Sleight Of Eye

Anji staggered onto the porch. 'Urggghhh...'

'Need... water...' Ryoko moaned.

'Where's the river?' Fred's expression was distinctly green.

'Urrrgh...' Anji shuddered. In her time, she'd faced many, many dangers - including university - but what she'd faced in... in /there/... was truly... truly...

'Anyone want more?' called a cheerful voice.


'Thank you, Akane-san. I'll take it outside.'

Anji glared up at the blonde woman who'd just stepped out. 'Just /one/ question...'

'Rule of onboard etiquette #1 - never, *ever* criticise the chef, especially by throwing up, because he's the one with the keycard to the food stores,' Stacy said. 'Vital and lifesaving skill...'

'How do you do it?!' Anji reached up and grabbed Stacy's jumpsuit zipper, bringing her face on level with Anji's. 'Her cooking's worse than Fitz's, and that's saying something!'


'Stacy...' Anji let go.

Stacy looked at the pleading expressions on the others' faces, and nodded. 'All right.'

Her face twisted in pain. 'Urrrgghhh...'

'...Join us,' Ryoko said. 'Join us in release from the darkness that lies within...'

'...Join us...' Fred murmured.

'I think...' Stacy's face twisted. 'I don't think it's... like... oh God...


When they were able to see again, there was a circle of blackened grass in front of the TARDIS.

With a sinking feeling in her stomach, Anji turned to look at Stacy.

The spacefarer had her eyes closed.

All three of them.

Including the one in her forehead.

From Anji's perspective., it was an expression which made her look like Krishna at rest, if Krishna had been white, blonde and female, rather than blue, black-haired and male.

Finally, Stacy blinked her eyes open.

And sat down with a "whumph".

'Wha... what...' Stacy took a deep breath. 'What did I just say?'

'Third Eye Blinding Blast.' Anji told her.

'I was afraid of that...' Stacy murmured. 'So this is my anime attack?'

'Looks like it...' Ryoko told her.

Stacy cocked her head, looking at Ryoko with all three eyes. 'Ryoko... um, one thing. Why can I see two of you?'

Ryoko blinked.

'How many fingers am I holdin' up?' Fred asked, holding up three fingers. 'It is /fingers/ you're supposed to hold up, right?'

'Three. But...' Stacy's (two) eyebrows raised. 'They're psychedelic. There's this whole /mix/ of colours surrounding them - yellow and purple and green and...'

Fred looked at her fingers. 'That's pretty... well, it would be if I could see it. So if I can't see it, and the others can't see it, that means the third eye's seein' it. Which, I think, means you've got second sight...' She frowned. 'I hope this means you're not gonna be getting mind-shattering, head-breaking, real painful visions...'


Stacy turned to look at Anji-



dark halo

dark wings

window to the void

window in eternity


-'Stacy? You okay?'

'I'll be fine, Anji.' Stacy said, placing a hand over her third eye. 'It's... just a lot to take in.'

'It would be.' Anji said.

'/Two/?' Ryoko murmured.

'Damn. How do you keep this thing /closed/...?' Stacy wondered.

Her head jerked.

'Oh... wonder-


It might have been Anji's imagination, but the third eye winked at her before it disappeared, leaving Stacy's forehead unmarked.

'...Hmm.' Fred said. 'Wonder where it comes from - and where it goes. Does the skull alter to fit the eye, or does it turn /into/ the eye? Does it draw on your own personal energy for the change, or does it take energy from the surrounding- I'm technobabblin' again, aren't I? Sorry, sorry...'

Stacy blinked furiously. 'Damn. I'm /still/ seeing things.'

'What things?'

'For starters, the black dot heading our way.' Stacy pointed skywards.

Ryoko followed her finger. 'Not unless I've started seeing things too... and if it's what I think it is... INCOMING!!!'

Over the years, those characters who tended to die /least/ had been those who dived for cover whenever someone yelled "INCOMING!". As such, the response had become almost reflexive - *especially* anime-side, home of the Martial Artist Hang-Time Jump and Indiscriminate Missile Firing.

Unfortunately, anime-side was also the home of Incredibly Bad Timing, as enshrined in Saotome's Law - to whit, the worst possible person will always show up at the worst possible moment.

Saotome's Law specifies worst possible moment. It says absolutely nothing about worst for /who/.

Taken together, this meant that, whenever someone shouted "INCOMING!", the person who had absolutely no idea what was going on would step into the line of fire, having been distracted elsewhere.

Which meant that when the others dived for cover...

...Akane stepped out onto the porch, carrying a tray.

'Ano? Would anyone like to try-'


'SHAMPOO!! YOU'RE HERE!!' the young man with long black hair and thick glasses exclaimed, engulfing Akane in his kimono.



'Talk about an act of Providence...' Stacy noted, taking in the remains of the tray, and what could by no stretch of even the most charitable imagination be called cookies.

'Mousse,' Akane said through gritted teeth, 'I'm not Shampoo, and Shampoo isn't here.'

Mousse adjusted his coke-bottom glasses and peered closer at her. 'Oh, Akane. Well, I was coming over to see you anyway...'


'To thank you, of course! Now you and Ranma are getting married, the way is finally clear for Shampoo and I to wed! For that, I thank you!'

'Well, it would be if Shampoo didn't whack him at every opportunity...' Ryoko murmured, poking her head out of the ground. '/And/ if she didn't have a mad-on for Ranma and a homicidal attitude to anyone who got in her way... actually, I think that kiss of death is still outstanding on you, isn't it, Akane?'

'Shut up, Ryoko...' Akane said, smiling happily. Well, it seemed to be a smile, in much the same way that sharks' expressions can seem to be.

Mousse waved it away. 'Minor obstacles.'

'Understatement's a way of life around here,' Anji observed, matter-of-factly.

'Mm.' Stacy agreed. 'Not surprised the Doctor likes it so much. When the invasion of a planet is a "minor inconvenience"...'

'Mmm... Wait, do we count as "in her way"?'

Fred frowned. 'I thought this wasn't our fight.'

'You're only in her way if you /get/ in her way.' Akane explained.

'So persistent...' Mousse sighed.

'Why does she have a mad-on for Ranma...? Actually, why does every girl here seem to have a mad-on for Ranma?'

Akane blushed furiously.

'He is the enemy of /all/ women!' Mousse proclaimed.

'...So why do they fall in love with him?'

'That...' Mousse frowned. 'Wait a minute... I hadn't thought of that. I thought we /hadn't/ exhausted all the alternatives just yet...'

The three anime-siders looked at the three Outsiders.

Stacy shrugged. 'Don't look at us. I always thought it applied to all of Outside.'

'Maybe it's not universal?' Fred suggested. 'I mean, it could be that it's the strongest matrix of physical laws around, but there would be other matrices that supersede it it under given contexts, or areas and things where it doesn't apply... a whole template for how a given subverse operates which could be decided by a oscillating sequence, as the subreal area in question oscillates back and forth between those laws, and /that/ probably works through the logarithms of a particular sequence...

'Okay, what if all the subverses are in this panreality logarithmic oscillating template, and the laws are mutable according to-'



'You're technobabbling.' Anji said.

'Oops, sorry. Don't mean'ta, just get carried away...'

Stacy replayed what Fred had just said in her mind.

'Panreality Logarithmic Oscillating Template...'


It made her feel absolutely /no/ better knowing that now, the Doctor had technobabble backing him up.

It was /still/ an awful pun.

'You're suggesting... it's not his /fault/ women fall in love with him?'

'When was falling in love anyone's fault?' Stacy said. 'He's responsible for what he does /next/... but the last I heard, you didn't blame emotions on someone else. They're coming from you.'

Fred looked thoughtful.

Wait a minute... Stacy thought. Mousse=In love with Shampoo. Shampoo=In love with Ranma. But she must let Mousse stay around for some reason... Cares about him a little - probably even more... but she's /probably/ not in love with him, given her focus on Ranma. If they were friends, then...

What did you do if you were in love with someone, and all they wanted was to be friends?

And... well. She knew /that/ well enough. She'd been through it with the Doctor.

Survivor syndrome? Falling for the tall, handsome, romantic rescuer? If she were entirely honest, there'd been a little of that with the Doctor.

But she'd never brought it up, never told him. Yes, you'd end up wondering what would happen if you did... but she rather suspected he was taking a respectful distance, refusing to lead them on or break their hearts.

He'd already had his heart broken.

In the end... well, it /had/ been a crush, and she'd eventually surfaced.

She'd done a lot of soul-searching later, asking herself if that was why she'd fallen in love with Ssard, whether there was something more than that. On her side... and on his.

If there /hadn't/ been, she would never have asked him to marry her.

The look on the Ice Warrior's face when she asked... she'd almost missed his blink of surprise, before he smiled, and said 'Yes'.

She'd been watching for the blink, though. The smile, on the other hand, *was* a surprise...

...and she'd loved it.

She shook herself. Getting lost in the past again, she admonished herself.

'Excuse me,' she said.

Mousse turned from his bickering with Akane. 'Yes?'

'Has she told you she loves you?'

'...Well, not in words...'

Oh dear, Stacy thought. This wasn't going to be pretty.

'...Okay. Are you sure of how she'll react?'

'Violently, knowing her.' Ryoko interjected.

Mousse paused. The expression on his face was almost...


'Be sure as possible before you ask. Or defeat her in battle.' Stacy said. 'You'll never be /absolutely/ sure, but-'

She stopped. He wasn't listening, was looking down at his hands.

'I... I don't know...' he murmured. 'I don't know. What could I do, what could I say, that would make her look my way? What could I do that would make her look at me like she does at /him/...? That would make her say "yes"?'

'/Don't/ go there.' Akane said. 'Because if you're thinking of using another stupid love drug-'

'It never /works/! Every time I try, she /always/ turns back to /him/! Even when he's getting married, she /still/ goes to him...'

'Have you asked her?' Stacy said gently.

'I could have her hand, if I defeated her. Proved I was a better warrior than her. But would she accept? It's our law... but would she accept? Or would I see her thinking of Ranma?'

Stacy winced. That hit a little too close to home.

'Hmm...' Fred said. 'Hey, could I take a look at those?'

He shrugged, and handed the glasses over. 'Fine. What does it matter anyway?'

She examined them critically. 'You're short-sighted, right? Can't see things close up?'


'When was the last time you saw an optician? Because it was five years before I did - being stuck in an alien dimension, no opticians to speak of, really, well, none you'd wanna see - and they're doin' wonderful things with contact lenses. Me, I'm a glasses kinda gal, always have been, make you feel like you're really concentratin'...'

'What's the use? It's not like she's going to say yes because she can see my /eyes/...' Mousse snapped.

'Might do...' Ryoko said critically. 'You have beautiful eyes....'

He stared at her.

'What, am I the first person to say that or something? You have beautiful eyes.' Ryoko repeated. 'They're not /Tenchi's/, but they're still damn good.'

'Wait a minute...' Anji said. 'Mousse... have you ever considered a makeover?'

'...Like smartening yourself up, changing style, that sort of thing.' Ryoko explained.

Anji continued. 'I mean, she sees you walking around, walking into things, getting confused over what you're speaking to... it'd get you the /pity/ vote, but when you've got other options available... Might also do something for your personal confidence. Outside of Shampoo, it could do with boosting up... and /that's/ a worthwhile goal, at least.'

'It wasn't a makeover that helped her fall for Ranma!' Mousse objected.

'No, that was the confidence, the pride, the whole "strong warrior" thing...' Ryoko said. 'Now, not saying that this'll /give/ you that - hey, we're not miracle workers...'

Akane blinked. 'You're /not/?'

'No, we just do a good impression sometimes...' Stacy murmured.

'But, seriously, your ego could do with some bolstering...'

It was at about this point that Mousse realised that there were five women giving him a critical appraisal.

Which meant, from long experience with Amazon training, big trouble.

'Um...' he began.

'Get him.' Anji said.



'What do you think?'

'I've always wondered what he'd look like with a bowl cut...'

'/Someone's/ a Xelloss fangirl...'

'Well, considering the kind of attention /he/ gets...'

'How about we pile it up on top of his head, see if that works...'

'...No. Nice idea, but no.'

'...Hmm. I think we'll stick with it as is. Works beautifully.'

< sigh of relief >


Next, the clothes:

'What do you think?'

'I don't know. I don't think neon pink is really his colour...'

'No, neither did I... Anji, let's see how that business suit looks...'

Muffled screaming.

'It's not him, is it?'


'How about the dragon-print kimono?'

'Ooh, can I see? Wow... Lovely job, Akane.'

'I was looking it over for Ranma. It didn't seem understated enough.'

'For that boy's ego, nothing would be understated enough.'

'But for Mousse...'

'Yes... Definite potential...'

'Let's try a red and gold... no, blue and gold print...'


But in the TARDIS wardrobe, no one can hear you scream...


Next, the optician:

'Hmm.' Doctor Tofu said. 'Keep that wide open...'

Stacy obeyed.

Doctor Tofu switched off the light. 'Everything seems in order... however, given your response times, I would /hazard/ that it has a mystical connection to your optical centres, rather than a normal optical nerve. I would have to wait for the X-rays to get back, but it /seems/ your skull reconfigures itself to fit - without pain to the skin. Typical exponential vocal trigger, though.'

Off Stacy's baffled expression, he explained 'The louder you yell, the more effective the effect is. Hmm... And you say you can see auras /without/ them flaring up?'

Stacy nodded.

'Right. It's located right on top of where your pineal gland - and one of your chakras - would be situated. Taken as a whole... I'd say you have aura-reading and chi-blasting abilities, channeled through this eye. Now, I /should/ have a list of what aura colours map to which emotions for future reference...'

Stacy nodded again. 'How about Mousse?'

'Why Cologne never recommended the poor boy come to me, I have no idea...' Tofu said. 'However, I've given him an examination, and as far as I can tell, there should be no problem with lenses. There would be some irritation, but there are ways to alleviate that, and it would eventually disappear.

He adjusted his glasses. 'The Chinese Amazons have excellent opticians. However, access to contact lenses is... more than a little difficult. For some reason, the best route always seems to lie through Jusenkyou...

'Oh, there was one other thing.'


'I notice that a number of chi-points around your stomach have been nullified. Not blocked, nullified. This wouldn't have any effect on your general health... *possibly* a few minor effects by this point, but nothing more. However, it would mean-'

'I know.' Stacy interrupted. 'I know what it means. It was an Inside change.'

'Ah...' Tofu said. 'I apologise.'

'No need. You didn't know. I...' Stacy hesitated. 'I had it checked at the time. The doctor confirmed the diagnosis.'

'If I might ask... who is your doctor?'

'Just "The Doctor". He prefers the title. Staying at - well, around - the Tendo Dojo at the moment.'

'He is? P-perhaps I-i might go and s-see him...' Tofu stuttered. 'As one p-professional to another...'

Stacy caught the stutter in his voice. Odd... what was he so nervous-

It's the Tendo Dojo. That covers it.

Sounds more like he /wants/ to go there...

Stacy ran a list of candidates through her mind, and came up with a single answer.




Back at the dojo:

'...You know, it's interesting. How come Mousse can speak perfect Japanese, but Shampoo's is still broken?'

'Habit, I think. People tend to underestimate you if you sound like a yokel.'

'And behave like one, too...'

'...Will you /please/ stop talking about me as if I'm not here?'

'Sorry, Mousse... So, what do you think?'

Akane, Anji, Fred, Ryoko and Stacy stepped back and considered their handiwork.

'It'll do.' Ryoko said critically.

Mousse nearly fell over.


'He sounds like Ryouga when he does that...' Akane said.

'You know, now you mention it...' Ryoko said.

Anji noticed the worried expression that now occupied Mousse's face. 'It'll be fine. No one's asking you to ask her now. What matters is that she sees the change. How she reacts is /her/ business.'

Mousse nodded. '...When should I do it?'

'I think right about when she's least expecting it sounds about right...' Stacy said. 'What do you think?'

The others grinned.

'Sounds perfect to me,' Anji said.


Ryoko wiped a tear from her eye. 'It's so touching when they're ready to leave the nest...'

Stacy raised an eyebrow. 'He's only been with us a day, Ryoko...'

'Hey, it's still touching!' the space pirate defended herself.

'It's moments like this that I realise you /are/ Washu's daughter...' Anji observed.


Mousse, meanwhile, was making his way to the Nekohanten, moving swiftly through the typical Tokyo crowd.

He stopped at the Nekohanten's door, and looked back.

Stacy gave him a thumbsup.

He flushed a little, and returned the gesture. Then he entered.

'He looked like me, when I'm all want-to-hide-in-a-cave and squirrelly and stuff.' Fred noted. 'D'you think he'll be okay?'

'He's got us backing him up, hasn't he?' Ryoko said.

'...So, do you think he'll be okay?' Akane asked.

Ryoko seethed.

'Third Eye *Sight*!' Stacy murmured.

The third eye opened, and she /saw/

Anji's aura was the quiet grey of someone at relative peace... but within it, there was the dark halo, and the shadow of wings.

Akane's was pale purple - nervous, tense. Concerned. She'd had the most history with them... and had good reason to worry.

Ryoko's... was curiously doubled, as if something shared her aura, her feelings... it was tinged with an angry blue, but shining through was golden pride.

Fred's kaleidoscopic aura was in constant motion... but the main thread running through it was golden, refracting through the rest.

She focused past the crowd, on the cafe.

Let's see...


'Where have you been?' Cologne scolded. 'This is our busiest time!'

Mousse bowed. 'I'm sorry, elder one. I was unavoidably detained.'

Cologne's eyes narrowed. There was no trace of insincerity in the boy's voice... still, whenever he addressed her politely, he had something up his sleeve.

Sometimes literally, given his mastery of hidden weaponry.

It would be best to keep a little more attention on him tonight.

'Go and get ready.' she told him.

He bowed again, and headed for the kitchen.

'Mousse being weird...' Shampoo observed. 'That not unusual, but Shampoo worried...'

'Feh. Whatever it is, I will probably have to sort it out, as ever.' Cologne said.

The door to the kitchen opened.

Great-grandmother and great-granddaughter double-took.

Mousse was wearing a dark blue kimono, with a golden oriental dragon coiled around it, his arms crossed so the arms met.

But what had caught their attention...

'Silly Mousse! Mousse blind as bat without glasses!'

...was his lack of glasses. Without them, his eyes looked puffy and bloodshot, as if someone had rubbed pepper into them.

Mousse shrugged. 'I can still work without them.'

'Well, Mousse no come crying to Shampoo when stupid idea fail, like always.' Shampoo hmphed.

Cologne's eyes narrowed further. All the time, his attention had not wavered from Shampoo.

'Very well.'

Mousse bowed.

Shampoo collected the orders from the customers, handing them to Cologne, who hopped into the kitchen on her stick.

She handed them out to Mousse. The boy wants to try something? Then let him-

-Stupid, /stupid/. Getting blind in your old age, Cologne! she scolded.

She watched as Mousse handed out the orders, each going to the correct table.

Shampoo's eyes were wide open. So were Cologne's, but for a different reason.

Too slow, too /slow/... She'd seen far too /late/, considering his body, his posture... but she hadn't thought about his /eyes/.

Irritated. Puffy. As if someone had rubbed irritant in them... or he was wearing contact lenses.

And if he were wearing contact lenses...

The boy had actually managed to outmanouevre her. No-one had done that since...

...since son-in-law.

Where had he /got/ the idea? Mousse would never have thought of this on his own...

...but Tofu might have, out of simple altruism. Or Dr Bowman and his companions...

She watched Shampoo's eyes, watching them as they tracked Mousse around the room.

This would be an interesting fight, she decided. With his newfound allies' help, Mousse might become a strong warrior...

...but would it be in time before son-in-law's wedding?

She would watch events with interest.



'High five!'

'High five!'

'Did we do good, Anji?'

'I think we did, Fred. I think we did...'

'Come on. Let's go home.'

And with that, they made their way back.




Story notes: This isn't 'Akane's Great Cooking Adventure' - I'm saving that for a while...

Stacy and Dr Tofu are hinting at Stacy's inability to have children - as she says, it /was/ an Inside change, and therefore permanent. Stacy and Ssard's wedding was on-screen - the proposal, however, is my own conjecture.

Ryoko's double-aura and Anji's dark halo? That's a story for a later time. Got to keep /some/ things up my sleeve...


Copyright 2002 Imran Inayat