More Than Enough

By Ryoko's Sake

This story takes place one week after the events of "Wanting More".

Chapter One

"So, all I have to do is train the neural network to understand the data patterns. Do you see? That will

explain everything," Washu cackled with self-satisfaction, rudely spearing

a rice ball with the tips of her chopsticks. She waved it around, still laughing. " I am SUCH a'" she

paused and grinned. "Well, you know." She tossed her head so that her

reddish pink hair bobbed in agreement.

The blank looks coming in from every angle of the table caused Washu's eyebrows to crinkle. With a sigh

she popped the rice ball into her mouth and chewed. "Geeze," she

said through a mouthful of rice. "Can I make it any more simple?"

Ryoko reached over and poked Washu in the arm. "Why not try speaking Japanese instead of some Ph.D.

mumbo jumbo?" she asked dryly, sipping her tea.

"Hmmpf." Washu set down her utensils and crossed her arms. "It's a very complex topic little Ryoko. I'd

like to see you dumb it down any better."

Ryoko eyed the last of the sushi on a serving plate, trying to decide if she would rather eat or pick on her

mother, who sat there just radiating vanity and egotism.

Eyes glinting with playful malice, Ryoko nodded and sat up straight, as if answering a question in class.

"Let's see' the best way to explain this is ' that'that Washu is

studying unstable systems' so she has to teach the formulas to learn as the data shifts. Regular formulas

are to stiff and can't capture the information properly." She titled her

blue haired head towards the scientist. "Right?"

Washu's mouth dropped open and she stared in shock at the near perfect explanation.

"Right," Ryoko snorted, placing a cucumber slice in Washu's mouth. "Be careful not to choke."

The cucumber hit the wall as Washu spit it out and shouted, "That's it exactly!" She laughed with joy. "Oh

I'm so happy! You are not nearly as simple minded as I thought!"

"Hey!" Ryoko shouted. "I am NOT simpleminded!"

Washu drew back, her hands clasped under her chin and her eyes shimmering. "What a nice surprise!"

"Mom!" Ryoko spit, making it sounds like a curse. Energy crackled at the edge of her fingers, as she

prepared a blast.

"Wow, Ryoko is just as smart as Washu!" Mihoshi marveled with a giggle.

"Hey there! No way!" Now it was Washu's turn to be offended. "I'm waaay smarter."

Ryoko dispelled the energy and clutched at her stomach as deep belly-laughs rolled out of her. "Oh ' ha ha-

this is perfect!" she crowed.

"Don't laugh at me," Washu roared and launched her self over the table, cups and saucers flying, as she

grabbed for her daughter.

Sliding to the side and crawling, Ryoko tried to get away, but Washu caught her by the ankle and dragged

her back. Soon they were wrestling on the floor, laughing and tickling

each other.

Ayeka sipped her tea and shook her head. "I'm not sure if I like this change in their relationship. They were

less destructive when they didn't get along," the purpled tressed

princess mused.

Sasami giggled as she watched the unusual bonding unfold before her. "I think it's cute."

"You would," Ayeka said dryly.

"What do you think changed between them?" Sasami asked while she tightened one of her red popknots

around a teal pigtail.

Ayeka shrugged. "Don't forget Ms. Ryoko, it's your turn to do the dishes today," she admonished the

tussled space pirate.

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Just let me ditch this little ankle biter first," Ryoko said tightening a headlock on her

diminutive mother.

Washu wiggled away then flashed down to Ryoko's feet.

"OW!" Ryoko yelped flying into the air, one hand rubbing her ankle.

"Well you did call me an ankle biter, Ryoko dear," Washu panted, rising to her feet and straightening her

Science Academy uniform. She smiled at her daughter and was

rewarded with a smile in return.

Washu headed towards the door to her lab and looked over her shoulder. "And little Ryoko, its really more

appropriate to say I am training algorithms than it is to say I am

training formulas." She ducked as a balled up cloth napkin was flung her way and disappeared into her lab

while the getting was good.

Ryoko sighed and started gathering up the dishes from the table, trying to remember to take fewer dishes

and more trips to the kitchen. Ever since she had become more

helpful, the Masaki dish collection had dwindled.

Ayeka gathered the remaining dishes and followed Ryoko into the kitchen. She sat them down on the

counter as Ryoko tied on an apron decorated with sketches of herself as

a chibi space pirate. Next she filled the sink with warm soapy water and began washing the dishes with a

faint smirk of distaste.

Without a word, Ayeka took up a position at Ryoko's side and began drying.

Ryoko looked at her sideways and arched an eyebrow. "To what do I owe this pleasure, Princess?"

Putting a plate in the cupboard, Ayeka smiled and addressed the air right above the pirate's head. "You

have been very helpful this week. I appreciate it."

Ryoko levitated a little, forcing Ayeka to make eye contact with her. "Thank you." She drifted back to the

floor and continued washing.

Ayeka took up a chef's knife to dry, inspected it closely, and handed it back to Ryoko. "This isn't clean."

Ryoko squinted at the blade, shrugged, and dunked it back in the warm water, and scrubbed at it some

more.

"You really do need to be more careful, Ryoko. If the dishes aren't clean, we could get sick," Ayeka chided

gently.

"Yeah, well'" Ryoko began to bristle, but let it slide. She was feeling too good to fight. "Yeah." She

handed the clean knife back to Ayeka who rinsed it and began rubbing it

with the towel.

Ayeka smiled again. "Ryoko, what has happened to you? Not that I'm complaining at all."

Ryoko paused in her actions, looking thoughtful and a little bit troubled. "Ayeka. We are' well' you

could say we are kinda' friends right?"

The plate Ayeka was drying slipped through her fingers, to crash into bits at her feet.

"Well?" Ryoko asked gruffly, not looking up from her task.

Kneeling to pick up the pieces of broken earthware, Ayeka whispered, "I suppose we are."

"Good. Lets keep it that way, okay?"

"What are you trying to tell me?"

"Nothing. It's just' were are friends no matter what, okay? For Tenchi." Ryoko said firmly, turning

around and offering her hand to Ayeka.

"For Tenchi," Ayeka agreed, shaking hands with her rival.

"Now scoot, before you break anymore dishes. I'll get the blame of course." Ryoko pointed the way out of

the kitchen.

Ayeka watched Ryoko for a moment, as if unsure, then allowe d herself to be removed.

Alone at last, Ryoko returned to the dishes. Somehow, she found comfort in the warm sudsy water, and

washing dishes had become her new form of therapy. She was feeling

happier than she ever thought possible, since last week in the cave. She was loved. Truly loved. But there

was a darker side to it all. No one else knew about it.

Despite Tenchi's promises, they hadn't told anyone yet. She understood why too. Ayeka. What were they

going to do about Ayeka? There seemed to be no way around hurting

her terribly. Tenchi had lost his nerve the moment he saw her upon their return from the cave, and now

could hardly be coaxed to speak about it. A week had passed, and

Ryoko now feared that Ayeka would find them in a compromising position, which would hurt much more

than have it told to her straight.

And catching them was a big possibility. Ever since Tenchi had discovered the truth about physical

relations, he couldn't seem to get enough. A day hadn't gone by with out him

seeking her out for at least a kiss which usually lead to more. Not that she minded, it was just surprising,

that's all. Her Tenchi was growing up in more ways than one. It was

nice to be chased back after so long. And the cat and mouse game of stolen moments certainly was

exciting, but it could only lead to harm. They had to tell everyone, and

soon.

While her mind worried about these practicalities, her heart feared something far worse. Why wasn't he

telling? Was it her? What if he regretted her? What if he didn't really

mean those things he had said?

"Ryoko, need any help?" Tenchi asked coming into the kitchen.

Ryoko smiled softly and brought him to her with a jerk of her head. "You can dry. But don't break any

dishes, Ayeka already got one tonight."

Tenchi nodded and picked up the dishcloth. "It looks like you an Washu are making great progress."

"Mmm." That was true. More than one thing had changed in the past week. Maybe her life was finally

going to improve.

Tenchi shifted so that the sides of their hips were touching as they stood there together. "I'm really proud of

you."

"Thanks," she said softly. "Things are going well right now." The doubts in her heart quieted in his calm

presence. Of course he loved her.

For a moment they worked in companionable silence, enjoying the domesticity of doing the task together

like an old married couple might.

Ryoko hummed softly, so softly it was barely audible, as she scrubbed a bit of dried-on noodle from a

bowl.

Tenchi looked at her without turning his head, a small smile on his lips as he watched her be happy for a

change. Setting a dry plate on the counter, he balanced all of his

weight on one slippered foot, so the other could gently rub up and down her calf.

Ryoko grinned, and stopped humming at the caress of his foot. Once over his physical fear of her, Tenchi

was turning out to be quite the cuddler.

Tenchi slipped a hand into the warm, soapy water and clasped one of Ryoko's underneath the surface. He

rubbed a thumb over her knuckles, feeling the slickness of the soap.

"Please don't stop on my account," he whispered.

"Stop, what? I wasn't doing anything," she teased.

No longer working, Tenchi moved closer and tried to catch her eyes. "Uh huh."

Playing along, Ryoko turned her head completely way, refusing to look at him. "I don't know what you are

talking about." She enjoyed the feel of his foot on her leg.

"Mmmm." Tenchi glanced around the kitchen then lowered his lips to the quivering pulse at her neck,

simultaneously biting and kissing. He slid his soapy fingers up her arm

and into her hair, leaving a trail of suds in their wake.

Ryoko frowned as she felt warm little tingles race up her arm, and deeper chords within her belly

responded to the sensation. They needed to stay on track and do the dishes,

and this wasn't helping. They had to be more discrete. Really.

"Tenchiiii'." What started out as a reprimand, turned into a pleasured sigh as Tenchi's lips teased the

tender skin of her ears.

"Mmm?" He answered, his hands snaking around to fondle her breasts.

Ryoko leaned forward into the counter and sighed, both out of pleasure and frustration.

"Tenchi'no' we need to talk."

Eyes slightly out of focus, Tenchi immediately dropped his hands to his side and looked at Ryoko with

concern. One hand drifted below his waist to instinctively shield his

arousal. "Talk? Is something wrong?"

Wiping the suds off of her arms, Ryoko turned to face him, her face pained. "We have to tell them."

Palms up in a placating motion, Tenchi took a step back. "And we will. Soon."

"When Tenchi?" Her eyes flashed. "What happened to 'first thing tomorrow'?" she whispered. "It's been a

whole week Tenchi!" The whispers of doubt surfaced again, troubling

even her mind this time.

Looking guilty, Tenchi scrubbed at the skin behind his neck. "I know' I know' it's just so hard' I don't

know what to say to them, Ryoko."

Ryoko crossed her arms looking annoyed. "This secret won't keep itself, you know."

Tenchi walked forward and gently took hold of her shoulders. "Look, if you're worried about my feelings

for you'"

Cutting him off with snort, she shrugged off his hands. "Of course not! I'm talking about Ayeka!" Like she

would ever tell him she doubted him that way.

Tenchi's eyes widened, but he said nothing.

"If she catches the two of us together, it will break her heart. And she will catch us someday, believe it."

Tenchi nodded slowly.

Looking down into her crossed arms, Ryoko sniffed. "That could have been me. And I know I wouldn't

want to find out that way."

Tenchi touched Ryoko's shoulder's again. "You're right. We'll tell her."

Ryoko looked up. "Tonight," she said anxious to have her guilt removed, and her fears soothed.

"Tomorrow," Tenchi replied firmly.

"But!"

"Shhh," he whispered moving in closer and taking her hand. "How can I talk to her," he moved her hand to

feel his erection through his trousers, "when my mind is full of you?"

"Oh Tenchi," she whispered, her body urgently telling her to go along with his plan, as she leaned forward.

Tenchi wrapped her in a warm embrace and tickled her lips with little licks. "Come on, let's get out of

here."

The two teleported out of the kitchen just before Ayeka came in to deliver a forgotten dinner dish. "Oh look

at this mess' unfinished dishes' water on the floor! Ryoko!"

The two appeared in the upstairs hallway just outside of Tenchi's door, their fingers entertwined as they

stood together. Tilting her head in Tenchi's direction Ryoko lifted an

eyebrow.

Tenchi nodded and slid open his door pulling Ryoko inside with a gentle tug. Looking at her lovingly,

Tenchi shut the door and snapped the lock in place, and took her other

hand so he was now holding both of her hands at arm's length. For a long moment they just gazed at each

other in the semi-darkness of his twilight filled room.

"Ryoko'"

"Yes?"

He pulled her closer and wrapped his arms about her. "I love you so much," he murmured into her ear, his

warm breath teasing her.

"Mmm."

He started kissing the tender patch of skin between her ear and cheek. "I was watching you all during

dinner. Thinking about'"

"About?" she murmured, enjoying his newly acquired erotic confidence.

His hands slid over her body. "About'." He peeled her bi-colured jacket back to reveal a shoulder. "About

this'" he followed his words with a moist kiss to the rounded curve of

her bared clavicle. The other shoulder became bare and the jacket dropped to the floor with a whisper of

sound. He kissed along the top of her shoulders, spending extra time

at the base of her neck, nipping silently when she murmured his name. He moved his hands to clasp both

sides of her slider waist, pulling her more tightly against him. "And

this'" he said as hid hands glided up her abdomen to softly cup her breasts in his palms. He squeezed with

gentle pressure and whispered, "What were you thinking about?"

A soft chuckle shook her body. "Well' the ramen noodles, actually."

He squeezed a little harder. "I'm trying to be romantic here."

Another laugh. "I know. But that's the truth; I was hungry."

Tenchi groaned, torn between laughter and a sigh of frustration. He was learning that Ryoko's attention

span could be shorter than he might have preferred.

She swiveled in his arms and wrapped her arms around his neck, her nose brushing his. "Would it help if I

told you had my undivided attention right now?"

"I feel better already," he sighed brushing her lips in a brief kiss.

Ryoko grinned and kissed him back. "I can tell you might need a little more persuasion. How's this?" With

the sound of matter displacement, her white dress and red leggings

were replaced by a long white cotton night gown with a low-cut sweetheart neckline that showcased her

cleavage and two wide lace straps that stretched over her shoulders. She

stepped back, the hem brushing the arch of her foot. "Well?" she asked, knowing the mix of sweetness and

sensuality brought out Tenchi's stronger passions.

His face an odd mix of intensity and softness, Tenchi strode forward and scooped her up into his arms and

spun her about, making her long gown trace the circles of their

motion. Dizzy and desirous, he collapsed onto his bed, kissing her all the way down. These kisses were not

those of a hesitant, young, man but those of a practiced lover, full

of confidence and desire. The last week with Ryoko had done much to bolster his self -esteem in matters of

the heart.

Beneath him, Ryoko stretched and tried to untie the drawstring of his simple pants. It was difficult to keep

her focus as she felt the cool night air caress her breasts as the

small pearl buttons going down the face of her gown became undone. Growling, she snapped the ties and

yanked, pulling the pants down his legs to where he could easily kick

them off.

"You wear too much clothing," she panted, rolling on top of him and sliding his tee-shirt over his head.

He waited until his chest was as bare as his bottom, then flipped her back over and began kissing her neck

hungrily.

Before he had gotten far, he found himself on the bottom again, with Ryoko pinning his arms above his

head, grinning ferally down at him. Her nightgown hung open to her

waist, her breasts hanging free and swaying like heavy pendulums from her sudden movements. Still

holding him in place, Ryoko lowered he head and captured one of his

nipples with her mouth and sucked gently, making him groan. As she worked his nipple, she released her

hold on him and raked her fingers down his chest, moving towards his

aroused penis.

Now free, Tenchi lurched over, pinning her beneath him. They grappled for the topside position, sometimes

kissing, sometimes biting, all the while burning for the

consummation of their love. Tenchi tried to enter her, but Ryoko twisted away, pinning him on the bottom

between her powerful thighs as she sat astride his stomach.

"I want you," he grunted, trying to shift her with little success, only managing to kick the bedclothes onto

the floor.

She grinned at him, her mussed hair hanging around her face. "Then you should be happy, because I'm

about to take you, my Tenchi." She scooted back, one hand on his

chest the other guiding his penis between her legs.

"Oh no you don't!" Tenchi chuckled erotically and surged upward, his momentum knocking them off the

bed. "This time I'm taking you." The wrestled on the floor, until Ryoko

became entangled in the sheets and Tenchi was able to get behind her as she knelt on all fours, helplessly

trapped. He stood on his knees and pressed his hips into her

buttocks. He leaned over and kissed the small of her back, smiling at her tremors.

Despite their earlier rough love play, Tenchi slowed down and caressed all of her that he could reach. "

'Yoko, are you ready for me?" his hoarse voice asked earnestly.

"Oh yes, my Tenchi," she panted, arching her back.

"Well then," he murmured, pushing the folds of her nightgown up and over her rear, revealing her bare

cheeks. He rubbed them, enjoying their mix of firmness and softness.

They were perfect, beautiful. Leaning down, Tenchi placed a kiss oh each side while running a finger

between her legs, making her gasp.

Pleased with the moisture he found there, Tenchi straightened, taking his penis in his hand and guiding it

between her legs and into the soft warmth of her vagina. His location

correct, he pushed his hips forward until he was buried inside of her heat.

What came next was neither soft nor leisurely, as something in both of them snapped.

"Tenchi!" Ryoko gasped, ramming back against him. "This is'ahhh'."

He moaned in agreement, retracting and pushing back into her with more force than he had intended. This

was something new. Something beyond. Something frenzied.

Ryoko dropped to her elbows, her head resting on the floor her bottom pointing into the air. "Come on

Tenchi'do it'do it'do it'" she half ordered and half begged.

Sinking his fingers into the tender flesh of her rear, Tenchi held on tightly and rocketed into her with pure

need. There was no sentimentality tonight, just hunger.

They went on like that forever. The world reduced to a haze of shimmering light, sweetness, salt and heat.

There was no more Tenchi and no more Ryoko. All that remained

was a pounding rhythm caught somewhere between a gasp and a heartbeat.

Suddenly individuality returned, as the white lighting of orgasm electrocuted their nerves simultaneously.

Maybe they called out to each other, neither would be able to remember. They simply collapsed where they

were, crawling into an embrace and weakly tugging the sheet over to

cover themselves.

For now the voice of doubt slept too.

Chapter Two

"' And I heard the strangest noises coming from the third floor!" Sasami said seriously. "It was so dark,

and scary, that I was sure it was a ghost."

Tenchi's chopstick paused on its way to his mouth. Gulping, he forced his eyes to stay away from Ryoko

and to concentrate on his breakfast.

"Yeah," Washu drawled, reaching for another fried egg. "It's a good thing I stopped her from going to

investigate," she said with a pointed look to her daughter.

Ryoko flushed and scratched the back of her neck looking guilty.

::Stop that!:: Washu snapped across the link. ::You are even picking up his mannerisms!::

Ryoko lowered her hand and put on her cool face. "What was it Washu?"

Washu leered and leaned across the table for effect. "It was the dreaded monster with two'"

"Mom!" Ryoko shouted.

"'heads." Washu finished dryly.

"Oh! Two heads! How horrible! However did you get rid of it?" Ryoko laughed nervously, her blush

deepening.

::Why don't you just put on a sign that says 'I'm sleeping with Tenchi', hmm?::

::':: Ryoko looked down, trying to keep from drawing further attention to herself.

"It was nothing for a genius like me! I just send the poor lost thing back to its own dimension."

Sasami looked very impressed. "Do you think it will be back, little Washu?"

Washu looked sideways at Tenchi. "I sure hope not."

Ayeka wiped her mouth primly. "I certainly hope not. I do hope you will be more careful with your

transdimensional experiments, Ms. Washu."

Washu poured some tea into her bowl and swished it around with her chopsticks. "Yes, you are right.

Careful. We should ALL be more careful."

::Care to beat it in with a hammer?:: Ryoko sent waspishly.

Washu raised the bowl to her lips and drank the remains of her dinner with the tea. ::You're one to talk

about hammering, little Ryoko.:: A pause. ::I thought you said Tenchi

was going to tell everyone.::

::Well, he said that he would,:: Ryoko thought a flavor of disappointment in her thoughts.

::So what's the problem?::

::What do you think?::

Washu burped. ::He chickened out, huh?::

Ryoko nodded, worrying her lower lip with a fang.

::Then maybe you should tell. Before someone gets hurt more than necessary.::

Ryoko nodded again, her shoulders slumped in defeat.

::That's my good girl,:: Washu caressed her daughter's mind. "Well! I'm off to the lab, work work work!"

Washu said out loud.

Ryoko nodded absently, finishing her breakfast in silence.

"Ms. Ryoko? Would you please help me with the breakfast dishes, as I finished up for you last night?"

Ayeka asked with surprising gentleness.

Ryoko bit her lip, remembering exactly what had distracted her. She cleared her throat. "Sorry about that

princess'uh' why don't you just let me take care of this set in return,

okay?"

"Oh I couldn't do that to a friend. Right?"

"Right." Ryoko's guts twisted. This was not going to be pretty. She drained her teacup and stood up. "Then

let's get this show on the road."

Soon the young women were placed at the sink this time with Ryoko drying the dishes.

Ayeka got right to the point. "So what's been bothering you?"

"Bothering me?" Ryoko almost succeeded in sounding bored.

"Oh yes. We all know something is wrong. You just are not yourself lately."

"Errr'"

"And this morning. You may not realize it, but it is always obvious when you and Washu are talking

telepathically."

"It is?" Ryoko asked stupidly.

"Of course it is. You both get really quiet, ignore the rest of the conversation and nod and gesture at each

other as if you were speaking out loud."

"Huh."

"And this morning you were both upset."

"Oh."

Ayeka laughed behind a soapy hand. "The Space Pirate Ryoko at a loss for words. Well, that's a first!"

"Ayeka. I have something to tell you," Ryoko said in a dull voice, heavy with regret.

Sensing something, Ayeka became still. "Yes?"

Ryoko handed Ayeka the dishtowel. "But not here. Take a walk with me to the cave? Now?"

Ayeka dried her hands and set the towel down. "My, This sounds serious."

"It is."

Chapter Three

The birds of the forest twittered a gentle song as the two young women sat down on a rough outcropping of

rock, the dark maw of the cave's entrance behind them.

Ryoko handed Ayeka a saucer of sake. The princess took it with a dubious look.

"Isn't it a bit early for this?"

Ryoko frowned. "Trust me, you'll need it." She threw back her own sake in one gulp.

Ayeka took a tentative sip. "What's wrong Ryoko?"

"I have something to tell you, but I want a promise first."

"Yes?"

"No matter what I say, promise me that you will wait until I'm done before you leave."

"Oh dear," Ayeka paused. Now, I worry, but yes, yes you have my word. I will not leave until you are

finished."

"Good." Ryoko filled up their saucers and set the bottle on the ground. She touched her saucer to Ayeka's.

"Kompai. To our weird friendship."

Ayeka nodded seriously and drank to the toast.

Ryoko finished her sake and stood up, pacing the dry sand that lined the cave's entrance. "Look, I'm just a

pirate. I'm not good with words. There is no easy way to say this.

So, let's start with this: I'm sorry."

"Sorry?"

"Yes, I'm sorry because' because something that has made me very happy, will end up hurting you.

Ayeka dropped her saucer, the remaining sake splashing a dark stain on her pink robes. "Tenchi?"

Ryoko turned to face Ayeka, her face pained. "Yes."

"Oh no." Ayeka covered her face with her hands as her shoulders began to shake.

"Ayeka'"

"Then those sounds last night'."

"Try not to think about it'."

"When?"

"Don't do this, Ayeka."

"When?" Ayeka screamed, removing her hands so that her tear-filled eyes could bore into Ryoko's.

"Ryoko dropped to her knees in front of Ayeka. "Last week, during the big storm."

"Last week? A week? And you didn't tell me? What, were the two of you laughing at me the whole time?"

"No! I swear!" Ryoko reached for Ayeka's hand.

Ayeka jumped to her feet and started to walk away. "Well, I've heard enough!"

"Wait, you promised!"

Ayeka halted, her spine straight and stiff, then returned to her rock and sat back down. "Right."

"Listen," Ryoko pleaded. "Tenchi promised me he would tell you the very next morning. He promised!"

she yelled, a hint of tears in her voice.

"But he didn't." Ayeka whispered.

"No, he didn't. He was scared. He didn't know what to say."

"That sounds like Tenchi," Ayeka admitted sadly.

"I've been asking him to tell you. Out of my respect for you Ayeka," Ryoko said with grave sincerity. "But

he keeps putting it off."

Ayeka sniffed. "So you went against his wishes and told me yourself?"

"Yes, it was the right thing to do." Ryoko sunk back on her heels and hung her head. Tenchi was going to

be very angry with her. And what if he had other reasons for not

telling?

"I can't say I am very happy with you right now Ms. Ryoko. You have won the only thing I have truly

wanted in hundreds of years."

Ryoko's head dropped further.

"However, you have also treated me with honor and kindness and I thank you."

Ryoko sniffed, but didn't look up.

"Are you finished now, Miss. Ryoko?"

"Yes," came the muffled whisper.

"Good, because," Ayeka's voice cracked, " I could use your company while I drown my sorrows in your

sake." Big sobs chased away her brave words, and she could no longer

hold her pain in.

Ryoko's arms immediacy went around the distraught princess as she cried for her loss. "When you are

ready princess, let me pour for you."

Chapter Four

Tenchi looked up from his book as he heard the soft sound of teleportation. Sure enough, Ryoko came

around the corner, arms clasped behind her back, an oddly sad

expression weighing down her features.

"Hey Ryoko," Tenchi greeted patting the couch next to him. "Where have you been all day? I haven't seen

you since breakfast." He smiled sweetly and tilted his head. "I

missed you."

Ryoko paused for a moment, clearly banishing her frown. As a neutral expression took over, she settled

next to Tenchi on the couch, sitting closer than she might have.

"Is there something wrong?"

Ryoko shook her head to say no, and then leaned against Tenchi, pressing her face into his neck. Tenchi's

arm slipped around her shoulders and he held her close.

He knew better than to ask outright, so he waited. Ryoko had her own schedule and would not be rushed

into telling him her troubles.

Playing with the tie on his pants, Ryoko tilted her head up to look at him. "Life isn't fair."

"It's not," Tenchi agreed.

Ryoko rubbed her cheek against Tenchi's chest and sighed. "I wish'"

"Yes?"

Ryoko's eyes shimmered as she didn't quite cry. "I wish' we could all be happy."

Tenchi ran his fingers through Ryoko's hair and softly massaged her scalp. "Is this about Ayeka?"

Ryoko turned her face into Tenchi's chest so she didn't have to look at him. "It was awful."

Tenchi's other arm joined the first and he held her tightly to him. "What was?"

Snuggled close, Ryoko took a big breath. "Tenchi, I have something to tell you'I'"

"Oh! Excuse me," came a startled gasp from the living room doorway.

Tenchi and Ryoko swiveled their necks to see a shocked Ayeka with a TV guide and a bowl or rice

crackers in hand.

Rocketing to his feet and pushing Ryoko away in the same moment, Tenchi gurgled as his nose started to

bleed. He landed on his feet between the two girls and looked

around wildly. "Ayeka'it's not what it looks like. I s-swear! Nothing's going on. We're not' She's

not'I Don't' it's nothing, I swear!"

Ayeka's eyes widened at the stricken look on Ryoko's paling face as she lay sprawled on the floor.

"Tenchi' do not'"

"Tenchi," Ryoko whispered, slowly fading away, it was less of a teleport and more of candle losing its

flame.

"Ayeka'" Tenchi whimpered, not sure what to do next.

Ayeka set the guide and the bowl onto an end table, and pressed a hand to her forehead. "Lord Tenchi, how

could you? How could you?"

"I'm' I'm sorry Ayeka. It's just that I' that I'I..." he stuttered.

"I'm not talking about me!" she snapped, her voice gaining strength and anger. "You broke her heart

without a moment's thought!" She was shouting now, anger flashing in

her ruby eyes. "How could you do that to her?"

"Wha- what?" The befuddled boy tried to speak.

Her sock covered feet whispering along the hardwood floor Ayeka menaced him. " I know everything,

Tenchi! Everything." Tears of unknown emotional origin pooled in her eyes

but did not fall. "She was brave enough, kind enough to tell me," she rasped looking him straight in the eye.

"Even when you were not."

"Ayeka' I'"

"Lord Tenchi, please be quiet," she said imperiously, showing her true regal nature. "This, like everything

else is not about you, and it is time we both realized it."

Stunned, Tenchi snapped his mouth shut.

"She told me as gently as she could, and even though it hurt so terribly much to hear it, I also saw a true

friend in that 'monster'. And while I wanted to hate her, I could not."

She spun on her toes and looked out the window, searching the night for signs of her friend.

"And after everything, it was you who denied her. Seemingly for me." Ayeka hugged herself. "Poor

Ryoko."

"But, she knows that I didn't mean anything by that. I was just worried when I saw you," Tenchi protested.

Ayeka turned around. "You pushed her out of your arms and denied your love for her. Even I have known

all along that her heart was for you only." She paused. "And after

finally excepting it from her, you threw it on the floor." A note of fear crept into Ayeka's voice. "And even

I realize how fragile that heart really is."

A feeling of coldness was creeping into him as the shock of the situation was wearing away and Ayeka's

words penetrated his mind. "Oh no'"

"Yes, you found the one part of her that breaks."

"Oh no'" Tenchi said louder, his hand instinctively clutching at his heart. "What have I done?" He looked

around, trying to decide where to look first. "I have to find her!"

"You bastard!" Screamed an angry, diminutive blur with bright pink hair as it launched itself across the

living room, knocking Tenchi over.

Washu sat on Tenchi's chest and wrapped both hands around his neck, squeezing and shaking him

simultaneously. "What did you do to my daughter? What did you do to my

little Ryoko?"

Tenchi tried to speak but could only emit strangled sounds as he tried to pry her small fingers away from

his windpipe.

Washu leaned her face in close Tenchi's bluing one. "Nobody, not even you, is allowed to hurt her. She has

been hurt more than enough already! Why the hell couldn't you just

leave her alone if you weren't sincere?" she hissed angrily. "I will not let you do this to her. I will not, I tell

you!"

"Miss Washu! That's enough!" Ayeka shouted in a voice that could halt a mob in full cry. "Stop this

instant."

Washu released her hold immediately, shocked by the authority of those words. Her eye's narrowed as she

saw the unshed tears glossing Ayeka's eyes. "Just what is going on

here? I felt heartbreak through the link, but I don't know the details."

Ayeka quickly related the events. "So you see, to avoid hurting me, Tenchi hurt Ryoko."

"But you already knew," Washu said sadly.

"Yes." Ayeka nodded once, gravely.

Washu looked down at a gasping Tenchi, who was still trapped beneath her knees. "You moron." She gave

him an extra hard nuggie for good measure.

"It'was'accident,' he wheezed.

Washu scowled. "Just can it. If you had kept your promise and told everyone after that first night, none of

this would have happened."

"But'"

"Ms. Washu is right, perhaps you should be quiet now," Ayeka said coolly. "Where do you think she went,

Ms. Washu? We need to find her as soon as we can."

Chapter Five

Hurt past tears, Ryoko walked numbly into the darkness. The old, familiar smell wrapped itself around her

as the temperature dropped. The smell of damp earth and stone

welcomed her home as the path descended more steeply. He hadn't meant any of his loving words. He had

never loved her. He was just another male seduced by this damn

body.

A dry sob shook her frame as she remembered the push that sent her out of his embrace. She should have

known better. She should have known.

Master was right. She was not worthy.

There was one place left to go.

The one place that was hers alone.

Back at the house, Washu scrambled off of Tenchi and sat Indian style on the floor, her fingers pressed

against her temples, her eyes squeezed shut, searching with her mind.

"I can't tell where she is. She isn't thinking much of anything now. But it's so dark, wherever she is."

Washu shuddered. "And cold. And there is this smell' I can't describe it."

Tenchi groaned, his face in his hands. "The cave."

Washu's head jerked at the mention of Ryoko's old prison. "There?" Her face contorted as she leapt to her

feet and made as if to kick him. "I'd really like to dismember you

right now, Tenchi Masaki! And reassemble you backwards! " She paused her kick half way, and stamped

that foot to the floor. "But I need you to get us in there. Come on!"

Deep within the mountain, Ryoko sat by the edge of her subterranean pool and tried to form a complete

thought. But all she could see was an image of Tenchi pushing her

away, saying those words. It hurt, but it seemed so distant now, like someone else was hurting. She lowered

her bare feet into the icy water and felt nothing. It was time to go

to sleep, time to suffer. But soon she would forget. Forget and sleep.

A few meters above her, the Calvary was on its way.

"We go down there," Tenchi whispered, pointing his the hilt of the Tenchiken down the steep passage. "Be

careful, it's slippery." Darkness pressed in heavily all around them

with unexplained little glimmers of light faintly lighting the passage.

Washu snorted. "Yes, its time to start being careful, isn't it Tenchi?"

Ashamed, Tenchi did not deny the truth of her words and began his descent, feeling his way down as the

pale light from the phosphorescent moss was hardly enough to see by.

Above him, Washu flicked on the light of her miner's hard hat and began her own descent, glad that Ayeka

had stayed behind. Her long robes would have made this climb

impossible for her.

Washu shivered as the air became increasingly colder. Ryoko had reluctantly spoken of this place from

time to time, and now it was clear that she had underplayed just how

horrible it had been to be imprisoned here for 700 years. It had only been a few minutes, but Washu fingers

were already painfully chilled.

What had Tenchi been thinking? Nothing, as usual. That boy had absolutely no social skills when it came

to women. It took next to nothing to spook him. And when that

happened, his brain seemed to disengage from his tongue.

She shook her head, the beam of light from her hat following the movement.

This shouldn't have happened. She knew Tenchi loved Ryoko. It was just another case of Tenchi's fear and

lack of experience screwing things up. Earlier, after the first flash of

Ryoko's pain had lanced through their mind link, Washu had been ready to kill Tenchi her rage was so

great.

She had been a protective mother even before the events of 5,000 years ago. And now she had her daughter

back, she had become even worse. Nothing was going to get past

her this time.

Nothing except for love and the heartbreak it often brought. She looked down at Tenchi, grimly climbing

below her. It was a mistake, a stupid, simple mistake. And anyone

besides Ryoko would have understood what it was all about. They might have gotten angry for a moment,

but it would have passed. But Ryoko had built a tough shell from her

personality to protect her fragile soul, a shell she had just relinquished. Without that armor she had been

defenseless to Tenchi's rejection.

Washu swallowed heavily with guilt. She had been too hard on Tenchi. Thank god Ayeka had stopped her

from hurting him, because hopefully there was a way around all of

this. A way to mend it. And then Ryoko could have Tenchi and be happy again. That's all Washu wanted.

For Ryoko to be happy.

Washu's feet touched level ground and she turned to see a subdued Tenchi waiting for her.

"There." He said not looking at her and pointing with his extended arm.

Washu looked to where he pointed and saw a large circular depression cut out from the bedrock emitting a

pale blue glow that lit the entire chamber with its dim light. She

approached it with hesitant steps, hating the thought of what this place was. A prison. A torture chamber. A

place where her child had suffered.

The cold light washing the color from even her hair, Washu looked over the edge. A sad sigh escaped her

lips as she sank to her knees and regarded the scene before her.

The water rippling under the beam of light from her hat revealed and obscured the form of Ryoko.

Sometimes distorted by refraction, sometimes startlingly clear, she lay on

her back, arms crossed across her chest ,as if sound asleep at the base of the pool, her hair and garments

softly undulating with the hidden currents of the water.

"Tenchi," Washu whispered. "Tenchi, come here please."

His groan as he reached her side told her everything. She could feel his heart twist in guilt and self-

recrimination as clearly as if she had shared a link with him.

"Listen Tenchi, I know you didn't mean to hurt her. I'm sorry about earlier," Washu whispered as she

stared at her daughter.

Tenchi lowered himself to sit beside her. "I don't deserve your apologies."

"Yes, you do. Look' there is no way you could have known she would react this way. She hides many

secrets from all of you. She has tricked you into thinking she is stronger

than she is."

"And not you?" Tenchi asked softly.

"No." She tapped her head to indicate the link she shared with her daughter. "No, I know everything.

Things she doesn't even remember anymore, thank the gods. But I

couldn't erase all of it. There was too much."

"Kagato?"

"Yes. You are going to have to be very careful with her Tenchi. She is more than prepared to believe any

evidence, no matter how slight, that you don't really love her.

Particularly now."

"Why, Washu?"

"Perhaps it would be better if I showed you something. There is a memory that she will not let go of, buried

so deeply in her sub consciousness that even I can't get a hold of

it. Take my hands." Looking into his soft brown eyes, she extended her hands.

As he took them, Tenchi felt Washu's presence enter into his thoughts and then they both flew along a path

of wildly dancing lights until they arrived into a scene from Ryoko's

past. A scene aboard the Sojya.

It was late, that much was clear, even in the ever-present darkness of space. Dim lamps cast a gentle, sleepy

glow over the sumptuously decorated personal chambers of

Ryoko's Lord and Master. He was seated in a low, comfortable chair, his legs casually propped up on an

ottoman. Munching on grapes, he spit the seeds onto the floor.

Seemingly unnoticed, dressed in her red battle suit, Ryoko sprawled on the floor at his feet, her eyes

vacant, a thin line of drool seeping from her mouth. The dried tear tracks

on her face looked hours old. A grape seed struck her cheek and stuck there with no reaction from her. She

looked like a large, broken doll.

"This is the outside, what Kagato made it possible to see. My own memory," Washu's voice whispered into

Tenchi's mind. "Let's go inside, and I'll show you Ryoko's

experience."

The scene changed again, this time there was only darkness, and a strange echoing sound of sobbing,

coming from all directions at once.

Only an observer, Tenchi tried to understand what was happening.

::Ryoko, are you still crying?:: asked the bored, almost disinterested mental voice of Kagato.

The crying stopped immediately.

::You know the deal. You won't get control of your body back until you stop burdening me with these

messy emotional displays.::

A soft sniffle echoed through the darkness.

::This won't do,:: Kagato sighed.

"I hate you!" Ryoko's voice shouted as if from the bottle of a well. "Get out of my head!"

::Whether you like or hate me hardly matters. I can control every part of you. You are lucky that I find

letting you keep your mind' interesting.::

Tenchi now knew where he was, inside the mind of Ryoko as she lay prone on the floor.

Ryoko held her silence, knowing that the only thing that would make Kagato leave was boredom.

::Ryoko, I want to talk to you.::

Silence.

::We can do it this way then.::

A sick, green light permeated the darkness revealing a cluttered looking room filled with computers, book

shelves, and desks piled high with papers and books and an image

of Kagato.

::Ah, taking comfort in your mother's office again?:: The tall, pale man seemed amused.

"Shut up!" Ryoko's voice rang out, louder this time.

::Come out from under the desk, before I make you. ::

Ryoko, wearing a student's version of her mother's Science Academy uniform, crawled out, and glared at

Kagato.

He frowned. ::You know I don't like it when you wear that.::

She gulped, leaning back against the desk. "It's my mind," she protested weakly, her own doubt clear in her

words.

Kagato removed a glove and calmly examined his nails. ::I do not like you to wear that because it gives you

the pretension of being a real person. Someone capable of

learning.::

"I am a person!"

He sighed and snapped his fingers, leaving her instantly naked. Rolling his eyes as she tried to cover herself

with her hands he strolled closer to her.

::No, you are a defective, deformed experiment, that never should have been created.::

Instead of showing the fire and spunk that Tenchi was familiar with, Ryoko, her hands strategically placed,

hung her head.

:: Your 'mother' who was too proud to even admit a minor mistake, tried to cover up a blunder as large as

you, by saying you were her 'child'.:: He paused to laugh. ::Imagine,

something as meaningless as a self propelled group of primordial cells, trying to be human.::

"You are lying," she whispered brokenly.

::We both know that's not true. Even your own 'mother' didn't treat you like a person.::

Ryoko shook her head stubbornly.

::Let's see. You slept in the lab, not in a room. You went from age zero to 17 ' immediately. What mother

would deny a real daughter a childhood? And, oh yes, when did she

ever say she was proud of you? You were such a disappointment to her, with your stupidity.::

"My mother loves me." It was more a question than a statement.

::She was lying to you.::

Ryoko sniffed.

::No one can love a mistake.::

Her hands dropped, no longer covering her nakedness and hung limply at her side.

::She only said that because it suited her purpose. She never meant it.::

He walked over to her and slid a coolly gentle arm around Ryoko's bare shoulders.

::She gave you to me, because no one would ever need or want something as damaged as you. But I can't

bear to throw away good scrap. You never know when a worthwhile

project will need a spare part.::

Ryoko started crying again, the sound filling the spaces representing her consciousness.

::And now the tears. Think on this: while no one can love you, you can try to be useful by being silent and

doing what you are told. That may be enough reason to keep you.::

As the crying continued, Kagato smiled darkly. Spying an old fashioned chalkboard in the corner, he

dragged it closer to her and erased a complicated equation. In the new

blankness he wrote 'I am not worthy of love' in a large, elegant script.

::Occupy yourself by copying this a million times. Those tears better be done when you finish, I have a job

for you to do.::

Kagato vanished, the rotten light going with him, leaving the darkness once more. Soon the sound of crying

was accompanied by the soft sound of chalk against slate.

Tenchi found himself back in the cave, his eyes focusing on the eerily serene face of Ryoko as the water

caught the light and shimmered.

"He invaded her mind like that more times than days you have been alive Tenchi," Washu murmured. "He

had all the time in the universe to reset her neural connections'"

she paused to see if he was following. "To rest her core beliefs about herself and the world. She fought, but

finally lost herself."

Tenchi shut his eyes. "I had no idea."

"Like I've said before, she didn't want you to. And honestly, and don't think she realizes how much I

know. The link functioned only one way back then."

"What now, Washu?"

"I'm not sure Tenchi. For her to do this' its almost like suicide."

A large sob choked Tenchi and he buried his head in his hands. "I'll do better, I promise. Just help me wake

her up! Please!" he moaned, looking at Washu through his

fingers.

Washu gave him a wry smile. "This is your area of expertise, Tenchi. You woke her up the last time."

Tenchi nodded and reached for the master key, so intent on his task that he failed to notice the aberration of

Washu admitting ignorance.

As the two gems on the hilt glowed, the gem on Ryoko's wrist answered by lighting up the darkness within

the pool.

"Please, wake up," he whispered.

Ryoko's eyes snapped open and stared up at them. Upon seeing Tenchi, her mouth twisted in pain. She

squeezed her eyes shut and rolled onto her side trying to hide from

his gaze.

"Ryoko, I'm sorry," Tenchi cried, sliding his legs over the rim and lowering himself into the pool with no

hesitation. The water was damagingly frigid and he yelped as it frosted

his skin.

Despite the cold, he dove under the water and wrapped his arms around his love and tugged her to the

surface.

"I'm sorry, I can't tell you how sorry I am. Please, I am so sorry." He repeated over and over, his mouth

stiff and sore from the cold.

"Leave me alone," she whimpered, her frozen limbs weakly pushing against his.

He adjusted her so that he could look into her face. "Ryoko I love you. I didn't mean those words." Ice

crystals were forming in his hair, and the skin of his face and hands was

a bright pink, as if he had been burned.

"Yes, you did," she mourned.

"No, I didn't. Lets get you someplace warm, then talk about this, okay?" Tenchi steadied his footing and

prepared to pass his sodden darling up to Washu while he could still

move his limbs.

"Stop. Just leave me alone," Ryoko stated dully.

Tenchi sighed and weakly hefted her up so Washu could pull her over the edge. But the genius made no

move to claim her daughter.

"Don't force her Tenchi," Washu said firmly. "That's the last thing she needs. And you better hurry' your

body is sustaining too much damage."

Tenchi let Ryoko's body settle against his chest, and her held her tightly to him. "Please, come with me,

Ryoko. I'm freezing in here. I can't tolerate these temperatures like

you."

"Then just get out."

"Not without you."

She opened her eyes and looked at him balefully. "Why are you making this so hard?"

"Because this is all my fault. Because my stupidity hurt you." He was having trouble forming the words.

"Tenchi, I should have known better. This could never work. It's not your fault. Just forget me."

"P-P-P please Ryoko. I l-l-l-ove you." He was shivering violently now, his teeth chattering.

"Oh, Tenchi," Ryoko sighed. "Don't do this."

His arms were losing their hold on her. "F-f-for ' give me," he whispered, his arms falling away, and his

head drooping.

Ryoko bobbed in the water, her knees drawn up to her chest. Long strands of blue hair spread out, floating

on the water's surface as she turned a suffering gaze to her mother.

"His lips are turning blue," the scientist noted gently.

Ryoko looked back to Tenchi who was leaning against the rim of the pool, both shuddering and fighting not

to lose consciousness.

"Can you do something for him?" Ryoko asked with a voice devoid of feeling.

"The onsen?" Washu asked. "That will warm him up."

Ryoko nodded, and let her body begin to sink back to the bottom.

"Wait!"

Ryoko paused, the tip of her nose the only part of her above water.

"Don't do that. Just give me a second to deal with this idiot." Washu motioned with her hands and Tenchi

disappeared. "Don't worry about him, he'll be okay. Not that he

deserves it."

Ryoko pushed the rest of her head above the water, little streams flowing around her nose and closed eyes.

"I'm waiting," she said without enthusiasm.

"Ryoko' daughter' please do not do this thing," Washu pleaded, her voice thick with dread. "You have

suffered enough in this place."

Eyes still closed, Ryoko turned her head towards her mother's voice. "It's not so bad. After a while you

don't feel anything," she said dreamily. "You just float away."

"This is a prison Ryoko!"

"This is peace," she gurgled as she drifted lower, the water lapping at her lower lip.

Washu scrambled onto her knees, and stifled a sob with the heel of her hand, the horror of the situation

crushing into her.

"It's a little death," Ryoko slurred. "Almost as good as the real thing." She slipped beneath the surface, her

heavy body sinking like a stone.

"No! Don't leave me!" Washu screamed, stretching out over the water, clutching at Ryoko's hair as it

followed her body to the bottom.

As her empty fingers trailed through the water she watched a single bubble, her child's last breath, erupt

momentarily marring the surface of the water. Damn. She hadn't

wanted to do it this way, but there was no way Ryoko was going to do this to herself.

Washu took a deep breath, closing her eyes and feeling for the mental link she shared with her daughter. It

was there, strong and deep. Ryoko had closed her side tightly, but

that would be no problem. Washu probed the edges of the block gently. Though she had never taken

advantage of it before, Washu possessed a skeleton key to Ryoko's

mind, a simple and easy mechanism to gain access to her daughter's thoughts. Pushing and twisting at the

link, Washu felt the lock give way, and she eased her thoughts

through the opening.

Once inside, Washu's astral self paused to get oriented. These days, the interiors of Ryoko's mind looked

like Tenchi's bedroom, down to the smallest detail of clutter on his

desk. Moonlight filled the room and through the windows Washu could see a forest of blooming cherry

trees instead of the Masaki lake. Curled up in the middle of the bed was

Ryoko, snoring softly. If not for the pirate's fetal position, the scene would have looked comfy, almost

secure. But Washu knew that Ryoko typically slept on her back, spread

eagle. Her current posture was one of fear and sorrow.

Settling on the bed, Washu gently stroked Ryoko's back, and began to hum a lullaby, the same song she

had used to sooth Ryoko's nightmares away so long ago.

"Moma?" came a small whisper.

"Yes, darling," Washu answered automatically, at the same time marveling at being called by that title.

Ryoko might have started calling her mom again, but never 'Moma' or

'Mommy'.

"Are you' are you really here?" was the hesitant, yet hopeful whisper.

"Oh course I am my little'oh!" Washu gasped as the grown woman beneath her hands shrank to the size

of an eight-year-old child. Kagato had lied so much to Ryoko. She

had once been a little girl, and she had looked just like this, down to the yellow romper with green

embroidered butterflies on the pockets and the two spiky ponytails.

"MY MOMMY!" the child shrieked, leaping up and throwing her arms around Washu's neck. "Oh, you

ARE here!" She squeezed harder, laughing with happiness.

Washu hugged back. It felt so good to hold her little girl again. "Little Ryoko, what's going on?" She asked

into the soft spikes of the girl's hair, noting that it smelled like berry

shampoo.

Little Ryoko let go and leapt from the bed to the floor, indulging in a casual handspring as she did so. "I'm

all that's left!" she boasted, her stance a faint foreshadowing of

what would become a very cocky pose when she grew up.

"Left of what?" Washu asked carefully not sure who or what she was really talking to.

"Of her!" Little Ryoko crowed pointing to her reflection in the window.

There in the glass, a wet haired, adult Ryoko looked away in shame, rather than accurately reflecting the

actions of her child-like counterpart.

'I'm all that was left when Kagato got done with her! And I am sooooo cute!" She pranced around. "And

now you are back! Can we play now?" She grabbed a handful of markers

from Tenchi's desk. "This room is so boring!" She uncapped a bright red marker and proceeded to write her

name on the wall. "Come on! You too!"

Washu gingerly rose from the bed and selected a lime green marker and started to draw leaves around the

characters that made up Ryoko's name. "If you are all that's left,

what are you then?" she asked, just as someone might ask about a bus schedule or other casual things.

"She hid me," the little one bragged. "She hid me down deep so he couldn't find me."

Washu tried a different tack. "Then why aren't you hiding now?"

"Because you're mommy. We kept hoping mommy would come back for us."

Washu choked, the line of her drawing taking an unexpected course.

"We' I' knew you would come back," little Ryoko said while drawing daises into Washu's leaves.

"Just you?"

Little Ryoko blushed and looked very carefully at the tip of her marker. "She gave up."

"Oh," Washu sighed with heavy sadness.

"But I didn't mommy! I knew you would save us! I just knew it!"

"Why did she give up little one?"

The child shuddered. "I don't want to talk about it." She bit her lip then looked up at her mother, scared for

the first time. "You are here to rescue us, right?"

"Tenchi rescued you long ago. Why didn't you come out of hiding then?" Washu asked, drawing random

squiggles now.

"I got stuck, it wouldn't work, there wasn't a door anymore," the child cried. "He wasn't mommy! He

didn't have the key!"

Washu sank to her knees and looked into little Ryoko's eyes. "I don't understand! What are you? Tell me!"

Little Ryoko sighed. "Mommy, look." She pointed to the wall they had been drawing on.

Was sank back on here heels and took a good look. There was a simple sentence amongst their designs:

RYOKO NEEDS HER MOMMY

"What? What do you mean?" Washu ground out. "You are not making sense!"

Little Ryoko stamped her foot and grabbed a handful of Washu's hair and yanked.

"Ow!"

"He was trying to kill me!" the little girl shouted, still pulling her mother's hair. "He was trying to destroy

me! She could only hide a little of me, he found all of the rest. He

smothered her ' me ' us! She locked me up in here because only YOU HAD THE KEY!"

"Oh my god, " Washu breathed. "The link. The link. You are her'"

"Soul." The girl finished proudly. "Yup that's me!"

"Oh my little Ryoko!" Washu pulled the little girl into her arms and kissed her face. "I'm so sorry, I'm so

sorry for everything." She understood it now. As a last ditch effort,

Ryoko had hidden the best part of herself, all that was left, in the subspace crack between the spaces where

her end of the link and Washu's end joined together. And only by

using her key to force entry into Ryoko's mind, had Washu been able to release this remnant.

"I didn't know you were here sweetheart. I didn't know!" cried the distressed mother.

"It's okay mommy. We love you."

Washu felt her arms push outwards as Ryoko grew into her full self, her now wet hair and adult clothing

symbolizing her current state of self.

Washu pushed back and brushed a wet lock of hair from Ryoko's forehead as she examined her grown

daughter closely. "Ryoko, is that you? I mean' the present you?"

"Yeah," Ryoko said softly. "The real me, only'" she pressed a hand to heart, "Only more of me now." She

smiled. "I got her back."

"I had no idea, I swear. Or we would have done this ages ago." Washu hugged Ryoko fiercely. "I wish I

had known!"

"I know'moma'" Ryoko said with a shy smile. "But I forgot about her myself. I hid her too well."

"And now?"

"It's a start. She was only a last little bit that was left. But, it's a start." She motioned with her head and the

room faded away to an infinity of full black boards, each bearing a

set of soul crushing statements. "I have a long way to go."

Ryoko pushed Washu gently back and got to her feet, pulling two erasers out of her pockets. "Care to join

me?"

The End

Epilogue

Much, much later, with only a fraction of their work done, Ryoko and Washu shambled into the Masaki

home. They leaned against one another wearily as they slid the rice

paper door closed behind them and kicked off their shoes.

Waiting for them with two, now cold, mugs of cocoa in his hands was a shamed Tenchi, sorrow etched into

new lines around his eyes.

They ignored him, keeping their eyes to the floor as they headed to the utility closet, the secret entrance to

Washu's laboratory.

"Ryoko!" he pleaded with one sharply spoken word, his desire for forgiveness in each syllable.

She looked back at him, not quite meeting his eyes. "Don't you speak to me," she said clearly and let

Washu usher her into the lab. The door closed behind them with a tight

snap, and Tenchi knew it was locked.

His shoulders slumped, he stood there holding the mugs, looking lost. "What will I do now?"

"Try to get some sleep, it's late," came Ayeka's voice from upstairs, barely louder than the singing of the

crickets.

"What will I do?" he repeated.

"That is up to Ms. Ryoko, I believe," she answered softly then headed back to bed.

Note: Well, I hope you liked this little fic. It became way more angsty than I intended, but sometimes

stories just write themselves and the author must simply do their

best to keep up as best they can. Please give me some feedback, I'd love to know what you think!

Update 21/19/2010: Here we go more up dates to 10 years later! :-)