Disclaimer: I don't own Ranma ½ or any of its characters.
Ranma stood by the bedroom window, absent-mindedly tapping his fingers against the windowsill as he looked out over the grey shadows that blanketed the neighbourhood. In the fading light of evening everything, even Kasumi's carefully tended garden, looked gloomy. He could barely make out the koi pond that he was sure to end up in come tomorrow morning.
He cast his eyes upwards at the evening sky. It was almost completely overcast by heavy grey thunderheads waiting to spill their contents over the streets and houses of Nerima.
A shiver passed through his body.
He shouldn't be awake. He had never suffered from insomnia before,Sleep was meant to be easy for him, it always had been. But today was different. It felt as though something was going to happen tonight. No, that wasn't quite right; it was as if he knew something was going to happen. What exactly that something was, he had no clue. Was this what they called intuition? Knowing, without knowing how he knew. He had heard before of women's intuition, but then of course he wasn't a woman.
Perhaps this was the first sign of approaching insanity. Perhaps the Kuno family madness was contagious and he had caught it through prolonged exposure. For a moment he pictured himself dressed in a blue hamaka, wielding a bokken and spewing forth bad poetry. He shuddered and quickly banished the rather disturbing image from his head. It was probably just the after affects of Akane's cooking. He scratched the back of his head and let out a quiet chuckle. Maybe she had poured an entire jar of coffee into her creation this time. That would go a long way to explain things.
He wondered how someone could possibly be so bad at cooking. Scratch that; he wondered how someone could be so bad at cooking and not realize it.
Letting out a sigh of resignation, he returned to his futon; there was no point thinking about it. It was something he would probably never figure it out.
He lay down and tried to empty his mind. For a while he just stared blankly at the flaking surface of the ceiling, but soon his mind wandered and he found himself focused upon the loud and rhythmic snoring of his father, which was not exactly conducive to sleep.
He certainly deserved some shut-eye more than his father. After all, what had his father done today? Just sit around the Shoji board with Mr. Tendo drinking copious amounts of tea and playing shoji, interrupted only by Kasumi's meals. As far as martial arts went, his father only ever sparred with him in the mornings anymore. Right now his father's life looked like one hell of a vacation. And of course Ranma had been the ticket for this particular holiday. He realized how bitter his train of thoughts had become and felt disgusted with himself. Self-pity was for the weak.
He turned his gaze from the ceiling to the large panda form next to his and watched as he scratched his nose idly in his sleep.
With a growl of frustration he sat up and threw his pillow at his father, who carried on snoring, blissfully unaware.
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to find calm. It was useless though; he couldn't shake the feeling and he couldn't get to sleep. If he stayed in here much longer, he would go crazy with frustration. He had to get outside, try to walk off this nervous energy and clear his head.
Getting up quietly he moved to the wardrobe where he pulled out and changed into his usual gear: a red silk shirt, black leggings and a pair of black slippers. He was just about to make his exit through the bedroom window when he was struck by a moment of wisdom. Going back to the wardrobe he quickly found what he was looking for: an umbrella.
He would not be caught out by the impending rain.
His feet touched the ground with a quiet thud. He stood up from his crouching position and filled his lungs with the cool night air. Free from the smothering confines of the house he felt some of the frustration and restlessness ease out of his mind and diffuse into the darkness.
He vaulted over the fence and onto the deserted street. All was quiet apart from the distant whoosh of passing of cars, sounding like waves breaking gently upon a shore. If he closed his eyes, he could almost imagine he was somewhere else. Sighing, he walked in the direction of the park, which was perhaps his favrouite place in the entire prefecture.
He remembered when he was younger how he had thought parks were places where nature had dug in its claws and refused to let go; a last outpost of wilderness holding out against the concrete incursion. But as he had grown up he had come to realize the truth; they were places where nature had merely been allowed to exist, tame and meek; pale in comparison to the real thing.
Still, it was something, and it brought him closer to those days before Nerima, days when it was just him and his father. His memories of those times were still vivid; climbing to shrines built high up on the sides of snow capped mountains, sleeping in caves to escape the fury of a storm, cresting a hill to see green reaching from the other side all the way to the horizon.
The train of memories came to an abrupt halt.
The restlessness he thought had died away had reared its ugly head once again and suddenly walking seemed intolerably slow. He picked up his pace and started to jog, but it didn't make things any better. The sense of urgency kept growing.
He had to move faster.
He had to get to the park.
His agitation grew steadily. What the hell was going on? Why did he feel like he had to be at the park, and be there now?
Thunder rumbled overhead and he swiftly brought up his umbrella in reaction as innumerable droplets of water cascaded down from the sky. The tiny droplets only became visible as they passed under the orange glow of streetlamps and hurtled to the ground, where they proceeded to shatter like glass on the concrete paving. Of course Ranma didn't notice any of this; he was too preoccupied with his own thoughts.
Maybe the notion of him going crazy hadn't been so far-fetched after all. What if this was just some wild goose chase of his own making, getting him all worked up over nothing? Maybe it would be best for him to forget this whole thing and turn back. But another question rang out clearly in his mind.
What if it was real?
A horrible feeling entrenched in his gut told him that it was, and that if he didn't get to the park fast enough he would live to regret it. The closer he got the stronger that feeling became and right now it felt as if it were a certainty, fact rather than unsubstantiated emotion.
By now he was running full pelt, jumping reflexivly over the quickly forming puddles as the panic induced adrenaline pumped through his blood.
"This'd better be worth it." he muttered to himself as he reached the edge of the park, but behind those words was a very real fear. There was anger too, at himself; these kinds of things were only supposed to happen to women, being as illogical as they were, they weren't supposed to happen to him, a guy.
Maybe this was another aspect of his curse. Maybe messing with his body wasn't enough, maybe now it was messing with his mind.
As soon as the thought surfaced he flung it to the furthest reaches of his mind and buried it, hoping never to see it again. It was simply terrible to consider, and it preyed on a fear that had lingered on since his time at jusenkyo.
The rain was now a torrent, beating down relentlessly on his umbrella as he ran down the path that traversed the park. Turning his head to survey the surroundings he found that the thick veil of rain combined with the darkness made it difficult for him to see very far with any great clarity. He continued to run down the path.
All at once he came to a skidding stop.
It was gone.
The sense of direction that had guided him thus far had totally and utterly disappeared, leaving him with nothing other than a growing sense of panic.
"Shit." he cursed. What was he looking for? He looked up at the sky from beneath his umbrella, but the rumbling grey clouds gave him no answers.
"Shit!" he cursed, louder this time.
Thunder rumbled again and he made a break for the nearest tree, trying to get away from the brunt of the rain so he could figure out just what the hell he was going to do.
That's when he saw it.
On a bench, not too far from the tree he was running to, lay an obscure lump. He altered his course, almost falling over in the slippery mud, and ran for the bench instead.
As he closed in it became clear that the lump was in fact a person, lying curled upon the bench.
What were they doing out here in the rain like this?
Lightning flashed, briefly lighting up the area in front of him. And, much to his dismay, in that brief moment of illumination he saw two things that he had not seen before. There was a large travelling backpack leaning up against the side of the bench, and on top of it lay a red bamboo umbrella.
The umbrella was unmistakeable.
He came to a halt in front of the bench.
"Ryoga?" he questioned in disbelief as he stared down at the mud coated and thoroughly soaked individual. But Ryoga was cursed… and it was raining. It couldn't be Ryoga. But how would that explain the umbrella? Had Ryoga found a cure? His thoughts were interrupted when the muddy lump decided to speak.
"Go away" said a weary and distinctly familiar voice.
"It is you..." Ranma stated the obvious in quiet shock, unable to think clearly as he crouched down on to get a closer look.
A face turned towards him, covered in less mud than the rest of the body, and he looked into two green orbs that stood out clearly from the brown muddy mass, even in the darkness. Ryoga let out a tired sigh, as if the mere act of moving his head to face Ranma was a terrible exertion.
"Go away Ranma, I'm busy." His words carried no weight behind them.
Ryoga blinked away the rain and their eyes locked.
A searing pain exploded in Ranma's chest. He collapsed in the mud, triggering the transformation, as unfamiliar thoughts and images flooded her head. Her own thoughts were drowned out by those that did not belong to her and she struggled to hold onto a semblance of self. It felt like someone had tied lead weights around her ankles and thrown her into the ocean, expecting her to swim back to the surface when all she could do was sink further and further down.
And then, just as suddenly as it had started, it all stopped.
The pain and the mental invasion ceased all at once.
Panting to regain her breath she pushed herself up out of the mud into a sitting position. She was clueless as to what had just happened but her gaze immediately moverd to Ryoga's face, searching for his eyes as the rain fell heavily against her own muddied features.
They had closed.
"Ryoga?" she asked hoarsely.
There was no response, he didn't stir or open his eyes.
Ranma felt worry and panic rise up like an angry tornado in the pit of her stomach. She stood up unsteadily and grabbed his shoulders, shaking him violently.
"Don't joke around you idiot!" she yelled in vain. "This ain't funny."
As the bony fingers of dread wrapped around her heart, it came to her that a lack of response didn't necessarily mean the worst. No, of course it didn't.
She wasn't thinking straight.
She reached up frantically with her hand to press against the side of his throat, fingers sliding clumsily against the mud slick skin as she searched for his carotid artery. She waited, forever it seemed, for the feel of a pulse. The seconds ticked away and her hope diminished.
Finally though, when the hope she held was on the verge of being extinguished, she felt it. It was weak, extremely so, but it was there.
As she held her fingers there she also noticed another, unfamiliar, sensation. It felt green, a pale sickly green. She didn't know how she could feel a colour but she could definitely feel it. Whatever it is was, it was unmistakeably Ryoga in essence and right now it was little more than a tiny flicker, wavering dangerously on the brink of going out.
She didn't waste any time trying to figure it out. Instead she pulled his limp body over her shoulder in a fireman's carry and ran as fast as her legs would carry her in the direction of the hospital.
"Don't you dare die on me Ryoga!" she shouted, a tangle of fury and concern."You do and I swear to god I'll kill you."
It came to her attention that what she said hadn't made a whole lot of sense, but then again none of this did.