In Vino Veritas?
By M. Zephyr

Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 is a trademark of Rumiko Takahashi and VIZ Communications, and its characters have been borrowed without permission. This story was written for non-commercial purposes only.

Ranma x Akane. You know all of those stories where Ranma and Akane get drunk, wake up the next morning in bed together, and realize what they did the previous night ...?

Warning: There is a small amount of sexual description and situations in this story.

Chapter 2. Veritas

With a new sense of urgency pressing upon them, the two teenagers had decided that the fastest way to get married would be to allow their fathers - "accidentally" - to overhear them talking about marriage. They made their plans quickly. A short time later Akane strolled down the hall, hands behind her back, whistling in a way meant to show that she was completely and absolutely innocent of any type of scheming whatsoever. Her father glanced up curiously from his shogi game as she continued down the hall, the sound of the back door closing a moment later.

Soun looked back down at the game. While struggling to remember exactly where the pieces had been before he looked up, he remarked, "That was a trifle odd, don't you think?"

"I assure you I didn't touch the board," Genma replied, raising his hands swiftly to shoulder height, palms out. His friend gave him a suspicious look, but returned his attention to the game.

Not for long, however. Only a minute later Genma heard a slight whisper of sound in the hall. He looked up just in time to catch the sight of his son creeping past the doorway on tiptoe, raising each foot high and placing it back down silently. This was followed a few seconds later by the barest squeak of hinges as the back door opened and shut.

Genma looked back down at the game board, frowning over how it had apparently been rotated. But it was his son's behavior which concerned him more at the moment. "Yes, very odd," he agreed. "I think perhaps we should check this out." He stood and headed toward the back door. Setting the game aside, Soun followed.

A quick scan around the yard revealed no sign of their children, so the two men crept up to the open door of the dojo. Genma knelt down, putting his ear as close to the edge as possible while remaining out of sight. Soun leaned over his stouter friend, his mustache quivering as he strained to hear.

"But what if our fathers find out?" Akane was saying, in a soft voice the two men could barely hear.

"We'll just have to be careful to make sure they don't," Ranma said quietly in reply.

"How long do you think we can hide the fact that we've fallen in love?" Akane asked. "They're bound to notice sooner or later."

Just outside the door, Genma turned his face up and Soun looked down. They stared at each other, eyes going wide, happy grins spreading rapidly.

"Yeah, well ..." Ranma said hesitantly. "I admit, I do want to marry you. But I was thinking we could wait a while, like maybe until ..."

"Tomorrow!" Genma shouted from the doorway, as he and Soun bounced into sight. "Congratulations! I knew you'd come to your senses one day!"

Soun was crying. "Oh, I'm so happy for you! At last! My little girl is getting married!"

"Dad! Uncle Saotome!" Akane yelped, jumping up and trying to interrupt, in vain.

"To-Tomorrow?!" Ranma stammered. "Are you nuts? We can't ..."

"Come inside, quickly!" Genma said gleefully, overriding his son's protest. "We must prepare for the wedding!"

"Yes, yes!" Soun added. "We have to call the priest, contact the guests ... so much to do. Come along, come along!"

The two teens found themselves chivied out of the dojo in front of their anxious fathers, their tentative objections completely ignored. They were maneuvered into the house, where Soun immediately called out for Kasumi to come help them make plans.

Genma called the priest they had on speed dial, and was assured that the man could be there the next day to conduct the ceremony. Then Soun called Nabiki at college, who was utterly shocked to hear that her sister was getting married the next day.

"But tomorrow's a Monday!" Nabiki complained. "I have classes. Hell! I have two tests scheduled! I can't possibly get away!"

"Skip them!" he told her, almost giggling. "This is more important."

The volume of Nabiki's response caused Soun to hold the phone away from his ear, wincing with pain. Kasumi took the receiver from him and listened sympathetically to her sister's complaints.

"Perhaps we can put the ceremony off a few days until you can make it home," she suggested diffidently, clearly inviting those with her in the hall to also consider this possibility.

But Genma and Soun wouldn't hear of that, insisting once again on tomorrow as the date. Furthermore, and much to Kasumi's surprise, neither Ranma nor Akane made any effective attempt to reinforce her suggestion. In fact, from a quick whispered conversation between the pair, it was obvious that both were distinctly ambivalent to the idea of Nabiki being present. Kasumi caught the phrases "wedding invitations" and "avoid another disaster."

"I'm sorry Nabiki," Kasumi finally said into the telephone, "but I'm afraid they're all agreed it will be tomorrow. Yes. Even Akane and Ranma. Of course, we're all terribly disappointed you won't be able to make it. Good luck with your tests. Er, here's father again."

She handed the receiver to the man who was gesturing at her impatiently. As soon as he raised it to his mouth he said, "Like Kasumi said, good luck with your tests. We're sorry you can't make it. I'm afraid I have to say good-bye now. I have a lot of other calls to make. I'll talk to you later."

"But ..." Nabiki started to say.

He hung up the phone, cutting off the rest of her sentence. From a drawer in the telephone table, he pulled out a little black notebook with "Guest List" printed on the front, opened it, and dialed the first number listed there.

During one of the calls, Ranma leaned over and whispered in Akane's ear. After her father hung up, and before he could dial the next number, she hesitantly asked about school. Unsurprisingly, both their fathers immediately shrugged this off, insisting that the happy couple could skip school for the purpose of getting married. In fact, they went on to suggest that the two should take the entire week off of school, in order to have a little honeymoon. This caused the two teenagers to blush madly, but neither voiced any objection to the notion.

Behind their fathers' backs, Ranma and Akane exchanged a thumbs up at getting the wedding scheduled tomorrow just as they had wanted.

Despite all the practice Genma and Soun had at putting together a wedding on short notice, there were still a great many chores to be performed in order to pull it off. The three children did lend a hand, but Akane and Ranma ruthlessly insisted that their fathers do the bulk of the work. After all, they pointed out, it was the two men who insisted the ceremony must be tomorrow. Which didn't stop Genma from trying to assign Ranma the task of decorating the entire dojo.

Akane and Kasumi were on their way upstairs to put together the outfits to be worn for the wedding when Genma shoved a big box of decorations into Ranma's arms and gave that order. Akane paused, looking at Ranma's twitching face. He'd been growing increasingly agitated as the reality of the upcoming marriage sank in, and she was worried what he might do or say if he lost control. She stepped back off the staircase and walked over to him, laying a hand on his arm, waiting for him to bring his breathing back under control.

"Why don't you take off for a few hours?" she suggested softly. "You look like you need to get away for a while. Kasumi and I are going to take our time upstairs - I need a break too. Just drop that box here. Our dads will take care of it when they find out they don't have any other choice."

"They'll have a few things to say when I get back," he replied morosely.

"So what?" Akane answered this. "Take your time, calm down, and you'll be ready to face them when you get back. Besides," she said with a small smirk, "I'm a little worried about what'll happen if you stay. You're a terrible actor. If you hang around, you'll say or do something to make someone figure out something funny is up."

With that she kissed him and pushed him out the door. As he hopped away across the rooftops, he turned to see her waving good-bye. Naturally, a brief shower hit at just that moment, compelling him to make his escape in female form. Ranma didn't stop until he was a couple of kilometers from home, atop a telephone pole where no one could bother him. There he crouched, thinking over everything that had happened and would happen, trying to come to grips with the idea that he'd be married tomorrow.

Ranma looked around himself from his high perch, trying to decide how he felt. On the one hand, he was a little sad, especially for Akane's sake, that they were being forced into it like this before they were ready. On the other hand, it was a legitimate question as to whether he would ever feel ready to get married. The idea was rather scary. All the more so when he nervously considered the fact that, tomorrow night, Akane was going to be his wife.

He'd been sitting there for an hour when Cologne came hopping along out of the distance. She landed on the other end of the beam upon which he was perched. Before long Ranma was squirming uncomfortably beneath her unflinching stare.

"What d'ya want, old ghoul?" he finally exclaimed, unable to take it any longer.

Cologne sighed, contemplating the red-haired girl before her. "My great-granddaughter Shampoo tells me she met you this morning. And during this meeting, you expressed a most - shall we say unexpected? - preference."

Ranma didn't think it was very fair to describe his preference for Akane as all that unexpected. But he supposed Cologne might see it that way. So he nodded, and stated unequivocably, "Yeah, I did."

Cologne fought the urge to brain the teenager with her staff. "And you couldn't have figured this out two years ago? Let us know back when we first arrived? Before we wasted all of this time?"

Ranma stared at her. "I, uh, didn't think you'd accept it. I figured you'd tell me I had to marry Shampoo anyway."

The Amazon elder glared at him, and slowly unclenched her teeth. "Idiot boy. There are some things I know one cannot change. I have no intention of letting Shampoo be trapped in a marriage which is doomed to be unhappy. We'll be leaving immediately. Tonight. I have no wish to waste one more minute in this place. Or on you."

She studied the girl in front of her a minute longer, even while she knew the study was pointless. It was no doubt too soon to see any outward sign of pregnancy. Particularly since the curse would extend the time it would take the pseudo-girl to come to term. Still, she had to admit to a measure of curiosity.

Cologne cleared her throat. "Ah, Shampoo mentioned a pregnancy test. May I ask ...?"

Ranma looked down, feeling his cheeks redden. "Yeah," he confessed, "it was positive."

Cologne nodded, knowing the boy - or for the moment, girl - to be a terrible liar. Even if it was a false positive, which was quite unlikely with the modern tests available, the possibility alone was sufficient proof of Ranma's inclinations. There was no way that he would ever be a suitable husband for any woman, let alone for her heir.

"Very well," she announced, "you won't be seeing us again. I suppose I should wish you happiness, if you can find it in the life you have chosen."

Ranma looked up, touched. "Thanks old ... er, elder."

Cologne gave him one last nod, then bounced away. Within minutes she had vanished from sight in the direction of her restaurant. Ranma reflected that it was going to be very odd, not having the Amazons around in Nerima any longer.

As the guests gathered the next afternoon, Ranma showed them to their seats in the dojo but otherwise dithered around outside, reluctant to don his tux right away. Not because he was unwilling to go through with the ceremony, this time, but because he was on the watch for potential troublemakers. He figured that some of them, at least, were bound to hear of what was going on.

Surprisingly, it was the lost boy himself, Ryoga Hibiki, who showed up first.

"Hey, Ryoga!" Ranma greeted the other boy, dropping down from the roof right in front of him. "Hope you're not looking for a fight. It's not a good day for it."

Ryoga gazed around the yard, the decorations on the dojo, the handful of other early arrivals milling around. "What's going on here?" he asked. "Some kind of party?"

"A wedding," Ranma said warily, watching for his rival's reaction. "Mine. And Akane's."

Ryoga slumped. "Ah, crap. Why'd I hafta find my way here today? I coulda gone without seeing this!"

"You're ... not gonna try to stop us?" Ranma asked, uncertain.

Ryoga shook his head, leaning back against the wall. "No. I already gave up, months ago. Back the last time you almost got married. Akari and I've even gone on a couple of dates. When I can find my way to her farm, leastways."

"Oh," Ranma replied, brightening. "Good. Say, if you stick around, maybe I can have someone help you find your way there, later."

Ryoga gave his old enemy a sour look. "Like hell. That would mean sticking around to watch you marry Akane."

Ranma shrugged. "I think it might mean a lot to Akane if you would. She's always thought of you as a friend, y'know."

"Yeah," he griped. "Just friends." Ryoga ran a hand through his hair. "Oh, what the hell. For Akane's sake. Not yours."

"Sure," Ranma agreed. "Let me show you to a seat."

Ukyo was the next to show up. Ranma met her at the gate and the two of them stood there, facing each other - Ukyo glaring, Ranma fidgeting.

"Hey Ucchan," the young man said nervously. He glanced at her arms crossed over her chest. "Um, glad to see you don't have any okonomiyaki this time. You wanna come in? As a guest?"

She continued to glare at him silently, the lack of words somehow emphasizing the glare. Ranma's fidgeting grew worse.

Ranma cracked a fake smile. "You, uh, wanna hit me? Maybe more than once?"

"I'm thinking about it seriously," she hissed quietly. Unable to help herself, she finally spat out, "You were supposed to marry me. Your father promised you to me. I'm cuter. I'm a better cook. Why Akane?!" Her rival's name emerged as an agonized gasp.

Ranma thought about trying to explain. He opened his mouth to tell her that yes, she was cute, but he'd always found Akane more attractive, despite the things he'd said. Just in time, he realized how well that would go over, and closed his mouth again. "Cooking ..." Ranma paused, prepared to tell her that cooking wasn't everything, that love was about more than who had the better resume. But part of him realized that it was hopeless before he even began, so he just left the word hanging.

He looked at his old friend standing there, glaring at him bitterly. Her teeth were starting to grind together. He decided on the spur of the moment to risk telling her a partial truth, something that might help her come to terms with losing this way.

"I got something to tell you," Ranma said, reaching for her elbow. "Come down the street a ways."

Ukyo yanked her arm free from him, breathing hard, staring after him. But in the end she had to know. She followed him down to the corner. There she resumed her stance, arms crossed, staring at him.

Ranma reached back and fiddled with his pigtail, then took the plunge. "You remember that party a couple of weeks ago? The one where Akane and I both got drunk?"

"Yeah, you bastard," she said. "I remember everyone going on about how the two of you were making out. I guess you were already planning this then, huh?"

Ranma shook his head. "No. But Ucchan, Akane and I didn't just get drunk. We got plastered. We were both completely out of it. And, well, we, uh ... Ucchan, we have to get married. Fast."

She didn't get it at first. Then her eyes went impossibly wide. "You mean Akane is ...?" She gulped, and held a hand over her stomach.

Ranma nodded, managing to look miserable. It wasn't all that hard. "Neither of us meant to do it. We could barely remember it, the next day." Well, okay, they couldn't remember it at all, but he didn't have to tell her that. "We've both been praying the last couple of weeks that nothing would come of it. But ... the test came back positive."

Ukyo's lips were pulled back involuntarily, showing her teeth. She was breathing hard, and her hands clenched so tightly into fists it was surprising her nails didn't draw blood. "Haven't either of you ever heard of protection, you ... you ..." Her head was shaking back and forth, unable to think of any expletive scathing enough.

Ranma just hung his head. "We were drunk, Ucchan."

"Don't call me that!" The young chef and martial artist felt a huge, yawning hollowness inside of her. She knew that Ranma, as annoying as he could be, had a sense of honor. He would never abandon a baby if he was the father. She wondered for a moment if maybe Akane hadn't been quite as drunk as Ranma, if maybe she had seduced him, maneuvered him into this. But then she dismissed the idea angrily. She and Akane might have had their fights over Ranma, but Akane wasn't the sort to do something like that.

Ukyo turned away, finding it hard to continue looking at Ranma. Tears started to well up in her eyes, as rage gave way to despair. She really had lost him, Ukyo realized. The long struggle was over, and she hadn't won. All that was left was picking up the pieces of her life, and somehow going on.

"I ... understand," she got out. "I hope you weren't expecting me to come and watch."

"Not if you don't wanna," he replied. Then he wilted under the scathing look Ukyo gave him.

As she turned away, Ranma cleared his throat, making her hesitate. Nervously, he requested, "Look, could you, uh, not tell anyone 'bout this? We're trying to keep it a secret. Even our dads don't know."

Ukyo looked him up and down, lips pursed. "People are going to guess, Ranch- ... Ranma."

Ranma grimaced, knowing all too well she was right. "They'll suspect," he corrected firmly, as if the conviction in his voice could make it true. "But they won't know. It's only been just over two weeks. We'll tell 'em it musta happened after we got married. It could've, you know. So unless they wanna flat-out call us liars ..."

Ukyo shook her head. "If it makes it easier for you to hope it works that way, go ahead. I'm tired. I want to go home. I think ... no, I'm definitely going to get drunk myself. Good-bye Ranma." She turned and walked away, head high.

Ranma wasted no time returning to the dojo after Ukyo's departure, but for some time there were only ordinary guests. He was beginning to run low on time to change his clothes, and wondering if they really were going to pull this off without any of the crazier locals finding out until it was too late. Then came a distant laugh which sent shivers running down his spine.

He looked up in resignation to see Kodachi Kuno bouncing into view. She was wearing a black wedding gown, just like the last time. So intent was Ranma on her approach that he almost didn't duck in time to avoid beheading by the katana which sliced past.

"Hey, Kuno!" Ranma called, kicking the older boy in the gut. "Haven't seen you in a while. I've almost missed beating you up every morning at school."

Tatewaki Kuno, Kodachi's brother, bounced off the wall to land in a stance holding the katana above his head. However he withheld his strike as his sister landed between him and his foe.

"Restrain yourself, brother dear," Kodachi caroled. "I have no intention of allowing my Ranma-sama to marry that harlot you chase after."

With that she thrust a bouquet of black roses into Tatewaki's face. He recognized the threat and jumped backward too late, inhaling a large dose of paralysis gas which shot out from among the stems. He took three stumbling steps backward before falling to the ground, where he lay unmoving.

Kodachi turned slowly to face a wary Ranma. "Why aren't you dressed for our wedding, Ranma-sama?" she asked, allowing a trace of annoyance to show. "The priest awaits, as do the witnesses. Hurry, that we may proceed to the wedding night!"

Ranma tried, not for the first time, to break through the crazed gymnast's unique perception of the world. "I'm marrying Akane, not you. Thanks for stopping your clunkhead of a brother. Now I'd like you to leave. Just ... let me get married in peace. Okay?"

Kodachi chortled gaily. "Oh, but of course you cannot marry that harridan! However, I see that I must be more persuasive." With that she whipped out a ribbon, and snapped it in his direction.

This proved to be a mistake, for Ranma had been counting on her use of that move. He ducked and grabbed the ribbon as it went by, leaping in Kodachi's direction. Dodging the club with which she tried to strike him, Ranma circled her at high speed, binding her arms to her sides with the ribbon. When he was done, she was trussed quite soundly.

"But Ranma-sama," Kodachi giggled, "we cannot start the wedding night before the wedding!"

Ranma shuddered, trying to banish the mental image called up by her words. Lifting the bouquet from the ground where she had dropped it, he said, "I'm afraid I need you to keep still for a while." Finding the trigger mechanism after a moment, he sprayed some of the gas into her wide-eyed face, after which she became still.

With that he carried first Kodachi, then Tatewaki, over to the shed in the corner of the property. Setting them down inside, he closed the door, figuring that no one would be likely to disturb them. Glancing at the sun, Ranma realized that time was growing short, and decided he better hurry into the house and get dressed.

At the top of the stairs he ran into Kasumi. The older girl said, "I was just coming to look for you. You're late! Hurry and get dressed!"

"How's Akane?" he asked, unable to hide his worry.

"She's fine," Kasumi reassured him. "She looks beautiful." Then she paused and reconsidered. "Actually, she did, er, get sick again, just before she got dressed. I hope she'll be all right through the wedding and reception."

"Yeah," agreed Ranma guiltily, blaming himself for Akane's condition. "I'll see you in the dojo in a few minutes." He ran into his room and speedily tossed his clothes everywhere, before pulling on the various pieces of his tuxedo.

"There. No - wait. Was I supposed to put that on first? Ugh. Yes. No. That can't be right. Who the hell designed this stupid thing? Maybe ..."

The young groom-to-be eventually fumbled his way into the tuxedo, accompanied by a good deal of cursing. He reflected on his previous experience wearing the garment - it was a lot easier when one was knocked unconscious and then woke up already wearing the blasted thing.

As soon as he was dressed, Ranma hurried to the dojo, his eyes darting back and forth over the assembled guests. He breathed a sigh upon seeing no sign of other potential troublemakers. His pop and Akane's dad were leaning together in each other's arms, both of them weeping for joy. A little premature, Ranma thought, considering what happened last time, but after that he put them out of his mind. His mother, standing near the front in a beautiful kimono, gave him an encouraging smile. Ranma stalked stiffly up the aisle between relatives and classmates to join her.

"Try not to look so nervous, my son," she whispered once he was standing beside her.

Ranma tried to smile. "Aww, I'm not nervous."

Nodoka gave him a real smile, demonstrating her happiness at this moment. "You shouldn't lie to your mother, Ranma."

Her son had the grace to blush, after which he turned his eyes toward the door, watching for Akane's entrance.

He didn't have long to wait. Kasumi came in first, dressed in a kimono of her own, smiling broadly. Ranma watched the older girl approach, but then Akane appeared in the doorway, and all other sights and sounds vanished except for her. She was wearing the same dress as the last time they'd tried to get married, but on this occasion Ranma was in a better frame of mind to appreciate it ... and her. He swallowed hard, his heart pounding in his chest, as she moved gracefully up the aisle to stand facing him.

"You look ... You are beautiful," Ranma whispered. Akane gave him a nervous smile in answer.

She really did look beautiful, Ranma thought, unable to tear his eyes away from her. The fact that she looked like she might throw up at any moment didn't detract from her appearance in the least. Although he did warn himself to be ready if she did, so he could quickly jump behind and hold her to keep the results from landing on either of them.

As the priest stepped toward them a diminutive figure leaped through the open doors into the room. "Sweeto!" Happosai cried aloud, before splashing Ranma thoroughly and latching on to his female chest.

"Get off me you old freak!" Ranma shouted in soprano. He knocked the old man through the air to land halfway down the aisle.

Happosai immediately bounced back to his feet with a lascivious grin, but was then tackled by Soun and Genma. As Nodoka moved forward lifting a bundle in her arms, the ancient pervert threw the two fathers off of him. The two men landed in a heap at the back of the room. The backward rolling throw left Happosai momentarily sitting on the floor, but before he stood again he saw the mature yet lovely woman bearing down on him. He essayed a tentative smile of greeting.

Nodoka pulled her katana from its silk wrapped sheath. As the blade came free she gave a cry of dismay, for the handle slipped out of her grip. The sword spun end over end before landing point down, embedded in the floor of the dojo.

Happosai looked down at the blade quivering between his legs, his face ashen. Its edge had sliced through a few threads right over his crotch. He looked up again, unable to control his trembles, just as Nodoka reached him and placed her hand on its hilt.

The old man scooted back quickly, but didn't dare rise from the floor, watching Ranma's mother like a mouse might watch a hawk. "Mercy!" he croaked, the word barely making it out of his dry mouth. "I beg you, please! I promise I'll be good!"

Nodoka gave him a long look. Her expression seemed severe, but that was because she was trying to hide her embarrassment at dropping her sword in front of all of these people. She pointed to an empty chair. "Please sit there, sir, until we are finished."

Happosai nodded rapidly, not daring to say anything more. He hopped up and ran over to the indicated seat, plopping himself down and folding his hands together in his lap. He put on his best angelic face.

Nodoka returned to the front of the room. From off to the side she picked up a kettle and a towel and handed both to her temporarily female son. When he was done restoring his masculine form she took them both back and set them aside once more.

"If there are to be no other interruptions ...?" the priest inquired. He waited almost a full minute in anticipation, annoying Ranma considerably, before proceeding with the ceremony.

Much to everyone's surprise the rest of the wedding went off without a hitch. Akane managed to get through it all feeling only a little light-headed, neither of them fumbled their responses, no one else showed up to interrupt, and Ranma and Akane even managed the kiss at the end with only a general amount of embarrassed awkwardness.

The Kuno siblings recovered about halfway through the reception, but by then it was much too late for them to do anything. Ranma booted Tatewaki over the wall, and Akane provided the same service to Kodachi. Ryoga managed to voice his hesitant congratulations to the smiling bride. Soun and Genma were still joyfully crying and were now well on their way to replacing their blood with alcohol.

Eventually the guests started to disperse, with Hiroshi offering to escort Ryoga to Akari's farm as a way of making up to Ranma for the night of the party. Both fathers were passed out by that time. Kasumi and Nodoka refused to allow the newlyweds to help with the cleaning up, insisting that they hurry inside and change then go catch their train. The plan was for Ranma and Akane to spend the rest of the week at a small inn at the north end of the island, an inn which was owned by a widow who had been a friend of Nodoka's deceased mother long before Ranma was born.

On the train ride north, Ranma turned to Akane with a hesitant look and asked, "Any regrets?"

She looked at him curiously. "Shouldn't I be the one asking you that?"

Ranma gave her a small smile and shook his head. "No, I ain't got no regrets." He paused briefly, frowning. "Well, actually, yeah, I do regret ..."


"Wait! Wait! I don't regret getting married! I wanted to! I told you that!" Ranma noticed that several other passengers had turned and were staring at them. He shrank down into his seat.

The audience soon returned to their own concerns. Taking a deep breath, he tried to correct the initial impression he had given. "What I regret is getting drunk. Getting you ... well, the situation you're, we're, in. But not getting married. I don't regret that."

Akane linked her arm through his. "Good. I don't have any regrets either." She sighed. "Maybe someday you'll learn how to think before you speak. And maybe, someday, I'll learn to let you finish what you're saying before I react."

"Not holding my breath, tomboy."

She slapped his chest. "We're married now, baka. Do you have to keep calling me that?"

"As long as you keep calling me a baka, tomboy."

"Oh. In that case, okay, baka."

Ranma smiled at the exchange, but the smile slowly turned into a frown. Licking his lips, he said, "There's something I've got to tell you."

Akane found herself holding her breath at the serious tone and expression. "Yes?" she inquired.

Ranma looked past her. "Um, I, uh, told Ukyo. About, you know, you being ... pregnant and all."

"What?!" Akane started to hyperventilate. "I thought we weren't going to tell anyone! What if she blabs? What if we go back to find out everyone knows? How could you?"

"Easy, Akane, easy." Ranma held up a hand in a slow down gesture, looking nervous. "Ukyo ain't like that. She wouldn't do that to you. Yeah, you and her were rivals, sorta, but c'mon ... you know better." He watched, eyes pleading, as her breathing started to slow.

"As for why," Ranma continued, "I had to. Well, I didn't have to, but ..." He deflated a little, and he looked down as he went on in a weaker voice. "It was easier for her this way. You know you're the one I really wanted, but she just found out she lost, that I was marrying you, right then, today. Was I supposed to tell her straight to her face, 'Sorry, but I never really loved you.' I couldn't do that."

"So you lied to her," Akane huffed.

"Well, it wasn't exactly a lie," he replied defensively. "I mean, we got married now, today, 'cause of what happened. I just didn't tell her the whole truth."

Akane sighed, calming down. "I suppose I understand. Although I wish you'd asked me first. I still think you ought to tell her the whole truth. Maybe after she's had a chance to get used to what happened."

"I'll, uh, think about it," her new husband offered.

They settled back, still arm in arm. Some time passed.

Ranma looked over at the girl sitting beside him, who was gazing out the window of the train. "Um, Akane," he said softly.

She turned her regard to him. He noticed that she actually looked happy.

Ranma cleared his throat. "Are you, uh, nervous? About tonight?"

Akane frowned at the question, before deciding to take it seriously. After giving it some consideration, she replied thoughtfully, keeping her voice low, "Yes. Of course I am. After all, neither of us remember, you know, th-that night." She paused. "So, well, in a way, it ... it will be. Our f-first time, that is. And it's not like we've even, you know, k-kissed much."

She returned his question with a curious expression. "Are you nervous?"

Ranma puffed himself up to make a macho display of confidence, but then deflated. "Yeah. I am."

She held his arm a little tighter, glad he was being honest. "It'll be all right," she whispered. "I want to, well, to be your wife. And I want you to be my husband. In, um, every sense."

Ranma relaxed at last, his lips helplessly curving into a smile at the thought of her words. Saying nothing more, he joined Akane in looking out the window, looking forward to reaching their destination.

The toilet flushed and Ranma listened to the sound of his new wife gargling in the bathroom, then brushing her teeth for a second time. A minute later Akane emerged, fairly alluring in a nightie which was the closest thing she owned to something sexy for her wedding night. On the other hand, she was looking a trifle pale.

From his seat on the bed, wearing pajama bottoms but with his chest bare, Ranma commented, "Way to kill the mood. Isn't morning sickness supposed to happen in the, you know, morning?"

"Put a lid on it," she responded. "Or else I may decide to go straight to sleep."

The concern in Ranma's eyes belied his earlier teasing words. "Honestly, maybe you should, if you're not feeling well. I'm not gonna insist we have to do anything. I'd kind of like our first time, er, you know what I mean, the first time we remember, I'd like it to be special."

Akane sat beside him and put a hand on his knee. "Is that your female side coming through? I didn't think boys thought like that."

Ranma glared at her. "I mean it."

Akane gave him a smile, her special patented smile which always lifted his heart. "I know. And thank you. But I'm already feeling better now that I've, if you'll pardon the expression, gotten that out. Let's just take this slowly. Why don't we go sit in the chair over there and, uh, kiss. You know, start with something that, um, isn't too ... new."

Ranma nodded his agreement to this suggestion, and they spent some time making out, with Akane sitting in his lap. Their kisses slowly grew more passionate. When Akane felt she was ready to move things along, she slowly stroked her hands along Ranma's chest and shoulders. When he didn't get the message, she took one of his hands in hers and pressed it to her chest.

It took Ranma a little longer to overcome his hesitancy and adjust to the idea that Akane wanted him to touch her like that. Eventually, however, the strength of his own desires overwhelmed any latent fear of being knocked into orbit. As their exploratory touches grew more intimate, Ranma carried Akane over to the bed, where they discarded some articles of clothing which were getting in the way and continued with their experiments.

At long last Akane signaled her readiness. There was no need to pause to deal with protection since, to put it bluntly, that ship had already sailed. Ranma moved over her and attempted to position himself, but found that he was more awkward than he would have believed possible and couldn't seem to achieve what he thought ought to be a reasonably simple task. After all, he'd managed it when he was blind drunk, hadn't he? In the end Akane took him in her hand and positioned him for the act they were now both eagerly, if nervously, anticipating.

When Ranma pushed forward, Akane gave a grunt and repositioned herself. When he pressed again, a helpless "Ow!" escaped her lips, causing Ranma to freeze instantly.

"Are you okay?" he whispered. "Am I not, you know, doing it right?"

Akane tried to reassure him, and herself at the same time. "It's just a little more painful than I expected the second time to be. I don't know, maybe that's normal. Or maybe it's because we waited so long." She thought over what some of the girls had said in bull sessions. "Just ... do it. And then hold still for a bit."

Nodding, Ranma took a deep breath, then leaned forward and kissed Akane, putting himself into the kiss. As she responded to his kiss, Ranma pushed forward, almost whimpering himself at the sound of the pained gasp she breathed into his lips. When he could go no further he stopped and just held her, trying not to think too hard about how very tightly Akane gripped him.

After a timeless eon, perhaps a minute or so, Akane whispered, "Okay. That was a little more like the other girls described it. And here I thought missing out on that pain was one of the few good things about not remembering our first time."

"I'm sorry, Akane," Ranma whispered, sounding forlorn. He always hated hurting her in any way.

She leaned her face up and kissed her new husband. "Dummy. If there's one thing martial arts teaches, it's that sometimes a little pain is inevitable. I'll be fine. Now why don't you show me what kind of a stud I married. Just ... take it slow."

The next morning Akane was concerned at how sore she felt, worried that there might be something wrong. She kept her fears to herself, and gradually grew less concerned as the pain passed away. That evening she surprised Ranma with the enthusiasm she displayed, particularly after it became apparent that the previous night's pain would not be repeated.

"We're home!"

"Oh, Akane!" Kasumi cried, rushing out of the kitchen. She swept her little sister up into a hug, and bestowed a smile upon her new brother-in-law. "We didn't expect you back so early today. Everyone else is out."

Akane returned the hug enthusiastically. "We were up early this morning, and decided to catch an earlier train than we'd been planning. We'd done enough sightseeing, and I wanted to get home. Besides, I figured we have plenty of homework to catch up on before tomorrow, so we might need the extra time."

Kasumi pulled back to hold her at arms' length, smiling. "Yes. Yuka left it all on the desk in your bedroom, Akane. Of course," her eyes flickered to Ranma, "the bedroom is both of yours now."

Ranma looked a little dazed. "Huh. I guess it is."

"Baka," whispered Akane, smiling fondly.

"So, did you have fun?" Kasumi asked eagerly.

Akane turned bright red. "Um, y-y-yeah." Ranma's face turned the same color.

Kasumi's hand flew to her mouth, as if she could push her question back in. She took a step backward. "I ... I didn't mean ..."

Akane gave an embarrassed laugh. "It's okay, oneechan. I'm just not used to being married yet. And we did enjoy ourselves with some sightseeing and so forth. If you'd like, we can, um, talk later."

Kasumi nodded, a tentative smile returning to her face.

Akane turned to her husband. "Come on, let's go unpack. And figure out how we're going to arrange things in ... our bedroom. I suppose we'd better get started on that homework, too."

Ranma just groaned and followed her up the stairs.

Akane and Ranma left early for school, supposedly so they could have a chance to talk with a couple of teachers before the first class. Instead Akane led Ranma out of their way by several blocks, until they stepped up in front of a large building.

"A medical center?" Ranma said with a question in his voice, reading the sign in front. "Is this where you were headed? What for?"

Akane gave him a look which suggested he ought to be able to guess the basic answer without asking. "This is where Doctor Koshino works. She's the doctor I saw after I turned eighteen. The, um, you know, she's a gynecologist." At Ranma's blank look, she added, "A doctor who deals with women's stuff."

"Oh," said Ranma in a squirming sort of voice. Then he looked enlightened. "You want to see her about, uh, ..." He waved a hand vaguely in the direction of Akane's midsection.

"Our baby, Ranma," she confirmed with a touch of exasperation. "And yes. We got married a week ago yesterday. Hopefully she'll believe I got pregnant then. We can't put it off any longer or she's bound to guess the truth. I don't know when she'll do the first ultrasound, but anything much more than about two weeks difference is bound to be noticeable."

"Ultra... Oh. One of those fuzzy pictures of the baby inside you. Right?"

Akane shook her head with a sigh, but at least she hadn't had to explain. "Right. Now come on, I want to make an appointment. Then we have to get to school."

Ranma looked at the building warily. "Yeah. Um, I'll just wait here. Okay?"

She put her hands on her hips. "Ranma Saotome, you were there when I got into this mess. So help me, you are going to be there when the doctor tells me I'm pregnant. You are not going to chicken out on me! Have you got that?"

"I ain't no chicken," he grumbled. Then he took her hand and led her into the building.

They were back out again a few minutes later, Akane looking relieved and Ranma apprehensive.

"We were lucky about that cancellation," Akane was saying. "I was worried she wouldn't be able to see me that quick. Just remember we have to leave the moment school ends this afternoon. No hanging around with your friends. Before you try to duck out on this appointment, you'd better keep in mind that I know where you live."

Ranma chuckled weakly. "You got nothing to worry about. Haven't you figured that out yet? All you got to do is threaten to lock me out of the room tonight, and I'll cave in and do just about anything you ask."

Akane turned to him with a smile and bright eyes. "Reaaally? Hmm." Then she shook her head sadly. "Don't put ideas like that in my head, baka. I don't want ... this last week ..." She was getting flustered, so she took a deep breath. "What we shared was special. Is special. I won't ever use it like that. I promise." She gave him a mischievous look. "If I want to make you do something, I'll just threaten to kick you into orbit, like always."

"Hey, is that fair?" Ranma complained, eyebrows lifted. "We're married now. I've been trying to be good. I haven't been insulting you nearly as much."

Akane laughed. "You're right. Sorry again. If I want to get you to do something ..."

She paused, thinking. Then she stopped. Since they were holding hands, Ranma had to stop as well, and he turned toward her curiously. Akane stepped closer, with a sway of her hips. She looked up into his face, batting her eyelashes. Reaching up and slowly trailing a finger down his chest, Akane's tongue poked out slightly and traced around her lips. "Ranma," she purred huskily, "will you do something for me?"

Ranma swallowed, heavily. "Anything," he rasped.

Akane laughed, then spun around, walking down the street once more, pulling Ranma along behind her. "That's how I'll get you to do something," she announced.

Ranma blinked a couple of times, coming out of his daze. After a moment he noted drily, "That's a damned effective technique for getting your way." With a snort for his own weakness, he asked, "When did you become so sexy?"

Akane turned her face toward him and lifted an eyebrow. Calmly, happily, she said, "I told you a long time ago, Ranma. If I met a boy I liked, I'd develop some sex appeal. And you know what? I like you."

Walking along beside her, Ranma reflected on the memory. All the way back when they'd fought those two ice skaters. 'The Yellow Pair' or something like that. She had said something along those lines, hadn't she? And after the last week he could finally admit that Akane was very appealing when she wanted to be. Very. He licked his lips at certain memories of the week just past. Gripping her hand a little tighter, he strolled along beside his wife, feeling inordinately happy.

Doctor Koshino walked briskly into the examination room, where Akane was sitting on the table and Ranma was seated nearby on a stool. The doctor was in her mid thirties, wearing a white lab coat open over a dress, the sides of the coat billowing as she moved. A pair of narrow glasses was perched on her nose.

"Well, Mrs. Saotome, it says you're here for a pregnancy test." She lifted the top piece of paper and glanced at another underneath. "It also says here that you were married just a week ago." She fixed Akane with a steady gaze. "Now would you like to tell me what's really going on?"

"Wh-What do you mean?" Akane stammered. "We were married a week ago and, well, did what you'd expect. Now I'm throwing up and, I thought, you know, maybe I got pregnant. Is there any reason that couldn't happen on the wedding night?"

"Of course it can," the doctor agreed. "And if it had, then in a couple of more weeks, after you were about a week late, you'd take a home pregnancy test. Then you'd make an appointment to see me. So why don't we try the truth this time, hmm?" She turned her gaze toward Ranma, who turned red and looked at his lap.

Turning back to Akane, she said, "Anything a patient says to me is in strictest confidence, of course. But as your doctor, I prefer to have all of the facts so that I can give you, and your baby, the best care possible."

Akane thought it over for a few moments, then nodded. "It happened like this ..." She proceeded to tell the doctor everything, starting from the night of the party.

Doctor Koshino listened to the tale dispassionately, allowing a little sympathy to show on her face as part of her bedside manner but otherwise revealing nothing else of her thoughts. It was, after all, hardly an unfamiliar tale to a physician of her specialty. Except, perhaps, for the extreme haste with which this couple had acted.

"Very well. So you believe yourself to be three weeks pregnant, as opposed to one week." She made a notation on her clipboard. She looked back up. "Now, as I told you, everything you've just said is confidential. I feel obliged to point out that many people will suspect the truth, and some of them will be impolite enough to voice their suspicions. I only say this to be certain you are prepared, and will not allow yourself to become unduly upset."

"The guys will keep their mouths shut," Ranma said with assurance, smacking a fist into the opposing palm. The doctor lifted her eyebrows.

"I understand," Akane assured her hastily. "And I think it will be all right as long as they can't know for certain."

Doctor Koshino nodded. "Then I'll have the nurse come in here to draw some blood, and to get a urine sample. After that, I'll want to come back and give you an internal exam, now that you're sexually active."

Akane blushed. "O-Oh. Okay." When the doctor walked out, Akane said quietly but sternly, "You're leaving before the exam, got it?"

"Want me to leave now?" he asked hopefully. Akane glared her answer.

After the nurse obtained the necessary fluids, the newlyweds sat there and waited. Ten minutes. Fifteen. Twenty. They were becoming quite agitated when the door finally opened.

"About time," Ranma remarked, barely keeping himself from snarling.

The corner of the doctor's mouth lifted up. "I do have other patients, you know." She turned to Akane. "You said that you took a home pregnancy test a week ago. Could you tell me a little more about that?"

Akane, not expecting the question, paused to think about it. "I, um, threw up that morning. I realized it was probably the morning sickness starting, and I asked Ranma to go buy a pregnancy test for me. I took it, and it said I was pregnant."

"Did you follow the directions? Anything unusual happen?"

"Why?" Akane asked. Remembering, she said, "I was interrupted right after, uh, you know, using the test. Ranma's mother had stabbed his father, and they needed to get into the bathroom."

Koshino leaned back against a wall, arms folded in front of her, eyes grown very wide. "Did you say she stabbed him."

Ranma answered, embarrassed. "Mom carries a sword around. But she's, uh, not very - what's the word? - proficient with it."

"Meaning she drops or tosses it around by accident all the time," Akane explained.

"I was trying to put it nicely," her husband said sulkily.

The doctor shook her head, bemused. "In any case, you had to leave the bathroom? Taking the test strip with you?"

"Yes," Akane confirmed. "But then Kasumi - she's my sister - she wanted my helping cleaning up the blood. So I had to hide it in my room while I helped her."

Doctor Koshino sighed. "And how long was it before you got back to the test and looked at the result?"

Akane shrugged. "An hour and a half, maybe?"

A peculiar smile settling on her face, the doctor explained, "The test should be checked after the time specified in the directions. Usually a couple of minutes." She allowed a few seconds for that to sink in, then announced, "Congratulations, Mrs. Saotome. You're not pregnant."

Akane's jaw dropped. Ranma fell off the chair onto the floor. After watching her husband long enough to make sure he hadn't knocked himself out in the fall, given how still he was, Akane turned back to the doctor and timidly asked, "I'm not?"

"Not unless it's happened in the last week," Koshino confirmed. "Even the blood test will have trouble picking it up until at least a week has passed. But the chances are, you're not."

"But I'm over a week late! And I've been throwing up every day!"

The doctor shrugged. "There are a lot of reasons you could be late, and I'll have the lab run some tests on your blood to be safe. Most likely though is that it's due to stress. You have been feeling a lot of stress, haven't you?"

Akane nodded weakly.

The doctor went on. "As for the throwing up, you've probably got some sort of bug. A touch of flu, perhaps. Which might also contribute to being late. I'd suggest trying to get a little more rest, to help you recover."

In a strange, quiet voice, Akane admitted, "I told Kasumi it was probably a touch of flu."

"And you were probably right," Doctor Koshino told her with a cheerful smile. "Just to be safe, we'll go ahead and do the rest of the exam. And I'll have some tests run on the blood, like I said. Given that you're probably not pregnant, if you want to stay that way, I'd suggest you start using contraceptives."

From where he was lying on the floor, Ranma started laughing. "I know the perfect drugstore to buy them at," he pronounced, continuing to laugh.

Akane turned to him with a frown. "This isn't funny, baka! Don't you realize? We didn't have to get married!"

Ranma stood up and took her hand in his. Deciding this wasn't enough, he stepped closer and pulled Akane into a hug. "I told you already, I wanted to marry you. Maybe it was a bit sooner than planned, but maybe it was for the best, too. Who knows how long I would have dragged my feet about it? And you know what else? I've really, really enjoyed the last week."

"Baka!" Akane exclaimed, face like a tomato. She hit him hard enough to knock him into the wall. "Can't you wait till we're alone to say things like that?!" She jumped off the table, grabbed him as he bounced back toward her, and hugged him. "Thank you. You're ... not upset? About getting married when we didn't have to?"

He grinned. "No. I meant it. It's probably all for the best, and I like being married to you. Now why don't I step outside while you finish up in here?" He nodded slightly toward the doctor. "If her eyebrows go up any higher, they might get stuck there, and we wouldn't want that." Giving Akane a kiss, he stepped around the examination table and let himself out the door.

"Interesting husband you have there," Doctor Koshino remarked.

"You have no idea," Akane replied, turning back to the table.

"We're home!" Akane called out. Although she didn't notice, her voice was considerably lighter than it had been when she made the same announcement the day before. When she had been expecting to confess her pregnancy within the next few days.

"How was your first day back at school?" Kasumi asked, emerging from her room to meet them in the hallway upstairs.

"Okay, I guess," Akane said.

"Bunch of perverts," Ranma added. Kasumi gave him a strange look.

Akane explained. "Everyone was asking us about the honeymoon. You know." She shrugged. "For some reason it seems to be bothering Ranma more than me. Maybe it's just that I was expecting it more."

Kasumi nodded. "You got a package in the mail from Nabiki today. Some sort of wedding gift, apparently. That's what she wrote on it, anyway. I left it on your desk."

"Okay. Thanks."

They continued down the hall into their room. The package was just where Kasumi said it would be. A fairly small, flat square. Tearing it open, they found a jewel case containing a DVD, and a note saying, "Sorry I missed the wedding. Here's a gift to remember a special night. Make absolutely certain you're alone when you watch it."

"What do you think it could be?" Akane asked, holding the case gingerly between thumb and forefinger.

"I'm afraid to guess," Ranma replied, eyeing it almost the way he would a cat.

"Come on," Akane said. "We can watch it in Nabiki's room."

"Are you sure that's safe?" he wondered, looking around almost as if he expected Nabiki to pop out of some corner.

"Yes, come on scaredy-cat. The only other player is in the family room, and the note said to make sure we watched it alone."

Ranma shut the door carefully behind them as Akane crossed over to the DVD player with the small television sitting atop it. She turned on the television first and adjusted the volume to a low level, then popped out the tray and slid the disk inside. Ranma joined her nervously and they sat together on the bed, waiting to see what this was all about.

The screen remained blank for a minute, then lit up with an image which was nonetheless still quite dark. After a few seconds of puzzling out the shapes in the limited light coming through a window, they both identified it as their bedroom, Akane figuring it out first due to long familiarity. Although already obvious from the fact that this had arrived in the mail, they could also see that the image predated the small amount of rearranging they had done yesterday.

"I'm sure the two of you are wondering what this is about," Nabiki's voice came from the television, "and if you're not alone, on your own heads be it. I give you my word of honor that no one other than myself has seen this, and no one ever will. At least, not unless you screw up and let someone else get hold of this."

The image seemed to be unchanging, although a close inspection would reveal the digits on Akane's bedside clock changing with each passing minute. Nabiki's voice over continued. "I'm sure you're not going to be too happy that I was filming your room, little sister. But just think, if I hadn't, we wouldn't have this great footage. Besides, I wasn't really expecting to get much, if anything. The most I was hoping for was that you might come home from the party a little tipsy. Maybe do a little dancing around the room, or singing, as you got ready for bed. I certainly wasn't expecting what I got instead."

Akane and Ranma realized at the same moment that this was taken the night of the party. They turned and gave each other a long look, then turned nervously back to the screen. Despite the activities in which they'd been engaging for the past week, both of them were rather disconcerted by the idea of watching a video of themselves performing such acts. Let alone the notion that Nabiki must have watched it. All the same, neither of them got up to turn it off.

"Anyway, the moment I saw this I just knew I had to give you a copy as a wedding present. Whenever the two of you stopped dancing around and finally had a wedding. Not that I ever dreamed it would be this soon. Whatever did get into the two of you? Of course, after watching this it was obvious both of you were a lot more comfortable with each other than you were letting on. Anyway, I hope you had fun on the honeymoon. I'm pretty sure you did, sis, after getting a look at your husband here. Now sit back and enjoy. I know I did."

Nabiki's voice finally came to a stop. There was a noise and then the room was filled with light. A couple of figures appeared in front of the camera, and the young couple immediately identified themselves. Ranma was carrying Akane bridal style, swaying a little as he walked, their lips locked together in a passionate kiss. He walked over to the bed and sat down, managing to keep Akane in his lap. Their lips never separated.

The newlywed couple's hands crept together and clasped each other as they watched the surreal vision play out before them, the scene from three weeks past which neither of them could remember. They watched in awe as their images kissed passionately, hands caressing each other's bodies. They watched in something like disbelief as those hands began to undo buttons and zippers, creeping inside the openings thus provided. Intellectually, they knew that something of the sort must have happened given how they had awakened the next morning, yet at the same time it seemed so unreal, a play which must have been staged with actors who only looked like themselves.

Then the clothes started coming off. Both continued to watch, highly embarrassed. Akane lifted a hand in front of her face, peeking between her fingers. The caresses became even more intimate, and both of the teenagers were amazed that they had been so bold before their wedding placed the stamp of official approval on such behavior.

The Ranma on the screen happened to look up toward the ceiling, squinting his eyes against the light shining down on them. They listened as he drunkenly drawled, "H-Hang on, 'Kane. If we ... we get un-undressed, we're g-gonna get sun-sunburned."

The figure of Akane joined him in looking up. "S'okay. I g-got some sunk- sukre- stuff to stop sunburn." She climbed off Ranma's lap, wearing only her panties, to dig around in a box on her shelf. A few seconds later she held up a tube triumphantly. "Ha!" they heard her say as she crawled back toward Ranma.

"What the hell?!" the Ranma in the present asked.

"That's my sunscreen lotion," Akane whispered back.

Squeezing out a palmful of lotion, the Akane they were watching slapped it onto Ranma's chest and started spreading it around vigorously, while he tried to tug at her panties, working them partway down her legs. They heard her say, "G-Gotta get the parts that don' get much su-sun." The Akane of the now slapped her other hand over her eyes to join the first hand as the Akane on the video started slathering lotion on Ranma's bare backside.

Ranma mumbled, "Boy were we drunk," as he watched himself from three weeks past grab the tube of lotion and spread some on Akane's breasts. Then he took a generous helping and reached right between her legs.

The drunken Akane jerked back with a small pained shriek, then backhanded Ranma across the room. "I-I d-don't need any of that st-stuff inside there, baka!" she exclaimed. Then she pouted and said, "I didn't ... didn't hurt you, d-did I?" She got up and went over to Ranma, dragging him back to the bed.

Akane, still peeking between her fingers, lowered her arms to stare at the junction of her legs. She remembered examining a white gooey drop on the end of her finger after waking up that morning three weeks ago. Could that have been ...? But no, surely what she had found was a residue from later, after she and Ranma ...

"Holy sh-!" Ranma bit off the exclamation.

Akane looked up to see what was going on, only to watch flabbergasted as her past self began vigorously rubbing lotion up and down on Ranma's ... his ... that part of him in which she'd been taking such an interest this past week. The look of concentration on her face in the image was almost as arresting as what her hands were doing. With a sharp cry Ranma ... well, he got a bit of a mess on himself and on the sheets.

"Did I really do that?" Akane whispered.

"I guess so," Ranma whispered back. "Wish I could remember it. Looked like I was enjoying myself." Akane slapped him on the chest lightly, but he barely noticed so engrossed he was with events on the television screen.

They watched as, on the video, Ranma took Akane in his arms and the two of them lay down on the bed.

"Time for the main event," the current Ranma whispered. Akane nodded, both reluctant and strangely eager to see the act which had so changed their lives.

They continued to watch as the pair lay there, beside each other. After a couple of minutes, the watching Akane asked, "Why aren't we doing anything?"

Ranma shrugged. A couple of more minutes passed silently. "You know ..." Ranma hesitated, then finished his sentence. "I think we passed out."

Akane's head whipped around to stare at him. She looked back at the television, eyes wide. Fumbling for the remote, she finally got it pointed the right way and pressed the fast forward button. The video zipped by with little change, other than small shifts in position of the two sleeping figures. Then the screen went blank.

"We ... we didn't ...?" There was a horrified note in Akane's voice.

"Oh boy," Ranma said with feeling. Then, "Why the hell couldn't Nabiki have given us this three weeks ago?!"

"Is that regret I hear in your voice, Ranma Saotome?" Akane growled. She was staring at him through narrowed eyes.

Ranma leaned slightly away, wary of her fists, trying to think fast. "Uh, uh, nope, no way. I love being married to you. Best thing that ever happened to me. Yep, ..."

Akane chuckled, bringing him to a nervous halt.

With a smile, she told him, "Just kidding. If you hadn't beat me to it, I was going to ask the same thing." She looked down after saying that. "But, you know, if she had, we probably wouldn't be married now. In fact, we'd have probably gotten really embarrassed and had a huge fight about it. Maybe, maybe, ..."

Ranma took hold of her hand, squeezing tightly, causing her to look up and search his face. She smiled tentatively at what she saw there. "Yeah, you're right," Ranma reassured her. "I guess it really was for the best. 'Cause now that I'm married to you, I wouldn't want to have it any other way."

Immediately after saying that he reached up and scratched the back of his head. "There's just one thing left that's worrying me."

"What's that?" his wife asked curiously. "You don't really think Nabiki will sell this to anyone, do you?"

"No, no," he waved this off. "This goes way beyond anything she'd do." He paused thoughtfully. "Though I guess I could see her editing it just to the point where we were sitting on the bed kissing, and selling that."

Akane's mouth twisted wryly. "I'll have a word with her. If it's not that ... are you worried she'll tease us about it? The next time she comes home? What's the matter, can't take a little teasing?"

Ranma chuckled. "Now that you mention it, she is probably going to get some pretty good digs in. Like looking at the light in the family room during dinner and mentioning sunscreen. But I reckon I'll survive. And it'll be amusing watching how red in the face you get at the same time."

Akane jabbed her elbow into his side. "Watch it, buster." She bit her lip, thinking. "Are you worried that our parents will start trying to convince us to start a family for real?"

He shook his head. "Naw. They might, but we've been dealing with pressure from them ever since I got here. We can handle it."

"The kids at school? Kuno? Kodachi?"

"Nope. Nope. Nope."

Akane sighed. "Okay. I give up. What's worrying you?"

Ranma let his face fall into a woeful expression. "Well, it ain't gonna be long before it's pretty obvious you're not pregnant. Of course, no one's expecting you to be. Except for one person. Ucchan thinks you're pregnant, and that's why I married you. When she finds out you're not ..."

He dropped his head.

"... she's gonna slice and dice me with that monster spatula, and serve the bits up on okonomiyaki in her restaurant." Ranma regarded his wife with puppy dog eyes, pleading, "Can I, pretty please, hide behind you while you tell her the truth?"

Akane, unable to help herself, buried her face in his chest and began sniggering. "No deal, baka. You're the one who blabbed. You get to straighten her out." She snuggled in closer. "But if it helps, I'll hold your hand while you do it. Now what do you say we go back to our room, hide this disk, and find something more interesting to do than homework? Like making sure neither one of us gets any sunburn?"

His only answer was a grin as they hastily retrieved the disk and left the room.


Author's note:

There you go, and I hope it was worth the wait. Next up, if things go according to plan, will be another chapter of Side by Side.

Related sites on the web: Please visit my profile page for information on upcoming chapters or stories, by clicking on my name at the top of this chapter. My profile also has links to my web site, LiveJournal site and forum. The web site contains the official versions of my stories. The LiveJournal site provides updates on what I am working upon at any given time. The forum is a place to discuss my stories or Ranma 1/2 in general.