Ranma was having fun. He'd never really liked Go that much, but Akane wasn't very good at it, so that made it enjoyable.
"I win again!" he cheered, throwing his hands up in the air.
"Dammit, how do you keep doing that?" Akane groused, folding her arms over her chest and studying the board intently.
Ranma picked up one of his black pieces and grinned, holding the round tile in between his middle and index finger. "Saotome School of Martial Arts Go-Playing," Akane glared at him but said nothing. "I win, so that means you gotta—"
"I know, I know!" Akane shouted irritably. With a look like a death row inmate whose priest was early, Akane cleared her throat. "Ranma is the greatest, oh yes. He is the champ. I wilt before his Go-playing-prowess." She put as little emotion into as possible, he noted, but wisely didn't say. Flushing with embarrassment, Akane turned away from the board and put her nose up. "There, I said it."
Ranma grinned and waggled his eyebrows at her. "Y'wanna play again?"
"No!" she shouted, slamming her hand down on the floor, causing the pieces to jump. "We're going to play Mahjong – you promised we'd play after Go!"
Ranma whined. "Aw, but I hate that stupid game."
"Well if you're not going to keep your promise…" Akane huffed, trailing off meaningfully.
Ranma rolled his eyes and threw his hands up in the air in exasperation. "Fine, fine, I'll go get it from—"
"PREPARE TO DIE!"
"Woohoo! Ryouga, long time no see!" Relief sparked across his face – no Mahjong for this martial artist, there was fighting to be done, and when there was fighting to be done, Ranma did it.
Ryouga shot at Ranma like a cannonball from the yard, fist first; for once, at least, not leading with his chin.
"What's gotcha so angry this time, piggy?" Ranma teased as he dodged effortlessly, leading Ryouga back into the yard. Akane slumped down at the table with an irate huff.
Ryouga made an animalistic growl and sent a snap kick for Ranma's face. "How dare you! I could let it stand for only so long!" Used to being confused about whatever anyone was angry at him for, Ranma took the accusations with ease. He weaved around Ryouga's strikes, occasionally punching the lost boy in the gut to take a little of the fight out of him – of course, there really was no taking the fight out of an angry Ryouga.
"Whatcha goin' on about, P-Chan?" Ranma asked in a bored tone that was sure to enrage Ryouga further. It was when the other boy was angry that he made mistakes; Ranma was surprised the guy didn't make mistakes more often. He constantly walked around with a chip the size of Hokkaido on his massive shoulder.
"You know what I'm 'going on about,' Ranma! You tried to marry Akane against her will! I just know it!" Ranma kicked Ryouga square in the chest at that, and then stood ready for his opponent to recover from it.
"Ryouga, that's not— oh jeez." Akane walked out onto the porch. It was obvious that Ryouga wasn't listening to anyone except his own deranged view of things, as he ran headfirst at Ranma with a bellowing growl.
Time slowed; ever since his battle with Saffron, Ranma had been better, a lot better, and Ryouga's hodge-podge combat style and his monster-like strength had become less and less of a challenge. So, as he watched the lost boy coming towards him with a hammer fist that could have liquefied the skull of most normal men, Ranma dropped into a lazy crouch and swept Ryouga's legs out from under him. He followed it up with a snap kick to the other boy's side as he fell that rocketed him across the yard. Confident of victory, Ranma then twisted around to face Akane and inform her, reluctantly, that Mahjong could begin whenever she saw fit.
And then he heard a splash.
Ranma stared at Akane's face. She looked pretty irritable, but not enraged; normally, she would have left when they started fighting. But nothing in Ranma's life could be "normal" forever. Maybe, just maybe, if Ryouga could move fast enough… Ranma turned, slowly, watching as P-Chan struggled dazedly from the koi pond, and Ryouga's clothes floated to the surface, much to the chagrin of the koi there, but no one noticed their plight, as usual.
Whipping back around to face Akane, knowing the lost boy had been too slow, Ranma held up his hands in a placating gesture. Her face was a mask of stone. "Now, jus' hold on Akane, this ain't— well— that is…" Ranma trailed off and turned briefly to look at Ryouga when Akane's face didn't change. The tiny animal was staring at the object of his affection in horror. Before Ranma could stop him, the martial-artist-turned-pig bounded out of the yard with supernatural speed, bweeing pathetically.
"You ain't no pig, yer a chicken!" Ranma shouted after him, but stopped himself from chasing the lost boy down. He turned back just in time to see Akane start to faint as her brain tried to process things. Ranma gasped out and ran up, catching her just before her head hit the sharp edge of the porch.
Breathing a sigh of relief, he looked down as her eyes fluttered open at the sound of his exhale. "You okay?" he asked shakily; his arms felt like they were going to liquefy. Akane was pale and quaking in his arms, and Ranma felt like hitting himself in the face with a stone Buddha for not telling her sooner.
"Did you know?" Akane demanded, clutching the hem of her shirt and looking up at him with watery eyes.
Ranma felt like she was stabbing him in the heart. "I did, but I made a promise, on my honor, never to tell," Ranma clenched his fist in anger, "I wanted to tell ya', Akane, the minute I found out he was sleepin' in yer bed."
She was silent, and he wasn't sure how he felt about that. "I wanna go to my room." She whispered. He hefted himself to his feet, taking her with him, and started inside. Akane pressed her face unabashedly into his chest and he felt wetness there, and wanted to kick himself – she was crying, and it was probably his fault. Everything always was.
Ranma carried her up the stairs to her room with all the enthusiasm of a hanged man. Toeing her door open, he moved inside and laid her down on the bed. She immediately rolled over onto her stomach and stroked the pillow with her hand, where P-Chan usually slept. "I… don't know what to think, Ranma…" she whispered.
For his part, Ranma didn't either. He wasn't sure what upset him more: Ryouga running off like a coward, or the feelings of betrayal Ryouga had no-doubt instilled in her. Ranma knew what it was like to feel betrayed by his friends; Ukyou and her antics at his "wedding" had made him feel more hurt than anything anyone had ever done to him.
Gingerly, he sat down on the edge of Akane's bed and reached out a hand to touch his fiancée's shoulder as though he were testing a door for signs of fire on the other side. Akane stiffened, and he almost pulled away, but when she gradually relaxed, he let the pressure of his hand increase. "I'm sorry… I just thought you'd figger it out on yer own."
Akane sniffled. "I don't know why I didn't."
They sat in silence for a while. Ranma was unaccustomed to this reaction from his usually-violent fiancée. Whenever the time came that she inevitably found out about Ryouga, Ranma had expected a lot of yelling and hitting, directed mostly at his own face, and possibly Ryouga's crotch.
"D'ya' wanna hit me?" Ranma asked quietly, not taking his hand off of her shoulder. Akane rubbed her face against her pillow and then turned to look at him over her shoulder.
"Not really. I don't feel mad, just… stupid."
This day was getting weirder and weirder.
"You ain't stupid," Ranma mumbled awkwardly; he wasn't very good at comforting people under, well, any circumstances, but regardless of how vehemently he denied it, he loved Akane and didn't want her to be unhappy, "you just ain't that observant, I guess."
Akane frowned, but not very deeply. She stared blankly across the room, and Ranma became very uncomfortable with her silence. Suddenly, the honor promise to Ryouga seemed completely baffling and ridiculous, and Ranma had to admit to himself: he hadn't told her because he was angry and jealous, and wanted her to find out on her own and really do some damage to the lost boy.
Well, that plan had backfired. "I really shoulda told ya', Akane," Ranma said softly, feeling incredibly out of his element, "I was just, kinda, I dunno. I'm the dumb one."
Akane continued to stare off into space, and Ranma sighed heavily. He almost wished she'd hit him, at least then he'd be in familiar territory. "C'mon, Akane, talk to me." Ranma whined, irritated at how desperate he sounded.
Slowly, inch by inch, Akane's arm shifted from where it lay listlessly at her side, and her hand came up to rest against his on her shoulder. "I forgive you." Her hand fell away, and Ranma found himself missing the small touch.
"Whaddya mean?" he croaked out, suddenly feeling very nervous. This wasn't right.
"I forgive you." Akane repeated, her tone empty, listless.
"Hey, I know you, Akane, an' you ain't the forgivin' type; c'mon, whack ol' dumb Ranma right in the kisser!" he urged, pointing at his jaw with the hand that wasn't occupied on her shoulder.
"It's only a kisser if you kiss people with it." Akane said tiredly. Ranma flushed and looked down at the side of her face, streaked with fresh tears. Without thinking, Ranma removed his hand from her shoulder to swipe at the tracks on her cheek. Akane turned slightly on her side to stare up at him, blinking her soft hazel eyes in confusion. Ranma gulped.
"W-why ain't you mad?" He fumbled, his stomach fluttering as she continued to stare at him.
"I'm tired," she said softly, finally looking away from him at the other side of the room again, "there's no need to be mad at you, anyway, you won't care; you didn't tell me 'cause you didn't care. Everyone else—"
"Whaddya mean I 'didn't care'?" Ranma interrupted petulantly. Akane looked up at him out of the corner of her eye, lips drawn into a thin line. He wisely pulled his hand away, lest she decide to bite it off.
"If you were jealous, you'd have said something." Ranma tried to wrap his head around that for a minute, failed, tried again, and then gave up.
"What? That's the stupidest thing I ever heard!" He cried, flabbergasted. What… how… why did women come to these weird conclusions around him? It was like he was trapped perpetually in a shoujo manga.
Akane glared openly at him, now. She rolled onto her back, and began ticking off people on her fingers with increasing gusto. "No, it isn't. It makes sense. Nabiki probably knew, and didn't tell me because she thought it was funny. Kasumi wouldn't know how to broach the subject, and Daddy and Mr. Saotome, if they did know, wouldn't have said anything for fear of me getting angry and destroying the house," she huffed and clenched her fist in his face, before pointing at him, blushing hotly, "you, on the other hand, would've had a perfectly good reason to tell me, if you cared."
Ranma clenched his fists against his thighs, but he felt slightly relieved; if she was angry at him, he could work within that sphere of rage. He knew how to handle Angry Akane – that was the head she turned on him most. "Whatever, think what you want." He groused, standing and making to leave the room.
"What?" Akane asked heatedly, sitting up, legs swinging over the side of the bed. "Where do you get off being mad at me!"
Ranma spun away from her and smashed his fist into his open palm to get some of the aggression inside him out. "Yer puttin' words in my mouth, again, for the millionth time… THIS WEEK!" he snarled back, whirling on her and tugging at his hair in frustration. "It drives me nuts!"
Akane's expression soured even further, if that was possible, to the point where she resembled a pickled plum, wrathful violet color and all. "Well excuse me if you decided to not tell me there was a-a-a BOY sneaking into my bed at night! Excuse me for being a little bit upset that my own family and friends decided to let me be molested by a pig!" She stood up, stepped up to him, and poked him in the chest. Ranma took a reflexive, challenging step forward. In return, Akane backed up, until her knees hit the bed and she stumbled slightly, but regained her angry posture with the practiced expedience of a chronic klutz.
"You said it yerself, you didn't notice!" Ranma countered.
Akane's battle aura was starting to lick off of her in sickly blue-black flames. "So what if I didn't? You should have said something!" Akane shot back.
"I wanted to!" Ranma's blood was boiling now; sure, he'd wanted her to get angry, but at Ryouga, really, not at him!
"Yeah right! That 'kisser' of yours couldn't tell me the truth if it was written on a cue card!" Akane poked him in the chest again, and Ranma grabbed the offending hand. Outraged, Akane tried to punch him with her other hand, but Ranma was well past that nonsense, and caught that one as well. "Lemme go, pervert!" Akane shouted, eyes wild with rage.
"No way! Yer callin' me a liar!" He held her as she struggled, and though Akane had gotten stronger from breaking all those bricks and Ranma-shaped wooden men in the year since he'd come to stay with them, Ranma had gotten stronger from fighting crazy people, like Saffron, and held her fast. "I ain't no liar! I jus' didn't wanna say nothin' 'cause Ryouga liked you!"
"Yeah right!" Akane spat. "You just didn't care, Ranma!"
"He was sleepin' in yer bed, dammit! I was pissed!" He shouted, not realizing where the conversation was heading.
Tears formed in Akane's eyes, and though her face was still twisted with rage, her battle aura shrank back at his admission. "Why would that even bother you? I'm your uncute fiancée, remember!" She said, sounding slightly unsure.
"You sure as hell ain't cute right now!" Akane gaped at him and then renewed her attempts to attack him. Ranma continued to hold her hands tightly as she tried to slug him. Eventually, he snapped his arms out straight at his sides, which caused her to bump into his chest, but also had the distinct advantage of robbing Akane of any leverage. Not that her breasts against his chest, under other circumstances, would've been a bad thing, but these weren't other circumstances.
"Who cares if I'm cute!" This close to her face, the heat of Akane's anger almost made Ranma sweat.
"Nobody! J-just, I woulda toldja but there wasn't a good time!" That was lame, even for him.
"Puh-lease, Ranma," Akane ground out, "that's a load of crap and you know it! Just admit it! You couldn't have cared less who was sleeping with me!" Akane blushed, no doubt because of the way that had come out sounding, but kept her expression wrathful.
Ranma, for his part, suddenly got it, like a fish suddenly gets that it's stuck in a tank after the fifth or sixth time running into the glass headfirst. "I care about stuff like that!" He countered, blushing as well.
"Then why didn't you say anything?" Akane's voice was quieter, but still full of vitriol. She wasn't struggling as much in his grip, but Ranma liked touching her, even when she was pissed, so he didn't let go.
"'Cause— 'cause—" he sputtered, trying to come up with an excuse that wouldn't reveal how insanely, mindlessly jealous he'd been, "because he made you happy, an'-an' I didn't wanna ruin it!" It was sort of true, but Ranma left out the part where "ruining it" would cause him grievous bodily harm.
Akane scowled disdainfully. "I'm a big girl! And I'd rather know if my pet is molesting me with his eyes than have some petty comfort! I could always get a kitten!" She finished dangerously, narrowing her eyes.
Glowering, Ranma got closer to her face, which forced her to tilt away lest their foreheads crack together. "Point is, I cared." He said darkly.
"Yeah, I bet you did. I bet you wouldn't have said a damn word if he was with Ukyou, or Shanpu," Akane said sarcastically, "you would've just let it go on, mmhmm!"
"No!" he shouted back, misinterpreting her jibe. Then he got it a second too late.
"Exactly!" She hissed, venom oozing from her tone. "Now let go of me!"
"No way! I ain't lettin' you get outta this! We're talkin' it out!" Ranma responded firmly, ignoring the fact that "talking" usually wasn't done loudly enough to empty the house, street, and possibly Ward of people suddenly needing to do something else, something else that wasn't getting caught up in the ensuing carnage.
"What's there to discuss, Ranma? The fact that you don't care who I date, or the fact that you do care who your other fiancées date?" Akane asked huffily.
"What? When did this become about dating!" Ranma asked, still incredulous at the strange ways his fiancées' minds worked.
"You know what I mean!" He sort of did, actually, which scared him. "I bet the only reason you cared that Sanzenin tried to kiss me back then was because you were just looking for an excuse to pound him for kissing YOU!"
"Not true!" he had wanted to pound him, but he had also not wanted him to kiss Akane. "An' why would it matter!"
"Because! It's just more evidence that you don't care about who I'm with! Or you're too scared to show it for fear you'll actually have to use that 'kisser' for something besides saying stupid things!" She shouted, tossing her hair out of her eyes and trying, once again in vain to escape from his grasp.
"I ain't scared uh nothin'!" The scene was strangely familiar, but Ranma was beyond noticing the direction their argument was heading.
"Then maybe you're just a terrible kisser!" This argument had degenerated, as their arguments usually did, into something complete nonsensical. Ranma Saotome, however, had a very nonsensical life, so he, again, failed to notice.
"Oh yeah! Who're you to judge? You ain't never even kissed a boy for real!" Ranma shouted back triumphantly.
Akane smirked. "Doesn't matter, boys don't notice if a girl is a bad kisser, anyway. Especially a boy as inexperienced as you." She said it with such utter confidence that Ranma had to wonder if, maybe, Akane had kissed someone "for real." But he shook the jealous thought away and resumed glaring at her.
"I'm a great kisser!" he shot back.
"Oh yeah!" Akane mimicked his earlier come back, wittingly or unwittingly.
Ranma's nostrils flared with righteous indignation. "Yeah!"
"Prove it, then!" Akane snarled. The familiarity of the situation caught up to Ranma, but his pride had been injured, now. Regardless of how stupid the whole exchange was, Ranma couldn't back down from a challenge. Also, the thought of kissing Akane made his stomach do a very pleasant little flip-flop.
Carefully, he released her arms, first. "Fine," he said, still trying to sound angry, and only succeeding in sounding petulant, "but you can't hit me!"
"Deal!" Akane responded, putting her arms stiffly by her sides. The shorter girl squinted her eyes shut and tilted up her head, waiting. Ranma licked his lips, staring at hers, petal-pink and slightly pursed as she waited. Ranma put his hands cautiously on her shoulders, testing, and felt her entire body shaking slightly with something barely-suppressed. He leaned forward, gulping down his cowardice, and touched his pursed lips to hers. Then he pulled back, quickly, and dropped his arms, forming fists with his hands.
"There!" Ranma shouted, flushing – it was their first on-purpose kiss. He wanted to dance, but indignation kept his feet firmly rooted to the carpet.
Akane opened her eyes and raised an eyebrow at him. "You call that a kiss!" She sounded so flabbergasted, Ranma deflated slightly. Then he stood up, chest puffed out.
"Like you could do any better, tomboy!" Ranma retorted.
Akane sputtered angrily for a moment, and then growled and grabbed him by the front of the shirt, dragging him forward with ease. He stared, eyes narrowed, into her flushed face. "You wanna bet?" she said menacingly. And then she mashed her lips into his.
For a moment, Ranma stood there, eyes open, staring at her scrunched-up lids, balanced by her hands fisted into his shirt. Gradually, he relaxed and kissed her back, eyes drifting closed. Her lips were so soft, and slightly dry, but they sent tingles down his spine nonetheless. As they continued to stand there, brief thoughts of the failed wedding flitted through his head; should anyone catch them, they'd be married on the spot. But when Akane made a sweet little noise in the back of her throat, those thoughts fled like bunny rabbits in the path of a bear, a bear made out of teenage hormones.
Akane's hands unclenched from his silk shirt and flattened against his chest, and Ranma's arms slowly came up to encircle her waist. A bubble of silence seemed to surround them, the only thing penetrating it being the quiet sounds of their lips sliding against each other. Hesitantly, and with much regret, Ranma pulled slowly away with a small popping sound, opening his eyes to stare at his fiancée's flushed face. He felt breathless, and slightly dizzy, but they hadn't even ventured any further than lip-on-lip territory. He wondered, giddy with delight, what would happen if he was to try and push things a little further.
Eyes fluttering open, Akane stared at him with a dazed expression. "How was that?" she whispered shyly, licking her lips. Ranma was transfixed by that pink organ wetting her red little mouth.
"Uh, good," he responded, his voice cracking slightly, making her smile, slowly, lazily. Ranma flushed to his toes and cleared his throat before speaking. "But, maybe we should do it again," Akane raised an eyebrow at him, "y'know, 'cause I wasn't super prepared, so I couldn't do my best." He finished, trying desperately to sound nonchalant and slightly put-upon at the same time.
Akane nodded, slowly. "Yeah, that wasn't really fair; you can't be expected to be on your game in that sort of a situation." She said in a small voice, her mouth hanging slightly open, expectant.
Moistening his own lips, Ranma leaned forward again. Akane closed her eyes and tilted her head slightly to the side, and their lips met again for a third time. Ranma could not believe what was happening; he should have been all the way to Kyoto courtesy of Air Akane, but instead they were gradually approaching second base in her room. Excited and only slightly terrified at the consequences of this act, Ranma reached up and cupped her cheek, and gently traced the crease of Akane's lips with his tongue.
His fiancée jerked a little in surprise, but didn't break the kiss, or push him away, or pummel him, or anything else he would have normally expected from her. Instead, she relaxed and opened her mouth, allowing Ranma to slip his tongue between her lips. Akane made that little noise again when Ranma's tongue brushed against hers, and he realized suddenly that it was a moan, and that it was also the best sound he'd ever heard.
The kiss successfully deepened, Ranma allowed himself to relax and enjoy the sensation of being so close with someone he'd been wanting for over a year. Akane shifted against him, and her arms slid up around his neck to shyly snake into his hair. Ranma shivered at the sensation of her nails and fingertips on his sensitive scalp, and something in him shattered, not unpleasantly, and he momentarily allowed himself to be a teenager.
Wrapping one arm tightly around her waist, pressing her soft breasts into his chest, Ranma kissed his fiancée deeply. Akane mewled into his open mouth and he dug his fingers through her short hair and tilted her head back slightly. The action caused Akane to back up a step; he felt her foot slide backwards, heard the bed creak as the back of her knee came into contact with it, felt them tip over with a sort of vague dread overshadowed by lust.
They tumbled onto her bed together, Ranma crushing her under his weight. Akane ripped her mouth away from his sometime during the fall, and as she tried to catch herself, one of her knees came up towards his crotch. Only a lifetime of martial arts training and sheer male preservation instinct kept Ranma's balls from being reoriented six inches above his pelvis. He twisted his lower body and her knee slid harmlessly up his thigh. This resulted in Ranma landing between her knees, with her leg draped over his.
Ranma stared down into her sweaty, flushed face, his own hot and slightly moist. They panted together for a moment, until Ranma grew aware of the growing stiffness in one very male part of him. He figured they weren't really ready for something like that, so he got up off of her with reluctance and held out his hand. Akane took it, and he helped her to stand.
Then she slugged him on the face. His head snapped around, more in surprise than in pain – the hit hadn't been very hard, especially by Akane's no-holds-barred standards. Ranma stood very still, stunned, horrified, going back through their impromptu and wholly unexpected make-out session in his mind. Had he forced her? It hadn't seemed that way, but then again this was Akane and—
"That's for not telling me Ryouga was P-Chan, dummy," at that Ranma turned slowly around, relaxing; she was smiling at him, smoothing down her t-shirt nervously, "but this…" she walked over and kissed him, lightly on the lips, then stepped away quickly, "is because I do forgive you."
"I don't believe it," Ranma said quietly; Akane looked at him, puzzled, "I bet if I'd'a toldja before, this wouldn't've happened." Akane shrugged.
"Yep, I probably would have clobbered the both of you." She said mildly.
Ranma frowned and scratched his head. "So what the hell did I learn, then?"
Akane smirked at him. "That I'm a better kisser than you?"
Ranma scoffed. "Better kisser? Please, I'm way better'n you!"
"Oh yeah?" Akane asked, temper flaring.
Ranma smirked, "Oh, yeah."