create the nadir of Ranma's life. What was that American saying, it's always darkest before the dawn? What a difference three months could make.

The turn-around had started immediately, the morning after the wedding debacle…

Three months ago

Ranma had gotten up early, initially to brood, but that quickly changed to assisting a quietly fuming Kasumi. He had never seen the woman he considered his saintly older sister in such a state. The two of them quietly worked on the dojo for an hour or so, applying a kind of Home Depot triage, cleaning where it sufficed, repairing what they could and cataloging major damage that was beyond them.

"This has got to stop, Ranma," Kasumi muttered her first words of the morning, with quiet intensity. "It has to stop, now."

"It's not my f " began Ranma in his automatic defense, biting off the last word as Kasumi held up a quelling hand.

"I know it's not all your fault, but you do add to it. You know that, Ranma. You don't start the fire, but you sure as hell are willing to pour gasoline on it!"

The hot reply died stillborn in his throat. If Kasumi was saying things like this, they were probably true. Almost certainly true. Kasumi watched him as Ranma did a bit of soul searching, her fiercely hot eyes calming a bit, but still far from their normal serenity.

"Yeah," he whispered, "I guess, I, I guess I do." Hanging his head in shame, he continued in an even softer voice, "I'm sorry." Kasumi's eyes softened further and a small but genuine smile played across her lips.

"I don't mean to make the only person in this house who helps me out feel terrible, but truth is truth."

Ranma nodded, rubbing the back of his neck before asking, "Why?"

Kasumi blinked. "Why what?"

"Why do I do that?" clarified the now miserable boy. "Sometimes I'm talking to people, especially Akane, and I KNOW I'm being a jerk. It's just that, I just, just can't help myself. I have to be a jerk because, because…"

"Because you have to prove that you're a man?" Kasumi smoothly finished. Ranma's eyes widened in shock and nodded.

His shock increased as Kasumi smirked at him. Smirked! "Now I know this may be hard to believe, but I really did read those books I used to borrow from Tofu," her eyes darkening momentarily. After a short pause, Kasumi continued, "And since he left, I have continued studying as best I could." The smirk turned into a grin. "Do you know what I have been concentrating on?" Noting Ranma's pole-axed head shake, she pressed onwards. "I am sure it will shock you that I have reading up on gender dysfunction for the last sixteen months."

"Um, gender dy.. dys…"

"Where people think they're the wrong sex or are uncomfortable with their birth sex," Kasumi giggled slightly at Ranma's magenta face, but then turned serious. "I think you have a serious problem seeing yourself as a girl, Ranma." The anguished cry of "I'm a guy, damn it!" echoed through the house.

"That's exactly what I mean, little brother. You protest too much," taking the distraught boy's hand. "There's a part of you that likes being a girl and you find that threatening, perverse, even." She calmly watched Ranma flinch. "In spite of her insistence on this matter, Akane is wrong, dead wrong. It's not perverse to be a girl, or enjoy being a girl. Akane has some gender issues of her own, I think."

Ranma slowly fell back against the wall they had been repairing. No way. No friggin' way do I like being a girl! It's, it's, a curse, damn it, a curse! I do not like being a girl… do I? Unbidden, memories came to mind, eating ice cream with Akane or just talking with her friends. Sometimes, just lounging around a Sunday afternoon when everyone was out and trying on some of Akane's stuff, just for fun. Singing with the sisters. He looked up and met Kasumi's eyes, not knowing what to say, thunderstruck.

Kasumi smiled, registering 100 watts. "I have a little proposal for you. You're always waking up early and your father has gotten lazier, so you don't spar as much. He's really not a match for you anyway," she commented sotto voce. "I know you don't mind house work, so why don't we turn these early mornings into a bit of girl time? You dress properly, I'll treat you as the little sister I have come to love, which will be easy, since I do, and we'll see what happens." Seeing Ranma's automatic refusal forming, she purred, "It'll just be you and me, Ra-chan. No need to be embarrassed. Or are you afraid?"

"I ain't afraid of nothin' Kasumi!"

She smirked again, "Then it's settled. Tomorrow morning I want to see my little sister down here and in the proper clothes. That means bra and panties, young lady!" Kasumi giggled. "Don't worry, it will be fun."

Present day

Only the darkness saw Ranma's grin. It had been, and still was, fun. Oh, maybe not at first, although that could have just been the last stand of the macho jerk, she thought. At first, she had been stiff and embarrassed, but under Kasumi's steady stream of housework hints, gossip and girl-talk, Ranma had begun to relax. Some part of her did want this and want it badly.

Within a few weeks, Ranma had been pushing her girl time, handing Nabiki her morning coffee or waiting until the last minute to dress in her customary Chinese silks. She and Kasumi even had a bet going on when Nabiki would notice. Given the middle Tendo's zombie-like state in the morning, both girls had chosen dates comfortably in the future.

Ranma had found herself giggling more, speaking in a more feminine manner, even sometimes when she was a guy. Now the red-head worried about 'going girl', a fate that had disturbed her dreams more then once. Kasumi had remained unconcerned, assuring Ranma that he would find a balance, or as his big sister had put it "Just remember, when she is a guy, she's a guy, when he is a girl, he's a girl." The quirkily mixed pronouns had appealed to Ranma and now that was her mantra. To his relief, Ranma had found that balance by the third week of 'Girl Mornings'.

Five weeks after they had started girl time, Kasumi was ready to move to the next stage.

Eight weeks ago

Kasumi sipped her tea as Ranma fried the rice omelets for today's lunches. The younger girl was engaging in a more or less one sided debate on the merits of the right shade of lipstick she should use. Interjecting only occasional comments into the torrent of words (in which the phrase 'coral pink' seemed to play an important role), Kasumi appeared to come to a decision.

Pursing her lips and turning her eyes to the ceiling, the older girl broke into the near-monologue. "Well, then maybe we should go shopping tomorrow, Ra-chan." She started ticking off circumstances on her fingers. "Akane will be at her sleepover, Nabiki's going to be checking out colleges, and the two fathers are going to a shoji tournament. The perfect time for a Girls' Day Outing."

Ranma paused with a brief stab of uncertainty in her eyes, and then resumed preparing the omelets. When she is a guy, she's a guy, and when he is a girl, he's a girl. Relaxing, the red-head chirped, "So what are we gonna do, big sis?"

"Oh, I was thinking of a little clothes shopping, maybe get you the right makeup, including the lipstick you've been going on about." Ranma blushed. "Stop by a bookstore, see a movie, eat food that will go right to our hips and generally let the, er, world watch two gorgeous girls having a good time."

Trying to suppress a sudden anxiety attack, the smaller girl pasted a delighted smile on her face that was as fake as a 7-yen coin and tried to enthuse, "That sounds really, um really great, big…"

Her painful attempt at acting was interrupted by a hug from Kasumi who murmured, "I know it's scary, your first time in public as a girl, but everything will be fine, little sis."

Ranma nodded. She had gone out lots of times in a girl's body, but this was the first as a real girl. Underneath the fear and embarrassment, though, a thread of excitement, that grew and expanded, ran through her emotions. This was going to be fun!

Present day

By rights, her grin should have lit up the night sky. She and K-chan had tried on clothes and shopped and spent money and pampered themselves to a fare-thee-well. Ranma giggled softly as she remembered their antics. Who knew that big sis had so much mischief in her?

The smile dimmed and grew thoughtful, but did not disappear as the martial artist jumped down to a handy fence and continued her stroll. It had just been a few days after the first GDO that Nabiki had her devastating epiphany. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to see yourself clearly.

Seven weeks ago (Nabiki Tendo)

The Ice Queen of Furinkan stared at the ceiling as she lay in bed. A few weeks ago, she had closed one or her biggest deals, making 200,000 interest on an eight-week loan. Oyama had tried to welsh, but she had put the fear of, well, Nabiki Tendo into him, and he paid up the next day.

Curious on how he had gotten the money, Nabiki had discovered that the desperate boy had gone to a loan shark and was defaulting on that loan instead of hers. To her dismay, she realized Oyama was more afraid of her then the Yakuza. Ranma had saved the boy but not his family's restaurant. The quiet contempt in the martial artist's eyes had hurt Nabiki more then she thought possible. She settled the Oyamas' debt for them, bowed deeply in apology and then gone home, where now she lay sleepless.

As she lay in the quiet of the night, Nabiki Tendo examined her soul and didn't much like what she saw. She had begun to like hurting people, above and beyond money, to feel her power over them. As she thought, a pair of blazing blue eyes, filled with contempt, continued to haunt her.

One by one, tears began to cascade down the girl's face. The Ice Queen was melting. All that would be left was Nabiki.

The middle Tendo was not a morning person, and her sleepless night had sent her through fatigue and into that zone of alert tiredness that sharpens the mind and removes impulse control. For the first time in years, Nabiki watched the sun rise. In the kitchen below, she heard voices. Wondering who was up with Kasumi this early and needing company, Nabiki wandered downstairs.

To receive the shock of her life.

Bustling about the kitchen in a dusky pink house dress and apron was a gorgeous red-head. Lightly applied make-up accentuated her elfin features, while small hands zipped about the counter like hummingbirds, mixing the ingredients for miso soup. Nabiki could but point and stutter.

"S.. Sa… Saotome?!"

"Good morning, Nabiki-san," the busy cook responded, briefly meeting Nabiki's eyes. Ranma's gaze was cool but not hostile. "I am glad you did the right thing last night."

To the amazement of both Ranma and Kasumi, quiet tears began to roll down Nabiki's cheeks. "(sniff), Yeah, and just think, to meet our budget this year, I would only have to get ten more people KILLED!" The miserable girl ended the last in a wail of bitter self-reproach. Nabiki turned to run out the kitchen, only to be enfolded by two sets of arms in a hug.

Kasumi murmured, "It's all right, everything's going to be all right."

Ranma's reassurance hit more to the heart of the matter. "Anyone can lose their way, Nabs. I'm glad you came back to us." The three girls spent a quiet minute of reassurance, each in tears.

As comforting as the group hug was, and as much as the middle Tendo just wanted to relax into it, after a time, she became acutely aware that two GIRLS were hugging her. Pulling back, she leveled her gaze on the younger of the two. "So. Ranma. What's this," pulling on the apron lapel.

The red-head giggled. "Geeze, Nabs, it's called an apron. It keeps your clothes from getting dirty when you mess around in the kitchen," she explained.

"I know that, dummy! I meant why are you…" With that clarity that only comes from hitting rock bottom, Nabiki studied Ranma. The posture, the mannerisms, even the inflection and word choice. Tears began to roll down her face once again.

"You're, you're a girl now, aren't you?" Ranma and Kasumi nodded. "It's all my fault! Oh Ranma, I am so sorry! I pushed and I pushed, I was terrible, and now, and now…"

Kasumi frowned. "Nabiki, no, it has nothing to do with you. Ra-chan needed to work on accepting her femininity."

"Yep! Now, when I am a guy, I'm a guy, and when I am a girl I'm a girl." (1)

"Really?" Wrinkling her nose at the odd choice in pronouns.

"Yeah. You remember that chat we had when I first arrived, right after Akane became my fiancée?" Nabiki nodded.

"I said I thought it was neat that you could turn into a girl and you went storming off."

Rubbing the back of her neck, the shorter girl explained. "I guess I changed my mind, or really I guess I admitted to myself. I kinda like being a girl sometimes. I hope you don't think that's too weird, 'cause I'd kinda like another big sister." Flushing, Ranma finally looked up into Nabiki's eyes.

Fearing scorn, she saw acceptance instead. "I always said it was neat. You're a good guy Ranma Saotome, unlike the creep you covered for last night."

"There's nothin' you can do about the past Na-chan. All you can do is try to do better in the future."

Kasumi enfolded them both in a hug, muttering, "Next Girls' Day Out, it'll be a threesome."

Present Day

Ranma hopped down. She was nearing the location of the specialty spice store that K-chan had sent her off to and wanted a more normal approach, where she could check addresses. As the red-head began looking for the shop, her ruminations continued.

Three weeks ago (Akane Tendo)

Akane plopped down on the sofa, wondering where everyone was. The acting seminar had been a bust, so she had come home early. Dad and Mr. Saotome were spending the day investigating the used book stores in the Jin-bo district, looking for old martial arts scrolls. It was amazing what you could find in some of these shops.

Those two accounted for, where were Kasumi and Nabiki? Kasumi rarely left the house for any length of time and Nabiki had become a real homebody in the last couple of weeks. That thing with the Oyamas must have hit her harder then the youngest Tendo thought. Grumbling to her self, she figured Ranma was off training somewhere or making time with one of his 'girlfriends'.

The last thought actually made her feel guilty. Ranma had been acting really nice lately, but for some reason, that only made her temper more volatile. The worst incident had happened just last week, when her period hit like a ton of bricks. Crampy bricks. Miserable and bitchy, Akane had just wanted to be left alone, but Ranma had braved her room and offered a massage. It had been wonderful until she had asked Ranma how he knew exactly where to apply heat to relieve the cramps. The boy's matter-of-fact reply that he got bad cramps during his infrequent periods and so knew just how Akane felt enraged her. She had risen up and given him the beating of their relationship for knowing how she felt and sympathizing.

Akane started violently as the outside door slid open. She heard a cry of 'we're home!' and giggling and the rustling of bags. Kasumi practically sang out, "Thanks for the treat Na-chan!"

A vibrant soprano echoed the thought, "Yeah, that was too, too much fun, but what's it gonna cost me?"

"Well." A strong contralto Akane recognized as Nabiki's drawled out. "You have to let me borrow those black shorts you bought. Who'd have thought you of all people would have such a good fashion sense, Red?"

With a smirk in her voice, 'Red' replied, "I owe it all to Anything Goes Martial Arts clothes shopping"

Giggling, the three girls walked into the living room, only to be brought up short by a frightening apparition. Akane's otherwise attractive face was distorted by rage, although there was a subtle patina of fear as well. Her red battle aura had bloomed around her.

"Raaanmaaaa, what the hell do you think you're doing, you pervert?"

For a brief instant, the red-head cringed, becoming a boy in a girl's body. After a deep breath and muttering her mantra, Ranma straightened and looked Akane in the eye, a girl again. "Well, everyone was out, so K-chan, Na-chan and I decided to go out and have some fun. I got you a nice top."

"Shut up, you damned pervert!" Akane's rage turned cold and her expression turned to an evil smile. "I see you're all made up and wearing a bra. Are you all girly girl, Ranma?" The youngest Tendo purred. Her eyes widened in shock when she heard an answer.

"Well, yeah, I'm not gonna I'm not going to go out in public without one." Akane's rage burned hot again.

"Well you look like a stupid slut!" She roared and grabbed her shinai. "I can't believe you'd do that to Nabiki and Kasumi!" Tears sprang up in the red-head's eyes. Dimly, Akane noticed that Nabiki looked ready to cry as well, which was frankly amazing. Akane's rage reached new heights. "What did you do to my sister, you per "

Akane's rant was cut short as Kasumi stepped forward and slapped her across the face.

"That is enough and more then enough Akane Tendo. Red, Ranma, why don't you go to your room. Nabiki, help her, okay? We are going to have a little talk, Akane Tendo. RIGHT NOW!"

Nabiki and Ranma never discovered what The Talk was about, but it changed everything.

Akane spent the rest of the weekend in her room. At first she had been furious. Kasumi had slapped her! Slowly, though, Akane had calmed down, She couldn't bring herself to hit Kasumi and Kasumi just kept talking, clearly as angry as Akane had ever seen her.. The older girl started asking questions. After a few hours, the younger Tendo had gone to her room to think things over.

In retrospect, it's obvious that Ranma is about as far from being a pervert as a 17 year-old boy could be. An arrogant jerk, but never a pervert. So why do I call him one all the time? In the last couple of months, he hasn't been all that much of a jerk either. Is it because of those stupid girl times Kasumi was talking about?

As he's been getting nicer, I've been getting nastier. That fight we had when he was helping me with my cramps was over the top! I mean most girls would KILL for a boyfriend who understood periods like Ranma does. I'm beginning to think Kasumi is right.

Akane spent the rest of Sunday in contemplation, going to bed early. She had an early and long day planned.

Rising just after daybreak, Akane made her way downstairs, where she encountered a red-headed anti-hurricane. Ranma was zipping about the family room at high speed. In her wake she left a clean and tidy orderliness. The storm of housecleaning paused as Ranma met Akane's eyes. The smaller girl's attire of shorts and a tied off t-shirt, reflected her activity level, although Akane noticed the coral pink lipstick. She bowed, "Good morning Saotome-san. I hope you slept well?" Confused, Ranma nodded. "Good," Akane continued. "I wish to apologize for my insults to you yesterday. I hope you can forgive me." Akane bowed low.

Ranma's eyes grew large as she stammered, "Of course, T-, Tendo-san. I am sure you were just tired."

Akane bowed again. "No. Thank you very much for your generosity. I need to speak to Kasumi as well." Ranma watched her go into the kitchen.

Kasumi was preparing breakfast as Akane entered. Kasumi looked up coolly as Akane bowed. "Elder sister, please accept my apologies for my rude and insulting behavior yesterday. I hope you can forgive me."

"That depends, younger sister. Have you apologized to Red, that is, Ranma?"

"Yes, elder sister, before I came in here."

Kasumi smiled serenely before ruffling Akane's hair. The younger girl looked at Kasumi with astonished eyes. "K- Kasumi?"

"Oh my! What, I can't show a little affection? Have you thought about what I said?'

"Yeah. I'm not convinced, but I am going to settle matters tonight after school."

Three weeks ago (Ranma Saotome)

Ranma was making a desultory attempt at algebra homework when he was interrupted by a gentle tap at the door. Thank god. "Come in."

The door slid open to reveal the youngest Tendo girl. "Good evening , Ranma-kun. Can we talk?" As the boy nodded, Akane entered the room with a sigh.

Akane began with her eyes downcast. "First thing I want to say is that I'm really, really sorry about what I called you yesterday. I was completely out of line," she finished the sentence softly, "and I'm afraid I know why."


"Could you do me a huge, huge favor, Ranma?"

Ranma considered for a second and shrugged. "Sure, as long as it doesn't involve cooking."

A red aura flared for a second around the youngest Tendo and then subsided. "No. I want to kiss you, both your boy-side and your girl-side."


The raven-haired girl continued, "And I might hit you. I'm sorry in advance and I will try to control myself, so please."

"Um, okay, Akane, I guess.

With a deep breath, Akane stood and moved over to Ranma. Placing her hands on either side of his head, she tentatively kissed him. As he began to kiss her back, she deepened the kiss, but then suddenly froze and pulled back. Ranma let her go.

With a sad, gentle smile, she held up a glass of water and poured it over him, triggering the change. "Last test." Once again, Akane reached up and moved in, but as her lips brushed the neo-girl's, Akane violently pulled away, screaming, "Ranma, you per "

Both girls froze, but Akane almost immediately scrubbed her eyes. "I'm sorry Ranma, I thought I had better control."

"Akane-chan, what's wrong?"

The youngest Tendo sagged a bit. "Kasumi explained it, but I didn't want to believe it. She thinks the main roots of our problems, aside from the pressure from our parents, were your gender dysfunction and my homophobia, my fear of , of sexual relations with girls. I wanted to deny it, but I think I just proved to myself that I am homophobic. Even when you were a guy, I couldn't help remembering that you were a girl."

Akane sighed, "Talk about mess-ups! If you denied your femininity, it would help deal with my problem, but make your's worse, and the other way around. Gods, what a situation."

Ranma cocked her head to one side and puzzled it out. "So you're repelled by my girl side?" The other girl nodded. "Of course, it must make it worse now that I really do become a girl. Poor Akane, I've made it really hard on you haven't?"

Akane smiled a little. "No harder then I've made it on you." She sighed. "Ranma, I still have feelings for you, but –"

The little red-head jumped up grinning and clapping her hands. "No I know! Can't we still be friends?"

Akane fell over in shock and then started laughing. "Where did that come from?"

"C'mon 'kane-chan, I AM a girl right now and every girl has got to know the 'let's just be friends' speech!" In spite of her cheerful utterance, a tear rolled down her cheek. I don't know if I still love Akane-chan that way, but we have been through so much together.

Akane caught the tear one a finger and then jumped up. "I'll be right back."

Ranma listened to Akane pelt down the stairs while trying to examine her feelings. It's all mixed up. I know we both have feelings left for each other, but there is so much anger and resentment built up. It would probably be better if we kept the friendship and didn't worry about the feelings.

Akane re-entered the room with a tray holding a tea service and two plates filled with tantalizing chocolate whimsies. One of the confections was two or three times the size of the other. "From Ginto's," the brunette explained. "Nothing says 'I'm sorry' like chocolate." Putting down the tray with the larger serving in front of Ranma, Akane's smile became sweet and welcoming.

"Hi, I'm Akane. You want to be friends?"

Present Day

Ranma's ruminations were interrupted as she found the specialty spice store. Just entering it and experiencing its rich aroma was a treat. The red-head had always considered her self a decent cook, but discovering 27 varieties of pepper alone, opened up her horizons. Scanning the fresh spices, she re-affirmed her belief that cooking was like the Art, filled with infinite variety.

Exiting with a fully loaded bag, Ranma nodded to herself about why Kasumi was so insistent that she go to this shop. It was fantastic. Ranma knew that Kasumi wanted to prepare some special treats for the next Four Sisters meeting. They were still hashing out what they could do long term. For now, Akane and Ranma were pretending to still be engaged, but that couldn't last forever. The four girls had discussed about switching the engagement to either of the older Tendos, but there were problems there as well.

Kasumi was a good choice, kind and loving, but she too had problems with girl Ranma in a romantic setting and she was still interested in Dr. Tofu. Nabiki would have been ideal, since she was fascinated by Ranma's transgender identity, but right now her self-esteem and self-image had been shaken to the core. There was no way the normally strong girl could handle the pressure cooker atmosphere the parents and the Nerima Wrecking Crew would exert.

In other matters, the only change that the Four has agreed upon was that Ranma should start going to school as a girl. She could concentrate better and would suffer fewer hassles. Ranma was looking forward to the expression on her father's face the first time she came to breakfast in a girl's uniform.

Ranma's head snapped up. A few blocks away she heard the unmistakable sounds of battle, including more then one person using Ki attacks. Securing her bag she bounded off at full speed to investigate.

(1) In Japanese there are several forms of gender-based pronouns. Ranma is using the female 'I' for guy and the male 'I for girl.

6/29/07 editted the dialog portions to standard usage