Ranma woke with a start in the dark room, sitting up so fast his head swam a little. The alarm blaring next to his futon made him wince and he slammed his hand down on it hard enough to hear an electric whine deep inside the little machine. "Stupid piece of…" he muttered, glaring as the numbers tried to reform on the little screen.

With a heavy sigh he stood and did a few calisthenics to get his brain functioning on something higher than a first grade level. "Ranma, what are you doing up so early?" Ranma froze mid-stretch and looked over and down at his rumpled futon. Akane smiled up at him, the sheet pulled up under her chin shyly. He smiled down at her.

"Nothin', just gonna go get the dojo set up for the students," he said quietly, reaching down to stroke her hair, "go back to sleep, Akane." As he petted her, she sighed softly and kissed his hand. Her mouth was soft and wet, and she licked the palm of his hand tenderly. He giggled. "That tickles, baby…" she started licking more incessantly, and Ranma laughed so loud he woke himself up.

Kaibutsu, his black mutt, was pressing his tongue over and over again into the palm of Ranma's outstretched hand, one of many of his body parts hanging out of the blanket on his futon. Ranma groaned, and before he'd really thought about it, he slapped himself fully awake with the hand Kaibutsu had just been happily lapping at. "Augh! Dog slobber! Dammit, Kaibutsu!" he shouted, pulling his sticky, smelly hand away from his face.

Sitting up for real this time, Ranma rubbed his face with his clean hand and petted Kaibutsu on the head with the other, subtly wiping off the slobber on the dog's soft fur. "You need a bath, buddy." Kaibutsu looked at him suspiciously and stalked slowly over to the other side of the apartment to sit, as petulantly as a dog could manage, underneath the leash hanging by the door. Ranma smiled wryly and put up his hands in a placating gesture. "Alright, alright Kaibutsu. Lemme run through a few exercises, and then we'll go for a walk." Kaibutsu barked happily, and Ranma shushed him. Kaibutsu ducked his head guiltily, but Ranma knew it was just an act.

Standing, Ranma glanced down at his empty futon and felt his chest tighten a fraction. Akane was not in his futon. Akane would never be in his futon. Akane was gone.

Distance