A/N: I always pictured something like this happening after the failed wedding – kind of a cute first step toward a real relationship.

Some shameless self-promotion: Please check out my in-progress Ranma fanfic, "Nothing to Sneeze At" as well as my Ranma/Akane vid (which I made a few years back) on youtube. [without spaces] www . youtube . com/watch?v=wSMxGWcTaO4

Anyway, enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma ½ or its characters. That honor lies with Rumiko Takahashi.

Everything Changes

The loud rumbling of his father's snores filled Ranma's ears as he stared at the ceiling of his bedroom, trying in vain to concentrate. It's no use… I can't think like this. He thought miserably. He sat up with a yawn, stretching his arms over his head as he did so. It seemed like it had been ages since he'd had a decent night's sleep. There'd just been too much on his mind to allow for any shut-eye, and that night was no different than the others.

Ranma silently crept around his father's sleeping form towards the window. Maybe I just need some fresh air… He opened the window as silently as he could and slipped out onto the windowsill before pulling himself up onto the roof. Ranma shivered slightly as he got to his feet. "Guess it was colder out here than I thought…" He muttered to himself.

"Couldn't sleep?"

Ranma nearly fell off the roof. He raised his fists, ready to attack, until the initial shock wore off and he realized that it was a familiar voice that had called out to him. "Damn it, Akane!" He cried, lowering his hands and taking a few steps toward her.

Akane sat several feet away from him, wrapped up in a quilt and staring up at the night sky. "Sorry." She said softly.

Not sure what to do, Ranma drew closer and, after hesitating a moment, dropped down to sit beside her. "Guess you couldn't sleep either."

His fiancée shook her head. "I've been coming up here the past few nights." She explained. "It's a good place to think."

"I bet." Ranma muttered absently, gazing up at the stars as well. The two remained silent for several minutes, though Ranma cast many anxious glances in Akane's direction. Something just didn't seem right, but he couldn't put his finger on it.

"Akane?" He asked suddenly. "Are you… okay?"

She didn't take her eyes off the sky. "I'm fine." She replied. "Why shouldn't I be?"

Ranma let out a sigh. "Akane, I can tell you're upset. And…" He hesitated. "And whatever it is, I'm sorry, okay?"

Akane didn't respond.

"I know what this is about." He shook his head, suddenly realizing what the problem must be. "This is about this morning, right? When I refused to eat those eggs you made me? Look, I'm sorry, Akane, but I was kinda planning on living to see 17, and I'm not sure how much more of that stuff I can take." He couldn't suppress a snicker as he spoke.

His fiancée remained silent, though her fists were beginning to clench with every word.

"Or is it yesterday?" He offered. "When I was trying to mess with Kuno as a girl and we found out I can't fit in your clothes anymore? It's not my fault you're getting so thick around the middle… And besides, some guys like girls who are all muscled-up like that. I mean, Kuno's got to, since he – "

SMACK!

Ranma blinked several times. The stars that danced before his eyes were definitely not in the sky above. It took a few moments for everything to come back into focus.

"You jerk!" Akane crossed her arms angrily, turning away from him. "And for your information, no, that's not what's wrong. But thanks so much for reminding me." She quickly fell once more into stony silence.

"Sorry." Ranma muttered, cursing himself bitterly. Why do I always mess everything up like that? "Akane, please." He said seriously. "What's wrong?"

Akane took a slow, deep breath. It was a few more moments before she began speaking. "I've just been thinking a lot." She said finally. "About, well… about what happened a couple of weeks ago."

Ranma's face paled. Did he dare tell her that he was sitting up on that roof for the exact same reason? He laughed nervously. "D-don't tell me you actually wanted to get m-m-married…" He stammered.

"Of course not!" Akane said quickly. We're too young anyway… She shook her head. Guess I'm gonna have to remind him… "Ranma," She began slowly, "What do you remember about… about that day?"

Everything, he wanted to say. How could he forget it? But, in truth, there were two things that stuck out most clearly in his mind: how crushed he had been, seeing his one chance to become a full man vanish before his eyes … and how breathtaking Akane had looked in her wedding dress.

"I dunno…" He said softly, shrugging. "Lotsa stuff, I guess."

"Alright…" Akane continued, sighing as she spoke. "But what about when we were in my bedroom… before you stormed off to find the Nannichuan water? I…" She paused, her cheeks beginning to flush slightly. "I asked you something. Do you…remember?"

Ranma could see it before his eyes as though it were happening right in front of him. He and Akane, kneeling on the floor of her bedroom, both too embarrassed to speak. He remembered the peculiar sensation that he was listening to someone else use his voice as he finally asked why she had suddenly agreed to marry him. Her reply seemed to echo in his mind. Ranma… You love me, don't you?

He could feel the color drain from his face as he was abruptly brought back to the present. "Y-yeah… I remember." He whispered.

Akane turned to face him, her eyes finally meeting his. "I never got an answer, Ranma…. And it's been bothering me ever since." She stared at him expectantly, and the silence seemed to last for hours.

Finally, Ranma found his voice. "W-what?" His heart began pumping faster and faster in his chest. "Wait – wait! I did answer! Dontcha remember? We even fought about it! I told you, I never said that I – "

"I didn't ask you if you said it." She cut him off, sighing in exasperation. "I asked you if you do."

The boy beside her did not speak.

Akane could feel the panic welling up inside her. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it! How could I ever believe that he'd… "Why won't you just tell me the truth?" She asked softly, turning away from him. "And get it over with?"

Ranma let out a deep breath. He'd been dreading this conversation for more than two weeks, but it seemed that the time for the truth had finally come. "Because I'm scared." He mumbled, his voice very small.

"What?" Akane stared at him, incredulous. That was definitely not the answer she had been expecting.

"You don't get it, do you?" Ranma could feel the warmth rising in his cheeks as she spoke. "No matter which way I answer that question, it's gonna change everything. And, well, I don't want anything to change. I mean, I like things the way they are, but as soon as I say how I feel, everything's gonna be different." He shrugged, trying to hide his embarrassment. "I guess I just don't wanna mess everything up."

There was a brief moment of silence. Then, to his surprise, the sound of Akane's laughter reached his ears. He clenched his fists tightly at his sides. Is she… making fun of me?

"Ranma, you don't think I'm afraid too?" She asked, her amusement apparent in her voice. "Why do you think I haven't been able to sleep at night?" Akane shook her head slowly. "I don't want things to change either… but you can't just expect it to stay like this forever, can you?" Her fiancé did not reply. "Please, Ranma." She reached over to put her hand on top of his.

Finally, he turned to look at her. "A-Akane…"

"I have to know…" She took a deep breath. It's now or never… "Do you love me?"

Ranma was fairly certain his heart was about to burst out of his chest. He stared down at the roof, not daring to meet his fiancée's eyes. If she hadn't been paying close attention, Akane would surely have missed the tiny nod of his head.

"Really?" She whispered.

He nodded again.

Akane felt as though her heart was about to burst as well, but for a very different reason. I can't believe it! She could not contain the rush of emotion that was threatening to overcome her. How long had she been waiting for this moment?

Every second of silence that passed seemed like an eternity to Ranma. I knew I'd mess it all up… He thought miserably, chancing a sideways glance at Akane. "So I guess… now you know." He sighed. "Happy?"

He heard a tiny sniffle beside him. "Yes… I am." Akane's voice faltered slightly as she spoke. "You have no idea how good that is to hear."

Huh? Ranma turned to face her. Is she actually…? The tiny tear that splashed into Akane's lap confirmed his suspicion. "Well, why are you crying about it then?!" He demanded. "I thought you said you were happy!"

"I am!" Akane wiped her tears on the sleeve of her pajamas. "You're such a dope." She muttered with a laugh.

Her fiancé looked away from her, trying his best to remain casual. "So… I guess this means that you…?" He peeked at her from the corner of his eye as he spoke.

"Mmm-hmm." Akane nodded quickly, her cheeks growing so warm that she feared they'd be stained with a permanent blush. "Me too."

This time, it felt as though Ranma's heart had stopped beating. It was a struggle to find his voice. "Oh." He finally choked out.

How was this all happening so fast? He hardly dared to believe it – what if this all turned out to be a dream? It was as though his mind was working in overdrive, trying to keep up with it all. He fought for several moments to form some sort of coherent thought.

I can't just sit here. I should DO something… He decided. For one wild moment, he thought of kissing her, but quickly chased the idea out of his mind. He definitely wasn't ready for something like that. His eyes finally fell on her tiny hand, which lay limply at her side. Perfect…

Clearing his throat softly, Ranma reached out and took her hand in his. "I, uh…" He took a deep breath, finally mustering up the courage to look her in the eye. "I'm happy too."

Akane couldn't hold back a smile as her eyes finally met his. She squeezed his hand gently, marveling at how easy it was. If only we'd had this conversation months ago… She took a moment to imagine the way things could have been… the way she hoped they would be, now that the truth had come out. It was the sound of Ranma's voice that finally brought her back to the present.

"Jeez, Akane! Your hands are freezing!" He cried, glancing down at the one he now held. "We should go back inside."

But Akane shook her head. "Let's stay out here just a little longer." She said, leaning back against the roof to gaze up at the stars.

Beside her, Ranma did the same. "A guess a little longer wouldn't hurt…" He paused a moment, staring up at the sky. "It's a nice night."

"It is." Akane agreed, but it wasn't the stars she was looking at when she spoke. She sighed softly, smiling. "See? It's not always bad when things change…"

"Not always." Ranma allowed, no longer able to restrain his own smile. "And it's not like everything has to be different…"

Akane nudged him playfully. "Yup, you're still the same insensitive jerk as before."

"Uh-huh, and you're still a muscle-bound macho chick." Ranma burst into laughter as Akane's grip on his hand began to tighten threateningly. Whoops… Guess that was a little too far. He raised his free hand in surrender."Hey, hey, hey! Remember? I said some guys like that sort of thing!"

His fiancée raised an eyebrow at him. "'Some guys' meaning….?"

"Who else?" He smiled sheepishly at her. "Me."

"Alright, I'll let that one slide…" Akane shook her head at him, but her anger had vanished. "I really am happy, Ranma." She said seriously. She hesitated for a moment, then moved closer, curling up beside him and placing her head on his shoulder.

Ranma could feel his heart begin to race. "Me too." He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. Who knew this'd be so easy? The rhythm of Akane's slow, even breathing helped to calm him down and allowed him to finally relax, his mind at ease and his heart lighter than it had been in quite some time.

They laid together in silence for the next several minutes. There was so much Ranma wanted to say, but he had no idea where to begin. "Akane," Ranma's whisper finally broke the silence. He turned to face the girl he held in his arms. "Akane, I always wanted to tell you that – huh?"

Her eyes had closed and her head lolled slightly to the side. She's asleep… Taking great care not to wake her, Ranma slid himself out from beneath her sleeping form and scooped Akane gently into his arms. She's gonna freeze if we stay out here.

Maneuvering himself as carefully as possible, Ranma hopped down onto the window ledge of Akane's bedroom and climbed inside through the still-open window. He crept over to the empty bed and slipped his fiancée between the covers. He turned to leave, but hesitated a moment, staring down at Akane's sleeping face, which was bathed in the moonlight from her bedroom window. She's so pretty…

"Ranma?" Akane's eyes fluttered open as she spoke.

"Wahhh! No, no! I was just –" Ranma jumped on the spot and held his hands up defensively. Knee-jerk reaction… "Sorry…" He laughed softly at his own foolishness as he stepped back toward the bed. "I brought you back inside." He explained. "You fell asleep."

"Thank you." Akane muttered sleepily.

"Don't mention it…" Ranma took a few hesitant steps toward the door. "I guess I'll… see you in the morning?"

He could just barely make out Akane's smile in the darkness. "Goodnight, Ranma."

Ranma did not respond as he slowly opened the door and stepped into the hall. Now that he was alone, the full weight of what had happened that night seemed to hit him at once. The boundary lines of his and Akane's relationship had always been kind of blurred, especially in the past several months, but now… We're actually together. He realized. It was like they were finally real fiancés.

"Yes! Yes! YES!" Ranma felt as giddy as a little kid as he closed the door behind him. He couldn't help it as he punched a fist into the air, grinning triumphantly. "Finally! After all this time! Me and Akane –" He was suddenly blinded by a bright flash in his eyes. "What..?"

Nabiki lowered her camera, yawning sleepily. "Yup, with all that shouting, I knew it'd be something good… Good thing I always keep my camera next to my bed."

One by one, the other doors in the hallway opened as Soun, Genma, and Kasumi joined Nabiki in front of Akane's door. "What's with all the racket?" Soun muttered, rubbing his eyes.

Shouting…? Racket…? Ranma gulped. "Was I, uh… shouting all that stuff out loud?"

His father nodded. "You sure sounded happy, boy. Now what…?" His voice trailed off into silence, a look of realization on his face.

"Oh my…" Kasumi gasped. "Ranma, it's nearly 3 o'clock in the morning. What were you doing in Akane's room?"

Ranma felt as though he could no longer breathe. "W-what?"

Genma and Soun's faces instantly lit-up. "That's m'boy!" Soun clapped Ranma on the back as he spoke.

"No! No! No! No! No!"

"Look, I have evidence!" Nabiki whipped out the Polaroid for all to see. "See? His hand's even on the doorknob."

"Nothing happened!" Ranma insisted, balling his hands into fists.

"Then what were you doing in Akane's room?" Nabiki raised an eyebrow at him.

"Okay. The truth is…" He gulped. "The truth is, I couldn't sleep, so I went outside and…" I can't tell 'em… not yet, at least. "And I saw that idiot Akane sitting up on the roof in the freezing cold." He continued. "I told her to come inside, but she wouldn't listen to me. And then… then she went and fell asleep, so I had to lug her back inside so she wouldn't freeze to death. If it wasn't for me, that dummy'd probably be an icicle by now." He laughed heartily as he finished speaking.

To his surprise, no one else seemed very amused. "Uh… are you sure that's how it happened, boy?" His father asked warily.

"'Course I am!"

An icy voice spoke from behind him. "Oh, really?"

Ranma blanched. "A-A…kan…e…?" He peered over his shoulder slowly, certain his life was about to be cut short. "How long were you…?"

Her entire body was shaking. "And why should it matter to you?" Akane raised her fist as she spoke. "After all, I'm just an IDIOT!"

When Ranma was finally able to open his eyes, he was lying in an empty hallway. The door behind him still vibrated from being so forcefully slammed. He blinked several times as he pulled himself to his feet. "Stupid Akane…" He muttered. Not to mention stupid me

Ranma hesitated outside her door, his fist ready to knock, but quickly thought better of it. I'll make it up to her tomorrow. He decided. As long as I don't mess it up again… He shook his head miserably as he trudged down the hallway toward his bedroom.

Guess I was right, He thought, rubbing the large lump on his head. Some things never change…

A/N: Poor Ranma! Hahaha. Right now I have this listed as "complete", but I may choose to continue it... we'll see! Sorry it ended up being longer than I expected! Please review! (And check out my other Ranma fic and my vid I mentioned in the beginning, if you'd like!)