Ranma & company belong to the brilliant Rumiko Takahashi, but the poor fare
below is mine. C&C welcome. First fanfic and lime warnings (part two) apply.
Thanks to Ana Wagner (who knows so much more about Ranma 1/2 than I do). Here
goes ...

Words in [ ] are thoughts


By: Skywatch


"Ranma, I can't do it." Akane's voice shook with the struggle to hold back her tears. She saw the disappointment that immediately filled his face, the bitterness.

He turned his head to the side, refusing to look at her. "You promised." The words were slurred, hard to get out. His throat worked furiously, trying to form more. "I can't ... live ... like this."

Crippled. He had a little feeling in his chest and shoulders and he could move his head and his neck, but beyond that there was nothing. For three weeks now he had spent every conscious second trying to force his body to feel again, his toes to wiggle, his fingers to twitch - anything! But this time he was facing an opponent as implacable and as illusive as the air he breathed. It was simply there, it was the condition his body was in, period.

For the first time in his life, one of the best martial artists of his generation felt like he'd lost for good. Despair, on a scale that matched the first time he fell into Jusenkyou, gripped him. The difference was that this time it stayed. Day in and day out, and specially when there was nothing else to do but stare off into the long hours of the night, Ranma dwelt on what the rest of his life would be like and knew that he couldn't bear it.

And for something so meaningless, because he had tried to brazen his way into skiing. After all, he'd done it before, hadn't he? He'd beaten Cologne on the snow - well, okay, admittedly that had been a really close thing, but he'd still won in the end, right?

His fine sense of balance and quick reflexes would carry him through. They always had.

"You sure you want this slope?" The kid with the tea-streaked hair brought the ski-lift to a stop. "We've, um, had a lot of snow and it's all banked. The other hill's probably safer, Miss, uh ...?"

Akane smiled and Ranma bristled. He hadn't missed the appreciative looks the teenager had been sneaking at her since they'd gotten on the lift. "My wife and I'll do just fine," he stated gruffly.

The kid seemed slightly crestfallen, mumbled something about coming back for them and left.



"Maybe we should try another slope. This is too advanced. Even my sisters and I save this for last."

Akane said a lot of other things but Ranma shrugged the arguments off. After all, although he would never admit it, a part of him was showing off for her and enjoying it.

For awhile, his skills and balance got him through. They had him quickly on his feet and, after a lot of falling and flailing, moving on his skis, but something had gone wrong.

One moment he was fine - the icy wind burned against his bare cheeks as he arrowed down - then somehow he moved wrong and he was pummeling uncontrollably down steep, slippery ice with no means to stop an increasingly perilous descent. His skis hit a half-buried rock that he couldn't avoid. He was launched into the air.

His involuntary cry was half-surprise, half-defiance. It echoed back at him along the deserted slope, and then there was another sound, a deep rumble that raised the hairs on the back of his neck. [Avalanche!]

"Ranma! Watch out!" He heard Akane's faint shout and imagined her speeding down on her skis after him. It was the last thing he wanted.

[Stay back, ya stubborn -]

It was a basic lesson of martial arts, learning how to fall. If you knew how, if your body could turn in precisely the right way at just the right moment depending on the particular situation, you could fall and not get hurt. Oh, the breath would rush out of your body and your muscles might ache for days, and, if it was really bad, you'd suffer a few fractures, but there wouldn't be any permanent damage. Anything less didn't really count to a guy who'd been training since he was old enough to walk. After all, he'd survived the Martial Arts Figure Skating contest, as well as numerous collisions with ground, walls, fists, mallets, spatulas, bonbori and countless other weapons.

But if you couldn't ... Ranma fell into the raging tide of snow head first. The wave wrapped around him like a giant fist and dragged him inexorably in so many directions that he couldn't even tell which way he was facing anymore. Between the skis and the snow that rumbled all around him, he couldn't maneuver at all in the few precious seconds left.

He didn't even see it - the jagged boulder that met his back at the speed of a rushing car. There was a snap and a crack, a tremendous but short-lived pain and then he was unconscious.

It took him two days to wake up. He tried to smile at Akane's face looming anxiously over him. He noticed fleetingly that his wife looked exhausted. Her eyes were dark smudges in a pale, concerned face. He was dimly aware of other people hovering as he closed his eyes in sleep. The next time he woke, there was a series of stern-faced doctors and a barrage of tests. After days of prodding and consultation, most of them came to the same conclusion.

In twenty seconds, more than twenty years' worth of martial arts were gone.

"My fault."


Akane covered her face with her hands. "It was my idea. Why did I even think of a skiing trip when you couldn't ski? Kami help me, I was so stupid!"

[If you really felt that way, you'd help me!] Ranma pushed the thought forcefully away - he knew it wasn't fair - but he couldn't help the impatient snap that followed. "Don't be stupid. It's winter. Where else were we supposed to ... go on our anniversary? I was the one ... who insisted on trying that slope."

Silence, so thick you could cut it with a knife, fell between them.

Ranma sighed. "Doesn't matter ... whose fault. Just help me. You said you would."

"Help you die." Akane struggled to keep her voice calm. "I promise I'd do anything, and this is what you ask me." She swallowed. "You made a promise to me, too. 'For better or for worse,' remember? We both took that gaikoku vow. You've never given up before, not even when Happosai made you as weak as a baby! You learned the Hiryuu Shoten Ha. What makes this so different?" she demanded fiercely.

The youth on the bed closed his eyes. Talking was still difficult, but getting easier. "I was weak but I could walk, move my arms, run and jump ... learn a new technique. This time I'm paralyzed. The docs say ... for life." He opened his eyes and stared straight at her. "Akane, my entire life's martial arts! I can't remember a day without it. It's the only thing I know, the one thing I'm good at. What else could I be without it?"

"You'd still be my husband, the man I love." A becoming red blush suffused the young woman's cheeks. Although they'd progressed greatly since the days when they'd rather die than show any kind of affection, it still wasn't easy for either of them to express their

feelings frankly. "I don't want to lose you."

She grasped his hand, and a small part of him died because he couldn't feel it. "Ranma, if - if the situation were reversed. I mean, if the accident had happened to me, would you do what you're asking me to do?"

The question and the tone of her voice disarmed him. He tried to picture it, tried to imagine any situation where he would voluntarily lay a hand on her, actually try to kill her. He couldn't, even if she asked, but he didn't want to tell her that. "I don't know," he half-lied. [Somehow I'll do it myself. Even without her help I'll find a way. It's the last thing I can do as a ... as a man.]

Maybe she sensed his dark thoughts, or maybe the answer just wasn't what she expected, but for awhile Akane was speechless.

When she finally spoke, her voice was steady. Ranma knew what that meant now - she'd made up her mind. "Alright, you win." She held up a hand. "But I ask one thing first. I've never really asked you anything for myself, have I?"

He opened his mouth automatically, all set to contradict her, but then he realized it was mostly true. "Ask," he said hoarsely.

"No, you have to promise first. Promise blindly, like I did." A hint of anger colored her tone, because it had been a dirty trick, turning something that had been given with all her heart into this.

His pause lasted only for a second. "Hai."

"Give me a year."

His eyes widened in protest.

"One year to see if there's anything we can do to cure you. Doctors aren't always right, and there's at least one of them who thinks you have a chance! You're not an ordinary person, Saotome Ranma. You've been honed by years of training. Your rate of recovery is pretty astounding," she reminded him.

"So this is what I propose. If by the end of the year you're not back to your old self and you still want to do this, then I'll help. If you can manage it, I'll be your second. If not, I'll do it myself!" she bit out savagely. [And then I'll probably follow you because how could I possibly live with myself afterwards?] "I'll put my oath in writing and I'll have it witnessed, if that's what you want." Her fierce determination shone in an aura that coalesced around her body.

Ranma stared long and hard at his wife. Did she know, he wondered, how magnificent he found her when she was like this? And he did owe her for the trick. He had sensed that it would hurt her like anything but he'd still done it. "Not ... necessary. Hai," he agreed, "a year."


The first thing Akane did as soon as Ranma was out of the hospital was to consult Dr. Tofu. He'd been the one of the few who had held out any hope. Most of the doctors at the hospital were skeptical. They were specialists backed by numerous degrees and decades of experience. Of course they assumed they knew better.

But Dr. Tofu had an edge: he had been around the Tendos since Kasumi was in high school and Akane was a little girl. He'd treated Ranma and the others for an astounding number of injuries over the last nine years. And he had a working familiarity with Ranma's curse of turning into a girl whenever he was splashed with cold water. Ironically, the doctor thought that it was the curse, together with Ranma's extraordinary healing abilities, which might save him.

First, he asked Ranma to participate in a carefully-monitored experiment. When he saw the results, he couldn't help the smile that broke across his face. His theory was right!

Dr. Tofu arranged a series of x-ray plates, diagrams and test results along the wall of his clinic. "You see this and this, Akane? Then we have this spike here. It's all very promising," he mumbled, pointing at more figures and droning on in technical jargon.

Finally, the girl couldn't stand it anymore. "Could you please explain more simply? I don't understand," she admitted.

"Oh I'm sorry, I got carried away." His eyes twinkled behind his glasses, but otherwise his expression was serious. "I've been studying Jusenkyou curses since you and Ranma came to me with the cat's tongue problem. One thing has always struck me as extraordinary. The transformation is so drastic. Shampoo turns into a kitten, Mousse into a duck ... and well, there was the day we found out about Ryouga and P-chan." Dr. Tofu winced at the memory. It had been one of his busiest days. "Ranma turns into a short red-haired girl."

He fidgeted with his glasses. "Their ENTIRE bodies transform, Akane, inside and out! Features, shapes, mass, nerve and bone configurations - everything! It's amazing when you think about it."

Akane bit her lip impatiently, but motioned for him to continue.

"When Ranma changes - and these tests prove it - the curse reforms his body to conform as closely as possible to the drowned girl's body. In the process it's been regenerating the damaged nerves in his body, his spine, numerous bones. These changes cross over to his male body when he's doused with hot water. So," Dr. Tofu concluded, "if Ranma triggers his curse regularly, oh once a day at least, and undertakes a strenuous regimen of physical therapy, I'm confident he'll be able to walk again."

"Just ... walk?" Akane was both elated and disappointed. Walking was wonderful, but not enough to fulfill the terms of her oath.

Dr. Tofu was somewhat surprised at her lack of enthusiasm. "I can't promise anymore than that. It's possible that Ranma will regain his old abilities in time." He sounded doubtful, though. "We'll just have to try our best, ne?"


It took Ranma six months to take his first step. By that time, Akane was a mass of frazzled nerves. She had a sinking feeling they weren't going to make it to the deadline. At his current rate of progress, he would only be able to walk normally by that time, and that's if they were lucky. Still, she was determined to try.

It was so hard! It had been nine years since they had met, three years since she had married him. They had come to know each other like the backs of their hands, or at least that's what they thought. But this lifeless, spiritless Ranma was almost a stranger to Akane.

People once said that everything in the world was made up of four elements - fire, water, earth and air. To Akane, Ranma was fire personified. His grace and fluidity in martial arts might've been more suited to air, but the spirit that blazed in him, the bravado and the confidence, his determination to survive, to always overcome - these things defined Ranma to Akane more than any move or technique. His passion for living and winning was a beacon that drew her.

But twenty-one days and nights strapped to a bed, without being able to do more than breathe, talk and move his head had succeeded where hundreds of fights to the death, demons, curses and seventy-seven kinds of martial arts rivals had failed. The flame was now a mere glimmer in a darkness that threatened to swamp everything.

[He's going to hold me to my promise.] She realized it in the first month out of the hospital. She'd tried to be cheerful and encouraging, but it hadn't worked. He'd gone into the physical therapy program of the hospital assisted by Dr. Tofu, but his acts were purely mechanical, merely his way of fulfilling his part of the bargain. Sometimes he simply lay there, staring off into space while the therapists manipulated his legs and arms. It made Akane want to scream.

There was none of that spark, none of that light of determination in his eyes that spoke of Ranma's fierce love of life and the Art. He truly believed that the Art had been taken away from him, and that nothing could bring it back. A part of him didn't even want to try.

He HAD to want to try. In desperation, she turned to Genma, Nodoka, Ukyou and even Ryouga, everyone who had known Ranma since he was a child. She had to find a way to bring the old Ranma back.

When she was through, she could only shake her head at the irony. There was one way that could conceivably work in time. She had to make this into a challenge Ranma could not back down from, something his pride would not allow him to fail in; in short, she had to goad him into it. Because of his upbringing, a part of Ranma would always respond more forcefully to rough handling. Genma had certainly never been gentle with him.

Gradually, she regressed to her old behavior. It wasn't like they didn't fight anymore, but over the years their insults had lost a lot of sting. It was more like banter now, although Akane could still get riled up when Ranma inevitably stuck his foot in his mouth. But back then, specially in the early days when she and Ranma were foisted on each other out of nowhere, it had been ... well, neither of them had given the other much of a break and they had meant at least half of their stock-in-trade insults.

So now, without any trace of affection, Akane began to insult Ranma daily, berated him for being such a baby when he pleaded exhaustion during therapy. A part of her cringed every time an uncomprehending hurt expression flickered across his eyes. There were results, though. Almost three months after the accident, Ranma regained some feeling in his arms and hands. When he tried really hard, he could twitch his fingers.

Akane wished that she hadn't gotten good at reading Ranma, because she knew exactly what he was thinking when he looked bleakly at the tiny movement. 'If I keep this up,' she could almost hear him say, 'I can use the tanto myself.'

The others, who didn't know of her plan nor of her pain, showed their disapproval in many ways. She explained to Ranma's parents and to her father, but the others she couldn't risk. It had to be as real as possible for it to work. It surprised her that, of all people, Genma understood.

She began to hate herself with every passing day. You don't pick on people who're weaker than you - that had been Akane's mantra since she was a child beginning a lifetime of training in the Anything Goes School of Martial Arts. What she was doing now was far worse than that.

Later, she dragged Ryouga into it, and then Ukyou.

She called in Ryouga's old debt to her over P-chan, and used it to make him "resurrect" his old feud with Ranma. She did it thinking that Ryouga would provide the perfect challenge for Ranma.

Ryouga wondered if he should explain exactly how large a part Akane had played in that feud. She thought only that there had been a little jealousy. But to explain would mean that he would have to tell her about his old feelings and even now he shied away from that.

So Ryouga knew exactly what buttons to push with his old rival. In a few choice words, Ryouga insinuated that Ranma, being of no more use to the Anything Goes School, had lost his right to Akane. Perhaps he should give her a divorce so she could find happiness with someone else ... someone who could actually walk, for instance?

The words were vile and Ryouga nearly lost it as he came out of the dojo. He had left Ranma collapsed on the floor after attempting to lever himself out of his wheelchair to lunge at Ryouga.

Later, when the hour was late enough for Ranma to be asleep, the directionally-challenged youth circled back and, miracle of miracles, actually found Akane. She was sitting and staring sightlessly at the koi pond. He crouched down beside her. "I don't think -"

"You have to. You owe me," she cut in, rather coldly because she was scared that he would back out of the arrangement. If she were Nabiki, she would've left it at that, but this was Akane and she'd been holding everything in for way too long. Before she knew it, tears were streaming down her cheeks. "Don't you see, Ryouga? It worked. That's the first time Ranma's tried to get out of his chair on his own! Please, I - I can't do this by myself!" [If I had time, maybe, but I don't!] The thought made her cry harder.

"Oh Akane." Ryouga took her into his arms. He loved someone else now, but Akane was his first love and she would always be dear to him. He tried to comfort her as a friend, running a soothing hand over her hair while she sobbed into his shoulder.

Unfortunately, Ukyou didn't see it that way as she came bounding over the walls, intent on berating her former rival for her poor treatment of Ranchan. "Ryouga! Akane!" she cried out, unstrapping her giant spatula. "Traitors!"

The pair leapt away from the flashing edge. "Ukyou, no! It's not what you think!" Ryouga quickly circled to the left and attempted to draw the enraged woman's attention.

It worked. "I know what I saw! Ranchan's lost everything and the two of you - how could you?!" Ukyou launched a series of moves that brought the spatula perilously closer to his head. For a few seconds, she forgot all about the other girl.

But not for long.

"Enough." A leg sweep knocked Ukyou inelegantly to the ground.

Akane stood over her. She made no move as the other girl leapt back to her feet, brandishing the razor-edged weapon again. "Ukyou, if you really believe that I can betray Ranma like that then ... do what you have to."

"Akane!" Ryouga protested.

"I know I haven't been treating him well, so you have reason. But Ryouga deserves better. He's always been a good friend when my hus- when Ranma needed him the most." A part of Akane glanced longingly at the cold hard edge of the okinomiyaki chef's spatula, thinking that it would put her out of her misery, wanting the oblivion that Ukyou could give her. Let somebody else take over. This was too hard, and Ranma was going to hate her by the end of it. She wondered if she'd be able to stand that.

But she wasn't sure anybody else could pull it off, and anyway it was her responsibility, because however else anybody tried to convince her otherwise, it had been her idea to ski, and she had let him try that dangerous slope. No matter that stopping Ranma from doing something he wanted was like trying to halt a charging bull, she should've found a way. So she squared her shoulders, and decided not to let Ukyou kill her.

"Ukyou, I need your help." Then she turned slightly and bowed apologetically in the youth's direction. "Ryouga, honto ni gomen. I'm sorry I tried to force you to help me. I should've known better, and I think I owe both of you an explanation. Can we sit down?"

In a halting, weary voice, Akane told them everything. How there was a slight chance for Ranma to recover, but also how for the first time in his life, Ranma considered himself beaten. How desultory and reluctant his participation in his therapy was and how he refused to consider more surgery ("The one they did on me didn't help, and we don't have that kind of money"). She told them about the endless consultations with doctors, therapists, chiropractors and psychiatrists, and how they had all said the same thing - it was improbable, maybe impossible, but if Ranma was to walk again he would have to want it, and want it badly.

Finally, in a voice that shook a little, she told them about the vow he had made her take, the promise she had blindly given, and what he expected of her at the end of the year.

Ryouga and Ukyou were both pale by the end of her story. They looked at each other with wide eyes, seeing their shock reflected in the other's face. Ranma was considering seppuku, and he had asked - no, had actually made Akane take an oath to help him?!

"I can't believe ... Ranchan's not - he just doesn't give up like that!"

"Still," Ryouga mused, "imagine being paralyzed like that. It would be a horrible experience for anybody, but for us - ! Ranma, you, me, Akane, the others, we've all made martial arts our lives. To suddenly have it taken away like that, by some freak accident when we're in our prime, that's just not right." The idea was more than disturbing, Ryouga realized. It ... offended him.

"Can you imagine it?" he asked no one in particular. "One minute you're the best at what you do, you're as close to invincible as a person can be. The next you're totally defenseless, with absolutely no control over your body. Years of training mean nothing. It's like," his gaze turned inward, the situation was eerily familiar to him, " - like being stuck as a pig permanently. If my curse locked, and I'd have no choice but to be P-chan forever, I'd rather die, too."

"Ryouga!" Now it was Akane's turn to be shocked. She had no idea he felt that strongly about his curse. "Please, no more talk about dying."

Ukyou regarded Akane with sympathy. Impulsively, she laid a hand on the other girl's arm. "I'm sorry for thinking ... um, well. This must be hard on you."

"Akane?" Ryouga asked softly. "Are you okay?"

"Me? Oh, you shouldn't be worried about me, I'm fine!"

But these two, knowing her for almost as long as Ranma had, weren't fooled by Akane's cheery imitation and her tight smile.

Eventually, she relented. "I remember when Ranma had really bad dreams, mostly about Jusenkyou and his curse. Well, I know what that feels like now. I have my own recurring nightmare, although I thank the kami it doesn't visit me every night."

She would've left it there, but Ukyou urged her on. "I think you'll feel better if you tell us, kiddo."

Akane looked away. The water of the koi pond, so dark and inscrutable, seemed to mesmerize her. "We're in the dojo and I stand behind and to the right of Ranma. I've helped him into formal seiza, tying his legs and tucking his robes so he stays that way. He's finished reading a haiku and he's put it aside. He's well enough to grasp the tanto in his hand now, but his grip is not as steady as it should be. It appears that we ... we've discussed this and how everything should to be done so there's no chance of dishonor. As soon as the tanto enters the place between his ribs I raise the katana and --" she broke off. "When I want to give up, specially when I see how much what I do or say hurts him, I think about that. It helps."

Her companions were speechless. Then Ukyou was hugging her, and Ryouga's massive hand was on her shoulder. "We swear we'll help in whatever way we can."

So she told them about the plan.

"Alright, Ryouga's role is pretty clear," the okinomiyaki chef said at the end. "Ranma honey's always been a sucker for jealousy [Where Akane's concerned, anyway], and the challenge thing is good. But what do I do?"

"You back up our stories, of course. Plus, you're the supportive friend who's sympathetic and encouraging. He needs that, too."

For some reason, the idea made Ukyou distinctly uncomfortable. "You know, you could do that, be the encouraging one. I can be the person who heckles him to death," she volunteered lightly.

Akane actually smiled at her. "No, it works better when it's me. It's more believable, for one thing. You've never really had an argument with Ranma. Beating him up after he made you tell him you loved him doesn't count," she grinned, remembering.

[Hey, how did she know about that? Oh to heck with it, I'll just come out and say it.] "Akane, this is dangerous. Ranchan might, well, he might believe you really hate him and, um, he might think ..." she trailed off. [Coward.]

"It's alright, Ukyou." The other girl pretended not to understand. "It won't be effective otherwise. Look, I'd like to thank the two of you for letting me unburden myself, but it's been a really long day..." Ryouga and Ukyou took the hint and quickly departed, leaving her to wander back into the house.

Akane let out a long, deep breath. [I know what I'm doing, but can I take the consequences? I've really set myself up. How long will it be before Ranma gets tired of my cruelty and turns to his Ucchan for comfort? He'd see how much easier his life would be with her instead of with me. Oh God, what if this works, but in the end I lose him anyway?]

She clenched her fists. [NO! I can't think about this now! Remember the dream. I'd rather lose him to Ukyou than have to ...] Shuddering, Akane prepared herself for another restless night.


"I'm really glad you stopped by, Ucchan," Ranma said.

"Oh, you know how it is. With the school kids off on their summer break, there's really not a lot to do at the restaurant." Ukyou leaned back. "'Sides, it's been awhile since you've had one of my okinomiyakis."

Akane came in, bearing a tray of cold drinks. One glass had a straw in it, for Ranma. "Ukyou, I'm sorry, but I've got errands to run. Would you mind helping Ranma?"

The youth flushed in embarrassment. "I don't need help," he muttered.

"Oh I see, you can just make the glass levitate towards you, is that it? Must be some new technique of yours I haven't seen yet."

"Akane!" Inspite of herself, Ukyou was taken aback. "I don't mind ... if you don't, Ranchan?" she asked softly.

Ranma's glare slowly faded as his eyes shifted from his wife to his friend. "Uh, no, I guess not."

"Well, that settles it, then. I'll be back in an hour." Akane brushed off her skirt and walked towards the door. She paused right before exiting, turning briefly to glance with abject apology at Ranma's back.

Ukyou met her eyes for an instant. It was all she could do not to flinch at the sorrow that was there. "Let me tell you about the other day." She launched into a funny anecdote that involved Konatsu and a rather drunk young customer. "... when he finally saw that he was making all these cute little passes at another guy -!"

She went on for quite awhile, telling him about some of the funnier episodes which he'd missed out on in the last couple of months.

Ranma began to laugh at her stories. Some of the tension slowly left his face. "Oh man, that's hilarious! Daisuke and Hiroshi - it's been years and they're still the same - ha, ha!" He choked a bit. "Uh, Ukyou, I think I better have that drink before I pass out."

She did, holding up the glass to him while he craned his neck, sipping slowly through the straw. Her heart began to beat a little faster as she did it, because the scene was so domestic, so reminiscent with possibilities. [Grab a hold of yourself, Kuonji, he's still Akane's. And for once in my life, I really don't envy the situation she's in.]

"Ucchan." Ranma drew away from the drink. Suddenly, he seemed dead serious. "I haveta ask you something. Please, it's important."

[Uh-oh, Ranchan's being polite. I don't like the sound of this.]

"Were you here two nights ago?"

[Kuso! Does he know? Maybe not, have to be careful.] "Why would you think that, Ranchan?" she asked, keeping her tone casual.

"I heard ya, or at least I think it was you. I heard somebody shout Ryouga and Akane's name, and what sounded like fighting. I knew Ryouga was around." Ranma frowned. "I wanted to go and see what was happening but 'course I couldn't. Whoever it was called them 'traitors.'"

Ukyou tried to think fast. She didn't want to lie to him but she had to convince Ranma that Ryouga's renewed affections for Akane were serious. "It was silly of me, really. It was all a misunderstanding. Akane was talking to Ryouga and he was - comforting her, I suppose. Only ... "

"Only?" he prompted.

"Well, she was telling him goodbye or something but when she turned away to walk back into the house, he grabbed her hand. It looked like she was pulling away but he wasn't letting go. Then I blundered in." She crossed her fingers behind her back, hoping he wouldn't ask her what she was doing there in the first place.

She needn't have worried. "He GRABBED her?!" Ranma's eyes were blazing, and for the first time in months, a dim battle aura began to form around him.

[Nani?! Maybe that was a little too effective. Waitaminit, is he - he is! His hands are gripping the armrests of his wheelchair and he doesn't even realize it.] "Ranchan, calm down! He didn't grab her, he only took her hand. I told you it was a misunderstanding. He just wanted to say a few more things. Akane believed him."

Eventually, Ranma quieted down. Nothing unusual happened for the rest of the visit, but when Akane came home she was disturbed by the unusual glint in his eyes.

A month of intensive therapy later, Ranma regained the partial use of his arms, although he still had some trouble with his hands and fingers. Two months after that, with his hands tightly grasping the waist-high parallel bars for support, he took his first step.

It wasn't much of a step - he'd been using mainly the regained strength in his arms to propel himself along. He'd told Akane as much when she came bounding up to him, a rare smile on her face. The smile quickly died, of course, and she was all business again, arranging his next visit with the therapist.

He clenched his fists as he sat in his wheelchair, glancing at his wife as she spoke with the hospital staff. [She deserves better than me, dammit! She should have a whole man by her side.] He grinned bitterly, remembering when that used to mean that she deserved someone who didn't change genders with every passing bucket of water. Now changing into a girl was the least of his worries.

He sneaked another look at Akane. Once more, he was at a point when he couldn't figure her out. She was so abrasive these days, but at the same time she worked hard, taking over all the classes at the dojo while making sure he had the best treatment. He had tried to tell her it was useless, that he was never going to be the gravity-defying Ranma again, but she wouldn't listen. [Stubborn tomboy.]

He seriously considered stepping aside so that another guy could have a fair chance at Akane. [But from what Ucchan said, it's not Ryouga she wants. If he tries to force her in any way - hell, I'm still her husband, it's my job to protect her.]

Ranma experimentally opened his hands, and drew them about six inches apart. He shut his eyes tightly, concentrating hard until he felt the faintest traces of energy coursing between his palms. [If Ryouga bothers Akane again, I'll be ready.]


Thanks for the encouraging reviews! I tweaked this chapter, mainly to stress
that Ranma's "skiing accident" involved an avalanche. The guy is pretty
invulnerable, and it was hard to find a believable excuse for him to be
crippled. Didn't realize it wasn't clear, but hopefully this'll fix that (thanks
for pointing it out, Cat).

For those who think Ranma & Akane are acting OOC, please remember that this is
years into the future. Unfortunately, they still don't communicate very well.
Also, Akane's recurring dream about Ranma's seppuku is just that - it's not
meant to be an accurate depiction of ritual suicide.

Rough translation of some Japanese words used in this fic:

Baka = fool, idiot and the like. Term Akane uses to insult Ranma

Gomen = sorry

Kaishoku = the "second" in traditional seppuku. His/her job was to cut off the
samurai's head before the latter "dishonored" himself by showing too much pain

Kami = gods/spirits

Kimi = you (may be used by a husband/boyfriend to his wife/girlfriend). Ex. "kimi no kawaii"

Kuso = a swear word, roughly equivalent to "shit"

"Ittai koko wa doko da?!" = "Where on earth am I now?!" Ryouga's cry when he's
lost and frustrated about it.

Musha-shugyo = training journey

Shimatta = "Damn it!"

Shoji = sliding doors, like the ones at the Tendo dojo