Concerto – Ranma Side
To tell the truth, I wasn't sure what had started it all off. Maybe that was the problem.
Anyway, there I was fighting a bunch of people out in the vacant lot, and winning of course. After all, Ranma Saotome doesn't loose.
Who am I kiddin? I was gonna get beaten on by four people and left unconscious, so I slipped away in the middle of the confusion and headed for home.
Thank God I'd made a bit of cash that day running an errand for the Old Ghoul, so I could pay off Nabiki and get her to hide me for a bit.
I just got into her room when everyone thundered past outside, screaming for my blood. At least that's what I figured. Sometimes it was hardly worth listening. Everyone wanted a piece of me for some reason, and what did it really matter if Ryoga wanted to pound my face in because he turned into a pig, or because I'd gotten the last bread back in junior high.
Who really cares? I guess it was good practice, even if I wasn't going to get anything else out of it.
So I sat there in her room, and let the music wash over me. Maybe you think it's pretty strange for a guy like me to enjoy western classical music. I suppose it is. I've never had much of a chance to listen to it, but ever since the day I heard a group of musicians playing in a train station where I was waiting with pops, I've had a soft spot for it.
Maybe it's the structure in it. I don't know.
After a while, I take a look over at Nabiki. Not for long of course; I don't want to bug her by staring at her. She looks pretty relaxed though, sitting at her desk, chewing on the end of a pencil, and staring off into space.
Come to think of it, she probably doesn't get that much time to relax. She's normally busy when I see her.
She's not a bad sort really. Sure, she swindles me and most of the money I get ends up going to her, but she swindles everyone. It makes a big difference.
I can remember when I first started staying with the Tendos, she messed around with me a few times, and I really started to hate her guts. Especially with that whole engagement business, where she really had me thinking for a while that she liked me. Then of course I found out she'd been faking it.
A few weeks after that, I was paying her for something else, and she said to me "Don't take it personally, Saotome. It's only business."
She changed my whole view of her, with that one statement. She was out to get me, but she was also out to get everyone else. So it wasn't personal.
I'm not sure if she knew what she was doing or not when she said that, but ever since then I've gotten on way better with her. She's just about the only person I know who treats me normal, like she does other people.
I've watched her sometimes, hustling people in the schoolyard... someday I'll add it to the art in a whole new set of special techniques. Crouch of the Wild Tiger, feh.
That's one thing we really have in common. We don't lose.
After a while, the CD ends and Nabiki looks over at me.
"Ok, time's up," she said. "Get back out there and face the music." She gave me a bit of a grin though, so I guess she hadn't really minded me being there.
She checked me over as I was leaving, probably trying to figure the odds she should give on me if I got in another fight tonight.
I thanked her for letting me hide out there, and she turned around and offered to let me do it again.
Sure I'd have to pay for it, but I was still pretty surprised. I didn't really think she'd want me around again, interrupting the time she had for herself, even if I was paying. It'd be great to get a bit of peace and quiet once in a while though.
So I headed out to find the people looking for me.
Nabiki looked sorta nice with that smile on her face though.
I stood there knocking on Nabiki's door. I figured she knew I was coming, and wouldn't be upset with me or anything even though it was fairly late.
She opened the door, and let me in. We had to sit pretty close so we could both use headphones, but wasn't really a big deal though. I knew she wasn't going to suddenly jump me or anything, or smack me.
Really, it was pretty comfortable. In fact when you got down to it, that pretty much described all the time I got to spend hanging out with her these last couple months. Sometimes it was just because I could and had the case, but sometimes I really needed the quiet and some time to relax.
Take tonight, for instance. I'd had a really bad day. I'm not talking a 'four people beat on me' day or a 'suddenly I find I have another weird problem' day. Feh. Either of those two was really just a challenge.
Naw, today had been hard emotionally. I'm sure some people would be real surprised that I even knew what that meant. Probably Akane would say that. But it's not like I walk around using the soul of ice all the time.
I knew that today was the day their mom had died all those years ago. I knew that all of them were going to be on edge, so I was being extra careful not to make things harder for all the Tendos. Heck, I'd even mentioned it to mom the last time I saw her. I figured that maybe having her over would help them out a bit.
Of course I shoulda figured that pops would get all weird and want to run away from her. Damn that fat old fart. There's nothing more important to me, I figure, than making sure I never treat anyone the way pops has treated her.
I shoulda know that Akane would try and prove something today. I suppose it could have been something in martial arts which might have been ok. But it was something in the kitchen. Really, I did my best but man, oh man. I wish she didn't tend to cook when she was already upset about something, 'cause it would probably work out a lot better.
I heaved a big sigh, and concentrate on the music for a while. Nabiki seems to be tending towards sombre cello stuff. I figured that maybe she'd want someone around if she was going to be thinking about her mom.
Anyway, so my plan to keep things low key today didn't work out, of course. I got screamed at and pounded into the floor.
I had to listen to Akane off in her room crying, trying to drown it out with some cheesy pop music.
Not so great, 'cause it made me feel like a bit of a heel, but having a bit of a cry was probably a good thing for her today. At least she's done now so we don't have to keep using headphones. Nabiki's still sitting here with me, but that's ok. It's sorta nice actually to feel her arm against mine.
Of course, the kicker was Akane breaking off our engagement again. Damn it.
For one thing, I like the girl. She's got an awesome smile, and most of the time she's fun to be around. Things are never really comfortable though. I think it's all about trust or something.
She doesn't trust me not to start pawing at her or something. She knows she couldn't stop me if I wanted to do anything to her, and that scares her. Really, she should know me better than that. I've been a girl too for God's sake. I've been groped and kissed when I don't want it, so I know what it's like. I'd never do that to her, but she doesn't see it like that.
Plus she doesn't trust me around the other girls. Whatever. I ain't going to jump in the sack with any of the other fiancées, and she should know it by now.
Nabiki asked what had happened with Akane, just after she switched the disk over. I recognised the piece actually, and remembered Nabiki telling me about it one afternoon.
Things must have been hard for her as well. She was probably old enough to remember her mom better than Akane anyway. Yeah. I remember what she was like when she told me to meet up with my mom for real. She must be hurting tonight too.
She leaned up against me, and we just sat there. The house was all quiet, and I could just feel the tension starting to leak out of me. I was so lucky I had that arrangement set up with her. If I hadn't been able to hang out with Nabs once in a while and relax this past while, I swear I would have cracked by now.
And then it hit me. It was never gonna work out with Akane. Never. No matter how much I liked her, no matter how hard I tried. I'd have to end up being someone else for her probably; she'd want a real gentleman, and I probably wasn't ever going to be that. We were never going to be comfortable with each other like me and Nabs.
It felt like someone had slugged me in the stomach. It'd never work.
I looked over at Nabs, and found myself looking into her eyes. She reached out and brushed something off my cheek. I was crying, I guess.
Then she leaned forward and started kissing me.
I was terrified for about the first half second.
Then I realised that there wasn't anything I wanted more than to kiss her back, so I did. Over and over.
When we stopped, the CD had already played to the end. We didn't say anything; we just sat looking at each other.
Of course then Akane had to bust in to the room and start throwin' stuff. I swear, if it hadn't been her, it would have been someone else.
When things finally calmed down a couple hours later, I was lying down in bed staring up at the ceiling and trying to get some sleep. It wasn't working too well, 'cause one thought kept running through my head again and again.
Maybe it would work with Nabiki.
I was sitting up in my room two weeks after my kiss with Nabiki, and I still hadn't had a chance to talk to her about it at all.
Ok, it was more than one kiss. For me, that was sort of the problem.
One I could have just blown off. Maybe. I mean, I've been kissed by other girls before. But I mean, that ain't a short CD that we had playing, and we were kissing for most of it. First time anything like that has ever happened to me.
It was weird really. You wouldn't think I'd get along with her, but I did. You wouldn't think that she'd get along with me, but she did. It was like we were 95% different, but the bit we did have in common was the important part.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not crazy about the girl or anything. It's just I can see us working together long term.
Ok, I must like her a bit, otherwise we wouldn't have been there so long.
Ok, I do like her.
I like Nabiki Tendo. There, I've said it.
It took me a while to realise that. The day after I kissed her, I was all set to talk to her, say something cheesy, and back off. You know, "we were both lonely, but it would never work out." Just get things back to the way they used to be.
Of course then the parents engage me and Kasumi. Honestly, I don't know what they were thinking. First off, tossing her at me like some sorta bone when it's clear that she's probably the best person in the house. Second of all, thinking that it would be a good idea for her to get involved in my life. Seriously, I really hope it was my pops and Mr. Tendo who made the decision 'cause I respect mom more than that.
Ah well. As it turned out some fool showed up and challenged me, giving me a chance to get out of the house to 'train' and such. Not that I needed it. I beat him in the first two minutes, but then just before I started to head home, I had an idea.
Sure it might worry some people a bit, but I could get away from the Tendo place for a couple of days. Sorta like an emotional version of the good 'ol Sautome final attack. Anyway, I was sure that Nabs could track me down if she needed to.
So I left.
I camped out in the woods and trained. And I thought.
And I thought.
Sometime when I was out there, I realised that I really did like Nabs. But that wasn't all there was to think about.
Now it was a couple weeks later, and I was sitting up in my room holding two gifts, and I was still thinking.
Nabiki was out with a couple of her friends, getting ice cream or something, and everyone else was helping prepare her birthday dinner. Ok, that's a lie. Kasumi was doing the dinner. Akane was helping with the dinner by being occupied setting up the decorations. Mom was helping dinner by occupying Akane with the decorations.
And Pops and Mr. Tendo were getting drunk.
Well I wasn't sure about Mr. Tendo. He'd said some pretty weird stuff about mushrooms, so I sorta hoped that he was getting drunk.
Anyway, and I was sitting around with two gifts. Both for Nabiki. You might be thinking that's overly generous of me, but that was the whole reason I was thinking. See, one gift was a gift certificate for a coffee place near here. I knew Nabiki was into coffee, so that was fine. It was thoughtful, I guess, and wouldn't raise any eyebrows.
The other gift was the CD that got smashed that night two weeks ago in the player. Now, sure, maybe people would think it was unoriginal and all that. It wouldn't raise any eyebrows either, I didn't think. But the whole point is that it would be like one of those big brass things they bash together in orchestras that also show up sometimes in books as well. You know, cymbals.
See, I figured that if I gave her the CD, she'd know what I was thinking, and that what I was thinking was that maybe she... well... that we could be friends and stuff. Maybe more than that.
Trouble was, it would sorta have to be more that just friends, and there's where the decision making started.
On one hand, she's sure not hard on the eyes at all. And she's smart, and I enjoy spending time with her now. There's a lot of positive stuff about her.
I think she might actually go for it as well.
On the other hand, I didn't know if it was the smartest idea. I mean, I'm not sure how the other girls would take it, and it wasn't really the sort of thing that I could find out discretely. You know, like wandering into the Nekohanten and asking Cologne what she would do, hypothetically of course, if I got engaged to Nabiki and followed through on it. Yeah right. That would go over like a lead balloon.
There was that whole engagement thing too, like I said before. It wasn't like we were just going to be friends or something. If I was gonna choose Nabiki, and she was gonna be ok with that... well, that was pretty serious stuff. The parents would be all over us. Everyone would be all over us. I'd sorta be making a definite decision by choosing her. Now with some people, that was going to go over like a lead balloon.
Then there was Akane. Ok, technically she'd dropped me, but taking up with her sister was the worst sort of betrayal. I'd seen that when I was engaged to Nabiki before. She wasn't going to be real happy.
Kasumi would be happy, since I'd be staying the heck out of her life. She might even be happy for me and Nabiki, you never can tell with her.
Of course Nabiki might just laugh in my face, but I didn't think so.
Dammit, it felt like someone was tying my brain in a knot.
Just then I heard Nabs opening the gate up to the front door.
In that instant of panic, I came up with a plan.
I would ask Nabiki.
See, if I managed to talk to her for a while, we could figure things out. I was sure of it. We could come up with a plan, and put it into action.
And we'd win.
That's one thing I'd always be sure of with her. The two of us together could do anything.
So I wrapped up the CD, and dashed downstairs.
Of course, when we were all sitting around at dinner, and I was looking at the nice wrapping on the other gifts, I was wishing I'd run across someone who did martial arts gift wrapping, but there you go. By the end of tomorrow, I'd be able to wrap a gift perfectly in under five second. I just had to find the right technique.
So dinner is awesome of course, and we all sit around while she opens stuff. Eventually she gets to the CD.
She opens it up, and... for just a second, she looks real happy. Of course she hides it right away and says something dismissive about the gift, but I saw it.
Just about then I realise that I just basically proposed to her, and sure, I get pretty shy for a bit.
Later on though, I go knock on her door to talk all this over with her.
She yanks me into the room, and suddenly I find myself pinned up against the door with my arms full up with an affectionate Nabs.
I opened my mouth to start talking with her, and ... well...
Much later on, we managed to get some talking done, and figured some stuff out. So long as we could make it look like we'd been forced into the engagement, we'd have some time to work things out.
She was about to go off and plan everything, but I leaned over and kissed her. Only fair, after all.
And it was what I wanted.
After all, together, me and Nabs, we weren't gonna loose at anything.
Ok, this took me substantially longer to write. After all, I was covering the same story I did before, just from Ranma's POV... so I had to make sure things fit in right.
I think I did ok though. I mean, his motivations are different, and his perspective isn't totally the same. But in the end, I think the two stories work together to show two sides of the same thing.
As always, comments etc. are appreciated. I'm not really sure how to respond to them when I get them, ie whether people want to get an e-mail from me, or anything like that, but I'm always interested in other people's opinions.