The characters in this story belong to their respective creators and rights holders. Ranma 1/2 is the creation of Rumiko Takahashi. Sailor Moon is the creation of Naoko Takeuchi. All original content is the creation of Samuel Phoenix. Recognition is given to John Sanchez for a small kick of inspiration that helped produce this story, and to Harold Ancell who has been a near constant source of input, information, and ideas.
Chapter 7: Roasting on an Open Fire
Ranma groaned as he awoke. He hated getting up in the morning. Through a clouded mind he looked down at Hotaru, and his eyes nearly bugged out of his skull. Oh shit! He was in bed with a girl! Akane was going to murder him!
More by instinct than anything, he recoiled, falling out of the bed with a loud thud. Undisturbed by Ranma's momentary panic attack, Hotaru took the opportunity to roll over and steal some more of the blanket.
Ranma sighed and sat up. Damn, he almost had a heart attack there. He was just glad he didn't wake her up. If she was annoyed by him being nervous with hugs, how much would it piss her off if he jumped screaming from their bed?
Slowly, he stood up and glanced at the time.
"Damn," he muttered to himself. It was early.
Usually he'd wake up early to do some sparing and training, but he didn't want to disturb his hosts by starting off this early. He already was staying here on flimsy enough a premise. He didn't want to piss anyone off.
Oh well. With a shrug he crawled back into bed. He just hoped her didn't wake her up.
As he laid back down, Hotaru grumbled a bit in her sleep, readjusting to his presence. With a yawn, she rolled over and mumbled something in her sleep.
"I am become death... destroyer of worlds... oh... look... delicious pie..."
Ranma blinked, and then, he blinked again. She's dreaming about pie and the apocalypse. Right, okay then... moving on...
Ranma tugged at the blanket a bit, freeing up enough to cover himself. Hotaru didn't seem to appreciate this, and she grumbled a bit in her sleep before snuggling into the closest source of warmth, which in this case, was Ranma.
For a moment, he tensed up before forcing himself to relax. He really needed to learn how to cuddle with a girl without clamming up. Girls liked to cuddle, and Hotaru was going to be his wife, so he better her used to cuddling her. Girls like that kind of mushy stuff. With that in mind, he simply shrugged and cuddled into her as well.
After a few minutes, he began to smile. It was nice, actually, the whole cuddling with a girl and not getting beaten to a pulp thing. Her head was buried into his chest, and her body was pressed against his, while his arms were around her and his leg was thrown over her hips. It was kind a bit weird, though.
Before yesterday, he would have considered this kinda weird, girls cuddling with girls, but it was like Hotaru said. If he liked girls then when he turned into a girl, that meant he turned a lesbian, and its okay lesbians for lesbians to cuddle other girls because thats kinda what they do.
True, he'd rather be a straight guy than a gay girl as it was his natural form. Though all things considered, he actually felt very comfortable with the idea that his alternate form lived an alternate lifestyle. Maybe he could keep guys from pinching his butt... though if he was a lesbian did that mean girls would start pinching his butt? He really had to check with Hotaru.
He smiled thinly as the aforementioned female snuggled into him just a little bit more.
Hopefully, they could deal with everything quickly, and get married before she started two show. She was already going to have to face deal with the social problems of being a teen mother, but he hoped that they could prevent the problems that would come with her being an unwed teen mother. It was his kid too, and wouldn't let her face the music alone.
Unconsciously, he tightened his grip around her and laid his face on her head. Her silky soft jet-black hair glistened in the sunlight, and he could smell the sweet floral scent of her shampoo. It was nice. Really nice. He was starting to see why girls liked it. Sure, his Old Man said that only queers like to cuddle, but if he turned into a gay girl, then he guessed that made him kinda queer, so he could probably get away with it. Well, that or the Old Man was a moron. Either answer was good enough for him.
He closed his eyes and relaxed, letting his mind enter a restful meditative state. It wasn't quite sleep, but it was the next best thing. He had to admit thought, Hotaru was a special girl. None of the other girl's he'd been stuck with had been anything like her. She was just so kind, caring, gentle, and oh so very... non-violent. She was special, and he really could see himself being happy with her.
After a time, he slowly squirmed off of the bed, doing his best not to awaken her. Laying like that with her was nice, but he had things he needed to get done. Besides, his muscles were starting to get very stiff.
As he stood up, Hotaru rolled over to the center of the bed and stretched out until she was taking up the entire mattress. She really was a greedy sleeper, wasn't she? First the blanket, now the whole bed. He couldn't help but chuckle. After watching her snooze through his panic attack, he'd bet that she could sleep through the end of the world. So they had something in common after all!
With a mirthful smile on his face, he began his morning stretches to banish the inflexibility from his muscles. Snuggling was nice, but her bed was too small for two people. When they got married, he had to make sure a bigger bed was part of the package.
He quietly dressed, putting on a simple pair of slacks and a red Chinese shirt, the Saotome Ranma classic.
Once he finished, he opened Hotaru's bedroom door, and began to slip out into the hall. He glanced around for a moment. The night before, he hadn't had much of a chance to poke around, but now, he could take the time to get the lay of the land. He had to admit though, Hotaru sure had a big house. It was really nice too. Nicer than the Tendo's even. He hoped that he could stay here for a while, he didn't want to be out on the street again. After having a place to call home for two years, he'd prefer to homeless.
He gazed back into Hotaru's room, at his latest fiancée. He hoped she didn't resent him. He'd really stuck her in a major jam, and because of it they were being railroaded towards marriage. He really was sorry that he was putting her through all this, but hey, sometimes all you can do is roll with the punches and get back on your feet.
He frowned slightly and looked at Hotaru. She was laying spread out, with a cute little smile on her face, happily dominating the entire bed. He didn't mind that, but all the blankets were bunched up around her. It was a chilly morning, and he didn't want her to catch cold.
As he approched, he couldn't help but see how peaceful she looked when she slept. Yeah, she really was a beautiful girl. It made him feel like a real sleaze for getting her into this whole mess.
"I'm sorry, Hotaru-chan." he muttered as he pulled the blanket over her. "I'll do everything I can to make it up to you."
He silently left room and started down the stairs.
"Good Morning, Ranko-chan," Haruka chirped as she stepped into view.
The cursed martial artist scowled slightly as the masculine lesbian slowly scanned over Ranma's figure, taking time to appreciate every curve. He had to admit, it wasn't as bad as when Hiroshi and Daisuke ogled him, though if she pinched his butt, heads would roll.
"Ahem," he coughed.
Haruka's eyes jetted directly level to Ranma. She looked like she had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. She laughed lightly and rubbed the back of her head. "Sorry about how I acted last night Ranko-chan, I just had things on my mind."
Ranma nodded. "She told you yesterday, right?"
Haruka blinked, then looked at Ranma funny. "You know?"
"Yeah, she told me yesterday too," answered the boy turned girl.
Haruka scowled, and nodded. "So, what are you doing up? It's still pretty early."
Ranma smiled widely at Haruka, "I was going to go outside and do my morning kata."
At the mention of martial arts Haruka's eyes lit up. "So, you're a martial artist?"
Ranma smirked arrogantly, and said in a very sure voice, "I'm the best."
Haruka grinned at Ranma. Ranma recognized the look in her eyes. It was a challenge.
Ranma chucked to himself. While he seriously doubted Haruka would be a challenge, he always appreciated a chance to spar with a new person . Learning from your opponents and adaptation were the hallmark of the Anything Goes School. "See ya outside."
The two women quickly slipped into the back yard. Haruka smiled as she took up a combat stance. Ranko was just standing there. She was watching her, observing her every movement.
The blond Senshi smiled, if the younger girl wanted to test her, then she would show Ranko why she was considered the most skilled fighter amongst the Sailor Senshi.
The two bowed respectfully, and with a resounding cry, Haruka charged forward and struck at Ranma with a skillful and lightning fast combination of blows, or at least that is what it would be in the minds of most people. To a world-class martial artist like Ranma, they were merely adequate.
Seeing no reason to take the fight too seriously, Ranma dodged and wove around Haruka's fury of blows and instead took the opportunity to analyze his opponent's fighting style.
She was fast but not terribly skilled, at least by his standards. He personally placed her right below Akane's skill level when he'd arrived in Nerima two years prior.
Her style was a creative and personal style, mixing Kempo, Shotokan, some elements Tai Kuan Do in the kicks, and some stylistic fragments of Wu Shu, probably picked up from watching one too many Kung Fu Action movies.
Once he had a grasp of Haruka on the offensive, he decided to put the girl on the ropes. In less than a second Ranma, was striking back at Haruka using speed the woman could hardly believe and barely react to. While Ranma was holding back on his offensive, he was still heartily pounding on the Outer. He found this disappointing.
The girl's defense was weak, sloppy even. She depended far too much on striking fast and soaking up blows. That in itself was curious because her endurance was really nothing special. He was also noticing one other massive, and truly critical flaw in her style. She wasn't using ki.
Among martial artists, there was often an invisible line that divided the armatures from the greats, and that was the ability to focus their ki. It made you faster, stronger, tougher, and opened the door to special techniques that were simply superhuman. It could take some people took their entire lives to learn to touch their ki, while others took to it with ease. It was truly what made true martial artists something more than highly skilled brawlers.
In this respect, Akane was lucky. He doubted that she would have been able to cross that line without her father's teachings. Before he'd arrived, she seemed to see the Martial Arts as a way to stay in shape and a tool to pound on perverts. She'd simply lacked the commitment needed to truly become one of the greats.
Ranma's eyes narrowed in aggravation as Haruka dropped her defensive and struck out with a powerful but easily read attack in a desperate attempt to get off the ropes. Such moves were never a good idea. While he was personally was fond of powerful but difficult finishing techniques, striking out like a caged animal was always a bad idea.
It was time to end this.
With almost comical ease, Ranma dodged under the mighty but overextended punch redirected the force, and flipping her head over heels. It was a simple technique, really, one that every Aikido student was taught in the first few lessons.
Moments after Haruka had hit the dirt Ranma turned around and walked to the older girl. With a smile on his face, he reached out his hand, and said, "Match?"
Haruka groaned as she picked herself off the ground. Absently touched a split lip, she shot Ranma a nasty look, obviously annoyed at being so handily defeated. But upon seeing Ranma's friendly smile and offered hand, her anger diminished. "Match," she said, as she took the redhead's hand.
Ranma smiled, and pulled her to her feet. After a short pause, she began to criticize Haruka's abilities. Her tone was serious, and utterly without arrogance or condensation. It was the commanding tone of a master of their art giving critical advice to a learner. "Your not bad. You have potential, but there are some fundamental flaws in your style and ability that must be addressed."
Haruka scowled slightly, but she took the criticism in the spirit it was given. "Like what?" she asked, with no disrespect but a high level of frankness.
"First, you're defense is simply terrible. You commit too much to the attack and simple do not have the endurance needed to soak blows like that. You're going to have to learn to balance your offense and defense otherwise you'll get creamed."
Haruka nodded. The girl was right. She had become too dependent on her Senshi form's super-human durability by ignoring her defense and committing totally to the attack. It was something she could live with in her transformed state, but as normal old Haruka, she'd get pounded.
Ranma nodded. "You're not using your ki."
Haruka blinked. "What?"
"When you fight," Ranma explained, "You do not tap into your ki reserves to boost your physical abilities. Now either you were holding back completely in this fight, which I doubt, or you don't know how to do it. Either way, its a problem we have to correct if you're ever going to be a serious martial artist."
Haruka scowled. "What do you mean by that? Are you saying I'm not taking it seriously?"
"No," Ranma replied, "What I'm saying is that if you ever tried to fight a really skilled martial artist like me in a real fight, they'd punch your damn head off. Literally."
Haruka snorted. "Now I know you're bullshitting me. It has some be come form of magic."
Ranma sighed. "Listen, you want me to prove it?"
Haruka snorted. "Yeah, sure, why not?"
Ranma nodded. "Alright then. Anything you need demolished?"
"Yeah," Haruka replied, "That pillar over there." She said, pointing to a brick pillar that was being used as lamp post. "It used to be part of a wall. Michiru wants to put in a garden but its in the way."
Ranma nodded and walked over to it. It was simple brick construction with a decorative electric lamp on the top. After focusing on the object for a moment, he looked back over and asked "This thing isn't wired in, is it?"
"Its disconnected. I was planning on sledge hammering it next week, if if Little Miss Mighty Martial Artist wants to make a display, then go right ahead."
"Fine!" Ranma said with much cheer. For a moment
Puling back her arm, he let loose with a mighty punch, which he then stopped mere centimeters from the pillar. Grinning wickedly, she glanced back to Haruka, and then poked the pillar.
As the pillar exploded of a small bomb, Haruka jumped backwards, covering her face, and fell on her rear.
"What the hell was that!?" she exclaimed as she looked at the totally unscathed girl standing next to the pile of debris that had once been a rather sturdy piece of masonry.
"That was the breaking point technique. It's a ki technique that targets the 'breaking point' present in all solid, inanimate objects and causes them to shatter." he grinned. "I could have just pounded it into gravel, but this way was much more fun."
"So you were just messing with me?" Haruka growled.
Haruka snarled, then her eyes went wide. "Wait... you can't do that to people, can you?"
"You mean the Five-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique?" Ranma asked with a bright smile.
Haruka gasped with horror.
"No, I don't know that one."
Haruka paused for a minute and then glared at Ranma. "I hate you."
Ranma could only laugh. "Come on, I'm just playing with you!"
Haruka slowly climbed to her feet and crossed her arms. "So you'll really teach me how to do that?"
"The Bakusai Tenketsu? No. The training is far too sadistic. I was barely willing to put myself through it as much do it to anyone else."
"What? You don't think I can take it?" Haruka growled.
"To learn the Bakusai Tenketsu, you suspend the student from a tree leaving only one arm and one finger free, and then you hit them with large bolders until they figure it out for themselves. Still interested?"
"Ick," Haruka gagged, "Never mind then."
Ranma smiled. "I knew you'd feel that way."
"So..." Haruka said slowly, "After I learn how to use my ki, are there any techniques you will show me?"
"That depends." Ranma remarked. "You willing to become my student?"
"If it means learning to do stuff like that, then sure."
Ranma looked at Haruka, deep in thought. She might not be skilled enough to handle it, but she was fast and once she learned how to use ki, she'd probably take to the training well enough. Of course the question was should he. She probably would use these skills against him. While she would be no real threat, she could become yet another pain in the ass. No, that was not even a question. He was going to be a father, time to start acting like one. Put the child first.
"Alright. Welcome to the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts." 'Ranko' said seriously, "This ain't gonna to be easy, and by this time next week you're gonna hate me with every fiber of you're being, but I'm gonna turn you into the best martial artist you can be, even if it kills you." she paused. "Now get me a few bags of chestnuts."
Haruka blinked at the unusual request. "What the hell do you need chestnuts for?"
'Ranko' smiled, and said, "The first step is going to be learning to use your ki. It might wake a while for you to gt it, but after that, it'll be as easy as breathing and you'll wonder why so few people can actually do it."
"And this involves chestnuts why?"
"I might as well show you the training method for the first special technique I'm going to learn. The training method is easy, but you will not begin the training until I say you're ready? Do you understand?"
Haruka nodded. "I understand.," She would get the damn chestnuts, but first she had to know something. "How did you get so damn good?"
The redhead smiled wearily. "I spent ten years on the road training. When most girls were playing with dolls, I was learning how to fight. The Art was my childhood, it was my mother, it is my life."
Haruka reeled in surprise. "You're kidding me." said the blond Senshi.
"I wish, as a kid I had no friends, no house, no school... none of that stuff most kids for for granted. The Art really is pretty much all that I know."
"What kind of bastard would do that to a child?" asked Haruka.
Ranma scowled at the thought of his disgrace of a father. "My Old Man. I'm never going to pull any of the crap he pulled with my kid!"
Haruka blinked then looked at Ranma inquisitively. "You're a mother?" She gave Ranma's body a once over then continued, "You don't look like it."
Ranma backed up. Oh, he was not a mother, but he was soon to be a father. He had backed himself into a hole here. "Err... I mean when I have a kid!"
Haruka paused for a moment, then shrugged. "Okay."
"About the technique," interrupted Ranma, cutting Haruka off, "You get the chestnuts, and I'll get the rest ready."
Haruka blinked, then shrugged. "Okay, so how many do you need?"
Ranma smiled evilly. "Get a lot of 'em. When you master your ki and start the training, you'll need 'em."
Haruka walked back towards the yard holding a shopping bag. They didn't have the nuts in the house so she had to go shopping. Ranko had really impressed her, so she might as well give her a chance. She wondered what kind of technique Ranko was going to show her. That breaking point technique What kind of strange technique requires chestnuts to learn it?
She blinked as she entered the back yard. Ranko was kneeling in the yard tending to a fire.
"Ranko-chan? What the hell? Was this just an excuse for you to roast chestnuts? If so, you owe me 5,000 yen."
Ranko glared at her. "You ain't earned the right to talk back to your Master yet."
Haruka blushed. "Sorry, Ranko-sensei."
"Better, now sit down next to the fire."
Without complaint, Haruka did as she was told and knelt down next to Ranko. "What are we doing here?" She asked.
Ranko chuckled to herself, then took the bag from Haruka and threw a couple of handfuls of nuts into the fire. She then looked over, and into the blonde's eyes, saying, "We ain't doin' nothing. I'm showing you a technique. It's called the 'Kashuu Tenshin Amaguriken'. It's an ancient Chinese Amazon technique that had the Emperors of China shaken' in their boots for 3,000 years, or at least that's what they told me."
Haruka blanched at the name. "Imperial Sweet Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire Technique"? What kind of stupid name was that? "What kind of technique?" She asked.
Ranko smiled. "Speed."
Haruka nodded. There was just one thing that she didn't understand. Most martial artists were very secretive with their techniques. "Why are you showing me this now, even though you know I'm not ready for it"
Ranko sighed and looked down, in complete honesty she said, "To help protect Hotaru and her baby. I'm putting you on the accelerated schedule here. The moment you figure out how to control your ki, I want you to jump right into this."
Haruka blinked. It was not like she couldn't already do a good enough job as is, but what could make Ranko so uneasy? Was there some new danger that only Ranko knew about? She needed answers! "What's threatening Hotaru-chan?"
Ranko sighed, and her shoulders slumped. "Ranma. He's got a situation goin' that's gonna blow up in everybody's face, and it's gonna go soon."
Haruka eyes narrowed for a moment. This was about him. "Explain."
"Ranma's engaged to multiple girls, and all of 'em are violent and crazy. When they find out about Hotaru there is going to be hell ta pay."
Haruka's eyes narrowed and her lip rose into a snarl with barely contained anger. "That little fucking bastard... first he strings along these girls then he knocks up my little Hotaru-chan?! I'll fucking kill him!"
"No, no, no!" exclaimed Ranko. "It ain't like that, it's my pop's fault!"
Haruka blinked, "Your pop?" Her eyes narrowed. "What's your relationship to him, are you his sister or something?"
Ranko smiled stupidly then choked out, "Well, you could say that..."
"Great, now I have the sister of the guy who got my little girl pregnant living with me!" growled Haruka. She then looked at Ranko funny and asked, "Why were you kicked out of your house anyways?"
"Ranma said that he was going to ignore the engagements, including the one engagement that our old man actually cared about, and marry Hotaru. I agreed with him and Pops kicked us out of the house over it." he paused for a moment, then added, "Well, that and he hates gays."
Haruka blinked. "You're a lesbian?"
"Yep. I don't like guys like that. Hotaru actually helped me come to terms with it."
Haruka features softened as some of her anger drained and she smiled knowingly. He was willing to do what needed to be done, even if it cost him. She could respect that quality. She also was deeply offended by the idea that their father used it as an excuse to kick his daughter out of the house simply because she was gay. "So exactly how are your brother's girl problems your father's fault?"
Ranko scowled bitterly. "He engaged him to all these girls so he could run off with the dowry! It ain't Ranma's choice!" as almost an after though she added, "Kami-sama only knows how many boys he's probably engaged me to!"
Haruka winced in sympathy, finding the very idea of being forced into a relationship with some strange man absolutely abhorrent. "So where is your idiot brother?"
Ranko shrugged, "He's got important things he's gotta to take care of in Nerima. It's a real mess."
Haruka looked down at the fire, and paused. "Wait a second, Anything Goes? Your family name Saotome, is it?"
Haruka smiled, and turned her head to the slightly shorter redhead. She had heard of a "Saotome Ranma" and a "Saotome Ranko" from Nerima. They were rumored to be among the best in Japan. For a martial artist of that caliber to consider you good enough to teach was both a privilege and an honor. "Thank you for being honest with me."
Ranko slightly winced and looked down. "Well, the chestnuts are done," she remarked as she popped one into her mouth. She then handed a fresh nut to Haruka. "Want one?"
"Thanks," Haruka said as she ate it. It was warm and sweet. Then her train of thought halted. The fire was still going, she had just eaten a chestnut from it, and she hadn't seen Ranko use anything to dig one out. How did she. Her eyes went wide. Speed technique...
"Ranko, did you just do what I think you did?"
Ranko smiled, and said, "You catch on quick. Here, let me show you."
Ranko turned to the fire and cried out, "Kashuu Tenshin Amaguriken!" Her arms vanished in a momentary blur. When they jumped back into clear view she had two handfuls of freshly roasted chestnuts.
Haruka looked at her hand and gasped. "Amazing!" If she could have even a fraction of that speed in her normal form, then her speed as a Senshi would be absolutely blinding.
Ranko smiled and popped one of the nuts into her mouth. "When you can pull the nuts from the fire without getting burned, you will have mastered the technique." Ranko's eyes then narrowed, "I'm warning you now. Your hands will get burned, and it will hurt. One of the few truthful things my father has ever said was this: The path of a true martial artist is fraught with peril."
"Okay, Ranko-sensei," Haruka replied with a nod.
"Also, when you train, I recommend you take your shirt off so it does not catch fire," cut in Ranko.
"Only if you do it first," she replied.
Ranko blushed, and said, "Hey, I don't think so! Don't you already have a girlfriend?"
Haruka snickered. "I don't think Michiru would mind, as long as she got to watch."
Ranma glared at her. "Pervert."
"Okay, okay," Haruka laughed. "What now?"
"Now, we eat roasted chestnuts," Ranma replied. "Then, I teach you to meditate."
Hotaru smiled as she opened her eyes to the morning light. She felt much better after a nights rest. It was as if all the stress of the past day was washed away. Now here she was, in bed, with her Ranma, her lover, father of her child, and her soon to be husband.
She sighed as she thought of him. He was so hansom and protective, and while he was a bit of a blockhead, he was still a very sweet and kind in his own, painfully awkward way. The concern he had for her was sweet, but misplaced. While Ranma could do some amazing things, she highly doubted he or anyone he knew could threaten a Senshi. It was all going so fast, but if she was stuck in this kind of situation, than at least she was stuck in it with someone like him.
Hotaru turned over to embrace him. He wasn't there. "Ranma?"
Her eyes quickly darted around the room. He wasn't even in the room. His packs were still present, that was good, as it put to rest any nagging fears that he may have changed his mind and crept out in the night.
She was slightly annoyed, though. Why couldn't he have waited for her to wake up? Oh well. There must have been something he needed to do. With a yawn Hotaru stood up and stretched.
Rubbing her back for a moment getting the kinks out of her back, she wandered out of room. She would get dressed for the day later, she was hungry right now. As she opened the door, her nose was greeted by the sweet smells of breakfast, wafting up the stairs. It made her stomach rumble in anticipation.
Hotaru smiled in amusement and patted her belly. "Quiet you." With a skip to her step, she walked down the steps to have her morning meal.
When she entered the dining room, she was more than a little surprised by what she saw. Haruka-papa was sitting at the table almost topless while Michiru-mama applied antiseptic cream to the many small scraps and cuts that covered her body
In a flash, Hotaru was next to her, healing her wounds. "What happened, to Haruka-papa?" she inquired.
Michiru sighed and turned her view from Haruka's wounds to her daughter. In a slightly irritable voice, she said, "Genius here decided to spar with Ranko."
"She did what?" Hotaru exclaimed, while deciding that she'd have to talk to Ranma about not using her parental figures as punching bags.
Michiru snorted. "Next time, tell her to go easy on you."
Haruka smiled, there was a edge of borderline insanity to it that made Hotaru uncomfortable. "Ranko-sensei was going easy on me! You know that pillar in the backyard? She make it explode by touching it!"
"Ranko-sensei?" repeated Hotaru.
Ignoring Hotaru, Haruka continued on her rant. "You should have seen her! She was just a blur! She was so fast that she could pull chestnuts out of a camp fire without burning her hands. She says she's going to teach it to me as soon as I learn to use my ki! Just imagine how fast I would be if I'd be transformed if could pull off this technique while I'm normal!"
"Haruka!" cried Michiru, obviously worried about Haruka referring to her Senshi form with visitors in the house.
Haruka shrugged to her lover. She had said nothing that would give them away. Hotaru agreed that there was no need to worry. At least not yet...
"Where is Ranko?" wondered Hotaru as the last of Haruka's bruises faded away.
Michiru backed off and took her seat. "Your friend's in the kitchen. I had to tend to Haruka's wounds, so Ranko-san volunteered to cook breakfast." She then gave Haruka a dirty look and said, "I just hope this does not become an every day occurrence."
"She's my Master now," Haruka stated. "I'm not stopping until I learn how to do those techniques!" She turned to the kitchen door and yelled, "You hear me, Red? I'm not giving up, no matter what you put me through!"
Seconds later, Ranma, clad in one of Michiru's frilly aprons leaned out of the kitchen door. "I'll hold you to that, slow poke!" He turned back into the kitchen, but seconds later suck his head out again, "And one more thing, don't call me Red!"
"Sure thing, Babe!" Replied Haruka with her lips in a smirk.
All three girls started giggling when they heard the cry of exasperation that Ranma gave in return.
This entire exchange confused Hotaru. It was like Haruka-papa both respected and disliked Ranma. She referred to him respectfully as "Sensei and Master" while at the same time they taunted each other constantly.
She was surprised how seriously Haruka was taking all this, but she could understand way. If she could become anywhere near as powerful as Ranma in her natural form, her power as a Senshi would be downright frightening. It made her wonder if they could get 'Ranko', into a fuku. If they could pull that off, than they might as well retire from the Magical Girl business, or at least take a vacation.
Besides the amusing image of Sailor Ranma, Hotaru pleasantly surprised to discover that Ranma could cook. She couldn't wait to see how good it was.
Moments later 'Ranko' came out of the kitchen, still dressed in Michiru's apron holding an over-sized tray of food. Laying it on the table, he looked at the others and said, "Dig in!"
Hotaru smiled and looked at the meal. While taste was always most important, it looked and smelled really good.
She slowly took a prepared a plate for herself before sampling the cuisine. It was as good as it looked. "Ran... Ranko-chan this is really tasty!"
The boy in girl form blushed slightly. "Thanks Hotaru-chan," he said before grabbing a triple sized serving for himself and sitting next to Hotaru.
Hotaru blushed slightly and looked at everyone. They were all eating together happily. It was actually kind of nice. It was almost like they were a family.
"So, how did you two meet?" asked Michiru.
"I'm Ranma's twin sister..." rambled Ranma, hoping to convince the woman.
"Yeah, that's right," muttered Hotaru.
Michiru glanced at Haruka, then looked at them and said, "Are you serious?"
Haruka, smiled at her lover. "That's right. She's Saotome Ranko, one of the best martial artists her age in Japan!"
Michiru glanced at her lover. "I'm surprised you're not angry about the guilt trip she put you on last night."
Haruka shrugged. "I don't mind. This morning she told me the real reason she got kicked out of her place."
"Oh?" asked Michiru while Hotaru glanced at Ranma, wondering what he'd said.
"Seems Red here's batting for our team," she remarked. "Her father just used the excuse to kick her out."
Michiru's eyes went wide. "You're a lesbian too?"
Ranma shrugged between mouthfuls. "I like girls and I don't like guys. What else would I be?"
"You know, if you'd told us that last night we'd have been a lot mote hospitable." Haruka smirked slightly. "Though that was a good act, Red. You really had me going..." She paused for a moment, and then continued in a very sultry voice. "I was like putty in your hands..."
Ranma blushed beat red and started looking down. The implications of that statement were lost to no one.
Michiru blushed slightly, and glared at at her lover for the playful faux pas, "Haruka!"
In response, Haruka could only laugh. "I'm just playing, besides, don't even say that you wouldn't like to see her in a little less then nothing... maybe she could join in one night..."
"I will admit, she is very beautiful," replied Michiru as she gave Ranma a long, appreciating look.
The redhead slowly started to shrink under the table to avoid the lecherous gazes of the two lesbians.
"Could you stop hitting on my girlfriend..." grumbled Hotaru under her voice.
"What was that?" asked Haruka with a suggestive wink.
"Nothing! Absolutely, positively nothing! Right, Ranko?" Stammered Hotaru.
"Don't be embarrassed," Haruka replied, "Ranko told me about you two."
Hotaru glanced at Ranma in extreme irritation. Okay, exactly what had he said? "Really...," she said cooly.
"Yep," Haruka responded. "She said that you helped her come to terms with her sexuality. Its nothing to be embarrassed about."
"Oh yeah," Hotaru muttered, glaring at him. "That."
Ranma blushed and nodded dumbly. "Yeah... um... nothing to be embarrassed about at all... Right?"
The two women across from the pair gave each other a knowing look. "Right."
The meal remained silent for several minutes. Ranma was the next to speak.
"So Hotaru-chan, what do ya wanna do after breakfast?" He asked.
"I'd like to go shopping," she replied. She began to pretend she was fiddling with a ring to tell him exactly what she wanted to get.
"What do you want ta get?"
"That thing we talked about last night," she replied.
"Huh?" he asked, "We talked about a lot of stuff last night."
Hotaru kicked him under the table. Was he really this much of a blockhead? "You know, the thing that fell out of your pocket. The one I liked so much that I wanted my own."
"Oh..." Ranma stuttered "That thing!. Sounds good to me."
"What the hell are you two talking about?" Haruka wondered.
Hotaru sighed in exasperation and shook her head. "Nothing..."
"I don't know," interrupted Michiru, "Last time you were this secretive, you were buying pregnancy tests. Are you sure you do want to tell us? We all know how badly it turned out last time..."
"Less talking, more eating," cut in Ranma, trying to divert the subject in his own crude way.
Haruka laughed, "Girl's got a point!"
Michiru smiled and added, "Yes, Ranko-san. I really must compliment you on your abilities. This is delicious."
'Ranko' smiled and said, "Thanks."
Hotaru sighed in relief as Haruka and Michiru's conversation drifted to topics focused on their personal lives instead of hers. Maybe things would calm down.
Setsuna slowly wobbled her way down the steps. God, her head hurt. It felt like if a pair of African bull elephants in soccer cleats were Morris dancing on her frontal lobe.
She this was her worst hangover this bad since that time '44 when she out drank that an entire B17 bomber crew. You'd think that after fifty years she spent with the Norse, she'd immune to effects of alcohol.
Of course, she did suck down an entire bottle of 151 proof rum... and looking back, maybe chasing it with half a bottle of vodka wasn't her brightest decision of all times. Really, she was lucky that she could even see this morning.
She really was not in good shape either physically or emotionally. That "boyfriend" of Hotaru's was going to make her job as Guardian of the Time Gate a nightmare. How could she keep a close eye on their futures if her vision was being constantly clouded?
On the same note, she loved Hotaru very dearly and wanted her to be happy. It was a hard choice, duty or love. She could turn to Princess Serenity for guidance on this matter, but she already knew the answer she'd be given: Love.
With a painful sigh, Setsuna did something she loathed to do. She left it to fate. Dealing with Butterflies wasn't too unlike handling explosives, if you mess with hem, they'll blow up in your face. Besides, Ranma was not a bad sort. He was crude, poorly socialized, and hand the penchant for attracting chaos that was the hallmark of his ilk, but at least he meant well and could be a very powerful asset.
She also noted, that in spite of her anxiety, not having to play the master manipulator was a weight off her soul. The limited presentence granted to her by the Time Gates was a terrible burden. To know the future often has the unfortunate side effect of making you a slave to destiny.
Personally, she though that was way Butterflies existed. History abhors a paradox, and few things are more paradoxical than prophecy and predestination. In essence, the reason they existed was to make life a bitch for people like her.
Walking down the steps, she winced as she smelled breakfast. While usually she would be happy to enjoy the wonderful odor of a well cooked meal, right now all it did was aggravate her already pounding hangover.
Straightening her disheveled clothing, she walked into the dinning room. Needless to say, she was not pleasantly surprised by what she saw. The butterfly was in her house.
Her eyes narrowed as the pain in her head increased ten fold. She sat down, smiled insincerely, and in the most acidic voice she could muster, said, "Good morning, Saotome," while looking Ranma directly in the eyes.