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These Chains
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Me no own, me no make money, me leave alone you will. I'm talking to you, lawyer-type persons.

In case anyone forgot, "{}" = spoken Chinese, and of course italics are thoughts.

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- Chapter One: What a Good Girl -
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-That morning-

She woke suddenly, sitting up with a gasp and casting her eyes frantically around the room. A sigh heaved past her lips as she realized the room was empty. Her eyes wandered downward and she blushed. Well, the room was empty, her bed was not.

He was still asleep, thank the gods. The predawn light had turned the room gray, casting uncertain shadows in the corners and curving around his quiet face. Shampoo leaned back down, catching her fingertips in silken tresses and smoothing them away from his eyes, the lush lashes closed in slumber.

"{Mu Tsu...}" she whispered. He didn't stir. She didn't know whether or not to be happy about that. The past night's events were clear in her mind,, and she shivered in the morning's chill.

Oh gods, what did I do? She bit down on a thumbnail and tasted old blood, hurriedly yanking it out of her mouth. How could I...

The look in his eyes was dead. Shampoo clasped his limp hands, guiding him to her bed, onto which he collapsed bonelessly. His despair was almost tangible, and she rubbed his hands in an effort to warm him up. The words that she whispered tumbled out of her mouth relentlessly in an uncontrolled stream. He had to understand... there was no way she could abandon him now. Even if he didn't love her. What did it matter? She would protect him, no matter what the cost.

"{No matter what.}" she repeated to herself in a low, urgent voice.

No matter if he should be sentenced to execution for his crimes, and she exiled for disobeying, killed for not adhering to the laws, if they were both disgraced, if she were damned for caring for one whose guilt was so obvious...

"{So many consequences for something that was not our fault,}" she murmured aloud.

It wasn't his fault, of that she was certain. It was the fault of his father, that...she reminded herself not to think ill of the dead, but relished the knowledge that he had died at the hands of his child and his mistress.

Her... that demonic thing, the abomination of magic that had dazzled him and stolen him away. She hated her more than she ever had her rivals for Ranma. At least none of them had ever slept with him. Her teeth gritted in jealousy. He's supposed to be mine. He's always been mine. And if weren't for the fact that the sorceress had told an enraged Shampoo of her actions, Shampoo would have believed that he had stayed faithful.

After all, he had promised her a thousand times over that he loved only her.

Liar.

She cursed her weakness, raising a shaking hand to swipe at the tears she felt beginning to spill down her cheeks. I've already cried too much for him...

She flung herself down on the bed and against him, burying her lips against his neck. Damn it... it's just not fair...

His breath stirred her hair, and she wrapped her arms around his chest. I was supposed to have you first...

You were supposed to be mine.

* * *

Comb sipped her tea slowly, watching the sunlight turn the clouds to iridescent flame. Cologne sat silently next to her, awaiting the waking of her great-granddaughter.

Comb cast a glance at the other elder, tight-lipped and silent, the cup clutched in an iron grip.

"{You know, sister, you might just crush that thing if you don't let up a little."

Cologne's eyes slitted. "{My apologies. It has been a stressful night.}"

A wispy bit of white hair fell into her face, and Comb blew it away lightly. "{Thinking about your granddaughter?}"

The cup cracked.

She eyed it warily. "{And the boy?}"

It splintered.

Comb sighed. "{This isn't going to be pretty, is it?}"

"{Things never are.}"

"{How true.}"

* * *

Shampoo knew she was dawdling. She knew that she should have risen before the dawn, gone down and greeted her elders as any respectful child would have done.

She did not feel like a respectful child. So she rose with a languorous stretch of aching muscles and a groan. Mousse lay blissfully unconscious, sprawled messily on top of the covers, breathing shallowly. Her lips curled in a jealous frown before she could squash the emotion.

Shaking her head, she turned toward the screen in the corner of the room. Hopefully she had some clean clothes. The past twelve hours were slightly blurred in her mind, and she wasn't quite certain which way was up.

A few minutes later, she splashed warm water on her face, wincing as it stung a large gash across her left cheek. She inspected it with dismay for a moment, then forgot it. She was a warrior, she could handle a measly scar.

Other things, however...

Her eyes looked very large in the mirror. Great-grandmother and Ka'mb are not going to be pleased with me. Nor Mousse, for that matter. At least he has some excuse. I?

Her footfalls were silent as her feline form's as she padded down the hallway. She peeked her head through the doorway, gratified to see her companion still thoroughly out of it. His head was cradled on his arms, face drawn and troubled, pale beneath the shadows of his ebony hair. But he was alive, and he was hers.

Perhaps I am being a foolish girl. Imagine, to disobey an elder's command because of an impudent boy!

"{Then foolish I must be,}" she sighed, "{Foolish indeed.}" And jealous, her mind whispered, always jealous.

She closed the door with care, making sure to keep silent. She did not wish to wake him, nor did she wish for him to wake up alone. Because I don't think he could bear it.

Shampoo squared her shoulders, cast a longing glance at the door, then stepped down the stairs with a grace that made her aching body scream with protest.

* * *

She walked out of the kitchen with her head held high and proud. The two elders watched her approach, no emotion evident on their faces. Shampoo swallowed her nervousness as she bowed respectfully.

"Sit down, child." Comb's tone was flat.

Keeping her eyes down, she slowly seated herself at the table across from the two matriarchs. She noticed with some disquiet that it was the table, on which still rested the scorched tablecloth. She folded her hands on the table, grimacing as she realized some blood was caked in the corners of her nails.

"Is Mousse awake?"

Shampoo blinked. "Sham...I beg your pardon, honored elder?"

Cologne narrowed her eyes at her grandchild. "Is Mousse awake yet?"

"No, elder," she said, careful to keep her tone respectful and her eyes on her clenched fists.

Cologne exchanged a glance with Comb. "I see. When do you think he will awaken?"

"I am...not sure." Shampoo managed, mind whirl with confusion. She had been expecting an interrogation, not a simply inquiry as to the whereabouts of the guilty party. Of which I am a very large part, she thought with surprisingly little guilt.

"Very well, Shampoo. You are dismissed until he awakens. When he does, the two of you are to come before us. He may be disoriented for a while due to the trauma of the previous week, so take care when speaking to him."

She nodded slowly. "Of course, honored elder."

Comb made a shooing motion with one hand. Shampoo rose, bowed, and fled as quickly and gracefully as was possible.

* * *

She slumped against her doorway.

"{What was that?}" Shampoo murmured aloud, though she knew that Mousse could not hear her.

Sliding down the frame to slouch on the floor, she chewed absently on a nail. If they want to judge us at the same time, then they must think...wait, no. I never slept with him. Well, technically I did, but all we did was sleep! Wait...are they going to judge him on an equal level with me? He's just a man! Why would he get a trial? Because of the circumstances? In any other situation, a male who did what he has done would simply be executed by the families of the slain warriors. Do these circumstances warrant an equal judgment?

She frowned against the intrusion of sunlight, shading her eyes as it slanted into her face.

The sun is rising...

She looked over towards her bed, and the man who slept soundly, heedless of the morning light

And yet, we shall fall.

She swiped bangs back from her eyes. How did all of this happen? Not a week before everything was normal!

"Forget normal." she murmured, inspecting her nails. "It never like that again."

All she could hear was his breathing. "{And we are the survivors. Yet we have no honor. I wonder why we have lost so much, for no reason.}"

Home, humanity, soul.

Her voice turned low, a rough whisper at odds with her porcelain appearance. "{All for nothing, and nothing is everything.}"

* * *

She opened the door slowly, and entered even slowly.

"Sha...Shampoo?" His voice was a bare whisper.

She regarded him from beneath her bangs, thankful for the length. His eyes were liquid turquoise, brimming with confusion even as he straightened up. Sooty lashes drooped sleepily over the shimmering pools, and inky black hair spilled down his back and clung like cobwebs to his arms. In the warm sunlight, he looked like a fallen angel, cast from the heavens as of by a careless child . There was a little more color on his face, his lips no longer dead white, his hands working nervously, the undershirt hanging loosely over his frame. It was the only thing that she had been able to find that wasn't shredded or soaked the night before.

But still...

"Mousse. How you sleep?" She couldn't look him in the eyes, instead tilting her head towards the window, watching the clouds swirl lazily through the sky.

Blankets rustled as he sat up. Still she didn't look at him. "I...I'm not sure." She frowned minutely. His voice sounded rough, almost strained.

"What you mean?" she asked gently, fearing the worst.

"I hardly remember a thing."

She started inwardly at the glacial tone, but gave no outward indication of it. One of them would have to be formal and stiff if they wanted to live through whatever the elders were planning. "Great-grandmother say that to be expected. After trauma many warrior lose memory, or block out event. Probably why thoughts are hazy, yes?"

And not just your thoughts, but mine as well. I wish I could recall what happened last night after we got home.

She barely heard the affirmative murmur that escaped his lips. He glanced down, horror in his eyes at where his fists clenched the blankets

Silently, she settled down next to him, grasping his clammy hand in hers. There were shadows in his eyes.

And shadows in his heart. Oh Mu Tsu... She closed her eyes.

Somehow...

It was an inane question, but she asked it anyway. "{Mu Tsu, are you all right?}"

"{No.}"

Somehow, that doesn't surprise me. Here's hoping we get out of this alive.

* * *

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