Notes: Takes place during "Am I... Pretty? Ranma's Declaration of Womanhood".

Anger

Akane reacts instinctively to being awoken in the night, her hand reaching for the assortment of weapons by her bed. The adrenaline wash of fear is so immediately shot through with bubbles of anger that she's ready to resist and interloper within seconds of awaking, no easy lulling slipping back into sleep but fizzing alertness, fists already clenching, eyes opening wide to adjust to the darkness, muscles tight. Being quick to rage is, she's found, a quite useful means of protection.

"Who's there?" She runs through the possibilities as she plans her defense, which is, quite sensibly, to attack the moment she's found a target.

"M-me."

When she realises it was the sobbing of the girl on the floor beside her and not an intruder, it takes much longer than coming fully awake to let the anger stop bubbling through her veins, draining slowly away and leaving her limp with reaction.

"Ranma, what's wrong?" she asks, and can't help noticing herself that her voice is softer, gentler. She addresses this girl very carefully, as if she's a different person to the frustrating, arrogant, adorable and infuriating boy-girl who has taken up so much of her life lately, and that worries her a little. It's still Ranma, even if she has taken to acting oddly lately. It's not even as if she hasn't seen Ranma weep before, in either form.

She would never have allowed the other Ranma to sleep in her room.

"You hate me." And that's another thing: the accusation has been there sometimes, in things Ranma has said or looked, stabbing her to the heart and leaving her without the words to demur, but Akane can't remember him asking her outright, let alone in this pitiful way. She's still Ranma, she's still Ranma, she reminds herself. If she's crying at the thought, maybe deep inside he… he…

"I don't hate you, Ranma," she says very gently, the difference striking her again. She would have told the old Ranma this if he'd asked, at least she thinks so, but not in this sweet, reassuring way. It would have felt wrong.

And she wouldn't have suspected, deep inside, that she does hate this Ranma, and be sick with guilt over it.

Ranma sniffles and then, unbelievably, claws herself up to Akane's higher mattress, puts her arms around her neck and lays a wet cheek against her neck.

Akane freezes, rigid. In this position Ranma's breasts curve against the underside of Akane's, she can feel the heat of her body through her night-clothes, skin radiating warmth and heat, and she should punch Ranma into oblivion for this. She's not used to having boys near her in bed, cursed form or not; she's even less used to having girls draped against her; she's not comfortable enough to admit to herself, even alone and in the dead of night, that the thought of either makes her pulse stutter and her palms grow wet, and that imagining either a boy or a girl doesn't change the fact that it's generally the same person.

She knows what the proper response is, to protect herself from something she's not even sure she wants to admit fearing. Her fingers curl into her palms, but her arms remain limp. This Ranma wouldn't try anything.

There is a sneaking suspicion at the back of her head, even now, that she's being made a fool. Ranma has tried more outrageous pranks to score a reaction from her. And she can't quite get away from the knowledge that she's in bed with the girl she's engaged to – and that particular thought is so familiar now that she doesn't even question it – snuggled in her arms. It feels nice, very nice, her body responds instinctively to the softness and warmth and the way Ranma's heart beats in her curvy little body, but Akane's depression and anger seethe still.

"Uh – Ranma."

"Mm?" Ranma sounds happy now. Akane doesn't know if that's suspicious, or simply sweet. This new Ranma is so clingy and dependent and seems to turn instinctively to Akane for protection and comfort. Wasn't that what Akane had wanted all along?

"It doesn't matter." Akane sighs and, despite herself, puts her arms around the other girl, holding her closer. It would be impossible to smack her for taking liberties, and for some reason that thought hurts.

"Don't be angry with me, Akane. It's better this way for you too, don't you see?"

"Why? I'll admit you're not so annoying, but…" Akane hesitates, unable to explain why having things the way they are makes her want to scream and scream and break things and then cry a little. Even if she could, she's still not ready to explain.

"You don't have to marry me now," Ranma says simply.

"What?"

"You never wanted this engagement anyway. We just have to tell our fathers that it won't work, because I'm a girl."

"What?" And she can raise her voice to this strange Ranma, after all, if it hurts badly enough. "You're still the same, Ranma. You'll still turn into a boy when you're hit with hot water. If it didn't matter then that we were both a boy and a girl, why -" She bites her lip.

Ranma sits up a little, pushing herself up so that her breasts push and drag along against Akane's, and even through her angry bewildered pain she can feel a stab of reaction to the feeling. "Don't be silly, Akane," Ranma says, and there's a hint of scornful superiority that is close enough to the real Ranma that Akane can hear her, just for a second, through this Ranma's too-soft tones. "I'm really a woman, now. Why would I want to marry another girl?"

"Ranma, you idiot!" She's so furious that she's forgotten that this Ranma requires gentler handling; all she can think about is her pain, her anger. Ranma's lips are soft under her mouth, and she grates them with her teeth, pushes her tongue between them to find that of the other girl, pushes against it, sucks it back into her own mouth so hard she can feel her own cheeks sucking in with the pressure. Her hands skim down Ranma's back, small and delicate despite the toning of hours of practice, tapering in to the tiny waist and then flowing out over the curve of her hips, and it feels good, better than Akane has never quite allowed herself to imagine.

Behind it all Akane is conscious of a faint bewildering wonder that this is her real first kiss, like this, under these circumstances, and all the half-ashamed romantic wonderings have been replaced by forcing a kiss on a girl she hates and is hurt by and loves, so much. She doesn't care about first kisses right now, really. She needs to make Ranma understand how she feels.

When she pulls her head back, she's rehearsing in her mind what to say, to make Ranma realize that it has never mattered all along, to admit that she's sorry and doesn't want to give the engagement up, but she can't say any of it. All she can do is hope, tight and hard, that somehow she's forced the real Ranma back.

Akane wants Ranma to crow with triumph at her uncharacteristic behaviour. She wants to be laughed at. She wants her conceited, insensitive jerk of a Ranma back. She wants this even more than she wants tender eyes and the confession she thought she was going to receive back in the ice cream shop.

"Akane!" Ranma looks shocked, big eyes very wide in the dark, and Akane has just one second to hope for something else. Maybe it's a fairytale kiss after all. "Y- you pervert!"

Akane's shocked by the slap, and not because Ranma has raised a hand to her. The thing that shatters her is that Ranma's slap is weaker and less effectual than that of one of the girls at school.

She flops back on the pillow. "Go back to your own bed."

"Akane, I'm – I'm sorry." Ranma has tears in her eyes. "Don't be mad. Maybe if you tried again…"

It's beyond tolerance, and Akane doesn't even try. She pushes the smaller girl off the bed, getting some satisfaction from the way she still manages to show some athletic grace in falling, but not enough.

"Go to sleep, Ranma."

She doesn't think she'll get much sleep herself. Even anger doesn't help much.


Notes: Not my characters, but those of Rumiko Takahashi. Borrowed and handed back nicely. Not my characters, but those of Rumiko Takahashi. Borrowed without permission but handed back in good condition. One of a trio of improvs written for the livejournal community tempsmort, on the theme "Rude Awakenings".

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