Blows

Ryoga is used to being woken by a flailing fist in his snout or a small, surprisingly hard bare foot in his belly. Sometimes he suspects that part of his need for frequent journeys is that undisturbed sleep is far more easily achieved on the cold hard ground than with a lady love who extends her battles to her dreams.

He's accustomed enough to draining every available sip of drama from a situation to tell himself it's his price for betraying Akane like this, sneaking into her bed when he knows perfectly well that Ranma is right to be outraged and furious, that he is betraying all the honour he tries to live up to as a martial artist. Akane's unconscious punches and kicks are the precisely the flailing his sin deserves.

This is all a complicated way to justify his conscience with manufactured angst. Deep inside, he knows Akane could beat him to a pulp and he wouldn't care really care.

It's a small enough price to pay for the way Akane puts sleepy hands around him just before she falls asleep, for the privilege of watching her face soften into slumber, all the worry and defiance of the day draining away into sweetness because she doesn't have to keep any defences up against P-chan. This is his Akane, that few other people ever witness. No people, perhaps, just a small black pig.

It makes him ache that the vulnerability doesn't even last her through a night, that her body re-enacts battles as she sleeps. She fights so hard, this Akane of his. Everything in her life works so hard towards stripping her of her dignity: the hordes of suitors to herself and her fiancée, the ridiculous situations she finds herself in, constantly supplanted and insulted and humiliated. She still keeps fighting for her independence and self-respect. Ryoga can vaguely remember being less than charmed by her violence at one point, but now he thinks he understands why it is she thinks with her fists, and he worships her for her undaunted spirit.

He wishes this was his own special discovery. He hates the suspicion that Ranma understands equally well.

Ranma usually manages to get there first.


He's dizzy from a blow to his head when he awakes, but Akane has already settled again, drawing him close against her cheek on the pillow. He lies quietly, with nothing to do but listen to her breathe, and let his mind wander back in the old familiar patterns. I can't live without this, but never as a man… If only she knew… But what if she knew?

In these disturbed nights he has gone over every possibility, every variation of discovery. Wouldn't it be funny if you really were Ryoga, P-Chan? Akane asks him again and again in his memory, and the heart-stopping moment of hope followed by the plummeting knowledge that she only found the thought amusing when she thought it couldn't possibly be true when she's undressed in front of P-chan – not that he looks, but that's beside the point – and let him sleep in her bed. Akane's more shy and modest than her tomboy exterior would lead others to believe, but it's more fundamental than even that. The more her life puts her in situations where her dignity or virtue seem to be challenged, the more fiercely she protects her self worth.

Ryoga can't understand how Ranma can laugh it off or dismiss it with a whining complaint when Akane accuses him of being a pervert and delivers violent retribution. He knows the same treatment would kill him, quite literally. Akane struck him once, and he can't quite comprehend now how he didn't fly into a thousand pieces, even if he was blind back then to the knowledge he was born to love her. The moment still haunts his dreams. He would not remain whole if she hit him now, let alone if she sent him away for good.

Of course, maybe Ranma can laugh it off because he knows, as Ryoga knows, deep inside, that Akane never really would send him away for good. Or maybe he can dismiss the accusations because he has the knowledge of his own innocence, while Ryoga… The thought is even less pleasant than Ranma's infernal taking of his fiancée for granted.

He sighs a little piggy-breath of frustration, longing so much it hurts to stroke Akane's cheek, brushing it tenderly with fingertips instead of sharp little hooves. He can't return her embraces in this form, and it hurts. It's tempting to imagine some accident, a cup of tea left at Akane's bedside, perhaps, and a transformation without waking her, taking her sleeping form gently into his arms and cradling her close, held safe and adored. No need for flight, for the moment.

And more tempting still, to dream of kissing those soft untouched lips. In fantasy she's unafraid and unshocked, coming out of dreams into kisses as if it was the most natural thing ever, her lips parting and her arms winding around his neck… Pausing between kisses to find her eyes wide and trusting. Easy enough then to tell her how he feels, the words coming out smoothly and passionately as they never do in life.

Fantasy. Ryoga knows exactly how Akane would react to finding a naked boy in her bed.

If she reacted in any other way, she wouldn't be the Akane he fell in love wit. And in therein, as it goes, lies the rub.

Akane's fist flails out unexpectedly, and Ryoga takes it happily.

Unintentional blows are so much easier to endure.


Notes: Characters are the property of Rumiko Takahashi. Borrowed without permission but handed back in good condition. This is one of a trio of improvs written for the livejournal community tempsmort, on the theme "Rude Awakenings".

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