Disclaimer: The world of Ranma 1/2 is owned by Rumiko Takahashi. I just love her characters so I spun this story.

Notes: I know some of you might be waiting for the next chapter of To Love, Honor and Murder, but unfortunately I needed to take a small break. I've never written a fic like that one and it's proving more difficult than I had anticipated. Don't worry, I will finish it, but I had this story knocking around so to get the creative juices flowing I thought I'd throw it up here. It's nothing much, just a small glimpse into the sometimes wacky world Ranma and Akane live in.

Hope you like it...

-R 1/2-

Akane heard a loud thump and looked up. Several more followed as if someone were running across the roof.

Ranma, the thought was instantaneous. What was he up to now?

Akane's brow furrowed as she heard a shout followed by another barrage of footfalls streaming across the roof directly above her.

What the hell was going on?

Feeling her temper begin to steadily rise, Akane abruptly closed her math book with an irritated snap. After all, who could concentrate with all that racket? She decided it was once again up to her to put a stop to it.

With this thought securely in place she pushed herself firmly away from the desk and stood, leaning over she grasped the window and threw it open.

The shouts were louder now. As she peered up and over her shoulder she could see Ranma scrambling frantically to get away from a very over zealous Shampoo, his pigtail flying out behind him. From what she could tell Shampoo was trying to shower him with something.

"Aiya! Airen! Come back, no run, Shampoo need douse you with essence of pure love."

"Get that stuff away from me Shampoo!" Ranma yelled angrily while doing his best to dodge every time she tried to splash him.

Essence of pure love, Shampoo's words echoed through Akane's mind. She felt her anger rise a notch. How dare Ranma and that Amazon bimbo flirt with each other in such a blatant manner and on her roof no less! Well, she wouldn't stand for it.

Akane began to pull herself up and out the window, determined to put a stop to the current situation when she heard an all too familiar cackle split the air.


Reaching out she caught the first of the falling black rose pedals. She looked up in time to see both Kodachi and Shampoo standing on opposite sides of her roof, with an extremely frustrated Ranma caught right in the middle.

"My darling Ranma, I have come to shower you with my love."

For the first time Akane noticed the vile of clear liquid Kodachi was holding in her right hand. Not again, she thought. First Shampoo and her stupid Amazon concoctions and now this, when would they ever learn?

"Forget it Kodachi," Ranma said sternly. "It ain't gonna happen. I'm not letting you douse me with some stupid love potion."

"But it will make you see the truth, Ranma darling."

"Shampoo no let you. Ranma take Shampoo's potion first."

"I ain't taking either potion!"

"Honestly, will you three stop all the yelling!" Akane called, pulling herself fully onto the roof. "Some of us are trying to study!"

All of them froze at the sound of her voice. It was only for an instant however as both Shampoo and Kodachi eyed one another before sizing up their target. Ranma, seeing this, prepared his reflexes to react.

He didn't have to wait long.

Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Both girls took aim, releasing their perspective potions almost simultaneously. Ranma's reflexes kicked in instantly as he launched himself upwards out of their trajectory. Unfortunately for Akane it was at this moment she chose to rush forward, thinking Ranma was in danger of getting doused by both concoctions.

She meant to push him out of harms way, but only succeeded in being right underneath when the vials collided in mid-air. There was a slight explosion when the chemicals made contact with each other, setting off a chain reaction. Smoke immediately began to fill the air, most of it going directly into Akane's lungs as she inadvertently inhaled.

The dizziness hit her almost instantly and she began to sway on her feet. She groaned, her hands moving to cradle her now spinning head. The blackness began to creep at the edges of her vision, and try as she might she couldn't keep it from overtaking her.

She stumbled trying to stay upright to no avail, as the blackness finally surged up to consume her.

Ranma watched with growing horror as Akane began to tip backwards in a dead faint. Then she was falling. Reacting on instinct Ranma's feet touched back down on the roof for a mere second before he was launching himself in her direction.

He caught her instantly, pulling her close and shielding her from any further harm. Landing deftly on the ground he cradled her in his arms, shaking her slightly as he called out her name.


It was hard to think. Her head felt heavy, disconnected. She was wandering around in a fog, but then a voice… his voice. She could hear him calling her. Slowly she began to follow the sound, letting it lead her out of the darkness.

"Akane, can you hear me? Are you alright?"

Slowly she opened her eyes, blinking heavily against the stark sunlight. As her vision gradually came back into focus she realized she was lying in Ranma's arms, staring up into his beautiful gray-blue eyes now wrought with concern. Her brow wrinkled in confusion.

"Ranma…?" she winced as the sudden dizziness washed over her. She closed her eyes for a moment, waiting for it to pass. "What happened?"

"You just had to butt into things again," he said in a chastising tone. "What were you thinkin'?"

Akane frowned, feeling her anger begin to grow. She opened her mouth to retort when…

You scared the hell outta me…

She froze at the words—and the fear that lay behind them—still trying to comprehend them in her woozy state. "What did you say?" she whispered when she could find her voice.

He continued to stare down at her, his brow furrowed. "I said, what were you thinkin'?"

"No," she returned. "After that."

"Huh?" he replied, his confusion evident, concern once again lighting in his voice. "Are you sure you're okay?"

Akane's brow furrowed and she reached up to touch her forehead, as if by doing so she could somehow clear her mind. Had she just imagined it? Was she going crazy?

What was going on here?

That was too close, if something bad had happened to Akane… I'm gonna kill Shampoo and Kodachi for this little stunt…

Akane's eyes widened. There it was again, that voice, his voice, only now she realized he hadn't actually spoken the words. Instead they were coming from inside her head. Was she really hearing his thoughts, had breathing in those combining potions done this to her?

He was still holding her when Kodachi and Shampoo strode up, looking very angry.

As if on instinct (or was it survival mode), Ranma instantly got to his feet, pulling Akane with him before breaking contact.

"How dare kitchen destroyer keep Ranma all to self."

I'd rather be with a kitchen destroyer than a manipulative bitch…

Akane swallowed hard, giving Ranma a sideward glance as he simply stared at Shampoo, a frown etched upon his beautiful face.

"Stop fooling around Shampoo," he said tersely. "Someone could have gotten hurt."

"She's correct, "Kodachi interjected. "What gives her the right to lay her hands on my Ranma-sama?"

More right than you, you psycho… I'm not your Ranma-sama!

Akane nearly choked as the thought reverberated through her brain. She couldn't believe what she was hearing, or the fact that she could hear it at all. She began coughing in earnest.

"You okay, Akane?" Ranma asked, a look of concern lighting in his gray-blue eyes.

"I think I need to lie down for awhile," she returned once she'd gotten herself under some sort of control.

He started after her as she turned to leave only to have Kodachi grab his arm to hold him back, while Shampoo stepped in between him and Akane.

"No go with angry kitchen destroyer."

"Do stay with me my darling Ranma."

I'm getting really sick of all this. Can't they see I don't feel that way about them? I wish they would just leave me alone.

Akane stopped in her tracks. Did she really just hear him say he wasn't interested in Shampoo or Kodachi? No, she corrected herself, he didn't actually come out and say the words. Maybe not, her mind insisted, but he was thinking them. That was something wasn't it?

Akane wasn't sure, this was all a bit overwhelming, not to mention the guilt factor of intruding in on his thoughts, even if it wasn't her fault.

Ranma ignored both girls, his attention solely focused on Akane's retreating back. His brow furrowed with concern as she paused and simply stood there. Was she feeling dizzy again?

Akane, please be okay…

Akane closed her eyes and sighed as the sentiment came to her. The thought had been so tender, so full of concern. It gave her heart more than a little squeeze.

She threw a slow glance over her shoulder, their eyes meeting for a brief instant, the connection she would have been normally too furious to see now lay stark before her. She felt her heart speed up at the sight. She'd waited so long to know for sure, the few times he'd let his guard down keeping her holding on, hoping against hope that he would admit what he truly felt.

And now this….

It wasn't her imagination. She could actually hear his thoughts. He had not been doused by the love potion, but he had been affected just the same, even if he wasn't aware of it.

And what would he think if I told him?

Akane wasn't sure, but she knew one thing, she wasn't about to let go of this chance. She smiled then, one of her infamous smiles that usually left him reeling, before turning away once again and walking back into the house.

Ranma watched her go, his heartbeat still erratic from the sight of that smile, not to mention the look he'd seen in her eye. He'd actually physically felt the connection. It sent thrills through him even as it left him wondering. Had she felt it too? He wanted to believe that she had. That it had been just as real for her as it had for him.

Ranma was startled out of these thoughts by a very irate Shampoo, as the exchange had not been at all lost on her.

"Ranma no ignore Shampoo!"

Ranma frowned, feeling his frustration mount. Normally he would try an appease her, but suddenly the last thing he cared about was making her feel better. She had after all nearly caused Akane to be seriously hurt. And for that she deserved nothing but his disdain.

"Enough!" he spat, his tone laced with his tightly controlled fury. "Go home Shampoo."

She recoiled at his unusual display of hostility, his tone indicating he was done fooling around. She knew instantly it would be unwise to push him further.

"Yes, do go home," Kodachi piped up smugly.

Ranma sent a frown her way. "You too Kodachi," he said angrily. "I mean it."

The dismissive tone in his voice was not lost on the Black Rose. She wisely let go of his arm, instantly knowing he'd reached his limit.

He pushed abruptly past them both and entered the house, never once looking back, leaving them to stare after him in utter disbelief.

- R 1/2 -

Akane lay on her bed staring blankly at the ceiling, a thousand thoughts swirling around in her head. It was all too much. How was she supposed to deal with this? She wondered again what he would do if she confronted him. Would he laugh? Would he call her crazy? Perhaps do both?

Akane shook her head as if to clear the thought, but it wouldn't leave. What would she do if he were to brush off her suspicions? To treat them as if they had no real significance? What if he did in fact feel the same way about her that she did about him but wouldn't admit it?

Was she willing to take that chance?

Akane sighed, remembering that instant connection she'd felt. From the look on his face she could have sworn he'd felt it too. Was all this happening for a reason? And if so, did it mean now was finally the time to sort out their often complex relationship?

Was taking advantage of the situation the thing she should do? You couldn't win if you didn't play the game––right?

Akane let out another long sigh. One thing was for certain. If she did confront him he was going to give her an answer. One way or another she would finally know where she stood. She would just have to trust her instincts. She was certain he had felt something, and it was about time he shared what it was with her.

Of course now she just had to figure out how and when to face him.

She wondered absently how long she would be able to hear Ranma's thoughts. Would the effects wear off or was this now a permanent thing? She hoped and prayed it wasn't the latter. Some things were after all were better left private.

She closed her eyes and forced herself to relax. If she could just take a short nap, rest her mind, maybe then she could figure out the best way to handle this.

Whether it was from the after effects of the mixed potions, or from sheer exhaustion, Akane felt sleepiness overtake her almost instantly. She drifted off, falling through a cascade of endless dreams, each of them more stark and vivid than the last, and all featuring her elusive fiancée.

- R 1/2 -

Akane awoke a few hours later to the smell of Kasumi's cooking wafting up the stairs. Startled, she glanced at the clock, surprised to see it was time for dinner. She hadn't meant to sleep that long. Still, at least she felt a little better, more like herself.

She swung herself out of bed and made her way downstairs. She was both nervous and anxious to see Ranma again. She wondered if the potions would have worn off by now, or if she'd still be able to hear his thoughts. And if so, could she expect them to continue telling her of his true feelings? The thought was more than a little nerve-wracking.

She entered the dining room to find everyone already seated. As was their usual routine, Ranma was busy defending his meal from a relentless Genma.

Instantly distracted by her sudden arrival Ranma's gaze became immediately transfixed on her. This in turn allowed his father the perfect opportunity to steal a pickle off his plate. Ranma let it go without argument, unable to tear his gaze away from Akane.

Her eyes met his in that instant, a subtle but reassuring smile playing on her lips. She noticed him visibly relax, his relief almost palatable.

She seems okay. Thank the Kami for small favors.

She heard his inner thought instantly and tried desperately to hide her reaction. She had half hoped the potions would have worn off by now. Unfortunately, she had the distinct feeling that wasn't about to happen anytime soon. Whatever this was, it was happening for a reason, and she suspected that until she confronted Ranma it would continue to force her hand.

Face it Akane, she told herself. Neither of you was going to face what may be between you without a push. She knew deep down this was true. She just wished she didn't have to be the first to broach the subject of their relationship.

She sighed inwardly, knowing she had to accept this burden of fate. If he tried to deny it she'd simply hit him over the head with her mallet.

She couldn't help but smile at the thought.

"Oh, there you are Akane," Kasumi's voice penetrated her thoughts. "I was just about to go look in on you. Are you feeling better?"

Akane nodded, slipping easily into her place at the table. "Yes, much better Kasumi," she replied, her glance drifting in Ranma's direction as she did so.

The spell was broken when Genma once again tried his hand at stealing more of Ranma's dinner.

"I said hands off old man!"

Without hesitation Ranma grabbed up his glass of water and hurled it in his father's face. The change was swift, leaving a very wet and irate panda in its wake.

"Grrrrow!" Genma growled, before holding up a sign that read. "Cheap shot, boy!"

Ranma smirked proudly. "Anything goes, Pop. Next time keep your hands off my dinner."

Akane simply shook her head at the display, trying to suppress the small smile that wanted to escape her lips. She of course was used to this sort of thing by now. It had been standard fare ever since the Saotomes had moved in. The effort was not lost on Ranma, who felt his heartbeat speed up at the sight.

She doesn't seem angry. I guess I can count that as a good sign.

As the thought came to her Akane took a deep breath and tried to steady herself. It pained her to know she had instilled such trepidation in him. She threw a quick glance in his direction and was relieved to find he was no longer looking at her, his concentration instead directed on finishing his meal before his father decided to have another go at it.

What had Shampoo and Kodachi said? A pure love potion and some sort of truth serum? So both had combined to turn into something that would allow her to see the truth of Ranma's love? Was that it? But why him and only him? Had they altered the potions to target him specifically? Or did it come from somewhere deep inside her? Was it because of the strong feelings she herself harbored for Ranma?

She gave an inward sigh. A girl could go crazy thinking about this.

She pushed the thought abruptly away, instead turning her focus on the meal at hand. Content for now to simply live in the present moment, surrounded by the ones she loved most.

- R 1/2 -

After dinner Akane had retreated back to her room to finish her math homework. She had just completed the task when she heard a scraping noise right above her head. Her glance went upward, knowing instantly what that sound meant. Ranma was on the roof.

She knew he went up there sometimes to brood, or sort his thoughts. She sometimes wondered how he managed to handle all the stress and chaos that never failed to find him. The fact that he took most things in stride showed an inner strength that never ceased to amaze her.

Hearing him now she felt a nervousness begin to creep into the pit of her stomach. While she hated to intrude on his momentary peace, she also knew she had to talk to him. The thought sent another wave of nervousness skittering through her. Stop it, she chided herself. This is no time to be a coward. Screwing up her courage she got up from her desk, and with steely determination deftly threw open the window and began to climb onto the roof.

She found him, as she knew she would, lying on his back, his hands laced behind his head, staring up at the stars.

At the sound of her approach he bolted upright, his glance sliding apprehensively in her direction, his body tense as if waiting for an attack. Upon seeing her however he began to relax, remaining upright as she settled in beside him.

"Hey," she whispered, the nervous feeling coming back full force as she stared into the depths of his gray-blue eyes.

"Hey," he replied, a wistful sort of affection lighting his tone.

Uh oh, she seems so serious.

The thought swam inside her head and she looked away for a moment, trying to get her bearings.

"I uh, just wanted to say thanks," she began, once again sliding her gaze in his direction. "You know, for saving me earlier today."

He blushed slightly, clearly not anticipating the show of gratitude. He waved the sentiment off, trying his best to sound nonchalant. "It was nothing." He gave her a sidelong glance. "You know, you really should be more careful."

Thank the Kami I was fast enough! If you had been hurt... Damn Shampoo and Kodachi anyway!

The thought resounded off her brain even before her anger at his reprimand could take hold. Her eyes widened slightly. It wasn't just the worry for her safety that had taken her aback, but the obvious disdain that he'd held for Shampoo and Kodachi. The tone suggesting a venom that left her to stare at him in wonder.

This was all so overwhelming. The contrast in the words he was speaking, compared to that of what he was actually thinking, striking each other with blaring disparity. If she hadn't heard them echo inside her head she surely would have jumped to the wrong conclusion from his apparent indifference.

His thought for her had also been tinged with fear, actual fear. Akane wasn't sure he'd been capable of such an emotion. He took such pains to hide any sort of perceived weakness. Admitting something like that would only leave him vulnerable, and that Ranma couldn't have. It was simply intolerable.

She sighed wholeheartedly. "Well to me it wasn't nothing," she admitted softly, ignoring his taunt and instead firing back with a teasing one of her own. "You know you should really learn to take a compliment."

Ranma could only stare at her in wonder. The whole incident had been too close for comfort. She had scared the hell out of him and he didn't much relish the feeling, had in fact felt his anger rise instantly behind his fear.

"Why were you on the roof in the first place?" he asked, some of that anger now seeping into the question.

She heard it in his tone and felt her defenses rise instantly. "I was trying to do my homework, but couldn't because of all that racket you were making!" she retorted, before she could stop herself.

He felt his anger step up another notch at her accusation, it was familiar, it was safe, and he hung onto it, allowing it to push back his fear. "It wasn't my fault, Akane!"

I never asked for any of this! All I want is for them to leave us alone...

Akane waited but the thought simply trailed off, leaving her to wonder.

Leave us alone for what? Was it so her life might not be put in further danger? So he would no longer have the continuous struggle of fending them off? Or could it be that they both might finally be able to figure out what lay between them?

She sighed silently in frustration, looking away as the desperate undertone of his thought hit hard enough to make her wince inwardly.

"Maybe not," she said with surprising calm. She brought her head back around, her eyes locking on his, her gaze full of pure determination. "But it doesn't help that you allow them to grasp at all these straws."

"What's that supposed to mean!" He retorted. She felt his guard go up instantly.

It's not like I asked to have all these girls chasing me! I never wanted any part of it anyway! None of them care how I feel! Well... most of them anyway, there is one...

For a moment Akane was too stunned to speak. His last thought echoed through her mind, setting off a whole new slew of questions. Could he mean her? Was she the one? Did he already have an idea of how much she truly cared? Could she hope for that?

"Ranma..." she began, not sure what exactly she was going to say, but knowing she needed to reassure him, to ease his mind enough so that he might let go and express what it was he wanted—what he needed from her.

She opened her mouth to start again but was stopped cold by a sudden and shrill voice as it echoed throughout the still night.

"What a haul! What a haul!"

Both Ranma and Akane cringed at the sound. There was absolutely no mistaking that voice.

Before they knew what was happening Happosai was bounding across the roof, the loot from one of his nightly panty-raids tied securely across his back.

Ranma got to his feet instantly, fully prepared to stop him, when out of nowhere the old man suddenly produced a bucket full of cold water. In seconds the contents were being tossed in Ranma's direction, hitting their target with exact precision, soaking him instantly.

The change was swift and immediate.

Ranma-chan let out a frustrated growl. "Come back here, you old lech!" she shouted angrily, before beginning to give chase.

"Ranma—" Akane started, trying to halt her progress to no avail.

She heard Happosai's laughter as he sped away swiftly, turning as he did so to call back over his shoulder, his voice taunting. "Catch me if you can!"

Ranma-chan didn't have to be asked twice. She picked up her pace, chasing after him like a bullet, determination lighting in her every step. Never once did she stop to look back.

Akane could only watch as they jumped effortlessly from roof to roof, moving further and further away from her, until both were mere dots on the horizon.

She sighed wholeheartedly. It was just like Happosai to go and interrupt things. Now she would have to wait to straighten things out with Ranma.

She gritted her teeth in frustration. It had taken all her courage just to come up here and confront him. Now she'd have to go and find it all over again. Of course it didn't help that she hadn't gotten any definitive answers.

Again she had to wonder what he would think if he knew she could hear his thoughts. Would he be angry? Scared? A bit of both? All these doubts and now she'd have to wait yet again for the answers.

She gave another wholehearted sigh before getting to her feet and making her way back towards her room. She swung herself deftly through the window, turning swiftly to close it behind her.

Feeling exhausted, she made her way over to her bed and lay stretched out on her back, hands behind her head, staring blankly up at the ceiling.

He had claimed he wanted no part of the girls who chased after him, that they in fact cared little for how he felt. This seemed to be backed up by the thoughts he'd expressed toward Shampoo and Kodachi earlier. His disdain had been obvious. So had the longing she'd heard when he confessed that there was someone who actually cared about his feelings in all this. Again she couldn't help but wonder if he'd been talking about her. Of course there was one other. One, Akane knew, he cared a great deal about.


Akane's heart tightened at the thought. She was his oldest friend after all. As much as Akane was loathe to admit it, they shared a bond that was unmistakable. Ukyo had made no secret of what her feelings for Ranma were. In fact she had made it quite clear. What if Ranma was secretly reciprocating them?

She pushed the thought abruptly away, not wanting to dwell on it for too long. Instead her mind went back to earlier that morning and the instant connection she had shared with Ranma. The one so stark it was almost palpable. Had he felt it? If he had, had it meant anything to him? Akane didn't know. What she did know was she couldn't get ahead of herself. Yes, he'd been concerned for her, but wouldn't he have expressed the same concern for any one of his friends? She thought he would have. That's just the way Ranma was. It was one of the things she loved about him.

She let out a wholehearted sigh, trying to reassure herself, even as she felt herself giving in to the doubts that were suddenly beginning to haunt her.

This was going to be it. Their moment of truth. She felt it all the way to her soul. The time had come to finally make a stand. One way or another she needed to find out how he truly felt about her, if a relationship with her was even something he wanted to pursue.

It was all or nothing.

Akane felt a steely resolve begin to settle over her, and she hung onto it like a lifeline. First thing tomorrow she would finally get her answers.

- R 1/2 -

Unfortunately for Akane, those answers continued to elude her the next morning, as she found Ranma and his father engaging in their usual all out sparring session.

"Take that, old man!" Ranma cried, launching a roundhouse kick at his father's abdomen. Genma managed to dodge, but just barely. Still, he couldn't help throw back a taunt he knew would only rile his son further.

"That all you got, boy!"

"Why you!"

Akane watched in amazement as they traded a series of blows, each matching the other strike for strike, block for block, with a speed that was barely visible. It ended when Ranma finally got the upper hand after launching his amiguriken technique, this time landing each blow and sending his father careening into the far wall of the garden. Genma rebounded hard enough to leave a significant crack in the foundation.

"How's that old man," Ranma stated smugly, as he watched his father slowly draw himself upright with a painful grunt.

"Don't get cocky, boy," his father warned, to which Ranma merely scoffed as he turned to walk away.

Within seconds Genma had closed the distance between them, bolting silently across the yard, his hands grasping firmly at the back of Ranma's red Chinese shirt.

Before he could fully comprehend what was happening Ranma was being lifted and tossed quite effortlessly towards the koi pond. He landed with a large splash, the cold water rushing up to consume him.

A few moments later Ranma-chan's red mane broke the surface, as she came up coughing and sputtering, trying desperately to expel the water from her lungs.

"Dammit, old man! What'd ya do that for!"

"I told you not to get cocky. Never to turn your back on an opponent, boy!"

Ranma-chan merely scowled at him. "Stupid old man," she muttered, slowly dragging herself out of the pond.

Akane couldn't help but smile as she watched the exchange. It was typical ending for one of their sparing matches. With usually one, or both of them seeing the bottom of the koi pond up close. Apparently today was no exception.

She gave a small sigh as she turned away from the window. She had hoped to catch Ranma doing his morning workout alone. She should have known better. She wondered absently if she would ever get him alone long enough to confront him. It's not like we're ever given that luxury, she thought bitterly. Between their meddling fathers and Ranma's barrage of extra fiancées it was no wonder they had never been able to figure out their often complex relationship.

At least there's still the walk to school. I'll have him to myself then. Content with this thought, Akane turned and made her way to the kitchen to grab a quick breakfast.

- R 1/2 -

Akane shot a sidelong glance at Ranma who was walking effortlessly along the fence above her. He seemed to be lost in thought, but whatever those thoughts were, they didn't seem to be about her.

She sighed inwardly, feeling the steely resolve she'd had earlier start to wane. For once since she had acquired this ability she was actually hoping to get some further insights. At the very least a possible opening for her to broach the subject. Of course as always seemed to be the case, when you wanted something like that to happen it tended to be an extremely elusive thing.

What if, despite his obvious displays of concern, he doesn't feel that way about you? Her mind protested fiercely. What if Ukyo is the one he wants? Of course both these scenarios were a distinct possibility, ones she dreaded with all her heart. She didn't know what she would do if this were the case. It hurt just thinking about it.

Akane tried to reassure herself. After all, there had been that moment of instant connection they'd shared. She was almost positive he'd felt it too. That electric pull that always seemed to draw them together. It had to mean something––didn't it?

"Ranma," she forced his name from her lips, reeling in her courage for what she knew had to come next. "I need to ask you something."

Their eyes met then, as he peered down at her from atop the fence, his expression one of genuine trepidation.

Uh oh, she sounds so serious. Just like last night. I hope she's not mad at me for something.

Akane's heart gave a slight pang as his worried thought came rushing to her, chilling her. How many times had she been angry with him for some perceived injustice? Granted some of those times he had deserved her disdain, but to actually hear his troubled thought, one laced with such genuine concern, she was loathe to realize the instant wariness she'd instilled in him. Suddenly she felt very ashamed.

She watched as he jumped easily off the fence to land beside her, the cautious look never quite leaving his eyes.

"Okay," he said, almost reluctantly. "What is it?"

Akane opened her mouth to answer when she was suddenly halted by a girl's voice as it called out after Ranma.

"Hey Ran-chan! Wait up!"

Both Akane and Ranma stopped in their tracks, turning to see Ukyo waving from half a block away. They watched as she sprinted to catch up, Akane all the while wondering if this were some sort of cruel sign. Silently she cursed her lost opportunity. When would Ranma's other fiancées ever cease their constant interruptions?

Akane threw him a sideways glance, feeling a pang of jealousy shoot through her at the wide smile he was giving his oldest friend. He looked almost relieved at the intrusion, a fact that hurt more than she cared to admit. Had she been wrong? Did she merely read into his thoughts what she wanted? Was she in fact only setting herself up for a giant fall?

Dammit anyway, her mind whispered, wishing it knew for sure one way or the other. The anticipation was killing her.

"Hey Ucchan," Ranma greeted her, his voice oozing with genuine warmth. Akane watched as Ukyo returned his smile, the obvious pleasure at his use of her nickname radiating in her eyes. Akane had to tamp down the burst of anger that threatened to bubble over.

"Hey yourself sugar," she replied happily, to which Akane grit her teeth in frustration. "Thanks for waiting."

"Sure thing," Ranma replied, as they once again began walking toward the school. Ukyo gave him another dazzling smile, which Ranma reciprocated wholeheartedly. It was then that Akane heard his thoughts once again bloom inside her head.

I wish she'd stop dressin' like a boy. She's too cute, especially when she smiles.

Akane let out a sharp gasp as if struck, stopping instantly in her tracks, her heart giving a painful squeeze at the sweet sentiment. She watched as they continued to walk away, too lost in conversation to even notice she was no longer there beside them.

Akane watched them go, too stunned at first to even move. Well, she had wanted to know how he felt, had in fact been bound and determined to find out, she just wished the answer didn't have to hurt so much.

Fine, if that's the way he wanted it, then to hell with him.

Damn you Ranma, she whispered ruefully under her breath, as the tears began to well up in her eyes. She brushed them away furiously, before spinning on her heels and rushing away in the opposite direction.

Unfortunately for Akane, in her mad dash to put some distance between them, she was now too far way to hear the end of Ranma's contemplation.

She's cute, but not nearly as cute as...


Ranma stopped in his tracks instantly when he finally realized his fiancée was no longer walking beside him. He whirled around, the concern evident in his eyes, just in time to see her moving hastily back down the way they had come. Confused he called after her, feeling his concern mount as she showed no signs of stopping.

It was obvious by the hunch of her shoulders that she was upset. But why?

He frowned. She had wanted to talk to him about something, and she had seemed so serious. Could that be it? Was she angry because Ukyo had interrupted them? He sighed wholeheartedly, wondering if he would ever truly understand his fiancee.

"Sorry Ukyo, I gotta go," he told her before taking off after Akane. He turned as he ran , yelling back over his shoulder. "Catch you later okay?"

Something about his tone told Ukyo not to follow. It had a final quality, with just an edge of warning. She frowned, watching as he moved further and further away, unable to fully comprehend that he was already lost to her.

She watched until she could no longer see him before turning in a huff and continuing on towards the school alone.

- R 1/2 -

When Ranma finally caught up to Akane she was sitting underneath the bridge by the canal, her knees drawn up to her chest, her arms wrapped tightly around them, head bowed. It was obvious even to him that she'd been crying.

Ranma bristled slightly at the thought. He hated it when girls cried. Especially when the girl in question was Akane. He sighed inwardly, bracing himself for what was to come.

I wonder what I've done to upset her now...?

The question wafted through Akane's brain, startling her. Once again she wiped the tears from her eyes almost furiously, angry at herself for having such a weak moment in front of him. She quickly steeled herself, not willing to show him any further vulnerability.

"Hey Akane," he said softly, the genuine concern that lit his voice enough to make her look up. She felt her heart pain at the sight of him. His gaze held a mixture of both confusion and worry. And why not? He had no idea what was going on. No clue that she'd heard his thoughts, and that the truth in them had cut her like a knife. He was not to blame for this one, as much as she wanted to blame him. It wasn't his fault he felt the way he did about Ukyo. If only it didn't have to hurt so badly.

"What do you want Ranma?" she replied, tearing her gaze away, her voice a harsh whisper.

"Well," he began, taking a seat next to her. "For starters why don't you tell me what's wrong."

"It's nothing," she replied quickly, almost dismissively, still unable to look at him. He frowned, but was undeterred.

"Then why'd you take off?"

"Oh, just forget it, Ranma."

He could hear the frustration in her tone, the distrust, and even an undercurrent of hurt that had him completely baffled. What had he done to cause that? He had no doubt it had somehow been his fault. This was usually the case when Akane was upset. He thought again of the question she had wanted to ask him. Did her frustration stem from Ukyo's interruption? Was that why she had suddenly fled?

He simply stared at her for a moment before sighing inwardly.

Why is it always like this between us? Why does she have to make everything so hard?

At the thought Akane turned to glare at him.

"I'm not making this hard at all Ranma," she told him, the bitterness evident in her voice. "It's real easy. Why don't you just go on back to Ukyo and her cute little smile!"

With that she got abruptly to her feet and stormed away, leaving him to stare after her in dumbfounded wonder.

Ranma tried to remember if he had spoken the words out loud, but knew after only a moments hesitation that he hadn't. They had been in his mind only, so how had she known? What was going on here?

"Akane, wait!" He called, rising quickly and racing after her. Of course his fiancée had other ideas. She picked up her pace until she was almost running.

Oh no you don't...

He ran faster, determination fueling his every step.

Akane felt his strong hand clamp down on her elbow, his firm grasp instantly halting her escape. He turned her roughly to face him.

"What's going on, Akane?" he demanded, his brow furrowing in both confusion and just a touch of anger. "How is it you know things you can't possibly know?"

"Ha!" Akane exclaimed, ignoring his question. "Then you admit it!"

"Admit what!?"

"That you're in love with Ukyo!"

Ranma shook his head as if trying to comprehend what he'd just heard. His eyes conveying a look of utter disbelief. "What the hell are you talking about!?"

"Honestly Ranma," she challenged. "Are you really going to stand there and tell me you're not in love with her? Maybe if you ask her nicely she'll stop dressing like a boy for you. Maybe then you can fully appreciate how cute she really is! After all she's the only one who cares how you really feel!"

Ranma once again was left to stare at her in wide-eyed wonder, as a fission suddenly ran through him. Hearing her toss his private thoughts back at him left him feeling not only violated but extremely vulnerable. For someone who prided himself on control it wasn't a feeling he relished. He felt his anger grow at the realization that not only had she been able to lay him bare, but in true Akane fashion she'd once again misinterpreted everything he'd been thinking.

"Listen here, Akane" he said grasping both of her shoulders and giving her a slight shake for emphasis. "I don't know how you are able to see inside my mind, but I am not now, nor have I ever been in love with Ukyo! Got it!"

Akane glared at him. "You expect me to believe that!"

Ranma returned her fierce look with one of his own. "What I expected was for you not to have access to my private thoughts!" he shot back. "Of course it's typical that you'd read them all wrong!"

It was Akane's turn to look flabbergasted. "Excuse me!?"

"For your information I only wanted Ukyo to stop dressing like a boy so she might find someone and stop fixating on me! Maybe then that smile of hers could help her instead of going to waste!"

Akane could only stare at him blankly. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. How could she have gotten it so wrong?

"And another thing," he continued, his words now fueled by anger and hurt at what he considered to be her betrayal of his privacy. "The one person I thought cared about how I felt was you, Akane. Not Ukyo. YOU! I guess you proved me wrong! You really don't care at all! "

Akane felt her heart pain at his accusation. "You honestly think I don't care?! she argued, reaching up and giving him a slight shove. His hands fell instantly away from her shoulders as he took a surprised step back. "Well?" she demanded, unable to stop her own hurt from rising to the surface. When he remained silent she forged ahead.

"Baka!" she insisted. "You're the one who's wrong! In fact, if anything I care too much about you!" She punctuated each word by poking him firmly in the chest.

It was Ranma's turn to be taken aback. Her bold declaration, in all its conviction, sending a cascade of emotions running through him. His hurt and anger suddenly taking a backseat to a sense of pure elation that she might actually feel about him the way he did her.

When he continued to stare down at her with wide-eyed wonder, unable to find his voice, Akane simply gave a tired sigh.

"I tried to tell you what was happening earlier but we kept getting interrupted," she explained. "It's not like I asked for any of this to happen you know. I've been dealing with it ever since that run in with Shampoo and Kodachi."

Ranma'a brow furrowed at this bit of information. "So, it was those potions that did this to you."

"It would seem that way," she replied, feeling her frustration mount. This had all happened because of his lack of conviction. If he would just make a decision instead of leaving everyone in limbo, then maybe he could start to deal with all his wayward fiancées so that she wouldn't have to.

"It's not easy hearing your thoughts," she whispered bitterly, almost as if to herself. "Especially when..."

Ranma waited a moment for her to finish the thought. When he realized she wasn't going to, he pressed her, his voice tinged with tightly controlled anger. "Especially when what, Akane?" he demanded, his tone making her defenses go up instantly.

"Oh, never mind," she said dismissively, igniting his ire further. He grit his teeth in frustration.

"Don't give me that," he told her, reaching out once more to grasp her by the shoulders. She felt his fingers tightening as he gave her a slight shake for emphasis. "You've never been one to pull punches so just level with me. Why was it especially hard for you to hear my thoughts? Say it, Akane."

She stared into his hardened gaze, unable to look away, his eyes boring into hers, conveying his demand for an answer. Akane's brow furrowed at the command, but knew instantly he wasn't about to let this argument go. He could be just as stubborn as she was, sometimes even more so. And although his demand was just the opening she'd been looking for she couldn't help but feel some of her own anger rise at how and why it had come about.

"Fine," she spat. "You want me to say it so I will. I can't help but find it especially disturbing that while I've been able to hear your thoughts for the past few days I still have no idea how you really feel about me! How long are you going to leave me in limbo Ranma?"

Ranma studied her for a long moment, his eyes searching her gaze, watching intently at all the warring emotions reflected there. Anger, fear, apprehension and dare he say it...hope? It was enough to solidify his determination.

"You really want to know how I feel about you?" he asked, his voice etched with a firmness she found both unnerving and strangely exhilarating.

"Yes," she answered, her voice just as steadfast. There was no backing down now and she knew it. This was is what she had been waiting for. It was all or nothing.

Without warning she felt his strong hands slide down to grasp her upper arms, his grip tightening as he pulled her roughly toward him. She had only a moment to comprehend what was happening before his lips were on hers, his kiss hard and demanding.

Akane let out a gasp of surprise that he caught, her resistance lasting only a second before she found herself kissing him back, her lips just as hungry, searching out his again and again as she felt herself let go completely. Suddenly her whole body was awash with feeling, as tingles of delicious warmth began to spread throughout her, igniting her every nerve ending.

When he finally broke the kiss they were both quite breathless.

"Is that clear enough for you?" he croaked in between gasps for air. She simply stared at him through glassy eyes, her heartbeat racing, her lips still ripe with the taste of him.

Akane wanted nothing more than to have him kiss her like that again. It was as if every fiber in her being was suddenly crying out for it. He had made a bold play, one she knew demanded her immediate response. Not one to be outdone, Akane found herself acting on that impulse. Reaching up she placed both hands on either side of his face before forcibly pulling him to her, her lips meeting his once more in another soul shattering kiss.

It was Ranma's turn to gasp in surprise, her forcefulness igniting something primal deep inside him. He felt his senses take over immediately as he began to respond to her in earnest, his lips devouring hers over and over, his tongue snaking out to get a better taste of her.

Akane gasped as the sudden intrusion sent out another wave of pure pleasure, igniting a firestorm of tingles to burn inside her. She groaned with the onslaught as he pulled her possessively against him, the sudden sensation sending her senses into complete overdrive.

God, she tastes so good!. I can't seem to get enough.

His thoughts came to her in a flash, adding to the already overwhelming tide of emotions coursing through her. The fact that he wanted her as much as she wanted him filling her with an excitement she could barely control.

When they finally came up for air it was to stare at each other with glassy-eyed wonder, each of them reeling with the overwhelming sensations of their long pent up desire. It was Akane who finally smiled up at him, a sight that once again sent is pulse racing into overdrive.

"Okay," she finally admitted, her breath coming in short gasps. "I guess it's a little clearer now."

Ranma couldn't help but chuckle at her small joke, relieved to see the anger and uncertainty was no longer etched into her beautiful face. He reveled in her response, her ultimate reciprocation leaving him with a sense of elation he couldn't quite come down from.

"Is it now?" he replied, his voice deep and reverberating. The sound sent a shiver of delight down Akane's spine.

"There's just one thing," she admitted playfully. He watched then as a sudden gleam of wickedness came into her eyes. "Do you really think I taste good?"

She watched with delight as the sudden blush crept slowly across his handsome face. "Damn it, Akane."

She giggled at his obvious embarrassment, even as she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him more firmly against her. He smiled at the sound despite himself, unable to conjure up any anger at the obvious intrusion into his thoughts. At least not while in the comfort of her warm embrace.

"I hope the stuff wears off soon," he admitted. "Otherwise I'm really going to have to censor my thoughts, especially now." He punctuated the statement by tightening his hold on her. Akane felt a sudden thrill pass through her at his possessiveness.

"Where's the fun in that?" she asked mischievously, laughing when he in turn raised an eyebrow in surprise.

I have to say, he sent the thought at her. I kind of like this side of you.

She smiled wholeheartedly. "Good," she returned happily. "Because I really like this side of you too."

And in that instant it was there again. That immediate and unmistakable connection. The same one that she had felt back when this whole thing had started. It hung thick in the air, enveloping them in a sort of cocoon-like shell that was both stark and palatable. Only this time there was no doubt he felt it too.

With one hand he reached up to caress her cheek lovingly, the soft smile that touched his lips as he stared down at her touching her in a way that Akane couldn't quite explain. It tugged at her heartstrings, making her ache with love for him.

"Just so there's no doubt," he whispered softly, the truth reflecting in his beautiful gray-blue eyes. "I love you, Akane."

Akane felt her heart soar at his declaration, flooding her with all the feelings she had long harbored for him. Suddenly she wanted nothing more then to shout it from the rooftops. He loved her. Her and only her. It was something she as so longed for, something she never even realized she so desperately needed him to say.

"I love you too, Ranma."

Her confession was music to his ears, the elation he felt at her words something he couldn't quite control as he suddenly picked her up and spun her around with obvious joy. She squealed wholeheartedly, throwing her head back in equal elation.

He set her down slowly, marveling at the way her body felt moving against his, before pulling her in for another deep soul-searching kiss.

It was slower this time, each of them taking time to explore the other, letting the sensations build and build until they spilled over in a tidal wave of emotion.

When they finally split apart they were once again left quite breathless.

Ranma pulled her close, resting his forehead lovingly against hers. He closed his eyes then, savoring the feel of her, the smell of her, the taste of her still warm upon his lips. It was all quite intoxicating. In that very moment he knew he wanted to be with her always.

She's so amaz––

Akane started slightly as his thought was suddenly and explicably cut, like a radio that had been abruptly turned off. It was happening, the potions were finally wearing off. Akane wasn't sure whether to be grateful or to lament the loss. In the end she found it was a little bit of both.

At least something wonderful had come out of the whole fiasco. It had utterly and explicitly given her Ranma. Shampoo and Kodachi's evil plan for him had completely backfired. Akane wondered almost gleefully what they would think when they found out just how.

"Good news," she told him, tilting her head up to look at him. "The potions are finally wearing off."

Ranma opened his eyes to stare down at her. "Really?" he returned, a sense of relief flooding through him. At least now he wouldn't have to work so hard to suppress his thoughts, especially the more risqué ones that had wanted to emerge ever since he'd first kissed her.

She nodded. "Yeah, your last thought was cut short. Although..." she said, a broad smile once again lighting on her sweet face. "I'm really glad you think I'm amazing."

Ranma felt himself blush slightly. "You caught that did ya?" he said, his embarrassment obvious. Still, he was unable to stop his own smile from surfacing, much to her delight.

He reached up to lovingly brush away a stray hair from her forehead, his gray-blue eyes searching hers with an intensity that made her breath catch.

Akane stared back at him completely mesmerized as he began to lean slowly forward, his breath hot in her ear as he whispered in a low, sultry voice, "You are amazing, Akane."

"Ranma..." his name was a whispered rush upon her lips, as delicious shivers rippled down her spine, making her breath quicken and her heart race.

She nearly groaned when she felt his lips nibble slightly at her ear then leave to blaze a trail of hot kisses down the side of her neck. She tilted her head back slightly, giving him better access, until the urge to kiss him took over completely.

Acting on the impulse, she once again reached up and pulled him to her, her lips claiming his, drawing out his response slowly.

Ranma let himself go in that instant, giving himself over to the wondrous feelings only she could evoke in him. The taste of her igniting his senses, pitching him headfirst into a sea of utter bliss.

When he finally resurfaced it was to stare down at her lovingly.

"Akane," he breathed, pulling her tightly against him. He smiled then, his beautiful gray-blue eyes sparkling with sudden mischief. "Can you guess what I'm thinking right now?"

His playfulness was contagious, and she found herself smiling back instantly. She may have been no longer able to hear his thoughts, but she definitely knew what was on his mind. It was written all over his face.

"I don't have to guess," she told him, wrapping her arms around his waist and squeezing tight.

"Oh really?" he returned, pleased that she was playing along. "And why is that?"

"Because," she replied easily. "I know now without a doubt that I'm what Ranma wants."

- R 1/2 -

Like I said, nothing fancy. Hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to let me know. Ja!