Home for the Holidays
Title: Oh, There's No Place like Home
Disclaimer: There is absolutely zero chance that I could ever own Ranma ½ or any of the characters seeing as Rumiko Takahashi already owns them. Don't sue. I have no money.
The roar of the airplanes taking off was becoming irritating. Nabiki Tendo tapped her Rolex. The flight was obviously running late. She glanced over at her eldest sister, sitting calmly in the airport waiting area next to a screaming toddler and harried mother and diaper bag. The girls had decided to leave their father and Mr. Saotome at home in order to avoid unnecessary problems, specifically unnecessary water works from their father who would undoubtedly be overwhelmed with emotion since his youngest daughter was returning at last to Nerima.
Akane had been away at college for two years already. The Christmas before, she had been unable to come home because of financial difficulties. This thought alone put Nabiki in a sour mood. She never thought she'd see the day when she'd be unable to fly her little sister home for the holidays. However, college was expensive, not only for Akane but for Nabiki herself. Her regular profits were simply not enough to pay for all of their current expenses. Fortunately, Akane had stepped in by getting a part time job at a café on campus, making it possible for her to come back to Nerima after her fall semester had ended.
Little did Akane know there would be a little surprise for Christmas this year.
Two weeks ago Ranma had sent them a post card from China with a worn picture of some mist-covered mountains and lush vegetation on the front of it. Two years of off and on correspondence from the pigtailed boy, and at last he was coming home. He was due any day now…
It hadn't been too long ago when Akane received her acceptance letter, and Ranma had shortly after declared his intention to take a very extended training trip to China. Their fathers of course had objected, but any attempts to quickly and hastily unite the families had been squashed by Akane and Ranma. Naturally it required a little help from Kasumi and Nabiki. Kasumi had tactfully reasoned that a business degree was necessary for Akane to take over the dojo. Nabiki wouldn't always be around to manage the dojo's finances, and Akane couldn't finish her education if she was pregnant.
"Flight number 1470 has arrived at gate A31."
Nabiki stood with Kasumi as the announcement finished. The snow flurries danced outside the window. Yes indeed… home for the holidays.
It was good to be home. The hugs and water works from her dad had been clear proof that not many things had changed since she'd been gone. Hoisting her bags upstairs and into her room, Akane surveyed its state. Her bedroom looked practically untouched, and her eyes rested upon the duck nameplate on her door. Actually, as far as Akane could remember it was exactly as she left it.
Nothing had changed. But she had.
She had grown an inch or so, and her figure had definitely filled out a bit since her high school years. While she was away, Akane had buckled down on her training and actually studied various forms of the art from Tae Kwon Do to kickboxing. She had to say it'd paid off. Her control was better now, as was her speed and even (surprisingly) her strength. She had increased her balance and flexibility through a few Yoga classes she had taken with her friends. Akane had not been thrilled about the idea, but later learned it was an excellent way to better her martial arts skills.
Sitting down on her bed, she realized how tired she was from her trip. Jet lag probably. She glanced at the clock. There was at least another hour or so till she would once again taste the wonders of Kasumi's cooking. "I'll just take a short nap until dinner," she decided, slipping underneath the cool cotton sheets of her bed. Man, she had definitely missed this.
Akane did not take a short nap. In fact, when she woke up, not only did she discover it was one o'clock in the morning, and she had missed dinner, but she also discovered she was starving. She padded quietly downstairs to the kitchen. Living away at college with no Kasumi, she had promptly found one could only live off of fast food for so long. Thus after much careful instruction, Akane had learned how to make . . . a sandwich. However, after eating these for three weeks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, she'd found you could also get tired of eating sandwiches. But seeing as she hadn't eaten in the last twenty hours (unless you count airplane food), a ham and cheese sandwich sounded mouthwatering.
Never had the Tendo dojo looked so good to Ranma Saotome. After eight hours in six-degree weather, he was ready to take a hot shower and hit the sack. Silently he entered the house and gently set his pack down in the hall.
Everything seemed the same. The feel of the wood floors beneath his feet. The faded scent of dinner still lingering near the kitchen table. The soft light drifting in from outside through the sliding porch door. He had missed the familiarity of it all during the past two years of being on the road.
Being careful not to wake anyone, he slipped down the hall and into the shower.
Pulling a slice of cheddar out of the fridge, she suddenly froze.
Running water. Someone was... taking a shower?
She took a step towards the arching doorway of the kitchen and strained her senses to listen. That was definitely running water. And it was definitely coming from the bathroom down the hall. Hesistating at the steps, her mind surveyed the possibilities. She was positive everyone else was asleep. She'd taken extra care not to wake anyone up as she'd snuck down stairs for a snack. And why would one of them be showering in the middle of the night? Then again... why would a burglar be showering in the middle of the night?
Well she wasn't going to take any chances. She grabbed her bat from her room and snuck over to the bathroom in stealth mode.
The water turned off.
Wet footsteps made their way to the otherside of the door. Her fingers tensed around the bat. The door swung open and...
There was Ranma Saotome in nothing but a towel.
He toweled off his hair as he stepped out of the shower. Damn it. He'd forgotten his change of clothes in his pack. Sighing, he opened the door to the hall...
And there was Akane Tendo in an oversized t-shirt and the tiniest pair of cotton shorts he had ever seen, poised and ready to beat the living hell out of him with a metal baseball bat.
It was then that he realized he was clad only in a towel. Somehow, he should have expected this.
".. hey... 'kane."
Oh God. It was the first time she'd seen him in two years and she'd managed to catch him half naked. She was completely prepared to pound him into unconsciousness.
"I - hi.." She gave him an embarrassed smile. Her cheeks reddened noticeably. That training trip to China had certainly done a body good. "Did you just get in…?" she asked in what she hoped was an innocent and nonchalant sounding voice. Unfortunately the words seemed to come out sounding pretty ridiculous by themselves. Of course he had just gotten in! He obviously hadn't been here before she got home. She mentally berated herself for that one and tried to fight the impulse to run away screaming.
"Uh. Yeah." He replied cautiously, still eyeing the bat in her hands. "Can I get my clothes real quick?"
Her blush deepened. "Oh. uh.. of course." How could she have forgotten he was only in a towel? She returned the bat to its resting place in her room. What was she going to say to him? Somehow she always got herself into the most awkward situations when it came to Ranma. She debated. If she went to bed now, she wouldn't have to deal with Ranma until breakfast… Nabiki would have hell to pay. Her stomach swiftly reminded her of the sandwich waiting downstairs. She took a deep breath. This couldn't get too much worse. Exhale. Here goes nothing.
Ranma, now dressed, stepped out of the bathroom, pausing a moment to look for armed Akanes. Briefly he allowed an amused expression to steal over his face. This certainly was interesting. Then again he didn't ever recall his life being boring.
There was a faint light coming from the kitchen. Slipping past the table and stove, he came up behind Akane, bent over in front of the fridge. The fridge light played across her figure. He had to admit it was not an unpleasant sight by any means. He heard her curse silently, "Where is the stupid ham?"
"Makin' a midnight snack, Tomboy?" She froze.
He could see her stiffen and slowly relax as she rose and turned around to face him. He hadn't gotten a good look at her back by the bathroom, but now he could see the difference these two years had made.
"And what if I am?"
Wow. That was a pretty quick recovery from the bathroom scene. And she certainly hadn't lost any of her sass.
"Well, it would be a problem if the kitchen burned down…"
A scowl wrinkled her petite features. "I can make a sandwich." The defiance in her voice was bordering annoyed already. "Besides... there's no fire involved in making a sandwich." She smiled in spite of herself.
Wow, again. Akane was joking about her cooking?
He changed his tone. "Need company?" He was tired, but sleep could wait.
She turned to him with questioning eyes. Two years and everything felt the same, except for the softness in that last question. She decided to set her conditions. "If you stay, you have to eat a sandwich." Saying it that way made it his choice... and part of her was curious if he would stay or not.
"Better not poison me on purpose," he jokingly warned as he slid onto the kitchen counter.
He watched closely as she made two ham and cheese sandwiches. She made them slowly, surprisingly not because it was difficult for her, but because she seemed deep in thought.
He decided to speak first. It was actually harder than he had initially thought. "So..." he started. He couldn't finish it.
What to say to your fiancée that you haven't seen for two years.
She glanced up at him as she completed the preparation of the sandwiches, fingers lingering just atop a slice of bread. He was giving her a helplessly blank look. She gave him a small smile. "My roommate at college taught me how to make sandwiches," she stated smoothly, trying to secretly convince him that it was nontoxic. Ranma had never been a great conversationalist. Handing him his sandwich, she added coolly, "If I really wanted to kill you, I'd do it some other way."
He gave her an unnerved look, and she gave a short laugh at his expression. He was surprised she could joke with him so easily. This Akane seemed much more carefree than the one he remembered. "What have you been up to?" she asked this as a genuine question. He took a bite of his sandwich, pretending he wasn't amazed that it was edible and even... good.
"Training. Did a bit of traveling around." This wasn't news to her.
"I hope you didn't get into too much trouble," she slipped in as she swung herself up on the countertop next to him.
He continued his story, ignoring the slight smirk on her face. "Wasn't much of a problem without pops along."
China. She wondered if he had searched for a cure, and more importantly whether or not he had found it. She knew his curse had always bugged him. Still . . . he didn't seem like a different Ranma. He was still laid back as he told her a few short stories about his trip. The odd places he had been, weird people he had met, and the bizarre instances that had ensued. She watched him, not really listening to his story. His features seemed harder than she remembered, but his dress was not unusual. Black pants and a Chinese style top. His steel blue eyes were tired but still his as he reminisced the two years he had been gone.
"Akane...? " She was soon aware that Ranma's eyes were now watching her. "..you ok?"
She beat back a nervous laugh. Woops. Zoned out a little bit. "Yeah.." she gave him a cheerful smile. "Do you realize this is probably the longest we've gone without fighting?"
He stopped. "Yeah, you'd think we'd have a lot of fighting to catch up on after two years."
She leaned back using her forearms to prop herself up and glanced around the kitchen. "I missed it here." I missed you.
"Yeah. I missed the food." He grinned. She saw that he had finished his sandwich. The sandwich she had made. Her eyes found the clock on the microwave. 2 AM. They'd been down here for an hour already. She slid off the counter.
"We should probably be getting to bed."
He stretched and yawned. "Two o'clock already. Geez, 'kane. I walk eight hours in the snow, and you keep me up till all hours of the night," he teased as he hopped off the counter.
She smacked him lightly in the back of the head. "Baka."
They both tiptoed upstairs. It seemed strange to be here again. But even stranger to be together.
"Goodnight, Ranma," she said as she inched open her bedroom door.
She failed to notice the last lingering glance he gave her before passing through the doorway to his old room.
AN: Well. I wrote this late at night many years ago and figured it was worth a shot. Apparently some of you are still waiting for me to finish it (that's incredible... it's been many years since the last chapter) so I'm going to try and finish it after all these years. Comments and criticisms are welcome.