Chapter Ten

“Seeds”

 

            “Saotome is becoming a liability.”

 

            For Fuyutsuki Kouzou, the one statement summed up his entire report to his superior officer, Ikari Gendou.  The older, graying man stood in his uniform with a clipboard in his hand and he watched the younger man with the near-mirror finish glasses bridged his hands as he leaned on his elbows on the desk in front of himself.  “What makes you say that?”  Gendou’s cold voice came from behind his steepled hands.

 

            The older man flipped a manila folder atop the desk.  “Dr. Akagi ran a few scenarios through the magi.  Unit 01 should have awakened by now.  So far we haven’t seen any sentient activity from the machine since the first day that the third child piloted it.  There are several other deviations from the Dead Sea scrolls that may not be recoverable.  Also, even though we don’t have the proof like we do for Mr. Kaji, I believe that he has been poking around in places where he shouldn’t be.”  The man behind the desk smirked.  “Is something amusing about this situation?”

 

            Gendou shook his head slightly.  “You’re not going to catch him, but I’m willing to bet that he’s been spying also.  We’ll have to assume the worse, that he’s found out about the EVAs and what they truly are.”

 

            “We can’t have him arrested without any proof.  Should we arrange to have him disposed of?”  Fuyutsuki put the clipboard behind his back.

 

            Gendou’s smirk disappeared.  “No.  It would be too obvious, even if we did succeed.  Of course, the likelihood of us killing him is slim to none.  His instincts are too good, and he can sense intent a mile away.  How has the security forces training been going?”

 

            The older man rolled his eyes.  “Despite all the time he spends with Major Katsuragi and the Children, he has still managed to condition the troops into elite soldiers.  We have a significantly greater chance of resisting a direct assault from Seele.”

 

              The younger man leaned back in his chair.  The wane light coming through the tinted windows reflected off his spectacles.  “Do you feel that he should continue to function as the security force trainer?  Has he become dispensable in that capacity?”

 

            Fuyutsuki shifted his weight to his right foot.  “The security forces are better than almost any other elite force in Japan, but I would not be able to gage them against any other special forces that Saotome has trained before.  If Seele marshaled UN troops that included forces that he had trained before, then we could have some difficulties, but overall I would say that his use has not reached an end, but he can be disposed of if need be.”

 

            Gendou grunted from his chair.  “Once again, I need to remind you that he can’t be disposed of.  I propose we simply terminate his position.  Give him a generous severance pay and send him on his way.  He’s out of our hair and we can come up with a recovery plan.  Seele will not be fooled much longer by our reports of everything proceeding as planned.”

 

            “I’m afraid that’s no longer an option.”  He threw another file folder on the desk.  “Even if we did terminate his services, he wouldn’t leave.”

 

            Gendou opened up the folder.  “What is this?”

 

            “Major Katsuragi was brought in for a fitness check.  If you’ll look on page seven you’ll see why we won’t be rid of the man.”

 

            Gendou thumbed to the page and read the bottom line.  His eyebrows rose from behind his glasses.

 

 

 

            “I’M WHAT!?!?!?”

 

            Misato’s cry of surprise echoed through the examination room of the NERV hospital.  Her knees went slack and Ranma caught her around the waist and held her up.  Ritsuko smirked as she continued to read from the fitness report.  “You are with child, preggers, got a bun in the oven, expecting…in short you are pregnant.”

 

            The major jaw opened and shut as she gaped like a fish out of water.  “H-h-how?”  She managed to squeak out.

 

            The blonde doctor smirked as she peered over her glasses.  “I figured you and Ranma had the mechanics down by now.”

 

            Misato shook her head and unsteadily took her feet again.  Ranma still kept an arm around her to keep her upright.  “No, I mean, how can I be pregnant?!  I was supposed to be barren from second impact!”

 

            Ritsuko pushed her glasses back up her nose.  “Actually by your physical from the day after you were recovered from second impact, you weren’t actually barren.  You just had a 0.0000000001% chance of successfully conceiving.  You weren’t exactly barren.”

 

            “Why does that number sound familiar?”  Misato’s eyebrow rose.

 

            “It was the same chance that EVA Unit 01 would activate with Shinji his first time.”  She turned her attention to the man that was keeping Misato from falling to the floor.  “You’re being awfully quiet.  I figured you’d have a few comments to mark the occasion.”

 

            Ranma looked at her like he had just noticed that she was in the room.  “Sorry, I’m just a little overwhelmed right now.  I’ll talk some more once I get used to the idea of being a father.”

 

            Ritsuko put a hand on her hip and smirked at him.  “Excuse me, but I could have sworn that you’ve been raising Asuka and Shinji these last few months in that cramped condo of yours.”

 

            “No, I mean having a baby!”  Ranma almost lost his grip on Misato, but quickly reasserted his arm around her.

 

            “You never know, it could be twins.”  The doctor smirked.

 

            Misato swooned into the cradle of Ranma’s shoulder.  “Don’t SAY that!”  She put an arm around her lover for support.  “But why now?  Why didn’t I get pregnant earlier?”

 

            Dr. Akagi gave the couple a knowing smirk.  “It’s hard to say, but you were probably in an infertile period when you and Ranma began your, uh, extracurricular activities, and the constant activity kept his sperm count low.  Then, on the month that you were not talking to each other, he recovered.”

 

            Ranma snorted.  “Great.  We get to tell little Ranma that he was conceived in an elevator.”

 

            “Glad to see you’ve rejoined reality, Saotome.”  Ritsuko smirked at him.

 

            He scratched the back of his head with his free hand.  “Oh, I’m still shocked.  I’m just starting to get over it.”

 

            Misato looked up at him.  “What makes you think it’s going to be a boy?”

 

            “Hey! It might be a girl!”  He exclaimed quickly before things could escalate.  Misato seemed to be satisfied and settled back into his arms.  “So can you stand on your own yet?”  She looked up and glared at him.  He quickly turned his attention back to Ritsuko.  “So will my curse have any effects on the child?  I mean will I have a son or daughter depending on whether or not they’ve bathed yet?”

 

            The blonde shrugged.  “Who can tell?  I’m a woman of science.  I’d figure your guess would be better than mine considering you have the most experience with magic and curses.”  She looked at her watch.  “Well, I’ve got more tests to run.  Why don’t you crazy kids take the rest of the day off and figure out what you’re going to do with yourselves.”  She turned on her heel and left the room.

 

            Misato looked up into Ranma’s eyes.  “Any chance you’ll let me have a drink when we get home?”  She asked hopefully.

 

            “Not a chance, but I might have a few.”

 

 

 

            Later that day, Ranma and Misato were sitting across the table from one another.  Misato was in her usual casual wear (yellow tank top with denim cutoff shorts) absently rubbing a hand over her stomach while Ranma was sitting in a white undershirt and jungle camouflage BDU pants.  He was twirling an empty beer can around on its base and staring at the table in front of him.

 

            “So?”  Misato finally broke the silence.

 

            “So what?” Ranma didn’t look up.

 

            “So what are we going to do?”  Misato brought her eyes up to look at the father of her child.

 

            “That’s what I’ve been trying to think about.”  He commented offhandedly.  “Just give me a few more minutes to think about something.”

 

            Misato looked down toward her stomach where she could imagine her child growing inside of her.  She quickly tried to take their mind off the child.  “Nabiki and Akane both said that you never had sex while you were in Nerima.  They said you were almost scared of it.  Why weren’t you ever scared to do it with me?”

 

            Ranma looked up at her.  “When have you been talking to Akane?”

 

            “We’ve been talking a lot lately.  We have a lot in common actually.  We both fell in love with an idiot.”  She smirked over the table at him.

 

            The martial artist rolled his eyes as he exhaled a large breath.  “Great.  Can’t you talk about anything besides me?”

 

            Misato smirked.  “Well if you’d talk about yourself more, then I wouldn’t have to keep asking other people, now would I?”  She leaned forward and adjusted her weight so she could lean her elbows on the table.  “So why didn’t you balk at having sex with me?”  She asked as she cradled her head in her hands.  “If you say, ‘because you’re so beautiful’, you get a cookie.”

 

            “Are you going to make it or buy it from the store?”  He asked with a smirk on his face.  “My answer depends entirely on that.”

 

            She gave a slight scowl.  “Just answer the question.”

 

            “Why do you want to know?”

 

            “Stop asking questions and answer the damn question!”

 

            Ranma took a deep breath, leaned back in the chair and gazed up toward the ceiling.  “Where to begin…”  He spoke wistfully.  “You sure you want to know the answer?”  He turned his head down and saw the determined look on her face.  “Okay, you ask for it.

 

            “When I left Nerima I went on the tournament circuit.  Pit fighting would have made me a lot better fast cash, but the challenge and the fame wouldn’t have been there and I needed the challenge to survive and the fame to get a better paying fight.  I got into a lot of mixed tournaments, usually winning both the men’s and the women’s competitions using my curse.”

 

            “You never thought that was a little unfair?”  Misato smirked at him.

 

            He gave her a condescending look.  “Do you want to hear the story or not?”  Misato made a motion like she zipped her mouth shut.  (Author’s note:  You better tell the story or my reader’s will lynch me.)  “Anyway, it was during one of these tournaments that I met a girl named Yuri who seduced me after one of the matches.  The next morning I was in the dumps because I thought I would have to marry her.  She just looked at me and laughed when I told her so.  She explained to me about the whole concept of casual sex.  She taught me that sex didn’t necessarily mean love or marriage.”

 

            Misato’s eyebrow shot up.  “So how ‘casual’ were you?  Should I be worried about STDs or anything?”

 

            Ranma began to get nervous.  “Well, I used condoms most the time.”

 

            “Most the time?”  Misato growled.

 

            “Hey, there was only once!  And she was clean!  She was a virgin when we did it!”  Ranma threw up his hands in placating gestures.

 

            The major’s eyes narrowed.  “How can you be sure?  Could you trust her?”

 

            “Yes!  Come on, can we talk about something else?  It’s not like you didn’t have sex before I came along.  Ritsuko told me all about the time you and Kaji locked yourselves in your dorm room and didn’t come out until three days later.  What was that about?”  He leaned over with a look that he hoped intimidated her.

 

            Having her own sex life thrown in her face gave her pause.  “Well, we were just kids…”

 

            “Did you guys use protection?”  He had a confident smile on his face.  “How do I know I shouldn’t be worried about disease?”

 

            Misato fidgeted a little in her seat.  “Well…I…er…that is…well Kaji hadn’t been with too many woman and I had just come out of my shell…”  The table became very interesting to her as her face flushed.  “Let’s change the subject.”

 

            His trademark cocky smirk crossed Ranma’s face.  “So what do you want to talk about?”

 

            Misato crossed her hands in front of her chest and started kneading out her shoulders.  Ranma took pity on her and walked around and started working out the knots for her.  “What about Shinji and Asuka?”

 

            “What about them?”

 

            “How do you think they’re going to react to this?”  Misato’s arms dropped as she felt the pleasure that Ranma’s hands was giving her.

 

            “They’ll probably freak out.”  Ranma answered in a matter-of-fact tone.  “They’ll probably wonder if we’re going to get married.” 

 

He felt Misato suddenly tense up.  She reached up and put a hand on one of his.  She looked straight ahead as she dare not look into his face when she asked him this.  “Are we?  Going to get married, I mean?”

 

Ranma took a deep breath.  He had talked at Yui’s gravestone about marrying Misato, but he still wasn’t sure.  There were still so many things out there that could harm if she was a permanent part of his life.  He looked down at her over her back and imagined where his child was growing in her womb.  “Of course a child is a pretty permanent thing.”  He thought. 

 

After a couple tense minutes, Ranma finally spoke.  “Can you give me a little time to think about it?”

 

            Misato finally looked up at him and saw the turmoil that was rolling in his blue-gray eyes.  “Are you that afraid of marriage?”

 

            He shook his head.  “There are still a lot of people out there that would hurt you just because you’re associated with me.  Some of them would be very angry at the fact you were my wife.  Are you ready to face a lot of danger to be with me?”

 

            Her face held nothing but tenderness as she turned and reached up to caress his cheek.  “All that and more, for you,” She put a hand to her stomach. “And our child.  Take all the time you need, Ranma.  I’m not going anywhere.”

 

            Ranma was not a man that was used to feeling gratitude to someone else.  He wasn’t used to a lot of the feelings he’s had since coming to Tokyo-3.  He’d already been a pseudo-father for Shinji and Asuka for a while and now he was about to a real father.  But was he ready for it?  Did he want to be a husband too?  He raised a hand and covered hers that was on his cheek.  “Thank you.”

 

            She stood up and gave him a quick peck on the lips.  “You’re welcome, but for making me wait, you get to tell Shinji and Asuka that one of them is going to have to share a room in a few months.  I’m going to the bathroom.”

 

            She scurried off as Ranma’s jaw dropped.  How had she gotten the best of him?

 

 

 

Earlier that day, Shinji was standing in a dark room with one spotlight illuminating a circle at his feet and blinding his eyes.  He couldn’t see anything, but he still held himself upright.  He had replaced his old wardrobe with more Chinese clothes and today he was wearing a blue variant of the red shirt that Misato had bought him for training.  The color matched his plugsuit and the black pants tied at the ankles made him look like he was ready to fight any angel.  He stood with his fists clenched at his side and a scowl locked on his face as the question was put to him again.

 

“What happened while you were inside of the angel?”  The deep, grated voice asked.

 

Shinji grit his teeth.  “I told you, after I made sure that Unit’s zero and two were safe, I was absorbed by the angel.  Everything is a little hazy from when I was inside, but I managed to bust out.”

 

A few voices mumbled back and forth before same voice spoke up again.  “How did you defeat the angel?  Your Evangelion unit should have been drained of energy.  You should have only been able to maintain life support, and that only minimally.”

 

Shinji stomped his foot.  “Listen!  I beat the angel!  Isn’t that enough for you guys?!”

 

“The reports from your physical reflected some mental trauma.  Did the angel try to invade your mind?  Did you make contact with it?”

 

“Maybe!  I’m not sure.  I remember someone speaking to me, but I don’t remember any more!”

 

The voices conferred again.  “That is all.  You may leave.”

 

Shinji nodded his head and exited the room.  The light where he stood went out and another illuminated Gendou as he sat at a conference table.  The voice addressed him, “Commander Ikari, how can you explain this?  Are the angels interested in the human mind now?”

 

Gendou maintained his cool air of indifference.  “It is possible.  The boy doesn’t like to speak about events that are traumatic to him.  Since he has been working with our security force trainer, he’s been even harder to get information out of.”

 

“Yes, we sent you the best we could find to train your security forces.  How did he get a hold of the third child?”

 

Commander Ikari scowled from behind his hands.  He realized that Ranma was a sabotage attempt by his benefactors.  Maybe they didn’t send him to cause problems.  Yes, that’s possible.  It’s also possible that elephants can do handsprings.  He cleared his throat.  “The two were on the same train coming into Tokyo-3.  They interacted and Saotome took the boy under his wing.”

 

“What a coincidence.”  A nasally voice commented from the side.

 

“Indeed.”  Gendou growled.

 

 

 

Outside, Asuka was waiting for Shinji as he stormed out of the room.  She was dressed in a blue school uniform with her hands over her head holding her school bag.  Shinji’s school bag was leaning against the wall behind her right foot.  “So how was the firing squad?  Were there any survivors?”

 

Shinji spun around to her.  “What are you doing here?  Aren’t you supposed to be in school?”

 

            She looked off and put her nose in the air.  “I was only making sure you made it to school.  Don’t take your hostility out on me!  You forgot your bag.”  She moved her right toe behind the bag against the wall and kicked it up in the air toward Shinji.

 

            The boy easily caught the bag by the handle in mid-air and swung it to his side.  He took a deep breath and turned to head out of the building.  “I’m sorry I blew up on you.  Come on, let’s get going.”

 

            Asuka quickly caught up and walked at his side.  “So how come you won’t tell them what really happened?  I mean, you’ve got to remember more than that.”

 

            Shinji raised an eyebrow her with a cynical look on his face.  “You were listening?”

 

            Asuka smiled.  “Saotome School of Anything Goes eavesdropping technique.”

 

            “S’funny.  I don’t remember that one.”  Shinji’s expression didn’t change.

 

            “That’s because I made it up!”  She smiled proudly.

 

            He rolled his eyes and looked forward.  “I don’t trust them.  I don’t trust any of them.  Not the Marduk, and especially not my father!  They’d find some way to use what I tell them against us.”

 

            Asuka shook her head.  “I can’t believe you!  They’re trying to gather data to better fight the angels!”

 

            Shinji stopped and spun around on her.  “Hey!  I can fight the angels just fine!  I don’t need their help!”

 

            The auburn haired girl put her hands on her hips and scowled at him.  “Does that mean you don’t need OUR help?”

 

            “You guys are different.”  Shinji quickly saved himself from bodily injury.  “You guys are out there fighting with me.  I trust you, Rei, Misato, and Ranma.”

 

            “You don’t trust Ritsuko or Kaji?”  Asuka smirked as they continued walking.  “What about the other two stooges?”

 

            “I trust Toji and Kensuke.  They’re the first real friends my age I’ve ever had.  Kaji’s alright, but something just makes me not like him.”

 

            She smirked and elbowed him in the ribs.  “You’re just jealous.”

 

            Shinji growled at her.  “That’s not it!  You can have him all you want!  But good luck considering he’s shacking up with Ranma’s ex-fiancé.  I guess he didn’t want a little girl!”

 

            “Dumbkoff!”  She swung her bag at him, but he nimbly dodged.  The action repeated itself until Shinji finally jumped away.

 

            The boy looked at his bare wrist.  “Look at the time!  We’re late for school!”  He turned and charged out of the building.  Asuka gritted her teeth stormed out after him.

 

            They arrived at school in time for lunch.  Shinji jumped into the room and flipped over to his desk beside Toji.  Asuka stomped in right behind him.  “Yo, Toji, where’s Kensuke?”

 

Toji leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head.  “He’s on some trip with his family.  He’ll be back tomorrow.  I see you and Asuka made it today.  Where’s the other pilot?”

 

Shinji glanced about the room (his eyes moving quickly past Asuka’s glaring eyes).  “She’s not here?  Where is she?”

 

“It thought she’d be with you.”  Toji smirked.  “I know how you like to keep you’re harem with you.”

 

Shinji smirked as he dug through his bag.  “It’s not like that…Hey!  Where’s my lunch?”  He turned toward his roommate.  “Didn’t you get any lunch?!”

 

Asuka glared at him and stomped over to his desk. “It was YOUR turn to make the lunches!  You’re lucky I brought you your books!”

 

The other pilot stood up in her face.  “You knew I wasn’t going to be there to make them!  You should have known to make it!”

 

“Oh look, the newlyweds are fighting.  Why don’t you two just kiss and make up?”  Toji smirked from behind his desk.  The class burst into laughter as the two pilots blushed furiously.

 

            Asuka growled at Shinji.  “You told him, didn’t you?!”  She hissed under her breath.

 

            “I haven’t told a soul!”  Shinji defended himself.

 

            “You two have been kissing?!”  Hikari exclaimed sounding scandalized.

 

            If the two pilots thought they had been red before from embarrassment, they found even deeper shades that made their previous blush seem pale.  Toji elbowed Shinji in the ribs.  “You dog!  How far have you two gotten?  Second?  Third? Or have you two gone all the way to home?”

 

            Asuka glared at Shinji.  “You say a word, and you’re a dead man.”

 

            The heir of the Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts pulled uncomfortably at his collar.  He knew he could defeat Asuka.  He just didn’t know if he’d be justified in doing so.  “I’m not saying anything.”

 

            At that moment, the chimes for an announcement rang and called Toji to the office.  He casually stood up and cleared away the remains of his devastated lunch.  “I guess I’ll be missing the rest of the fun.  Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do Shinji.”  He smirked and walked out the door.  Asuka and Shinji stared daggers at him as he left.

 

 

 

            The school day came to a close, Asuka left early to get home.  Shinji had remained behind to wait for Toji.  Horaki Hikari, the class representative, approached him as he waited at his desk.  “Ikari?”

 

            The boy, sitting at his desk with his hands behind his head, raised an eyebrow at the freckled brunette.  “Yes, class rep?”

 

            She looked him up and down.  “You do know that those clothes are not acceptable for the dress code of our school.”

 

            Shinji shrugged and looked away.  “I know.  When you could die at any moment, does it really matter what you’re wearing?”

 

            Hikari held a hand up to her mouth in shocked amazement.  “What are you saying?  Are you saying you want to die?”

 

            “No.  I don’t want to die.”  He turned his head to look at her again.  “I’m just saying that I could die in any one of my battles.  I’m out there risking everything every time I fight in the EVA.”

 

            “So why do you do it?”  She took a seat at a desk next to him.

 

            “It’s a martial artist’s duty to protect those who can’t protect themselves.”  He stated matter-of-factly.  He smirked at her.  “I figure for saving everyone’s hide, I should get to wear whatever I want to school.  So why are you still here?”

 

            She looked away briefly with a slight rose tint to her cheeks.  “I’m waiting for Toji.  I…He has to take Rei her homework for today.”

 

            Shinji shrugged.  “I can do that.”  He reached for the package that she had in her hands.

 

            She drew the papers away before his hands could grasp them.  “It’s his duty today.  I’ll give it to him to do.”

 

            Shinji looked at her for a second and then smirked.  “You just want an excuse to talk to Toji, don’t you?”

 

            Her cheeks colored even more.  “I just want to make sure the job gets done!”

 

            “Sure.”  Shinji’s smiled broadened.

 

            At that moment, Toji entered the room looking a little depressed.  Hikari quickly walked over to him as Shinji smiled.  “Toji, you need to take this to Rei.  It’s your turn.  Do you need someone to show you the way?”

 

            “Sure.”  He looked past her.  “Shinji.  You’ve been to Rei’s before.  Let’s get going.”

 

            Shinji almost facefaulted.  “You sure you wouldn’t rather take…”  He trailed off when he saw that Toji had already walked out the door.  He got up and followed his friend out.  He turned and shrugged to Hikari when he passed her.  “I tried.”

 

            As he turned and left, Hikari spoke under her breath.  “Thank you.”

 

 

 

            About half an hour later, Shinji and Toji arrived at Rei’s apartment complex.  The taller boy looked around in disgust.  “What a dump!”

 

            The EVA pilot just shrugged.  “I guess this is where she wants to live.  Come on, her apartment’s over here.”  They walked to her door and knocked.  “Yo, Rei!  You in there?”

 

            Toji shrugged.  “Looks like no one’s here.”

 

            Shinji looked down at the overstuffed mail slot.  “Look’s like we’ll have to go in and leave it where she can find it.”

 

            “You think that’s a good idea?  I mean breaking in and all?”  The taller boy cocked an eye at Shinji.

 

            The EVA pilot shrugged.  “If we leave it in this mess, she’ll never find it.  Besides, she always leaves her door unlocked.”  He walked up and turned the handle, and, sure enough, the door opened.  “See.”

 

            “How did you know that?”  Toji asked.

 

            Shinji gave him a nervous chuckle.  “Well, I’ve kinda been here before…”

 

            “You’ve been with Rei?  Jeez, Shinji, you get around!”  Toji crossed his arms and smiled at the other boy.

 

            Shinji’s hackles rose.  “It’s not like that!”  He indignantly stormed in the apartment, knocking a few letters out of the mail slot when he slammed the door.

 

            “Sheesh, I was only kidding…”  Toji pushed the door open and looked around the room.  “I take back what I said about the complex.  This room is a worse dump.”

 

            Shinji shook his head and looked around at all the trash that was lying about.  There were even some bloodied bandages left from the last time he was here.  He shook his head and grabbed a half-full trash bag from the side and started picking up the mess.

 

            Toji looked at him like he had grown a second head.  “What are you doing?  Maybe she likes her place like this?”

 

            His friend kept cleaning.  “Could you imagine anyone, much less a girl, wanting to live like this?”

 

            “It could happen.”  Toji shrugged.

 

            About the time that Shinji finished cleaning, Rei walked into the room.  Toji panicked and started spouting out apologies and half-baked excuses, while Shinji held up the package of homework that they were supposed to deliver.  “Hey, Rei.  We brought you’re homework for today.”  He held up the now full trash bag.  “I also decided to clean up a little.”

 

            “T-thank you.”  Rei tentatively spoke.

 

            Shinji looked at her.  She had so little, and spoke so little.  You almost wouldn’t know she was there except for the blue hair and the red eyes.  “Rei, why don’t you get a better place?  NERV could pay for a decent apartment.  You could even come live with us.  I’m sure Asuka wouldn’t mind sharing a room with you.”  He smirked.  “I’m sure she’d only complain for the first couple hours.”  His face turned back to serious.  “You should be living better than this.”

 

            Rei blinked at him and looked downward.  “I’ll think about it.”  She didn’t really know what to think.  She wasn’t used to people being nice to her, even Gendou.  She had never used the words ‘Thank you’ before.  She would think about this, a lot.

 

 

 

            When Shinji arrived home, he walked in to a smug Misato sitting on one couch, a grouchy Asuka sitting cross-legged on the floor, and a nervous Ranma pacing at the back of the room.  The auburn haired girl turned when he entered the room.  “Where have you been?!”

 

            “I’ve been over at Rei’s giving her the homework for today.  What’s going on?”  Shinji was amazed.  Something really bad must be going on for Ranma to be acting so nervous.

 

            Misato’s face went serious.  “EVA Unit 04’s S2 unit exploded and destroyed NERV’s second branch, and Unit 03 is on its way here.”  Her smug smile came back.  “But that’s not the big news.”

 

            “So what’s the big news?”  Shinji asked, turning to Asuka when it looked like Misato was not going to be more forthcoming.

 

            Asuka glared back at him.  “That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out!  Misato said that Ranma had to tell us, but he said he wouldn’t tell until both of us was here!  You took your pretty time getting here, and I’ve been dieing of suspense!”

 

            Shinji shrugged and looked back at the now sweating Ranma.  “So what’s the big news?”

 

            The elder martial artist started sweating.  “Well…you see…it’s like this…uh…”

 

            Asuka raised an eyebrow.  “This could take all night.  Just spit it out already!”

 

            Ranma took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.  “Misato’s pregnant.”

 

            “Cool, when’s dinner?”  Shinji asked.

 

            “Idiot!”  The boy was slapped and shoved out of the way as Asuka crossed the room to grab Misato’s hands.  “Really?”  Misato nodded.  Asuka leapt up and hugged the older woman.  “Congratulations!”  Misato smiled broadly as she hugged the younger girl back.

 

            Shinji turned to Ranma.  “This place is going to get crowded.”

 

            “You have no idea.  It’s pretty crowded as it is.”  Ranma popped his neck.

 

            “Especially since I asked Rei if she wanted to come live with us.”  Shinji started walking to the kitchen.

 

            “WHAT?!”  Asuka asked loudly.  “Why did you do that?!?!”

 

            Shinji shrugged.  “She’s living in a disaster area, and she doesn’t have anything.  She only has the dresses she wears to school, no other clothes, and no real friends.  I felt sorry for her.”

 

            Ranma nodded.  “It would also be good if she were able to train as much as you two do.  It would be much more convenient if all the pilots were in one place.”  He turned to Misato.  “Speaking of which, you said that Unit 03 was on its way.  Any idea of who the pilot is supposed to be?”

 

            She shrugged.  “No idea.  I’ll check with Ritsuko tomorrow.  But if Rei comes to live with us, if she wants to, what will we do?  We can’t live in this condo with five people and a baby.  We’ve only got one bathroom!”

 

            “And that will be less available now that you’re pregnant.”  Ranma smirked.

 

            “How do you know that?!”  Misato demanded.

 

            “I made the mistake of walking in between a pregnant woman and a bathroom door.  I’ve never been kicked so hard in my life.”  He rubbed his side from remembering the incident.  “Damned Nerima.”

 

 

 

            The next day, Misato and Ranma returned to work.  They found Ritsuko looking over the data from the destruction of the NERV second branch.  Ranma looked over her shoulder at the satellite pictures from the site.  “That doesn’t look like an explosion to me.”

 

            The blonde cocked an eye at him.  “Had much experience with explosions?”

 

            “More than I care to have.  So what really happened?”  Ranma asked.

 

            “It looks like it imploded in another sea of Dirac.  The new power plant that the unit was outfitted with obviously had some defects.”  Ritsuko pushed her glasses back on her face.

 

            Ranma nodded his head.  “So it’s just like the last angel.  So what’s this about Unit 03.”

 

            The doctor gave him a condescending look.  “You shouldn’t have that information.  That’s supposed to be top secret.”  She turned and glared at Misato who just smiled innocently and waved.

 

            “New EVA means new pilots.  I’m in charge of personnel training so I think I have a right to know.”  He put his hands on his hips.  “So what emotionally disturbed child has Gendou decided to put behind the wheel this time?”

 

            Misato looked over the folders that were lying on Ritsuko’s desk and found one labeled Marduk Report.  She flipped it open while the doctor and Ranma were arguing.  She turned until she found the information that she was looking for.  She closed the folder, turned around, and tapped Ritsuko on the shoulder.  The blonde turned and Misato shoved the folder in her face.  “Why hadn’t I been informed that the Marduk had issued another report?”

           

            “You were on a need to know basis.  You would have been informed before your trip to the test facility for the activation of Unit 03.”  She answered in a cold, analytical voice.

 

 

            “What’s going on Ritsuko?  You’ve never kept this information from me before, and why am I going?”  Misato railed the blonde.

 

            “You are the chief operations officer.  It’s your job to be there.”  Ritsuko was unshaken.

 

            “You’re not going.”  Ranma commented vehemently.  “We’re going to talk to Gendou NOW!”  He took Misato’s hand and pulled her out of the room and toward the elevators.  “I know you read through that report.  Who’s the fourth child?”

 

            Misato pulled him where he slowed down his pace.  “It’s Toji.”

 

            Ranma frowned.  “We’ve got to tell Shinji.”

 

            “Are you sure that’s a wise idea?  He’s been through a lot lately.”  Misato pulled some errant hairs away from her face.

 

            “I think it will be a lot better to tell him now than later.”  Ranma quickly went on.  “Was there anything else in that report?”

 

“I found information about Shinji’s classmates.  They’re all potential pilots.  They’ve been specially assembled for that reason.”  Misato stated calmly.

 

            Ranma quickly took a look down the hallways to make sure they were not being watched or listened in on.  He whispered anyway.  “You do know that the Marduk is a dummy corporation for Seele don’t you?”

 

            The major drew up short.  “What?”  She responded in the same tone.

 

            “The Marduk and every other corporation that funds and supports NERV are all just dummy corporations for Seele.”

 

            “How did you find all this out?”  Misato asked.

 

            Ranma continued toward the elevator.  “I sent a package of our information to the most cutthroat fact finder and businesswoman I know.”

 

            “Nabiki?”

 

            “Nabiki.”

 

            They took the elevator to the floor where Gendou’s office resided.  Ranma stormed in without much preamble.  “What’s this about Misato being sent to the activation of Unit 03?”

 

            Gendou, unshaken by the sudden intrusion, folded his hands on his desk.  “Major Katsuragi, as chief of operations, is required to be at the activation of the Evangelion Unit 03.  She is there in case anything goes wrong.”

 

            “Why don’t you send your uncharismatic flunky Fuyutsuki out there instead?”  Ranma demanded.

 

            The other man cleared his throat in irritation.  “This is Misato’s duty.”

 

            “What if she’s relieved from this duty?”  Ranma’s eyes narrowed dangerously as he placed both of his hands on the table in front of Gendou.

 

            “Who would relieve her of duty?”  Gendou had a smug smile behind his bridged hands.

 

            “I would.”  Ranma stated simply.

 

            “And how would you do that?”  The commander’s voice was still unshaken.

 

            “As the trainer of personnel, I have the same authority as a doctor to relieve anyone from any duty they are not physically able to do.  As you probably already know, Major Katsuragi is pregnant.  Officers that are with child, who do not take voluntary leave, are excused from hazardous or strenuous duty.  Every initial EVA activation has resulted in a berserker rage.  Witnessing and presiding over the activation of Unit 03 is therefore hazardous duty.  She is NOT going.  Do I make myself clear?”  Ranma’s aura was burning visibly as he leaned close to glare into Gendou’s spectacle covered eyes.

 

            The other man nodded his head as if coming to a decision.  “Very well, Fuyutsuki will command the activation.”  His voice sounded like he had come up with the idea himself.  “Are you finished here?”

 

            “For now.”  Ranma stood up and walked out of the room, reaching out and pulling Misato along with him.

 

            Gendou sat there and frowned at the two handprints burned into the tabletop of his desk.  “You’ve won this round Saotome, but my time is coming.”

 

            Outside Misato smirked at the martial artist.  “So nice to know that you care.”

 

            Ranma turned back to her with a deadly serious glare.  “No one will hurt you or our child.  Not an angel, not an EVA, and certainly not Ikari Gendou.”

 

 

 

            The next day at school, Toji stood alone at the top of the school building.  He gazed out across Tokyo-3 with an empty stare.  He heard firm footsteps behind him.  “I see you found out.”

 

            “Why?”  Shinji’s voice was calm and steady.

 

            “Why what?”  Toji turned wearily to face the other pilot.

 

            “Why did you agree to pilot the EVA?”  Shinji asked as he stood in a relaxed stance with his arms to his side.

 

            “They said they would take care of my sister.  I’ll do anything in my power to help her.”  Toji eyes lifted to meet Shinji’s.

 

            “I know you love your sister.”  Shinji moved his thumb over his cheek.  “But you could die piloting.  Each EVA activation has been followed by disaster.  Do you want to risk dieing yourself?”

 

            The larger boy turned to look back over the city.  “Why do you pilot EVA?”

 

            “Very popular question lately.”  Shinji mused.  “It’s my duty to protect the weak.”

 

            “That’s what I want to do.  I want to protect my sister and get the best treatment she can get.”  Toji folded his arms, but his words lacked conviction.

 

            “I suggest that you don’t.  You’re one of my best friends.  I never had many friends before I came to Tokyo-3, and I don’t want to lose any.”  Shinji reached out and put a hand on Toji’s shoulder.  “I’m still really sorry about your sister, and not just because you hit me afterward.”

 

            “I know that you didn’t have a choice when you were forced to pilot the Evangelion.”  Toji stepped past the smaller boy.  “I don’t have a choice either.”  He gave Shinji a smirk out the side of his mouth.  “Hey, wouldn’t it be great to fight the enemy together, side-by-side.”  He saw Shinji’s frown and continued walking away.

 

            Shinji shook his head and turned to take Toji’s place looking out on the city.

 

            Toji walked out and Rei was standing beside the door.  The larger boy chuckled a bit.  “Take care of him, Rei.  He has a good heart.”

 

            “Why do I need to care for him?”  She asked without emotion.

 

            “Because you like him, that’s what girls do for guys that they like.”  Toji smiled at her and walked down toward the classroom.

 

            Rei turned and looked at Shinji standing watch over the metropolis.  He stood with his arms crossed and a grave expression on his face, looking like he was preparing for the worst.  “Do I really like him?”  She asked to herself.

 

            Toji arrived in the classroom and was presented with a small package.  “What’s this for class rep?”  He asked the freckled girl.

 

            She blushed slightly.  “I have to cook for three people in the morning and all the recipes are for four people.  I thought you might like the extra.”

 

            Toji scratched his head as he looked at the bento.  “Uh, my mom makes me a pretty good lunch, but I can always eat more.  Thanks, Hikari!”  He took the bento and went over to his seat.

 

            Hikari stood there with a goofy smile plastered on her face while Asuka walked up beside her with a cocked eyebrow.  “What do you see in that oaf?”

 

            The freckled brunette smiled dreamily.  “His compassionate side.”

 

            Asuka facefaulted.

 

 

 

            That night when the mismatched family at the madhouse de Katsuragi sat down for dinner, the doorbell was rang repeatedly by a certain bespectacled boy.  Shinji opened the door to see Kensuke begging on his knees.  “Get Misato!  Tell her to PLEEEEAAASE let me pilot the Evangelion Unit 03!!!”

 

            Shinji raised an eyebrow.  “No.”  He closed the door and went back to eating.

 

            “Who was that Shinji?”  Misato asked.

 

            Shinji calmly chewed his food.  “Someone with a death wish.”

 

 

             

A few days later, Toji was again missing from class.  When Shinji saw this, he left the school with Asuka and Rei hot on his heels.  “Where are you going?”  Asuka demanded.

 

“I’ve got a bad feeling.  They didn’t tell anyone when the activation test was, and I think that it’s today.”  Shinji keep striding down the street like a man on a mission.

 

“Why don’t we just roof hop and get to headquarters faster?”  The auburn haired girl asked.

 

“Then we’d lose Rei.”  He stated matter-of-factly.

 

“Oh.”  Asuka looked to her side, noticing Rei for the first time.

 

They arrived at NERV headquarters and immediate sought out Ranma who was, for once, actually in the training area putting a few of the security men through their paces.  He stopped when he saw the three kids standing by the door.  He dismissed the class (much to their relief) and walked over to them.  “What’s going on?”

 

“Toji wasn’t in class today.”  Shinji stated plainly.  “I think today is the activation and I’ve got a bad feeling about it.”

 

“Some people would call that feeling experience.”  Ranma smirked briefly, but quickly shifted to serious.  “You kids get to your EVAs.  I’ll get Misato and we’ll talk to Gendou.”

 

“Yes, sir!”  They all turned and ran for the staging area.

 

Ranma quickly made his way to the operations area where Misato was already standing with her arms crossed.  “Where’s the test?”

 

“Matsushiro, they began a few minutes ago.”  She looked up to where Gendou was already seated looking over reports.  “What are you doing up here?”

 

“Shinji had a bad feeling and gathered the pilots.  They’re all prepping their units now.”  Ranma looked over the status boards.  “Any word from the tests?”

 

“The last report was from Ritsuko telling us that they were commencing the activation.”  Misato crossed her arms.  “I hope Shinji is wrong.”

 

“Me too, but I have the same feeling.”  Ranma looked steadily at the boards.  As the words left his mouth alarms klaxons began to sound. 

 

“Sir!  The Matsushiro test site has just exploded!”  Maya reported.  “We have an angel on the sensors!”

 

“Call the pilots in and prepare to launch Evangelions zero through two.”  Gendou stated calmly.

 

“Hey, I’m supposed to give those orders!”  Misato shouted up to him.

 

“You’ve been ‘relieved’.”  He leveled a smug grin in Ranma’s direction.  The martial artist glared back at him.

 

“The pilots are already in their EVAs and ready for launch.”  Maya reported.

 

The commander nearly fell out of his chair.  “How can that be?”

 

“They’ve been there for the past twenty minutes waiting for launch authority.”

 

Misato smirked at the off-balanced commander.  “This is the part where you say, ‘EVA launch’.”

 

Gendou frowned at her impertinence.  “EVA launch.”  He deadpanned.

 

 

 

Shinji and the other pilots were arranged in positions to ambush the oncoming angel.  Shinji watched the images that were relayed from Asuka’s forward position.  “We have a visual.”  Her voice came over the communications line. 

 

An amplified image popped up on Shinji’s HUD.  “It’s an Evangelion!”

 

Up in operations, the image was being viewed at the same instant.  “It’s Unit 03!”  Maya exclaimed.

 

“Is the pilot still within?”  Gendou asked.

 

“The pilot is within, but unconscious.”  Hyuga reported.

 

“Eject the entry plug and inform the recovery squad.”  The commander ordered.  Ranma nodded from the side.

 

“The ejection system isn’t responding!”

 

Gendou sat down and his brows furrowed.  “Classify Evangelion Unit 03 as the thirteenth angel.”  His voice rose.  “EVAs Units zero through two.  Destroy the angel.”

 

“But Toji’s in there!”  Shinji’s voice came over the com.

 

“Do it.”  Gendou ordered.  Ranma began to smolder from the side.

 

“I’ll disable the EVA!”  Asuka’s voice came over the com.

 

“Asuka!”  Shinji could only listen in his cockpit as he heard Asuka scream in pain.

 

“Unit 02 has been disabled.”  Hyuga’s voice came over the line.

 

Shinji tensed. “I’m engaging.”

 

“Stay where you are.  You are the last line of defense.”  Gendou ordered.  “Unit 00, destroy the angel.”

 

“Yes, sir.”  Shinji knew that Rei had gone into action.  Her screams shortly followed.

 

“The angel is trying to absorb her unit!”  Shinji didn’t care whose voice that was.  He pushed his EVA’s speed to its limits and beyond to close on Rei’s position.  He came to the scene where the possessed robot had its hand around Unit 00’s throat.  The hand was melting like wax and it appeared that veins were popping out on the blue EVA.  Unit 01 charged in and swung its arms like a golf club to knock the enemy away.

 

Rei’s screams were stopped as power was cutoff from her unit.  Shinji turned to face Unit 03 in a ready stance.  The other EVA crouched down like a dog on all fours and then lashed out with its right arm.  The arm extended like a whip the catch the other unit.  Shinji nimbly evaded the swipe and its follow up, the angel’s other arm.  The boy grimaced as he dodged repeated attacks.

 

In the operations area, everyone watched as Shinji dodged all of the strikes without making any attempts at offense himself.  Gendou pounded his fist on the desk.  “Attack the angel!”

 

“But Toji’s still in there!  I can’t fight that!”  Shinji’s voice came back.

 

Gendou’s facehardened.  “Do it!  The angel will destroy everything!”

 

“I won’t kill another human!”  The son yelled at his father over the line.

 

The commander sat calmly in his chair as he signaled for the line to be muted.  “Activate the dummy plug.”

 

“Sir?  But it still hasn’t been tested yet!”  Maya insisted.

 

“It’s better than the pilot we have.”  Gendou replied coldly.

 

Ranma remembered Kaji’s warning about the dummy plug.  Before he could consciously decide on an action a pencil was in his hand and thrown across the room.  It embedded itself in the console right next to Hyuga’s hand, jamming the button for dummy plug activation in the up position.  “Belay that order.”  In an instant he was at the control board turning the communications line back on.  “Shinji, the next time he makes a swing, duck under it and grab its shoulder from the inside, pull the shoulder down while sweeping the legs.”  He watched as Shinji followed his orders.  “Now trap its legs with your right leg and put your left leg up to keep it from rolling.”

 

“What about those elastic man arms?”  The pilot asked.

 

“It can’t use them as long as you keep that shoulder driven into the ground.”  Ranma watched as Shinji restrained the unit.  “Now, use your free hand to remove the entry plug cover plate.  Extract the plug and gently lay it aside.”

 

Shinji complied and then continued to restrain the rampant EVA.  “Now what?”

 

“Drive your progress knife through the back and destroy the core.”

 

Evangelion Unit One drew its progressive knife from the shoulder compartment with its free hand and drove it to the side of the spinal armor on the back of Unit 03, piercing the other unit’s core.  After a few moments of twitching, the unit fell silent, and the battle was over.

 

Ranma turned to stare daggers at the commander.  “You failed that test Gendou.  That’s the last chance I’ll give you.”  He strode out just as the reports were coming in about the recovery of the pilot of Unit 03.  He was alive, but in a coma.

 

 

 

            That evening, Ranma rang the bell of the Suzuhara residence with a heavy heart.  He couldn’t help but feel a little guilty for what happened to Toji.  He thought back to the first time when he had met the boy, when he thought that he had to cow a bully.  He had been hard on the boy and now he felt guilty about karma coming back to haunt the boy.  He suddenly had doubts about if he really should have volunteered for this duty, but he didn’t want to depress Misato with something like this while she’s pregnant.

 

            He silently went over the words from the NERV GDM (Generic Disaster Manual).  “Hello, I’m Saotome Ranma from the NERV organization.  Your son has most recently come into our employ and was injured by unforeseeable circumstances.”  He didn’t know which was worse:  the fact that he was actually going to deliver such an unfeeling speech, or that somebody actually wrote this about children!  “We apologize for any inconveniences.”  “like having to bury a child if he has any complications” He added to himself.  “NERV will be taking the best of care of him in our facilities.  You are welcome to visit within the hours of…”  His voice trailed off as he heard footsteps coming toward the door.  He abruptly felt nervous and a little ashamed to be there to deliver such poorly presented bad news to loving parents.  His eyes went to the ground.

 

            He heard the door open and he began the speech without thinking.  “Hello, I’m…”

 

            “Ranchan?”  A confused voice asked.

 

            Ranma’s head snapped up, and he came face to face with one of the last people he ever expected to see again in his entire lifetime.  “Ucchan?”

 

            Sure enough, standing before him was his former fiancé.  She was the same height she had been the last time he had seen her, but she had lost a lot of the tone that marked her as a martial artist.  Her chestnut hair was tied in a ponytail that ran down her back. She was wearing a housedress of all things, complete with an apron which she had been wiping her hands until he had looked up to meet her eyes.

 

            She took an unsteady step forward, reached up, and ran her fingers through his loose hair.  “What did you do to your hair?”  She looked at his face and read his mood.  “What’s wrong?  Why are you here?”

 

            “I’m sorry, Ucchan, but it’s about Toji.”  He began slowly.

 

            She cupped her hands over her mouth.  “Oh no.”  She sobbed.  Ranma quickly hugged her as she began to cry on his shoulder.  When her head hit his shoulder, the dam broke loose and she began to let loose, mourning what she thought was the possible loss of a second child. 

 

            After a while, Ranma managed to calm her down and explained that her son was only unconscious and that he had been saved from any major injury.  More minutes passed and Ukyou had the presence of mind to invite him in.  Ranma sat down in the den and waited as she went in to bring out some tea.  He waited until she had poured for herself and sat down before he spoke.  “He’s my son, isn’t he?”  Ukyou turned her gaze aside and nodded her head slowly.  “You told me you were on birth control.”  His voice started to fill with anger.  “You told me your periods made you so sick you had to take them!”

 

            The words seemed to strike her like punches used to so long ago.  The long forgotten image of a month’s worth of untaken pills came to her.  “I didn’t lie to you, I just didn’t tell you that I had stopped taking them when I found you again.”

 

            Ranma dropped his hands and let the anger drain from himself.  “Why didn’t you tell me?  I’ve had a son for fourteen years and I didn’t know about it!  Why…?”

 

            She cut him off with a hard glare before he could continue.  All the sudden he could see the fighter that obviously hadn’t been there since Toji’s birth.  “I made a promise that night, Ranma.  You remember, don’t you?  In exchange for dropping my betrothal with you I wanted something to remember you by with no strings attached.  I told you there would be no strings, so I never told you.”

 

            “I thought you just wanted I night of sex!”  Ranma stood up and threw up his hands.  “I didn’t know you wanted a I child!  If I had known you were pregnant, I would have…”

 

            “You would have married me.”  Ukyou interrupted him again.   “And you would have been miserable because you would have been trapped into it.  I wouldn’t trap you like that Ranma.  I wanted you to marry me because you loved me, not because you were forced to by our parents or by a child.  I said no strings attached, and I meant it.  I just wanted something to remember you by.  A piece of you that would be mine no matter what.”

 

            Ranma dropped back down to the couch with a thud.  “I don’t believe it.  I came to Tokyo-3 a single man without any kids.  Now I have four.”  He ran his hands through his hair.  “Wonder how many other women lied to me over the years.”

 

            Ukyou felt a little guilty about deceiving him, but she also began to get a little angry when he mentioned other kids.  Her eyebrow twitched.  “Four?”

 

            “Well, only two are actually mine.  I’m a guardian for Shinji and Asuka.  They’re two of the other Evangelion pilots.  Then there’s Toji and then there’s one more on the way.”

 

            “So who’s the mother?”  She asked cautiously.

 

            “Major Katsuragi, the head of operations at NERV.  She’s the other guardian of the kids.”  Ranma explained, as he looked her in the eye.

 

            “Whew!”  The breathed a sigh of relief.  “I’m just glad it wasn’t Akane or Shampoo!”  She leaned forward.  “So tell me about this girl.  Is she cute?”  Ranma started to tense up.  “I know she’s not as cute as me, but you can tell your old friend about it.”

 

            Ranma shook his head.  “She has her moments, but she has a stubborn streak a mile wide, she gets on my nerves constantly, she can’t cook...”

 

            Ukyou started laughing.  “Sounds like you’re in love again Ranma!”

 

            “Are not!”  He quickly tried to change the subject.  “So why did you stop training?”

 

            She leaned back in her chair and absently played with her hair.  “Soon after you left the tournament circuit I met my husband and settled down.  Toji came along and I found I didn’t want to spend my life making only one thing.  I know I make the best okonomiyaki in the world, but that gets old after a while.  Plus, I wasn’t a part of my family anymore so there really wasn’t much point in carrying on the art of it.  Toji set me free of all that.  I found that I could be happy just being a mother and wife.”

 

            “So how’s your husband?  Is he a good guy?”  Ranma asked.

 

            “Oh, Suzy’s great!”  She had a big smile on her face.

 

            “Suzy?”  Ranma’s eye twitched.

 

            She laughed.  “He’s almost as bad as you about affirming his manhood.  He hates it when I call him that.  I just do it to keep him in his place.  But anyway, yes, he’s a great person, husband, and father.  Who else would marry a woman carrying another man’s child?  He cares a lot for me and his children.”  She leaned back forward.  “Enough about me.  So are you going to marry this Misato or not?”

 

            “I don’t know.”  Ranma threw his head back and looked at the ceiling.  “How could I drag her and a kid into my life?  There are still plenty of people out there that are out to kill me.  I’d only be putting them in harm’s way.  I just don’t want them hurt because of me.”

 

            “Ranma, they’re going to be hurt if you DON’T marry her.  Haven’t you realized that the women who love you would gladly accept all the danger in your life to be with you?  I loved you enough to have a child out of wedlock knowing full well the stigma it carries in Japan, Akane pined her life away for you, and god only knows how hurt Shampoo was.  I doubt she could ever find anyone as strong as you to marry.”

 

            “So what are you trying to say?”  He asked in genuine confusion.

 

            Ukyou leapt to her feet, grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him forward where she was looking him in the eye.  “If you don’t marry that girl, she’ll suffer more than if you didn’t.  Now go marry her, or I’ll pound the snot out of you!  I’ve still got my spatula y’know!”

 

            “What about the kid?  What would I do if they got hurt?  I don’t know if I could handle it like you have.  Both of your children are hurt and you’re worried about my life!”

 

            The former chef looked away briefly.  “It’s never easy when your kids are going to be hurt, and you never know how you’re going to feel.  I’ve already shed my tears and now I’m having faith that things will be okay.  That’s the best you can do; just have faith.  Plus, helping you with your life helps me take my mind off mine.”  She turned back to him with a hard glare.  “But that still doesn’t change the facts!  She and that baby need you!  Don’t forsake them for their safety.  They’ll just be more hurt by the neglect!”

 

            This was a side of Ukyou he hadn’t seen in a while, but the approach finally reached him.  He made a decision then and there that would change his life forever.

 

 

 

            The next evening Ranma was reclining in the hot springs while he waited for Misato to come out.  This whole day had cost him more than he had spent in that past five years, but it had been worth it.

 

            “Ranma?”

 

            The martial artist looked up to see Misato stride in wearing a white kimono with red rose patterns on it.  Her hips swayed suggestively as she glided across the wooden planks surrounding the spring.  Her hair hung loose and a few strands hid her face, making her seem mysterious and extremely sensual.  Ranma, who was already nude in the spring, felt something stirring in the depths of the pool.

 

            Misato stopped at few steps from the water.  “Say my name.”

 

            Ranma’s raised an eyebrow in puzzlement.  “Misato?”

 

            “No.  My full legal name.”  She smiled like a tigress on the hunt, which made Ranma a little nervous.

 

            “Saotome Misato.”  The words seemed foreign on his lips.

 

            She reached a hand behind herself and the wide sash holding Misato’s kimono closed fell away.  “Say it again.”

 

            “Saotome Misato.”  He found the words more familiar this time.

 

            With a little movement in her torso, the right shoulder of the kimono fell away, exposing one of her breasts.  “Say it again, now and forever.”

 

            “Saotome Misato, now and forever.”  The words came easily now.

 

            The other shoulder of the garment fell away and the cloth piled up on the wood.  A now nude Misato lowered herself into the water and molded herself to her lover.  She cradled his head in her hands.  He reached up and pulled her in for a passionate embrace.