Falling to Earth
A Ranma ½ Fanfiction
"Well, what do you think, Tendou-san? Will your client approve?"
"Hmmm..." Tendou Nabiki was, admittedly, out of her element. Taking bets on the various goings-on at Furinkan, selling photos, and peddling information were the aspects of her 'business' with which she was most comfortable; negotiating the lease of a six-story office building wasn't. To buy herself a moment more to consider and to project a useful aura of fearlessness, she stepped to the edge of the roof and placed a foot on the twelve-inch high brick riser. Looking down, she could see her sister Akane, waiting on the sidewalk.
This was her father's fault, she mentally swore. Ever ready to volunteer his family's services, Tendou Soun had enlisted his middle daughter's help for an old friend of his who always seemed to get the short end of the stick. In turn, Nabiki had enlisted the help of a classmate whose father was a building inspector. The boy stood off to one side of the building owner, looking down at the tar on the flat roof and scratching the back of his head. Nabiki sighed—no, not her preferred milieu at all.
The owner startled her a little. "Hai. I think we can do busi—" As she moved the one foot off the raised roof edge and started to pivot her body around on her other foot, the jagged end of a piece of reinforcing steel sticking up from the riser caught the sole of her shoe. The stopped motion of the foot moved up her body and switched directions at the fulcrum created by her hips, and Nabiki began to fall backwards.
Time slowed to a crawl as adrenaline sped up her mental processes. The owner and her classmate began to run forward, but they passed out of sight below her vision as she toppled over the edge, her buttocks briefly smacking against the riser, stopping her rotation and allowing her to fall while continuously looking up. The heads of the owner and then her classmate appeared over the edge, their shrinking eyes wide in horror.
Nabiki's mind entered a state of hyper-awareness and recall. A line of thunderstorms had been advancing across Tokyo, and the moist dustiness of impending rain streamed into Nabiki's nostrils as she passed the sixth floor. The air was charged with the threat of the approaching weather—ionized, cool, bracing, electrifying.
Her clothes billowed upwards, seeming, to Nabiki, to carry away her hard-won distance from life, and moments forgotten rushed forward to smother her. Her mother's smiling face appeared before her, as clear as the day she died.
"Nabiki-chan, why did you take Akane-chan's ice cream?"
Her mother sighed. "Nabiki, you must learn to share. There is happiness for everyone when people share."
As she passed the fifth floor, Nabiki laughed once, tears beginning to stream from her eyes. Then, a hospital bed; a shrunken, diseased form recumbent beneath the sheets. "Mother..."
Nabiki stood behind the other members of her family in the cold, sterile room. She was alone, unseen, and spoke to herself in a tiny, unheard voice. "Don't leave me, Mommy. No one loves me but you."
The fourth floor passed by, and from her depths, a handful of core emotions peered out, blinking in the first light after a decade-long night.
"I don't want to be alone, Mommy. Don't leave me!"
The third floor saw her sobbing aloud. "DON'T LEAVE. I DON'T WANT TO BE ALONE!! MOM—OOF!!"
"Hang on," a drawling male voice said in her ear. "The landin's gonna be a bit rough."
Peripherally, Nabiki saw a black-clad leg shoot out and hit the side of the building, redirecting their motion out and along the side as he ran sideways against the brick. She had a brief glimpse of an untamed mop of black hair, a pigtail whipping out from behind, and cool blue eyes in a handsome face that was taut with concentration.
"Don't leave me..." she whispered, unheard.
The two of them plowed through a canvas awning, landing in the midst of a vegetable cart. Assorted fruits and other comestibles sprayed outwards, and the cart owner cried out and dove away.
Akane, shaking and crying, ran up to find her sister curled up in a strange boy's lap, sobbing into his shirt and her arms tightly wrapped around his neck.
"NABIKI!! Are you ALL RIGHT?!" Akane yelled.
In response, Nabiki said, in between sobs, "Don't leave me!" She clung to him desperately. "Don't leave!!"
The boy's eyes were bulging out of his sockets at the crying bundle of live girl in his lap, and he looked up at Akane in unmitigated panic. "Uh... Uh..."
Akane laughed through her tears. Well, I guess not all boys are perverts. She motioned him to put his arms around Nabiki and hold her.
His eyes bulged a little more and his mouth fell open. He then peered down at the curvy girl clinging to him. Jerkily, he slowly closed his arms around her, although he was stiff as a board.
Falling to her knees, Akane mixed more laughter in with her tears.
- - -
Nabiki sat on the curb by the destroyed vegetable stand, her arms around her knees and shivering. Akane sat next to her, rubbing her back. The boy stood in front of them, while the building owner and Nabiki's classmate stood behind, looking on in relief. Ever the business woman, Nabiki had forced her mind to current matters and told the building owner that he had a deal, and then she returned to her shock.
Akane looked up at Nabiki's savior. "Thanks so much! If you hadn't been there... Well..."
"Aw, it was nuthin'... Well, I guess I better get goin'. See ya!"
He started to sprint away, but Akane wasn't having it. "WAIT!"
He stopped and turned around. "Yeah?"
Akane blinked at him. "Uh... What's your name?"
"Uh... Hi. I'm Tendou Akane, and this is my sister, Nabiki." She nudged Nabiki, who looked up and shakily said, "H-Hi."
"Hiya," Ranma said. He smiled at her, and the hearts in both girls' chests did flip-flops. It was almost a novel sensation for Nabiki, but perhaps understandable considering the circumstances. "Ya feelin', errr... okay?"
"Heh..." Nabiki rubbed her arms. "I'll live..."
Ranma fidgeted for a moment. "Well... Ja!"
"Wait!" Akane called, and he turned around again. "At least, er, let us, um... reward you somehow!"
"Reward? Um..." His stomach abruptly growled loud enough to be heard by anyone within a fifteen-foot radius. "..."
Akane giggled. "Okay, how about some food?"
"Hey! That'd be GREAT! I'm starved!" Stupid Pops! Sittin' in jail with the police holdin' our money!
Getting Nabiki to her feet required Akane to support her, which was well within her strength, but the younger Tendou had other ideas. "Saotome-san, could you, ah, give me a hand? Nabiki's a little... woozy still." She put her mouth to her sister's ear. "If you foul this up, I'm going to disown you. Lean on him."
Startled partway out of her state, Nabiki stared at Akane in incomprehension, but the light abruptly dawned as a strong male arm encircled her waist. His other hand found hers and pulled her arm over his shoulder.
"Okay?" he asked her. She nodded. "Where to?"
Akane motioned forward, and then disengaged herself from Nabiki, leaving Ranma with the job of supporting her. "Hey! Errr... Oh, hell." His stomach was kicking his brain to hurry up, so he hefted her completely off the ground in his arms and followed after Akane. The building owner and Nabiki's schoolmate hesitated and then followed, as well.
Too shaken up to even approach her normal cool attitude, Nabiki blushed, secretly pleased but outwardly embarrassed. Everyone was staring. It's not everyday a stud carries you around. Enjoy it, girlfriend. She leaned her head against his bicep and studied his face.
Ranma's eyes flicked down to see her watching him. He reddened a little and glanced down ever so often, occasionally laughing nervously. "Ya sure you're okay?"
The small group walked a short way towards an okonomi-yaki yatai down the street. Akane turned around just before reaching the cart, and said, "How's this—Oh, darn!"
The rain that had been threatening them hit without warning. Akane started to turn and dash underneath the cart's awning, but something odd had registered. She stopped, turned completely back, and peered at Nabiki and the redheaded girl holding her. ... Girl?! Nabiki was rigid, and the strange girl's head was bowed.
The rain continued, and the entire group stood quietly, the sound of the falling water masking the other, normal noises of the city. After a moment, the girl walked forward and stopped in front of Akane. She held Nabiki out to her, and numbly, Akane took her sister into her arms. The eyes of the two Tendous never left the heart-shaped face framed in blazing, dripping scarlet. The girl looked up finally, winced, and then jumped to the rooftop behind Nabiki and Akane, disappearing as if she'd never existed at all.
Akane had leaned back, her head titled to see the rooftop behind her, and she'd had to step back with one foot to keep her balance. In Akane's arms, Nabiki had been better positioned to see the whole thing.
"Tell me I wasn't dreaming. Saotome-san was a guy and now he's a girl, and he... she just did a standing two-story jump?"
There was brief pause. "He didn't give you to someone else, and I just missed it?" Akane asked.
Now Nabiki paused. "All I can say is that I never changed persons. Take that how you will."
"Welcome home," Kasumi said, as a bedraggled Nabiki and Akane entered the tearoom. However, those didn't have an opportunity to reply because Tendou Soun, their father, pounced on Nabiki.
"Did it go all right?!" he asked.
"Yes, Daddy, it went fine. Tell your friend we'll meet at eight o'clock on Wednesday at the building to go over the papers."
"Excellent!" Soun hugged Nabiki but quickly drew back. "You're wet."
"We, ah... got caught in the rain."
"Well, go change your clothes and warm yourselves up." He left the tearoom and headed for the phone.
Nabiki and Akane looked at one another and stared.
"I get the feeling there's more to be said," Kasumi observed, a hint of dry humor in her tone.
Nabiki got the nod. "Meet us in your room in ten, Oneechan. Things got a tad... strange."
- - -
"Say that again?" Kasumi blinked at her sisters. They knelt on the floor around a tray with a kettle and assorted items for the making of tea placed upon it.
"Er... We think he turned into a girl," Akane said.
"What caused it?"
"We're not sure," Nabiki said.
Kasumi remained silent for a moment. "Go over it carefully again. He was a guy, and then what happened next?"
"Um, we were walking down the street—" Akane said.
"—and the rain came, and... ..." Nabiki's eyes widened. "The rain? Rain makes him a girl?" She shook her head vigorously. "No, can't be. That's just too weird."
"Well, I don't know..." Kasumi mused. "The timing seems right." She rose from the floor. "Let me make a call. I have an older woman friend who has a friend who has a friend and so on that is fairly knowledgeable about these kinds of things." She began to walk out of the room, but Akane's exclamation stopped her.
"YOU...You believe in this kind of stuff?! In, er, MAGIC?!"
Kasumi smiled at her youngest sister. "Do I? Should I not? Remember your Shakespeare, Akane-chan." She chuckled softly but then locked eyes with Nabiki. "Nabiki-chan, but for the absurdly good fortune of having someone capable of saving you from such a fall at the right place at the right time, we would now be planning a funeral." Her lips drew a line. "For our father's sake, do try to be careful. If any of us passed before him, it would break him completely." She stepped out of the room before Nabiki could acknowledge her sister's words.
A tense silence hung in the air. "Shakespeare?" Akane said querulously, finally breaking the mood.
Nabiki laughed once, stridently. "I, uh... I think I know the one. Hamlet."
"Um... Care to share?"
Her composure regained, Nabiki smirked at her. "Read the play. It'll be good for you to do something other than martial arts all the time."
Akane pulled a long face and groaned.
"Yo, Pops. How's the grub?" Ranma stood outside Genma's cell, looking in at his father, as that worthy appeared to be meditating. It was all Ranma could do not to laugh.
"Not enough of it," Genma said after a suitable pause.
Ranma did laugh at that.
"So what are you doing with yourself, boy?"
"Oh, knockin' around... Caught a girl fallin' off a roof." He winced.
Genma raised an eyebrow. "And?"
"It rained, and I went girl. Didn't stick around for the applause ta start..."
"Speakin' of that, how are they takin' you goin' panda on 'em?"
His father scowled. "They find it very... amusing."
Ranma snickered; his father's dirty gi seemed suspiciously damp. "Just be glad it wasn't a giant raccoon what drowned in that spring, or they'd be dressin' ya up as a good-luck tanuki and makin' ya stand by the front door," he jibed.
"Show some respect, boy!"
"Kinda hard to, Pops, what with you on the wrong side of the bars."
Leaning against the cell, Ranma chewed on nothing for a moment. "I don't get it, Pops. Why'd you let them take you in? You never done it before."
"Well..." He sighed. "We're going to be staying in Nerima for a while, and it would be better to live here with a clean slate."
"Ooo-kay... You've said that before, so what's so special about Nerima?"
Genma looked at him askance and then closed his eyes, adopting a stony expression. "You'll find out when it's time."
"Feh." Nothing could sour his mood quicker than his father pulling that inscrutable look. "Whatever. Maybe I'll come see ya tomorrow."
"Take care, boy... and keep up your training."
"And stay away from strange women."
Ranma stared at him for a moment and then shook his head and walked away.
END CHAPTER ONE
Ranma ½, its characters, and its situations are the property of Takahashi Rumiko, Shonen Sunday Comics, Shogakukan, Kitty TV, and Fuji in Japan. It is distributed in North America by Viz Communications, Inc.