I HAVE BEEN BEHAVING! I AM NOT TAKING CREDIT FOR ANYTHING THAT I HAVE NOT COME UP WITH ON MY OWN! IN THE CASE OF THIS STORY, THAT MEANS THAT THE CHARACTERS AND LOCATIONS DESCRIBED ALL BELONG TO RUMIKO TAKAHASHI AND I'M ONLY BORROWING THEM FOR A LITTLE WHILE! THE PLOT MAY BE MINE BUT THAT IS NO EXCUSE FOR ME TO TRY TO MAKE ANY MONEY ON THIS! NOW PLEASE MAKE THE RABID WEASELS GO AWAY!

Apology Chapter 10

A Ranma ½ fanfic by

FrictionX42

Akane and the rest of the family (minus Nabiki, who was at school and setting odds on the fight that afternoon) were seated around the lunch table when female-Ranma finally made her way in. To Akane's astonishment, she looked no different than usual, with an arrogant gait and a ravenous gleam in her eye as she surveyed Kasumi's efforts to provide a meal that would assure Ranma's victory. With how many fights Ranma got into, and how long she'd been cooking for martial artists before Ranma had come to stay with the Tendos, Kasumi really knew what she was doing and the repast was truly something to behold. Visibly heartened by the meal spread before him, Ranma-chan plopped down next to her father and began eating at the normal rate for a Saotome: FAST.

In contrast, Akane was only picking at her food, her mind on other things, such as the kiss she and girl-type-Ranma had just shared out in the dojo. A kiss that Akane herself had initiated. The thoughts racing through her mind had so engrossed Akane's attention that she didn't hear her father's request that she pass him another napkin. A few more quiet repeats and it finally pierced the haze Akane had built around her mind.

"Sorry Dad, what was that?"

"Akane, what's gotten into you today? You seem distracted. Did something happen out in the dojo?" At Soun's query, Akane and Ranma both immediately froze in place.

Picking up on the two teenaged martial artist's panic, Genma did a little digging of his own. "What'd you do to Akane, boy? Tell us, Ranma!"

Ranma's retort rose in his throat before she could stop herself, "Nothin' happened, old man! Why don't you just leave me alone!" Ranma glared furiously at Genma in an effort to intimidate her father.

Genma was, unfortunately for Ranma, entirely too aware of Ranma's recent decrease in fighting ability, and was not fazed in the least. "What's the matter, boy? Too ashamed to admit it that you lost to a girl?"

At this accusation, Ranma-chan's eyes snapped up to meet her father's. Her voice formed a low growl as she spat her reply, "I'd never lose to an uncoordinated, uncute, talentless brick of a tomboy like her! She moves like mud and she's twice as dumb! Why I could beat her with both hands and one foot tied behind my back!"

Only Kasumi was close enough to hear the sharp intake of breath that Ranma-chan's insult drew from Akane. The older sister watched as her youngest sibling's face darkened and the veins in her forehead became visibly engorged. Akane began to rise from her seat, her mallet already halfway to ready when she recalled the last time she'd let her anger get the best of her. Before Akane could do anything, however, Genma had grabbed the front of Ranma's shirt and followed up with a throw that splashed Ranma-chan directly into the koi pond. Akane slumped back to her seated position, seething as she concentrated on using her chopsticks in as precise a manner as possible so that in her rage she wouldn't break them. As upset at Ranma as she was at the moment, they didn't need any bad omens. The fight was going to be questionable enough as it was.

Ranma-chan spluttered to the surface of the koi pond just in time to see Genma polish off the rest of the food from her plate. Smirking at Ranma, Genma patted his fat belly and he politely asked Kasumi to refill his rice bowl. It was not lost on Ranma that the bowl Genma presented to Kasumi to be refilled was her own. With a scathing glare, Ranma-chan pointedly stomped upstairs. She quickly grabbed the necessary items for a good bath, and left via the window. Deciding to avoid the rest of the family, Ranma-chan slipped into the bathroom unnoticed and quietly began to set up for the bath that would return her true gender along with, she hoped, some amount of control over her emotions. There was a challenge that afternoon, after all.

The meal in the family room, while tense, had no further interruptions. Soun merely dismissed the activities of his more larcenous comrade as part of the rigors of training, and Kasumi was too busy keeping up with Genma to say very much, and Genma was trying to outpace Kasumi's efforts to keep his plate and rice bowl full. Akane, for her part, ate very slowly and meticulously, trying to regain her composure before she repeated her actions of scarcely a week ago and nearly killed her aggravating fiancee. As she finished the food that had been placed before her, she tersely excused herself from the table. She trudged upstairs and gathered her bath supplies, anxious to get the sweat and grime from that morning's intense training session off of her body.

Ranma-chan soaked luxuriously in the bath, enjoying the heated water and allowing it to draw all of the hostility and negative feelings away. A long hot bath was the perfect thing for him at the moment; allowing him to calm down and go over battle strategies. He wasn't used to thinking about fighting, he usually just did it. He went over the moves he had in his mind, selecting them based on how useful they were likely to be in his weakened condition. Mouko Takabisha was right out, since it was based on his overwhelming confidence. He was certain he could work his way back to it, but for the moment, confidence was no longer an unlimited commodity. Chestnut fist would be reduced in both speed and power, but he was certain he retained the use of it. His Hiryuu Shoten Ha would still be as powerful as ever, since that depended entirely upon the victim to power it, but still, Ranma didn't feel like taking chances, and he figured he could use every bit of edge he could get. This wasn't a fight he wanted to lose. Of course, Ranma never wanted to lose. Thinking back on it, there wasn't a fight he had ever lost, except one. He smiled at the memory. That one loss- apologizing to Akane- had ultimately ended in a win for him!

"Heh, even when I lose, I still win!" Ranma relished in the memories of that night. The look on her face, holding her in his arms, that kiss! Ranma grinned. He'd decided that night that he really liked kissing Akane. Thinking about kissing Akane brought to mind the situation earlier in the dojo. Akane had been so warm, pressed up against him. Her lips had felt like velvet, her body firm yet pliable in his hands. The feelings of her pressed up against him in the dojo assailed his senses until in his mind's eye he could picture himself quickly untying her belt and helping her to shrug off her gi top...

Ranma sat up straight and spluttered. "Woah now! What was that all about?" he sighed. "I guess I'm getting a little too relaxed," Ranma winced, noting that his last statement was not altogether true. "Guess I'd better get out now. Can't concentrate on getting ready for the fight if all I can think about is Akane..."

Ranma rose from the water and just as he was stepping out of the tub, the door slid open. As Ranma's foot came down on the side of the tub, he turned to face the door. Ranma stopped, unable to coax any further movement from his body whatsoever as his eyes beheld the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

Akane scowled as she approached the bath. Here she'd been almost ready to forgive Ranma for the... incident in the dojo, and then he had to go and insult her again! The nerve of that jerk! Akane could feel the anger rise from her like a hot furnace. As she reached the dressing room, she began to take deep breaths like Kasumi had coached her to do while Ranma was convalescing from the last time Akane's temper got the best of her. She was starting to feel stifled, like she had no outlet for her frustrations. Since she wasn't pounding on Ranma for every percieved slight, she was starting to feel like she might explode at someone else and really hurt them. She sighed at the memory of Ranma unconcious. Even doctor Tofu had been upset with her. She'd promised again to do her best to keep her temper in check. It had only been a few days so far, but with the help of Kasumi and the doctor, she'd found some breathing exercises helped her to control herself.

Akane finished undressing and tossed her clothing into the laundry hamper, mind so occupied that she remained completely unaware of A bright red, chinese-style shirt that lay on top. As Akane calmed, she revisited the conversation in her mind. She and Ranma had agreed to keep their newfound closeness hidden from the family, and Akane had to admit Ranma was probably doing a better job of it than she was. She wasn't sure he was doing it on purpose, but still... She sighed again. Going over the dojo situation again in her mind, she was able to analyze it a bit more objectively. I guess it wasn't really Ranma's fault after all. I was the one who started the kiss-I was the one that forgot that he was a girl at the time, not him.

Anger deflated, Akane picked up a towel and approached the door to the bath. I'll go get him to apologize after I'm done with my bath, She decided. He's been pretty good at doing it lately, and we've really been getting along. I'd hate to have anything happen to ruin that... And with that thought tugging the corners of her mouth into a bemused smile, Akane slid open the door to the bath.

The two stared at each other for a moment, both standing stock still in astonished bewilderment. Akane's eyes widened as she took good long look at her fiancee. Ranma, for his part, was appreciating the view for just a moment, until the likely consequences of this situation dawned on him. As Ranma mentally prepared to truly be sent to the afterlife this time, his prayer that Kami-sama would forgive him his most grievous errors was cut short by a sound he hadn't expected. Akane had begun to giggle. Ranma watched in further shock as her giggles made way for stronger laughter, his consternation growing. He slid into the water so as to protect what was left of his dignity while Akane ducked back behind the door in order to hide her nudity, still trying to contain her mirth.

Ranma gritted his teeth. Laughing at me! She's laughing at me! What the heck's she doin' that for? What's wrong with- Ranma's inner monologue was cut short by a towel suddenly draping itself over his face. Akane had thrown it from the doorway, apparently.

"Wrap that around your waist, Ranma. I'm coming in."

At her statement, Ranma felt as if the bottom of the tub had dropped from beneath him. His mind went blank, his mouth went dry, his pulse began to pound in his ears, and his breath quickened. His fingers twitched around the towel as his mind worked feverishly to grasp the situation. Akane was willingly going to enter the bath with him. He stood up and swirled the towel around his waist, securing it at his side by tucking the end into itself. His hands felt as though they were on autopilot as he did so, a feeling that Ranma was introspectively very grateful for as his mind was entirely too overloaded to recall how to do it properly. He felt as though his mind was going a million miles an hour and dragging him along for the ride. Towel firmly in place, Ranma sank back down into the heated water. He looked up just in time to see Akane, a reddish hue coloring her cheeks, enter the bathing area. She was wrapped from chest to mid-thigh in a towel and the ensemble was showing off a lot of leg. Ranma decided instantly that even if she did kill him for this, then it was worth it. Akane had a pair of very nice legs. She strode into the room with a forced smile on her face, and a slight shake in her knees. Ranma could tell that she was really nervous. Her face was flushed bright red, and her eyes darted from Ranma to the bath water, to the floor and back again. Still looks really cute, Ranma smiled at her, hoping that it wasn't too obvious that he was enjoying the view.

As Akane entered the water, she playfully slugged him in the shoulder. She grinned as Ranma faked a horrible injury. "That's what you get for leering at me in the nude, you letch!"

Ranma rose to the bait, "Hold it, you walked in on me!" As the words left his lips, Ranma realized that all of this had happened before, on his first day at the Tendo dojo. The memory sent him reeling for a moment. It seemed a lifetime ago, that he and Akane got into their very first fight.

"You remembered..." Akane breathed. "will wonders never cease?" she slid over to sit next to Ranma, shoving herself into the crook of his arm so that he draped it over her shoulders. Ranma was rankled at her insinuation, but figured that since he preferred her current position to most any other, he'd let it slide. It also annoyed him that he hadn't, in fact, remembered until after he'd spoken the same line, but he didn't want to let Akane know that, so he remained silent. Oblivious to his annoyance, she continued, "That's what I was laughing about. You were in the exact same position!" Testing him, she continued to reminisce, "It's different when a girl looks at a boy!"

Ranma felt relieved. Now that he knew that she wasn't laughing at him, he could relax a little. He chuckled as Akane continued reciting her memories of that fateful night. He couldn't for the life of him recall what had happened next, so he did what came naturally- he improvised. It always worked in fights, after all.

(Author's Note: It is at this point that my chapter diverges. I will post a link to the non-suitable-for-posting-here chapter when I get it written. When it is, if you want you can replace everything within the limits of the repeated asterisks (*) with the contents of that work.)

"Well, Akane, you looked. Did you like what you saw?" Ranma's grin widened.

That wasn't the line, but Akane could tell that Ranma was teasing her again. She closed her eyes and recalled the image of Ranma in the bath moments earlier. Certainly, she'd seen him without his shirt on frequently over the last few days, as she had been coming in after his baths to clean his wound with doctor Tofu's medicine. On each of those occasions, however, he'd been out of the bath for a few moments, dried off already, and always covered. Even with the two of them getting closer as they had been, she'd hardly really looked at him before. Certainly, he had an attractive face, a cute ponytail, and eyes that she could lose herself in as long as nobody was around to witness, but she'd always kind of overlooked the rest of him. Tonight, he'd been completely exposed, and water had coursed in rivulets down his well-muscled torso, gleaming in wet trails that outlined the shapely muscles in his chest. His washboard abs stood mute proof of his ridiculous training regimen. His shoulders were incredibly firm, and yet still comfortable for her to rest her head against. Ranma was really hot, she determined. Every part of him, from his face and eyes to his broad back and square shoulders, to his finely toned abdomen and his pe-

"Pectorals!" Akane's cry brought her out of her own reverie. Ranma opened his eyes and regarded her curiously.

"What was that, Akane? His gaze fell upon her, questioningly.

"Umm, I uh, I meant to say that I really like your... pectorals." Akane murmured, sounding significantly less believable than she'd intended to. "They're really, really nice." As she spoke, she moved one hand up to rest on the named muscle group, fingers slightly gliding over his skin as she caressed him. As nice to touch as they are to look at, Akane mused. Akane's thoughts trailed off as she noted an anguished look on Ranma's face. "What is it, Ranma, what's wrong?"

Ranma was having trouble keeping a straight face. Akane had no clue how much what she was doing with herfingers tickled! Why's it always her that tickles me? Ranma considered. And it was my chest last time too. Hmm, maybe she really was telling the truth. Ranma was rapidly losing what little breath he'd captured earlier when Akane suddenly stopped. He could tell she didn't mean to tickle him by the look of concern that crossed her face as she asked him what was wrong, but Ranma was still glad she'd stopped and let him catch a breath. "...Tickled..." Ranma muttered out of the corner of his mouth, unable to look Akane in the eyes.

Akane merely replied "And here I was trying to go and do something nice for you, too!" She then 'hrmphed' and turned away from him, hiding her growing blush as her thoughts strayed to other ways she could be nice to him.

As she turned from him, Ranma decided that retribution would be his. Ranma wrapped his strong arms around her from behind, slipping his arms underneath hers and crossing over her stomach. His fingers dug at the areas at her sides just below the ribcage, brushing against the sensitive skin through her towel. His breath sounded hotly in her ear, "Then let me return the favor, Akane!"

"Eek! Ha-ha, stop Ranma!" Akane writhed against the assault, giggling madly as Ranma mercilessly tickled her sides. A small, objective part of her dimly noted that despite his onslaught of her senses, she still felt perfectly safe with him. It excited her that he had his hands on her like that, but still she struggled gamely to escape his grasp. She attempted to wrench herself from his grasp, leaping out of the tub as she did so.

Ranma did his best to hold on to her slim waist. It was interesting, he noted, the way she moved against him when he did this. He'd have to try it more often. Suddenly he realized that she was about to leap out of his grasp, and that if he attempted to hold on she would likely leave her towel, and her modesty, behind. Wistfully, he relinquished his grasp on her, allowing the towel-clad girl to escape his embrace. He followed her out of the tub, however, determined not to allow her to fully escape. He was laughing too, at this point, as the two of them played an odd game of cat and mouse.

Before long, he had her backed into a corner. Grinning ferally, he leapt at her. As she spun to escape his charge, her towel became unravelled and began to fall. Ranma noted this and did his best to change course at the last second. He was almost successful, except that as he twisted, his shoulder struck something hard and redirected him right back towards her. Pain blossomed through the shoulder, causing Ranma to gasp in the sudden pain. A split second later, he and Akane landed in a jumbled mess of arms, legs, and towels. To add insult to injury, the object Ranma had collided with happened to be the cold shower control, and the two were rapidly doused in frigid water.

Ranma-chan sighed as she reached up to turn off the shower spray. The cool water had brought some semblance of control back to her, and she paused to take stock in her surroundings. In the bathroom; check. Currently a redhead; check. Lost the towel due to size change of transformation; check. Shoulder hurt like hell; check. Rather damp and slightly disappointed; check. Straddling a nude Akane; che- ... ...

!

!

?

"Ranma, I'd like to get up now." Akane's voice was small and pleading. The look on her face was one of mixed confusion, hurt, and disappointment. None of which put Ranma at ease.

Girl-type-Ranma looked down at the girl beneath her and scrambled to comply without doing anything to further exacerbate an already-terminally-embarrassing situation. "Sure thing, Akane." She mumbled as she moved.

Akane drew her towel around herself again and hurried out to the changing room. She dressed quickly, wanting to put some distance between herself and Ranma so that she could think. First the kiss in the dojo, then Ranma's comments at lunch, then their actions in the bath... It was all whirling around in her head like a storm that was growing and whipping thoughts and concepts about. She was confused, and a little disappointed, and a little bit hurt.

Ranma flicked aside her red pigtail as she watched Akane flee from the room. She sighed and crossed to the tub, which was still full of warm water from earlier, and restored her true gender. Once masculinity was restored, Ranma considered soaking for a few more minutes, knowing that with the fight later it was likely to be the only peace and quiet he would have for a few more hours. On the other hand, I've been sittin' on my butt for days now, and I'll be takin' another bath when I get home after the fight anyways… Dammit! What the heck's gotten into Akane now? I sure didn't ask her ta join me in here. It was pretty nice though, up until… Ranma's shoulder throbbed again and he turned to scowl at the shower handle.

He sighed and got out of the bath, moving into the dressing room to recover the clean clothes he'd placed there earlier. As he dressed, he noted that the dirty clothes hamper was empty. He stared at it in shock for a few moments as he realized that when Akane left, she'd left the door to the bathing area open. If someone had come in to get the dirty clothes after Akane had left, Ranma would have seen them. In other words, whoever had emptied it had done so after Akane had joined him in the bath, but before she'd left him there. So they'd come in and and grabbed the laundry while he and Akane were in the middle of… And neither he nor Akane had been overly quiet…

Oh crap…

Author's Notes:

As for where the last two chapters came from... Let's just say that I recall quite clearly how it felt when I was Ranma and Akane's age, and the raging hormones that went with it. Add to that the fact that I've been away from my wife for the last 8 months, except for a one-month visit starting just six hours after she gave birth to my daughter. Have to take time to heal from that, you know. Things have been... difficult. I am, however, proud to say that I have not lost control of myself. I've stayed faithful and have tried to make the best of things, using my frustration as inspiration for these chapters. It probably explains why there's been a little chibi-Ranma and Akane sitting in the back of my mind, whispering terribly naughty things that they want me to write. I've resisted for the most part, but they are remarkably persistent. And aggressive. Yes, both of them are frightfully aggressive. But they're not writing this. I am. So there!

Of course, they have managed to hijack my storyline for TWO chapters now... The fight was supposed to start at the end of chapter 9! Heck, according to my notes(which are now horribly out of sequence), Ryoga should be waking up soon! He'll just have to sleep a little longer I suppose. These were days that originally were just going to get skipped over anyhow, so it doesn't hurt to flesh them out a bit. It's good to build on the budding relationship between Ranma and Akane. It's what the series is based on, after all.

On the plus side, I get to finally be together with my family on a more permanent basis in about 17 hours after finishing this chapter. For that reason, it's not going under the many many proofreads that I normally put my chapters through, in an effort to get it posted before I become to busy to do so. It may be the last one you see out of me for a while, but hopefully by the next one, I'll have gotten some things out of my system. *grins*

One way or another, I had fun writing it, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. I'll get to the fight next chapter if it kills me, I swear!