Fox McCloud hadn't had such a great time in years.
It had been two days since Washu had returned him and the Great Fox to Cornerian orbit, as abruptly and mysteriously as she had summoned him. He had been spending the time repairing the damage done to his ship, as well as trying out some new modifications that Washu had kindly left in the ship's computers.
Unfortunately, the Great Fox, the Arwings, and the Landmaster Tank had taken quite a beating. But there was no irreparable harm done, and Fox considered his adventure well worth the price. It had come at a perfect time, in the boring lull after Andross's defeat, and he had enjoyed it immensely. Even if the humans he had met were somewhat odd, he had had a good time.
And now he had some time off, to tinker in his ship and to think about the whole thing. He also had to figure out what to tell General Pepper. But there would be time for that later. He looked up at the shelf where his teammates' pokéballs still sat. He would let his friends out as soon as he figured out what to tell them. For now, he was enjoying the quiet. He soon was lost in his imagination, re-living his latest adventure in his mind.
Ranma sat at the table in the dance hall, lost in thought. Miraculously, he had been returned to almost the exact time and place that he vanished from days ago. Thankfully, he was also returned in the same gender and clothing that he had left in.
Now he was thinking over the whole experience. He knew it wasn't a dream; it was too real for that. Plus Ryoga was there for part of the adventure. Presumably Washu had also returned him to wherever he was before.
Akane's return to the table startled him out of his thoughts. "There you are! For a minute I thought Ukyou stole you away!" she said. "We were supposed to dance together so our fathers can see us together tonight!"
Ranma's replied, "Well, if dancing with you will get them off my back, I suppose it's worth it." His sarcasm prevented Akane from guessing how he actually felt about her.
Akane sighed in frustration, upset that she was engaged to someone that never seemed to appreciate her. But when Ranma got up and took her hand, she followed him to the dance floor.
As Ranma walked with her, he thought of Ameria. Comparing her to Akane, he wondered how things might have worked out if they had had more time to talk. She was definitely an interesting girl...
A slow song was beginning, and the two started to dance. Ranma held Akane close enough to appease their fathers, who were looking through the ballroom window, but far enough away to prevent things from getting mushy. Yet as the music continued and he looked at Akane, and saw her looking back at him, he forgot about Ameria and held his fiancée a little closer.
"...you should have seen the size of their roasts! They were as tall as I am, and if you don't believe me, just ask Gourry!" Gourry nodded to affirm Lina's assessment of the food fair they had visited on the way back to the inn. "And the soup! It was so flavorful..." Lina continued, without even stopping for air.
Zelgadiss listened to Lina's report, pretending to be as interested in the local cuisine as she and Gourry were. Ameria stood next to him. She would normally favor straightforward honesty, but she had learned that there were times when you should just smile and nod.
As Lina raved on about the menu, Ameria thought back to the last few hours. She and Zelgadiss had reappeared in the inn almost as if nothing had happened. They even scared the innkeeper who had just noticed their disappearance. After they had calmed the frightened man with a story about teleportation spells and convinced him that all was well, they had spent the time talking about what had happened until their companions returned from the food festival.
Though it seemed to Lina and Gourry that she had never left the inn, she hoped that she would never forget her adventure in a different dimension. She had witnessed new sights and new experiences. And since she had returned, she noticed that Zelgadiss had opened up to her a bit more as well. He had even smiled at her a few times. She was confident that neither of them would forget their adventure, or how their relationship may have started to change.
"And you should have seen what happened to us when we left the festival!" Lina continued, oblivious to what was going through Ameria's and Zelgadiss's minds. "There we were, stuffed as pigs, walking home, and this HUGE white dragon, the one they have a reward for, pops out of nowhere and nearly lands on us!" Gourry kept nodding, backing up Lina's story. "So I yell at it to get out of our way if it knows what's good for it..."
Lina seemed content to tell her story regardless of who was listening, so Ameria kept thinking about her past few days. When she stole a look at Zelgadiss and saw him glancing back at her, she knew that he was too.
Ryoko walked slowly next to Tenchi, as he led the way down the garden path. Moonlight was shining beautifully through the leaves of trees overshadowing the path, but Ryoko didn't notice it.
When she was alone with Tenchi, things were different than when others were around. Aeka's behavior was the perfect example -- as soon as they had reappeared in Tenchi's house, she had blamed Ryoko for Tenchi's absence. And the others seemed more concerned with Tenchi's safety than the fact that she had nearly died in the fight to rescue him. Everyone always made her so defensive about her feelings for him.
But now, alone with Tenchi at his own request, things were different. She could be more open to her inner feelings without being so combative. As the two walked and talked, and as Tenchi thanked her for all she had done for him, she was less like the space pirate she had been in the past, and more like a child. Perhaps it was inherited from her mother.
But all Ryoko knew was that she could be herself with Tenchi. And as they walked through the gardens, she got the impression that he saw her for who she was, and how much she cared for him. It was a good start, and she was happy.
Much of Washu's time in her lab was spent at work or in research. But some of it was just spent thinking. Now was one of those times. As she sat at a desk in a room crowded with equipment, she let her mind wander.
Her attention settled on the new set of souvenirs on her desk. She had collected some memorabilia from her most recent adventure. The pokéball that Lord Tenchi had been stuck in, a schematic of the Great Fox, a picture of Ranma in a skirt that she had secretly taken, and other trinkets brought her back to the past few days.
She was glad that everything had turned out so well. The group that she had brought together had become friends, a team, and had in a way saved their worlds. And they had a lot of fun doing it. Even Ryoko had ended up happy, which was a miracle in itself. In a way, Washu regretted sending everyone back so soon.
But they needn't stay apart forever. Washu was planning on keeping an eye on everyone in their respective dimensions, and if a crisis arose, she knew she could count on them all again. Goodbyes were always sad, but not necessarily permanent. Washu began to reflect on all the people in her life, those present and those long gone.
But as she began to lose herself in thought, a warning siren started blaring and red lights began to flash. Washu, startled by the alert, jumped up and looked for its source. As she muttered, "Well THAT can't be good," she realized that it actually might not be long at all before she would have to recall her new friends. Despite how serious the warning was when she located it, she was smiling, and planning for the next adventure.
T H E E N D
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