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Non-Canonical Matchups: Chapter 4
"That stupid tomboy," Ranma growled as Akane dragged Mousse out of the cafe. "Well, whatever happens to her, it's her own damn' fault."
"They make good couple," Shampoo said cheerfully, snuggling closer into his arms. "Now we go on own date, yes?"
"Uh..." he said, suddenly noticing the Chinese Amazon he was holding. "Um, we go on date, no. I've, uh, gotta do my, um, homework..." Mentally, he cursed; you'd think he would have learned to avoid getting into these situations by now.
Shampoo seemed to wilt. She pulled away from him, and her head drooped. "But Airen say we go on date... Shampoo so happy for brief moment. Airen just toying with young girl's heart?" She sniffled forlornly. "Shampoo understand... you go away, you not have to listen to sound of Shampoo's heart breaking."
"Aw, geez..." He was more than half sure she was faking; but, dammit, he never could stand to see a woman cry. It got him into more trouble... and he had said he'd go on a date with her. "OK, look, we can go out; but just this once, all right?"
"Aiyaa! So happy!" She bounced into his arms again. Ranma sighed; suckered again. He was not looking forward to what Akane would do to him when she found out about this... of course, she'd told him outright to go out with Shampoo, but he knew her; she'd find some excuse to pound him into meatloaf.
Shampoo paused in mid-snuggle and looked up at him with narrowed eyes. "Ranma... you thinking of violent girl?"
He blinked down at her. "How did you know?"
She muttered something in Chinese that sounded unladylike. "Ranma always get nervous twitch when think about Akane." She sighed. "Listen, Shampoo tired of this. We make deal, OK? We go on date; you not think about violent girl, Shampoo not bring up marriage thing. Is deal?"
"You mean... you won't try to drug me, or get me in some compromising situation, or trap me in any way? Promise?"
"Is promise. And you not think about Akane at all! You on date with Shampoo, you mind on Shampoo. Promise?"
He grinned. Postponing thinking about his problems was always an attractive option. "Sure. So, where d'you wanna go?"
Some hours later, Ranma was experiencing something of an epiphany.
It was a little disorienting; he didn't experience epiphanies very often. Introspection was far from being his strong suit, and he tended to distrust problems that couldn't be solved by hitting them until they went away. Nevertheless, he was having a moment of illumination.
The thing of it was, he was enjoying himself.
Their date had started with a rooftop jaunt towards a park; a jaunt which had quickly turned into a full-blown gymnastic aerial race across half of Tokyo; which ended only when they got exhausted and had to lie down on the roof of someone's house, only to leave, laughing, a few minutes later when the owner had stuck his head out a window to yell at them.
That had been followed by dinner in a restaurant Shampoo knew of where they could get real Chinese food; Shampoo had chattered merrily with the waiters in Mandarin and snickered at Ranma's pathetic attempts to interject the few words he had picked up in his travels in China.
Then they had ridden the subways, clinging to the tops of the cars while the concrete ceiling of the tunnel whizzed by a bare inch from their heads.
Then another rooftop race, culminating in them climbing the Tokyo Tower.
They sat there now, perched on one of the struts, sitting side by side in companionable silence, their arms occasionally brushing, watching the lights of the city.
That was part of what he was feeling; the sheer, exuberant, physical fun they'd had. Akane, even if she had wanted to, wouldn't have been able to keep up.
But that wasn't the major part of the epiphany. The big thing, the amazing thing, the thing that was almost unprecedented in his experience, was this:
He wasn't getting hit on the head every ten minutes.
He'd never really noticed it before; it was such a constant of his life. If it wasn't his father, or Ryouga, or some random weirdo who came out of nowhere, it was Akane. Mostly it was Akane. It was a surprisingly relaxing sensation, not to be subconsciously waiting for the giant mallet.
Shampoo nudged him. "Yen for Ranma's thoughts?"
He jumped, startled out of his introspection. "Um..."
Her eyes narrowed. "You thinking of her again? After promise?"
"Uh... yeah," he admitted, "but — "
She said a number of words in Chinese, and Ranma winced; he recognized a couple of them. Then she stood up. "Shampoo give up. Airen go on date with Shampoo, have good time, but still only think about stupid violent girl. Well, Shampoo hope Ranma happy with her. Shampoo have better things to do than spend rest of life in stupid strict country trying to speak stupid language and chasing stupid man who not know good thing when see it. Goodbye, Ranma. Have good life." She leaped off the girder they were on, dropping to the ground below in casual thirty-foot steps.
Ranma's epiphany suddenly caused several things to become clear to him. He yelled, "Shampoo, wait!" and leaped after her.
He caught her on the observation deck, finally pinning her against a wall between his outstretched arms. "Please..." he said, breathing hard more from sudden fright then exertion, "you... you don't understand."
"What to understand? Ranma like Akane more than Shampoo." But she made no move to escape.
He looked down at her, frowning slightly as he thought. For once, he wanted to work things out before he spoke. He did like Akane; she had been a staunch ally in a lot of fights, and he could always count on her when the chips were down. But they fought all the time, and she regularly beat the snot out of him; the whole thing was getting kind of old, and he didn't honestly see either of them changing. There was Ukyou, his oldest friend... but deep down, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, he still thought of Ukyou as a boy; the idea of marrying her was just too weird. There was Kodachi — with the ease of long practice, he avoided thinking about Kodachi at all.
And there was Shampoo, watching him with a puzzled look. Granted, she was arrogant, unscrupulous, and violent; but then, so was he. Besides, he rationalized to himself, his engagements to Akane and Ukyou were his father's fault; let him deal with them. The mess with Shampoo he'd gotten into on his own; it only seemed right that he take the responsibility himself.
And, of course, she was stacked. But since Ranma was firmly convinced that his female body was better-looking than all his fiancees put together, that may not have had much to do with it.
Shampoo lifted an eyebrow. "Ranma still there? What Shampoo not understand?"
He couldn't think of a simple answer to that, so he kissed her. She stiffened with surprise for a moment, then melted into his arms. After an indeterminate interval, they came up for air and she nuzzled his neck and purred with pleasure, causing him to twitch nervously; he'd momentarily forgotten about the cat situation.
She pulled back. "Now what problem?"
"Nothing," he said, kissing her again. After all, he thought resignedly, if he was going to be living with Cologne and the rest of the Amazons, it might be useful.
He was going to have in-law problems like he never imagined, and having the Neko-Ken on tap might come in handy.