Title:  The Day Before Yesterday

By: Mourning Ophelia

Disclaimer:  No ownnnn lalalalalala~!

Author's note:  You can probably tell, but this is my first attempt at penning (or rather typing) a Ranma ½ fanfic.  It's a Ranma x Akane fiction in which she gains insight on why he won't spar with her (the hard way), and he learns that some things aren't worth killing yourself over (uh, literally?).  So yes, I'm sorry if they seem a little O.O.C.  but I always thought that the anime really exaggerated Akane's temper to the point that she was almost intolerable--  Whereas, in reality, she's much nicer in the manga; always rushing in with a hot kettle and saving his butt.  But anyway, I'm sorry if this is an absolute beast to get through.  :o

Over the years, he had become accustomed to being late in the morning.  In fact, he was never surprised to find himself a girl, lying on his soaking futon, or in the koi pond wishing the fish a good morning.  His father's scathing taunts, and his fiancée's warning tone were usually enough to get him fired up in the morning.  Shoveling in whatever Kasumi had brilliant cooked for breakfast, making a snide remark about it to his fiancée and getting a head start to school via her mallet were things he had come to expect, rather than worry about. 

This particular Tuesday morning was no different for Ranma Saotome.

And yet, as he plastered on an indifferent look as he glanced down at Akane from his position on the fence, he tried to ward off the feelings of guilt in his heart.  Her grip on her school bag was lethal--white knuckle even-- and he knew that it had seen more action than Akane would like to admit.  The dull ache in his head could be partially blamed on their usually fighting this morning, but the rest of it solely resulted from what had happened the previous night.

Akane had tried to cook again.

Ranma nearly died looking at it.

Ryouga, or rather P-chan came and slept in her bed to "comfort" her.

Ranma had tried to get him out of it.

Ranma was sent flying halfway across Nerima, only to crash into Shampoo's bedroom at the Nekohanten, and land on top of her.  On her bed.  So after fending off Mousse's attacks, prying Shampoo off of his scantily clad form, and having Cologne attempt to pull off his boxers, Ranma flew out of there faster than he ran to the bathroom after ingesting Akane's meal. . . 

 . . .   only to run smack into Ukyou, who, for some reason, was out for a midnight stroll.  Ukyou took his attire (or lack thereof) as a sign of his betrayal at the hands of Shampoo, and began sobbing hysterically.  Why didn't he love her?  Why did he have to sleep with the hussy?

Ranma had given up trying to explain what had happened, and told her he'd talk to her about it the next day at school.  Ukyou was left to drown in her tears on the street corner.  He was running full speed, leaping from roof top to roof top, praying, hoping, wishing that he wouldn't run into…

Kodachi.  In the infamous green leotard.  Who apparently never slept.  Ever.  At this point, Ranma-- who was pissed as you might imagine-- cursed every God in the heavens and headed back in the opposite direction, only to crash into Shampoo, and have Ukyou round the corner to see them sprawled out on each other.  Another death grip, and another downpour of tears, and more ear piercing laughter.

By the time he finally began to make his way home, Ranma had been groped, drowned (by the still distraught Ukyou), nearly poisoned, and almost killed.  The only noise that had echoed through the streets that early morning was Ranma-chan, dragging her feet with her eyes half closed.  That early morning, with the sun barely starting its ascent had brought some serious surprises for Ranma. 

Waiting outside on the steps of the dojo was Akane, her head resting atop of a familiar yellow kettle.  He had carefully removed it, as though not to wake her.  The water was cool, but it was still warm enough to let him change back into a male.  A smile crept onto his face, and only one thought seemed to rapidly fire through his head:

Man, she was cute when she was asleep. 

He had shaken his head to clear it, laughing nervously.  He must have really have been tired to be having those kinds of thoughts about his uncute, tomboy fiancée.

. .  who had waited up through the night to make sure he got home safe and had warm water. 

He sighed dejectedly, cursing himself for cursing her as he pried Shampoo's arms off of him.  You would think that years after the incident with Saffron he would have told her (aloud, he mentally added), how he felt.  Instead, he just scooped her up in his arms.  Even though he called her macho chick with thick thighs, she was actually really petite and feather light.  He could always count on Ukyou and Shampoo to be able to handle hard blows in a fight, but Ranma was always worried Akane would break in half if she ever fought with a truly skilled martial artist.  And it didn't help that she always rushed in to help him, even when he wouldn't admit that he needed it.  All the kidnappings, faulty weddings, and... other interested male parties only seemed to further his paranoia.

Her skin was warm against his bare chest, causing him to shiver involuntarily.  Man, he had it bad.  And when she whispered his name, almost as though she was sighing it, Ranma sincerely thought his legs would give out halfway up the stairs.

It had been a nice time while it had lasted; by morning, or rather, after two more hours of sleep, he was cranky that she was cranky since she had gotten more sleep, and she was cranky that he was cranky because she when she had worried about him.

And thus, a new day began.

Akane knew something was up with him as soon as he nearly lost his footing on the fence.  Any previous anger she had held for his arrogant remarks at breakfast were forgotten, and she looked up at him with genuine concern on her face.

"Ranma, if you're that tired, you should have stayed home."

"I'm fine!" he snapped back, furthering her theory that he wasn't.

"Ranma," She began calmly again, "you can hardly walk straight.  I'll pick up your assignments and-!"

"You stupid tomboy, I'M FINE."  He jumped down from the fence to unleash the true fury of his grumpiness, "If it hadn't been for someone smashing me out halfway across town, I wouldn't BE TIRED."

Akane blinked and looked. . . hurt?  She had been sorry.  So sorry, that she had stayed up waiting for him to apologize. 

"Why the hell where you in my room then, you pervert?!"

"It ain't none of your business!"  He matched her angry tone of voice perfectly, "Don't get so damn upset about it, you ain't have nothing that would make me excited!"  Yes!  He thought victorious, I will win this battle!

"Ranma you. . . you. . ."  She began, tears filling her eyes, "You stupid jerk!

Or not.

Akane fled full speed in the direction of the school, leaving Ranma in her wake.  After she was out of his eyeshot, he punched himself in the face.

"Snap out of it!" He growled to himself, "You actually made her cry."

Aw man, he mentally wailed as he sprinted to catch up to her, I don't even deserve to be alive.  She was just concerned about me and I had to go an' turn it into a big deal.  Ranma made it through the gates of Furinkan High just as the bell rang for class to begin.  Totally bypassing Kuno who lay ready and willing to kill the scoundrel that had made the beautiful Akane Tendou cry, Ranma merely backhanded him into the wall.  He glanced around, trying to find her.

Apparently Akane was also late, and he easily located her out in the hall as they stood with their buckets.  You would think that by the time they were both eighteen, they would have learned to be a little punctual, but it was no matter.  Ranma was glad for the excuse to finally apologize.

"Look, Akane I-," he began weakly, turning his head.  Her focus remained fixed on the classroom number in front of them.

"Save it." She mumbled, turning her head away. 

"Fine."  He huffed, before he realized what he was doing.

"Fine."  Akane's tone was void of any emotion.  They remained in the hall until the class bell rang, but never said another word.

Lunch presented a similar problem.  While Ranma chose to eat with Daisuke outside on one of the benches, Akane remained inside, jabbing angrily at her bento.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  Death, death, death.  Ranma, Ranma, Ran-

"AughHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"  She finally screamed, nearly impaling a passerby with her box.

"Um... Akane...?  Is there something you need to talk about?" One of her friends asked, fearing for her life.

"Just guy problems."  Nabiki's voice carried from across the room, "Speaking of which, Sis, you might want to take a peak outside."

Akane was instantly on her feet with the rest of the class, and had her eyes plastered on the four figures below.  It looked like. . . Mousse . . . Ryouga . . . and Kuno?  The distinct red blur was identified immediately,

"Ranmaaaa-!" She ground out between her teeth.

The silence that followed was only broken by two kids running down the hallway to get a better view of the action."We'd better hurry! I heard that Principle Kuno is heading down right now to bust them since Kuno-sempai is in the middle of it!  Saotome will really get kicked out for sure this time!"

Ranma?  Kicked out of school?

Akane practically flew downs the stairs to warn him. She wasn't sure if the panic inside of her was from the battle going on below, Ranma getting kicked out of school, or something that had yet to happen.

Brushing it aside, she just ran.

"Another fight with Akane, eh?"  Daisuke asked, rolling his eyes, "Big surprise there."

Ranma twitched involuntarily at the reminder.

"What was it about this time?"

"The usual."  Ranma replied in an attempt to sound nonchalant about it all.  He opened his bento box and began to inhale his food, hoping that it would put him in a better mood at the very least.

"What time did you guys fight?"

"The usual."

"How long do you think it'll last?"

"The usual."

"How does Akane look naked?"

"The usua-HEY!"  Ranma growled, reaching across the bench to grab his friend's collar. 

"Ahhh!"  Daisuke winced, trying to pry off Ranma's iron grip, "I was kidding!  I was kidding!!  Man, are you tired or what?"

Ranma released his grip and watched as he took a deep breath, "I didn't get much sleep last night." He admitted.

"It doesn't have anything to do with Akane being nake-?"  Ranma's clenched fist cut him off.

"Why would I want to see an UNCUTE TOMBOY NAKED?!"

And just because his day could apparently get a hundred thousand times worse:

"RAAAAANNMMAAA!"  A familiar (and enraged) voice bellowed from behind him, "PREPARE TO DIE!"

Ranma's head whipped around just in time to see a bokken, an umbrella, and chains sailing straight for his head.

What?  He thought desperately, All three?

"Foul Sorcerer Saotome!" Kuno roared, "How dare you speak of the fair, beautiful, virtuous Akane in not a shred of clothing!  You have no right!"

"You made her cry, Ranma!  I'll never forgive you!"

"My precious Shampoo was upset all night because of you, Saotome!"

Kuno was the first to be knocked out of the fight and into the nearby tree, obviously out of his league.  Ranma grinned at the challenge-- he was almost desperate for someone to pound, and the prospect of fighting both Mousse and Ryouga at the same time again furthered his excitement.

"Give me your worst!"  Ranma cried, leaping over both of them.  Mousse sent out a barrage of kunai at him, which he easily dodged.  Ryouga, on the other hand, had worked himself up to the point that he matched Ranma's pace almost perfectly.

"Mad that she got out of bed last night and you couldn't fondle her, P-chan?"  Ranma spat.

"Shampoo-!"  Mousse began, only to be cut off.

"How dare you?!"  Ryouga was only further enraged.

"And Shampoo-!"  Mousse came in between the two to add in on the hostility.  Both Ryouga and Ranma's fist impacted with his face, sending him sailing out of the school yard with a resounding, "Shut UP!"

"Just you and me now, P-chan."  Ranma cracked his knuckles, "I'll break both your legs so you'll never be able to wander back into her bed!"

Ryouga merely launched himself at Ranma, who began to work his feet into a spiral.  The prior seemed to realize this and leapt out of it, smashing his knee into Ranma's face.  He blinked, shocked that he hadn't been able to dodge the obvious attack.  Was he really that tired?

Ryouga grinned sardonically, almost looking down at him, "I'll have her to myself, once and for all Ranma.  I'll beat you, and then we'll leave together!"

"Like hell you will!!"  Visions of Akane last night, leaning against his chest. . . her cute smile . . . her sighing his name. . .

He was really moving now; the adrenaline had finally kicked in full throttle.  An enraged scream was bubbling up inside of him at the fatigue he felt and the way his headache had returned.  A satisfied smirk landed on his face when Ryouga began to slightly pant as well, blood dripping from his forehead.

"Had enough, Ryouga?"

"Never!"  He charged forward, and Ranma easily sidestepped.  "I'll never let you have her!  She doesn't love you!"

Ranma froze mid punch, "What did you say?" His voice was low and noxious.

"I said," The grin had returned to Ryouga's face as the realization dawned on him, "She doesn't love you.  She told me that, you know.  She would never lie to her P-chan."

Ranma had quite possibly never been so angry in his entire life.   His rival's words stabbed at his heart again, and again, and again, until there was nothing left in his mind but the primal urge to rip him apart limb by limb. 

Then, he struck.

Students would later recount that they had never seen him move so quickly, without a second thought.  Ryouga was battered again and again, baffled by Ranma's increased agility.  By the time Akane had finally rushed out onto the field, Ranma had him in a basic chokehold.

"Say it again!"  He dared, "Just say it again!"

Ryouga's face had begun to turn a fascinating hue of violet when Akane took the chance to try to break it up before Ranma did anything drastic.

She reached for his arm, "Ran-!"

Akane wasn't sure what happened next, other than the fact that Ranma's arm came smashing across her chest, sending her flying back at least a dozen feet.  Someone in the background screamed, and others finally began to panic.  She lay there for a moment, stunned.  There had definitely been a few cracking and popping noises, and as much as that scared her, Akane was still more worried about Ranma.  Trying to draw in a breath, she found that she was hardly able to move, let alone inhale.  The pain in her chest quickly spread like wildfire, and her tears of ache slide down her face.

'He hit me.'  She thought comatose with shock, 'He hit me.'

Ranma was horrified.

Horrified that he had hit her.  Horrified that he hadn't realized it was her until he could smell the perfume of her hair and couldn't stop his attack.  Horrified that what Ryouga had said would now be true.

'I hit her.'

"Oh my God."  Daisuke managed to gasp out, watching as Akane slowly struggled to her feet, and limping calmly off the field.

'I hit her.' Ranma's entire body had gone numb, and his release on Ryouga was alleviated. 

'I hit her. I hit her. I hit her. Oh, God. I hit her I hit her I hit herIhitherIhit herIhither.' His mind was frozen, his eyes still wide.

"Ranma." Ryouga said, frighteningly calm, "For what you did, I will make you wish you had never set foot in Nerima."  And he did.  Punch after punch, hit after hit, Ranma remained motionless, like a broken doll.  He let Ryouga break his ribs, break his fingers.  He let him remind him what a horrible person he was.

"I hit her."  Ranma moaned over and over.  I deserve this, he thought, I deserve to die.

"Hibiki!  Stop it!"  Ranma thought it was Nabiki's voice, but his eyes were almost swollen shut, "You've done enough!"

"He hit her, Nabiki Tendou!"

"I know!" She snapped, remembering how much money she would lose in the pool she had going.  She owes me so much, Nabiki thought glumly, "But she's fine, Ryouga.  You saw her get up and walk away!  She's fine!"

"Akane's-!"

"FINE."  Nabiki began, kneeling down next to Ranma, "How can you call this a fight when he can't even fight back, Ryouga?  Are you just going to kill him right here, right now, in front of everyone?"

Ryouga seemed to stumble for an answer, but she already had one for him, "Get lost, Ryouga.  Find your way back when things have calmed down.  He may have hit her but-," She lowered her voice so only he could hear her, "-Akane will never forgive you if you hurt Ranma even more than you already have."

Ryouga nearly ran away, moving as fast as his legs would carry him.  He hadn't even stopped to think about how Akane would feel if he beat Ranma.  For a moment, he was terrified. 

"I'll be back, Akane.  And when I do, I shall hope that you are healed and free of the scum called Ranma Saotome."

Akane, by the time she had reached Doctor Tofu's office, wasn't doing much thinking at all.  The struggle to catch her breath had increased, and she had nearly passed out, latching onto the doorframe to his office.  She raised her hand as if to knock, but Tofu had already seemingly sensed her presence, and dragged her inside.

"Akane!"  He gasped, "What happened?"

"Can't. . ." she began slowly, trying to inhale, ". . . breathe. . ."  Tofu picked her up from where she had begun to slide onto the floor, and lifted her onto the examination table.  He carefully felt around her chest area, noticing when she would wince or try a sharp inhale. 

Hmmm...

He pressed a point on her back, and lifted her torso up sharply at the same time.  The popping noise occurred again, and her lungs were bombarded with sweet, sweet air.

As she tried to catch her breath, Tofu explained, "Your left lung collapsed, and several of your broken ribs were keeping it from re-inflating."

"Ow."  Akane finally managed, trying to sit up again. Tofu gently pressed her back down, "Wait, wait.  I need to bandage your ribs."

"I have to get back to Ranma!"  She tried sitting up again stubbornly, "The stupid jerk has probably killed Ryouga!"

"Ranma and Ryouga are fighting?  Is that how you got hurt again?"

Akane looked down, almost not wanting to explain what had happened.  If she said that Ranma had been the one to hurt her, then Tofu would probably call their fathers, and they'd do something overly drastic.  Ranma would probably be kicked out of the dojo and would have to wander around until one of the other fiancée's took him in. 

Then again, her mind told her, he'd probably like that.  The pain in her chest had suddenly returned again.

Did he hit her because he hated her that much?

He was always going on about how she got in the way during fights.  Thinking that she wasn't strong enough to handle the challenges of the other fiancee's. . . maybe it was true.  Suddenly, she felt like crying again.  He had hit her once.  A single blow to her torso, and it had rendered her unable to breathe.  How was she supposed to ever spar with him, or be his equal when she could be blown over by a single strike?

'That stupid jerk!"  She thought angrily, "No wonder he wouldn't spar with me!"

As soon as Tofu was finished bandaging her, she made a mad dash for the door, only to be nearly trampled on by Nabiki and Daisuke who were dragging a prone figure behind them. 

'Poor Ryouga.' Akane thought sadly, 'Poor, poor, Ry-Ranma?!'

Sure enough, it was the pig tailed martial artist.  Unconcious, bloody, and bruised in all his glory.

"Ranma?"  She managed to gasp, helping them place him on the examination table.

"Can you help him, Doc?"  Nabiki questioned, shooing Daisuke out of the clinic with her hands.  It had been a long drag over.

"I'm not sure if I can. . . he looks pretty beat up.  Why didn't you bring him to the hospital?"

"Too far to drag."  Nabiki buffed her nails on her shirt, "Anyway, I better get home to let everyone know what happened.  Now that Akane's here, she can help you nurse him back to, well, health I suppose."  And with that, she left.

Tofu began by re-adjusting and setting what bones had been nearly demolished by Ryouga's fists and kicks.  Akane winced at every crack, and only left to get ice for the bruising on his face.  Next, Tofu cleaned his cuts, bandaging them when necessary.  When that was done, he set up incenses around the room that would help assuage his pain once he woke up. 

By the time he was finished with Ranma, the waiting room had filled up with patients all grumbling about various aches and pains, "Do you think you can take care of him while I treat the others, Akane?"  He asked very gently.  She nodded mutely, still in shock of seeing her fiancée in such a state of torment.

"Ranma," she whispered as the door shut gently, "What happened?"

The Tendou family came and went as the hours passed by; both Soun and Genma were hysterical after they had heard the news.  Soun had brought a katana with him, and intended to teach his future son-in-law why it wasn't right to hit a girl-- especially his daughter!

But upon seeing Ranma passed out, and his daughter's angry expression, he immediately backed down.  Genma had offered Akane the chance to punch him for his son, and then would later pass on the pain, but she had refused and sent the pair out.  Kasumi manned the door, keeping both Shampoo and Ukyou out, explaining (in her kind, loving voice) that she would not tolerate their immaturity while Ranma was so horribly hurt. 

Three hours and twelve caffeinated beverages later, Akane was left sitting with her fiancée with a single desk lamp blaring down on them.  Even Tofu had retreated to his bed room, advising her to knock on his door if anything happened with Ranma.

So she sat.

And she waited.

And she sat.

Taking his bandaged hand in her own small one carefully, she tried to blink back her tears.  'Dammit!' She mentally swore, 'Doctor Tofu said he'd be fine.  That there wasn't any internal bleeding, and he'd heal over time.'

So why was she crying?

"Ranma, you jerk."  She whispered angrily, "First making me worry about you last night, and now-!"  A sigh.

"I'm sorry."  She tried again, "I was just mad because you had to fight with Ryouga over something really stupid, and now look at you."  Akane brushed her tears away, "I don't even know why I'm crying!  It's not like that blow hurt me, you know!  I'm not some precious doll that will break if you-!"

She was forced to stop and readjust her position so she wasn't leaning against her ribcage.

"Gah, I'm doing it again."  She mumbled, "If you wake up right now, I promise I won't cook anything for a month.  I promise I'll try to be nicer, and I won't yell at you when you're in my room at night . . . even if you deserve it for being a pervert."

"Ranma, I'm sorry.  I just didn't want you to get into trouble with the principal and get kicked out of school.  I know that you don't like me, but I just wanted to return the favor of you saving me on Mount Phoenix, and I just wanted to say that I lo-!"  She clenched her eyes shut, and her grip on his hand became vice like.

"A. . . ka . . . ne?" 

"Ranma?!"  She stood up suddenly, releasing his hand, "Are you awake?"

He tried to open his eyes, "No wait!"  She called, reaching for the ice packs that lay near by, "Don't open your eyes yet, here-!"  She gently placed them over his swollen face.

"There you go.  No, lay still!"  She placed a calming hand on his arm as he tried to get up out of bed, "You have to rest for a little while.  Doctor Tofu said that your injuries would prevent you for being up and about for a while."

He groaned, though she wasn't sure if it was out of pain, or because of the news.  Akane timidly grabbed his hand again.  "Ranma . . . go back to sleep.  It won't hurt as much if you're not awake . . ." She bit her lip, and let go of his hand, gently setting it back down.

Or at least she tried.

Ranma's hand was instantly snatching hers again, and he pulled the ice packs off his face.  Looking into his bruised face and the way his hollow eyes stared into hers almost caused her to start weeping again.  The stupid idiot.  The stupid, stupid idiot!

He tried to open his mouth to speak, but could not find his voice.  She understood what was bothering him now.  Akane brought their hands up to the spot where he had hit her, and rested it there. "I'm fine.  See?"  She told him with a small smile gracing her face, and then a little more crossly, "It'll take a hit a lot harder to take me out, stupid."  He let out a weak snort, turned his head to the side, and quickly dropped back off to sleep. 

Ranma slept through the next day, but was only up for a few hours the day after.  Doctor Tofu explained that with the pain he was experiencing, it was better for him to just sleep it off.  Kasumi brought by a change of clothing for Akane, and some food for her and Doctor Tofu as well.

"W-w-w-whhy hello Kasumi~!"  The Doctor instantly floated away on cloud nine after her.  Akane sighed, and went back to the rice Kasumi had brought for lunch.   Her entire body was hurting from sitting in a nearby chair for so long, and her mind was going blank from lack of sleep.  Akane wondered for a moment what kept her from just going home to soak her sore body and rest her tired eyes.  But she knew why.

Both she and Nabiki had toyed with the idea of taking a picture of him like this, but for two very different reasons.  Akane had wanted them to remind Ranma what happened when he acted without thinking; to say, "Look here, stupid!  Remember what that felt like?"  Nabiki had desired them merely to make some sort of profit from this event, having lost the money she earned in fight pool. 

Carefully setting down her chopsticks and rice on her chair and standing, she leaned over the prone figure of her fiancée.  Akane glanced around quickly, making sure that no one was spying in on them before placing both hands on Ranma's cheeks.  With a happy smile, she noted that the swelling on his face was going down, at least by yesterday's standards.  When she reached for the much needed icepacks, Akane noticed their, well, lack of ice. 

"Bah," She grumbled, "I'll have to go switch them out again."

The night before, Tofu had pointed out to her where he kept them so she could always help herself to them. 

'I can't believe I'm reluctant to leave the room," she thought amazed, 'I guess I really do need mental help.'  Akane pleasantly wave to Tofu who was discussing something with a patient in the room across the way.

"How lucky that young boy is to have such a sweet and caring girlfriend!"  The old woman exclaimed, and Akane blushed at overhearing this.  Quickly, she ducked out of the hallway and back into Ranma's room.  To her surprise, the martial artist was awake, and sitting up.  She was about to scold him for disobeying her previous orders, but he beat her to it.

"I am the worst form of scum in the world, and I want you to kill me."

The ice bags hit the floor, and ice skid into every corner.  "What?"  Akane gasped, aghast. 

Did he just say . . .?

"I want you to kill me.  It's the only way you could every pay me back for what I did to you."

"Ranma, it was an accident."  She found her feet firmly planted, and her eyes squeezed shut.  There was that pain in her chest again.

"You can't even look at me; I've dropped beneath even Kuno's rank."  Ranma's voice sounded so dead, so very unlike him.  Akane truthfully had not been prepared for what he had asked.  She had expected that the first thing to come out of his mouth would be in the form of some insult or snide retort.

"That's not it!"  She insisted. 'If I open my eyes, I'll start to cry again. . .'  When had she become so emotionally unstable?

"Then why are you still standing there?  Why are you bandaged?"  Ranma was angry; couldn't she see what he was asking for him to do?  Wasn't she as angry at him as he was himself?

"I'm fine.  I told you two nights ago.  I'm fine!"  Don't cry, she told herself, don't cry. 

"You're not.  I know how hard I hit you.  I felt the air leave your lungs!  I heard you bones crack, so don't lie!"  He punched his leg.

"I shouldn't have snuck up on you like that!  It was my fault!"  And deep in her heart, she knew it was.  "It's not your fault that you thought that I was Mousse or Kuno."

"I knew it was you."

". . . what?"

"I could smell your shampoo, but I couldn't stop.  I didn't want anyone to interfere; I just wanted to kill him."  He drew in a shaky breath, "I hit you.  I hit a girl!  Do you know how beneath me that is?  Do you understand what that does to your honor?"

"And what would have happened to it if you had killed Ryouga, huh?"

"It's different--!!"

"No it's not!  Snap out of it!"  She clenched her fists.

"It is too!  God dammit, Akane!  I promised that I would always protect you, that I would never let any harm come to you . . . and I almost killed you myself!  Do you know what that feels like?!"  He snarled, snapping his head in her direction.

She couldn't contain herself any long.  Akane didn't care that she was crying.  She wouldn't care if he made fun of her for it later.  Leaning against the wall for support she replied, "I think I have a pretty good idea, Ranma.  I think I understand exactly.  I've had a lot of time to think, you know?"  She laughed bitterly, "At first I thought that you had hit me because you hated me.   But then I realized, wasn't I always getting in the way of things for you?  Didn't you always have to save me from something?"

He didn't respond, but studied her carefully.

"The one time I try to help you, to save you from getting kicked out of school, I get thrown clear across the field with a deflated lung and three broken ribs.  But you know what, Ranma?"  Her voice had become high and strained.  She was speaking through her clenched teeth, "It wasn't anything new.  The pain I felt wasn't anything that I hadn't felt before.  It was seeing Nabiki and Daisuke drag in your body when I was running back to go check on you.  It was seeing you there, thinking that you were dead that hurt the most!"  Akane couldn't believe that she had said it aloud, and apparently, neither could Ranma.

Trying to ease the explosion, she set her discarded lunch on the floor, and pulled the chair closer to her fiancée's bed.  "Ranma," She whispered, "You could have killed me, and I wouldn't have cared.  I know that you wouldn't hurt me intentionally."

And for a moment, Ranma looked as though he would cry too.  "Akane, you don't know that.  I wanted to kill Ryouga, and if I had thought that it was him, I would have killed anything that was in my way."

"It's true, Ranma.  Even if you're a jerk and can't stomach my cooking, I trust you.  So maybe the question shouldn't be why you hurt me, but why you let Ryouga pulverize you."

"Aw, he didn't screw me up too bad--!!"  Ranma protested, his arrogant tone finally returning. 

She smiled, "You have seven broken fingers, five broken ribs, two shiners, a bruised liver, and dozens, and I mean dozens of bruises." 

Silence.

"Ok, maybe he screwed me up a little."  Akane laughed, and wiped the tears out of her eyes. 

"You should see your face," She told him, "You look like an abused puppy!"

"Feh, I bet I still look charming!"

"Yes, in an abused animal sort of way!"  Akane laughed.

"Oi!"  He whined, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, "Or rather, ow."  She shook her head as she helped him flip his legs back onto the bed.  They sat in pleasant silence, before another thought crossed her mind.

"Ranma," She took his hand again, "What did Ryouga say that upset you so much?"

He visibly winced, "It ain't important."

"Ranma you idiot!  You almost killed him!  It had to have been pretty important."  She stared him straight in the eye, "Did it have something to do with your integrity?"

"Nope."

"Your mother?"

"Nah."

"Your martial arts skills?"

"Nooo . . ."

An adorably cute, yet frustrated expression flashed across her face, "Just tell me!"

"Uh huh.  Not until you finish what you were saying earlier." 

Eariler?  When exactly was earlier to him?

"What are you talking about?"  She inquired, giving him a startled look.

"Well, I think it started with you promising not to try cooking for a month.  I mean, at first I thought I was dreaming because stuff like that only happens in my dreams--,"

"Hey!"  She cut in, offended.

"-- But there you were, talking to me and taking care of me like I was sick with the flu or somethin'.  And then you started talking about Mount Phoenix, and I tried to respond . . ."

Oh, She thought with a horrified expression, that. 

It had been so much easier to confess with him asleep.  She hadn't had to worry about rejection or him laughing in her face about it.  Akane felt like the timid sixteen year-old all over again.  But she had known him for years now.  Almost three years of life and death situations, trust, and a developing friendship.  Could she over step the barriers she has thrown up around her heart, and risk it?  Could she find the strength-- Oh, screw it.

"I love you."  She said very firmly.

Ranma's jaw nearly hit the floor.

"I love you.  That's what I was going to saw right before you woke up.  So before you go and ask me to do stupid things like kill you, you should remember that."  Akane gently shut his mouth, and Ranma grabbed it before it could return to her lap and pressed it to his wildly beating heart.  She was instantly pulled down atop of his chest, and crushed in his embrace.  His arms wrapped around her tightly, and she couldn't help but wonder if she was hurting his rib cage.  But it was funny, she didn't feel one ounce of pain in her body.  It was this warm, happy, tingly feeling that spread through her body and filled her with hope and pure glee.

Seeing that her first attempt at taking the initiative went so well, Akane was fearless enough to just lie next to him on the bed, his arms still wrapped around her.

"Ryouga," Ranma began, muffled from where his head was buried against her shoulder, "Said the exact opposite." 

"What?"  Akane was genuinely surprised, and began to run her fingers softly up and down his back to try to ease the tension that had just seized his body.

"Right before you came to try and break up the fight, he said that you told him that you didn't love me, and never would."  Akane racked her brain for a moment where she ever talked to Ryouga about her love life. 

"But now you know it's not true, so you don't have to be angry at him anymore!"  She put in quickly.

"No, you've got it all wrong.  Now I'm even more pissed that he lied to me."  He slightly released her from his death grip.

"Ranma--!" Akane admonished, "That's no reason to kill him!"

"Geeze, Akane, I don't need to kill him.  I've got even better leverage on him now."

"Hmm?"

"You!"  He poked her gently on the nose, instantly exciting a rich blush to her cheeks.

"Hey, jerk!"  She snapped, "Don't abuse my love!"

Ranma pulled her tight against him again, running his bandaged hands through her short hair, "I didn't mean it like that, tomboy." She snorted from her position against his chest.

He yawned, emotionally and psychically spent.  Akane instantly caught it, and yawned right back.  He raised any eyebrow, "How much sleep have you gotten?"

"None, actually.  I just sat and worried about you while you slept your life away." Ranma winced.

"Then go to sleep!"  He instantly found the remedy.

"I can't just go home now!  They're in the middle of dinner!"  At the mere mention of it, Ranma's stomach growled.  Akane shook her head and laughed.

"Then sleep with me!" 

Akane jerked away and gave him a hard stare. 

'Wah!'  He mentally wailed again, 'That came out totally wrong!!'

"I won't do anything perverted, I promise!"  He laughed nervously, visions of mallets dancing through his head.  Akane threw this idea around in her head for a few moments:  Kasumi would be coming in soon to bring her dinner, and Doctor Tofu would eventually come back in to check on Ranma.  Was it really worth letting them in on their "new found" relationship?

Or rather, did she really even care anymore?

"All right then, I trust you.  Good night, Ranma."  She whispered, snuggling in an endearing fashion.  Ranma's heart began to dance around wildly in his chest as he rested his chin atop of her head.  Sirens were going off in his brain, lights flashing before his eyes, and he was pretty sure there were a few Spaniards having a fiesta in his gut.

He inhaled deeply.

"Good night, Akane."

'I love you too.'

Four hours, seven Whitney Houston songs, two Celine Dion songs, three Coca Colas, one Orange Fanta (don't you want a fanta fanta~?!?!), a Minute Maid Lemonade, and 19 pages later. . .

Bah, it got really gushy at the end, but I'm such a sap. ^^;;  *hands everyone toothpaste and a tooth brush*  Be sure to brush well, I don't want any cavities!

3 Ophelia 2003