Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters do not belong to me, they belong to the amazing Rumiko Takahashi.
AN: (Edited September 2017)
No More Pussyfooting Around: a Ranma ½ fanfic
Chapter 1: Violent Maniacs and Candy Sprinkles
At the age of 16, Akane Tendo became engaged to Ranma Saotome. Chaos ensued. At the age of 17, Akane died.
But she didn't stay dead.
Seconds later (or perhaps minutes, it was hard to count time when one was dead), she'd revived in the arms of her fiancé. Within the month, she'd agreed to marry Ranma, getting him the means to end his curse and hopefully kickstarting their happily ever after. Yet the wedding was sabotaged. Happily ever after (and curse breaking) was put off.
Nabiki moved away to attend business college, Ukyo franchised and opened a second Okonomiyaki shop, and Shampoo learned how to use pronouns (most of the time).
Nevertheless, girls still wrangled over Ranma, boys still went gaga over Akane, and crazy challengers still popped up in random places. Things had returned to normal in Nerima. Nothing had changed. At least, nothing on the surface.
Inside Akane's soul though, that was a different story.
As the school bell rang, Akane slowly gathered up her pen and spiral notebook. She took her time closing the cover and sliding everything into her worn but well-loved book bag. Finally she slipped in the book of plays they'd been reading in class and shut the flap.
Stains, rips, and scuffs covered her bookbag. Brown stitches showed her attempts at mending the holes. Akane sometimes thought it a miracle that the bag had survived to her senior year of high school, considering four years of school use that included being regularly bashed against thick male heads. Akane loved this bag.
Although her sewing might never be elegant, the bag recorded her steady improvement with a needle and thread. She sometimes walked her fingers along the cloth between the oldest stitching and the newest, recounting the years. The first clumsy knot marked a time before Ranma. It was nice to have evidence that he hadn't always been at the center of her life. Sometimes, she found that hard to remember.
One large hole had been patched up and stitched to look like a cat. She'd been mad at Ranma that day. Scowling fiercely as she sewed, she had wanted to capitalize on his fear of cats by making him leave her alone when he saw her bag.
Of course, he had strolled up a minute later and mockingly asked if that was supposed to be a chicken. Couldn't the idiot tell the difference between wings and ears? That plan had failed utterly.
Every time she saw her cat patch now, it made her think of Ranma. In particular, it made her think of his softly affectionate kiss while under the influence of the cat fist. Sure, he had thought himself a cat at the time; the kiss couldn't mean anything because he didn't even remember it. But Akane remembered. When she wasn't angry at him for being a jerk and driving her crazy, she sometimes wondered what it would be like to kiss him again, but this time as a man instead of as a cat.
Seeing another student still talking to the teacher, Akane stood up and leaned against a desk in the front by the windows. She held several old assignments, each bearing an 'A' circled in red. Unlike most of the other martial artists in town, Akane excelled at school. Literature class was a pleasure, not a chore to be slept though like some snoring pigtailed male who shall remain nameless.
Looking out the open window, Akane noticed several couples strolling out the gates. She felt a smirk blossom when she saw Yuka prance out holding the arm of her seventh period crush. Something interesting had happened since Akane had last talked to her at lunch. She'd have to get the details later.
Behind Yuka strolled Miaka and the captain of the soccer team. They'd been an item for years. Akane felt her smile dim. Miaka had been a good friend all through junior high. Her family owned a shrine, so the two girls had bonded early over the pressure to follow in their family's footsteps. Both had their futures mapped out for them by traditional parents.
But once Miaka discovered boys, and Akane learned to hate boys courtesy of Kuno, they had drifted apart. There'd been several times when Akane had idly wondered what Miaka would say about her situation with Ranma. However, too much time had passed and Miaka didn't seem interested in rekindling their friendship. Whenever Akane walked by Miaka's shrine now, it made her feel a little sad.
As Miaka and her boyfriend disappeared around the corner, Ranma sauntered into view. His smooth gait hinted, if you knew what to look for, at power kept very tightly leashed. Even from here, she could feel the charisma that drew so many people into his orbit. Black hair, highlighted reddish-brown in the sun, fluttered around his face. Leaning back against a tree, he crossed his arms behind his head as if settling in to wait for someone. Several boys walking by called out to him, but Ranma just smiled and waved the knot of students on. He looked isolated and almost lonely, a still pebble in the streams of scattering students. Akane sighed, wishing she knew what Ranma was thinking about as he pensively gazed towards the front doors of the school.
A sudden gust of wind swirled through the classroom, stealing the papers from Akane's lax fingers. One spirited out the window while the others scattered across the floor. Exclaiming in surprise, Akane bent over and quickly gathered them back up off the floor into a messy pile. Stuffing them safe into her bag, she went to the open window and saw her missing midterm caught between a bush and the wall outside the teacher's lounge one floor down.
"You had a question, Ms. Tendo?" Yamada-Sensei asked from his position by the door. Akane would have to retrieve the paper after her conversation with the teacher. He seemed eager to leave and his face looked pale and slightly sweaty.
Surreptitiously wiping off hands dusty from scrabbling on the floor for her papers, Akane stepped up to the teacher. "Yes Sir, I was hoping to ask you for a favor."
"What kind of favor?" Yamada-Sensei clutched his briefcase to his chest with trembling fingers.
The poor man must be worn out from a day of teaching, Akane thought. I'll have to make this brief. "I was hoping you would write me a letter of recommendation. It's for—"
"What?" interrupted Yamada-Sensei. He sounded almost incredulous.
Akane opened her mouth to explain, but he cut her off. "No, no. I see and I'm sorry, but I just can't." Voice cracking on the word, he paused to pull out a handkerchief and wipe his sweating face. "Despite your good grades, you've missed too many classes. I'm sorry, but you'll have to ask someone else," and with that, he scurried out of the classroom.
Bewildered, Akane could only stare after his rapidly retreating form. What had just happened? She was getting a 93% in this class and had only missed a few classes due to challenges involving Ranma or kidnappings. Plus, since Ranma wasn't in this class with her, she'd never even gotten sent into the hall to hold buckets. Akane was a good student! She just didn't understand.
Shaking her head, she sighed and went to retrieve her paper from outside. As she walked, she tried to figure out whom else she could ask. Ms. Hinako was definitely out. Akane had heard horror stories of letters written with crayon and sparkly stickers sent to admissions boards.
As she came around the side of the building, Akane looked towards the tree by the front gate. No one waited there anymore. Ignoring the way her stomach dropped, she made her way around the side of the building.
Examining the tightly planted bushes, several of which were trimmed to resemble very ugly pineapples, Akane realized that reaching her paper wasn't going to be easy. She could clearly see it fluttering around on a low branch. To get to it, though, she was going to have to crawl between two bushes. It would be a tight fit. Hopefully no one would see her. It would look weird to be crawling around in a skirt, much less beneath the open windows of the teacher's lounge. Putting down her bag, Akane got on her hands and knees and started wiggling through.
Stretching, she managed to barely put two fingertips on the edge of the paper. As she gently scraped it closer, Akane vaguely noticed voices getting louder above her head. Another gust of wind blew by, ruffling her skirt and blowing the paper right into her face.
Success! Akane stuffed the paper in a pocket. Ready to escape the needles prickling her scalp, she started undulating carefully backwards. Then she heard her name drifting down from the open window and couldn't help but stop to listen.
"Akane Tendo isn't that bad, Yamada-san," soothed an almost familiar male voice .
"Are you kidding me? When she cornered me in class a few minutes ago, I feared for my life! What did she expect me to write on her letter: that she's only a violent hoodlum half the time?" A voice Akane hollowly recognized as Yamada-Sensei exclaimed. "Haven't you been watching her these last few years? Whenever she's startled, annoyed, or angry - in short, whenever things don't go her way - she starts hitting people and throwing things."
Akane gasped in hurt and shock, but luckily the teachers didn't hear her.
"Well," the other man responded, "she does have a temper, but usually she only hits Saotome or boys who try to ask her out. I don't think she'd actually hit a teacher or anyone innocent."
Yamada-Sensei snorted. "That's what we tell ourselves now, but mark my words - she's just going to get worse. Ten years from now her kids will be showing up to school with black eyes and covered in bruises, claiming that they fell down the stairs. She's an abusive, violent maniac!" His voice got hysterically louder as he talked, and Akane had to place a dirt-stained hand over her own mouth to muffle her reactions.
The other man made soothing sounds, but Akane didn't want to hear any more. She wrenched herself out of the bushes as quickly, yet silently, as possible. Stuffing her midterm into her bag, she heard Yamada-Sensei wearily add, "I never wanted her in my class. I just hope I survive until the end of the semester."
Shaky hands fumbled several times until she finally succeeded in securing the straps shut on her bag. Akane needed to get away somewhere private before she started to cry. Blinking rapidly, she put her head down and rushed out the gate.
Only a few steps later, someone popped up by her side. "Oi, tomboy, what took you so long?" Ranma demanded as he matched her fast pace. "Akane…?" he added when she didn't respond.
Keeping her face slanted away, Akane swallowed and tried to answer normally. "I had to pick up something. You didn't have to wait." She just wanted to escape so she could break down by herself.
Now Ranma will say something stupid and I'll have an excuse to punch him so he'll go away, Akane thought. A second later, she felt a clammy shudder ripple down her spine. That was just the kind of behavior Yamada-Sensei had accused her of. Maybe she was a violent maniac who would end up abusing her children.
"What's wrong?" Ranma asked. "Did someone accidentally eat your cooking and die or something?"
Suppressing her first instinct to slap him across the face, Akane lowered her hand and walked around his braced body. "Just leave me alone, you jerk," she growled. Despite her best efforts, a sobbing breath escaped her mouth.
Surprised, Ranma stood frozen, staring after her misery-hunched body. Then he sprinted back up to her. "H- hey," Ranma stuttered, peering up under the fall of her hair to see her eyes, "did something really happen?"
Placing his hand on her arm, Ranma gently pulled her to a stop. For some reason, she couldn't find the energy to resist. His hand felt hot on her chilled skin. The warmth was compelling, urging her to give in.
"Akane," his voice became very intent, "did Shampoo try to drug you again? Or did someone challenge you?"
Swiping her free hand across her moist eyes, she took a deep breath. "No," her voice wobbled out. Taking another breath, she raised her face. It took effort, but she made herself meet his concerned blue eyes. "No, I'm fine. No one did anything." She thought about faking a smile, but didn't think he'd believe it.
"Akane…" he sounded lost as he searched her eyes for answers. The hand on her arm shifted but didn't let go. Bringing his other hand up, he ran his fingers slowly through her hair. She could feel the drag of his fingertips along her scalp. Tingles flowed across her skin and she had to repress the urge to close her eyes. Calloused fingers tucked several strands tenderly behind her ear before he took a step back and released her arm.
Ranma's neck bobbed as he swallowed. "You had pine needles in your hair. What've you been up to?"
Soothed, Akane managed to produce a small yet genuine smile. Nevertheless, she simply shook her head and slowly began walking again. Ranma matched her step for step.
They walked for a few minutes in companionable silence. "I know," Ranma teased, "you finally carried out your threat to save the eyesight of the student body by cutting down those hideous, pineapple-shaped bushes of Principle Kuno's."
"Hah," Akane replied with a bit of her usual vigor. "That was your threat, not mine."
Ignoring her, Ranma continued, "After defending the eyes of your fellow students, you found yourself famished. Yet your wallet was empty because you gave your last yen to a monk who resembled a small, furry chihuahua. Starving and wandering the grounds of Furinkan, you found yourself desolate. If only you'd kept a few yen for yourself!"
A giggle escaped Akane. Surprised, she touched her lips wonderingly. Ranma seemed too caught up in his performance to notice. Bouncing around her as she walked, he reenacted his version of recent history.
First, Ranma grimaced and covered his eyes in horror before pulling out an invisible pair of shears and chopping away. Then he rubbed his belly and groaned pitifully. Sending her a sideways glance, he performed his impression of a chihuahua-like monk collecting money. Finally, he collapsed on the ground at her feet, the picture of a desolate hero.
Staring down at him, Akane felt warmth spreading through her chest. "You," she pronounced, "are ridiculous."
Jumping to his feet, Ranma walked backwards so he could keep facing her as they talked. "Ah ah, you shouldn't say that to the person with money in his wallet." He then proceeded to pull out a yen note and wave it in her face, "money that could be used to rescue the hero of Furinkan from starvation by buying her an ice cream." Tilting his head to the side appealingly, he smiled. "Whadda ya say?"
"Well," Akane hesitated. She'd wanted to retreat somewhere to lick her wounds in private, but it was hot out today and something sweet sounded really good. Not to mention that Ranma's hopeful smile was hard to resist.
Sensing her wavering, Ranma leaned forward and offered, "You could get two scoops, one with peppermint and one with cookies and cream. I'll even get them to add whipped cream and sprinkles. You know you love sprinkles."
She did. She really, really did. "All right," Akane gave in. Besides, this would give her a chance to practice her self-control around Ranma, she told herself. "But if you're lying to me about the sprinkles, you're dead to me. Clear?"
"Crystal," Ranma answered with a satisfied grin. Then he scooped her up and started jumping across the roofs towards downtown.
"Ranma," Akane shrieked in surprise, "put me down!"
Laughing, Ranma pulled her closer against his body and ran faster across the rooftops.