Sift Through the Mud
Broken Quill and Scattered Ink
Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma ½.
"There's that 'calm before the storm' that makes me feel like I am stuck in the middle of a hurricane, with my heartbeat spiraling out of control and my mind at such a level of unease. I believe the wait is harder to take than the actual storm."
A blinding light kept her from opening her eyes. She squeezed them shut harder, moaning a bit at the disruption of her sleep.
Once she opened them, clearing the hazy vision, she found herself staring at Ranma's sleeping face a mere two centimeters from hers. It took all of her self-control not to scream and push him away from startle.
She distinctly remembered sleeping alone by the side of Ki-chan's bed. So why in the world is he here? I came to Ki-chan specifically so that I could sleep away from him tonight…
Akane frowned at him and his stubbornness. It was when she tried to move away from him that she noticed that he had locked both arms tightly around her waist, and that he was sleeping while sitting up, his back rested against their daughter's bed. Akane, on the other hand, had slept the entire night with her hands rested on his chest, and from the cheek impression on the material of his red shirt against his shoulder, she guessed that her head had rested there.
She hated him. Why did he always act like this, so husband-like, when she was angry with him?
…Of course, the answer was obvious. It was the only way Ranma knew how to apologize to her.
And her attitude from the night before was the same. She didn't want his apology. She wanted to know his feelings for her. Two years was enough of a wait.
It was not as she expected. Instead of things going to normal…it was clear that they …
"Your meal is on the table. I'm going to take Ki-chan to school." Akane wouldn't—couldn't look at him right now.
Turning on her heel, she took Ki-chan's hand and started walking briskly out the door. It was when she was tugging her daughter, and found resistance, that she turned to look at the little girl a few feet behind her. With a frown, Aoki announced: "I need to say goodbye to Daddy."
Thrown off-guard, Akane took a few seconds until she finally nodded.
Their little girl ran up to Ranma, who mustered up a small smile and got to his knees, arms open wide for her. With a giggle, she locked her arms around his neck, and Ranma quickly picked her up with ease. He walked over next to his wife by the door, and after planting a kiss on Ki-chan's cheek, he settled her down.
"Bye, Daddy!" She shouted gleefully, sitting down to put on her shoes.
"Bye," Ranma was standing fully straight, his eyes locked on Akane's slightly angered ones. It was clear who he was talking to.
Ranma cleared his throat. With the little confidence from the eye contact Akane was giving him, he mumbled.
"I already gave Ki-chan her goodbye kiss," he looked past her. "…so, bye, Akane."
He leaned forward, a blush covering his features, to give her one on the cheek. At the slow, nervous pace he was using, it was easy for her to step away from him, leaving him lip-locking with air.
"Good-bye, Ranma. Your first class starts at 8.30 today. Do not be late. I will be home around lunchtime, today. I'll see you then."
And with that, she left dragging Aoki by the arm and walked off to school.
Ranma grunted. He was annoyed, but relieved. They were not as tense and hateful as yesterday; today, the patterns fell back into place. It was like it was when Akane was angry; she would ignore him or give him a few words, and never return any affection.
But he could handle that. It was much better than dealing with her when she was crying.
The images of her sobbing uncontrollably, both when he had pinned her atop of their bed and when she sat on the floor, haunted his memory. He took in a deep breath; he knew that she was hurting. It was a pain that was stronger than when she had caught him with Ukyo or Shampoo or Kodachi the many times before—what had made this time so different?
And, like all of their other fights, he was to blame. He had apologized, but she was still angry, as always.
"Then why the heck did you marry me?"
"You married me to convenience yourself…"
Not once had he ever told her that he loved her. And it had been two years of marriage.
Did she think…that they were forced together? That none of this mattered?
His mind flitted through the thoughts and words of their fight. And he groaned. He already knew what he had to say.
For once, he knew what Akane wanted. He knew that she felt inferior to the other girls. She was always trying so hard to move up to their standards for the past two years, and he had done nothing to reassure her that they had no fight against her. At this thought, he clenched his fist.
"But I married her! And I chose her! No one else!" he told himself in a harsh whisper.
And they were married, he thought logically. Why was it so wrong for him to tell her how much he loved her? Why was it so hard for him?
He knew why. He had always known. He was not used to it. He had never told anyone those three words, and whenever it counted most, he still couldn't say it. Even when he had Akane, dying in his arms, with his shirt covering her, when her life was ending, he couldn't say it out loud. No matter how much he meant it.
He knew what he wanted to tell her. He knew that two years was a long enough wait.
The days following were unbearable.
The noontimes, which both Ranma and Akane came back to the house for lunch, were quiet. She would set food that she ordered from restaurants on their table, sit, and merely eat. It was Ranma, who was sweating while eating, who started conversation.
"How was today, Akane?" he asked cheerfully, adding a smile for effect.
She didn't look up from her food. "Fine."
He brightened. She was still answering and talking to him—things were slowly coming back to normal.
"Really?" He asked, a little too interested. "What did you do with Dr. Tofu?"
He frowned. She knew he hated one-two worded answers. Grunting and mumbling, he went back to his food. And conversation ceased for the rest of lunchtime.
Dinner was the same, except they had Aoki chattering about her day, which put Akane into all smiles. And seeing her happy, although not speaking directly to him, kept Ranma in a good mood.
Nights were worse.
Akane slept on her side of their bed, but kept her back turned towards him. Once he turned off the lamp at his side, and after asking for a few blessings, he nervously inched towards her. After every few seconds, he scooted closer to her. He repeated this until his arm came in contact with her back. Akane grunted moodily. Then, she would scoot so that she was not touching him.
He continued the same pattern as before, until he was able to touch her again. Ranma knew he was asking for a fight, but guilt was quickly eating at him. Once a thought of her crying the day before ran into his mind, he wanted to hold her and apologize.
He touched her a second time. She scooted again. This time, she added a verbal warning. "Stop it, Ranma."
He gulped. "I'm sorry, Akane."
She pulled her covers higher. "It's fine. Just don't scoot anymore. There's no more room on my side."
"No," he turned his head to face her, and stared at the back of her head. He began to count her dark blue tresses. "I meant, I'm sorry for what happened yesterday. You're still mad. I can tell."
"I'm not mad." She whispered, and he noticed her arm tensing, and the sound of the sheets ruffling. He didn't have to peek over her shoulder to know that she was bunching her side of the sheet. He also knew that she needed to bunch something—to unclench and clench her fist—whenever she was angry.
"Are too," he answered back. Despite its childish tone, he was never more serious. "You are mad. But I'm tellin' ya, that kiss meant nothin'—"
"You still let it happen," she whispered back, rushed and harsh. Then, a sigh floated afterwards. "But forget it. It doesn't matter. Good-night."
And his nights ended that way for that week.
It was a nonverbal contract that they eat together. Just like when they walked to school when engaged—it was something they did together everyday. Both knew to keep their ends of the contract, and waited for each other on the days they were late just so they could walk together. Even the days they had fights, Ranma still found it worthy to wait for his fiancé.
Lunch, when married, was the same. He expected her to sit and eat with him, even if, as in the past few days, it was in silence.
The next few days, he found her eating quickly and leaving, making the excuse that Dr. Tofu wanted to see her right away today.
The next day after, she left his food on the table for him with a note: "Ranma, I left for work early."
The day after, it was just food. No note.
Ranma was sure that his frown lines would become a permanent part of his face. His mood quickly became one that created bad fortune for those who crossed his path. It was especially his afternoon students that had to suffer his wrath.
"No, no no," he grumbled for the third time in the same ten minutes, Yuki noted. "That just ain't right, Yuki."
"Yes, sensei?" the 10 year old boy asked innocently, pulling his punch back to his side and standing respectfully to the pigtailed martial artist. Yuki heard him sigh.
"You gotta put more strength into it!" Ranma threw a punch, demonstrating. "And from the hips. If you ain't gonna do it from the hips, then mind as well give up now."
Teary, the young student bowed. "I'm sorry, sensei!"
"Ah…forget it. Class dismissed for today. You guys better come better prepared to fight tomorrow."
The class quickly scrambled out before they got another lecture from their teacher. Yuki threw his sensei a quick glance over his shoulder. This was the third day in a row that Ranma had cancelled class this early.
Lunchtime one day, she was there.
"Oh, you're eating at home today?" he commented, a bit of annoyance, but more relief, tainting his tone.
"Yes. But I have to run off to fax some things for Dr. Tofu."
When she stood, he reached out to grab her arm. She stopped, surprised. She did not know Ranma was surprised, even with himself.
Keeping his gaze on his plate, he explained: "Eat with me today."
The insistence in his tone flew over her head. Instantly, she answered: "I have to go, Ranma."
Her expressed need to leave him behind was more than he could bear.
"You were gone all last week!" he complained, gruffness entering his voice. "What, you fallin' in love with Dr. Tofu all over again?"
She countered quickly, spinning to glare at him. "Of course not. Don't be stupid."
He felt familiarity in their fight kill the tension of the previous week. It felt good. He continued it.
"You're right. Like Dr. Tofu would ever see anything in a mule-faced chick like you."
She glared at him, then, as though controlling her anger, she closed her eyes. She let out a sigh, as though frustrated with a child. Ranma tightened his grip absently, wanting a reaction.
But she merely answered: "When he has Kasumi, I would never do anything to interrupt their happiness." She tugged her hand away from his. "I should go."
He felt his face drop all of its snide, all of the insults died on his brain. Why was she not angry at his insult? Desperate, he stood, the squeak in his chair against their wood floor clear and audible. He reached for her hand again.
"Wait, Akane…" his voice softened, a contrast to his insults before; a method he rarely used on her. "I…I…"
I've missed you.
"What is it, Ranma?" she asked, a frown on her face. "you're gonna make me late."
He released her wrist, watching the floor. "Nevermind. I'll see you tonight."
With a nod, Akane left him behind.
A/N: Several people have noticed that with Aoki, I made her a bit too "mature" or just "spoke too well" for her age. I must say, that after reading those comments, I laughed out loud at my mistake. Thank you, my dear readers, for pointing that out! And although I tried to change it in this chapter a little bit, please try not to take this fact in too deeply. Although I absolutely hate saying this about a character, I must say this about Aoki—she's a very, very, very minor character. As a writer, I believe that every character should have their spot on the stage, no matter how minor, but because this is a very short one-shot (and the point of it being getting me to brush up on my writing and get back into the flow of ), I probably will not do anything too drastic to change what I want Aoki to say, or how she says it. I hope this doesn't come off as too much of a problem—my other fics will be less careless in facts like these, I promise.
But thanks again for pointing out my mistakes, you keen readers!
I have 1 chapter written for my college-bound-Ranma-cast fic, entitled "On the Ears of Deaf Stars"…may change the title as I move along with this fic. The first chapter doesn't feel meaty enough, but sort of a brief introduction. So I'm trying to add a bit more onto it before I upload it.
I also have another idea in mind, and I think it's going to be a darker spin on the Ranma-verse, in probably a world that doesn't make sense. But I'll tell more about that one on my profile as the first and second chapter get started. Check out my profile for updates.
Also, to keep my writing in swing, I'll be trying to write one-shots soon. Please keep checking my profile for any fic updates, as most of them will be with Ranma ½.
As always, thanks for reading!