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"How is he today?"
"She, Ms. Tendo." The doctor escorted her to the window, overlooking the common garden, where a redheaded female was going through a kata. "She decided to be female today and male tomorrow."
Nabiki sighed. "I thought he...she decided on doing it weekly? What changed?"
The doctor shook his head, taking off his glasses and cleaning them. "She said she needed to be more objective. Do you know last week, she talked with her counselor about the difference between fatherhood and motherhood?"
Nabiki shook her head in response. "So, Ranma still hasn't settled."
"No. It appears also, that their progress is reaching a plateau."
The doctor turned and faced her, his expression of fading hope clear for all to see. "Ranma's been here for five years, and even I admit, they have made remarkable progress in rebuilding their psyche. But...I'm not certain if they'll ever be able or ready to leave this place."
Nabiki returned her attention to the Ranma, still in the progress of doing her kata.
Five years. It had been five years since Ranma...broke. She knew what caused it, they all did. But only a select few would ever admit it.
It had been all of them. From their parents constantly hounding him to marry Akane, to Akane's abuse towards him because she expected him to open up and "serve" her, but didn't want to reciprocate, to her selling him out time and again, to the suitors constant attempts to drag him away or trick him into marriage, to their suitors trying to kill him in one form or another. The pressure had grown exponentially when Nodoka insisted Ranma be a manly man, but also a perfect Japanese woman.
In the end, it all became too much, and he just...snapped.
Ryoga, Mousse, the fathers, Happosai, and all three Kunos were sent to the hospital, many forever changed. True, Ryoga and Akane married later, but Ryoga nearly lost the ability to practice the art, on the Breaking Point training sparing him what Ranma had intended.
The others were not so lucky. They would never practice their arts again.
Akane...she had actually tried to attack Ranma again, blaming him for picking on Ryoga, even though she had seen Ryoga jump out with the others and attack.
She still walks with a slight limp.
When they had brought Ranma here, his mother was hoping for a quick fix, as was the other fiancées not currently in intensive care.
But modern medicine couldn't help Ranma, and Amazon techniques were of no use.
For the first few months, he was catatonic. Ranma never responded to any attempts for a reaction. He often just sat staring out a window, or at the ceiling, wherever his head was pointed.
That was the last straw for many of his...admirers.
The first to leave were the Amazons. Though Nabiki doubted Shampoo wanted to, the girl was too dedicated to her outdated ways. Cologne had declared Ranma unstable, and likely to produce unstable heirs, missing the fact that she had helped make him so, with all her potions and interference.
Then came Ukyo. After witnessing what Ranma had done, even her father released her from her vow. She promised to visit as often as she could, but those visits stopped before Ranma even began to move on his own. Last she had heard, she had married Kontasu and was somewhere in Kyoto, running her father's office there.
The Kunos were kept in the hospital, moved to the psych ward after they woke up. Last she heard; all three were in Northern Japan at some rich retreat, trying to regain what Ranma took from them. It seems the near death Ranma had given them opened their eyes. Sasuke had informed her that they mostly meditated, talked, and went to rehabilitation. Both children were determined to get back to their former glory, if any had existed. He also promised to inform her if they made arrangements to...thank Ranma.
The fathers and Nodoka...they still lived at the Dojo, with her teaching kendo classes. While Nodoka did become quite popular, she also fell from grace in Nabiki's eyes, using her class schedule as an excuse not to see her son. At least the woman had the sense not to drop Ranma from the clan, like the fat bastard was yelling for. But for all intents and purposes, he was dead to them.
Kasumi, she visited when she could, but her own family was beginning to take more of her time, as well as her job in Tofu's practice. Ranma seemed to enjoy hearing tales of her kids, and he kept pictures of them in his room. They made him...happy, for some reason. In the end, he enjoyed hearing about how well his big sister and niece and nephew were doing.
Akane and Ryoga stayed at the Dojo, him teaching when he wasn't lost. They married about a week before Ranma returned to the living. It seemed the fight woke him up, and he told his feelings to Akane. Hell, she even forgave him for being P-chan, must to the hatred of Nabiki. To her, it was the ultimate slap in the face to the man Akane had claimed to love.
And her? Well, she did own her own business, started with the money Nodoka had hidden from Genma. How else did she live for those ten years without them? While business was good—even if it wasn't—she always came by at the end of her day to visit Ranma. She knew how close she had come to being counted among the damned, as she called the others who he crippled. In her mind, she knew she didn't deserve his forgiveness.
But that was all erased when she found a hidden journal he had managed to keep from her while cleaning out his old room. In it, he had revealed that he knew what she did all along.
"The sad thing is: I feel worthless, that all I can do to help around here is allow her to believe she owns me. No one else would hire a trouble-magnet like me. So I let her take those photos, blackmail me, because in the end, despite all I can do as a martial artist...that is all I can do to help them keep their home."
Which brought her to now, one of the very few people who still had hope he would return, pull himself from the quagmire that was his mind now...her mind? "Is there anything that can be done to help...her...keep progressing?"
The doctor looked out towards his patient. "As much as I would like to believe so...I...I just don't know. In the five years I have helped Ranma, they have yet to define themselves more than a little. Their memories are fractured, even after the help for his ailurophobia. Hell, we can't even get him to narrow down what their gender is. One day, he talks about hoping to find a woman to love him, and the next, she asks a nurse about being a mother."
He turned towards her, not wanting her to miss how he felt about what he had to say. "Ms. Tendo, I know you want to believe he will come back, but...I don't think Ranma will ever be able to leave here. You yourself have admitted his world is gone. Aside from you and your older sister with her husband and children, no one visits him. In truth, I don't think he has a reason to come back."
"I...see." She didn't bother hiding the tear going down her face. "I do ask you keep trying though, Doctor. I know you hate to ever give up, but please, don't start with Ranma."
He shook his head. "I know, Ms. Tendo. I...I will keep trying, but I felt you must be told of how hopeless things were getting. I'll be in my office."
He walked away before the redhead came through the door, smiling and waving at Nabiki. "Hey, Nabiki. What are you doing here?"
Nabiki smiled, looping her arm through that of her sweaty friend, and escorting her down the hall towards her room. "Oh, I just thought I would stop by and see you today. I hear your switching every day now?"
Ranma just keep smiling. "Yep, I figure this will help me out a little. Did you know it leaks in my room is I stay a guy or girl longer than twenty four hours? It's kind of cool, but the staff was complaining about all the repairs they had to make, so I figured I'd help them out."
She had to laugh at that. "Same old Ranma, always helping people."
"You know me, Nabiki, always helping where I can."
Ranma missed the sad smile that appeared on her face at hearing those words.
They spent the next few minutes chatting about various things, from how their days had gone, to the weather, to the latest news about Kasumi's newest pregnancy.
Both thought it would be a girl. It just felt like the...Kasumi thing that would happen, to be fair. Girl. Boy. Then girl again. If they had a fourth child, it would likely be a boy.
When they were in the room, Nabiki shut the door, while Ranma got a glass of water to quench her thirst. "Ranma...I...I have something to talk to you about, but I ask that you be male for it. Can you do that for me?"
Ranma looked at her. "But I said I'd be female today?" It was a little girlish whine that the old Ranma would have hated himself for.
Damn your mother for forcing that duality on you! "Please, Ranma. After I'm done, you can change back. It...it's just that this news needs to be told to you as a guy. Can you do it for me, please?"
Ranma sighed before heading into her private bathroom. A splash of water was heard, followed by a yelp and another splash.
Nabiki wasn't worried. She knew what had happened. If Ranma believed the idea that staying one gender for twenty four hours was possible, he would have dressed...appropriately.
She tried not to laugh as a wet and female Ranma came into the room, chucking a broken bra into the trash can and grabbing a pair of boxers from her dresser. "And I liked that one, too."
It was a few minutes later that a male Ranma had returned, now wearing boxers and clean clothes. He had taken a quick shower to wash the sweat off himself from the workout. As he sat down across from her he smiled. "So, what did you need me to be male to tell me, Nabiki?"
She looked a little anxious, but it was missed by Ranma. It was one of the things that were the same about him, even in this state. "Ranma, do you remember setting something up so that if your mother made you commit seppuku, Shampoo wouldn't head home in disgrace and get locked?"
He closed his eyes, trying to remember, but to him, those events were blurs, nightmares, and little else. "Nah, can't say I do? Who's Shampoo?"
"She is...she was...someone very close to you, once. You wanted to make certain that if anything bad happened to you, she wouldn't suffer. So you made a...deposit...at the Hiroma Center."
"O...kay." He thought a little more. "Don't know what I deposited, but it must have been important if it would help her."
Nabiki smiled, still glad to see him a little clueless. "Well, she never used it, she didn't need to. But...but I did use it."
"Huh? Okay, did it help you?"
Nabiki went over and sat on his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck. She wasn't surprised that he didn't blush or stammer. He wasn't that person anymore. "I used it to always have something of the true man I never knew, be with me." Even if she couldn't tell him how she felt, how she had grown from reading about his true self in the journal, she could at least show him. Even if the Ranma that was lost wouldn't return just to be with her, he might return to... "Ranma" she placed his left hand on her stomach. "You're going to be a dad in about eight months."
"But I thought you had to have sex first before you could produce a kid?" Realization dawned on him. "Oh, the Hiroma Center is a sperm bank, right?"
"Yes, Ranma. You knew Shampoo would get in trouble if she never had your kid and you killed yourself beforehand. But...she didn't need it." She gave him a slow kiss on his lips, saddened that he didn't reciprocate, but knowing he didn't because he simply couldn't. "But...but I did. I may have lost the man you once were, the man I never gave you the chance to show me."
"So...I'm going to be a dad?"
"Yes," she nodded, still staring into his eyes. "I won't lie to you, Ranma. I don't know if the love I feel for you is real or not. Hell, I don't even know if we could make it work. But, I want to give you a reason to live." She leaned her head on his shoulder.
"So...you wanted me to be the father? I...I don't know if I can be a father. I'm not even certain I can be a mother, and I would need to be both for any baby." The confusion and a small amount of fear could be heard in his voice.
"Ranma...just be there. That's all I ask, and that's all that any of us can expect. Just, don't stop trying to find yourself, okay? The baby won't care if you're not ready to be a father or mother to it. All it will care about it that you are there for it."
She got up from his lap after giving him another kiss. "Ranma, please. I know that if you ever get yourself back, you...you might hate me for how I acted before."
"I could never hate you, Nabiki. You've always been here for me."
"But the truth is that I wasn't always like that. I changed when you became lost, Ranma. I hope I became a better person, someone the old you would have liked." She kneeled before him. "I know you don't want to believe I could have hurt you before, Ranma. But I know I did, even if you don't. Just know I am sorry, sorrier than I can ever say or make up. But...but I want you to live."
"So...so you are having my baby to make me live?" He scratched his head, making her laugh a little at how he still had his mannerisms, if not the knowledge behind them.
"No, I am having your child because I think I love you, I want to be with you, and I want you to live, again. Even if it's not with me, even if it's not as a man, just...just be alive, Ranma.
"I...I gotta go. I have a doctor's appointment in an hour to make certain everything's healthy for the child." She made her way to leave, but Ranma called out to her.
"Nabiki, do...do you think I could be a good parent?"
She smiled. "I think you would be the greatest, Ranma. All you need to do...is try."
She left the room, left Ranma thinking, and left with hope that the soul in the journal would now have reason enough to come back to the surface.
After all, even with the help of Kasumi and her friends from work, the child could always use its father and its other mother.
She just hoped that they could use her.
If I messed anything up, then let me know including typos.
This is purely a one-shot. If you read this, and want to make a story out of it on your own, you have my permission. I just ask to be a beta for it.