Bearing Down

'They've got us outnumbered and outgunned, they've got the home advantage, the time advantage, the flight advantage, and the magic advantage, they've got several deities on their side, and they're covering our escape route...

'Yeah... Kuno?'


Fitz covered his eyes. 'Kuno... Skuld's /on/ the opposite side.'

'This is but a test of our worthiness! Should we be found worthy, then shall we be rewarded by Kami-sama himself!'

Keiichi winced at the thought of what reward /Kuno/ would get from Kami-sama. It wasn't pretty.

'I think I preferred it when he was shouting "DIE, RANMA SAOTOME!!"...' Ranma muttered.

'It took divine intervention to get him /off/ your back...' Ryouga pointed out. 'I do /not/ want to know what it would take to stop him now...'

Ataru stuck his hand up.

Fitz sighed. '/No/, Ataru, you /cannot/ go over there. I don't care if it /would/ be a suicide mission.'

'I would.' Ten said under his breath.


'/No/, Ataru.' Fitz looked around. 'Yeah, Spike?'

The blond vampire lowered his hand. 'We're screwed.'

Fitz considered that. 'Yeah, pretty much ...Tenchi?'

Tenchi nodded. 'Look.'

A wooden tub was inching its way up the side.

The others watched in silence.

'Just to be sure... he is doing this on his own time, correct?' Ssard said.

Fitz shrugged. 'Hey, he knew the risks when he came along. /I'm/ not his mother.'

The tub reached the top-

-and was immediately blasted off.

'Yep, they're still there.' Fitz observed.

Jack looked over at the tub... and the dazed, stunned and dripping wet figure of Happosai. 'And I thought I was too old for a bath house war...'

Fitz grinned. 'Jack... you're /never/ too old to have a bath house war.'


On the other side of the wall...

'Oh yeah. Warmth. Heat. Steam. /Water/...' Izzy sank deeper into the pool.

'Ahhh...' Compassion sighed.

'Relaxation...' Ayeka murmured. 'They should make hot baths /mandatory/ after a hard day...'

'They do, Ayeka, sugar. They do...' Ukyou said.

'Do you think we should stop them?' Kasumi asked.

Urd waved a hand. 'Nah... they're having too much fun. 'Sides-' She raised her water pistol, and hit the tub poking just above the wall. '-I needed to practice my marksmanship.'

Ayeka raised a perfect eyebrow at that.

Ryoko caught the expression, and smirked.

'And it helps let off a lot of tension.' Kasumi pointed out. '/Everybody/ needs that at some time.'

'Where /did/ Skuld get Mr Hydro, anyway?' Minagi wondered.

The subject of discussion was oblivious to the conversation, since she was currently toting something that bore about as much resemblance to a water pistol as the Titanic did to a canoe.

'From the same place Akane gets her hammers?' Mihoshi suggested.

Akane blinked. 'What?'

'You pull your hammers out of thin air. Now, I'm not sure whether that means you simply create them there and then, or whether you summon them from somewhere else...'

'Narrative physics.' Washu said, lying back. 'Teenage girls will /always/ have a blunt instrument to hand whenever the object of their affections ticks them off.'

This time, it was Akane who found herself the centre of attention.

'Yeah, so? We /did/ eventually admit it, you know. Otherwise we wouldn't be here.'

'/Eventually/...' Nabiki observed. 'Face it, onee-sama, if you'd taken any longer, we'd have had to knock both of you over the head and drag you to the priest ourselves...'

'We weren't /that/ bad!' Akane protested.

' "RANMA NO BAKA!"?' Ukyou inquired. 'Kicks into Low Earth Orbit?'

'Mm-hmm. So does that mean you've fallen for Tsubasa?' Akane threw back.

'It /would/...' Ukyou said, the barest hint of a smile on her face. 'If it weren't for the fact I don't go into Final Jealousy.'


'Well, let's take a look at this. Tsubasa fixates on Ranchan for a while, I don't flip. You find Ranma with me, Shampoo, Kodachi... you flip /big time/.'

'Um...' Akane said. 'He /was/ supposed to be my fiancee...'

'Law of Conflict Resolution: Negative interaction between two parties will tend to degenerate into violence whenever possible, as rapidly as possible.' Washu said. 'Although I think the Tendou-Nikaido Principle also applies: Common sense will never be applied to a situation until all other alternatives have been attempted.'

'Ah...' Akane stammered.

Then her eyes narrowed. 'Nabiki...'

'Yes?' her older sister replied calmly.

'Tell me. How much did you have to pay to have our name up on one of the Laws?'

'Wasn't me.' Nabiki replied. 'Actually, it was Genma.'

'It was /who/?!'

'Yep. Made a deal with the Storytellers: our family names up on the Laws, and he gets a lifetime's supply of bamboo.'

'That's a Genma deal, alright...' Akane muttered.

Charley blinked. 'Um... so what's Saotome's Law?'

'Saotome's Law: The worst possible person will always show up at the worst possible moment ' Compassion recited.

Akane smiled.

Then she grinned.

Then she broke into peals of laughter. 'Oh, Kami-sama, that's /perfect/!'

'Isn't it /just/?' Washu said, grinning.


'They're laughing.'

'Okay, no problem...'

'/Akane's/ laughing.' Ryouga reported.

'Did you say /Akane/?' Ranma said.

'Believe me, I'd recognise Akane's laughter anywhere.'

'She laughs?' Ranma repeated.

Jack stared at him. 'You've never heard her laugh?'

'Don't /remember/ it...' Ranma said. 'Her /smile/, yeah, she looks real cute when she smiles... but I don't remember her laughing.'

Fitz sighed. 'Take it from someone who knows: If you can't remember the last time she laughed, something's wrong.'

'I can remember the last time /Kodachi/ laughed, tho'...' Ranma said, shuddering.

Even Kuno winced at that one. 'My beloved sister does tend to take her pleasure where she can find it...'

'She still in jail?'

'To the best of my knowledge, thankfully, yes.'

'I don't think I want to know...' Tenchi murmured.

'Best course.' Ranma said.

'/That/ brings back memories...' Jack said under his breath.

Keiichi took in Fitz's expression. The older man's teeth were gritted, deep lines etching across his forehead.

Then he relaxed, letting out a breath.

'Why don't you want to say something?'

'Because I don't know what's gonna happen. Given the kinda stuff I've been through, I don't /wanna/ find out what's gonna happen. But now, 'cause I'm anime side, I'm gonna open my mouth, shout some crazy-sounding attack name - and then, *pow*, I'm in the Land of Consequences, population: me.'

'Ano, you might not get that bad a deal...' Keiichi pointed out.

'You don't know my luck. When the proverbial hits the fan, I'm usually the one in the line of fire...' Fitz said.

Keiichi frowned. 'I thought that was /my/ line...'

'Huh. Tell it to the face. The crap /I/ get landed with...' Spike muttered.

'You're not living my life.' Ryouga said.

'I'm not sure I'm living /mine/, sometimes...' Tenchi said.

'You need to /ask/?' Ranma said.

'Unluckiest boy alive? Hello?' Ataru said.

Ssard shook his head. 'No.'

'/No/?!' the others echoed.

'Happily and peacefully married.' Ssard said. 'The xenophobia and prejudice, we can handle.'

'Um, Ssard...'

'/They/ may not be happy. I am.'

'How'd you manage it?' Ten asked.

'That... I am not entirely certain about.' Ssard said carefully. 'From experience, the Doctor's companions tend to be... magnets for trouble, even after they leave. Stacy and I, however, have managed to remain relatively trouble-free. I think part of it may be that we live far removed from our original times, in a period of relative peace - and that few know we travelled with the Doctor.'

'That might do it...' Fitz observed. 'Hey, Takki, you've been quiet...'

'I devote my life to noble Skuld's cause!' Kuno proclaimed.

Keiichi winced.

'And in that glorious cause, I will do whatever it shall take to break the pig-tailed girl of Saotome's foul sorceries!'

'So what're you doing in the bath house with him?'

'Alas, the plumber has not, as yet, repaired noble Kuno's plumbing, and a holy warrior must keep himself purified at all times. Rest assured that the utmost care has been taken.'

'Uh-huh.' Fitz said.


'Oh Kami-sama...' Skuld moaned. 'And if I hear /one/ more giggle out of you, Sammy...'

'Sorry, Skoo...' Sasami said, a mischievous grin on her face.

'Well, at least Urd hasn't done the Big Sister Bust Size Check.' Skuld continued. 'She /always/ does it when we hit the bath house together...'

Sasami looked sideways at the young Megami.

'Checking whether I've grown or not.' Skuld explained.

'Oh.' Sasami said. 'Um... Inoku-sama got drunk in the tub one time...'

'...So does Urd. If she has the chance.'

'And I thought being the Key was weird.' Dawn murmured. 'I didn't know how good I had it...'

A key to understanding quite /why/ Dawn, Sasami and Skuld were clustered to one side of the tub /might/ be found in the legendary and infamous "younger sister bond", known and feared among /all/ who have younger sisters.

To be more specific, whenever younger sisters meet up, they will tend to bond over mutual griping of their elder siblings.

Given the elder siblings in this case were Urd, Ayeka and Buffy, this was only to be expected.

'Hey, /you/ got guarded by an order of monks.' Skuld said. 'For thousands of years!'

'And /you/ get worshipped on the Space Demons' homeworld.' Sasami countered.

'Oh. Hmm, I wonder why the words "Royal Princess of Jurai" are springing to mind right about now...' Dawn pondered.

A point should be made here about relative ages.

In their current forms, Sasami appears to be about ten Terran years old, Skuld appears to be about twelve, and Dawn appears about fifteen.

In /chronological/ age, Dawn is several million years old, Sasami is over seven hundred (or several billion, depending on your perspective), and Skuld, quite reasonably, refuses to talk about her real age, given her home dimension has a special relationship to time.

If they can overcome /that/, they can overcome the small problem of physical age.

'Hey, could be worse.' Skuld said, eying Minagi. 'We could have /Ryoko/ as a big sister...'

'Oh, I don't know.' Sasami said. 'Minagi-san seems to do pretty well, with Ryoko-san as her role model.'

'That's the part I have trouble with...' Dawn said.

'Most of her life, she was a /criminal/,' Sasami said. 'Now she's a positive role model.'

'Ah...' Dawn and Skuld said.

'Exactly.' Sasami said, eyes twinkling innocently. 'It does wonders for Ryoko-san's self-esteem...'

'Especially given they're twins.' Dawn said. 'After all, it's not /Minagi's/ fault they don't stick around long enough to hear her explain she's the good one...'

'...So she has to work /very/ hard to compensate.' Skuld completed. 'And puts a lot of bad guys out of business.'

'Which raises her standing galaxy wide.' Sasami said. 'And makes up for all the bad stuff Ryoko-san did working for Kagato.'


'Old student of Washu-chan's. Not a nice guy.'

'Yeah... sounds /wonderful/, doesn't it?' Skuld said. 'Hey, do you think Ryoko'd mind some "big sister" tips?'

'Of course!' Sasami said, 'They should get the chance to bond, don't you think?'

'Oh, of /course/...' Dawn said.

They leaned back in the tub, satisfied.


'Hey, you guys doing okay over there?'


'Need any help?'

'We're fine, Iz.'

'Okay. Call if you need any help... or if you wanna surrender...'

More giggling from the other side of the wall.



'Get. Off. Now.'


Fitz sank even deeper.

None of my business. None of my business.


One enraged fish girl's fist connecting with an elderly pervert's chest later...

'I must apologise, Izzy. I believed Happosai was safely secured.'

Izzy waved it off. 'Not your fault, Ssard. Guy can get out from anything...'

'Yeah?' Ranma muttered. 'Maybe we should try it out...'

'See you around.' She dipped beneath the wall.

Fitz slowly allowed himself to rise back up. 'Hnh. /She's/ having fun.'

The others stared at him, as if this was some strange definition of 'fun' specific to 1960s Britain.


'Your definition of fun seems to be at odds with the reality.' Jack said.

'Izzy?! *FUN?!*' Ten said.

'You haven't seen her swimming.' Fitz said.

'What has /that/ got to do with anything?'

'No, I mean you /really/ haven't seen her swim. She...' Fitz paused. 'Y'know, I don't have the words for it? She's /euphoric/. Like, just for this moment, it's her, and the water... and nothing else. She can go /anywhere/, do /anything/... and all she wants to do is swim.' He chuckled. 'Closest thing I've ever seen to it is when Compassion's surfing the Vortex. It's that kind of thing... She keeps singing something from this old TV programme, something called "Stingray". "Marina... Aqua Marina...".'

'Okay... just /what/ are you talking about?'

'Welcome to the wonderful world of natural highs.' Fitz said. 'I should know, I've got high enough times... and Izzy gets high when she swims. When she really gets into it.

'There're times you can really see why Destrii was so damn vain about her body. I mean, Izzy knows, somewhere, how she looks... and she's disassociated from it. Only way she can keep from waking up screaming. But when she swims...' Fitz trailed off. 'She luxuriates in it, totally unselfconscious about it - /that's/ when you can see it.

'The Doctor said one time, when he was talking about it... he said she was always beautiful to him.

'And when she swims... I think we all see that, then.

'/All/ of us.'


Charlotte Pollard had taken a quite reasonable response to her current situation.

She was brushing up on her Oriental knowledge.

Sooner or later, the Doctor would land her in Singapore - /hopefully/, New Year's Eve, 1930 - and when he did, she was going to be as prepared as she possibly could, allowing for the high fantasy level of the area she currently occupied.


...well, there /were/ worse things to do then help out in a wedding.

Some of which sprang to mind easily. Almost too easily.

She needed to talk to someone about it, and the best person to talk to was...


'Yeah, Charl?'

Charley shook her head. 'It's just... I don't know. I think we should have done more for Adric.'

The space pirate's eyebrows raised. 'You?'

'All of us.' Charley said. 'Me, Anji, Izzy... all of us. We... well, we /like/ him. He's...' She frowned. 'Um, how can I put this... He doesn't deserve the hand he got dealt. The fans have been ...dismissing him, insulting him, ridiculing him... and even if he /were/ guilty of all the stuff they throw at him, they've been doing it for twenty years. And that's...'

'Obsessive? Tunnel-vision? Path of least resistance?'

'It's not just that. If we'd known... if we'd known just how bad it was getting for him, if we'd /realised/ what was happening to him...'

'If you'd shown you knew...'

'What's that line the Doctor keeps using? Never cruel or cowardly?' Charley asked. 'We - /none/ of us, not even Compassion - we've never been out there, insulting him. But we /were/ afraid. We /didn't do anything/. We thought you - and the rest of his friends - we thought you were there for him, that your support would be enough.'

'It was.' the space pirate said, remembering. '/Barely/ enough, but it /was/ enough.'

'But it might not have been...' Charley said.

'You're feeling responsible...' Ryoko guessed.

'Think about it.'

Charley and Ryoko leaned over when they heard the quiet voice.

To see that it was Sam who'd spoken.

'Think about it. Izzy makes geekdom respectable. Ssard and Stacy defied God knows how much prejudice to get married, I'm Activist Girl, Fitz is the counter-culture guy... Fey breaks 1930s taboos like there's no tomorrow, Compassion took the anti-companion thing to whole new heights, Anji's... Well, Anji's got her own perspective on this. Ever fallen in love with someone your friends don't think is 'right'? That's where Anj's coming from...' Sam trailed off.

'It's not like we get any special insight. It's more that we could see what was happening... and guess what it was doing...

'They called me... well, stop me when you've heard it. Shallow. Unlikeable. Leftie. Self-centred. Clueless. Naive. I'm quite possibly - no, check that, I /am/ - the most hated book companion. ' She chuckled, softly. 'Ironic, isn't it? Self-pity mode alert, Sam's ranting about herself again. There's a point to this one, though...

'Okay. Not really anything I can do about it - I'm not in the books anymore, I'm not likely to be. Fair enough. If you /can't/ do anything about it, then it's better to spend your energy on something else, something else that might help, rather than fight the losing battle.' Sam actually smiled. 'I fought enough losing battles - and the first one I lost was "Sam. Bleah".

'But I'm still here... although things came pretty close a couple of times. I can see why Adric keeps coming back - when I went there that one time, I thought I'd got stuck working for INC for the rest of time...'

'I thought you died /twice/...' Charley interrupted.

'Would you believe the Sidhe don't register with the Mortality Deferment Program?' Sam inquired. 'Although I got a couple of improvements in the process - came with the package. Anyway, I came back - I couldn't miss out on watching Fitz lose at poker, could I?'

Ryoko snickered. 'No, you couldn't...'

'I had a future - and I could choose to spend it how I wanted. Well, apart from the fanfics. Spending it with friends and having adventures, wherever they happened to be... I could think of worse choices. Actually, I could /see/ worse choices.

'But seeing Nyssa kill Adric - again, and again, and again...' Sam hesitated. 'I /did/ kill, in my time. Killed actual, real, living, breathing people. But the more you kill, the easier it gets to start thinking of numbers, rather than people. I never got /that/ far. Nyssa did.'

'Hence calling her a frigid nutjob from Hell?'

Sam sloshed the water again, smiling ruefully. 'Unfortunately, I only checked for the /obvious/ weapons...'

'Don't think I've tried /that/ one on Ayeka yet...' Ryoko thought out loud.

'Besides, what else /could/ I do?' Sam asked rhetorically. 'We couldn't lock her up, no-one /dared/ suggest counselling, and as for death...' She shook her head. '/Apart/ from whatever moral issues there were, she was obsessed enough to come back. Call me a sucker for lost causes, but I thought I'd try /something/...'

'You're a sucker for lost causes.' Ryoko said with a straight face.

Sam rolled her eyes. 'Straight woman, that's me... 'Course, by the time I first showed up, I was wondering what all the fuss was. He seemed to be doing pretty okay - he had a job, had friends... he couldn't be /that/ bad. I didn't think /I/ was... I honestly couldn't see why /anyone/ would spend twenty years hating /him/. There were other things to do, right?

'Then I found that it could happen to me, too...' She shook her head. 'I don't know whether it's lucky the books have a faster rollover rate than TV - there were other things to complain about, soon enough, but by then, my reputation was pretty much set - "worst books companion", right down there.

'He /seemed/ to be doing okay.' Sam frowned. 'I think we've all stuck in our pieces for him - I told Nyssa where she could go, Fitz pointed Adric to a self-help group, Compassion stood in for him when it seemed necessary, Ssard offered to teach him a few self-defence techniques, Shayde sabotaged a few of her plans... we all tried doing /something/.

'But in the end...'

' didn't seem like enough.' Charley finished.

'Hmm... You didn't know what was going on with him, not inside.' Ryoko said. 'Hell, even /we/ didn't think it'd gotten that far, that bad... not slagging you, but I'm not sure /anyone/ could have given him the help he needed right then...

'And you tried doing /something/, thought he was worth helping out. Lot more than /some/ jerks managed. /That/ should count for something.

' 'Sides, he pops into Ucchan's sometimes. You could sit down with him sometime.'

'Maybe...' Sam mused.

Ryoko glanced over at Skuld. 'Hmm...'

'What is it?' Charley asked.

'Oh, I know this one...' Sam said. 'Wesley Crusher. Hangs out with you and Adric. Had a in with Skuld a while back.'

'Oh...' Charley murmured.

'Now, how he reacted when he learned there was another boy in her life...' Sam shook her head. 'I dunno. I'm guessing you don't, either...'

'Assuming he does know.' Ryoko said quietly. 'I'm not entirely sure he /does/...'

Charley and Sam looked at each other.



'Okay...' Fitz thought quickly. '/No/, Spike. I'm sure it works - or doesn't work - with you and Buffy, but Buffy's got that whole denial thing.'

Spike grumbled.

'Now... what's Akane /good/ at?'

'Um...' Ranma frowned in unaccustomed thought. 'Good martial artist, um.. well, she /was/ one of the best, till we turned up.'

'Surprise attacks.' Ryouga stuck in. 'If they're not expecting it... *wham*!' He slammed one hand into the other.

Ranma glared at him.

'Doing well in high school, then she graduated.'

'Good start.'

'Um, Drama, Science... /not/ Home Ec, Nabiki did better in Maths than she did... Physical Education - she may be a terrible swimmer, but she's gotta good throw and reach on her... Good all-around student, not /exceptional/, but good.'


'Good poker face.'

Fitz blinked. 'I /wondered/ about that... '

'Violent, dangerous, sweet and gentle...'

'Sounds disturbingly familiar...'

'Clobbers anyone who criticises her. Unless it's her family. She never clobbers her family.'


'There's the whole hammer thing, but you know 'bout that already...'

'Headstrong, impetuous, jumps to conclusions...'

'Sorry, is this you or Akane we're talking about?'

'Very funny.'

'Good at taking in situations... but only the actions she sees. Good in a fight, but when it gets more social...' Ranma twitched. 'Cares about stuff. I mean, /really/ cares about stuff. She'll do a lot for something she cares about. Has a /lot/ more sense than our dads, but that ain't hard. /Rocks/ have more sense than our dads. Smiles a lot, got a really cute smile. Hates being... ' Ranma shook his head. 'Hates having to...'

'I believe what you're trying to say is that she knows when to give up.' Ssard said. 'And that she /never/ gave up on a relationship with you. Perhaps a different question might be: what is it about you that Akane cares about?'

Ranma gawped.

'The pride? The courage? The dogged persistance in the face of a challenge? The adaptability - after all, you have adapted to a curse - to /several/ situations - that would break others? Now I think of it, so has /she/...' Ssard added. 'That you love her enough to go to almost any lengths to defend her?'

'If we could at least turn things down before his ego reaches meltdown?' Ryouga suggested tartly.

His eyes widened when he saw what was behind Ranma. '...Uh-oh.'

'HEYA!!' Happosai called from on top of the wall. 'You couldn't hit the broad side of a barn!'

'Oh *yeah*?' Skuld said.

'This is his vengeance, isn't it?' Keiichi said.

'Hit me with your best shot! I can take it!!'

'We'll see about that...' Urd muttered.

'We're doomed,' Ataru observed calmly.


'...Who said wuss?' Ryoko said quietly.

'I think it would be advisable to get down and get a tub over our heads.' Ten suggested.


'Why, you...' Ayeka's voice carried over from the other side.

'...Here we go.' Tenchi observed distantly.


'YAAAAHHHH!! YOU /PERVERT/!!!' Mihoshi shrieked. 'THOSE ARE /MY/ PANTIES!!!! *AND THAT'S MY BRA!!!!!*'

'I do /not/ want to know.' Jack said, his eyes covered.

'Anything Goes.' Ranma said, his voice resigned to impending doom.

'Unholy demonspawn.' Kuno said, his voice promising vengeance.

'Watery doom.' Keiichi said fatalistically.

'Cold water.' Ryouga said dully.

'We're screwed.' Ten said.

'Oh no.' Tenchi closed his eyes.

'Here we go again...' Ataru sighed.

'Hello, proverbial.' Fitz murmured.

'At least we tried...' Ssard said quietly.





In the locker room, a few very damp minutes later...

'...I /hate/ him. I really, really hate him.' Sam muttered.

Compassion looked around, the only one of the group who'd managed to remain unsoaked by the deluge.

The others were all wringing themselves dry (or, in P-chan's case, hiding under a tub).

'THEY SAW MY PANTIES!!!!' Mihoshi wailed.

'There, there...' Skuld said, awkwardly patting her on the back. 'It's not like they hadn't seen anything like it before...'

Mihoshi burst into tears.

'Actually, that was refreshing...' Izzy said. 'Really clears out the scales.'

'Um, Akane, could I borrow that towel...?' Ranma-chan asked.


'Oh /no/...'

'Well, I think we can call that a victory for our side...' Compassion observed.

'/Compassion.../' Fitz groaned.

'Relax. You're too tense.' Compassion advised him.

'Of course I am! I've just been flash-frozen!'

'Would it help if I were soaked, too?'

'Well, it'd make /me/ feel better...'

'All right.' Compassion pulled a box of matches out of herself, pulled one out, struck it, and lifted it up to the ceiling.

The sprinkler system activated.

'...You'd think I'd know better than to say something like that.' Fitz said finally.

The sprinkers went off.

Washu tipped her head on its side. '...You're just a big kid, really, aren't you?'

Compassion didn't answer instantly.

'Once, I was Laura Tobin.' she said, eventually. 'Your classic cynical rich kid, arrogant, jaded... a pain to be around. Her little sister wasn't much better - the angsty goth type, writing poetry so depressing and interminable, you'd rather slash your wrists than listen to another word.

'Then, Laura got turned into Compassion. And Compassion was an adult. She had no childhood. She didn't need one. Laura's traits, exaggerated and amplified. A caricature of what she'd been.

'And then...' Compassion lit another match, held it up in front of her face. 'I became what I am now.

'In the process, I found a mother.

'I found an uncle who tried to do right - by myself, and by himself. When he failed, he hurt me - and himself - and then would struggle to put things right, no matter the cost.

'I found my brothers and sisters, family I'd never dreamed of.

'And I found I could become anything. Anything I wanted.

'I could be the Bitch Supreme, the Dark Queen, the Evil Stepmother... I could be any role I liked.

'But they were /roles/. Parts to play. Another face to present to the world. A way to hide myself from it, from being hurt. I was still young. Still new. Still afraid of what I was, what I could do... what I had the /potential/ to do. Of what I could create... and what I could take away.

'I could be anything... and what I'd been was no longer enough. Couldn't be enough.'

'What are you now?' Sasami asked.

'I'm Compassion. But who Compassion is...' Compassion tipped her head to one side, mimicking Washu's gesture. 'Whomever she is, whomever she'll become, I'll be there to find out. To discover the best and the worst of... of who I am, who I could be, who I /can/ be.

'I am Compassion.

'And I am...

'...soaking /wet/!'

Sam grinned. 'Come on then, kiddo. Let's see about getting you to a warm fireside.'

Fitz stretched. 'I could really go for that, you know... Oh, and Compassion?'


'If I find you standing over me in the middle of the night holding a water balloon, I will /not/ be held responsible for my actions.'

Compassion's expression was absolutely innocent. 'I am shocked... /shocked/... you could think that of me.'

Fitz grinned. 'Yeah. You were thinking it, though, weren't you?'

'Would I?' Compassion said innocently.

Fitz's grin grew even bigger. 'I refuse to answer that on the grounds it'd incriminate you.' He chuckled. 'C'mon. There's a nice, roaring fire waiting for us back at the dojo.'

He paused. 'Kiddo.'

Sam rolled her eyes. 'Oh yeah. Things are gonna be getting even /weirder/ round here...'

'Like they're not?' Izzy wondered.

'Trust me.' Washu said. 'Whatever you've seen so far... you ain't seen /nothing/ yet!'

'That was a /terrible/ impression, Mom.' Minagi chided.

'Oh, you get used to it...' Ryoko said.

'She has more?' Minagi said.

Ryoko winced. 'Ooh yeah. Remind me to tell you 'bout the New Year's party sometime...'

Washu chuckled. 'And if you're good, I'll show you my special party piece.'

Minagi and Ryoko looked at each other, then bolted hell for leather out the door.

'Oh my,' Kasumi said, in the silence that followed. 'They forgot their clothes.'

'I wouldn't worry, Kasumi-chan.' Washu said. 'They'll be finding out-'


'-right about now.'




Author notes: Okay... Sam worked for INC during Seeing I. Her two mentioned deaths are in Autumn Mist and 'Dead Reckoning' (in AM, she got resurrected by the Sidhe) while the killing comes from Genocide.

Compassion's played Dark Queen in BKWillis's 'Sailor Who' sequence, Evil Stepmother in Doug Killings' 'Story Time: Cinderella', and stood in for Adric in my 'Sticks and Stones...'. Her sister Allison turns up in Ship of Fools, where she meets a rather... ironic end.

Ssard and Stacy married in Placebo Effect.

Swimming's euphoric effect on Izzy is revealed in Children of the Revolution. Destrii - Izzy's body's previous owner - appears in Ophidius (DWM #300-#303).

Sam's comment on Nyssa - and Nyssa's reaction - is from 'The Feminine Mistake', while the bad period for Adric she, Charley and Ryoko discuss was during 'Friendly Hopes'. The self-help club is from Mags's 'Clash Fiction' sequence.

Wes and Skuld's meetings were in 'The Feminine Mistake' and 'Friendly Hopes'; her canon boyfriend, Sentaro, is from Childhood's End. (OMG vol #8, issues 1 & 2.)

Copyright 2002 Imran Inayat.