The Exit

Ninnik Nishukan

They'd had their first date a little less than a year ago, and considering how the date went, Ranma thought, this should in reality not be happening. For once, though, it seemed that old Pork Rinds had experienced a stroke of luck. He probably deserved it, too.

If you were gonna be honest, the date really couldn't have started off any worse. There had been the hole in the roof, for one thing. It hadn't been repaired yet.

It'd been raining that day.

When Ukyo had arrived— Ryoga had told him this in confidence much later, when their friendship had gotten a bit more solid— nobody had answered the door when she'd rung the door bell, because it's really hard to open a door you had trouble even finding in the first place, and especially when you were only about a foot and a half tall and had trotters instead of hands.

Desperate to let her know that he hadn't ditched her, but had simply been inconvenienced, Ryoga had run around the house in a panic to find some hot water to reverse the curse.

Ukyo, being a fairly bright girl, had actually checked the front door to see if it was unlocked instead of running off crying somewhere. Lucky for her and for Ryoga, the door had been open.

After Ukyo had given the little porker a hot bath and a fresh change of clothes, Ryoga had gone up on the roof wearing his old raincoat to secure a tarpaulin over the hole, and then they were finally on their way to their first date, Ryoga apologizing to her and thanking her until his jaw almost came unhinged.

Of course, this last part hadn't been included in Ryoga's version of the evening as told to Ranma— it had been added from Ukyo's version of the evening as told to Ranma.

There was also yet another version, from Ukyo to Akane, that he'd accidentally overheard one night. This version didn't have any of the funny P-chan parts in it, of course, since it was censored for Akane— Ranma swore he'd have finally spilled the beans about P-chan if Ryoga hadn't finally manned up and done it about two weeks later— but it did have a lot of the juicy, embarrassing, emotional stuff that was perfect to tease the Lost Boy with.

They'd made it through dinner, miraculously enough, but when the dessert had arrived, the waiter had tripped and Ryoga had been drenched again, this time by a pitcher of water landing on his head. Ukyo had managed to get some hot water from the establishment to reverse the curse, but the damage had been done and they were humiliated enough to leave.

Once they'd been walking to the movies under Ryoga's umbrella, a passing car had splattered muddy water all over Ukyo's dress. Ranma had overheard Ukyo telling Akane later that since it was more or less the first time she'd worn a dress since she was little, she'd been…pretty upset, to say the least.

Ryoga had told Ranma later that Ukyo had seemed utterly inconsolable, and that he'd begun to think it was all over…when a pack of runaway dogs had suddenly started chasing them. Ryoga and Ukyo could've gotten rid of them easily, of course, but they'd become too many after a while, and Ukyo had insisted that he wasn't allowed to hurt the poor animals in any case.

Besides, as Ukyo had told Akane, his hands were busy, anyway, since it seemed he thought it was his job to carry her to safety as they'd fled. Ukyo had felt exasperated, figuring it was the sight of a dress that did something to the male brain, making them act all old-fashioned and stupidly chivalrous, but she supposed things could be worse than being 'rescued' by a cute, strong guy who didn't seem to mind that the mud from her dress was getting all over his clothes as well.

Ranma still couldn't quite get how anybody could describe Pig Boy as 'cute', but girls could be weird like that sometimes.

Anyway, the evening had been topped off with Ryoga and Ukyo huddled together up in a park tree under Ryoga's red bamboo umbrella, muddy and slightly wet.

Considering all this, Ranma and Akane had trouble understanding why Ryoga and Ukyo still looked back at their first date with fondness.

That was because neither of them had heard the fully unedited version.

His insides felt cold. The night was hot and humid despite the rain, yet he was shivering, staring blankly ahead, the loud barking of the dogs becoming background static. This was the sort of thing that always happened to him. Who else would get attacked by a pack of dogs on their first date with a girl?

Okay, so maybe Ranma, but…but he just wasn't Ranma! He couldn't simply shrug this off.

If there were any possible ways in which this date could've gone any worse, he sure couldn't think of them.

His spine, which had been straight with disbelieving shock and disappointment, went slack and he slouched, his head sagging down to shoulder level. He wanted to comfort her, but he had no idea what to do, and he didn't deserve to comfort her after how he'd ruined their date, anyway. There was no chance there would ever be a second date between him and Kuonji Ukyo, no chance—

"This sort of thing is always happening to me," Ukyo said bitterly, a miserable frown on her face. "And now my mascara's even running. Great— just what I needed to top the evening off," she sniffled, rubbing at her cheeks. "I can't be allowed to look feminine or cute for even five minutes, can I?" She sneered, her fingers clawing at the skirt of her already ruined dress. "Why did I even bother to put the stupid stuff on? It's not like I even know how—"

"U-Ukyo?" Ryoga asked tentatively.

"What?" Ukyo snapped, startled, as if she'd forgotten he was even there. "What is it?" She went on, a little calmer, but suddenly embarrassed.

She'd managed to keep the worst of the awful sense of disappointment and unworthiness at bay by ranting angrily about it, but now that she couldn't seem to throw out any more harsh words at the world in general, now that she was aware of him watching her, she felt like she was being slowly dragged down somehow, as if she was unravelling into something disgusting, as if she was nothing— here she'd broken off her engagement with Ranma for Ryoga, and now she'd managed to mess that up, too, so now she had nothing left and nobody would ever— he'd left her in the Cursed Tunnel of Lost Love for Akane, so why wouldn't he leave her again, now, when she was so

He hung his head, eyes downcast. "I'm so sorry."

Ukyo blinked at the unexpected apology before she cleared her throat, looking down. Here she'd been sitting, hating herself and thinking he hated her, too, when he was apparently only busy hating himself. It was so easy to get carried away sometimes, wasn't it?

Again, she cleared her throat, louder this time, as if it had some sort of cathartic effect on the whole messy situation. "Oh. Well, it's not like it's your fault. Crazy stuff happens around here all the time."

He sighed, grimacing. "That's...true, but I just—"

She picked at her dress, looking wretched. "Look, the curse...I won't lie, it's been a problem tonight," she admitted in a quiet tone.

"Yes," he said dully, steeling himself for the worst. Just as with Akane, his curse would come between him and the girl he liked all over again. It had been bad enough that Ukyo had already seen him in his cursed form today, but now

But she said nothing for a long while, and when he finally dared to look up, she was returning his gaze with something like...vulnerability, which he just might never quite get used to seeing on Kuonji Ukyo's face.

And suddenly, he had something of an epiphany. He understood what she needed, how he might remedy this terrible disaster. What might make up for her muddy dress and runny mascara and wounded feminine pride.

"Ukyo?" He began tryingly.

She sniffed a bit, head turning half away from him. "Hmmm?"

He swallowed, suddenly full of nerves. "If I...did...I mean, if I..."

"What?" She prompted, self-consciously wiping her nose on the back of her hand.

"'re so…um…uh, nothing, never mind," he murmured, blushing, getting angry at his own cowardice; at his inability to be there for her when she needed him. It was like there was some sort of mental block, something choking down his words—

Ukyo looked at him curiously, at his troubled expression and at his fingers, weaving his hands together into tight knots. Then a light went on in her head. "The curse was a problem tonight, but…I mean, it's not really— I mean, I don't mind— we could always work around it somehow—" She pressed out, leaning closer, frowning in concern.

As he heard her tentative attempt at reassurance, he understood what had been stopping him from telling her what he needed to. Taking a slightly shaky breath, he decided to try again. "Y-you still look w-wonderful, you know," he said softly, trying to ignore the frustrating stutter.

Her eyes narrowed at what seemed like a blatant lie to her, annoyed at the small but insistent fluttering of hope in her chest. "That's crap if I ever heard it," she gritted out.

"Hah!" He whispered as he leaned closer yet, their breaths mingling for a second before he kissed her, drawing her damp and muddy form closer to his. Her lips tasted like sweet green tea and yakiniku, and she smelled of rain and earth; he felt intoxicated, drinking her in as if he hadn't seen her for months even though they'd kissed only yesterday. His left hand seemed to have a will of its own as it slid up her wet dress and settled over her breast, gently stroking and squeezing.

When they parted, Ukyo was panting and wide-eyed.

Ryoga hesitated, wondering if he'd overstepped some line with her; his left hand quickly dropped from her breast. "U-Ukyo—"

"Shut up," she gasped. She couldn't remember ever feeling this attractive, and felt a sweet shot of empowerment and affection as she took in the sight of his bright red face and trembling frame. So she drew him to herself, capturing his lips with hers and wrapping her arms around his neck, grabbing his hand to return it to her breast.

This went on for quite a while until the dogs grew bored and went away.

Ukyo had asked Ryoga for a second date when they'd climbed down from the tree, and he, his heart practically in his eyes, had stuttered out an eager yes.

To avoid any more attacks of bad weather and rampant animals, Ukyo had suggested that they should just have dinner at her place the next time.

But Ranma and Akane didn't know any of these last few details, which was why especially Ranma couldn't quite fathom why they were now moving in together.

It made sense that Ukyo had finally grown sick and tired of Ryoga spending two out of every three days lost somewhere and had decided to suggest moving in together, and it also made sense for them to move into Ryoga's house, considering it was bigger than Ukyo's apartment, it was close to Ucchan's and since Ryoga's parents were never home anyway— Ranma and Akane could both see all that, but how Ryoga and Ukyo had actually managed to bumble their way from that disaster of a first date towards this point was still something of a mystery to them.

Ryoga and Ukyo didn't kiss and tell. In time, they assumed, Ranma and Akane would probably figure these things out for themselves firsthand, anyway.

In fact, Nabiki had already been around to the Hibiki house at one point and interrupted their daily training by asking them if they wanted to place their bets on when exactly it'd happen.

The thought of Ranma and Akane eventually getting together still made them feel just a little wistful, but it was only a passing mood, and it was something they could share.

The End.

Author's note: Well, here's another one that's finally finished about two years late. Just tying up some loose ends, I guess.

Sap. Old, old sap. Ooollld. This has been sitting half-finished in my computer forever. Probably since…2006? 2005? So I didn't write this now, I just deleted a lot of crap, added some stuff and cleaned it up a bit. If it seems rushed, it's because it is. I just wanted to finally finish it.

A pack of runaway dogs: The kinda thing that just happens in the Ranmaverse. Don't ask me.

Ukyo never wearing a dress: This is based on the manga, where, as far as I remember, she didn't wear a dress— at least not in this fanfic universe, which goes AU after the Cursed Tunnel of Lost Love chapters.

And no, they didn't have sex up that tree— just in case any of you are wondering. :P