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A Ranma ½ / Avengers (the superhero group) fusion
by DB Sommer

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ owned by Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. The Avengers are owned by Marvel Comics. Yes, the superheroes, not the British TV Series.

Any and all C+C is appreciated. You can contact me at [sommert@connecttime.net]

Act II, Scene 8: Dating Professional Wrestlers is Like Porcupines Mating

It was midnight at the Tendou household, but the darkness held no terror for Nabiki Tendou, who was having difficulty sleeping. Insomnia had always been an occasional problem, but the solution of a little warm milk was only a refrigerator away. That was why she was on her way to the kitchen in the dead of night.

It was also why she spotted the intruder. She only caught a fleeting glance of the person silhouetted in the doorway of the bathroom before she entered it, darting out of sight, but that was all Nabiki needed. No redheaded girls had any business intruding in her domicile. The little thief would learn what it meant to try and poach on Nabiki Tendou's turf. While she might have hated martial arts, she wasn't above using them when the situation called for it. Kicking the crap out of sneak thieves breaking into one's home was an ideal time.

Using her inherent sneakiness, in combination with her martial arts talent, Nabiki skulked silently to the door. She pressed her ear against it. It wasn't as good as using a glass, but it would do in a pinch. It wouldn't do to walk into a trap, even if she could fight her way out of it.

Through the wood Nabiki could hear water running. Perfect. If the girl was next to a faucet, it meant her guard was down. Though what sort of intruder used a bathroom before stealing things?

Nabiki threw the door to the bathroom open and shouted, "Ah ha! I've got—". It took the time to utter that phrase for the scene in front of her to register. And then she was uncharacteristically struck silent.

Ranma stood there, tilted bucket held over his head, dripping wet. As one would assume, since he was in the process of cleaning himself, he was naked. Very naked. And facing Nabiki, giving her an ideal view of everything nature had provided the very, very perfect specimen of the male of the species.

It took Ranma a second to react. "Hey!"

The shout snapped Nabiki out of her stupor. Somewhat. Her eyes were still fixed on Ranma. One part in particular. "Sorry. I thought I saw an elephant." She realized what she said, still staring. "I mean an intruder. Did you see a redhead—?"

"Get out!" Ranma shouted, covering himself with the empty bucket.

"Out? Yes, I suppose I should." With her view of Ranma blocked, she recovered enough of her faculties to turn and leave. Her eyes were still widened in disbelief as she headed to her room. Ranma was a hunk of beef in every sense of the word. Every vulgar term about endowed men went through her mind. She decided none of them really did Ranma justice.

When Nabiki eventually drifted off to sleep, she had very pleasant dreams indeed.

Hearing the door to his makeshift bedroom slide open, Genma rose up, yawning. "How did night patrol go, boy?"

The now clean Ranma flopped onto his mat. "I beat up some idiot called the Gamecock. He was dressed like a deranged chicken. I recommended that when he eventually gets out of jail he should go after Daredevil, since most loser supervillains seem to gravitate to him."

Genma watched Ranma closely. Something was wrong with the boy. "You seem awfully tired for fighting oversized poultry."

Ranma remained silent for a moment. Then, just when it seemed he'd roll over and go to sleep, he began speaking. "It's this whole situation with Mom. I think I should hang up the tights."

That woke Genma fully up. He rose to his feet and stomped toward Ranma, towering over him. "Don't be silly, boy. We've put too much time and effort into you taking up the role of superhero. Besides, you seem to like it."

Ranma sounded morose. "But Mom hates me. She even hates my other superhero identity. It's like she hates me two times over. Do you know what it's like when your mom goes on nationwide television, telling everyone she hates you and has founded an organization that wants to bring you down?"

"No, I'd say that's something fairly unique that's happened only to you," Genma admitted.

"Well, it sucks."

Now Genma was worried. This didn't sound like Ranma at all. "It's just a phase she's going through. She'll get over it. You should see her when she's on the rag. Always saw to it I was on a 'training journey' around that time of the month, if you know what I mean."

Ranma looked like he wanted to retch. "Way too much info, Pop." He paused and considered what Genma had said before. "I'll think about it. But I'm seriously considering retiring and telling Mom we failed. I think her being disappointed in me is better than her actively hating everything I represent."

"Don't be impulsive," Genma insisted.

"I won't rush into any decisions," Ranma said in a tired voice. "But I'm not promising anything." He rolled over, away from Genma, effectively ending the conversation.

Genma lay back down too, staring at the ceiling. He had to raise the boy's spirits, but he didn't know how. And he had to come up with something. He wasn't certain going to Nodoka and admitting failure was better than her actively trying to smear Ranma's name.

Morning arrived, and with it so did Nabiki. Yawning, she headed directly for the kitchen to get something to eat. Despite getting little sleep and having dark lines under her eyes, she had a wide smile on her face.

Her good humor, unusual for someone who was definitively not a 'morning person', was instantly noticed by Kasumi and Akane, who were already in the kitchen. Kasumi paused in preparing breakfast while Akane continued munching on some toast.

Akane spoke through a mouth full of food. "Hey, Nabiki. What's going on?"

"Yes, you seem unusually happy," Kasumi seconded.

A look of intense concentration crossed Nabiki's face, as though she were trying to decide something. Eventually she said, "I had problems sleeping last night, so I went to grab a late night snack. I thought I heard an intruder and ended up accidentally barging in on Ranma while he was in the bath. Let me tell you something, he could have a great career in the porn industry. Most mules would be envious of him."

Kasumi's face reddened. "Nabiki, that's very crude."

Akane nodded. "There's more to a guy than the size of his…" She trailed off as Nabiki grabbed a zucchini and held it up. She went through the courtesy of pretending to examine it, but the gesture was not lost on either girl.

"You've got to be kidding," Akane said.

"It was probably bigger. He was at 'half-mast'," Nabiki clarified. She placed the zucchini to her lips and began playing with it.

"Oh my," Kasumi said in awe.

It was at that moment Soun entered the room. He was more than a bit disturbed to see Nabiki behaving in a highly improper manner with a vegetable. "What's going on?"

Kasumi answered. "Good news, Father. Nabiki is showing an interest in Ranma."

Nabiki nearly choked on the zucchini.

Soun looked upon Nabiki in a new light. "You don't say."

Nabiki was still gagging as Akane said, "Yep. She peeked on him in the bath."

Finally extracting the large vegetable, Nabiki choked out, "It was an accident."

Her attempt at recovering lost ground did little good as Kasumi added, "She was just telling us how impressed she was with his… manliness."

"Going on about its great length. I mean going on about it at great length," Akane corrected.

Nabiki panicked. "There's more to men than the size of their—"

Soun cleared his throat in a very loud tone, ending that direction to the conversation. Seeing he had their attention, he continued. "You are quite correct about there being more to men than their physical attributes. Of course your mother used to be very impressed with my own—"

All three girls cleared their throats.

"Right," Soun said.

With the change in subject taken care of, Nabiki said, "Thank you, Daddy. I couldn't agree more." She shot a look of triumph to her sisters.

"As you will find out when you date Ranma," Soun finished.

Nabiki nearly choked again, this time without the benefit of trying to deep throat greenery. "What?"

"It is only a date," Soun assured her. "I'm not saying you have to make a decision now, though you would do the family a great honor if you did," he said in a paternal way. "But it's only fair that you go out with him since your sisters already did."

"But—" Nabiki started to say.

"There are no buts," Soun said in the same tone he had when it came to Nabiki learning the art.

Nabiki grimaced, but she had planned for a response to this eventuality. She had prepared for just about any attempt her father might make at attaching her to Ranma. Dating was easy compared to some of the other scenarios she had mentally come up with. "Fine, he pays for everything. No commitments whatsoever."

"Done," Soun said. "I'm certain once you've spent some time with him, you'll discover he's a nice young man."

"Yeah, I'm sure." Nabiki shot her sisters mutual glares that promised revenge at some point in their lives. Neither backed down, returning the stares, indicating there were no neutrals in the fiancé war.

Akane sat at her receptionist desk in Tofu's office, delighted at the unexpected turn of events of the day. With any luck, Nabiki would hit it off with Ranma so well the two of them would be engaged and Akane would be out of the stupid fiancé fiasco at last. Once the Ranma situation was settled, then Akane could concentrate solely on the object of her own affections. Kasumi was a bit of a problem, of course, and it would be preferable if Ranma chose her, but it had gotten to the point where Akane would take any victory she could have.

It was as she fantasized about what married life with the man of her dreams would be like that Tofu entered the reception area from his office in the back. A blush rose to Akane's cheeks. "Good afternoon, Dr. Tofu."

"Good afternoon, Akane," Tofu greeted cheerily. "The first appointment isn't for another half hour, so you should have some time to settle in. I'm going in back to arrange things."

"Yes, Dr. Tofu." Akane genuflected as the doctor returned to his office.

Akane had just risen to her feet when she felt a pair of hands grab her firmly by the hips. She gave a cry and darted out of the grasp. She barely caught the edge of the desk to keep from falling. Despite that it still took her a moment to regain her bearings before she turned on the person who had grabbed her.

"What do you think you're—" the epithet died off as she recognized the grabber. "Oh. Hello, Mrs. Ono."

Before Akane could ask the woman what she had been doing, (in a polite way since she didn't want to alienate someone so close to the man she adored) the elderly matron said, "Has anyone ever told you you have wonderful hips, my dear?"

Akane laughed weakly, "No, not really."

Mrs. Ono nodded in approval. "Fine hips. A good wife needs big hips for childbearing."

"Good point." Akane wasn't sure what to make of the conversation. It almost sounded like approval of Akane's potential as a daughter-in-law, but she dared not hope for such a thing. Besides, she was probably reading more into it than was there.

Mrs. Ono continued peering at Akane, as though she were looking into her very soul. "So, my dear, what are your feelings about Hydra?"

A shift to current events? The woman was a strange one. "The terrorist group?"

Mrs. Ono drew back, horrified. "Bah, that's just mindless propaganda spouted off by corrupt organizations like SHIELD that are run by anachronistic fossils like Nick Fury, who should be assassinated immediately!" Mrs. Ono's calmed down and composed herself. "What I mean to say is Hydra has done many good things, such as empowering third world nations."

Akane stared at her in bewilderment. "Empowerment? They sell arms to dictatorships and terrorists."

"Fledgling governments often go through a brief period of civic unrest after overthrowing corrupt regimes that are established under the guise of 'free elections.' Besides, you know what they say; one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. It all depends on who wins in the end and gets to write the history books. And continues to control them as others sometimes try to rewrite history." Mrs. Ono continued watching Akane closely. "What about the inroads in bio-technology Hydra has accomplished?"

Akane's bewilderment doubled. "Like what? The Death Spore Bomb?"

"The Death Spore had many practical applications. And it wasn't like they didn't have the cure as well."

Akane couldn't come up with a response to that, since the only practical application it had been used for was for Hydra attempting to blackmail the world with it. Luckily all the existing material on it had been destroyed with Hydra Island, or so SHIELD claimed.

"What about their technological advancements?" Mrs. Ono ventured.

"Like their QUASImodo AI? It tried to take over the world by overriding every computer system on the planet."

Again Mrs. Ono appeared offended. "I'll have you know that was AIM's fault. Their big headed stooge of a leader sabotaged the AI before it could be used for its intended purpose."

"Oh? That's news to me. Where did you hear that?" Akane asked.

"Sources, girl, When you get to my age, you cultivate plenty of sources." Mrs. Ono looked at Akane in open disapproval.

Akane didn’t know what she had done to offend the old woman, but suddenly had the idea that if she were to marry Dr. Tofu she wouldn't be spending a lot of time with her mother-in-law. "I have to get back to work," Akane said in the hopes the old woman would leave her alone.

It was at that moment the door to the office opened. Akane wondered for a moment which patient had arrived early when she spotted her sister entering, a book tucked under her arm. Akane was barely able to conceal her irritation. "Kasumi, what are you doing here?"

She held the book out. "I'm here to return this. I borrowed it from Dr. Tofu."

Akane gave her a borderline hostile glare. "You've been doing that a lot lately. This isn't a library, you know."

"But Dr. Tofu seems to happy to loan them to me. Deliriously so," Kasumi explained.

"I can return it to him." Akane held out her hand.

"Oh no, I'll do it," Kasumi said just a touch too quickly.

Before Akane could say anything further, Mrs. Ono interrupted. "How wonderful to see a young woman who's so responsible. It's so hard to find one in this day and age. And such nice hips."

Kasumi looked at the woman, who had maneuvered behind her, in confusion. "Ah, thank you, Miss…?"

"It's Mrs. Ono, Dearie. I'm Tofu's mother."

Kasumi bowed low. "It's an honor to meet you."

Mrs. Ono examined the young woman closely. "So tell me, do you drop by to see Tofu often?"

"Only three or four times a week," Akane mumbled.

That seemed to please the old woman. "I see, I see. Tell me, what are your feelings regarding the organization known as Hydra?"

"The terrorists?" Kasumi said with excitement in her voice. "They deserve to be blasted powerfully and repeatedly for their numerous crimes. The Avengers should be the one's to take them down, especially the Wasp. She'd enjoy stinging all of those bad people as punishment for the awful things they've done."

Mrs. Ono made a sour face. "I see. You're very passionate about superheroes. How unfortunate. Go and return your book, Dearie." Mrs. Ono picked up her portable shrine, which she had left next to the door. "I have to go. There are… things I must do." And promptly left the office.

Akane and Kasumi in stunned silence as the door swung shut.

Three women waited patiently before the JumboTron-sized view screen that dominated the cathedral-like chamber of the secret sublevel of Hydra's main headquarters.

The first, and obviously oldest, of the trio, was a woman in her thirties. She had long, dark hair and was dressed in a blue wrestling singlet and a red headband. Next to her was a blonde, much younger, wearing a grey singlet. The third was by far the largest of the trio, built like a bodybuilder. Unlike the others she wore a chain mesh suit, spiked helmet, and oversized boots.

The oldest looked to the blonde. "Kai, do you have any idea why the Imperial Hydra summoned us?"

The blonde shook her head. "I don't know, Mio. It might be a mission. We are superagents, after all, even if only Poundcakes has actual powers." She looked to the large woman.

"It better not take too long. We have a match for the tag titles tonight at the Tokyo Dome and I don't want to be late," Mio said.

It was that that moment the view screen flickered on and the green cowl of the Imperial Hydra appeared. Before the women could shout out the Hydra motto, a deep male voice interrupted them. "I'm in a hurry, my Grapplers. I have an important mission for one of you."

"One of us?" Mio asked.

"Yes, Titania. I need to make a choice between you, Letha, and Poundcakes," the Imperial Hydra said ominously. "It is a… recruitment mission. But first, a few questions. None of you are lesbians, are you?"

Titania snarled, "Just because Kai and I are professional wrestlers that take long showers together, washing each other's nubile bodies, lathering each other up, especially our breasts, does not make us lesbians!"

Letha nodded in agreement.

Poundcakes said, "I'm not either."

"I see. Excellent. Excellent," the Imperial Hydra cooed. "Now, are any of you married?"

Titania said, "No, but I do get hit on by morons a lot at bars."

Letha blushed slightly. "I have yet to meet a man who's better than my brother. Until I do, I shall never give up my purity."

"Nope, no luck with men lately either," Poundcakes finished.

"I see. I see," the Imperial Hydra said. "Now, for the most important question of all: which of you has the biggest hips?"

Titania and Letha both stared at their enormous comrade.

"I won the Miss Big Hips contest last year," Poundcakes said proudly.

"Jackpot!" the Imperial Hydra cheered and did a little jig. The mysterious figure composed itself a moment later. "Very well, how would you like to settle down with a handsome doctor?"

"Who do I have to kill?" Poundcakes was all but frothing at the mouth.

"No need for that… at this time. We want this individual recruited into Hydra." The screen split into two and a picture of Dr. Tofu appeared next to their leader.

"Most handsome," Letha admitted.

"Makes me want to switch back… Or it would if I was a lesbian. Which I'm not. I'm just in touch with my masculinity," Titania said.

The Imperial Hydra turned toward the picture next to her. "It's not the best picture of him. He never did take pictures well. You should see his driver's license. Boy looks like he's stoned out of his mind."

Poundcakes disagreed, all but drooling with lust. "He's absolutely gorgeous. Leave it to me, Sir. I'll land this handsome doctor in the name of Hydra."

"Excellent," the Imperial Hydra said again. "I'll arrange an omiai. He must not discover your affiliation with Hydra. Tell him you're a personal physical trainer for Multi-Headed Serpent International. That way he won't suspect a thing."

Poundcakes said, "It will be as you order. Hail Hydra! Cut off one head and—"

The image of the Imperial Hydra disappeared.

"Hey, he left before I finished our motto," Poundcakes complained.

"I hear he's been doing that a lot lately," Titania said. "Probably getting old."

Tofu held his hands to his head in misery. Kasumi had come by yet again, which would have ordinarily sent him into a joyous delirium. Only the problem was she had come to 'talk shop'. Superhero talk, to be specific, a topic he wanted nothing to do with. She had even shrunk down to Wasp size, which she felt was more 'in tune' with the nature of the conversation. It also left Tofu much more coherent than usual with her. He almost wished he hadn't been.

He hated superheroing and was counting the days until Kasumi would revert to her normal, placid self, eager to make hearth and home her top priority. But now all she ever did was talk about superheroing, fighting tactics, which villain she hoped they would fight next, and what costume she should wear to their next Avengers meeting. It was troublesome, and heaped a world of pressure on his shoulders. He wanted nothing to do with dressing gaudily and beating up people that needed therapy, not bludgeoning. The only reason he put up with the aggravation was for Kasumi's sake, but the pressure was building.

Tofu stared longingly at the drawer to his desk. The last patient had been seen, and he had time to himself. He turned away from it, but then looked at it again. Quickly his hand went to the handle and pulled it open.

On top of some papers was a gleaming metal flask filled with brandy. It had been a gift from some of his medical school friends upon his graduation. Tofu had been a bit of a party animal during his college days, which would have surprised many. More than once he had hit the bottle hard enough to make him swear off liquor for the rest of his life, only to repeat the actions the very next weekend. Still, he had chosen to stop his drinking after graduation, only occasionally tying one on from time to time. It was periodic, and he hadn't touched a drop in well over a year. In fact, he had only kept the flask around out of habit. But now….

Well, one drink wouldn't really hurt.

He grabbed the flask, seeing his distorted image in its mirrored surface. For a moment he almost put it back, but then the conversation with Kasumi reared its ugly head. He unscrewed the top and took a swig. The liquid sent a familiar fire down his throat. A good fire. He decided to take a second swig. Then a third. He had forgotten just how good brandy tasted.

He took a moment to savor the sensation in his mouth, the flask in his lap with the door to the room burst open and his mother entered.

"Knock, Mother!" Tofu snarled. His hands were a blur as the top was screwed back on and shoved the flask to the back of the drawer.

Rather than being chagrined, Mrs. Ono took the initiative. "Don't take that tone with me, young man. I taught you to respect your elders, and if you've forgotten that, well, it's not too late for you to relearn it."

For a moment Tofu almost snapped back, then he caught himself and his temper. He bowed his head apologetically. "Please forgive me, Mother. It's been a long day."

"Very well." Delight replaced anger. "I have great news for you. Your bachelor days are over. I've arranged an omiai for you."

Tofu felt like throwing up, despite only having three drinks. It was a child's worst nightmare, the meddling parent who thought they could arrange their offspring's life for them. He had to act fast before it was too late. "I don't need—"

She cut him off, his reaction anticipated. "But I do need you to provide me with grandchildren. When is the last time you dated?"

"Umm… it was a while ago." He saw the look in his mother's eyes. "All right, it was in college."

She nodded in satisfaction, as though the matter was settled. "Years ago, and you're not getting any younger, doctor or no, and neither am I. So you will go on this omiai."

Tofu sighed. She wasn't giving him even the hint of an option. Best to cut his losses and save his struggles for the upcoming date. "Yes, Mother." He officially acquiesced. He'd spend some time with the girl, pretend he enjoyed himself, and then tell her it just wasn't working out between them. And if that didn't work, the old, 'Before this goes any further, you should know I have a highly contagious sexually transmitted disease' would send her packing. That one never failed.

Nabiki lay on her back, scowling at the ceiling as she tried with all her might to figure a way out of her predicament. She had to date Ranma; there was no other option. The only question was how to make him hate it. She could be the bitch from hell. She could play uber-kawaii and make him spend everything he had, including his mortal soul, to please her, then give away everything he bought her right before his eyes. She could make him see a bunch of 'chick flicks'. She could fake being a lesbian. No, that wouldn't work. He'd probably ask if he could watch her with another woman.

The mental turmoil and potential plans came to an abrupt halt as Akane entered the living room in a panic. Glad for the distraction, Nabiki asked in a droll voice, "What's up your ass?"

Akane ignored the barb. "Dr. Tofu is going on an omiai!"

Nabiki rolled her eyes at Akane's overreaction. Unable to resist, she said, "Good for him."

"No, bad," Akane insisted. "This girl is completely wrong for him."

"Have you met her?"

Akane wrung her hands, hesitating before answering. "Well, no, but I just know she's wrong for him."

"Because she's not you?"

"Yes. I mean no," Akane corrected. "I mean he needs someone who understands him and compliments him at work as well as in the heart."

"Like you?"

Akane turned red, partially in anger and partially in embarrassment. "Quit putting words in my mouth."

Nabiki made a clucking sound with her tongue. "Look, Akane, don't you think this whole 'high school crush on an older guy' thing has gone on long enough? You need someone the same age as you who can understand the trials and tribulations of being sixteen. Tell you what. You can have my date with Ranma. Go out with him tonight and I'll stay home. You might be surprised at how much happier everyone will be."

Akane glared as evilly as she ever had at her sister. Between the offhand manner in which she tossed aside Akane's love and the transparent ploy to use her to get out of the engagement, made her more resentful than she could ever remember being. "Do you really think only about yourself?"

Nabiki returned the cold glare. "Since no one else has ever thought about me, I guess the task falls on my shoulders. So yes, I do."

Akane hadn't thought her sister would be so unabashed in admitting it. With nothing really to argue about, she simply turned on her heel. "I'm going to follow Dr. Tofu and make sure he doesn't make any mistakes he'll regret for the rest of his life." And promptly exited the room.

Nabiki sniffed disdainfully and laid back down.

It was a half hour later that Ranma appeared. He had just finished cleaning up after a vigorous training session with his father. He was delighted to know that now, beyond a shadow of any doubt, he was physically superior to his father. He might not have been quite as skilled, the old man still had a thing or two to teach him, but his physical superiority in every other aspect made up for that difference. And with each new technique Ranma learned the gap between the two would widen. The student had passed the teacher, and he couldn't be happier for it.

As he walked past the stairs, he noticed Nabiki. Curiously, she was dressed to go out and seemed to be in a hurry. "What's up?"

Nabiki said, "I’m going to follow my dear little sister so she doesn't do anything she'll regret later on in life." She looked Ranma up and down for a moment, then a grin crept across her face. "Why don't you come along?"

Ranma considered it. He hadn't any superheroic activities or class work. With the daily training session done, he was pretty bored. "Sure."

Nabiki smiled warmly. "Excellent. Why, with us going out like this, one could think of it as a date of sorts."

"Huh?" Ranma asked, suddenly apprehensive.

"Let's just go. I overheard Akane say where she's going." She grabbed Ranma's arm and ran off with him before he could protest further.

Tofu Ono took a deep drink from his wineglass, the fourth one in the last hour. The so-called omiai had been a disaster from the beginning. He wasn't attracted to this 'Kyoko' in the slightest. She was so heavily muscled she looked like a scaled down version of the Hulk. And she didn't act like a proper Japanese woman at all. She had probably never cooked a meal in her life.

Still, Tofu felt the need to act the role of the proper gentleman. It wouldn't do to alienate his masculine-looking date. It wasn't her fault she wasn't his type. Besides, maybe he'd find something redeeming about her.

Draining the last of wine from his glass, and flagging down a waiter to get another one, Tofu began to talk, slurring just a bit, "So, what is it you do for a living?"

"I'm a superv… that is, I'm a super-good physical trainer."

"That's nice." At least it explained her bulky physique. "So, how did you meet my mother?"



Poundcakes caught herself again. "That is, I ordered an omiai through a professional agency. She must have pulled my dossier and thought we'd be compatible."


Poundcakes began sweating profusely. She wasn't used to undercover work. Stomping on things with the cybernetically implanted vibratory devices in her legs was more her style. She decided to change the subject before she ruined everything. "Did you know I can crack coconuts with my thighs?"

"That's… interesting." Actually it was a bit terrifying. "Exactly how did you discover that particular talent anyway?"

Poundcakes began sweating more. "It's a long story."

"Aren't they all?" Tofu said tiredly, tempted to tell her about the one with the normal doctor who one day discovered he could grow to a height of fifty feet, then was drafted as a superhero. When the next drink arrived, he finished it in two gulps.

"Are you certain we're inconspicuous?" Letha asked her companion.

Titania fingered her trenchcoat. "If we end up in a fight, we'll need to get down to our costumes quick. We can't do the old 'duck into a phone booth and change into costume in a half second at superspeed thing'. Aside from not having superspeed, it's not like there's any phone booths around to do it in anymore. Everything is cell phone oriented now."

"Maybe." Titania had made a good point, but Letha still thought they stood out since it was a warm evening and no one else was dressed in trenchcoats.

"How's it going in there anyway?" Titania asked.

Letha, who earlier had walked past the clear window to the restaurant and watched Poundcakes and her date eating, shrugged. "Hard to say. I'm not good at reading lips."

Titania nodded. "If she hasn't clotheslined him by now, things are probably going well."

"Maybe we didn't need to chaperone them after all."

Titania shook her head. "You know how important it is to the Imperial Hydra that this mission succeeds. I have no desire to have our next 'landmine death match' to have real claymores instead of props surrounding the ring. I—" Titania's eyes narrowed as she looked toward the exterior of the restaurant. There was a girl with a cane peering through the corner of the window, trying hard not to be seen while looking in.

"Suspicious person at six o'clock." She pointed the girl out to her partner.

Letha looked at her closely. "I recognize her. She was at the train station where Poundcakes met her date."

Titania cracked her knuckles. "Told you it was a good idea we came along. Let's go conduct a little interrogation."

The two moved toward the girl.

"Tell me again why you think Akane's going to do something stupid," Ranma asked as he and Nabiki lurked a good distance away from Akane, making certain to hide behind corners as they tailed her. They had been doing if for the better part of a half hour, and it was becoming annoying. He had come along to not be bored, and the exact opposite was happening.

"She's overprotective of her boss. She's afraid if he marries she'll be out of a job." It was an oversimplification of things, but it was better than letting Ranma know Akane was interested in someone else. He might suddenly get some stupid 'noble' idea about standing aside and leaving the fiancée matter down to her and Kasumi, and Nabiki would have none of that.

"I guess that makes sense," Ranma said. "She hasn't missed a day of work since I've been here, even when she had that really bad cold."

"Akane is perseverance personified once she fixates on something." It was then something dawned on Nabiki. "You're pretty good at this watching without being spotted stuff."

"Been on lots of stakeouts," Ranma said absentmindedly.

Nabiki's eyebrows arched. "What was that?"

Ranma suddenly realized what had slipped out. "I'm hungry for going out for some steak."

"That's not what you said."

Ranma was about to panic when he saw two suspicious figures in trenchcoats confront Akane. He could tell by their belligerent postures something bad was about to happen. He had never been so happy to see someone threatened in his life. "Hey, we have to stop them!" Ranma immediately broke cover and ran toward Akane.

Titania held Akane up by the back of her neck, eyeing her suspiciously. "Okay, kid, why are you stalking our friend. Don't try and deny it, we've seen you doing it all night. You wouldn't happen to be working for SHIELD, now, would you?"

A voice behind them barked, "Hands off the girl."

Titania did so, dropping Akane, who landed on her bottom. She rubbed her sore behind as she used her cane to return to her feet.

"Who the hell are you and what's this girl to you?" Titania asked as Letha remained to the side, watching events unfold.

"I'm Cap—." Ranma bit his tongue. "Ranma Saotome, and I'm cohabitating with that girl."

"Don't make it sound so sordid!" Akane shouted.

Before Titania could say anything else a figure came at her from the opposite side, sucker punching her in the jaw and sending her flying. Immediately Letha fell into a defensive stance, having been caught off guard as well.

Nabiki brushed her hands casually. "Jeez, Ranma, who taught you to fight? Always go for the cheap shot when it presents itself. Letting someone know you're around like that is practically begging to get your ass kicked."

Offended, Ranma said, "Sometimes you can defuse a situation with words instead of resorting to violence."

Nabiki arched an eyebrow. "Oh, and how often does it work for you?"

"Well… I… that is…." Once Ranma thought about it, he realized he could never remember a time when he had defused a situation with talk. It always ended up becoming a fight.

"Not bad." Titania returned to her feet, smiling at Nabiki. It wasn't a happy smile. It was one of those grins that said, 'That hurt. Let me share the pain with you, except multiply it a few times and make it last longer'. "Of course, in my profession, I'm used to cheap shots. I have yet to lose a match because of one."

Nabiki smirked, openly confronting her opponent. "Now that you've stepped into better lighting, I see you're a lot older than I originally thought."

Titania's eyebrow twitched. "You are so going to bleed for that one." She tossed aside her trenchcoat, revealing her black, body-tight wrestling uniform.

Nabiki's smirk doubled. "Looks like that outfit has some pretty good push up action, old lady. You can hardly detect the sag."

Letha held a hand to her head. "Try not to kill her. It would draw unwanted attention to us."

Titania practically frothed at the mouth. "I want ten."


Nabiki watched the exchange closely. "Ten what?"

"It's the number of broken bones you'll have before she's finished with you," Letha explained. "You're getting off lucky. She had a thirty once for someone that was a lot less offensive than you. Of course that was from a guy. She really hates it when guys rub her wrong."

"Bones make nice crunching sounds when you break them. Listen close and you'll hear them." Titania charged leveling a fist at Nabiki's head.

Nabiki dodged the blow, weaving to the side before landing a jab right on Titania's jaw. It barely fazed the woman, but that was acceptable to Nabiki. The attack had been designed to probe her foe's defenses rather than inflict damage. If she could have taken Titania out with that, she would have been so weak there wouldn't be any sense in bothering with a probe.

Titania tried an uppercut that missed as well. Again Nabiki retaliated with a punch to the jaw, this one with more force behind it, but not a totally committed blow.

Titania tried several more punches, each slower than the last. In response, Nabiki increased the power of her return punches, landing each. One split Titania's lip. "Old and slow," Nabiki taunted.

Titania snarled and charged. Convinced she had the measure of her opponent's abilities, Nabiki went for a high kick intended to end the fight in quick and dramatic fashion. However Titania shifted the point of her attack as Nabiki lashed out with her leg. The older woman aimed lower, tackling Nabiki's pivot leg and knocking her down. Titania then rolled up holding onto Nabiki's leg. She sat up on her haunches on top of Nabiki's back, pinning her to the ground. She tucked the leg under her arm and pulled backward on it. "A half-Boston crab should be enough to finish you off."

Nabiki panicked. It felt like her knee was going to be pulled out of joint. She lashed backward with a chop into the back of Titania's bent leg. It was due more to luck than skill that the blow hit a nerve that made Titania release the hold.

Nabiki returned to her feet. By then Titania recklessly ran forward one arm brought back behind her, not even bothering to try and defend herself. Nabiki went for a kick to the woman's unprotected mid-section. The kick landed cleanly, making Titania gasp for a second, but the older woman continued through with the blow, shouting "Idakaya Bomb Bar!" and clotheslining Nabiki, nearly taking off her head in the process. Nabiki dropped the ground like a rock, barely moving.

Titania rubbed at the spot Nabiki had kicked, surprised to see her still moving on the ground. "Not bad, kid. Not many can stay conscious after receiving the most lethal clothesline in the business. I developed it after getting hit on by one too many drunks at a bar. They never get up. And now." She lifted the nearly unconscious Nabiki up by the back of her neck holding her high up in the air. "Let's see how many bones I can break with the 'Mortuary Slam'."

Just before she could bring Nabiki down into the concrete Ranma grabbed her by the arm that held the middle Tendou girl. Using his superior strength, he forced Titania to release Nabiki, who was barely able to break her fall. She crumpled into a ball on the ground, holding her neck and gasping for breath.

"That's enough. You won," Ranma assured the woman.

Titania's response was to try to hit Ranma with an elbow, but he casually blocked it. Titania was quick to follow up with a high spinning back kick. Ranma ducked under the kick, then came up with a palm strike to the woman's jaw and a punch to her gut. Far more powerful than anything Nabiki had done, Titania fell to one knee, winded.

Ranma looked down at his foe, ready for anything. "Now to—" Whatever else he was about to say was cut off as a blur came across his face, hitting him with a high knee and sending him sprawling backward. Reflexes took over as he tried rolling with the powerful blow, but still it made his teeth rattle. He shook off the worst effects of the shot, cradling his jaw.

"If you're going to attack my mentor when she hasn't had a chance to recover from her last fight, it's the same as attacking me," Letha said. There wasn't really anger in her voice; it was more a statement of fact than anything else.

"Fair enough." Ranma decided there was no point in wasting bravado with this one, who had been so silent during the fight he had forgotten she was there. It was best to end this as quickly as he could.

Ranma tried to finish the fight with a tremendous punch to the jaw. Letha backpedaled even as the fist came crashing toward her. It glanced off her shoulder. Ranma was mentally calculating his next attack when she grabbed the fist with both hands. Snake quick she raised her entire body up, locking her legs around Ranma's upper body while repositioning her grip on his arm, holding it out, extended and straight, while at the simultaneously trying to twist it in different directions. She was literally hanging in mid-air by Ranma's arm.

"That's Kai's cross-armbreaker," Titania explained as Ranma winced in pain as Letha attempted to twist in directions nature hadn't intended. "You might want to give up before she bends your arm into a paper clip."

Rather than yield, Ranma brought Kai up over his head on sheer muscle power alone. He then threw her hard into the ground, just like he would spiking a football.

"You were saying… What?" Ranma was stunned to find that Letha was still wrapped firmly around his arm, just like before. Her eyes burned furiously as she gritted her teeth and held on, continuing to twist his arm.

Ranma could feel the joints starting to give. He only had seconds before this deceptively strong and durable girl did dislocate, and maybe break, his arm. Using every ounce of strength he had Ranma once again brought the girl up off the ground, the move hurting doubly so since he had to use the arm she was in the process of breaking. Rather than bringing her up over his head, he swung her back, then forward.

This time he swung her like a bat headfirst into a telephone pole. The force of the blow was too much for Letha, and she released the hold as her body remained right where it was while Ranma's arm continued on the follow through. She fell to the ground unmoving.

Ranma shook the kinks out of his arm, which still ached with the way it had been twisted. That had been a near thing. Still he could not help being concerned about his opponent, who lay limply on the ground. He walked over to her to check her out. "Hey, are you—"

As Ranma bent over her legs shot up, wrapping them around his neck. Before he could react she brought him forward rolling as she threw Ranma headfirst into the ground with her legs.

Groggily Letha returned to her feet, shaking her head. Amazingly, Ranma did the same.

The two stared at each other, and then smiled.

Titania winced. Earlier it had been Kai warning her to control her temper. Now Titania didn't waste her breath. Kai had that look in her eye, the same one she had when she fought the Air Master and lost. She had found a worthy opponent, one that could make her better, win or lose. She'd fight this Ranma guy until one of them couldn't move.

She hoped Kai didn't mess him up too badly.

'—And so that's how I won the Miss Big Hips competition last year. Maybe after dinner you could place those skilled physicians' hands of yours on them and get a firm grip, if you know what I mean," Poundcakes said.

Yes, Tofu knew exactly what she meant, and it was all he could do to keep from throwing up. Instead he took another drink. Six total in the last hour, and he was starting to feel it, though not enough to eradicate the annoying cow before him.

He was about to say as much when two figures came hurtling through the front window of the restaurant, sending a spray of glass everywhere. Their momentum was so great they skidded across landed the table, kicking the glass out of his hand.

"Hey, that was mine!" Tofu complained as the two figures rolled on the ground, punching, kicking, and even scratching one another.

The two separated far enough apart to start properly kicking and punching one another again. They were a dervish of fists and feet, blows landing as frequently as not.

While Tofu stared in sorrow at his empty hand, Poundcakes trembled in anger. She rose to her feet, blood in her eyes as she approached Ranma. "You ruined my date!" she bellowed, and lashed out with a foot.

Unfortunately for Ranma, he was blocking one of Letha's punches at the time and took Poundcakes' kick in the side. A blow like that delivered from an ordinary person would have been annoying, but since it was backed by cybernetic vibratory circuitry, he was hurled through the air, and then a wall. He went sailing into the kitchen where he wiped out ten dinners about to be served up, as well as a soufflé that the chef had cooked to show his staff how one was properly done. He didn't get up.

For Poundcakes, it wasn't enough. She bellowed, "For ruining my date, I'm going to stomp you into a bloody smear."

She took two steps in that direction when Letha kicked her in the chest hard enough to knock her off her feet. It took Poundcakes a second to recover from the shock of who had kicked her as well as the blow itself. But when she did return to her feet, she was twice as angry as before.

"What was that for?" she roared.

Letha didn't back down for a second. "That was the best fight I've had in months, but you interfered and ruined it!"

"That's nothing compared to my date being ruined!" Poundcakes said menacingly. "But since you're all hot and bothered for a fight, I'll give you one."

"Don't bother. This date is over."

Both women turned to look at the speaker: Tofu.

Anger changed to sorrow as tears welled in Poundcakes' eyes. "But why?"

There was resentment in Tofu's voice as he spoke. "I just can't respect someone whose first response is violence. I want a girl who's gentle and nice. Who can remain calm and levelheaded through any crisis. One who would try to solve things peacefully. Frankly, you aren't even remotely the sort of person I'm interested in. You're more suited to be some senseless supervillainic brute."

Now tears flowed freely down Poundcakes' face. Bawling her eyes out, she ran through the opening made by Letha and Ranma, never looking back.

Titania, who had entered the restaurant just in time to see her friend's public humiliation, said, "If I were a lesbian, I'd be glad I swore off men after seeing that. Come on, Kai."

Letha waited a moment for a stunned and sore Ranma to return to the dining room, holding his side in obvious pain. She said, "I hope we can have a true conclusion to our fight someday."

Ranma grinned, then winced as he clutched his side. Letha gave him a brief salute, then left the dining room.

Akane limped over to Dr. Tofu. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, thanks for asking," Ranma said acerbically from off to the side.

Glassy-eyed from all the alcohol he had consumed, it took Tofu a second to get his thoughts in order. "Akane, what are you doing here?"

Akane panicked. She had been so concerned about Tofu she hadn't thought of a believable explanation. Her eyes darted around the room, then fell upon the perfect excuse. "I was with Ranma when that woman attacked him for no reason."

Tofu looked back and forth between the two. "You were on a date?"

"Never!" Akane said. "He was on a date with Nabiki and I sort of ran into them and we made it a threesome."

"I was in a threesome on college once," Tofu said dreamily. "Fraternity prank. Although I wasn't in the fraternity. It was one played on me. My ass was sore afterwards."

Akane looked scandalized.

"I got drunk and rolled down a hill, ending up with a bunch of scrapes with cinders in my backside. It's a long story. I'd better go help Ranma."

Akane became helplessly lost by the multiple directions the conversation had taken, and decided it was probably best to not try to sort it out; she might not have liked where it had been going.

After Tofu gave Ranma a brief examination, and determined he suffered from nothing more than some sore ribs, the quartet left the establishment before somebody tried to hit them with the repair bill.

As they walked down the street, Ranma said, "I hope I get to fight that chick again."

"I hope I don't. She hits hard for an old hag." Nabiki held her neck gingerly. "One thing I have to admit, Saotome, a date with you certainly isn't boring. Brutal. Painful. But not boring."

Ranma stared at her blankly. "We were on a date?"

"A very interesting one. Be very clear on that if either of our fathers ask."

"Oh. Yeah, I guess we were then." Ranma relaxed, hoping Nabiki had a miserable enough of a time that she wouldn't ask for another. Unless she was into being beaten on her dates, which would make Ranma want to date her even less.


To be continued.

Author's notes: Mio Hayase and Kai Sampagita are from Air Master. And Mio is based off the first Titania who got whacked by Scourge when Marvel made a new Titania that went over much better than the first. Gamecock was indeed a one-shot character that is probably more ridiculous than Ringer.

Act II, Scene 9
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Last revision: May 21, 2007

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