Was this a dream?

He couldn't be sure. Something inside of him insisted that, heck yes, it was a dream… but another part of him hurt so badly, that he knew that it had to be real.

He pinched his arm as tight as he possibly could. It hurt. But that didn't really mean anything, now did it? Sometimes, you could have dreams that were so realistic, things hurt. But could they hurt this bad and still be nothing but a dream?

No, this was a nightmare to him. And it was real.

He'd always thought about that 'follow your heart' stuff, scoffing unbelievingly. Who the hell followed their heart? If your heart fell off of a cliff and let itself get splattered all over the sharp rocks that are at the bottom, would you follow after it, knowing your fate?

Of course not.

And he hadn't. He knew that he was too young to be in a relationship. Knew it. And yet, at the same time, he hadn't wanted to lose her to another. He was too easily embarrassed by even the simplest show of affection, and he hated other people looking at him like he was weak because of it.

Ranma Saotome was not weak. Cats gave him the creeps, maybe. But girls? No way. Especially not Akane. She'd always been such a tomboy anyway… why would he have picked her? Why would he pick any of the girls?

He hadn't picked anybody. Three disappointed girls, and one psycho-chick. How could you tell someone that you liked them, but you just didn't have any experience in that interesting game called love? He hadn't been able to do it. Either way, hearts would be broken, and lives changed.

Now, it seemed his life was the most changed of all.

As he walked down the familiar path outside of the Tendo dojo, he paused. This was supposed to have been his house. His yard. His windows, his grass, his pond, and his dojo.

Seeing her playing in the yard with the kids made him cringe inside.

She should have been his wife. Those should have been his kids. His dog barking in the yard; his wife, his life.

Was this what it felt like to die inside? To wither up like a delicate flower in the intense summer heat?

Why hadn't he listened to what his heart was telling him? Why didn't he throw pride away and focus on something more important than that? Pride always goeth before a fall, and he'd done nothing but fall since he'd come in view of the dojo.

He should have been the man sitting on the edge of the porch, drinking tea and laughing as his children's antics… reaching over to give his wife a loving pat on the back, and a soft kiss on her forehead.

His pride flared up. He could do this! He could run in there and take charge- send the other guy flying and rescue her. The whole hero-saves-heroine thing, except better.

No.

He'd made a choice. A stupid one, sure, but a choice. And as humans, we're given choices to make. He'd just made the wrong one, that was all. But the bad thing about being born human, is that there is no 'back' key. You can't Ctrl+Z to erase and undo a decision, or backspace to change how something was said. Once words come flying out of that mouth- they're out.

They dance and twirl in the air- free, and land in the ears of the people in front of you. You can't take them back. They've already been spoken; heard. And even if you're forgiven for saying it, it's not forgotten, and you can't take it back.

How he wished he had said something else! If only he had told her that he would date her after High School… Maybe he could have set pride on a shelf and admitted that he had never been taught about love. Had never really experienced it before- it was something new; foreign. It was scarier than the fear of being cursed forever.

He turned abruptly on his heel and headed back the way he came. It wasn't his car in the driveway, or his kids running around in the yard.

She wasn't his wife.

Never had been. Never would be.

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Author Notes: Guess what? It's a one-shot! ONE SHOT. One chapter. No updating. I don't have time for chaptered stories. But if I ever get the time, maybe I'll consider writing one. I'm better at these short perspective pieces, anyhow.

It's raw, I know. The story is KINDA based off of two things: One, the episode in the 4th season where he goes into the Magic Mirror and ends up 10 years in the future, where Akane is married to Ryouga, and Two, the song "Who's That Man?", by Toby Keith.

Fight the tears back with a smile,
Stop and look for a little while,
Though it's plain to see,
The only thing missing is me…
That's my house, and that's my car.
That's my dog, in my backyard.
There's the window to the room,
Where she lays her pretty head.
We planted tree out by the fence
Not long after we moved in.
There's my kids and that's my wife:
Who's that man, running my life?

I didn't pick it for any specific reason. Angst rocks. Life isn't always peaches and cream. Personally, I think this is pretty much what would happen if Ranma didn't fess up and admit SOMETHING. Because even if you love someone- you can only put up with being insulted so much before you crack.

Review please. Let me know what you thought.