Michael Gutin


Disclaimer: Oh c'mon I don't need one every time do I? Oh, I do? Well damn…characters property of Rumiko Takahashi, don't forget it (or they'll hurt me!)

Walking a Thin Line


Chapter 1

Slipping


Jusendo, the word has been haunting me ever since it happened. The wedding, was it a failure? Yes, more than anyone besides me knows. My two years of work, all gone. I had put so much into it, keeping my feelings, my real self, completely hidden. And that single event made it all for nothing. Was I surprised? No. I had been expecting it for so long. I knew from the beginning it was just a delaying action. But its end had always seemed so far off. 'It will end soon' I always told myself. Soon, but never now. So I was slightly at a loss. It was over. Two years of hiding who I am, over. But what now? Can I finally be myself? Should I don a new façade? I had made myself sick of thinking about it. I played out all the scenarios, backwards and forwards, but they all came out in pain, sadness, and death.

So what do you do when you run out of ideas? Seek help. Two heads are better than one after all. The persona I created would be too proud to ask for help. Too arrogant to believe he needed it. Perhaps I had really been like that, at first. But I have been humbled too many times; have paid the price for my victories with sweat and blood, and now it would be others who would suffer if I failed. Yes, I am definitely asking for help.

But who?

Someone calm. Someone who was familiar with the situation. Someone who knew all the angles and could manipulate them to their advantage. I smiled. I knew exactly which girl to ask.

When I came to her, she was wearing that smirk that she always had. The one that masked all emotion. How many times had I seen it? How many times had I been pitted against it? Enough for me to respect her. To know what she could and could not do. And this she could do, she had to.

"What do you want?" She asked me.

"Your help" I said simply

She didn't show it, but she was surprised at that, and I knew it. I had acted far too well, and now as hard as I had worked to trick people I would have to make them realize it was a lie.

"And before you say it, I think it's in your best interest to do this free of charge."

She was surprised yet again, but kept silent.

"This has to end…"

Now she looked at me inquisitively. Inwardly, I sighed.

"Let me ask you a question, the Ranma that arrived on your doorstep two years ago, and the one that stands before you, how are they different?"

She had no answer for that.

"They aren't, are they? Doesn't that seem weird to you? I've been belittled, admired, rejected, loved, hated, do you honestly think I came out of all of that unscathed? That those events haven't shaped my views of the world even a little? That sounds pretty stupid to me…"

She had nothing to say to that, so I continued.

"It's all been an act, the question is, would you like to know why?"

She nodded.

"To keep them in line." We both knew exactly who I was referring to.

"Did you fail to notice that I was nice enough to each of them to keep them hoping, but never enough for them to claim me? I helped them when they needed it, but never when they didn't. When they were sad I was there, but when things were fine I wasn't. You all thought it was my ineptitude with women. But it's quite the opposite. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a heartless bastard, I do have feelings for them, the feelings just have nothing to do with what I show.

She decided it was time to speak up. "Why?"

"Why? You realize what will happen to those I don't choose, don't you? One will be killed, another disowned, one would have her family honor stained, and the last would be pushed over the edge and fall into depression. Where does that leave me? Leave everyone? Even if the feelings were returned, that leaves two people happy, and three people's lives shattered."

"So that's why you…"

"Yes."

"So what's changed?"

I was shocked. Was she blind? They had explosives. Explosives! This wasn't there normal childish tricks. Why did no one notice that? This was serious. People could have died, would have died, if I hadn't intervened. But how could I tell her this? She who invited these people. She who I knew deep down cared for her family, how could I bring myself to tell her that her greed put them all in danger? So I didn't. I lied. You'd think I would have gotten used to it by now…

"I'm just getting tired of it. But I don't know how to end it. That's why I need your help."

She looked at me for a moment, as if she had trouble believing all that I had said. I can't blame here, I hid myself far too well, getting people to see the real me will be harder that I intended it to. Finally she spoke,

"So which one do you want?"

There it was. With one question, she revealed she had disregarded everything I had said, or perhaps she still didn't see how much I had changed. Either way, I had to get it through her head.

"Don't you get it? It doesn't matter who I like. This is bigger that me. Me coming out of this happy would be a nice bonus, a luxury, one that we most likely won't be able to afford. Can't you see? How fragile this situation is? People could die! Die, you know, as in gone forever and never coming back. You think who I marry is a priority right now?"

I was shouting by the time I finished. Damn. I hadn't meant to lose my temper. But if frustrated me so much. I had sacrificed everything I could these last two years, and still no none understood what I had delayed. Why was it so hard for them to see the danger they were all in?

I spoke again, this time calmly, "I though you had a good grasp of the situation. I can see I was wrong. Sorry for bothering you."

I turned to leave the room, but was stopped. I turned around and saw her face. I was shocked; she looked like she was on the verge of tears. The girl who had the best poker face I had ever seen, who probably had hidden her emotions just as much as I did, was breaking down. Shit. Not now. Not on top of all this. I need her help. She had to pull it together. I hugged her in what I hoped was a comforting way. She didn't speak, just leaned in a little. For a while the room was filled with a blissful silence.

She finally spoke up. "Denial."

"What?"

"I was in denial."

That was definitely not the reaction I was expecting. She went on.

"…because…because if what you said was true, it was my fault, wasn't it? You won't say it, but it was the wedding, and I invited them…all my fault."

She was crying again, this was not going well. I hugged her closely and soothingly whispered "It's okay, you didn't know."

Her sobs quieted down after a while, and she remained motionless, her face buried in my chest. If someone had walked into the room, they would have seen the smile on my face. A genuine, glad-to-be-alive smile. I hadn't had one of those in years. For the first time I was where I wanted to be. I nearly sighed in content, but I knew better. Now was not the time for this, now was the time to plan. I lifted her head.

"Nabiki…"

She cut me off. "I'll help, for free even."

I grinned.

"Just don't expect any more freebies." She said.

"Oh, I would never dream of it." I said in mock seriousness.

She finally seemed to notice our position, and pulled away.

"You better get going, I'll see if I can think of anything by tomorrow."

As I took a last look at her face I noticed she was blushing faintly. Or maybe it was my imagination. I left the room with new thoughts on my mind, maybe she…

"Hey, baka!"

I snapped my head up. Oh great, it was her, and now I had to put the mask back up. Like I was supposed to just drop everything I was and just become a person who I quite honestly disliked.

"Whad'ya want tomboy?" Okay, maybe it was a bit easier than I thought.

"I said dinner was ready but you just stared into space, what's wrong, is your brain broken?"

I really didn't want to fight right then.

"Sure, tomboy." I muttered half-heartedly.

Akane got a worried look on her face. That look that she gets when she actually figures out I'm troubled. It's kinda sweet. Sweet enough to make up for the mallet blows?

Hell no.

"What's wrong?" she asks.

'I'm trying to keep you alive, you dumbass!' I want to shout.

Instead I say "Nothing an uncute girl like you needs to worry about."

"Fine! Here I was worried about you! Ugh! See if I ever help you again!"

"Feh." I say as she stomps off muttering about 'perverted jerks'.

At least she's gone. I need time to think. That meant being alone. I sighed as I realized how hard that was getting lately. I decided I'd pretend to go to sleep and think then. So I trudged up to my room and got into my futon. Before I knew it I was asleep, guess I was more tired than I thought.


Author's Note: So, was it any good? You know I actually don't care for most of my work, but I kinda like this one. First off, I get to make Ranma as OOC as I want, and can use the 'he was hiding who he truly was the entire time' excuse, it's awesome. I hope I didn't make anyone else too OOC, I'll just have to see. Oh, and let's get this out of the way right now, this fic is definitely not RxA people. And I'm 99 sure it's going to be RxN…but you never know…

C&C or the bogeyman shall devour you soul…and your shoes I'm told.