AUTHOR'S NOTES: This one's just a shortfic of 588 words, written to the prompt of "Fear". It's set pretty much anytime in the manga or even some time after the series ends. No spoilers, in other words. As always, constructive criticism and other feedback is much appreciated.

DISCLAIMER: The characters of Ranma 1/2 were created and are owned by Rumiko Takahashi. They are used here without permission for entertainment purposes only. This fic is not intended for profit.


A Ranma ½ shortfic by Elin B

It doesn't happen often, not at all. In fact, it only happens very rarely, so that Ranma almost – but not wholly – forgets about it entirely until another such moment comes along. Normally Akane is just Akane – familiar, reassuring, puzzling, infuriating, jealous, forgiving, touchy, generous… Brave, though in a worrying way since her strength doesn't match her courage; but also fun to tease and just plain easy and nice to hang out with, she has somehow wound up being the most important thing around except maybe maybe for Mom (and he doesn't know Mom half as well as he does Akane). But nowadays… well, nowadays that part's just normal too.

That's how it is, most of the time.

But there are times, just fleeting brief moments, when he looks at her and it's like there's someone else there – a different Akane than the normal everyday one. He doesn't know why this is, or why those moments particularly since there doesn't seem to be anything special in them. She might hold her head in a certain way, as she moves through the festival crowd in her brand-new summer kimono; or she might walk across the classroom to get a new eraser, then stopping for a second to gaze out the window with a distant look; or she might just smile in a tired, sweaty but satisfied way, after winning another sports event at school for her team. She might also walk right next to him under autumn trees, catching a leaf or two as they slowly drift down, the wind spinning them around. Nothing extraordinary at all.

And yet for him – and he can't explain this at all – in those rare instances he'll feel a gap opening up inside him, a cold shiver running down his spine; and where did the ground go? Suddenly it's like there's a fire right next to him, not a small and comfortable one but a restless flame that may easily turn into a great, roaring furnace from volcanic depths. She seems to hold the key to something much deeper and more frightening than anything he's ever faced, threatening to engulf him wholly… as if she was the gatekeeper to a power he can't even imagine but which he knows he'd be helpless against. If it came out in full force, he imagines that it would obliterate him, drawing him in and swallowing him without the least effort, his hard-won strength turned entirely useless.

In those moments, Ranma looks at Akane and sees not a teenaged girl but a brightly burning flame, utterly beautiful, utterly terrifying.

And then it's over in the next moment. She's back to being the same normal nice and violent macho chick who needs to be protected, nothing else. And Ranma will scratch his head and wonder where the hell that weird feeling came from, then try his best to bury it deep inside his head again, because it makes no goddamn sense and isn't even manly. So maybe he'll turn away and say something stupid, making her get mad and try to hit him so he can dodge and stick his tongue out and everything's back to normal for real.

Sometimes he'll feel a bit odd as he does so, though. Almost bereft. And maybe someday he will be ready to challenge that mysterious fear, to step into that fire without flinching. But for now, he'll be the normal Ranma to the normal Akane, pretending he never felt that way at all.

It seems like the safest thing to do.