AN: This is a Ranma/Akane fic, but Ranma is somewhat frequently in her female form over the course of the story. If you have problems with femmeslash / yuri, this is probably the time to go find a hetfic in a fandom in which cold water is less of an issue.

For my own "true fiancee," who is to blame for my current Ranma-obsession.

A Hairsbreadth Away

The blame probably rested on Shampoo, in the end. Nabiki firmly denied having had anything to do with anything, and what kind of cur would doubt Nabiki's word?

Shampoo did later protest that a "strange girl" dressed in veils had, for the price of a trifling fortune, provided her with crucial information. The veiled woman had revealed that if Ranma received a "real" kiss in the moonlight at precisely 9:15, his heart would be for all eternity bound to the girl who kissed him. Other people might have difficulty swallowing such an unlikely story, but Shampoo had been whirling in the Saotome boy's orbit for long enough to know that around him, the more ridiculous a story, the more likely it was to be true.

The young man in question had been sitting on the roof of the Tendo dojo on that particular night, staring disconsolately at what few stars he could perceive through Tokyo's haze of pollution. He had quarreled with his most prominent fiancée again after school, and the atmosphere was still uncomfortably hostile. Not that it mattered if an unattractive girl like that was in a good mood towards him or not. After all, if she was so touchy as to take offence at a purely well-intentioned and friendly remark about how much weight she had been gaining lately, then that was her problem. Yeah.

His sulky reveries were interrupted by a bicycle wheel almost crushing his spine

"What Ranma doing under Shampoo's bicycle?" Shampoo's big eyes were very blank and innocent, a sure sign of danger. And her bike had seemed suspiciously well-aimed, hitting the centre of his back with deadly force.

"Aaargh! Shampoo, what are you doing riding your bike on our roof?" He didn't really expect a reason or explanation, as he finally managed to wriggle free. He was becoming tired of being surrounded by crazy people. "You really shouldn't be here," he added firmly, glaring at the girl. The last thing I need is another reason for Akane to be mad with me, he added silently.

Shampoo gave him a radiant smile, apparently unconscious of the level of agony she had just put him through. "I so happy I find you in time!" she cooed. "Shampoo kiss you now, yes?" She did something complicated and blindingly fast. When she finished, Ranma was trapped under the bicycle again, this time with the Amazon's beautiful face inches from his own.

"Hang on a minute!" Ranma struggled to push her away, despite the weight of the bicycle and her own surprising strength. The same people who would doubtthe magical hour of a quarter pastninewould also doubt that any sixteen year old boy would resist a kiss from a gorgeous girl with pneumatic curves, but they would be unaware of Ranma's peculiarly complicated social life. All he could think of was the results if Akane was to come looking for him at this exact moment. And she might, if only in order to inform him one last time what a jerk he was. Akane had a preternatural ability to choose exactly the wrong moment to turn up.

"Shampoo no kiss Ranma," he said firmly, trying to wriggle out from her steel grip. "Look, I don't have the time for this tonight."

Shampoomerely giggled brightly, and leaned determinedly in towards his mouth. Ranma realised dimly that her parted lips were about to reach his, and her small pink tongue was gently protruding, with obvious intent. His struggles became more furious, despite an unwilling sense of fascination, and the treacherous thought thatas Shampoo was obviously unstoppable, the only sane thing to do was relax and let...

Slander to Nabiki or not, it was probably no coincidence that at that exact moment the couple were doused with a bucketload of icy water.

The unfortunate result of this was that the suddenly female Ranma, in one nightmarish moment, became convinced that she was aboutfind out what it was like tohave a cat's tongue in her mouth. Her shriek of pure horror reached its peak before morphing partway into a suspiciously feline yowl.

"Someone needs to get Ranma down!" Soun wailed, tears flowing copiously down his cheeks. We'll soon have no roof left, and my baby girls will die of the cold!" Another shower of debris fell from the roof, as Ranma's terrified, furious mews echoed through the night. She would have sounded quite pathetic, if she was not destroying the dojo with inhuman ferocity.

Kasumi absently stroked the shivering, soaked kitten in her arms. She may have had some suspicion that the little creature had something to do with Ranma's abrupt breakdown, but she was anything but a vindictive woman. "Oh dear,"she said in her dreamy, unconcerned way. "Ranmasounds very upset, doesn't she?" She tickled Shampoo under her chin, but to no avail; Shampoo was not in the mood to purr. Foronce in her life, she was considering whether discretion was indeed the better part of valour,while a female, preternaturally powerful Ranma who thought she was a cat was not worth lingering over.

It was highly unlikely that, even ifRanma thought she was a cat, she could be persuaded to marry one at that precise moment.

Nabiki dragged the third sister, more or less by her cropped head of hair, out of the house. A small black pig scurried at their feat, squeaking crossly. "You have to," Nabiki was insisting. "You know you're the only one who can calm him down when he's like this." There was a curious smirk haunting her mouth.

Akane heaved a martyred sigh. She was aware, in the very secret recesses of her mind, of a shyly pleasurable pride in the way Ranma seemed to recognise and want her when he thought he was a cat. Or she was a cat, as the case would be now. But she was not going to admit to it, especially right now when they were on extremely bad terms.

Still, duty was duty.

She stood apart from the others and held her arms out invitingly. "Here, Ranma… Kitty kitty?" she called to the silhouette of her fiancé, framed crouching against the moon.

There was a still moment, and then Ranma sprang. Borne back under her weight, Akane found herself lying flat on the ground, with a purring, adoring girl swarming all over her. Her cheeks began to warm.

"Oh, you calmed her down!" Kasumi said happily, failing to react at all to the rather eyebrow-raising sight of the girls tangled together on the ground, with one nuzzling the other's cheek with feline kisses. "Well done, little sister!"

The kitten in Kasumi's arms was giving Akane a very nasty look, which affordedAkane a certain amount of comfort. Annoying Shampoo meant that she was doing something right, somehow. She didn't happen tonotice that only Nabiki kicking out at the crucial momenthad prevented P-chan latching onto Ranma's finger with sharp little teeth, but she would in any case have put it down to Ranma's habitual cruelty to the little pig.

"Oh, he recognises his fiancée again." There was more than a note of smugness in Soun's sentimental response. Shampoo squawked nastily at him, and leapt down from Kasumi's arms. She streaked off into the night, presumably in search of hot water. P-chan, recovering from the stunning kick, swore equally violently in pig language and followed her into the darkness.

Nabiki was smiling to herself. A detached observer might have noticed that she too seemed remarkably smug. That might, of course, have had something to do with the camera she had just stowed away in what were remarkably large pockets for such a tailored pair of pants. "Young love. It's just so cute," she drawled. "I guess you'll just have to look after her until she recovers her senses, Akane. But I'm sure you can manage," she added meaningfully.

Akane, who had managed to pull herself up to her knees, was cautiously stroking the ferociously purring girl curled up on her lap. She nodded uncertainly. "Yeah. I guess I'm stuck with her for a while." A reluctant smile played on her lips.

She would die before admitting it, but Ranma was definitely kind of cute when she was all kittenish and cuddly. At least she couldn't manage insulting remarks about other girls' figures in this state.

It was very late when Akane finally bestirred herself. She had let the time tick by because she was absorbed in her homework, and because it was cosy, reading in a warm room after the rest of the household had gone to bed. Not because she liked the feeling of her betrothed sprawled bonelessly across her lap. Of course not.

It did not help her state of mind to remember that the first time Ranma had been like this, he had kissed her. Not that he remembered, or that it counted, and he probably would have kissed anybody under the circumstances, but…

She realised the fingers of one hand were playing gently with a plaited pigtail, and snatched her hand back.

"Ranma, wake up!" She more sharply than she had intended, perhaps to counterbalance her unintended caress.Ranma lifted her head to look reproachfully at her, stretched in a way that pushed her breasts at a new angle against Akane's thighs, and settled straight down again.

"Ranma! Oh… kitty kitty kitty?" Akane tried in desperation.

This time Ranma lifted herself more fully up, and banged her face affectionately against Akane's skull.

"Ouch," Akane grumbled, managing to push Ranma off into a heap beside her, and scrambling to her feet before her companion could climb back onto her lap. "I would havesmacked you for that if I'd thought you meant it. Now, I'm going to bed," she announced. She glared downwards, holding her bruised head with one hand. Ranma looked lovingly and uncomprehendingly back up at her, andbatted atsome invisible toy in the air in front of her. "It's all very well acting cute like that, but don't think you're coming to bed with me, young… woman,"Akane said, mock-sternly. It was very difficult to be severe with someone who not only was convinced she was a cat, but who had made it abundantly clear that Akane was the only person who could offer comfort and happiness to her. "You're not really a cat, you know. You can sleep here."

Ranma rolled onto her back, batted her paws - no, hands - in the air, and purred. Akane sighed. She went to her room, shut the door, and tried to close her ears to the heartbroken yowling outside it. "Why me?" she demanded of the universe.

A few moments later, P-chan was fleeing Akane's bedroom in a flurry of outraged squeaks, while Ranma contentedly curled into a ball at Akane's feet. "Poor P-chan. Even when you think you're a cat, you manage to bully him atrociously," she scolded fondly, promising herself she would make it up to her other – she meant real - pet. "Well - goodnight. And I think I'm going to regret this… You better stay down there, you pervert." She pulled the covers around her.

It took a while to get to sleep with a human-shaped cat at her feet, but Akane was used to sleeping with a small black pig, after all. And Ranma's snores were slightly less deafening in girl form. Akane could feel sleep, as inviting as a pool of melted dark chocolate, waiting for her to sink in…

She was disturbed by a female slinking up to lie at her side, head snuggled on her shoulder. She started, and stared suspiciously into Ranma's drowsy face. Of course, it was foolish to expect a cat to stay at the foot of the bed just because she was told… Or it would be, ifRanma wasreally a cat, andshe was decidedly not one.The dark-haired girl glared suspiciously, but Ranma's face was innocently relaxed in repose, and her paws - hands - were curled up under her own breast, just like a sleepy kitten.She was utterly … adorable. Akane let the thought pass through her head, and then banished it.

"Go back to your place," Akane whispered. "Go on - shoo! Naughty kitty."

Ranma purred a little, and let her eyelids drop completely.

If Ranma really had been a cat like Shampoo, Akane rationalised, she would of course have kicked her back to the foot of the bed. But she was a well-built - very well-built - young woman, andstruggling in bed with a girl who thought she was a cat would be… undignified, and probably perverted. Nabiki would never let her live it down.

Besides… It felt nice, feeling another girl snuggled against her. Very nice. It reminded Akane of the years just after her mother's death, when nightmares would send her creeping into Kasumi's bed. Her sister would cuddle her close and she would drift off to sleep, feeling safe and loved, surrounded by feminine warmth. Akane had regretted becoming too old to go to her sister for comfort and cuddles when things went wrong, and having Ranma so close next to her gave her thatlost feeling ofsecure warmth.

Well, then.Ranma was, to all intents and purposes, currently more feline that Shampoo could ever be. No one could blame Akane for sharing a bed with a cat. It was a perfectly natural and reasonable thing to do, after all,nomore questionable than sleeping with P-chan; they were both innocent animals, incpabale of romantic or perverted feeling.There was the comfort of knowing that Ranma would not remember any of this afterwards, in any case; there would be no teasing and tormenting, no uncomfortable admissions. Akane could snuggle close, and no one would ever know.

I think I like you better this way.

With that thought, Akane floated off to the sound of Ranma's sleepy purring.

The first thing Ranma was aware of, when she woke, was another presence in the bed with her, one arm thrown across her body. The second thing, following close and logically on the first,was a sensation of mad panic.

There had been occasions before when Ranma had woken up with someone in the bed next to her, or him, as the case might be, and it had never, ever turned out well. Usually it had taken several days of apologies and beatings before Akane would speak to her again. Stupid violent tomboy - always assuming the worst…

And they had been getting along together so well until the disagreement last night, nothing more serious than a couple of minor spats. She had almost begun to think… No. Probably a dangerous train of thought. Especially under the circumstances.

Who would it be this time?She offered up a prayer to any powers that were listening that it not be Shampoo again.Akane's jealousy was even more dangerous than usual where the Amazon was concerned, and Ranma was aware of something slightly less concrete than a memeory involving Shampoo and moonlight.

There were worse alternatives than Shampoo, of course. If it was Kuno…

Don't be a coward, Ranma, she told herself firmly. Open your eyes, and face it like a man.

She cautiously lifted one eyelid, and then another. Then she squeezed her eyes shut tight, and tried peeking again, just to be sure she hadn't been mistaken and the dark hair belonged to Kodachi or someone.

The sight that met her eyes remained unchanged. Akane's face, as peaceful and innocent as a child's, long lashes resting on her cheek. So close that Ranma's breath must be tangible on her skin.It wasAkane's arm, wrapped protectively around her, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Ranma thought hard about this for a minute. She could not remember the preceding day very well, let alone the important events ofthe night,but it was somewhat obvious what must have happened. It was also obvious, by the way she felt her upper body pressing against Akane's side, what form she was in.

She tried to summon outrage over the offence to her manhood, but somehow that didn't quite work out. Slowly, a smug grin began to develop on her face. Ha. She had always suspected it.

There seemed only one thing to do, and so she did it. She inclined her face, very slightly, and let her lips touch Akane's mouth, pushed in slumber into a tempting pout.

She felt, rather than saw, Akane's eyes fly open, as her own eyes were instinctively drifting closed. Akane's mouth was very very soft, much softer than a tomboy who rarely wore lip gloss deserved. And sweet… Ranma's own lips parted slightly without her conscious will, caressing Akane's, and she felt a strange fluttering deep inside her when Akane began to return the kiss. Something to do with a female body, she supposed. She'd never felt like that when people tried to kiss her as a boy, but then, she'd never kissed Akane.

When their mouths at last parted, Ranma was pretty sure she looked as dazed as Akane did.

"Ranma." There was a question forming on Akane's face.

This was the point, Ranma realised, where one of them was supposed to say something to ruin it. Instead she said, "Sssh." And they were kissing again, more deeply and passionately this time. Ranma lifted a hand and stroked the side of Akane's face, letting the force of her kissing roll her slightly on top of the other girl, drowning in her mouth. When their lips broke again, Ranma let herself whisper "Good morning, sweetheart," before they joined the next kiss.

The endearment was new, but it felt… like the right thing to say, After all, they were lovers, weren't they? It was the only logical explanation for why she found herself in Akane's bed, and why she had been allowed to kiss her betrothed without suffering permanent physical injury.

Besides, right now, it really did feel like Akane was her sweetheart.

This time, she felt a tongue dart softly against her mouth. She opened herself to it, and their tongues touched, so softly, addictively… And she could feel her breasts pressing against Akane's, which was all wrong, of course, when she was really a boy, but so warm and soft and somehow utterly, perfectly right. The only thing that wasn't quite right was the feel of clothes between them, but their body-heat was burning right through that, and anyway, it would be quick enough to fix… Apparently they had managed it the night before. She really wished she could remember it.

Ranma wasn't sure which one of them was moaning into the kiss, and which was sighing. It half killed her to pull away, but it was time for Akane to say she loved him - her - and then, well… Ranma could feel herself smirking.

Akane looked up at her, her dreaminess tinged with confusion and… something indefinable. "Ranma, why were we…?"

Ranma opened her lips, meaning with all her heart to say the right thing for once. "I love you," would probably be a good start, or if that was too difficult still, something about how pretty Akane's short dark hair looked all mussed up like that, or about how happy she was that their quarrels had been sorted out, or a warning that their fathers would be insufferable if they found out about this.Instead, she heard herself saying, gleefully,

"I knew it! And you call me a pervert!"

"Huh?" Akane began to struggle into a sitting position. "What do you mean?"

"Well, look at me!" Ranma lifted one of her own full breasts in one hand, perilously close to Akane's face. She knew she was grinning like an idiot, but she could not help it, with happiness bubbling up inside her like this.Surely Akane could handle a little teasing when everything had just worked out so utterly, gloriously well. "I should have known that all I need do is wear a dress, and you'd fall into my arms."

Akane made a noise somewhere between a shriek and a yell. "What exactly are you saying?"

Ranma enfolded her in a bear hug. "I was right all along. Boy-hating, huh." She laughed with happiness that was verging on hysteria.

It took her a moment to realise that Akane was not laughing at all. She was not quick enough to forestall the blow. She fell back on the bed, slightly dizzy, as Akane leapt from it.

"Ranma you - you - pervert!"

Ranma floppedback on the bed, realising that something had just gone very wrong. When had it all changed? One moment, Akane had been in her arms, kissing her like there was no tomorrow, and now… Ranma rolled aside just in time, as a bedside table crashed down where her head had been.

"Get out!" Akane shrieked. Her face was red with fury, but Ranma was almost sure there were tears in her eyes. She just couldn't be certain why. The last few minutes made no sense to her at all. There was a strong impulse in her heart to crush her fiancée close and kiss the tears away again, but instincts of self-preservation worked against it.

"Ranma, did you hear me? Just get out of here before I kill you!"

"Akane, there must be some kind of mis-"


She got out.

Before she could close the door, a small black pig scurried forward. He paused on the threshold, giving the human girl an angry, reproachful look, before scurrying inside and leaping into Akane's arms. The door slammed closed behind him.

"Oh, get lost, Ryoga," Ranma grumbled, but there was no heart in it. Not when she was almost sure she could hear Akane crying her heart out behind the closed door.

It was pretty much the last straw that Ryoga was in there with her. Ranma briefly considered marching in again with a kettle, but decided that would break some code of honour or friendship or something.

Just occasionally, it was a pain in the neckhaving adecent streak.

She sighed, and trudged, without enthusiasm, towards the bathroom, still trying to figure out where things had gone off-course.