a Ranma 1/2 fanfic by
			Scott Schimmel

			Chapter Six


      "Hey, Akane!"  The girl bustled up to him and leaned against
the locker next to Akane's, slightly out of breath.  "Are you busy
today?  Sayuri's older sister told her about a new ice cream parlor
she wants to try."

      Smiling apologetically, Ranma eased the locker door shut.  "Sorry,
Yuka, I sort of have plans..."

      "Oh, that's all right.  Next time."

      Sayuri sidled up next to Yuka, grinning impishly.  "Yeah, we'd never
dream of getting between you and your fiancee," she teased, placing
particular emphasis on the last word.

      "Wha--?  Hey, it's not like--"

      "Bye, Akane."  She laughed.  "Let us know what happens,
okay?"  Sayuri
waved airily and began to walk past.

      "But--"  Just what had Akane been telling these girls about him?

      "See you, Akane," Yuka said with a quick nod, scurrying to catch up
the other girl.

      Heaving a sigh, Ranma leaned back against the wall.  "Man, give me
ghosts and loonies any day."  Those, he could handle.  Teenage girls
were something else entirely.

      He thought the day had gone pretty smoothly, though, especially
lunch.  Paying attention during math and chemistry hadn't been easy,
but he'd managed well enough that he hadn't attracted any suspicion.
He'd even managed to correctly solve an algebra problem the teacher
had given him.  Well, almost correctly.  Keeping track of those
plusses and minuses wasn't easy.  But Akane had seemed satisfied.

      As if called by his thoughts of her, Akane appeared, strolling a bit
too casually around the corner and coming to a halt a considered five
paces away.  She greeted him with a nod.  "Akane."

      "You're late, Ranma," he replied.

      "Only a minute, and anyway, it's not my fault, I had to dodge
Hinako-sensei.  So, we going to go see Cologne?"  He could hear the 
pleading tone in her voice, though she tried to disguise it.

      "I guess."  Ranma, too, tried to sound unenthusiastic.

      Akane nodded and walked by, leaving a slightly startled Ranma to jog
few paces to catch up.  He opened his mouth to complain, but Akane
managed to speak first.  "That wasn't so bad."

      "Huh?" verbalized Ranma, complaint forgotten.

      "Being you for a day.  Maybe we can do this after all."

      "Geez, Akane."  Eyes wide, Ranma made a valiant attempt to glance in
all directions at once.  "Keep it down, would you?"

      She shrugged.  "There's no one close enough to overhear, Ranma."
That, he had to admit, was true.  Many of the other students had, like
Akane's friends, already left, and those who remained were almost
certainly tied up with club activities. 

      "I guess."  He paused, then phrased the question as delicately as he
could.  "So, um, you want to practice now?"

      "Practice?"  Akane blinked.

      Surely, Ranma thought, I don't look that clueless when I...  "Being
guy," he hissed, in a stage whisper.

      Akane recoiled at the notion.  "No!"  Gathering herself, she
to recover.  "I, uh, think we should go see Cologne first.  After all,
if she does have a cure, we won't need to... practice.  Right?"

      But Ranma wasn't buying that excuse.  Arms crossed over his chest,
fixed Akane with a flat stare.  "It isn't that bad."

      "It isn't that bad?"  Akane's mouth dropped open in shock as she
at Ranma.  "How can you of all people say that?  For the past year,
you've done nothing but complain about your curse every chance you

      "That's different!"

      "Oh, really?  How?"

      "I'm not a--"  Ranma frowned; he was sure there was a reason that
didn't apply to Akane.  But that wasn't it.  "I--"  His second attempt
didn't get any further.  Well, he'd think of it later.  There was
something else to address, right now.  "Anyway, that's not true!  I
do stuff, I don't just stand around and complain..."

      "Oh, yes, I almost forgot," Akane spat.  "You also use it to get
food.  Not to mention hiding from your mother--"

      Ranma glared at her, eyes blazing with such intensity that she
flinched, wondering whether she had perhaps gone a little bit too
far.  For a moment, she was tempted to stammer an apology, but the
combination of fear and sheer stubborn pride paralyzed her.  Then the
moment passed, as he whirled around and strode angrily out the door.
Akane momentarily wondered that it didn't shatter to splinters at his
touch.  His voice, harsh but strangely quiet, drifted back to her.
"Fine.  Let's go see the ghoul."

      She had to take a second to shake off her paralysis before hurrying
catch up.


      Somehow, during the long, silent walk to the Nekohanten, they had
forgiven each other, if not quite forgotten; had made up without
either of them actually having made any sort of overture.  It was a
process that Akane had gone through several times since Ranma had come
into her life, and she still found it odd and, for reasons she
couldn't quite articulate, disturbing.  She wondered, as she often had
during such moments, what Ranma thought about it.  Or whether he
thought about it at all.  Could it be he just took that for granted,
in the same way he seemed to take so many things for granted?  Was it
just another routine for him?  He'd never said a word about it...

      She could ask, of course.  But that might lead to other questions,
ones she wasn't willing to risk answering just yet.  As long as they
weren't asked, they could be pushed to the deepest recesses of her
mind and safely ignored. 

      And she did just that as Ranma's voice intruded.  "You first," he
said, gesturing almost dismissively along the street, toward the
Nekohanten's door.

      "How come?"

      "'Cause that's what I'd do.  Besides," he added with a smirk, "in a
minute, you're gonna learn something about being me."

      "I've already learned much more than I ever wanted to know," she
retorted, flouncing past Ranma.  "Still," she continued as she reached
toward the door, "there's one thing that makes it almost bearable."

      "Yeah?"  He didn't even try to hide his interest, Akane noted with a
secret smile.

      "Hot water is easier to avoid than cold," she explained smugly,
opening the door and stepping forward.

      She was greeted by a delighted squeal, quickly followed by the
contents of a bowl of hot ramen.  Minus the bowl.

      "You'd think so, wouldn't you?" Ranma mused, idly removing a limp
noodle from Akane's sleeve.

      Akane drew a breath to scream, only to have the air forced out of
lungs by the third part of the enthusiastic greeting.  The embrace.

      "Husband come straight from school to see Shampoo?  Shampoo so
Akane's Amazon captor squealed, in the tone that ordinarily grated on
her nerves.  Today, however, she hardly noticed.  She was too busy
trying to simultaneously deny and reconcile the fact that she was, as
of five seconds earlier, suddenly missing certain potions of her
anatomy, and suddenly sporting others that had no business being there.  
That, together with the unexpected physical shock of the transformation, 
of muscles and organs shifting and electricity burning through her veins, 
made her very nearly sick to her stomach.

      Which was not helped when Ranma decided to interject an aggravated,
"Ranma!  Stop flirting with Shampoo!  We came here for a reason, you

      He had the nerve to smirk at her while he said it, too.  That
insensitive, callous, uncaring, posturing...

      "Oh," Shampoo said in her most unenthused tone, pretending just to
notice.  "Violent tomboy followed husband.  You go home now, yes?
Shampoo take--"

      Ranma unceremoniously interrupted.  "We're here to see th--

      Shampoo blinked.  "To see great-grandmother?" she asked Akane,
completely ignoring, to all appearances, Ranma's presence.

      "Uh... yeah," Akane growled, doing her -- or was it his, now? --
No!  Bad thought!  Go away! -- best to disengage herself from
Shampoo's grasp.  "So, uh, where is she?"

"Ranma not in trouble?"


      Ranma quickly interrupted.  "It's kind of important."

      "Ah."  Shampoo frowned in concern.  "Is too bad.  Great-grandmother
not here."

      "WHAT?!" Ranma and Akane screeched in unison. 

      Shampoo nodded solemnly.  "Is very important time for Amazons, comes 
once every ten years.  As Elder of tribe, great-grandmother have to 
return to village."

      "Oh, no..." Akane moaned.  "But... will she be back soon?"

      "No.  Just left last night."

      Shaking his head in disgust, Ranma muttered, "Figures."  He turned

      Then he turned back as Akane began to speak.  "If it's so
she asked, "shouldn't you be there?"

      Cocking her head to the side, Shampoo answered, in a very patient
tone, "Shampoo need to stay with husband."  Looking up at Akane with
wide, hopeful eyes, she continued, "Is still time to go, if Ranma want
to come with Shampoo..."

      Akane edged away.  "Uh, not really..."

      "Ranma no like Shampoo?"  The wide eyes had begun to brim with tears
as they bored unflinchingly into Akane.

      "Uh..."  Akane flailed for an excuse.  "China is kind of far..."

      To one side, unremarked, Ranma buried his face in his hands.  He had
strong urge to yell at someone... but if he did, he would give their
act away.  And after Akane's earlier comments about his acting
ability, or lack thereof, he was damned if he was going to be the one
to mess up.  It was an unorthodox challenge, but he wasn't about to
turn it down.  Even if Akane was making him look like a wimp.  He told
himself that she would give herself away if she kept it up.  Then he 
would win.  That helped a little.

      Meanwhile, the tearful stare hadn't wavered.  "Ranma take Shampoo on
date instead, then?"

      "Oh, god, no."  Akane blinked, almost as taken aback by the outburst
as Shampoo.  "Uh, I mean, I can't.  Um, I gotta go."  Matching deed to
word, she was nearly out the door as she called back, "C'mon, Akane.
Sorry, Shampoo!" and retreated like a true Saotome.

      Ranma took one look at the poleaxed Shampoo and hurried to join
Akane.  There was no way he was going to try to explain what had just


      "That was pretty harsh," Ranma commented, as he and Akane walked
quickly away from the restaurant.

      "I didn't mean it that way," Akane snapped.  There was no fire in
though; the guilt had extinguished that.

      "Yeah, I know.  But I wouldn't've done that." 

      "But you do that all the time when guys hit on you when you're a
girl!" Akane, defensive, protested.

      "Guys, sure, 'cause I'm a guy.  But not Shampoo."

      "Well, I'm a girl, so--"  Akane suddenly stopped short.  "Just what
you mean, 'not Shampoo?'  How do you usually treat her, when I'm not 
around, hmm?" she accused, leveling a suspicious stare at him.

      "No, I didn't mean--"  Sensing a losing argument, Ranma bravely
changed the subject.  "Hey, there's a fountain in that park, you can
change back to a girl."

      "Really?"  It worked:  argument forgotten; score one for
Ranma.  Akane
eagerly hastened toward the gate... and abruptly stopped.

      Beside her, Ranma frowned in concern.  "What's wrong?"

      "Well..." she began reluctantly, "I did say... I mean, I thought you
wanted me to... 'practice.'"  Her mouth twisted into a grimace as she
said the word.

      "Well, yeah, but..."  Staring upward at the sky, Ranma confessed,
"There's kinda been something on my mind since school, so--"

      Suspicious, Akane asked, "What is it you want?"

      Ranma grinned sheepishly, risking a fleeting moment of eye contact.
"Let's go get some ice cream," he blurted.

      Akane stared at him for a long moment, then just laughed helplessly.


      Having sent the few mid-day customers on their way, Shampoo paced
restlessly across the floor or the Nekohanten.  Both bubbly cheer and
tears had vanished without a trace, to be replaced by a combination of
determination and perplexity.  Her husband's behavior was not at all
normal.  True, he was reluctant to show his real feelings for her,
most of the time.  But he'd never said anything so... anything like
-that- before.  And he hadn't even seemed to notice her tears, and she
was sure she'd done a fine job of producing them, this time.  That
wasn't at all like the Ranma she knew.

      Abruptly, she stopped pacing, slamming her fist down onto a table in
sheer frustration.  With a sharp crack, the table began its new life
as toothpicks.  She stared blankly down at the mess for a second, then
sighed.  "Mousse, come fix table," she said absently, her thoughts
returning to the problem of her wayward husband.  Could his trouble be
more serious than he had led her to believe?  Yes, she admitted, it
could; he never was one to admit to needing help.  Just like a man...
He must, she realized, be trying to keep her out of danger.  Which was
silly, of course, but he meant well.  It wasn't his fault that his
people had such silly traditions.  And it showed he cared -- not that
she needed proof.  Naturally, she would have to join in the fight
anyway; she was an Amazon.

      Still, the way he had tried to do it... that bothered her.  She
her finger against her lips thoughtfully, looking downward at the
wreckage of the table while she tried to reconcile Ranma's strange

      Her frown grew angrier as she noticed something else.  The table was
still in pieces, and Mousse was nowhere to be seen.  "Mousse!" she
yelled loudly, in a tone that promised mayhem.

      And still the boy failed to appear.  Shampoo sighed.  Was he going
deaf as well as blind?  Foul mood thoroughly exacerbated, she stalked
angrily up the stairs to deliver her message, and perhaps relieve her
frustration by giving Mousse a good beating.  Yes, that sounded good.
She yanked open the door to his room, prepared to berate him.

      And stared, taken aback.  The room was unoccupied.  A fluttering
curtain drew her attention to the window.  Open.

      Mousse had gone.  She didn't have to guess where. 

      She turned and hurried back down the stairs.  If she caught up to
Ranma in time, she could watch him beat the duck-boy.  That was almost
as satisfying as doing it herself.