Ranma had never prayed with all his heart for anything.

Had never felt the echo of silence until her voice wasn't occupying it. Only the steady rhythm of their breathing whispered in his ears, as the blue shadow painted ceiling filled his eye sight. Even under a thick comforter and a few other blankets, the chill of the snow and outside wind seemed to be as real in her room as it was outside.

There was an uneasy tension threaded across the room even when she was asleep. Bits of their angry words clung to the walls, taunting the young man as he lay on his back reliving the day. Letting his mind replay the events that lead to a fork in the already rocky road. All because of his temper flaring up, and her prideful shield being erected once more.

After months of slowly chipping away at the personal obstacles blocking the way to the their hearts, he'd blown it. All because of his father and his constant pestering.

It had started in the dojo, while they'd been practicing—avoiding the heavy winter rain at all costs. Genma hadn't talked much about Ranma and Akane since they were married. Only God knows why he decided to bring it up then.

"So boy," his Pop had managed to say between dodges, "How's married life?"

Ranma threw another punch at the widest part of his opponent's body—his stomach. After making contact, the boy dodged several kicks, and shrugged, "Okay."

"Okay?" Genma questioned, finally landing a blow near Ranma's tailbone. His son let something akin to a growl rumble in his throat before attacking his old man once again.

"Yea, huff Okay."

"Come on boy!" Genma prodded, jumping away from several well-placed maneuvers. "Is 'okay' all you can say?"

"Well, gee, Pop why don't you tell me what you want me to say." Ranma's words dripped with sarcasm.

"Insolent boy!" Genma growled leaping into an attack. Ranma smirked and front flipped over his father, landed and turned on his heel, never losing the smirk. His father had landed in a heap in the corner of the dojo.

Snatching up a neatly folded towel Kasumi had brought when they started, and patted the sweat off his skin. He turned on his heels to leave the place when Genma's sobs caught his ears. Changing directions, the pigtailed boy faced his father with a sharp grimace on his lips.

"Whatcha cryin' about?"

"My own son refuses to let me know how he is! And while living in the same house! Oh the humility of it all!" Genma faked cried, glancing over his shoulder waiting for his son to reply.

Ranma's grimace only deepened, before he turned to the door once again.

"Well, boy?" Genma demanded yet again.

"Whataya want me to say, Pop?" the black haired boy shouted back in an angry voice, "That I hate the fact you made me marry the tomboy? That I wish we were never married? Or that you ain't NEVER goin' to get us to uh---well--- uh, well you know! 'Cause there ain't ANY way I would ever with HER! Is that what you want to hear?!"

The thunder clap had almost over shadowed the clang of a kettle as it hit the wooden planks just outside the opened doorway of the dojo. Ranma's jaw hung open in surprise. He was going to KILL his father!

"I-is that the way you really feel Ranma?" Akane whispered out, tears already starting to flow down her cheeks.

Her stunned husband moved, wanted to say something. Anything to try to avoid the catastrophe his words would doubtlessly bring. But before the boy who could usually stuff his foot in his mouth with his words could get any of those words out, his wife looked up through angry tearful eyes.

"Well don't worry Ranma! I feel the same way!"

That's what led him to this freezing room, though he was truly surprised to find their bedroom door hadn't been locked. Once he got in there is when the true nightmare began. They exchanged hurtful barbs, some barely scratching the surface, the others cutting deep enough to leave scars. Neither of them backed down, both too proud to say they were sorry or to even hear the other one out. By ten Akane and Ranma had exhausted their shouts to glares, as they prepared for bed.

Instead of wearing her more comfortable pajamas, she found the thickest and longest pair she had. Symbolism at its best, he figured. After the lights went out, she had flipped over unto her side, leaving her back for him to stare at, if he hadn't faced the wall that is. Back to back, he found his steam slowly being blown away by the chill of quietness.

So, Ranma decided to fill in the disturbing void by praying. Within his head, echoing off his heart, no matter how much the martial artist denied it. He didn't know why, or even want to understand the reasons, but he did know he didn't want his wife to be mad. Most likely cause of that mallet she pulled out of no where!

But no, it wasn't the complete reason. Maybe a part of it but not the whole. Akane'd said some pretty nasty things to him. And while he couldn't deny a FEW of the accusations, most of them were bias. Not that he hadn't said something's as equally untrue, hurtful, and mean, but they knew the other's weaknesses. Knew every way to twist the knife into the other's heart.

Her defense was to bring up all his 'ex-fiancees' and all the times he probably cheated on her before they were married. And then attacking his curse, comparing him to Ryoga, and much more.

Ranma, in turn, bit off about her lack of feminine qualities. Her temper, lack of sex appeal to him and every other man on earth, and that if she liked 'bacon breath' so much, why didn't she run off with him!

No matter how many tears had fallen before, it was the ones that didn't come that bothered Ranma the most. He knew he hurt her, without a doubt, but she didn't cry this time...during the bedroom part of the fight. Even before Akane'd gone to sleep, he never heard her give a sniffle or a sob. Maybe because he was still fuming at her, maybe because she never did. Perhaps she was starting not to care anymore?

Ranma shuttered at the thought.

Akane had to care still, she couldn't just stop...if she had ever started.

Ranma turned again in the bed, this time to face the back of his wife. It was still, as he expected it to be. Akane hadn't moved in her sleep, and after first hand narratives from Ryoga, and from personal experience, Ranma was surprised to find out she must have been awake!

As happy as a discovery this was for a moment, the fact she was still awake probably due to their fight, unsettled him once again. A few years ago, he wouldn't have cared. Of course, a few years ago, they weren't married, they were still engaged and both were acting as if the other was a bother. And now, Ranma pondered, what had changed?

They had vows, and rings, and the same last name for sure that was different than when they first met, but they were still acting a lot. The walls were being torn down, but now, after this fight, they were most likely back and steel constructed. No way either was going to break down and ask the other for forgiveness, Akane would blame him, and he'd grip and complain, never understanding why he was the scapegoat for all his friends and family.

Ranma propped himself on one elbow, and looked over Akane's shoulder, and sure enough, a click before she knew he was looking at her, her brown eyes had been semi-open. She was defiantly still awake.

But was she refusing to sleep for the same reasons he was? Actually, Ranma would love to be asleep but the Sandman it appeared was far more stubborn than the martial artist.

He wanted to know, wanted to ask, but there was no safe way to bring up such a toxic subject with Akane. Sighing the young man dropped back down on the bed, and folded his arms behind his head and closed his eyes. Ranma was sure there had to be SOME way to get her to talk without getting upset, and he was sure that no matter what he said, he'd end up being a bad guy.

Then again, Ranma weighed, he was always her bad guy and only sometimes her hero. Stubborn pride and a tendency to jump to conclusions had them both in their powers without a chance of escape. Ranma figured Akane and he would always be pride's prisoner unless they worked together, but every time they did, one or the other would become upset and start yelling. After two years together, Ranma thought they'd be past such petty things.

No luck.

At least right now there would be no happy ending. Neither of them from the first time they met expected to have a fairy tale ending, but this wasn't an ending. Ranma's mind recycled that phrase over and over in his mind.

This wasn't an ending. The longer he thought on it, the harder he tried to understand about how that was true.

If it wasn't an ending, then was it a beginning? He always had considered being married to Akane, or any girl, would end his carefree and happy life as a traveling student of the Art. Yet, he rationalized, there were definite advantages to having someone you could always depend on by his side.

Maybe it was an ending, he fought within himself. If it was the end, what was it the end of? His happiness? His life? Or was it the end of this frail relationship Akane and he shared and claimed as their own?

A stab. Directly in the chest from a dagger made of a words, twisted deeply and painfully. No. Ranma growled in his mind. No, this was not the end of Akane and him. Unless, unless it was the end of the way they had been in exchange for something more enjoyable for the both of them in the long run.

That might be it! Ranma felt like shouting 'yes!' in the middle of the quiet room. But that word wasn't the one needed at this time. It wasn't a winning word, it wasn't something he had to share.

What he had to say, what he had to share was something that would put his own heart out on a limb with no reassurances that it would ever be reciprocated.

With a deep breath, he closed his eyes. With a tired and sore throat, he spoke. "'I lied." Every fiber of his being was screaming not to continue. Every feeling was singing a praise chorus to heaven for him finally trying to salvage something worth saving.

Akane didn't answer. She let the cold silence steal his words and throw them around in a noiseless laughter.

"I—I lied when I was talking to Pop." If he could just tack on a few words at a time to a general statement, he might be able to say what he wanted to say without saying the wrong thing. A miracle for him indeed.

Lacking the courage, Ranma kept his eyes on the cool blue ceiling. The soft brush of sheets was the only evidence that Akane had even moved enough to hear him out.

Or laugh. What if she laughed? Man, he would just die.

But if he allowed her to talk before he was done, Ranma knew all his courage and the right words would fly from him like a ghost in daylight.

Deep breath, words caused the damage, words should be able to heal the damage. That was Ranma's logic.

"I—you---uhm, what I mean to say is that---" Oh yes, he would soothe her anger with his horribly poetic and singsong words. But he was never a big romantic. He was Ranma, that meant he had to do things as Ranma.

Gripping the end of his pigtail he pinched his eyes close and thrust the words out of his mouth. "I am happy with you, 'kane."

There! He had said it! There was never a battle that Ranma could not win after the proper prepping and persuasion!

Now it was all up to her. He just waited for the inane laughter to rip through the night. She would probably roll her eyes, call him a loser and say that she was going to run away with Kuno or some other option equally as degrading.

He waited.

And waited.

And waited again.

Just when the bubble of nervous energy was going to burst within his chest, it dissipated into a million butterflies of peace.

During his stressful period of unsettlement, she sought out his hand. When Akane had found it, alone and gripping the cover where Ranma hadn't even realized he had put it, she squeezed it gingerly.

"I'm---happy with you, too, Ranma." Her words were as soft as her touch.

The tension ebbed, the coldness warmed and the silence left wounded and bleeding down the steps and into the streets where it was going to stay for a long, long time.