a Ranma 1/2 fanfic by
			Scott Schimmel

			Chapter Four


	The events of early morning did little to improve Akane
Tendo's mood.  She was constantly alert, searching for flaws not only
in Ranma's performance, but also in her own.  And, whether they were
her imagination or not, she found them -- a multitude of tiny, nearly
insignificant differences, each adding its own weight to the
premonition of doom that weighed her down.

	Still, breakfast, at least, had been somewhat less than a
total disaster.  Thanks to Nodoka's presence, she hadn't had to fight
Genma over food to keep up the pretense.  She had eaten rather
sloppily, almost as Ranma normally did (1); and he, miraculously
enough, had shown sufficient restraint.  Nobody had noticed anything
more out of the ordinary than usual, she was certain.  Even if Nabiki
had, inexplicably, continuously directed an amused smile toward Ranma.

	Finally, Ranma had set down his bowl and stood.  "We'd better
leave for school," he told Akane.  Most of the family stopped to
puzzle at his words, and even Nabiki quirked an eyebrow.

	"Isn't it a little early for that?" Akane asked.  It was a
rhetorical question; the two had half an hour to spare.

	"You certainly have become more devoted to your studies,
Akane," Kasumi noted with approval.

	Nabiki chuckled.  "Or maybe the two of them just want to be
alone for a little while, eh, sis?"


	Soun Tendo caught his daughter's implication instantly.  "Why,
it -is- getting rather late, isn't it?"  He beamed happily and clapped
"Ranko" on the shoulder.  "Go right ahead, go right ahead."

	Akane smiled back at her father and stood, sliding from
beneath his hand as she did so.  "S-Sure thing..." she stuttered,
hoping that she looked more relaxed than she felt.  "C'mon, Akane."

	As they left the room, Akane heard Nodoka murmur something
about "such good friends."

1 - Nodoka had remarked on Ranko's improving manners.


	"So," she asked, "What's the rush this morning?  Don't tell me
you've suddenly decided to take an interest in school."

	"That'll be the day."  Ranma chuckled and added, "We had to
leave early so we could make a stop at the clinic."

	"To see Dr. Tofuu?" she asked.  Ranma nodded, and she
continued, "You don't think he's found something already?"

	"Nope.  Although it'd be a nice surprise."

	"Then, why...?"

	"To get you some hot water," he answered in a matter-of-fact
tone.  "You can't change at home, with Mom there." (1)

	"Change...?"  Akane's eyes widened.

	"Into a guy," Ranma answered, and Akane realized she'd spoken
the thought aloud.  "You -- I mean 'I' -- can't go to school like

	"But...  I mean, you've done it before, and I thought--"

	"That's only when I didn't have a choice, Akane.  Everyone
knows I hate being a girl."

	"Maybe they'd think you just got splashed on the way to
school.  It wouldn't be the first time.  Nobody would say anything
about it!"  Akane was grasping at straws now.

	Unfortunately, Ranma knew that, too.  "Maybe they wouldn't,
but if 'I' didn't change back all day, they'd notice that." (2)

	"Well... there was the Full-Body Cat Tongue.  We could make up
a story along the same lines, and..."

	Shaking his head, Ranma interrupted.  "And your sister would
start wondering what's up.  Nabiki might understand my hiding from
Mom, but she's sure to wonder why I'm doing it at school, too.  Not to
mention why I'm making up a story like that.  Heck, I'm sure she'd
come up with a way to check to see whether it's true, and if she finds
out it isn't, that's another problem we'll have to deal with."


	Ranma ignored the interruption.  "Look, Akane, it was your
idea to keep this a secret.  And I've gotta say, it's a pretty good
idea, for you.  So why--?"

	"MY idea?  This was YOUR idea, you jerk!  And what do you
mean, it's a pretty good idea -for me-?!  What's wrong with my ideas?"

	"You sure you want me to answer that?"

	"Ranma..." she growled, clenching her fists.

	"You seriously think it's a -good- idea?"

	"Of course it is!" Akane snapped.  "Just what do you think is
wrong with it, I'd like to know?"

	"Well, nothin'," Ranma answered, shrugging.  "I was just
wondering why you didn't want to do the acting and go along with it,
if it's so good."

	Akane opened her mouth to reply... and kept it there as
Ranma's words sunk in.  It opened and closed, silently, for a few
moments before Akane could bring herself to speak.  "You... you
tricked me!"

	"Me?" Ranma asked, trying very hard not to laugh. (3)

	"Fine," grumbled Akane.  "We'll go and see Dr. Tofuu.  But no

1 - Ranma was good enough at getting into hot water on his own, but
    he figured Akane could use the help.
2 - Chances are the boys, at least, wouldn't have complained, though.
3 - Ranma acting innocent is like a big neon sign screaming "I'm
    guilty as sin."  It runs in the family.


	"Ranma, Akane," the young doctor greeted them.  "Is there
something I can do for you?"

	"We just stopped for some hot water, Doc.  My mom's visiting
the Tendos, so Akane can't change there."

	"You don't say..."  It was a puzzling statement, but Tofuu had
long ago learned not to question such things, where Ranma was
involved.  The youth had been the focus of far stranger events, after
all.  "Well, help yourself."

	"Thank you, sensei," Akane said.  "Uh... you wouldn't happen
to have found anything that might...?"  She trailed off as Tofuu shook
his head.

	"Not yet, I'm afraid.  But don't worry too much.  It's only
been a day."

	"I know, I was just hoping..."  She sighed.  "Thanks, sensei."

	The doctor nodded in acknowledgement, then turned, as a
thought struck him.  "I almost forgot to ask.  Did Cologne know of
anything that might help, Ranma?"

	Ranma, who was watching a kettle of water in the vain hope
that this observation would cause it to come to a boil faster, blinked
at the question. (1)  "Uh, Cologne?  Oh, yeah.  Well, y'see..."

	"He didn't ask her yet," supplied Akane.

	"Hey!  It's not like I don't wanna get my body back, you

	"Are you worried about asking for her help, Ranma?"  Tofuu
frowned thoughtfully.  "She's never done anything to hurt you, with
the exception of the Full-Body Cat Tongue, and she's helped you in the
past.  Is there some reason you can't approach her now?" (2)

	"You're right, Doc, the old ghoul's probably not a problem.
But there are two reasons I didn't want to go see her just yet."
Aware of Akane's curious gaze, he continued, "First, the best place to
find her is at her restaurant, but either Shampoo or Mousse would
usually be there, too.  Depending on their mood, that might be
dangerous for whichever of us went."

	"Whichever of us went?" Akane asked.

	"Yeah, that's the second thing.  The ghoul would probably help
me, but I'm not sure she'd help Akane.  Since I look like Akane at the
moment, I'm not sure I could get her to listen to me long enough to
convince her, if I went.  But if Akane went, she might notice it
wasn't me in there.  I don't know what she'd do then, but I'm pretty
sure I don't want to find out.  I mean, if she thinks Akane's a demon
or something..."  Ranma noticed that Akane looked distinctly
unimpressed.  "...What?  What is it?"

	It was Tofuu who answered.  "Is there some reason you couldn't
go together, Ranma?"


	"I knew it," Akane proclaimed.  "He never even thought of
that.  You idiot."

	"Oh, like you should talk.  Remember how you were complaining
about -your- plans?"

	Tofuu coughed.  "Be that as it may..."  He gazed steadily at
one, then the other, until their mutual anger had subsided somewhat,
than finished, "Shouldn't you be going?  You'll be late to school."

	"What?" said Akane.  "Oh no!  And we left so early, too..." (3)

	"Big deal," Ranma mumbled.

	"What was that?"

	Ranma snatched the kettle and held it out toward Akane.  "I
said, 'It's done.'  Here."

	"You might want to wait for that to cool a little, Ranma,"
Tofuu suggested.

	"Oh, right, Doc.  Thanks.  C'mon, Akane."

	The two ran out the door, Ranma still holding the kettle with
one hand.  Tofuu smiled to himself as the sounds of their voices,
yelling back and forth, quickly faded into the distance.  "Still
trying to do it all yourself, Ranma?"  He turned to look out the
window.  "Maybe this will help..."

	So why did he feel as though he'd forgotten something?

1 - Unlike a pot, a watched kettle does boil.
2 - Other than a weak stomache, presumably.
3 - One of the laws of anime:  The protagonist can never be early to
    school.  He/she's always either barely on time, or late.


	Akane nearly stumbled as Ranma caught her shoulder.  "Wait,
Akane!" the (now) larger girl said.

	"What's wrong?  We're almost there."  Only one corner and a
few dozen meters stood between them and the gate of Furinkan; they
could easily cover the distance with time to spare.  "Oh, let me take
care of Kunou today, okay?  I need to work off some stress."

	Ranma smirked.  "After what you did to him yesterday, I'd be
surprised to see him at school today."

	"Oh.  I... I forgot..."  The surprise and horror in Akane's
voice was matched by the expression on her face, Ranma noticed.  But
then, she never had been able to hide her emotions very well. (1)

	"Don't worry about him," Ranma said, trying to sound
reassuring.  "He'll be fine.  He'll probably be back a lot sooner than
anyone would like."

	"I... guess so."  Akane turned her head to look directly at
Ranma.  "Then, why did we stop?"

	Ranma held out the kettle.  "It's cool enough now that you
won't hurt yourself."

	Akane took the kettle, raising it slightly and... staring at
it numbly.

	Ranma crossed his arms.  "Well?  We can go as soon as you

	Change.  Akane lifted the kettle higher, above her head.  All
she had to do was tilt it and let the warm water pour over her.  It
would mat her hair and cascade down her back, and the warmth would
bring with it that peculiar tingling and twisting feeling.  Her skin
would itch, and her body would stretch and expand and -change- and her
stomach would drop and her voice would deepen and her head would spin
as she adjusted to the changes in her body and she would no -he-
wouldn't be a she she would be he would be a man...

	The kettle dropped from her limp hand and clattered noisily on
the street.  Akane, as if following it, dropped to her knees, and
would have fallen forward if Ranma had not caught her by the

	"A-- Akane!  What's wrong?  Are you okay?" (2)

	She lifted her head agonizingly slowly until her gaze met his.
Ranma was shocked to see the tears that sparkled in Akane's eyes.
"Ranma," she all but whispered, her voice terrifyingly shaky.  "I...
I can't..."

	Akane... was...?

	He suppressed a sigh; he never had been able to deal with a
woman in tears.  "All right," he said quietly, and felt the tension
flow out of her.  "It's all right.  You don't have to."


	With some effort, he smiled as he helped her to her feet.
"Don't worry, Akane.  We'll think of something else."

	He hoped.

1 - Much Ranma knows. ^_^
2 - Why -do- people always ask this?  You'd think "No" would be the
    obvious answer.