IN MEMORIAM

What would you do for the woman you loved?

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Disclaimer:

Ranma 1/2 is not mine to do with as I please, et cetera

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-PART ONE: BLISS-

"This is so eerie," Akane said as she looked down at her own grave.

She felt Ranma hold her a little tighter, and she rested her head against him, smiling appreciatively. She felt so safe in his arms. So warm...

But she could feel the underlying tension, the fear in him. She knew he was terrified of losing her. He held her now because he was afraid that if he let go she might be taken from him again. Standing this close to her own grave, she could perhaps understand.

She didn't even remember the first time. She remembered falling from a bridge, Ranma calling desperately after her, but unable to reach her as she fell deeper and deeper into a ravine.

But she didn't remember hitting the ground, she didn't remember her life being stolen from her by the unyielding rocks at the bottom of the ravine.

"I thought I'd lost you forever," Ranma said softly.

The fall had... had killed her. That's what she had been told at least. Looking down at her grave, which contained her cremated remains...

It was too strange to believe, and yet it was true! She'd died, and somehow she'd come back. Somehow, Ranma had found a way to bring her back.

The next thing she remembered was waking up in a bed in a room she didn't recognize (in China no less). Ranma had been waiting at her bedside, and as soon as he had seen her awake, he'd just flung his arms around her and started crying like a child.

She could barely understand the incoherent babbling that had followed, and she'd been desperately confused, trying to understand what had happened, why Ranma was holding her so tightly, almost as though he was afraid she'd float away.

Then she'd heard him say it. She'd heard those words that she had wanted to hear for so long.

"Akane, I love you."

When she heard that, when she had looked in his eyes and seen that it was no joke, no dream, nothing else, not falling down a ravine, not waking up hundreds of miles away, mattered anymore. Had she been on a sinking, burning ship up to her waist in sea water she wouldn't have noticed.

They just held each other for a while after that, Akane feeling like her heart could burst at any moment. He loved her! That was all that mattered.

That was a week ago. The euphoria of that moment still hadn't really died down. She could just stay here forever and let him hold her, feeling his heart beat so close to hers...

Except this was her own grave she was standing next to! She'd died, her body was cremated and buried here. No matter how happy she was, how content she felt now, she couldn't get rid of those nagging questions.

How had she come back? Why had she come back?

All she knew was that Ranma had brought her back. She didn't know how, and he wouldn't tell her. A part of her desperately wanted to know the truth, how he could have possibly brought her back to this world, and yet... she wouldn't try to force the truth out of him. In time, when he was ready, he'd tell her.

"What are they going to do with this?" she asked. What do you do with the grave of someone who's been brought back to life? She didn't know why she'd wanted to come here, morbid curiosity, a desire to put the past to rest, but now she wished she hadn't.

"I don't know," Ranma said. "Let's get out of here, Akane."

"All right."

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Months passed. Akane soon realized that nobody was comfortable around her. Everybody looked at her different, wondering, fearing. In many ways they echoed the questions she herself still hadn't answered. How could she have come back from the dead? Was she even the same person? What was she?

Everybody feared her, shunned her, except Ranma. And that only brought them closer together. The old fights, the old arguments, all the hurtful things they used to say to each other, none of that seemed real anymore. As she tried to get back to the life she had left, he was always there for her.

One day she had asked him, straight out. "What am I?"

His response had been simple. "You're Akane, that's all that matters."

But even he was still afraid. He was still afraid of loosing her. He'd slept outside her door every night since she'd gotten back. Though he always made sure to wake up early and sneak back to his room, so she wouldn't find out, she knew he was doing it. It was childish of him, as though he expected her to vanish if he left her side for too long. Childish and foolish.

And sweet.

But it couldn't stay this way. He couldn't stay camped outside her door. So one night she'd decided to put an end to it, once and for all.

Late that night she quietly opened her door, feeling a warmth run through her as she saw him sleeping fitfully next to the doorway. She nudged him awake ever so lightly with her foot.

"A... Akane!" he said once he had fully awakened, startled.

"This is ridiculous," Akane said sternly. "I'm not going anywhere Ranma. You don't have to sleep outside my door."

Ranma looked shamefaced as he got to his feet. "I'm... I'm sorry," he said. "I... I guess I should go to bed."

He started to walk past, but Akane snagged his arm, feeling her heart pound. A part of her couldn't believe she was doing this, that she was even considering it.

"That's... that's not what I mean," she said.

Ranma looked at her, uncomprehending. She kissed him tenderly.

"I... I mean that... you... you don't have to stay outside," she said softly as she took his hand in hers. "You can come in."

She led him into her room, shutting the door behind them.

-----

The months went on into years. They were married after graduation. The ceremony was beautiful, and everyone wished them well. The fear and uncertainty everyone had felt around her had faded long ago, and even Akane had begun to put those unanswered questions behind her. They simply didn't matter.

Married life was like a dream for her, one she hoped to never wake up from. Ranma was an utterly devoted husband and later, when their daughter was born, a wonderful father.

They'd taken over the dojo, of course. They both taught regular classes, though it was obvious that Ranma occasionally got frustrated with students who couldn't grasp what he considered simple techniques. He didn't seem to always understand that what was simple for him was sometimes impossible for most everyone else.

That was why Akane taught most of the basic classes. Ranma instead concentrated on passing on the fighting techniques he'd managed to learn to the most dedicated students. Even then they often had trouble keeping up.

The people that had had so much impact on their lives for that one brief but seemingly endless year when they were sixteen had mostly drifted away, following their own paths. Ryoga and Akari had gotten together and moved away after Akane had... had died, and they hadn't been seen since. Akane didn't even know if they knew she was alive. Shampoo had found someone to love in Herb, the new leader of the Musk Dynasty. Their marriage had apparently brought new unity and strength to both the Amazon tribe and the Dynasty. Mousse had followed Shampoo, as could be expected. For a while he tried to supplant Herb in Shampoo's heart, but in time he learned to move on.

After high school, the Kunos more or less disappeared from their lives. It was as though it was all just a childhood flight of fancy for them, remembered fondly but not to be repeated. Neither Ranma nor Akane found much reason to complain.

Akane's family had likewise grown apart. Her father was taken from her by lung cancer shortly after she and Ranma got married. Nabiki moved to the city to find her fortunes. Kasumi met a nice man and settled in to a quiet life as a housewife.

Only Ranma's parents and Ukyo seemed to keep in regular contact anymore. Akane's sisters would visit, of course, but those visits were few and far between.

Still, they were happy. The chaos that marked their first year together had long since faded away. Their lives together were peaceful, content, and full of love.

But it couldn't last forever.

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It began as a simple realization, one seemingly innocent and long overdue, yet surprising none the less. Akane and Ranma were in the kitchen doing the dishes together (Akane had never imagined that Ranma could be so helpful or so sweet, but he was. Ever since she had... returned, he'd become almost a different person. Sometimes she almost felt spoiled by the attention he lavished on her). Omi, their now six year old daughter, had already gone to bed.

For most of the time it was just like any other time. Ranma washed the dishes, Akane dried. They chatted about how their day had been, how the students were doing. But... little by little something began to nag at the back of Akane's mind. For reasons she couldn't even fathom she began thinking of old friends and old pets.

It was... like watching a puzzle slowly fall into place piece by piece. She dried the dishes as things clicked together in her mind bit by bit. Finally, she saw the whole picture.

"Ryoga..." she said hesitantly, "Ryoga and P-chan, they were one and the same, weren't they?"

Ranma looked at her with surprise and... for a moment, the briefest of moments... fear?

"It all makes so much sense," Akane said, "I can't believe I never realized it before."

Ranma said nothing.

"I feel like such a fool," Akane continued. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I..." Ranma was hesitant, as though he couldn't find the right words to explain. "I promised him I wouldn't."

"All that time," Akane said. "He slept in my bed, he sat there an watched as I got undressed." She fixed Ranma with an angry glare. "You should have told me!"

Ranma looked down, a little ashamed. Well good, Akane decided. He should be ashamed. Letting her make a fool of herself for all that time...

Her thoughts were interrupted by a sudden searing pain in her head, as though a white hot knife had just been thrust into her skull. The pain was unbearable. She dropped to her knees, the plate she had been drying shattering on the floor as she clutched her head.

She heard Ranma cry her name as she blacked out.

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Nightmares. The cloak of unconsciousness greeted Akane with terrors she couldn't even begin to understand. She ran, fearing for her life, scenes she recognized but couldn't recognize playing out around her, scenes from a life she had never lived impossibly juxtaposed with scenes from her own life.

And she ran, her tormenter, her killer, her lover following her, wanting to take her life, wanting to destroy her and wipe her from existence. Why was he doing this? She'd given her heart to him without reservation, loved him more than life itself, and he wanted to destroy her. Part of her demanded to know how this could have happened, how everything could have become so twisted and wrong. Another part, a part she couldn't begin to understand, was... was hurt. Somehow she felt hurt that he wouldn't ask her to do this... that he was just forcing it upon her, because... because she would do it. For him she would give up her life. If only he had asked her...

And yet she ran, because she didn't want to die, didn't want to cease to be, to return to nothingness.

Her killer followed her, calling after her. He told her this had to be, told her that for her to live, the light must be extinguished. What did it mean? He meant to destroy her to allow her to live. She didn't understand, couldn't understand. She ran.

But she was not fast enough to escape. He was upon her, forcing her into the water. Oh god, she couldn't breathe, she was drowning!

She looked up to see her lover through the water, forcing her under with all his strength. He was in the water with her, his eyes crazed with grief, but he was changing, right before her eyes he was changing... into her...

She fought against him, tried to escape his grip, but she could not. She felt the water invade her lungs. She felt something else... something alien... something that no longer had a place in this world... invading her soul...

Her lover held her under water, and the other watched from shore. He did nothing, made no move to stop what was happening. He only watched with dead eyes.

Until the end.

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