Solar Demise - or - Oblivion has Gained on Us
by Pink

Part Nine - Chance Encounter

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"Are you sure those gimpy feet are okay?"

"I was fine yesterday, and I'm fine... NOW!" To put emphasis on what I was saying, I launched myself at Ranma with a flying kick. He laughed, spinning out of the way and immediately returning with a kick of his own. I leaped high, flipping over him in order to attack from behind. Ranma and I both knew that he had to defend and the only question that remained was his means of doing so. My luck ran out. In a split second Ranma tumbled backwards and used his arms to launch himself straight up at me while I was busy contending with gravity. My attack was foiled, and I would have landed painfully if it weren't for Ranma's attempt to catch me. He wrapped his arms around my body, my arms pinned to my sides, before we both crashed and tumbled across the floor.

We laughed in fun, and also at the messy way I lay on top of him. "Man, you almost got me there," Ranma huffed. "I guess I've gotta say you're right, there's nothing wrong with those feet! Must be the way I bandanged them."

"Uh-huh, I suppose so," I panted. Ever since the cuts healed, Ranma and I sparred all day in between meals and encounters with Shampoo and Ukyou. "Ugh, I think it's time for a bath now."

Ranma nodded. "I'll go in after you, let me know." He sat up, grinning and waiting for me to move. I suddenly felt an urge to postpone the bath.

"Mmm, can I just lay here in your lap?" I half-joked. Ranma's smile faded a little and his eyes shifted.

"Absolutely not," shot a voice coming from the dojo entrance. Ukyou stood with her hands on the door frame while the sun filtered in from behind her. "After all, he could have this sweet-smelling young woman in a cute little dress on his lap." She stuck a tongue out at me and entered the dojo, moving towards Ranma. I stood, laughing inwardly.

"Well, whatever. I'll see you at dinner, Ranma."

"Er, I actually invited Ukyou to have dinner with me, Akane. I'll see you at eight o'clock tonight for a rematch, okay?" Ranma looked at me with a serious face and I immediately understood what he was going to tell her at that dinner. It was overdue; it had been days since Ukyou kissed Ranma and he still failed to tell her how he felt. Tonight, things were going to be messy for him.

"...but don't keep your hopes up Honey, I may steal him away for longer than dinner." Ukyou winked at me, and linked an arm with Ranma's. Rolling my eyes, I waved, heading towards the bath.

=-=-=-=-=-=

After dinner, I headed towards Furinkan High. Lately I made a habit of visiting Daisuke on a pretty regular basis, cleaning off his gravestone, and leaving flowers when I could find some. Every so often I would run into Hiroshi and we would talk, usually about nothing in particular. Today when I reached the former high school I found Hiroshi waiting. His eyes moved to me and raising a hand, he greeted me in his usual manner.

"This one's yours." Hiroshi beamed at me, taking my hand.

"Huh?"

Hiroshi closed my fingers around a stem. My lips spread in a thin smile when I eyed a pink gladiola. "Thanks, Hiroshi-kun."

"So, how goes things with Ranma today?" Hiroshi patted a spot on the grass next to where he was sitting and I complied, sitting down and leaning my back against his.

I exhaled pointedly. "Same as usual; he still doesn't remember a thing. Still sparring, though."

"You like it?"

"Yeah, of course..." I rocked back and forth in my seat with a silly grin. "I mean, when I talk to him I still see how I fell in love with him. When you take out all of the complications in our lives, he's so fun to be around, he's nice, and it doesn't hurt that he's good-looking." I stopped myself before I started to ramble. Sighing, I swiveled on my palms to face Hiroshi. "The Ranma I got to know was like this, only he knew me."

"He's crazy to forget you." Hiroshi threw me a lopsided smile. I felt his breath colliding with my neck as he tipped his head to rest on my shoudler. "Man, you smell good." He whispered.

I laughed, pushing a little dust off of Daisuke's grave. "So what's going on with you?"

"Mmm, got turned down again by Tetsuko," Hiroshi laughed. "I'm getting a little tired of it, I guess. I don't even know why I keep trying to ask her out when there are days that pass that make me wonder why I even like her."

"You poor thing," I sighed.

"Nah, it's for the better anyway," Hiroshi pulled away from me, turning to face me. "You're a lot prettier than she is!"

I rolled my eyes. "Aren't you the flatterer today? First the flower, and then you go on about how good I smell, and now you're calling me pretty again. Why DON'T you have a girlfriend, Hiroshi-kun?"

He laughed a little louder than before, looking straight at me. Our eyes locked, and suddenly I felt pangs of caution in my chest. *Please don't let this be what I think it is...*

Hiroshi's expression grew serious. He raised a hand to my face and pulled me closer, brushing my cheek with a kiss. "Akane-chan," he breathed. I was surprised when I did nothing to push him away. Why? My mouth opened slightly in confusion; I squeaked in response. I watched Hiroshi look hesitant before closing his eyes and covering my mouth with his. He nibbled at my lips while my mind raced, alarmed and confused. My fists clenched under the weight of my trembling arms as I held my torso up straight. What was going on didn't make sense to me. Even though I had spent so much time talking to Hiroshi about how much I wanted to be with Ranma, he was doing this! I wasn't pounding him into the ground, either.

"Hiroshi-kun," I gasped. He wasn't, by any stretch of the imagination, a bad kisser. For a few brief moments I sighed, my heart pounding against my insides and thumping audibly in my ears. The fact that I actually enjoyed this sudden kiss scared and excited me. My chest heaved as his mouth pressed harder against mine. Hiroshi punctuated each brush of his lips with quiet moans until my resolve was shattered and I kissed back. For a moment, my mind didn't care about the implications of what I was doing. I craved affection so badly that I closed my eyes, imagining Ranma in his place.

*You want Ranma!* My heart screamed in a frantic reminder. I broke the kiss, furrowing my eyebrows at Hiroshi. He looked as shaken as I felt.

"Akane-chan... oh God, I'm sorry!" He covered his mouth, forcing a stare down towards Daisuke's grave.

"I-- I'm sorry too, I don't want to give you the wrong idea." I couldn't bring myself to look into his eyes.

"Yeah, yeah..." Daisuke shook his head vigorously. "I'm so sorry, I was just feeling a little lonely."

"N-no, I think I needed that a little bit." I pressed my balled fist to my chest, still breathing heavily. "You're REALLY good at that."

Hiroshi threw his head back, laughing as if to distract from what just happened. "Wow, what a compliment! If it's worth anything to you, I only did it because you're ridiculously sexy."

I bit my lip, smiling a little. Before Hiroshi could say anything more, I kissed him once more, hard on the lips.

"Let's draw the line right there." The shock on his face was classic as I got up.

Hiroshi coughed. "Well, I'm glad you got that out of your system!"

"Yeah," I giggled nervously. "A little more and I may have forgotten about Ranma."

"That bastard had better hurry up and remember you before I try to steal you away, then." Hiroshi waved goodbye as I walked off.

=-=-=-=-=-=

Something in my spirits was released. I grinned as I left the school grounds. As I came around to the front of the building I recognized a familiar figure standing at the gates. My smile grew even larger as I began to run towards it.

"Ryouga-kun!" I yelled. When I noticed his expression, my running slowed to a walk. "Ryouga-kun, how's it going?"

The Lost Boy's face seemed to be searching mine. His gaze was incredulous, even a little betrayed. "I didn't want to believe it was you."

I blinked, tipping my head to one side. "What do you mean?" In response, Ryouga seethed and glared.

"What the HELL is going on with you? Last time I see you you're distraught and sobbing over Ranma, but I heard rumors... that maybe you two weren't stupid, and that you hit it off?" Ryouga shook his head, a stray breeze tugging at his hair and the bandana he wore. "THAT guy was NOT Ranma, it was Hiroshi. Am I wrong?"

I stammered. The fact that someone saw made the situation so much more uncomfortable. "Well, no... but you don't understand what happened..."

"...so then you didn't ask for it."

"If you're asking me if I meant to have that happen, then definitely no."

"...so then you didn't like it."

"Well, it's not exactly that..."

"You LIKED IT?! What about Ranma?" Crap, this was a potentially volatile situation.

"I still love Ranma," I replied without hesitation. "But things are complicated now. Please give me time to explain..." I began to walk and motioned for Ryouga to follow me. He hesitated at first, but reshouldered his backpack and walked alongside me.

I sighed, distraught. Clouds were starting to form in the sky, and the smell of evening was thick. As Ryouga and I rounded a corner he finally spoke.

"I didn't know I would react like this... but then again I didn't see this coming in a million years." Ryouga murmured. His tone was still a little reserved.

"I didn't see this coming either. Not even as a hypothetical situation." I answered shyly. I was a little scared of how Ryouga would react to anything I said.

"I'll bet."

"...you know, I wasn't really ever the type to chase guys. I hated boys in school, you know."

There was no answer for a while. We walked a little in silence before Ryouga suddenly grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me a little.

"Why wasn't I good enough for that, Akane? I wasn't nearly as forward as Hiroshi, and I got a mallett to the... dammit, nevermind." Ryouga lowered his head, trying to stop himself from breathing heavily. He gently pinned me to a wall. "I didn't think I still had any kind of feelings like this, sorry. I guess I was only okay with 'losing' you if it were to Ranma."

I looked sadly into Ryouga's eyes. I myself didn't quite understand why Hiroshi was so easy to deal with, but there was nothing I could do to change the way I felt. "I don't know if it makes anything right," I replied, "But despite what you've seen today, if I've been 'lost' to anyone that would still be Ranma."

As we stared at each other, footsteps sounded. The source of them was heading right for us, and quickly too. They halted suddenly. I blinked, a little thrown off.

"God, why you, and why now?"

"Ukyou...?"

"Shut up." Ukyou wiped her face with her palms, obviously drying tears. "He's yours; as far as I'm concerned you two idiots are made for each other. I don't believe I even bothered..."

Ryouga released my shoulders, looking back and forth between Ukyou and myself.

"Hey, Ukyou...? Come back here!" It looked like Ranma was close behind.

"Don't follow me!" Ukyou screamed before running away. The clicking of her high heels echoed down the street and she was gone as quickly as she appeared.

"Ukyou?" Ranma appeared from around a corner and stopped when he saw Ryouga and I. "Oh, hey, Akane, THERE you are. Hey Ryouga!"

"Hey," I replied meekly. Ryouga stayed quiet.

"I'm sure you can guess what happened with her," Ranma looked at Ryouga briefly as he spoke.

"Yeah," Ryouga answered. "Look, I've got to go. I'll see you two later." Ryouga glanced at me sadly, and ran. All I could do was watch him leave.

"What was that all about?" Ranma scratched his head.

Moving away from the wall, I walked over to Ranma, burying my face in his shoulder. A little sob escaped from my lips, and I slid my hand up to cup his face.

"Uh," Ranma answered. "You okay?" Tentatively, he placed his hand on my back for comfort.

"It's a little past 8:00, isn't it," I sniffled.

Ranma laughed softly.
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Author's Notes: (May 2003)

Eh, I feel like it's missing something, but maybe some C+C will give some inspiration? *cough* @_@;

I'm quite sure there is at least one person out there who wants to smack me for that little incident with Hiroshi. Hey, it just kinda came out. ^o^;;; This chapter, paired with some words from a particular someone has really helped me to reestablish what direction this story is heading in. Thanks for reading! XD