Ranma x Akane
Road to Ruin
It was Christmas eve in the household, and due to the order of both the Tendo and the Saotome fathers that it should be 'family time', all of their children were sitting around inside. However, because of their father's idleness and lack of planning, they had nothing to do at all. All the board games had been dismissed or played, all the conversation had run dry, and the only people with anything to do were Genma and Soun, who were playing shogi.
Nabiki lay on the floor, daydreaming of money (and possibly Kuno). Kasumi was in the kitchen, preparing for the meal tomorrow, and Ranma and Akane were sitting, staring into space.
Ranma found himself wishing that one of his apparent fiancées or even one of Akane's suitors would appear, just to break the boredom. But no, they were all busy, elsewhere. Kuno and his sister were off on a family trip to somewhere expensive and luxurious, Ryoga had run away the previous week to train some more after Ranma had beaten him into the ground, and Shampoo had been taken back to China by her grandmother to visit their family, taking Mousse with them. He had no clue where Ukyo was, but she hadn't been around for several days, so he guessed she'd gone to visit family and hadn't told him in an attempt to make him worry about her. It hadn't worked.
For once, he was left entirely alone and hassle-free (except, of course, for Akane).
In actuality, although he was sure none of them would have been pleased to hear it, it had been relaxing not having any of them around. It had made shopping for presents much easier, as he wasn't being constantly pestered about what he was getting them.
However, life now was getting boring.
Akane stood up, stretched, and started to leave the room.
"I'm going to go see if Kasumi needs any help."
Ranma bit on his tongue. Damn. He hadn't meant to yell.
She turned, slowly, glaring.
"What do you mean by that, Ranma?"
"Oh, stop overreacting. We all just want to be able to eat the food tomorrow."
"Oh, screw you Ranma. Bastard!"
"Shut the hell up! Don't swear at me!"
"Well, don't swear at me then! God, you're so immature."
They glared at each other for a moment, before Akane spun on her heel and ran out of the room. The family winced at each stomped footstep up the stairs, across the landing and into her room, the door slamming behind her.
Ranma rolled his eyes.
"Son! Grow up!"
Ranma dodged the shogi board that was thrown at his head and scowled at his father.
"She started it!"
He ducked under a heavy fist thrown his way by Genma, who had stood to his feet in order to punish his son. Soun rolled his eyes, and eyed the patched-up walls.
They fell through the door which Nabiki opened, and commenced their fight in the garden, providing some mild entertainment for the bored family. Nabiki rolled over onto her front to watch, dismissing her daydream of money (and probably Kuno, judging from the glazed look of her eyes).
Ranma raised his fists in preparation, his eyes glaring but his mouth smiling in anticipation of the fight and inevitable victory. However, all of these expressions were wiped off his face as a bucketful of cold water was thrown over him, leaving his shivering, wet, and female. His father, looking extremely righteous, began his march back into the house, but was halted by a kick in the face by his son, and was knocked bodily into the pond. He emerged spluttering and furry. He pulled himself out with as much dignity as a sodden panda could have, but Ranma had already left, freezing cold, to find the bath.
Ranma ran down the corridor, shivering, and threw himself into the bathroom. He spun the taps, letting the hot water gush out, billowing steam as he stripped off his clothes, finding himself even colder until he lay down into the painfully hot water. He turned the taps off with his toe and lay back, rubbing the hot water into his freezing scalp, relaxing into the heat.
He pulled himself out a while later, and towelled himself dry. Cursing under his breath, he realised that he hadn't gone to get dry clothes before he'd come to the bathroom. He had learnt, from bitter experience when he first moved here, how embarrassing it was to emerge into a household with three women without being fully dressed.
Wrapping the towel around his waist, he threw his wet clothes into the washing basket and left the bathroom. He turned into the corridor, and as poor luck (and maybe karma) would have it, found himself face to face with Akane. She stared at him, wide-eyed, as an awkward silence fell.
"Ah… um. Hi."
She turned on her heel, and stormed off down the corridor again. Pressing her hands to her cheeks, she hoped that he had not noticed her blush.
Ranma, being an unobservant teenage boy, of course had not. He scratched his cheek, and matched her scowl.
"Tsh. Fine then."
He found new clothes and lingered in his room for as long as possible to avoid seeing her again. Eventually he realised that he had to leave sooner or later, but it was not until he was making his way down the stairs when the horrible feeling of guilt started to creep on him. He hated feeling guilty. It made him feel like he had done wrong, when he knew that really, he was always in the right. People just misunderstood him, that's all.
Standing awkwardly on the staircase, he contemplated what to do. Talk to her, or go downstairs? Get beaten up by her, or get beaten up by his father?
He shrugged, turned around, and made his way back upstairs, feeling slightly methodical.
He didn't bothered knocking, but stepped directly into her room, as he always did. The light was on, but she had fallen asleep on top of the bed covers, obviously unintentionally. He toyed with the idea of waking her for a moment, before deciding that she was annoyed enough with him, and he didn't want her to be even more so.
He knelt down by the side of her bed and watched her sleeping face, at the movements of her eyes underneath her eyelids, listening to her slow, rhythmic breathing. He found himself, against his wishes, smiling at her, and he reached out to stroke her cheek, which was soft and smooth. He had never imagined what it would be like, not really, and was pleasantly surprised by its warmth, slightly flushed as it was.
She stirred under his touch, which he withdrew quickly, and she opened her eyes.
Too tired to fully grasp the strangeness of the situation, she smiled sleepily at him.
"What are you doing here?"
"Ah… I came to say sorry."
She rubbed her eyes. She knew that that was not the real answer, but felt her eyes flickering closed again, having not woken up properly to begin with.
"Go back to sleep, hmm?"
He exited out of the window, deciding to try and clear his mind of strange thoughts on the roof in the cold night air.
She slipped back into the warmth of slumber, and awoke about an hour later with a jump. She lay on her bed, trying to remember the dream that had woken her, and suddenly became aware of a cold breeze that was running over her legs. She shivered, and glanced over at the window, which was still open a little bit. The window was impossible to close from the outside, she knew, and she got to her feet with a frown.
She pushed the window open, and looked up on the roof.
"Ranma? Are you up there?"
"Hang on, I'm coming up."
She pulled herself up on the rooftop and sat down next to where he was lying, staring at the cloudy night sky.
"How did you know I'd be up here?"
"Well, who else is ever on the roof?"
He made an agreeing noise that was somewhere between a snort and a sigh. She had a point.
They sat in a companionable silence for a while, Akane hugging her knees, before Ranma noticed that she was shivering in the frosty winter air.
He was offering her his blanket, and she found herself smiling without quite meaning to do so.
"No, its okay. You'll just be cold then."
She glanced at him, trying to work out if he was joking. His face was serious, so she shrugged, and moved a little closer to him, allowing him to throw it over her knees.
They sat like that for a long time, talking about various things. Later, looking back on it, she would be proud of their maturity- not once did they argue, and not once did she resort back to violence in her anger, although there were a couple of times that she was tempted to do so.
She would like to say that they spoke of hopes and dreams, and the future, and ambitions. She would have liked it if they had talked about life and belief and all other kinds of profound things, but they were just two teenagers, waiting for Christmas day, wondering what presents they had to open. Conversation ran to school, and to family, before almost inevitably turning back to their various suitors.
"Do you love Ukyo?"
"No. She's one of my oldest friends."
She tried not to smile.
"What about Shampoo?"
He pulled a face that made her laugh.
"She's a nightmare. What about you, anyway, huh? What about Ryoga?"
"What about him?"
"Well, he cares for you."
"Oh, please. He's almost as obvious as Kuno."
At the sound of his name, she snorted.
"You think that much of dear old Kuno, then?"
"Come on, seriously? Ranma, you can have him."
She nudged him playfully, and he rolled his eyes.
"Ew. Don't even joke about that."
They laughed, and he nudged her back in return.
"Hey, hang on."
"I'll be back in a minute."
He jumped to his feet, and stepped lightly over the rooftops, swinging inside by the hall window. Akane pulled the blanket around herself more tightly, trying hard to warm herself up before Ranma re-appeared and she would have to pretend to not be freezing again. It was alright for him, but she was only in thin cotton pyjamas. She stared out across the town thoughtfully, at the blinking yellow lights and the slow, steady sound of late-night traffic, and wondered how many of the cars driving past were heading home to be with their loved ones.
The cold air hurt a little as she took a deep breath of it, but she took in several anyway. She needed a clear head, as spending this much time with Ranma tended to make her logic and reasoning a little bit fuzzy.
It would freeze tonight, she was sure of it. Maybe soon there would be snow.
He came back a few minutes later, a wrapped gift that she could not see hidden behind his back. He was smiling, but when he saw her, it turned into a frown.
"Hey, are you alright? You look freezing!"
She waved her hands around in protest.
"No, I'm fine, it's just-"
"Ah, you're freezing, don't deny it. Look."
He grabbed and lifted her own hands to her eyes. They shook uncontrollably, and the fingertips were turning blue.
Before she could protest, he had sat down behind her, and had pulled her backwards between his legs so that her back was pressed against his front. He pulled the blanket up to cover both of them, and wrapped his arms around her middle, resting his chin on her shoulder.
"Ranma? What are you doing?"
"Warming you up."
She blushed, and settled into an embarrassed- but not displeased- silence. She was not sure quite what to make of this, and fought the urge to kick him away in her shyness.
He sighed, and she felt the warmth of his breath against her cheek. She pressed herself back against his chest, just a little bit more.
"Hey, guess what I realised when I went inside?"
"It's Christmas day."
"Really? Already? How long have we been out here?"
"Long enough for you to get frostbite, apparently. How are your fingers?"
She stopped as he let go of her middle, and picked up her hand once more. This time he lifted it to his own eyes, to examine the colour carefully. After a moment, he let their arms fall, satisfied that she had been warmed up, but he did not let go. Her breath caught as he entwined his calloused fingers with her own.
"What is it?"
"D'you want your Christmas present now?"
"You got me a present?"
He was glad that she couldn't see his face, because a blush was starting to creep across it.
"Yeah. But it's not a lot, so don't go expecting too much. Do you want it?"
She smiled widely.
He proffered the gift to her from behind his back with the hand that was not holding hers, but she was forced to let go in order to rip off the messily wrapped paper to reveal a slim black box. She glanced over her shoulder at him curiously as she pulled the lid off. Inside was a pair of soft leather gloves, navy blue with a white fleecy lining. She picked them up and stroked the leather, smiling at how supple and pleasant they felt, and began to laugh.
"Oh, you're all for keeping me warm tonight, aren't you?"
He laughed as well, and hugged her a little tighter around her middle, hands at a loss now that he could not hold hers anymore.
She half turned, so she could see his face to thank him properly, so that her back was against one of his legs. He stared at her in the darkness, shadows cast over her features by the glow of town lights; at the planes and hollows of her cheekbones and the brightness of her eyes, at the softness of her lips and the slight blush that grazed its way over her cheeks as she noticed him staring at her.
He looked away abruptly.
He glanced back, and touched her cheek.
"My father told me once that the height of true strength was resisting all temptation. But I think… I think that strength comes in many forms, and occasionally, well… occasionally, I think temptation can be a good thing."
He leant in and kissed her clumsily, with all the awkwardness of youth and embarrassment.
"Akane… sometimes it feels like you are going to unravel me completely, you know that?"
His fingers ghosted over her throat, and she sighed as she kissed him back.
"If it is any consolation, Ranma… you're just as much my undoing."
Be my downfall, be my great regret:
Be the one girl that I'll never forget.
Be my undoing,
Be my slow road to ruin tonight.