"How Much More Can a Person Take?"

By Ryoko's Sake

This story follows the events of "More Than Enough"

Chapter One

Her blue hair moving softly around her face, Ryoko looked out of the kitchen window as

she let the water from the tap fill a large glass pitcher. A soft breeze stirred the water of

the Masaki lake, catching the sunlight in brief sparkles. It was a beautiful day. She

looked down at the sound of water flowering over the top of the pitcher. She turned off

the faucet and poured the extra water into the sink before hefting the pitcher onto the

counter. With careful, measured scoops, she sifted just the right amount of lemonade mix

into the water. Not noticing she was spilling the powder onto the counter and the floor,

Ryoko drifted over to the drying rack and selected a long handled wooden spoon and

inserted it into the pitcher. Stirring carefully, Ryoko watched the mix dissolve into a pale

yellow drink. She tossed the spoon into the sink and searched for the lid to the drink mix.

Where the hell was it?

Shrugging, she left the open container on the counter. Sasami could take care of it later.

Ryoko poured herself a tall glass of lemonade and added lots of ice. It was a hot day, and

cold lemonade would put her in a better mood. She put the pitcher of lemonade in the

fridge and stood back, looking at the assortment of papers decorating the door. There

was one of Tenchi's latest report cards.

Tenchi.

She shook her head and looked at a funny picture of her and Ayeka taken recently at the

shopping mall. They each had on big floppy straw hats and were striking a pose for the

confused saleswoman. If she looked really closely, Ryoko could see the small sake One-

Cup almost hidden behind Ayeka's back. Ryoko chuckled, knowing she was having a

good influence of the princess.

Next to this was a crayon drawing by Sasami, depicting Ryo-Ohki as a gardener tending a

very large carrot. It seemed to be snowing and poor Ryo-Ohki was using her ear to shield

her carrot.

There was also a drawing by Mihoshi done in bright red and purple marker, but try as she

might, Ryoko could not determine what it was supposed to be.

She could not miss the next item. Stuck by a carrot magnet in splendid isolation was The

Letter. Washu had insisted on showing this off, placing it where no one in the house

could miss it. Just like a proud mom would do.

Ryoko blushed, torn between embarrassment and the wonderful feeling of being the

object of her mother's pride. She picked up her glass of lemonade from the counter and

read The Letter for the twentieth time.

Dear Ms. Hakubi,

Thank you for submitting your application and sample project to Galaxy

Academy. I am pleased to inform you of your acceptance into GA's

Accelerated Scholar Program. Upon recommendation by Director Emeritus

Hakubi Washu and review by the Application Board, you have been granted

a 5,000 year retroactive excused absence. All credits previously earned

will transfer successfully towards your current program. In two years

you will be eligible to complete a degree in General Science I with a

concentration in Energy Conversion.

Given the considerable talents of your mother, we all expect great

things from you. Classes begin in three days.

Sincerely,

Balthus Mardew, Director

School. She was going back to school, going back to her old life. Well, it was about

damn time! But still, how after, all of this time how was she going to be able to be quiet

and sit still? She shuddered knowing that it was going to be next to impossible. Washu

had said just to keep her mouth shut and do as she was told, but Ryoko knew that was an

impossible task. Too much had gone down since the last time she was a student.

What if they didn't like her? What if they saw her as a demon? It seemed impossible.

The first time she slipped up - and she would - they would all think she was nothing but a

rude, space pirate. And while that might be somewhat true, she wanted to be more than

that now. What if they didn't accept her?

And if all of that worked out OK, there were other problems, old problems that surely had

not fixed themselves in the past few thousand years.

As she worried, she heard the crunch of a barefoot grinding drink mix into linoleum.

Someone was trying to be quiet. she sniffed. Tenchi.

Turning, she leveled a calm glance at him. If she could do nothing else, she was an

expert at hiding her feelings.

He stood there, frozen in mid tiptoe, betrayed by the sugar on the floor. He straightened

up and laughed uncomfortably, scratching the back of his neck. ".heh. hey

Ryoko." He wore a simple white tee- shirt and ragged blue jeans with holes in both

knees.

"Hi," she said without changing her expression. It had been two weeks since Tenchi had

pushed her out of his arms, and Ryoko still hurt just as much as she had that night. Or at

least she thought she did. But now it was all mixed up with confusion and longing. Why

would Tenchi do that to her? And why did she miss him so much after he did it?

Tenchi blushed, and mumbled something. He examined a calendar on the wall for a

moment and repeated himself. "Congratulations on school. I saw the letter."

`Thanks," she said coolly, turning to head out of the kitchen.

"Ummmm..Ryoko?" he called hesitantly.

She stopped with out turning. "Yes?"

"Did .. make that lemonade? Can. I have some?"

"Sure, it's your house." With that she left Tenchi, not wanting to see his hangdog

expression, nor to feel the emotions it would stir in her. Instead she went and perched on

her favorite rafter and sipped her drink while looking at the Galaxy Academy's Student

Handbook, trying to decide which rules she should break first.

Instead, her mind kept drifting back to how Tenchi had pushed her away, how he had

denied his love for her.

Well, a contentious corner or her mind whispered, he didn't exactly say he didn't love

you. He was just scared when he saw Ayeka.

He pushed me onto the floor, she groused at that goody two shoes portion of her brain.

He said it was nothing. He said we were NOTHING.

He was afraid of hurting Ayeka, just like you were.

Yeah? Well, Ayeka already knew.

But he didn't know that.

So what? People who love people don't do that. Tenchi doesn't love me.

Her conscious sighed and gave up for the moment, while Ryoko continued to stew and

work very hard to ignore those lonely feelings chewing at the base of her spine. She

looked at the handbook again and saw the uniform hem line requirements. That would be

as good of a place to start as any. If memory served, at the back of her closet was just the

thing.

Washu came in not much later, too engrossed in her data analysis to notice Ryoko was in

the room with her. She was on the edge of discovering why vanilla ice cream was so

important to Americans and she couldn't wait to get the answer. There might be money

involved if she could recreate the craving in the Japanese.

She sat on the leather couch and typed away at her computer, constantly monitoring her

results. She shifted as her legs stuck uncomfortably to the leather. It was a hot day, so

she had opted to not wear her tights with her uniform today. She was already beginning

to regret it. Chewing on a stray wisp of deep pink hair she tried to ignore her physical

discomfort as the final answer was almost ready.

Aha! It was the blandness! The less robust the flavor, the fewer people would

ACTIVELY dislike it. Washu grinned, thinking of many ways to apply that concept to

prepackaged Miso soup and Udon noodles. This could be worth Millions! Only a genius

could take such a simple concept and exploit it for personal gain!

"Pfft."

Washu continued to read the output on the computer screen, but registered the sound as

coming from her daughter.

"Pfft."

"Pfft."

Washu looked up and tried to see what was bothering Ryoko up on her rafter.

However, she could only see one of Ryoko's feet and the hem of her teal and pink

kimono. Washu tilted her head to one side and listened. She could hear the soft sound of

Ryoko smacking her tongue against the roof of her mouth and the sound of her blowing

out puffs of air.

"Everything okay up there, my little genius?"

"Pffft. Don't call me that!" Ryoko spit, obviously trying to clear something from her

mouth. "Ryo-Ohki is shedding again. It's everywhere, even in my lemonade."

Washu snickered, remembering how she had once magnetized both Ryoko and Ryo-

Ohki's energy fields so that Ryoko would always attract the cabbits fur during her

seasonal molt. It had made for much easier house cleaning.

"What's so funny?"

"Oh nothing. You just reminded me of your childhood," Washu not-quite lied. "Come

down here so I can clean you off."

"How?" Ryoko asked, appearing besides her mother.

Washu reached into one of her handy sub-space pockets and pulled out a high-tech fur

remover. It looked like the ones earthlings used to remove cat hair, but instead of tape, it

used a high-energy matrix to effortlessly attract the fur away from Ryoko.

"Does it matter as long as it works?" Washu asked rubbing the wand all over Ryoko's

dress. She didn't really want to admit the fur problem was her doing.

Ryoko shrugged, happy not to go into the specifics of yet another original Washu

creation.

"So what were you doing up there?"

"Thinking."

Washu could just guess about whom. She probed her daughter's end of the mental link

and found a solid block instead of an open door. That more than anything verified her

suspicions. "About Tenchi?" she asked innocently.

"No!" Ryoko snapped. "Why would I think about him?" she imbued the pronoun with a

sense of heavy distaste.

Washu sighed, and chose to remain silent. Sometimes it was better to not answer when

every answer was the wrong one.

Ryoko closely examined the folds of her kimono for any last few Ryo-Ohki fur clumps.

"Nope, I was thinking about school. It starts tomorrow."

Washu disposed of the appliance though a subspace pocket. "Nervous?" she asked with a

knowing smile.

Her spine straightening, Ryoko crossed her arms. "Don't be ridiculous. ME? Are you

kidding?" Her bravado made her seem almost two inches taller.

Washu also crossed her arms and leveled a motherly `you-can't-fool-me' look at her

daughter. She wouldn't force Ryoko to talk about Tenchi, but school was a whole other

issue.

"What?" Ryoko demanded.

::You can't lie to me,:: Washu whispered into Ryoko's mind. ::So give it up.::

Rolling her eyes, Ryoko plopped down next to her mother on the couch. "Okay, Okay.

You win. I am."

Washu banished her laptop after saving her files. "That response is within normal limits

Little Ryoko," She said turning her body to better face her daughter.

"Yeah, but I'm not within normal limits. What if I blow the place up? What if I beat

somebody up? What happens then?"

"When you do those things, there will be consequences," Washu said firmly.

Ryoko bristled. "Don't you mean `If' I do those things?"

Washu shook her head negatively. "I don't doubt those things will happen," she said.

"Hey!"

"We both know you can't control yourself," Washu observed with clinical detachment.

Ryoko squawked. "I can too!" Without intending to, she singed a handprint into the

couch.

Washu looked at it pointedly. "Uh huh. Just do your best and accept your punishments

as they come."

Growling, Ryoko got up from the couch. "Just you wait and see. I can control myself."

She turned on her heel and stalked out of the room, too agitated to fly.

Washu chuckled and called out after her, "Don't worry, they cut little geniuses plenty of

slack!"

"Don't call me that!" Ryoko shouted from the entryway, causing Washu to chuckle

harder.

Chapter Two

The entire family, minus Washu and Ryoko sat around the breakfast table, quietly eating

their grilled fish and fermented black beans in rice. It was amazing how the absence of

just two of their number accounted for the absence of almost 75% of the noise. For a

change they listened to the peaceful singing of the swallows as they flew low across the

surface of the lake in search of their own breakfasts.

Sasami looked worriedly at the empty plates. "Do you think anything's wrong Ayeka?"

she asked looking towards Ryoko's rafter then towards the door to Washu's lab. The teal

haired princess was always concerned when Ryoko failed to eat a meal.

"I'm sure everything is fine, Sasami. This is Ryoko's first day of school, after all. I bet

she has been very busy this morning," Ayeka said purposefully omitting that she

suspected that Ryoko had been primping for at least the last hour. She would never have

guessed that the pirate spent so much time in front of a mirror. So much of that

messiness was planned! Who ever would have thought? Ayeka looked over at Tenchi,

who was hanging on her every word about Ryoko, and sighed. Poor Lord Tenchi, he was

so sad.

"What do you think she is doing, Ayeka?" he asked, practically begging for a bone.

She sighed, adjusting her headpiece, so that it didn't pull on her long purple bangs. Even

if he had brought about his own pain, it was hard to watch him suffer. "Well, she is

putting her uniform on, for one thing."

"I didn't know the students wore them at the Academy," he said eagerly.

"Oh yes Lord Tenchi. Even the professors wear uniforms, as you have seen with Ms.

Washu," Ayeka said to be kind.

"What will Ryoko's look like?" Tenchi asked, all thoughts of eating forgotten.

Ayeka hid a smile behind her hand. " I suspect you will get to find out, Lord Tenchi."

"Oh, heh, right," he said with a blush, going back to picking at his fish, joining Sasami in

her vigil of watching Washu's lab door.

As if summoned by the intensity of their gaze, Ryoko pushed through the lab door. At

least they assumed it was she, having only seen a wisp of silver green hair before she was

obviously yanked back out of sight.

"Hey!" she shouted.

"You are not going out like that!" Washu's voice snapped. "Where did you get that

thing?"

"From my closet! Where else? Leggo!"

The sounds of a scuffle were heard and Ryoko burst out into the hall, looking flustered

and annoyed. "What?" she snapped at the assemblage of dropped jaws at the table.

She straightened up and tugged at her pleated skirt, which barely covered her underwear.

Above that was a tightly fitting white and blue sailor's top tied in a bright red bow at the

neck. She had her spiky hair tied up in one ponytail with a white rubber band. She wore

scuffed looking sneakers with white socks bunched up at the ankles. The big toe of her

right foot was sticking through a large hole in her sneaker.

Grinning, she twirled for the table, a generous glimpse of her powder pink underwear

showing. "Whatdaya think? Cute huh?"

"Uhhh.." Tenchi gasped, a trickle of blood dripping from his nose.

Ryoko frowned at him briefly and turned her gaze to Ayeka. "Well. princess?"

Ayeka groped for something polite to say. "That's..er. short," she said lamely.

"Yes it is!" Ryoko giggled, twirling again.

"My point exactly," Washu huffed standing next to Ryoko and looking at her critically.

"You cannot wear that to school!"

"Why not, MOM? It's my school uniform!"

"From the eighth level!" Washu pointed out with a smile. "Honey it doesn't fit

anymore."

Ryoko first looked hurt, then covered it with a sneer. "But it's mine. Mine! And I want

to wear it."

Washu shrugged. "Fine. See what happens, and don't tell me that I didn't warn you,"

she said noting that Ryoko looked like a fantasy from some of the odder professor's

twisted dreams. "You won't wear that tomorrow."

Ryoko struck a cocky pose, the resulting flash of pink making Tenchi choke. "Wanna

bet?"

Washu held out her hand. "You feed the lab specimens for a week if I'm right. And I'll

do your homework for a week if I'm wrong."

"You are so dead ," Ryoko cackled shaking her mother's hand.

Washu smiled, remembering her first days at the Academy, and started planning what do

to with her free time next week.

"Do you want any breakfast Ryoko?" Sasami asked, gesturing to Ryoko's empty plate.

"Mmmm.. Yeah!" Ryoko said rubbing her hands together under her chin, as she started

for the table.

"Shoes!" Washu reminded sharply, taking her own seat.

Ryoko rolled her eyes and kicked off her shoes before sliding into the table. She swiped

up her chopsticks and began eating with gusto. An electric charge of excitement was

brewing in her belly, adding a sharper edge to her morning hunger. She was going back

to school, back to real life at last. It was nice to wear her uniform again, even if it was a

little tiny bit too small.

She grinned. The days of infamy were over. And those other, little problems. how bad

could they be?

Ayeka looked at the excited grin plastered on Ryoko's face and smiled herself, realizing

she was getting a glimpse of what Ryoko might have been if not for her past. "What is

your schedule for the day Ms. Ryoko?"

"Well, they want me to take some stupid space train for the first day, but Mom has a

portal that opens up right on campus, so I'm going to skip the train."

Washu chuckled softly, but said nothing.

"Then I am supposed to meet some sort of `Big Sister' buddy person," Ryoko said with

clear distaste.

Ayeka laughed behind a graceful hand. "Let me guess. you are going to skip that too?"

Ryoko shrugged. "I guess. It's not like I've never gone to school there before," she said

looking sideways at Washu to see what she thought of her answer.

Washu didn't seem to react except for the oddest look of fond remembrance fleeting

across her features.

"Then I have classes till three. Genetics, Physics, Mechanical Engineering, Chemistry,

and Fencing," she said proudly.

"Fencing?" Tenchi asked speaking up from his quiet corner of the table for the first time

since her arrival. He looked down at his plate for a moment, then back up into Ryoko's

eyes, then back down into his plate.

Ryoko frowned again and looked away from him. Obviously making an effort to be nice

she added, "There is a physical education requirement," in a tense voice.

"Oh," he sad softly, looking up briefly. "You'll be good at that."

Ryoko bristled. She didn't want to be good at cutting people open. Even as sport. She

wanted to be smart. "Whatever," she grumbled, crossing her arms. "I'm surprised you

think I'm good at anything."

He winced and looked down, this time keeping his gaze on his plate.

A somber mood fell over the table, as the negative energy between Tenchi and Ryoko

chipped away at everyone's spirits. Ryoko stabbed at her fish viciously, pissed that her

big day was being ruined. Tenchi was getting good at ruining good things. Maybe he

should get an award.

Glaring at him once more for good measure, Ryoko swallowed her last bite and pushed

up from the table. "I'm outta here." She stalked to the lab door and slid into her shoes

halfway as if they were flip-flops. They slapped on the floor as she pushed open the door

and slipped through.

As the door clicked closed behind her moody daughter, Washu remarked lightly, "Is it

just me, or did Little Ryoko's maturity level just drop to match the grade she was in when

she last wore that uniform?"

Everyone except for Tenchi laughed, lightening the mood in the room considerably.

Washu looked at him compassionately. "Don't worry Tenchi, she won't stay angry

forever."

He nodded and tried to summon a smile, only managing to twist his lips into a pained

grimace. Instead of replying, he rocked back to his feet and left the room with out a

sound.

"Oh dear," Ayeka sighed. "This isn't good at all. They are both so unhappy." She toyed

with the long sleeves of her lavender kimono, feeling helpless and sad.

Sasami nodded solemnly. "I wish we could help them, but I don't know what to do."

Washu slurped the last of her beans and rice out of her bowl. "Its gonna be tough

Sasami, he screwed up big time and Ryoko holds a grudge. Believe me, I know."

Ayeka drummed her fingers on the table and shook her head. "As much as I don't really

like it, they love each other. Why can't Ryoko accept his apology? It's so clear that he is

sincere."

Washu nodded, then paused and shook her head negatively. "That may be Ayeka, but

Ryoko has a hard time trusting people. And Tenchi lost her trust. It could take a very

long time for this to heal."

"That's very sad. For both of my friends," Ayeka said brushing a stray grain of rice off

the table and into the palm of her hand. "Is there nothing to be done?"

Washu flipped another grain of rice onto the tabletop to annoy the princess. "It will be

good for Ryoko to be among other people. School might help adjust her perspective.

She might even meet someone new to distract her."

"Ms. Washu!" Ayeka cried in distress. "Don't even suggest such a thing when Tenchi

might hear you."

Sasami agreed with her sister. "That's right! Tenchi and Ryoko were meant to be

together.""

Washu frowned. "I don't care who her romantic interest is. I just want Ryoko to be

happy."

"It's Tenchi," Sasami said firmly.

Washu shrugged. "It could have been. Like I said, he screwed up big time." She got to

her feet and stretched her diminutive form. "Anyway, I've got to go."

"An experiment to do?" Ayeka inquired politely.

Washu grinned like a cat and shook her head. "Even better. I sense a photo

opportunity."

"Hmmmm?"

Washu opened her lab door and paused half way through it. "Trust me. This is going to

be great. You'll see later tonight." She slipped the rest of the way through the door and

was gone.

"She is so odd," Ayeka said gathering the breakfast plates.

"Mmm-hmmm," Sasami agreed, heading for the kitchen.

Three hours later, a wildly laughing Washu burst into the sitting room, holding a small

digital camcorder in one hand, and clutching at her belly with the other as she leaned

upon the couch. Tears streamed out of her crinkled-shut eyes, and her entire body seemed

to quiver with her laughter.

"Oh. HA HA HA! You guys should have seen the look on her face!" Washu chortled.

Ayeka pulled a careful stitch through her embroidery project, then set the hoop and fabric

down on the coffee table. "Ms. Washu? Are you alright?"

Washu snorted, trying to pull it together. "I've never been better." She waved the

camcorder at the princess. "I've got it all on tape."

Sasami continued to tease Ryo-ohki with a carrot on a stick, but looked interested. "Got

what on tape Little Washu?"

Washu opened her mouth to speak, when the force of a powerful blow shook the house,

making a framed picture crash to the floor.

Sasami and Ayeka looked frightened, while Washu just looked amused. "Wow, that

came all the way through the lab. She's really upset."

"Damn it Washu, let me in! Let me in!" came the faint hint of Ryoko's bellows from the

other side of Washu's portal to the Galaxy Academy.

"Loud, mannerless creature," Ayeka chuckled, Washu's joviality rubbing off on her.

"Please Mommy! Please help me!" came Ryoko's voice again, this time pleading.

Washu blanched and lurched towards her office, that plea pushing all of her buttons and

turning her heart to ice with fear.

"My, she sounds desperate," Ayeka chuckled again.

Washu stopped her motion and grinned weakly. Little Ryoko wasn't in any trouble that

she hadn't caused herself, even if those words had once held graver meaning.

"Little Washu, aren't you going to help Ryoko," Sasami asked a faint frown lining her

brow.

Washu walked over to the youngster and ruffled her hair with a bright smile. "Sasami,

we both know that girl is beyond help."

Chapter Three

"Damn carnivorous tree frogs," Ryoko muttered rubbing at the tiny bites on her hand that

she had acquired feeding the bright yellow and red amphibians. At the moment they

were swarming over the slab of raw beef she had placed in their terrarium. Ryoko had a

protective white smock on over a new purple dress and was glad of it. That damn meat

dripped blood everywhere.

"I told you to wear gloves," Washu muttered absently from her spot a few meters away

where she sat on her floating cushion reading a manga and sipping an iced tea.

Ryoko grumbled and went on to sprinkle a mixture of kelp and brine shrimp into the

Masu tank. She paused there watching them. They never ceased to amaze her. They

were so simplistic, so primal, yet they made up half of her genetic material. They seemed

so removed, so different from her. Yet they were her. It was distressing sometimes.

She looked at her reflection on the tank as it over lay the creatures swimming beneath the

glass. She looked human - completely. How was that? Why wasn't she a brown blob

oozing through a vast primordial sea? Sometimes she wondered if that wouldn't be

better. The Masu didn't have hearts to break, or dreams to lose.

Her eyes slid to the side as her mother's reflection joined her. Ryoko regarded her

mother's reflection so close to her own. It was clear that they were related. They shared

the same chin and cheek bones and eye shape. Even their hair grew into the same basic

spikes. Only their coloration were different. and their noses. Ryoko noted that her

nose was longer than her mother's.

"What are you looking at?" Washu asked softly, knowing full well where Ryoko's

thoughts were straying. It was so much like old times, Ryoko being in school, and

feeding the animals as punishment. And whenever Ryoko used to ponder the Masu, she

also used to ponder her origins and become melancholy. That was the last thing Washu

wanted Ryoko to face after taking such a big step to reclaim her life.

"Us," Ryoko said gesturing to their reflections. "We look so much alike."

Washu slipped an arm around Ryoko's waist. "Yes, we do. Mothers and daughters often

look alike."

Ryoko smiled wistfully and slipped her arm around her mother's shoulders. "I wish we

had more in common than that," she whispered unaware she had spoken out loud.

Washu's eye widened at the distress in her daughter's voice. "What was that?"

Ryoko stiffened under her arm and slid away. "Nothing. Lets go, dinner's ready by

now." Without another word she flew quickly towards the Masaki residence portal.

Washu watched her daughter go with concern. Shrugging she grabbed a videocassette

tape from a table and headed towards dinner. It must have been difficult to start school

again, or something. Whatever it was, Ryoko would tell her what the problem was when

she was ready. Perhaps seeing the stir her entrance on campus had caused would cheer

her up.

Washu came upon dinner already in progress, and slid into a seat near the entertainment

center and took up a bowl of rice first thing.

"I see you are in more conservative attire," Ayeka said smoothly, a sweep of her hand

indicating Ryoko's long and loose purple dress. How goes your wager with your

mother?" she asked with a sly smile.

Ryoko stirred the rice in her bowl with her chopsticks and grumbled. "Lost it."

"Oh that's too bad," Ayeka said preparing to rub it in when she noticed that her friend

was truly in an unhappy mood. Biting her lip, she proceeded with caution. "How was

your first day besides that, Ryoko?"

Ryoko shrugged and continued eating, her body language daring anyone to say another

word to her.

Tenchi watched Ryoko from across the table with a worried expression. Ryoko hadn't

looked that mean for years. He knew her well enough to know that she threw on those

postures to hide her suffering. What had happened today? He wanted more than anything

to throw his arms around her and ask what was wrong. To let her know he cared. To let

her know he loved her. Instead, he helplessly watched the tense muscles around her eyes

twitch as she fought to maintain control.

Ayeka caught his eyes and broadcast her concern, for she like him knew how to read

these signs. Tenchi shrugged unhappily and continued to watch his love.

Sasami noticed only that Ryoko was doing a great job clearing away her dinner. She

scooped more rice into Ryoko's bowl. "Here ya go Ryoko! Eat all you can so you will

have lots of energy for school!"

Ryoko's features softened as she regarded the little princess. "Thank you Sasami. I am

very hungry."

Sasami shook a finger at Ryoko. "You didn't skip lunch, did you? That's very bad for

you."

Ryoko smiled uncomfortably, her shields coming up again. "I got distracted from lunch

today I guess."

Sasami titled her head to one side and considered. "Do you want me to pack you a lunch

tomorrow?"

"That would be great, kiddo," Ryoko said with a strained smile. "I would like that very

much."

"That's right," Washu agreed heartily, seemingly the only one at the table not picking up

on Ryoko's sour mood. "Little genius's need their energy to be the greatest!"

CRACK

Everyone's eyes looked to the source of the sound to find Ryoko's chopsticks lying on

the table snapped in half, her shaking fingers quivering above them while the rest of her

body was rock still.

"Mother. Do me a big favor," Ryoko stated calmly. "Do not call me that again." Her

voice was gaining in volume. "Ever!"

Taking a deep breath, Ryoko placed both of her hands on the table. She pushed up in one

fluid motion. "Excuse me." She phased out, leaving confusion in her wake.

Tenchi made as if he would get up to follow her, but was stopped by a shake of Ayeka's

head. He settled back into his seat unhappily. "What was that all about Washu?" he

asked.

Washu popped a tape into the VCR and fussed at the controls. "I told Ryoko not to wear

that outfit. Watch for yourselves."

The TV flashed to life revealing the campus of the Galaxy Academy. It was reminiscent

of the old Ivy League colleges in the eastern portions of the United States with stately old

gothic brick buildings, statues of founders, and creeping vine plants growing up the sides

of the structures and statues alike. There were also beautiful steel and glass buildings that

while looking advanced and modern did not seem to clash with the more old fashioned

architecture.

Around a corner strolled Ryoko in her too small uniform looking excited and hopeful.

She had a backpack slung across one shoulder as she strolled across the campus grounds

taking in the beautiful morning before heading to her first class. As Ryoko turned

another corner, a soft snicker from Washu played across the entertainment center's

speakers informing the viewers of the camera person's identity.

Ryoko stopped in her tracks as a sea of people waving banners with her name on it

cheered at the sight of her. A marching band started playing the Academy's theme song

and flaming baton twirlers started doing an intricate routine as Ryoko cautiously tread

forward.

A bevy of young women, roughly Ryoko's age, fluttered towards her with welcoming

smiles. They relieved her of her backpack and flanked her as an honor guard and

escorted her towards a raised platform where the Director of the Academy, Balthus

Mardew, waited in very ornate ceremonial robes. Washu's voice snickered again and the

camera angle veered wildly as Washu raced to get a good spot in front of the platform. It

didn't take long before the depicted scene settled upon Ryoko, who was now shaking the

Director's hand, beaming proudly at all of the attention.

Washu paused the tape. "What a ham. On my first day at the Academy I ran from that

damn parade all day long, and just watch her eat it up!" she chuckled.

"Do all new students get this treatment, Washu?" Tenchi asked in wonderment.

"No," Ayeka answered for her. "Just celebrities, right Ms. Washu?"

"Right! I was the youngest and SMARTEST student they had ever accepted so my

parade was even bigger than this," Washu bragged. "Even if it was a pain in the neck and

I spent all day running from it."

"And Ryoko?" Tenchi asked, thinking that Jurians and other's from world that Ryoko

had harmed would not find much to celebrate in the Space Pirate who had destroyed

much of their planet in the past.

Washu looked at him like he was nuts. "Ryoko is MY daughter," she said as if that

explained everything, and restarted the tape.

Ryoko was waving at the crowd with a big smile, obviously soaking in all of the good

will like a sponge. The Director said a few words then bowed to Ryoko, who blushed

and bowed in return, flashing the audience with the soft pink of her panties. Suddenly the

flash bulbs of the paparazzi went off like a blitz kreig, blinding all on the stage as Ryoko

tried to tug her skirt down.

A stream of young men with hearts in their eyes surged forward and started climbing

onto the stage shouting Ryoko's name and declaring their immediate and undying love.

Looking startled, Ryoko flew into the air to escape their grasp, showing even more pink

from that angle.

The band switched to a saucy tune that sounded more like a strip tease than an anthem as

Ryoko took in the chaos below her with a look of horror on her features. The young men

were trying to form a human tower to reach her, and some of them were boarding hover

scooters and were flying to join her.

Noting she was no longer secure, Ryoko streaked off with the scooters in hot pursuit.

The camera followed Ryoko's fleeing form until she was no more than a tiny, pink, dot.

Washu chuckled as she turned off the video player. "I told her not to wear that uniform!

She should listen to her mother!"

Tenchi frowned. He didn't find any humor in Ryoko's obvious mortification. "How was

the rest of her day? Was she okay after that?"

Washu shrugged. "I came home after that. I'm sure she was fine."

Tenchi's frown deepened. She hadn't seemed very fine. He was starting to see why

Ryoko had had so many problems with Washu in the past. He excused himself from the

table and went to look for Ryoko, feeling deep concern.

He found her hard at work in his father's study. She had all of her books and papers

strewn over the large drafting desk and a small holographic laptop, like her mother's,

floated at her fingertips.

He leaned against the doorframe and watched her as she studied. He had never seen her

concentrate so hard on anything before. She was working on a long equation, using the

computer to compute bits of the problem and doing the rest of it in her head. She wrote

down a final answer and circled it with her pencil. Seeming very much like her mother,

she concentrated and reached into a dimensional pocket and drew out a beaker with a

deep purple liquid in it and a phial of a pale green powder. Looking at the measurement

she had just calculated, she carefully shook a small amount of the powder into the beaker.

Instantly the chemical reaction exploded softly sending up a cloud of sooty particulates.

Ryoko coughed and waved the cloud way, not noticing it had left smudges of ash on her

cheeks and in her hair. "Damn!" she muttered, going back to her calculations to look for

the error.

Smiling, Tenchi backed out of the room to give her some privacy. She seemed okay for

now.

Much later than night, nearly three a.m. , on his way back from the bathroom Tenchi

noticed that the light was still on in the study. He looked in again to see Ryoko now

reading a thick genetics book, her eyes heavy-lidded and her head lolling. At her elbow a

clear glass pot of over-stewed tea was mostly gone, and wrappers from rice crackers

littered the floor. He stepped forward to urge her to go to sleep but stopped himself.

Somehow this scene felt very private.

"Tenchi," she said quietly. "I can smell you. Come on in."

Wearing nothing but the bottoms of a pajama set, Tenchi paced into the room and sat on a

spare designer's stool. "It's really late Ryoko," he said with a yawn.

She nodded and rubbed her eyes. "Or early. The Academy never closes. I had some

physics problems due about an hour ago. I'd forgotten how much work this was."

Tenchi sat quietly, surprised that she was talking to him at all. Maybe she was more

asleep than he realized.

Ryoko dog-eared the page she had been reading and shut the heavy book, placing it on

the table. She was silent for a moment as well before breaking the perfect quiet with four

simple words. "I miss you Tenchi."

The silence settled back over the house as Tenchi took this in, his heart beating faster,

helping spread fresh endorphins to better wake him up.

There was something about sharing your feelings in the middle of the night, while

everyone else slept, that was somewhat conspiratorial. Ryoko felt her heart urging her to

forgive him, to make everything better again. She wanted to, but she couldn't. It wasn't

that easy.

Tenchi tentatively reached for her hand, frowning when she pulled it out of reach.

"Ryoko."

" listen for a minute okay?"

He nodded.

"I miss you so much, but I also hurt so much thinking about what you did. Every time I

close my eyes I see it," she whispered, the pain in her voice clear.

"I am so sorry, Ryoko. Really, I am," he whispered firmly.

"I believe you Tenchi. But.I don't know if I can bear to let you in my heart again. I

want to, but I'm scared."

He hung his head, hating himself.

"It's just so hard for me to trust people, and I hate to say it, but you proved me right."

"Even if I didn't really mean it?" he whispered.

"That doesn't change how it felt to me."

"Ah, so," he sighed, agreeing with her.

"But Tenchi, I can try. Can we just be friends? I don't have enough friends to go around

throwing them away."

Ryoko looked like she might say more, but the air around to her left shimmered,

revealing a plain wooden door. As she looked at it in shock, a hard knock rapped three

times.

"Who is it?" Ryoko asked quickly, not wanting the commotion to wake up the entire

house.

"Hiroshi from physics! I have a question on the homework. Can I come in?"

"Sure," Ryoko said tiredly. "But you've already missed the deadline."

A young man in boxer shorts and a punk rock tee-shirt leaned in through the door.

"That's okay," he said flashing her a grin. " I really just wanted to get you to sign this."

He shoved an 8 by 10 glossy of Ryoko bowing sweetly; showing off her panties and a

black permanent ink marker at her. "Please? All the guys have these hanging up in the

dorms, but I want mine to be special. "Can you put `To Hiroshi, my favorite lab partner,

day or night. XOXOXO Ryoko the Pirate'?" he begged.

Ryoko gaped at him for a moment then snarled, ripping up the picture. "Where did you

get this?"

"Hey.. That was mine! You owe me 2,000 Jurai!"

"They are SELLING these?" Ryoko squeaked. She grabbed Hiroshi by the collar of his

tee-shirt and tossed him through his portal. "Get the hell out!" She made a motion,

locking her side of this dimension from trespassers as the door disappeared.

She turned her glare on Tenchi, the friendly mood shattered. "Well?" she demanded in a

harsh whisper.

"Uh," he stammered.

"Are we friends?" she asked dangerously.

"Uh huh."

"Good. Now get out of here."

Tenchi gulped and nodded, backing away slowly, remembering how he had felt during

their first battle.

Ryoko's upper lip was curled into a snarl, showcasing her pointed incisors, and her fists

were balled and held ready to deliver a titanic punch as she unconsciously hovered two

inches off of the floor. She shook her head and took a deep breath.

"Tenchi," she whispered, it was a plea for understanding.

Tenchi paused and watched her slowly uncurl her fists and straighten her posture as her

feet softly found the floor. Suddenly she was herself again, her shoulders drooping in

defeat.

"I'm sorry Tenchi, " she looked at the floor instead of him.

His fear vanished with her fury. "Don't apologize."

She picked at her dress. "Some things never really change, huh?"

He took a step forward. "You have changed in all the ways that count." He reached for

her.

She stopped him with an out stretched hand, palm out. "Don't touch me."

His hand froze there, half in regret, half in embarrassment. "I thought we were friends

Ryoko."

"You can be my friend from over there." She crossed her arms, and smiled tiredly. "Now

go to bed so I can get my work done, okay?"

Tenchi let his hand drop to his side and smiled, trying not to look disappointed.

"Goodnight Ryoko."

"Goodnight. And Tenchi? Don't tell Washu about any of this okay?"

Tenchi raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "About that guy?"

Ryoko nodded. "Him." She casually waved a hand to indicate her study materials spread

across Noboyuki's desk. "And this. I don't want her to think I've gone all straight and

narrow."

Tenchi chuckled. "Sure thing, Ryoko."

And so it went on for some time, with Ryoko studying in private and Tenchi slipping in

to visit her when she seemed in the mood to speak to him.

Two weeks later, Ryoko sat at the breakfast table before the others, carefully looking

over the notes she had written in the margins of her genetics book the night before. The

pale early morning sunlight cast a harsh light over the scene, and added to her uniform,

made her look as if she were reading in an institutional setting rather than at the comfort

of her own table.

Tenchi walked softly into the room, putting his work gloves on the hall credenza as he

went by. His work in the carrot fields usually necessitated that he be the first to rise in

the mornings. It was surprising to find Ryoko up and alert at this hour, particularly since

she had likely stayed up very late the night before. She hardly seemed to sleep anymore.

At present, she was either too engrossed in her study to notice him or she was ignoring

him. Either seemed likely these days, as she was occasionally willing to be friendly these

days. He stood still, hesitant to lose the chance to just observe her.

He missed her so much. Even in the harsh light she glowed with life, the pink tips of her

earlobes begging to be nibbled upon. Her hair, swept efficiently into a tail, looked softer

than usual, and he could remember how it felt running through the spaces between his

fingers, tickling the sensitive skin there. And those eyes. The light seemed to make them

transparent, sheer glass marbles glinting in the morning.

She wouldn't let him touch her at all. He longed for even the slightest brush of her

fingertips upon his hand. Just to feel her, to know she was real and not about to

disappear. After knowing her so intimately, the separation was painful. And it wasn't

just her body that was just easy to focus on. He missed her laugh, her perspective, and

most of all her love.

As he watched half hidden by the doorway, Washu came out her lab with a distracted

look on her face. As she noticed Ryoko studying, a gentle smile touched her lips and she

quietly walked over to her daughter. She approached from behind and leaned over

Ryoko's shoulder, wrapping an arm around her daughter's waist, looking at what she was

reading. Ryoko smiled and leaned into the hug without a word, touching her cheek to

Washu's. Washu stroked Ryoko's hair for a moment and pointed at something in the text

and whispered something Tenchi couldn't hear.

Ryoko laughed and jabbed her mother lightly with an elbow shaking her head negatively.

"But you are, little Ryoko," Washu insisted warmly.

Feeling guilty for spying on such a tender moment and just a little bit jealous of Washu,

Tenchi moved into the room as if he had just arrived upon the scene. Both Washu and

Ryoko shot apart looking stiff and guilty.

"Hi," Ryoko said, with a faint blush on her cheeks. "Did you sleep well?" she asked.

"Ah, yes," he agreed.

Washu had settled at her place on the other side of the table and looked between the two

of them. "So, you two're speaking again?"

Tenchi looked at Ryoko hopefully, and stuck his hands in his pockets. "Yes?"

Ryoko smiled. "Yes," she affirmed, almost shyly and patted the empty space beside her

in invitation.

Washu watched with an amused look as Tenchi gingerly settled next to Ryoko, obviously

working very hard to keep any part of his body from brushing hers. Shaking her head,

Washu sat down herself and poured herself a cup of tea from a pot waiting on the table.

"So how is school going little Ryoko?" she asked blowing the steam away from her cup.

"Fine," Ryoko said closing her book and placing it on the floor between her and Tenchi's

knees.

Washu grinned. "Don't be so modest. I haven't even seen you studying in the space I set

up for you in the lab. It must be a piece of cake."

Ryoko blushed and looked into her tea. "Mom, please."

Washu swooned at clasped her hands at her breast. "I just love to hear that word!

Almost as much as I love the thought of my little girl blowing away those old goats at

GA!" She laughed maniacally, showing her teeth and scrunching her eyes. "I just love

it!"

Ryoko rolled her eyes and looked at Tenchi with a look of long suffering. "Can you

believe her?"

Still unsure of his standing with Ryoko, Tenchi shrugged noncommittally. "She is

something else."

"But what?" Ryoko asked dryly.

Washu stopped laughing and gently punched Ryoko in her arm. " I heard that!" Washu

paused looking at Tenchi, a sly smiled pulling at her lips. "Ryoko dear, have you

checked your mailbox lately?"

"Uh. no," Ryoko said. "Should I?"

Washu nodded with a frightening grin.

Feeling as if she was being led into an ambush, Ryoko wrinkled her brow in

concentration and reached above her head into a dimensional pocket that served as a

mailbox. Instead of finding one or two letters, her hand encountered a weight so heavy

that she instinctively retracted her hand and forgot to close the portal. An avalanche of

letters and small disks rushed out and dumped onto Ryoko's head and lap. She yelped

and covered her head until the brief deluge was over.

When it was safe she shot her mother a dirty look. "You knew this would happen!" she

accused.

Washu shrugged and strove to look innocent with little success. "Tenchi, she has such a

suspicious mind!"

Tenchi shook his head with a sigh and looked to Ryoko. "What are these?"

"Letters, I think," she said with a scowl as they all seemed to be in red or pink envelopes

and sealed with heart stickers. She selected one from the pile and worked her finger

under the seal until it opened. Pulling out a sheaf of lilac paper she read the contents with

a growing look of disgust.

Tenchi tried not to look but he couldn't help but read the undying declaration of love and

devotion as Ryoko read it. It made his stomach turn to think that anyone else saw her

that way. It had taken him so long to appreciate her, and this pile of letters, resultant

from her brief introduction to the Academy, were a mute testament to his own

shortsightedness and idiocy.

Washu sniggered. "Popular are we?"

"Shut up!" Ryoko was shredding the letter, and casting a dangerous eye to the rest, a

small ball of energy forming in her hand.

Washu coughed to contain her laughter and pointed to the twenty small metal and plastic

disks that Ryoko had been ignoring and caused them to float out her daughter's reach.

With a gesture she activated them all and twenty holographic young men began to sing

Ryoko's praises and begging for her to be their true love.

Mid incineration of the other letters, Ryoko looked up in shock, only able to stare at the

minor cacophony going on before her. As some of the young men pulled down their

pants to show her just how worthy of her they were, she shrieked in outrage sending

Washu into gales of laughter.

"That's not funny! It's gross!" Ryoko yelled getting to her feet. "Turn them off! Turn

them off!" she yelled, averting her face so she didn't have to watch the lascivious display.

Washu only laughed harder, now rolling on the floor and clutching her sides.

Tenchi stood too, putting a light hand on the small of Ryoko's back. "Come on Washu!

This isn't funny! Ryoko asked you to turn them off. Please do it."

Washu's laughter stopped as if someone had flipped a switch. Tenchi rarely raised his

voice at her and it was like a slap to the face. With a gesture the holodisks were

deactivated.

Ryoko was on the verge of tears and backing away from the table, a horrified expression

pulling at her beautiful features.

Washu sat up quickly, looking concerned and regretful. "Ryoko wait! I'm sorry, I didn't

mean. honey, please.."

Ryoko sniffed and wouldn't look at Washu. "I need to got to school," she said dully

mumbling something about an errand.

Tenchi caught Ryoko's hand. "But you haven't eaten yet!"

Ryoko gently, but firmly, pulled her hand out of his grasp, still backing away. "I'm not

hungry."

Tenchi knelt and scooped up her book from the floor. "Don't you need this?"

Ryoko nodded and accepted it from him, still avoiding Washu's eyes. "Thank you

Tenchi." She paused. "Goodbye." She turned and headed to the lab door.

"Wait." It was as single word, but it was imbued with such sorrow and guilt.

Ryoko turned around and faced her mother with obvious difficulty. "Yes?"

Washu hung her head and spoke quietly. "I really was only trying to tease you. I forgot

how sensitive you have always been about your body. I didn't mean to hurt you, I

swear."

Ryoko slid her eyes to Tenchi and blushed. He already knew that, but it was

uncomfortable talking about it in front of him. Especially now. "I know," Ryoko said

with a short nod.

Washu stood straighter, she hadn't been forgiven, but at least Ryoko was still talking to

her. "And to make matters worse, there is a small army of these guys waiting for you to

walk through the portal. I wasn't going to tell you, but now. I understand."

Ryoko paled. "Oh no."

Tenchi approached her gently. "I could walk you to class. Would that help?"

Letting out a deep breath, Ryoko nodded. "Yes. Can we go now?"

Tenchi nodded and after Ryoko had gathered her book-bag, they went into the lab,

leaving a distraught Washu to contemplate her behavior.

Chapter Four

Washu had been right. There were at least two hundred males crowded into the courtyard

where Washu's private access portal opened up. A loud cheer went up upon Ryoko's

appearance and many posters and markers were thrust at Ryoko amongst cries for her to

autograph the photographs of herself.

Tenchi slipped an arm around Ryoko's shoulder and was disturbed to feel how she

cowered into him. The last he had heard he wasn't allowed to touch her. For her to let

him was a strong indicator of how upset she must be. "Get lost!" he shouted. "Can't you

see she doesn't like this?"

The boys and men looked at him jealously and mumbled angry words at the sight of this

earthling with his arms intimately draped around the object of their affection. They

parted ranks to let the pair through, but looked at Tenchi with hostile eyes.

Tenchi gulped, worried about his safety on the way back, but lead a very quiet Ryoko

through the crowd with a gentle pressure to her shoulders. The men were quieter, but not

silent. There were many murmured offers of how their species was more pleasurable for

a woman like Ryoko, or more commonly, remarks about Ryoko's beauty and sexiness.

"Hey Ryoko! We don't care if you get low grades here. You've got more to offer than

just your mind baby!" Shouted a skinny boy with no hair.

Ryoko leaned further into to Tenchi and squeezed her eyes shut. Situations like these just

proved to her that she had very little else to offer than her physical form. Her heart,

already fragile, was splintering under the assault of this evidence of her worst fears.

"Poor grades? That can't be! You work so hard," Tenchi said in disbelief.

Ryoko looked away and bit her lip. "I do alright."

Tenchi's stomach sank. Ryoko had been staying up late every night, pouring effort in to

her studies, and yet there seemed to be a problem. But the tone of her voice had warned

off further questions.

As they left the males behind, Ryoko straightened up and walked out from the shelter of

Tenchi's arm, her face a closed and unreadable mask. Tenchi looked at her with worry,

but the set of her jaw and the stiffness of her spine warned him against trying to speak

with her at that moment. As a group of young women approached them, Tenchi noted

that Ryoko, while still stiff, had forced a strained smile to her lips.

"Good morning," she said to the girls, in a carefree voice that clashed with her body

language.

The girls turned to Ryoko with unmistakable sneers of dislike, and said nothing as they

walked past.

Ryoko's shoulder's slumped, but she tried again when another group of two older women

in student's uniforms walked past them. "Hi!" she chirped, almost desperately.

The women didn't even look her. Instead, they exchanged superior glances and

continued on their way. "Tramp."

The word lingered in their wake, causing Ryoko's steps to falter. Her lips puckered, but

otherwise she didn't react, and resumed her typical pace.

Tenchi watched her sadly, knowing how much these reactions must hurt her. "Ryoko,"

he began.

She forestalled any further comment with a shake of her head. If she spoke she would

cry.

Very concerned, Tenchi put his arm around her again, trying to express his support. And

once again, she let him.

Ryoko looked down as they continued on their way, not wanting to see any more

expressions of distaste from the women, or lust from the men. As they approached the

door to her first class they had to pass a crowd of smug looking students who were

discussing the ins and outs of their homework assignments, debating on the correctness of

the minutiae involved in competing paradigm formulation.

As Ryoko and Tenchi approached, a young woman with thick, curly black tresses cleared

her throat and pointed at them. The group stilled their chatter and watched with

interested smirks as their leader made her move.

"Why, hello Ryoko."

Ryoko stopped and looked carefully at the girl. She heard the derision in her voice but

gave her a small, hopeful smile just in case. "Hello, Mia."

Leaning against a weighty pillar that helped support the building's massive cornice, Mia

crossed her arms and smiled a not at all nice smile.

"So tell me, how does it feel to be the greatest scientific moron in the universe?"

The assembled students burst out into laughter, and Ryoko shook herself free of Tenchi's

arm and darted into the auditorium, the sounds of their amusement nipping at her heels.

She selected a desk in the very front, where she knew no one else wanted to sit, and

began unloading her books as tears glazed her eyes.

"Ryoko, this is terrible," Tenchi whispered as he caught up with her. "Has it been like

this the whole time?"

She ignored him and focused on lining her pencils up neatly in a groove that crossed the

top of the desk.

Tenchi touched her hand lightly. "Why didn't you tell us?" It hurt him to think she had

been suffering in silence for weeks.

She closed her eyes and let a single tear trace down her cheek. "Why do you think?" She

scrubbed the tear away with the back of a hand. She slid into the desk and buried her

head in her arms. "Its fine Tenchi, Just go home."

He bent his knees so that his head was level with hers. "It is absolutely not fine!" he said

in a harsh whisper. "I'm sure Washu can."

Ryoko's head shot up, and though her eyes glittered fiercely from suppressed tears, her

cheeks were dry. "No!" she cut him off. "We are not telling Washu. Understand?"

"But.."

"I mean it. If you tell her. I'll .I'll never speak to you again. Even if you are my only

friend."

"But. why not?"

"Just go home Tenchi. Please. This is hard enough as it is." She looked at him with

shamed eyes. "I didn't want you to see this."

Tenchi nodded, understanding. Not sure whether it was for her or for him, he leaned

down and placed a lingering kiss on the crown of her head. "Be strong. I'll see you

tonight."

As he walked away, Ryoko absently touched the spot where he had kissed her. "O-

okay," she called after him. "But remember, don't tell Mom!"

"Don't tell my Mommy how stupid I am," Mia parroted nastily as she took a seat behind

Ryoko. "I think its painfully obvious, dear."

Tenchi paused and looked into Mia's eyes. "Stop it right now."

"Or what?" Mia drawled lazily.

The lighthawk emblem flickered briefly on Tenchi's forehead. "You don't really want to

know."

"Tenchi. no." Ryoko had turned around and was looking into Tenchi's eyes, her own

full of sorrow. "Please."

Tenchi nodded sharply and turned, quickly leaving the room before he made it even

worse on Ryoko.

Mia saw the flicker and sat back in her seat, eyes narrowed. How dare that shrimp

threaten her with a display of power. Her eyes flickered over to Ryoko, who sat meekly

in her desk trying to draw as little attention to herself as possible. She had a perfect way

to get back at that boy.

Later that afternoon, Tenchi waited anxiously at the lab side of the Galaxy Academy

portal. He couldn't wait to see Ryoko. She couldn't have had a very nice day, and he

wanted to be sure a friendly face was the first thing she saw upon returning home.

The interdimensional gateway hummed and Ryoko stepped through, looking incredibly

weary and forlorn. Her uniform was rumpled and most of her ponytail had escaped the

confines of the rubber band and the lose strands of hair hung limply against her neck.

"Hey!" Tenchi said brightly, taking her book-bag from her. "It's great to see you."

"Oh, Tenchi!" Ryoko said in surprise, happiness lighting up her previously drab features.

"Hi. I wasn't expecting to see you."

Tenchi smiled with real warmth and shouldered the book-bag. "How was your day?"

Ryoko looked around the lab wearily. Who knew what listening devices Washu had

going. "Fine," she lied.

Tenchi arched an eyebrow, but staid silent when she shook her head at him.

"I'll tell you later," she said stepping out of the shadows into a brighter part of the lab,

revealing purpling skin under her left eye. "Let's go get some dinner. I'm starving."

Tenchi touched her arm lightly, stopping her. "What's that?"

She quickly turned her head away from him, but it was too late.

Tenchi moved to the other side of her so he could better see, and ran a feather light touch

along the underside of her eye, tracing the shape of an ugly bruise. "Someone hit you,"

he said in utter disbelief. "Someone hit you! How did this happen?" he demanded.

"She got into a fight, that's how," Washu said in a disappointed voice.

Both Tenchi and Ryoko turned around to see Washu poised in one of her subspace

doorways. She had a bloody butcher's apron on and was clutching a gore-covered scalpel

in a gloved hand. The other hand pushed safety goggles up to her forehead. "I was in the

middle of a VERY important dissection when the dean of your college called me."

"But." Ryoko began.

Washu shook her head. "Ah! I don't want to hear it. You need to learn to control

yourself. You are no longer under Kagato's control. You are responsible for your own

actions now, so act like it. Okay?"

"It's not." Ryoko began, but paused at Washu's exasperated sigh. "Yes, I understand."

Washu smiled with approval. "Good girl. Don't worry about it, we both knew this

would happen. Just try to stop next time."

"Yes," Ryoko repeated dully, as Tenchi watched her meekness with disbelief.

"Good. Those kids at the Academy know how to hurt someone like you. You might get

worse than a black eye next time," Washu said touching a clean finger to Ryoko's shiner

causing it to disappear.

"Yes," Ryoko whispered.

Washu laughed. "This is just like old times! Now that's settled, you two go on ahead.

I'll see you at dinner." With that, she vanished back through the doorway, and it soon

disappeared as well.

"Ryoko?" Tenchi asked, the tone of his voice questioning her behavior.

"Not now." She took a deep breath. "Tenchi, are we really still friends?"

"Absolutely."

"Will - will you hug me? Please?" she asked in a small voice.

Without a second thought, Tenchi wrapped his arms around her and held her close,

burying his face in the loose tendrils of her hair. "Ryoko, please tell me what's wrong."

She slid her arms around his neck and clung to him silently as if he were her only hope

for survival on a stormy sea.

"Please tell me," he whispered into her ear, unable to stop himself from following his

words with a little kiss to her ear lobe.

She wriggled out of his arms and took a step back, one hand clutching at her ear.

"Tenchi."

"I'm sorry. That was stupid. I'm always doing stupid things. Damn it! I miss you

Ryoko!"

Her eyes widened, glinting softly as the lights of various machines flickered in the

background.

Running his hands through his hair, Tenchi paced between a large tank of fish and the

Academy portal. "I love you, and something is wrong, and you won't tell me what!" He

spun on his heel and held his empty hands to her. "I can't even help you because I

screwed up! I want to help you, Ryoko. What will it take?"

She looked at him for a long while. So long he was afraid she would just stare at him

until he found the courage to leave her. But he wouldn't do that. The words were out in

the open now, so he needed to wait. He could wait forever.

The hand rubbing her ear fell to her side. "I miss you too," she said thickly.

"Then why aren't we together?" he pleaded.

"Because I'm afraid of you."

"Of me?"

She sighed and draped her arms around herself, hugging tightly. "Just look at me,

Tenchi. Do you recognize me at all? Someone hit me today and I just walked away."

She met his eyes and answered her own question before he had a chance to try. "In the

past, I would have hurt, maybe killed anyone who called me names not to mention hit

me. But before that, I would have - have," she faltered here, taking a deep breath.

"Deeper in the past, before Kagato, I would have cried for days."

"Ryoko, help me understand."

"Tenchi, I am more like my old self thanks to you, and thanks to Mom. But the only

defenses I have are the wrong ones. I can't harm people, just because they hurt my

feelings. or break my heart even."

Tenchi flinched at that, but continued listening.

"So I'm vulnerable Tenchi. I keep getting hurt, but I can't protect myself. I don't know

if I could survive it if you hurt me like that again."

"It was a mistake Ryoko. A stupid mistake."

She smiled sadly and touched his arm. "Anyone can make a mistake, which is why I

can't let you love me right now."

"You can't stop me," he said stoutly.

"Tenchi, please."

"I'm serious Ryoko," he said walking over to her and grasping her shoulders firmly. "I

love you, and this separation is killing me. I'm not going to give up on you, okay?"

Ryoko looked up into his eyes and nodded mutely torn between wanting to run away and

wanting to kiss him with everything she was worth.

He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "But I can also tell that there is more going

on than you are telling anyone. So I'm not going to push it." He released her shoulders.

"But I wish you would tell me."

Ryoko blushed and looked to the floor, then back to his eyes. "Suit yourself, Tenchi."

He nodded, knowing now was the time to stop. "Dinner, then?" He held out his hand,

hoping she would take it.

She nodded and approached him, her fingers brushing over his, but not taking his hand as

she walked by.

Sighing he trailed her out into the living quarters of his home.

"Ryoko's home!" Sasami caroled, running to give her good friend a hug. "I missed you

so much today!"

Ryoko's posture straightened and she smiled happily at her little friend. "Hey kiddo!"

"I made your favorite! Spicy white miso and grilled snapper," Sasami giggled. "I hope

you're hungry."

"No worries about that," Ryoko confirmed sliding into the table next to Ayeka. "How

goes it Princess?" she asked in an approximation of her usual teasing tones.

Ayeka gave her a worried, measured look. Tenchi had shared some of his concerns with

her, and while Ryoko was hiding it well, she was looking strained and on edge. Tenchi

had been correct. Something was wrong. "My day has been a good one. How was yours

Ryoko?"

Ryoko had already started to hungrily pick the solids out of her soup with her chopsticks.

She chewed for a moment, then swallowed and answered. "Oh you know, school,

learning. all of that."

It was not lost on Ayeka that Ryoko had not committed to a valuation of her day. She

smoothed her kimono over her knees and looked at Tenchi for guidance. He shook his

head sadly, and Ayeka changed the subject. "Ms. Ryoko, I must inform you of Ryo-

Ohki's bad behavior during your absence."

"Mmpf?" Ryoko asked around a mouthful of tofu.

Ayeka smiled and nodded. "Your pet dug out three rows of carrot seeds in the fields this

morning, and Tenchi had to replant them."

"Ryo-Ohki! Is this true?" the pirate demanded of her fuzzy spaceship.

The soft brown cabbit hung her head and shame and meowed softly.

Ryoko tsked at her, but was smiling. "Bad Ryo-Ohki! How many times do we have to

tell you that you have to wait for the seeds to grow into carrots?" she demanded with a

flavor of laughter in her words.

Ryo-Ohki meowed plaintively and covered her eyes.

Ryoko's expression softened further and she gently lifted the cabbit to her lap and began

scratching behind her ears. "It's okay. I know it's hard to understand sometimes, but we

still love you," she cooed softly.

Ayeka looked at Tenchi in disbelief. Was this RYOKO? They all knew she was capable

of these emotions but for her to show them so openly was very strange. Now Ayeka was

seriously worried about her friend.

Ryo-Ohki, however loved the attention, and it reminded her of times long ago, when

Ryoko used to talk to her like this all of the time, and she was eating it up. With a happy

purrr she leapt onto Ryoko's shoulder and nuzzled her cheek. Ryoko laughed lightly and

used her chopsticks to feed her friend carrot chunks from the soup.

Ayeka smiled to see that the cabbit had a knack for cheering up her mistress like nothing

else could and silently thanked the little creature. Still, as Ryoyo's friend, it was only

proper that she try to help as well. "Ryoko, would you like to join me in the onsen for

some sake after dinner? I have a very good bottle I have been saving for some time."

Ryoko's smile widened. "I'd love to Ayeka. I've been so busy studying. I mean.

uh.I've been at school so much, that I haven't seen much of you. Sake in the onsen

sounds nice," she said sincerely, happy to be reminded she had a friend in the princess.

"Unfortunately, Ryoko will be too busy studying to have time for that Lady Ayeka,"

came Washu's angry voice from behind them.

"What?" Ryoko asked, her eyebrows moving into a worried frown .

Washu stalked to the table and stood with her hands on her hips. "Don't play games with

me Ryoko. I know all about it."

"You do?" Ryoko asked almost hopefully. Maybe if Washu knew, then she could help.

Maybe it had been a bad idea to hide this from her after all.

"Yes, and I am very disappointed in you."

The smile that had been fighting for a place on Ryoko's face withered into a straight line.

"Wh-what?"

"You have been given a great opportunity and you have thrown it away!"

Ryoko started to rise. "What are you talking about? I am trying."

Washu's hand shot out and she pushed Ryoko back down with brutal force, proving that

she was smaller than she looked in her diminutive form. "Hush. Don't you dare lie to

me."

Ryoko's head hung forward, her worst nightmare coming true. Washu knew how stupid

she was, and she hated her for it. She didn't love her anymore.

The other occupants watched the bizarre scene unfold in stunned silence as Wash took a

holographic disk out of her pocket and set it on the table activating it. A three inch

version of Mia flickered to life and bowed solemnly.

"Dr. Hakubi, it is with deepest regret I send you this message. I am a good friend of your

daughter, and I fear for her well being. So as a friend, it is my duty to see that she gets

help," Mia stated with false sincerity.

"Ryoko has been consistently late or absent from class. When she does show up she

smells of alcohol and is rude and disruptive. She isn't even turning in her assignments

anymore. I have included her most recent transcripts to show you just how badly it is

effecting her grades."

Mia theatrically wipes a tear away from her eye and continued in a weepy voice. "Oh Dr.

Hakubi! You have to tell her that being your daughter isn't enough! That she needs to

try before she gets expelled! Please help your daughter." She sniffed. "Thank you."

Finished, her hologram faded away.

"That's. that's. " Ryoko sputtered impotently. That rotten snake! How could she?

Old rage boiled out of the depths of her stomach and her vision hazed with red. Almost

without intention, her light sword flared into being as she yanked away from Washu's

iron grasp. "I'll kill her!" she roared.

Tenchi darted to the lab door and blocked it with his body. "Ryoko! Calm down! We

have to tell Washu the truth right now!"

Ryoko skidded to a halt before him and snarled, barely in control at all, but still unable to

harm him.

"I know the truth!" Washu snapped, her computer appearing under her fingertips.

"Ryoko hasn't changed at all!" She typed something quickly and Ryoko froze, her sword

extinguishing, and he eyes fading to a pale green.

"Washu, don't," Tenchi whispered in horror as he realized what Washu was doing. "She

will never forgive you."

"You are a smart girl Ryoko!" Washu shouted into her unseeing daughter's face. "Why

are you wasting it? Don't you care?"

Ayeka rose from the table and laid a soft hand on Washu's shoulder. "Please do not do

this."

Washu ignored her. "Are you trying to make me look bad, Ryoko? Is that what this is

about?"

"Washu," Tenchi seethed.

"Well, you are doing a great job!" she ranted.

"Washu!" he shouted.

"If you weren't going to try, you should have just stayed home instead of letting my

colleagues know my daughter is a fool!"

"Enough!" Tenchi roared, transforming into his Jurian battle gear in an explosion of

divine light. "Release her now!" he commanded.

Washu snapped back to her senses and looked shocked at her own behavior. Numbly she

hit a button on her computer and life flashed back into Ryoko's eyes. Life followed by

pain.

Searing, betrayed, torturous pain. "M-mommy?" It wasn't a question as much as an

accusation, a statement of disbelief, the articulation of heartache. She drew in a

shuddering breath then turned on her heel and began to run. She ran till she reached the

front door, and as soon as that was open she took to flight, weaving without control into

he sky.

"Ryoko?" Washu asked in confusion. The data wasn't adding up. Ryoko's reaction

didn't match what Mia had said. What was going on? What had she done? "Ryoko!"

she shouted, preparing to run for the door.

"I'll go," Tenchi said shortly, and headed into the night.

He didn't have to go far to find her. It seemed that her will to fly had deserted her near

the steps leading to the shrine on the mountain's peak. He found her draped across the

bottom three steps, her head cradled in her arms, and her legs splayed put against the

ground at the base of the steps. She wasn't crying, instead she was deathly still, he

couldn't even see her breathe.

With soft, measured steps, Tenchi approached her, crouching down when he reached the

place where she lay.

"Ryoko?" he asked, laying a hand on her back.

"She. she controlled me," Ryoko moaned. "Just like he did. Just like he did."

Tenchi's lips were a firm line as words failed him. It was true. Washu had done so.

There was no pretending otherwise. All he could do was stroke her back and let her

know he was with her.

"And all because of something someone else - someone she didn't even know- said. It's

just like before," she rasped her voice sounding as if it issues from the inside of a rusted

out tin can.

Tenchi continued to rub her back in slow, gentle circles giving her a chance to speak

form her heart, to let her hurt free itself.

Ryoko pushed herself up on her elbows and looked at him with eyes glittering with

betrayal. "That's how Kagato got me. He convinced her that I was out of control and

needed co-con-contained," she spit the last word out with loathing. She put me in stasis

and the next thing I knew, she was gone and he was my ma-master! She did it first!"

Tenchi winced, unable to imagine how Ryoko must feel right now.

"I thought she loved me! She said she loved me! How could she do this to me again?

How could a mother do this to her child?" she demanded, her voice gaining in volume.

"Ryoko, please.I." he mumbled wanting so much to make it right and chase her

demons away.

"And you!" she roared. "You said that you loved me too!" she accused leaving his

betrayal an unsaid but clearly communicated thought shared between them.

"I do love you!" he shouted back, sliding his arms around her and hauling her up to a

seated position so that she was cradled in his arms. She struggled with all of her

considerable strength, but in his Jurain gear he matched her prowess. "I may be stupid, I

may be weak, but I do love you!"

He caught her lips in a powerful kiss, demanding yet still gentle and careful. As her lips

opened beneath his, yielding and inviting him in further, the kiss lingered instead of

spinning into a mutual exchange of kisses. Tenchi was kissing Ryoko, and Ryoko was

letting him. She snaked her arms around his neck and held him gently as his warm lips

massaged her own. When Tenchi finally pulled away, Ryoko hid her face in his chest.

"I'm the stupid one, not you," she said in a hollow voice.

"No way," he whispered into her hair as he continued to caress her. "I was the one who

hurt you and pushed you away. I was worried about Ayeka and took it out on you. I

forgot you aren't as tough as you look." He stiffened as the last words fell from his lips,

worried that he had said the absolute worst thing.

Surprisingly, she laughed darkly and held him more tightly. "I know. I always knew. I

am so stupid. I'm sorry Tenchi."

He returned her embrace. "Please don't say that. It's not true," he whispered tenderly

into her ear.

"Forgive me Tenchi, you're all I have. Don't let me be all alone." She clutched at him

now.

"What are you talking about?" he asked, pulling back a bit.

She closed the gap, burying her face in his chest more fiercely this time. "I knew this

would happen. I tried to hide it. I tried to make it not true. But it happened anyway. I'm

sorry Tenchi. I'm sorry, please don't make me leave."

"'Yoko, sweetie, you aren't making any sense. I promise I won't make you leave. Ever.

"Really?"

"Really, but first tell me what's got you so scared, please?"

Practically in his lap now, Ryoko grabbed two handfuls of Tenchi's jacket and levered

herself up to stare over his shoulder. "I'm not smart Tenchi. not like Washu. I didn't

want her to know, because I knew she would. would stop wanting me," Ryoko

quavered lowering her head again. "I tried! I tried so hard!"

"I know you did. I saw you in dad's study remember?"

She nodded. "But now she knows. and look at what she did to me," Ryoko said

weakly.

Tenchi stroked her hair and sighed. "Try to understand that girl tricked her into thinking

you were out of control. She was reacting to that, not to your intelligence," he murmured

rationally.

He waited for a response, but could only feel her heavy breathing against his chest.

"Are you asleep?"

When no answer came, Tenchi carefully loaded Ryoko into his arms and stood. As he

carried her up to the house his heart was crying for her. So much of her progress had

been set back this night. Whether or not Ryoko would be angry at him for doing it, the

next person he needed to speak to was Washu. This had to be stopped before Ryoko was

hurt beyond repair.

Chapter Five

Sliding the door to his room open with one foot, Tenchi carefully twisted his body so he

could carry Ryoko through the narrow space without bumping her into the doorframe.

After three short steps he laid her down on one side of the bed, then pulled the covers on

the other side back. Holding her softly, he rolled her under the covers and tucked her in.

The motion woke her slightly, and she murmured and fluttered her eyes. "Where?"

Tenchi leaned down and kissed her forehead. "In my room. Shhh - go back to sleep.

She started to wake more, looking concerned. "She controlled me!"

"It's over, honey. Sleep now, " he said tucking the covers more firmly under her chin.

Her eyes fluttered. "Your room? But."

"Shhh," he hushed again. "Just to sleep, okay? You shouldn't sleep on the rafter

tonight."

Her eyes dropped heavily as she nodded. " `kay." In moments, her breathing was deep

and even again as she hugged the pillow tightly.

Tenchi watched her sleep for a moment. She deserved so much more than this. To think

that she had put herself through so much, only to have Washu kick her some more was so

sad. Not that he was blameless. They all seemed to let Ryoko down like it was a curse.

But it had to stop. He couldn't let her problems with Washu grow worse, Ryoko needed

her mother, that was so achingly clear. But Washu needed to be a mother, something she

obviously had difficulty doing well despite her best intentions. Leaving his room, Tenchi

headed for the lab, uncertain what he would do next. He only knew he had to get through

to Washu somehow.

Standing before Washu's door, Tenchi clapped his hands twice to summon the Kami,

hoping they would lend him the wisdom to say the right things. After a moment's

thought he knocked firmly on the door.

Washu's face appeared at the porthole so quickly that she had to have been waiting there.

"It's open," she called.

Tenchi entered and looked around him. The door had not opened in the normal spaces he

recognized. Instead of an artificial sky with beautiful arboreal plantings, he found

himself in a cozy library. Rich wood paneling covered the Walls that were not dominated

by towering bookshelves, and red velvet winged-back chairs with matching brocade

shaded reading lamps provided comfortable places to read. A small fire crackled under

an elegant rust marble mantle supported by creamy caryatids. Washu poked at the

glowing embers and avoided his eyes.

Silence hung between the two as each pondered what to say. An old wind-up clock

ticked loudly, marking the seconds as they slid by.

Tenchi sat in a chair and rested his elbows on his knees. "Aren't you even going to ask

how she is?"

Washu snorted. "I'm sure she's okay. You can always make it better for her," jealousy

nettled her words as she formed them.

Tenchi pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. He hated confrontations.

"Did you ever wonder why?"

Washu shrugged.

Tenchi sighed and took another path. "That girl was lying."

Washu turned to him with tired eyes. "Is that what Ryoko says?"

He frowned. "It's what I say. You should see how they treat her at the Academy. It's

terri-"

"Don't fall for it Tenchi," Washu cut him off. "Ryoko brings it on herself. It was always

this way. She goofs off, then gets upset when she does poorly. She needs to learn the

hard way that won't cut it!"

With part of his mind aghast that she wasn't talking about the more important issue of

controlling Ryoko's mind, Tenchi tackled the task at hand. "Washu, you need to know

Ryoko has been working very hard. She studies in dad's office all of the time. I've seen

it myself."

Washu raised to her feet from her kneeling position and dusted off her knees. "That's

another one of her old excuses." She opened a desk drawer and pulled out a sheaf of

papers. "But if she was really studying all of those times, she wouldn't have gotten such

poor marks," Washu handed Tenchi the papers.

Tenchi read through them, they were old report cards neatly organized by academic year,

and Tenchi noticed that the most recent was the transcript Mia had spoken of in her

treacherous message. He looked at what he assumed were grades.

"Washu, what is the grading scale?"

"One through five, like A-F in your terms, only in the other direction, with five being the

equivalent of an A."

Tenchi looked again at Ryoko's recent grades and scratched his head. It was a mix of

fours and threes, with a slightly greater number of fours. "You mean she is getting B's

and C's?"

Washu nodded curtly, the corner of her lip turning up in a sneer.

"But, that's not bad. It's average," he said in confusion.

"My daughter is not average," Washu retorted, offended.

Tenchi flipped back to the earliest of the reports and saw that Ryoko had gotten

consistently high marks. As the years passed, he noted that Ryoko had been enrolled in

more accelerated course. One instructor had even noted their protest against this action,

and added the upgrade was by parental request. About this time Ryoko's grades had

become less steady and he as he looked at the rest of the reports he noted more comments

from the instructors. Many lauded Ryoko's efforts but advised she be removed from the

accelerated program and more appropriately placed.

The answer became clear to him. Washu had a critical blind spot. She expected Ryoko

to be just like her, and could not accept evidence that she was not. It had been easier to

attribute lack of superior achievement to Ryoko's bad behavior, which probably had

always existed to some extent.

And Ryoko knew this, and believed her worth to her mother depended on how smart she

was, so she tried to please her. And kept failing. Tenchi wanted to cry.

"Have you really looked at these lately?" he asked gently. "Are you seeing what people

have been saying?"

"Of course I have!" she snapped.

Tenchi tried again. "Would you believe the experiment results of a scientist who was so

sure that his experiment would find the answer he expected that he failed to use a

rigorous, double blind design?"

"No," she answered immediately. "Those results would be biased."

Tenchi blinked, willing her to make the connection.

"Biased," she repeated, this time in a murmur. She looked lost, unable to deny the truth of

his statement, and her analytical mind had no choice to but to draw the parallel from

Tenchi's example to her expectations of Ryoko. She took the report cards from Tenchi

and read through them quickly. "My little Ryoko isn't smart?" she asked worriedly.

"Not as smart as you," Tenchi affirmed. "But who is? And that's not the point."

Washu just looked at him.

He exhaled a frustrated breath and continued to lay it out. "She isn't as smart as you and

she knows it. And she knows how much you value intelligence, so she bases her

selfworth on it."

Washu gulped and twisted the hem of her blouse as it lay over her cargo shorts.

"She is busting her ass for you, but she hides it because she doesn't want you to know

how hard she has to work for those threes and fours. She's ashamed, damnit!" he said

fiercely. "And she gets grief from you and has to go to school for some more."

Washu's cheeks had gone from turning white, to hosting twin spots of red against the

pale background of her face. Her mouth was open in a circle of distress and one hand

was rising to cover it.

"You should see how they treat her there. The guys are all over her, and the women hate

her for it. This just keeps reinforcing her belief that the only thing she has to offer

anyone is her body. She thinks she is of no worth Washu!" He put his heart into his

words.

Tenchi laid a strong hand on Washu's shoulder. "And what's worse is that we, you and I,

keep proving her right with what we do."

"I didn't trust her tonight. I wanted so much for her to do well, that I just blew up. But it

was for me, it was always for me," she whispered. "And I took control of her when I

should have been helping her blow that lying brat out of existence!" Washu raged,

channeling her guilt into a baser need to destroy.

"And that's what I'll do! I have her return address and so many assassination devices

that she won't know what hit her!" Washu raced for the door. "Nobody gets away with

hurting my little Ryoko!"

"Not even you?" Tenchi asked softly, stopping her in her tracks.

"Me?" her voice regained a flavor of guilt.

"That girl was just a stream feeding into a deeper river, " Tenchi said as he moved

between Washu and the door. "I'm going bed now. Goodnight."

Washu pushed open the door for him, causing him to lose his balance and tumble through

to land in the hallway of his house. "Don't you think you are a little young to be acting

like your grandfather?" she asked irritably, shutting the door with an angry snap. But

Tenchi had seen the thoughtfulness in her eyes and was satisfied.

While Tenchi went upstairs to make his pallet on the floor by his bed, Washu curled up

into a winged-back chair and glared into her fire.

Just who the hell did that little boy think he was?

She couldn't believe that he had the nerve to even suggest that she wasn't a fit mother.

She had always had Ryoko's best interests in mind when she made choices for her. Hard

choices! If she hadn't pushed her, Ryoko wouldn't have accomplished so much! That

was her duty as a mother.

Average.

Average.

No way. Not her little Ryoko. It wasn't possible. Half of her genetic information came

from the great Washu!

Why, calling Ryoko average was tantamount to calling WASHU average.

Her eyes narrowed and she held up her hands summoning her computer to her fingertips.

That boy needed to be taught a lesson! Maybe a week as a water sprite would teach him

a little respect! She typed in the program's parameters and held her finger poised above

the `enter' key. What would Ryoko think about that? A few days of go she would have

applauded .probably. But the two of them seemed to be talking now. Ryoko might get

angry. That was the last thing Washu wanted. They were just getting along again. She

carefully kept from thinking about what she had done to her daughter earlier in the

evening.

Hmmm. maybe it would better if Tenchi just disappeared. No messy questions to

answer. She deleted the program and wrote a new one to coax the gateway of a

wormhole from another galaxy to open under Tenchi's makeshift bed upon the floor.

She checked her calculations one more time with a smile. The last thing any of them

needed was for Ryoko to find an incinerated Tenchi on the floor. As the old saying went,

it was better to do it right the first time. Mistakes were messy and time consuming.

"See ya, Tenchi," she said out loud, intending it to be a chortle. But it sounded off. She

frowned and took stock of her feelings. What was this hesitation about? Sure he was an

alright guy. after all he let her stay here, and put up with her need for samples. But

what was that really?

Her finger twitched, eager to execute the program, but still her mind debated. Did Tenchi

really deserve banishment? Somehow that seemed too extreme.

Damn. She hated hesitation, preferring to act irresponsibly rather than not to act at all.

Her finger approached the keyboard when a loud crash echoed through the lab,

distracting her.

"What the..?" Washu yelped jumping out of the chair and crossing through a portal into

her main lab to see a heap of turned over equipment and the tail end of a galaxy police

uniform sticking straight up into the air.

"Ouch," muttered an airy voice.

Washu shook her head in disbelief and rubbed her temple. "How'd you get in here

again?"

Tears in her eyes, Mihoshi crawled out from the pile of odd machines and computer

components and rushed Washu heedless of the lake water drenching her uniform.

"Oh it's horrible! I'm sorry, I'm so sorry!" she cried throwing her arms around Washu.

"Yecck! You're all wet! Leggo!" Washu shouted, squirming in Mihoshi's embrace.

"Poor, poor Ryoko. Is she okay?" Mihoshi sobbed into the soft spikes of Washu's hair.

"What are you talking about?" Washu sputtered.

Mihoshi released her and dashed to the tank holding the Masu specimens. "Oh honored

father! You must grieve for your daughter. I'm so, so sorry!" Mihoshi sank down to her

knees and bawled.

"Hey bubblehead!" Washu snarled, brushing Mihoshi molecules from her uniform.

"What's going on?"

Mihoshi sniffled and wiped her tears. "You don't know? It's all over the intergalactic

news. I saw it while I was patrolling in the Yagami. Poor Ryoko. They are being so

mean to her. I can't take it!" She staggered to her feet and ran for the Masaki kitchen

calling for Sasami.

Washu stared after her, scratching her head. That made two people telling her that Ryoko

was in trouble. And all Mihoshi did during her patrols was watch TV, so that almost

made her observations valid.

Her scientific mind unable to let this correlation go untested, Washu settled into a chair at

her main console and tuned in to a galactic news channel. It seemed to be a headline

wait.. The stock photo in the upper left corner of the screen was of

Ryoko with a flowerpot on her head. Washu leaned forward and turned up the volume.

".yes, it is surprising, isn't it?" cooed an attractive female news anchor to her male co-

host. "That Hakubi Ryoko could be such an utter disappointment?"

"Indeed," the man agreed. "The universe expected great things from the daughter of

Hakubi Washu. But that's not what happened was it?"

The woman tittered behind her hand. "Indeed not. After emerging her long

imprisonment, Hakubi Ryoko seems to be cut from coarser intellectual cloth than her

mother. Watch this clip from yesterday to see an example."

The clip ran showing Ryoko sitting alone in the front row of a lecture hall many books

and notes spread about her. Stress was written in the tight lines around her eyes and the

set of her jaw. She was taking copious notes and referencing her heavily highlighted

books as the professor lectured from her podium.

The professor paused and looked out over her students. "So. what principal of

thermodynamics provides the underpinning for this phenomena?" No one raised their

hands for attention so the professor had to choose. "Ryoko. What do you think?"

Ryoko's eyes widened and she stopped writing. Looking frightened, she rose to her feet

as was polite and scanned her notes for a long moment. A derisive laugh from behind her

made her shoulders jerk but she kept looking. She looked up and gulped. "Expansion?"

It was really more of a question than an answer.

The professor smiled kindly. "I'm afraid not."

The laughter from the students spread like a wild fire in the wind so that it echoed softly

from all corners of the auditorium.

Ryoko turned red with shame and grabbed a book and flipped through it franticly.

"Entropy?"

The young girl Washu knew by Mia threw a wadded ball of paper, which hit Ryoko in

the head. "How about stupidity, Ryoko?"

"Mia!" The professor snapped. "Ms. Hakubi, please be seated. Thank you for trying."

Ryoko sunk down in her chair, so low that her legs were almost parallel to the floor. Her

hands were clenched, fingers interlaced, in front of her as she stared off into to space no

longer bothering to take notes.

The screen darkened for a moment then the co-hosts of the news program had returned.

"How disappointing," the woman sighed. "It would have been great to have a new

genius at the GA."

The male co-host looked conspirital. "And Professor Washu still is making no comment.

It seems the embarrassment is too much for her."

"Yes. It has even been said that Ryoko cannot truly be the daughter of Professor Hakubi

and show such little intellectual prowess," the woman said with dire seriousness. "But

when asked to comment on that rumor, Ryoko Hakubi simply paled and flew away."

"An imposter perhaps? Yes that is an interesting."

Washu turned of the monitor with a click of a switch from her chair and sat quietly in the

darkness as the light faded from the screen, reflecting the growing sadness in her heart.

She curled her knees up to her chest and rested her head there. The truth was impossible

to ignore. And neither had been the shame in Ryoko's eyes when she didn't know the

answer.

Tenchi was right.

A tear leaked out of the corner of one eye to dampen her moss-colored tights. She was a

horrible, horrible mother.

The next morning, Ryoyo woke up surrounded by the smell of Tenchi and warm

blankets. She inhaled deeply and snuggled the blankets closer to her as her mind drifted

back to the waking world.

Tenchi.

He had been so kind to her recently. He had always been kind, but he had been even

more so when he had found out about her most recent troubles. Even after she had been

treating him so poorly.

She poked her nose out of the covers and looked a patch of sunlight illuminating part of

Tenchi's wall. He had broken her heart. He had pushed her away. But he had also

apologized.

And she had still cast him away as if she could afford to lose anyone who had treated her

kindly. It had been easy to fall under the assumption that she was a normal person here.

A normal person with friends, family, and a lover. But that was only a gentle illusion,

too sweet to have any real permanence. Her first entry back into her old life had proved

that. She wasn't worthy of her peers. She was just stupid old Ryoko with only one thing

to offer anybody.

And she had better start offering it before it was too late.

She crept out of bed, shedding her wrinkled uniform as she went. She shook her tousled

hair into place and knelt naked at the foot of Tenchi's futon on the floor. As the patch of

sunlight moved down Tenchi's wall and approached him along he floor, she slid a hand

under his blankets and tickled his foot softly.

He murmured in his sleep, moving his foot away from her invading hand. She grinned

her most sultry grin and leaned forward, sliding her hand further up his bare leg.

"Tenchi," she whispered.

At her voice and teasing ministrations his eyes fluttered, opening slowly to focus on her

face. His lips bowed into a smile as he saw her so close to him. Then as sleep left him

and her hand continued up and over his knee, the smile turned into a confused frown.

"R-ryoko?"

"Good morning, Tenchi, " she purred, crawling towards him, her hand still traveling

upwards.

Tenchi caught her wrist and stopped her hand as it began a course towards his inner

thigh. "What are you doing?" he asked in a voice that sounded too high.

"Don't you like what you see, Tenchi?" she purred, ignoring his question.

"Not like this," he said firmly, sliding away from her and gathering the blanket into his

grasp. He walked on his knees until he was behind her and draped the blanket over her

naked body. He hugged her from behind. "You don't have to do this," he whispered

sadly.

"Do what?" she tried to ask in an innocent voice.

"Oh gods, `Yoko. You know exactly what I mean," there were tears in his voice.

"No I don't," she protested stubbornly, staring straight ahead.

"Do you forgive me then? Do you forgive me for breaking your heart?" he asked

fiercely.

She shifted, not wanted to actually lie to him. "I'm trying to," she admitted.

"That's good. I am glad to hear it. Are you all the way there yet?"

"I'm not sure, Tenchi," she admitted.

He hugged her closer. "Well, I'm sure you aren't. Know why?"

She shook her head silently.

"Because last night you let me kiss you and you didn't kiss back."

Her head and shoulders sagged. "I'm sorry, Tenchi. Please let me try again, I can do it

better this time," she begged.

"That's not the point. Not at all! I love you for who you are, and I can't wait for you to

find it in your heart to forgive me for being such a fool. The last thing I want is for you

to feel like you have to use your body to belong here with us."

He couldn't see her face from his angle, but he was certain she was crying softly.

"I want to make love to you more than anything," he whispered into her ear. "But only

when I deserve it again. Right now, I'm happy to be your friend. And as your friend, I

value the kind, brave person you are."

"But not smart, you didn't say smart," she whispered. "I am so stupid."

He shook her lightly to emphasize her point. "You are not stupid. You are plenty smart.

I'm sure you are smarter than me, Honey. Look at what you are comparing yourself

against."

Ryoko turned to face him, all the while holding the blanket closely around her. One bare

arm snaked out to wipe the few tears from her cheeks. "Thank you for being my friend

Tenchi. But I need to be that smart to have a family too."

"Why? Why is that important?"

"Washu," Ryoko sighed heavily. "Washu expects it."

Out in the hall, an eavesdropping Washu winced. She had come by to apologize and see

if she could salvage her relationship with her only daughter. However, it seemed the

universe was not finished pointing out her errors.

"I know and she's crazy. I told her so, last night," came Tenchi's voice through the door.

Washu frowned and considered running that wormhole program again. He certainly

wasn't helping matters by talking that way.

"Be careful Tenchi." Now came Ryoko's voice. "The last time someone tried to tell her

that, they disappeared."

Washu's frown melted into a look of guilt. She had forgotten about that, but Little Ryoko

had remembered. What else had Washu forgotten?

Ryoko's voice sounded again. "You - you stood up to her for me? Oh Tenchi!" There

was a sound of cloth shifting as if they were embracing. "You don't know what that

means to me. I keep expecting she will make me vanish one day because I'm not good

enough."

Washu's guilty look deepened as her mistakes became painfully clear to her. She took

her ear off of Tenchi's door and walked away, back towards her lab. She had so often

wondered what had ruined her relationship with Ryoko. At one time she thought it was

just Kagato's influence. Now she had no choice but to look closer to home for her

answers.

Chapter Six

Ryoko paused from taking her half-hearted notes and itched her foot. Damn notes. And

damn school. She was only here because she needed to keep trying. Trying for Washu.

If Ryoko could just work a little harder, maybe it would all turn out okay. Washu

wouldn't have controlled her if she had done better. She absently twirled a lock of ice

blue hair around a finger, and made a real effort to stop thinking that way. Tenchi had

made her promise to try to think better things about herself. It was wrong of Washu to do

that to her. It was just surprising that she wasn't more angry about that. If Washu would

just understand her better, Ryoko could forgive her even for that transgression.

"Hakubi-san, perhaps you could join us instead of dreaming at your desk?" asked the

professor of her mechanical engineering class.

Ryoko flushed and looked to the floor. "Sorry, Sensei," she said in a quiet voice.

"Hhhm." The professor acknowledged in irritation. "Perhaps you could redeem yourself

by explaining the mechanics involved in machines that transmute between mineral and

animal form?"

Ryoko blanched, searched for the answer in her mind, and drew a blank. "I don't know,

sir."

"Sure ya do," came a familiar and encouraging voice from Ryoko's left.

Ryoko was stunned to see her mother in her teaching robes and glasses, seated right next

to her. "Mom?"

"Professor Washu, this is really most irregular!" the professor protested.

"That's Director Emeritus Washu, to you," Washu stated haughtily. "Give her a second,

if you please, her processing speed is different from yours." Washu took Ryoko's hand

and held it. "Think honey, I know you know this one. Think about Ryo-Ohki. Think

about all of the repairs you have made to her."

Holding her mother's hand, Ryoko closed her eyes and tried to be calm. But Washu was

here. Right here! Bearing witness to her stupidity. It was all over. She'd be turned off,

thrown into the junk heap just like an outmoded computer. Think of the answer? She

couldn't even remember her name right now!

Then, all at once, there was a soft tickle at the edge of her mind, like a feather brushing

over sensitive skin. The sensation changed to the feeling of gentle laughter that carried

the flavor of lemons and sugar.

::Silly little Ryoko. I love you no matter what,:: came a loving caress from her mother's

mind. :: Don't let my hang ups become your own. Now think. ::

There was no doubting the truth of those words. It was impossible to lie mind to mind, so

Washu had to be telling the truth. And she was here helping her too. Ryoko bit her lips

and sifted through her mind, looking for the answers.

:: Carrots,:: Washu hinted.

"Oh! Of course!" Ryoko shouted sitting up straight. She got to her feet and stood with

confidence. " Machines or constructs made from animal and mineral components require

high metal concentrations to be able to switch forms. The type of metal depends on what

is most compatible with the organism's cellular structure. For example, my Ryo-ohki

needs to eat lots of carrots because the iron in them helps keep her two forms stable."

The professor nodded curtly, still upset about the perceived invasion of his classroom.

"Moving on, Mia could you please tell me.."

Washu squeezed Ryoko's hand and smiled warmly. "Good job, Sweetie. I knew you

could do it."

Ryoko smiled shyly and squeezed back. She went back to taking notes with Washu

leaning over to make a suggestion from time to time, as well as speaking up to correct the

professor more often than naught.

As the class let out, Washu slipped an arm around Ryoko's waist. "That was fun! Are

you ready for lunch?"

Ryoko's smile faltered. "I don't usually eat lunch here."

"How come?" Washu asked, still steering Ryoko to a particular canteen she remembered

liking when she taught here.

Rather, than trying to articulate the problem, Ryoko sent images of sexual harassment

from the boys, and a continuum of snubbing to outright derision from the girls. Even

though Sasami had been packing Ryoko a great lunch these days, the prevailing social

situation usually made Ryoko too depressed to eat.

"So that's why you always come home so hungry, huh?" Washu asked wryly. "What do

you usually do then?"

Ryoko shrugged, not really wanting to say that she spent the two hour lunch break

prepping, with small reward, for the next class.

::Don't you ever take a break,:: Washu asked over the link, catching Ryoko's thought.

Ryoko's only response was to clamp down on her end of the link to prevent further

leakage.

Washu sighed. "That's not good for you."

Ryoko frowned at her mother's hypocrisy. "So when was the last time you ate?"

Washu reddened. "About 48 hours ago, I guess. I don't set a good example, do I?" She

saw the canteen entrance and pushed Ryoko through. "So let's both eat, then."

Feeling braver with Washu at her side, Ryoko consented and before long, they were both

seated at a table with heaping bowls of pasta, as the previous occupants of the table had

been unable to withstand Washu's glare.

Ryoko sucked a long noodle into her mouth and chewed trying to ignore the low

murmurs sounding around them. They were talking about her, she just knew it.

"Ignore them," Washu said with her mouth full. "I get this all the time."

"You do?" Ryoko asked in surprise.

"Oh yeah," Washu said after a sip of water. "It isn't always easy being a genius. People

get jealous."

"I wouldn't know," Ryoko murmured, looking away.

"That doesn't matter to me. The fact that you call me Mom again, that we are friends

again, that's what matters."

"But being smart is so important to you!" Ryoko protested.

"To me yes. Because that's what I'm best at. But I made the mistake of not realizing

that your talents are different from mine. Not better or worse, just different."

"But you've always told me. you put me in those hard you sure?" Ryoko

stuttered.

Washu shook her head. "I may be a genius but I'm not perfect. I let my issues project

onto you. That was wrong of me. I'm so sorry for not being a better mother," her voice

was getting thick. "I should not have done that to you. And the other night. I shouldn't

have done that either. How can I ever make up for that?"

"Mom," Ryoko said urgently. "It's okay. Really. Please. please don't be sad." She

patted Washu on the arm hesitantly. "It's cool." And it was. As awful as it had been to

be controlled again, it was worse to think she might be discarded. Knowing that wasn't

going to happen made up for everything.

Washu was about to reply when Mia and a couple of her cronies oozed up to the table,

smiling big, bright, fake, smiles.

"Dr. Hakubi! I thought that was you!" Mia cooed. "Ryoko, you naughty girl, you should

have told me, as your BEST friend, that your mother was visiting the campus today."

As Mia rocked back on her heels and beamed, Ryoko shot Washu an incredulous look but

held her tongue.

Washu just started at the girl coolly.

"Any way, could you please sign my copy of your famous text?" she asked thrusting

forward a copy of Genius and Genetics. "Please?"

Washu pretended to examine her nails and said calmly. "Ryoko dear, this girl has

tormented you, lied to me, and almost damaged or relationship. Why aren't you kicking

her ass?"

"What? Could you repeat that?" Ryoko asked with clear disbelief.

"You seem to be under the misapprehension that I would prefer you to be harmed rather

than to fight back. Please take this as a correction," Washu stated spinning more pasta

around her fork.

"You want me to beat her up?" Ryoko clarified.

Mia squeaked, watching the exchange as one might watch a tennis match.

"Yes. You are a beautiful martial artist. That's a strength I gave to you as an important

part of your design. For situations just like this," she added giving Mia a hard look. "But

please make it quick, else your lunch will get cold."

Ryoko cracked her knuckles, her veneer of meekness being rapidly replaced by her

natural look of strength and control. "OK then. Save my seat."

The End

Epilogue

After a long day in the fields, Tenchi wearily trudged up the stairs to his room wearing

nothing but a robe. After many hours of back breaking labor, he had gone straight to the

Onsen for a soak. Now his muscles were incredibly relaxed and he could count on falling

asleep as soon as he settled in. He would have liked to check in with Ryoko first, but she

had been no where to be found. He hoped she was okay.

Reaching the door to his room, he found Ryoko laying across his bed, her head facing its

foot, still in her school uniform, and studying from a text book. She looked up as he

entered and cast him an unreadable glance.

Tenchi stopped in his tracks and regarded her questioningly. "Comfy?"

A small smile pursed her lips and she shut the book, turning the movement into a lazy

stretch. "Yep. This is much more comfortable than your father's drafting table." She

blinked at him and made no move to rearrange the hem of her plaid skirt that had slid

above her white panties.

Tenchi cocked his head to one side. "Ryoko? What's going on?"

The barest tip of a fang parted her lips as Ryoko looked at him steadily. "What do you

want to be going on, my Tenchi?"

"R-ryoko!"

She arched her back and leaned forward on her knees, showing him that her white oxford

shirt was unbuttoned to her waist, revealing a lacy white demi-cup bra. "Yes?" she

purred.

A faint trickle of blood, just a drop or too, trickled out of his nose and he wiped it away.

"This isn't really fair of you."

She mock pouted and flipped her head so that all of her hair draped over one shoulder.

"And why not? The drafting table would have been too hard and cold for this," she said,

running the tip of a finger under the inside of her bra cup. "And we might fall off."

"That's not what I meant!" he flared, his rising passion fueling his annoyance. "You are

teasing me!"

She winked out of existence and reappeared behind him with the familiar sound of her

teleportation. She wrapped her arms around him, sliding one hand under his robe and

across his bare chest. "I assure you that I am not."

He went stiff under her arms, refusing to react to her ministrations. "I know what you are

trying, Ryoko, and it won't work. We aren't doing that until you forgive me."

She nibbled on an ear lob and blew softly into his ear. "Okay, so I forgive you."

He struggled out of her arms and turned to face her, primly reclosing his robe. "Just like

that? It doesn't work that way!"

She smiled like a predator cat. "It does for me. I'm a pirate and I can change my mind

whenever I want." She leapt forward and knocked him over, pinning him to the bed.

"Unless you don't want me to forgive you?" She asked, tickling his face with her hair.

"Well. well. no. that's not it!" he protested as she began to kiss his neck hungrily.

"This isn't making sense!"

She pulled back and looked into his eye, this time seriously. "But isn't that me, Tenchi?

Being rash, bold, a little crazy?"

He nodded.

"I'm back to just being me. No more trying to be something I'm not. I'm happy being

good at the things I always have been. Which includes driving you wild!" She made as if

to return to kissing his neck.

"'Yoko. Tell me about your feelings. I hurt them. I know I did," he whispered.

"I'm over that Tenchi, truly I am. I was almost there when you stood up to Mom for me.

That proved more to me than you will ever guess." She ran a hand down his abdomen

and cupped his firm erection with the bowl of her hand. "I missed you so much."

With great reluctance, he pulled her hand away. "No. Listen to me, this isn't right. You

can't be ready for this yet."

Her lower lip jutted out in the sexist pout Tenchi had ever seen. "You big tease," she

complained. "Look at you laying there and you won't let me have you."

He rolled his eyes heavenwards as if in a pleas for strength. "You're calling me a tease?"

"Don't you want me, Tenchi?" she whispered in his ear, nipping lightly on the lobe.

Groaning, he tried to push her away gently, but she held firm. "You are making this very

difficult for me."

She licked her lips. "Don't you?"

He let out a long, gusty sigh. "Yes."

She chuckled and ran the tip of her tongue across the sensitive skin between his ear lobe

and where it connected to the side of his head. "You don't need to protect me anymore

Tenchi.

"Ryoko, I just don`t want you to feel you HAVE to do this for me," he said uncounsiouly

twitching his hips against her.

"Oh no lover, I WANT this. I want it right now." She ground back into him.

He choked, half way a gasp, half way the absence of breath, and slid a hand along the

lower curve of her back. "Why now?" he murmured with the last of his self-control.

She grinned like a lioness upon a gazelle, the points of her teeth glinting in the light. "I

beat someone up today." This time she took his erection into a firm hand and squeezed.

"You know what that does to me, Tenchi. Are you going to make me beg?"

"No," the word lingered into a groan as Ryoko found interesting things to do with her

fingers.

"Good." She twisted out of the skirt, and let the shirt fall around her shoulders, catching

at her elbows. "I'm back to basics. Back to what I do best." She unknotted his robe and

pushed the fabric away from his skin, dropping moist kisses across his chest as one foot

toyed with his toes.

"Mmmmm. But you are good at more than this.. Ah!" he shouted as the kisses drifted

lower."

"Don't talk," she whispered around the head of his penis. She drew a long lick over the

tip and blew softly over it, making him shiver.

"Cold? " She leaned forward and raised her hips over him. "Let me help you with that."

Using her hand as a guide, she lowered her body onto him, taking him deep within her. It

was easy as she had well spent her time waiting in his bed. She sat still for a moment,

enjoying the feeling of having him back inside of her, enjoying that strange sense of

completion.

Then she leaned forward, taking great care not to dislodge him, and stretched the length

of her body accross his, leg to leg, arm to arm, fingers interlaced. With tiny, clenching

movements, she shifted her hips against his, drawing forth sharp sparks of sensation from

the both of them.

"You're back," Tenchi whispered in her ear. "You came back to me." He sounded close

to tears.

Touched, she placed tiny kisses along his clavicle. "I always will, my Tenchi."

"I'm so sorry," he gulped, bringing one of her hands to his lips, kissing it with wonder as

one tear traced down his cheek. "I love you more than anything."

"I love you too," she whispered fiercely, pushing her hips down more sharply.

"Tenchi." she grunted, "There is only you. only you."

He held her hips down more firmly against hers and met her stroke for stroke, staring

intently into her eyes.

She freed her hands from his to brace herself, one hand on each side of him, arching her

back to achieve even deeper penetration. "Tenchi!"

As her muscles clamped down on his, he felt himself expanding, expanding, his hands

gripping the cheeks of her bottom and holding her in place after one last thrust.

Release.

The two of them called out words the other couldn't really comprehend and fell together

from a high cloud along a beam of dazzling light.

When they again found themselves in their bed, they crawled into each other's arms as

best they could and snuggled together as the waves of slumber washed over them.

There would be time later for more loving just for the joy of it. This had been something

else. Something more. The rejoining of what had broken apart, a melding that needed to

cool before further stress was applied.

Notes: Well, that's the last of the "Wanting More" series. I had a blast writing it. It is

amusing to me that I wrote the first story with the single goal of trying my hand at an

erotic scene and found that I couldn't resist building a more complex story around it. Ah,

so it goes. My many thanks go out to my writing pals for their help and support on this

one!

John Takis - Wrote Ryoko's acceptance letter and provided editing and continuity

checks! John, ever since we have been writing Daria fics I have enjoyed your friendship

and help. I'll never forget the lunch we had (Pizza of all things!) when we both happened

to be in London at the same time. Life is weird, but it brings the best friendships to pass.

Dark Jezter - It's been a blast chatting with you online and I enjoy your company very

much. You bring a good perspective as a prereader and help me keep these guys in

character!

Krin Dreamweaver - One of my new online pals, let me say that your writing inspires

me to keep trying to come up with new ideas. I am pleased to be your friend and have

enjoyed the synergy we share when it comes to prereading for each other. I look forward

to more!

Update 12/19/2001: More olden times Tenchi fic found orbiting around defunct websites! I had forgotten "Ryoko's Sake was an old pen name. This is fun!