Yes, she actually updates! The wonder of it all! My Muse has finally returned, complete with a Cat Returns plot bunny that's trying to EAT MY BRAINS. Thank you all for sticking with me. Let's get this back to where it started, shall we?

--

Hello all! It's time for something completely different. This is an AU, which means, as my all time favorite Kenshin fanfic writer puts it, "that OOC will occasionally jump around flailing its arms". In this AU, there is no gender/animal-bending curse. If you're looking for the water curses, look somewhere else. This does not mean there won't be freaky stuff and the occasional perversion. (Insert maniacal laughter here) Also, everyone's a little older and wiser, for the most part. Oh yes, and there's some swearing too, so it's rated T.

--

Ranma ½ and its characters are the property of Rumiko Takahashi. I don't even own a Nabiki plushie. (sobs) Full Metal Panic and its characters are the property of Shoji Gatoh.

--

Dinner that night was a grand affair hosted by the Saotomes, minus Genma, who had been sent to his room with a can of bamboo shoots. The older man had grumbled until faced with two Guardian Mates with crackling battle auras and mini-Mate weapons. He took the hint.

Akane huffed as she put Mallet-sama away. Her ears were still ringing from the blistering lecture from Sousoke about the Proper Use of Mate Weapons in Public and her sensibilities were highly offended at being given homework; a comprehensive guide to covert operations. Sousoke had informed her in no uncertain terms a quiz would be coming on the first two chapters sometime before sunset the next day. Really, how DID Kaname put up with him?

"What IS that, Sousoke?" Ranma asked, eying the long, thin gun Sousoke was checking.

"A miniature version of the Starstreak missile shoulder launch system."

"I thought you preferred guns…" Nabiki said, puzzled. Sousoke nodded and put the rocket launcher away.

"I have adapted my M1911 pistol for Guardian use, as well as my M72 rpg launcher and my RPK-74 rifle. Those fire incendiary and depleted uranium shells. I'm currently working on molten metal rounds, but when I first summoned the Mate Weapon, the Starstreak is what appeared."

"Mate Weapons have evolved as we have," Nodoka explained at Akane's flummoxed expression. "The Saotome Mate weapon used to be an axe, until one of them married a devout Buddhist who refused to draw blood. She ended up with the mallet."

"The Chidoris used a nodachi until Sousoke. A sword just doesn't suit him," Kaname added. Kasumi and Nodoka glanced at each other and took over the conversation, swapping embarrassing stories about the graduates that left both blushing while everyone else howled with laughter. Finally achieving a festive mood, Nodoka rapped the table with her knuckles.

"Ranma, Akane, believe it or not, we are all very proud of you. In consideration of certain recent events, we have all, as two families that will soon be joining forces by marriage, provided presents for you." Nabiki and Kasumi bounced up from their places and ran into another room. They came out bearing red-wrapped packages. Nabiki handed hers to Akane, Kasumi gave hers to Ranma. The graduates glanced at each other and tore open the presents.

"Cool!" Ranma said, holding up the red leather riding jacket. Embroidered on the back was a black dragon outlined in gold. The tail and one loop were curled protectively around a sitting white crane, also outlined in gold. Akane frowned, noticing the crane was sitting on some kind of nest.

"Come on, Akane, show us!" Kanami said, leaning forward. Akane slowly lifted the yellow motorcycle jacket. Hers also sported a black dragon and white crane. The dragon was coiled around the crane's legs, whose outspread wings and cocked head suggested it was protecting the dragon.

"I…thank you," Akane whispered, ears glowing red. The women around the table beamed. Ono cleared his throat.

"Um, Ranma, you will find a present from us men in your pocket. Akane, our present to you is outside."

"Outside?" She asked, looking up in confusion. Ranma checked the jacket pocket, finding a red envelope. He pulled it out, opened it, and promptly shoved it back into the pocket.

"Why don't you go with her, Ranma?" Kanami suggested.

"Um, yeah. Sure. Let's go, Akane." Ranma helped Akane up and dragged her outside, both clutching their new jackets. Nodoka smirked at Kanami.

"Very clever, my dear," She said, standing to fetch a tray of glasses and a warming bottle of sake. Kanami grinned.

"The very least I could do," Kanami replied as Nodoka came back with the drinks. "After all, given her usual reactions to surprises," An ear-splitting shriek rattled the windows and caused a hairline crack along the edge of Ono's right lens. "Ranma is the best equipped to handle them." Kanami finished as cursing floated in from the side yard.

----

Akane wondered if she should laugh or cry, having already exhausted her usual reactions of screaming and cursing. Sitting proudly in the side yard was a yellow GSRX 1000, a new helmet swinging from one of the handlebars and a custom paint job gleaming in the fading light. Her knees made her decision for her, giving out and she slumped to the ground. She reached a trembling hand to the glittering gold dragon painted on the side. Behind her, Ranma wondered how soon he could convince Akane to use the gift he had in his pocket. Love hotels are a wonderful invention, but right now, there were more important things to do.

"Do…you like her?" He asked softly. Akane surged to her feet and flung herself into his arms.

"Yes! She's beautiful and I love her and I'll wear your totem with pride and this is the best present ever!" She sobbed into his shoulder. Ranma let his breath out on a slow sigh and flashed a victory sign behind his back. Faint cheering came from the adults inside watching and Ranma smirked as Kanami loudly called for sake. He stroked his Mate's hair and gently lifted her chin.

"Shall we take her for her first spin?"

"You just try to keep up, Dragon-boy!"

----

Kodachi drummed her fingernails against her Honda's speedometer as she watched Tatewaki pace up and down the quiet intersection, trying to cajole his crew into joining his insane quest. The Thunders, while as loyal as her Roses to the laws of the street, were looking very skeptical. And who could blame them? Tatewaki seemed to have finally lost it; Kodachi suspected the Hammer Bitch's hammer was to blame. It had taken hours to dig Tatewaki out of the floor. As soon as he was free, he dashed off to the library, mumbling about exorcism spells and divine weapons, then insisted she, Kodachi, round up her Roses AND call out the Lost Boys for a Very Important Meeting. Now all three crews were giving HER suspicious looks! This was becoming intolerable.

"Men! I ask you, have I ever steered you wrong? Have I ever not stood behind you, encouraged you, and taught you how to hone your skills? Is it so much I, your fearless leader, ask?"

"You're asking the impossible, Kuno," Hibiki responded, leaning against his Kawazaki Ninja. "Did getting thumped during graduation knock what little sense you had out? Ranma's not a demon. Damn good fighter, yes, but he's still human." Kodachi snorted. All eyes turned to her.

"For once, my dear brother is not exaggerating. There is more to Ranma then fighting or riding. There is SOMETHING inside him, something…powerful." No way she was going to admit the Dragon had scared her spitless.

"What, you're saying he's possessed?" A Lost Boy asked.

"Fool!" Tatewaki snarled. "He's not possessed! He IS a demon. He has chained both Kijuuki and Akane to his evil side." Eyes rolled, followed by perked ears as new engines were heard. Everyone turned to see two motorcycles coming up the main drag. The red one drove right into the crowd, which happily scattered out of his way and parked next to Tatewaki. The yellow one deftly dodged the fleeing teenagers to pull up perpendicular to Kodachi.

"Good evening, Black Rose," Akane purred, turning off the engine of the new Suzuki. Kodachi gritted her teeth.

"Kijuuki,"

"Like my new ride? I call her Flame," Akane moved her left leg, propping her boot against the handlebar crosspiece. Kodachi's face mottled at the dragon sneering up at her. Her outraged shriek broke the glaring contest between Tatewaki and Ranma.

"You, you BITCH! How DARE you flaunt Ryu's symbol so? Have you no shame?" Akane snickered and twisted to show off her new jacket. Kodachi's reaction reached supersonic levels. Two Roses and a Lost Boy passed out. Kodachi violently kick-started her Honda and pointed.

"You're now mobile, you deceitful whore. I challenge you to a quarter mile. Winner gets Ranma."

"You're as dense as your brother, Rosie," Akane scoffed, firing up Flame. "I don't race for other people, that's rude." She dropped her leg and leaned towards Kodachi. "When I win, you will swear before everyone that you will not come up with ANY scheme to break Ranma and I up. Don't think I missed that little phraseology of yours."

"And when I win, you will renounce your claim on the Dragon God," Kodachi hissed. Akane shook her head.

"If you win, I will let Ranma choose who he wants to be with. You might be surprised."

"FINE." The feuding women slapped hands and turned towards the group.

"You all heard the terms!" Akane called. "Who wants to spot?"

"I'll start," Hibiki volunteered, pushing away from his bike. "I'm a neutral party here." Akane glanced at Kodachi, who nodded. The crowd scattered again as the competitors cruised slowly to the crosswalk. A Black Rose climbed on her Suzuki and drove to the center of the intersection.

"Kijuuki, my name is Aiko. I have no dog in this fight, will you accept me to call the finish?"

"I don't mind. Kodachi?" The female Kuno tossed her head.

"Aiko is trustworthy. I accept." Aiko nodded, neatly spun her cycle and rode to the finish line, two streetlights away. She parked her bike facing the crowd and waved. Two Lost Boys joined her on either side of the street to confirm the win. Hibiki moved to stand between the racers.

"All right, ladies. Clean race only. On my mark," He pointed at Akane, she revved Flame and nodded. Hibiki pointed at Kodachi, who did the same. Raising both arms, he glanced at each racer and dropped his arms. Akane and Kodachi shot off the line, their engines screaming. Various crew members drove onto the sidewalks to cheer them on, staying far enough back to leave a clear view. The Suzuki & the Honda were fairly evenly matched, only the driver's skill would determine the win. At the end of the quarter mile, Aiko spread her arms wide, her palms facing the racers. Akane and Kodachi each let go with one hand to slap Aiko's palm as they passed. The pair roared past the finisher, knocking her flat on her ass as they slapped her arms back. Akane braked faster, squealing Flame's tires as she skidded sideways. Getting herself pointing in the right direction, she rode back to Aiko, who was still on the ground. Kodachi turned back when Akane and all the crews arrived.

"Back, back!" Xian Pu ordered, keeping the crowd from overwhelming Aiko. The Black Rose groaned as she moved her arms. "Are you hurt, Aiko-chan? Anything broken?"

"That was a damn-fool thing to do," Ranma chimed in, nodding to Akane as she joined the group. Aiko shook her head.

"Easiest way to tell," She said, letting Xian Pu manipulate her arms. The Chinese ex-pat sighed and declared her bruised, but not broken.

"So, who won?" A dozen voices asked. Kodachi arrived as Aiko waved to Akane.

"Kijuuki, by a breath. It was very close," Aiko said. Hibiki glanced at his crew members, who nodded.

"It was damn close, but Kijuuki won."

"Agreed. Kijuuki won." Ranma whooped and swept Akane off her bike, swinging her around. Twin rumbles erupted from the Kunos' throats. Those who could skipped back, giving the Kunos a wide berth. Xian Pu helped Aiko to safety. Kodachi blew first.

"AIKO YOU UNEDUCATED GREASE MONKEY!!! How DARE you rule against your leader?"

"Being leader does not allow you to claim a false victory, Kodachi," Aiko said firmly. Everyone nodded.

"YOU UNHOLY POX UPON THIS EARTH!! UNHAND THE KIJUUKI BEFORE I BREAK YOUR FINGERS!!" Takewaki bellowed. Ranma and Akane sighed.

"Give it up, Kuno," Ranma said wearily.

"NEVER! I will NEVER give up! I will save Akane and Kijuuki from your fiendish clutches if it's the last thing I do."

"At the rate you're going, Kuno, you'll be dead first," Akane said, yanking off her helmet. Gasps echoed up and down the street. Kijuuki was really Akane? The Dragon and the Crane were engaged? Happily engaged? Takewaki was so overwhelmed he toppled over backwards with no one to catch him.