Subject: [PMFFML] [FFML-R] [repost][Fanfic][Ranma] Three Souls, One Heart Chapter 7-8
From: "David A. Tatum" <desaix@sysnet.net>
Date: 2/4/2001, 11:27 PM
To: <FFMLRefuge@listbot.com>

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As promised...
Chapter 7

Some time during that night, the covers were worked off of Akane's feet. 
Whether it was Ranma's fault or hers would never be determined, but what
happened when she woke up was definitely something she had done- and
neither the Oni nor Iria had anything to do with it.

"YAAAAAAAAAAAH!  THAT'S COLD!" Ranma screamed as she placed her cold feet
on his bare legs.  Akane would always CLAIM that the Oni and Iria were
responsible for it, however.

Regardless of who was responsible, however, it effectively woke Ranma up.

"Ah, good, you're awake," Akane noted with a sly smile on her face.  Her
smile fell a little before she continued.  "Ready for the next part of our
little plan?" she asked nervously.

"Uh...."  Ranma had momentarily forgotten why he was in Akane's bed, but
the moment she mentioned the plan he recalled everything about the previous
night.    And he recalled the next part of the plan- to share the morning
bath... with certain conditions so that it wouldn't be any worse than those
times they had walked in on each other.  "Not really, but I doubt I could
work myself any closer to being ready, so we might as well do it now."

Akane nodded.  She felt much the same way.  "Well... who should go first?"

Ranma thought for a second.  "Why don't you?  That would feel more...
natural."

Akane raised an eyebrow, slightly annoyed.  He was right, though- as often
as Ranma had walked in on her instead of the other way around, it DID feel
more normal to have him join her instead of having her join him, so she
nodded before leaving for the bathroom, Ranma following her.  She stepped
into the changing room, stripped, used the toilet, and stepped into the
bath.

Ranma knocked a minute later before entering the changing room himself. He
took off his clothes, walked over to the door.  "Akane?  Let me know when I
can come in."

A couple minutes later, after Ranma had brushed his teeth and got as ready
as he could for the day before his bath, a call came out from the bathroom,
and Ranma walked in, blushing badly. The lights were dimmed a little, as
they had agreed previously, but it was still bright enough to illuminate
all of his features.  He couldn't look up to see her face as he sat down
and rinsed himself in cold water, changing into his female half and
scrubbing away any dirt with his pumice-based soap before turning towards
the furo to join Akane.

He was a little surprised to see Akane facing away from him.  "Uh... I'm
coming in."

Akane nodded and turned to face him.  Her eyes were the seductive ones. 
"Hurry on up and get in the tub, Ranma.  Akane made me take over her body
until your lower half is under the water."

"Uh... right," he answered as he stepped into the water, changing back to
his male form.  He felt Iria-through-Akane's eyes on him as he sank down
into the steaming hot water.

"Akane's one lucky girl," the controlling succubus said, smirking, before
she blinked and Akane resumed control.  Her comment, however, had reduced
Ranma to a mindlessly blushing mass.

The two young people stared at each other from opposite ends of the furo. 
The dim lighting, the slightly rippling water, and the steam rising above
it were all doing their parts to distort the features below the surface,
but it was still clear enough that neither Ranma nor Akane felt very
comfortable.  After all, the only thing they would have to do to see
something would be to TRY and see it....

They just kept staring into each other's eyes, neither one willing to leave
the bath first, staying as far away from each other as possible.  No words
were spoken for a long time, each waiting for the other to start talking,
or move, or do SOMETHING.

"All right, this is ridiculous," Akane growled after almost a full hour of
staring at Ranma.  With a determined expression on her face, she slid
across through the still-hot water towards him.  Ranma's eyes widened as
she got closer and closer, until she finished moving, right next to him. 
"If we're going to stay in the tub like this, we might as well talk about
SOMETHING, so... are you ready to start back to school tomorrow?"

Ranma twitched with the closeness of a naked Akane.  "Well," he began, his
voice cracking, "I'm as ready for classes as always, but... I'm not sure
I'm ready to face down all of our classmates.  Especially if they find out
what we're about to do."

Akane didn't say anything for a few seconds.  She was worried about the
same thing.  However, she decided to help Ranma forget about his
concerns... by teasing him.  "What?  Are you worried about losing to
Kunou?"

Ranma, though, wasn't in the mood.  "Of course not- I doubt he even goes to
Furinken any more- isn't he in Nabiki's grade level?  Shouldn't he have
moved up to college by now?"  As he talked, his nervousness slowly left
him.  "I'm worried about... well, my friends- and yours, too, I guess. 
Ucchan... she's a great friend to both of us- maybe even more to you than
me, despite the past she and I share- but she showed at our failed wedding
that she won't let that stop her if she feels like she's about to lose me. 
And Hiroshi and Daisuke will tease me endlessly about it- they already ask
me if you and I've done it every day.  And your friends- Yuka and Sayuri,
is it?  I'm not sure about how they behave to most people, but they don't
really seem to like me.  I don't know how they'd react to hearing that you
HAVE to sleep with me, but...."  He sighed, not able to finish.  "I really
wish you'd decided to just skip school this week.  We wouldn't have had to
deal with any of this."

Akane, not thinking about what she was doing, put an arm around her
troubled fiancee and gave him a squeeze.  "I made the decision to face
this, Ranma, and I was prepared to face the consequences.  Except for
Ukyou, it seems to me that all of the problems you mentioned deal with how
our friends look at ME- and I am ready for them, and willing to take
whatever they give.  Don't worry about it."

Ranma, his senses suddenly aware again of Akane sitting next to him,
tensed.  However, he still returned the favor, and placed an arm of his own
around Akane, and hugged her to him.  He'd expected their relationship to
go fast over the next few days, but he had never expected to get this close
to her this soon.  "Akane, I can't help but worry about it.  You know how I
feel about you- I don't like seeing you hurt.  And if this mess causes you
to lose all your friends...."

Akane melted inside at his concern, and she just hugged him tighter,
leaning her whole upper body against his chest.  They stayed like that in
silence for some time, holding on to each other in the bath tub.  They both
got more comfortable with each other and eventually Akane, the heat of the
water relaxing her muscles and feeling more content then she had in years,
drifted off to sleep, her head slumping onto Ranma's shoulder.  He started
to get pretty sleepy himself, and nuzzled his head on top of Akane's,
closing his eyes.

It was right about then that the door suddenly slid open and Nodoka walked
in, startling Ranma enough that he jumped.  Akane was awakened by the
movement of her living pillow, and blinked herself awake.

"Mom!" Ranma gasped, turning his face away from his naked mother- and into
Akane's naked chest as she started to stand up.  "Ulp!"

Akane knew she was showing herself off, but just bore it with a bad blush. 
After all, the plan called for her and Ranma to change in front of each
other after the bath, so he'd soon be seeing her in all her glory, anyway. 
"Auntie Saotome!  What are you doing!"

"Oh!  I'm sorry!" Nodoka apologized sincerely.  "I heard you get up a
couple hours ago, and was sure you would have been out by now.  You two
REALLY need to remember to put out the sign."  She smiled at Ranma, who was
transfixed by the sight in front of him.  "Don't worry, Akane- I'll leave
you and my manly son to finish whatever you were doing."  With that, Mrs.
Saotome stepped on out of the room, shutting the door behind her.

"Well, that ruined the mood," Akane sighed, stepping out of the furo a
moment later and heading to the door.  She looked back and saw Ranma still
sitting in the tub, his eyes still where she had been a minute before. 
"Ranma!  Get out of the tub- we need to get dressed.  It's a good thing we
don't need to go to school today, or we'd already be late!"

Ranma blinked, stood up, and followed Akane to his room (both of them
grabbing robes as they went, just in case Nodoka showed up again).  He felt
extremely nervous as Akane forced herself to watch him shed the robe and
slip on his clothes, and it showed as he almost put his boxers on
backwards.  When he had finished dressing in a dark green silk shirt and
his usual black drawstring trousers, he followed Akane to her room, where
she slipped on her clothes as well- a bra, some polka-dotted panties (she
teasingly asked him which pair she should wear, and all he could do was
mention one of the only pairs he knew she owned), a blouse, a mid-length
skirt, and a vest.  Ranma twitched so much through the whole thing that
Akane once contemplated tying him down.

*	*	*	*	*

The rest of the day went along uneventfully, for the most part.  Ranma and
Akane stayed near each other for the entire day, except when one of them
had to use the bathroom.  They ate sitting next to each other, watched
television with their arms wrapped over each other's shoulders, and,
shortly before bedtime, they went out to the dojo and performed katas
together (doing a fairly basic kata that they both knew well), just to keep
themselves in practice.

When it was time for them to go to bed, they both automatically went to
Akane's room, and changed into their night clothes.  It was fairly easy for
Ranma- all he had to do was to take off his shirt and pants- he'd been
exposed to Akane in his underclothes often enough that he wasn't too
concerned.  Akane, however, had to strip all her clothes off so she could
change into her nightgown.

Akane's nervousness left her quickly, however.  As she slipped off the vest
and started unbuttoning the blouse, she recovered the confidence she had
gained that morning, and finished undressing in a sort of comic strip-tease
sort of way, twirling each article of clothing in her hands before she
tossed it across the room and into the dirty clothes basket.  She grinned
slightly as Ranma gawked at her, enjoying his reaction.

"Akane..." he squeaked, searching her eyes to make sure it wasn't Iria who
just gave him the show.  Akane slipped on the nightgown, and crawled into
bed.  Ranma, much like the previous night, had to be told to join her and
turn off the lights.

Soon, both were asleep again- though this time, Akane cuddled up to him
BEFORE she fell asleep.

*	*	*	*	*

Ranma and Akane woke up to the alarm the next morning, and hurriedly
prepared for school.  They once again entered the changing room and bathing
room separately (after all, sharing a bath is one thing, but some things
still needed to be done in private) but this time they just washed and
slipped into the furo with few reservations.  They started sitting together
in the tub from the start, but they didn't hold on to or lean against each
other like they had the previous day- they were more comfortable with
themselves, but they still weren't totally relaxed.

If they'd had longer to soak, the warmth of the water might have lifted the
nervousness from them and they might have wound up like they had the last
time, but both were trying to limit their time in the tub in order to get
ready for school.  They ran to change into their school clothes- first
Akane's room, this time, and then Ranma's.

At breakfast, while his mother was taking some of the dishes back to the
kitchen, Ranma looked sorrowfully at his fiancee.  "It's not too late- you
can change your mind if you want."

Akane blinked, a small bit of anger growing in her.  "What?  Do you think
I'm not attractive enough for you or something?" she growled.

Ranma was startled by her reaction.  "Huh?  What are you talking about?" he
wondered, backing off slightly.  "What does how attractive you are have to
do with going to school?"

Akane deflated.  "Uh, school?  Oh, sorry, I thought...."

"You thought I was talking about sleeping with you," Ranma finished,
grimacing.  Quickly checking to make sure his mother was still in the
kitchen, he reached out and gently squeezed her shoulder.  "Akane, I won't
lie to you about this- I'm scared.  I mean, a week ago, just doing
something like this," he gently caressed her hair, "Would have been
impossible- I couldn't have brought myself to do it, and you wouldn't have
let me even if I tried."  He grinned.  "If I seem reluctant, it has nothing
to do with how you look."

Akane smiled nervously.  "Ranma... am I... attractive?"

"Well," he began, swallowing.  "You aren't cute, normally- no, wait!  Let
me finish!"  Akane, who had nearly broke down in angry tears, glowered at
Ranma but didn't say anything.  "Like I said, you aren't normally cute. 
When you're happy and smiling, it shows all through you.  THEN you look
cute.  Also, your hair is very cute, and so is your nose when you wrinkle
it the way you do when you're teasing me- heck, even those little horns the
Oni's placed on you look cute," he grinned.  "Like I've said in the past,
you're cute when you want to be."  He took a deep breath before continuing.
 "But how cute you are has nothing to do with how attractive you are.  You
can be as uncute as you want, but that won't effect the fact that you're...
that you're a very beautiful woman."

"Ranma..." Akane whispered, her angry tears turning to happy ones.  The
hand cradling her hair pulled her towards Ranma as his other arm wrapped
around her waist, bringing her into a sympathetic hug to allow her to cry
on his shoulder.

At the sound of the kitchen door opening, they broke apart and quickly
returned to their seats.  A few minutes later, Akane grabbed a sun hat,
tucked her horns under it, and started out to school, Ranma walking next to
her.

Ranma was on his toes for the entire trip to school- every step of the way,
he was looking towards the ceilings and the alleys, warily searching for
any sign of an attacker- probably one of Amazon origin.

Akane, on the other hand, was viewing the walk as a nice relaxing stroll
through the neighborhood- it was the first time out of the house for her
since her possession, it was warm and sunny, and the time she and Ranma had
saved by taking their bath together allowed them to get to school early
despite walking at this slow pace- even if Ranma got doused along the way.

Ranma's heightened awareness allowed him to dodge the old woman watering
her sidewalk and the bucket of water tossed out of someone's window.  It
also allowed him to notice Akane's mood, which, despite his concerns, put a
smile on his face.  If Akane was happy, he'd be happy.

While they knew they had left early enough so that they wouldn't be late,
they hadn't realized that they would be so early that their classroom door
would still be locked.  Deciding to take the opportunity for some peace and
quiet, they sat down next to each other and chatted.  While they talked,
Akane unthinkingly leaned against Ranma's shoulder, much like she had while
they were watching television the previous day, and he absently put his arm
around her, again like they had much of the previous day.  They kept
talking, not even aware of what they were doing.

"Well, well!" a child-like voice burst into their world.  "I never thought
I'd be seeing you two here this early- especially not sitting together like
that."

"Urk!" Ranma gurgled, as he jumped away from Akane.

"We're sorry, Ms. Hinako!" Akane apologized, flustered.

"No need to apologize, Akane- I don't mind if you and your fiancee show
your feelings for each other during non-class hours.  Just don't disrupt
class with it."  Hinako smiled.  "But you might want to remove your hat,
since we're inside right now."

Akane grabbed her hat as if to keep Hinako from taking it.  "I, uh...." she
began.

"Akane's too embarrassed to remove her hat, Ms. Hinako- she got a bad
haircut recently, and she doesn't want it to show," Ranma intervened,
finally recovering his head.  Akane glared at him.

"Oh!" the teacher mouthed, unlocking the door.  "I see.  Well, I'll let you
keep that hat on for a while, Akane, but you have to sit in the back row so
as to not distract the other students."

Ranma leaned over to his fiance as they followed Ms. Hinako into the
classroom.  "What was that 'look' for?" he whispered.

"If you're going to come up with a lie, Ranma, at least come up with a
convincing one.  What's going to happen at the end of the week when I lose
the horns, huh?"

"Um," Ranma began nervously, suddenly seeing the problem.  "Get a bad
haircut?"

Akane growled.  "I happen to like my hair the way it is, thank you very
much."

"Er... I'd still love you," Ranma said, trying to make his suggestion seem
more palatable.  Akane just looked at him, trying desperately to keep a
stern expression on her face when all she wanted to do was burst out
laughing.  "Um... okay, sorry.  Stupid idea.  How about keeping the hat
until the next time you get your hair trimmed?  That way, you can say the
mistake was corrected?"

Akane frowned.  "I suppose that would work- though I still don't like it." 
Then she smiled, and glanced to make sure that the only other person in the
room still was Hinako before leaning over and kissing Ranma's cheek.  "And
I'd still love you, too."

Ranma, stunned, fell back into his seat.  Akane giggled, and settled into
her own seat next to him.  A few minutes later, other students started to
drift inside the classroom, and soon Ms. Hinako began her morning lecture.

*	*	*	*	*

Ranma and Akane sat down together at a tree for lunch, hoping no-one would
join them.  So far, several people had commented on Akane's hat, and many
people were wondering what her 'bad haircut' looked like.  Up until that
point, they had avoided the questions, but the constant harassment was
starting to get to them.  Not to mention that they kept hearing whispers
about how they seemed to be acting a little differently towards each other.

Unfortunately for them, lunch would not be the peaceful break they were
hoping.  Seconds after they opened their bento boxes, an enthusiastic
okonomiyaki chef bounced into their meal.

"Hi, Ranchan!" Ukyou began, kneeling down to join them.  "Hi, Akane!  How
are things?  I haven't seen either of you since that night we got back from
Toma's island, and the people who came up with our class schedules didn't
put us in a single class together!  Have you two been avoiding me?" she
admonished.  "Akane, I heard you got a bad haircut- what happened?  Is her
haircut really bad, Ranma?"

"Hi, Ucchan," Ranma said, forcing cheerfulness through his fear that the
Oni would be discovered in front of Ukyou.  "The haircut's not that bad-
Akane's just a little upset about it, so could you not mention it any
more?" he begged, rubbing his head as if Akane had pounded him several
times for bringing it up.

"Oh, of course.  Sorry, Akane," Ukyou apologized, winking to Ranma as if
she got the message.  "So, either of you want one of my deluxe specials?"

Ranma, despite his recent desire for privacy with Akane, smiled.  "I'd love
one, thanks!"

Akane grimaced at Ranma's casual acceptance of food from her
sometimes-friendly rival for his affections, but said nothing then.  "I
don't want any, thanks," she answered instead.  "Auntie Nodoka fixed a
delicious meal, and I'll barely be able to finish it all."

Ukyou, however, was completely ignoring her.  "So, how's the food,
Ranchan?"

"Good as always, Ucchan," Ranma replied, wiping some sauce off of the
corner of his mouth.

"I just KNEW you'd like it," the okonomiyaki chef replied, wiggling herself
in a very girlish manner.

"So, how's Ryouga doing, now that he's sleeping in your store?" Ranma
asked.

"Oh, you wouldn't BELIEVE what he did the other day...."

Akane started to growl.  True, she knew about Ranma and Ukyou's past, to
some extent, but the flirting was going too far.  The problem was, she knew
she couldn't pound Ranma for it- for one thing, that would ruin all the
progress she'd made so far with him, and besides, he seemed totally
oblivious to Ukyou's attentions.  All he was interested in was the food.

She also couldn't lash out at Ukyou- after all, the girl WAS a friend, and
besides, she might accidentally knock her hat off if she started something.
 Running off would also be a bad idea- part of the reason they had agreed
to spend all the time they could together was that neither of them trusted
the Oni, and she needed Ranma to keep an eye on her in case it tried
something funny.  So, all she could do was sit, growl, and work herself
into a bad mood.

After what seemed to be hours to Akane (but was, in fact, only a couple of
minutes of Ranma and Ukyou talking), the bell rang ending the lunch period.
 She started stomping off to class before Ranma, intent on showing her
displeasure any way she could.  Suddenly, Ranma grabbed her by the arm,
dragged her off into an empty room, and spun her to face him.

"Sorry about that," he apologized.  "But it would look AWFULLY strange if I
were to refuse to talk to Ukyou, you know."

"I know, apology accepted," Akane said in a tone which indicated the
apology WASN'T accepted.  "Let's go to class, okay?"

"No, it's not okay," Ranma growled.  "Not until you actually DO know. 
Haven't you heard all the people whispering about how much we've changed? 
Didn't you notice Ukyou was pressing for attention FAR more than usual? 
Haven't you noticed the people staring at us?"

"Well..." Akane began.  She had noticed, but she didn't see what that had
to do with anything.

"Akane, look.  We absolutely MUST keep our closer relationship secret from
this school for at least this week- if it was discovered that you and I
were now admitting our love to each other, and that we were doing things
like taking baths together and sleeping in the same bed, then we'd be
mobbed, and there would be no chance of keeping those two little horns of
yours from the people who want to separate us- and once they found out that
we're being coerced into having sex with each other, there would be no way
to convince them that we loved each other afterwards.  None.  Which would
mean they would NEVER give up trying to break us apart."

Akane frowned.  "So you're saying... we need to pretend we hate each other
still?"

Ranma's lips curled in amusement.  "Sort of.  I might not know too much
about people or dates or foreign languages or anything else I might learn
in school- I wasn't raised to care about such things.  I WAS raised,
however, to know everything possible about fighting and warfare- so when I
discovered how determined you were to come to school this week, I decided
to view the next week as a war plan- and one of the primary tenets I can
think of is:  'When strong, feign weakness.  When weak, feign strength.' 
Right now, our relationship is very strong, so we have to pretend it's
weaker than it is so as to get our enemies to ignore it.  If I can keep
everyone concentrated on me instead of on breaking you AWAY from me...."

"I see....  I'm sorry, Ranma," Akane said, sounding much more sincere this
time.  She hadn't realized that he had put that much thought into the
situation.

"That's okay.  Now we better hurry, or we'll be late for class."

*	*	*	*	*

The rest of the class day was fairly uneventful- outside of a few more
stares, and Ranma and Akane getting into a staged fight which stopped most
of the people whispering behind their backs.  They headed home, and
thankfully were not attacked by Shampoo.

They went to Akane's room upon entering the dojo and started their
homework.  They didn't have to work long on it- after all, it was only the
first day of school.  Then they went to the dojo, where Ranma taught Akane
a new kata, before plopping themselves in front of the television and
cuddling like they had much of the previous day.

"You know," Akane began, rolling Ranma's pigtail around her fingers.  "I
think I'm getting too used to this."

"Huh?" was his intelligent response.

"I think I'm getting too used to holding you.  We almost got caught this
morning, because I forgot we weren't supposed to hug each other in public."

Ranma wasn't entirely sure how to respond to that, and so just shut up and
watched television.

*	*	*	*	*

A few hours later, Nodoka showed up and ushered them off to bed.  Ranma and
Akane went back to what they were starting to consider 'their' room, as
opposed to just Akane's.

They both took a deep breath.  This was going to be their biggest step
before the final one- this time, they were going to sleep together NAKED.

"I'm not sure I'm ready for this," Akane said.

Ranma chuckled nervously.  "I haven't been ready for ANY of the steps we've
taken- until after we've taken them.  But if you're that worried, we can
always hold off for a day."

Akane looked hopeful for a moment, then sighed and shook her head.  "No...
I'd better save those extra nights we scheduled for when we finally... go
all the way.  I'll need them for that."

Ranma nodded.  "Okay... if you're sure you can handle this."

Akane got a determined look in her eye, and started stripping.  Ranma
followed her example a few seconds later, and hopped into bed before Akane
was able to get her underwear off- mainly to hide his embarrassment.

Soon, she followed him in and turned off the lights.  They avoided touching
each other for several minutes, too afraid of what might happen.  Finally,
much like she had in the bath the morning before, Akane decided she'd had
enough with being nervous, and rolled over to cuddle with him like she had
the previous night.

The second she did, she jumped back, unconsciously letting the sheets fall
off her shoulders.  "Ranma!  You- you're...."  She blushed furiously, not
able to continue.

"I'm?" Ranma asked, not realizing what Akane was talking about.  She
pointed, and Ranma started blushing himself.  "Oh... yeah.  Well... it's
not exactly something I can control, you know?  I mean... here I am, in bed
with the girl I love, and neither of us have our clothes on...."  Ranma
trailed off- not just because he didn't know how to finish what he was
saying, but also because he suddenly realized how easy it was to tell Akane
how he felt about her now that he knew she felt the same.

Akane frowned.  "You know I'm not ready for that step yet."

Ranma nodded.  "Of course I do... but it doesn't mean that I don't... er,
get excited."  He looked at Akane, still frowning.  "I'm not sure what we
could do to stop this- I could put on my boxers, I suppose- it wouldn't go
away, but you might not notice it as much."

Akane sighed, and shook her head.  "No... I'd better just get used to it. 
I was just... surprised."  With that, Akane curled up next to him again,
but was more careful of where she touched.

Ranma smiled slightly as he looked at Akane's face, resting on his chest. 
'You aren't going to be ready, are you?  But you'll probably try to force
things the next couple of days... well, you can try, but I'll just tell you
I'M not ready yet.  It'll mean we need to use those extra days, and it'll
mean having to take more precautions... but I'm not going to let you force
yourself more than you can handle, Akane.  Not when I can do something
about it....'

Chapter 8

Ranma woke up the next morning before the alarm clock went off because of
some hair tickling his nose.  He was tempted to swat it away, but decided
instead to open his eyes and see exactly whose hair it was.

Seeing the top of Akane's head brought him back to his senses.  She was she
was writhing around and giggling happily in her sleep.  He kissed the top
of her head, right between the horns, and desperately tried to ignore the
sensation of her naked breasts rubbing against his bare chest.  'Sheesh,'
he thought to himself.  'Resisting her tonight is going to be harder than I
thought.  But she isn't ready yet, so I've GOT to.  I'll just tell her I'm
not ready yet... shouldn't be too hard to believe.  I mean, we've only
kissed a few times, so far.  It shouldn't be TOO unreasonable that I'm not
willing to go much further than making out a little at this point, right?'

The alarm went off, and Akane reached over and slapped it off.  She yawned,
looking up at Ranma.  She smiled sleepily, and moved in to kiss him.

As she deepened her kiss, Ranma sighed and abandoned himself to it.  'Okay,
maybe it will be more difficult than I think.'

*	*	*	*	*

Akane sighed happily as she leaned back against Ranma's chest in the
bathtub.  While she knew intellectually that the water in the furo was much
hotter than his body, his touch somehow warmed her more.

Akane was stunned to realize, as Ranma put his arm around her, that she was
ready.  Despite her protests from the previous night, she... she WANTED
him.  Badly.  For a second she thought that she might try seducing him
right then and there, and to hell with classes.  However, she knew that
would be a bad idea- as skittish as he had been the past few days, such a
move would likely cause him to freeze up.  However, this coming night WAS
the first scheduled 'seduction attempt,' and he seemed pretty comfortable
right now....

Akane smiled in amusement- a small change from the contented smile she had
been wearing.  She'd imagined the greatest obstacle to getting rid of the
Oni's curse was bringing herself to make love to- no, they were making love
right there, just being in the same bath together and feeling so wonderful
being in the other's presence, holding each other like they were.  Making
love was the wrong term.  She'd imagined the greatest obstacle to getting
rid of the Oni's curse would be bringing herself to have sex with Ranma. 
But she was more than willing to do that, now- if she'd felt this way
before, she might have tried it even without having to worry about the Oni.
 No, now she realized the biggest obstacle would be actually bringing RANMA
to the point he'd be just as willing.

She wriggled in a little closer, closing her eyes.

"Ow!" Ranma cried.

Akane sat up in surprise.  "What did I do?" she asked, confused.

Ranma rubbed his chin painfully.  "You nearly speared me with those horns
of yours.  Watch it."

Akane fingered the ornaments attached to her head self-consciously.  "Oops,
sorry.  I'm not used to them...."

Ranma sighed.  "Don't worry about it, Akane.  You shouldn't need to be used
to them.  Come here..." he invited, holding out his arms.

Akane, a little surprised, let herself be guided by his hands to sit on his
lap, straddling his legs.  He slid her back, creating small ripples in the
surface of the water that lapped at her chest when she was settled in.  The
part of him that told her he was physically ready for what she had been
thinking about was trapped between them, but that was something she tried
to ignore.  After all, only seconds before she had wanted to seduce him,
which would probably have resulted in her feeling the same... item.

He helped her lean back into his chest, until Akane felt his chin resting
on the top of her head.  "We've still got nearly fifteen minutes until we
need to get out of the bath.  Let's just relax and enjoy them."  His arms
wrapped themselves around her waist, and he nuzzled her hair, bumping
lightly into the two horns that framed his chin.

Akane giggled a little at the slight tugging sensation that went through
her every time one of the horns was touched.  It was almost like what she
felt when stretching a kink out of a sore muscle.

Another being, the true owner of the horns, was a little startled by that
same sensation.  The Oni couldn't get it out of its head that the feeling
of someone placing their head where Ranma had placed his was so... right,
so enjoyable- just like the feeling that morning, when he had kissed the
spot right between them.

The Oni knew of a very simple explanation for the feeling.  It just didn't
want to believe it.

*	*	*	*	*

Ranma couldn't stop himself from touching Akane after the bath.  He was
walking to school with his arm over her shoulder, holding her close.  She
had her own arm around his waist, and was looking up at him almost
adoringly.

Ranma sighed.  'What the hell am I doing?  Akane isn't ready for me, and
there I was, getting all excited and pulling her towards me and hugging her
so much.  Now I'm still holding on to her, IN PUBLIC, as we walk to school.
 If I'm not able to stop myself from touching her now, how am I going to
resist her tonight?'

Ranma was too preoccupied with his problems to be paying much attention to
what was going on around him.  That was why Shampoo was able to get the
drop on him.

"Ranma want take Shampoo on date?" she asked, tearing him away from Akane
and grabbing him in a world-class glomp.

Ranma struggled as much as he usually could bring himself to, but was
unable to break free from her grasp.  He tried to say something to make her
let go, but was being held too tightly to speak.  Desperate, he looked at
Akane in the hopes that she'd get him loose- even if the release WAS from
the usual pounding.

What he saw in her eyes gave him the chills.  The Oni had taken over,
obviously, and looked mad as hell.  'Damn!' he thought.  'Why the hell did
Akane have to let that thing take charge NOW?  And, for that matter, why is
the Oni mad at me anyway?  Akane, I understand.  She's the jealous type,
after all.  But the Oni?'  He broke off his thoughts the second he saw
Akane-Oni moving in.  'This looks dangerous, and I don't know what it's
capable of.  I GOTTA get out of this grip.'

Ranma struggled desperately, but Shampoo only redoubled her efforts.  Ranma
would have sighed if he could.  He had no real choice now- he HAD to break
away or else he would get hurt- and the way the Oni was acting, Shampoo
might get hurt as well.

He strained as hard as he did- any harder and he'd probably injure Shampoo,
considering how powerfully she was holding on.  Just by virtue of his
struggles, Shampoo's grip tightened.  Then, suddenly, he relaxed every
muscle in his body and kicked his legs out from underneath himself.  He
dropped out from Shampoo's arms, and rolled away before she could grab hold
of him again.

"Go away, Shampoo!  I don't have time for your silly games- I need to get
to school!" Ranma shouted.  He knew he sounded harsh, but he was doing his
best to reassure Akane that he wasn't interested in Shampoo.  He briefly
glanced in her direction to make sure she had gotten the message.

Akane-Oni was still growling.  "Shampoo, I don't want to see you touch
Ranma ever again.  He is MINE, got it?"

Shampoo blinked.  The Akane she knew never acted that way before.  'Maybe
Akane actually realized she liked him after the whole Toma island incident.
 Well, whatever the reason, she needs to be taught a lesson now.  NO-ONE
defies the Amazons.'

Shampoo pulled her bonbori out and looked menacingly at Akane.  "What
Violent-Girl talking about?  Airen is Shampoo's!"

Reddish-blue chi started burning in Akane's hands.  "Get it through your
thick Chinese skull.  Ranma is not bound by your laws, he does not love
you, and he will never marry you.  If you do somehow kidnap him and take
him back to your village, he would hate you.  The only reason he hasn't
said anything before this is because he doesn't want anyone hurt." 
Shampoo, taking the words as a challenge, started to move in.  Akane-Oni
continued, "Well, I don't care if anyone's hurt or not.  JIGOKU NO RAIJIN!"
[Thunder of Hell]

A ball of lightning flared out from her hands and crashed into Shampoo,
sending the Chinese girl flying into the wall of a nearby house.  Shampoo
fell to the ground unconscious, and Akane-Oni started to move in for the
kill, chi still flashing around her.

Ranma blinked at the scene, and rushed to stand between the two girls. 
"You idiot!  Let Akane back in control before you kill someone!"

Akane-Oni grinned.  "What makes you think Akane DOESN'T want to kill
someone?"

Ranma paused for a second.  He knew that, in its current condition, the Oni
couldn't just take Akane over without her permission.  Akane very well
might have wanted Shampoo dead... but that didn't fit in with what he knew
of her.  It just didn't make sense.

"Akane is not a killer," Ranma answered.  "I know her.  She might have
briefly thought about killing her, but she wouldn't have really meant it." 
Akane-Oni just smirked.  "Okay, I can see you don't care.  Well, how about
this- attacking Shampoo with that chi blast just gave away your position,
and all of my friends are looking for you.  Killing her would just make
them more dedicated to your destruction- especially Mousse and Cologne- and
their response would be to tear Akane apart, thinking you were inside her. 
You could escape, she couldn't.  I will not allow you to put her in that
position, got it?"

"And what would you do to stop me?"

Ranma stood there for a moment.  "I don't think I have to.  You need me- if
you don't do as I say, you lose my co-operation."

Akane-Oni looked outraged for a moment... and then deflated.  "You are
right.  But, as you said, my attack will lead the others to me- what do you
suggest we do?  They'll be after me, anyway...."

Ranma nodded.  "You should have thought about that before you threw that
chi blast."  He sighed.  "All right- here's a plan.  We can spar....  I
can't really bring myself to hit Akane, but I can tap her in such a way it
looks like a hit, if I have to.  When Shampoo wakes up, I can tap you and
you WILL leave Akane.  Return to the dojo, and wait there.  As much as I
hate the idea, we did agree to help you, so when we get back you can return
to Akane and we'll continue to work on your cure."

"I don't like it, but I guess I have no choice.  Very well.  Let's begin." 
Ranma narrowly avoided a blow as she attacked, and continued to dodge as
the fight raged on.  He flipped off the hat she was wearing, and was a
little interested in how the horns looked larger and more dangerous than
the cute little things he had been having fun with that morning in the
bath.

A few minutes later, Shampoo slowly blinked her eyes open.  What she saw
was something she had been wanting to see for some time- Ranma actually
standing up to Akane's constant pounding and returning some of the blows. 
She sighed when she noted that the probable reason he was fighting involved
those two horns on her head.

Ranma glanced over and saw Shampoo was finally awake.  "All right, Oni! 
Release Akane now or else!" he cried.  His acting was bad, but the Amazon's
Japanese wasn't good enough to tell.  Before she could get up and attack
Akane, Ranma threw his fake punch into her chin.  The impact, while not
usually hard enough to remove the possession, was enough to direct the
Oni's departure out of the top of the head instead of out the back of the
skull, like it usually preferred.  Out and away the beachball-sized
creature flew, running away from the three teenagers.

Akane blinked as she recovered.  Ranma reached out and steadied her.  "Are
you okay, Akane?"

She blinked.  "Uh... yeah, I think so."

Shampoo, still too dazed to rush the couple, noticed the way Ranma was
comforting Akane.  She remembered how they had looked when she had burst in
upon them.  She remembered what the Oni had said.  The resulting conclusion
of all those thoughts led her to only one possible conclusion- but she had
to know for certain.  "Ranma... was demon telling truth?" she asked softly.
 "Is Ranma Violent-girl's?"

Ranma blinked.  "Well... I really don't like being thought of as a piece of
property, but I suppose that's a good way of putting it.  In a sense, my
heart belongs to Akane."

"And Ranma not tell Shampoo before because he no want Shampoo hurt?"

"That's part of it, yes."

Tears started forming in her eyes.  "Then... then Shampoo no want Ranma,
either.  Bie liao."

With that, the Chinese girl leapt away, disappearing so fast neither Ranma
nor Akane could track her.  "Well... that went better than I'd thought,"
Ranma said.

"Huh?" Akane replied, confused.

"Well, I was planning to tell the other girls that I wasn't interested in
them at some point.  I always thought Shampoo would try to kill one of us
for it, though."  He looked at his fiancee and sighed.  "Akane... why did
you let the Oni try to kill her?  When it asked me how I knew you hadn't
wanted her killed, I couldn't come up with any reason other than I don't
think you would ever really want anyone dead."

Akane looked down, embarrassed.  "Well... I got really mad at her for just
tearing you away from me like that.  The Oni said 'Do you want me to take
care of her for you?' and without thinking I said yes.  Iria warned me
afterwards what that meant, but it was too late- the Oni was in charge and
already attacking Shampoo."

Ranma sighed.  "Akane, I love you, and have for a long time, but the one
real complaint I have is that you have too much of a temper.  A little of
it is okay, in moderation- I sometimes liked to get you mad just because
your anger can make you look even more attractive than normal, if you don't
start fuming and stomping around, but sometimes you take it too far.  It
takes away your judgment, for one thing- you wouldn't have agreed to that
if you were thinking clearly, I'm sure."

Akane sighed.  "I know.  I keep worrying that I'll completely lose control
of it one of these days and hurt someone."  She looked up into his eyes. 
"Now, I guess I'd better be extra careful with it while the Oni's inside
me.  That someone could be you, and considering how much power that Oni
just gave me...."

Ranma didn't say anything for a few minutes.  The wait went on several
minutes before a bell rang in the distance.  He blinked.  "Isn't that-"

"The warning bell for classes?  Yes, it is!  We're going to be late!"  With
that, Akane grabbed him by the arm with one hand, picked up her hat and
held it to her head with the other, and started running off, dragging Ranma
behind her.  They made it just seconds before the final bell rang.

*	*	*	*	*

Akane sat through her mythology class, bored.  She didn't really need to
pay attention- she'd MET some of the characters the teacher was talking
about, and knew fairly well who the other characters were- she expected to
meet them as well, given how her life had gone, and so had studied up on
them outside of school.  She didn't need to worry about this course.

Her eyes- and her mind- drifted off to Ranma.  Despite her outburst against
Shampoo earlier that morning, he'd given her hand a gentle squeeze after
getting to school, just to let her know that he wasn't mad at her.

She started thinking about the coming night.  She knew the Oni was waiting
at home for her and Ranma.  It knew that this night was the first scheduled
attempt for them to have sex.  Akane briefly wondered at this unscheduled
bit of freedom she and Ranma had.  She was very aware that Ranma didn't
quite trust her while the Oni was inside- she didn't entirely trust
herself, after that fight with Shampoo.  What she didn't know, and
desperately wanted to, was whether or not he realized she loved him despite
its interference, and not because of it.

Akane suddenly realized that there was a way he could be sure.  But she had
to arrange it before she got home....

*	*	*	*	*

Mousse returned to the Nekohanten from one of his usual delivery runs, and
approached Cologne, concern written all over his face.

"Is she still crying?" he asked.

The Amazon elder nodded.  "Yes- and I still haven't got a single word from
her as to why.  All she does is sit and cry."

Mousse growled, "Saotome's probably to blame for this.  I should go and get
vengeance for her!"

"Perhaps he is," Cologne nodded, absently using her staff to keep Mousse
from leaving the room.  "Perhaps he isn't.  We should wait until we find
out what, exactly, she's crying about.  That is in your interest as well as
mine."

Mousse frowned.  "What do you mean by that?"

"Well, if Ranma isn't the one who caused her to cry, you and he might need
to work together to avenge her.  It would not do to have the two of you
quarreling more than normal because you rashly jumped to conclusions."

Mousse sighed, thinking that he was perfectly capable of avenging Shampoo
on his own.  "And if it IS Ranma who hurt her?"

Cologne shrugged.  "Then you'll go after him a few hours later.  If he did
hurt her, you can do what you want to him, and I won't stop you- he would
stop you, however, since you aren't even a challenge for him one on one." 
Mousse snorted at that, but the old woman continued.  "Besides, if what I
suspect happened actually happened, you may want to thank him and not hurt
him."

"What would I ever want to thank Saotome for?" he asked, sulking.

"Well, if he dumped Shampoo as I think he did, you might want to thank him
for giving you an actual opportunity to win her heart."  She smiled.  "She
mentioned something about how you'd nearly killed yourself saving her while
on Toma's island.  I think she was impressed with you.  If you don't
mishandle this situation, you might actually convince her to marry you one
of these days.  But be warned- I will stop you from trying if you move in
on her before she's given up completely on Ranma."

Cologne went back to serving the customers, leaving a gaping Mousse in
shock behind her.

*	*	*	*	*

Nodoka moved from room to room, cleaning anything she could.  She went
through the various rooms, not really expecting to find anything to clean
but bored enough to do work that didn't need to be done.

She moved on into Ranma and Akane's room, wondering briefly when they would
do something that would force her to change the sheets- not that she
couldn't change the sheets now, anyway.

She was shocked when she saw the flash of color that had the same horns
she'd seen before on Akane speeding towards her.

*	*	*	*	*

It was lunchtime at Furinken, and Akane smiled her best smile at Ranma
before he had a chance to open his bento box.  She was a little nervous
that he wouldn't go along with this, but she had to try.  She had to let
him know how she felt.

"Say, Ranma- do you want to skip classes for the rest of the day?"

He blinked.  "Sure... but didn't you want to go to all your classes this
week?"

Akane nodded.  She hadn't quite expected that question, but it didn't
really surprise her.  "Well, with the Oni gone for the day, I thought we
might go out and do something together, like we occasionally  did before it
showed up."

Ranma blinked.  Akane was asking him out on a date again.  "I'd love to-
you want to go see a movie or something?"

Akane's smile widened.  "Or something.  Do you have any money?"

He shrugged.  "I probably got a little over five thousand yen left over
from that twenty thousand I got from Nabiki."

'Hmm... I have about four thousand myself... that should be plenty for a
couple hours in a decent love hotel.'  Akane nodded happily.  "That should
be plenty for what I have in mind.  Come on, let's go."

Ranma started to leave with her before looking at his hand, still holding
the bento box.  "Um... what about lunch?"

Akane frowned a little.  'Trust him to be thinking with his stomach,' she
thought.  Iria, however, was able to break in on those thoughts with an
interesting suggestion.  Akane's smile returned.

"Bring it with you," she said.  "We'll eat it when we get there."

"There?" he asked, surprised.  "Where are we going?"

"You'll see, Ranma.  You'll see."

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