A Ranma ½ fanfic
by Jason Heinrich

One year.

Ranma Saotome sat in the middle of the dojo, meditating on the shrine on the far wall. Today marked one year since Jusendo; one year since he had killed the demigod Saffron – temporarily, at least.

One year since his life had changed forever.

Not that he'd ever really had much stability in his life anyway, he reflected, the corner of his mouth twitching slightly upward in an unconscious grin. Once his pop had hauled him off on that training trip way back when he was six, they had rarely stayed in one place for more than a couple of months: just long enough to learn what they could before moving on to the next shrine, dojo, or training ground. It wasn't until ten years later, when the panda had sprung that surprise engagement on him and they had moved in with the Tendos, that Ranma finally began to think of someplace as "home."

He ran his hand over the much-abused floorboards of the dojo. Even the end of the training trip hadn't brought his life any sense of normalcy. If anything, it just seemed to give the universe a chance to catch up with him and pile even more chaos into his life. More fiancees seemed to come out of the woodwork, both arranged and self-proclaimed. There was the challenger of the week, a crazy haircut-obsessed principal and his equally deranged offspring, a chi-sucking teacher, and a perverted old martial arts master that absolutely loved his curse, to name a few of the things he had to deal with on a daily basis.

Then one year ago it all ended.

Ranma gazed at the picture of Akane on the wall. Perhaps, as he had held her lifeless body by the pool at Jusendo, the universe had decided that he had had enough. Oh sure, all of his old headaches were still there in Nerima when he had returned from China, but by some miracle they had mostly left him alone as he grieved. His mother had even burned the seppuku contract, declaring Ranma to be not just a "man amongst men," but the "true image of manliness" due to his victory over Saffron in defense of his fiancee. For the first time since he could remember, life had become almost normal.

For a time, he had found it nearly unbearable.

Drawing his thoughts back to the present, Ranma bowed his head toward the shrine. "Gomen nasai, Akane," he said. "Sorry that I haven't been by to visit. I know your dad's forgiven me, but it's still hard to come back here, ya know? I wish we could have brought you back. Then at least I could visit your grave whenever I wanted." He took a deep breath. "Sorry that I wasn't fast enough to save your life. I know I've said it before. But thank you for saving mine. For throwin' yourself into that fireball and givin' me that chance to get one last shot at Saffron. I... I know you... you..." He growled at himself. Why, after this much time, was it still so hard to talk about this out loud? "You know that old saying that there's no greater love than to die for someone? That's why I know you loved me, even though you never said it." He shook his head. "Uncute tomboy. I was supposed to be the one rescuin' you."

Ranma sat there for a couple of minutes in silence before continuing. "Things certainly haven't turned out the way I thought they would this past year, though I guess you already knew that. I figure you'd want me to be happy though, and I haven't gotten smacked with a giant cosmic mallet yet, so I guess you approve." He shook his head again with a chuckle and mumbled, "Who woulda thought?" Looking back up at the shrine, he concluded, "Take care of yourself, Akane, and keep an eye on your sisters, will ya? I'm glad you got to see your mom again; say hi to her for me."

With that Ranma rose smoothly to his feet, bowed deeply to the shrine, and slid open the dojo door. Outside, a purple-haired former Chinese Amazon leaned against the wall, straightening up at his appearance. "You okay?" Shampoo asked.

"Yeah," Ranma replied, "thanks." He looked around. "Where's Mousse?"

Shampoo rolled her eyes. "Stupid duck-boy was not wearing glasses and stepped into the pond." She gestured to the koi pond off to the side of the main Tendo house. "He's inside now getting hot water." As if on cue, the white-robed hidden-weapons master stepped out of the building and down from the engawa, looking a bit damp. This time however, he had his glasses in place and managed to avoid the pond. Kasumi followed him out, her smile as kind and welcoming as ever.

"Thank you all for coming over," the eldest Tendo sister said. "I know Akane would appreciate all the love she's been shown today. Would you care to come in for some tea?"

Ranma politely declined for the small group. "Thanks, Kasumi, but we need to be gettin' back to the N-Nekohanten before the dinner rush. Besides, I don't know if today would be a good day for your dad to see me."

"Father is not holding a grudge, Ranma," Kasumi lightly scolded. "In fact, he misses you quite a bit. However, perhaps you are correct. Father is a bit... emotional today. Just don't be a stranger, okay?"

"I won't, I promise," Ranma said. Together they bowed to their hostess and headed around to the main gate.

They were greeted there by Yuka and Sayuri, who had just arrived to pay their own respects to their friend. "Hello?" they called out, before spotting the trio. "Oh, hey Ranma, Shampoo..." Sayuri's eyes shone and her smile grew a little wider at the sight of the third member of their group. "...Mousse."

Mousse's own smile grew to match Sayuri's. "Hello, Sayuri," he said with a small bow. Yuka rolled her eyes and cleared her throat. "Hello, Yuka," he added politely. Turning to Ranma and Shampoo, he said, "I think I may take Kasumi up on that cup of tea."

Ranma smirked at him as Shampoo replied, "Fine, but don't be too late. Great-grandmother still need you for the dinner rush."

Mousse nodded his assent and turned back to the other two girls as Ranma and Shampoo exited the gate and headed down the sidewalk toward the Nekohanten. Ranma snorted. "Who would have thought that he'd actually give up on you and start dating Sayuri?"

Shampoo shook her head. "It is a miracle," she agreed. "But it is good that Mousse found someone who will like him back. He is much happier now." She glanced up at the pig-tailed martial artist beside her, then slipped her arm through his. "And so am I," she added, resting her head against his shoulder.

Ranma tensed for a second, then relaxed. "Sorry, I'm still gettin' used to public displays of affection," he apologized. He gave Shampoo's arm a little squeeze. "I keep expecting to get hit with a mallet, or for Ryoga to come around the corner and attack me for toying with your affections or somethin' like that." He chuckled. "At least you don't attack me anymore."

A wicked glint came into Shampoo's eye, and next thing Ranma knew he was nearly knocked off his feet by a full-blown Amazon glomp. "AIREN! You take Shampoo on date?"

"GAK!" was Ranma's intelligent reply. "Air..."

Shampoo laughed as she released her boyfriend. Not husband, she reflected, and not even fiance. Boyfriend. And that was okay with her. What they had now was so much deeper, so much more real than anything she had felt before. It was a love born out of shared loss and camaraderie, and she knew deep down that unlike her previous infatuation with the young man, this could stand the test of time.

Ranma finished catching his breath and glared at her, though his grin deflated the glare's severity somewhat. "Don't DO that!" He glanced up and down the street. "What if somebody saw us?"

She drew close to him, gazing up into his ice-blue eyes through lowered lashes. "So what if they did?"

"Like my mom?"

That stopped Shampoo short. The woman seemed a bit overeager in her desire to have grandchildren. And Shampoo really wanted this relationship to grow at its own pace, for she had learned the hard way how badly things could backfire if you – or someone else – tried to force them. "Erk."

"Yeah," Ranma said. Taking Shampoo's hand, they continued down the street. After a few minutes he spoke up, "How did we get here?"

Shampoo glanced at him questioningly. He sounded an awful lot like Ryoga with that question. "We walked on sidewalk from the Tendo dojo," she answered.

Ranma snorted. "No, I mean you and me. I mean, a year ago you were the last person I wanted to date."

She smiled at him. Akane probably would have smacked him for a comment like that, but Shampoo knew how Ranma felt for her, and what he was trying to say in his own clumsy way. "I gave up on you," she replied.

"You gave up more than just me," he said. "You got yourself banned from your tribe for refusing to help the elders force me into it."

"Elders were bunch of old fools!" she spat. "They too stuck in Amazon law and tradition!" Just as quickly as her anger had appeared, it vanished, to be replaced by tears. "You were too too angry after... after..."

"After Akane died," Ranma softly finished for her.

Shampoo nodded and wiped the tears away. "Too many sisters would have died trying to capture you. I could not let elders do that to them... or to you."

After a moment's hesitation, Ranma reached out and put his arm around Shampoo's shoulders. They continued walking like that in silence for a few moments before Ranma finally said, "Well, I guess it worked out okay anyway. I mean, we did show the elders who was boss when they finally came to get me here in Japan." Shampoo giggled at that. "Mousse even stopped pining after you. And since you gave up on forcin' me into marriage, we got a chance to know each other better and be friends." He gave her a squeeze and she put her arm around his waist with a small sigh. "Heck, you even got your curse cured." Thank the kami for that, he added mentally.

"Things sure turned out different than we thought," Shampoo observed.

"Mm-hmm," Ranma agreed. Up ahead, the Nekohanten was coming into view.

"What a difference a year makes."

Author's Notes

Just a little one-shot I whipped up in a couple days to get this idea out of my head. It was inspired by an informal poll on a forum about people's favorite match-ups in the Ranma universe. I was struck by how nobody mentioned Ranma and Shampoo, and it got me thinking about how that could believably work. I actually have a whole story outlined detailing just that. But I realized I could condense the whole thing down into a single chapter as more of a recollection story, and this is the result. I may still write that story one day, but I'm pleased with how this little experiment turned out. I actually debated about whether to post this, since it has a number of spoilers for the full story, but sometimes part of the fun of reading a story to which you already know the end is finding out how they got there.

If you noticed that Shampoo's speech seems to have improved since the canon series, that's not by accident. One thing not explicitly mentioned in this story is that Shampoo and Mousse are going to school now, since their stay in Japan became a bit more permanent. As a result, she's become more fluent in Japanese, though she still has some trouble with articles and contractions from time to time.

As always, comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Thanks for reading!

Copyright Notice

The characters and stories of Ranma ½ are Copyright © Rumiko Takahashi, and are used here without permission or license.

No claims to the above copyright are made by the author of this work.

This work is for non-commercial use ONLY, and is produced for the enjoyment of fans only.

This work is the expression of the author and the depiction of the Ranma ½ characters herein are in no way represented to be a part of Ranma ½ as depicted by the original author and copyright holder(s).