2 parts Ranma & Akane + 5-Flavored Tea of Forgetfulness + a spoon of Amazons

{mix well in China}

Ranma's recovered memories have pushed he and Akane's relationship to the realms of normality for a pair of eighteen year-olds, aside from the pesky part with the Nekoken. Deciding to fix this problem himself, he's left for one of his famously inappropriate training trips without her.

Will Ranma man-up and tell her how he feels?

Will Akane do what he's asked and sit still?

Really now, what have YOU been reading?

Our story thus far!

*** And now, the conclusion. ***

Disclaimer: Strangely, I've made no money off of this. If this bothers you as much as it does me, please send cash. It's less traceable.


Ch 34: Divining Head-First into the Happy Ending

"You want me to do what, exactly?" Ukyo choked out, feeling that today might have been a good day to be sure the front door was locked in the morning, not that anyone had ever been dumb enough to attempt a break-in.

"Well," Akane said with determination, "I think I've found a solution to some of Ranma's problems. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right?"

"But we're talkin' about filling a hole with cats…and throwing you in, sugar."

"So? I think I've figured this whole Nekoken thing out! You see, Ranma was too young when his father did that to him, I'm pretty sure it'll be different for me."

Ukyo shook her head and sighed. Why now, of all times, did Nerima choose to take away all of the insanity that should be storming through her walls to stop this conversation?

"Akane, honey, you know you sound crazy, right? Besides, Ranma'd kill me if he found out I helped you do this."

"How would he possibly find out," Akane asked, cocking an eyebrow, "he's on some big private training trip, remember?"

"Is that what this is about?" the other girl said in monotone, "He finally leaves you behind and now it's a big deal?"

Akane leveled her gaze, "I'm sorry that happened to you, but that's got nothing to do with this. He's just trying to figure something out and I…I just don't think he should do everything alone, is all. He's going through something difficult and I want to be there for him. I want him to come home."

Ukyo looked at her friend for a long moment, noting that she'd admitted her true feelings without a fight, kidnapping, or death staring her in the face. Heck, she'd hardly broken a blush! It was becoming overly clear to the chef that something had changed between Akane and Ranma, and it didn't take a genius to figure out what that something might be.

"I'm glad it was you," she smiled, making Akane frown.


"If I was gonna lose Ran-chan to anyone, I'm glad it was to you."

Akane's mouth opened with a reflexive denial before it fizzled out to a grin. "Yeah, he thinks he could handle it but imagine if Shampoo had him, or Kodachi…Ugh! I don't even want to think about that," she finished with a shudder.

"Sure wouldn't be pretty."

"Sure wouldn't be normal!"

The two girls began to giggle, Ukyo shaking her head in defeat.

"Okay, Shug, I don't necessarily like it, but I'm in. What do you need me to do?"

Akane looked up, her grin broadening, "Cats. I'm going to need a lot of cats."

Smiling at his handiwork, Ranma sat between the fire and his tent. It was always so satisfying to finish setting-up camp, to sit down with nothing more to do or expect other than what nature felt like dishing out. And to be honest, he didn't really care what that would be now that his curse was gone.

As if on cue a low rumble sounded on the horizon, causing Ranma to tilt his head back and laugh. "You're too late!" he shouted, "Just like it should be, Ranma Saotome wins!"

The wind grew stronger as the storm grew closer, gently toying with his tent's rain cover before suddenly ripping it clean off and sending it down the hillside. Ranma sat dumbfounded as he watched it flap away, letting half a minute pass before scrambling to his feet with a curse.

"We can't just be pal's, can we?" he muttered as he ran after it. "That's fine, I'll just use this as part of my training!"

Unfortunately for him, the wind had other ideas and he quickly lost sight of his prize. After a short search, the rain began to pour down, driving him back to camp. He did his best to pull his tent into the somewhat protected area under a tree, but it was only a partial victory. At the rate he was going, he'd be spending the night in a damp sleeping bag.

"It's still okay," he reassured himself, albeit less convincingly, "I'll just start a fire back up and everything'll be fine."

Rummaging through his pack, he found his box of matches and quickly fumbled them into a mud puddle. Trying his best to remain optimistic, he began to clench his jaw.

"At least it can't rain forever."

This he had right, it couldn't. It did, however, rain for the rest of the day and pour through the night, leaving a soggy, shivering martial artist too stiff and tired to be very optimistic when morning finally broke.

"I can use this," he muttered as he peeled back his sleeping bag and crawled out of the tent. "Just gotta think about why I'm here. I shouldn't get too comfortable anyway." Slowly limbering up, he laid his damp belongings out to dry in the sun, followed by himself.

Closing his eyes he began to slowly pick through the 'new' memories he'd gained, but something inside hesitated as he came close to seeing Akane lying unconscious in Cologne's grip. A dangerous spark began to ignite, and his inner psyche was quick to move on to the next memory.

"No, I gotta do this," he whispered.

Sitting cross-legged he set back to work examining his memories of Akane. "Maybe I should think of the good stuff first." Falling backward, he stretched out in the grass and looked up at the clouds.

"Heh, that one looks like one-a those horrible cookies she tried ta pass off as food," he smiled, "and that one reminds me of when she tried ta put my initials on that ratty scarf she made me." Letting out a sigh he turned his head slightly, one shape in particular catching his eye, "And that one's a mallet."

Akane lay her crutch down, replacing it with a shovel.

"Take it easy? How am I supposed to heal by taking it easy! Doesn't anyone walk it off anymore?"

Digging the tip of the shovel in, she took a breath and stepped on the back with her bad leg, giving a small grunt as she broke ground.

"There, they say the first step is usually the hardest."

Several hours later she had a modest pit dug, big enough to make a yakuza hit man proud.

"That should be fine," she grinned, wiping the sweat from her face, "Now back to Ukyo's place!"

"Honey, this has got to be the…" Ukyo paused, trying hard not to insult the smaller girl by finishing her thought honestly. As the moment dragged, Akane let out a long breath.

"Will you stop, this is going to work just fine."

"Yeah, but it sure is kinda creepy. Like that movie with all the birds."


The two girls stood back-to-back in the dimly lit alley behind the okonomiyaki restaurant, tossing out scraps of seafood and completely surrounded by cats. Konatsu, the ever loyal male kunoichi, was poised above them, net in-hand.

"NOW!" the duo shouted, stepping away quickly to avoid getting caught themselves. A moment later and they were standing before a writhing ball of feline fury.

"Uhhh, you sure you wanna get into a pit with that, Akane?" Ukyo asked, wrinkling up her nose.

"To be honest, I feel worse about what I'm doing to them than I do about myself."

"Don't feel too bad, they're always keeping me up half the night with all their howling! Consider this doing me a favor."

"Well, if you put it like that, could you return it and let me borrow Konatsu? I could use some help moving them."

Ukyo looked at her devoted and only employee, who gave a little nod of consent.

"It's a deal, just be sure to have him back before the dinner rush, ya hear?"

Akane started to beam, "Seems only fair, let's get a move on!"

"Hold up, Sugar, when do you think you'll be comin' back yourself?" the chef asked with a hint of anxiety. "I better have a good answer in case your sister comes sniffin' around, and she usually does."

Akane stifled a laugh; Nabiki's promises of revenge sure had a long shelf life. "Honestly, I'm not expecting much from this. If I don't get any results by tomorrow night I don't think I'll get any at all, so expect me back…the day after next?"

"All right then. Good luck not going insane," Ukyo smiled, patting her friend on the shoulder, "at least no more than usual."

"I'll do my best!"

A day later Akane looked up from her grave-like pit, listening as a light rain began to fall. Shifting her back against the muddy wall she looked at the group of feline fury before her, poised to take her over the edge of sanity and into the clutches of the Nekoken at any moment. They stared expectantly back, one letting out a small mew.

"Oh come on, it's been a day and a half!" she muttered, opening a pack of fish sausages, "This is the big, bad swarm that haunts Ranma's dreams?"

As the group of cats closed in around her, she began to laugh. Tiny noses, whiskers and tails nuzzled and pushed as they searched for a piece of fish, little raspy tongues removing the remnants from her fingers. Stopping to scratch an orange tabby on the head, she squealed, "You guys are SO cute!" Not sharing her sentiments, it spun around, discovered she had no more food, then lashed out with a quick swipe of its paw.

"Hey!" she yipped, jumping to her feet, "That wasn't necessary!"

Glaring at her pit-mates, she furrowed her brows and reached further into her bag. "I guess it's time for this," she said slowly, donning several links of fish sausages around her neck like a sick Mardi Gras.

In an instant they were on her, knocking her backwards into the muddy wall. Closing her eyes, she threw her hands up defensively over her face, feeling several sets of claws dig into her arms and shoulders as they swarmed around her. As quickly as it had begun, it was over. Cracking an eye experimentally, she confirmed that she was alone.

"But, where did they all go?" Hearing a sound overhead, she looked up as the sound of rain intensified.

"Mrrrrow," came the soft reply from one of the many thieves mauling her fishy neckwear.

A crack of thunder sounded, sending the animals running for shelter.

"Don't like the rain too much, huh little guys? Can't blame you, but next time don't use me as a stepping stone, " she called up to them, failing in her own attempt to get a handhold on the slippery wall and climb out.

"OK," she breathed, taking a step back, "I'll just do this!"

Leaping into the air, she quickly realized she had significantly less power in her legs than usual, and body-slammed into the mud before sliding back down.

"This…could be a problem."

Ranma did his time, thought his thoughts and battled as many inner demons as he felt one man should in the span of two days. Unfortunately, the rain continued relentlessly both nights until his cold, damp bed proved too much for even him. On the morning of the third day he decided it would be better to do his soul searching in comfort, to give his undivided attention to the fact that he still hadn't figured his new self out yet. That, and the overwhelming desire to see the very person who was the root of all his problems, sent him packing. Starting home, he quickly lost himself to daydreams of Akane.

Becoming more and more excited at the thought of seeing her again, and how she would react to seeing him, he was nearly giddy as he walked through the streets of Nerima. By the time he made it to the Dojo he was grinning like a fool.

Stepping through the door he called out, "I'm hooome!" Waiting with open arms for his much anticipated reunion, he found himself severely let-down by reality when Akane didn't show.

"Oh, Ranma kun, you're back!" beamed Kasumi as she rounded the corner, "Would you like me to get the bath ready for you?"

Blinking several times, Ranma stared at the older girl.

"Uh, sure. That'd be great, I guess."

Dropping his pack he looked past her, hoping for a clue as to where Akane was. Kasumi simply smiled a little wider, "I'm afraid she's not home at the moment."

"Wh-what?" he stammered, forcing his eyes back to hers, "I ain't, y'know…it's not like I'm really looking for Akane, or anyone! I was just checking ta see if the place got roughed up or something while I was gone. That happens, you know," he added defensively.

"From time-to-time," Kasumi smiled gently, effectively deflating him. "I'll go take care of the bath."

"Thanks," he grinned, the fatigue of his journey suddenly catching up to him. Dropping down, he began to slip his shoes off when he heard Nabiki's familiar footsteps replace her sister's.

"So, Saotome, find what you were looking for out in the great big wilderness?" she smirked, folding her arms as she leaned against the wall. He let out a tired breath.

"Y'know, Nabiki, sometimes a man has to be heard, and sometimes he's gotta listen."

"Ooh, someone's been reading his fortune cookies."

Standing, he re-shouldered his pack and moved past her, "No offense, but right now I'm too tired for this."

"Oh, relax, I was simply curious if you two had managed to meet up. My little sister seems to have a sixth-sense when it comes to sniffing you out, after all."

"She followed me?" he rushed out, "But I told her not to!"

"How unusual! And Akane normally listens so well, too."

"When'd she head out? What about her leg? That moron's gonna push herself too far, just like I said she would! Ah, damn!" He spun around, unsure which way to go, "Where is she, Nabiki?"

"I really don't know," she shrugged indifferently, "but I do know that she's been talking to Ukyo. I'd start there, if I were you."

Ranma's eyes narrowed for a moment. The way things had ended when he'd last seen his old friend they weren't on the best of terms, especially where Akane was concerned. As his mind began to race over every negative possibility, Nabiki gave a small cough, "She's fine, Saotome."

"How do you know?" he asked through a tightening jaw.

"Because Ukyo wanted to help you two, and Akane's not that dumb."

They stared at each other for a long moment before Nabiki cracked a grin, "Well, Ukyo wanted to help, at least."

Sharing her grin, his shoulders relaxed. "Y'know, that's my fiancée you're insulting."

"She was my sister first, I get dibs."

"I'll let her know how ya feel," he said with a wicked grin. "Tell Kasumi thanks for the bath, but I'll have ta take a rain check."

Slipping back into his shoes and adjusting the straps to his pack, he was off once more.

Entering the kitchen, Nabiki spotted Kasumi.

"Ranma says thanks for the bath, then left to find Akane."

"I didn't bother starting the bath," she smiled, beginning to cut a yam. "I wonder if they'll be back in time for dinner?"

The wind began to pick-up, splattering new rain against the darkened glass of the Cat Café. Ranma paused as he passed by, stopping for a curious moment to wonder at the police tape that blocked off the side and rear of the building.

"What the heck happened here?" he muttered aloud, getting a curious glance from a passing pedestrian. Slipping around back, he gaped at the sight of the obliterated rear door before ducking inside. Slowly he plodded over the rubble, noting several large spatula-esque slash marks.

"Ukyo," he grinned, "she never did like Shampoo." Then his attention led him to the base of the stairs, Akane's 'room' at the top stirring up memories of how he'd met her again in the rain. She'd put on such a tough act despite her injuries, only letting her true feelings slip after confiding in him that she wasn't comfortable with her Amazonian hosts. And the very next day he ran off to China, leaving her alone with Shampoo and Cologne.

'They had her here, I KNEW about it, and I didn't do anything,' he thought sourly, beginning to lay blame on himself in light of his renewed memories. With a curse of rage he put his fist through the wall. Feeling suddenly suffocated in the darkened, empty restaurant, he pushed outside and sprinted to Ucchan's Okonomiyaki.

"Ukyo! I gotta talk to you!"

Barely missing a step as she expertly flipped several okonomiyaki at once, Ukyo lifted her eyes.

"Ranchan, glad to see you, too."

Ranma ground his teeth and tried to stay out of the way as she finished serving her customers, plopping down at a table and impatiently tapping his foot. When all was well with her patrons, Ukyo took a deep breath, wiped her hands and spatulas clean, and headed out from behind the counter into less familiar territory; for a change, Ranma seemed to have a bone to pick with her. Stopping beside him, she tried to force a smile.

"What's up, Sugar?"

"Please, have a seat," he said in an overly gracious tone, waving to the empty chair across from him with one hand while his chin nearly dug a hole in the palm of his other.

Sitting down, Ukyo decided that the direct approach was probably the safest. It was also more her style than dodging the obvious.

"Look, if this has something to do with Akane…"

Ranma sat up and grinned, "Hit it on the head with your first try, not bad. So where is she?"

He watched as she squirmed a bit, her eyes growing uncomfortably shifty. "Before I answer, I want you to know it was all Akane's idea! I tried to talk her out of it, but she can be strangely convincing when she wants to be. And, to be honest, I don't think anything I could of said would have stopped her anyway."

He leaned back in his chair and let out a soft chuckle, "She is kinda' headstrong, huh? So what'd she talk you into doin'?"

Ukyo dropped her eyes and bit her lip, "Cats."

Ranma stopped smiling, "Cats?"

"Filled a pit with 'em."



"That idiot! What was she thinking?"

"Now calm down there, no point in making a scene! Konatsu'll be back from a delivery in a few minutes, he can take ya to her, so hold your horses for a sec."

Rubbing a hand over his face, Ranma settled back into his chair, "Why did you help her with that?"

"Oh, look at mister innocent here!" Ukyo smiled evilly. "What's wrong with you letting Shampoo get you two all the way to China? Not exactly one of your better moves," she grinned, smacking him lightly on the arm with a spatula.

Coming around to himself, he looked at his friend with his own small grin, "It wasn't like it was my fault! They drugged us, y'know, with some kind'a tea."

"TEA?" Ukyo laughed. "You survive all those experiments Akane called cooking only to be taken down by a cup of tea?!"

"It wasn't just tea, it erased our memory. An' we got back, didn't we?"

"How much of that was Nabiki, hmm?" she chided, then grew sullen. "Sorry it wasn't more me."

He looked at her confused.

"Nabiki asked me, she asked all of us for help, even Kuno, and I said no 'cause I still had a grudge about the whole wedding thing. I came around after I thought about it a little more, but she told me to leave it to her. If I'd known sooner we probably could'a stopped them before they got off to China. I know how you two really are about one another, you and Akane, and I really like you both. It ain't always easy, but I do! I did some pretty dumb things, and generally acted like a jackass from time-to-time, but I won't do it again. Long story short, if you'll have me, I'd like ta start over as friends. Just friends."

She held out a hand for him to shake, feeling vulnerable and increasingly rejected as the moments ticked past.

"Ucchan…you're an idiot."

She stared at him in shock, then at her hand firmly clasped by his.

"Thanks for the apology, but it ain't necessary. I didn't even know you were mad."

On cue, Konatsu walked through the door. Clapping a befuddled Ukyo on the back, Ranma inclined his head in the kunoichi's direction, "Looks like my ride's here. Yo, Konatsu! I gotta favor ta ask you!"

Still unsure of what had just happened, Ukyo watched as Konatsu turned her way, looking for her approval to leave with Ranma. Blinking back to reality, she started to laugh.

"Go ahead. And Ranma, maybe I'll cook you both up something nice when you get back!"

He raised an eyebrow before answering, "So long as it ain't tea!"

A few miles from where they had begun, Konatsu came to a halt.

"This is where Miss Akane and I stopped. She couldn't have gone much further though, I believe she was having problems with her leg."

Ranma spun to face his companion, "You just left her out here alone, knowing she was hurt?"

The kunoichi pulled back timidly, "She told me to go, and I had obligations to Miss Ukyo."

"Yeah yeah, and ya still do," Ranma replied a bit deflated. "Go ahead, I got it from here."

With a quick nod, Konatsu vanished from sight. Taking in a deep breath, Ranma began his search.

"Akaaaaaneeee! Ya out there?" Pausing to listen, he trudged on after a few moments without a reply.

Several hours later he sat in defeat, wondering if he'd somehow missed her and she'd actually gone home. As he debated going home himself, something caught his eye. Tangled in a tree at the bottom of a nearby hill was his tent's rain cover, flapping gently in a soft breeze. Bounding down the hill, he started up the tree in a flash, pulling the cover free from its branches.

"Ha! Didn't think you could hide from me forever, did ya?"

"I wouldn't exactly call it hiding."

He did a double take at the nylon mess in his hands. Swallowing, he tried again.

"Did you just…answer me?"

"Didn't you just ask me a question?"

"Well, yeah, I guess that's fair enough." He turned the cover over, inspecting the bottom, "How're you talkin' though?"

"Ranma," the voice asked slowly, a hint of a smile apparent in its tone, "are you talking to me, or that thing you just pulled out of a tree?"

Stopping his investigation, he turned toward the actual source of the voice. Behind him sat Akane, alone at the bottom of a small pit and covered in mud.

"Akane!" he beamed, pausing for a moment as he took in the sight, "But I thought there were supposed to be cats?"

"Funny story," she grinned sheepishly, struggling as she rose to her feet and held up a hand, "help me out while I tell it?"

Jumping down to land beside her, he lifted her into his arms before leaping to the surface.

"You didn't think I was gonna just yank you out, did ya?" he smiled, leaning down to kiss her before she could answer. After a minute or more had passed and he showed no signs of breaking away, Akane decided she needed to get into trouble more often.

When he did finally pull back, he left his lips dangerously close to hers as he asked, "Are you hurt anywhere?"

She took in a slow breath, "Not really. My leg's a little sore still, but it's hardly worth complaining about."

"What were you even thinking," he murmured, kissing her again. When they parted a second time, he placed her gently on the ground and stepped back, "Now tell me about the cats."

She looked down at her hands, rubbing at some of the mud and scratches. Cat scratches. Ranma fought a shudder.

"Yeah, apparently they really hate water, and they're pretty mean when they want to be."

"No, really?" he quipped back, cocking an eyebrow. "Why did you think I was so scared of 'em?"

"I get that now!" Akane agreed quickly, "And they can jump! They went right up on me and out of that pit without any problems, it was crazy! They were all gone so fast!"

"So I take it you tried to do the Nekoken to yourself?" he asked carefully, lifting one of her hands to examine, "Anything, uh, happen?"

"I don't think so, unless…"

She trailed off, looking over his shoulder with wide eyes, "Is that a…c-c-cat?"

He spun around, keeping a hold of her hands, "It's gonna be allright, just focus on me!"

Unable to control herself she started to grin, then laugh. "I'm kidding, there's no cat. Don't worry, I'm not scarred for life, the cats really were gone before that could happen. I've got the scratches to prove it, I was their ladder."

"That wasn't funny, and what ya tried to do was pretty stupid, but I'm glad you're all right."

He took a few paces away, stopping to look at the sun setting on the horizon, "It's getting kinda late, looks like we're makin' camp here."

Akane smirked; they could easily have made it home that night. Standing beside him, she looped her arm through his, "I was only trying to solve our little issue. I thought that maybe if I evened things off and we both had the Nekoken, then you wouldn't have to worry about losing control as much."

He blew out a breath through his lips, "I get what you were thinking, but what if it had worked? You'd have been out here all by yourself, ya might not have been in your right mind and who knows what could have happened then!"

"But it didn't."

"But you didn't think of that, did'ja?"

Just then, a low rumble of thunder rolled across the sky. Akane smiled up at him, "You may be right. So…was that a rain cover you were talking to before? Sounds like it's going to be a dark and stormy night."

Ranma closed his eyes and laughed lightly, "Baka."

"Takes one to know one."

Staring at one another for a long minute, he wrapped her up in his arms and kissed her.

"Y'know, I missed this." He kissed her again, "I missed you. Tryin' ta figure things out without you wasn't one of my better ideas. "

"That's what I tell you all the time, but you still run off alone whenever you have a problem. You don't make sense, you know that?"

"Yeah, it's a pretty dumb habit. Musta picked it up from my Old Man."

As they leaned closer, the sky let out another crash of thunder and began to rain.

"I tell ya, I'd swear I was a water god or something!" Ranma yelled above the rain, turning his face toward the clouds.

"It would explain quite a lot," she grinned back.

Scrambling to work in the downpour, the two quickly began setting up the tent and rain cover. By the time their camp was finished, however, they were soaked to the bone. Holding back the flap to the entryway, Ranma gave a curt bow, "Ladies first. It's a little damp, but it's better than this. "

"Why thank you," Akane crooned with a curtsy, "but I might as well finish rinsing the mud off now that I'm already wet."

"Guess I'll go in and check what I've got for us ta eat."

"Okay. And Ranma, no peeking."

He mulled that over for a moment before his jaw dropped, "Wait, you're takin' your clothes off, out here?" He motioned around them with his arms flailing, "What if someone sees you?"

"We're in the middle of nowhere, who could possibly be looking? I just want to make sure these scratches get washed off."

"Allright, I guess, but maybe I should get undressed a little too, so ya don't feel weird," he grinned, slicking his bangs back with his hand. Akane's face began to redden.


Laughing, he ducked inside the tent.

Peeling her outer clothes off her body, Akane surveyed herself for any damage. Surprisingly, she had expected much worse than was there. Aside from one or two decent scratches on her shoulders and arms, the rest of her was nearly perfect once the mud was cleared away. Leaning down to rub at a few patches of dirt on her legs, she felt a second set of hands slide over her back.

"I thought maybe I could help get the hard-to-reach spots," Ranma said softly, making small circles between her shoulder blades with his thumbs.

Letting out a long sigh, Akane rose and spun on her heel to face him. To her surprise, she was facing more of him than she expected.

"Ranma! Where are your clothes?"

"They got wet," he said simply, looking down. Cocking a grin he added, "I left my boxers on."

Trying to avert her gaze, Akane replied, "Yes, your wet, clinging underwear is still there."

He smiled, "So's yours."

"Don't sound so disappointed."

"That wasn't disappointment."

Grabbing her gently by the nape of her neck he guided her back to him, stopping close enough for her to feel his heat wash over her chest and stomach, but not touching.

"Ya got a little…" he brushed a thumb gently over her cheek, "mud." Languidly he let his thumb glide across her lips. Reaching up, she laced her fingers with his as she pulled his hand aside, her breathing ragged as she slowly brought her lips to his.

The kiss was slow and deep, growing in intensity as they crushed together. The rain pounded down on and around them, the sun spilling out below the storm for a momentary burst of light before it slipped away, washing the world in a dazzling gold blaze. And they missed it all. Ranma didn't bother to break the kiss as he lifted her into his arms and carried her through the entrance of the tent. Dropping to one knee he rested her gently on the sleeping bag, pausing to take her in with his eyes before moving beside her and sliding his lips over hers once more.

Slipping his hand out of her hair, he trailed his fingertips over her neck and collarbone before dipping down and over her ribs. Splaying his fingers, he let his thumb brush over the bottom of her breast, the action making Akane's back arch with a moan.

"I love you," he murmured as he moved his lips past her ear to nip at her neck, "I always have."

Snaking an arm around his neck she pulled him on top of her, bringing his ear to her mouth to whisper, "I know."

Before he had time to respond she flipped him, laying kisses over his throat and across his chest while her hands moved dangerously low. "We should get out of these wet clothes…before we catch a cold," she breathed, beginning to slip her thumb under his waistband.

To say that the Nekoken's fires had been stoked would have been like comparing a matchstick to a volcano, and Ranma was on the verge of giving up the fight the moment he let Akane take control. But he was clinging to his morals, desperately clinging. Looking down he was nearly as surprised as she was to find his hands were holding hers by the wrists.

"What are you…I mean, with the Nekoken and all…are we ready for this?" he croaked, drowning in the physical effort of keeping himself in check.

Akane sat up, straddling him while still locked in his grip. Her eyes were wildly searching his through the haze of desire that shrouded them. Taking several shaky breaths, she swallowed hard and squeezed her eyes shut to clear her head.

"I, I was thinking about this," she breathed, "and I think we should."

He almost let out a victory shout as he sat up, his hand fisting in her hair. Pulling her neck to one side while kissing down her throat, his other arm secured her body to his.

"I think it's all right," she gasped, pulling at his braid as he hit a particularly sensitive spot, "because I don't think this has anything to do with the Nekoken. I think it's what you want."

"I'd be lyin' if I said you were wrong," he whispered into her ear, sending a wave of shivers over her. Opening the clasp of her bra, he eased the straps from her shoulders, following the path with a trail of kisses that set her skin on fire. Leaning away, he took in the sight in the near-dark glow of day's end.

"I keep getting this far and then something stops me," he laughed in a hiss, "I ain't gonna let this time get away for anything!"

Lifting her bra he tossed it over his shoulder before descending on her with his mouth, finding her nipples with his teeth and tongue. Writhing in his arms, Akane's nails bit into his shoulders, desperately attempting to keep a hold of her sanity even as all rational thought left her.

A searing desire burned in the pit of her stomach, her every fiber of her being pulling taught as she slipped a hand inside his boxers. Letting out a low growl as she wrapped around him, Ranma lifted his eyes to hers. Seeing that they were now golden, Akane almost smiled.

"I finally beat you, Ranma," she said with a gasp as he rocked his hips up against hers, "I win."

Laying her on her back he kissed down her chest and stomach, cutting her panties free with a flick of his ki claws.

"I'll have you shoutin' that an more in a minute, Tomboy."

Miles away, Ryoga wrapped his sleeping bag tighter around himself. Faintly, carried by the wind, he could have sworn he heard the ghostly call of a wild cat cutting through the night. Turning up his lantern, he pondered vainly over his maps and compass once more.

"There's Akari's farm, and I should be right about there. But, there shouldn't be any big animals like that around here. Curse this sense of direction, where the devil am I now?"

As the sun cut through a dense morning mist, the world glittered awake through the last raindrops from the night before. A crisp breeze blew across the fields and trees, toying playfully with Akane's bangs through a small tear in the wall of the tent. Wrinkling her nose against the sounds of morning, she wriggled deeper into the sleeping bag. Feeling her stir, Ranma tightened his hold around her waist, then his eyes shot open.

For one moment he nearly leapt from her side, the old habit of running before looking rising to the surface. As coherent thoughts began to form in his head, she turned over and nuzzled into his chest, a hand running gently up to rest over his heart. Letting out a contented sigh he sank back to her, memories of the previous night curling his lips with a smile.

"Morning," she said slowly, tracing his collarbone with a fingertip.

He looked down to see that her eyes were still closed, a smile etched into her every feature. Craning his neck, he gave her lips a gentle kiss.

"Morning ta you, too."

They lay snuggled together, letting out a simultaneous contented sigh as they drifted back to sleep.

Waking for the second time, Ranma felt Akane's lips over his own, her hand tracing a downward path over his stomach.

"Mmmm…what are ya doin'?"

She smiled, pressing herself against him, "We're still training, right?"

"I guess I did fail pretty bad last night, huh," he laughed.

"If that's what happens when you fail, then I hope you try a little harder to let me win from now on."

Gathering her into his arms he gently rolled them over, sleeping bag and all, resting on his elbows above her.

"For you, I'd be the biggest loser out there. In fact, I think I'm feelin' a whole losing streak comin' on. "

She leaned up to kiss him, "That's what I hoped you would say."

Looking up at the sound of footfalls and whispers cutting through the dark, Kasumi lay her book down and rose to welcome her sister and Ranma home.

"Sorry it's so late, Onee Chan," Akane blushed, surprised to see her.

"Oh, think nothing of it!" she gushed back in a quiet, motherly tone. "I knew Ranma would bring you back safe, as always. There's some leftovers on the counter if you haven't eaten dinner yet."

"Thanks, Kasumi," Ranma smiled, giving a little bow of his head as he moved past her to the kitchen.

"Where is everyone?" Akane asked, following Ranma.

"They got tired of waiting, I'm afraid. They went off to bed a short while ago."

"Tonkatsu!" Ranma cheered, "Ya outdid yourself, Kasumi!"

"Thank you," she smiled back, leaning a shoulder against the doorjamb.

Watching her baby sister as she began to eat, laughing, blushing, and swatting at Ranma in a way she never had before, Kasumi was hit with the realization that she wasn't the rough-nosed little tomboy she used to be. She didn't carry herself like someone who couldn't stand under her own weight anymore, like a child in need of a missing mother. Somewhere within the last few years, Akane had grown up.

"I suppose you both have it from here," she said with a distant smile, "If you don't mind, I'm going off to bed."

" 'Night, Kasumi! Don't worry, we'll clean up," Akane called after her, giving her a hug as she moved past. "Thanks for waiting up for us."

"Hey, Kasumi, would'ja mind doing me a favor?" Ranma asked, a twinkle in his eye. "I borrowed a book from Dr. Tofu the other day, mind bringin' it back for me tomorrow?"

"I think he'd like that," she smiled, "and I think I would, too."

Ranma and Akane silently exchanged glances as she walked away, Akane giving in to a fit of giggles once she was out of earshot.

"Did she just admit to liking Dr. Tofu?" she whispered loudly, clapping a hand over her mouth.

Taking a large piece of meat between his teeth, he grinned and waggled his eyebrows at her, "I think she did."

"Oh my!" Akane whispered back, her eyes going wide before falling victim to another fit of giggles.

Watching her laugh, a warmth spread over him. Leaning over, he kissed her cheek then pulled her across his lap, tickling her ribs mercilessly.

"Don't laugh, Akane, don't laugh!" he taunted, "You'll wake everyone up!"

"Aagh, s-stop you dummmyyyy!" she said between breaths, wriggling in his arms in an attempt to grab and stop his hands. After a moment or two they rolled backward onto the floor, breathing heavy as they lay side-by-side.

"Ugh, it's 2 am!" Akane moaned, throwing an arm over her face, "How did it get sooo late?"

It's not-" Ranma began, cut short by a yawn. "Okay, maybe it is."

After cleaning their dishes the two headed upstairs, leaving their bags to be unpacked in the morning. Stopping outside her door, Ranma clung to Akane's hand.

"Wish I didn't have ta sleep all the way over there," he grinned, chucking a thumb toward his door.

Akane bit her lower lip, "Hmmm, I know what you mean." Rising to her toes, she pressed her lips to his.

Lingering in her doorway they slowly stepped apart while still kissing, breaking away at the last possible moment.

"Meet me tomorrow morning," he rushed out as her door began to close.


"We can train, like ya always wanted."

She reopened the door, looking skeptical. "Really? You want to train with me?"

"Yeah, why not? Meet me in the dojo at nine?"

"But the training was for you, for the Nekoken, remember?" she reminded him, crossing her arms over her chest.

"I was thinking about that myself," he smirked. "Ya see, the curse was always the way to get rid of it, but the curse needed water. Cats hate water." He held his hands up between them, "Right?"

"Yes, yes they do," she murmured, raising an eyebrow.

"So, when I got hit with cold water it got rid of the Nekoken, like yellin' at a cat not to scratch the furniture."

"Are you telling me to carry around a water pistol?"

"Only if you think you'll need it, but I think ya like my bad behavior."

She eyed him with a smirk, then began to close the door again, "Goodnight, Ranma."

"Hey, wait! Was that a yes for tomorrow?"

"I think you're up to something, but I'll be there. Goodnight."

Watching her door shut his smile faded as he nervously ran a hand through his bangs, then dashed to his room. Rummaging in a dressed drawer he found what he was looking for, cradling it in his hands protectively.

"Boy am I glad I found you."

Akane donned a tight tee-shirt, loose shorts and a headband before looking at the clock. 9:30, enough time to say she cared, but not overly much.

With a smug grin of satisfaction she slid open the dojo door, only to find that she was the first one there. Letting out a sigh, she filled a pail with water and headed back inside.

Moments later a shout was heard, stopping midway through, "What'd ya do that for?" to quickly reverse to, "I'm still a guy!"

Akane waited until he was through to lob the bucket at his head.

"You set the time, baka, at least have the courtesy to show up!"

"One day you'll miss this, y'know," he chuckled, peeking out from around the bucket.

"You have to stop doing it before I can miss it."

Flashing his most disarming grin, he added, "I'll be right there, if you'll wait for me."

She rolled her eyes, half annoyed at herself, "You already know I will."

Several minutes later he walked through the dojo door, a tray of chalk dust in his hands. Looking around for a moment, he placed it in the corner, then stepped back.

"I thought we could use this, look at your footprints and check out your movements." His face pulled up into a half smirk, "Although your movements ain't half bad, from what I remember."

"Ranma!" she blushed, "What if my Dad hears you!"

Shaking his head, he pulled his eyes back up to her face, "I like you in those shorts. I should'a told you stuff like that more often."

Unable to stop smiling, Akane brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "Yes, you should have. Instead you chose to tell me the exact opposite on a regular basis!" Playfully, she pushed his chest, "Dummy."

He stared at her for a long moment before his eyes lost focus, his weight shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other. Akane watched him curiously, almost swearing that he would be biting his nails at any moment. Craning her neck to catch his line of site, she redirected his wandering attention back to her. "Are you all right? You're acting a bit schizophrenic."

"Huh, yeah? Sorry." He paused, scanning the room before grabbing her hand. Leading her to the tray of chalk dust, he helped her step in, then bowed, "Care for a dance, Akane?"

"I guess I could, but I've forgotten my gown," she smiled, slipping out of his grip and into a defensive stance.

He visibly relaxed, more in his element during a fight. "Try an' get me, you go first."

They danced across the floor, moving faster and faster as Akane tried to land a hit, Ranma dodging every one, as always. What caught Akane's attention, however, was that he wasn't goading her on in any way, keeping actual proper stances rather than jumping around like an overconfident jerk. He didn't even try to insult her, just kept a look of concentration on his face the whole while as he moved them from one side of the dojo to the other. Once they had stopped, she was more than a little shocked to see him wipe the back of his hand across his brow.

"Are you sweating? Does this mean you actually took me seriously?" She began to beam with pride.

Scratching the back of his head, he smiled awkwardly, "Guess there's a first time for everything, huh, Akane? So, uh, why don'tcha turn around and we can take, um, uhh, take a look at what ya did."

Slowly she turned away from her fidgety fiancée, her body twisting before her head spun to join it. Looking at her footprints, she casually went over the pattern on the floor with her eyes.

"So, what am I looking for?"

Ranma paused before grabbing her shoulders, "Maybe we should step back a little."

A few paces later, she still stared blankly at the floor, "And…?"

He let out a breath, "I swear, Akane, if it had teeth you'd be missin' a leg!" Lifting her into his arms he leapt to the ceiling, propping them in a corner. "Now do ya see anything?"

Squinting, her eyes suddenly went wide. Written in her own chalky footprints on the floor were the words, 'Marry Me'.

"Ranma, this…" she turned in his grip, looking at him over her shoulder. Between his teeth was a small, gold band.

She stayed motionless, her breath caught in her throat. His eyes darted between hers for a sign of comprehension, but she remained frozen. After a tense moment he dropped to the floor, standing her in front of him before kneeling.

"I thought I'd give this to ya the right way, on one knee. You just made it kind'a hard when I had ta get us up there so you could see what I was talking about."

Holding the ring up between them, he swallowed audibly. "So, uh, what do ya say? Without our dads' and everyone else's ideas for what we should do an all, just our own. I don't got much more than me ta offer you, and I know that might not be all that much to go on, but I'd like to try and see what I can do to make you think that that's a good deal…if you'll let me. "

Biting her lip, she took his hand and guided the ring over her finger while it was still in his grasp. Once it was on, a smile lit his face as he looked from their hands to her eyes.

"You said it much more eloquently when you didn't have all your memories in place," she smirked, squeezing his fingers.

"Sorry 'bout that, I wasn't as nervous as I am now. Probably 'cause I didn't know about your brute strength back then."

She slowly dropped to her knees, wrapping her arms around his neck while keeping her ring finger in her sight over his shoulder. "I'm too happy to smack you, so I'll let that one go." Turning her hand over to see every angle, she couldn't stop smiling.

"So…that was a yes, right?"

"It does look good on me," she grinned mischievously, "and I would hate to take it off, so I suppose I'm stuck with you."

He lifted her up, spinning them around, "More like I'm the one who's stuck, Tomboy."

"Whatever you say, Pervert," she grinned, bringing her lips to his. After a long moment had passed they broke apart, resting their foreheads against one another's.

"So when should we tell everyone?" Akane asked, her eyes closed as she moved her fingers across the smooth, simple band just to cement its reality into her brain.

"When?" Ranma nearly choked out with a laugh, "How 'bout two weeks after we really do get married?"

Giggling, she squeezed him harder and asked, "And when will that be?"

"After our camping trip, if I hope to even try an' keep you an honest woman, it had better be soon!" His hands slid down her sides, tracing her curves as they moved, "REAL soon!"

Later that evening, the Saotome's arrived at the Tendo's for dinner, a certain couple noticeably missing.

"Where has Akane gone off to now?" Soun asked, getting a bit exasperated, "They just arrived home again last night!"

"Oh, was my son with her?" Nodoka asked with a wisp of a smile, "He never made it to our house."

"No he didn't," Genma confirmed, nodding his head while eyeing the food.

Nabiki grinned, "And now it seems that he and Akane are missing yet another dinner. Whatever could they be up to, do you suppose?"

She and the two fathers locked eyes in an instant, then dashed up to Akane's bedroom. Lining up as they cautiously cracked open the door, all three deflated as they realized the room was empty. As the two men began to turn away, Nabiki stepped into the room and lifted something from Akane's pillow.

"There's a note," she announced, looking it over thoughtfully. "It says they're eloping. Seems there were a few too many guests the last time they tried to get married."

Genma looked at his friend, then smiled proudly as he clapped him on the back. "See, Tendo, I told you this would work! It was only a matter of time!"

"How true, Saotome, how true. Now the schools will finally be united!" Soun sobbed with a smile. Linking their arms across each others' shoulders, the two men began to boisterously celebrate their way out of the room.

"Hold it," Nabiki said, freezing the pair where they stood. "Are you and Daddy honestly trying to take the credit for Akane and Ranma being drugged, kidnapped, then accidentally falling for one another in China when they didn't even know who they were?"

"Well now," Genma laughed, "we may not have known it would go exactly like it did, but we knew how it would turn out!"

"It's true, Nabiki," Soun concurred, then shrunk back. "Now, now, there's no need to look at us like that."

Nabiki eyed them up with a frown, then held out her hand, "Pay up."

"For what?" Genma balked.

"Services rendered, of course. If you both were so clever as to know what was happening, then there was no need for me to got through the trouble of rescuing them. I don't volunteer my time, you know." She shook her upturned palm for emphasis.

"Oh, how could this happen," Soun lamented, "my own daughter!"

"Indeed," joined in Genma, "what ever happened to respect for your elders?"

Nabiki cracked half a smile. "Really, when's the last time you two deserved respect?"

The protests grew louder.

Overhead, the not-so-newlyweds smiled at one another.

"Told ya it would work, Tomboy. Now, thanks ta me, maybe we won't get bothered for a little while, and I won't get bothered for bein' in your room."

Akane rolled her eyes, "I never doubted your abilities, Ranma."

"I think you did," he said with a touch of menace, rolling onto his side and pulling her close. "I also think there's plenty of things I could do ta make sure that you don't do it ever again."

She kissed him on the tip of his nose, "So this is what you're like without all the crazy things going on in your life?"

"Akane," he grinned, blatantly letting his eyes roam over her, "you're the only thing distractin' me now."

She blushed and turned her face away. "It's going to take me a while to get used to you talking like that!"

"Well get used to it," he said quietly, guiding her face back to his with his fingertips. "I AM gonna marry you, one way or another, and then you'll be hearing it all the time."

She tried to fight it, but lost out to yet another blush.

"Stop it, baka! My face can't take all your sexy talk!"

"Just your face can't? Damn!"

She blushed harder.

"Quit it!" she cried, covering her burning cheeks beneath her palms.

Just then a shadow passed overhead, freezing the pair. Moving closer, Akane whispered, "Was that just Pantyhose Taro-"

There was a loud crash, "-going through my roof?"

"Again," Ranma added helpfully.

Letting out a sigh, Akane asked, "Do you think we should help?"

"Hell no!" Ranma cried, scooping her up in his arms, "Let Ryoga deal with this one, or Nabiki! I'd love ta see old Pantyhose's face when she tells him he's gotta pay!"

"Well, what do you think he wants?" she murmured into his chest, snuggling closer as they began to move across the rooftops into the sunset.

"Frankly, Akane, I don't give a damn."

And so, as the day ended before them and World War Three erupted behind them, the gap silently, and finally, closed between them.


A/N: And there it is, boys and girls, the end! So much has changed in my life while writing this, and I'm so glad to have this story to share with you all that somehow got written through all of these changes. I may write another, but not for a little while! (At least until my daughter learns how NOT to bang on any and every keyboard within reach!)

Thank you for your reviews and support, some of you have been there through all or most of the time it took me to finish this and I always look forward to seeing your names. To each and every one of you who took the time to send a review, I thank you from the absolute bottom of my heart. You made it worth the struggle to finish! Really, I can't thank you enough!

This story is for you.

Thank You.