If You Were Here
Chapter Two: Even Bigger Problems! Ranma's Psyche And Akane's Heart!
(New And Improved Sparkly Edition)
By Naoko Asakura
Disclaimer: I don't own Ranma ½! That's it!
Author's Notes: Oh my God… So I just happened to be perusing my fan fiction cache, when I rediscovered this little beauty. The first chapter felt like a good start to me, but man! There are so many errors in the second! I don't want to leave it this way, and since I love Ranma ½, I've decided to revise the second chapter… You know, taking certain things out and adding in new stuff, etc. I might even begin a third chapter, if I like where this is going… I'm so flaky though! I've started a new Princess Tutu multi-chapter and stuff too. Wugh, I'm going to be busy. I'm just glad it's summer again!
"Don't you love me, Ranma?"
The heap of trouble the boy was in seemed to be nothing, compared to the torrent of emotion which this question posed for him. They seemed more fierce an opponent than some of Ranma's strongest rivals. Almost instantly, his body fell back into the same form of defense he used in battle… Aware of almost everything around him.
He just thanked his lucky stars that Cologne was still scolding Shampoo in the back room of the Neko-Hanten.
He stood, his eyebrows creased and his eyes taking in everything as fast as he could. After what time seemed to stretch into hours, it suddenly occurred to him.
'This isn't a battle! What the hell am I thinking!'
He slipped out of his trance-like fighting mindset, and suddenly felt ashamed and embarrassed of his lack of maturity. A hot blush splashed his face like a stain, and he balled his fists at his sides. He was supposed to be a man amongst men, so why couldn't he face his insecurities?
He ticked off the pros and cons of the conflict at hand, mostly for Akane's sake. Telling her he loved her right now of all times seemed like it would bear many other problems to the matter… Especially for her.
So he turned, resolved to give her some kind of answer that would possibly end this veiled torture ahead of time. As he looked upon Akane in all her frailty though, he suddenly began to harbor secret and aching hope that one of those convenient interruptions would come along right about now.
"Ranma," Akane spoke. The name that escaped her lips was heavy with unbridled longing. "Am… Am I not cute?" It seemed like a simple enough question, but to her, it meant the world. Under the effects of the power, her brown eyes stung with tears and her hands were fisted at her sides. She couldn't think of anything but the moment. Her whole being was teetering on the edge. All it took was one simple word to push her down to the deepest depression or to hold her back. She prayed that he would save her like so many times before.
"I-I'm not ready for this." Ranma said in the most even of voices he could muster. He almost crumbled under her tear-flecked stare. He couldn't stop himself now. There was no way he could back down from this. "Akane, I-"
It was as if God himself executed a divine intervention.
"COME BACK HERE!"
Ranma and Akane both quickly turned their heads to see a mob of women chasing what looked to be a wrinkled monkey dressed in maroon clothing. It wasn't God, Buddha, Muhammad, or any other higher power who had saved Ranma from his plight… It was Happosai.
"Akane-chan Its so nice to see you again!" Happosai exclaimed jovially as he flipped the blue skirt Akane wore with practiced skill. Akane screamed and pushed it back down, her furiously red aura coming off of her in waves of heat.
"Oji-saaaaaaaaaan…" She ground out, snatching him up with an iron fist and holding him at eye-level. Happosai smiled and looked upon her with an innocent, disgustingly angelic expression on his withered face.
"GO…TO…HELL!" The short haired girl screamed, pulling back and punching the old master into the air. He disappeared over the horizon, his exit accented with a distant twinkle.
"Thanks!" The women chorused, all smiling at Akane graciously. Akane smiled back.
"It was nothing! Really!" She said, chuckling bashfully. The mob trounced off over a hill, leaving Akane alone. Much to her surprise, Ranma was no where to be found.
She looked around to see if he had leapt onto something to evade Happosai and the women, but he was no where in sight. Akane frowned worriedly. "He must have gone on ahead." She surmised. A soft sigh escaped her lips and she continued down the road.
Ranma ran a hand through his thick bangs as he leaned against the wall in the conveniently placed alley, and watched soundlessly as Akane walked away from the scene. Guilt on his conscience for just leaving her on her own, checked for any sign of his infatuated fiancé. Free and clear, he leapt upwards and over the rooftops to Furinkan.
"Saotome, why in God's name are you so late today?" Minako-sensei creeched. Ranma feared for his ki as he stepped through the window of his class room. His eyes scanned the class, seeing everyone in there designated seats. Well, almost everyone.
"Akane!" Ranma muttered inaudibly, double checking for her absence. The tapping sound of a small, fashionable heel was the tip off that Hinako-sensei was getting more and more impatient with each passing second. She reached for the lemon-yellow clutch on the lectern and began to fish for a five yen piece when Ranma noticed her.
"Family affairs." He offered lamely. He bowed his head and the exploits of his morning passed through his mind. "Sorry, Sensei." He said, sighing softly through his nose. Hinako-sensei huffed and folded her arms across her chest.
"I'll let it slide this time, Saotome… Just go stand out in the hall with your fiancée." She said, turning back to the black board. Ranma's eyes widened and a blush blazed over his cheeks.
"A-Akane!" He stammered. Hinako-sensei quirked an eyebrow at his sudden change of composure.
"Have you got any problems?" She asked. Ranma gulped nervously at the coin she suddenly began flipping in her left hand. He shook his head, unable to argue.
"No, Its just I-"
"Saotome, if you'd rather get your ki drained, I'm always ready. If you want to save your life force for more important things, I suggest you go out in the hall." She waved a hand in the direction of the door. "Off you go!" She exclaimed brightly before Ranma could say anything else. Defeated, he began to ready himself for whatever potential problem might arise when he stepped out. Ranma's classroom watched in confusion as the pigtailed boy exited.
"Poor Ranma-kun… I've never seen him react like that before." Hiroshi said, chewing on his lip. Daisuke frowned and nodded. "Want some?" Hiroshi asked, holding out a box of pocky to his comrade. Daisuke grinned and nodded.
"Hiroshi! Gimme some pocky too! Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!"
Hiroshi and Daisuke screamed when Hinako-sensei appeared between their desks, her cuteness at magnitude nine. Hiroshi laughed nervously and handed his teacher three sticks.
"Yaaaay!" She cheered, eating the sticks in rapid succession. She grinned at the pair, residual chocolate adorning her small mouth. "Thanks, guys! Extra credit for the day!" She exclaimed, skipping back up to the podium. She climbed up to her usual perch on the lectern and shuffled some papers. "Anywho… Let's all turn to page thirty seven in our poetry books! Naoko, will you please read the first stanza of "Oh Captain, My Captain"?" She asked. A girl with short brown hair stood, her book held out in front of her.
"O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won, The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, While! heart! heart! O the blee…"
Ranma stood outside the door, silent and unmoving. He could care less about the ancient drivel being spouted off in the classroom. Moreover, his attentions were turned to the familiar face before him. His heart stuck in his throat when he caught sight of her profile in the sunlight that streamed through the windows opposite of the wall of classrooms.
He gulped, silently thanking the powers that be, as she failed to notice him.
Her hair reflected gold halos in the sun, and the warmth in the hall made her cheeks flush light pink. Her lips were parted only slightly, and he heard her exhale in the silence. It was amazing to him, how one breath could be filled with so much emotion. Her soft, dreamy looking brown eyes stared straight forward out the window.
He sighed, wishing he had a camera. The small noise was instantly regretted.
Those same brown eyes were on him now, confused and concerned and happy at the same time.
"Oh, Ranma!" Akane exclaimed with a quiet warmth, taking a step towards him. Ranma could do nothing but nod. He didn't want to make it seem like there was anything wrong.
"Yeah." He forced out, trying to keep his eyes focused on Akane. The problem which smiled so happily at him almost deluded him into believing that it wasn't such a big deal after all. He tensed when she closed the distance between them, her arms embracing him tightly.
"I'm glad..." She said, her voice muffled as she pressed her nose into his chest. Was she… Smelling him? Ranma tried desperately not to make a sound, for fear of bringing out Kuno or any other suitors. God forbid Nabiki should walk out of her classroom at that moment. Akane tilted her head up, her eyes glazed over as she touched the side of his face with a certain tenderness. Ranma's brow creased slightly and he swallowed the lump in his throat. He suddenly wondered if the old hag was right about there being no side effects on his part.
"Akane" He managed to get out. Any quieter and he would have been mouthing it. Her eye lids fluttered for a moment, and he could make a pretty accurate hypothesis of the coming events. Akane's grip tightened only slightly, but it made a world of difference to him as he felt himself lean forward. He and Akane were about to kiss for the second time that day when they were rudely interrupted by the baritone squawk of a man… The squawk could belong to no one but Tatewaki Kuno.
"Ssssssaotome…" Ripped from the serene world Akane's curse had created by the sudden sound of his own name, he looked up and was almost angry that the stupid wannabe-poet had intervened. He might have turned around and booted the jerk's rear out of sight, but he couldn't move with Akane's arms around him. His gaze shifted back to Akane, who didn't seem to notice the typically sticky situation they had fallen into.
"Akane!" He whispered softly, "Kuno's right he-" He was silenced as his fiancée's lips met his again. Unfortunately for Ranma, his sentence was cut at a point where his mouth was open... His guard was completely down. He nearly squeaked when Akane's tongue brushed his, a whisper of hot fire that reached down even to his toes… She was driving him crazy. Only this time, she knew it.
Kuno's voice became a distant insect-like buzz in his ears as Ranma laced slim fingers through his fiancée's dark hair. Where in all of Nermia had she learned to kiss like that!
Only too soon, they broke apart, Ranma's breath was shallow as he looked down at her face. Akane was beaming like a Cheshire cat, completely oblivious to the sudden stab of heartache which overtook the object of her affection. His eyes grew dull, taking her by the shoulders and separating himself from her.
"It's only the powder." He spoke to himself, the doubt inside him flourishing with those stupid words. 'It's not real. It's not real…' The mantra looped in his head over and over. 'She would never act like this. The Akane I know wouldn't have that stupid cocky expression on her face after a kiss like that. No way.'
"Akane, I'm sorry." He whispered to her. Kuno was ranting in the background, but the two didn't seem to notice. "I'll explain everything later. For now, just cut it out." He said. It was almost comforting to him as he watched her fall unconscious in his arms, the aftermath of when he gently pressed into her back. He never imagined that he would be thankful for learning about pressure points from the old geezers.
"You foul sorcerer! You cad! Fiendish gigolo!" Kuno ranted as Ranma walked past. He pushed the door to the class room open and nodded apologetically to Hinako-sensei.
"Chinese curse?" The child teacher asked, earning a shake of the head from her student.
"Not this time. Japanese curse." Ranma said, his tone of voice melancholy. Hinako nodded and turned back to the black board.
"I'll write you up a pass for the day." She said, writing English grammar rules on the board as she spoke. Ranma smiled thankfully and dropped out of the window, Akane in arms.
The house was empty when Ranma returned to it. He surmised that Kasumi was out at Tofu-Sensei's, and that Akane's and his own father were probably at that sukiyaki joint that they were yelling joyfully about the other day. Nabiki was obviously at school.
"Good," Ranma thought as he jumped off of the outer wall. He landed on the grass soundlessly. He couldn't even fathom what hell would break loose if any of the other residents of the Tendo Dojo caught wind of his and Akane's problem.
He landed on the roof with ease and tucking Akane under his arm like a football, he managed to swing down to her bedroom window. Part of the window had been left open due to heat, and he pushed it open the rest of the way with one of his feet. Akane stirred in his arms, and he began to panic when he hopped off of her writing desk.
"No! No! No!" Ranma's mind screamed, watching her eyelids flutter. As fast as he could, he placed her on her bed, tucking her in and then speeding out into his own room. He leaned against the wall after he slammed the door.
"I can't take much more of this…" He groaned miserably. Why'd Akane have to cause him so much trouble all the time? He nearly died on the spot when he remembered that he'd have to deal with her for the whole week. 'None of this is her fault though!' The reminder filled him with guilt. He groaned for confusion and pain, diving into his futon and burying himself under the blankets.
He couldn't distance himself from her, or he'd hurt her feelings and make their fathers wary. Plus, she could probably track him down as well as Shampoo could in this state, if not better. Like a dog, for lack of better example.
"Actually, I was thinking of how cute you'd be as a dog!"
Another wave of confusion hit Ranma as he sat slumped on the floor. She had said that before the Shougou-Raikaku. What did she even mean by that? Was it another insult? A compliment?
…Was it really just the powder?
Ranma yawned suddenly, feeling immensely tired. He stared at his hands, outstretched in front of him, his fingers entwined. A good rest would do him good, and sleeping in his clothes was the least of his worries. Oblivious to what events were taking place in the next room, he closed his eyes and fell into a dreamless sleep.
With a gasp of hot and humid air, Akane sat up in her bed. A cold sweat covered her forehead as she looked at her surroundings.
"I'm home." She thought confusedly. She felt a draft on her face and the heel of her shoe rough against her leg. She recounted the events of the day, and felt the stab of heartache.
"He… He pushed me away." She whispered, staring at her sheet-covered lap blankly. A few tears slid down Akane's cheeks gently, falling off of her chin and making feeble gray spots on her white blanket. She was so sure that Ranma had wanted that kiss just as much as she did.
Moments passed before her skin got itchy from the wetness and the air, and she rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand roughly. Her mind kept on telling her that there was a mistake somewhere in that action that he made.
"Akane, I'm sorry."
Her chest tightened and she held the sheets to her chin when a sob escaped into the eerie quiet of the bedroom. Of course he was sorry. Sorry for ever wasting her time, sorry she was a lousy cook, sorry that she wasn't strong enough to defend herself against his enemies, sorry she wasn't able to prove herself against his other suitors…
…Sorry that she wasn't the one he loved.
Akane's eyes fluttered, more tears falling onto the blankets. 'Why?' She wondered as her mind reeled with crushing disappointment.
Before she knew what she was doing, she had pushed the covers back, and her feet were touching the plush carpet. The initial disoriented feeling she got made her wobble a bit as she stood, and she grabbed the edge of her desk for support. As soon gathered her bearings, she walked to the door and opened it.
'I have to know why.' She thought, her brow knit as the same old determined fire began to take her over. She stepped out into the hall and looked about cautiously. The silence throughout the house still told her that the house was probably empty. There was no sound of the fathers scheming or playing shougi, no sound of Kasumi preparing food in the kitchen. Not even the electric blaring sound of Nabiki's favorite television program.
Akane chewed the corner of her lip. The door to Ranma's room seemed to have paralyzed her as she reached for the handle. She stared deep into the enameled grains of the wood, and began to get her second wind.
"I won't be afraid." She whispered. It was a promise that she fully intended to keep. The door to her fiancé's room seemed to open all by itself.
She saw his large frame tangled in the sheets of the blue futon and couldn't help but smile at the small tuft of black hair that poked out from the top of the bed. The trademark pigtail drooped lifelessly on the white pillow. Tears stung Akane's eyes again, and her heartache was back with a vengeance.
She couldn't bring herself to wake Ranma up with something that was so trivial. He must have been so tired… Her feelings for him were probably at the bottom of his list of things to deal with.
Akane sat beside him, her legs tucked behind her. Her heart skipped when she saw him shift, the top half of his head appearing from underneath the covers. His eyes were closed, she was relieved to observe.
"Why can't you at least pretend that you love me?" She said, her voice inaudible. She felt another stab of heartache as Ranma twitched in his sleep. Her curse infected mind made her reach out her hand to him and push his bangs off of his face.
With a heavy sigh, Akane inched closer to him and lay down. "I don't care anymore." She thought as she gazed upon what part of his face she could see. "I'm going to be with you forever, Saotome Ranma. Whether you like it or not."
Akane felt new tears stinging her eyes and exhaled shakily. A small part of her mind wondered what was wrong with her that day. The bigger part of her mind was tired of so much heartbreak. She rolled over onto her other side to avert her eyes from Ranma, and silently cried herself to sleep.