My Cousin Kagome

BY : Sweet_Inu_Girl
Category: InuYasha > General
Dragon prints: 1697
Disclaimer: Disclaimer: I do not own InuYasha, Ranma ½ or the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

A/N: Well, it took nearly three years to finally finish the sequel to My Cousin Ranma, but it is here! Again, this is a crossover between InuYasha and Ranma ½ so it is most definitely considered and AU. If you haven’t read My Cousin Ranma, you may want to start there for this story to make sense. As always, I write where the story takes me, which means some characters may get slightly OC, so to those who read and go huh, sorry. Otherwise, I hope you all enjoy! And thank you, thank you, thank you, to all those readers who have continued to ask and push at me to finish this story. It definitely turned out a whole lot bigger and more in depth than I had ever planned. Happy Reading!

Night had long ago fallen over Nerima while the young man sat on the roof of the Tendo home and stared down at the destroyed dojo that had once been his favorite place. It lay in a pile of rubble, damaged and broken, and he couldn't help but feel the same way.

Sighing, he turned his attention to the twinkling lights of the city and wondered how he had let it get so far out of hand. Akane still wasn't speaking to him and honestly… he couldn't blame her.

She had looked... he had no words to describe how stunningly beautiful she had been in her wedding dress. The white satin had clung to her in all the right places, had sparkled with the beading and jewels, but it had been her eyes that had truly shown him what was behind her choice to go through with this shotgun wedding.

She loved him.

He couldn't keep denying the obvious and no matter how many times she may swing her mallet or pummel him with fists, he knew, now, without a shadow of a doubt, she loved him. Just the thought made his heart soar before it plummeted back to earth with the realization that he may have ruined everything.

His tomboy, after all this time, he had finally seen the truth behind her eyes and then – as it always does in Nerima – all hell had broken loose.

First he had opened his stupid mouth and inserted his stupid foot. Then the cursed men had torn apart the house looking for the nanniichuan water trying to reverse their transformations only for Happosai to arrive and drink it, and the fiancée brigade had shown up not long after, thanks to that witch Nabiki. Even the thought of her name had his fists clenching in anger. He wanted to wring the little troublemaker's neck for her interference! She'd sent out all those stupid invitations and caused what should have been the start of something great to become a fucking disaster. Scrubbing his hands down his face, he breathed deep and searched for some semblance of calm, but not even the stillness of the night or the softness of the breeze that ruffled his dark hair held any comfort.

A muffled sound had him cocking his head and listening intently. It was late and no one should be awake at this hour. Standing swiftly and moving on silent feet towards the sound, he arrived above Akane's window and leaned over the edge of the roof to peer inside. She was sitting in the dark on the floor in her yellow pajamas, tears streaming down her face, and she held her destroyed wedding dress in her hands. The sight damn near broke his heart. Sniffling hard, she wiped at her cheeks and carefully folded the dress away, tucking it into a garment bag and under her bed before she rose jerkily to her feet.

Watching her stumble and falter, Ranma dropped silently to her window in concern. Clumsy she may be at times but never just standing up and she moved with care as if she were in pain. She walked stiffly towards her mirror and snapped on a small table lamp before pulling her shirt up and away to reveal her ribcage. He blushed and almost turned away until he caught sight of what she showed the mirror.

Deep purple bruises, bleeding almost black in the center, covered her from armpit to hipbone and before he could think about his actions he was through the window and on his knees at her side. "Stupid, stupid tomboy! Why didn't you tell me you got hurt yesterday?" Fear laced his words and made them come out harsh in their quietly hissed whisper.

Akane, startled by his sudden appearance, tried to back away and pull her shirt down but one look into his eyes had her hesitating. They were deep, electric blue, swirling with a heavy mix of emotions that she couldn't quite comprehend but hadn't seen since... China. "Ranma? Why are you up?" She hissed and flinched away when he probed a particularly sore rib. "That hurts, baka!" He glanced up at her sharp wince and inhalation but continued to run his seeking fingers along her side.

"Raise your arm, 'Kane." Anger vibrate though his body with the knowledge that at some point she had been hit hard enough to crack at least three of her ribs. He snarled softly when she could lift her arm to only shoulder height before a pain filled whimper escaped and had her clutching at her side. "How?" He demanded, rising slowly to his feet to tower above her. His tiny fiancée with her gorilla like strength made him feel incredibly manly. She was so short compared to him, her curves full and enticing, and he would give almost anything to pull her in and hold her close, protect her from all harm; forever. She fit him perfectly those few times he had held her but it was the last time that slammed through his mind and had him forcing the door shut on those memories.

When she refused to meet his eyes he growled a low feral sound of displeasure. "Which one, 'Kane?" She shook her head defiantly, still refusing to tell him which of the girls had hurt her for had it been Kuno or Happosia or any of the other men she would have answered him but the girls... even Kodachi she would have told him. That left only Ukyo or Shampoo. The Chinese bitch was beginning to piss him off! After what she tried to pull in Jusendo… a quiet snarl broke from his throat.

Something dangerous was pacing inside him, scraping and clawing to be free. It was a feeling he knew well, had, in fact, become accustomed to since they had returned from China and his fight with Saffron. It welled up inside him when Akane was gone from his sight for too long, or if she was late coming home from being with her friends. It was a wild feeling that rose to war with the dread and fear that she was missing again, that this time when he found her, she wouldn't come back, that he would be too late and she would stay dead in his arms. That thought was the final straw as something inside him snapped.

He was done playing around.

Grasping her chin he gently but firmly forced her eyes to his. "Who hurt you, Akane?" His voice was quiet but insistent.

She stared up into enthralling blue eyes and felt the blush rise in her cheeks. He had rarely looked at her with that kind of intensity. It made her want to tell him anything he wished to hear. To tell him how much she loved him and how much it hurt that he refused to admit that he had told her the same thing in Jusendo. Her eyes drifted down to catch and hold on his mouth, and her tongue darted out to moisten her lips without conscious thought. He stood so close that she could feel the heat from his body enveloping hers and the musky scent that reminded her of leather was tickling her nose. She kept having to tell herself that she was still angry with him and didn’t really want to sway her body into his.

That feral feeling was getting stronger and he let it. It heightened his senses, allowed him to smell her budding arousal when she wet her lips, the dew kissed redness beckoning to him to come taste, to drink from them and see if they were as sweet as he'd always imagined. He couldn't feel embarrassment with his thoughts, not anymore. Not when he'd lost her once and been given a second chance that somehow, someway, kept getting fucked up.

Letting his eyes drift over her face and come to rest on her lips he leaned closer, slowly lessening the distance between them until their breath mingled and he whispered, "Who, Akane? Who hurt my tomboy?" His thumb brushed along her jaw when he gradually ran his hand back to cup the base of her skull, threading his fingers slowly through her short blue tresses. A deep rumble was building in his chest, almost a purr, and he let it out quietly when the need in him grew to entice this, his chosen female, to tell him what he wished to know.

'Kami... What is he doing?' Akane swayed a little when his hand sifted through her hair. He was touching her, seducing her with only a look and his soft words. Her eyes still hung on his lips and she panted feeling very aroused and very confused. "Ranma..." He was pulling her closer and her hands came up to press against his chest, unsure whether to push him away or hold tight so he couldn't escape when he came to his senses. "What are you...?" Her lips brushed his ever so slightly when she spoke and an electric shock raced from them to her core making her gasp.

That tiny brush of her lips broke his control and he sank into her mouth, kissing her with all the pent up desire he'd been holding back. His hand clenched in her hair and tilted her head to get a better angle so his mouth could move over hers, exploring the heated depths and finding that she was sweeter than he'd ever imagined. Grasping her hip with his free hand he pulled her flush against his body and rocked his hips into hers.

When she felt the bulge of his erection press against her, Akane ripped her mouth away and gasped, "Ranma!" His mouth dropped to her throat and she moaned low, doing her best to stay quiet. The last thing she wanted was her family barging in.

Normally, as little as a year ago – hell even a few months back – she would have screamed pervert and beaten him to a bloody pulp on the floor for touching her this way but, since China, things had changed. His words and how hard he had fought to save her – even though he denied it – had her reassessing her own feelings. It had her thinking about all the times she had jumped to conclusions and how often she had been wrong. And not just a little wrong but completely incorrect in her assumptions.

He wasn’t a hentai, had never been, and she had been wrong to accuse him of such. With that revelation she had begun to see him differently. To see past the smart mouth to the heart behind the man and she had begun to crave. To crave… him.

The lightest touch of his hand could make her heart pound and her stomach flutter. She craved those small moments of contact like lungs craved air, like an addict craved their next fix. Now, finally, he was touching her and though it scared her a little for she didn’t know what had brought this change about, she couldn’t, wouldn’t, give up the contact that easily.

Dragging his tongue up her throat he purred a heavy rumble of pleasure. Nothing tasted as good as she did. As aroused as he was he would not be completely diverted from his question and lipped at her ear, his voice rasping softly, "Who hurt my Akane?" He drew his hand up her hip so he could slip it under the edge of her top and stroke the bare skin of her waist on her undamaged side. "Tell me."

She let her head fall back when he sucked on her ear, gradually placing kisses along her jaw and back to her throat. His hand on her skin was heat and fire making her shiver and slide her palms up his chest to hold onto his shoulders. Whimpering she gave in and told him what he wished to know in an aroused whisper. "A... kick from... Shampoo... oh, kami... landed on... okonomiyaki bomb." He froze against her for a moment before lifting his head. Akane gazed up at him through partially shuttered eyes and saw that at some point his pupils had narrowed and become elongated like a cats. She'd only ever seen them do that a handful of times and only if he was deep in the nekoken.

It was like having ice water dumped down her spine.

"Ranma?" She whispered, her hand lifting to touch his cheek. "Are you... alright?" She should have known something was off. He was too tactile, too hands on with her. Dropping her palms back to his chest she tried to push him away.

He snarled at her, a soft warning to be still. "Stop it, 'Kane." The hand that held her hair pulled gently and she froze. A scent was rising to war with her arousal and it made him frown. Leaning down he tucked his nose against her throat and licked her skin. What he found had him releasing her completely and backing rapidly away to stand at the side of her bed with wide, horrified eyes. "You're afraid of me?"

"No! Never!" She held her hands out in entreaty at the hurt and confusion that underlay his words. It was the strange way he was acting that scared her, not him.

"Yes, Akane, you are! I can smell it on you!" He hissed an angry sound at himself for frightening her. Hands clenching and unclenching in agitation, it made him want to slice his ki claws through something.

"Ranma... think about what you just said. Something isn't right here. You don't act like this and you shouldn't be able to smell my emotions." She tugged her top down and took a hesitant step towards him. "What is going on?"

That hesitation broke his heart. Fear, his Akane was scared of him and shame raced swiftly down his spine. “I’ll go. Get some ice on those ribs.” He turned to the window to make his escape but small hands made contact with his side and shoved him down on her bed. “What the hell?”

“Ranma no baka!” She growled quietly at him. “You will tell me what this was right now or so help me I will smack you into the next ward!” Holding her mallet at her side she winced and tucked her hand against her ribs. Her actions had angered her already throbbing injury.

Seeing her wince in pain had him reacting swiftly. Standing from the bed he picked her up, made sure she left the mallet behind, and moved silently through the house to the kitchen. She squeaked in surprise and pain at being swept off her feet but otherwise was too stunned by his actions to voice any sort of protest.

Once they reached the kitchen he set her down gently in a chair and went to rummage through the freezer until he could find her an ice pack. She sat watching him through narrowed, suspicious eyes and he smirked while his back was to her. He had her confused with his actions but at least she wasn’t smelling of fear anymore.

Finding what he was looking for, he wrapped the cold pack in a small hand towel and knelt by her side to press the ice against her ribs. Akane whimpered a pained sound and shut her eyes tightly. “I’m sorry ‘Kane.” He hated seeing her in pain and it was stupid, unnecessary pain caused by stupid, irritating people. “This never should have happened.” Sitting in the darkened kitchen with only the light of the clock on the stove to cast a glow he gazed up at her.

Akane still didn’t know what was up with him tonight and decided to err on the side of caution just in case something really was wrong with him. Tentatively, she touched her fingers to his over the ice pack. “Ranma… what is going on with you? Did someone slip you something at the wedding?” He was acting so strangely. “Did Shampoo make you eat something?” His pupils had lost the elongated look of a cat’s but they still held a confusing mix of emotions that she couldn’t quite sort through. “Your eyes… they were like when you are in the nekoken. I’ve never seen them do that before without you going all cat on me.”

He shuddered a little at the ‘c’ word but otherwise held her eyes with his. It was time to grow up and stop acting like the immature jerk she often named him. He’d once told a friend to man up and tell his girl the truth and it was time to take his own advice. “I’m done, Akane. I can’t keep doing this anymore. It’s got to stop.” She seemed startled by his words.

“What are you talking about?” She whispered, scared again but this time it was because she feared he was going to walk away from her. Turning her eyes away she stared at the table and prepared to have her heart shattered for a second time in two days.

He didn’t like that she was upset and refusing to look at him. “Akane… why did you agree to marry me? Was it just for the cure?” Reaching up, he cupped her cheek to turn her eyes back to his and shifted the ice pack so it pressed a little higher on her ribs.

His thumb brushed the edge of her breast and she stiffened but he seemed not to notice so she let it slide. He was watching her so intensely that it made her blush and want to fidget. “I… well…” What do you say to a question like that? Sighing, she knew it was now or never. “No, Ranma. It… it wasn’t just for the water.” His cocky grin flashed before his expression returned to being serious.

He knew it! Now if only he could get her to admit her feelings for him first it wouldn’t be so hard to say what he needed to. “And if I asked you what you… how you feel about me… what would you say?” The question was spoken quietly and with complete vulnerability.

She looked down into those bright blue eyes and felt her heart squeeze painfully. Anger choked her throat. How dare he ask her something like that! “If I asked you to tell me the truth about what you said at Jusendo, would you?” Akane countered his question. “But, then, you already told me the truth before the ceremony.” Feeling a little bitter after the way he’d denied everything, she pulled her face away from his hand and took the ice pack before rising to her feet. “Thanks for your help-” He had her caged in against the table in the blink of an eye and she squeaked again in surprise. Ranma’s hands clenched down on the edge, to either side of her hips, so tightly she wondered if they would leave indents once he removed them.

“I lied.” His mouth was a hair’s breadth from hers as her big brown eyes looked up at him in shock. It didn’t matter anymore that she hadn’t confessed first. He couldn’t let her walk away from him. Not ever again. “That’s right, ‘Kane. I lied when I said I didn’t remember. I lied when I said there was no way I’d tell an uncute tomboy I loved her. I lied to all of it because… the truth is…” He took a deep, fortifying breath and gave her everything, laid himself bare, refusing to let his pride push her away a second time. “I held your cold, lifeless body in my arms and felt myself die with you. You, the one person who’s never tried to change me, who’s fought for me and at my side, who accepts me just the way I am, was the one person I wanted to be with more than anything and you were gone. Yes, I yelled out I loved you because I’d been too late to tell you when you were alive and prayed that somehow, in death, you would hear and know the truth. I’ve never loved anyone but you!” He crashed his lips to hers and nudge her backwards to sit on the edge of the table, allowing him to step between her thighs and keep her there.

Wrenching her mouth away Akane pushed against his arms. “Wait! Why now? What’s changed?” He rocked his hips into hers and she fought to hold back the whimper of pleasure. She couldn’t believe how she was acting with him but she had wanted this, wanted him for so very long to look at her with heat and longing, to burn for her the way she did for him, that she couldn’t stop the wanton little hussy she was becoming and clutched at his biceps when he rocked against her again.

“I changed! Something inside me broke with your death.” He stroked a hand up her spine. “When you came back the broken pieces shifted and became something new. There is a wildness in me that rises up when I don’t know where you are, or if you’re late, or like tonight when you were upset.” The other hand cupped her hip and pulled her in closer so that she stayed pressed against him. Her eyes were darkening in desire but he could also see her uncertainty. “I can’t keep doing this. Letting them hurt you because I choose you over them. I’m done screwing around, Akane! After the failed wedding I can see they don’t care who they hurt or how badly.” His battle aura was rising with his anger causing him to glow a fiery red and he stomped down hard on his rage, reaching desperately for control. “Tell me… tell me what you want, Akane, and I will do it. If you want me, I will get rid of the fiancée brigade once and for all. If you don’t…” His heart clenched painfully at the thought. “If you don’t, I will go and take my troubles with me. Nothing will ever come to hurt you again and you will be free to live whatever kind of life you wish. No more interfering parents. No more crazy martial artist. No more demons, kamis, or amazons trying to kill you.” It hurt something fierce to make that offer but he would give her an out. He was cursed to live an interesting life and if that wasn’t what she wanted… it would kill him but he would let her go. He stood completely frozen as he waited for her to accept or condemn him.

She stared at him in shock. Shock at his actions, shock at his offer and shock over how she’d acted with him was making her head spin but one thing was perfectly clear. “You… you love me?”

He smirked at her and leaned in close to her ear. “Yes, my tomboy. More than anything.” Ranma almost choked when her arms wrapped his neck and squeezed. “Can’t… breathe.”

Akane loosened her hold but didn’t let go. “If you asked me what I feel for you, Ranma,” She leaned back to look up into his eyes. “I’d tell you that I love you, too.”

She smiled that full radiant smile that made his heart flutter. The one that lit up her entire face and turned her from beautiful into drop dead gorgeous. He kissed her again, a slow brush of his lips across hers, gradually increasing the intensity until he stroked his tongue over her bottom lip begging access to the sweet depths of her mouth. She opened for him and he swept inside to mate his tongue with hers in a sensual dance that made his blood burn through him. It was heaven and hell and life all wrapped up into one bundle that was simply… Akane. Pulling away he rested his forehead against hers and breathed heavily, trying to slow the raging hormones and the feral nature that was rising inside him again. “I think… I think we’d better stop.”

She knew he was right but it felt so good to know it was her that he wanted. Akane, his uncute tomboy, was the girl he had picked out of all of them and it made her feel incredible special and slightly terrified. “Ranma… what are we going to do?” The others were strong and powerful martial artist and though she was proud of her abilities she was finally able to admit that she was not at their level. Once he let it be known she was his choice they really would try to kill her, especially Shampoo. Lifting his head he smiled a wide, evil grin that she had never seen on him before.

Had any of the others that had been at the final battle with Saffron seen that smile they would have run for cover. “I’m going to call in outside help.” Turning away he headed for the phone.

“Ranma!” She hissed at him when he started dialing. “It’s three in the morning!”

“I can’t wait or I might miss them.” He smirked at her while the phone rang in his ear before a sleepy, female voice answered. “Auntie? It’s Ranma. No, no one died but it was close.” He was silent as she came awake with his answer and rapid fired questions in his ear. “Look, Auntie… no she’s ok… no he’s fine… Auntie! Sorry for shouting but I need Kags… Yah, yah him, too. Are they there? Great! Can I talk to her?... No I need to do this now… yah I now she’s a bear in the morning…… well hand the phone to the dog then…. Thanks.” He waited while she threw on a robe and went to knock on Kagome’s door. He could hear the muffled conversation as his aunt woke his cousin’s mate.

“This better be good, human.” InuYasha snarled through the phone. “Kagome and I just got back and she’s wiped so speak.”

“Wow, Kags ain’t the only one who’s pissy in the morning.” Ranma chuckled when the hanyou growled at him.

“Ok, ass wipe, I’m hanging up now.” As soon as he could figure out how. ‘Damn frustrating technology!’ InuYasha thought as he glared at the phone in his hand.

“Wait! Look man, sorry for the early call but… I… I need your help.” The silence on the other end was deafening and for a moment he thought InuYasha had hung up on him. “You still there?” A heavy sigh drifted down the line.

“How bad?” If Ranma was asking for help… he shook Kagome gently to begin waking her. She growled at him to leave her be and he chuckled softly at his grouchy female.

“Multiple opponents, martial artists and amazons, most are my skill level many with ki attacks. They hurt...” He glanced at Akane as she listened to his half of the conversation in fascination. “My mate.” A growl rippled through the line and he pulled the phone from his ear when it escalated.

“How bad?” He shook Kagome harder. Covering the phone with his hand, InuYasha spoke next to her ear, “Kagome, we got trouble.” She sat up so fast her head almost collided with his nose but he had gotten used to the reaction after the first few times they’d cracked skulls and knew to move aside quickly. “Ranma needs us.” She nodded and yawned, slipping out of bed to stretch her tight muscles.

“Akane will be fine with enough time but…” He scrubbed his hand over the back of his neck. “Give Kags the phone and I’ll give her the address again.” The phone crackled when it shifted hands.

“Ranma?” Kagome yawned again and swatted at InuYasha when his hand slid over her pajama clad butt. “Behave!” She hissed at him.

“Kags! You ever catch that guy… Maraka or something?” He chuckled when she scolded her mate.

“Naraku and yes, he’s dead, but I kinda… miss calculated and… well… I shattered the jewel… again.” She blushed when InuYasha smirked at her from where he sat all hot and sexy on the bed.

“Jeez, Kags! What the hell?” He chuckled at her. “Guess you wanted to extend your adventure. You sure you guys can come to Nerima for a while?”

“Yes, it’s fine. What kind of trouble are you in?” InuYasha was sitting there bare chested, his black hair cascading over his shoulder and she was having a hard time focusing.

“It’s better if I explain once you get here. He gonna fit in ok?” InuYasha wasn’t exactly inconspicuous unless he was wandering around on the night of the new moon like tonight. “You got a couple of hours before sunrise to take the train.” Shuffling through the papers Kasumi kept by the phone he found the train schedule. “Yah, there’s a train that leaves at four thirty. Can you make that? We can meet you at the station instead of you coming here. Kags... Kags... KAGOME!”

Distracted by InuYasha, she startled when Ranma shouted at her. “Huh? Yes! Four thirty we can make that. The address of the Tendo dojo is the same as where I mail your letters to?” He confirmed the address for her and she turned away from where her mate was stroking his burgeoning erection, the boxers she insisted he wear so as not to scandalize her mother pooled around his ankles, to write it down again. “Ok, sounds good. How long are we staying?” That gave them time to take care of InuYasha’s issue before running for the train. Smirking at him she let her pajamas fall to the floor.

“Don’t know. Depends on how stubborn the problems are going to be. See you in a couple of hours. Oh and Kags? Tell him to bring the sword.” Ranma hung up the phone and turned back to Akane.

She shook her head in amazement. “I’ve heard you have some strange conversations but that was the weirdest one yet. What was that all about and who’s Kags and the guy you spoke to?” Akane held the ice pack to her ribs thinking that she might as well work on her bruising while she listened.

Ranma swaggered over to where she still sat on the kitchen table and tucked her hair behind her ear. “You remember me talking about my cousin?”

“The one who lives at a shrine?” Akane flushed a little with his touch, still unused to this side of him. It was like his cat side had merged with his human side and made him more affectionate and a lot more physical with her.

He loved it when her cheeks colored up so nicely and wondered what else might flush on her. Taking the ice pack back, he lifted the edge of her shirt and slid the cold directly over her bruising. Her pulse was fluttering rapidly in her throat and he felt the wild need rising again, encouraging him to scrape his teeth over that spot. They had time and he leaned closer to nibble a little, pressing his nose to her skin to smell her scent of sunshine and citrus. “Yup, that cousin. She’s coming to help and bringing her mate. Think of him like… mmm, you smell good… the muscle.”

“Why do you keep saying mate?” She tugged on his pigtail to get him to lift his head and blushed a little brighter when his cat eyes looked into hers again. “Ranma… your eyes keep shifting into the nekoken.”

“Better to explain about Kags and InuYasha once they get here.” He ran his thumb across her plump lower lip. “I never should have called you uncute.” The house was dead silent and he was grateful. It wasn’t often that they had time just the two of them to themselves without someone barging in. Without even trying he could hear the quiet breathing of everyone who was sleeping and that included Nabiki thank kami. The last thing they needed was Akane’s nosy sister butting in.

He was looking at her mouth like a man starving and she was a feast before his eyes. “Ranma… your eyes?” She tried again to distract him for his intensity was making her uncomfortable. Yes she loved him more than anything but that didn’t mean she was ready to jump into a physical relationship so quickly. The amount they had already mauled each other tonight was shocking enough.

He sighed when her scent shifted. Akane’s body may want his but she wasn’t there yet mentally and he wouldn’t push her… entice perhaps… but never push. “The nekoken’s been… different… since Jusendo.” She shivered and he wasn’t completely sure if it was due to the name or the ice pack he was running over her ribs. “It reacts to you now more so than” Pulling a chair over he sat between her knees and continued to slowly run the ice over her skin. The only problem was that it was losing its effectiveness as it warmed. Dropping it on the table he closed his eyes and allowed his soul of ice to emerge until the cold washed out from him in freezing waves. Satisfied that it would hold, he slid his hand up over her bruises.

“Brrr… that’s colder than the ice pack!” She shuddered and pulled away only to have a second frozen hand wrap around her waist making her yelp in surprise.

“Hold still, yah big baby.” He snickered a little when her fist came down lightly on the top of his head.

“Back to the nekoken, baka.” She shivered again at the cold that was coming off of him. Sitting on the table with him between her pajama pant clad knees was like hugging a block of ice but the freezing temperature over her ribcage was numbing everything nicely.

Touching her smooth, soft skin was challenging him to hold his soul of ice and he dug deep for control when he slid his hand further up her side. “I’ve always come to you when the nekoken takes over, my…cat likes you but when I held you after Jusendo, everything tore apart inside me. The place the nekoken resided ain’t locked away like it used to be. I can feel it move, rise up when my concern for you is great or when I get… um… excited.” He would have blushed if he could have but the technique required him to lock away his emotions. Letting his hand drift higher as her skin cooled he watched her cheeks flush again.

Akane ended up blushing instead but for some reason, sitting in the darkened kitchen at just shy of three thirty in the morning, it was as if everything was suddenly easy. Speaking her mind, touching Ranma, asking the questions she most wanted answers to, didn’t embarrass her like they did during the light of day and she wondered if it was because the house was still and its occupants slept, oblivious to their progress below. “And do I make you… excited, Ranma?” His eyes shot to hers and held, watching her intently while she chewed on her lip.

Rising slowly to his feet, he brought his hand higher up her side until his thumb brushed the underside of her breast. “What do you think, ‘Kane?” She inhaled sharply through her nose, her scent spiking in his, and he brushed her breast again just to feel the little jolt rush through her body a second time. Pressing his lips gently against hers, he kissed her until his skin warmed and his temperature rose when his soul of ice shattered.

He went from freezing cold to almost burning hot in an instant and with a sultry little moan, Akane pressed her body to his. She was frozen and he was heat and could warm her like no other. “Ranma…” His name was a soft plea when he shifted back to her throat, nibbling his way down to her shoulder and across her collarbone. The sound he had made earlier was starting again only this time she pressed her chest to his and sighed in pleasure when the vibration stimulated her in a new way.

Grasping her hips he sat back into the chair he’d vacated and pulled her gently down into his lap. She gave a startled gasp and blushed brightly when her fabric covered core pressed against his raging hard length. Silk pants and thin cotton pajamas left little to the imagination. “What do you think, my tomboy?” His grin was smug when he rocked up into her before he licked the hollow of her throat.

“Ranma… I can’t… I’m not ready…” She stuttered and blushed an even brighter red already feeling like a wanton hussy for most of what they’d done tonight.

His hand came up to cup her cheek and he pressed his thumb to her lips to still her words. “I know. We will do only what you are ok with… nothing more.” Ranma let her shift back and off his cock, restraining the whimper of disappointment that wanted to escape his lips.

She felt slightly bereft at the loss of his length pressed against her but pushed it to the side for now. “Why did you tell them I was your... mate?” Her voice was a breath of a whispered question and she found she was suddenly fascinated with the ties on his favorite red shirt.

Catching her chin he lifted her eyes to his. “Because to my other side that is exactly what you are and once you meet InuYasha… it will be easier to understand. Using the term mate would get him here faster than fiancée… believe me!” He chuckled at the memory of their first meeting. “Kags is… different. You’ll see and you’ll like her. InuYasha well… you might want to hold on to your mallet.” His eyes lit up with excitement. “Or just get Kags to say ‘sit’! That works great, too.” He glanced at the clock. It was three thirty five in the morning and they didn’t need to meet Kags and InuYasha until after five. “I got an idea. Let’s get you dressed and I’ll help wrap those ribs, then, how about a super early breakfast? There’s a place down by the station that opens at four.”

Akane giggled softly. “You and your stomach. Sounds good but you’re buying!” She went to stand and he quickly swept her off her feet. “Ranma?”

“We’re going the long way so no one hears nothing.” He left silently through the back door and took Akane around to jump up through her window back into her room. “Yah got bandages in here?” He whispered and swore when she shook her head. “Kay, be right back.” Flipping out of the room he swung himself through the open window of his room to land silently beside the snoring panda.

They always had bandages. Usually someone needed them just about daily and seeing pop’s wallet laying open, he snagged every yen that was in it. ‘It’s the least he owes us after that fiasco of a wedding.’ Quickly he returned to Akane and after ascertaining she was decent, helped to wrap her cracked ribs up tight. She’d chosen to wear soft, loose pants for once and he found he was disappointed at not getting to see her bare legs but it made it easier to wrap her ribs. He had to work not to rumble a purr of approval when she lifted her shirt and let him wrap the bandages around her slim body. She was so damn beautiful. Finished, he tugged the back of her sweater down and whispered, “Let’s go.”

She smiled at him and nodded. “This place better have awesome pancakes!” He swept her carefully up again and she placed her arms around his neck, wincing only a little.  Touching his cheek before he could leap out her window Akane placed a sweet kiss against his lips, the first she had initiated between them. “Thank you for doing this, Ranma. I’m not sure I could handle them… not anymore.”

He looked deep into her eyes and felt like he could have touched her very soul. “You ain’t the only one. It’s time to stop this shit show!” He growled softly and captured her lips for a searing kiss that left them both wanting more. “Let’s get out of here before our luck runs out!” It could at any moment.

Quickly, he raced them across the roof tops while Akane held on. Her grip on him was light and it made his chest swell with pride knowing that she trusted he would never let her fall. They had a over an hour until help arrived and he prayed to whatever kami was working in their corner tonight that his cousin and her mate would be just the backup he needed. If not, he felt his resolve harden and the nekoken stir inside him, all hell was going to break loose over Nerima.

InuYasha stared out the window of the train and watched the world as it streaked by. It was just weird. Weird and spooky to move this fast without actually running.

He turned his eyes from the window to glance down at Kagome where she slept against his chest and pulled her in a little tighter. He hated travelling like this. It felt wrong and somehow lazy to him to rely on a large mechanical beast to move from one place to the next when he could just as easily get them to Nerima with his own two feet.

Kagome shifted against him with a sigh and he stroked his hand down her spine. Blunt human nails skated over her coat and he could have snarled when his eyes caught his reflection in the metal of the door across from them. ‘Kami I hate this night!’ Black hair and dark eyes stared back at him with a matching sneer and he shifted his gaze back to the night outside the window. At least he didn’t have to wear the hat… yet… but Kagome had dressed him up in her ‘normal’ clothes and packed his fire rat in the large sack that sat at their feet. She’d packed enough clothing for the two of them for the week but he hoped they wouldn’t be here that long. This era drove him crazy with its loud noises and stink clogging up his nose. The clothing was too tight to allow for proper movement and he hated the shoes she made him wear, but Ranma had been instrumental in helping him win his mate and if the man needed them, then it was dire.

Ranma, the baka. He felt his lip curl back to bare his fangless teeth. That first meeting had been something else with the trick he and Kagome had pulled but the results had been worth the pain in the end. It had shaken him enough to show him what he truly wanted and Ranma had given him the opportunity to prove it.

InuYasha rubbed his hand over his face and sighed quietly so as not to disturb Kagome. It appeared it was time to return the favor for what Ranma had done.

‘Bring the sword’ was not something you said if this was going to be a peaceful negotiation so at least he could expect to get in a fight or two. The martial artist was a better fighter than a lot of his youkai opponents and he apparently had multiple ones of comparable strength. The thought made InuYasha smile a wicked grin. Ranma had said something about amazons and it made him wonder just which tribe they were from, for if it was that tribe… the grin shifted and became a touch evil when he chuckled.

The sound disturbed Kagome enough to make her sigh again, her lips moving into a small pout when she frowned. He stroked her spine until she settled back into sleep and was grateful. This last round of shard hunting had taken its toll for it was just the two of them hunting now. Sango and Miroku had married nearly the day after Naraku’s defeat and the taijiya was expecting their first children. He knew she was having twins for he had heard the dual beating hearts months ago and had insisted that Miroku stay with his wife. He and Kagome as well as Shippo – when he wasn’t at fox demon school – could handle the new shard hunt easily, especially since they were not having to fight off Naraku and his minions at every turn.

And with Sesshomaru being less of an asshole than he used to be it made a difference. His daiyoukai half-brother had finally removed the stick from his ass and had at least become less hostile. Rin lived in the village with Kaede and he made regular visits to see her there and, if they were home, he would stop to see them, too. Mostly he came to see Kagome as, for some reason, they had developed an odd friendship of sorts after the final battle. She even got away with calling him onii-san and one time InuYasha had seen Sesshomaru smile at her.

‘It was just weird.’ He shook his head in remembrance. Through his mate he had managed to form a stable truce between himself and Sesshomaru that kept them from trying to kill each other and in the end they had chosen to tell his brother of Kagome’s origins. He’d been surprised – or as surprised as the daiyoukai allowed anyone to see – but once the information had come to light Sesshomaru had begun to ask questions about the future. InuYasha had tuned out at that point. He’d been here and it weren’t that great.

He glanced back to Kagome and smirked at how tired she was. They’d almost missed the train because he’d been rather intent on keeping her pressed to the wall of the bedroom with his cock buried to the hilt in his mate after she’d dropped her pajamas to the floor. His body stirred with the memory and made him snicker quietly. The night of the new moon was usually spent in this time for he wasn’t willing to leave her defenseless, not since they had mated and begun this new hunt alone. Last night they had gotten back late after a particularly difficult battle and he had already turned human before they made it through the well. Neither of them had wounds amounting to more than scrapes and bruises but it had still been more difficult to exit the well than usual and they had fallen into bed in complete exhaustion, not even able to eat dinner before sleep overcame them.

Thinking about food had his stomach rumbling in anticipation and he hoped Ranma would feed them when they got there as it had been a very long time since lunch. A mechanical voice pinged to life and made him jump when it spouted the next stop was the one Kagome had told him was theirs.

Gently, he kissed her lips to wake her, feeling  her smile grow under his when she did. “Good morning again, sleepy wench.” He murmured against her mouth. “Your cousin better feed us when we get there.” She laughed like he hoped she would and swatted at him playfully.

“I’m sure we can find something to fill that black void of a stomach of yours, InuYasha.” Grinning, Kagome stretched her arms up over her head and heard the rumble of sound that passed for a purr in his human state. “See something you like?” She teased him and let her hands drop to his chest.

“Always.” He gave her a smacking kiss while the train slowed to a stop at the station.

Ranma and Akane sat on a bench waiting for the train to arrive while a few other early morning commuters wandered the platform around them. Their bench was shrouded in shadows and they sat shoulders together, silently enjoying each other’s company. Ranma, trying to be casual about it, reached out and played with Akane’s fingers, running his over and under hers until she got annoyed enough to grab his hand to stop his teasing caress.

“Cut it out, Ranma! What are you trying to do, annoy me into smacking you?” Akane glared at him but wasn’t sure it would do much good in the dark.

He chuckled quietly. “Got you to hold my hand, didn’t I?” His eyesight seemed stronger than usual and he could just make out the soft color of her blush when it flared high on her cheeks. Man he enjoyed riling her up! She shifted as if uncomfortable and he stiffened. “Ribs?”

“Only a little. Hurts to breathe.” She sighed and leaned against his shoulder without thinking about it, letting her eyes close. His thumb was brushing soothing circles over her wrist and she yawned, her mind drifting.

“Akane?” His voice was quiet but she made a soft sound in the back of her throat that she’d heard him. “I’m sorry about what happened with the wedding… in fact… I’m sorry about a lot of the things that have happened lately. I sure haven’t done a very good job of protecting you.” His sigh was heavy with remorse thinking about all the ways he’d failed her.

“The wedding disaster wasn’t your fault any more than it was mine, Ranma.” It was Nabiki’s as much as their fathers and she and her sister were going to be having words on the matter. “And I’m a martial artist, too. You can’t always be expected to rescue me. I need to see to my own safety once in a while.” If he would just get serious about training her up to his level it would make life a lot easier, but this was an ongoing argument that never went in her favor and she was too tired to fight with him about it now.

He knew what she wanted but... he just couldn’t! How was he supposed to train her when it meant hitting her with enough force to hurt her? Sighing, he was saved from replying when the train pulled in. “This should be them.” Standing, he helped Akane up, hating how she gasped when her ribs grated painfully together. “I shouldn’t have dragged you out here.”

“Shut it, baka! I want to be here.” Akane frowned at him and held a hand to her ribs. She may want to be here but her body was protesting its involvement. “When was the last time you saw your cousin?”

He studied her carefully before answering. “Right before I came to Nerima. She needed my help with… something.” Ranma wanted to wait till Kags arrived so that he could make sure she was ok with him telling her secrets. He knew Akane would never say anything but he wasn’t taking any chances with his cousin’s happiness.

 Glancing back at the train he moved into the light so he could watch for them. A dark haired man jumped down followed by a dark haired woman that he caught and quickly took her duffle from. Ranma grinned when the snarled question of ‘what the hell did she pack in this thing’ rang out across the platform. “If I know Kags she’s got everything but the kitchen sink in there.”

Kagome’s head whipped around and she gave a happy squeal of recognition. Racing across the platform she skid to a stop toe to toe with him. “Ranma! You just keep getting bigger! What in the world are they feeding you? Still sticking your foot in your mouth?” She grinned up at him and bounced up on her toes to wrap her arms around his neck and hug him tight.

He swung her in a quick circle before setting her back to her feet. Shaking his head, he smirked down at her. “Still skinny and uncute as ever, Kags. You bring a leash for your lap dog?” He glanced past her at InuYasha and laughed when the hanyou sneered at him.

“Just you wait till sun up, human. I’ll kick your ass… again.” He smirked at his mate’s cousin and held out his hand. “Long time, Ranma.”

He slapped his hand down over InuYasha wrist, greeting him in the old traditional way that the youkai of his time used. “Too long, man. Glad you could make it.”

Kagome’s attention had shifted past Ranma to the woman standing shyly a few feet away. She walked calmly towards her while InuYasha and Ranma greeted each other. “Hi. I’m Kagome, Ranma’s cousin. You must be Akane. It’s so nice to finally meet you!” She bowed in greeting, surprising Akane into returning the gesture only to see her wince and grab for her ribs. “Oh! You’re really hurt! Come over here and let me see.”

Akane had her hand grasped and was being led towards the light of the train station without even managing to offer a protest. Finally finding her voice she tugged on her hand to get Kagome to let go. “It’s alright. Ranma bound the ribs for me. They’re cracked so, really, there is nothing to be done but let them heal.” She healed faster than most people anyways.

The smile spread before she could stop it. “Ranma that baka. He didn’t tell you anything about us, did he?” Kagome shook her head and continued to pull Akane into the light.

“No… should he have?” Confused but intrigued by this strange woman, Akane stopped resisting and followed Kagome a few more steps.

Kagome lifted the edge of Akane’s shirt and frowned at the bandages. “This would work better without these but beggars can’t be choosers.” Turning, she looked back at the men still speaking with each other and glanced quickly around to make sure there was no one watching. “Let’s do this quick before InuYasha yells at me.” She grinned and set her hand against Akane’s ribs.

“What are you…?” Her voice drifted off and Akane watched in stunned amazement when Kagome’s hand glowed a soft pink before heat began to gather in her ribcage. It got warmer, almost to the point of pain, before becoming incredibly itchy as if all the healing was done in an instant.

Lifting her hand, Kagome swayed on shaky legs. “Wow… three ribs… was a bit much.” She smiled at Akane right before her eyes rolled back in her head and she fainted.

Gasping in surprise, Akane caught her out of reflex only realizing after she’d moved that her ribs no longer hurt. “Ranma!” She hollered and was almost instantly faced with the angry, dark haired man.

“Shit! What did she do?” InuYasha took Kagome from Akane and cursed his human form that didn’t allow for him to check her out properly. He couldn’t scent her or sense her powers like this, but he could tell she was breathing properly and her heartrate seemed normal.

“She said something about three ribs being a bit much and then fainted. What did she do? I don’t have any pain left at all.” Akane pressed her hand against her side in amazement and turned to look at Ranma.

InuYasha snarled and picked Kagome up against his chest. “Ranma, grab the bag. We need to get her somewhere we can stuff her full of food when she wakes up.” Turning to the eastern horizon he checked for any light and found a pale glow.

Ranma hefted the bag and gave a grunt. “Jeez, you weren’t kidding! What the hell she pack in here?” Striding forwards, he caught Akane’s hand and grinned at her. “Kags is a miko. Come on, I’ll explain at the restaurant.” Nodding to InuYasha he led them out of the train station and back down the street to the restaurant they had left not twenty minutes ago. “What works for you, man?” He let InuYasha pick where to sit to best suit the hanyou’s needs.

“Back corner.” He thrust his chin in that direction and followed behind with his bundle. The woman with Ranma kept glancing his way but for the moment he ignored her and focused on Kagome. The waitress was heading rapidly in their direction as he slid into the booth and shifted Kagome to his side, keeping his body between her and anyone approaching the table.

“Sir! Is everything all right? Do you need assistance?” The cute couple from earlier had returned with another but to see the man carrying the unconscious woman had her worried. Even in Nerima where the odd was fairly common place it still paid to check on these things.

“Came in on the train and she’s over tired. Ain’t nothing wrong.” For once he was thankful Kagome dragged him around to all these place on his human night for at least this time he knew what to do. Plucking the menu out of the older woman’s slack fingers he flipped it open and ordered six different plates listed under the heading of breakfast before glancing at Ranma. “You want anything?”

Akane’s mouth hung open in amazement and made Ranma chuckle, shaking his head. “We ate before you got here.”

“Keh. That’s it then.” He handed the menu back to the waitress. “Add two coffees and four waters.” The waitress stared at him stunned before shaking her head and walking away. He glanced back out the window past Kagome and motioned to Ranma. “Dig me out the hat.”

While Ranma was rummaging through the bag Akane finally had enough of being left in the dark and smacked her fist down on the table. “Will someone please tell me what the hell is going on!?”

The smack was enough to wake Kagome and she sat bolt upright in surprise. “Youkai?” She squeaked and looked frantically around for danger.

InuYasha snickered and took his hat from Ranma. “Nah. Just an impatient wench.” He chuckled when said wench sputtered and glared at him. Pulling his hair into a tail he tugged it through the back of his hat and pulled it down over his head. “Five minutes, Kagome.”

Reaching up, she fixed his ball cap so it wouldn’t pinch on his ears when they returned and pulled his length of black hair around so it hung down his chest, partially covered by the coat he wore. “That feel ok?” He nodded. Stretching up, she kissed him firmly on the mouth. “Good. Please tell me you ordered pancakes?”

“Keh, and coffee. This ain’t my first go round with you, wench.” He smirked down at her when she tugged the forelock that was still hanging free down the side of his face. “You feeling ok or do I need to yell at you for pulling that stunt?”

Kagome rolled her eyes. “I’m fine. Just really hungry.” Healings always took a lot of energy and made her feel famished.

“Ranma if someone doesn’t start talking and explain this to me I am going home!” Akane’s hands had clenched into fists in her lap and she breathed deep to calm her rising battle aura. She was glad to see that Kagome was alright but was really tired of being ignored.

“Oh! Akane, please don’t go. Give us till sunrise and we will explain everything.” Kagome held out her hand to the other girl in supplication.

Sighing, Akane nodded. “Fine but can you at least tell me what you did to my ribs? Ranma says you’re a miko?” She knew Ranma’s cousin lived at a shrine but she had never seen a miko do anything like what this woman had.

Kagome giggled and pressed against InuYasha, his arm draped around her shoulders and held her close. “Yes, that’s right but I’m not exactly your traditional kind of miko.” Glancing around she made sure no one was watching before cupping her hands in front of her and creating a small ball of pink reiki. Closing her hands she snuffed out the light. “I have special powers that allow me to heal or harm depending on the situation.”

“Like ki?” Akane looked from Kagome’s hands back up to her eyes. She had kind, compassionate, chocolate brown eyes under her heavy fringe of black bangs.

The waitress returned with four glasses of water and two coffees. She smiled to see Kagome awake and set one of the mugs in front of her and the other in front of InuYasha. “Your food will be out in about ten minutes.” With a little bow she returned to the kitchen. There was no one else in the restaurant just yet as they didn’t normally get customers coming in a regular flow until closer to six. They had a bit of a rush between four thirty and five for the early commuters that caught the train but for now, the four in the booth were the only customers she had.

InuYasha shoved the second cup of coffee in front of Kagome. “Still don’t know how you can stand to drink that sludge.” She was sucking back the first cup and waved her hand motioning for him to answer Akane’s question. “It is ki but goes deeper. She can use her reiki, transferred through her hands as ki, to heal. Ki is life energy, reiki is life energy with more kick, comes out of her soul and has a spiritual element to it. Kagome packs a pretty good wallop when she wants to.” She rolled her eyes at him over the edge of her coffee cup and made him chuckle.

Akane studied InuYasha as he spoke and frowned a bit. “Not to be rude but what kind of name is InuYasha, and Ranma said to consider you the muscle but you’re not exactly…” She waved her hand trying to indicate size without being discourteous. If she had to judge she would say that Ranma was a few inches taller and a lot more muscular than the other man.

Ranma laughed at the look on InuYasha’s face. “You of all people, ‘Kane, should know better than to judge someone by their looks. Besides… he don’t usually look like this.”

InuYasha’s smirk spread. “Kicked your ass quick enough.” Glancing again out the window he flexed his fingers as the light brightened. Soon he’d be back to normal, thank the kami!

“Yah, well, I learned a few new things since we went at it last.” Ranma linked his hands behind his neck and waited for the change to happen. Leaning back against the seat of the booth he saw Kagome stiffen and close her eyes, making him frown a little in concern. They’d written back and forth fairly regular since he’d been staying at the Tendo dojo and, thankfully, his personal mail was the one thing that Nabiki didn’t pry into. Kagome’s letters were full of her adventures, information about InuYasha, and what was occurring in the feudal era that she traveled in. So, even though he had never seen her mate make the transition from human back to hanyou, he did know what to expect and nudged Akane. “Watch this.”

The sun finally crested the horizon and the pulse when InuYasha’s youki returned rattled the windows, shook the cups on the table, and swirled around them like a whirlwind lifting the girl’s hair in the breeze. His black hair bleached white, his nails lengthened back into claws, and his fangs descended to indent his lip.  The brown lightened to gold in his eyes and his ears returned to be flattened under his hat. Akane gasped when his eyes lifted to bore into hers as he grinned wide enough to bare his fangs.

“Got an opinion now, human?” Lifting the glass of water he drained the contents and grimaced at the taste of the chemicals in it. “Can’t even get water that tastes like water.” He grumbled softly, glaring at the empty glass before setting it down and reaching for the second.

“But… but… what… how?” Akane shook her head in amazement before turning to Ranma. “He’s a demon!” She hissed in surprise.

“Actually, InuYasha is hanyou, half-demon.” Kagome rolled her shoulders and opened her eyes to smirk at Akane.

“Whoa! Kags. What's up with the freaky eyes?” Her once chocolaty brown eyes were know the same color as InuYasha’s. Her hands rested on the table top and he noticed the lengthened nails that were almost but not quite claws.

Linking her fingers with InuYasha’s she smirked at her cousin and his fiancée. “About a week or two after our mating we noticed that I was starting to change physically and we sought out Myoga, he’s a flea youkai that InuYasha has known all his life. It seems that I’m InuYasha’s one true mate and it has allowed us a deeper, fuller bonding than most youkai.” Kagome’s smile softened as she looked up at InuYasha. “I’m a little more powerful than I was, have a few new attributes and abilities,” She grinned wide and flashed short but sharp fangs, “But it’s InuYasha that has benefited the most with our mating. His power has grown exponentially to the point that even the full blooded youkai don’t mess with us much.”

Akane’s head was reeling and she knew she must be sitting with her mouth gaping open but couldn’t seem to close it. “I… just… Ranma no baka!” She punched him firmly in the arm.

“What the hell is that for, ‘Kane?” He winced and rubbed at his bicep.

She was fuming mad at how he’d never told her about any of this. “How could you not tell me about them?” Akane waved her hand at the couple across the table. “You have a cousin who’s got magical priestess powers and is married… mated?” She glanced at Kagome for clarification.

“Mated.” Kagome giggled when she nodded. She liked this Akane and how she got after Ranma so easily. Her cousin could be a big jerk at times but it was clear there was something between the two of them. They had matching auras.

“Mated to a half demon! This is huge and you never said a word.” It hurt that he had kept something so incredible from her and she wondered if he was hiding anything else. Twisting her fingers together, she set them in her lap and stared down at them.

Ranma cringed and scratched at the back of his neck. “Look, I didn’t keep it from yah. I did talk about Kags, it’s just… she’s got secrets that ain’t mine to tell.” Reaching out, he tentatively touched Akane’s cheek and turned her face back to his. “I didn’t do it to hurt you, tomboy… I just wasn’t sure how much Kags and InuYasha would want to tell of their history.”

His eyes were clear and sincere, hiding nothing from her when she gazed up at him and she sighed, realizing he was right and she had overreacted. “Alright, baka. I get it but you better not have any more secrets.”

“Not a one.” Smiling at her, he brushed his thumb across her slightly reddened cheek. “Help me out here, Kags.” He turned the smile on Kagome with a touch of pleading in his tone.

Kagome took pity on her cousin and began the long and complex story of how she and InuYasha had met. She started with her fall down the well years ago at fifteen, meeting and releasing InuYasha, how they traveled back and forth from the past, their friends, Naraku and the final battle that had only just ended a few months ago. The food arrived in the beginning of her retelling, the waitress, looking at InuYasha in confusion, had begun to question the change in hair color but shook her head and let it go. This was Nerima after all.  Between Kagome and InuYasha they managed to wolf back the meal in turns as they finished their tale. “And while all this was happening, Ranma came for a visit and helped play match maker.” She laughed when he blushed.

“Weren’t that big a deal. I just locked you in a room so you’d finally talk to each other.” Ranma flushed at the memory and glanced at InuYasha. The hanyou had a smug, knowing grin on his face that made Ranma even more uncomfortable. Obviously when he’d made his escape he had not been as silent as he’d hoped.

 InuYasha smirked and leaned back in the booth. “Big enough. Time to return the favor. What’s got you all riled up?” There was something different about Ranma. It was familiar but not and he couldn’t quite figure it out. Something in his scent had changed.

Ranma scrubbed his hands over his face and snarled. “Big fucking shit show of a disaster. Might be better to show you the latest damage.” The restaurant was beginning to get busier as he slid his way out of the booth. “Don’t worry about breakfast… it’s on pops this morning.” Grinning, he paid the check and they all headed outside, InuYasha packing the duffle as if it weighed nothing now.

Akane was still trying to process all she’d been told and with wide eyes turned to Kagome. “If I hadn’t seen the change, and Ranma wasn’t here to back up this story of yours, I would almost believe that you were talking about a new manga you’d been reading. And I thought our life was crazy!” She smiled and giggled when Kagome laughed.

“Which way.” InuYasha grumbled at Ranma. The scent of the city was overwhelming and he sneezed to clear his nose.

Ranma grinned and pointed. “Up and that way.” Turning he swept Akane off her feet, chuckling when she yelped and swung her fist at him.

“A warning would be nice!” She tugged his pigtail in annoyance.

InuYasha snickered and grinned down at Kagome. “Ready?” She nodded and swung the duffle across her back. They’d had to use a duffle instead of her regular back pack in order to bring Tetsusaiga. InuYasha knew he couldn’t just pack the sword around in the open as it usually got them in trouble but that didn’t mean he had to like it. Crouching down he waited till Kagome was settled before nodding to Ranma. “Lead the way.”

"Sweet kami! What happened?" Kagome gasped in shock when the four of them landed in the Tendo's yard next to the koi pound.  The yard was in shambles but it was the building that had once been the dojo Ranma had written of that she stared at in dismay.

Akane, still trying to wrap her head around this strange turn of events, gave a heavy sigh and sadly shook her head. "Well, we almost got married..." Motioning towards the house she said quietly, "Come have a seat and Ranma can start explaining. This is going to take a while so I'll get us some tea." It was early yet but Kasumi was probably up and she should at least warn her they would have guests.

"Thanks, 'Kane." Ranma brushed his hand down her spine as she walked away. When the others moved to follow he held up his hand so they would wait. Making sure Akane was out of ear shot he turned frantic eyes on his cousin and her mate. "There's something I've never told you about Akane. Never ever, ever, eat her cooking! The tea's fine but her food will rot out your stomach." He waved his hands rapidly in front of him

“Oh, come on, Ranma. How bad can she be?” Kagome rolled her eyes and led the way towards the house.

“Three days in the hospital and I had to have my stomach pumped this last time.” He sighed when Kagome gasped and spun to face him. “And no I ain’t kidding. Cooking is not a strength of hers.” Taking them through the engawa Ranma sat at the table while Kagome and InuYasha joined him on the other side. Setting his hands on the surface Ranma breathed a heavy sigh.

Reaching across the table, Kagome took Ranma’s hand. “You alright? You look tired.”

He shrugged. “Haven’t slept yet.” It was nothing new to be short on sleep and he squeezed her fingers reassuringly.

“Enough of this sappy crap. What the hell’s going on?” InuYasha shrugged out of the coat he wore to reveal the dark t-shirt that pulled across his chest and arms before removing the hat from his head. Giving his head a shake he thrust a hand over his ears.

Remembering the trouble he’d had with the dragon whisker, Ranma stared and slowly shook his head. “How do you deal with all that without tying it back?”

InuYasha waved it off. “Used to it. Stop changing the subject and get on with it.”

Ranma scrubbed his hands over his face and started to explain. “I’ve written to Kag’s a lot, but I ain’t told you everything.” He started with his arrival at the Tendo home and subsequent engagement to Akane. InuYasha snickered, obviously seeing the humor in it after what Ranma had done the last time they’d gotten together but didn’t comment. He continued with Ryoga’s arrival, how they were rivals from years ago and how now they had become competitors for Akane. The blue haired girl was not aware of how Ryoga felt and Ranma preferred it that way but it did make things difficult when his fiancée was often defending the lost boy against him.

Moving on he told of Shampoo’s arrival and the kiss of death, explaining how he had defeated her in battle in China when he’d been in his girl form. Then she’d found out he was actually a guy and the kiss of death became a kiss of marriage. He told them about all the tricks she had pulled, the drugged food, the way she would show up naked in his bed or bath, and finally how she had threatened to kill Akane on multiple occasions. Also there was the problems of Mousse and Cologne. He ran through their involvement and the fact that Shampoo and Mousse were cursed as well in short order before moving on to Ukyo.

This part made him sad and he looked up at Akane when she returned with the tea and a plate of goodies. Kasumi came in behind her and stopped abruptly when she saw InuYasha. “Oh my! He has puppy ears!” Her hands flew to her mouth and her eyes widened. “Akane! You didn’t tell me he had soft, fuzzy ears.” Eyes swinging from her sister to the half demon and back Kasumi smiled and wondered if he would let her touch them.

InuYasha, seeing the look in the older girl’s eyes, quickly jammed the hat back down over his ears. “Ain’t nobody touches the ears,” He glanced at Kagome who was looking at him expectantly with a brow raised. “Except her.” He pointed at his mate.

“I didn’t know he had puppy ears, Kasumi.” Akane, too, had ogled the ears and wondered just how soft they were. Kagome was a lucky woman to have such a mate and she swept a quick glance over the half demon. Her first impression had been wrong, observing the heavily muscled arms and chest, and wondered in passing if it was due to wielding the sword Ranma had told him to bring. Blushing a little, she sat beside Ranma and hoped he hadn’t notice her quick inspection of InuYasha. The half demon might be exotic looking but she only wanted Ranma. “How far have you gotten?”

“Ryoga, Shampoo, Mousse, Cologne. Just getting to Ukyo.” He sighed and sipped at his tea to soothe his suddenly dry throat. “Ucchan is harder to explain.” From there he launched into the explanation of how pops had sold him as her fiancé in order to get the okonomiyaki cart from her father that was her dowry and watched Kagome shake her head sadly. She knew it was just the kind of sneaky, underhanded trick that his father would pull. “The worst part is that in all the time we spent together I honestly thought she was a boy and it wasn’t until she showed up here demanding retribution in one form or another that I discovered she was a girl.”

“No, the worst part is you can’t seem to tell her that you will only ever consider her a friend and don’t want to marry her!” Akane knew it was hard for him to hurt Ukyo and that he truly loved her as a sister but it was painful to her, too. Ukyo spent an inordinate amount of time rubbing it in her face that Ranma considered her the cute fiancée.

InuYasha could scent the hurt when it flowed heavily from Akane and wanted to snarl. Turning annoyed eyes back to Ranma he growled softly, “Is that all of it, then?”

“Well, there is still the Kuno’s.” Kasumi stated softly from where she sat at the head of the table. She had stayed to listen and hoped that she would have a chance to speak with Ranma’s cousin. In the quiet moments, though they were few and far between, when she and Ranma would have a chance to talk in the kitchen alone, he’d often spoke fondly of Kagome. The things Akane had told her about the young couple sitting next to her had been quite the revelation and was truly fascinating, though, until they told her otherwise, she would keep such things to herself.

Lifting her tea, Kagome glared at Ranma. “Just how many fiancée’s did Uncle Genma saddle you with Ranma, and why on earth am I only hearing about this now?” He’d never said a word about half of this in his letters and she was feeling very annoyed with him for leaving so much out.

“Technically two but Shampoo considers me her husband by amazon law.” He snarled angrily and felt the nekoken stir to life. “After what she tried in Jusendo…” It flared a little higher and he forced himself to calm down.

Kagome and InuYasha exchanged startled glances but didn’t say anything. Ranma’s aura had pulsed and something more had risen with it. InuYasha’s nose was picking up that change in the man’s scent again but until he had a chance to really think about it and get a decent wiff he wasn’t going to jump to any conclusions. “What happened in Jusendo?” Kagome asked quietly.

Shaking his head Ranma said, “Let me explain the Kuno’s and then I’ll tell you everything that happened in China.” He turned his head to look down at Akane and gripped the hand she offered tightly.

Kasumi’s eyes widened slightly seeing the look pass between her sister and Ranma. She could see that at some time during the night they had finally talked, the melted ice pack on the kitchen table should have been her first clue, and had made their own decisions about their relationship. It made her happy to see. For far too long their father’s had been pushing and interfering in their budding romance and she decided then and there that she would do whatever it took to see her baby sister’s happiness fulfilled, without the families butting in! Standing swiftly to her feet she smiled at the four around the table. “I’m going to get breakfast started and see that you are not disturbed while you finish this.” Holding Akane’s gaze, Kasumi let her smile bloom into full radiance. “I’m pleased for you, little sister. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.” With a small bow Kasumi turned to leave and shut the door to the rest of the house tightly behind her.

“She seems so sweet.” Kagome smiled at Akane across from her.

Akane giggled, “Kasumi is the embodiment of sweet and kind. Her picture could be in the dictionary for both definitions!”

The two men rolled their eyes at the females and Ranma continued his tale of woe. He told them about Tatewaki and his stupid speech, of Kodachi and her sudden interest after his impromptu rescue. How the man had it in his head that he loved both Akane and Ranma’s female form and was determined to see Ranma removed from their influence as he was an evil sorcerer holding them hostage. Kagome almost snorted tea out her nose she laughed so hard at the idea and made him chuckle as well. InuYasha was slowly growing quieter, becoming more and more a frozen statue across from him, and his eyes were beginning to tint red at the edges. Ranma wasn’t sure what it meant but if the feeling coming off of the hanyou was anything to go by, the dog was seriously pissed.

Kagome glanced at InuYasha as well, feeling the shift in him when he continued to grow angrier. She wasn’t sure, though, if he was mad at the situation or Ranma and wasn’t certain she wanted to find out. “InuYasha…” She said quietly and sighed when he turned the red tinted eyes to her. “Deep breath, koi.” Reaching slowly for the duffle that sat behind her, she never took her eyes from his while she dug for Tetsusaiga. Pulling the katana from the bag she placed it across his thighs. When he griped it tightly, she watched the red begin to recede. “Better?”

He nodded and shifted his attention back to Ranma. “Finish it!” InuYasha snapped. Then the two of them were going to have words and possibly fists.

Surprised at the vehemence behind the command Ranma told them of Kodachi and her skills, her potions and poisons, and all the times she’s challenged either him as the pig tailed girl or Akane. It was getting out of hand and it didn’t seem to matter what he said or did, no one listened anymore. Releasing Akane’s hand, he scrubbed his over his face and began the tale of Jusendo. He told them of Saffron, his need of the water to complete his transformation, the map, Shampoo’s brainwashing and their trip to save her and their cure. How Akane was kidnapped by the Phoenix people and taken to the mountain. How she was drowned to create the spring of drowned Akane, and why Kiima did it. When he got to the part where Akane became the doll he stopped and dropped his head into his hands on the table.

Akane could practically feel it as the anguish poured off him and swiftly wrapped her arms around Ranma. “It’s ok, Ranma. You saved me in the end. I’m right here.”

Slowly he lifted his head but couldn’t raise his eyes from his hands when he told Kagome and InuYasha about watching her vanish, how Saffron had taunted him with her death and how it was only later that he learned of her dehydration to the tiny doll form. “Only the cold water from the dragon’s mouth would revive her so we went back.” But he had gotten knocked out after cracking Saffron’s egg only to wake up with his feet chained together and Shampoo in possession of Akane. “She wanted me as her slave and would have used the Surikomi Eggs to make it happen. In return she would restore Akane with the cold cursed water that she had. Otherwise she was willing to break Akane’s neck.” The feral feeling swirled hard and clawed at him with the memories. He only managed to calm it when Akane brushed her fingers down his back.

Eventually they were able to free Shampoo from her brainwashing but the girl hadn’t even offered an apology; only went right back to glomping on him. It was in that moment that he realized that, though she had been following Kiima’s orders, her true nature had shown itself with her willingness to bargain with Akane’s life and her lack of remorse for what she had almost done. “Why that should surprise me…” He shook his head. It wasn’t the first time she had tried to kill Akane.

The battle with Saffron commenced and twice more Akane had used her own form to save him before, with a final blast of the Hiryū Shōten Ha, he had killed the immortal Saffron. At the time he hadn’t been aware that the phoenix would rise from his own ashes, only knowing he needed to finish the battle to save Akane’s life, and made the decision to kill the man and go against his own principles by taking a life. In the end he had destroyed the dragon’s head, turning the mouth to the sky in order to get the water to her faster. “At first I thought it hadn’t worked… she was cold, lifeless… Kag’s it…” The pain ripped through his heart and he turned his face into Akane’s hair, squeezing his eyes tightly shut.

She held him and looked across the table at the pair of golden eyes that watched them. “It did work it just took longer than expected. I could hear him when he told me he loved me.” Akane felt Ranma lift his face and turned to look up in to his electric blue eyes. “Even if you denied it after, dummy.” She smiled softly up at him. They were past that stage with his confessions of this morning and she knew he had a horrible time with saying the right words but last night… he had been perfect.

“Yah, well. I ain’t ever claimed to be the smart one, ‘Kane.” He brushed his knuckles over her cheek and made her blush.

Akane ducked her chin and told her portion of the ending. Her father coming to her with the good news that the Jusenkyo guide had sent them a barrel of the nanniichuan water that would end Ranma’s curse, but he would only give it to them as a wedding present. Knowing how she felt about him and suspecting the same of Ranma, Akane had agreed to the shotgun wedding. Then, the baka had suffered an episode of the Saotome foot in mouth disease common to the males of his family and said all the wrong things, dashing her hopes for a happy wedding. Afterwards, all hell had broken loose when the cursed men, and Happosia, had shown up to go after the nanniichuan. The extra fiancées had arrived and proceeded to bomb the ceremony or in Kuno’s case swing around his katana and his sister her ribbon and poisoned flowers. Akane had taken a kick from Shampoo that had her landing on an okonomiyaki bomb and cracking her ribs. In the end they had destroyed the dojo, parts of her home and any chance of a wedding between the two of them. It hadn’t helped that her meddlesome middle sister had sent wedding invitations to everyone in order to collect presents and gift money. “And now with Ranma’s choice being me…”

“The amazons are going to lose their shit.” Ranma sighed and scrubbed his hands over his face one more time.

Having heard enough InuYasha slowly got to his feet and tucked Tetsusaiga through the loop in his jeans. Stepping to the end of the table he reached swiftly downwards, grabbed Ranma by his shirt front and threw him bodily from the house to sail past the koi pond and into the wall surrounding the property. “Kagome… your cousin and I need to talk.” He snarled a feral growl of anger and stalked out of the house, clearing the koi pond in a single leap to land beside a groaning Ranma.

“Oh… wow… I get it now.” Akane breathed in an awed whisper. “He really is the muscle.” She turned her eyes to Kagome and blushed when the woman giggled. “Do we need to stop them?”

Kagome shook her head, her eyes dancing with suppressed laughter. “No. If InuYasha gets out of hand I’ll deal with it but Ranma really has this coming. After what he said to InuYasha in order to get my mate to confess to me, he’s pretty mad that Ranma would put you through all of this.” She waved her hand at the destroyed dojo. “But we can watch if you like. They were pretty impressive last time they went at it.” Standing, she picked up the plate of treats and went to sit on the edge of the engawa to watch the unfolding drama.

Akane took a moment to study her in mild disbelief before grinning and moving to join her. “You know Kagome, I wish I had gotten to meet you earlier. I think we are going to be great friends!”

Incredibly pissed at how Ranma was treating the woman he had referred to as his mate, InuYasha stalked across the expanse of grass to where the male was currently upside down, resting on the back of his head with his legs up the high wall. “You are such a fucking baka! After all the shit you spouted at me about ‘If someone I loved hurt me this much I’d kick them to the curb’ you go and do this to your mate! What the hell is wrong with you?!” Reaching down, he snatched Ranma by his shirt front, flipped him up right, and slammed him back into the wall causing the stone to crack.

Having seen InuYasha angry before Ranma was only mildly concerned until he took note of the red tinted eyes. The nekoken stirred, slowly awakened, and caused his blue eyes to shift and become more electric. Snarl building, Ranma lifted his feet and slammed them into the hanyou’s chest as InuYasha’s claws sliced through his shirt. “Yah, well, at least it didn’t take me years to figure out I’d fucked up, and this was my favorite shirt, you mutt!”

Stumbling backwards with a fist full of silk InuYasha roared in fury, “I ain’t no mutt!” Before launching a flurry of punches. He caught Ranma twice, once a glancing blow to the jaw, the other a shallow slash of claws to the ribs. “And you let her get hurt and caused my own mate to tax herself to help yours!” The shift in Ranma’s scent from anger to guilt was enough to have his own anger receding and slow them to a stop.

He had blocked the majority of InuYasha’s strikes and had delivered back a few of his own but the hanyou’s words drove a dagger through his heart. “I didn’t even know she’d gotten hurt till this morning.” He hung his head and clenched his fists, so overcome with the shame of not having cared for her like he should have. “It’s what finally made me call you guys for help. I can’t protect her from all of them all the time.”  Moving slowly, Ranma walked over to where the stone wall was cracked after having connected with it. Leaning hard against it, he slid to the ground to sit with a bowed head.

Huffing and refusing to feel bad, InuYasha joined him and watched his mate giggle on the engawa with Ranma’s. “Look, Kagome would have healed her either way.  Can’t stop that wench when she gets her mind wrapped around something. We’re here to help and not just cause I’d never hear the end of it if we didn’t.” He turned piercing golden eyes on the human and growled softly. “But you didn’t tell us everything.”

Sighing and rubbing at his face, Ranma nodded. “It’s about Ryoga and Akane can’t know. He’s got a cursed form too… but… it’s… Akane thinks… shit! He’s a pig, small, black with a bandanna around its neck. Akane calls him P-chan and thinks he’s her pet.” The fist connected with the side of his head and sent him tumbling.

Jumping up, InuYasha stalked over to lean down and snarl in Ranma’s face. “You let another male in whatever form touch your mate? Mark your mate with his scent? Do you realize how you are dishonoring her by allowing this to continue?” He kept his words quiet but they came out harsh and with an undertone of disgust. “You will tell her the truth and do it today! You have already lied to her once.”

Pushing up while his head throbbed a nasty tempo, Ranma shoved at InuYasha. “What the hell do you know?! I made a warrior’s oath not to tell and I have kept it! Who gives you the right to tell me what to do?” He knew he’d made a mistake when InuYasha’s eyes hardened right before he took a second flight across the koi pond and past the Tendo gate to slam into another wall.

Making the leap, InuYasha landed shortly after Ranma and crouched down beside him. “You stupid fucking baka! Nothing trumps your mate! They are the better half of you and deserve all you are, loyalty, honesty and respect! So far you have failed in all three. And as for what gives me the right? You’re Kagome’s cousin and through her part of my pack. You asked for help and we came.”

“Hypocrite! You sure as hell didn’t show loyalty, honesty or respect to Kags before I showed up.” Anger was growing stronger for Ranma and his battle aura flared a dangerous deep red.

Not sure what a hypocrite was InuYasha could tell by the tone it wasn’t a good thing. “No, I didn’t but at the time I hadn’t claimed her as my mate either. She was still just Kagome, a girl I had feelings for. It weren’t till you showed up that I finally got my head on right. You have called Akane your mate, have made your claim known, and now must start acting as a good mate should! Tell her!”

Ranma rose swiftly to his feet to stand nose to nose with InuYasha. “I can’t! It will hurt her more to tell her now after I’ve let it go on for so long! And….” With a heavy sigh he let his anger go. It wasn’t the dog demon he was really mad at.

“And?” InuYasha prompted, relaxing his stance once Ranma had.

“And…if I was to tell her… she’d never forgive me. I can’t lose her, InuYasha… not after…” Pain ripped across his heart at the thought and he gasped, pressing a hand to it.

“Kami, fucking dammit!” InuYasha hissed watching Ranma pale and shake. He had forgotten about the matching auras. Grasping Ranma’s shoulder he waited for the pain to subside. “Keh, I’ll help keep your secret but if I get my ass sat because of you…”

“Yah, yah, yah. You'll skin me or something. Stuff it, lap dog.” Breathing a relieved breath Ranma locked eyes with InuYasha. “Thanks.” He said softly.

“Well, that was entertaining, little brother.” A tall man with long black hair in a dark suit of fashionable taste stood from where he had been leaning against the open Tendo gate. The fast and frantic fight had been over quickly and he had stood waiting to be acknowledged but instead had been ignored. Stepping out into the light he stared at InuYasha.

InuYasha glared at this new arrival in confusion. The scent and voice were familiar but he didn’t know this person. “Who the fuck are you?”

“I am disappointed, InuYasha. It has not been that long since last you saw me.” Sesshomaru let the glamor go that hid his true appearance from human eyes and smirked a small twitch of lips when his brother’s eyes widened.

“What the hell are you doing here?” InuYasha barked in shock as he took in the picture his daiyoukai brother made in his future clothing when the black hair faded to white and the marks flared high on his face. A squeal of recognition had him turning towards a racing Kagome, dashing towards them.

“Onii-san? Onii-san! What are you doing here?” Kagome stopped a few inches from the demon lord and touched his outstretched hand with her fingers. He had never been overly tactile but had gotten used to her casual ways with contact after a few months.

InuYasha watched the emotions fly swiftly across Sesshomaru’s features in a dance that was almost too fast to follow before the daiyoukai wrapped his arms around Kagome and drew her tight to his chest. The move was so unexpected that InuYasha was unable to comprehend what he was seeing until the look of painful relief crossed his brother’s features and golden eyes lifted to his. Something else was up but he had no idea what it was just yet.

“You invited me, Imouto. When you returned to my past after this little… adventure… it was clear that another Inu would have been welcome to deal with some of the… trouble to come. Hence, I am here to assist.” He lifted his hand to brush fingers over her cheek and seeing her look of surprise, made to release her.

Kagome just hugged him tighter. He was the big brother she had longed for him to be and didn’t want him to think she was rejecting his affection. “I can’t believe you are here! How are you here? How come you’ve never shown yourself before?”

Ranma nudged InuYasha’s elbow with his own as Akane came to join them. “Sup?”

Busy watching the pain flash across Sesshomaru’s features again he mumbled, “That’s my half-brother, Sesshomaru. Apparently the bastard managed to live till now. Arrogant prick.” What the hell was going on? Striding forwards he tugged Kagome away from his brother and glared at him with suspicion. “What’s wrong with you?” A clawed hand swiped out and connected with the side of his head.

“Better, little brother?” Fighting had always been their strong suit. Pulling on his youki, Sesshomaru returned the glamor from before. “If you will excuse us Imouto, I need to speak with InuYasha alone.” Turning, he walked with his same smooth flowing stride out the gate of the Tendo home not looking back but expecting his brother to follow.

“Kagome? What’s that all about?” Ranma asked softly while InuYasha, fuming mad, followed the other demon out the gate.

“I don’t honestly know…” Shrugging, she turned back to her cousin and his fiancée. “Well, I guess we better figure out a plan. Hopefully those two won’t kill each other in the next ten minutes, although they have gotten better recently.” Still, if they weren’t back in those ten minutes she was going to go looking.                                                                                     

InuYasha and Sesshomaru returned a short time later. InuYasha, looking subdued, was fiddling with the watch he now wore on his left wrist. Once he twisted the face it produced a glamor that had him looking very much like what he had a few hours earlier. Dark hair ran the length of his spine and though he could feel his fangs and claws, still, no one else could see them or the ears that twitched, sans hat, on his head. The question of how it was possible had only one answer. The Kitsunes. The tricky little foxes had figured out how to embed the spell into small objects to keep the more humanoid youkai looking fully human. Those strong enough, like Sesshomaru, were able to simply learn the glamor spell and call and release it with their own youki. Kagome had clapped happily in excitement knowing how much InuYasha hated to wear the hat when it pinched on his ears and ran her fingers through the black hair. “I still like the white better.”

“As do I.” Muttered Sesshomaru over his tea, glancing up when he felt the eyes on him where he knelt at the table with the rest of them. “What? It is true but the white is too unique to be worn all the time. It gets… problematic when one does not age the same as the humans do.”

Akane looked up, a frown marring her face. “Doesn’t age? How old are you?” Her cheeks flushed lightly when she realized how rude that sounded. “I’m sorry that was inconsiderate of me.”

Waving a hand Sesshomaru dismissed her concern. “This one is well into his first millennium.” He chuckled when she tried to spit tea out her nose.

“What?! You look… maybe twenty five!” Her day just kept getting weirder and she used a napkin to catch the tea she’d slopped in her shock.

“What you expect, ‘Kane? InuYasha’s two hundred and he’s from five hundred years in the past. If Sesshomaru’s his older brother it kinda stands to reason he’d be up there.” Ranma shrugged and snagged the last cookie out from under InuYasha’s hand with a snicker.

“Don’t start, human.” The hanyou snarled and cracked his knuckles. He was still pissed with Ranma and had become even more unsettled with all that Sesshomaru had to say. It was making him twitchy and eager to shred something. “So, Akane, you as good as him with your martial arts?” He nodded at Ranma. Her scent took on that sad, slightly defeated undertone and ratcheted his temper up some more.

“I’m good but not that good.” Sighing sadly she mumbled, “He refuses to teach me…” Three pairs of golden eyes snapped to stare at her and made her blood freeze. “What?”

Two voices rose to war with each other when InuYasha and Sesshomaru both tore into Ranma. “Is she not your mate? How could you not train her to protect herself? Ranma I swear I will kill you yet you dumbass!”

His hand slammed down on the table and rattled the tea service. With the force he had used they were fortunate that Ranma had not put his hand through the table. “I refuse to hit her to train her! I will not cause her injury in order to teach her! Is that so wrong?”

Silence reigned while the two Inu looked at each other. “You really are an idiot.” InuYasha sighed and got to his feet. “Come on, Kagome.”

Rising slowly, Kagome glared at Ranma. “For all those times you showed me something, did I ever get hurt? No. After this I’m liable to take a few strips out of your hide myself. How could you, Ranma?” Marching outside Kagome dropped her jacket on a rock and took off her cute wedge sandals.

“Told yah not to wear those things. You’re gonna break an ankle if you try to fight in them.” InuYasha shook his head at her but grinned to soften the words. It wasn’t her he was annoyed with.

“Hence the reason they are coming off. Be nice InuYasha or else.” She had very little cause to use the command for his kotodama but she was in no mood to play today.

‘Stupid Ranma’s gonna get my ass sat if I ain’t careful.’ His female was riled up and not in a good way. “Ready?” She nodded and took her position.

“What the hell is he doing? She can’t fight!” Ranma made to step out on the grass when a long narrow hand came down with the force of a train behind it to squeeze his shoulder. ‘Damn and I thought InuYasha was strong!’ The pressure made him wince but he refused to pull away.

“You wish to know how to train your mate? Then you will watch and not interfere.” Sesshomaru warned him with a snarl and dropped his hand away. The human was a fool but there was something about his scent that was triggering a memory for the daiyoukai.

Moving up beside Ranma, Akane was feeling rather irritated herself. “You would teach your cousin but not me? That’s real nice of you, Ranma.”

“Come on, ‘Kane! It wasn’t like that! Small things, self defense stuff, stuff that you already know!” He threw his arms in the air obviously not going to win this argument and winced when the pain radiated through his shoulder. Crossing his arms he slouched against the wall and watched, wondering if perhaps this hadn’t been the best of ideas.

Ignoring the argument to his right, InuYasha focused solely on Kagome. “Keh, like the first time we did this so the humans can follow.” She was a lot faster than she used to be, almost good enough to keep up with him but this was meant to be a demonstration only.

Stretching her arms and legs, Kagome bounced on her toes to warm her muscles. “Fine. Bring it on, mate!” She snickered and prepared herself for his attack.

The charge was quick but not his full speed and she ducked him easily, laughing as she spun from his grasp. He snickered when her eyes lit up and threw a combination of kicks, punches and slashes at her. None connected until finally he snuck past her guard and danced claws down her ribcage making her giggle out a high pitched peal of laughter.

It stunned Ranma. His klutzy cousin moved with more speed and grace than many of the martial artist he had encountered over the years. “How…?”

Glancing at the shocked human Sesshomaru almost chuckled. “Some came with their mating. The speed and the grace of movement is a youkai trait but her training was InuYasha’s doing. Inu-youkai would never harm our mates to train them, our control is perfect. He sneaks beneath her guard and shows her, her weakness with a brush of claws and a light touch. She learns to block the move and he teaches her something new.”

“Why didn’t he do this before? She was always getting hurt!” He couldn’t believe what his eyes were showing him.

“She was not his mate. She would not have accepted the training before that bond formed and once the foul hanyou was defeated and they began their new journey alone, the ability to defend herself became a necessity.” Stepping from the deck, Sesshomaru shed his suit coat and rolled up his sleeves before he went to join them. It was something he had done often in the past and had missed since… but he would not think those thoughts now.

Akane and Ranma stood together on the engawa’s deck and watched the three of them race and chase around the yard. It was similar to the mornings Ranma and his father battled it out over the koi pond but the speed and power behind the moves was incredible. Turning to look down on Akane, Ranma lifted her fingers and held them between his hands. “I’m… I’m sorry, Akane. I’ve never even thought…” Shaking his head he felt ashamed at never considering this kind of training for her. “We can try this if you want. It ain’t that I didn’t want you to learn, I just…” He trailed off and shrugged.

She placed her fingers against his slightly reddened cheek. “You just don’t want to hurt me. I get that Ranma, I do, but did you ever think by not training me I’ve gotten hurt a lot more?” It was something that had crossed her mind more than once since they had returned from China. If she had been as competent as him, or any of them for that matter, would she had almost died? It was something they would never know for certain.

Her words hit him like a physical blow and he dropped his forehead to her shoulder. “Kamis, Akane. I’m such an idiot.” He’d put her in more danger by his refusal than if he had just done his job as her fiancé… as her friend. Turning his face into her throat, he closed his arms around her tightly, breathed in her scent and shuddered.

Hugging him just as tight, she smiled even though she sighed, “I forgive you.” When he lifted his head she looked up into those electric blue cat’s eyes, again, before his mouth dropped to hers in a searing kiss that she didn’t care who witnessed.

Standing on the far side of the koi pond, near the Ranma shaped indent in the stone wall, three pairs of golden eyes watched the two of them embrace and become lost in the moment.

Kagome gave a sappy sigh that made InuYasha roll his eyes at Sesshomaru. “Their auras are so attuned to each other. They really are soulmates.” She was happy that her cousin had found someone to share his life with and hugged her arms to herself in contentment.

“True mates.” InuYasha and Sesshomaru said softly at the same time. The brother’s glanced at each other and had matching brows rise in understanding. “Feh, you see it, too, then?”

Sesshomaru nodded. “It is intriguing to say the least.”

Frowning, Kagome ripped her eyes away from her cousin to look between her mate and his brother. “What? True mate? Ranma’s not a youkai, he’s human.”

“Not really.” InuYasha snorted in amusement and crossed his arms. “It makes sense, now, why he’s as strong and fast as he is. Bet he heals up quick, too.”

“Imouto, your cousin is host to a nekomata.” He could just see the aura of the cat in Ranma’s. The blending was almost perfect but the youkai was… different. “Do you know how he welcomed a demon?”

“What?” Kagome asked in shock and turned back to stare at Ranma. “Maybe… the nekoken?”

“Explain.” Sesshomaru was not familiar with this… neko-ken.

“Feh. Some weird martial arts technique his father put him through that didn’t go the way it was supposed to. Gave him a fear of cats and makes him act like one when he gets scared enough.” It made InuYasha snicker to think of anyone being scared of Buyo. Kirara in her battle form sure, but Buyo... he snickered again and had Kagome smack him.

“Uncle Genma threw him in a pit full of feral cats over and over until he snapped. He was only six.” Kagome snarled in anger, her eyes flashing dangerously. “Bastard.”

“Somehow, your cousin accepted a demon or it simply was trying to assist him. This is… intriguing for it is, hn…” Sesshomaru squinted a little, staring at Ranma. “It is not trying to overtake him. It is almost as if he was born with it, similar to ours, little brother, it is working with him. A true partnership.”

Kagome’s gaze shifted to Sesshomaru. “So… what does that mean for Ranma, onii-san?”

Looking from her to InuYasha he shook his head. “I do not know Imouto, but we must make sure that he and his true mate are allowed to bond. It would be very… dangerous if something were to happen to her now.” Seeing the understanding in InuYasha’s eyes he nodded. Things had just gotten much more complicated.

Somehow Kasumi had been able to keep Genma and Soun, along with Nabiki, occupied at the dining room table long enough for the other’s to return inside after their impromptu demonstration. Settled once more around the small table, Ranma broached the subject of how to deal with the most determined of his adversaries; the amazons.

“They are for us to deal with, InuYasha. They are from that tribe.” The grin that spread across Sesshomaru’s face caused Akane to shudder. Even with his glamor covering his youkai face the smile had become distinctly evil.

Had they been able to see them, InuYasha’s ears perked straight up and quivered with excitement. “Really?”

“Whoa, hold the phone!” Ranma waved his hands in front of him. “What are you two talking about and how do you know the amazons?” Even Kagome looked confused when she continued to stare at the two Inu.

InuYasha turned his gaze to Kagome and his eyes hardened. “Hyōga and Menōmaru.”

“No!” Kagome almost scrambled backwards in her desire to escape before she raced from the room.

“InuYasha?” He had never seen his Imouto act in such a way and it surprised Sesshomaru greatly.

“It’s… a Kikyo thing.” Was all he needed to say when he got up to follow Kagome. The battle with Menōmaru that he had fought had been long and difficult. During the process the dead priestess had returned to force Kagome down the well, trying to lock her away in the future and had been one of the many times she had tried to come between the two of them. Kikyo was a sore spot with his mate. How he despised that dead bitch.

“You should have just let me kill the dead one.” Sesshomaru hummed in annoyance, displeased by the hurt it was causing Kagome.

“You may get your chance yet.” InuYasha muttered and paced after his mate.

“How can you kill someone who’s already dead?” Akane murmured to Ranma who shrugged.

“She’s only… kinda dead. Something about a clay body that carries part of Kagome’s soul and she absorbs the souls of other deceased woman to stay alive.” He shrugged again not understanding completely himself.

“It is of little importance.” Sesshomaru waved a hand not showing how disturbed he was by this conversation. How did he not know the dead priestess was in possession of part of Kagome’s soul? Something to beat on his brother for later. “The amazons that are here are well known to my pack. They were a… hn… problem for this one’s father many centuries ago when the Mongols invaded Japan. The Inu no Taisho fought the leader of the moth youkai tribe, Hyōga, defeating him and sealing him away with his own fang. The son, Menōmaru, was defeated and destroyed by InuYasha and Kagome. The amazons are known to me because of a trip our father took across the sea after Hyōga’s defeat. He wanted to be certain that the youkai of the continent would not come seeking across the sea again any time soon.” Picking up his cup he held it while the memories played across his mind. “We took the journey, father and I, and back tracked the moth youkai tribe’s movements to find they had originated not far from an amazon village by the name of Joketsuzoku. It, shall we say, came to light that the amazons had been instrumental in encouraging the moth youkai to follow the Mongols for they were tired of sacrificing their young women to satisfy Hyōga’s more… ardent tastes. Father was quite unimpressed with the attitude of the elders and proceeded to demonstrate his displeasure rather effectively.”

Ranma shuddered at the gleeful pleasure that burned in the daiyoukai’s eyes. “Do I even want to know?”

Golden eyes lifted to lock with blue. “It is unlikely. They saw the error of their ways and negotiated terms that were agreeable, at least to us, and we returned home.”

“Just the two of you went to China and threatened the entire Joketsuzoku tribe? Just two? Not a whole army? How is that even possible?” Akane shook her head in disbelief. “I have seen their warriors fight, been on the receiving end more than once. How could you take down the whole tribe, especially with the elders involved?” Not even Ranma had been able to best Cologne that easily and he only had to fight her.

“Hn. You know little of Inu-youkai if you think we would be bested by amazons. This one’s true-form would strike terror in your heart and my father was many more times my size.” He hummed an annoyed sound and glared coldly at the little female.

“Think really, really big white dog with poisonous breath. Like melt your flesh from your bones stuff.” Ranma drew his hands farther apart with every really only to have Sesshomaru look at him with disdain.

“I am more than twice as large as this dwelling in my true-form, human. Do not insult this Sesshomaru.” He glanced back at InuYasha when he returned with Kagome in tow. “Imouto?”

“I’m fine.” But she wouldn’t meet his eyes and kept her head down with her bangs covering her face. “We’re here to help Ranma and Akane so let’s get on with it.” InuYasha sank down behind her and nuzzled his nose into her throat, a quiet rumbling purr vibrating against her spine was his offer of comfort. She knew he loved her but she was so tired of dealing with Kikyo this and Kikyo that and always being compared to that… that witch.The battle with Menōmaru had been one of the worst times of her life, stuck in the future with no idea how to get back because of that woman. Even with Naraku dead and gone the woman continued to be a thorn in her side, refusing to die and go back to hell where she belonged!

“Keh. We’ll deal with the amazons, but you got to deal with the chef. That leaves the crazy ones, and the lost kid. Anyone else we need to know about?” Barely had the question left InuYasha’s lips when the sound Akane dread most wailed through the air.

“Swwwweeeettttoooooo!!!!!” Happosia launched himself into the room and straight at Kagome, for, in his drunken state, he mistook her for Akane.

Seeing the flying little man coming for her, Kagome screeched in surprise but it was the roar from InuYasha that shook the house when his hand lashed out to catch the pervert before he could connect. “Keep your hands off!” Snarling, he launched Happosia into the wall on the opposite side of the yard with a violent flick of his wrist just as Genma, Soun and Kasumi ran into the room. Nabiki, sauntered in a few moments later.

Seething, InuYasha snarled and flexed his claws – even though they were disguised by his glamor – in front of Kagome, pulling her tighter to his chest. “Nobody touches my mate.”

Genma blinked hard sure he’d heard… “InuYasha?”

“The one married to your niece?” Soun asked, looking at the dark haired man clutching the pretty woman to his chest.

Glancing outside, Genma sighed, “Master has returned.”

“What did the master do this time?” Soun sighed dramatically and glanced at the pervert shaped hole in the wall surrounding the compound.

When the bouncing hentai jumped back through the engawa’s door and promptly disappeared Ranma sighed. “InuYasha he’s-“

Eye’s bleeding red through the glamor, InuYasha picked Happosia out of the air and shook him hard. “Please tell me I can kill this fool?” He stunk so badly of sake he was easy enough to find.

“Waaaahhh! You’d pick on an old man?” Blubbering Happosia tried to wriggle away but found his skin being pricked in five places by jagged and sharp points. “I just wanted a snuggle with my darling Akane.” Little arms reached towards Kagome before he squinted. “That’s not Akane. Hello, pretty lady.”

“No shit, yah old freak! And you ain’t touching Akane either!” Ranma rose swiftly from the table and drew Akane behind him. His eyes had shifted to the hard blazing blue of the nekoken and had both Inu’s snapping their attention to him.

Rising slowly to his feet Sesshomaru snatched Happosia from InuYasha, Ranma’s eyes following every move of the little man. “If you wish to stay alive past this next few moments you will leave and not return for a very long time.”

“Who are you to tell me that I can’t come back to my own dojo?” Complained Happosia loudly.

“Master… I suggest you listen to the young man.” Soun cautioned. Even he could feel the building rage within the room. Looking towards Ranma he watched the protective way he stood in front of Akane, the way his daughter clung to the boy’s arm and felt tears gather in his eyes. He nudged Genma hard. “Oh, happy day! Our schools are about to be joined!” Two angry, vicious snarls snapped him back to reality when a pair of blue and a pair of gold eyes shifted their attention to him.

Sesshomaru took two careful steps towards the door. “It is not I that is telling you not to return, but two very angry youkai are lusting for your blood at this moment for daring to approach their mates.” His voice was extremely quiet, only loud enough for the old human male to hear, though he did not really care either way if the fool lived or died.

“Youkai?” Happosia’s voice was high pitched in surprise. “But… Ranma… demons don’t exist!” Two sets of eyes snapped back to him and two low growls of rage made the old pervert shake.

Glancing between Ranma and InuYasha, Kagome sighed quietly and looked to Kasumi standing in the doorway with the others. “If we could have a moment, please?” She asked softly and made a small shooing motion with her hands. The eldest sister smiled and pushed the men from the room, dragging Nabiki behind her when the middle sister protested loudly and demanded to know what was going on and why hadn’t she been told there were such handsome strangers in her house. Rolling her eyes Kasumi winked at Kagome and slid the door shut. “Akane…” When the girl’s attention focused on her, Kagome smiled. “Just follow my lead, ok?”

“I don’t…” Akane had no clue what was going on but the aura coming off Ranma was intense enough to be life threatening for Happosia.

Kagome gave her a reassuring nod before slipping slowly around in front of InuYasha. Placing her fingers on his cheek, she stroked it gently to draw his attention back to her and twisted the face on his watch so she could see the red tinted eyes and the ears that were slicked to his head. “Come back now, koi.” She whispered when his eyes dropped to hers. Tilting her face up she rose on her toes to press her lips softly against his. The snarl that was a continuing roll of sound from his chest ended when his attention shifted completely to her.

Flushed red, Akane wasn’t sure she could do something like that but the low snarling yowl of anger coming from Ranma, and the intense cat eyes made her decision for her.

 Glancing shyly at Sesshomaru where he stood holding Happosia tightly by the scruff of his neck, she moved slowly around in front of Ranma and laid her hands against his chest. “Ranma…” His eyes snapped down to hers and she felt the shiver run the length of her spine when those intense blue eyes connected. “Ranma…” She whispered and lifted her hand to touch his cheek gently. The yowl shifted, became a purr when he nuzzled into her palm, and she lifted up on her toes, offering her lips. His descended to hers in a rush, his arms wrapped her waist and pulled her firmly against his body. The skin under her hands was hot and her arms drifted up to wrap his neck while his mouth moved in blissful pressure.

His tongue darted into her mouth to stroke hers, twisting, touching, rubbing against her teeth until she moaned gently. His hands caressed her back, gliding up her spine to cup the back of her skull and tilt her head to gain better access to her mouth. Teeth caught her lip, tugging and nibbling, until he moved on from the swollen bit of flesh to brush his mouth back along her jaw and close his teeth over her rapidly beating pulse. ‘Oh… kami…’ Practically limp against him, Akane felt her body go up in flames.

A blubbering Happosia watched through teary eyes as Akane gave herself to Ranma’s attention before the person holding him exited the engawa and moved swiftly towards the Tendo’s gate. “I can’t believe… poor sweet Akane-chan…”

“Shut up old fool and listen well. Ranma is pack to my brother and therefore pack to me. You have already seen the speed at which my brother can handle your lecherous intentions but know this. InuYasha is only a half demon.” Flipping Happosia around so he held the little man by his scrawny throat Sesshomaru removed his glamor. “I am full and more than happy to snap your neck if you interfere with my pack again. Do you understand?” When the old man nodded vigorously Sesshomaru snarled. “Excellent. Heed my warning for it is the only one you will receive.” Whipping his hand out, he chucked the little pervert into the distance.

Ranma came back to himself to find Akane glassy eyed and wrapped around him. The nekoken had risen hard and fast with Happosia’s arrival and he glanced around to find the old freak. Seeing no one but Kagome and InuYasha, currently involved in a passionate kiss, Kagome’s fingers running over ears no longer hidden by his glamor, Ranma returned his attention to Akane. “You alright?” The question was quiet, his hands running over her short crop of hair but it still seemed to knock his cousin and her mate out of their lust filled bubble.

“Fine. But I’d like to know what the hell just happened? You acted like… like… well, like him.” Akane pointed at InuYasha.

Stepping away from her mate, Kagome took Akane’s elbow and smiled gently at Ranma. “I think you and I better have a talk. And you,” She pointed at Ranma, “Need to talk to them.” Waving her hand, Kagome indicated InuYasha and the returning Sesshomaru. “Let’s go shopping.” Tugging on Akane’s arm she gave her enough time to get her shoes and purse from the closet before pulling her out the door.

“Hey! Wait! Ain’t I got a say in this?” Ranma grumbled, watching his female disappear with his cousin.

“Nope.” Ears twitching, InuYasha reactivated his glamour when the feet approaching the door snuck closer. “Got somewhere we can talk privately?” Nodding towards the door he pointed out the eavesdropper.

Sighing with a roll of his eyes, Ranma whipped the door open and didn’t bother to catch Nabiki when she fell in the opening. “What the hell do you want?”

Dusting off her hands as if she hadn’t just fallen on the floor, Nabiki stood to lean against the doorframe. “Well, my soon to be brother, I was wondering if you were ever going to stop being rude and introduce your guests to the rest of the family?” She raked her eyes down first one and then the other of the two fine looking dark haired strangers.

“Married.” They both spat at the same time and had InuYasha whipping around to stare at Sesshomaru. “You are? Since when? To who?”

“Not now, InuYasha. Ranma?” Sesshomaru gestured towards the door. The female had a distinctly unpleasant odor about her, one of dishonesty and corruption that had his hackles up.

“Nabiki, InuYasha and Sesshomaru. InuYasha is my cousin Kagome’s husband.” Ranma turned to walk away and had Nabiki’s hand grab his arm. Stiffening, he didn’t pull away but the low growl of warning was cold enough to have her removing her hand. “You really don’t want to do that right now.”

“Oh, Ranma, you aren’t still mad are you?” She waved her hand in dismissal. “It was for the good of the family. Not like you actually wanted to marry Akane.” Nabiki smiled her smug half grin up at him.

His temper slipped its leash and he slammed her back into the wall making her gasp in surprise. “You know nothing about what I do and don’t want! Your stupid, moneygrubbing ways caused Akane to end up with three cracked ribs! You’re damn lucky that was the worst of it Nabiki cause I swear to the Kami if it had been worse I would be reneging on my promise to never take another life!” His hands clenched on her upper arms so fiercely that he knew he would leave bruises but he couldn’t seem to care.

“Ranma, that’s enough.” InuYasha’s hand came down tightly on Ranma’s shoulder.

He snarled at the hanyou but never took his eyes from Nabiki’s. “NO! Not till she gets it! You could have killed someone with the stunt you pulled! Instead of wishing us well and doing everything in your power to keep the others away, you drew them here! You could have kept them all away until it was too late but no! It’s always about the money with you!”

“Ranma! Akane won’t take it kindly if you hurt her sister.” InuYasha had one hand wrapped tightly around Ranma’s forearm while Sesshomaru had a firm grip on the other. If he didn’t let go soon they would have to break his wrists rather than let him hurt the woman.

Nabiki’s eyes were wide with her terror, not over Ranma’s actions, she’d seen him in a rage before over her sister, but because of his words. “I… I… I didn’t know. Ranma…. ….. I didn’t… …. I didn’t…. is she okay? Is Akane okay? Tell me, Ranma!” Her hands came up to grip his elbows tightly while tears streaked down her cheeks.

“She’s fine. No thanks to you.” He gave her one last little shove into the wall and released her. “You damn well better make this up to her, Nabiki.” His wrists were starting to hurt and he looked down to see the white knuckled grips of the two Inu. “I’m done.” The hands were removed and he flexed his fingers to force the blood back into them. Turning, he stalked from the room on silent, slippered feet.

The two brother’s watched the woman slide slowly down the wall into a heap. “You have much to answer for.” Sesshomaru stated coldly before they followed Ranma’s lead and left the house, tracking the man to the back of the destroyed dojo.

“Ranma, we gotta talk.” InuYasha approached him with a little more caution than usual.

“There’s something wrong with me isn’t there?” He asked when they moved up behind him. Scrubbing his hands over his face Ranma shook his head. “Should’a known. Can’t catch a fucking break.”

InuYasha clapped his hand down on Ranma’s shoulder and chuckled. “Nah, it ain’t as bad as that. You’re just a hanyou… like me!”


“He’s what?!” Akane’s shriek was loud and piercing and caused everyone in the ice cream shop to turn and stare at her. Blushing a vibrant red she dropped her eyes and her voice. “He’s what?”

“We don’t really know how, but figure it had something to do with the nekoken. Somehow, someway, he carries the spirit of a youkai within him, a nekomata, the same as InuYasha but different. His youkai really is a cat.” Kagome shrugged and shoveled in more ice cream. “Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I’ve had ice cream?”

“That’s nice. Back to Ranma. What the hell does this mean?” How could she be so casual about this? Kagome’s cousin was demon possessed. Akane’s fiancé was demon possessed!

Kagome looked at the panicky woman across from her and sighed. “Akane, he is no different today than he was last week, last year. The only difference is now you know why he acts the way he does in the nekoken. Does this really make you love him any less? Is this really so different from the fact that he turns into a girl or can be a dumbass and sticks his foot in his mouth more often than anyone I know?”

Plunking her head into her hands, Akane rested her elbows on the table. “No… not really. Kami! Can we for once, just once, have something semi normal happen to us?”

The laughter burst from Kagome before she could stop it. “He’s cursed to live an interesting life, so, no! But really, normal is so…. boring. I had normal. This is way more fun!” The cheeky grin spread when Akane peeked at her through her fall of blue, black bangs. “Besides… there’s benefits to having a youkai for a mate.” The grin turned wicked and she winked at her friend.

Blushing a new shade of red, Akane resumed eating and managed to hold back the question for a whole thirty seconds before giving in to curiosity. “I can’t believe I’m going to ask this,” She grumbled over a spoonful of ice cream. “Such as?”

Giggling, Kagome tugged the collar of her shirt away to show Akane the mark that rested there. “Mate marks and incredible stamina for one.”

“You have your mate’s name tattooed on you?” Akane hissed in surprise.

Kagome shook her head, her grin turning smug. “It’s not a tattoo. It’s a mating mark. He gave it to me the night we… yah know,” She wiggled her eyebrows and grinned, “For the first time. It binds us together, stronger than a marriage vow ever could, and has… side benefits.” Pulling her shirt back up Kagome’s eyes glassed over when she thought about the pleasure of him touching – or biting – that spot.

“I guess I don’t have to ask what those are.” She felt like her face was a perpetual shade of crimson with this conversation. Luckily, they were in the back corner, well away from any other ears.

“Mmmm…. And there’s the fact that you two have matching auras.” Kagome managed to speak around a mouthful of ice cream.

She’d never heard of such a thing. “What? What does that mean?” Akane asked and stuffed in the last of her sprinkles.

“Matching auras. You’re meant to be together, soul mates or in the case of youkai true mates.” Her eyes danced with laughter when Akane paled.

She was stunned. “You… you can see that?”

“Yup! So can InuYasha and Sesshomaru. You should be able to tell, too.” The ice cream was so good Kagome could have licked the bowl, but she wasn’t Shippo and didn’t think displaying those kind of absentee manners would be a good idea.

“How?” Intense gold eyes suddenly locked with hers and almost made her shudder.

Quietly, Kagome said, “Think about what it would be like… if you lost him.”

Nodding, Akane imagined what it would be like if Ranma had died at Jusendo and had physical pain squeeze her around the heart. Gasping, she clung desperately to the hand Kagome offered while she panted for breath and tried to keep her racing heart within her chest. “Oh kami! That was… oh… Ranma!” She tried to lunge from her seat to race home only to have Kagome hold her back.

“Just breathe, Akane! If you go racing out of here it won’t end well for either of us!” The eyes boring into them from across the street had waned but returned suddenly with Akane’s abrupt move. “We have eyes on us, have for a while.” Glancing casually out the window, Kagome let her gaze drift over the people loitering on the street. “Dude with a bokken, can I assume this is the one called Kuno?” She let her eyes linger for a moment before moving on. “And a weird little skinny guy, pasty skin, dark circles under his eyes… is that a doll?”

“Oh crap! We forgot about Gosunkugi!” At this point she desperately wanted to bang her head against the table. “I swear Kagome, just for one week, could they all leave us the hell alone?”

That gave Kagome a fabulous idea but she decided to table it till after they had solved all these problems. “Come on. You and I have some shopping to do. InuYasha never likes being here for long and to do some actual shopping with a girl for once will be fantastic! Plus if they get too close… that’s why I have these!” She held up her long sharp nails and grinned an evil smile that flashed her fangs.

Akane stared at the claw like nails for half a second before her smile lit up her face. “Kagome, have I told you yet how much I think we are going to like each other?” Standing, they linked arms and strolled out of the ice cream shop, giggling like the best of friends.

“You know… this is a pretty big mess you got yourself into.” Chuckling softly, InuYasha sat in the grass beside his mate’s cousin and waited for the women to return. Sesshomaru had left to get some things taken care of and would return the next day to help them deal with the amazons. They had decided that it was better to take care of all the fiancées in one fell swoop so that no one would be the wiser or have advanced warning.

Linking his hands behind his neck, Ranma laid back on the lawn and stared up at the fluffy white clouds that chased the sun. Sighing, he closed his eyes. “Yah… it’s… stupid. Whole flipping thing is so… so…”

“Stupid.” InuYasha snickered as he pulled Tetsusaiga from his belt. “Yah, well… let’s fix it. I want to go… home…” Rubbing a hand over his face, InuYasha looked in the direction of Tokyo and the bone eaters well. He always knew just where it was, like a homing beacon or… pigeon… he could never remember which was which.

“Hey? Sup?” The sad, defeated sound wasn’t normal for the hanyou and Ranma glanced at him in concern.

“My brother… he had a lot to say… about me and Kagome and…” Leaping to his feet InuYasha paced back and forth. “I got some stuff to think about. Decisions is all.”

Watching the hanyou pace was beginning to make him dizzy. “Well, ain’t like I’ve got pressing business if you need an ear. What the big dog have to say?”

InuYasha snickered at that. “Gonna have to use that in the future…” He trailed off and his tone saddened. “It ain’t good. I got three choices. Do what he’s told me not to and hope it turns out different. Don’t do one of the things I’ve wanted to do for my entire life and most likely hurt Kagome in the process because I’m trying to protect her, or, do the thing that I dread the most but would probably make her really happy.”

He blinked at the pacing inu in confusion. “You know how vague that was?” When the hanyou only shrugged and went back to pacing Ranma sat up. “Look, if your brother’s already lived through the first thing it’s pretty much a guarantee that will happen. Even knowing the outcome probably won’t change the result right?” A snarl was his only answer. “Doing the second, if it hurts Kags in the long run, is that any better than the first? I mean, you’re the one who says she’s your better half so…” He held up his hands and shrugged. “That leaves you with the last option. How bad can it really be? And if it makes Kags happy…”

“Why are you so reasonable when it comes to my life but you happen to screw yours over this well?” Thrusting his hands into his hair, InuYasha gave it a firm tug. “Fuck! Fine! Dammit!” Growling, he lashed out and knocked Ranma into the koi pond.

Sputtering, a wet and very female Ranma popped out of the water. “What the hell was that for?”

InuYasha snickered. “Felt like it. Plus, I feel better now.”

Soun and Genma sat in the room off the engawa after Kasumi kicked them out of the kitchen. Drinking sake they conspired together for another wedding to be held right away. “Genma my friend, soon the schools will be joined! Our children will give us grandchildren!” With his arm around his friend’s shoulders they rocked back and forth, tears flowing freely.

Holding tightly to Soun, Genma laughed, “Yes, Soun! Finally that no good son of mine will fulfill his obligations! About damn time! His mother is getting restless with that katana of hers.” If Ranma didn’t marry Akane soon, Nodoka was liable to make him go through with that seppeku pact of hers. Not Ranma, the two of them had settled that between them a while ago, just him. A large bucket of water sailed through the air and hit Genma just right to dump the cold pond water all over him. The panda glared at his female son and held up a sign that read, What was that for?

Snarling, his eyes blazing blue, Ranma stomped her way into the house. “If and when Akane and I decided to get married-“

“-Mated.” InuYasha coughed behind him.

“-it will be on our terms, in our time, and at our discretion!” His claws slashed through the table with little effort when she stomped her way into the kitchen where Kasumi had a perpetual kettle of water waiting to boil.

Dropping down on his knees beside the sliced table InuYasha glared hard at the giant panda. “Still got problems with fleas?” The sign turned around and now read, Fleas? I never had fleas. “Uh huh. Sure.” Switching his attention to Soun he simply stared for a moment. “So, you’re Akane’s father?”

The piercing gold eyes were rather disconcerting when the man stared at him intently. Puffing himself up Soun glared back. “I am.”

“He told you much about me and his niece?” InuYasha gestured at the panda.

“No, not really. Only that she came home married one day rather suddenly.” He gave the dark haired man a disapproving look, though secretly he wished Akane and Ranma would just up and do the same thing.

“Ah. So this should be quite a surprise then.” Turning the face on his watch, InuYasha let the glamor go so Soun could appreciate the full effect of who and what he was.

“D-d-de-de-dem-dem-demon!” Soun shrieked and leapt behind Genma.

“Half actually. My brother, whom you sort of met, he’s the full demon. Lord of the West if you can believe it. Still, after all these years.” Reassuming the glamor he propped his elbows on the remaining piece of upright table and smirked.

Soun glared at the panda until his head enlarged to yell down at Genma. “Your niece… married-“

“-mated.” InuYasha corrected.

“-mated a half demon and you never said anything!” A flurry of punches and blocks flew while the man and the panda exchanged blows.

When things quieted down InuYasha was still sitting patiently as Ranma, now male, walked back in. “Now, see, here’s the thing. Whatever dumbass idea you had,” He pointed at the panda who growled at him and made him growl right back, “Inu.” He tapped his chest. “Panda.” He pointed at Genma. “I’ve still got bigger teeth so shut up and listen. Whatever dumbass idea you had to teach him some special technique backfired big time. That ain’t no “special” nothing. Your nekoken has allowed a demon to take hold in him, so now Ranma is technically hanyou. Be thankful it’s a nekomata and not a bakeneko or things could have been a hell of a lot worse!”

“Demon… possessed…? How do we fix it?” Soun glanced worriedly at Ranma as if expecting him to run screaming for blood at any moment.

“You ain’t listening. It’s not fixable cause it ain’t technically a problem. It’s part of him, like mine is me, and will be that way for the rest of his life. At least Ranma’s got a feel for him now, unlike before. And, at least when his blood runs hot and he goes full neko he doesn’t go into a blood rage like some of us.” Shame wanted to rise in InuYasha for what had happened the last time his demon had taken over prior to his and Kagome’s mating. So many dead… Shaking it off, he looked at Ranma. “It will make him stronger, faster, able to heal quicker. Normally a demon corrupts the host but for some reason, this one has chosen to become an integral part of Ranma, working with him instead of trying to usurp him. It only rose in defense of its host when Ranma’s fear was great. Nekomata are different, they tend to like humans, are willing to work with them like our friend Sango’s neko does. There’s other stuff, too, but that’s for Ranma to share if and when he wants.”

Ranma stared hard at the panda across from him. “You did this pops, you and your dumb idea, you and all your stupid, scheming, dumbass ideas. So listen to me when I tell you that we are going to fix the problems that you have created, that I have let run rampant. Akane got hurt,” He held up his hand and snarled at Soun when the man began blubbering, “Thanks to Kagome she’s going to be fin, but as of now, our lives are no longer in your hands. Akane and I, the decisions we make, you have no say in them anymore! Should we wish to marry… it will be on our terms, in our time, and any interference by either of you will have you challenged by me.” The neko rose fully to shine behind his eyes causing the scent of fear and anger to pour from both men.

“Now see here boy-” Soun started angrily.

“He ain’t a boy.” InuYasha growled hard. “And he’s part of my pack now, kin to my mate, and I don’t claim that of you so shut up. When youkai choose a mate, it’s damn smart to stay out of the way until the marking is through or end up a blood splattered smear on the wall. You get me?” He cracked his knuckles in such a way as to leave little to the imagination regarding  what he meant. Both man and panda nodded vigorously in understanding. “Good. Things are going to get heated up tomorrow. We can deal with the amazons, possibly the Kuno’s, but the lost one and the chef are up to him.”

Ranma glanced at InuYasha in surprise. “The Kuno’s? You didn’t say you had a plan for them nuts, too.”

“Feh. The bastard said something about business dealings and making a few phone calls…” He shrugged. “It meant nothing to me. Bunch of gibberish about socks or something.” InuYasha’s head turned towards the gate when he felt Kagome and Akane returning, and was unsurprised when Ranma simply stood and walked away. Once he hit the gate InuYasha turned back to the two men across the table, nodding to Kasumi when she walked in and poured hot water over Genma’s head. “You ain’t gonna want to piss him off for a while. Keep the fights to a minimum until he gets a better handle on his instincts.”

“He deserves a good beating after-” Genma stopped talking when InuYasha snarled and bared his unseen fangs.

“You don’t get it! You have a highly trained, deadly fighter with a newly emerging set of very insistent instincts that are going to drive him hard! Until Akane accepts or rejects him, laying a hand on her could end up with someone dead! You push him too hard he’s liable to take your head off without hesitation and if you don’t believe me,” He motioned to Soun, “Talk to your middle daughter.” InuYasha stood to his feet to stalk from the room when the soft question from Kagome’s uncle made him snarl and whip back around.

“There’s got to be some way to separate him from the neko.” Genma couldn’t accept that his son was demon possessed, even in some small way.

“No you can’t! You fucking baka! It has lived inside your son since he was six years old because of what you did. It should have corrupted him, turned him evil, but it didn’t. It has protected him, helped him, and made him as much of who he is today as you did. There is no Ranma without the neko, now, and to try to take it from him will only get you, or him, killed. Ranma has accepted it, is trying to understand it, and my brother and I will help him but so help me, Genma, if you, either of you, interfere again… I will haul your ass back with me to the feudal era and feed you both to an oni!” Stomping from the room InuYasha seethed in anger and went to find his mate.

“What a rude young… well, I guess man is the wrong word.” Soun contemplated while he lit a cigarette and glared after InuYasha.

“Father…” Kasumi spoke softly from where she stood, still, behind Genma.

“Yes? Kasumi dear. Don’t you think he was very disrespectful to his elder? Shame really. Ranma always spoke highly of his cousin.” Soun droned on while Kasumi waited.

If she understood it right, InuYasha was far older than the two of them combine which, technically, made InuYasha the elder, but she kept that bit of information to herself. “Father, Uncle Genma, I am only going to say this once so please do me the honor of listening.” When both of them turned their eyes to hers, Kasumi bowed and gave them her best smile. “If you in any way, shape, or form, do anything to screw this up for Akane, I will leave this home to its devices and never return. I will never cook, I will never clean, I will never run this household again. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”

“But… Kasumi dear!” Soun’s eyes filled and overflowed. “Everyone hates me!” He wailed, the flood waters rising to warp the floor.

“That won’t work, father! Your schemes and machinations have brought nothing but trouble to this house and I am done with it! They are both adults and you will treat them as such. Let them find their own way, or so help me!” A large rolling pin appeared in her hand and she smacked it down into the open palm of the other.

Sweet, innocent Kasumi was threatening him and it wasn’t just the lack of a hot meal or clean clothing but the idea that someone as loving as his little Kasumi would resort to violence. It was astounding! “Yes, Kasumi.”

“Promise me! On your honor!” She glared at them both.

“We promise!” Both men mumbled, cowering away from the quiet girl who suddenly showed a will of iron.

“I shall hold you to your promise. And should you break it… do not doubt that I will ask Aunty Nodoka for her honor blade.” Bowing, she smiled sweetly and returned to her kitchen. She was going to be feeding extra mouths tonight, ones that could give Ranma a run for his money in food consumption, apparently, and needed to get back to her preparations.

“Soun, that girl is downright scary.” Genma shuddered when she disappeared into the kitchen.


“Why do you smell like Kuno?” Ranma demanded when he approached the two women. He could distinctly smell the scent of the crazy kendōka on them and a low angry growl formed in his chest.

Laughing, Kagome nudged Akane. “Told you he would know! They always know.”

Sighing, Akane poked Raman in the chest when he reached for her. “Hold on, baka. It was nothing, just Kuno being Kuno.” He snatched her to him so fast she squeaked in surprise. “Ranma! What’s wrong with you?”

“What did he do? Did he touch you? Hurt you?” Dragging her closer he tucked his nose into her throat and drew it upwards to her jaw. The scent of her, sunshine and citrus, carried the unpleasant odor that he associated with the older male and he snarled right before stroking his tongue up her throat.

“Ranma!” Embarrassed beyond words, Akane reverted to old habits and planted her fist in his chest to force him backwards before spinning out with a kick to keep him going.

Grunting when the fist connected, Ranma let her go and managed to avoid the foot flying at him. “What the hell! Stop it you uncute tomboy!” The hurt flashed across her face so quickly he would have missed it if he hadn’t been so hyper aware of her at that moment. “Kane! I-” Kagome’s fist connected with the side of his head and sent him sprawling. ‘Damn! She packs a wallop now!’

“Ranma! How dare you say something like that to Akane!” Kagome yelled at her cousin while the woman in question turned and marched towards the house in hurt and anger. “You can be so mean sometimes.” Shaking her head at him, she turned to follow Akane only to be stopped by his hand on her arm.

“I didn’t mean it! It’s a stupid habit is all.” Guilt weighed heavy in his heart, watching the woman he loved storm her way into the house. “It just surprised me when she swung at me.”

“Considering you just embarrassed the hell out of her, what did you think was going to happen?” Kami he could be dense!

“Embarrassed? Why would I…” It hit him in a rush. He had done the same to her that Shampoo had done to him countless times in the past. He’d glomped onto her in public and embarrassed the often shy girl. “Oh, shit…” He had some serious groveling to do.

“Glad you figured that out. As for what happened with Kuno, it was nothing we couldn’t handle.” Picking up the shopping bags she’d dropped to smack her cousin, Kagome handed some to Ranma. “These ones are Akane’s. You can give them to her later when you’re apologizing.”

Taking the bags he thought about peeking inside but thought better of it when Kagome growled. “Jeez, someone’s taking lessons from their dog.” He snickered when she growled a little louder.

Gritting her teeth, she honestly thought about hitting him again. “I can see why you are constantly getting pummeled by Akane. Do you want to know what happened or not?”

“Yeah, yeah. Don’t get your tail in a twist.” He poked her in the forehead and snickered.

Swiping at him, she couldn’t help but giggle. “That would still be Koga.”

“How did the wolf take the news?” Ranma smirked at her. He hadn’t met the wolf himself but had heard things, both from her and InuYasha.

“Oh, about as you would expect. We’d been together a while when he showed up and figured it out.” He had raged, snarled and snapped, but when he’d calmed down the ookami had finally admitted that he knew it would happen eventually. She’d never given any indication that she was truly interested in Koga as more than a friend. “He’s with Ayame now.”

“Good thing, too, or I’d a slaughtered the mangy wolf.” InuYasha sneered, appearing at Kagome’s side and hugged her in close. “What you do, woman, buy out the stores? And why are your shoes different?” The wedge ones she’d worn out had been replaced with soft sandals.

Glancing down, Ranma saw that InuYasha was right. He hadn’t even noticed, but the hanyou had.

“Well, we were having ice cream, talking about this new development with cuz here,” She jabbed Ranma in the ribs, “When I realized we were being watched.” Both of them stiffened but she waved them off. “Don’t freak. It was that Kuno guy and someone she called Gosun… Goushin… hmm… weird little pasty guy, likes to play with dolls.” She frowned at Ranma, looking for an answer.

“Gosunkugi! Shit, another one…” Shaking his head, Ranma was about ready to pull out his hair. If another admirer of either him or Akane crawled out of the woodwork he was liable to just kill them all to be rid of them.

“Right, that was it. So anyway….”

Kagome and Akane walked unhurriedly out the door of the ice cream parlor arm in arm and turned down the street away from their unwanted shadows. “Is this what you always have to put up with?” Kagome asked quietly while they browsed through shop windows, keeping an eye on the creep with the bokken.

Sighing, Akane brushed her hair behind her ear and nodded. “Unfortunately. At least since Ranma and I got engaged I haven’t had to fight off the hentai horde, but, once word gets out that we didn’t actually make it through the wedding… that could all change.” They were in their last year of high school with only weeks to go before they graduated.

Puzzled, Kagome stopped to look at a display of cute shoes. “Hentai horde?”

Rubbing at her forehead where the headache was brewing, Akane growled an annoyed little sound. “Stupid Kuno and his stupid speech!” She explained again, in more detail and through gritted teeth about the speech Kuno had made at the beginning of her first year of high school, and how she’d had to fight off every pervert in the school every morning until the engagement to Ranma had come to light. Honestly, it was one of the only things that she had been happy to have come out of this debacle of a relationship. “Even though Kuno’s moved on to university the idiot still hasn’t let up! I’m about ready to do something drastic!” Like put the fool through a concrete wall! Hands clenching, she longed for a cinderblock to punch her fist through.

Covering her mouth with her hand Kagome had to giggle. “I’m sorry! I’m not laughing at you, just, Ranma sent me a letter right after he got here. It talked about this girl that fought this group of guys on his first morning at his new school and how impressed he was by her skill. That was you!” Giggling again at the shock on Akane’s face, Kagome linked their arms together and was turning away from the window when she heard the running feet. “What the…?”


“Oh, kami. Here we go.” Akane slapped a hand to her face when Kuno screamed her name and ran down the street towards them.

“Tendo Akane! I, the once name Blue Thunder of Furinkan High, the now known Lighting Strike of Tokyo University, have come to save you from the vile attentions of that dark and evil sorcerer Saotome Ranma! I, that saved you from the clutches of that monster only days ago, that saved you from being forced to wed such a fiend, am here to receive your gratitude and take you away to be the Queen to this King of Kendo!” Coming to stop only a few feet from her, Kuno threw the bouquet of red roses at Akane’s feet.

Eyes wide in shock, Kagome gaped at him before looking to Akane. “Is he serious?” The exasperated sigh and shallow nod fired up Kagome’s temper. “And I thought Koga was bad.” Stepping in front of Akane, Kagome hollered, “Look you jerk! I don’t know who you think you are but Akane doesn’t like you! She doesn’t want anything to do with the sick, twisted fantasy world that you’ve built and if you don’t leave us alone, I will call the police!”

Snapping his bokken straight out he pointed it at the lovely black haired, golden eyed woman that dared to challenge him. “And who are you to say such things to me, my dark beauty with eyes like midday suns?” Whipping his other hand out Kuno said, “A token of my esteem.”

A single red rose flew at Kagome and in a move too fast for most to follow she kicked her foot out and burst the bloom into nothing but petals. “Kagome Higurashi. Ranma Saotome is my cousin and I’m telling you right now that if you don’t leave my friend Akane alone you will regret it.” Shifting her stance while Akane moved up beside her, they waited for Kuno’s next move.

“Such a fiery beauty! I shall add you to my harem!” The maniacal chuckle came while he wondered if Nabiki had pictures of her to sell.

“Eww! He has a harem?” Kagome squeaked to Akane, disgust twisting her lips into a sneer.

“Only in his head. It consists of me, Ranma as the pigtailed girl, and, apparently, now you.” Would he never learn? “At least now we can feed him to InuYasha or do you think your brother-in-law would be willing to show us his other form?” The idea made her giggle. She was so tired of fending off Kuno and his roses.

Kagome snorted out a laugh at the idea of Sesshomaru and Kuno facing off. “He wouldn’t need his other form to teach this one a lesson.” Turning her focus back to the confused face of the kendōka she sighed. “Look, whatever your name is. I’m married so you can take me out of your little harem box and you can remove my friend as well. She doesn’t like you, never has, never will! So shoo your sorry behind back to whatever hole you crawled out of. We have real men to go home to.” The bokken was suddenly coming at her head.

“Vile sorceress! You are as corrupt as the one you claim as cousin! I shall defeat you and take the fair maiden Akane away to rid her of your putrid influence!” He sent a slashing downward strike at the woman with eyes like the sun.

“Kagome!” Akane screamed, rushing to aid her friend.

“Please! Slow ass human.” Kagome snarled in a fair imitation of her mate. Grabbing the flying bokken, she stopped it mid swing and snapped out a kick to the man’s abdomen that put him through the store front window of the shoes she had just been admiring. “Oops!”  Limbs askew and bokken broken, Kuno lay in the glass and leather of the destroyed display. “Oh dear. That was perhaps excessive on my part.”

Hands over her mouth, Akane stared from Kuno to Kagome and back before bursting into delighted laughter. “Oh, man! The only other people to do that to him are either Ranma or me! Oh, Kagome! That was fantastic!”

Glancing down at her foot Kagome sighed. “I broke my shoe with that kick. Bastard! These were my favorite. Do you know how rare it is for me to wear something this cute?” It wasn’t like she could get away with it in the feudal era. “Ooh that jerk!”

The shop keeper had arrive at this point and was screaming at the comatose Kuno for the damage he had done to her store when Akane approached. “Mrs. Yama? I am so sorry about your window.” She bowed to the woman in apology.

“Akane dear! I saw the whole thing so don’t you be apologizing for this fool. He swung at that pretty young woman with you first and should know by now that the friends you keep will be better martial artist than he is. Don’t you fret, dear. His family will be taking care of the expense.” Glowering at the boy, she glanced at the feet of the woman who wobbled towards her. “You break that wedge, dearie?”

Kagome nodded and opened her mouth to also apologize when the woman reached into the display and pulled a pair of sandals out from under Kuno.

“Size seven? You take these. He’s an idiot and when the police arrive I will tell them the same thing. No need to say who kicked him through my window. There’s enough of us to say he threw the first punch and that is all that matters. You two go on with your day.” Waving her hands the elder woman shooed them down the street.

“Does that happen a lot?” Kagome asked quietly while she sat on a bench to change her shoes.

Smiling, Akane nodded. “More often than I’m sure most of the merchants would like but we always make sure the damage is either cleaned up or paid for in some way.” Usually with the strength of Ranma’s back. Shock slammed through her and she sat heavily on the bench for she suddenly realized how often Ranma cleaned up the mess others made around him. He was always helping to put things back together after Ryoga, the Kunos, Ukyo, or Shampoo destroyed stuff. “Huh…”

“What?” Kagome smiled at the shocked expression on Akane’s face.

“I just, kind of had an epiphany about Ranma. I never realized how much he does to fix what others have destroyed. Usually I’m so mad at him for getting into another fight I never stopped to think how stuff gets fixed or who did it. Or, for that matter, how he really isn’t the one destroying things in the first place.” Akane set her head in her hands and slowly shook it back and forth. “I’ve been blaming him for all of it and more often than not, it hasn’t been his fault. How did I not see that before now?”

“Oh, I’m sure he carries plenty of blame, this is Ranma we’re talking about after all, but until now maybe you just weren’t ready to see.” Sitting on the bench in the sun, Kagome turned her face up to the light. “He’s not the only one who was traumatized at Jusendo, Akane.”

Akane glanced sharply at her friend and was caught by the golden eyes that seemed to see through her. “Yeah…”

Patting Akane’s hand, Kagome turned towards her. “You sacrificed your life more than once for him. That in itself should tell you just how much you love him. It’s not so surprising that you can look at the past with a bit more clarity.” It helped that she could look back on a lot of the things InuYasha had done or said before they mated that now made a whole lot more sense than they did back then. “He’s a good man. More mature than I remember and I’m pretty sure that has to do with you. The neko in him, it will help to mature him more now that he’s chosen. He will strive to become the strongest warrior, the best protector, the most passionate lover now that the instincts are alive inside him. He will do it all for you until you accept him as your mate or deny him completely.”

Stunned, Akane could only blink rapidly until she inhaled sharply. “How long does that last?” Wonder laced her tone while a blush wanted to rise in her face thinking about Ranma as her… as … in that way.

The smirk spread with Kagome’s giggle. “If you say yes… it won’t end, only get stronger. He will become yours in body and soul, and nothing, not even death, will take him from you.” Figuring she’d given Akane enough to think about, Kagome rose to her feet and grinned at her new sandals. “So cute!”

Reeling a little, Akane could only nod and follow where Kagome led. As they shopped, moving from store to store, their second shadow stayed at a safe distance having witnessed what had happened to Kuno.

Though she paid very little attention to what they were buying, once in a while Kagome would thrust her into a fitting room to try on some shirt, skirt or pants only to squeal and clap when the outfit looked nice. It wasn’t until they went through the door of the last boutique that Akane finally snapped to awareness, her face flushing red. “No. No, no, no, no, no!” She chanted and waved her hands.

“Oh, don’t be such a fuddy duddy! It’s just underwear!” Dragging on her arm, Kagome hauled Akane deeper into the lingerie store.

“This is not underwear! Underwear is cotton and covers more than just the important bits!” Akane hissed at her in mortification.

Stopping dead in her tracks Kagome turned to face Akane and in a low voice whispered, “Are you telling me you’ve never bought sexy underwear?” With the flaming red face and frantic shake of her head Kagome gaped at Akane. “Rectifying that situation right now! Come with me.”

“But, but I don’t want to!” Akane whined when she looked at the skimpy, colorful, lacy things.

Shoving her in a fitting room, Kagome shut the door. “Do not move! You are going to try stuff on, you are going to like it, and you are going to buy stuff if it’s the last thing I do on this trip!” It was like a rite of passage for women to go out and buy their first sexy pair of underwear. Whatever could have held Akane back?

It hit her as she was digging through the racks looking for just the right thing, and Kagome’s hands stopped. Akane’s mother had died when she was very young. They would never have had this experience together. Never laughed and giggled their way through the racks like Kagome had with her own mother. Taking the few items she had found back to the fitting room she knocked softly on the door. “Akane?”

“Yeah, Kagome?” The hesitancy made her frown.

“If… if you really don’t want to do this… I won’t make you.” Chewing on her lip, Kagome waited at the side of the door.

Sighing, Akane cracked the door and held the robe she had on closed. “It’s okay. I guess I’ve just always been… too shy… to come in here myself.” And too worried someone would see her and call her a pervert, shopping for sexy underwear when she was supposedly not interested in boys.

Relaxing, Kagome smiled. “I did this with my mom shortly after I turned sixteen. I know that you lost your mom when you were little but… do you mind if I play stand in today?” Holding out her arms, she showed Akane what she had and watched her blush brightly. “They’re all relatively tame, I promise. Just prettier than cotton ones.”

Taking the sets from Kagome, Akane snickered. “I can’t believe I’m nervous to try on underwear!”

Grin taking a twist to the lecherous, Kagome glanced around before she whispered, “Just think how Ranma will feel when he sees you in them.”

“Hentai!” Akane squeaked and slammed the door on Kagome’s loud laughter. Her flaming red face greeted her in the mirror when she turned around. The pile of assorted bits and scraps of lace in her hands were a vibrant contrast to the white robe she had on and gradually she held them out so she could see them better. Red, blue, pink and yellow sets of bras and panties overflowed her hands. Calling herself a coward as she stared at them, Akane shook herself out of her frozen state and hung them on a hook to strip off and put on the first set. Yellow, being her favorite color, was her first choice and she slipped into the lace confection before taking a deep breath and turning towards the mirror. A gasp left her lips when she stared at the swelling curves that lifted above the cups of the bra, at the way the high cut of the underwear caressed her hip and turned to see how the lace came up between the cheeks of her buttocks and made her behind look firm and round. Her whole body flushed when she saw how sexy it made her appear.

‘Ranma would swallow his tongue if he saw this.’ It was the first thought across her mind and had her eyes darting back to those of her reflection. Mortified and flustered she stared at herself for another minute, her mind drifting back to the scene from the kitchen that morning. The sheer fabric of the bra did nothing to hide the rapid beading of her nipples when the memory brought a sweet ache to the area between her thighs.

She wasn’t as naïve as everyone assumed. She knew what went on in the privacy of adult bedrooms and at eighteen years of age had a pretty good handle on sex and the process. The tingles she had been having over Ranma had escalated to full blown dreams that would wake her sweaty and panting with such an ache in her center, that many times it had taken no more than a glide of fingers across her wet pearl to have fireworks exploding in her core as she tried desperately not to moan his name aloud.

Still, the idea of taking that next step had frightened her. What if she had given in to her urges and then Ranma had left her for one of the others? It was a deep seated fear that had grown over time when he refused to do anything about his fiancées. But now, now, he had chosen her. He wanted her and no other and with what Kagome had related to her today… did she really need to fear he’d leave her for someone else? This time, the grin that curved her lips held its own wicked twist when she quickly stripped off and tried on the rest of the sets.

“Akane? I have one more thing if you’re willing.” Kagome smirked from outside the door. A hand was thrust over the top and chuckling rather deviously, she handed the last item to Akane. The loud eep that came from the other side had her slapping her hands to her mouth to keep the laughter inside when Akane got a good look at what she’d handed her. “I’ve got my own to try on so I’ll be right next door if you’re looking for me.” A soft affirmative sound came from Akane’s dressing room but otherwise she remained silent while Kagome tried on her own finds. Once she was finished, she was surprised to see Akane standing near the counter with her purchases already paid for and bag in hand. After paying for her own things, Kagome linked her arm through Akane’s and they exited the store. “So… not so bad?”

Blushing but only a little, Akane’s eyes sparkled when she glanced at Kagome. “I think I may need to thin out my wardrobe what with all we’ve bought today.” The amount of bags they were walking around with made it look as if they had bought out half of Nerima.

“And… did you buy it?” Kagome inquired, grinning sideways at Akane. The flush bloomed bright and made her squeal excitedly. “You did! I’m so proud of you!!”

Laughing, Akane shushed her. “Whether I ever wear it or not will remain to be seen.”

“Oh, you’ll wear it!” Kagome snickered as they made their way back towards the Tendo compound.

“So, yeah. I kicked Kuno’s butt and the weird guy just followed us around. Right up until we came out of the last store. Then he seemed to get a nosebleed and ran off. Weird.” Kagome shrugged and pecked InuYasha a quick kiss. She would tell him the rest of what she and Akane had talked about and the fun they’d had in the lingerie store later.

‘Nosebleed?’ Ranma wondered. “Just what kind of store was this last one you came out of?”

Holding up the pink striped bag with the very distinct logo on it Kagome smiled. “This one.” InuYasha’s rumbled purr of excitement made her laugh. “Down boy.”

“Oh, come on. You know that’s the only store I like you shopping in.” InuYasha purred seductively. His mouth dropped to her neck and his hand snaked towards the bag. He gladly let her take her time in that place any time she chose to shop there.

Shoving at him, Kagome shook her head. “Behave.” Focusing again on Ranma, she worked hard not to laugh. He was doing everything in his power to not rip through the bags that he held to see if Akane had also purchased there. “She tucked hers in the bag from the dress shop.” His head snapped up and his blue eyes went electric causing her to smirk a wicked grin at him. Deciding to torment her cousin the grin took a twist when she said, “And she bought more than just underwear.” Ranma was gone so fast it made her snort in laughter.

“That was really, really mean, wench.” InuYasha snickered, holding her as she laughed. “But he does kind of deserve it.” While she was preoccupied, he snatched the bag from her hand. “And what about you, Ka-go-me? Did you buy more than just underwear?”

Snatching the bag back, Kagome grinned wide enough to flash her fangs. “Guess you’ll have to wait and see… mate.” She purred out the last word before tiptoeing up to nip at his mouth.

“Tease…” He rumbled back, his arms wrapping her up tight.

Bounding up the stairs with all the bags in tow, Ranma made it to Akane’s door in record time before pausing. She was pissed at him and he couldn’t blame her but the idea of her shopping there was enough to have the neko stirring and purring for its mate. The desire was not to be denied and he knocked softly on her door. “Akane?” An annoyed sigh came from the other side and would have made his ears droop if he’d had ones like InuYasha.

“What do you want now, Ranma?”

“I brought your stuff up.” He said quietly and waited with his breath held to see if she’d let him in. Feet finally shuffled forwards and she swung the door open.

“Just put it on the bed and go.” Glaring at him, she turned back to her desk and sat with her back to the room.

Stepping inside, he placed everything on the bed before moving back to the door and shutting it tight. Her shoulders slumped and her head came down on her arms across the desk in such a depressed manner it made his heart hurt. “Akane…”

Jolting upright Akane spun to face him. “I thought you left!” Launching herself out of the chair, she threw her arms around his neck.

“I couldn’t. Not until I tell you how sorry I am for what I said and embarrassing you like that.” Tucking his nose into her hair, he held her close and realized the majority of the scent of Kuno had actually been coming off Kagome. ‘That should right piss off the dog…’

“Why… why did you do that?” She asked softly with her face pressed to his chest. It had felt… nice. In fact it had been really arousing to have him stroke his tongue up her throat but that didn’t mean she wanted him to do it so publicly.

“I can’t stand having you smell like another male. Not when I want you to smell like me… Kami, Akane.” His hands traveled the length of her spine, stroking and massaging, sliding under the edge of her shirt to feel her soft, warm skin before gliding down over her pert ass. “I want to slide my tongue over every inch of you until all I can smell is me on your skin. But if you didn’t like it…”

Tugging the tie out of his pig tail, Akane forced his hair loose around his shoulders. “I didn’t say I didn’t like it. I just didn’t like it so publicly.” Thrusting her hands into his lush black locks, she pulled forcefully to get his mouth down to hers. Sometimes he was too tall for his own good.

Groaning when her mouth closed over his, Ranma lifted her up so her legs could wrap his waist and turned to press her firmly against the door. “Mine. My ‘Kane.” He purred against her lips before sweeping his tongue into her mouth, demanding she respond in kind.

Wrenching her mouth away when he rocked his hips into hers, Akane gasped softly, “Ranma, what are you-” The moan was forced from her when his teeth closed over her pulse.

“If we are against the door, no one can open it.” He murmured against the silky skin of her throat before licking at it. “Just stay quiet. I’ll hear anyone coming.” Slowly, he rocked his hips into hers, pressing his throbbing erection against the sweltering heat of her core over and over while he worshiped her throat. “So good. Could just eat you right up.” He purred and nibbled at her ear.

“Oh, oh kami. Ranma!” She whimpered when he pressed against her in just the right way. Clenching her hands into his hair, she pulled hard and arched his head back so she could close her mouth over the cords of his neck. Dragging her teeth down, she bit lightly at the rapidly beating pulse in his throat.

“Fuck!” The snarl exploded from him and he sank to the floor to press her into the carpet. Her legs dropped from his waist and he lifted up, thrust his hand down the waist of her loose pants, and found the wet heat that was smoldering in his nose. Feeling frantic, he closed his mouth over her t-shirt covered breast and suckled on the nipple he could see beading through, while his fingers delved down to stroke and caress the pearl he knew would bring her pleasure.

Akane had her back arch when his fingers found her. It was nothing like touching herself and better than she had ever imagined such a thing could be. Then his mouth had descended on her breast and she forgot how to breathe. Small whimpers and quiet moans were coming from her in the most wanton manner and she couldn’t have stopped them had she even wanted to. “Please, Ranma!” She whispered quietly. Electric blue eyes lifted to look at her with such heat it made her groan and arch into his hand when his fingers stroked firmer.

Dropping down beside her, he sank back into her mouth, sucking and stroking her tongue in time to the fingers against her core. She wept for him, her lips getting slicker by the second as the pearl under his fingers swelled. Her panting grew in intensity, her body gradually tightened, and with a last sweep of his tongue through her mouth he turned to her ear and whispered, “Come for me, ‘Kane.” Her inhalation was huge when she drew in breath to scream and he covered her mouth with his at the last instant, catching and swallowing her cry while her body shook and her thighs clamped closed around his hand.

Resting his hand on her, he panted almost as hard as she did and pressed their foreheads together. “Wow…” It was all he could think to say. Her scent changed, went from hot and sultry to embarrassed and had trepidation flowing in his veins. “Don’t. Please don’t regret this. I couldn’t stand it if you did.”

Akane opened her eyes to see despairing blue and forced her body to relax. Unclenching the fists that still held his hair, she cupped his face and brought him down for a soft kiss. “Just… a little embarrassed. No regret.” She breathed against his lips. “It’s just, we went from fighting all the time to, well, this. I didn’t think I would let you get me out of my pants that easily.”

Her blush burned brighter and he couldn’t help but rub his nose against hers. “Technically you’re still in your pants.” Purring gently he nudged at her cheek, nipped at her lip and flicked his tongue over her jaw.

“Perhaps you could get your hand out of my pants.” She whispered when rough masculine fingers stroked through her slick folds a second time. The whimper left her lips when he pulled his hand slowly out of her underwear but his eyes never left hers.

Without haste, Ranma lifted the delectable scent of her essence to his lips, watched her eyes widen and her blush deepened before he stuck his fingers in his mouth. Eyes closing in rapture, his pleased groan filled the room as he licked every drop of her cream off his skin. “Kami. Akane.” It was the best thing he’d ever tasted and he longed to lap at her folds until he could drink her dry.

Hands pressed to her mouth, she stared up at him in utter surprise. “I can’t… I can’t believe you just did that!”

Grasping her wrists, he pulled her hands firmly over her head and rolled half on top of her. “And I would do it again… if you let me.” Her eyes couldn’t hide her desire when he purred softly against her. “But first, can I ask a question?” Dropping his head, he nipped and sucked slowly at her lips, plumping them up with his attention until they were lush and full.

Groaning, feeling his body heat warm her, Akane wrenched her head away. “What?”

Lifting his head, he smirked down at her flushed face and inhaled deeply her mouth-watering scent. “What did you by at that store?”

Refusing to give in that easily, knowing he had likely gotten the Kuno story from Kagome which had led to their impromptu shopping spree, she frowned. “What store?”

Brow rising, he drew his nose along her cheek. “You know which store. The one that the pink striped bag tucked in the bottom of the dress shop bag came from.”

Her grin flashed and in a move too quick to anticipate, she flipped him to his back and sat on his ribs. Poking him in his forehead, she snickered. “Wouldn’t you like to know!”

Sitting swiftly upright, he dumped her in his lap making her yelp. Fisting her hair at her nape he held her tight and grinned wickedly at her. “Yeah… yeah, I really would.”

Pressing her palms against his chest she smiled. “Maybe someday.”

Face falling, he sighed dramatically. “Can I at least know what color it is?”

Giggling softly she bit her lip. “Maybe someday.”

“Please?!” He whined and gave her big puppy eyes.

Pushing to her feet she shook her head. “I’m going to put this stuff away. Can you make sure the guest room is ready for Kagome and InuYasha?”

Rising with her, he pulled her back against his chest. “I could just help you.”

“I think not!” Shoving him towards the closed door, Akane laughed at his antics. But, when he smiled at her and opened the door, she smirked at him and waited till he was a few steps away. “Ranma… it’s red... and lacy.” The stumble came at the top of the stairs and she listened to him crash to the bottom. “Whoops!” She snickered and proceeded to shut the door. Teasing him was turning out to be far more fun than fighting with him had ever been.

Rummaging through the assortment of bags on her bed, she was just pulling the pink bag out of her purchases when a soft knock on the door came. “Ranma, I already told you no!” Shoving the bag under her other things, Akane stomped to the door and wrenched it open only to find Nabiki, looking subdued, standing in the hallway. “Nabiki.”

Twisting her fingers together Nabiki hesitated at the coldness in her sister’s voice. “Akane, I-”

“Save it, Nabiki! I don’t want to hear any more of your lame excuses! This for the good of the family garbage has gotten old. Either you tell me the truth, the real truth this time, or you can get out.” Stomping back to her bed, Akane dumped her new clothes out on top and began to sort through them without paying any heed to her sister.

Coming in, Nabiki quietly shut the door and sat on the chair in front of Akane’s desk. “Akane, I never meant for you to get hurt…”

She barked out a forced laugh. “Well I did, Nabiki! Thanks to Kagome I’m better but what if it had been one of my friends? Or a teacher? Or another innocent bystander that had no training? Did you even think about what could happen?” Refusing to turn around she slashed her hand through the air. “No! All you thought about was the money!”

“That’s not true!” Nabiki hollered. “That’s the second time I’ve been accused of that today and it isn’t the truth at all!”

Spinning around, Akane glared at her sister. “Then what is, Nabiki?! What is the truth?! Cause honestly, I haven’t got a clue what you had to gain from any of this!”

“I did it for you! You, you big dummy!” Swiping at angry tears, Nabiki shook her finger at her sister. “You who have always said you don’t like boys. That you don’t want to be forced into marriage. That you hate Ranma! All of it was to save you from the things you didn’t want!”

Stunned, Akane could only stare for a moment. Then the anger returned. “Well who asked you to?! Did it ever even once occur to you to come and ask me what I wanted? No! You are no better than dad and Mr. Saotome!”

It was Nabiki’s turn to stare with wide eyes. “You mean… you wanted to go through with the wedding? You actually wanted to marry Ranma?”

Swiping at her own angry tears Akane nodded. “No one was forcing me into anything. I chose, Nabiki, just like he chose me.” Sighing, her anger drained away to become bone deep exhaustion. Turning back to her bed and the treasures that waited, she felt little pleasure in the items now. “I love him, Nabiki, with all my heart. We are going to deal with the rest of this mess tomorrow. That is why InuYasha, Kagome, and Sesshomaru are here.”

“You’re serious!” It rocked her that she had been so wrong about her own sister. She, Nabiki Tendo, the girl that could ready a wager in less than thirty seconds and judge the outcome perfectly, had failed when it came to reading her own sister.

Clenching her fists, Akane turned back. “Yes, Nabiki. I’m serious.” Planting her hands on her hips she pinned her sister in place with a look. “You’re still my sister and I love you, but right now, I don’t like you very much. What you did,” She shook her head, “It hurt me more than just physically. The stuff that happens tomorrow, it is the last time I trust you with anything important. If the information leaks ahead of time that we are getting rid of all the outside competition I will know exactly where the leak came from.” When the understanding nod came, Akane frowned. “Don’t make me regret this, Nabiki, and, seeing as how you collected all that cash for my wedding, you will use it to repair the house and the dojo.”

She hadn’t felt this chastised in a very long time and nodded, filled with remorse for what she had done. “Akane… I really am sorry. I hope you will forgive me eventually.” But when her sister simply turned to look out the window, Nabiki knew that it wouldn’t be anytime soon. Her little sister could hold a grudge with the best of them. Sighing, she left, passing Kagome on the way to begin making phone calls about repairing the dojo.

Kagome leaned around the corner of the open door and watched the blue haired girl that stood staring out the window lift a hand to cover her eyes before the soft sob hit her ears. “Oh, Akane.” Rushing forwards, Kagome hugged her tight while the quiet sobs poured out. Once she’d wept herself dry, Kagome brushed everything off Akane’s bed and encouraged her to lay down. “Sleep for a while. Neither you nor Ranma got any rest last night. And then I dragged you all over Nerima.”

Nodding against her pillow, Akane breathed a quiet sigh. “Thanks, Kagome.”

Grinning at her friend, Kagome quickly hung up the remainder of Akane’s purchases. Seeing the bright pink bag, she placed Akane’s new undergarments in the drawer for that purpose, smiling at the red, lacy confection before folding it carefully to place on top of the rest.

Groaning at the bottom of the stairs, Ranma looked up to see the dog laughing at him. “Nice. Laugh at a man when he’s down.”

“Feh, you wouldn’t have fallen down the stairs if you’d had your mind on your feet instead of things of a red and lacy nature.” Holding out his hand, InuYasha lifted Ranma to his feet. Slapping him on the shoulder, the half demon chuckled and said softly, “Welcome to matehood, almost.” The man reeked of lust though the tumble down the stairs had knocked the majority out of him. “Have fun?”

“Yeah…” Ranma’s face flushed red when he realized what he’d just admitted to, but InuYasha only chuckled harder.

“Just wait… It gets better.” He murmured quietly and watched Kagome make her way towards the kitchen. “Might want to do something about that, though.” He pointed at his own hair and smirked when Ranma lifted his hand to his and grimaced. “Meh, women like hair, at least my woman does. You’ll get used to it eventually.” Snickering, his unseen ear flicked towards the stairwell, his eyes darting to follow, to where the sound of raised voices could be heard. “Ranma?”

A hiss left his lips and electric blue eyes glared up the stairs. “Nabiki!” But when he made to race back up to his intended mate, InuYasha caught his arm.

“Wait! They need to get this out between the two of them. If it sounds like things are spiraling out of control then go, but otherwise let Akane deal with her sister. She seems like a strong woman.” And both of the women needed to say their peace. The hostility of Akane’s voice when she’d said her sister’s name hadn’t escaped him.

Ranma growled softly but huffed out a breath. “Fine! But I don’t trust her.” And he could already hear the hurt in Akane’s voice. Listening intently, he fixed his hair, and felt the blood drain from his face when Nabiki finally admitted what had possessed her to stop the wedding. “Shit!” It was too much. All the things he had feared Akane meant in truth came tumbling out Nabiki’s mouth and he felt his blood run cold. Right up until Akane turned on her sister. The next sentence out of his mate’s mouth was enough to have him sagging in relief against the wall across from InuYasha.

“You really thought she didn’t want to go through with it, didn’t you?” InuYasha watched the relief flush blood back into Ranma’s face.

“Yeah… We never really got along that well in the beginning and although things have… changed over time… it was still hard to know if she, if I… if we… could really work. Hearing that….” His eyes drifted back to the stairs and his smiled. “I knew after last night that she loved me but now… now I have hope that she’ll accept me. When the time is right.” He flushed lightly across his nose having said so much about his feelings.

“What are we listening to?” Kagome whispered, returning from the kitchen with a cup of tea for herself and a cup of ramen for InuYasha.

His ears perked up when the scent of noodles wafted from the cup. “Thanks, mate!” Snatching the cup from her hand, he began wolfing down the ramen. “Akane and Nabiki.” He mumbled around his mouthful.

Turning her face up the stairs, Kagome caught the last of the conversation and thrust her cup at InuYasha. “Take this. I’ll go see how she’s doing.”

“But I…” Ranma started to protest when Kagome’s fingers, complete with rather sharp nails, poked him in the chest making him wince.

“You’ve done enough. Don’t think I can’t smell you just the same as he can.” She waved her hand at her mate. Smiling to soften the words when his flush brightened, Kagome patted Ranma’s chest. “She’ll need another girl to talk to and Ranko isn’t going to cut it, not this time.”

Sighing, his shoulders slumped and Ranma gave in. “Kay… but,”

“If she needs you, I’ll let you know.” Her heart turned over with how in love he was with Akane. Stretching up on her toes she kissed his reddened cheek before climbing the stairs.

Nabiki exited and glanced down at them before shutting herself in her room, but it was Kagome’s soft exclamation and the quiet sobs that nearly broke Ranma’s heart. “I should-”

We should go do something productive and leave the women to blubber on each other.” Kagome’s tears could turn him into a puppy faster than one of her sacred arrows could fly, and if Akane was blubbering, Kagome was likely not far behind. “My wench has got a soft heart. She’ll take care of yours.” Herding Ranma towards the kitchen he thanked Kasumi for the snack before thrusting Ranma out the back door. He’d done it swiftly when the older woman had looked longingly at the top of his head. Though she could no longer see the ears, he could still see the desire behind her eyes to try and touch them. “What the hell is it about my ears that make all women nutty?”

Far enough away that he could no longer hear the quiet sobs of Akane, Ranma focused on InuYasha to distract his wrenching heart. “Two words. Soft and fuzzy.” He chuckled when the hanyou glared at him. “So, what ya have in mind as productive?”

Nodding towards the wreckage of the destroyed dojo, InuYasha said, “We could clean that up. It would save money on the labor of rebuilding and give us something to do to work off some energy.” Though when he looked at Ranma the man appeared to be running on empty. “You gonna live?”

Scratching at the back of his neck, Ranma tugged on his pig tail and sighed. “Yah. Haven’t slept in… jeez, two days.” Shaking his arms and cracking his neck, he dug deep for his second – possibly third – wind and dove into the wreckage with InuYasha. “Thanks for doing this.” He murmured and glanced at the hanyou.

“Keh.” InuYasha grunted digging into the destroyed dojo, knowing the man meant more than just cleaning up.

Akane had slept for a while, waking late in the afternoon to heat and weight against her spine. It was comforting. A feeling of safety and protection she had not felt in a very long time and knew without looking that she would find Ranma on her bed. Turning her head, she watched the man as he slept, seeing the boy he had been when they had first met in the unguarded face.

Moving slowly, not wanting to wake him, she rolled to face him and touched hesitant fingers to his bangs. The messy sweep of hair made him look impish and full of mischief when his smirk brightened his eyes. But now, it only made him look innocent as he slept deeply beside her. What was it about her bed that always had him zonking out on it? Maybe it was because it was a real bed and it had been so rare for him to have something so precious growing up.

Thinking of how he was raised made her lips curl back in a scary grimace of hate. His father was a bastard for all that he had done to Ranma over the years. Yes, it may have made him the incredible martial artist he was today but there was no way in hell Genma was ever getting his hands on her children. Not ever!

That thought had her inhaling sharply in surprise. If Genma was around to be a threat, didn’t that mean she was already considering accepting Ranma as her husband… as her… mate?

She had always planned to finish high school and go to college to get her degree in teaching. Taking over the dojo was her most desired wish but she was not foolish enough to believe that she could train others without the benefit of a degree to show off to parents of prospective students. Ranma’s reputation proceeded him and having him take on students would not be an issue, especially if he could learn to teach her the way InuYasha had taught Kagome. It would allow him to work with weaker, less experience students without the fear of accidently harming someone if he got overzealous.

But if she did choose to mate with him, would it change things for them? Would he be okay letting her go to take her schooling? Would he want her to give up on her dream to stay home and have kids right away?

Looking over his sleeping form, she notice he was lying on top of the covers and smiled at his concession to her. If he was this considerate of her feelings, she couldn’t see him throwing a fit if she wanted to take a few more years of schooling. Especially if they worked on getting him set up with some classes over the summer. The faster word got out that Ranma Saotome was accepting students the better. Even she could teach a few beginner or women’s classes during the week as long as they were late enough in the day not to interfere with college.

She almost laughed aloud at the direction her thoughts had taken her. It was obvious what her choice was. She would accept him. When the time was right she would agree to become his mate. The idea of mate marks was intriguing and she wondered if, seeing as how his demon wasn’t something he had been born with, could Ranma even mark her in the same fashion as InuYasha had Kagome?

“I can almost hear your mind working, ‘Kane? What you thinking so hard about?”

Gasping in surprise, she focused her eyes on intense blue above a teasing grin. “Ranma! You startled me.” She smiled softly at him and flicked at his bangs. “How long have you been awake?”

“Long enough.” He had watched the fascinating range of emotions race across her face. So many, so quickly that without the help of his nose he may not have been able to follow them all. “What revelation did you just have that made you gasp like that?”

Embarrassed, and unsure if she was ready to reveal all her secrets, Akane turned onto her back and stared up at her ceiling. It didn’t help when Ranma propped himself up on his elbow and laid his hand gently against her stomach. She needed time to think and his piercing blue eyes weren’t helping.

She was running again, trying to escape from telling him what was in her heart, and he didn’t know if he should be angered or disappointed. He didn’t like that she didn’t trust him completely but, could he blame her? How many times had he crushed her heart since he’d met her? How many times had he broken that trust? How many times could he expect her to give him a second chance? “It’s okay, ‘Kane, if you don’t want to tell me. I know I’m an idiot. I know I’ve hurt you a lot and I don’t deserve to have you trust me with everything right off. But I want you to know that I’m trying because I love you and I never want to lose you. Sometimes I’m going to slip up, say stupid things cause their habits, but I want you to know I don’t mean them, I’ve never meant them. All the times I’ve called you uncute, it was because to me you’re not cute, you’re beautiful. All the times I’ve called you tomboy was so that I didn’t have to admit to you how brave and strong and talented I think you are. All the times I-” Her fingers connected with his lips.

How could she ever doubt him when he could say such things to her? “Ranma… just shut up and kiss me already.” His blue eyes heated, his smirk spread behind her fingers and she moved her hand away from his lips to tug him down to her by his pig tail.

He chuckled quietly with her urgency, holding back just enough so he could brush his mouth gently, lightly over hers. Her cheeks were flushed, the skin beneath his palm warming when her body temperature did, and he nibbled at the corner of her mouth to torment them both a little longer. It had the desired effect when she groaned, wrapped her arm around his neck and pulled him forcefully downwards, dropping him half on top of her.

She arched up, rubbing against the scorching heat of his body, wishing it was pining her completely instead of only half. Needing more, desiring more, she opened her mouth and stroked her willing tongue along the seam of his lips. The groan this evoked made her body hum with feminine power and gave her the drive to be daring. Using her free hand, the one currently stroking his back, she drew his shirt up until she found bare flesh and gently scored her nails over his skin. He groaned a second time, dragging his mouth from hers to bury his nose in her throat while she followed the line of ridged muscle at his waist.

Panting excitedly against her, Ranma fought for control with every ounce of his training. She was responding to his advances, the neko in him purring and chirping, begging her to accept them, and he was almost willing to beg out loud for such a thing as well. Her wonderful, delicate hands were moving on his body, touching him in a way he’d only ever imagined, following the line of muscle near his waist around and across his abdominals. “Akane…” She was killing him, he was sure of it. He was going to die from the simple bliss of her light touch and scraping nails, but he wasn’t going to stop her. She hesitated and he growled in frustration. “Don’t stop know, ‘Kane.” Nudging her jaw with his nose, he got her to tilt her head to just the right angle and began a slow, thorough exploration of her pulse points.

Teeth scraped over her skin and made her whimper. How did he know just what to do to make her feel so good? His desire laden voice, deep, rumbling, urged her onwards and she continued her journey of discovery. She’d glimpsed these abs on many occasions but never had the courage to touch like she wanted to. He shifted slightly, pulling his hips back enough for her to get her hand between them easily, and she followed the path of ridges and hollows, his breath sometimes causing the contact to break when she found a new sensitive spot. She was learning that he was slightly ticklish, right along the ribs, but if she traced the line from directly beneath his breast bone, down to his belly button, and down the sparse line of hair to his waistband, he would purr softly. ‘Like that, don’t you.’ Akane smirked to herself while his mouth stayed busy, moving down to lick and suck at the small area of exposed collarbone.

Preoccupied with what he was doing, she let her hand wander of its own accord, quicker than she was ready for down that treasure trail, prepared to stop at the waist of his pants only he gasped sharply, his stomach concaving at exactly the right moment to allow her hand to slide inside and come in contact with hard, heated flesh.

He froze against her, acutely aware that her hand was now pressed firmly against his erection, the only barrier between them his briefs, for he had inhaled and trapped her hand within his waistband. Lifting his head slowly from where he’d been worshiping her skin, he gazed down on her flushed face and passion glazed eyes. “Akane…” He began only to growl in excited pleasure when her fingers tightened and caressed his length. “Fuck!” He hissed and let his head drop to her shoulder. Had his own hand ever felt so good?

Her bravery found new boundaries and she let her hand find the length and berth of him, judge the weight of his shaft, and decided he fit his name well. He was one well-endowed stud. Akane almost giggled at the thought, thought better of it, and wondered if buying sexy underwear with Kagome had caused her to lose her inhibitions. At this point she didn’t care for Ranma’s hand had found its way beneath the hem of her shirt and was steadily rising towards her breast.

Continuing to fondle her lover, she arched into his touch when his hand caressed her peak, his thumb dragging across her nipple. “Ranma!” She gasped quietly, unwilling to alert anyone to their actions and possibly be interrupted.

He couldn’t think past the burning pleasure her hand was creating when she continued to stroke him over and over, and needed to do something to reciprocate. Fortunately what he’d accomplished seem to be enough as her gasping, mewling cries of delight only increased. The feel of her hard nub between his fingers made him wish there was nothing between them but skin so he could take that bead in his mouth and suckle, lave it with his tongue, and treat its twin with the same attention. “Akane….” He managed to groan a pained whimper. “If you don’t stop…”

Akane opened eyes she hadn’t realized she’d closed and slowed the movement of her hand against him. “What, Ranma?” By no means naïve, she waited for him to lift his head and grinned wickedly when he did. “What will happen if I continue to do this?”

He couldn’t look away from her bewitching brown eyes and gasped softly when her hand wrapped and tugged in a rhythm he was beginning to enjoy way too much. “You know what will happen.”

She could feel him swell in the palm of her hand and tugged his face a little closer to her own. Never before had she felt such a wave of empowerment. Her strong warrior was at her mercy and she hadn’t even thrown a punch. Holding his gaze, staring into the blue eyes she loved, she whisper, “Then let it happen… come for me, Ranma.”

His body exploded with her soft command and caused him to jerk hard against her hand, emptying himself swiftly into the confines of his underwear. His gasp was almost a scream but she closed her mouth over his and swallowed the shout that was her name. She’d done that, for him, brought him to an end unlike any he’d ever had, and sent pleasure shrieking through his body. Slowly she extracted her hand from his pants while he groaned and pressed his face to her throat. “I think I just saw god.”

She smiled with his comment, understanding completely, and grinned a little wider when she realized he’d yet to release her breast. Not that she minded, it fit nicely in his big warm hand. Holding him to her, she cradled her lover to her body and felt the delicious shivers rack his frame with the aftermath. Akane didn’t want to let him go, content to keep him against her, unwilling to let the world outside her bedroom door back in, but figured he must be uncomfortable. “You should go. Get cleaned up before dinner.” She could already smell the food, even with the door shut.

“I’m fine.” He mumbled, half asleep already.

“You won’t be in a few more minutes.” She giggled and felt him sigh. Stroking his back she murmured against his ear, “Do you still want to know what I was thinking before this all started?”

Pulling slowly back, reluctant to leave her warm embrace, Ranma looked down on her flushed cheeks and nodded, slipping his hand out from under her shirt. “Yeah, if you want to tell me.”

Biting at her lip, Akane blushed a bit brighter. “I was thinking how I’d never leave Genma alone with the children.”

Frowning, Ranma nodded his agreement. “Of course not! He’s a fucking psycho-” Her meaning suddenly dawned and he felt like his eyes went perfectly round. “Do you mean it?”

“Yes.” She grinned up at him and found herself the recipient of one hell of a kiss. Breaking for air, she placed her hand over his lips when he tried to dive back in. “Hold on! I don’t mean right this instant! We have things to take care of first and stuff to decide, talk about before we go through with all of it. Plus you’ve… well… you’ve never…”

He licked her palm making her squeal and wrench her hand away. “I’ve never what?”

Her blush burned high, rising up her chest to fill her face with discomfort and Akane looked away. “You’ve never asked me.” She whispered.

His heart stuttered in shock. She was right. So many assumptions, simply because she’d said she loved him but he hadn’t once asked her to marry him, hadn’t asked if she’d be his mate. “And I’m not going to, not yet anyways.” Her eyes had snapped back to his in anger so he quickly clarified. “Don’t lose your cool there, Akane. I’m gonna ask, just not now. You’re special and you deserve to have this done right.” Her eyes softened and her smile turned shy making him chuckle. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a bath.”

Rising from the bed with a grace that showed his training, Akane frowned when he shoved her window open. “Ranma? What are you doing?”

Grinning, he looked at her, made an odd sort of gesture towards his crouch and shrugged. “Trying to explain the wet patch is harder than just wandering through as a girl.” Laughing, he threw himself out the window and into the pond.

“Ranma no baka!” Akane called before sliding her window shut, but the words held much more affection in them than previously.

Dinner started out a slightly stunted affair as Ranma had sliced his claws through the table that was normally used for such gatherings. Kasumi, quick to act and kind with it, brushed it off as just another incident to happen in the Tendo home and not to worry over it for she had been wanting to get another one, slightly bigger, for that space anyways. She shoved her father and Genma into the kitchen and loaded trays for Ranma and Akane to take outside and have a picnic near the koi pond, asking to join them and their friends if the two didn't mind. Nabiki had failed to come down for dinner all together and she wrapped a plate, leaving it in the fridge for her sister for later.

Though she had not been witness to the confrontation between her two sisters, she knew Akane well enough to know she was quick to forgive though she had a tendency to put conditions on her forgiveness. 'What's that old adage?' Kasumi thought as she made her way slowly outside. 'Ah yes. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.' Akane was not one to be fooled twice.

When she stepped out on the engawa, Kasumi had to smile at the setting. They had set up their picnic under the tree that sat nearest the pond and the girls, likely with Kagome's encouragement, had lit lanterns and candles so, as the light over Nerima lowered, the glow within the Tendo yard softened and became highly romanticized. It made her sigh, a little sadly, when she thought about her own crush and if she, or he for that matter, would ever get up the nerve to deal with their feelings.

Dr. Tofu was a lovely man. Sweet, gentle and so very kind. He stirred her in ways no man ever had but with how goofy he acted whenever she appeared... she was beginning to doubt he would ever ask her out. No, she was not as blind or dumb as she pretended. She knew exactly how she affected him and it had flattered her at first. Here was this educated, brilliant older man that fell to pieces simply because she smiled at him. When he had failed to pull himself together after this long though... what was she left to think? Sighing quietly, she made her way over to the two young couples.

InuYasha and Kagome exchanged a look of mild confusion after hearing Kasumi's sigh. What could have possibly sadden Akane's sweet, older sister? Waiting for her to take a seat Kagome smiled gently at her when she dropped gracefully down at her side. "Kasumi? Is everything alright?" She inquired quietly while InuYasha and Ranma bragged on about this fight and that battle, Akane interjecting here and there with comments or questions.

"Yes, Kagome. I am fine." But she couldn't quite get the smile to make it all the way to her eyes.

Returning to her meal, Kagome was not about to let things go so easily. "You've made a wonderful meal. I really must thank you for it. It's so rare for us to get to enjoy such extensive meals when we are travelling." She watched the older girl flush in pleasure from the corner of her eye. “Normally we eat what can be cooked over a campfire.”

"It's my pleasure! I have always enjoyed puttering in the kitchen. When mother passed away it was a chore I took on out of necessity but one I have come to love." It was true and probably a good thing. Nabiki, while she could cook, would likely order take out and charge everyone in order to eat, and Akane, her sweet but volatile sister, would have everyone in emergency care nightly.

"I love these little dumplings. Do you think I could get the recipe for my mama? I'm sure she would enjoy them."  Kagome asked and smiled brightly when Kasumi agreed. "Wonderful!" Her smile turned ever so slightly sly when she said, "With how well you cook and care for everyone I'm surprised someone hasn't snatched you up and run off with you. Or are you fighting off marriage proposals like Ranma?"

Blushing brightly, Kasumi tucked her head down and focused on her own meal. "No. There's never been anyone."

'I knew it!' Kagome thought triumphantly. "But there is someone, isn't there?" She glanced at Akane who was keeping up the appearance of verbally sparing with Ranma and InuYasha but was really listening intently to the quietly spoken conversation.

"Maybe..." She whispered. "But he acts so... strange. Just once I'd like to have a conversation he doesn't stumble or fumble his way through." Picking at her meal Kasumi didn't notice how quiet it had become.

"Nii-chan?" Akane reached out and set her fingers lightly against her elder sister's wrist.

“Yes, Akane-chan?”

“Dr. Tofu really likes you. Why don’t you just ask him out?”

Flushing lightly, Kasumi shook her head. “He’s so easily flustered. I doubt he even hears me when I talk.”

“Oh, he hears you.” Ranma muttered darkly. “He just doesn’t hear anyone else.” More than once he’d had his bones cracked and rotated when the good doctor lost his mind thanks to Kasumi.

Akane glared at Ranma, a look that clearly told him to shut up, and turned back to her sister. “He should be back soon. Why don’t you give it a try once he returns from this trip he’s on?”

Smiling gently at her sister, Kasumi didn’t say anything. She held out little hope of ever having what her sister was building with Ranma. Dr. Tofu was just too scatterbrained when it came to her. If she tried talking to him, he would simply dance down the street with his skeleton, and if she asked him on a date, she doubted he would make it through the night without fainting dead away.

Akane knew that look. One her elder sister had perfected that she only used when she wanted to say no but didn’t want to disappoint the person she was saying no to. Clearly Kasumi was not going to go out and seize her own happiness so Akane would have to do it for her. “Alright, nii-chan, whatever you say.”

InuYasha sat, silently watching, listening to all the little undercurrents of things left unsaid and shifted his eyes to Kagome. His female had that look again. The one that said she wasn’t leaving until she’d fixed this, and had him giving a silent sigh of exasperation. ‘Can’t just leave well enough alone, can you, wench?’ But he had to admit, it was one of the things that had caused him to fall in love with her in the first place. That need in her to see everyone get their happy ending had drawn him to her like a bee to honey. She had ended up being his after all, the fairy tale ending to his lonely life, and it still amazed him that she had become his mate; his home.

Feeling his gaze on her, Kagome turned to smile at InuYasha and fell into molten gold eyes so intense, they took her breath for a moment. Color rose to bloom gently in her face when she dropped her and looked down at her hands. The mark on her grew warm, tingled, began to burn and had her eyes drifting back up to lock with her Inu’s. The intensity had only grown and when he stood to his feet, holding his hand down to her, she gladly took the offered appendage. “We’re going to take a walk. Thanks for the wonderful meal, Kasumi.”

Chuckling darkly under his breath, Ranma watched InuYasha sweep his cousin off her feet, leap to the wall around the Tendo compound, and race into the deepening twilight. He would have called out, given directions to the park with the dense forested area, but with the course InuYasha was taking, he knew he didn’t need to. The dog demon likely could smell the trees, just as easily as he could scent the growing attraction between them. It was disarming, being able to scent something like that on other people, and he had immediately turned down the sensitivity of his nose. Like he really wanted to smell that on his cousin, or her dog for that matter.

“They sure left in a hurry. I thought she said they were going for a walk?” Akane murmured, staring after the retreating speck, wondering just who was faster, InuYasha or Ranma.

“That’s the InuYasha equivalent of walk.” No way was he going to tell them what was likely about to occur between his cousin and her mate. He’d be crimson for days if he even tried. Had it been just Akane on the blanket with him then he might have cuddled her close and whispered the truth in her ear, just to watch that flush of red creep up her throat but with Kasumi, sweet, innocent Kasumi there as well, he wasn’t bringing it up.

Biting her lip to keep her laughter from spilling out, Kasumi began to stack dishes on trays to take back inside. There was little doubt in her mind exactly what those two were up to. She had seen the heated look pass between them and only hoped they had the decency to find somewhere secluded so they didn’t get caught. Though with the strength of InuYasha’s nose, she had seen him pluck Happosia out of thin air, she doubted they would be. Gathering as much as she could carry, she left behind the tea and a bowl of strawberries. “Just bring that in when you’re done. No hurry.” Smiling gently at her sister and Ranma, Kasumi returned inside, determined to keep the old men busy so they would not take to spying on the young couple.

They had set up the blankets on the far side of the pond, blocking the view from the house with the trunk of the large tree, and Ranma leaned back between the roots, stretching his legs out, enjoying the way the candlelight played across Akane’s features. She looked beautiful with the shifting shadows and he held out his hand to see if she would join him.

He looked so handsome in the shifting light, Akane easily took the hand when it was offered and moved to sit beside him. Bringing the bowl with the strawberries along with her, she gave a little squeak of surprise when she found herself seated between Ranma’s bent knees, her back held firmly against his chest by the hand he pressed to her stomach. That quiet rumble started behind her, the purr of a happy cat, and she relaxed letting her head fall back to rest on his shoulder. “You realize you’re purring, right?” How weird was it that the man scared to death of cats was now host to one and would, likely, act like one more often now that he had accepted it.

He shrugged. “Do you mind?”

Snuggling deeper, Akane smirked. “No. I like it, always have, it just takes some getting used to having you do it and still be, well, you!” She giggled.

The happy sound swelled his chest with pride at having caused her to make it. The sound in his chest deepened, slowed, and became an enticing call to his female. Plucking a strawberry from the bowl she was holding, he held it before her lips and was pleased when she took it from him, closing her lips around his fingers. He gave her a moment to eat the sweet fruit before turning her face to look up at him. A cute frown marred her features, making him grin before he closed his mouth over hers. The sweep of his tongue across the seam of her lips had her responding instantly and he delved deep into the recesses of her mouth, tasting the strawberry he’d fed her in every corner.

The bowl fell from her numb fingers, her body going limp and compliant under the assault of his tongue, and she shifted only enough to wrap her arm around his neck. A whimper, small, pleading, slipped from her throat.

Breaking the kiss, Ranma stared down into the brown eyes he loved, full of longing, a need for him, and a love that burned directly to his soul. ‘How did I not see?’ How had he ever been blind to what was right here, waiting for him to notice. Wrapping her up tight in his arms and pressing his cheek to hers, he held on to the one woman that could fill the void in his life. “Akane… I love you, so much.” He whispered against her ear, his heart pounding.

Her breath stuttered out, a silent, gasping cry of wonder at having him be so open with her, and hugged him back. “Oh, Ranma. Why did we wait so long?” They could have had months like this if they had just been honest with each other.

The laugh left him, a self-deprecating sound of loathing. “Cause, I’m an idiot.”

Pulling back, she pressed her hands into his chest and sat back on her knees. “You’re not an idiot, Ranma. I’m sorry that I said that to you so often.” He blushed and dropped his eyes away from hers.

“Its fine, ‘Kane. I know I’m not smart like you are.”

Frowning, Akane cupped his cheek and turned his eyes back to hers. “Ranma, how can you say that?”

“Cause, look how I was raised, ‘Kane. Living here, this is the only real book learning I’ve ever had! I never went to school until pops brought us to you.” He didn’t like having even this distance separating them and swiftly drew her back into his lap, bringing her over to straddle his thighs.

Her brow rose but she didn’t protest his actions. “Ranma, don’t you know how smart you are?” She smiled softly at him when he looked surprised. “Think about it this way. You spent most of your life, ten years, chasing your father across the country, even to China, but you show up here, integrate into my school, never do your homework, sleep your way through classes, and still pass all your exams. Do you know how aggravating that is to someone who studies as hard as I do? Who pours over her homework to make sure she’s got it right? Baka! You’re brilliant and had you ever thought to apply yourself to your studies like you do your training, you’d have schools lined up down the block to offer you scholarships to any program you wanted.” Laughing at his shocked expression, Akane poked him in the forehead. “Maybe I should make you go get a teaching degree and I’ll stay home to teach in the dojo.” It had always perturbed her how easy it seemed to be for him. Even when he’d ask questions or needed help on his math homework, often he would ask after a particularly nasty fight, and she knew it was his way of apologizing and getting back in her good graces.

“Me! Go to college?” He snorted his derision. “I’ll leave that to you, thank you very much.”

“Really?” She asked, surprised.

Frowning, he nodded, letting his hands caress her back and come to rest on her curved little waist. She fit so nicely between his palms. “Course. You still want to go, don’t yah?”

“Yes, I just... I wasn’t sure if…” She bit at her lip, dropping her gaze away from his too intense eyes.

Softening when the understanding dawned, Ranma pulled her closer until her head rested under his chin. “I would never deny you the opportunity to follow your dreams, Akane.”

Closing her eyes on a wave of contented bliss, Akane smiled against his chest, breathing in the musky scent of him, while that rumbling purr returned to tickle her ear. “Thank you, Ranma.” She never should have doubted him.

Anger burned in the pit of her stomach watching the cozy little scene from the shadows. Akane snuggled to Ranma’s chest, a position that was hers and hers alone to enjoy. Hadn’t they learned their lesson? Hadn’t they figured it out yet? Ranma was hers! Not Akane’s! Turning sharply on her heel, she leapt over the rooftops of slumbering Nerima, determined to make them pay. Akane could not have what she had claimed!

InuYasha watched with Kagome from another roof. Happily satisfied after having thoroughly pleasured his female, they had returned in time to see the woman leap away. The scent on her was a mix of herbs, some for cooking and some for more nefarious means, along with a rage so deep it was soul consuming. “Fuck.” He muttered and locked eyes with Kagome.

“Go after her.” She encouraged him. “At least figure out which one we’re dealing with.”

“Keh. Get down there and do what you can.” He tugged her to him, kissed her hard, and leapt into the air to follow the retreating female. He didn’t need to get close to be able to track her. Not with her anger permeating the air like a beacon.

Kagome watched him disappear before jumping from the roof into a nearby tree and climbing down. Dashing around the corner, she raced in the gate and came face to face with Ranma. She yelped and stumbled backwards. “Holy crap you scared me!”

Grabbing her arms to steady her, Ranma gave her a hard little shake. “Jeez, Kags! Don’t you know better than to run into a place like that? I thought you were Shampoo or Kuno.” He’d heard her coming and been in motion, depositing Akane on her feet and moving to attack within seconds.

“Don’t snarl at me! I was coming to tell you someone saw that domestic little scene and is on a mad tear across the city. InuYasha’s tracking her now.” She pointed in the direction they’d disappeared in and wasn’t surprised when Ranma was gone from her side. Rolling her eyes she huffed out an annoyed sound. “Idiot. Don’t sneak up on InuYasha!” She hollered after her cousin just in case he could still hear her.

“Kagome?” Akane called, standing with her hand pressed to the trunk of the tree. “What’s going on?”

Grinning, Kagome made her way towards her friend. “The cat and the dog are hunting a mouse.”

She snorted out a laugh and slapped a hand to her mouth. “Ha! Oh, that’s good! Who’s the mouse?”

“Not sure. InuYasha’s tracking her. Come on. I’m going to ward the property and could use a hand.” Returning inside, Kagome ran up the stairs to the bag she’d placed in the room that was theirs for the duration of their stay, and dug in a side pocket for the papers she’d brought with her. Never liking to be unprepared, she had tucked the ofuda from Miroku in at the last minute, not expecting to need them, but glad she’d had the foresight. Dashing back down the stairs, she almost plowed into Akane at the foot but managed to dodge at the last second. “Whoops! Sorry.” She grinned at her friend.

Akane had braced herself for the crash and was surprised to find herself still upright. “No harm done. What are those?” She motioned towards the papers.

Giggling excitedly, Kagome gave her half the stack. “Two at each corner, one to either side. One in the center of each wall, and meet me back at the gate.” Placing a glowing pink hand on the stack, Kagome charged the ofuda. “Then I need to make a call.”

Shaking her head, she watched the dark haired woman race out the door, giggling like a crazy person and leaping in excitement. Akane turned out the door and went the opposite way, placing her papers with the decorative kanji, a design she had a hard time deciphering, in the way Kagome had directed. Moving from the back wall around to the front of the house, she met a bouncing Kagome back at the gate and handed the remaining papers back to her. “Alright, they’re done.”

“Great!” Turning to the gate, she placed one on one door, one to each side of the gate, and with a giant leap, slapped one to the center of the crossbeam. “Ok, here comes the fun part!” Breathing deep, Kagome closed her eyes and focused, drawing her powers up and chanting softly like Miroku and Kaede had taught her.

Akane watched in fascination when the woman began to glow, softly at first, before the light brightened, pink into deep rose and finally into vibrant purple. The last paper rippled between her cupped palms, lifted into the air, and settled against the door with a blinding flash of white light that made her cry out and shield her eyes from the radiance. The gentle hum, like electricity through powerlines that had appeared with Kagome’s powers suddenly fell away, returning to a hushed silence. Peeking out at the world from behind her fingers, Akane stared in awe at a panting Kagome, leaning shaking against the gate. “Kagome! Are you alright?” Jumping forwards, she caught her as her legs gave out.

Nodding, Kagome snickered. “You’re getting good at that! Twice, now, you’ve saved me from a face plant.”

Lowering them both to the ground, Akane looked up at the gate and gasped. “What did you do?” It shimmered like they were in a soap bubble and when she let her eyes travel upwards, she found the bubble continued all the way over the house and grounds.

“Protective barrier. As long as we’re in here, nothing can come through that and I do mean nothing. Not even Sesshomaru could get through. Though, sometimes I think he humoured me and didn’t try as hard as he should have.” She pouted slightly at the memory of him testing her barrier.

“But… how will the boys get in?” Or they get out for that matter?

Waving a hand at the gate, Kagome pointed at the last sutra. “Set your hand on that one and push. The gate will open but no one can force their way in.” As her energy slowly started to replenish, her stomach growled. “Time to eat!” Jumping up, Kagome pulled Akane up and drew her along towards the house. “Hopefully Ranma catches up with InuYasha. He’ll have felt the barrier go up but you can’t see it from the outside and the last thing we need is Ranma trying to bash his way in. He’ll get a good hard zap if he does.”

Giving in to the tugging of this strange – incredible – but still strange woman, Akane raced along behind Kagome. ‘And I thought our life was weird.’ She was beginning to see that hers was not the only one.

InuYasha paced the woman easily, following her into the city and watched her stomp into a restaurant from the roof of a nearby building. She didn’t look like much but he knew better than to prejudge an opponent. Studying the building, he wondered if he could get closer to listen when the swift moving aura appeared behind him. Letting his own rise, he let it lick out backwards to the racing man, giving away his location before pulling it back in tight.

 When Ranma dropped out of the sky beside him, InuYasha nodded towards the building. “There.”

“Fucking amazons.” Ranma snarled and felt the neko stir, stretch and rake claws through him.

“Thought as much. She moves like a natural fighter, someone born to the trials of a hard life.” She moved like a youkai. Graceful and deadly. A sudden sharp crack of power in the distance had his ears swivelling and his hand shooting out to stop Ranma from rising when the door slammed open and three people rushed out. “Quiet! Mask your aura.” The man’s presence disappeared from beside him as he studied the three foes beneath them.

The old one, riding on a staff that – strangely enough – reminded him of the one the toad of Sesshomaru’s swung around, turned slowly in a circle trying to get a bearing on where the explosion of power originated, and gave a frustrated hop when she couldn’t find it. ‘Well done, wench!’ Kagome was getting so good with her powers. She had far exceeded anything Kikyo had ever been able to do and it frustrated him that the dead priestess bothered his mate so much. Perhaps… perhaps Sesshomaru was right. Maybe it was time to send Kikyo back where she belonged and, with all his brother had told him… He gave himself a mental shake. It was something to think on later when he wasn’t spying on the enemy.

Seething beside the hanyou, Ranma glared at Shampoo, Mousse and Cologne while they milled about below him. The neko in him was raging, desperately trying to break his hold and go for the purple haired witch that was after their mate. He could do it to. The power of the nekomata was his now. He could call it to him at will and would if she so much as looked in Akane’s direction. The hiss left his lips and he bared his fangs in a terrifying threat display.

Ranma had begun to shake beside him and InuYasha knew if he didn’t shift the man’s focus they were going to be involved in a blood bath. Jerking him backwards, he forced Ranma to his back on the roof and knelt on his chest, the low warning growl rippled quietly from him when he pressed his hand to Ranma’s mouth, warning him to be silent. Glowing blue eyes glared at him and he bared his unseen fangs, snapping them together, shocking Ranma out of the neko’s instincts.

Holding up his hands, InuYasha’s gold eyes glinting in the night, Ranma relaxed beneath the warning. When InuYasha’s hand lifted, he nodded that he was good and rubbed his sore chest once the hanyou got off it. Glaring at his cousin’s mate he mouthed the words boney assed knees and returned to peering over the edge of the building. Luckily the scuffle had been a silent one and all three amazons were still standing below. None of them looked up and within another few moments they had all returned inside. Breathing out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding, Ranma slugged InuYasha in the shoulder. “Did you have to dig in so hard?”

“Did you want to bathe in the blood of your enemies tonight?” He growled and swiped at the man, missing on purpose.

Ranma hissed a second time, surprising himself with the sound, and turned towards home. “No, but they’ll be planning something for sure. And what the hell was that?” He waved his hand in the direction of the dojo.

“Kagome. She got the barrier up.”

Staring out over Nerima from the roof of the building, Ranma frowned before he chuckled. “Well, I definitely felt a disturbance in the force.” When InuYasha only looked puzzled he gaped at the male. “Dude! Seriously?! Star wars?” The shaking head of the hanyou had him slapping a hand to his face. “You need to spend some time with someone not female in this era. You’re missing out!” His cocky grin spread and he sent it at InuYasha. “Tell you what, we’ll put in the first movie for you when we get back and you can see it for yourself. Last one back is an oni!” He laughed and leapt off the edge of the building.

“Oi! Ranma, wait! The barrier!” But the baka was gone and InuYasha smirked an evil grin before giving chase. ‘Serves the fool right.’ He couldn’t wait to watch the man get zapped and pushed hard to catch up.

Kagome was enjoying the popcorn and girly conversation in the kitchen when a body bouncing off her barrier had her up and racing for the door. “Dammit, InuYasha!” Had he not even bothered to try and stop her cousin? Shoving open the gate, she raced outside to drop down beside a stunned Ranma. “Ranma! Are you alright?”

“Son of a bitch! What the hell, Kags?” Groaning, he held his head and prayed his ears would soon stop ringing.

“Didn’t InuYasha tell you about the barrier?” She asked, her fingertips resting against his temples, allowing her reiki to flow and take away his headache.

“Yah but he didn’t say nothing about it doing that!” He grumbled, thankful that she was helping.

Dropping out of the sky near them, InuYasha crossed his arms and huffed, “Oi! And who took off like a fucking bullet because it was a race back to the dojo?”

“InuYasha sit!” The thump when he ate pavement was only mildly satisfying. “You and I know perfectly well you could have easily beat him back here and stopped him from running into my barrier! Stop being a jerk!”

Groaning, InuYasha wondered if he’d broken his nose when he connected with the concrete. When the spell finally released him, he sat back and touched his fingers to the crooked bridge. “Kami dammit, wench! You broke my nose!” Again.

Glancing at him, Kagome sighed. Rising from her knees, she marched towards him, plunked herself down in his lap and snapped it back into place. “Don’t be such a puppy.”

He flinched with the pain when she put his nose back where it belonged. “If you’d stop sitting my ass into the concrete you wouldn’t break it in the first place!” Growling at her, InuYasha tucked his face down in her shoulder and nipped at her throat.

“Stop being an ass and I wouldn’t have to use it at all.” She gave his kotodama a sharp tug.

Helping Ranma to his feet, Akane had a whole new crop of questions come up when InuYasha smacked into the ground. “I see what you mean when you said get Kagome to say sit but… how? Why?”

Snickering at the question, Kagome urge InuYasha up. “Come on, Akane. I’ll tell you about how dog boy and I met.”

“And I’m going to introduce InuYasha to Star Wars.” The groan came from Akane and made Ranma snicker.

“Not that movie again! Seriously, haven’t you watched it enough? I think he has all the lines memorized!” Akane bemoaned and made Kagome laugh.

The three of them laughed and joked while Kagome shut the gate tight, checked her barrier, and made her way towards the house, following her mate, cousin and friend. Pulling out her phone, she sent a text to Sesshomaru, updating him on the newest development and to let her know when he was arriving so he wouldn’t get a surprise come morning.

For now, they let tomorrow go, knowing they were safe for the moment, and chose to share a few hours of friendship and laughter instead of worrying. Tomorrow would arrive and bring its own brand of trouble with it but tonight, tonight was peaceful enough.

“But grandmother! Shampoo no want go home! Airen here. Shampoo stay here. Woo airen.” She had been so close in China, and now, the old woman was going to ruin everything by forcing her to leave.

“No child, you will not stay. Ranma is no longer one to be controlled. The council of elders has deemed him too powerful to have as an enemy and it has become quite clear that he does not now, nor will he ever, want you as his wife. We will be going home. There you shall find another to be your husband.” Cologne shook her head sadly. Ranma would have been a fine addition to their village, but, alas, it was not meant to be. Had they gotten a hold of the boy he had once been, the one that had defeated her grandchild back then, perhaps they could have tamed the wild stallion but not now. Not with the man he had grown into. There was a feral nature to the male now, one she was not overly inclined to see released. Something about him brought back old memories of an ancient era.

“But… Shampoo’s kiss!” The purple haired beauty protested, throwing her hands up and shoving Mousse away when he approached.

“I will take your kiss, Shampoo! You don’t need that Ranma jerk.” Mousse begged, holding out his arms and running directly into her fist.

“Can it, duck!” Shampoo growled at him. “I no lose Ranma! Not to perverted girl!” Storming towards the back door, she stomped up the stairs to seethe and plot her revenge.

Cologne sighed with regret. Shampoo had grown more and more irrational since their return from Jusenkyo. It was nearly impossible to pry the information from her as to what had happened. Mousse had been of little help – when was the boy ever – for he had not been with her granddaughter the entire time, and Ranma refused to speak on it completely. That, in and of itself, told her much. The man would not say what had happened, but his eyes spoke for him. Never, in all her long years, had she seen that depth of rage on another human being. Ranma had been beyond words angry when he had arrived to speak to her after everyone had returned. She had never seen him so still as that first night when he had settled on the ledge of the window to her bedroom and told her in no uncertain terms exactly what he would do to Shampoo if her granddaughter tried any of her tricks in the near future. It was the first time she had looked into Ranma’s eyes and truly felt fear for what the man could do if pushed hard enough. And with Shampoo’s actions against him at the failed wedding… she was not looking forwards to Ranma’s impending visit. He would be coming, eventually, for his threats had not been idle.

It was also the confrontation that had her calling home to the council. They had grown impatient with their lack of progress, and with this new information, finding out the man had essentially killed an immortal… it had thrown them all into chaos. The decision was made. Shampoo’s kisses, one of death and one of marriage, were to be voided. Neither contract would hold any validity anymore. She was to leave the man alone. They had been called home and home they would go. “Continue packing, Mousse. We will leave in a few days.” Once she solved this newest mystery of the powerful magic she had felt not long ago. It had been very strong but it felt very old. Again, something she knew came from a far distant era.

After watching the first two Star Wars movies, Kagome had pulled InuYasha off to their room by his ear to crash for the night. Ranma had distinctly heard her muttering something about how if Sesshomaru had changed this little over the centuries it was likely that he would show up at first light. A flush brightened his face when her whispered offer of just what was waiting should InuYasha join her willingly sent Ranma sprinting for his own sleeping place.

He had thought to camp on the roof but with Kagome’s – the thought made him shudder – offer, he had little desire to sleep above them and hear… things. That left him crashing on the floor in the dining room, not an overly comfortable position but the panda was sleeping outside under the tree near the koi pond and he certainly didn’t want to share space with his father anytime soon.

Falling asleep was easy but, then the dreams stared. Dredging up what happened for Kagome and InuYasha had stirred it all up for him again and he watch, over and over, as Akane shrank and died, her eyes closing fully and her expanded body never waking up. It was heart wrenching and had him sitting upright with a gasp to claw at his pounding heart. Panting, he dropped his head into his hands and groaned softly. It always happened like this.

Akane’s death became the truth, she never heard his words, and he lost her forever. Kami, how it pained him to think of life without her, without his… mate. It was a strange word, and yet, somehow, it just felt right. Like the missing pieces of himself were suddenly being made whole. But right now, little else mattered besides seeing that Akane was safe.

Shoving the bedroll from his legs, he crept through the house on silent bare feet, hesitating to listen at Kagome’s door, but the soft breathing and gentle snoring told the tale of a sleeping couple. Continuing past, he pushed Akane’s door open, slipping inside and shutting it behind him before moving to kneel at her bedside.

Her pajamas were blue this time, white clouds chasing each other across the sky colored fabric. The top button had come loose at some point and allowed a generous swell of cleavage to show. Laying on her side, her fist lightly clenched near her cheek, Ranma had to smile for even in sleep she was ready for battle.

She was incredible. One hundred percent unique and he loved her all the more for it. Keeping his voice soft and inhaling deep of the scent of sunshine and citrus, Ranma began, “I promise, ‘Kane, once this is all over to do better, be better. I promise to love you like you deserve, to honor you better than I have, and to protect you like I should have from the beginning by teaching you to fight.  I can’t promise to always do or say the right thing. I know my foot has a tendency to shove its way into my mouth, but I promise to try, to make that effort, and to make damn sure we never go to bed angry. I will talk to you, even when it’s hard, love you even when you make me angry, stand at your side no matter what, but most of all, I promise… to never let go. I will never let go of what we have now, and what we will create in the future. You’re my heart, Akane Tendo, my very soul, and I will never stop loving you.” Leaning forwards, he brushed a gentle kiss over her mouth and stiffened in surprise when her hand snaked its way into his hair.

A sleep heavy voice whispered back, “Now, why can’t you say those things when I’m awake?”

“You… you heard… me?” Kami, could he be anymore embarrassed? But when chocolate eyes opened, he found no amusement, only a love that seemed to grow with each passing hour. It softened him, her sleepy smile and gentle touch.

Sliding with a little more effort into his hair, she forced it out of its pigtail until it hung in dark waves around his face. “Better.” She murmured quietly. “Yes, I heard. I like your promises, Ranma, for I know you’ll keep them.” He always did. Glancing at the clock, realizing it was still very early, she scooted until her back pressed into the wall and folded the blankets back. “Come to bed.”

He looked at the space in longing. Warm, soft, inviting. And not just the mattress. Her eyes sparked when he slowly shook his head. “I don’t trust myself to keep my hands off you.” He whispered, already staring at the beat of her heart pulsing in her throat.

“Who asked you to?” She whispered back with a heated smile. “Come to bed… mate.” His eyes changed, shifted into the neko so quickly, but he was in her bed that much faster. Still, he didn’t touch her and she took the initiative to settle her hand on the ribbed fabric of his tank top, sliding it over the rapid beat of his pounding heart. “Breathe, Ranma.”

It wasn’t going to happen tonight, he knew that, but the fact that she encouraged him with that one little word had his demon straining to break out and take their mate in a frenzy of lust. It could do it. Please their female until she forgot her nervousness, until her brain was so fogged with pleasure that she would submit to anything they ask of her, but Ranma took a hard hand on his other half and forced himself not to jump her. “Playing with fire, little girl.” Unable to resist completely, especially when her leg slid up his thigh, Ranma rolled her on top of him and plundered her mouth.

Akane gasped in surprise to find herself sprawled across Ranma’s chest and gave him the opening he was looking for. It made her moan, that tantalizing dance that his tongue coaxed hers into. The slippery slide of firm muscle and the tangy zest of the mint from his toothpaste had her doing her own exploring. Flicking her tongue over the edge of his teeth she winced and pulled back. “I think I just cut myself.” The coppery taste of blood welled on her tongue. “How in the world…?”

It was like liquid fire on his tongue, her blood, an aphrodisiac that he had never known existed until just this moment, and it caused his blood to burn. Flipping their positions, Ranma pinned her to the bed, his hard body cushioned into soft, yielding flesh. “Mate…” He murmured, staring down into wide chocolate eyes.

He was purring again, that soft rumble of sound from deep in his chest, but it was the red rimmed eyes that concerned her. “Ranma?” She whispered.

The scent caught him, a mild touch of uncertainty, and caused him to groan in frustration. Squeezing his eyes shut, Ranma thrust himself to his back and laid there, throwing an arm over his eyes and trying to calm down. “Akane… sorry.”

“I don’t need an apology, Ranma, just an explanation.” Even deep in the nekoken she had never seen his eyes do that before. Rolling, she put herself into the crook of his shoulder, settled her hand over his rapidly pounding heart and waited. With how tense his body was she knew it would take a moment for him to gather himself.

Sighing, he dropped the arm from his eyes to wrap around her waist. It was nice, the feel of her snuggled up against him. Safe, protected, like she should always be. His other hand came up to lay gently over hers on his chest where her fingers had been drawing soothing patterns. “It…” How could he tell her it was her blood? That it had sent him into a frenzy. That he had wanted nothing more than to shred the clothing from her body and slide himself deep into her moist heat. But had he also not promised to be truthful? To tell her everything. To stop holding back. “InuYasha and Sesshomaru had a few… interesting… things to say today.”

“Kagome, too.” She offered when, again, he hesitated.

That made him smirk a little. Kags could always be counted on to talk someone’s ear off. “Seems I’m destined to pick up a few new habits. One of them, apparently, is the... uh… enjoyment, I guess, that I would get from tasting your blood.” She stiffened and he clutched at her.

“Ex-excuse me?”

This time it was fear that darkened her scent and had him instinctively purring a little hard, a little deeper to soothe her. “Not like I want to eat you, tomboy,” Though that had distinct possibilities if he gave the thought a hentai twist. “Just, that little bit I got from your tongue, it… heats things up for me.” He was sure there was a fire engine red flush burning across his face at the moment, one he could feel mirrored in the warmth coming from Akane, but he simply continued to stare at the ceiling.

She blushed to the very roots of her hair, possibly all the way to the tips with that bit of knowledge. “Kagome didn’t tell me that part.”

“Apparently it’s pretty common among demons.” He murmured softly, listening to the jack rabbit pounding of her heart slow. “You taste… good, ‘Kane. I won’t lie about that. But I wouldn’t do anything that makes you nervous. Ain’t like I’m going to suddenly up and bite yah or nothing.” Not like her father had thought when Soun had stared at him horrified earlier today. “It was an accident anyway.”

“How did I manage to cut myself?” She wondered curiously.

Rolling her back beneath him, confident that she was no longer frightened, Ranma grinned a tooth baring smile. “InuYasha said it would probably happen now that I ain’t suppressing my nature anymore.”

She stared up wide eyed. He had fangs! And not just short, sharper teeth but actual fangs! Lifting her fingers to his mouth, she pressed them gently against his lower lip in wonder. “Can I… touch them?”

Her soft question and awe filled eyes made him grin a little wider. “If you want.” Her hand slipped higher until the tip of her pointer finger gently made contact. It traced the length and pressed up into the sharp tip.

“Wow…” For some reason that fang toothed grin caused a primal part of her to shiver. Not in fear but in longing. What would it feel like to have those sharp points pressing against her skin? To feel them trace over her body and sink into her shoulder. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, not with how Kagome had described mate marks, but she wanted that. Wanted to drive him a little wild until his eyes burned into electric blue and he allowed the side of himself that he had always held back… out. Pressing a little harder, she pricked her finger on his fang.

Her scent had shifted, arousal returning in a rush, and a wicked, calculating look had descended in her eyes. “Akane? What are you…?” His voice faded out when his tongue caught the tip of her finger and the blood exploded across his taste buds a second time. Groaning, he captured that finger, sucking it into his mouth and closed his eyes to savor the flavour that was distinctly his female.

The sound he made, half groan, half growl, burned through her body and the sucking, licking caress of his tongue on her digit was making her pant. She wanted that tongue on other parts of her. “Ranma…” She whispered. His eyelids slowly lifted to show her those cat eyes from before, rimmed in red a second time.

Her parted lips, bruised and swollen still from his previous treatment, were soon moistened by the sweep of her tongue, and he watched it like a cat watched a bird before he released her finger. Descending slowly, he settled his body fully into hers, pressing down and allowing his heavy erection to lay against her damp heat. He may not be in his thin pants but his boxers left little to the imagination with their looseness. The length of him was raging hard and wanted nothing more than to slide into the warmth he could so clearly feel. Knowing it wasn’t the right time he ignored his own needs but couldn’t ignore the way she said his name or how sweet her soft arousal smelled to him. “Akane… mine.” He murmured, descending slowly to nuzzle into her throat. He would coat her in his scent, mark her this way so no one would be able to dispute who she belonged to.

Her quiet moan skated through him and made him shiver when he nibbled on her throat, going slow, making sure to learn the ins and outs of his new fangs. The last thing he wanted to do was seriously hurt her, though she seemed to like the idea that her blood wound him up and used them in gentle scrapes and slow drags that had her body arching. “So pretty…” He murmured, giving her the words he should have long ago. “Beautiful…” Following the path of a blue vein, he drifted down to the swell of cleavage that had tempted him earlier. Purring softly, he stroked his tongue over the swell, and suddenly realized she was braless. A smirk lifted his lips but he didn’t break from his focus when she gave a whimper. Reaching slowly upwards, he toyed with the button on her top, plucking at it until it came undone, and moved down to the next one, repeating his actions and giving her time to protest.

It never came.

Finally, a trail of smooth skin lay open before him and he allowed his hand to travel back up over her now bare stomach. It concaved when she gasped but he only continued to touch her, moving back up in a smooth advance that she was free to stop at any moment. When she again didn’t cry off, he cupped her naked breast and slipped the fabric from it, letting it drag on her erect nipple. Finally free, he took a moment to stare – how could he not – and see what he had only ever caught glimpses of or fantasized about. A large, brown areole played host to a deep rose colored nipple, pert and standing at attention. “Perfection.” He whispered when her scent carried notes of uncertainty. Looking into passion glazed eyes, he slowly lowered his mouth to that bud and slid his tongue over her, never looking away, not wanting to miss a moment of her pleasure.

Akane gasped, arching up into his hot mouth. Never in her life had she imagined it would feel like this when his mouth found her. His tongue flicked at her, laved at her nipple until she buried her hands in his hair and pulled. “Please! Please, Ranma!” She gasped softly, begging for something she knew only he could give her.

His grin again turned smug but he gave her what she wanted and sucked her fully into his mouth. Pressing down with his fangs, he nibbled that hard bead, suckled like a babe, and let his hand treat the other to a similar massage. The sounds she made were like music but she was getting louder and with great reluctance he lifted his head. “Shh, ‘Kane.” He warned her gently, rising up to kiss her softly until she quieted. Once she had, he allowed the hand that had settled on her naked stomach to sink swiftly beneath the waist of her pants and found nothing but smooth skin and hot wetness. “Akane!” He whispered, breathless. Shocked and excited at the prospect that not only was she commando but she was also completely bare.

“What?” She blushed. “It’s cleaner.” He was a girl occasionally. He should understand her desire to be nude.

But she hadn’t been like this earlier and the thought made him grin. “Is this what you were doing in the bath tonight?”

“If you’re only going to try and embarrass me, you can get your hand out of my pants.” Glowering at him, she was mortified and his still hand wasn’t helping. He wrenched another gasp from her when those wicked fingers began to explore her folds, stroking, rubbing, petting. “Oh, oh, kami.” Closing her eyes, she let herself soak in the sensations.

“Maybe I want to tease my tomboy.” He purred in her ear before moving his head back down to her breast and using his lips to pluck at the hard peak. He couldn’t give her everything, though he desperately wanted to, but he could do this for her, give her what pleasure his fingers could create. With Kagome’s barrier humming through the night he knew this once, no one would come slamming through windows or crashing through walls. The only people they had to worry about was those within the house and they were all asleep.

Pressing down with the heel of his hand into her smooth, bare mound, Ranma continued his slow exploration of her folds, enjoying the slickness, the scent of her arousal on her skin and coating his fingers in her essence. Her chest heaved with her panting, pressing her firm breast into his mouth with every inhalation, and he opened his lips to take in more of that flesh, pressing his newly sprouted fangs into her skin as he did and rumbling out a soft purr of pleasure at the taste of her.  A light sheen of sweat was forming, giving her a salty tang that he found buzzed on his tongue in the most exquisite fashion.

Akane gasped at the sensation when Ranma’s fangs pricked her flesh. It wasn’t painful, no, it was exciting to feel that feral nature that pushed at him finally come out to play. It rocketed her own desire into burning, blinding need and had her sinking her fingers into his heavy fall of dark hair. “Ranma…” The moan came unbidden to her lips, the sound of his name slipping out with her exhale.

He shivered in delight. His name from her lips, a sound he’d longed to hear, one he wanted to hear her scream when she came apart underneath him, sent fingers of dancing desire down his spine. Akane…” He whispered back, lifting his head to look up at his writhing woman, flushed and looking beautiful in the light from the window. Her beaded nipples stood at stark attention on her heaving chest, the bounty of her full breasts bouncing with each breath, but it was her plump lips, currently open with her panting beneath her high flush and tightly closed eyes that made him groan. Those chocolate eyes opened, glazed, hazy with her desire, before her focus turned down to him.

The hand at her core was maddening. It never quite finished what it started for his fingers slipped and slid, glided over her moist skin, pressed an ache into her womb the likes of which she had never experienced before. He was tormenting her and she could take no more. Opening her tightly closed eyes, she searched out the intense blue of his and whimpered softly. “Ranma… please…” He moved up so his face was level with hers but his hand never changed its rhythm, continuing to stroke in slow circles around her opening. Releasing his hair, she clenched fistfuls of his shirt, causing it to ride up so she could feel the heat of his abdomen pressed to her hip. She pulled more, until it bunched up around his shoulders, and shifted her arms down to wrap them around his torso, pressing her fingers into the flexing muscles of his back. “Please, please, Ranma. I need….”

Trying not to moan with her sweet plea, he growled softly when her small hands found his skin, and dropped his mouth slowly. Letting his lips brush against the softness of hers, Ranma whispered, “Need?”

Dragging her fingers over his skin, feeling the flex with every breath he took, Akane gazed up into eyes full of a love she’d longed to see. “You, only you, Ranma.” There was nothing else that mattered more to her than him. Not anymore. His eyes brightened with her confession but it was the hand he had buried in her pants that caused her to arch upwards when those wicked teasing fingers sank into her. The intrusion was strange… different… wonderful. It made her gasp, giving him a second opening to fill when his lips captured hers and his tongue plunged deep.

Her hands clenched against him, her nails biting into his skin, but the small spark of pain was nothing compared to the sensation of her tight, untried body clenching on his fingers.  The feeling gave him wicked visions of just what those walls would do to him, how strong they would be around his cock, how they would squeeze him as if to strangle the very life from him, and had him digging for every ounce of his phenomenal control to keep from exploding right then and there. Pulling slowly back as she gripped him, he pressed outwards, stretching those tight walls gently before thrusting just as carefully back in. The heel of his hand had shifted with his descent into her heat and pressed against the full bud of her pearl. He gave it a testing rub, applying pressure as he sank back into her body, and continued to coax her tongue to dance around his while the tension built inside her. She was growing taut under him, a guitar string being carefully strung, until he could pluck that wire and make it sing.

With the slow, mindful pace of his hand gradually increasing, Akane could feel the cresting wave building, threatening to drown her in more pleasure than she had ever known. Her body hummed, muscles tightened into strings that wanted to snap with his actions until a sudden quaking began in her thighs and she tumbled, head long, into ecstasy.  Her knees snapped together, one thigh trapped beneath his body, now trapping him between them, keeping her from stopping his wicked appendages from continuing to sink into her quivering core. Aftershocks forced her rolling climax to continue, on and on until a second wave, stronger than the first, rocketed through her again.

Her body arched hard against him when she shattered, as if she wished to throw him off but the tightening of her arms proved otherwise. The moan she gave when she came apart drove him mad and when she tried to still his actions, her thighs snapping shut against him, it only spurred him on. Once wasn’t enough. Once was never enough for the woman that was his only and he continued onwards, stroking, plunging, caressing the part of her he most wanted to sink into until her back bowed a second time, her neck arching towards him as she pressed her head back into her pillow, and had him quickly sealing his mouth down over hers before she could scream out in surrender. She went limp, boneless beneath him, and had his head lifting quickly to gaze down on this passionate creature his tomboy had turned out to be.

A smile softened his features when a quick glance showed her gentle breathing, flushed cheeks and closed eyes. The smile gradually shifted into a prideful smirk when he concluded she had simply passed out from the pleasure, unable to take anymore. It was a good reference point, a note to make for the future as he slowly removed his hand from the waistband of her pajamas and shifted his body off of the exhausted girl. The action made her whimper and him chuckle while he cleaned his hand of the cream she’d gifted him with before he buttoned her back into her top. “Wouldn’t do to have someone walk in on you indecent in the morning…” He whispered softly to her, his eyes again taking in the perfection that was her form. No, she may not be as well-endowed as he was in his girl’s body, but he preferred her this way. Her breasts were a nice handful. Just the right size.

Slight marks had begun to form. Little love bites and bruises that gave him great pride at having placed them on her. He may not have marked her, yet, but he had marked her all the same. She was his now, there would be no going back. Pulling his own shirt down, he contemplated returning to his futon but decided against it. Here was where he belonged, and raging erection or not, here was where he would stay. Sliding down into the bed, he pulled Akane in close, tucked his nose into her hair and breathed deep. She smelled of sunshine and citrus, sex, and him. In other words, she smelled perfect.

In the dark recesses of the night another was still awake, stewing, planning, plotting. They would not be thwarted, not now, not ever. One way or another Shampoo would see that Akane paid for taking Ranma from her. The girl was weak, useless, everything an amazon hated in a female. A warrior the caliber of her airen should be with someone powerful, strong, and brave. All the things she – blasted kitchen wrecker – was not. When the twinge of guilt crept into her mind she brushed it brutally aside.

She refused to allow her mind to drift to Jusendo and the sacrifices Akane had made. The multiple times she had put her life on the line for Ranma; for all of them. It served no purpose to dwell on it when her decision was already made.

With the sun beginning to peak above the horizon, Ranma tucked his nose down into the delicious scent that was tickling it. It was heavenly and he inhaled deeply until a quiet sigh had him snapping his eyes open. Had he fallen asleep and had Shampoo crawl in his bed again? Slightly disorientated, he looked long at the head of dark hair, gleaming with blue lights, before remembering just where he was and just what had happened last night. The wicked grin spread quickly before he snuggled down to hold his Akane tighter.

Feeling him settle against her spine after startling, Akane held back her smile and kept her breathing even. She had never slept better and knew it was from his actions last night. It hadn’t occurred to her that it really was possible to pass out from the pleasure, having figured it was made up romantic crap. Now, she knew better and the thought had a light dusting of red gleaming in her cheeks. Sighing quietly, she rolled slowly over until her arms wrapped his torso. “Morning…” She whispered.

Her blush was adorable. “Morning…” Smirking, he stroked his hand down her spine and made her shiver. “Ready?” Her features hardened into determination and he rolled her beneath him. “Good. Look…” He began before hesitating and glancing away from her piercing eyes.

“Ranma?” Was he changing his mind? Did he not want to go through with this?

Confusion and despair exploded in her scent and had him turning his attention swiftly back to her fearful eyes. “Akane… no.” He had never been good with words and his inadequacies had her trembling again. “Stop. I ain’t changing my mind.” He kissed her fiercely, softening only when she responded. Touching her cheek he let his purr bloom into life and nuzzled her throat when she relaxed. “It’s you and me, tomboy.”

“Then… what?” She whispered, still concerned.

Sighing, he knew this was going to be hard but was determined to make her see what she had been blind to up till now. “Akane, when… Ryoga shows up…” Her fingers connected with his lips and stopped his words while her worried eyes cleared.

“Ranma, I’m not stupid. I may have been… blind to his feelings in the beginning but not even I could miss all his screwed up declarations forever.” She smiled softly and brushed her fingers over his lips. “It was just, well, easier to let everyone think I was dense. Then I didn’t have to deal with it.”

A blush quickly crawled its way over her cheeks a second time and made him grin before he nipped at her fingers. “Brat. You know the kind of torture you put me through?” How often he had worried that one day he would lose her to the lost boy.

“Yeah,” She said sadly, “I do.”

His smug grin fell away. “’Kane…” He wasn’t the only one afraid of losing out. “I was an idiot.”

A wavy lock of dark hair brushed her cheek when his forehead came down to rest against hers. Without giving away her intentions, Akane flipped their position and straddled his waist, siting up and allowing the blankets to fall down around her hips. His brow had arched in amusement and she snickered quietly, pressing her hands into his firm pectorals. “We both were immature. Things change, people grow up. I’m just happy that you’re growing up with me.” His eyes gleamed in the rising light, the vibrant blue of the neko slowly brightening when she leaned down and his hands found their way beneath the hem of her pajama top. “Ranma…” She whispered, her feelings clear in the sound, and pressed her lips softly to his.

Cotton gave way to smooth, warm skin as her silky lips brushed over his. The sensations pouring through him had a low growl reverberating in his chest. He wanted nothing more than to continue touching her but he could hear Kasumi stirring down the hall. “Your sister’s up.” He grumbled and growled in frustration when Akane squeaked in fear and leapt from the bed. “She ain’t heading for the door. She’s only just woke up.”

“You can hear that?”

“Yeah.” Crossing his arms he glared at the ceiling. “So, Ryoga?”

She smirked at his disgruntled actions and sauntered back to lean down over him. Touching her nose to his, Akane giggled. “Yes, Ranma. I will deal with Ryoga.”

A smug grin crossed his lips and he dragged her back on top of him. “Good.” Rolling with her, he pinned her to the bed and took a few more minutes to stroke his tongue over her throat and down the ‘V’ of her pajamas. The taste of her was one he was beginning to believe he couldn’t do without.

Stepping quietly out of her room, Kasumi paused at Akane’s closed door and smiled softly when she heard the muffled giggles coming from the other side. Clearly Ranma had found somewhere else to spend his night but she wasn’t concerned that he would have taken advantage of her younger sister. No, with the way he looked at her, and with a few things she had managed to overhear, she knew Ranma and his new found set of instincts would treat her sister with the utmost care.

Standing at the gate, Ranma squeezed Akane’s hand when it tightened around his. They were determined, ready, and prepared. Surprisingly when Sesshomaru had arrived bright and early, as Kagome had predicted, he came with news that was rather shocking.

The Kuno’s would no longer be a problem.

The daiyoukai, having future based knowledge thanks to InuYasha and Kagome, had known just what companies and what stocks would be the most damaging when it came to the Kuno name. And, while Kodachi and Tatewaki’s father might be a right nut, their Uncle was not. Kuno Katsuo, head of the Kuno family, had little hope of holding out against the Tashio clan once Sesshomaru put his plan into action and while Ranma knew a lot about fighting, and some minor history behind the samurai/lord relationship, he did not understand it to the effect that the Inu-daiyoukai did. After all, Sesshomaru had lived that life, not merely read about it.

It had taken very little effort on the smug daiyoukai’s part to have Katsuo begging his forgiveness for the trouble caused his extended family, especially when the talks began with veiled promises of plunging stock prices and bankrupt companies. Sesshomaru had known just how to play the man in order to have him promising to have his niece and nephew in line as soon as possible.

When InuYasha had looked rather baffled by the whole conversation, especially with how Sesshomaru’s eyes nearly glowed with satisfaction, the older of the two Inu had simply stated, “It is another form of battle, one with less shed blood but still as satisfying when they bend to this Sesshomaru’s will.”

The half demon had seemed to consider that for a moment before shrugging it off and Ranma had wondered if this Katsuo would be able to keep his promise. Either way it would make for an interesting day.

Now, the five of them stood gathered at the gate. The sun was clear of the horizon but had not yet crested the buildings of Nerima and he could smell the excitement coming off both Inu; InuYasha’s much more potent than Sesshomaru’s. “The amazon’s first.” The command in the daiyoukai’s voice was clear right before his glamour dropped away.

Laughing softly, Kagome couldn’t help the wide grin that spread. “Now this is what you should look like!” The Inu-youkai was garbed as she had always known him in his traditional kimono and hakama. The heavy white pelt draped his arm, his armor gleamed, and she watched as he tucked Tenseiga and Bakusaiga into his sash.

Smirking a small twitch of his mouth, Sesshomaru inclined his head in acknowledgement. “There is little call for such things these days but today… it will be necessary.” It was the quickest way to prove just who and what he was to the amazons.

“Feh.” InuYasha shrugged the long coat over his arms and tucked Tetsusaiga into the pocket within the lining. It made him wonder briefly just why his brother had such a garment but he didn’t dwell on the thought. He was just happy to be able to carry the sword with him on this venture. “Show off.” He grumbled but was surprised when instead of a sneer and displeased hn, his brother seemed to find the comment amusing. ‘Maybe the bastard really has changed…’

Ranma, while waiting with the girls, assessed the easy way the daiyoukai moved. The level of grace hid well the strength humming through those youkai veins and had him wondering what it would be like to face such an opponent. Perhaps someday he would find out. “You two ready?”

She had been staring rather rudely at Sesshomaru when Ranma’s voice broke her out of her trance. He had not previously worn the big fluffy thing on his shoulder and Akane had an insane desire to grab it and rub her face on it. Was it as soft as it looked? “Yeah. It’s not like we need to hide weapons.” A shimmer appeared around InuYasha’s brother and had him looking like a young business man once more, effectively hiding the fur boa.

Looking between the two of them, her Inu mate and his brother, Kagome had to grin. Never had they looked more like brothers than now. Dark hair hanging free, Sesshomaru’s skin slightly more tanned than before, both still with the same piercing golden eyes. There was no mistaking them as anything but relations. “Yup. All set!” Striding up to the gate, Kagome set her hand on the sutra and began to chant quietly. Her body glowed, her powers shimmered, and the dome disappeared from over their heads when she reabsorbed her reiki. The buzz that came before her powers settled made her giggle, and the group headed out.

For Ranma and a nervous Akane, the trip to the Cat Café felt like it went too quickly, faster than it should have, and had them arriving before either one was ready. “Alright. Remember the plan.” Ranma turned to face Akane and gripped her shoulders tightly. “I don’t want to see you in there Akane, no matter what you hear or see.” He really had no idea how this was going to play out.

She hated the plan, loathed letting him go in there without her, but she trusted him and trusted that the Inu had his back. Sesshomaru could be downright scary when he wanted to be and with what lay beneath his twenty first century glamour, she had seen him for what he truly was. Was it any wonder he still retained his title as Lord of the West? “Kay.” At least she wouldn’t be alone.

Sighing silently, Kagome crossed her arms and leaned against the wall a few store fronts down from this café. She, as well, was not impressed with this plan but could see the reason for it. If Akane was injured in even a small way, it could send her cousin into a rage the likes of which most would not walk away from. He was highly dangerous, though he seemed to have settled slightly, and a tentative sniff of Akane had given her the reason when she had taken her place at the breakfast table early that morning. The girl was coated in Ranma’s scent, an action that showed his claim without him having to mark her. InuYasha used to do the same thing only with the fire rat. A much less pleasurable option than the one Ranma had used. When a clawed hand, the claws unseen but felt, settled in her hair, Kagome smiled up at her mate. “We’ll be fine. You be fine too, both of you.”

Sesshomaru offered her a small nod and moved swiftly towards the café. There was little point in delaying this any longer, Ranma and InuYasha falling in at his side.

Stepping through the door, Ranma shifted to the side and glanced at the two Inu who slipped past him to settle into a darkened corner table, the bell above the door announcing their arrival. It was still early, the store front dark, but the amazons never locked their door. What was the point when they could easily take down any threat coming through it? Until now. “Old ghoul?” Ranma called out, “You up yet?” A steady, rhythmic thumping preceded her arrival before she hopped in on her cane.

“Ranma, to what do we owe this pleasure?” It was rather early to see the man here but she had been expecting him at some point.

She shocked him when she called him by name. Where was the son-in-law comment? “We need to talk.” He offered, wary now of the situation.

“About?” A dark aura was hovering in the corner of her restaurant and she peered into the shadows to see what waited.


It pulled her focus from the corner. The way he said her granddaughter’s name, with such hate and loathing, simply confirmed what she already knew and had tried to convince the foolish child of last night. “What happened in Jusendo that has you hating her so, boy?” The murmur was quiet and she did not expect an answer.

“That’s something you should ask her. I ain’t here to talk about China.” The neko in him didn’t even like being within the walls of this place and had no qualms about making its opinion known. “I’m here about the kiss.”

“Which one would that be?’

“All of them!” He growled low in his throat in annoyance.

Something about him had changed. There was a dangerous, long forgotten feel to Ranma’s aura now and it puzzled her. “Something is different about you, boy.”

“He is not a boy.”

The voice came from the dark. One so full of menace it had her instantly at the ready. “Who’s there? Show yourself!”

Sesshomaru rose with slow grace, to glide into the light. InuYasha appearing with the same level of stealth as if they had choreographed this moment in advance. “It has been many years, old woman. They have not been kind.”

Cologne frowned at the dark haired man in confusion. “Do not be so condescending, boy. I am not as frail as I appear.”

“And this one is also no boy.” The low growl of displeasure brewed in his chest. Sesshomaru remembered her from the village. She had been younger but the scent off her was unmistakable.

“Who are you to speak so to an elder?”

Shifting his gaze to the door, Sesshomaru felt his lip curl back at the male who stood there, blind without the glasses perched on the top of his head, his need to squint betraying him. “She is not this one’s elder.”

The way he spoke, it poked at a long buried memory in Cologne’s mind. “How is it you seem to know me when I cannot recall our meeting?”

“Your memory is faulty if you do not recall the glory that was our meeting.”

InuYasha wanted to roll his eyes but refrained. Would his brother please just get on with it? Glory of their meeting his ass!

“Pompous fool! I will teach you to respect an amazon elder!” Leaping forwards, Mousse threw out an array of weapons before being punched forcefully aside. His back connected roughly with the wall and he slid down it in a heap, dazed.

There had been no need on his part for movement for the blind fool, who smelled mildly of duck, had missed with his arsenal. Relaxing his fist, Sesshomaru returned his eyes to the old woman. “It is time for you to go.”

“Go?” Fear was beginning to grow in her heart and she glanced in concern to Ranma. What she saw in his eyes had that fear doubling.

“Grandmother? Shampoo hear noise. Is everything…” The purple haired woman halted in the doorway to look over the three intruders and glance at the comatose duck. When her eyes landed on Ranma she was in motion. “Ni hao, Ranma! Has airen finally come take Shampoo on date?”

Ranma prepared himself for the glomp and for once didn’t just take it. Instead, he clenched his fist and plowed it into the disgusting woman’s stomach. “No.” She gasped, clutching at her midsection in surprise but he only glared coldly at her. “Never again will you touch me.” That dangerous feeling was rising in him and he took a gliding step towards her. A thrill of satisfaction caressed his spine when she retreated. “Never again will I allow you to get away with calling me husband.” He took another stepped and smiled, baring his fangs in a deadly grimace. “Never again will I allow you to hurt someone I love. I am not now, nor will I ever be yours.”

She stopped only when her back smacked the wall and stared at the male before her. “You no mean that. Wo ani, Ranma!” Reaching out to him, she pulled her hand back with a sharp cry when he slapped it away and let the tears stream down her face.

“After what you’ve done, after what you put Akane through,” His fists clenched at his sides with his rage. “You are lucky I have enough honor not to kill you where you stand.”

“Cousin…” InuYasha called, purposely drawing attention to their family bond and away from the hated woman who had been Akane’s rival. “Your female awaits.”

Turning his back on a stunned and crying Shampoo he refused to give in to her pleading. Her crocodile tears wouldn’t work on him anymore. “Go home, Elder Cologne. Don’t come back. There is nothing here for any of you anymore. I have made my choice and it is not your granddaughter.” Striding out the door, Ranma didn’t look back.

“I was unaware Ranma had family besides his father.” Cologne muttered in surprise and glanced warily at the males still standing in her café.

“Ranma is not simply family, he is pack.” InuYasha growled.

“Indeed.” Sesshomaru let his glamour go and watched the old woman nearly fall from her staff with the haste she used to scramble away. “This one sees you now remember.”

“Inu no Taisho!” It couldn’t be! But there the Inu-daiyoukai stood in all his glory.

Shampoo had never seen her grandmother afraid and looked closely at the being that had caused such a thing. “Who you?”

Sparing a cutting glance for the idiot human, Sesshomaru returned his focus to the old one. “He was this one’s father. Your tribe made promises, elder, ones that you are currently breaking.” Pulling Tenseiga from his sash, InuYasha following with the Tetsusaiga only moments later, he held it loosely at his side. “The fangs remember. They were the blades used to bind those oaths.”

“We have broken no laws! No youkai has crossed the sea at our behest nor have we touched one of youkai descent from this island!” Cologne stared in horror at those swords. Hundreds had died by that blade, more by the teeth and claws of the Inu. “We followed a boy! Just a boy!”

“He has not been just a boy in a very long time.” InuYasha growled and glared at the furious woman that Ranma had denied.

“He to be my husband! Amazon law say so!” Shampoo screeched in anger.

“Youkai law says otherwise.” Passing Tenseiga to his other hand, Sesshomaru drew Bakusaiga. “You have interfered with our pack for the last time. This Sesshomaru will give you one week to leave Japan, after that my brother and I will come hunting. Try and disrupt Ranma’s courtship of Akane, and you will feel the claws of the nekomata. You will feel Ranma’s claws.”

Sesshomaru turned on his heel and stalked from the café but InuYasha remained a moment longer. Lifting his hand, he pointed the transformed Tetsusaiga at the purple haired bitch. “I know what you did in China. Try anything and it will be me you meet on the battle field.” Releasing his own glamor he bared his fangs in a deadly grimace. “And I ain’t got no problem killing a female.”

“We understand.” Cologne nodded, holding tight to her staff. “Tell Ranma the amazon council has already declared all his kisses void, including the one on Akane, and commanded us to return to China. We will be gone in a week.”

“Feh.” Glaring at them and glancing at the slowly stirring male, InuYasha returned his glamor and tucked his sword away. “You’d better be.” Backing out the door, he turned and swiftly followed his brother back to his waiting mate.

“Grandmother! Why you so scared?” Glaring at the swinging bell above the door, Shampoo held her sore stomach and moved towards the old woman.

A swift rap with her staff had Shampoo seeing stars. “Don’t be a fool, child! That was the sons of the Inu-youkai that took down Hyoga! Not even our entire village could stand against him. Pack your things. We will be leaving in three days.”

“They say week!” Shampoo protested only to take another smack from the staff.

“I have been on the wrong end of a pair of hunting Inu-youkai once. I will not do so again! Go!” Swinging at her again, Cologne finally chased the girl off before collapsing into a chair. ‘They still live.’ She was not sure why that surprised her, after all, so did she. And as long as one of the line lived the conditions imposed on them stood. But what was all this talk about Ranma and a nekomata? Shaking her head, she knew it did not matter. The Inu had spoken and they needed to leave before that large white beast made another appearance in her life. She had barely escaped the first time!

Ranma had never felt such anger as what had welled up inside him with Shampoo’s approach. Stalking out of the café, he had made his way back to Akane, lifted her into his arms and leapt for the nearest roof. Once out of sight of prying eyes, he had gripped her short tresses firmly and kissed her until they were both breathless. “Sorry…” He mumbled when they parted and stood panting for breath.

“No, no. That was…” She wasn’t sure, but it had been intense.

“She pissed me off.” He’d had one fleeting moment when the vision of Shampoo’s throat being torn out had been all he could see. Then InuYasha had called him cousin.

“Is it over?”

“Yeah.” He sure as hell hoped so. “Made it clear it was never going to happen. Left it to the Inu to reinforce that claim.”


“Ucchan’s next.” He sighed and pressed his forehead to hers, knowing how hard this was going to be.

“She’ll get over it, eventually.” At least, Akane hoped so.

“I guess.” But would she ever forgive him for being so cruel? He had, in a way, led the girl on with his claims that she was the cute fiancée.

Akane had no words of encouragement and simply wrapped her arms around him in a show of comfort and solidarity. “I’m coming in.”

“I figured you would.” Collecting her back into his arms, he dropped them off the building and back to the sidewalk where Kagome stood waiting. “Sorry, cuz.”

“It’s fine, Ranma.” She understood his needs probably better than he did right now. Looking back towards the restaurant, she smiled brightly at Sesshomaru when her daiyoukai brother in law stalked from the building only to have the smile dim when InuYasha didn’t immediately follow. “Onii-san?”

“He will be out soon.” After a moment’s hesitation, he lifted his hand to lightly stroke Kagome’s hair.

It was ridiculous how happy that contact made her and Kagome grinned up at Sesshomaru. “Everything turned out alright?”

“Hn. She remembers.” A smirk twitched his mouth when Ranma chuckled.

It only had him more impressed with the daiyoukai. “Must have been some battle you and your dad waged over there.”

Sesshomaru tilted his head in acknowledgement but did not choose to elaborate. It had been less of a battle and more of a slaughter. Not something he felt needed announcing to the females. When the door opened behind him, he glanced back at InuYasha. “Little brother?” He looked mad enough to chew steel.

“Mine…” He hissed, glaring at both Sesshomaru and then Ranma. “That bitch is mine if she decides to cause trouble.”

His glamour was slipping with how mad he was and had Kagome stepping away from the daiyoukai to go soothe her mate. “Calm down, InuYasha.” She murmured, reaching up to run her hands over his dark hair and in turn over the hidden ears. Catching one gently, she rubbed the silky tip with her thumb. Once he’d settled enough that the growl and flashing red eyes had disappeared she let go to wrap her arm around his waist. “Next?”

Unsure how he felt about InuYasha’s claim, Ranma put it aside in hopes the amazons would smarten up and go home. He’d deal with it later if it became necessary. “Ukyo.” Ranma sighed. “Don’t expect a fight here at least I hope not, but Ucchan carries a really big spatula and she isn’t afraid to send it at your head.” Feeling Akane’s hand clasp his, he gave it a gentle squeeze and led the way.

While they walked, Kagome glanced up to Sesshomaru at her side. “Onii-san?” She murmured, waiting for his eyes to slide her direction. “Who did you mate?”

He gave her a sly smile. “Why, my Rin of course.” There had been a reason he was meant to save her all those years ago.

“You mated a human?” InuYasha barked out in surprise. How was that even possible? His brother had always despised humans!

Shifting his eyes to InuYasha, Sesshomaru sighed and shook his head. “Things change, little brother. I changed.”

The flash of sorrow and regret came quickly but the hanyou saw it easily. “I guess they did.” He murmured.

“Well, I for one am not that surprised.” Kagome smiled. “You are both never happier than when you are together.”

“Indeed.” Sesshomaru agreed. Rin had always been the bright spot of light in his otherwise grey and lonely world, not that he would admit that allowed. Arriving at the shop he knew to be the cooks, the daiyoukai said no more. “We shall wait.”

Ranma nodded, looking the three of them over before shifting his eyes to Akane. Her determination glowed in her chocolate eyes and boosted his confidence, and his desire to get this all over with. Holding tight to her hand, he tried the door and found this shop also open. “Ukyo?” He called, when he pushed the door open.

Head peeking out the door to the kitchen, Ukyo smiled. “Ranma honey! Two minutes. I’m just in the middle of something.” Her smile slipped a notch when Akane stepped through the door behind him.

“Keh. We’ll wait.” Ranma huffed and made his way to his usual seat.

Plopping her but down beside his, Akane squeezed his arm. “You can do this.” She whispered encouragingly.

Placing his hand over hers, he smirked when her confidence, again, bolstered his. “Thanks, ‘Kane.”

“Now, Ran-chan. To what do I owe the pleasure?” Ukyo asked brightly when she rounded the corner, choosing to ignore the close contact between Ranma and Akane. With how angry he’d been at her after the way she’d helped upset the wedding, she had thought it would be a while before she saw him again.

“Ukyo… we need to talk.” He sighed when she paled.

It was rare that he didn’t call her Ucchan and usually signalled he was either very upset or very serious. Today it seemed to be a mix of both. “About?” She asked warily.

Unwilling to beat around the bush and not wanting there to be any mistakes made in his meaning, Ranma chose to be very blunt. “Ukyo… I’m never going to marry you.”

She fell back from the counter in shock, the words like a physical blow with how much pain they caused. “You… what?”

Sighing, hating how this hurt her, Ranma shook his head sadly. “I don’t want to hurt you Ukyo, but this has all gone on long enough. When we met, I didn’t even now you were a girl. I just thought you were a fun guy to hang out with. When pops left with your dowry that was on him but I’m not going to be beholden to some deal he made twelve years ago.”

Gasping a little, Ukyo looked from him to Akane and back. The pity and understanding she saw in the other girl’s eyes made her angry. “You can’t do this.”

“I can. Things have changed and I am no longer under my father’s control. All the contracts he made in regards to me are void.” He stated firmly, watching while the tears began to pour down the chef’s face.

“Including hers?!” She pointed at Akane, sitting silent at Ranma’s side.


Akane felt her heart speed up but remained outwardly calm. He had a plan. Had to. There was no way he was walking away from her as well. Biting the inside of her cheek, she simply sat in silence to see how this all played out.

The quickening beat and scent of concern at his side made him long to reach out to Akane and soothe his female but he couldn’t. Not just yet. “The agreement that was made between my family and hers no longer applies either. We have made our own agreement.” One that Ukyo didn’t need the details of.

“What? NO!” He couldn’t mean it! He wanted her? The ridiculous tomboy over his cute fiancée? “You can’t! She’s nothing! Can’t even cook a decent bowl of rice!”

Akane stiffened in anger but calmed when his hand settled on her knee. She was getting better, all the time. She just needed practice, something she’d never bothered with because Kasumi had always taken care of everything. Clenching her jaw, she fought to keep her retort to herself.

He was proud of her when she managed to bite her tongue but Ukyo’s words were less pleasing. “No one said I loved her for her cooking.”

“Love…” The chef whispered, horrified.

“Yeah. Love.” He smiled at Akane and watched her blush.

Screaming in rage and pain, Ukyo snagged one of her small battle spatulas and threw it at Akane’s head. “You horrible tramp! You stole my Ran-chan! He’s mine! You can’t just take a girl’s dowry and leave her with nothing! I will never be able to go home!” Her father had already told her she wouldn’t be welcome unless it was with a husband or her dowry back.

Ranma’s hand flashed out and stopped the spatula from doing serious damage to Akane’s face. “Ukyo!” He snarled in warning only to watch her reach for two more. Screaming out an angry cat yowl, Ranma leapt the counter and pounced on the chef. “I will not let you hurt my mate!” He snarled, clenching his hand around her throat.

Gasping, Ukyo clawed at his wrist in shock. “Mate?” What the hell did he mean by that?

“Ranma! NO!” Akane was scrambling for him when a streak of black slammed through the door and barrelled into Ranma.

“Ranma! Get a grip!” InuYasha snarled, eyes flashing a dangerous red. “Back down, now.”

The spatula he still held in his hand bent beneath his fingers. “She tried to hurt mate!” Crouched and snarling, Ranma hissed at the Inu.

“Akane! Outside!” InuYasha barked at her but didn’t take his eyes from the furious nekomata in front of him.

“No…” Akane ignored the Inu when he snarled at her and had Ranma growl at him in return. Sliding over the countertop, she dropped to the floor behind Ranma and gently placed a hand on his crouched form. “I’ve got this, InuYasha.”

Ranma had a quiver of heat skate his spine with her touch but didn’t take his eyes from the Inu or the woman he’d been stopped from tearing apart.

“Ranma…” Akane whispered, wrapping her arms around his waist and forcing him to stand up in order not to topple over. “You don’t want to hurt Ukyo. She’s still our friend…”

“Hurt you!” He snarled, the fangs in his mouth having enlarged enough to make speaking difficult.

“She’s upset. Hurt and confused. Don’t do something you’re just going to regret later.” Laying her cheek against his back, she felt more than heard the angry growling slow before finally the vibration stopped.

Sprawled on the floor, Ukyo stared at Ranma in horror. He had come at her in anger. Had defended Akane with a ferocity that she had never seen in him before. Her throat hurt and she knew if the dark haired stranger hadn’t stopped him, or if Akane hadn’t been here, she very well could be dead. “What… what… what are you?” She whispered hoarsely. His eyes had gone to the nekoken, fangs were dragging at his bottom lip, and his battle aura was such a dark red it was nearly black in places.

Seeing Ranma relaxing, InuYasha turned only enough to see the chef but keep an eye on the angry male that was watching them intently. “He’s Saotome Ranma. A man pushed too far for too long by too many people. It was only a matter of time before he decided to step out from everyone else’s shadow and become who he was meant to be. And who that is, is a martial arts master that has chosen Akane as his mat- uh, intended wife.” Holding down his hand, InuYasha jerked the female to her feet and let her go. The host of wild and untamed emotions coming from her was nearly sickening.

“You can’t! This isn’t fair, Ranma!” Ukyo rubbed at her throat when speaking made it hurt. “My dowry is gone thanks to your father. I can’t ever go home! I’m disowned until you man up and fix your father’s mistakes! We have to marry!”

A heavy, annoyed sigh came from the doorway and had everyone turning to look at Sesshomaru and Kagome. “Why is it always money with humans, Imouto?”

Kagome only shrugged, having no idea. She did have a minor twinge of sympathy for the girl whose family had rejected her when Uncle Genma had swindled her father.

Reaching inside his suit coat, which was in fact his kimono, Sesshomaru pulled the envelope from inside. “It is fortunate I have little use for money.” He held no love for the substance though he did enjoy the corporate battles that went into attaining it in this day and age. And, as Rin was so often putting it, there was buckets of it. Enough for him to roll in in his true-form should he ever wish to do something so… hn… distasteful. Turning his attention to the chef, he held out the envelope. “You will find this not only covers the value of the cart but the increased value it would have attained today. If you accept, all further attempts to claim kin of my kin as your intended shall be void.”

“Now, hold on a minute!” Ranma protested, turning on Sesshomaru, unhappy that he was throwing money around when it was unlikely he would ever be able to pay it back. However, when the daiyoukai’s gold eyes swung his way and hardened, Ranma found himself holding his tongue.

“Do you accept this one’s offer?” When the woman continued to hesitate, chewing on her lip and fingering the sharpened steel spatula at her side, he let loose a low growl at the annoyance. “Know that if you do not and continue to seek the kin of my kin as your husband, it shall go poorly for you. You will fail. You will be destitute and you will never return to you family.”

Akane gasped quietly. Sesshomaru was completely serious and utterly ruthless. “Ukyo… take the money.” She may not like the Inu’s tactics but in the long run it was for the best. Someway they would pay the daiyoukai back even if it took years. Looking at the girl she would have happily labelled friend if not for this rivalry, she sighed. “I had hoped we could be friends once. That is still my hope today. But Ranma’s decision is made. You need to make the one that is best for you.”

She stared at the blue haired girl that was wrapped so tightly around Ranma. Watched as he shifted to wrap just as tightly around her and drop his nose to her hair. Pain made her heart clench madly but she wasn’t a foolish woman. Angry, hurt, unhappy, absolutely. But the man with the long dark hair offered her another way out of what was a no win situation on her part. “Fine.” Striding forwards Ukyo took the envelope and walked back towards the kitchen. “I would appreciate it if you all kindly got the hell out of my shop.”

“Ucchan…” Ranma sighed, knowing how much he’d hurt her but unwilling to take the words back.

“Especially you, Ranma. I don’t want to see you for a very long time. Please don’t come back.” Refusing to turn, she held her tears in until they left. “You can come down now, Konatsu.”

The male kuniochi dropped down from his place among the rafters and passed a hand over his kimono and hair. “I am sorry, Mistress.” He knew just how strong her feelings were towards the brute of a man.

Ukyo gave a disgruntled and despairing laugh, full of anger and rejection. “Sure. Didn’t see you stepping in to help.”

“It was not needed.” Konatsu flicked a fan open to hide his face. “And the strange ones new of my presence. I would have been stopped long before my assistance would have gained you help.”

That had her pulling a little out of her misery. “Strange ones?”

“The two males and woman with Ranma. All three looked at me at one point, assuring me they were very much aware of my presence. I have never felt such unbridled strength as what came off the elder male. It was good you took the money. Will you go from here now?” He snapped the fan shut before flicking it back open, an unconscious nervous gesture.

Sighing, Ukyo looked around the shop she worked so hard for. It was everything she had always wanted but... the bloom was off the rose, as the saying went.

Glancing down at the envelope full of money, she took a hard look at her life. Konatsu stood patiently waiting while she worked out her course of action, until, with sudden clarity, Ukyo looked up. “Pack.”

“May I enquire where we are off to?” Konatsu murmured, quiet and demure but curious all the same.

“Away.” It was all she knew at the moment, but she did know it was high time she stopped living in limbo. Ranma didn’t want her. He had made that fact abundantly clear. She had a handful of cash and her skills as both chef and martial artist. Perhaps it was time to make her own mark in the world.

Turning sharply on her heel, she stormed away to her small apartment to start there. It would take minimal time and effort and she could return to assist Konatsu with the restaurant supplies before going to buy a cart. Once more she would travel and make okonomiyaki. She would return the Kunoji name to what it once was.

That confrontation had been the hardest on him and he was having a hard time deciding if he was more angry or disappointed. All Ranma knew was he was suddenly desperately tired and cranky. Too many emotions swirled inside him and he paid little attention to where they were leading him until the school was suddenly looming up beside him. “Akane?”

“Ranma.” She smiled at him, her soft sunshine smile and held his hand. “You okay?” He’d been silent for so long she was beginning to wonder.

“Yeah.” Sighing, he turned to face Sesshomaru and bowed. “I appreciate what you did, the money and all, but, why? You don’t know me, us. And I have no idea if we will ever be able to repay what you gave Ukyo.”

Sesshomaru eyed the proud human that had offered him this moment of humility for a minute before speaking. “As this one already stated, money is abhorrent to me. I have it in excess simply because I desire the mental battle that comes with attaining it. You are kin to my kin, pack of my pack. Repayment is not necessary.” He shrugged for it mattered little and waved it off with a dismissive hand.

“Fuck, you have mellowed. Rin’s doing?” InuYasha smirked at his brother. The icicle that had once been firmly lodged up the daiyoukai’s ass seemed to have melted.

Ignoring his brother, Sesshomaru lifted his head and frowned. “There is a strange scent on the air.”

Just then a cackle rippled out over the empty school yard and caused all of the hair on Kagome’s neck to stand up. “The fuck is that?” She murmured with a shudder.

“Imouto, please. Must you pick up InuYasha’s atrocious language skills, too?” Sesshomaru scolded softly, looking at her with fondness.

“Are you saying I have better language skills in the now? My current future self is not as vulgar?” She huffed at him but noticed his eyes sadden before he turned away.

InuYasha stiffened but before anyone could comment a women dressed in a black leotard, complete with long flowing ribbon and black roses, leapt to the top of the schoolyard’s fence. She looked odd, slightly like Yura of the Demon Hair only her… outfit… covered her bits better. Thankfully.

“Ranma! Darling! There you are.” Kodachi leapt to land beside Ranma and wrap him in her ribbon, only, suddenly, he was no longer there. “Ranma! Stop it, darling! Come back here.” She giggled, like nails on chalkboard.

“No, Kodachi!” Ranma snarled, careful to move Akane with him, shifting her back towards the Inu and his cousin. “You were told to stay away.”

“Oh, pish! Uncle has no say over what I do. Now, come along, dear. We need to talk about our future.” Whipping out her ribbon, she sent a bouquet of poisoned roses his direction, intent on hitting him square in the face.

Lashing out, his ki claws shredded the bundle long before whatever powder she’d dosed the roses with could take effect. A second lash had him snatching her ribbon and jerking it from her hands. “Bitch!” Ranma hissed, the menace deep and vibrating when he stalked towards her, eyes blazing blue. “When will you get it through your thick skull? I. Don’t. Want. You!” He enunciated each word with force and harshly grabbed her wrist. “You are despicable to me! Abhorrent! I want nothing to do with you! Got it? Akane is my choice. It will never be you!”

A gasp left numerous lips but not one as loud as what slipped between Kodachi’s. “You… what? You don’t mean that! Ranma, darling! We’re meant to be together!” Tears spilling down her cheeks, Kodachi looked into searing blue eyes and knew he meant every word. Her eyes moved past him to settle on Akane and she sneered. “You! You did this!” Wrenching from his hold, she jabbed Ranma in the eyes and lunged for Akane.

Pain exploded in his skull when her fingers connected, a swift sharp spike of agony that drove him to his knees. “InuYasha!” Ranma called out, only to hear the sharp crunch and shriek of a woman in pain. Scrambling to his feet, he blinked to try and clear his vision, blinked again when it did to make certain he was seeing things correctly, for before him was quite the sight. Akane, with Kagome standing at her side, was shaking her hand and inspecting her knuckles after punching Kodachi square in the nose. “Akane?”

Glancing up, she stepped over Kodachi and stumbled towards Ranma, her sore hand all but forgotten when she got close enough to cup his face. “Ranma? How bad? Can you see me?”

He knew better than to rub his eyes, no matter how much he wished to, and blinked more while they watered something fierce.  “Yah, I’m alright. But I missed the show.” He nodded towards Kodachi.

“I punched her in the face and Kagome punched her in the head. I think we double team rather well.” Akane sent her new friend a wide grin. Looking back to Ranma, she watched the smirk spread along with his pride and flushed brightly.

Walking a few steps away, Sesshomaru pulled out a cell phone and lifted it to his ear. The call was short, quiet, and from what Kagome managed to overhear, brutal. “Onii-san? Everything alright?”

“Hn. I spoke with the uncle. Someone will be coming to remove her shortly. I have given him an ultimatum. Either he locks her up until her delusions have passed, or he loses his entire company. The decision is rather easy.” Sesshomaru gave a shrug.

“You’re one scary S.O.B, you know that right?” Ranma murmured, continuing to blink a few more times before his vision settled.

“So I have be informed.” Running his fingers through his hair, Sesshomaru did not give it a second thought as he moved to stand over the comatose creature.

“Foul fiend! What have you done, to my sister?!”

Came a nearby cry that had the daiyoukai sighing. “The other one?” He asked Ranma and watched the man nod. “Very well.”

“Could you just eat him?” Akane grumbled causing Sesshomaru to look appraisingly at her.

“This is not the feudal era,” The small human was not nearly as annoying as she originally appeared. “Besides, humans are notoriously difficult to remove from between this Sesshomaru’s teeth.”

Akane couldn’t be sure if he was joking but a light seemed to dance in the daiyoukai’s eyes though his face remained impassive. Still, she found it strangely comforting to know if the backup was needed, a fluffy puppy could be called on for action. A big fluffy puppy with, allegedly, poisonous drool. “Was just a thought.”

‘How amusing.’ She was rather entertaining. Returning his attention to the male that was continuing to spout off in flowery prose, Sesshomaru glared at the one called Kuno. “Your… sister… was told to stay away from kin of my kin. You were expressly forbidden to approach Ranma or Akane by the head of your clan.” Considering the clothing the male wore, the daiyoukai tilted his head. “Do you, or do you not follow the old ways?”

Startled to be so addressed, Kuno hesitated. “I… do.”

“And are you not directly descended from the line of Kuno, samurai to Nobunega?” All these humans claimed such things as important.

“I am.” Kuno puffed his chest out proudly.

The smug grin pulled at Sesshomaru’s lips with his answer. “Then you will yield to your better and walk away from this conflict.”

“Yield?” Kuno frowned. “Better?”

“I am Tashio Sesshomaru, Lord of the Western lands, a title still recognized with the wealth to back it, though my lands are but a fraction of what they once were.” At least, in the eyes of the humans. In youkai society they were actually much larger.

Kuno dropped to a knee in awe of the man before him. “My Lord!” He bowed his head. “But what does this have to do with the lovely Tendo Akane and the heinous Saotome Ranma?”

“Ranma is cousin to this one’s Imouto, therefore he is kin through marriage. He, in turn, is betrothed to the one called Akane, a marriage this one supports. An attack on him, is an attack on this Sesshomaru.” Though he itched to reach for his sword, it had been ages since he had swung it in a true battle, he did not. Not that the human would prove much of a challenge.

Torn, Kuno stayed down, head bowed in thought. He prided himself as a samurai of old, based his life around bushido. Going against one who was a Lord went against everything he stood for. It would make him Ronin and he would be disgraced. “I… yield my pursuit of Tendo Akane and will withdraw from combat with Saotome for her hand.”

With his mouth gaping open, Ranma looked between Sesshomaru and Kuno in amazement. ‘That’s it?’ That was all it took to have Kuno shutting his cake hole? “Well… damn.” He muttered quietly. They could have gotten rid of Kuno years ago!

“Fair, Akane,” Kuno crooned, rising to his feet. “My heart breaks this day, weeps in longing for your loving embrace, but, alas, the Lord has spoken. I, the Lightning Strike of Tokyo University, shall rescind my offer of marriage, but should the most,” He swallowed hard and choked out through gritted teeth, “Honorable Saotome Ranma be unable to go through with your second wedding, know that I shall await the day you are once again free with baited breath.”

“Never gonna happen.” Ranma snorted and clasped Akane tighter to his side.

“Not if you were the last man on earth, Kuno.” Akane agreed.

“Indeed.” Sesshomaru offered coldly.

“I shall simply have to turn my attention to the fair pigtail girl!” Kuno shot up, throwing his fist in the air. “She shall, henceforth, receive my undivided focus!”

“Nuh uh!” Ranma stammered, waving his hands in front of him. “She’s family and wants nothing to do with you either!”

“Family?” Kuno whined, upset with this knowledge. Was there no maiden left for him to pursue? Slowly his eyes drifted up and over to the dark haired beauty that had defeated him the day before.

Having none of that, InuYasha stalked forwards and planted himself in Kuno’s path to poke him in the chest. “You tried to strike my wife. Now, granted, she kicked your flowery ass, but this is for me.” Pulling back his fist, he plowed Kuno one right in the jaw and sent him sailing. Dusting off his hands, he turned back to his waiting pack. “What?”

Rolling her eyes, Kagome sighed but had to smile. “You’re such a caveman sometimes.”

“He laid hands on you, Imouto?” Sesshomaru asked in a low, deadly sharp voice.

“Tried, onii-san. Tried.” Kagome muttered, patting his arm.

“She kicked his ass through a window.” Akane snickered and winced when Kuno impacted the ground.

Chuckling, Ranma slung his arm around Kagome. “Getting good, cuz. You gonna take me on someday?”

Kagome bit her lip before glancing at InuYasha. “I… don’t know. Maybe. Guess we’ll have to see what happens in the past.” Smiling at Ranma, she didn’t notice the way InuYasha flinched and then sighed.

“So, that’s it?” Kagome asked, seated with InuYasha back at the Tendo compound in the remains of the clean but still destroyed dojo. “We got all of your fiancés and flirtations, right?”

“All but Ryoga.” Ranma huffed. The lost boy never showed up when wanted, only when unwanted.

Akane glanced at Ranma and wondered at his level of pique. She knew Ryoga bothered him, especially if she took the lost boy’s side in an argument, but often Ranma was being irrational or just down right wrong. “He’ll show up eventually. He always does.”

“Yeah, at the most inopportune times.” Ranma grumbled.

As a joke, Akane turned to grin up at the man with the pigtail beside her. “Well, we could try and get married again. That would surely draw him in.” She laughed but sobered when she realized no one else was laughing with her. “Or not.”

The idea of actually marrying Akane was as appealing as mating her and he had no desire to laugh about that. “Akane.”

The very serious look on his face had her holding up a hand. “No, no, no. No. It was just a joke.” A flash of pain darted through his eyes before he swiftly hid it. “Oh, Ranma.” Akane sighed, realizing how that had sounded. “It was just a joke now, but not in the future.” She quietly promised and watched hope flare in his electric blue gaze.

Kasumi walked into the silence between companions and almost walked back out. The tension was enough to make her uncomfortable. “Um, lunch?” She murmured, setting the first of a few trays down on the floor.

Checking his watch, Sesshomaru got to his feet. “I must decline. There are things that need attending to this afternoon. I shall return.” Nodding to the humans and his brother, he strode swiftly from the compound. He wanted to check on the amazons and ascertain for himself that they were leaving. Jaken never quite did a thorough enough job for his liking.

Popping to her feet, Kagome offered to help Kasumi and followed the elder girl into the house. InuYasha let his eyes trail after her and sighed before glancing at the Ranma and Akane, watching him intently. “What?” He grumbled.

“You going to tell me what you and your big bro been dancing around today?” Ranma murmured, aware that Kagome’s hearing had gotten better.

Slowly, InuYasha shook his head. “No.”

“She hasn’t noticed yet, or is doing a really good job of pretending not to notice, but something is wrong.” Akane whispered, keeping her voice low. “You should talk to her.”

“Can’t.” Not yet. Not until he got back to the feudal era and had a chat with past Sesshomaru. They sat in silence for a few minutes before a sound at the gates had InuYasha’s head lifting.

“Hello?” Came the slightly strained male voice. “Akane? Ranma? Ka-ka-ka-sumi?” A brown head of hair and bespectacled face poked their way through the opening. “It’s… it’s… me. Dr. Tofu?”

“Is he asking or telling?” InuYasha muttered, looking to Ranma for clarification.

“He’s a bit… um… wiggy when it comes to my sister. He gets really goofy and shy, so it’s not that surprising that he may have forgotten his name.” Akane snickered a little.

“Here, Doc!” Ranma called, sending a little wave his direction.

“Oh dear.” Tofu muttered as he approached the destroyed dojo. “I had heard there was a scuffle but-” Eyes bugging wide, he stopped dead and slowly began to back away. “I can see you have company! Excuse me! I’ll- I’ll return another time!” He gulped loudly.

Laughing at something Kasumi had said, Kagome stepped off the engawa with her tray of food and inhaled sharply when the breeze wafted past her face. A very familiar, very distinct scent hit her nose so hard she gasped and stared at the man slowly backing away from her mate. “No… It… it can’t be…”

Tofu whipped his head her direction and felt his heart give a solid, painful thump. “Kagome…” He breathed out.

“Ship… Shippo?” He looked nothing like her kit but the scent, the scent was unmistakable. “Shippo!” The tray fell from her nerveless fingers to crash and shatter in the gravel.

He caught her as she launched herself across the koi pond into his arms. “Kagome!” Burrowing his face in her hair, Shippo hugged her tight.

Rising, InuYasha made his way towards them and when Shippo’s watering green eyes lifted to his, he slowly shook his head, a warning to keep silent coming on a quiet growl.

Nodding, Shippo tucked his face back down in Kagome’s sweetly scented hair. “I missed you, Kagome.” He couldn’t help but speak.

“Missed me? Have I gone somewhere?” She wondered, pulling back to find his glasses flashing in the light and hiding his eyes from her.

“Well,” He cleared his throat harshly. “It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen you at this age.”

Laughing, she hugged him tight again. “I bet! So, do I have all kinds of wrinkles?”

Blanching, Shippo grinned a brittle smile. “Never. You never got a one.” Releasing her, he walked towards InuYasha and stopped in front of the hanyou he’d looked up to for so long. “InuYasha.” Holding out his hand, he gripped the offered wrist tightly.

“Whatcha doing here, kit?” InuYasha murmured, watching the kitsune fight back his emotions.

“Looking after the Tendo’s. Been my job for a long time.” He answered just as softly.

“Um, excuse me?” Kasumi’s sweet voice broke through the highly charged moment. “But, how does Kagome-chan know Doctor Tofu?” The way Kagome had hugged the doctor had a streak of unreasonable and unwelcome jealousy filling her.

The grip on InuYasha’s wrist went bone crushingly tight. “Oi! The fuck you doing!?” One glance into the kit’s vivid green eyes gave him his answer. “Ah, shit!” Balling up his fist, InuYasha clocked the kitsune in the jaw and watched his eyes roll back in his head.

Catching Shippo, he heaved the body over his shoulder and walked towards the wall that surrounded the grounds. “Back in a bit.” He called before jumping to the top and taking off.

Kagome was certain her mouth was as open as Kasumi’s when InuYasha simply left and turned stunned eyes on the elder girl.  Opening and closing her jaws, she tried to find her voice and finally had to sigh when it remained lost. “I… okay,” She eventually managed. “Come sit down, Kasumi-chan. This is going to take a little explaining.” Looking back, she cringed at the broken dishes before taking the last tray from Kasumi. The girl’s grip was very tight and her hands were beginning to tremble.

“That was Shippo? Little Shippo?” Ranma asked in disbelief.

“Yah. How and why he’s here… I… I don’t know.” Kagome offered quietly before taking Kasumi’s hand. “He’s the fox kit I rescued not long after I arrived in the feudal era.” She’d had a chance to give a more in-depth accounting of their time in the past last night while the boys had watched movies.

Kasumi felt her eyes widen so much that they physically hurt. “He… he… what? A… Kitsune?” The doctor was a fox? The wicked side of her hentai mind supplied yes he is in a sultry voice that made her blush.

Nodding, Kagome stroked the suddenly cold fingers of the elder girl. “Yes. He’s a kitsune. A powerful one by the feel of it now, too.” At least seven tailed, if not more.

She lifted her fingers from Kagome’s and pressed them to her lips, her other hand finding her stomach. “I… seem to have lost my appetite. Please excuse me.” Stumbling a little, Kasumi fled to the house and out the back door. It was all too much! Demons, half demons, magic swords and men with dog ears. Now kitsunes. What was next? Giant worms? Her legs gave out and she flopped down on the nearest seat, a raised portion of flowerbed.

InuYasha didn’t go far, just to the park down the road where he dropped Shippo on his head. “Wakey, wakey.”

“Fuck you.” Shippo grumbled, rubbing at the bruise he knew was forming on his jaw.

“Now, that ain’t very nice. Considering I just kept you from making a fool of yourself in front of your chosen.” InuYasha smirked a wicked grin at Shippo… Tofu… whatever the hell his name was now.

“She’s not… she can’t… I can’t…” Shippo bent forwards and dropped his head in his hands. “I just can’t.”

Rolling his eyes, InuYasha flopped down beside the man that had once been his kit. “Can’t ain’t ever been in your vocabulary before, kit. Why’s it there now?”

A shiver stroked his spine with the way InuYasha’s voice resonated in his ears. “I’ve missed you, too, you know.” He whispered and had the first of many tears slide down his cheeks.

“Hey, hey! None of that!” There was nothing worse than tears when it came from one of his pack members but it was always worse when it was Kagome or Shippo. Even grown, the kit’s anguish was hard to see. There was a popping sound, and the man he didn’t know was suddenly the ball of fluff kit he did.

Crawling into InuYasha’s lap, Shippo bawled against his chest. “I missed you… so much!”

Sighing, InuYasha hugged the boy tight. “I’m sorry.” He murmured, glancing around to make sure no one had seen that bit of magic. Sat beneath a grouping of trees, he knew no one could see them and stroked the fuzzy head of red hair. “I’m sorry, kit.” Big green, wet eyes full of begging looked up at him from the familiar face.

“You’re going to fix it, right? You’re going to change what happened?” The Inu’s eyes closed tightly, a look of resignation crossing his face, before InuYasha nodded. Wiping his nose on his sleeve, Shippo snuffled back his tears. “Ok.” He wiped his face. “Ok. Good.” Crawling out of InuYasha’s lap, he returned to his full size. “Sorry ‘bout that.”

Embarrassment scented the air but InuYasha only shrugged. It was what it was. “Why are you here, Shippo?”

“Sesshomaru. He knew of Akane and Ranma. Knew this was the time to approach you, and sent me to watch out for the family until the time of their sham of a wedding.”

“And Kasumi?” Red flared in his face and Shippo turned away.

“I can’t.” He murmured.


“She… wouldn’t understand.” He’d been crazy Doc Tofu for too long. “How would I ever… explain?” Shippo sighed in defeat.

Rolling his eyes, InuYasha reached out and gave the man a hard slap to the back of the head. “We’re here and she hasn’t run screaming. Wanted to touch my ears for kami sake.” He grumbled petulantly. “Doubt she’d take your news the wrong way.”

“But… what if…” Shippo sighed.

“Bah! No what if’s. Just go talk to her!”

“I can’t! That’s half the problem.” The fox scrubbed his hands over his face. “I get near her and I go all goofy. It becomes impossible to focus! Kami! I danced down the street with my office skeleton once!”

InuYasha’s chuckle turned into a full belly laugh. “Really?” Shippo’s glare only had him laughing harder. Snickering softly, the hanyou did his best to rein it in. “Keh. You know what this is, don’t ya?”

Pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes, Shippo gave a weary nod. “Ya.”

“And you know what you need to do.”


Poking the kitsune in the shoulder, InuYasha smirked. “Then what ya still doing here?”

Kasumi rubbed her hand over her eyes and sighed. “Why is it so hard?” When did her life become a fairy tale?


Her head jerked up to see Tofu standing looking strained and uncertain a few feet away. “How did you…?” She hadn’t even heard him coming.

Taking a slow step towards her, he wrung his hands and looked at his feet. It was taking everything in him to keep it together. “I’m… not… human.” He murmured, watching through his lashes for any negative reactions.

“So… it’s true? You’re Kagome’s… kit?”

Nodding slowly, Shippo took another slow step forwards. “A kitsune, yes.”

“It’s all been lies, then? All these years?” Had she been so foolish as to believe there was a possibility of something happening between them? “Were we just… a way to pass the time?” Sesshomaru was a thousand years old, after all.

“No!” He lurched forwards and grasped her around the elbows. “No.” He said softer, drawing her to her feet when she tensed up. Sighing, he gentled the grip he’d taken. “Yes, at first I was sent to watch over you, all of you. To wait for Kagome and InuYasha to show up here… but… then there was you… and I…” He shrugged, helpless to continue.

Her heart gave a thump that had her lifting her palms to his chest. “And you… what?”

“I… fell… for you.” Slowly, he touched his fingers to her cheek. “You’re so… and I just… wow.” He breathed.

His fingers on her face were electric and had her leaning into the touch. “Will you show me?”

“Show you?”

“The real you.” She whispered, looking up into eyes of vivid green.

Swallowing hard, Shippo nodded. Letting his aura surge outwards, he set a barrier that would keep them hidden from sight. “Kasumi…”

She could see his hesitation. “Show me.”

‘Please… don’t let her hate me.’ Taking a deep breath, he let his fox magic go.

Kasumi gasped, amazed and overwhelmed, for she felt the change begin beneath her fingers. Where once Tofu had stood, now stood the most… magnificent being. “Oh… my.” She whispered, wide eyed and staring. He got taller, his long, furred legs straightening from the partial crouch and up onto the toes of his pawed feet. Red fur covered him from the knees down and she could only guess that it also travelled up his pant covered thighs to his waist. Tracing her eyes upwards, she found human hands and arms, a human face not so different from what she recognized but with sharper features and remarkable pointed ears that she simply had to reach for.

Her long, elegant fingers came closer to his face and Shippo held perfectly still. They reached past his cheek and back to caress the edge of his ear out to the point in a most pleasant action that nearly made him quiver. “Kasumi.” He groaned when she rubbed the tip.

His hair was redder than before but she found she liked the fiery curls. A sudden weight and movement at her calf had her glancing down and gasping at the tail that was winding its way up her leg. Another curled her opposite ankle. A third slipped around her waist. The fourth and fifth wrapped around her shoulders and drew her closer while four more fanned out behind him. “Tails… you have… tails…”

Her hand left his ear and moved past his shoulder to latch gently around the end of one quivering tail. “Kasumi!” He growled, her touch sending bolts of desire through his already struggling body.

Her eyes shot to his and she could see all he was holding back, straining to keep contained, and tightened her grasp on the tail. The body against her own wasn’t fully human but it was human enough that she could feel his physical reaction to her. “Tofu… you’re not alone… in your feelings.” She whispered, pressing up on her toes when his eyes flashed from green to green rimmed in red.

Unable to contain himself, Shippo wrapped his arms around her, covered her in his tails and gently pressed his lips to hers. Sensations erupted throughout his body as she came to rest against him, thigh to thigh, stomach to stomach, breast to breast. It was exquisite and everything he’d thought it would be. Her lips parted on a sigh and had him deepening the kiss, nipping a little at her lower lip. She was sweet, like berries and sugar, like cotton candy, and he couldn’t get enough of her taste.

Her lips tingled, burned, and had her yearning towards a deeper kiss. Parting her lips, she slipped her tongue over his slightly parted ones and wrapped her arm around his neck. The hand holding his tail stroked gently out to the tip. His hands tighten and he pulled his mouth sharply away, gasping for breath, but his eyes bored into hers and she simply had to whisper, “You’re beautiful.”

He blushed a brilliant scarlet. “You’re beautiful. I’m just… me.”

“Is this why… why you never… asked me out?” She asked softly.

Sighing, he closed his eyes and nodded. “I didn’t know how… to explain.”

“But why did you act so… strange?” He was just so… goofy.

Lifting his hands to her shoulders, he caressed gently downwards, tracing paths with his fingers, being careful of his claws. “It’s in a kitsune’s nature. We lose all semblance of reason in the presence of our chosen mate, often making fools of ourselves while trying to impress her. We can be quite… silly. And the longer we hold out making our choice known, the worse we tend to get.”

“So, confessing to me today has cured you of your affliction?” She smiled teasingly up at him.

“Something like that.” He murmured, returning her smile before cupping her cheek. “You’re taking this better than I thought you would.”

She giggled and patted his chest, finally releasing his tail. “Well, when you are introduced to a half demon, full demon, and find out your eventual brother in law is host to a nekomata all in the same day, you tend to take things in stride.”

He froze, opening and closing his mouth in shock. “Ranma… what?”

Laughing, Kasumi pulled him down to sit with her and tell him about the crazy that had been happening here. Finally, she could see herself having what she’d so longed for.

A few hours later, once everyone was up to speed, and Shippo – now Tofu Ono – had returned to his human shape, the group were contemplating dinner out. Soun and Genma had made themselves scarce, deciding it was better to be away from home for the day. Nabiki, too, had left to deal with things regarding the fate of the destroyed dojo and had informed Kasumi that she would be home late. Sesshomaru had returned, glared hard at Tofu forcing a sheepish expression from the kitsune, before letting it go. According to the daiyoukai, the amazons were rushing to make preparations to leave, Kodachi had been admitted to a high end but very secure mental institute, the other Kuno was on the hunt for a female to covet, and Ukyo had purchased a new okonomiyaki cart and was in the process of leaving Nerima.

The last had caused Ranma to sigh softly but he knew it was for the best in the long run. Maybe, someday, he and Ukyo could be friends again but it wouldn't be soon. Akane’s hand slipped into his and squeezed gently in an offer of comfort and support. She always seemed to know what he was thinking.

 It was then that a heavy, depressed aura fell over the compound.

“Whoa!” Kagome shivered, looking around for the source. “What’s that?”

Ranma stiffened and pulled Akane closer to his side. “That would be Ryoga.” He growled softly, glaring at the gate until the umbrella packing man walked through. It couldn’t be that easy… could it? Were the kami really going to cut him a break?

Ryoga took in the group of assorted newcomers before zeroing in on Akane. Her close proximity to Ranma had a distinct twinge of envy, along with anger, jab him in the heart. It was always Ranma. Always the pigtailed boy that caught the breaks. That got the girl. That could find his way home. That saved the day. “Ranma!” He growled in a low angry voice. “Prepare to die!”

Slapping a hand to his face, Ranma gave a heavy, exasperated sigh. ‘Would he never give up?’ Rising from his space on the engawa, he crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. “Really? Really, Ryoga?” Pointing towards what was left of the dojo he huffed at the other male. “Don’t ya think you’ve done enough?”

Pulling the umbrella from his pack, he slowly shook his head. “I curse the day I met you. I curse the day I challenged you. I curse the day you ruined my life!” Ryoga bellowed, charging across the yard.

Sighing softly, unbearably weary of the whole situation, Ranma stepped into the grass and moved to meet him. Dodging left and right, he avoided the steel umbrella with ease. “Ryoga, you ain’t gonna win. Not anymore.”

“Oh really? And why’s that, Ranma? You think just cause you took down that featherbrained kid that I can’t take you?” He swung wildly, imploding a small bolder beside the pond when he missed.

“Nah. That ain’t it.” Bending backwards, Ranma avoided the lunge and watched the red mass miss his face by a few inches. “This is why.” He let loose the hold he had on the straining neko and felt a massive wave of power course through him. Slashing his hand up, he sliced ki claws through the umbrella so swiftly, that it took another heartbeat of time for the weapon to fall to pieces.

Ryoga stared at the handle that was all that was left of his umbrella. “How?” How had Ranma done that? And what was he to do now? He couldn’t walk around without the item. It was the only thing that protected him from the elements and kept him from turning into a pig when it rained. “You’ll pay for that!”

“Jeeze.” InuYasha snorted in contempt, knowing more of this male than the others. “And I thought Koga was annoying.”

“He does seem to be holding quite the grudge.” Kagome murmured.

“Hn. Indeed.” Sesshomaru nodded, assessing Ranma’s technique and skill level.

Sighing, Akane plunked her chin into the palm of her hand and glared at the two going at it. “Ryoga has always kind of resented Ranma.” Stupid really, it wasn’t Ranma’s fault that the lost boy didn’t show up for four days late to their original fight. Having enough of their nonsense, she slammed her hand down and lurched to her feet. “Ryoga!” She bellowed and stormed out the door into the yard.

Freezing in his tracks, Ryoga hunched forwards under the tone of Akane’s voice. It was the one she used most often to scold Ranma but he had rarely heard it pointed his direction. “A-a-akane?”

Stomping through the grass, she glanced at Ranma, hands casually tucked in his pockets and leaning against a tree as if he didn’t have a care in the world. “Ryoga, that’s enough.” Planting herself in between the two men, she didn’t notice when Ranma stiffened and shifted to a position that would allow him to protector her. “It’s time to stop this foolishness.”

“A-Akane? What? I don’t understand.” He glared past her at Ranma. “What has he told you?”

Frowning, she shook her head. “Told me? Ryoga this is about you and me.”

Flushing bright red, he stuttered, “Y-y-you and m-m-me?” Grabbing for her hands he pulled her away from Ranma. “Oh, Akane! I’m so happy you’re finally seeing reason! Ranma’s no good for you. Not like me! I can make you so happy!”

Tugging on her hands, trying to get free, she slowly shook her head. “No, Ryoga. You’ve misunderstood me.” His face fell and he got that sad puppy look that always made her feel bad. But this really couldn’t keep going on. “Look…”

“It’s him, isn’t it?” He glared at Ranma. “It’s always him!”

His hands tightened down around hers and she gasped. “Ryoga!” Pain was radiating up her arms from where her bones were grinding together.

“You can’t be satisfied with ruining my life but you take every bit of happiness, too?!” Ryoga yelled at Ranma. He had never felt so angry.

“Ryoga! You’re hurting me!” Jerking on her arms, she felt something in her hand snap and shrieked in pain.

InuYasha and Sesshomaru were in motion but Ranma was closer. The inhuman growl explode from him when he attacked the male holding his mate. “Release my mate!”

His hands were torn away and he stared at Akane, horrified, before looking to the man that was cutting off his airway. “Ran… ma?” Fangs glinted in the lowering sunlight, eyes normally of intense blue had turned red and burned with rage, and he could feel sharp points piercing his flesh and blood trickling down his neck.

Akane found herself thrust backwards, her arms caught by Kagome, but she only had eyes for Ranma. “Ranma! Don’t!” She had never seen him so angry. He didn’t even look like he could hear her.

But he could. He could hear the plea in her voice, the rabbit pounding of her heart, and scent the blood that was dripping from Ryoga’s neck. “You touched what doesn’t belong to you.” He hissed at the male.

Gripping Ranma’s wrist with one hand, Ryoga hauled the other back and plowed a solid punch to the man’s ribs. A sickening crack was heard but all that Ranma did was grunt, flinch slightly, and tighten his hold. “Ran-ma…” Ryoga wheezed, feeling the air in his lungs begin to burn.

“Ranma!” Akane screamed, horrified by the sound of bones breaking. “The bakusai tenketsu! He used the Breaking Point on Ranma!” She jerked against Kagome but the woman was unyielding.

“Akane! You can’t get in the middle of this.” Kagome held tight to her arms. “Ranma is doing what a good mate should. He is protecting you.”

“By killing Ryoga?” She sent an aghast glance back at Kagome.

Opening her mouth to reassure the woman it would not go that far, Kagome felt herself falter and looked instead to InuYasha. “I…” It was not a promise she could make.

InuYasha, Sesshomaru, and Tofu stood at corners to Ranma and tried to talk him down. “Easy, cousin. Kagome’s looking after Akane. You need to let go now. Ryoga is not worth breaking the vow you made at Jusendo.”

That word more than any other broke through the haze of rage enough to have him finally seeing what he was doing. Shocked by his actions, Ranma shoved Ryoga away from himself with more force than intended directly into the pond behind him. Without his umbrella, and with his current lack of oxygen, Ryoga was not able to halt his fall into the cold water.

Akane watched Ryoga fall, just thankful that Ranma had released him, and pulled against Kagome again, intent on making her way to his side to see how badly he’d been injured when movement on the surface of the koi pond froze her in place. It struck her so odd at first, the thing she was seeing, when P-chan emerged from the place Ryoga had fallen. So odd that it took another few moments to realize what she had seen and to comprehend the implications. “No…” The whisper was loud in the silence. “No… it can’t… it can’t… be.”

Her voice, so soft and broken, pulled Ranma the rest of the way from his rage. With the retreat of the neko came the pain he had yet to feel and doubled him over to his knees. “Akane…” He gasped, reaching towards her through the searing agony.

Tears burned her eyes as she looked from the shame filled eyes of P-chan to the pleading blue of Ranma. “All this time…”

Kagome could feel the anguish building, the heartbreak and betrayal Akane was feeling, but didn’t know why. “Akane-chan? What is it?” Looking past her to the pig in the pond, her cousin on the ground, and finally to the youkai that surrounded him, she settled her eyes on InuYasha and saw the guilt. Just what had her dog demon done?

This time when Akane jerked away, Kagome let her go. She walked slowly towards her intended mate, shaking from the roots of her hair to the soles of her feet. “Did you know? All this time, Ranma. Did you know Ryoga was P-chan?” A tear fell unfelt from her eye and down her cheek.

“Akane, I…” Her brown eyes pleaded with him, begged him to say no, but he couldn’t lie to her. “Yes.”

Gasping, she sobbed out a ragged breath and took a step back. “How could you?” She whispered.

“I tried to tell you, to make you see!” Reaching for her, he groaned and grabbed his side.

“Tried…? Tried to tell me?” She murmured, “How hard is it to say, oh, by the way, Akane. Your pet, the one you let sleep in your bed, is actually Ryoga in his cursed form!” Her emotions broke open, the betrayal she was feeling so great, that she didn’t even realized the tears were falling from her eyes like rain. Turning on the little black pig she had loved so much, she stared hard at Ryoga in disgust. “And you, with all your words about honor and doing what is right, you do something like this?” He hung his head and gave a grunting little oink. She had no sympathy for him. “I despise you, Ryoga! I hate you for doing this! For using me! For lying to me!”

“Akane, his curse was my fault, my doing. Pops and I knocked him into a pool in Jusenkyo by accident.” Ranma would not let her place all the blame on Ryoga. Even as his heart was breaking, he defended his rival.

“And that gives him the right to pretend to be something he isn’t? He should have told me at the first opportunity!” Swiping at the moisture that was clouding her vision, she glared at them both. “I will never forgive you for this.” Akane whispered, heart broken, and feeling more destroyed than any other time in her life. “Ryoga, I don’t want to see you again.” Before anyone could stop her, she ran from the compound and down the street.

“Akane!” Ranma cried, lurching to his feet only to nearly fall on his face.

“Ranma.” Kagome spoke sharply, striding towards her cousin. When he turned devastated eyes her way, she slapped him with substantial force across the face. “This is despicable, even for someone raised by Uncle Genma.”

Pain rippled in waves through his body as he tried to explain. “Kags, things got out of hand… I made a vow not to tell his secret…” Akane was getting farther away and the need to go after her, make her understand and beg for her forgiveness, was growing desperate.

“One Ryoga,” InuYasha snarled, “Took for granted.”

“Sit!” He did so, face first, with a thump. “Oh, you and I will be having our own words about this, InuYasha! And don’t think I have forgotten the little piggy.” She stomped her foot down and held the bastard under it to his squeal of displeasure. “It’s been a long time since I’ve cooked pork, but I’m sure it will come back to me.” But first... Slapping her hand to Ranma’s ribs, she sent a bolt of healing energy through it that had him screaming out in agony. “Go after your mate, baka! And don’t do anything stupid!” A glance to Sesshomaru, and glare at InuYasha picking himself out of the dirt, had both Inu agreeing to go with him. Kicking the pig up into the air, she snatch Ryoga by his bandana and held him dangling when she stomped her way inside, Tofu and Kasumi following.

“Shit.” Ranma groaned, staring after Kagome. “She’s scarier than I remember.” A clawed hand wacked him hard in the head and set him snarling.

“I warned you what would happen if you got my ass sat!” InuYasha snarled.

“Children. There is no time for this.” Inhaling, Sesshomaru turned away, following the scent of fleeing human female. “Ranma must find his female, unharmed.” A feat that would be impossible as the pigboy had broken her hand.

Akane ran with no destination in mind, just a desire to escape the pain in her soul from what she felt was Ranma’s betrayal. ‘How could he?’ How could he keep this from her?

She felt soiled. Dirty. Tainted. How often had she let Ryoga sleep with her? In her bed? Snuggled against her chest. How many times had she changed clothes in front of the pig?  Stopping short, she bent over her knees and heaved, forcing back the bile and desire to throw up. ‘Why?’  Why didn’t he tell her? Did he get some sort of sick pleasure out of knowing she was being violated by Ryoga?

Even as the thought crossed her mind, she realized it was not, could not, be true. He had always hated it when P-chan had shown up. Had always fought so hard with the pig. She had thought it was simply the fact that Ranma was jealous of the attention she paid the animal. Clearly that was not the case. But why would he just not tell her?

What could have possibly been so damn important that the man would keep her from finding out? And, kami, was she really so blind?

Now that she knew, memories were starting to return, ones where – had she had any suspicions – she would have seen through Ryoga’s sham. Some were so blatantly obvious she really was stupid for not having notice. ‘Seriously! He was wearing the damn locked collar that said Charlotte on it for kami sake!’ During the martial arts skating, how had she not clued in!?

And there were others as well. The first night she had P-chan and Ranma had snuck into her room with the kettle. She had called him pervert and kicked him through the wall! And P-chan never failed to show up at the same time Ryoga did, and disappear the same time Ryoga did. ‘How could I be so stupid?’

Sighing, she leaned back against the wall and swiped at still more angry tears. Now that she was calmer, yes, she could see that Ranma had tried. Even if he had sucked at it.

The distance between them hurt, physically pained her heart as much as her hand throbbed at the end of her arm, but she wasn’t ready to forgive him yet. This had been a betrayal of trust. A big one. And he had sworn to be finished with secrets. Was this not the biggest secret yet? InuYasha and Kagome came to mind and had a small chuckle leaving her lips. ‘Second biggest.’

Looking up at the sky, soft clouds and blue vista, she sighed a second time, heavily and murmured, “I’m an idiot.”

“You get no argument from Shampoo, kitchen wrecker.” The purple haired woman intoned, dropping from the roof of the neighbouring building.

Coming to attention, Akane growled, “Shampoo! What are you doing here? You should be getting ready to leave.”

Stalking the girl, chúi in hand, she spun the weapons lazily. “Shampoo no leave airen. Shampoo stay.” Thrusting one forwards, she smashed the wall beside Akane’s head. “She no leave you alive.” She had being going to wait for night to put her plan into action but when the lost boy had arrived and Akane had run from the compound, it had been to convenient to pass up.

Eyes widening, Akane dogged the second smash of the weapon. “What are you planning to do?”

“Shampoo had thought to use Xi Fa Xiang Gao again but that no work so well first time.” Akane had eventually remembered Ranma and she had been back to square one. “No, this time Shampoo do simple. She just kill pervert girl and be done with it.”

Gasping, Akane turned to run but took a blow that sent her reeling and falling to the ground. “Don’t… don’t do this… Shampoo.”

“You leave Shampoo no choice. Kitchen wreaker always in way. Always take airen from side. Now, no more distraction.” Lashing out, she smacked Akane a second time and knocked the girl out.

The last thing Akane saw before she lost consciousness, was Shampoo’s burgundy eyes and prayed to any kami that might be listening to have Ranma find her before it was too late. ‘Ranma…’

Shampoo looked at the girl with loathing. No amazon would have fallen so easily, nor would they have begged as Akane had. Sneering, she jerked the dead weight over her shoulder, chúi clutched in one hand, and leapt to the roof of the nearest house. From here it was only a short race to get to the forest and from there a quick jaunt through the trees to where Akane could take a short walk off a high cliff.

The three males followed Akane’s scent trail through the twisting, turning streets of Nerima.

“Girl’s fast.” InuYasha grumbled, surprised by the distance Akane had managed to put between her and them.

Ranma nodded while he ran, “Yeah, she’s quick.” A second scent suddenly hit him and ran his blood to ice. The neko in him howled in rage and fear, sending Ranma into a frenzied rush towards the source.

The two Inu were left blinking after the disappearing Ranma until they also caught the scent. “Blood.” They hissed at the same time and took off after Ranma, arriving in time to find him crouched beside a puddle of still tacky blood beneath a large hole in the brick wall. “Cousin?”

InuYasha’s voice barely registered so focused was he on collecting every bit of information he could. “She was taken,” There had been some semblance of a fight. A deep inhale, one that filled his nose with the smell of blood, fear, and something all too familiar. “No!” He snarled, eyes slowly turning red. “That bitch!” A second deep inhale gave him her direction and he took off after Shampoo.

“The amazon.” Sesshomaru growled, keeping pace with Ranma.

“We’ll get her back, cousin.” InuYasha promised. “Then that purple haired bitch is mine!” He had warned the amazon what would happen if she interfered. His brother and father had had their go at the group in the past. Now it was his turn.

“Only if you get to Shampoo first!” Ranma snarled. The feelings welling up inside him were so overpowering he could not even call the feeling rage. It was beyond rage. Beyond even what he had felt in Jusendo. The nekoken was alive inside him to the point where he could feel the two tailed feline rake claws through him. It raged at him that Akane was in peril and howled that Shampoo had finally gone insane. There was no way the girl still had hold of all her senses. She must have taken leave of them in order to think she could get away with this.

They raced across rooftops and into the trees, the three of them spreading out when the scent began to wane, until drops of blood on a tree branch had Ranma yowling in rage. Akane still bled, was still alive, but for how long, he didn’t know. “Hold on, Akane. I’m coming for you.”

Shampoo snapped her head around when the cry of a wild animal echoed in the distance. It sounded angry but after her initial notice she paid it no mind. It had nothing to do with her and the girl on her shoulder was coming to. Leaping from the branch of a high tree, she landed with substantial force, purposefully jarring Akane violently and knocking the air from her lungs with a well-placed shoulder to her stomach before dropping her roughly to the ground.

Coughing violently, Akane forced herself not to throw up. Her stomach would surely be bruised, the ribs Kagome had healed ached, and her head throbbed wickedly. When she finally managed to peal her eyes open, the double vision was bad enough to have her forcing back another wave of nausea. Rolling slowly to her back, she focused on the swaying trees in the fading light.

“Awe. Is kitchen wrecker hurt?” Shampoo asked in her high, sing song voice. “Is okay. You no feel pain for long.” Crouching down, she tapped her fingers against Akane’s forehead. “You should have listened, Shampoo. You no be needing dead now. You leave airen alone, Shampoo no have to kill you. You very stupid girl.”

Slapping the hand away, Akane closed her fist and threw a punch that managed to just clip Shampoo in the jaw, causing her to leap back. “And you’re a fool if you think Ranma will want you, love you, if you do this!” Struggling to keep the world right side up, she climbed unsteadily to her feet, keeping her eyes trained on the double image that was Shampoo.

“Ranma no have choice!” Shampoo screamed. “He mine! My airen!”

“He has never been yours!” Akane shouted back and had to throw herself to the side when Shampoo’s chúi came at her head, and rolled hard to avoid the downward stroke of the second one.

“You lie! You no see it! He want Shampoo!” Akane scrambled back to her feet and Shampoo glared at her from her crouch. “Why he look at you when he have this?” She got slowly back to her feet with a sultry air and thrust out her ample chest. Flicking her hair back, she smiled coyly. “What you have to offer airen that Shampoo no have better?”

“I’m not bat shit nuts for one…” But Akane knew better than to voice that thought aloud.

“Shampoo cooks. Shampoo cleans. Shampoo has body to please airen. What kitchen wrecker have?” She sneered when she raked her eyes over Akane. “Nothing.”

The double image had slowly morphed its way into only one, and Akane stood a little straighter. She knew, in her heart, if she could stall this just a little longer Ranma would come. “You’re wrong.” Straightening to her full height, Akane stared down her rival. “I may be a poor cook, I may not be as skilled in martial arts as you, and I may not flaunt my assets, but I have two things you never will!”

Swinging her chúi in a lazy circle, Shampoo huffed, “What that?”

“I have his respect!” Akane stated, her chin lifting high. “Something you never had and can never earn.”

Shampoo gritted her teeth. “Ranma respect Shampoo! Airen see Shampoo as strong warrior!”

Shaking her head – and regretting the action – Akane said, “He may see you as a strong opponent, as a fighter to be admired, but he doesn’t respect you. How could he when you throw yourself on him, crawl naked into the bed and bath of a man that has pushed you away time and time again? When you put potions in his food to make him want you. When you trick him and force him on dates. And when you constantly run him down with your bicycle. What man could respect that kind of woman?”

Shrieking angrily, Shampoo attacked with a wild flailing of her weapons. “You know nothing!”

The large balls of her chúi sailed past Akane’s face, caught her shoulder as she twisted out of the way, pounded once into her stomach, and smashed into the ground when she used what strength she had to jump away. Shampoo attacked again, bashing a chunk of bark off a tree and landed a hard blow to Akane’s left arm. Crying out in pain, Akane fell to the ground.

“You know nothing…” Shampoo hissed, pointing her chúi at Akane. “You know nothing of Shampoo.” Throwing her weapons to the side, she wrapped her hands around the bluenette’s throat. She wanted nothing more than to squeeze until the life went out of Akane’s eyes. “Shampoo should have killed you in Jusendo.”

“You… would have… never come… back…” Akane wheezed, trying desperately to break the hold Shampoo had on her windpipe.

“What other thing?” Shampoo demanded.

“What?” Akane gasped.

Releasing her throat, Shampoo grabbed a handful of Akane’s hair and dragged her across the ground by it, banging the woman into rocks and trees, uncaring of the damage she was doing. “You say two things. What second?” She demanded, dragging Akane to the edge of the high cliff.

“Why should I tell you?” Akane spat, grabbing for her hair with the arm that still worked. “Damn that hurts!”

“You tell, maybe Shampoo no kill you.” She shrugged.

Akane glared up at the woman. “You really think I’m that stupid? I tell you and you’ll push me off this cliff!” She would never tell her that the second thing was Ranma's love. Shampoo would never have that.

Jerking her around, Shampoo pushed her out over the edge in an arch that only the hand in Akane’s hair kept her from going over. Screaming in fear, Akane arched even harder back, trying desperately to save herself from the long fall.

“You tell, Shampoo no drop. Shampoo be merciful.” The amazon’s grin was cruel but her eyes told the tale of someone who had thoroughly lost their mind.

Gasping, pain radiating in nearly ninety percent of her body, Akane prayed, “Kami-sama… help me…” And then did the thing that she had come to rely on most, the one thing that never failed, the one thing she could always count on. She drew breath, once, twice, filled her lungs and screamed with all her might, “RANNNNNMAAAAA!”

“Stupid girl!” Shampoo sneered and let go of Akane’s hair.

Ranma burst into the clearing in time to watch his intended go over the edge of the cliff, her scream echoing in his ears. “AKANE! NO!” He screamed, running towards the edge. He was two steps away from leaping after her when InuYasha hit him from behind. “What are you doing!?” He shrieked at hanyou, slashing out with claws and fists.

“Ranma! Let the bastard go! He can fly!” InuYasha took two rather nasty blows before Ranma froze.

“What?” Red of eye, Ranma had a hard time controlling the straining neko.

“He can fly, dammit!” InuYasha bellowed before leaping up to follow the fleeing purple haired woman.

Sesshomaru ignored them both and leapt from the cliff in a graceful dive. Akane was falling only a dozen or so feet in front of him, so, with a burst of speed, he easily caught up two thirds of the way down the cliff. She dropped into his outstretched arms with a little flop but the screaming did not end and was beginning to hurt his sensitive ears. “You will cease the noise this instant. I have got you.”

Akane gasped in oxygen and latched her one working arm around Sesshomaru’s neck. “But who’s got you!?” She squeaked out and clung tight, only noticing the big, white, furry boa thing was back once she’d calmed enough to realize they were no longer falling, but floating mid-air. “Ooh, soft…” The thought was so random in the moment, so inappropriate, she gave a hysterical giggle.

His brow arched with her ridiculous reaction and he started back up the cliff face. “This Sesshomaru is not a dog. Do not pet us as one.” He grumbled.

“I almost died. You could at least cut me some slack this one time.” Akane grumbled right back, her fear of the daiyoukai overshadowed by relief at being saved from her certain death.

Eyeing her for a moment, he gave a minute nod. “Indeed. This one time.”

She wasn’t sure if that was permission or simply agreement but took a chance and sank her fingers into the silky white fur. “Wow… it’s so soft. Is it your… tail?”

Sesshomaru sighed silently. “It is not attached, therefore it cannot be a tail and my mate often expresses her satisfaction with mokomoko’s softness.”

“How lucky for her.” Sesshomaru’s mate was a lucky girl. Giving it one last gentle stroke, careful to not rub the fur the wrong way, Akane smiled at the daiyoukai with the crazy face markings. “Is that a moon?” It was hard to tell beneath his heavy fall of white bangs. “Thank you, Sesshomaru-sama, for saving my life, but you seem to have lost your glamor.”

“Sama?” He questioned her. It had been some years since he’d heard that from a human mouth.

“InuYasha said you were still Lord of the Western Lands.”

“Hn.” He nodded. “Your gratitude is unnecessary. This one is the only one capable of flight but the use of my youki for it disrupts my hold on my glamor.” Settling light of foot on the cliff edge, he handed Akane to an impatiently waiting Ranma. “Your mate… cousin.”

Startled by the concession, Ranma bowed deeply to the daiyoukai, “Sesshomaru… I can’t ever…” The gruff sound, an animalistic one that his neko understood before he did, was the Inu-youkai’s acceptance of something Ranma could not voice. Taking Akane delicately from him, Ranma clutched her gently before sinking to his knees. “Are you alright? Akane… my kami, I thought…” He buried his head in her neck and shook in relief. “I’m so sorry.”

“Ranma? Where is InuYasha?” Sesshomaru’s head whipped around when the snapping crack of the windscar ripped across the air. It was a sound that he had not heard in centuries.

Ranma looked up to answer, only to find them alone. Sesshomaru was gone. Turning his attention back to Akane, Ranma touched his fingers to her swollen cheek, ran his hand over her bruised arm, set his palm against her abdomen, and finally touched gently the lump on the back of her head. “I’ll kill her…” It was only a matter of time.

“Ranma.” Akane wrapped her fingers in his shirt to keep him with her when he shifted. “She’s not worth it.”

“Akane! She tried to kill you!” He growled but he didn’t move, hadn’t actually been planning on going anywhere.

“She’s lost her mind, Ranma.” Akane whispered, caressing his face. “She’s gone insane.” Another explosion rocked the forest in the distance. “What is that?”

“InuYasha.” Scooping her up gently, he nuzzled along her neck, bathed her repeatedly with his tongue, and purred in the way he knew she liked. “Let’s get you to Kagome. You need seeing to.” She smelled of pain and exhaustion with a lingering tinge of fear.

“What about Shampoo?” Akane whispered, her head lolling on his shoulder.

Looking towards the center of the forest, where all the noise was coming from, Ranma’s face hardened. “She ain’t our problem anymore.” InuYasha had called dibs… it was up to the Inu to deal with her. Returning his focus to her swollen face, Ranma cringed. “Kamis, Akane. I’m so sorry. I never should have let Ryoga get away with… everything.”

The pain of his betrayal had faded with the likelihood of her imminent death but roared back with his soft words. “Why did you? Why did you let him…” She closed her eyes tightly. “Why didn’t you just tell me!?”

Clutching her close, he sighed heavily. “It was my fault he was cursed. I knocked him off that cliff into the pools of Jusenkyo. At first I swore to keep his curse a secret because of the warrior’s code. I couldn’t tell you, but I did everything in my power to show you. Then, as time wore on… it was harder and harder to get you to see it. I wanted to tell you but… I was honour bound not to.”

She sighed sadly. Honour was everything to Ranma. It was the most important thing he stood for, because of how dishonorable his father had always been. She knew how he felt about it but had to ask, “And how often did Ryoga remind you of that promise? How often did he use it against you?”

“Akane…” Ryoga might be an ass but he wasn’t all bad. “It wasn’t like that.”

Looking up into sorrowful blue eyes, Akane slowly shook her head. “You talk about honour, but what honour did he have in doing what he did? Ryoga violated my trust and me by not telling me he was P-Chan. How long would it have gone on if I hadn’t found out?”

He opened his mouth to dispute her words but found he really couldn’t. Growling quietly, feeling like the lowest slug on earth, Ranma whispered brokenly, “I-I should have… I should have told you in the beginning. Oath be damned.”

Gently she touch his cheek and looked deep when his eyes found hers. “Yes, you should have.” But with his quiet confession, and the apology she could see in his gaze, she felt the heavy weight of betrayal slide away. “I forgive you, Ranma. You were trying to do the right thing, even if it was wrong.” But she couldn’t forgive Ryoga and didn’t know if she ever would. “Let’s go home.”

Kissing her softly, Ranma nodded. Her forgiveness finally allowed the pain that had wrapped around his heart to fall away. “Kay.” With a gentle hop, he leapt into the trees and started the long trek home.                                                                               

InuYasha chased the fleeing purple haired female through the trees for a few jumps before stopping long enough to jerk the shoes from his feet. “Stupid things!”  How in the hell was he to feel the trees beneath him with the thick white soles? Once he was free of them, he raced through the treetops with his usual sure step. The jeans slowed him for a few paces before the fabric seemed to warm and stretch, mould to his thighs, and begin to move with him. The thicker cloth did an adequate job of protecting him from the slapping branches and didn’t catch or snag like his looser hakama. “Huh, Kagome was right.” They did work pretty good, though he wasn’t about to wear these back to the feudal era. He knew for a fact the fabric was not youkai proof as he’d peeled the shredded pieces off his mate a few times.

Thrusting aside thoughts of things like jeans and peeling them off his female, InuYasha leapt high into the air and came down with a whump in front of Shampoo. “You should have left them alone.”

Swinging the chúi she’d snatched up in a wide circle, Shampoo shifted into a defensive stance. “Shampoo no scared of some doggy.”

Snarling, InuYasha tore the watch that hid what he was from his wrist and shoved it in his pocket. “I ain’t no doggy. I’m an Inu-hanyou, the youngest son of the Inu no Taisho, and you have violated the rules of the agreement set between my father and your people!” Drawing Tetsusaiga from his side, InuYasha smiled when her eyes widened with the change in his sword. “You never should have challenged what you don’t understand.”

Narrowing her eyes, Shampoo rushed the dog. “You no problem for Shampoo.”

Blocking one chúi with an upward sweep of Tetsusaiga, InuYasha was caught in the side with the second one, sending him flying backwards. “Damn! She’s stronger than she looks.” Flipping midair, he landed lightly on his feet. “That all you got?” She switched her weapons to one hand and thrust the other behind her back before whipping it forwards.

Her fork darts clanged off the steel of his sword and had her gritting her teeth. “How is he so fast?” He could rival Ranma in his speed. Chucking another handful of darts, Shampoo flipped backwards to land lightly on a high branch. “You look hungry. How you like dumpling?”

Three little balls of dough flew at him and blew up, throwing InuYasha into the tree behind him. “Shit!” The tree crashed down beside him and had him rolling out of the way. Climbing back to his feet, InuYasha growled, “You ain’t got a clue who you’re fucking with!”

She laughed, fluffing her hair back behind her. “You is half demon. You no challenge.”

Standing in the tree, laughing, playing with her hair, InuYasha had a flashback to the battle with Yura of the Demon Hair. “Half demon, half power.” The words echoed in his mind, a second flash of memory had him seeing Kagome, burning, saved only by the fire rat. “Kagome…” He whispered, reliving that moment in real time. “No…” Shaking free of the memory, he narrowed his eyes at Shampoo. “Sankon Tessō!” He screamed, slashing his claws through the air and sending blades of youki at the trunk of her chosen perch.

Shampoo gasped, leaping away at the last second, before the strange ki tore through her tree. He was like Ranma in that, too? Flipping through the air, she went on the offensive, jabbing her chúi at him with a speed few could match. Unfortunately, he was one who could.

Dodging right and left, InuYasha waited her out until, finally, she stood panting. “You can’t win.” When another round of those little dough bombs flew at him, he flicked his wrist and batted them away with the flat of Tetsusaiga. Lashing out, he kicked her into the tree behind her.

Crying out, Shampoo smashed hard into the trunk but struggled back to her feet. Realizing she was truly out matched, she leapt into the trees to dash away.

“Oh, no you don’t!” InuYasha bellowed, “Windscar!” And sent the youki blasting through the trees.

The branches beneath her tumbled to the ground when whatever technique he’d used tore across the earth. She had never seen anything like it and was beginning to understand why her grandmother had been so afraid. Shampoo, too, fell through the falling leaves and twigs, to roll painfully over the ground.

Striding through the barren landscape, InuYasha walked towards Shampoo. “You should have listened to your elder.” A twitch of his ear had him jerking back and away from the fallen girl when the horde of weapons flew through the air to impact the ground around him.

“Stupid… duck.” Shampoo gasped, when Mousse ran into the cleared and lightly smoking area. “You get killed.”

“Get away from Shampoo!” Mousse screamed, throwing a sink on a chain at the strange male. For once he wore his glasses on his face instead of his head, so his aim was true.

Smashing the porcelain, InuYasha roared at the male that did, indeed, smell lightly of duck, “Stay out of it or die with her!”

“I won’t let you kill her!” Mousse yelled back, moving to stand over the downed girl.

“Fine!” For a second time he swung his sword, intent on sending the windscar streaking across the ground, but a hard wack with a wooden staff had the attack streaking in the wrong direction.

“I cannot let you kill my granddaughter, son of the Inu no Taisho.” Cologne leapt to land on her staff between her family and the angry hanyou.

“She violated the treaty, stole the intended mate of one I claim as pack, and pushed Akane off a cliff!” InuYasha barked out, anger radiating from every pore.

Cologne gasped softly. “No… is she…” Akane could not be dead or it would be Ranma standing in front of her and there would be no reasoning with him.

“Fortunately, this Sesshomaru can fly.” The daiyoukai glided from the forest to stand with his brother.

“Ah. I remember.” She nodded to the daiyoukai. His very presence made her insides quiver.

“You were warned what would happen if you continued to violate the treaty agreed upon by your people.” Lifting a hand, he pointed with a long, elegant finger, claws clearly seen, to the female on the ground. “Her life is forfeit.” The fingers of that hand began to glow before his whip lashed out and snapped violently through the air.

InuYasha contained his flinch to only a twitch of ears, still unused to having that whip not being directed at him.

“I won’t let you!” Mousse stepped in front of Shampoo. “You’ll have to go through me first!”

“Mousse! Shut up.” Cologne snapped at him. “Lord Sesshomaru, I know she has committed a heinous act against you,”

“Grandmother!” Shampoo gasped, unable to believe her family was siding with them.

“Not us. Against Ranma and Akane.” InuYasha growled.

“As you say.” Cologne nodded. “Shampoo has been… different since her time in Jusendo. I know not why this is. She returned moody and petulant. It grew worse when Ranma and Akane almost wed. She is out of control, I agree, but I have an option that should, hopefully, satisfy all those involved.”

“Doubt it.” InuYasha snorted, tightening his grip on Tetsusaiga.

“Brother.” Sesshomaru warned, “Speak, elder.”

“There is a technique I can use that will remove Shampoo’s memory of Ranma and Akane. I will use it, place her in a deep sleep, and return to China where you will never hear from us again. Shampoo will not return to Japan.” Cologne offered, ignoring the wail of defeat that came from the girl behind her.

“That didn’t work on Akane. What makes you so sure it will work on her?” InuYasha snarled, flicking his hand at Shampoo.

“She has not the experience that I do. I can make sure she has no memory of either Akane or Ranma.” It was a difficult procedure but one she was confident in.

Exchanging a look with InuYasha, the hanyou evidently not happy about the option but willing to give it a try, had Sesshomaru nodding. “Do it. Then leave. If you return to Japan, this one will come hunting.” Turning on his heel, he looked back at InuYasha. “Coming, brother?”

“Yeah.” Grumbling, InuYasha thrust Tetsusaiga back in its sheath. “Kagome’s gonna be pissed.”

“Oh?” Neither looked back at the three amazons.

“Lost my damn shoes.” Pulling the watch from his pocket, he slapped it back on, only to glance up at Sesshomaru in surprise when the soft sound of laughter echoed through the forest.

A week passed with little excitement. InuYasha and Kagome stayed on to make sure things settled down for Ranma and Akane.

Kagome had been dealing with Ryoga when they had returned. He was human, naked except for the towel she’d allowed him to wrap around his waist, and she was in the process of dressing him down with the skill of a master – or a mother. Akane refused to look at him, asking Ranma to take her to her room until Kagome was finished and could have a look at her injuries. He’d left her to Kasumi’s watchful eye, worried about the blow to the head she’d taken, and stomped back down to throw Ryoga bodily from the house.

Once Ryoga heard what had almost happened, leaving out the flying and the youkai parts, he had apologized profusely, begged for forgiveness, and asked Ranma to tell Akane how sorry he was. Hearing Kagome explain, in detail, how it would feel for a woman to find out a cherished pet was actually a perverted man spying on her, had given him a broader prospective than he had once had.

Ranma had agreed to do what he could, speak with Akane about the whole incident once she was calmer, and see if they could, possibly, someday, be friends again. For now, though, it was better if Ryoga made himself scarce and didn’t come back for a while. Ryoga had agreed, deciding he would try and find Akari whom he knew truly loved him when Akane never would. There was no hard feelings between them. Ryoga having had the truth beaten into him by Kagome while she’d had him cornered could no longer place all the blame for everything that had happened in the past years on Ranma.

Sesshomaru had arrived early the next morning to say he had personally escorted the Amazons to their boat and had ascertained for himself that Shampoo had no memory of Akane or Ranma, and she only believed she had been to Japan to gain experience in the language and compete on a new level where she had thoroughly thrashed the competition. The biggest surprise had been when Cologne had casually announced that Shampoo and Mousse were, allegedly, scheduled to be married once they returned to the village of Joketsuzoku. It was a relief to both Ranma and Akane for though Shampoo had been a thorn in their sides, neither had really wanted her dead – even if Ranma had thought it a few times.

It took another three days of quiet and normality – or as normal as it ever got in the Tendo Dojo – before Ranma could breathe a sigh of relief. It was, finally, over. No one worried much about Gosunkugi. He had been Kuno’s spy and with the kendōka off flirting with everything in a skirt, the pasty boy had been seen very little. If he did come back to make trouble, Ranma was certain he could handle it. Hell, Akane could handle him!

Kasumi, too, had found her happiness in the last few days. She and Tofu had started dating, though, in his mind, he wasn’t sure why they bothered when Shippo – now Tofu – had already declared she was his chosen mate. Still, they were trying to go slow to allow Soun a chance to get used to the idea.

Nabiki had kept her word, bringing in contractors to begin fixing and rebuilding both the house and the dojo. She had been very quiet, almost secretive about what she was up to. Ranma didn’t care as long as she wasn’t up to no good, or causing him grief.

The hentai horde had greeted them their first day back to school but one look at Ranma, standing proudly at Akane’s side, had them dispersing without so much as a fight.

The final bit of fortune, after having to go back and forth to school while his cousin and her mate hung out or spent time with Sesshomaru, was that their principal – another Kuno – had been removed from his positon at Furinkan High School after some damning information regarding his time out of the country had come to light. With his removal, the school board had given the students a week off while they sorted out the mess he had made with his constant rules, changes, and demands, until they instated a new principal. This, then, allowed he and Akane to accompany InuYasha and Kagome back to the shrine and, hopefully, through the well. Ranma had done it once and hoped he could again, this time with Akane.

It had been Kagome’s idea. Something she said would give them a chance to have time to themselves without everyone interrupting. They were welcome to travel with them, hunt shards and have a little adventure, or, if they preferred, stay in the village or return to the future where they could visit with Ranma’s aunt, grandfather, and Souta.

It had sounded good, very good to Ranma, especially with the item he’d gotten from his mother burning a hole in his pocket.


“You ready?” Ranma asked Akane, standing on the edge of the well.

Staring into the dark hole, Akane looked rather skeptical. “You sure this is going to work?”

Huffing, tired of waiting on them to make up their mind, InuYasha – back in his fire rat – slung Akane up in his arms. “Just don’t scream.” He said and stepped off the edge. She did so anyway when the light washed over them.

“Dammit, Kagome! Control your dog!” He grabbed his laughing cousin by the arm and jumped after them.

Giggling, Kagome laughed until he launched them from the bottom of the well onto the grass in the feudal era. “You’re so whipped!” She snickered.

“Bah!” Taking Akane by the hands, he held her gently. “You alright there, tomboy?”

She was a little shaken, mostly from the shock of falling through a magic well when she wasn’t ready for it. “Yah. I’m good.”

Chuckling, InuYasha pulled Kagome to him and gave her a smacking kiss. “Why don’t you take them to the village.”

“You’re not coming?” She eyed him suspiciously.

“Nah. The bastards on his way.” He nodded towards the forest where he could feel his brother’s approach.

“Oh. Alright.” Kagome smiled. “Tell Sesshomaru I said hi, and stop calling your brother a bastard.” She linked her arm through Akane’s and the two of them walked off giggling.

Ranma eyed InuYasha, looking uncomfortable but determined. “You going to be alright?” Something about the look on his face had Ranma nervous.

“Yeah, just… yeah. Got to talk to the bas- my brother.” He motioned Ranma to go on without him and headed for the forest. Torn, Ranma looked between the two before taking off after his mate and cousin.

Relieved, for InuYasha knew just how easy it was for Ranma to follow him, the hanyou stalked towards his brother. The two met in a clearing, coming to a stop a few feet from each other. “Sesshomaru.”

Surprise made his brow twitch. “InuYasha.” Rarely did the hanyou address him by name.

Reaching slowly inside his haori, InuYasha drew out a thick packet of paper and held it out to his daiyoukai brother.

“What is this?” Sesshomaru took it slowly, studying the odd packaging. A flap at the top was open and allowed him to pull the finest, thinnest paper he had ever seen from the opening. The front page, hand written and sealed, had him growling, “What farce is this?” The seal on the bottom was his own.

“It ain’t no joke.” Thrusting a hand through his hair, InuYasha gave it a forceful tug. “Just read it. You know about the well, how Kagome’s from the future. Ain’t that hard to figure out the rest.” He turned and walked to sit beneath a tree, resting his head back against the trunk and closing his eyes.

It was even rarer to see InuYasha disconcerted in such a way which had Sesshomaru dropping his eyes back to the letter on the top of the stack of pages. It read:

To my past self,

Yes, you can be assured that you are writing this missive to yourself from five or so hundred years in the future. It is difficult to fathom, seeing as how by this time Kagome and InuYasha have told us about her origins and how she has not met youkai in her future. There is a reason for this, the how and why are contained within these papers, but that is not the reason why I send this letter.

As you can see, the news I impart has upset InuYasha as, should it come to pass, it will upset us just as much.

In a few more months, Kagome and InuYasha will finish the collection of the jewel shards of the Shikon no Tama. Kagome shall then make the one and only correct wish. She will wish the jewel out of existence and the well will close, leaving her permanently trapped in the feudal era. At the time, she was satisfied with this outcome, as was InuYasha, for both had been concerned about what would occur when she made the wish. 

Shortly after that, it was with great joy that our Imouto, through the strength of our nose, found herself pregnant with their first pup. When InuYasha howled his joy, we howled with him for, as you are already aware, my past self, she is our sister in more than just name. She is strength, bravery, honour, and everything else an Inu of our pack should be. For as much as she holds InuYasha’s heart, she holds a piece of ours as well.

The pregnancy went well. She was happy, excited. InuYasha was attentive, thrilled, and incredibly nervous as was to be expected having grown up without a father figure of his own. Everything was good… too good. I should have known something was wrong but…

The pup was big. He came early. Neither she nor the pup survived the birth.

InuYasha, maddened with grief, became lost to his blood in a way we had all thought no longer possible. He slaughtered all in the village. The monk. The slayer. Their children. The old miko. All were dead by the time word came of what had happened and I managed to arrive.

When I finally made it, the village was on fire and InuYasha held Rin by her throat. There was nothing I could do. He no longer knew me. To save Rin, I killed our brother. As he died on the blade of Bakusaiga, in those final moments, he returned to himself. Understanding all he had done, he thanked me for stopping him and begged me to change what had been. He told me to find Kagome’s cousin, Ranma Saotome. They had come back from assisting him in attaining his mate and dealing with the problems that surrounded them – Kagome had told me as much many months prior – and it was at that time things could change. He swore that in her time, they could deal with a large pup and an early birth. He made me promise.

So I have kept my promise to our brother. He now knows the truth and has made the decision to convince Kagome to return to the future before she makes her wish.

I cannot express to you in words what it felt like to hold our brother as he perished. It is not something I wish to experience. We must change the past.

Enclosed, you will find everything you need to know about the future. All the knowledge I have gained I send back to you so that you will be able to prepare, as I have, for their eventual return and stay in the future. The kitsune are integral to youkai survival and great wealth will be needed. The how and the why are attained within these pages.

I leave it to you, my past self, to succeed where I have failed. You need only think about how difficult it has been to live these past centuries free of Kagome’s brightness and even InuYasha’s brash ways to understand what I have gone through.

Sesshomaru, Lord of the West, in both past and future.

Sesshomaru could feel nothing but icy shock and the rapid pounding of his heart. For years he had longed to run his sword through InuYasha’s chest. He had thought of little else but ridding the world of the hanyou that had soiled his bloodline. Then, Naraku happened.

He had watched from afar as his brother had grown in strength, in valor, and in honour in a way he had never imagined. InuYasha had fought without fail. Had proved the strength of his bloodline over and over. He had not faltered, he had not stopped, and he always got back up. The hanyou had earned his respect.

Kagome had helped him realize he actually liked his brother. That along with respect, there was an untapped well of fondness for the little brother that so often amused him. It had not happened over night. InuYasha was a suspicious sort, often pissed him off, and usually sounded like some low born commoner when he spoke, but… Sesshomaru could no longer fathom killing him. And to have it come on the cusp of Kagome’s death, the death of their pup… the breath caught in his lungs and shocked him at the pain it brought.

InuYasha didn’t open his eyes again until a shift in the air heralded his brother sitting beside him. A look was all it took. “Yeah, pretty sure I looked like that when future you told me.”

Swallowing the lump in his throat, Sesshomaru said, “I… am at a loss. This is… true?” He motioned towards the letter.

“Saw Shippo, all grown up. He cried when he saw her, when he saw me. He’d been away at kitsune school when I….” He shook his head and fought back the bile that rose in his throat. “Guess you ended up taking him in.”

“Tell me everything.” Though it was a demand, it was a soft one.

“It’s all in there.” InuYasha flicked the pages his brother held.

“Still. I wish to hear it from you.” Sesshomaru stated.

Lifting gold eyes from the ground to lock with ones a match for his own, InuYasha finally saw past the cold and emotionless mask to the Inu he had spent the last seven days with. Slowly, he nodded. “Keh. I can do that.”

Akane was thoroughly overwhelmed by the time she and Kagome headed for the hot springs later that evening. She had met Tofu – Shippo – as a kit and found him full of mischief though he’d kept his prank playing to Ranma or InuYasha.  They had agreed not to say anything about already having met him as a grown up because, really, this whole time line thing was rather confusing.

The old miko, Kaede, had seemed wise beyond even her years and had Akane reacting with a little extra respect. Ranma had met her before and Lady Kaede, as they all referred to her, was more than happy to tell the tale of how Ranma had been saved from a serious beating only by the strength of Kagome’s sit. It had made her laugh but Akane had been intrigued by how much knowledge the elder woman had. She knew things about herbs and healing that Akane had never even heard of.

Sango and Miroku were quite the pair. The monk had a tendency to flirt with everything female, including Ranma when Shippo had dumped water on him by accident. It had made Akane laugh in great gasping breaths and Sango smack him right over backwards. Heavy with their first children, it seemed Sango was still well able to handle her lecherous husband.

Besides, the shock Miroku had when the ‘woman’ he had flirted with on his way in the door poured hot water over her head and turned back into Ranma, was well worth the glare she’d gotten for laughing. Sango, too, had giggled from behind her hand even as her husband had pouted.

Now, as she stripped to her skin and slipped into the hot water with her friend, Akane sighed happily. “Thanks, Kagome.”

Smiling across the steaming water, Kagome rested her head against a rock. “You are most welcome, Akane.” She had desperately wanted her friend to have a nice, hopefully quiet, vacation away from the craziness of her life. There were so many nosy busybodies back in Nerima. “So, you and Ranma can have our hut tonight.”

“Oh! That’s not necessary!” Akane objected, hating the idea of shoving them from their home when they had only just gotten back.

Shaking her head, Kagome waved away the protest. “There’s been word that a youkai has been causing problems for a village a few miles away. We’re headed there first thing tomorrow. After spending so many days sleeping inside, InuYasha is anxious to be out in the open. We’ll spend the night in the Goshinboku, take off earlier tomorrow, and be back in a day or two.”

“Oh…” That made it easier. “We could go with you.”

Kagome grinned and cocked her head. “Or, you could stay here and spend a few… private days with Ranma.” There hut was nicely secluded after all.

Akane flushed. “Oh, well… I’m not sure…”

Sliding closer in the water, Kagome took Akane’s hand. “Akane. My cousin loves you. You love him. He desperately wants to take you as his mate. Is it really so bad to just… say yes?”

Sighing, Akane squeezed her fingers. “I want to, I really do. But I will be going to get my teaching degree, there’s a wedding to plan, children to think about. What if I end up pregnant?” What if she gave in and all her plans fell apart.

Kagome couldn’t help it, she snickered. When Akane looked crossly at her, she shook her head and did her best to stop giggling. “Oh, Akane! I’m not laughing at you. It’s just, haven’t you figured it out yet?”

“Apparently not.” She huffed.

Grinning, Kagome said, “Ranma has a neko inside him!” She tapped her nose. “He will smell when you are fertile and though it will be exceptionally difficult for him to keep his hands to himself,” She knew from experience as she had stopped taking her birth control only a few months ago. “He can do it. Or, you can always go on birth control.”

Akane sat agape, opening and closing her mouth a few times before she could speak. “I… he… I…”

Chuckling again, Kagome patted her shoulder. “Just think about it. InuYasha and I mated, not married, but I was already fine with the one over the other. You’ve only ever known marriage, so, if you want a wedding, have one. You’re family seems to be able to pull one together at the drop of a hat so…” She shrugged.

She made it all sound so reasonable. But there was one thing missing. “I’ll… think about it.”

“Kay, but, if you change your mind, I tucked that nice piece of lingerie you bought in the bottom of your pack.” Kagome laughed loudly at the look on Akane’s face and swam quickly away.

“You did what?” She shrieked, splashing water at her retreating friend.

“You’ll thank me later!” Kagome laughed, splashing back.

Sitting in the branches of a nearby tree, far enough away to maintain Akane’s privacy but close enough to protect the girls should it be needed, InuYasha only smirked a little grin.                                                                             

Ranma’s heart pounded hard. Thanks to InuYasha, he had known in advance that Kagome was going to invite them back and had done his best to encourage Akane to accept. The removal of Principal Kuno was the swing vote that had her agreeing and from there, he had drafted the Inu’s help. It was only fair, after all. He had helped Kagome and InuYasha get together.

InuYasha had agreed to lend Ranma his hut, spirit Kagome out of the way for a few days, and spread the word that if the two of them went unseen for a while, no one was to worry. Ranma was going to ask a certain question, one that would decide their fate.

He had planned on waiting. Akane wanted to go to college. He wanted to get a few classes going, make a little money, and have a stable business in place that would see them supported, even with their mooching parents. But then she had been taken, nearly killed, and all those plans went out the window. Life was too short to wait for the things you loved. That most definitely included Akane.

Nervous as hell, he waited on the path back from the hot spring for her. When she appeared, laughing and chatting with his cousin, Ranma felt his heart turn over. She was beautiful, wrapped in a pretty pink yukata. Her skin was flushed from the water and her hair curled gently around her face. Inhaling, he could smell the minerals from the spring, the soaps that she and Kagome had used, and a light blush of nerves when she saw him. “Enjoy your bath, tomboy?” He smirked at her.

She flushed, the thoughts dancing through her mind both intriguing and embarrassing. “Kagome just had to put those thoughts in my head.” But, even as she thought it, Akane knew she was lying to herself. Those ideas had been there long before Kagome had spoken of them. “Yes, Ranma. I did.”

Grinning, Kagome glanced up to see InuYasha lurking in the trees. Motioning with her head, she disappeared into the forest before Ranma or Akane noticed she’d left. InuYasha was only seconds behind her.

Suddenly alone, Ranma stalked forwards, crowding Akane into the trunk of a tree when she stepped back. “Akane…” He whispered, tucking his nose up against her neck. She smelled delicious, like sunshine and citrus and the stirrings of arousal.

His whisper of breath over her skin made her shiver. Heart pounding, she gently set her hands on his chest. “Ranma… we should talk.” Teeth scraped her throat and made her whimper.

Those three words never boded well for men. “You ain’t changing your mind, are you ‘Kane?”

“No…” She moaned when his hands clenched on her hips.

“Good.” He purred in her ear before stepping slowly away from her. “Come on. Got something to show yah.” He held out his hand.

Taking it easily, Akane fell in at his side. They walked quietly for a time, both nervous yet comfortable with each other, through the dark forest with the stars speckled overhead. Finally, Akane looked up and asked, “Ranma? Can you… smell me?”

Confused, he peered down, “Well, yeah, all kinds of things.”

Blushing, Akane murmured, “No. Can you, um, smell when I’m… uh,” She bit her lip, “Fertile.” She finally blurted ducking her chin away, embarrassed to no end.

Flushing bright red, Ranma stared at her for a full five seconds. “Uh… well,” Using his free hand, he scrubbed it over the back of his neck. “Yeah… I-I… yeah.” There were certain times that she just smell good. Not just good but fucking fantastic and he’d asked InuYasha about it out of curiosity. The conversation had been both educational and freaking embarrassing.

Feeling very red of face, Akane stayed silent and kept walking until a tug on her hand had her stopping.


“Yes, Ranma?”

“We’re here.” He murmured near her ear.

Glancing up, she gasped in wonder. On the edge of a small pond with overhanging trees, lotus bloomed on the water in a multitude of flowers. But it was not the flowers softly scenting the air, or the way the stars sparkled on the still water that took her breath, it was the fleet of fireflies flitting all around them that did that. “Oh, my.” She whispered, sounding like her eldest sister.

Drawing her further into the little clearing, one InuYasha had told him about earlier, Ranma stood behind her while the glowing little bugs danced around them. “You like it?”

“I love it!” She whispered, awed.

“Is it romantic enough for you, tomboy?”

She turned to look at him, only he wasn’t there. A throat clearing had her eyes dropping down to find Ranma, down on one knee. In his fingers, held out towards her, was a deep gold ring with a square cut diamond set in the center. “Ranma?” She whispered.

“I told yah I wouldn’t ask until it was special, just like you. So, Akane Tendo, the woman I love more than anything, even martial arts, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” She blinked at him, looking almost like she was about to cry, and didn’t say anything for a full minute. “Akane?”

Sinking to her knees, she threw her arms around him and held tight. “Yes! Oh, yes!” Her mouth found his in a smacking kiss before she laughed out loud in joy.

Relief poured through him. Holding her tight, he kissed her laughing cheek, chin and jaw, before pulling back and grabbing her hands. Slowly, he slipped the ring on her finger and pushed it back till it was seated against her knuckle. It fit, perfectly. “Akane…” He murmured, reaching up to cup her face, “I love you.”

Before she could answer, he kissed her with a softness that melted her bones. When she went slightly limp against him, he lifted his head and caressed her cheek. “When you’re ready, will you be my mate as well? Will you let me mark you? Love you in the way the neko in me is begging me to?”

Pressing her fingers to his lips, she shushed him softly. Eyes of intense blue looked at her with so much love, she wasn’t sure why she had ever hesitated. And with what had almost happened to her, did she really want to wait any longer? “Ranma…”

“Yeah?” Her eyes of brown were so enticing, he couldn’t have looked away if his life depended on it.

“I’m ready.”

“A-Akane?” He stuttered.

Smiling up at him, she let her fingers linger when he spoke her name, feeling the way he said it. “I’m ready, if you’ll have me.” She was aware enough of her own cycle to know she was safe for now.

“Is this why you asked…?” He nudged his head towards the path they’d walked.

“Yes.” She whispered, her blush renewing.

“Are you sure?” His heart had started to pound. “Once I mark you, once that happens, there is no going back. It’s more binding then marriage, Akane.” InuYasha and Sesshomaru had been most vehement about that. “You may even live longer than normal cause of it. They ain’t sure just what traits I’m going to end up with cause of the nekomata.”

“Ranma,” She pressed her palm over his mouth. “I’m sure.” His eyes burned to electric blue but when he reached for her, she held him off. “Not here. Kagome left my stuff at her place.”

He’d been to the hut, InuYasha also offering it for their use seeing as how they were leaving early and the hanyou wanted to spend the night outside. It was clean and low on scent thanks to how little they actually stayed there. It was a much better idea than tumbling her back in the grass. Scooping her into his arms, Ranma was up and racing through the night in an instant.

Akane threw her arms around his neck and giggled. “Someone’s anxious.” But then, she could feel the wetness starting to pool between her thighs that showed he wasn’t the only one.

He could smell her. That intoxicating scent that smelled like tart yuzu and sweltering summer. He wanted nothing more than to taste that scent a second time, straight from the source. Arriving at the hut, he slowed to a stop. There was a light burning. “Stay here.” He murmured. Like usual, Akane ignored his order and walked towards the door. There was no one inside but someone had left a lantern hanging just outside the door and he could still smell InuYasha and Kagome. The couple had not left very long ago. “Was just cuz and InuYasha.”

Taking down the lantern, Akane pushed back the reed mat door and stepped inside. A little gasp left her lips for Kagome had clearly been here. She’d rolled out the futon, set it with blankets and pillows not of this era, and there were pretty petals scattered across the surface. There was a basket of fresh fruit and vegetables, a clean barrel of water, and a small bag of rice. A hand written note said the fish in the stream not far to the north were plentiful, and that she and InuYasha would be back in a few days. If they decided to go back through the well, to let Kaede know, otherwise, they would see them when they returned. Akane found her bag sitting near the door and blushed. “Ranma? Could you… could you give me a minute?” She asked softly.

Stunned by what he was seeing, Ranma only nodded and slipped back outside to lean against the wall. His cousin was meddling, not so different from how he had meddled previously. But only InuYasha knew what he had decided to do tonight. So, had he told Kagome?

Digging through her pack, all the way to the bottom, Akane found the red lace baby doll in the bottom and pulled it out. She looked hard at the confection, debated rapidly with herself, and finally stood to strip off her yukata. “Ranma? Did you say something to Kagome?” She asked, glancing at her new engagement ring and smiling. Looking back to the red lace that lay on the end of the futon had her belly fluttering with nerves.

“No.” Not her at any rate. “InuYasha, yeah. He told me about the fireflies in that clearing. Why?”

Naked, she pulled the red fabric over her head. “Kagome and I talked a little. She was the one who said you could smell… well, you know.”

Yes he did. “Thanks, cuz.” He owed her one if that had helped sway Akane towards this. “I know how much you want to go to college. I ain’t going to jeopardize that.”

Her heart swelled. Folding her yukata, Akane moved the lantern to the hook across the room and returned to sit in the center of the beautifully appointed bed. No, this hadn’t been how she had imagined losing her virginity or how her wedding night would happen, but, now that she looked around, she realized how romantic the whole thing seemed. Alone, finally, it was just her and Ranma, on their terms, in their time, and excitement began to replace her nerves. Taking a deep breath, she murmured, “You can come in now, Ranma.”

Her voice was soft but there was a sultriness to it that caused his blood to warm and his pants to tighten. Taking a deep breath, he lifted the mat and stepped inside. Finding her seated – legs curled beneath her, propped on one hip – in the middle of the blankets and pillows, dressed in red lace that caressed her curves and gave him a glimpse of her soft, smooth stomach were it gaped open in the center, stopped his heart and hardened his cock to stone. “Akane…” He breathed in reverence. Moving swiftly, he secured the door, toed off his shoes, and jerked his shirt over his head, slowing only when he approached and her nerves exploded. “Breathe, mate. We’ll take our time.” He wouldn’t rush her.

“Ranma…” She placed her palm on his cheek. “Tell me?”

There was no mistaking her question. “I love you, Akane.” He whispered before kissing her gently. She moaned ever so softly and set him purring out a rumble of pleasure. Her fingers made quick work of his pigtail, freeing his hair to fall in waves around his shoulders before her busy fingers fell to lay lightly against his bare shoulders.

Pulling back from her lips, he pressed a palm into her spine and arched her forwards. Kissing her lips he whispered, “I love you, Akane.” A kiss followed on her neck, “I love you, my tomboy.”  Another landed on her upper chest, “I love you, my mate.” Finally, he pressed a kiss directly over her heart, “I love you… wife.”

Overwhelmed, Akane gasped a teary breath and sank her fingers into his hair. “Ranma!”

Laying her slowly back, he rumbled out a purr of appreciation when the red fabric parted and bared her stomach. Continuing downwards, he kissed all over that exposed flesh, ignoring for the moment everything that was covered, until he came to the little pillow between her hips. He admired the way the red lace of her underwear cupped and caressed her, enticed him in the sexiest way. Tucking his nose up against her, listening to her moan in a way that made him shudder, Ranma inhaled deeply.

“Ranma?” She groaned, confused.

“Just checking.” He murmured, stroking his tongue all over her flesh. She moaned and he nipped at her ribs, nudged the mound of her breast with his nose, scrapped a fang over her quickly beading nipple, and suckled it, lace and all, into his mouth.

“Ranma!” She gasped, gripping his hair and thrusting upwards.

Purring deeply, he lifted his eyes to see her, flushed and squirming beneath him. Lapping at her, he murmured, “Get used to it, mate. I plan to love you often.”

She was sure she wouldn’t survive. His tongue rasped over the delicate skin of her breast, slipped beneath the edge of her lace nighty, and flicked over the nipple he had caused to peek and pull tight. “Oh, kami!”

Stroking his fingers upwards, over her heaving stomach, Ranma caught the edge of lace and gave it a tug. Her breast popped free and he snagged her bouncing nipple between his lips. Slowly, carefully, he lavished attention to the bud, playing with it until it was red and swollen. “Beautiful,” Tugging down the other side, he repeated his actions, plucking and playing with her until she was mewling in gasping little cries of delight. “Perfect,” He cupped her breasts with both hands and pressed them together. “Exquisite, Akane.”

She was losing her mind. The pleasure pouring through her body had her crying out, thrusting her hips in the most wanton way, and begging, “Please, Ranma!”

Her hands tugged his hair when his thumbs rubbed back and forth over her nipples. Growling excitedly, he lifted up and kissed her firmly, nearly brutally, but she didn’t seem to mind. Her hands streaked down, clamped against his back, and she dug her nails in, creating a pleasurable pain that had him nipping her lip. “Feisty.” He purred, nudging her head back and biting gently down her throat to her shoulder.

Again she cried out when sharp tipped fangs clenched tightly on her shoulder. It hurt, a little, but the pleasure that poured down her spine and thudded like a heartbeat in her belly had her moaning. “Kami!” She whimpered.

He sucked, licked and bit, only lifting his head when the area he knew instinctively would bear his mark was flushed with blood, almost purple with the attention. Then he moved lower. Kissing his way down a second time, he scrapped his fangs over her in delicate passes, nipped at soft flesh to hear her gasp, and lapped his tongue over the sting when it reddened until he came nose to panties with the scent that was driving him insane. “Kami… Akane.” She shifted her hips and he clamped his hands to her thighs. “Stay.”

He growled from between her legs causing her to groan when she looked down her body at him. He looked wicked, dangerous, a true demon come to claim and ravish his mate. It turned her on something fierce.

Her scent exploded, snapping his control, causing him to slice his claws through the lacy edges of her matching red panties. The fabric fell away and her sleek, hairless mons glistened like petals covered in dew. There was no stopping him when he leaned in and stroked his tongue firmly up her opening. She shuddered, gasped, and groaned deeply, a sound he echoed.

With every lick, more of her tart cream poured from her body but it was the little mewling gasp she made each time he flicked her pearl that excited him. The more he teased it, the bigger it swelled and the more she made that sound until her body arched, shook, and she squeezed her thighs closed around his shoulders on a shrieking cry of, ”Ranma!”

His pants, once loose, had become so incredibly restricting that he simply had to remove them. Rising up, he stood and jerked them down his legs. Akane watched through half closed eyes and he slowed, dragging his boxers down his thighs with unhurried grace.

He sprang free, his shaft thick and long, bouncing gently with its freedom. She had known already he was big but to see it in the flesh was still rather shocking. Biting her lip, Akane sat up slowly, reaching out to touch with gentle fingers. Tracing them from tip to root and back up, she smirked a wicked grin when he groaned.

She was almost on her knees before him. Her breasts free, surrounded by the red lace he would never be able to un-see. Her legs were splayed, her scent ripening a second time, and he threw his head back when her fingers wrapped around him. “Kami! Akane!” He wasn’t going to survive if she kept touching him, but he couldn’t find the will to make her stop.

So hard, yet his skin was soft like silk when she stroked him. He pulsed, the beat of his heart easily felt in the blood pooling into his cock, and it made her smile. Control was something Ranma prided himself on and to be able to test that control thrilled her to no end. A bead of liquid sparkled in the flickering light on the tip of his erection. She stroked her thumb over it and listened to him purr. Glancing up, seeing him with eyes closed and head tilted back, Akane couldn’t help herself. She closed her lips over the tip of him and suckled gently.

The sound that poured from his mouth was somewhere between a yowl of surprise and scream of excitement, startling the both of them, but it made Akane laugh. “What are you laughing at, woman?” He growled, crouching down and tackling her gently back among the pillows.

“You, you big sissy!” She laughed in great guffaws until moist lips and a rasping tongue closed over her right breast. “Gee-ah!” She squeaked, startled, before moaning softly.

“See? Ain’t just me who makes funny sounds when someone does something unexpected.” He grumbled, nibbling on her rapidly beading nipple.

Sighing when the need and desire for him began to rapidly renew in her belly, Akane murmured, “Ranma…”

His name sounded like a prayer and had him sinking his fingers between her legs to gently rub her soaking jewel. “Akane, I need you.” Already he was at the end of his patience.

When he looked up, she found electric blue cat eyes, rimmed slightly in red. “Ranma,” She spread her thighs and drew her hands over his heavily muscled back. “Then have me.”

Heart pounding, he shifted to rest in the cradle of her making and groaned when the wet heat touched his throbbing flesh. He was harder than he had ever been. Ached in ways he had never known. But the love in his heart only continued to grow. “’Kane,” He whispered, “Take a deep breath and relax for me.”

She did, watching his memorizing eyes, but stiffened when the unfamiliar probing of his erection pressed between her lips.

Feeling her tense, Ranma relaxed all his weigh down on top of her, resting on his elbows to either side of her head. “Breathe,” He murmured, rocking his hips in a gentle motion that rubbed his tip over her sensitive pearl. “I would never hurt you on purpose.” He whispered, kissing her softly, plucking at her lips, sweeping his tongue into her mouth to dance and twist, mate with hers in a similar rhythm. When she was thoroughly distracted, he pressed his tip back into the heat that made him groan, and sank slowly into the bliss that was her welcoming body.

The stretching feeling was different, not unpleasant, but it still had her wrenching her mouth away to gasp rapidly for air. “Ranma?”

“Just breath, mate.” He whispered in her ear, pressing forwards until the barrier that proclaimed her innocence blocked his way. “I love you, Akane.” He pumped his hips slowly, pressing a little more and a little more against her barrier each time. When, again, she braced, he bit down on her shoulder in a move meant to distract and felt the clutch of her walls when the pleasure of his mild bite drove straight to her womb. Pulling back, feeling her wetness coat him, Ranma drove forcefully through her barrier in one swift thrust, then held perfectly still.

She gasped, the pain more shocking then anything when he breached her barrier. The jackhammer pounding of his heart against her breast and the heavy panting he was doing showed how hard he was holding back. “Ranma.” She murmured, groaning when she shifted her legs to his waist and he fell deeper. “Move.”

Gasping, he pushed up, drew back and set a vicious pace that saw him pounding rapidly into her tightly squeezing channel. Moist wet heat. It was all he knew, all he could feel, for the first few moments until he became aware of her startled voice and boisterous cries. Afraid he was hurting her, Ranma tried to slow his thrusting but grunted in surprise when her thighs tightened and she plunged her hands into his hair.

“Don’t you dare!” She cried out when he rubbed up against a spot inside her that shot a bolt of pleasure throughout her body. “Don’t you dare slow down.”

Excitement tore through him with her words and he doubled his pace, pounding into her rapidly tightening core. The tight squeezing was growing intense, causing a rough growl to build in his chest and tumble from his lips. Her next orgasm was impending and he was determined to ride it out. Nipping at her throat, stretched and straining before him, he felt the nekoken move, rise up, and give him back some of the control he’d lost.

A rapid purring was all she could hear past the beating of her heart in her ears. Akane glanced up, found nekoken eyes locked on hers, watched them bleed almost fully red, and nearly screamed when his already impossibly big, impossibly hard cock grew bigger. “Oh, kami! Ranma!” She had never known such pleasure existed. Gasping short burst of air, she arched in surprise when he dragged the wide, flared head over that spot inside her and shattered into pieces when his sultry voice growled,

“Come for me, Akane.”

Groaning, Ranma fought for control. Fought to stop the screaming rise of his own end when she clamped down and locked him inside. Pressure, heat, wetness. Was it any wonder his rod had turned to stone? “Akane…” He couldn’t stop saying her name. “Akane…” It was the answer to every prayer he’d ever prayed.

He started again, slower this time. The thrusts were short, sharp, bumping her womb and making her shudder. “Oh, oh, ooohhh.” She moaned, her hands sliding from his body to land back among the pillows.

Seizing her wrists, he locked her hands above her head in an act that made him purr wildly in excitement. “Mate…” He whispered, nuzzling beneath her chin. “Mate…” He nipped gently along her throat and thrust deep. He wouldn’t last much longer, already straining for every ounce of control. “Soon…” Ranma groaned against her cheek, panting with his exertion.

Akane arched her head back, giving him her throat as the sensation of tightening pleasure began to wind in her abdomen. “Kami, oh, kami… Ranma!” She moaned, eyes closed and focused on the rapture building in her belly. Digging her heels into his buttocks, she encourage him to go faster, harder, deeper. She wanted him as deep as she could get him. “Please, oh, please!” The tight coil snapped and she screamed his name to the heavens.

Snarling, he snapped long, sharp fangs into her shoulder and thrust forcefully through clenching walls. His battle aura surged and moved around them, sealing his ki with hers, and tying them together forever. A few more, hard, sharp thrust had him lifting his head and crying out in ecstasy when he poured out his orgasm in jets of hot seed against her squeezing walls.

His arms gave out, nearly crushing her when he fell on top of her, but Akane only grunted. He still held her wrists captive, though her thighs had yet to release him, so she guessed they were even. Sighing contentedly, she turned her head enough to lightly nip his ear.

Turning his head, he caught her next nip with his lips and kissed her into a puddle of soft woman. “Mmm…” He hummed happily. “Mine.” Lifting his head, he peered down through the shadows created by his own body and smirked to see his name scrawled across Akane’s collarbone. “And know you wear my mark to prove it.” The sight of it swelled his semi hard shaft back into fully hard.

“Dear Kami, Ranma! Already?” She couldn’t even catch her breath yet.

Smirking down at her, he asked with a wicked smile, “Did Kags explain everything about mate marks?”

“Uh… I think so.” What was he getting at?

Chuckling wickedly, Ranma slowly lowered his head and licked her firmly across her new mark. Everything from her waist down spasmed making him groan in delight.  Drawing his hips back, he pushed very slowly forwards and smirked when she shuddered out a moan. “It’s going to be a long, very long, delicious night. I highly doubt we’ll be moving from this space before InuYasha and Kagome get back.”

“Oh!” She groaned, rocking up into his slow motion. “I… may need… oh, kami… to eat… once in a while.”

Slowing to a stop, he lifted his head only after she’d whimpered in protest. “Eating’s overrated…” He purred before going back to work on her mark.

Many hours later, when he finally let her sleep, Akane sighed and smiled. Her last thought before she drifted into dreams, wrapped around her new mate, was, “Eating really is overrated…”                                                                                     

Two days later when Kagome and InuYasha, along with Shippo, returned to the village they were met with rather… interesting news. No one had seen hide, nor hair, of Ranma or Akane for two days. Smirking at each other, the pair left Shippo with Kaede and headed for their hut, doing their best to make a decent amount of noise. The scent of burnt rice had them glancing at each other wondering if Akane had been doing the cooking, but forging forwards when laughter filled the air.

“Hello? Ranma? Akane?” Kagome called out when they got close enough.

“Hey!” Ranma rounded the corner of the hut and grinned at his cousin. “You’re back! How was the hunt?”

InuYasha slapped his hand down on Ranma’s wrist and smirked wickedly. “Successful. Yours?”

Chuckling, Ranma couldn’t help the goofy grin that spread across his face. Releasing InuYasha’s arm, he turned and held his hand out to Akane. She blushed lightly when she took it but came willingly to his side. “Akane is my mate and has consented to being my wife.”

“Really!?” Kagome squealed excitedly and hugged them both. “Oh! I’m so happy for you!”

“Congratulations, man!” InuYasha thumped his fist down on Ranma’s shoulder. “’Bout time you did something right.”

“Yah, yah, bite me.” Ranma grinned.

“When’s the wedding?” Kagome asked, excitedly.

“We haven’t decided yet.” Akane giggled, hugging Kagome tightly. “But you two have to come. I need a maid of honor after all.”

Tears filled Kagome’s eyes and she squeezed Akane tightly. InuYasha had waited until Shippo had fallen asleep before taking her up into a tall tree and telling her what he had been chewing on for the past week. The trauma of Sesshomaru’s past had her bursting into inconsolable tears until the daiyoukai himself had settled on the branch beside them. The elder Inu had taken her hand and held it as he laid out a plan that would see them settled back in her time once the jewel was finished. He had it figured and she was not to fret over it. The daiyoukai had locked eyes with his brother and said simply that InuYasha would, in time, adjust to life in the future. It was decided. All they had to do was finish the jewel and say their goodbyes. “I’d be honoured. You two set a date and we will definitely be there.”

Ranma glanced at Kagome when tears scented the air, but she only smiled and shook her head. “We’ve been working on training ‘Kane like you did Kagome.”

“And?” InuYasha asked, eyeing his weepy female. She finally smiled for him, knowing the choice they had made was the correct one, the only one they could make. He would not lose her or the future they could have.

“It’s going good. I think I’ve got a handle on it.” When they had woken up that morning, she had threatened to mallet him if he didn’t give her a reprieve to their other activites, to which he had offered to improve her stamina in a different way.

“Excellent.” Grinning, InuYasha glanced past the man to the packs by the door. “Ya going somewhere?”

Pulling away from Kagome who was oohing over her ring, Akane nodded. “I think it’s time we go home. We needed to explain a few things to our families, get stuff sorted out, and move on with our life. But we can never thank you guys, or your brother, enough for what you’ve done.”

“Keh. It’s what pack does.” InuYasha shrugged.

“Well, we sure appreciate it.” Ranma smirked at the hanyou. “Thanks.”

“Keh.” Uncomfortable with the gratitude, InuYasha huffed, “Sure.”

The trip back through the well and subsequent trip home was as uneventful as one could hope it to be. Akane had sat, happily snuggled up against Ranma, admiring the shine and sparkle of her ring. Neither had noticed the smiles of the other passengers on the train when they got a glimpse of the young couple, clearly in love and happily lost in each other.

Arriving home had taken longer than usual, for they had walked through the streets of Nerima, hand in hand. They had talked about anything and everything, uninterrupted, in a way that had never before been possible. No one budded in. No one glomped onto Ranma. No one attacked anyone else and Ranma breathed a sigh of relief the likes of which he had never known.

Every so often he would pull her between buildings or into shadows where he would kiss her franticly, or passionately, or softly, however he was feeling in the moment. Each time he breathed in her scent, now heavily mixed with his own, he smiled. When they got back, he would not be able to sleep apart from her and no one would keep him from his mate.

Finally, about midafternoon, they sauntered through the Tendo gate and stared up in awe at the dojo that had been in pieces, still, when they had left. It was fixed!

“Are my eyes deceiving me, or is it… bigger?” Ranma asked, stunned.

“If your eyes are lying, so are mine.” Akane muttered. “Nabiki!” She hollered for her middle sister.

“Ah, little sis. You’re back earlier than I expected.” Nabiki, striding from inside the dojo, smirked a little grin.

“What… what?” Akane pointed.

Waving them forwards, Nabiki pushed the double doors wider. “Come and see.”

The first thing Ranma noticed when he walked through the door was the stairs at the back. “You put in a second story? Why?” Otherwise, everything within the main floor looked exactly the same.

Instead of saying anything, Nabiki headed up the stairs and set her hand on the doorknob. “Clearly you two have gotten sappy, wanting to get married and all,” She rolled her eyes in disgust, “But I doubt you want to spend your… nights under dad’s roof.”

Frowning, Akane went to chastise her sister for her snide tone when what she had said computed. “Nabiki? What did you do?”

Smirking a little, Nabiki turned the knob and pushed open the door. Quietly she said, “Welcome home, sis. Ranma.”

Akane gasped when the door came open. “Nabiki!”

Behind her, Ranma could only gape in astonishment. The second floor above the dojo was a self-sustaining apartment! A small galley kitchen, living room, and table led back to a bedroom complete with queen sized bed and attached bathroom. It was the perfect small apartment for a newly married – or in their case mated – couple. “Nabiki…” Ranma murmured, at a loss for words.

“Well, it’s not like I can’t see the sparkle on Akane’s finger, Ranma.” She huffed, but smiled for her sister when Akane spun around. “Akane… I’m…” She found herself enveloped in her sister’s arms.

“Nabiki, thank you!” Akane whispered into her sister’s shoulder. “This means so much.”

“Don’t get all sniffly, now.” Nabiki scoffed but tightened her arms. Sighing, she squeezed tight. “Be happy, sis. I do love you, even if you want someone like Ranma.” She teased.

Once Akane released her sister, Ranma did the unexpected and hugged her as well. “Thanks, Nabiki.”

“Ranma.” She muttered. “We’ve already moved in all your stuff.”

“What?” Akane squeaked.

“Yah. Dad said Ranma’s father said it would be highly likely that you two would come back married.” Lifting Akane’s hand, she nodded appraisingly at the ring. “Guess this is close enough.” Grinning at her sister, Nabiki made her way out of the apartment.

Akane lifted her opposite hand to her mark but didn’t say anything. Maybe one day they would tell Nabiki everything, but not today.

Today, they were going to enjoy the slightly more settled life, the start of their first steps together, and move towards the future they both wanted. Grinning at each other, Ranma stepped forwards and gently cupped Akane’s cheek. “I love you, mate, more than anything. No matter what the future brings, remember that.”

Linking her arms behind his neck, Akane stretched up on her toes. “I love you, too, Ranma. A little more every day.” She had never been happier.

Pressing a gentle kiss to her lips, Ranma rumbled a quiet purr when she responded. “We could go test out that new bed.” He grinned wickedly at her.

She smirked back, “Maybe we should.” His eyes went electric blue so quick, it made her giggle, until the noise from the yard interrupted them.

Sighing, Ranma pressed his forehead to hers. “Really? Now? Can’t a guy catch a break?”

Laughing, Akane gave him a smacking kiss. “Interesting life, remember? Go. Deal with Taro. I’ll be here when you get back.”

“But, why do I have to deal with the Pantyhose-guy?” He whined, nipping at her jaw, “He’s Happosia’s problem.”

Grinning, she shoved him away. “Happosai isn’t here and you are the only one capable of dealing with him if he gets petulant. I don’t want him wrecking the place before we even get to enjoy it.”

“Fine!” He grumped, but stomped out the door.

Chuckling softly, Akane went to explore their new place, content and happy for the first time in a long time. The reprieve from Ranma’s interesting life had clearly ended, but she didn’t mind. No matter what happened, what came in the future, she knew that this… was only the beginning of their life together.

A life that would be nothing short of a complete adventure.

A/N: Well, there you have it. Hope it was worth the wait and for those who will ask, because I know a few of you will, this is the end. I won’t be writing any farther with this plot line or arcing it out with any other offshoots. Thank you for your patience in waiting on this second half of my My Cousin series. I hope you enjoyed. Read and Review as you like.


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