Hey guys, and welcome to my Ranma 1/2 fanfic!

A forewarning to all: This fic is long, WAFFY, and doesn't make much sense. BUT, if none of these facts bother you much, I'm sure you'll enjoy it! (Also note that, no matter what you might think at first, I'm a HUGE R/A supporter.)

I'm not sure if this is going to be a lengthy one-shot, or a series yet, (it's up to you, really) so I'm just going to call it chapter one for now.

Disclaimer: I don't Ranma 1/2, and enjoy!


No Regrets.

By Rio Grande.

Chapter one: A Reconciliation On The Beach.


'No way... no BLOODY way in HELL...' she thought hotly to herself, watching as Chinko splashed in the salty, deep blue water happily, carefree and delighted by the simple things around her - lighthearted like any eight year old should be. Of course, THAT wasn't surprising. What was... was the little boy frolicking along side her daughter, making fast friends and giggling loudly as waves pounded into the sand, and they, shrieking happily the whole while, retreated from its icy grips easily, scurrying up the sand - Only to dash right back in, waiting for the next tiny tsunami to hit. She frowned and covered her mouth as her eyes began to ache and warm up uncomfortably... oh no. that boy... had a father.

Of course, THAT wasn't what was surprising either.

That boy's father... he was... had to be ... Ranma.

And THAT was entirely shocking.

Akane had recognized him the second he glanced at her. He had been waving casually... his vibrant blue eyes flashing, his still boyish face grinning with a content glow Akane had only seen him wear rarely, back in the day. He obviously could not tell who she was from the distance of which he stood from her... and that hurt, for some reason, since she had so quickly identified him. Had she really changed so much?

She didn't want to confront him... not really... not after what she'd done, after all that had taken place. But as Ranma, transformed into a much taller, and daunting man, began to approach her while padding along the sand quickly, and using that same old cat-like grace, she realized she wasn't going to have much of a choice in the matter.

What the hell was he doing HERE, anyway!?

Wait... no... It was more like, what was SHE doing here. He had every right to be living in this place - but who said she had the right to come back to it?

"Hello, there... it seems my son has welded himself to your daughter's side...sorry 'bout that, by the way. I'm Ranma Saotome,"

'He's so much more polite...' Akane thought to herself, amazed, as the handsome 26 year old held out his hand for her to shake. He seemed at total ease with the situation, and was much different from the bumbling teen she had known all those years ago. 'He's almost charming!' she thought, mock surprised.

"Hi... I'm... I'm..." Akane mumbled awkwardly, covering her face with one hand, and turning to the side, trying to make it look as though she was hiding from the sun's glare, instead of avoiding Ranma's gaze.

"Yes..?" Ranma coaxed, that smile still firmly plastered to his face... the smile made her want to melt... melt with grief, with guilt, with joy with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia.

They were NEVER supposed to meet again... so why was this happening? Well honestly, she was returning after all, so she should have expected it. This whole scenario shouldn't be some big surprise. and yet it still managed to shock her all the same.

"You see I'm... I'm Chinko's Mom," Akane settled for, finally taking his hand and shaking it hesitantly, his grip firm, hers limp and slightly resistant.

"You..." Ranma said, shaking his head as though he were trying to remember something. "You remind me of someone..." He gripped her hand tighter, and Akane felt her face turn red. Noooo... no no no - she most definitely did NOT remind him of ANYONE! No! She just didn't!

"I'm sure I just have one of those faces!" Akane said, snatching her hand away and wishing Chinko would get tired and ask to be quickly whisked back to the hotel, like, NOW.

Of course, she didn't.

"No... I'm sure I've seen you somewhere before," Ranma said firmly, her very voice, very presence, stirring something deep within him. An old wound was being reopened in his mind and heart, and he felt suddenly swamped with a need for something... something wonderful... something terrible. "Did you go to Furiken High?" he asked, knowing how unlikely THAT was. Most people who went to high school with him were either still in Nerima, which was almost a universe of its own at this point, or were in a mental institution some where far... far away. This woman didn't look like she belonged in either of those categories.

"Err..." Akane mumbled, wondering if she should lie... she had always been really terrible at it, and had learned over the years it got her no where fast. "Maybe..." she decided to hazard.

"Really!?" Ranma asked, eyes wide with surprise. "No kidding? That's a really odd coincidence!... I mean, Furikan, hu? I'm amazed!"

"Yeah..." Akane mumbled sadly, knowing she was in deep shit now. She firmly kept her head cocked to the side, letting shadows obscure her face in the setting sun's light, even if her hand was now back in Ranma's, as he shook it vigorously once more.

"That's so weird... what class were you in?" he wanted to know, suddenly very interested in this odd woman he had just recently spotted walking along the beach with her young daughter that late afternoon.


"Mommy! Mommy!" Chinko cried, running up the dune to her only parent, panting and laughing, and Tai, Ranma's son, right behind her.

"Chinko!" Akane replied joyously, overwhelmingly glad her daughter had chosen that moment to pester her, as the woman dropped quickly to her knees and embraced her daughter in a large hug. She held the small girl so that her face was firmly tucked away in the girl's shoulder. "What's up, sweetie?"

"Tai... that's Tai, he said that he knows this neighborhood real well and knows an ice cream parlor real close that we can go to after and I want to go so PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE can we go and just keep traveling in the morning 'cause I'm soooo tired and want some ice-cream since we haven't had it in like a gazillion years... PLEAASSEE!?" the girl got out all in one breath. Tai was there right behind her, nodding enthusiastically the whole time, wet hair stuck to his forehead with sand, sweat, and salt water.

"Well sweetie, actually, I don't think we can. I-"

"You." Ranma said, his voice low, his eyes wide. Akane shot a quick glance at him, wondering what he was talking about... when she saw, to her horror, that he was not staring at her own back, as she had hoped, but at Chinko. Or more precisely, at Chinko's face... which was almost an exact carbon copy of her own...

'Fuck.' Akane quickly stood, obscuring Ranma's view of her daughter's features... even though she realized he had already figured it out... by the conviction in his voice... by the surprise, or horror, in his eyes.

"Me," Akane agreed, turning around while tucking a piece of long blue hair behind her ear - with fingers that trembled nervously.

"Akane..." Ranma breathed, the sound sweet torture on his lips, after all of these years. "I can't... I don't understand why..." suddenly Ranma noticed his son and Chinko, staring imploringly up at him, and he bit his lip.

"Hey Tai," he said, all smiles, while kneeling by his only son.

"Yeah? Can Chinko go to ice-cream with us?" Tai, his darkly tanned skin almost matching his father's, signifying that the two came to this beach together often.

"Um... how 'bout we talk about that later... why don't you and Chinko- chan just go play on the jungle gym for now, okay?" Ranma asked, his voice almost taking on a pleading tone.

"Um, sure!" Tai said, seeing no reason NOT to go play on the jungle gym. "Come on Chinko, last one there is a rotten egg!"

"What?" Chinko asked, not familiar with this game, but following just as quickly anyway, and beating Tai in the race easily...

Ranma stayed, his back to Akane, while watching the two children dash to the playground on the beach, and not daring to look at her... he knew it was her... the second he saw Chinko... it had been so obvious...

"You've been training her all this time, haven't you?" he asked, watching the way Chinko ran, and flipped around the monkey bars with the ease of an experienced gymnast.

"Er... not ALL this time... and not as much as you trained at her age... not as hard..." Akane said, twiddling her thumbs, and suddenly feeling just like that brash, yet still hesitant sixteen-year-old girl again; having not matured one day.

"I'm surprised," Ranma admitted, turning around finally, his eyes filled with such grief and confusion, Akane averted her own gaze and swallowed a painful frown. "I didn't think you were the type to..."

"I'm not like your father was, Ranma!" Akane quickly snapped, anger a much easier emotion to harness than guilt... than love... It was such an easy way out. Always had been, thinking back on it. And look at all the good it did her... "I'm good to Chinko, don't talk to me like I'm some cruel parent, out there throwing my daughter into pits full of cats... or cursed springs..." she said, raising her chin and sounding as dignified as she could.

"I never said you were, Akane..." Ranma said softly, still staring at her with that intense gaze, not wanting to take his eyes off her suddenly, for fear she would slip through his hands like water once more, and go away some where before he had a chance to stop her. "I know you're better than that."

"You do?" she asked, half sarcastically, half incredibly hopefully, feeling the prickly beginnings of tears behind her eyes. Why didn't she have more control? For God's sake she hadn't seen this man in years! He shouldn't still have this affect on her!

"Yeah," he said firmly, taking one more step closer. "Where have you been all this time...Akane?"

Akane looked so different... Ranma didn't berate himself for not having recognizing her earlier on. Her skin was tanner, more weather worn than he ever remembered it - her hair was longer, although the two short pieces in the front were still present, framing her face and making her look just as adorable as he remembered... even though her chocolate brown eyes were harder and older, and her expression so lost. She was taller, and had filled out as well as he had known she would. She had already started to show signs of incredible beauty back in senior year... Shampoo had been so mad.

She was wearing a long, light, white shirt that that covered her hands, and cut straight across while hanging off her shoulders. Her pants were gray and had seen better days, showing signs of earth and needing to be stitched in some places. They were obviously training pants. On her feet were an old pair of running sneakers. She wore only a small silver chain around her neck as jewelry, the charm on it hidden in her shirt.

She was beautiful. And Ranma hated her for it.

At his question... the 1,000,000-dollar question... Akane glanced at Chinko, still playing happily with Tai, and showing no signs of wanting to stop any time soon, even though the sun was continuing to set in the distance, disappearing just over the tremulous ocean to the right.

"...Why don't we sit down?" she offered, lowering herself onto the sand. Ranma followed suit, nodding in agreement, even though his posture was stiff as he took a seat near his ex-fiancée. Quite honestly... he didn't know what to think... and he said as much.

"Akane... I don't know what to think."

"I know you don't," Akane quickly assured him. "But... just for the record. neither do I..." Ranma stared at Akane levelly then, plainly hearing the insecurities in her voice, and cursing himself as a sudden wave of compassion crashed through him. Why did he feel like this? After all of this time, after everything that had happened, why was he suddenly being forced to violently bat down the urge to take her hand in his and squeeze it comfortingly? She had been his best friend - he wouldn't deny it now - but he had thought the notion was all strictly past tense.

"I think it's time we talked things over... I mean... eight years, without a word from you? Please Akane... I need to know what happened." he was leaving no room for argument at this point, and Akane had a very hard time begrudging him for this fact.

"Yeah, I know. I do too. There are a lot of questions that had been bothering me... so many in fact..." Akane voice wavered and got softer as she spoke, and all she could take comfort in was the fact that Ranma didn't look much better than she did. "... That I was just on my way back to Nerima."

"...Really?" he asked, frowning lightly. "You were going to go back... without... telling me and ... with no warning." Ranma was suddenly very glad he had run into Akane before anyone else did. He didn't want to face anyone without having talked to her first - alone.

"Yeah..." she admitted. Ranma sighed, and looked out into the vast, deep sea before them. He rubbed his temples with two fingers, unable to believe that he was really seeing her now. That they were really talking and - wait. This sea. It was the sea of Japan... the Sea of Japan... the sea that separated Japan... from China... wait a second... where had she-

"You weren't!" he said sharply, turning to look at her with wide eyes.

"I know... I'm sorry I should have written at LEAST you first about it, but I-"

"No! No not that, I mean... you weren't... you weren't in China all this time... were you?"

'Awww shit.' Akane thought, not for the first time that night.

"Well, I mean... I wasn't near Junsyncyo! -" Once again, the not lying factor greatly hurt Akane's position. If only she had gotten a more substantial amount of Nabiki's genes!

"Akane!!" Ranma screeched loudly, taking in a sharp, angry breath.

"No, really, listen-"

"Of all of the stupid, irresponsible-"

"You're not listening!"

"Hadn't you learned anything?!"

"Don't talk to me like I'm so naive!"

"You were KILLED there for God's sake!"

"Please, just hear me out!!"

"Why should I!? I was so freaking worried and this is NOT helping!"

"It wasn't so BAD!"

"Not so BAD! I know China and it only causes pain and-"

"You don't know what you're talking about!!"

"The HELL I don't! I can not believe you, I-"

"Just SHUT up!"

"NO! YOU shut up, you're the one who-!"





"... Mommy?" Chinko called cautiously from the jungle gym, hearing the sound of her mother's angry voice.

"Um, err, it's nothing Chinko! Keep... playing!" Akane called back, her face flushed red from yelling. Imagine that, not even fifteen minutes and she and Ranma were already fighting again. It made her frustrated... though... she supposed he had his reasons... years of training and simply growing up had taught her to me more reasonable, and she really could see where Ranma was coming from now - even if he was wrong.

"Akane... why... why did you do that?" Ranma asked, though his voice was softer now, and his breathing more controlled. Akane knew he was just worried about her, and that actually made her feel good... all warm inside... to know he still cared, even if maybe only a little.

"I didn't know where else to go... and I figured... a martial arts culture where I could train with virtually no men... at that point in time... seemed beautiful." she admitted.

"Y-you didn't have to leave at all." Ranma pointed out, a little softly, and at the same time quietly admitting a much-wanted wish, and a deep regret.

" But I did Ranma! I really did..." she said quickly, trying to pretend that it didn't hurt her to seem him so confused. But - why should he be confused? She was the one who had ended up hurt!

"Why?" Ranma asked, suddenly harsher. "Why DID you have to run away?"

"I wasn't running away from anything! I was expanding my skills, my horizon! I was..!" At Ranma's critical glare Akane stopped her tirade and let out a tired sigh, her posture going lax. "...Okay, so I was running away. Shut up. It's all in the past. Right?"

"Wrong! Please Akane, we've all been so worried, with nothing to comfort us but nondescript letters and postcards... can't you at least tell ME what happened, exactly why you left, how you've been getting on... who's the father..." Ranma's voice was pained, and it was at that point that Akane felt all her uncertainties, all her anger and all of her hesitance... simply drain out of her, as she watched Ranma, ex-fiancée, and former best friend, look up at her pleadingly with broken blue eyes. Oh... he had been through a lot too, hadn't he?

"I guess I do owe you that much. Yeah... I do. But only... only if you do the same for me. Tell me what's been going on with you!... who's the mother?" she asked, trying to sound just politely interested in the mother of his son, and not desperately curious. Who COULD be the mother? ... She knew at least that it was one of the other (ex) fiancées...it had to be.... that boy was just about as old as Chinko... which meant the woman had been pregnant maybe just after senior year...

"Deal." Ranma said warmly, taking Akane's calloused, yet still infinitely smooth and creamy hand once more, taking comfort in her familiar feel... he squeezed it happily. He had missed her so much, and was pretty sure he was in shock right now, finally seeing her in front of him, and looking all beautiful and exotic and REAL...

'If this is a dream... some one's gonna get hurt...' he decided firmly.

"Well... after I left Nerima that night... Please, just let me get through this part at least," Akane said, quickly hushing Ranma with a finger to his lips as he began to ask that question again... that question... WHY... why was too difficult to answer just yet...

"Fine," Ranma conceded, content to listen to her story about life after high school and ... just everything... for now.

"Well... after I left that night... I had already consulted Cologne about entering the tribe. I had figured out what I had to do to get in, though their wasn't much I could do to prepare myself for an Amazon test with nothing to use but wits, and I used the money saved for college to buy me a ticket on a plane to the nearest 'port by the village."

"She HELPED you? She never said a word about it!" Ranma hissed vehemently.

"Yeah, well I asked her not to... and in exchange for all of the secrets she hoarded from my family - I was her apprentice back in the tribe for about two and a half years after she returned... it was a wonderful experience." the girl admitted, her eyes misting over as she remembered her training with the other sisters, learning everything she possibly could from the old crone, Cologne, who turned out to be more skilled than Akane had ever fully realized... even though she was sure Ranma had. Those had been some of the best days of her life - even though she had been chronically depressed for most of her stay... best not to get into that just YET, though. As they say - save the best for last.

"Cologne trained you? Whoa whoa... this coming from the tomboy who couldn't throw a decent punch without falling on her face?" Ranma said while shaking his hands in front of him, confused.

"I think you're stretching the truth a bit there... Ranma..." Akane growled, staring at him pointedly.

"Yeah... yeah I am!" Ranma laughed awkwardly, watching Akane simmer... just like old times. "But, still, you were NOT anywhere near Shampoo's level when you left Nerima... which is the skill level you should have been at in order to be Cologne's apprentice." Akane shrugged, fiddling with her long braid as she spoke.

"Well... Cologne saw potential in me back then, I guess. And courage when I offered to leave home, and my past, to become a full Amazon... even though that didn't really work out in the end. I trained with my sisters for a year before she returned, then spent the rest of my time being taught under her guidance... I became incredibly strong." she admitted sheepishly, not being one to brag, but wanting to prove to Ranma at the same time that she WAS a worthy opponent... why did she feel the need to prove herself to him, just like before? Did she still hold a grudge against him for beating her at her own game when he came to town, nearly eleven years ago? If so, she was pretty pathetic, and could even admit it to herself.

"Shampoo and I were actually partners in training and battle for most of my stay." she added, knowing Ranma would want to here about THAT.

"WHAT? You were with SHAMPOO? But SHE didn't say anything EITHER!" Ranma choked out, shocked. Had EVERYONE known about Akane's whereabouts while he was left in the dark, all along? Had there been some secret Akane club he hadn't been offered to join, that met occasionally to discuss the woman's well being? If so, Ranma was incredibly angry at just about all of his friends back in Nerima.

"Well, I swore her to secrecy!" Akane defended. She and Shampoo had gotten very close during Akane's stay, and this bond ensured that Shampoo would keep Akane's rather large secret for all her stay - Plus, Shampoo wasn't exactly itching for Ranma and Akane to be reunited anyway, even if the engagement had been called off senior year, and she and Mouse were together now, with children of their own, no less! Well, Shampoo really DID hold grudges, when it came right down to it..

"But she knew where you were ALL this time!?" Ranma continued, clutching his head in disbelief.

"No... Not for the last four years at least... that's when I left the village." Akane said, her voice quieter.

"To go traveling around the wilderness of China with your young daughter... oh, I see!" Ranma said sarcastically, folding his arms. In his heart he knew Akane would never do any of the dangerous things he was suggesting, and that she had probably had a relatively safe and enlightening trip around China, all in all. But still... after everything that had happened to him there, Ranma tended to doubt the common sense in Akane's decision.

"Well... well I just couldn't stay anymore," Akane gritted out, angry that he was once again peeved with her. NOTHING had happened! Couldn't she just get through with her story already? Couldn't he let her get past the hard parts?

"Why not? You just said you had a good position in the village... why leave it? Didn't you like it?" he asked, half frustrated, half just plain confused. Something in this story wasn't adding up. Probably because he kept interrupting her.

"Of course!- well... sort of... it wasn't that... it was just..." Akane sighed and put her head in her hands, eyes closed. This was so hard... how was she supposed to fill him in on her entire life so quickly? So suddenly? And why he was being so critical? When she thought about it - why DID he care so much? Did he feel obligated because of the ties to her family - but that didn't make any sense. Obviously the engagement had been broken off long ago.

But then, she felt his hand on her back, massaging it lightly, and perhaps making a comforting gesture. Akane slowly lifted her head back up to stare into his storm blue eyes, questioningly. What did he want from her? They were just reunited and already she was completely confused and unsure of what he was thinking... all these years of being apart from him, left to dwell on him, alone... she thought she had dissected his mind and heart, and had completely figured out his boyish ways years ago. But perhaps... perhaps she hadn't. Maybe what she had done was come up with a comforting theory, that would make HER feel better while she was left without him... maybe she had just made up whatever was easiest for her to take? Maybe she really didn't know what Ranma was thinking... not back then when she left, and certainly not now. The thought was, to say the least, upsetting.

"What happened to us Ranma... we used to have such fun... maybe I was mad a lot... maybe I hurt you, and I'm sorry... but admit we had fun. All of us did." she half said, half pleaded.

"Yeah... we had fun," he said, the edges of his mouth quirking up into a little smile. "But... when you left, it all virtually ended anyway."

"I don't think I was the one who ended it."

"... Would you rather I hadn't?" he asked, generally curious, raising an eyebrow, and honestly feeling a little annoyed at this point. Why was she being so odd? "Would you rather I had kept all of my fiancés forever? Started a harem?" he snapped.

"No! No, that's not what I meant... I just... I just wish you had CHOSEN one." she got out, her breathing unsteady and erratic, and the thought that she might FINALLY get an answer. The prospect was even more fantastic now that she realized she might have made an error in her hypothesis of his emotions, and not accurately guessed what he was thinking... what he had wanted, when she had the chance to give it to him.

"... I didn't get to..." he said softly. Akane frowned lightly, not sure what he meant. They had all been there... but... "Akane," he said, his voice suddenly firm and steady, strong and unyielding. She shuddered. "Why did you leave? I know you wanted to finish speaking but- but I can't wait! Why did you leave? What did you leave for? Was it really just to be an Amazon? Was there another guy?" he gritted out fiercely.

'He sounds so... desperate... so wanting... like I really hurt him, like he really wanted me... but... but...' Akane felt tears gather behind her eyes as the next thought hit her like a stab in the gut. 'But he's MARRIED now... he has a son, had it with one of the fiancées, chose one of them... I know it wasn't Shampoo, since she's with Mouse... then who was it? Ukyo? Kodachi? Someone from school? WHO!?' The question of who Ranma had chosen as his bride was eating away at Akane the way why she had left was killing Ranma. They both looked each other dead in the eye with grief stricken expressions that ran so deep, and were now so raw; it was painful to meet each other's gaze. 'He doesn't love me... stop fooling yourself girl... it's been a while - a LONG while... and you've changed... you already had someone else... and you don't love him anymore either. Don't fool yourself, don't make yourself believe you can go back to how it was...'

"Why are we so stupid?" she asked softly, much to Ranma's surprise .

"I... I don't know..." he replied, heart aching at the thought she was dodging the question... had she really hated him that much? Could she just not bring herself to admit that the reason she left was because she would have rather died than married a useless jerk like him? "God... I can't take it anymore! Just tell me why! Why did you leave!?" he cried, taking her by the shoulders and forcing her to see the agony on his face. She looked mildly startled, wondering why he looked like he did, and then said something completely alarming.

"... I was with someone ... you know... after I left you..." Ranma abruptly let go of her shoulders and sat back, his thick raven bangs shadowing his face as he lowered his head.

"Yeah... I figured, since you have a kid and all," he commented gravely, apparently not too happy with the idea. Akane wrinkled her nose.

"You sound mad... why? Do you still like to think I would be yours forever, pining for you until the end of time?" she asked sharply, mistaking his emotions for something they were most definitely not.

"No! No I DEFINITELY never thought that... I mean, I sort of got the picture when you LEFT me, apparently too disgusted to marry a sex-changing freak, or something!" Ranma hissed back, not willing to take THAT comment from her. Of COURSE he knew she hated him, he had thought about it almost every day since she had left. Of course, he would rather fight the Musk Dynasty again than admit that to anyone. As far as anyone else knew - Akane Tendou was a thing of the past for him. Or at least, that's what he hoped they thought.

"What?" she gasped quietly, clenching her fists, jaw closed painfully tight.

"Yeah I got the picture eight years ago Akane, so you don't have to talk about it like I don't have feelings now!" he snapped, marveling at how their moods were able to change from one extreme to the next in the blink of an eye. It was tiring... really.

"I... I don't think I understand what you mean..." she said, dumbly, sparkling brown eyes wide, and lost.

"Well Akane, neither do I! I can only make a rough guess of why you left, though in my opinion it's pretty accurate, because you seem to have effectively dodged the big question twenty times or so, already." His eyes were burning now, and he seemed to be letting out pent up anger and sorrow from years and years ago. These were all feelings he had thrust aside when he thought there was nothing productive he could do with them - after all, it wasn't just his decision to make... If Akane didn't want to be with him...

Akane realized he was venting, and tried to control her own impressive temper.

"I'm sorry... I just didn't want to talk about it because it's too hard for me... you hurt me so bad Ranma... why couldn't we have discussed it before you started dropping fiancées like flies!" she asked, her voice breaking a little as she tried to ask him the question as nicely as she possibly could. She wouldn't be spiteful. She wouldn't be childish. She had put all this behind her. That's what she told herself, anyway.

"I... I thought it's what you wanted," he said, his steam gone, and replaced by honest befuddlement. "Didn't you want me to get rid of the fiancées?... you were always complaining and-"

"You idiot!!! I didn't want to not be your fiancée anymore!!" At her strangled proclamation, Ranma felt his heart stop, and his throat close up... she ... she hadn't just said that, had she? But... if she had. than why had she... "Do you know how hard it was for me?! To watch you get rid of us, one by one!?" Us? Oh no... Akane... Ranma felt tears build up behind his OWN eyes as puzzle pieces began to click into place, and he felt his world begin to close in around him. "I knew you wanted to get rid of all your fiancées... none of us were old enough for marriage then anyway... but... but I thought with how close we were getting, with how close we GOT that night, that... that I would be different..." she closed her eyes and gave out a wet sniffle, Ranma realizing it was better for her to just get this out of her system before he said anything. "Maybe I was just being selfish, again."

"But then you got rid of Ukyo so easily. Shampoo was harder but I knew you would be able to find a way out of that engagement... I would be cake compared to those two - knowing our dad's - the thought terrified me so much... I felt myself falling to pieces as the other fiancées all dropped away. Kodachi was so simple to drop, after you got past the fact that she was mentally deranged! And I knew I was next..." Her eyes narrowed as she fought hard to not let any tears actually leak out of her eyes, and failed just a bit.

"So I didn't wait around for it to happen. I just couldn't take it. No. I wouldn't take it. I left... I was so distressed, I just... I thought the Amazons would be a perfect way out- and they were - so I used my college money and just left. I hoped I would be gone forever so that I would never have to face any of this... but now I see it could never be forever. This place is just as much a curse as Ranko. I can't ever get away from it, or the questions will eat me up inside. They've already done an impressive amount of damage to my life in China." She looked up at the darkening sky with flushed cheeks, tactfully evading Ranma's intense stare. That had been a lot to get out all at once.

"Ranma... Ranma the reason I wanted to avoid that question so much, and I'm sure you've figured it out by now, is... I was in love with you... and after I finally admitted it to myself, the thought of rejection was so hard for me to handle, I just up and ran away. I'm sorry for being a coward for this long. I'm sorry for worrying you, for worrying my family, for worrying everyone." she said earnestly, turning to look at him now with a melancholy expression.

She knew what would inevitably happen now. Ranma would take her hand and say, as she had always feared he would: "It's all right, Akane... I didn't know you felt that way... I'm so sorry... Here... let me take you back to the house... Ukyo will whip you up some Okanamiyaki... and in the morning we can see your folks... they'll be so happy... and I'm sure you can stay with them... Me and Ukyo only live a few blocks away for the Tendou Dojo... did you know?"

But what he did was definitely not that.

On his face, first of all, was an expression of such frustration and complete anger, she felt herself unconsciously shrink back. What had she done wrong!? Why was he looking at her like that?! He couldn't honestly be angry with her for admitting she had loved him eight years ago! Ranma wasn't that petty! And he shouldn't assume she was either - she would never try to ruin whatever happiness he had now.

And second of all, the next thing he did was NOT mention how they could still be friends, or his new wife...

He kissed her.

He was carnal in his actions, darting forward, (he had always been so much faster than her) and capturing her mouth in a passionate kiss Akane could hardly respond to, since her head was swimming with too many emotions that all seemed to contradict each other in the worst ways. She wanted to push him away... now wasn't the time... there would never be time now... but her body wouldn't respond when she wanted it to slap his hand off her wrist, to scurry back in the sand... get up... and run away... forever...

Ranma was, in fact, the one that ended the deep kiss, panting and keeping his face close to hers as they recovered from something they had both wanted to do again for the past eight years of their separated lives.

'She tastes so good... she tastes just like I remember... I missed her... Oh God I missed her!' he watched Akane's beautifully molded features snap out of their daze, a pleased expression crossing her face, before being pushed aside and subjected to a whole lot of nastier emotions.

"Why did you do that?" she asked quietly, simply, not beating around the bush.

"Because..." Ranma knew how terribly frustrating and depressing this was going to be for her, as it had been for him. But it couldn't be avoided. He didn't WANT to avoid it anymore. "... Because I loved you too... back then..." his voice was soft and apologetic, as if in this sentence he was also saying sorry for being such a blind idiot.

"No..." she whispered, her voice broken and shocked. "No you weren't... I - I wouldn't have left you if you did!" The words slipped out before she could stop them, and she immediately regretted it.

"You wouldn't have?" he asked, his fists clenching sand and squeezing tight, trying to use them as a makeshift stress ball that would stop him from loosing his cool now. "That... that's so fucking messed up!" Ranma spat, for better lack of words to describe the situation.

"Ranma!" Akane gasped, hearing the vehemence in his tone.

"Akane... do you realize what this means? If we hadn't been so naive... If I had gotten up the nerve earlier... if you hadn't jumped to conclusions... we could be married right now..." he said softly, gazing at her face and wishing so hard that her face would light up and she would say something akin to 'Oh! Ranma! You're right! What a wonderful thought... but it's not too late, you know...'

'I'm thinking about this like I'm not over her,' he commented sadly in his head. 'But when it comes right down to it... I'm not, am I?' He looked down affectionately at the twenty-six year old martial artist he had reduced to a heap of depressed woman as she lay her head on her knees and tried to process everything she had been given... and engulfed her in a warm hug full of support and adoration... trying to comfort her as she came to terms with what they had admitted.

They had been in love.

And they had ruined it in the worst way possible for themselves.

"Ranma... this is terrible. But there's nothing we can do about it now." she said, confirming his worst fears when she all but said 'It's over now - it sucks, but we messed up, and it's TOO LATE.'

"... I... I know."

"Don't look so crushed!" she hissed, turning her head to the side, and trying to find away out of his powerful hug. "You have a wife, why are you looking at me like it's all a big shame??"

"... Because I don't have a wife." Looking past the fact that he had just unintentionally admitted he might still love her, Akane was, to say the least, blown away. He wasn't married?! Then that son... Tai...

"Who's the mother then?" she asked, turning to look at Tai and Chinko, who were still diligently running circles around the playground, wonderfully oblivious in the distance.

"My ex." he said, sighing, and realizing he too had a hell of a lot of explaining to do. "And the father's HER ex... sort of." he stumbled over what to call Tai's situation, and Akane's mouth formed a perfect 'O' as she suddenly realized something.

"Then... if he belongs to your ex and her ex... by birth... Tai's not your son." she stated, wondering how to approach this subject without insulting anyone. It certainly seemed like a delicate arrangement.

"Right," Ranma agreed, turning also, to gaze affectionately at his child. "But, I'm as good a father as he'll ever have... his real one's not exactly up to par."

"Wait... but, do you share him with the mother? Who is it!?" Akane asked, almost frantically. Had he married a fiancee and then broken up... and who was the bad father? Someone she knew? If they were...

" Actually... I don't really share him I - Wait, why don't I start from the beginning?" he offered, cracking his muscular back in preparation.

"Sounds fine to me," Akane said, leaning back on her elbows, also preparing to hear a long story, both people momentarily forgetting they had just professed their loved to each other... or rather, there eighteen year old selves had... or something... in any case, they just weren't thinking about that right now.

'This is all a lot more than I bargained for...' Akane admitted. 'In fact, I don't particularly remembering bargaining at all in the first place... but it's good for me. Good for us. If we're still feeling this strongly about the idea of our love after all this time, then we really MUST have had something big... something wonderful... we need to talk about it, or the uncertainties will eat us alive.'

She let his words float over her like a river, soaking in all she could. It was a surprising story, and SHE hadn't even finished HERS. She wasn't even close...

"After you left... I searched for you... for a long time... before finally deciding to respect your wishes about being left alone, from the letter you left. I figured if you had gone through enough trouble to be not found by ME, you deserved to live life as you chose."

"... The Amazon's did a good job of keeping my whereabouts a secret," she said simply.

"I was frantic and upset most of the time while you weren't around," the man, so much older, yet still so young in her eyes, admitted, looking off to the side. "But when we started getting letters from you, confirming your health and well being every now and again... people relaxed, and assumed you'd just come home after you got it out of your system.

"I wasn't that easy to please."

Akane winced as his tone turned graver, but knew this was really what she needed to hear... wanted to hear... they both needed to admit EVERYTHING, or they would end up with an awkward distance between them, never really getting to the juicy core of the problem. That would be unhealthy not just for them, but the distraught friends and family would have to put up with their juvenile antics. For once in their lives, they were going to make sure they got all of their feelings out in the open, seeing as they only tended to cause hate and mistrust when they didn't.

"I was restless and angry and depressed all at the same time, constantly... Ukyo, Shampoo and Kodachi, even after being dropped, still hung around, trying last ditch attempts to seduce me mostly. And our father's never let a day pass when they didn't give me a speech about how I needed to start being a man again. It was hell.

"But then... something happened to Shampoo and Mouse. They were more amiable to each other - she didn't try to kill him if he messed up, and he looked a whole lot less down in the dumps. And suddenly I saw less and less of her, and more and more of them. And THEN I saw nothing of them at all when, a year after you left, they went back to China, with not much more than a brief, 'so long...'"

"I remember them coming back to the village that year... it was the year I started training with Shampoo and Cologne." Akane said, resting her cheek in her hand.

"Mouse and Shampoo have a daughter now... don't they? They don't visit much anymore."

"Yes.... two in fact. Twin girls, two years younger than Chinko. Tsaop, and Lo-xion."

"Wow... times change, hu?"

"Yes... and the girls are very talented and strong."

"With parents like that?" Ranma snorted disdainfully. "They HAVE to be!"

"Yes," Akane agreed with a smile, not caring to mention that Chinko excelled the twin's skills incredibly... of course, she WAS two years older.

"But... anyway... getting back on track," Ranma said, shaking his head and almost unconsciously slipping back into a darker mood. "After they left, things simmered down a bit, and became worse all at the same time.

"Kodachi didn't cause much trouble except for the occasional crazed outburst, but basically, she was subdued, and discouraged, even moving on with life maybe. Not much of a worry. I think she started going out with a movie producer.

"Now, while Ukyo may have been more peaceful about it, she was actually doing much worse than Kodachi... internally. We still haven't really talked about it so much, even though she's married to Ryoga now," At this point there was a faint shocked, choking sound from Akane's direction, as her eyes nearly bulged out of her head. Ranma didn't seem to notice, valiantly forging forward with the tale. "She was constantly depressed, but still tried to play the stupid stoic friend, comforting me, and crying herself to sleep at night. I think she was still much in shock for a while, as though everything had happened too suddenly and she didn't want to cope with it...

"But back at the Uchan though, a place where Ukyo really got to show her true feelings when she was alone and upset, she was violently ignoring Kontastu, who was being even more of a stoic friend then SHE was. He was broken hearted over the fact that she didn't love him the way he loved her, but never left her side, through all of the hard times, and was incredibly loyal. In fact, I don't know why she didn't stop reminiscing over memories of me and get with him!... of course I guess it's all for the best, because it helped her get closer to Ryoga."

"... Right, ABOUT her and Ryoga."

"Don't worry, I'll get to it, there's still a lot more stuff ahead," Ranma commented, almost regretfully.

"You see, also that year, our father's got particularly stubborn, and actually engaged me to Nabiki."

"WHAT." Akane deadpanned, eyes dead with a cold fury that promised pain for both fathers when she saw them.

"Yeah... they would have engaged me to Kasumi... but she was already married to Tofu, and with child..."

"How is Shinji? And Katoru?" Akane asked. She may not have been clued in on the romantic relationship of friends, but she had been keeping tabs on her family, thanks to Cologne and the occasional secret correspondence with Kasumi, and knew quite a bit about her eight and six year old nephews. However, WHY Kasumi didn't mention the ENGAGEMENT, was beyond (and then some) her.

"Oh, they're really great. Sweet kids,"

"I can't believe those two finally got together!"

"Well, after you left, SHE needed comforting, and he was there. It happened pretty fast actually..."


"In any case, as you can imagine, Nabiki was NOT happy with this situation. She didn't want to be engaged to me almost as much as I didn't want to marry her! On top of that, it turns out she had already been seeing Kuno for a while back then."

"Well, it makes sense, they did have their son the next year."

"Yeah, and they were both already ridiculously successfully, almost like match made in heaven... but anyway... so, on top of me and Nabiki being incredibly awkward and angry around each other, Kuno was out for my blood! Again! Combined with me realizing Ukyo was nearing her breaking point in terms of emotional pain, and Mom sort of pressuring me into getting married now that she was sure you weren't coming back... It was a bad year," was all Ranma had to say about THAT.

"Well, what happened?" Akane asked. She knew vaguely how some of it turned out, once again, thanks to Kasumi, who had dutifully never murmured a word about their letters, but she had left out major details... like Nabiki's temporary engagement... she had a feeling her dear elder sister had left out a lot more than THAT, too.

"Well... I think it all happened with Ryoga coming to town... He just marched in one day, after nearly a year and a half of meditating with some monks to harness and calm his massive depression... and took one look at Ukyo, saw how she felt, related, and..."


"You do know he had a rather large obsession with you, don't you?"

"...No." Akane stated flatly. Gee, Today was just one surprise after another! "Though it does explain a lot..."

"More than you know," Ranma sighed, knowingly. He didn't hardly feel as bad about breaking he and Ryoga's sacred pact now that eight years had passed and dulled its real meaning some. Not to mention the man was HAPPILY married. still, in the back of his head he could see Ryoga, eighteen again and glowering at him with a look that promised pain. He winced and tried to push the eerily accurate image away. "Anyway, they took solace in each other, and eventually their comforting, helpful friendship turned an extremely healthy romance for the both of them."

"And Kontastu?" Akane asked, sadly.

"Faded into the background... I hate to be depressing, but I haven't really heard from him since."

"Oh... poor guy..."

"Yeah, it's a shame. But, in any case... Ryoga and Ukyo getting engaged and later married cooled things down, and Nabiki was able to worm her way out of the marriage quickly thanks to some sweet talking - and lots of help from Kuno's expensive lawyers. Shortly after this THEY got married and immediately had Mamoru... though some think it was done the other way around," he sniggered, as Akane blushed deeply, though not for the reasons Ranma suspected.

'I can't believe I didn't know that Ranma and ONEECHAN were ENGAGED for nearly a half a YEAR!' she was mentally screaming, a little furious, and yet at the same time not totally positive just who it was she was angry at. SHE was over him... wasn't she? She had never left Rai-Zor like Ranma had separated from his wife of course she had never married him either, but... they just... he just... Akane shook her head and rubbed her temples as she continued to listen, blocking out memories that were too painful to be dealt with just now.

"It was around that time, two years later, when I felt that things were finally starting to get a little better, that everyone was finally healing... that I met Shiori." he said, as though this had been a definitely negative happening in the scheme of things. Akane picked up on what he was trying to get across.

"...The ex-wife?" she asked softly.

"Yeah... the ex-wife."

"Hmm..." Akane murmured softly, encouraging him to continue, as he looked hesitant. And Akane admitted mentally he had a right to be... this was too odd. And it was wrong. He wasn't SUPPOSED to marry a complete stranger, a new person, someone not from Nerima... it was so weird! Shiori? Who the hell was that? She didn't fit the pattern. What had happened? Akane was thoroughly confused and incredibly curious. A dangerous combination, if there ever was one.

"... I met Shiori at a martial arts tournament... actually. Even though she was far from being interested the art."

"Shiori was the rich daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Tokyo. Her father, Mr. Watanase ('I've heard of him!' Akane gasped in surprise. 'YOU married HIS daughter?') owned a large, highly successful law firm, and Shiori, twenty years old when I met her, was a sophomore going to a college near Nerima. She had wanted to get out of the city and all of it's stressful responsibility, she had told me... but what I didn't know, was that what she really wanted to get away from was her ex-husband, and her angry father, who was mad over the fact that she had divorced the man he had picked for his 'darling' daughter to wed. Basically, an equally as loaded prick with an attitude problem.

"She was beautiful, and I was incredibly lonely... as ironic as this is going to sound... with all of my fiancées officially gone... I felt abandoned... in a way. Not in a romantic sense, but... in a friendship sense. All my guy friends were married to my girl friends and they didn't have time for me anymore what with having kids and settling down. Out of a need to get my mind off things, I entered all of the martial arts tournaments I could back then, earning lots of money and becoming pretty well known... which kept me relatively occupied. I was also letting Ma get to know me better, as she tried to help me to better fully recover from my, um - depression. Without the gang up to their usual crazy selves though, there was no longer anything to distract me from sitting home and basically thinking about you all day." the man admitted.

Akane blushed deeply, looking at her hands. Had he really suffered so much? She didn't want to be flattered, having the knowledge that it had been anything but a romantic period for him, but still... it was sort of a large ego-booster for her. Akane who thought SHE had been the third wheel, loved by no one. Wait - RYOGA had been madly in love with her? Slow reaction time, but- whoa!!

"But then Shiori came around. I didn't know why she was at the tournament, having no particular interest in fighting, but she saw me win it, and apparently fell madly in love with me on the spot."

Akane snorted at this point, folding her arms and raising an eyebrow, centering her focus back on Ranma's problems, instead of selfishly pondering her own.

"That's a little fickle, isn't it?" she asked.

"Jealous?" he replied, arching a brow of his own. She bit her lip and quickly turned her head away. The jerk!

"No." she said flatly. "You divorced her for Christ's sake. There's nothing to be jealous of!" After she spoke these words she immediately realized they were true. He DID divorce Shiori, and quickly, too! What was there to worry about, and why did she feel so pissed? She knew how the story turned out, and she had to get a grip.

"Whatever," Ranma sniggered in a cocky tone Akane was all too familiar with. She shot a blood-curdling glare at the man, and he immediately cleared his throat nervously, restarting the story.

"Right. Well. Anyway... we started seeing each other a lot after that. Most of my friends didn't understand how I could be seeing another woman, they were all stuck on the idea that one day I would find you and we would just end up together, because, well... they knew that I loved you... and were pretty sure you loved me back. But, I was determined to forget you if you didn't want me after all that time... so I tried to return Shiori's affections...

"And she was really nice, too! She laughed at all my jokes, hardly ever got angry, thought my curse was a 'cute little quirk', and liked my friends because they made her laugh... I couldn't believe anyone as normal as her liked ME, and soon had myself convinced I was in love, too."

"Are you suggesting I wasn't normal?" Akane asked, raising a playful eyebrow.

"No! No it's just that, well, you're from Nerima, and have had your share of odd things happen to you in your life. Shiori was just a rich girl from Tokyo! You know what I mean... anyway...in a little less than six months we were married."

"Moving fast," Akane commented, not willing to admit she was generally surprised by that fact. So, where it had taken she and Ranma nearly four years to make any sort of moves on one another - six months and Ranma was married to this rich prick?

"Yeah, I know... I don't remember really wanting to get married that early... but she was so insistent... and then I thought, hey, it's all part of the healing process, right? And even if they were confused about her, all my friends and family DID like Shiori, she was harmless at least, so I figured... why the hell not? I convinced myself you didn't matter. But.

"...A few months into the marriage... I realized you did - and not just because Shiori's personality wasn't as pleasant as I thought it was, but also because she had been hiding things from me... IMPORTANT things..."

"First of all, I had NO idea she had gotten married right after senior year of high school. Her dad married her off to an important friend's son, who was quite a few years older than she, and Shiori had been horrified, but compliant, since that was the way she had been brought up. It was for the money... and Shiori, no matter how unmaterialistic I told myself she was, LOVED money... I found that out the hard way, though.

"On top of conveniently dodging the fact she had already been married once, by keeping me away from all of her relatives, a fact I had never thought so much about, being ME, she had a SON. A three-year-old son, from her last marriage! Who, as though it wasn't bad enough she hadn't told me about him, was left back in Tokyo with his grandfather because she thought she was too young to take care of the boy."

"Not to be harsh, but shouldn't she have thought of that BEFORE she had sex?" Akane asked. She had thought Shiori sounded nice enough in the beginning that maybe things just didn't work out because of little things just not clicking... but suddenly Shiori sounded a lot worse than first assumed.

"Well, I don't actually blame her for having Tai in the first place. She had him with her ex, from her honeymoon, and it wasn't as though she could just tell him she didn't want to sleep with him, and then later that she didn't want to have his child. He was her husband by then after all - and truthfully, the whole mess was really her father's fault... however, Shiori still should have faced up to the fact that whatever happened it WASN'T Tai's fault... she should have stayed with him. Instead, though, she found herself hating her son, for all of the pain he brought her. He made her feel too old, too chained down, and depressed. She didn't want a CHILD, she had just turned nineteen!

"So after the divorce she dumped Tai in her father's lap and went off to college, where she became a fashion major, not even looking back."

"That sounds HORRIBLE," Akane said, thinking suddenly that this whole story was a lot deeper and darker then she could have imagined... on top of EVERYTHING, Ranma had to deal with THIS too?... The woman found herself taking Ranma's hand, and holding it tightly as he continued, warm brown eyes shimmering. Ranma hardly tried to pull away, and admitted silently that it was rather comforting. He couldn't remember the last time he had told ANYONE the whole story... though he couldn't imagine anyone else he would rather tell it to. She deserved it, and he needed it.

"I found it all out one day, when her father finally located our house. He called up one day when Shiori was in class... and the whole thing came out, in the form of rants and animalistic cries, it's true... but I got the gist, and I was horrified. Why hadn't she TOLD me? How could she have abandoned her own child? This whole scenario just seemed very un-Shiori like to me, and I think I must've convinced myself there was some mistake, until I confronted her about it ... some days later.

"She didn't want to talk about it, was hopping mad that I'd found out, and was about to go chew her own father out when I sat her down and MADE her tell me the whole story... I couldn't believe it. Was this woman really who I thought she was? Had I made a mistake? Shiori must have seen me pondering these things, because suddenly her personality took a major turn... and she became more like the woman she really was, much to my horror.

"Her patience with the odd, and sometimes scary things that happened to me and the gang started to wear thin. She got frustrated that we didn't do things that normal couples did, and started asking me a lot about odd things... mainly, money.

"Now, while I was still in all those fighting tournaments, I have to admit, I was pretty well known. I was only doing it to get some cash, at first just to survive, and then later... to start my own dojo. I was saving up. But Shiori didn't really know about that. Well, she knew I was saving it, she just didn't know what for. I think I had wanted it to be some sort of surprise. But then she started talking about things, things like expensive vacations, bigger houses in nicer neighborhoods, better cars... things I had never thought she yearned for.

"When I finally admitted to her why I was saving all of the money instead of spending it on lots of shopping sprees and expensive mansions she became furious. A DOJO? She couldn't understand why I would want to invest so much in something like THAT, and I couldn't understand why she was angry. She had always admired my dedication to the art, and suddenly, she was frowning upon it. Our marriage was falling down around my ears, and only four months into it; I started to get extremely worried, and was seriously considering separating. It just wasn't working."


"Shiori..." Ranma said, from the corner of the living room.

"Oh!" she gasped, spinning on her three inch heal, startled. It was one A.M, and there were no lights on in the house. Ranma was shrouded in the darkness of the room, and Shiori couldn't see him anywhere. "Don't scare me like that, sweetie," she reprimanded, switching on the lights quickly with a nervous smile quirking her lips, and turning to look at her husband. Ranma, who currently sat in large chair, his arms folded, and his eyes guarded.

"Where were you?" he asked, biting his lip.

He knew he sounded like the typical, jerk husband interrogating his poor wife just then ... but Shiori had been getting home at all hours of the night for the past week, and she never said a word about it. He knew she didn't take night classes at the university, and couldn't figure out what she was doing, or more importantly; why she wasn't telling him anything. He was worried. Things were already shaky with them, as of late - he didn't need to add this straw to the camel's back. Not that he was any sort of expert in happy marriages, but didn't couples share this sort of thing with one another?

"Oh, don't be so suspicious baby," she purred, gliding up to him. She wore a short khaki skirt and a collared shirt underneath a small pea-coat. She took off the jacket and threw it on a couch to the side. Once close enough, she wrapped her arms around Ranma's broad shoulders, staring at him enticingly, mouth pulled into a tiny, cute smile... but Ranma would have none of it.

Despite her innocent appeal, Shiori was very seductive, and knew just what strings to pull to get what she wanted. The martial artist had been seeing this very clearly more and more lately. An apparently unhealthy fog of love that had been clouding his vision was gone, and every time he looked at his beloved wife now, he saw new things that disturbed him... especially after the call from her father, a few weeks ago... after that one, harsh confrontation, they had barely mentioned anything more, and Ranma felt incredibly shitty about it. He especially felt bad for the child... Tai... wanted to meet him even. It had been bugging him for a while now.

As Shiori began to kiss Ranma slowly, with feather light contact, circling around his mouth before going in for the kill... Ranma found himself shaking his head, bringing himself back to reality, and pushing Shiori away.

"I don't mean to be annoying or suspicious," he admitted with an honest look. "But, Shiori, you've been doing this for the past five nights..."

"You knew?" she asked, surprised, and not hiding it overly well. "Well... of course you knew... you're an amazing martial artist..." she said, not so much as a compliment to Ranma, but as a reprimand to her self.

"...Yeah... listen, Shiori, please tell me! What's going on? Where have you been going at night?"

"Just... out with the girls, Ranma! I needed to get out, and I feel suffocated here lately-"


"Yes, suffocated! You and your friends and your art... it's just, too much... I mean take last weekend, for example!"

"What? With Happousi stealing all of Nerima's bras and Ukyo starting the anti-Happousi-all-female-mob-of-pissed-off-braless-people? With the rampaging down the streets and the spell that Happousi put on them when the finally found him and then Kodachi coming up and-"

"Yes! Yes that! That's EXACTLY what I'm referring to!" Shiori said, stopping Ranma in mid-recollection with wide hand gestures, nodding her head vigorously.

"... But I thought you found that sort of thing funny. I mean, it happens all the time here..."

"Yes. It does. And that's what's getting to me. It happens all the time, and it's driving me crazy! I want a NORMAL life Ranma, just for a bit! That's why I've been having nights on the town with the girls from school! We go to restaurants, see movies! Do AVERAGE things! No fighting, no magic, no monsters, no nothing relatively special! Don't you see that I need this?" she asked in a half whine, eyes shining with a desire for him to understand her position.

"... I guess I see," Ranma said softly, caving in to her reasoning - but really feeling as though he had been stabbed in the gut. She... was getting sick of Nerima? Sick of all of the weird things that happened? But... she had always liked them before!

'SHE would have never gotten angry at you for all of the odd stuff that happens here... SHE would have been right there with Ukyo, hunting Happousi down!' an annoying little voice in his head, that had been there for months, ever since he had married Shiori, in fact, whispered.

'Shut up!' Ranma replied mentally. 'SHE'S gone, SHE left me, and SHE'S never coming back, so just drop it!'

"Ranma, is something wrong?" Shiori asked, caressing her husband's face, confident she had won him over.

"... Shiori... do you think that maybe you're unhappiness is in part related to the fact that... that Tai's not here?" Ranma asked.

"Ugh, Ranma!" Shiori let out a frustrated groan, getting off her husband's lap, and stomping half way across the room, actions not all that unlike like those of a spoiled brat.

"No, I do NOT think that has anything to do with this! Tai... I don't even want to think about him!" she cried, looking genuinely distressed.

"Shiori, I wouldn't mind if he stayed with us, if that's what you're worried about! In fact, I really want to meet him! To meet your son! Please, don't push the subject aside, it will only make it worse," Ranma said, hitting a nerve, as Shiori realized her son was bothering her... though perhaps not for the reasons Ranma thought it was.

"...You really want to meet him?" she asked quietly, head lowered.

"YES, and I want to meet your family too! You've met mine!" Ranma pointed out. Shiori heaved a big sigh.

"Yes, I definitely have met your family... Well... maybe you're right, maybe I should see him, check up on him... Ok. Let's do it then. This weekend. You can see Tai. I'll even let Daddy torture you for a while," she offered generously.

"Thanks," Ranma said sincerely, getting up and closing the gap between him and Shiori. "I really can't wait to meet everyone,"

"I'm glad," Shiori said, hugging him, and looking up into his storm blue eyes, her own liquid brown ones shining with... Ranma inspected them closer... adoration, on the surface... but also annoyance... deceit... lies... He didn't like what he saw and turned to the side, trying to imagine it differently... trying to imagine her eyes as more of a chocolate brown... her hair a little more blue tinted... but he knew that was wrong.

He also knew something was wrong with his wife as well. He knew that Shiori was lying to him about a great deal of things, and that there was more to her abrupt changes in attitude than mere agitation. Lastly, he was realizing more acutely every day that.

She wasn't Akane.

*End Flashback*

"Ranma, Ranma?" Akane asked, shaking her friend, as he stared off into space, silent, and with a distinct air of depression Akane was intimately familiar with herself.

"What? Oh! Oh... sorry, I was just... remembering stuff... where was I?" he asked, scratching his head, in such an adorably Ranma way Akane let a warm grin slip out.

"Well, Shiori found out that you had been saving money up for your own dojo, and had no plans to use it for anything besides that... and she was sort of angry."

"Oh. Right. Well... I was perfectly fine with the way we were living now, you see? Certainly we weren't living the life we could have been with all the money I had saved up, but we were comfortable, and happy, and I thought that was all that mattered... however it wasn't, not to her.

"Shortly after that incident, I saw Tai for the first time. It had taken a while for me to convince Shiori it was all right that I see Tai, that I didn't mind if her father chewed me out, and that I wasn't mad she had already had a son... but I did it... and I really liked Tai. He was great! I felt like he was my own son the second I laid eyes on him. He was just that kind of kid. I didn't like her father as much, since he didn't really approve of the fact that I wasn't living in a penthouse somewhere in Tokyo... but Tai definitely made up for it. We would go to parks and play for hours, laughing all the time. I taught him how to throw a decent punch, and after lots of talks with Shiori, started seeing him regularly to teach him the art. He loved it, liked showing off his new skills to everyone, and was a fast learner.... By age six he was already stacking up belts, and rapidly excelling. Everyone says it was because of my teachings, but I think he's just a natural!... unfortunately... things weren't going as great with Shiori and I as they were with Tai.

"Seeing me get along perfectly with her child didn't bring her the satisfaction I thought it would. She became antsy and distracted, had no patience with my friends or their antics, and spoke to me sharply all the time. As more and more she left the house to go be with what she came to call 'normal people', it dawned on me, like a slap in the face, that she wasn't cut out for this life, as I had fist assumed... she wasn't made to live in Nerima. And since I couldn't forget who I really was, us staying together would only create more pain. It was a hard idea to come to terms with ... but I had to...

"Unfortunately, Shiori had come to this conclusion a lot sooner than I had... and was the first to act upon it. Unfortunately.

"... She came home one night, drunk off her ass, in a way I had never seen her before... hell I didn't even know she drank!... and with her was a man. He was tall and perfectly handsome in that annoyingly suave way, his teeth flashy white, and his clothing undeniable ritzy," Ranma spat out the description as though it disgusted him even just talking about it. Akane raised an eyebrow but said nothing. The story had already both horrified and captivated her.

"Turns out, it was her ex! Tenrei Kamiworo, and the biggest prick to ever walk the Earth. All those nights I thought Shiori had been out with her friends, she was really out with THIS scumbag, reminiscing on old times, screwing me over, and completely making a cuckold out of me. Tenrei happily informed me of all this with a smile on his face, as Shiori sat right next to him and insulted me in ways I didn't even know it was possible to insult someone. From my friends to my family to just plain old me, she was fed up with the crazy way I lived, thought me insane, and wanted nothing more then to have me kiss her ass and get a divorce so she could leave this fucked up hell she had stumbled upon... It was really harsh, and I know she would have never really put things that way had she been in her right mind... but ... still. The ideas WERE already in her head.

"Truth be told, Shiori never really loved me. Oh, she had thought me cute at first, sure, I had an adorable personality, if I do say so myself, but she was really after the money. As it turns out, after she ran away to go to college near Nerima and get a fashion degree, money had become a major issue. Between paying for her own classes and trying to keep up the wealthy life style she was so accustomed to with out the help of dear Daddy, Shiori had hit rock bottom by age twenty and was desperate. She had heard about me and all of my wins in the newspaper, realized I was a bachelor, and devised a plan to seduce me and eventually squeeze all of the money I had out of me. She thought I was a rich, dumb ass jock who would easily fall for her and shower her with a show of affection in the form of materialistic shit. Well... she knew she was wrong after only a few weeks of dating me, but figured If she could just marry me, she would have full access to all of my riches. She came to the conclusion that, out of all of the rich asses out there she could have married, she liked me best.

"So, putting aside that my life style was incredibly odd, and never once dropping her sweet and content facade, she stuck by me like glue until she had the chance to rob me blind... but after we finally got hitched... she realized she was in way over her head, and couldn't in fact grab the money and run, because it was secured in a savings volt I never let anyone touch. And even if she did try to just disappear and leave me behind, I would DEFINITELY find her, and ask a lot of hard questions. She had dug her self a deep hole, and didn't know how to get out.

"She sounds like a total bitch." Akane stated flatly, and Ranma winced.

"Well... she was," he agreed.

"It was when she had practically reached her breaking point in terms of tolerance for me and all I stood for, that she started seeing Tenrei, who was still hurting over the fact she had dumped him for some classless idiot like me." Akane found the sudden, overwhelming urge to take Ranma by the shoulders, and assure him he was NOT classes, or an idiot... but held back.

'Poor Ranma...' she thought, staring at her hands. Who would have guessed that the great RANMA would get dumped like this? It was a startling turn of events to say the least. 'There was a time where I would have thought getting dumped would be good for that inflated ego of his... but now... now I can feel nothing but pity, and anger. No one deserves to be treated like t his. ESEPECIALLY not Ranma,' Akane thought, heart aching.

"So, within a few weeks, the divorce was completely official. I don't remember much of it while it was actually happening; Mom and Nabiki basically handled it for me, and dealt with the vicious dogs Tenrei called lawyers. I was in too much of funk, and couldn't really be shaken out of it... between her and... well, you, I think I might have been having relationship whiplash of sorts.

"Luckily, Shiori wasn't able to suck much out of me. I remember vaguely talking to her a bit while we were still filing for the divorce, because it was around then that Tai became a large topic of discussion. She still had little to no interest in him, I knew it, and she sure as hell knew it, and it made both of us mad. I loved the guy, she didn't, and Tenrei I could not see as being a good father, even if he did need an heir... so I opted to become Tai's legal guardian, while Shiori got her life back together, and was able to cope with having a child. I didn't think living with her father was a good environment for the little guy either, and I wanted him to stay with me.

"She had been skeptical at first, not exactly wanting to hand her only son over to the dreaded ex... but he was so young back then, and she knew she couldn't handle him... didn't want her father breathing down her back about the boy... so she weighed the pros and cons, and in the end, I had legal custody. It felt great.

"It was wonderful, because after the dust settled, after Shiori had left the court room, arms looped with her rich, gorgeous, and totally normal, new fiancee, I had something to occupy myself with. A son. Not by blood, but it didn't really matter. Still doesn't. Tai kept me going, through out all of the times I started to feel alone, all of the difficult periods with building my dojo, and all of the required by law trips to see Shiori because she was supposed to be spending time with Tai. It still hurt to think about her... I really had loved her for a while... she was a wonderful... well... replacement." Akane cocked her head, thinking about how Ranma phrased that. Did he really mean it? That was a pretty big thing to just go and admit there. His ex-wife had been a replacement for... assumingly... herself?

"Do you think that's one of the reasons she left? Because you weren't totally over me?" she asked, as delicately as she could. Ranma looked up at the sky, avoiding her gaze.

"Come to think of it... maybe." he admitted, voice wry, eyes closed. "Maybe." Akane shook her head with an amazed smile, giving off a short bark of a laugh.

"Wow..." she said. "Wow. We're really messed up, aren't we?"

"'Fraid so."


They sat together like that for a while, listening to the receding tide lap gently at the shore, lost in their own thoughts. They were staring out into the distance, but not necessarily at anything that was directly in front of them. And then, quite simultaneously, they both craned their heads to the left, to glance at the playground. The sky was getting to it's darkest point now, and there were no longer childish cries of joy emitting from the lonesome looking jungle-gym. The two parents exchanged quick glances, before swiftly getting to their feet to go see just what was going on. Generally, as a rule, to a parent, no noise was a bad noise when it came to two mischievous children.

Lucky for them, they discovered, as they skidded across the sand and into the humble playground, the children had simply worked themselves too hard, and were both curled up on the ground, napping lightly. A smile tugged at Ranma and Akane's lips. They were utterly adorable, what with Chinko's head resting innocently on Tai's stomach. He obviously made an exceptional pillow.

"Awww...that's so cuuute." Akane was horrified to realize had slipped out of her lips. Ranma smiled wider and then went to kneel by his son.

"I don't want to disturb them," he admitted. "They look so PEACEFULL. Tai NEVER looks peaceful!"

"I think it would be best to just leave them like this for a little bit longer," Akane said firmly. The fact that if, maybe, Ranma woke Tai up, it would mean he would have to leave, and end there time together, having NOTHING to do with it. Honestly.

"Good idea," Ranma quickly agreed. Akane swiftly joined him on the matted ground where he sat, curling her legs up to her chest as she watched her child and her new friend slumber beneath the dazzling sky.

"You know," Ranma said after a moment, voice lowered a bit, now that there was risk of waking the kids. "You never really finished your story about what happened to YOU. Here I've been, blubbering on, and you haven't said a thing!" he said, showing a flash of courtesy and worry Akane was surprised to spot.

"Don't worry about it... it sounds like you had a lot going on in your life as well... I mean... I still can't believe that happened to you!" she whispered back, looking him in the eye. Ranma smirked.

"Well... it's over now. Nothing to worry yourself over. I've recovered. But... what about you? I know something happened to you. I can tell."

"...Your dojo doing well?"


"Lots of students? Any I would remember?"


"Where is it, anyway?"



"Stop avoiding the subject."

"... Right. Will do. Fine." she conceded, throwing her head back and wishing he had been easier to trick. But, come to think of it, no matter how many times she had called him an idiot, Ranma HAD always been pretty sharp. Not necessarily when it came to emotions, but no one could deny his mental strength for when it counted. For instance... now!

"Umm... where was I?" she asked, sounding lost and hesitant, just as he had when telling his side of the tale.

"You were in the Amazon tribe for four years, training happily with Shampoo and Cologne, Chinko, I assume, with you, and then you just left after four years. You didn't happen to mention why, and I don't really know what happened after that." he summed up.

"Great, perfect." she stated dryly. "I got through all the EASY parts. Um... okay, so... this is what happened...I think I'll just start back from the beginning, because I obviously left out some parts if you haven't mentioned HIM..."

"After I left for the Amazon village... as glad as I was that I had left my past behind, I was also suddenly very alone and confused. Shampoo, Mouse and Cologne were all still in Nerima assumedly trying to hook you, and I had no idea how to act, or what to say. First off, many of the Amazons didn't speak Japanese, and my mandarin was severely lacking. Of course, it improved over time, and now Chinko and I are fluent, Chinko obviously. But in the beginning, it was very hard.

"Not to mention I was pretty naive when it came to Amazon culture. My knowledge basically stopped after 'Kiss of Death' and the whole 'beaten by an outsider' law. There was so much more to learn! I had completely screwed myself over by blindly letting Cologne send me into the village. Luckily, I met Rai-Zor..."



Akane fidgeted with her skirt to keep her hands from openly shaking, kneeling obediently in front of the village's current Chief Amazon, and leader of the tribe: Xo-War. The woman was old, but not in the way Cologne was old. Cologne was funny old. This woman was menacing. She was tall and broad shouldered, her white streaked hair pulled up in to a high bun. Her face was tanned and creased with wrinkles, like an old piece of paper, and her muscles proved that she was worthy of her title as Chief. She wore the customary colors of the Amazon Leader, and spoke absolutely no Japanese.

Xo-War joked in her raspy voice, speaking mandarin to the two, younger Amazon guards at her sides. They both giggled lightly, making Akane all the more nervous. She should have learned the language before she came! What an idiot! Maybe she should just go back home... she knew that her poor family would be worried, Yuka and Sayuri would probably never forgive her, and Ranma...

'No.' she thought firmly. 'This is for the best. The best for me... for me and the baby.' With that thought in mind she firmly left the now wrinkled corner of her skirt alone, and held her head up high. She knew it would be an even worse idea to make herself look weak and demure in front of THESE women.

Xo-war said, sighing in mock regret. The guards giggled wickedly once more, and Akane realized that none of this boded well for her, even if she couldn't understand a word they were saying.

Someone called out. Akane turned around, was that a male voice she had heard? One of the major perks of an Amazon village was that there were supposed to BE no males! What a rip off...

Pushing through the crowd of Amazon's who had come to watch the outsider be dealt her fate, (much to Akane's annoyance. Didn't they have anything better to do then stand around and watch a poor girl be insulted in another language?) was a man. The second she saw him Akane began to reconsider this whole, 'no male' thing she had set up for herself. This man was VERY attractive. He wore only a pair of draw string, light brown pants, and Akane had a very nice view of his six-pack. His dark green, messy hair framed his face in a very cute, boyish way, and his whole body was tanned from working in the sun. A paper-thin scar made its way across his chest. Akane felt herself swoon... but... touching her stomach, she reconsidered. NO. No males for Akane. That chapter of her life was most definitely closed.

Xo-War huffed, folding her arms dangerously. However, Akane distinctly picked out a hint of playfulness in her deep green eyes. What? Wasn't she angry to have a male here? There were no others that she could see.

Rai-Zor pleaded, getting down on one knee and bowing his head. Akane stared at him, quizzically. She couldn't follow what was going, and wasn't totally positive of what this man was trying to pull off.

When no other Amazons from the circle vouched to be Akane's translator, or even friend, (who needed an outsider for a sister?) Xo-War let out a long sigh, closing her eyes.

she admitted, trailing off. Rai-Zor's head shot up excitedly.

he asked, a broad grin on his face.

Xo-War said, shrugging. she explained, as though this was the ONLY reason Akane was going to be allowed to stay. Rai-Zor gave off a little 'whoop!' of joy, and the guards giggled, as they seemed terribly prone to do, yet again.

Rai-Xor turned to Akane then, taking her hands in his, and helping her up. Akane complied without much resistance, though she was still very put out. Errr... was she supposed to be happy as well? Everyone else seemed pretty content. The crowd because they didn't have to help the stupid foreign girl around, and had let a worthless male take the job, and the Chieftess and her guards because they found it funny. Rai-Zor was ALWAYS doing weird things like this. He was quite amusing, for a male. Not to mention he was Xa-War's son, which made him a little bit farther up in the hierarchy of scumbag men.

"Um... I-I-" Akane started, wondering what you say to someone who doesn't speak your language. Rai-Zor simply shook his head though, happy.

"Hello Akane Tendo... I've heard about you from Mzu-Tsu! I'm so exited to meet you, you wanna be friends?"

Akane's eyes widend, and she nodded dumbly.

"Great! Here, let me help you with your bags..."


Akane let a small smile wash over her features as she thought about Rai- Zor, as she hadn't let herself do so in some time.

"Needless to say, we got along great. I was particularly taken with him, because he was acting the same way I had to you when you first showed up... and I guess in that way he was comforting.

"He showed me around the village, helped me learn Mandarin, taught me about the Amazon culture. He even helped me train. Even as a lowly male in the village, he was way better than I was, and he prepared me very much for Cologne's return. It took a while, but, thanks to Rai-Zor's help, I got to know more of the females in the village, and soon became pretty well liked, even for an 'outsider'. It was lucky for me Rai-Zor was the head of the village's son though, otherwise no one would have talked to me for being such good friends with rotten male dirt like him." Akane chuckled lightly. Rai-Zor had been anything but dirt.

"Especially when Shampoo came back, and we sort of reconciled for everything that had been done now that she and Mouse were back together," Ranma raised an eyebrow, seriously wondering how she had done that. "...Long story. Let's not get into it. Anyway, when she came back, I began to really have a lot of friends, and felt at home with the Amazons who were teaching me so much. My skills improved drastically in a very short period of time, and for one of the first times in my life, I felt truly powerful."

"Sounds like you were having a blast," Ranma said, smiling hesitantly, because, from the way Akane was talking, it didn't sound like this story had a happy ending. "Why did you leave?" Akane let out a breath and circled her hands around her ankles.

"Ohh... I don't know, it was everything, and nothing at all... I guess... I guess it was you. Nerima. My family. You can take the girl out of the town but not the town out of the girl, you know?" Ranma nodded, understanding her point of view.

"You were homesick," he said blatantly. Akane winced as he put it very crudely.

"Yeah. I was homesick." She looked thoughtful. "But it wasn't so much that I really wanted to go home, since things were going really well for me with the Amazons, as it was I NEEDED to go home. Like there was something deep inside me telling me that this wasn't right. That it was good, it was fun... but it wasn't where I belonged." Ranma stared at the beautiful woman before him, the longing back in his eyes.

'That's right,' he agreed mentally. 'You belonged with me.'

"Meanwhile," Akane continued. "Things had evolved to a whole new level with me and Rai-Zor. Although it was frowned upon acting intimately with a male for reasons outside of breeding,"


"Since I was technically an outsider, no matter that I was a legal sister at that point, people looked away when we got closer. I just didn't know any better, apparently. And I really liked him. It could have been because he so reminded me of you and Nerima, since he was very obsessed with the outside world, the original reason he had befriended me... or it could have just been because he was a generally good person."

"I think it was because he reminded you of me." Ranma stated firmly, trying not to sound TOO protective... 'She left him in the end, so don't worry! She left him in the end, so-' Akane giggled lightly.

"Sure. Yeah. Maybe. In any case, soon we were sleeping together, and I thought I had really fallen in love with him, really begun to move on... Besides the fact that I was thoroughly a wreck on the inside, the days with the Amazons were some of my best. Every morning I'd get up, work out, have a lesson with Cologne...Maybe train with Shampoo, or even get a cooking lesson with her... then I'd go explore the forest with Rai-Zor... I was so naive, and that made it all the more exiting."

"What about Chinko?" Ranma asked, looking at the pretty little girl. He didn't know Chinko's age, exactly, but he assumed, from how old she looked, that Akane had had her pretty early on in her stay with the Amazons. 'Damn, I didn't know she moved so fast... she was always so careful, with me. Wanted everything to be perfect...' Akane smiled, not picking up on Ranma's solemn thoughts.

"Oh, she really liked it there. Since she was born knowing nothing else, she loved the village, and the people. She was very talented and popular, liked to train her hardest and become as strong as the older Amazons. She was really great." Akane's positive outlook on things faltered and her face fell suddenly. "And I made her leave." she added in a softer voice. Ranma looked at her, feeling his heartbreak.

"No Akane, it's not your fault." he said, realizing it must have been hurting her a lot more than she let on that she had taken Chinko on a four year training trip, tearing her away from her friends and family... And there he had been yelling at her about it... all these years and he still could effectively put his foot in his mouth! "You would have become a bad mother if you had made yourself stay there, and never shown Chinko her grandparents... stayed their and gotten more depressed..." he assured her. Akane smiled for him.

"Thanks Ranma," she said, earnestly, even though, in her heart, she still wasn't sure she had made the right decision. Still, he was right about Chinko not being able to see her grandparents...

"Well, anyway, after four years at the village, I woke up one day, and realized I just couldn't stay there anymore. The village was fine, I really didn't have any problems with it, and in a way, and my decision was almost compulsive. I just HAD to leave. I... I told this to Rai-Zor... and he was upset." she gulped painfully, and Ranma knew they were getting to the bad part of the story. "He begged me not to go, pleaded! He looked so crushed... I wanted to say yes. Tell him that I'd stay, stay with him forever... but I couldn't... I couldn't because.... because I kept thinking about you!" Akane admitted, stifling a sob. Ranma frowned and rubbed her shoulder a little awkwardly. What was he supposed to do? He really WASN'T upset that Akane had chosen to leave... and he didn't know if she would be too thrilled if he acted like he wasn't. It was a lose lose situation.

"Why didn't he just go with you?" Ranma decided to ask. He was noticing an utter lack of Rai-Zor here, and was seriously wondering what had happened to him, if he and Akane had been so in love. Akane sucked in a painful breath at that question, though.

"It was forbidden. Amazons were NOT allowed to leave the tribe. The only reason I was given permission to go, was because I was a foreigner, and they respected my wishes to see me family, to show my daughter her family. They were not heartless, but they weren't dumb, either. In order to preserve their culture, they did not let pure Amazons leave the village for extended periods of time."

"What about Shampoo?" Ranma pointed out. Akane shrugged helplessly.

"She had a real reason to go. It would have been against the law NOT to follow you, and with the elder Cologne their to guide her later, the village was sure she would not desecrate their culture or leak any terribly important secrets out." she explained.

"Mousse?" Ranma pressed.

"He was supposed to check on things in Japan... and just stayed longer than necessary. He almost got in really big trouble for that one, actually. But, luckily, Shampoo had married him by that point, a rare occurrence in any case, and the revered elder Cologne vouched for him. So he was saved. However... especially since Rai-Zor was the head of the village's son, and could be used for healthy Amazon children, they didn't want to let him go. It was too risky." She looked up at the stars now as she talked, partly to stop her tears from falling, and partly to stop herself from seeing the pitying expression on Ranma's face when she continued.

"He was beyond being upset, he was utterly depressed. I was really worried for him, towards the end... but I... but I had already made my arrangements to leave, and it was sort of a big preparation for me to go back to Japan... since I would not be able to return unless under some very special circumstances, and the elders would be frustrated if I turned back at that point." she admitted. Ranma looked at her, shocked. She... she had been willing to throw all that away? For him? Or... well, he shouldn't be selfish, for her family... for her friends... for everything she had given away. It was sort of ironic...

"So, I did all I could to help him until the day I would have to go. He understood that I had to leave him, that I would be miserable if I stayed and let things stay as they were... I.... he knew I couldn't do it. It wouldn't work. I think he was just wishing for a miracle. Something to make it not true, something to make me love him more than my memories, more than my homeland. And I couldn't do it, not even for Rai-Zor," she sounded bitter and self loathing, and Ranma wanted nothing more than to kiss her again... kiss away her falling tears... her pain... but he let her continue.

"So, when I left, with Chinko, of whom he had loved also... he went insane, from what I've heard from Shampoo's letters. He just couldn't take it, not being able to follow me, and make sure I was okay in Japan... so on the third day, he tried to escape the village, sneaking away in the dead of the night, hoping to catch a boat to Japan, and leave the Amazons behind.

"But there were guards." Akane's throat closed up completely for a second, she had never told anyone this story before, and even today, Chinko thought Rai-Zor had died of a disease, passing away peacefully in his sleep. "A- and..." she choked, getting her voice back enough to finish the tale. "And they thought he was an intruder. And a MALE one at that. Rai-Zor was too blindly set to find me and Chinko to see the danger, or to act wisely. I don't think he even noticed them... and when they called out... he was acting... very strangely, because he had not slept since my departure and was very sick... so they assumed... he was some barbarian coming to try to rape the Amazons.

"We got that, occasionally... though they were never a real threat... and... s-so...they..." She grabbed Ranma's hand, and threw her face onto his shoulder, crying wet, salty tears into his black shirt. "They shot him!" Ranma made out, even though her voice was muffled and shaky.

Ranma's blood ran cold, and his own eyes began to heat up... maybe not for Rai-Zor, the faceless man who had taken his place, and been killed by his love for the woman Ranma too would give his life for... but for the pain and guilt Akane must have felt when she heard the news. For the culpability that had been bestowed upon her when the realization hit that. this man had been killed for her.

'Something's not adding up,' Ranma said, as he patted Akane's hair gently, letting her sob quietly onto him so as not to wake the children. She needed this, she needed to tell someone about this and get it out of her system, instead of just bearing it away in the back of her heart. He knew what guilt like that felt like.

But she wasn't telling him the whole story.

'Why would Akane JUST leave like that? To take her child away from its father... that's too cruel... I think... I think there's something else...' But he just couldn't figure it out.

Eventually, sniffling and bowing her head, Akane raised her head off Ranma's broad shoulder, and looked into his eyes. She was searching for acceptance and kindness, hoping he wouldn't blame her as she had blamed herself. Luckily she found, to her immense joy, there was only compassion in his gaze. Wow... it was good to be with him again.

"Oh Ranma, I couldn't come back to Nerima after that. We hadn't reached our boat yet when I got the letter... so I couldn't bring myself to go home and be surrounded by friends and family when Rai-Zor w-was... dead... because of me. I couldn't take that. So I went on a training trip, Chinko was too young to wonder why, and not only trained myself and Chinko on a journey throughout the better part of China... but also healed myself. I had to let my scars mend themselves until I had regained the courage and the actual desire to come home, and face my past.

"It took a while. Four years. But I did it. I was a wreck for the better part of the time, making life hell for Chinko I'm sure... but... luckily we could mourn his death together, even if she didn't fully understand it. It helped." Ranma held onto her still, arms wrapped around her waist from behind, leaning his chin on her own shoulder, refusing to let go.

"I'm so sorry," he whispered, and she nodded, smiling.

"Don't be sorry for me, be sorry for Rai-Zor." She replied sorrowfully. Ranma shook his head.

"It's not that I don't feel sorry for him - I just feel terribly for you, too. I cant' except the fact that you didn't suffer just as much as he did." Akane sighed, not agreeing with the man, but letting a warm sensation flow through out her body at his words nonetheless.

"I know you feel that way... and I love you for it." Ranma stiffened, watching her crane her head up to look at him again.

"Love?" he repeated. "Or loved." She seemed to think about this one for a bit, her perfectly pink lips quirking upward.

"Don't know." she admitted wetly, finally, seemingly pleased with her own answer, yet upset still. "All I know... is that it's good to be with you again." She traced her hand along his cheekbone as she spoke.

"Yeah, same here," he agreed, his voice breathless and wondering.

And then, before they knew it, they were kissing again. A deep, wonderfully romantic kiss, in the moonlight... on the ocean... with the stars... accompanied by an intense feeling of swamping need... and the their two, totally unrelated kids sleeping peacefully next to them...
They quickly broke apart.

"Um..." Ranma began, moving his head unconsciously away from Akane's and lowering his gaze. "You're hiding something, again." he stated flatly. Akane feigned innocence, staring at her hands.

"What do you mean, I told you everything."

"No. You didn't." Damn. That was RIGHT! She sucked at lying!

"Err... listen, Ranma." Akane said, slithering out of his embrace, and then crouching in front of him so that she could get a proper look at his face. "I don't know if now is a good time. We've already been through so much-"

"The hell it's not a good time! Listen Akane, we need to get everything out, and if you're hiding something... we're not going to be able to get passed this! Now, there's something about Rai-Zor and Chinko you're not telling me... because you wouldn't leave him like that, take his own daughter away from him. I know you too well to believe that you'd let the man live without his daughter for the rest of his life... there's something that happened there that you're leaving out. Why won't you tell me?"

"Well... you're almost right." Akane said, her tone grave, and very serious. Ranma gulped. This didn't sound too good. She wasn't kidding. She really WAS hiding something more. "Ranma... I... I don't know how to say this," she said, sighing nervously. This was like, her ultimate nightmare. This was the moment she had feared would come throughout all of her years in China... and now... she was facing up to it... oh God...

Ranma took her by the face and made her stare into his eyes, forcing her to view his rekindled love and trust.

"Akane, please, trust me, I could never hate you for anything that happened. Please believe that." Akane reached out and put one hand on his chest.

"I'm not so sure Ranma, maybe you shouldn't say such things until you know the whole story. Um. for starters. do you... remember that night?" The way she said it, the tone in her voice, the expression on her face, Ranma didn't even have to wonder 'what night' she was referring to.

"Yes," he said, simply. 'That night', was the one and only night they had slept together. Directly before Ranma started getting rid of fiancees, and a little longer before Akane had left. How could she have thought he was going to dump her after THAT night? It had been a confusing time, filled with parties, angry friends and alcohol - the evening of the prom- and It left him feeling dizzy with frustration, so he just let her go on.

"Well.... well, you know. I didn't start sleeping with Rai-Zor until at least two years after I came to the village." she explained, hoping he would just pick up on things and not make her say it. Not make her admit...

"..." Stupid Ranma.

"Well... Chinko's eight now."

"Really? Well, she does look about as old as Tai. That's a weird coincidence, because you know, Shi-... oh. Wait. No... I...." Suddenly Ranma's head violently snapped back down to Chinko, as some thing clicked, thinking of her appearance. The girl's face, and long blue hair, matched Akane's perfectly... but her eyes... her eyes were not brown. They were blue. A storm blue, maybe. A familiar storm blue...

'Why didn't I see it?' he asked himself, one shaking hand going down to brush away the little girl's hair from her face, looking over her features with a new appreciation, a new love...

"I... Akane... is she?" he asked, awed. Akane nodded hesitantly, biting her lip, and folding her arms nervously.

"Yes Ranma... Chinko's our daughter."

And then she waited. Waited for him to blow up, to break down, to make a mad dash for the car... but he didn't do anything. He just sat there, staring at his daughter as though she were the most precious thing in the world. Finally she spotted a lone tear crawl down his face. Had she ever seen him cry so much in one day?


"She's perfect," he said, finally, looking up at her, his features hard. He understood now, understood why she had left. She had wanted to bring Chinko back to Nerima, to not only see her grandparents... but her real father.

"You just realized that?" she joked. When he didn't reply, she took it upon herself to continue. "I wanted to tell you... but... I thought you didn't love me the way I loved you... so... I didn't want to burden you, I guess. Didn't want you to have to take care or feel responsible for a love child you didn't want to be a part of..."

"Akane how could you have thought that?" he hissed, pained. "I loved you... after we slept together that night, how could you have thought I wouldn't want her? That she would have been a BURDEN?" He looked as though he were thoroughly angry with her, and Akane shrunk back, fearfully. Was he really mad?

But, just then, canceling out all preconceptions Akane had begun to brew up, the martial artist zipped forward, and captured Akane in a tight hug, once more.

"Don't ever leave me again," he made her promise, whispering into her ear. Now it was her turn to let the tears fall again.

"Ranma!" she wheezed.

"Promise me you won't!" he insisted, desperate to hear her say it.

"I ... I promise I'll stay with you," she conceded, a sincere, truly happy smile crawling onto her face, and making itself a home. Things suddenly looked a lot brighter.

"I love you," he admitted. "Even after all this time, it's so easy to love you again. You're just... just perfect for me. Even if we do mess up a lot." he said lightly, knocking his forehead with hers and staring into her wide, happy eyes.

"Yeah," she got out, gasping. "Me too... I love you too. Let's be happy this time, okay?" Ranma nodded his head, unable to express how overjoyed he was that she was back... but at the same time, realizing he wouldn't trade what had happened to him, or Tai, for anything. As he was sure Akane felt too. It had been painful, but now they were that much closer because of it. They were going to be so happy!...

"Sounds good,"



That was SOOOO WAFFY! Not to mention annoyingly long. And sort of pointless... all I did was tell a story... I mean... the entire fic wasn't longer then a few hours, in Ranma time! Oh my God this fic had no ppoooooinntt... Not that I didn't have fun writing it. It was really fun to write, even though I had to get all the ages and years and history straight, which was a real drag. And I made everyone have kids like, the second they got married, so that, if I write a sequel in the future, all of the kids can be within two years of each other. I really can't see Nabiki having kids before she's through with college, but whatever!

Anywho, please review. I REALLY want reviews, as I'm currently feeling a distinct love/hate relationship with this story in particular. Thanks for reading!

Rio Grande.