A Game Is Fine Too
A Somewhat Citrus-Flavoured Ranma ½ Fan Fiction
© 2008–10 by gsteemso
Not my characters. Ranma ½ belongs to Takahashi Rumiko.
Author's Note (Sat. 2008/07/05): Despite appearances, Ranma will not actually be paired, in the romantic sense, with anyone male in this fic. However, s/he is uniquely qualified to, shall we say, enjoy life to its fullest. Given a suitable nudge, why not?
Saotome Ranma, looking somewhat dishevelled, paused to recover his breath atop a small convenience store. In the street before him, his most evenly matched sparring partner — one Hibiki Ryoga — was sitting up with a wince from the crater he'd just made in the asphalt. Unexpectedly, considering Ryoga's almost supernaturally flawed sense of direction, he was looking straight at Ranma.
Ryoga scratched his head and stood up with a rueful grin. "Guess I should have practised that one a bit more before trying it on you, huh?"
Ranma hopped down to sidewalk level. "Well, I think it might have actually gotten me if your sandal strap hadn't come undone and tangled up your feet," he said generously. The two boys had been engaged in a running martial arts battle across most of the suburb, which was nothing unusual for them. What was unusual — indeed, unprecedented — was that they hadn't had their match cut short by anything, and had actually succeeded in tiring one another out through natural attrition. Normally Ryoga would get hopelessly lost only a few minutes after the fight began, or else the battle would be coöpted by some other martially obsessed lunatic.
In any case, the improbable event had taken place, and the two boys were in such a mellow mood after beating on one another uninterrupted for the better part of three hours that they were feeling unwontedly well-disposed to one another. All of the petty stresses that normally caused them to think ill of one another had faded temporarily to the background.
"Man, that was a good fight," Ranma said expansively as the two turned to start walking back to the Furinkan district, where Ranma was staying with the Tendo family. Behind them, unnoticed, the owner of the convenience store flipped them the bird and glared at the Ranma-shaped hole through his shop's rooftop sign.
"You said it, buddy," agreed Ryoga. He was about to continue with the observation that some food and drink would be a good idea, when he narrowly escaped being splashed by a bucket of cold water that had been upended on Ranma.
"Hey!" the now-girl protested, looking up for her assailant. She didn't have to look far; the supremely unwelcome little form of her martial arts school's perverted grandmaster, Happosai, was plummeting on a direct course from the rooftops to her bosom, holding out a lacy set of lingerie that he was obviously intent on getting her into. "Gah! You old freak!" Tired though she was, she was still on an adrenaline high from the fight and easily nailed the old lech between the eyes with a textbook-perfect punch, bouncing him off the brick wall beside them.
"Ow! Is that any way to treat someone who brings you a present?" snarled the pervert, waving the lingerie indignantly.
"In your case, YES," growled the dripping redhead. They weren't the only annoyed ones present, though, as they were abruptly reminded.
"You senile old goat!" Ryoga growled, snatching the lacy edge of the bra before Happosai could react, and swinging him around. "Try THIS on!" With an invisible flare of directed chi, the lingerie suddenly stretched, bouncing Happosai off the brickwork again as the pair of combatants rotated. Ranma, also taken by surprise, barely dodged them.
"Wha—?" managed Happosai, just before he was rudely interrupted at the bottom end of his orbit by the underwear suddenly snapping back into shape with a loud crack. The laws of physics obligingly resumed operation after Ryoga's prized new Rubber Cloth technique ended, propelling the startled grandmaster at high speed by air delivery into the next ward eastwards. A flock of birds took flight in alarm as the screaming projectile sped past a big tree a few streets over.
Ryoga's triumphant pose — not, alas, a thing he got to use very often — was cut tragically short by his other sandal strap unfurling itself from his leg and tying his feet together, causing him to topple over sideways.
"Huh. That happened last time too. Wonder what you're doing wrong?" observed Ranma, helping Ryoga up.
A passing little old lady crossed the street to avoid them. "Beating up senior citizens and her boyfriend lying around in the street… scandalous!" she muttered. "Young people today!"
They didn't hear her. "Darned if I know. Must be something to do with the opponent's chi; it never did that when I was practising."
"Some sort of chi-echo effect… Hmmm," mused Ranma.
"Meh, I'll figure it out later," decided Ryoga. "For now, I think I could do with a cold one and some food."
"Huh? A cold one of what?"
"Don't care as long as it's cold."
Ranma laughed. She was about to agree with him, when her gaze fell on the establishment immediately behind the Lost Boy, on the other side of the street. "Huh. How 'bout that place?" she asked, pointing.
"Ichiro's All-You-Can-Eat? Wow, I never even knew that was there." The two went in and waited patiently to be seated.
The proprietor looked askance at their age, and surreptitiously compared their faces to the standard "Bingo Sheet" distributed every few months by the Nerima Merchants' Association. He paled as he realized just who had walked in, and tried not to look apprehensive. According to the rather lengthy footnote, the girl seemed especially destructive during her infrequent dates, but the damage could sometimes be averted by hiding the couple out of view of passersby in the street, as well as refusing to admit any troublemakers who appeared to be following her.
"Right this way!" he urged them, with a disturbingly artificial smile. He seated them in a cosy candlelit booth right at the back — which suited the "couple" just fine; no sense risking a crazy challenger noticing them when they were trying to unwind, after all — and brought them some complimentary iced tea with their menus, before retiring with unseemly haste.
Ranma watched him go with a puzzled expression. "Did that guy look a bit jumpy to you?" she asked Ryoga in hushed tones, not wanting to make a scene. Then she noticed that the tea was iced and scowled. It would have been nice to change back to eat. Oh well, there's always the washroom sink while we're waiting around after ordering.
"He's probably just one of those nervous types. I meet a lot of them for some reason."
Ranma shrugged and they both eagerly downed the tea before turning to their menus. It was surprisingly tasty, and very refreshing.
In the background, the proprietor looked relieved. The young couple appeared to be peacefully enjoying their date, and the industrial-strength mood stabilizers he'd stirred into their tea should be kicking in any minute. And to think I didn't believe Mother when she insisted I take precautions before opening a location in Nerima! That reminds me, I'd better hide the cigarettes and get out my long underwear — she's visiting on Monday. He looked mildly worried at the idea, then smiled down at the little glass vial in his hand as his thoughts returned to the present. He read once more to himself the label:RYŪGENZAWA BRAND
Dried Sloth Pills
Guaranteed safe with all drinks!
Unfortunately, he failed to note the fine print warning of severe interactions with mythical curses — which was perhaps understandable, as it was in very small boustrophedon Ogham around the edge of the label and looked like mere decoration. On the other hand, he'd not likely have believed it in any case.
Ranma swam slowly out of the depths of sleep. He rapidly became aware he had a splitting headache, which occupied his whole attention for several moments. After a while certain other sensations oozed to the fore. He… no, he amended, she… felt all sticky, and a bit on the cool side, not that that really mattered to a well-conditioned martial artist. Apparently she'd fallen asleep without a blanket… Or nightclothes. Huh? Wait a moment…
Who was she lying cuddled up next to, to the extent of having her limbs intertwined with theirs⁈
She tried to open her sleep-crusted eyes, and was promptly foiled by the cruelly bright morning sunlight. "Ow!"
She tried again more slowly, and after a while managed to make out the inside of a vaguely familiar room stretching out above her. Apparently she was lying on a large throw rug on the floor. Where the heck? She awkwardly rolled her head to the left and was greeted by the sight of an equally sticky Hibiki Ryoga, wearing his signature bandannas and nothing else, protruding from underneath her. Oh. Right. I'm in the Lost Goofball's living room. She blinked, and rewound a moment. Why is Ryoga naked? Wait a sec. I'm naked too! Talk about embarrassing. Her thoughts squirrel-caged around in wobbly circles for a bit, failing to connect the dots.
A groan from the insensate Ryoga distracted her after a minute or so. "Wha?" he mumbled, sounding like he really needed a drink of water.
"Um. 'Morning," croaked Ranma tentatively. Whatever had happened to the two of them must have been pretty extreme to knock them both out like this. She couldn't even begin to guess why they were all tangled up with each other, though it did at least ward off some of the chill of the morning. And why were they both so sticky?
After a couple of false starts, Ryoga managed to answer her with, "G'morning. Um, what happened last night?" The two of them dragged themselves into a much less entwined sitting position, looking blearily around at the scattered wet clothing they must have discarded on arriving here.
"Weird," muttered Ranma, looking at the tangled clothes in their half-dried puddles of stale rainwater. What DID happen last night? "Uh… last I remember, we were fighting Happosai, and… We went for a snack, didn't we?" It was oddly hard to focus.
"Yeah, I think so," agreed Ryoga. "Can't remember much after that, just that we were in a good mood. Then it goes all foggy."
"Sheesh, we musta wore each other out way worse than it felt like!" concluded Ranma. "We musta been so fried we just peeled off our wet clothes and fell asleep on the spot once we got here."
Ryoga suddenly froze, looking down at Ranma's lap across from his. "Um. I dunno how to say this, but I don't think that's all we did…" he squeaked nervously.
"Huh?" She followed his gaze with her own, and — "Eww! What is that slimy white stuff all over my crotch?" She was too baffled to be really grossed out just yet, though she could tell that state of mind was approaching.
"Er… I think it's from, um, me," confessed Ryoga with sickly horror. This couldn't be happening! His mind shied away from the enormity of the realization.
Likewise, it took Ranma several minutes to process the possibility. Oddly, neither of them got defensive or angry, as one might normally have expected of them. The truth of their apparent actions the previous night was so inconceivable to them both that their minds slid off and around it rather than absorbing it. "I think… I really need a shower," she finally stumbled out, having gotten nowhere.
"Yeah, and a good soak in the furo," agreed Ryoga distractedly.
The two of them climbed awkwardly up one another until they were both standing, ignoring — with astonishing determination — the pleasurable tingles they got from being touched by one another, and staggered off in search of a bathroom. For some reason, they both started out with really wobbly legs.
The second time they ended up back in the living room, Ranma quietly took over leading the way.
"Ooogh, does it ever feel good to get clean," mumbled Ranma from the wash stool she was perched on, scrubbing her left leg industriously.
"Tell me about it," agreed Ryoga from his own stool, reaching for the back brush in the corner so he could wash the area between his shoulder blades properly. He was rather nonplussed when the business end fell off as soon as it touched his skin. "The heck?" he asked, staring at the disintegrated remains on the floor.
"Huh," blinked Ranma in consternation. "Musta dried up from not being used while your parents were… out." She diplomatically refrained from mentioning that they must have been lost for quite a while this time for such a thing to happen.
"Guess so," agreed Ryoga glumly, not having any better ideas. "Anyway, would you mind…?" He gestured vaguely with the washcloth in his hand.
"OK, but you gotta help me too afterward," agreed Ranma. She normally would have vehemently rejected any suggestion that she could use a hand with something so basic, as indeed would Ryoga, but whatever it was they couldn't remember doing the previous evening — combined with a night spent uncovered on the floor — had left them both rather stiff and sore. She turned to face his back and got busy with the washrag and soap.
After a few moments' work, she pronounced his back as clean as she felt like getting it, and they turned around so he could return the favour. Ryoga began to run the soapy cloth over her right shoulder blade, and paused in surprise. "Where did you get these funny marks, Ranma?" he asked.
"These dings and bruises on your neck and shoulder. See?"
Ranma got up with a stifled groan and looked at herself in the mirror.
"Weird. Almost looks like I got bit by something, but they're not very deep except for the fang marks," she said, looking up a bit at Ryoga's reflection behind her own. His mouth was hanging open slightly in surprise, revealing—
Oh HELL no.
"Um, Ryoga?" she said, entirely too calmly. "Why does it look like YOUR fang marks?"
Ryoga blinked in astonishment and shut his mouth. Now that she mentioned it, when he looked at her reflection from the front, the bruises and the tiny indentations bracketing each one looked suspiciously familiar. There appeared to be more bruises — this time without the fang marks — all over her breasts, too. He swallowed heavily, assailed by a sudden ghastly mental image of Ranma's male form in the same pose. "I… left… hickies?… all over… RANMA?" With difficulty, he managed not to throw up, and then was blindsided by a fuzzy and totally unexpected memory from the depths of the previous night's debauchery.
—he moved his head down between her inverted calves, leaning in towards her graceful neck as she threw her own head back and cried his name in rapture. As she dug her fingertips into his shoulders, he bit down, marking her as his own as he pushed ever deeper into her—
Ryoga's mind overloaded from trying to process diametrically opposing mental states, and he collapsed like a solid stone puppet with its strings cut, catching his jaw a nasty crack on the counter on the way down. It left a dent… in the countertop. His jaw, of course, was unharmed.
"Huh. Hickies from another guy are pretty gross, but I didn't think it was THAT disturbing," mumbled Ranma in bewilderment. She grudgingly prodded the limp form with her foot until he was lying a bit less awkwardly, then returned to her ablutions. After some more scrubbing, she walked over and turned the shower on herself, sighing with pleasure as she reverted to male form. "Aaah, what a relief! Huh?"
Ranma looked down, and was astonished to see heavy flows of whitish goop oozing down the inside of his legs, mixed with a fair few dark red flecks of blood. "Oh man." Not even he could ignore evidence like this. He'd actually done… THAT. Not only that, he'd done it BACKWARDS. With another GUY.
Ranma fell to his knees in shock. Oddly, his desire to retch wasn't strong enough to make him actually do so, but he still felt pretty ill. He sat there stunned for a few minutes, and eventually reached a conclusion. "That… never happened. Yeah, that's the ticket." He determinedly put from his mind the pleasurable echoes of sensation from his other form's now-absent genitalia, and scrubbed himself vigorously until all traces of the night's exertions had gone, apart from the rapidly fading hickies.
After a while, Ryoga woke up again. He blinked in shock at the horrible sight of a male Ranma with his, Ryoga's, bite marks all over him, and determinedly blanked his mind as he finished cleaning up. Neither of them spoke as they ran Ranma's clothes through the dryer and got dressed for the day, until Ranma finally ventured an innocuous comment over breakfast. It was with no small sense of relief that they finally went their separate ways — Ryoga getting himself lost with a vague idea of finding his girlfriend Unryū Akari's family pig farm, where he knew he would always be welcome; and Ranma heading off to school in Furinkan district, with hopes of being only somewhat late.
Ryoga wandered dazedly across the landscape just beyond Tokyo's sprawl. He didn't know it, but his meandering had switched directions back and forth several times already, between patterns that would eventually lead him to Akari and patterns that would eventually lead him to Ranma. This wasn't unusual, except for the part where he was thinking positive thoughts about his perennial rival rather than homicidal ones.
Ryoga was, bluntly, in a highly unstable state of near-shock at his actions the night before. I had SEX — with RANMA, of all people? "Bleaargh!" he cried out, disgusted, causing passersby to give him funny looks. The thing was, as the possessor of a Jusenkyo curse himself, Ryoga had always viewed Ranma as male, even when technically engaged in ogling the guy's girl form. The thought of having lost his virginity to his most hated rival was truly nauseating. "Ranma, this's all your fault," he muttered quietly, without much force.
The flip side of the situation, Ryoga was uncomfortably aware, was that she looked really cute when she was gasping joyously in the throes of… of… He twitched and stumbled in his relentless striding. Feeling his face start to burn, he ducked his head, certain that everyone nearby was staring at him.
The thing was, it was hard to be angry with someone who'd made you feel so good. Ryoga was finding it harder and harder not to feel all warm and fuzzy whenever he thought of the girl… who was really a boy…
"Dammit!" he shouted in frustration. I know he's really my friend, but who ever heard of "rivals with benefits"? He paused in his endless striding for a moment, blindsided once again by a truly intense memory of the night before. On the other hand, the idea does have its good points, he conceded reluctantly, thinking wistfully of Ranma's girl body's perky pink nipples beneath his hands.
By the end of the day, some 16 hours after he'd set out, he'd covered almost 150 km of ground, though he'd actually travelled less than a seventh of that measured along a straight line. He had to admit he was becoming almost happy with the thought of having had sex, even if it did have to have been with Ranma; in fact, he was actually finding it quite difficult not to wish for a repeat occurrence. "I must be nuts," he muttered to himself as he began to set up his camp for the night, "but damned if I don't think she's sexy as hell." He wanted to wash his brain out with soap.
Ranma, meanwhile, had arrived at school just in time to be drained by his chi-vampire of a homeroom teacher, Miss Hinako, as she left for her next class of the day. "Thanks, Saotome-kun!" she sang as she skipped out the door, her suddenly adult form causing all sorts of interesting motions in her now far too small dress. He supposed it was a fair trade, especially considering that he didn't feel—
Ranma looked down at himself in surprise. Apparently he was so energized after having sex for several hours straight the night before that he was still in fairly good shape after having huge amounts of chi sucked out of his aura. Go figure.
He sat down at his desk, looking rather distant and thoughtful. The class was instantly alerted to potential mayhem on the horizon, as the mystery of his whereabouts overnight quickly took a back seat to the mystery of who his latest challenger was. After all, the only other times anyone had seen him so distracted and imperturbable, he'd been hard at work on various new techniques. What else would it be now?
Ranma, of course, knew exactly why he was so distracted, and had absolutely no intention of letting anyone else figure it out. He eagerly seized the excuse that had been dropped into his lap and ran with it, muttering to himself about what could possibly be going wrong with his pig-cursed rival's Rubber Cloth technique whenever someone showed a bit too much interest.
All three of Ranma's fiancées were in his class these days, to his everlasting annoyance. He figured he owed someone a good pounding, as payment for whoever-it-was having opened Cologne's eyes to the benefits to her heir of a formal education.
Be that as it may, ever since the new school year had started, the three girls had been engaged in the iciest of cold wars, with himself stuck miserably in the middle. About the only bright spots were that Tendo Nabiki and Kuno Tatewaki had graduated the previous year, though he lived in the same house as the former, and unfortunately still sometimes encountered either or both around the town.
Today the three fiancées were watching him as closely as they felt they could get away with. None of them wanted to distract him from his martial arts theorizing just yet, so they kept their distance and watched one another like hawks. This lasted up until the period after lunch, when the class headed out for their gym lesson.
Ranma's crash course in physical intimacy had left him acutely aware of everyone around him on a sexual level. He fervently avoided — to the extent of changing to his gym outfit in a stall in the restroom instead of using the change room — thinking too closely about the boys of the class, fearing unwelcome self-discoveries, but the girls of the class occupied his full attention whenever they passed in front of his eyes. This was only enhanced by the ludicrously tiny shorts they wore in gym. He found it very reassuring that he still found girls attractive; now if only he didn't have that looming dread that he might start feeling attracted to other boys as well—
Aargh, aargh, aargh, he winced, I really didn't want to think about that! It was too late, though. He had a sudden flashback to the exquisite feeling of Ryoga's manhood sliding smoothly into his girl side's feminine organs, and shuddered. Then he noticed something that made him feel a lot better — he'd enjoyed the sex, yes, but he didn't actually feel attracted to Ryoga at all, even in the depths of shared passion. The whole experience fit into Ranma's mental files more under the category of "masturbation" than anything else. There wasn't a lot else in there, either, because he so seldom got any safe time to himself. He wasn't sure how to feel about these memories' relative prominence.
It also, he realized, seemed to belong under the dusty and underused heading of "fun with friends." Ranma had even fewer memories that belonged to that semi-atrophied classification, and up until this incident had treasured every single one of them. He felt horribly conflicted as a result, and turned to girl-watching with a vengeance to get his mind off the whole business.
Unfortunately, that was where the fiancées had clued in that things were not quite as they seemed. The first to approach him reprovingly was, of course, Tendo Akane. The two teens and their respective families lived together at the Tendo dojo, and Ranma loved her best out of his three prospective wives, but she did have a regrettably strong shrewish streak. These days she was a lot politer about rebuking him, but only until she was reasonably certain of his having transgressed. "Ranma," she began with one eyebrow twitching, "Were you just checking out Miyuki's butt?"
Ranma froze like a deer caught in headlights. "Uh… was I? Sorry, didn't realize," he ad-libbed desperately. It was sort of accurate; he'd been appreciating the girl's curves, true, but mainly he'd been deep in thought about his endangered gender identity.
The tiny margin of truthfulness gave him a much better poker face than usual — which is to say, he looked surprised rather than guilty — so Akane only frowned at him and warned, "Well, DON'T! That idiot Kuno might have graduated last year, but we don't need anyone replacing him as the Chief Pervert here."
Ranma had to agree. "Well, yeah, kinda obvious ain't it?"
Akane gave him a frosty look. "Wouldn't be the first time I needed to remind you of something obvious."
"Okay, okay. Sheesh, try to flirt free food out of ONE guy without remembering to go girl first and you hear about it forever, honestly." At least the guy turned out to be gay so I still got my octopus balls, he consoled himself.
Mollified, Akane returned to the girls' side of the sports field and resumed waiting her turn to be at bat. Kuonji Ukyo and the Chinese Amazon, Shampoo, who were Ranma's other two candidates for official ball and chain, took advantage to issue their own warnings, which Ranma ignored with a lasting glower. He still hadn't forgiven the two for throwing exploding food around in public a few months previously, during the fiasco when his and Akane's fathers had tried to forcibly get the pair married.
"I guess we can talk later, eh, Ranchan?" said Ukyo to save face. She withdrew as quickly as she could without appearing to have been run off.
"Husband no need look at flat-chested Japan girls when have too-too sexy Amazon wife to meet man needs! We go have honeymoon this weekend, yes?" bubbled Shampoo. "You see what you missing all this time!" she added with a grin and a shimmy.
Ranma grimaced. Today, with his libido running much higher than usual, he found himself especially resentful of Shampoo's advances. Not even he could miss the fact that, even after all the time she had had to learn about him, she still thought he could be led around by the testicles if she acted sexy enough in front of him. He resented that even more than usual after the damage the previous night's exertions had caused to his sense of self.
Ever since he'd been cursed to look like such a beautiful girl, Ranma had had a secret horror of getting stuck as some guy's girly sex toy. He felt somewhat like he'd placed himself in such a position with Ryoga, and now Shampoo wanted to do essentially the same thing to his male side, his innermost bastion of self? It was intolerable!
He laid her out unconscious in a single untelegraphed blow. In spite of all the danger signs, she had in her arrogance not expected him to be anywhere near so angry, and went down like a dynamited tree. There was a shocked pause as the entire class STARED.
"SAOTOME!" roared the teacher, hurrying over and gesturing for a bunch of the other girls to follow him.
The squad of intimidated girls carted Shampoo off to the nurse's office, and the teacher demanded an explanation — which Ranma declined to give, saying it was a personal matter and that she had insulted him horribly.
Even as the teacher chewed him out and gave him three weeks' detention, Ranma found himself feeling a lot better; there's always something satisfying about striking back at an aggressor, even if it wasn't done in a totally socially acceptable manner. He wasn't terribly surprised at the punishment, which wasn't as uncharacteristic for Furinkan as it sounded — most of what the staff turned a blind eye to happened outside of class.
Akane and Ukyo could only look on in shock. Ranma didn't have a problem hitting anyone who deserved it, but he always needed a pretty good reason to do so. They couldn't imagine what Shampoo might have done to get him so uncharacteristically angry.
After Ranma's detention that afternoon, he left the school by a different door than usual and went for a walk. This had the unfortunate side effect of making Akane miss meeting him where she'd waited outside the main entrance; she was quite worried about him, and hoped he would talk to her. It worked sometimes, after all. After waiting a further half hour, she gave up and went home, wondering how she'd missed him and fretting anxiously over what could be bothering him.
Ranma, meanwhile, meandered absently around the canal network that crossed the route home to the Tendos'. He had a lot to think about, and the lines he'd had to write during his detention ("I must not hit people during class, no matter how much they insult me") didn't figure in the subject matter at all.
After he'd realized that he still wasn't attracted to other boys, Ranma had calmed down a lot. As he recalled more and more of the energetic goings-on he'd participated in the previous evening on Ryoga's living room floor, which seemed in hindsight to have gone on for several pleasure-hazed hours before any actual intercourse took place, he had to admit that it would have been absolutely wonderful with a better choice of partner. Akane, for example… but, no, she was seriously freaked out by any and all things that led in that direction. Ranma shuddered to imagine her reaction the next morning if she were ever to do That without intending to in advance. Quite apart from the likely gruesome fate of her luckless partner, she'd quite possibly do herself a fatal injury while trying to drive out the perversion with the nearest blunt object.
Ranma frowned. " 'Without intending to…' " he muttered thoughtfully. There was something fishy about this whole business. He would have been prepared to swear on his life that he would never have willingly slept with another male, yet he'd done just that! As far as he could remember, neither he nor Ryoga had stopped to observe that something was a bit odd about them even admitting to mutual attraction, let alone acting on the feeling. They'd just… been aware of a warm presence and that rubbing up against it felt nice. It was like they were blind drunk, or something. Odd.
Temporarily shelving the problem, Ranma considered his other fiancées. Alas, he realized, if he'd done The Deed with any of them, they'd probably try to rub it in the others' faces, precipitating a fight resembling World War III in scope and intensity. Similarly dire results would probably follow intimacy with ANY girl, as the fiancés responded to the "threat." It just wasn't fair!
"Gah!" he spat, horribly frustrated. "I gotta do something about that!"
It was just too bad that he had no idea what could be done about it.
It occurred to him ironically that even if he were so inclined as to seek out a male partner, which — even in light of the fact that he already HAD once — seemed about as likely as finding bicycles growing on a tree, the only one who wasn't likely to boast of the conquest afterwards was the same one he'd already had relations with. "I have to think of that as a lucky break, now? Ugh, my life really sucks," he groused as he walked along.
Following school, Ukyo had returned to her restaurant as per usual, but was worried. If Ranma was finally starting to notice girls but he was still pissed at her for the Exploding Wedding fiasco, she was at a serious disadvantage in the fiancée wars. She dithered for a while, and finally decided that she needed further information before it would become clear what to do next. Nodding decisively, she summoned her only employee, the genius ninja-girl Konatsu, who cheerfully went about her life under the slight inconvenience of actually being a boy.
"What can I do for you, Ukyo-sama?" the humble pseudo-girl asked politely, with a deferential bow. Ukyo had, after much effort, broken Konatsu's habit of prostrating herself whenever she asked for orders.
"Well, I'm worried about Ranchan… I, well, he's still mad at everybody from that stupid wedding. He actually knocked Shampoo out in one punch during gym class today! The thing is, he seems to actually be starting to notice girls, just when he isn't speaking to his cute fiancée! I'm worried he might do something he'll regret. I know it's a lot to ask — he's almost as good as you are at noticing watchers — but could you please go and discreetly keep an eye on him?"
Konatsu raised one delicate eyebrow. If she were honest with herself, this sounded like a disaster waiting to happen, but she could refuse Ukyo nothing — she loved the crossdressing okonomiyaki chef with all her heart. "I will do my best, Ukyo-sama," she promised gravely, "but is there anything else I need to know?"
"Hmmm… No, I think that's everything. Or, no… He was all distracted during class today, like when he's got a new challenger, but no one knows what's going on. He kept muttering about a new technique of Ryoga's, for some reason. Maybe he's promised to help Ryoga win a challenge?" Ukyo looked distant for a moment as she pondered the mystery.
"Huh. Strange. Well, I'll get started right away. Will you be all right for the afternoon rush, Mistress?"
"Sure thing, sugar. Stay safe, OK?"
With another bow by way of reply, Konatsu went upstairs and left via the roof. Finding someone as memorable as Ranma wasn't too hard when the girl-cursed boy wasn't trying to hide, at least not to someone of Konatsu's skills, and she quickly tracked him to a dry canal several blocks away.
He appeared to be upset about something, from what she could glean from his body language. She was wondering what he was wandering around for, and pondering methods of finding out without letting him know of her attention, when he suddenly snapped to alertness and looked straight at her. "You can come out now," he grated sourly.
Oops. Busted, she thought guiltily. I'm sorry, Ukyo-sama. She dropped her stealth technique, and hopped down to join him in the canal bed from where she'd been lurking in the shadow of a telephone pole on the bank. "Hello, Ranma-sama."
Ranma's expression relaxed a bit. "Oh, it's you, 'Natsu-chan," he said, noticeably less aggressively. "What's up?"
Konatsu paused briefly, trying inexpertly to think of a way to explain herself without getting Ranma angrier with anyone. When she'd come to stay with Ukyo, it had required her to retrain a great number of her habits; having a mistress who she actually wished to support made a great deal of difference in how she should act when being questioned. "Uh, well, mistress Ukyo was… worried about you, and asked me to keep an eye out for you while you were… distracted," she said hopefully. With any luck the pauses while she sought for words wouldn't be too noticeable.
Ranma's expression grew grimmer at the mention of Ukyo, but however upset he was, he couldn't bring himself to be angry with the luckless kunoichi before him. The worst she had done at that stupid wedding was sneak around trying ineffectually to be helpful, and she quite obviously looked up to him. "Well, I got a lot on my mind today, but I'm not a total basket case," he said in an unsuccessful attempt to lighten the mood. "Thanks, but I think I can take it from here."
Konatsu looked at him searchingly. He didn't appear very well rested, at least compared to his usual state — of course, compared to normal people, he was still ridiculously fit. "Would talking to someone help, Ranma-sama?" she asked deferentially. "I think we have a lot in common, after all, and I can see something is really bothering you."
Ranma started to reflexively decline, but something stopped him at the last moment. His brow furrowed, and he thought, If anyone understands having backwards "parts," it's this poor schmuck. But how do I know he, uh, she, wouldn't tell Ukyo? She does anything she says! Finally, he decided to just gloss over the embarrassing parts. That wouldn't leave much, but maybe it wouldn't need to. "Well, I guess it couldn't hurt, but I want your word of honour no one will learn about this from you," he agreed reluctantly, eyeing Konatsu with a piercing gaze.
The ninja drew herself up. This sounded serious. "On my life, Ranma-sama," she promised solemnly.
"Even if Ukyo asks?" Ranma's face was like stone.
He didn't call her "Ucchan," she thought with a twinge of alarm, mingled with a surge of selfish hope that she tried guiltily to suppress. If Ranma didn't want Ukyo-sama that meant she was available for Konatsu, right? Still, that was beside the point. "You never told anyone about what I said when you helped me that day in gym class," she whispered. "I can do no less."
Ranma paused, taken aback. What—?
Halfway through last class on a Thursday, a few days after Konatsu had arrived in town, Ranma reëntered the change rooms at Furinkan high. He was surprised to find a distraught Konatsu huddled miserably on a bench in the corner.
The genius kunoichi was managing to test out of all her courses, but while that was going on she was expected to attend classes like all the other local teenagers bar Ryoga. That included gym — but Konatsu was, to say the least, uncomfortable changing in the change room that matched her physical gender.
Ranma had just completed all the gymnastics exercises, with a perfect score, in about a tenth of the allotted time. However, after he got in a loud argument with Akane, the exasperated coach had sent him home early with a disgruntled note to Ranma's father. Ranma thought this rather a low blow, but was shaken from his funk when he saw Konatsu's expression of sheer misery and self-loathing. "Konatsu?" he asked in surprise. "What's wrong? Are you in our gym class now?" She was in 3-A for academic courses, being a much better student than Ranma had ever managed; he and all his other associates were in 3-E.
Konatsu turned her face up towards him with a stricken expression. He was shocked to realize she was crying. "Ranma-sama…" she whispered.
Ranma twitched and tried to prevent his hair from standing on end. He'd been thinking of Konatsu as a rather strange boy ever since her masculine chest had been revealed, but at the moment she looked for all the world like a very feminine girl who'd just been cruelly dumped by her boyfriend. Ranma was more than a bit creeped out, but he thought of Konatsu as a friend, if a very strange one, and he just couldn't walk away from such misery, even if he was highly ill-equipped to deal with it. "What's wrong? he asked again, more gently, and gingerly sat down near her on the bench.
"I… I…" Konatsu broke down sobbing again, shrinking even further into herself. "Y-yes, Ranma-sama, they assigned me to your gym class because it's where all the other martial artists are… but they're making me use the wrong change room! Except it's technically not, I guess, but I'm a GIRL even if they don't want me to be…" Her words grew unintelligible under the tears.
Ranma was shaken to his foundation at this admission — but then he thought of how much he hated being a girl while surrounded by lecherous males in the change room, and couldn't help but feel moved at her plight. Since he had to participate in swimming lessons as a girl, he'd only just escaped being forced to use the wrong change room himself, and honestly, using the right one wasn't really an improvement. He reached out towards the huddled wreck in front of him, but hesitated. Touching a high-level martial artist unexpectedly while said martial artist was highly overwrought was a good way to lose a hand.
His dilemma was resolved when she noticed the abortive motion and gave him a tremulous smile. "You… you don't think I'm a freak?" she whispered with a desperate hope that tore at Ranma's heart.
"Nah," he said expansively, clapping a hand to her shoulder reassuringly. "Think about who you're talkin' to! They nearly did the same thing to me. Stupid swimming lessons…" With a grimace, he trailed off into indecipherable muttering.
Konatsu gave a firmer smile. "I guess you'd understand if anyone would," she agreed shyly. "I used to envy you your change, but I guess things aren't very good that way either, are they?"
Ranma gave her shoulder a quick squeeze and let go again with a calming smile. "At least you don't have to wonder what shape you'll be in five minutes," he agreed.
She winced. "I guess… but is being half the right thing and half the wrong thing not technically an improvement over ALWAYS being the wrong one?"
Ranma had to admit that one had him stumped. He'd never thought about it before. He said as much, but continued before she could respond: "The thing is, being in the wrong change room is mostly embarrassing because of people ogling you when you don't want 'em to, right? And you're a lebbi— lesmi— you like other girls, so if you were in the girls' change room they'd feel like that about you, right?" He waited for her downcast nod. "Well, see, that's where you're ahead of the game! See, normally a girl who likes other girls would be happier changing with the guys coz it would take the lust out of it — but since she's got the kind of body the GUYS all lust after, she can't, right? Well, you CAN."
Konatsu looked cross-eyed at this bit of contorted logic. "But—" she protested.
"I know it's not that simple because the guys will tease you about bein' a crossdresser, but you're forgettin' you got me here to stick up for you!" Ranma said encouragingly.
Konatsu looked starstruck. "You'd stick up for me?" she asked in hushed surprise.
"Sure! You're my friend, right?"
Ranma's resolve had been rather tested when he found out Konatsu's gym wear consisted of the extremely small and tight shorts that were the female gym uniform, but he supposed in hindsight it made sense. His eyes still watered just thinking about it though.
As it transpired, Konatsu had been required to sit out gym that class as punishment for being late, so once again was able to change with only Ranma being the wiser. It further turned out to have been her last gym class as well as her first, because the paperwork for her to skip the year's schooling had finally gone through shortly afterwards. Ranma had soon forgotten the incident amidst the unending stream of weirdness that was his everyday life, but apparently it had meant a lot more to the gender-confused ninja.
"Uh, yeah," he agreed nervously. When she put it like that, he really HAD to trust her, at least in her eyes.
"Well," he started, "somethin' really awful happened last night, 'Natsu-chan. I hardly know how to tell you… See, I wore myself out sparring with a friend yesterday afternoon, but bein' tired snuck up on us way faster and harder than either of us expected, and when I woke up this morning I was a girl and all tangled up naked with the guy I'd spent the night with…" He had to stop to get his heaving gut under control as he thought about it. He risked a glance at Konatsu, but she didn't look condemnatory, as he'd halfway expected her to. "I, uh, I think you can guess what happened when I changed back in the shower."
Konatsu looked lost.
"Oh, gods… Look, when I change back to a guy anything that was in my, uh, girl parts gets spat out, and this morning there was all this gooey white stuff running down my legs in the shower…" Ranma cut himself off before his monologue could devolve into panicked babbling. The gods alone knew how many unfriendly ears would "just happen" to hear it if he did. He risked another glance at Konatsu, and was just in time to see her puzzled expression get replaced by a pale and shocked one.
Before he could say anything else, she turned a sad face to him, and exclaimed, "Oh, gods, Ranma-sama! I'm so sorry. That must have been awful!" She wrapped her arms around him and the next thing he knew, she was crying into his shoulder. "I've thought about it, you know…" she whispered between sobs. "For people like us, it kind of looms in the background, doesn't it?" He twitched and she held him a bit tighter. "I honestly would be a gibbering wreck if it were me in your shoes, so you're doing well that far, at least." She sniffled. "I mean, I was raised in a brothel, even if it was a spectacularly unsuccessful one, so I've always expected I might have to some day — but you always thought of yourself as a boy, right?"
"Yeah." Ranma awkwardly patted her on the back, uncomfortably aware of her as both a pretty girl and a fellow male. Losing himself in his memories with a guilty sense of relief, he stared over her shoulder at the wall of the canal. "I… enjoyed it," he whispered shamefacedly. "I can't imagine ever wanting a guy to touch me 'like that' in the first place, never mind AGAIN, but I liked it! What does that mean?"
Konatsu considered the question for a minute or so before answering, just holding him comfortingly. It wasn't often she got to fill a feminine support role like this, but she couldn't bring herself to feel pleased at the opportunity considering how broken up Ranma sounded. "Well," she began, "It was consensual sex, wasn't it? It'd be kinda weird if you didn't like it, at least a little. How do you feel about the guy you were with? I know you never thought of him 'like that,' but step back a bit. What kind of friend is he? Ignoring the sexual aspect for a moment, do you regret having spent a nice evening with him? Is he likely to brag about it to his friends, or does he respect you enough to be a gentleman?"
Ranma looked a bit shell-shocked at this series of questions. Considering such matters for the first time would have been distressing enough at the best of times; after sleeping with another boy, Oh gods, I really slept with another GUY! it was almost impossible to wrap his brain around.
Konatsu waited patiently, relaxing her hug so she was holding his shoulders from a step or so away and facing him earnestly.
"Well… part of the reason I was so upset is that I'd already worked out he's probably the only guy who WOULDN'T brag about it, unless we count you as a guy." He ignored Konatsu's startled squeak as she let go of his shoulders and stepped back a bit in embarrassment. "I know, you're a girl, but you can't tell me you never thought about it. I know how hot my girl form is." Konatsu's red face told him all he needed to know about her thoughts on the matter. "Relax, you're about the only person who's never been a pervert to me, unless we count the time you put on lipstick and kissed all over my boy side, and I know that was only because you were overcome with gratitude. I trust you."
Konatsu nodded shyly, not trusting herself to speak.
"So, anyway, see, because of that, I almost have to treat it as a lucky break that it wasn't any other guy, or even any other girl, 'coz absolutely EVERYBODY else would either brag about it, or try to kill me, or both! I mean, how screwed up is that?" Ranma tried to remember what else she'd asked him. "I guess he's a nice enough guy to spend time with — he's one of my best friends, in fact — but I never would have considered him a prospect even if I leaned that way, I don't think."
"Ah. I think I see. But… the actual act was… good?" Konatsu was blushing fiercely as she asked this, but she couldn't seem to help herself.
Ranma looked pensive for a moment, as he tried to get a calmer perspective on events. "Well, looking back, it felt really, really good if I don't think about who I did it with." He furrowed his brow in perplexity. He wouldn't have recognized the word even if it bit him on the knee, but that way of looking at events seemed a bit schizoid to him. He sighed.
"What… what was it like?" Konatsu looked at him with wide, eager eyes and a very deep blush.
The hell—? thought Ranma, looking at her in surprise. Then he caught on. Oh… she sees me as someone safe to have "girl talk" with. Joy. He grimaced; it was meant to be a smile, but was heavily distorted by his chagrin at understanding the whole subject in the first place. "Tell you what, 'Natsu-chan — if we're doing 'girl talk,' I want to be a girl and in front of a big ice cream sundae when I do it, okay? Besides, talking about doing it with a guy when I am one is just too creepy."
"Sorry!" she squeaked, looking ashamed.
"Aw, don't be upset," he admonished her with a weak and crooked smile. "Let's just take this to someplace with ice cream, where no one knows who I am. See? No problem!" Her answering embarrassed smile made him feel a bit better, for the second time that day. Didn't even have to hit anyone this time! he rejoiced absently as the two jumped lightly back up to street level.
END PART ONE
Latest revision as of Thurs. 2010/01/14