Title: Ranma's… Husband? 35: … The End.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Official Pairings: Akane/Mousse, Kiyoshi/Ranma, Ryu/Kasumi, Nabiki/Hitomi.
Oh, and most people are pretty screwed up for this bit.
Oh, oh, and their will be notes right at the end.
Thank you for reading. Thank you again if you review or have reviewed. Thank you for putting up with me.
You are all fantastic.
She had been about to leave, to go and do what she must to keep their family afloat, even after Ryu had… when she heard Nodoka's shout. The second the shriek rent the air it felt as though her heart had stopped. She had a bad feeling about this, a very, very bad feeling…
Moving quickly she put down her basket; which didn't quite balance on the bench and slipped off to crash onto the floor, spilling vegetables, meat and eggs. She shook off a brief moment of indecision; she could fix it later, she had the terrible feeling that the same could not be said for whatever was happening. She rushed out into the hall and towards the front door, erupting out of it and into the rain just ahead of Ryu and Genma, who had bolted out of the dining room at the sound of Nodoka's scream.
The first thing she saw was Ranma; female and sinking to his knees, shaking his head, a low keen in the back of his throat, his eyes wide and flashing their whites…
The next thing she saw was Nodoka; her face white and shocked, her hands, claw-like and gripping her sword, her body held stiff and closed off…
The final thing she saw was the pathetic little black piglet looking with confusion from Ranma to Nodoka and back again. P-chan. Ryouga.
Oh shit. She didn't know what to do…
"I saw… I saw," Nodoka wailed, her eyes rolling in their sockets, "You can't pretend, we can't pretend… Ranko… Ranko you're him aren't you? I know that face, I've seen that face… and I can see it now, in you. You're my son. You're my son!"
She saw Ranma jerkily nod his head, as if in a trance.
Nodoka nodded back, spasmodically, before opening her mouth and shrieking, "You're my son and you're a monster and a pervert and what have you done to your father?!!"
Well, Nodoka had obviously lost her mind.
The thought was confirmed when, with a whining wail, Nodoka drew her sword and lunged at Ranma. She, herself, lunged forward, Ryu lunged forward, but it was Genma who reached his wife first, wrapping his large, furry body around her and holding her back, one of his paws knocking her sword from her fist.
Nodoka screamed and howled, kicking and scratching at him.
She stepped forward, towards Ranma, before changing her mind and marching over to a startled Ryouga, who she picked up and shook a little, "Listen to me Ryouga and listen good," he opened his mouth and bukee-ed but she just shook him again, "I want you to go, get out of here, never come back; because if I ever see your face again not only will I not step in and stop whoever else is around from, frankly, murdering you, I'll do it myself."
His little piggy face looked shocked, completely shocked, but she didn't care. She released him roughly and was just a little pleased when he staggered a little, before snarling at him when he didn't move, "Go! Fuck off!"
He flinched when she swore, looked at her strangely, looked over to Ranma and his hysterical mother before heading off in a stagger that quickly became a run. She hoped that that would be the last any of them saw of him.
The rain slowed to a trickle before stopping altogether (though she suspected that it wouldn't be long before it stated again) as she whirled back around to face what was going on behind her. Nodoka was really making a scene, even the neighbours (who were used to all sorts of weird behaviour going on) were standing around staring. She shook her head and tsk-ed, it was really rather immature of the other woman.
Nodoka's flaws aside, and there were a fair few of those, she had more important things to worry about; Ranma, to be precise. She rushed over to the boy and sank down next to him, trying to get him to respond, trying to get him out of there before his lunatic of a mother did any more damage. He didn't even blink.
She looked over to Genma and Ryu, hoping that they might have some idea of how to proceed. She was rather startled to see Ryu running back into the house, but then she saw the sign that Genma had been struggling to hold up where he could see it. Now that he didn't have to, and really unable to hold both Nodoka and the sign, Genma dropped it face up and where she could see it.
"GET HOT WATER"
Oh… what was he going to do?
Genma looked so determined, so, so determined. Almost like a different man… mind you, he was a panda, but she had gotten used to reading his expressions on that furry, monochromatic face. She watched, with baited breath, for Ryu to return. It felt as if everything, the future of everyone she cared about, would be determined by what happened next.
She wished she could do something herself, but she didn't know what to do and she suspected that maybe she hadn't quite recovered from what had happened earlier; her thoughts seemed just a little… off.
Ryu erupted back out of the house at a run, the full kettle in his hand. He hesitated for the briefest second, in which Genma looked at him as if he was unbearably stupid, before he threw the water over the panda, which had the predictable result.
"Genma?!" Nodoka shrieked again, but not as loudly as she had before, before her eyes rolled up and she became a dead-weight in Genma's arms. She'd fainted.
Genma hauled his wife into his arms and looked over to her, "We'd better get inside before it starts raining again, if I have to deal with this I'd rather do it as a man," he frowned at them, "Can you help Ranma in?"
She nodded and stood up, hauling Ranma to his feet. He was still unresponsive, still limp, still not taking his own weight, so she looked to Ryu to see if he'd help her drag the red-head inside. She could probably have done it herself, Ranma wasn't very heavy, but it would be awkward and… she didn't know. It would just be just easier if he helped. He nodded to her and went over, taking Ranma's other arm, and together they brought him back into the house.
They followed Genma to the dining-room, where he carefully laid Nodoka on the floor. After some quick contemplation they eased Ranma down as far away from Nodoka as they could manage whilst still being in the same room.
She sat down next to the boy and looked into his worryingly empty face. This must be a nightmare for him and she knew that before now he had been becoming increasingly fragile.
Ryu's long-fingered hand briefly touched down on her shoulder as he whispered "I think I should get Kiyoshi" in her ear. She frowned at him for a moment, not sure if it was a good idea, before nodding her head. It couldn't make anything worse, as she doubted that it was actually possible for things to get worse.
She was small, so small. So fragile and tiny and bird-like. He hadn't noticed it before, maybe hadn't wanted to see it, but she was barely a shadow of what she had once been. When she was awake she was so lively, but now…
He glanced over to his son and saw the same thing.
Now… they looked broken, shattered, helpless. It was his duty to protect them; but how could he, when what he had to protect them from was each-other, themselves?
This was… there were probably words for how wretchedly, horribly unpleasant this was, but whatever they were, they were not part of his vocabulary. He was going to die. His son was going to die. All because of him.
It was his fault.
He could feel the truth of that, of his own guilt and culpability, rise up inside him like a dragon. It was curling up in his chest, his throat, choking him.
He didn't know what to do, how to get out of this… maybe he should run, grab the boy and get out of there… if they kept running, never stopped then maybe she wouldn't catch up to them…
No… no he couldn't. He was tired of it, tired of the life he'd been leading for all these years. He just wanted some peace, to go home, for everything to be alright. For them to be a family again.
He was tired.
He was tired and it was all his fault.
There was his wife, lying there, still so beautiful, still so delicate, still so young and he felt so, so old. It was wearing him down; he felt so tired, felt like this was killing him, taking the last of his youth, leaving him older than Happosai.
He finally let himself glance over to the wrecked shell of his son.
All those years of taking care of the boy, all those years of… Ranma wasn't always well in the head. He knew that, he also knew that he was the cause of a lot of it. The Nekoken training, the way they'd lived, the way they'd never settled down, they way they'd never really formed ties with anyone else until recently, his occasional trips into the red-light districts of various towns- leaving the boy to fend for himself…
But he could see Nodoka in it as well.
Not just because of the promise or the lengths the boy had gone to, the things he'd done, in order to prevent her from working out who he was. Nodoka hadn't always been… well… when they were married. She was, usually, very calm, very collected, very proper. An intelligent, reasonable wife… but every now and then she'd fall into that hysterical state she'd been in earlier.
He blamed her mother for that. He'd never liked the old…
It was just sad to think that she might have passed part of it on to their son. His son.
This was stupid, ridiculous, avoiding the problem at hand.
Ryu ducked back into the room from wherever he'd been and bent down to whisper something to Kasumi. She nodded, but never took her attention from Ranma, who was still in that wretched (entirely too familiar) catatonic state. Ryu whispered something else to her before ducking back out of the room and, from what it sounded like, out of the front door.
He vaguely wondered where the elder Kurosawa was going, but it was only a vague curiosity. The Kurosawa's were partly to blame for everything… for the way it had all fallen to pieces.
Not to mention that Kiyoshi hadn't been around when Ranma needed him.
It wasn't a thought that he liked thinking, but it was true. Ranma seemed to need that Kurosawa and if he somehow managed to get them out of this it would be too late anyway for Ranma to keep trying to be a 'man amongst men' so he might as well have what made him happy. There'd been far too little happiness in his life.
A little rustle of noise by his feet alerted him to the fact that Nodoka was stirring.
Well, this was it. The end of it all…
She blinked groggily as she awoke, looking around herself in confusion, before her eyes cleared and she leapt to her feet. Her eyes flitting here and there looking, he suspected, for her sword. Since he'd left it out the front of the house he didn't expect that she'd find it.
Eventually she seemed to give up and her gaze darted from him to their son before she lunged at the boy, grabbing his shirt with her hands and shaking him. Ranma just jerked back and forth like a doll in her grasp and didn't even react when she began to scream in his face.
"How did you do it? How did you do it?!"
He lunged forward and grabbed her arm, pulling her away from the boy and around to face him. She flinched when she met his eyes, before shaking her head, "I don't understand it. I don't! How… You were a panda and now you are my husband. It must be witchcraft, it must be. That's the only explanation. The only… Witchcraft. Witchcraft and that…" she glared viciously at their son "…thing… must be the witch. She… he… must have enchanted you or else why? Why haven't you come home?"
She sounded both totally insane and so beseeching, he had forgotten about her mother's ridiculous belief in witchcraft, had even thought that she had… but no matter what she sounded like it didn't matter. Nothing mattered. He felt as though he was falling through himself. Before she had a chance to open her mouth again and do any more damage to the boy he opened his mouth and let it all out in a dead voice, all the venomous, poisonous truth that had been festering inside him for so long.
"It's my fault. It's all my fault. The boy, our son, is innocent, a victim in all this. If anyone's to blame for it. If anyone's to die for it. Then it's me. It's my fault."
He watched with some vague satisfaction as she froze and stared at him, her eyes huge, "What do you mean?"
She was rather embarrassed about her earlier breakdown. All that wailing and screaming, she'd sounded like her mother on a bad day. There had been that dark, secret twist of lunacy in her mother's family, all originating from an incident when her mother was a small child.
Allegedly an ancient, wizened, dying Chinese woman had shown up on the doorstep of her mother's childhood home, seeking a place to die in peace. They had let her in and nursed her through her last hours but her mother's mother, her grandmother, had stolen a beautiful bracelet from the woman as she lay dying. The old woman had asked for it back, but when her grandmother had denied stealing it in the first place and had acted offended at the very suggestion, the old woman had used her last breath to curse her and all her female decedents.
She didn't know the details of the curse, her mother had never told her, all she knew was that, for all her mother was usually a very self-contained woman, she completely and totally, truly believed in the curse and any mention of witchcraft would send her into a state of frenzied hysteria.
So yes, she was embarrassed that she had acted so much like her mother, and even more so because she herself had never believed in the curse, but she had seen something which should have been completely impossible, so what had her first thought been; witchcraft. She had thought that Ran… no, she couldn't bring herself to think of that person as anyone else… Ranko, she had thought that Ranko was a witch.
She wasn't, as it turned out.
Her husband, her Genma, had gone to long and incredible lengths to explain to her what had happened. Juusenkyou, cursed springs, foolish training exercises. She wasn't completely sure that she understood, but the one thing that was becoming abundantly obvious was the lengths he was going to to convince her that it was all his fault. He loved… that creature… that much was obvious.
The very thought shuddered across her awareness. How could he? How could he love such a thing?...
Traitorous, evil, wicked, sitting there knowing, knowing and laughing at her as she made a fool of herself over Ranko. Ranko who didn't even really exist. Ranko who was her… Oh Gods… Ranko who was her son.
It was disgusting. Completely disgusting. She felt polluted by it.
She turned back to Genma, who was waiting for her reaction to his explanation, and studied his face. She could see the fear in him, the terror, he was so worried that she'd grab the contract and her sword and demand that they fulfil it. He didn't want… that… to die. He didn't. She suspected that he would actually take the blade if it spared… Ranko.
What should she do?
She wanted her husband back, she wanted her life back… she wanted to be free of all this. She didn't want to force him to… she didn't want him to die. The contract was… she didn't even really agree with it, not anymore, she had only agreed to it in the first place to make him happy, and it seemed that he'd be happier without it… but at the same time she couldn't bare the thought of living in the same house as…
Her son. The monster.
No. No! Not after the fool she'd made of herself…
She took a deep breath and began to speak, before the idea had fully crystallised in her mind, "There is only one way I can think of for the contact to be rendered null and void…"
"Yes?" he queried, and she could see hope and fear warring on his face.
She nodded, her face deadly serious, before coldly stating, "That is if we have no son."
He looked shocked, totally shocked, "You mean we…?"
"Disown him?" she glared at the thing that was her child with venom and was just a little happy when it flinched under the weight of her gaze "Yes. That's what I mean."
"No…" Genma whispered, shaking his head, "No… we can't. I can't… There has to be some other way…"
"No," she would not be swayed, "No Genma. We had a contract, which is obviously broken, so it's either 'we have no son' or you and… that… fulfil your obligations."
She wasn't having it in her house.
He looked from her (no doubt taking in her serious, unswayable expression) to the thing and back again, a look of helpless desperation on his face. "This is the only way?" he asked, futilely expecting the answer to be different.
"Yes. The only way."
He bit his lip and looked back to it, "But where will he stay? Who'll take care of him? I can't leave him by himself…"
She couldn't possibly care less. The creature could sleep in the gutter for all it mattered to her.
"We'll take him," that awful Kasumi suddenly piped in, "He can stay here, with us. We'll keep him safe."
Genma seemed to be studying the girl, and she was sure some strange moment of communication was happening that she couldn't be a part of. It irritated her. Slowly her husband nodded, still looking into that girl's eyes, "Keep him safe."
She nodded back to him, "We will. I will."
He turned back to her, and she almost flinched away from the hurt, from the broken expression on his face, before she managed to gather herself.
"Well then" she declared, hoping she looked confident and competent, "Let's pack our things and get out of this house. We can stay at a hotel until the house if finished and then… well, a normal life."
He nodded, his eyes still empty, and turned to leave the room. When he was next to the creature who was no longer their son, who she was happy to see was back in this world and looking absolutely devastated, he stopped and whispered, almost too softly for her to hear, "I'm sorry."
He was… angry, hurting, furious, lonely, lost, sad, broken, wanting…
It all came back to Ranma. He shouldn't have… he…
Even though he'd told the truth he should have hung around, shouldn't have been a coward, shouldn't have run off to lick his wounds…
Ranma might have needed him. He should have stayed, instead he'd let that sense of broken, shattered, loss chase him off. As it was now he didn't think he'd ever be able to breathe again without it hurting, if he was with Ranma the at least the other's presence would probably be able to sooth some of the pain.
He hadn't slept the night before, didn't know if he'd be able to sleep again, all he'd done is sit here, in the garden, and let himself swim in his own regrets.
Everything that had happened felt like it was pushing down on him. All those things he'd been too busy surviving to cope with… and there was too much of it. Far, too much. He felt like he was drowning in his own pain.
The Phone had been ringing and ringing for the last fifteen minutes, he could hear it, but he couldn't be bothered getting up to answer it. What was the point? Life might go on, but it didn't feel like it was going on for him.
He wished that his father was here, he did. He needed someone to talk to and he couldn't even bear thinking about going to his mother with this… not when she'd been the cause of it. Unfortunately his father was dead.
Dead and unavenged, his children and wife too focused on surviving, on getting the next meal, until they'd all but forgotten what had happened. It had been wiped away by horror and shock; too many nights of watching his mother bleed, hearing her cry…
Too much blood and pain and unforgivable cruelty.
He could feel it all, in this moment, in his grief, he could feel it all, and it was reaching through the past to strangle him. The loss of Ranma just one more loss, though a particularly painful one.
He was swimming in his own self hatred when he heard the front door slam open and running footsteps storm through the house towards him. Ryu erupted out of the back door at a run. "Don't you ever answer the bloody phone?!"
He looked blankly at his brother, "What?"
"The phone!" Ryu snarled, "I've been ringing you."
He blinked, "So?"
Ryu sighed viciously, "Damn it Kiyoshi, could you please act like an adult."
"What?!" he snapped at his brother, "Like you're one to talk."
Ryu gave him a flat look, "I have been acting far more grown up than you recently little brother."
"In what way have I been acting immature" he snarled back; possibly, just possibly, with every bit of immaturity that Ryu had just accused him of.
Ryu glared at him, "The way you've been treating Ranma, for one!"
He felt like he'd been slapped. "What's that supposed to mean?" he growled, furious that Ryu could accuse him of treating Ranma badly, "I've been doing what's best for him. He doesn't need me hanging around now that…"
"SHUT UP!" Ryu shouted, before taking a deep, calming breath, "Just. Shut. Up. You don't understand. You don't. Kasumi told me that Ranma's been miserable ever since you left…"
The thought lanced through him. "Miserable?" he knew he sounded weak and worried, but he really didn't understand.
Ryu wasn't listening to him though, instead still talking, a haunted look on his face, "But all that doesn't matter, not anymore…"
A horrible, awful feeling began to creep over him, "What do you mean?"
Ryu looked him square in the eye, "Nodoka has found out."
His world was falling out from underneath him, it was, but that didn't stop the rather foolish words from slipping out, "Found out… No, you don't mean…"
You smirked in a way that was completely, totally, without humour, "Yes. I do mean. The curse."
He forced himself to his feet, ignoring the stiffness of his muscles and joints from sitting still for too long, and began to run "Shit. Oh shit, I've got to…"
Ranma. He had to get to Ranma.
She was glad that Mousse wasn't struggling; she'd had to pick him up and shelter him in her jacket when it had started to rain again.
It wasn't very nice weather to walk home in, not at all. The little shower of rain earlier had just been the tip of the iceberg and it was now pouring down as if it would never stop. The worse thing was that she'd forgotten her umbrella, which meant that she was well and truly soaked as well as unpleasantly cold.
It wasn't that far until they'd reach the Tendou Dojou now, which meant she could read the letter that Mousse's mother had left with Cologne and have a look at what else she'd been given. Mousse had been very upset when she'd met him outside the school, which had been, thankfully, a good few minutes before the rain had started up again and he'd turned into a duck, so he'd had a chance to tell her that his mother had left. Gone. She hadn't even said goodbye, instead she'd left a letter for both of them and Ranma, a couple of paper wrapped packages and a scroll (also for Ranma).
It was sort of disturbing, that she'd just leave like that, and she was worried about how it would affect Mousse. She'd have to wait to ask him how he was, though, because even if they got some hot water he'd turn back immediately. At least this way she could keep him safe, keep him sheltered in her arms. She hoped he was getting some comfort from that.
She wished that Nabiki had come home with them instead of going off with that girl, she was sure her sister would have packed her own umbrella, and, knowing Nabiki, had probably brought hers along as well. But it didn't matter, Nabiki had looked happy when she and the girl had walked off together and that was a good thing. Nabiki was rarely, honestly happy.
She frowned as she realised that there was something strange going on outside of her home. She could see a car just near the front gate with someone packing things into it, but she would need to get a little closer to really understand what was happening- the rain was a little too heavy to see clearly.
As she got closer she couldn't quite believe what she was seeing. In fact she didn't want to believe what she was seeing.
Nodoka was packing things into the car with some help from one of the neighbours, who didn't look too happy to be roped in, but the thing that was really worrying was Genma. Genma who was standing there underneath an umbrella in his human form.
She saw him start to lunge forward when Nodoka almost dropped something she was carrying, but she quickly whirled on him and shouted, "Genma, you stay there under that umbrella. We're almost done and I'm not having you turn into… that… right now."
Oh no, oh Gods no…
She began to run in earnest, barrelling past Nodoka and the neighbour, but slowing a little by Genma, who gave her a horribly pained, apologetic smile, before speeding up again and bursting into the house. She dropped her bag and Mousse's clothes, quickly toed off her shoes and tried to shrug off her blazer whilst still holding Mousse securely, and shouting "Kasumi! Kasumi, where are you?!"
Her sister burst out of the dining room and headed towards her, a horrible look on her face. "Oh Gods Kasumi, what's going on?"
Kasumi bit her lip and glanced back to the dining room before turning to her and saying, "Come on, I'll get some towels and then let's go to the kitchen and turn Mousse back so you can both get dry. I'll tell you what's happened while we do." She nodded and followed her sister to the kitchen.
Kasumi bustled about for a moment, getting the hot water and the towels, before turning back to her with a frown, "I think you should probably put him down for this…"
"Al…alright," she agreed shakily, then bent down and gently put Mousse on the floor, trying to ignore how hard her hands were shaking now that they weren't occupied. He staggered a little, flapping his wings, until he regained his balance and then looked up at her as she poured the hot water over his head. She held out a towel and looked away as he turned back, but that didn't stop her from blushing at the idea that he was just there completely naked.
The towel was pulled out of her grip and she left enough time for him to wrap himself in it before she turned back around. Even though the very big, very fluffy towel hid all of him that she hadn't already seen, every atom of his being seemed to radiate embarrassment. For just a second she was caught there looking at him, her eyes trapped in his gaze, the moment syrupy and intense, before her sister dumped the other towel over her head. She flinched as the fabric covered her face and brought her out of that moment, as she returned to the present she found herself shivering as it finally dawned on her exactly how cold she was. She grabbed the towel and began to half-heartedly dry herself, feeling terribly embarrassed, but not sure why, and unable to meet her sister's eyes.
When she was a little dryer and a little less embarrassed she looked over to Kasumi, "So, what happened?"
Kasumi shook her head and looked to the side before meeting her gaze, "It was Ryouga's fault. That stupid, stupid boy." She began, anger, exhaustion and sorrow staining her voice, "Nodoka found out, found out about Ranma. The curse. Genma…" Kasumi took a deep breath, "She reacted badly. She went… insane. She said some of the most horrible things, all where Ranma could hear them – in essence it was the worst case scenario that Ranma and his father had always feared. Genma stepped in, tried to make her see reason, pleaded for Ranma's life…"
She couldn't quite believe that, "What? Genma? Genma Saotome?"
Kasumi nodded, "Yes. Genma. He was… it was like seeing some other part of him, some part he keeps hidden most of the time… but that doesn't matter. She agreed that they wouldn't have to… to… you know… but only if…" she took another deep breath and ran her hand down her face as if trying to wipe something away, before meeting her gaze with suspiciously bright eyes… was she about to cry? "Ranma's been disowned," she declared, flatly, "The only way Nodoka would agree not to fulfil the contract is if she and Genma no longer had a son."
What? "No…" she whispered, "What's going to happen to him?! Where's he going to stay?"
Kasumi gave her a small, crooked smile, "He'll be staying here, with us. I wasn't going to let that woman completely ruin his life."
She nodded when she heard that. It was a good idea, Ranma liked them, he felt at home here… at least she thought he did… and if he was here then she could… she could… She dropped the towel and ran out of the room, looking for him.
He'd be safe with them. They'd keep him safe…
He wasn't in the dining room, she'd thought that he would be… maybe he was upstairs? She headed in that direction but as she did she noticed that the front door was open. She was sure she'd shut it. Darting her head outside she found him, still female, still being battered by the rain, and curled up in a miserable ball on the front step.
Genma, Nodoka, the neighbour and the car were all gone.
She stepped out fully and sank down next to him, her arms going around him and pulling his small, trembling frame against her. "It'll be alright," she whispered into his hair, "We'll get through this."
"Akane?" he murmured after a moment, looking at her with surprise.
He looked away from her, shame colouring his features, "I'm sorry about… about Ryouga."
The reminder stung, the betrayal still felt fairly fresh, but she knew now that she could forgive him. That she would forgive him. That she was in the process of forgiving him right then… He really, probably, hadn't known any better, but she hoped like hell he did now.
"It's alright," she responded, "Just don't do it again."
He violently shook his head, "I won't I promise."
"It's okay Ranma," she said, studying him. He looked so vulnerable, so diminished… she hoped he would recover from this, that it would just be another one of those things that happened to him; but she was afraid that this might be the one thing that pushed him too far, that he may never recover.
She was about to suggest that they go inside and get dry when the sound of running footsteps pounding onto the wet ground made her look up in time to see Kiyoshi appear outside the front gate. He was soaking wet, bedraggled, and frantic, but the thing she noticed most was the way his face lit up, both with pleasure and concern, when he laid eyes on Ranma. With his eyes still focussed on the small, shaking figure in her arms he pushed open the gate and walked over to them just seconds before Ryu appeared, running at full pelt.
When she glanced over to Ranma, to see how he was taking this development, she found that he was looking up at Kiyoshi with a strange, almost unreadable, expression on his face. She looked up at the other boy and found that he was studying Ranma with that same, strange intensity. Considering things briefly she shrugged and gently disentangled herself from Ranma before getting to her feet and motioning to Ryu that perhaps they should both go inside and leave Ranma to Kiyoshi.
Ryu nodded and they both carefully made their way around Ranma and into the house, she felt that her instincts were probably correct when Ranma didn't even seem to notice her leave. The last thing she saw before she shut the door behind them was Kiyoshi shrugging off his jacket and laying it over Ranma's shivering shoulders.
Sighing briefly and rubbing her temples she headed towards the dining room, which was the room that her sister was most likely in. She still had some questions about what had happened, what they were going to do now… but when she entered the room all the words died in her throat.
Ryu had obviously come ahead of her. Obviously because Kasumi had her arms wrapped around him, and was almost hanging on him for support. Ryu didn't seem to find this strange, his arms were around her waist and he seemed to be whispering something in her ear…
It was then that she noticed the ring. The ring. Diamond. Solitaire. Tasteful but expensive. On her sister's left ring finger…
She must have made some noise because Kasumi looked up at her; her sister looked calm, perfectly composed and when she opened her mouth to ask what the hell was going on Kasumi spoke before she could, "Ryu and I are getting married."
The sound of a body hitting the floor behind her made her turn around to find her father sitting slumped on the floor just outside of the door, looking shocked stupid. She stared at him in shock for a moment before he gave a sudden burst of laughter, shook his head ruefully and got to his feet. He walked past her into the room and towards Kasumi and Ryu, who were looking slightly more nervous now. He stopped just in front of them before a huge grin erupted over his face and he reached out and grabbed Ryu's hand, shaking it and declaring "Congratulations!" before turning to Kasumi and pulling her into a hug.
From where she was standing she could just here him whisper "Congratulations. I'm so sorry I haven't been here for you all recently."
Not even sure how she was feeling she watched them as they became distracted by the prospect of the wedding. She didn't resent them for their happiness, or their excitement, but she couldn't take her mind away from Ranma, from what had happened… but even as she thought that she realised that neither Ryu nor Kasumi were totally swept up in the moment either. It was just their father. Their father that didn't know.
She saw the second Kasumi must have said something. Saw his face fall. Saw the pain flash across it…
A warm hand landed on her shoulder and she turned around to see Mousse, now dry and fully dressed, looking at her with concern. She gave him a wavery smile, one that she knew wasn't that convincing, and didn't fight him as he pulled her into a hug. She needed the comfort.
Everything was… wrong, strange, different, painful, broken.
He was… he was everything that everything else was. This was something, something beyond everything else he had ever experienced. It hurt, it hurt but the word hurt, the word pain… it was all inadequate. All of it. He hurt like he had never hurt before, like he prayed he'd never hurt again. He was lost. Everything was lost. His family, his hopes for a proper family… they were all lost.
He had nothing left.
Everything felt empty, even Akane's arms that were wrapped around him. He could barely feel them. Barely feel her heat. Barely feel the comfort she was trying to give…
A noise made him look up, he wasn't sure what it was because the whole world felt hushed, muted, but when he did look up he was caught in Kiyoshi's gaze.
Akane jostled him just a little as she moved away, Ryu brushed past him as he entered the house… none of that mattered.
Kiyoshi… Kiyoshi who he'd never expected to see again…
The other boy moved closer to him and shrugged off his jacket, which was carefully placed around his shoulders, before Kiyoshi sat down next to him. It was strange… he could actually feel Kiyoshi…
They sat in silence for an awkward moment before Kiyoshi carefully wrapped his arm around him and pulled him closer. Kiyoshi was still so warm, and he could feel that warmth leaching into his frozen flesh. He let himself burrow a little closer into that source of comfort.
"What happened?" Kiyoshi asked, thankfully not asking if he was alright.
He thought about how to answer that for a minute, before speaking in a shamefully broken voice, "I'm not their son anymore."
Kiyoshi's arm tightened around him before the other boy said, "I'm sorry."
He could feel tears welling up in his eyes, sobs rising in his chest, and he wasn't even sure he could hold them back this time. He felt so tired, so worn out… so sick of trying to be something he wasn't…
A man amongst men…
Something he didn't have to be, not anymore.
He let the tears fall, but still held back the sobs. He still had some dignity, even in complete defeat.
"I've been a bastard…" Kiyoshi said suddenly, he looked up at the other boy with bleary eyes and found him looking into the distance, his eyes sad and angry, "I promised myself that I'd protect you and I haven't even been here when you needed me."
He wasn't sure how to react to that statement, just burrowed closer to the other boy. Usually he would have said something about not needing to be protected, but he felt weak, vulnerable, scared and couldn't help but think that it would be nice if he could trust someone else to keep him safe. Kiyoshi was probably the only person in the universe who could, too…
Once upon a time he wouldn't have even believed that someone would want to keep him safe, not after the Nekoken training when his old man had… but Kasumi had even said that said that he would stay here, with them, had promised his pop that she'd keep him safe…
It was strange, his pop… no, he had to stop thinking of him like that. Genma. Genma had argued with… with… Nodoka… he'd even volunteered to kill himself so that… It was strange… his… Genma had looked sad, had said he was sorry, after agreeing to disown him so that they wouldn't have to fulfil the promise…
It hurt. It hurt so much. He had no mother, he had no father… he was an orphan… he had no one…
But! But… it didn't have to be like that. It didn't. He didn't… the contract was… which meant he could…
If he couldn't have his family, shouldn't he have the other thing he really wanted?
He looked up at Kiyoshi, studied his handsome face, before carefully reaching out and taking Kiyoshi's surprised face in his hands and pulling it down close to his own. Trembling, terrified, frightened and freaked-out he laid one quick, fluttering kiss on the other boy's lips, before releasing Kiyoshi with a squeak.
It felt as if his heart was about to burst out of his chest, blushing so hard he was sure they could see him from space and unable to meet Kiyoshi's gaze he cringed. Maybe he shouldn't have done that. What if Kiyoshi wasn't interested anymore…?
Two very gentle hands cupped his own face and turned him back to the boy he had just kissed. "Are you sure?" Kiyoshi asked, his face serious.
Was he?... "Yes," he answered simply.
Kiyoshi nodded and leant down, gently taking his lips in a proper kiss. As his eyes slowly drifted shut and he gave himself to the sensation, he couldn't help thinking that when he was with Kiyoshi he felt alive.
Even when it felt like his world was dying.
Very Final Author's Notes for Ranma's… Husband?:
There will probably be a sequel; I have ideas, lot's of ideas, but I just need a little break before I start it. A month or so, that's all. I have a couple of things I need to write first and I need some time to let my brain relax.
The sequel, if there is one (things might happen and I might not get around to it, I'm just warning you.) probably won't be written with as much intensity as this was as I'm going to be pretty busy this year and I'm thinking of working on some original stuff.
Anyway, I'd just like to thank you all for reading one last time. I have really appreciated it.