In my Arms, In my Heart

Chapter 6

The Next Step

The next day
School

Walking into the main entrance of the school, Nabiki could see the jealous stares from the girls directed at her, seeing as Ranma was beside her trying not to be noticed by the same women.

Looks like the populace is riled up now, the stakes are higher now for the sordid teenage love story they have in their heads with Ranma. Her smirk only raised the girls' heckles. And I'm their target now.

Sensing some violence in the air, Ranma jerked his head around only to see daggers in the form of stares focused on Nabiki.

"Everything alright?" He moved surreptitiously closer to speak to her privately. However this had the opposite effect and the stinging impressions on his back increased.

She nodded back, "Yep, couldn't be better." Putting her outdoor shoes in the locker, she found that her indoor ones were missing.

Ranma meanwhile had opened his and had to step back as a series of pink letters cascaded out.

"Oh for the love of –"

Biting his tongue, Ranma crouched down to scoop them up and crammed them back in there after grabbing his indoor pair. Checking to his right, he saw Nabiki just standing there in her socks.

"Something wrong?"

Looking at him, she smiled warmly, "No, everything is right." She tilted her head in the direction of her locker, "My slippers are missing, probably some childish form of bullying."

Ranma chuckled to himself, "But, we're kids ourselves, aren't we?"

"No, we are adults. Therefore we must act in an adult manner to such things." She took a step closer to him, "Carry me to my desk, Ranma." She beamed now, "Take your time; there's no need to rush. I don't mind who sees you. When I'm there, could you ask the nurse if she has any spares?"

His eyes tightened amicably, and his grin had many teeth in it as the number of faces turned in their direction increased, "Certainly, getting your feet dirty will not do." Nodding in agreement he rapidly scooped her up beneath her knees, holding her there for a few seconds, "Is this comfortable?" He asked, already knowing the answer.

"Yes, very…" Nabiki was content, her face calm and relaxed as she relished the coming journey.

Walking carefully through the school, up the three flights of stairs, and through the long corridor, Ranma made sure to act perfectly natural and casual. Even though it was normal for him to carry Nabiki like this on their long commute to and from home, it was mostly too fast for anybody to see the blurs fly by or under cover of dark.

On this occasion he made it very obvious as to what he was doing.

"Here you go. I'll have a word with the nurse." Ranma said as he placed Nabiki on her desk, her legs dangling off the floor.

As some girls began to surround her, he strode toward the nurse's office, a small trail of followers keeping an eye on him.

Yuko sat in Nabiki's chair and spoke above the other girls who were asking about the relationship, to which the latter failed to respond to.

"Looks like Ranma's taken now, huh?" Her smile was genuine, though her eyes were tinged with a downwards look.

Nabiki replied to her directly, "I wouldn't say that, he's more than welcome to choose whoever he wants." She leaned back and stared out of the window, "I'm just a normal girl, and he's a special guy. Any girl who has him will be lucky."

"Finally found a pair your size…" Said guy appeared in the doorway and handed Nabiki some slippers, "Hey, Yuko, how are you?"

"Good, glad to see you two setting the school alight again." She got up as Nabiki planted her feet on the ground, "Been a while since we had some juicy gossip around here."

"Oh, you mean about us?" Ranma asked curiously, scratching the back of his head, "What kinda things?"

Yuko walked to the window encouraging the twosome to join her. Here at the back of the class it was quieter, and the other observers were unable to get any closer without it being obvious.

"Aside from the physical closeness, naturally having taken each other as their life partner through the very act of love making -"

Ranma facefaulted onto the windowsill, smashing his face into it hard, "It's not like that!"

"- not to mention the damsel in distress syndrome whereby the strong prince rescues the weak peasant girl -"

Nabiki slammed her hand on the same ledge, "Hold it right there, I'm no peasant!"

"- and on top of that your continued insistence that there is nothing between the two of you only makes things more suspicious to your true hidden relationship." Yuko glanced at the two of them either side of her, stuck between anger and horror. "Whatever confusion you're creating seems to be working. No one really knows what things are like between the two of you. You're playing crazy roles sometimes acting like long term lovers, but other times you are total strangers. However, I can tell." Yuko smiled knowingly, tapping her temple, "I can see how things are. You two are inseparable at this point."

"What, me and Nabiki? You must be kidding. We're just friends." Ranma protested, waving his hands about a little too strongly for Nabiki's liking. Yuko moved back a little to give them some breathing room.

What's he talking about now? Better nip this in the bud now before he gets any louder. Understanding that Yuko managed to see more than the others at the school, she didn't mind exposing the truth a little.

"Just a second, Ranma. I thought I said that we don't have to be just friends any more, didn't I?"

"Yeah, well... I guess so, but you already said... something else..." Taking this chance to look out onto the playground, he did so.

Yuko sighed and came in closer, "You know, things would be so much easier on yourselves if you just admitted how you feel about each other. There'd be no need to hide from each other so much."

Nabiki turned to look at her fully, "What do you mean? I'm not hiding from Ranma."

Yuko shrugged, raising her hands up, "I'm not sure, but it seems like you're constantly doing something to keep yourself busy and away from him." She turned to Ranma, "And you, keeping her at a distance too isn't helping either as you're moving yourself away from your other classmates."

Ranma angled his face away from her, "I'm not doing that."

Nabiki frowned. Hang on, why is Ranma keeping away me? He's got no reason to do that.

Yuko giggled, "You're both cute, but a bit dumb too. Once you realise it, you'll both feel much better."

Stepping away from them, she returned to her seat and began chatting to her neighbours, leaving Ranma and Nabiki both looking outside. Glancing at each other at the same time, they both flinched their gazes away slightly and made to look casual, before Nabiki mumbled something unintelligible.

"Huh?"

"I said that we should talk a bit later, okay?" Her eyes were tired, the eyelids half open and her expression one of sadness, her mouth curled down at the edges. Surprisingly it was one Ranma recognised, but never thought he would see on her face.

It was a look of defeat.

That evening
Saotome Cottage

"So, what's going on Nabiki?"

Ranma had put on the kettle to return him to male form, given that he carried her straight after the work in the café. Both of them had longer shifts meaning it was complete darkness outside.

"Don't..." Nabiki put her hand on his and took the kettle away from the heat, "Could you do me a favour and heat the bedroom up? I'm not particularly hungry tonight..."

"Yeah, me neither..." Waving to her, the redhead called back, "Should be perfect in five minutes or so."

As the door closed, Nabiki muttered a thank you.

Facing the window overlooking the lake, she held a fist over her chest and pressed hard.

What am I doing? Is this crazy of me to even try this?

Her heart could only respond in rhythmic beats, but there was no hidden Morse code or any kind of signal from her body as to the answer for her questions.

Then again, I need this for myself. I have to know.

Facing the bedroom and feeling the hum from the Kinjakan, she went over there and turned the light off for the main living area.

The still female Ranma was wearing some pyjamas instead of just his boxer shorts sitting on the left side of the bed. Having been around Nabiki, a little feminine modesty was introduced, though the flowery pattern wasn't one he agreed with personally.

Nabiki flashed her eyes to the light switch, again turning it off. Once again, Ranma knew the drill; never look at Nabiki when she was changing, or it would be the floorboards for him, or worse the grass outside.

The molten red ring of the Kinjakan acted like a giant nightlight as it generated the heat. Using this small amount of visibility, Nabiki undressed and got into her own night clothing, picking a warm pair since the winter was rapidly approaching.

Lying in bed, she stared up at the ceiling, the impression of the warm halo a comforting sight to focus on.

"Ranma..." She began.

"Hmm?" The martial artist didn't sound particularly sleepy, and was a bit agitated and grumpy in her reply.

"What's happened between us?" She turned to face her, but only saw the pigtail staring at her, "Why are you keeping away from me?"

The hair quivered, and Ranma only mumbled something she couldn't hear.

"Hey, what's wrong?"

Reaching out and placing a hand on her shoulder, Ranma shied away, curling up into an even smaller position on the bed.

This time Nabiki was stumped.

I'm totally lost. I must have said something to him which really killed him... But what? The time at the hospital was the only time she struggled to recall. It's all muddled, Ranma carried me down, I was laughing, being driven there, lying on the stretcher, being pumped with drugs of some sort. Ranma stayed with me the whole night...

Doing the only thing she knew, Nabiki scooted closer to the shorter girl, feeling the body warmth as she gently pressed against Ranma's back.

Feeling her posture stiffen, Nabiki curled an arm under Ranma's head whilst looping her left arm over the girl. Closing both arms, being careful to place the lower arm on the ribcage beneath the others ample chest, she pulled the frozen girl into a soothing hug.

"N-Nabiki..." Her hoarse voice choked out.

Recognising the damp area on the redhead's pillow through her sleeve, she breathed into her ear, "Ranma, why were you crying?"

"Y-You said you were scared. You said you left everything behind, and you didn't know why." Nabiki could feel the girl shake as she spoke.

"When was this?" Nabiki refused to let go from the hug, bringing her in closer, but not to cause any physical pain.

"The hospital, we spoke together before you fell asleep."

Nabiki thought back, only remembering a warm hand on her forehead and a sense of peace flowing through her, and then nothing.

"Ranma, whatever I said back then, I was delirious. I can't even remember it myself and -"

This time, Nabiki paused.

Wait a sec, why can't I remember it? Even when I had the flu those few times in my life I could recall all those crazy delusions I had at night when having mad dreams...

Words poured into her head, a sad tone from a male voice, as the sentences grew more complete as more were recited.

"- knew this would happen… - you suddenly want to live with me? - no sense to a clever girl - could have just found me - then gone home - looks like the effect - incense spell truly wore off - now you can go home - happy back with your family - going to be alone again -"

Finally realising who it was that had spoken then, as the voice finally became recognisable, she began to sniff a bit, nuzzling her face into Ranma's nape.

"It figures really, my life is nature's plaything, there to be messed with forever."

"Oh Ranma... Did you think I was going to leave you like that?"

"N-Nabiki?" A hand touched that of the former Ice Queen, "Are you crying again?"

"N-No... Don't be so nosey, it's just my allergies..." She sniffed again.

Ranma chuckled, "If you say so..." As she relaxed into the hug, Nabiki spoke on.

"Ranma, whatever it was I said then, it must have been a side effect of the incense wearing off. It made me forget what I said back in the hospital and it's still fuzzy to me." She stopped for a moment, "You know what though, I can recall what you said back then... When I was sleeping..."

A short intake of breath made Nabiki smile warmer, "Don't be shy, guys can get emotional too." Moving her lower arm restlessly, she raised it, "Come on, let me see you."

Reluctantly, but obliging, Ranma rolled towards Nabiki and adjusted herself in bed to face her.

Perhaps being a girl is good for him sometimes... Nabiki noted idly to herself and she saw the dampness on Ranma's cheeks, glistening from the humming red circle in the centre of the room.

Still with one arm trapped under the other girl's head, Nabiki used the cuff of her other arm to wipe the tears away.

"There, much better."

Ranma's face now gleamed, though her annoyed expression was off-putting.

"I'm going to say this only once, Ranma, and I want you to listen carefully, because I may not have the guts to say it again." She swallowed quietly and began to speak as the redhead listened intently, "You were right. Why would I want to live with you? I'm a clever girl, and sure, I could have just found you and then returned home, back to my family, happy as can be." She breathed in as Ranma's eyes widened, "But to what end? I would forever be the only person in Nerima who knew about you, struggling to live all alone over here. How could I possibly be happy, knowing how sad it must be for you to have no one to support you, no one to trust, and no one to be open with? You'd forever have to live in a lie you created, an orphan with no relatives. Do you have any idea what it is like to be truly alone?

Ranma eyes flicked downwards as she spoke.

"Sure, your dad took you on a long training trip, and may have left you alone for some time I'll bet, but no matter what, he always came back for you and took care of you, though the level of care is debatable."

A snort came from Ranma as she held back a laugh, and even Nabiki smiled. With her right hand, she massaged the back of Ranma's neck, feeling her calm down further.

"Being alone, having no one to rely on, this is nothing I would wish on anybody." Nabiki closed her eyes, "Ryouga, Ukyo, Pantyhose, Kumon... Those are just some of the people you've met who lived part of their lives alone. Ryouga, god knows how long it's been since he last saw his family, though they must be alive somewhere, hopefully. Ukyo went to train for years, living as a boy, is her father even alive any more? We just don't know. Pantyhose, living his life to try to find Happosai to change his name, even using his namesake as a weapon? What about his family, are they around? How long has he been searching for?"

Nabiki's face turned serious, "Kumon, we know for a fact now that he's the last person in his family, and he dedicated his life to rebuilding his dojo with only a violent art. All that loneliness channelled into one goal, and he ultimately failed." She shook her head, "Everyone I mentioned was like that when they first met you. Anger beyond compare. They could not see beyond their old grudges from the past of painful events that changed their lives forever. Is that how you're going to be one day if you stayed here all alone?"

Sighing sadly, she saw Ranma's face fall too, "They can't bring those times back and change the paths they took. Take Ryouga, what if he found his family and lived together with them, maybe even being home-schooled? Imagine if Ukyo didn't pretend to be a boy and ran her okonomiyaki store with her father. Or Pantyhose, why didn't he try to learn to live with Happosai's choice, since a name doesn't define a person. Finally, Kumon, someone who knew he had nothing left tried to start over, but needed the final secret art. All he had was a deadly skill of his own, but nothing else and no one to show it to. He could have begun his own dojo with his other abilities surely…"

Ranma nodded sadly at Nabiki whilst remaining enraptured by her speech.

"Such stories will forever be fiction, people can write about these 'what ifs', but they will never be true. The reality is fixed. You however, have changed it irrevocably." Playing with Ranma's pigtail, she went on, "You no longer exist as you were and can start anew."

Releasing her free hand, she ran it through the red locks, "But you're not going to be alone any more. I'm going to stay here, not for you, and not for me." Ranma flushed red, "I'm staying here for us. I want to be with you. We alone know exactly what we have both been through to get this far, and so we can trust each other implicitly with everything and anything."

Nabiki cried again, but her genuine smile reached her eyes as the tears welled up.

"That's why I can't lie to myself any more. I wanted you to decide on your own what your choice was for the future, but it only resulted in my own feelings countering these effects. Getting jealous when Yuko speaks to you, how the girls leave you notes all the time." She chuckled wryly, "I thought I was stronger than this, but in the end, my own heart wore me down… Knowing now that the incense isn't influencing me any longer, and that my body is on the mend after stopping the painkillers, I can finally tell you my truth…"

A few seconds of hearts pounding together, the redhead didn't dare breath, until Nabiki whispered to her.

"I love you, Ranma…"

The martial artist's mouth opened in a small circle, the shock hitting her, just as Nabiki pressed her lips against hers in a soft but powerful kiss.

Deepening it further, she pulled the former in closer as her tears mingled with Ranma's own. Both pairs of arms encircled each other as they tried to envelope each other, to feel each part of the other's body. She felt Ranma's moaning through her tongue before hearing it.

Rolling over on top of the shorter girl, still locked at the lips, she allowed her hands to wonder and squeezed Ranma's breast and teasing a certain nub there before pausing. Opening her eyes and squinting in the low light, she pulled back and saw Ranma's reddened face and quickened breath, only noticing then that she too was breathing fast.

She smirked kindly, "Sorry, got a little bit carried away." Nabiki kissed Ranma on the nose, "You're too cute and pretty, perhaps even more attractive than me." She lowered her body on top of the redhead, and continued to speak quietly into her ear, "While I may not swing that way, I could get used to this arrangement."

Moving over back to her usual side of the bed, she sighed contently, planting her head in the palm of her hands.

"So, say something Ranma… Are you happy with me being your girlfriend or not? Do you want this as much as me?"

The heavy panting had ceased by now, and the only sign of what happened before was a slight humidity in the room and a musky smell which permeated the sheets.

"Nabiki…" Ranma turned to face her, then by initiating a hug, "I… I honestly don't know what to say… I've been… afraid that you would leave…" She bit her lower lip, "I care for you a lot, I worry about you and think about you all the time now… I don't know if that's love or not…" She closed her eyes tightly, trying to will away the frustration, "I can't tell you if this is love. My experience in that field has been… unreliable…" She relaxed her rapid breathing, "All I know is that I don't want to lose you and that I want to protect you."

"That's good enough for me." Nabiki turned her head and kissed Ranma on her forehead, "You just told me your truth, and I like what I heard." Adjusting herself on the bed to face Ranma properly, she wore a pleased grin, "It's good to know that someone has my back here, and is thinking about me like that. Don't be afraid to act out your feelings Ranma, even in public. I'm not going to get angry at you or get embarrassed like a certain relative of mine." Her eyes were stern now, "Remember that. I'm not Akane and never have been. I don't misinterpret your actions, or at the very least, I think about what just happened first before I actually act accordingly. Do you understand?"

Ranma watched her unwavering eyes carefully and nodded lightly, before moving closer and kissing her gently on the lips before pulling back.

Seeing only a cheerful expression in return, Ranma returned for a second kiss, this time longer and more adventurous. As she opened her mouth slightly to let her tongue roam and tease Nabiki's lips, she was only slightly surprised when they parted and was joined by Nabiki's own eagerness.

Sensing a few shivers form the other girl, Ranma proceeded to lightly trace her hand along the spine and small of Nabiki's back, prompting a tiny bite on Ranma's tongue and a strangled whimper. Reaching under the latter's loose top, the redhead stroked the bare skin of Nabiki, getting her more audibly aroused by the increasing volume and intensity of the noises being elicited.

Soon both sets of hands were caressing the other person's body underneath the layer of pyjamas, tickling sensitive regions, kneading soft spots, rubbing the muscles and scratching the shoulder blades. As the heat between the two grew to a feverous level, Ranma accidentally slipped in her ministrations and cupped Nabiki's breast.

The twosome stopped moving as their panting of breath synchronised. Their eyes taking in the other's appearance, the sheen of sweat adorning their faces and the sated expressions segueing into a sleepy ones.

Kissing Ranma lightly, Nabiki nodded a tiny amount, "It's okay Ranma." She mouthed and nudged her body a bit, "You can feel if you want, but let's not go any further, okay?" She voiced huskily, "There's plenty of time for us to get to know each other, intimately…" She swallowed her nervousness, "No need to rush everything tonight."

Taking her queue as approval, Ranma gently caressed the breast, feeling the soft flesh beneath her fingers, trying not to squeeze it too hard. Passing her fingers over the small protrusion caused Nabiki to judder and hiss sharply between her clenched teeth, making Ranma jump.

Releasing her hand, she stared at the older girl only to see her relax quickly. Smiling to herself, Ranma moved her arm to the safe region of Nabiki's back.

"Sorry, I guess you're more sensitive than I thought…" She cleared her throat to speak a little clearer since it was still a little too gravelly, "Well, that, and I'm a bit… you know…" She smothered her face into her pillow as the blush spread outwards.

Nabiki giggled to herself, "My, my, Ranma Saotome. Who would've thought you to be a prude?"

There was a grunt and a rumble from the pillow from a displeased girl.

"That's good to know. At least I'm not the only one embarrassed at all this." Reaching to Ranma's armpit, she wiggled her fingers and got her to laugh as she tried to defend herself in vain, "Okay, now we're even." Kissing Ranma quickly, she retreated to her side of the bed, giving room between the twosome, "Sleep well, and have good dreams."

"I'm sure I will…" Ranma smirked back, the heat not having left her face yet.

As they both moved about on their half, getting to the point when they were ultimately comfortable, a small trace of movement snaked towards the centre of the bed.

At the midpoint, both hands met and interlocked with one another as their breathing settled into a slow and steady tempo.

Next morning

Nabiki was up first, getting out of the bedroom to prepare some warm chocolate using the main kettle to heat up some milk. Keeping an eye on the liquid, she made sure it didn't start to boil up too much before pouring it into a mug with chocolate powder already in it.

Putting it down, she took a sip from her cup and held it with both hands, exhaling in a serene manner.

A loud yawn came from the other room and the bed squeaking, followed by light taps on floorboards.

The door opened as Ranma carried the Kinjakan into the room, casting the warm air to all corners, before sticking it into a prefabricated hold in the floor.

Getting up again, Nabiki made another mug of chocolate for him. Handing it to Ranma while drinking from her own, her eyes lit up over the rim of her mug.

"Thanks Nabiki." She accepted it and drank it quietly, still a bit woozy from getting up early.

Having finished her drink quickly, Nabiki rinsed it out in the sink and placed it on the rack, before grabbing the second metal kettle with cold water having filled it only halfway, as well as a spare tea towel.

Still yawning to herself, but at least more awake, she held it in the middle of the flaming ring. Within seconds, the kettle heated up, but not enough to burn her hand or to make the metal sear her. Satisfied, by this, she emptied the small amount of the water over Ranma's head, now transforming back to her birth gender.

Returning it to the sink, she picked up some bread from the icebox and walked behind the Kinjakan, then simply threw the four slices through the hoop.

Instantly toasted, Ranma plucked them out of the air and placed them on the plates in front of him as Nabiki went to buttering them up.

Both taking a bite out of their light breakfast, they glanced at each other and laughed.

Oh, this is pure madness. I'm using a deadly weapon from a Phoenix god-like being as a glorified hob, toaster and central heating.

Wiping her eyes from the involuntary tears, holding her pained ribs, she collected herself and stared at Ranma, her head resting on her palms.

"What, do I have crumbs on my face again?" He asked as the self-conscious side of him riled up.

"Yes… Let me help…" Groaning extravagantly like a disappointed mother, she strode over to him with a techy expression.

Leaning over to look at his face, she proceeded to lick the crumbs off delicately, before lightly kissing the parts of the cheek affected. Once it was clear, she kissed him on the lips and returned to her seat.

"Okay, that's breakfast over with. Shall we prepare to go soon?" Hearing no response she turned to look at him and snorted, "Oh Ranma, loosen up a little." Seeing that pink face warmed her somehow, and she reached over the table to poke his arm, "I'm the same old Nabiki. No need to act all coquettish, okay? I won't crack easily."

Ranma tried to cough out a lump in his throat, "What if I crack first?" He undid a few buttons at the top of the pyjamas to release his neck a bit, the smaller size fitted mainly for his female form finally getting to him.

"You'll adapt, you always do." She folded her arms, "We can play this game where we are not together, but I decided for myself yesterday." She thumped her hands on the table, "I'm tired of pretending. I want to be proud of my choice of boyfriend, not ashamed. And if the other girls get jealous, so what?"

As placed her elbow on the table and extended her hand to him.

"Are you in, or out?" Her raised eyebrows and sinister grin issued the challenge.

"Hmph…" Ranma shook his head, before returning her smirk with a truly arrogant one of his own, "You're going to have to do better than that to scare me off." Grabbing her hand, his own elbow pressing hard on the table, he spoke on, "I'll show you just what they're missing out on."

"Heh." Tightening her grip, Nabiki turned sharply to the door, stunned.

Following her shock, Ranma snapped his head around.

Grinning for this opportunity, she slammed his hand down on the table, given that they were in the perfect position for an arm wrestle. However, she felt her hand vibrating slightly.

Odd, it shouldn't be moving any more.

A second later, she realised it was Ranma's arm shaking, as his hand was hovering off the ground with only a centimetre separating it from the table's surface.

I've lost now…

Slowly, and straining, the arm was brought back up without much effort from him, though Nabiki was putting as much power as she could into it.

Now that it was back at the starting position, it was approaching her loss point, the back of her hand nearing the wood.

"I have no choice now…" The sweat build-up on her brow dripped onto her empty plate.

Catching Ranma's attention, she tried to feel for that elusive ki of hers. I can't use it at all yet to power me up, but it should distract him for that one second I need…

Sending it outwards in a pulsing manner, the tiny purple flames unfurled as she raised her other hand high in the air and shouted.

"Tendo Forbidden Technique!"

Ranma's arm stopped descending, his senses on high alert, watching that deadly posture she held.

"Parting of the Heavenly Valley!"

Slicing her hand down, she angled her fingertips inwards to catch the top of her pyjama, slashing in one smooth motion to peel off each button individually. Since they were only the simplest of snap fasteners, they were ideal for sleeping, as there were rarely any rough movements. However, if stretched, they would simply pop off, which was useful and easy to dress for a long sleep or to prepare for work fast.

Given that these were for night clothing, as everyone knows, there is no need for any support beneath it in the form of a bra. Therefore all that remained was her bare skin below that layer.

In this instant, they were the perfect defence against him.

"GAH!"

Ranma held his nose with his other hand as Nabiki's generous cleavage expanded and contracted as her breasts bounced about within the confines of her rapidly slackening top.

"Stopitstopitstopitstopit-!" He closed his eyes as Nabiki grinned and jerked her other arm back to her winning area, only for Ranma to finally stop it at the same spot as before.

"Fine." She sulked childishly, and placed her free hand over her skin and pulled the sides together.

I lost, even with that attack, he still managed to hold me back.

"It's a tie then." Ranma said, his eyes now risking a peek outwards.

"Yep, stalemate." Unhanding him, she sat back and began to seal away her weapons, as he observed her movements, "What, do you want to see more?"

Ranma stood up and placed his arms behind his head, "Yeah, but we need to rush to school, also I have my own pair anyway for that." He clapped his hands together suddenly, " Right! Time to change!"

As he walked nonchalantly to the room, Nabiki ceased her actions, "Wait a minute…"

The door closed, and as she stormed up towards the bedroom, his laughter grew.

Her subsequent roar scattered the birds away from the trees nearby.

"What the hell did you mean by that, Ranma?"

Twenty minutes later
The roofs of Misawa City

Ranma held a sulking Nabiki securely as they soared over the buildings at a blinding speed, avoiding the built up areas to prevent more eyes catching a glimpse of them.

"I'm still upset…" She glared huffily.

"Yeah, well, if you tease me that much, then you'll get the same medicine back." His jumps were careful now, and his face was completely relaxed, a large contrast to the previous day.

"Still, if you wanted to…" Nabiki let her sentence drag off into the air.

"I know…" Ranma tickled her slightly by her thigh where his hand was holding her, "I'm a guy too. Problem is that aside from everything in Nerima, I've never really had a real girlfriend." His lip curled up on one side, "My relationships have been mad. Akane hitting me if I said something stupid, Ukyo getting jealous and also feeding me whenever I wanted, Shampoo just throwing herself on me, or riding into me…" He convulsed which Nabiki felt the vibrations from, "I'm not even going to mention the Kunos…"

"So, what you're saying is…?"

"I don't know how to treat you, or react. I know I say dumb stuff sometimes, and I get that it upsets you." He smile was thinning, "I'm getting better though, but I want you to know that I care for you, Nabiki."

Placing her hand over his, she held onto it, "I believe you, Ranma. I'm not going to think you hate me after a few words, okay?" Shutting her eyelids, she listened to the wind rushing by, "As I said last night, I'm not my younger sister. I don't make snap judgements of our relationship over a simple word or two."

Feeling his chest puff out considerably, Ranma laughed quietly, "Thanks, Nabiki." His speed lowered drastically, "We're near school now."

Dropping from the roof, Ranma landed on his tiptoes onto the ground between two houses, and allowed Nabiki to stand on her own feet.

"Okay, time to learn more useful stuff like history…" He muttered before striding out of the alley with Nabiki beside him.

"Do you mind if I tell Yuko about this?" Nabiki asked, "She's the only girl who's really spoken to me a lot since we arrived, and she's an okay person from what I gathered."

"Yeah, why not?" Ranma shrugged, "She's nice, friendly to me also, and not like the other girls."

"The grapevine will catch wind of this soon enough anyway." Nabiki ran a hand through her hair to pat down the errant strands disturbed by their morning commute, "Our relationship status will officially be updated."

Ranma thought to himself, holding his chin as they walked, "Be careful then, I don't know what's going to happen with those girls. Sure, they're no Shampoo, Ukyo or Kodachi, but they'll probably be jealous." His face darkened as the shadow beneath his fringe grew, "Jealous women can do mean things."

A brief chortle and Nabiki was already in a better mood, patting Ranma on the back, "Thanks for worrying about me, but I can handle myself. You have your methods, and I have my own." She adjusted her school bag to her other hand, "But, if I do need help, I'll let you know."

"Good, because we're here." He nodded to the school entrance with several students already milling about.

"Ladies first, Ranma." She winked at him, making him colour due to the unbidden memories from one night ago.

Trying to cover his cheeks, he walked in surreptitiously, but the very motion of hiding his expression only led to more curious glances. Sighing, he dropped his hand, thankful that the looks stopped.

"Feeling better now?" Nabiki taunted.

Glowering at her, Ranma opened his locker again to find a few more love letters, along with a small congregation of potential girlfriends hovering around the area, waiting for his response.

Nabiki opened her own one to find her shoes back in their place. Guess they didn't want me to be carried up again to class.

Hearing a ripping sound, she turned to see Ranma shred the notes and scatter them to the ground.

"Sorry about the litter." He grinned at her, "Had to take out the rubbish to put my stuff in."

Strolling out of that area, past a group of sad girls, Nabiki followed close behind him much to their visible consternation. Ranma, sensing the change in the air, reached back and grabbed Nabiki's hand.

"Here, let's go in together."

Nodding, she brushed her arm against him as she moved in, "Sure."

Uncaring of how others saw her, Nabiki felt his warmth spread via his sole hand-to-hand contact all through her body. His heartbeat was strong too, powerful and calming at the same time.

Entering their classroom, they were met by a few snooping gazes, before most of them turned away, their interest having waned.

Aah, the attention span of the average teenager. The moment something new and surprising appears, they get bored and try to find the next best thing.

"So, I take it congratulations are in order?"

Yuko sidled up to the two of them and smiled in her innocent-but-wise manner.

"Uh... Yeah..." Ranma let go of Nabiki's hand in a gentle manner, not jerking it away suddenly, "I guess you could say that."

Nabiki smiled once again, "What can I say, Yuko? There was no hiding it any more."

Yuko's face transformed to a lascivious leer, "You'd better tell me what happened between you two."

Ranma flinched backwards, and even Nabiki jolted, "M-Maybe later." She glanced around, "Too many ears around."

Yuko noticed the circle of spectators around the trio expanding outwards as they tried to escape the audible region, but her eyes kept them away even further.

Approaching the two of them, she rested her arms around the backs of their necks.

"It's been a while since I've gotten along so well with other people…" Her smile widened, though shivers ran down the couple's spines as she whispered into their ears, "I hope we get to know each other even better."

Sidling away to speak to some other members of the class, nattering on about some new job of hers, Ranma and Nabiki turned to each other, their heartbeats pulsing irregularly.

"Something tells me that we may have just –" He began haltingly.

She ended the sentence for him, "- become acquaintances of another strange person."

A slight tone rose in the air, as if the air conducted static electricity through its very molecules. Yuko turned to face them and smiled again, the grin far too wide to be considered normal.

Finally breaking their gaze, Ranma shrugged, "Does it matter? If she is a bother, I'll just stop her."

Nabiki nodded, "I have my ways too."

In agreement, they sat down to their lessons, ready for the new day of school.

That evening

Nabiki finished her last piece of work for that assignment and filed away the receipts in their section.

The figures were all in order, inconsistencies of purchases were out by a few yen only, which was to be expected for a small margin of error.

She tapped the keyboard idly.

That individual is still spending too much on personal taxi services… The time of the receipt is also after office hours, which is rather peculiar.

She thought again about the receipts in question.

There's some sort of pattern here, never the same day in a row, in fact it's one day later. So one week it'll be Monday, the week after it'll be Tuesday and so on…

Looking at her calendar on the computer, she noted the date and time.

In fact… the last one was just over a week ago. This means that the person is going to be requesting the taxi again in about an hour.

Frowning, she saved her spreadsheet.

No matter what, this looks questionable to me. If it was random taxis, then I wouldn't mind, but there is a definite pattern here. If it was anyone else scanning over these figures they wouldn't care so much. Whoever it is able to hide in plain sight, safe in the knowledge that no one would dare enquire about these oddities.

"All done, Nabiki-kun?"

Shutting down her computer, she leaned back in her chair slightly to look up at the speaker.

"Yes, Kimura-san, my work here is done." She stretched her arms out and felt her knuckles pop.

Of course, my top is opened out now a bit for him to see more of what he will never get.

"Good work, we do appreciate everything you do for us." His hand was on her shoulder for a little longer than necessary, and began to make her fidget inside, "There are ways to guarantee your continued stay at our company, should you want your contract extended."

This time, his fingers slowly began to move, a little too close to the scruff of her neck, the back of his hand touching the base of her haircut.

Biting her lip hard to repress the shudder in her body, she tittered to herself, "Oh, come now Kimura-san, I just want to earn a little bit of money to support myself. I haven't committed myself to a full-time career after school yet, but I'll keep it in mind." Pushing her chair back, she stood up, in turn getting Kimura to remove his hand, "I'll be back tomorrow for continue." Sending a polite smile his way, she bowed lightly, "Have a good evening."

Responding in kind, he allowed her to leave her desk, straightening her chair after she left.

"What an interesting girl." Kimura licked his lips, "She does play hard to get though…" Glancing about, checking no one was there, he leaned over to sniff the air, "Ahh, her perfume… Most intoxicating…"

Nabiki felt a chill as she left the building, one not related to the wind.

Something is strange at that office; I'm going to get Ranma to help me uncover it. Seeing an electronic clock face she began to walk towards the café. I need to work fast, if I'm going to have Ranma on my side.

A rush of heat assaulted her body as she walked. The grin that adorned her features was a private one.

"I wonder if Ranma's having an interesting day."

Earlier
Maid Café

It was busy.

Very busy.

Ranma was hopping from table to table, serving out drinks, sundaes and light meals for their male clientele. There were more troublemakers today, but Ranma was fending them off with ease.

"Ranma, could I have a word?"

"Sure boss." Wiping her hands with the anti-bacterial wipes handed out to employees in the rest area, she heard one of the girls in the changing room.

"We have a new girl working today. Could you help her get accustomed to the routine here?"

"Sure…" She threw away the used tissue and waited for the boss to leave the room, before leaning against the wall of the tiny area where employees dress up, "So, you need help in there? The ribbon is a little complicated…"

"Ranma…" The voice was too familiar to him, "That's funny, I know a guy at school with that same name."

The newcomer left the room and faced the redhead, who felt a pang of regret at giving his real name out, at the same time as his skin developing goosebumps, "In fact, he wears a pigtail just like you too…"

"Ah… Hehe. That's weird isn't it?" Ranma scratched her cheek, a little harder than needed to feel the pain which would help remove the impression that this was a dream, "So, uh, I'm Ranma… What's your name?"

She bowed courteously, "Pleased to meet you, my name is Yuko." Her smile was wide, too wide, "I'll be working with you for a while, so please teach me well, senpai."

"N-No problem…" He watched her as she opened her locker to pull out a small metal implement made of two connected rods, "Uh, what's that that?"

Yuko quirked her head to one side. "This place has gropers, right?"

"Yeah, I take care of them with a little show of strength." Ranma nodded, "They generally stop after that."

"Good." Twirling the rods about in an elaborate movement to open it out, she was now holding a rather long and deadly knife, "Since I have none of that, then I'll just use the classic fear technique." Brandishing it and spinning it across both hands, she expertly wove it back into its innocuous form, "As long as I don't hurt anyone, right?"

Ranma felt a sweatdrop forming and nodded, her mouth dried up, "Y-Yeah…"

As Yuko hid her butterfly knife inside a pocket at the side of her top, she sidled out of the employee's area.

Whistling to herself, Ranma narrowed her eyes before following her out.

"Yes, as long as none of us get hurt."

Author's Notes

Since I don't want the relationship to stagnate any further, the hot-blooded resolution was in this chapter. First time writing scenes like this, I hope you all enjoyed it!

Since this is 'reality' in comparison to Nerima, it is not impossible for there to be bizarre individuals. Ranma and Nabiki's life has to involve such people, or else it would be far too mundane for them.

Decided to update this story quickly since I felt more inspiration than usual, I'm sure you all like this 'fast' update!

Also, updated rating to M because of that certain scene here.

J