Chapter 2: Reckless Responsibility
A Ranma ½ story
by Adrian D. Moten
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video.
Kasumi stayed quiet for most of the time she was in the bathroom as Ranma, now male, took a warm, wet washcloth and painstakingly cleaned her face. She had stopped crying a long time ago, but still she looked depressed. The puffiness of her reddened eyes lingered like a mask, her pink tongue absently licking her dry lips.
Ranma was lost in thought. 'How could I have gotten into a mess like this one? I just got Kasumi, Akane's own sister, pregnant, but I lo-lo… care a lot about her, even if she is a violent, uncute tomboy.' His brow furrowed. 'Don't I?'
He snapped out of his line of thought, abruptly pulling away the washcloth. She lowered her head a little. "We have to tell them, you know…"
He nodded. "I know, but…"
"I know, but it can't be helped now, since I'm… pregnant." A glimmer of a tear rested at the corner of her eyes as she forced a smile. "Father and Saotome-san will be overjoyed, though; their silly dreams of uniting their schools is finally realized. Not doubt they would arrange for the wedding—" Ranma cringed at the thought of marriage. "—As soon as possible," she said in a lower tone, the unshed tears fighting to spill over their barriers. "As for your other fiancées—"
Kasumi stilled, suddenly finding her head resting against the silken fabric of Ranma's shirt. His fingers smoothed over the back of her head, his sighs made much louder with her ear pressed against his chest. Absently, her arms stole around his waist.
"Kasumi-chan…" He was a little surprised that she trembled at the term of endearment, but, considering the thoughts of Akane that floated on his thoughts and probably weighed heavily on her mind, it was more that understandable. But how could he get her to relax?
An idea dawned on him, almost on command. Slowly, he stood her upright and smiled to her. "Hey, how about you wait for me in your room, and I bring you up some tea? After a cup, and when you feel more relaxed, we can continue talking about… the baby."
She paused briefly before responding. "All right. Please hurry back, though; I don't want to be alone now, and I don't want anyone else to see me like—" She made a hand gesture to herself. "—This right now."
Ranma agreed; the familiar warm, calm, smiling face that was Kasumi's had been replaced with a worn, worrisome, depressed mask of a stranger. More than likely, he would be blamed for her condition, which he conceded that he was partly responsible in why she looked so miserable. But most importantly, the sight of the mother figure of the Tendo residence now would send the family into a more dysfunctional and useless state. "I'll be right back."
Ranma carefully filled the kettle with water, and then set it on the stove. A flick of the wrist, and the water would be ready in a few minutes. He then began to get the teacups and the tealeaves.
The facade of calm acceptance was dropped as soon as he was positive that Kasumi was nowhere around. His heart began jackhammering in his chest. Kasumi. With a baby. That he fathered. And no one knew, not even Nabiki; otherwise, he would be up to his eyes in blackmail and debt.
Akane was going to kill him; there was no doubting it. She could hardly restrain herself whenever Shampoo happily glomped him, or when Ukyou prepared him one of her special okonomiyaki, or even when Kodachi called him Ranma-sama and tried to abduct him. And all the time, it was his fault, despite confirmation from others that it wasn't. Even when she held witness to the events, he was to blame. And of course, he would end up saying things like "uncute tomboy" or "flat-chested gorilla that can't even cook." It was, as usual, more than enough prompting for her to flatten him with the nearest object she laid hands upon; when there wasn't one big enough, she'd grab a hammer seemingly out of thin air— somehow, Mousse had to have taught her that, Ranma mused— and smash him into the sky. This time she wouldn't even waste the time to—
"Where's Kasumi, Ranma?"
He jumped at that familiar voice, not missing the tinge of frost upon his name. Turning his head in the direction of the voice, his eye fell upon a girl with a boyishly short haircut, a bluish-green skirt, and a loose white blouse standing in the kitchen. "Akane! What are you doing here?" Still mad with him, he quickly noted.
"I live here, idiot. Now, where's Kasumi?"
With great effort, Ranma mentally checked his usual response, then spoke. "She wasn't feeling too well when I got back, so I suggested she go back to her room while I fix her some tea."
A worried look came across her face. "Oh." She started to turn around.
"Um, Akane, where are you going?"
She shot a look back at Ranma. "Upstairs to check on Kasumi, where else?"
He broke out in a cold sweat. "No, you can't!"
"And why not? She's my sister…." Her voiced trailed off, as if coming to a startling revelation. "All right, which one of them is here?"
He blinked, looking at her confusedly. "Which one of who?"
"Which bimbo fiancée are you hiding in our house?!"
He nearly choked on her burning accusation. "There's no one else here but Kasumi and me!"
"Then you won't mind me going upstairs and seeing about her." She growled as she started to turn around again.
Born of desperation, Ranma sprang to life. In a blink of an eye, he had launched himself over Akane's head, barely clearing the kitchen ceiling, and landed inside the frame of the doorway. She jerked back in surprise, then her anger flared. "What the hell's gotten into you, Ranma?!"
His mind was whirling. "Um, well, you see—" He faltered.
"I'm waiting," she said, giving him an ‘I dare you to lie to me so I can have a reason to send you through the roof’ look.
'Akane's seeing red,' Ranma thought glumly. 'No matter what I say, the truth is a lie, but the real lies are all true to her.'
He blanched. 'Oh, hell. Not only doesn't that make any sense, it sounds like something Kuno would say.'
There was only one recourse in situations like these. Ranma winced in expectation as he began to open his mouth, knowing the results of the action well in advance.
Kasumi finished cleaning her face after Ranma had left the bath. As she washed the cloth out once more, she looked at herself in the mirror. The puffiness around her eyes was still there, though it was much less pronounced, and the redness in her eyes was slowly fading. Her brown hair was a bit disheveled, though the white bow still held firm its binding. Absently, she trailed her finger down her cheek, tracing the contours of her face. She watched it slide down one cheek, then move across her chin to her other cheek. Her other fingers joined the lone finger, just touching her skin and holding still for a long moment. Her hand then shifted downward, the index finger brushing her lips, pulling her lower lip out a little before her hand had receded.
The palm of her hand pressed against her chest lightly. Carefully, she brought it down over her breasts, smoothing out the fabric of her nightgown as it slid down. Kasumi's hand stilled finally, and she looked where it had found its resting place on her belly.
She sighed. "Oh my, how could I let this happen?"
She closed her eyes and painstakingly began to remember….
Soun Tendo sat at the breakfast table alone, quietly drinking his tea and reading the morning newspaper. Ranma and Genma were outside sparring again. Akane went out jogging a few minutes ago. Nabiki was upstairs, probably working out some detail of the family finances. Kasumi was in the kitchen, clearing out the dishes of the day. The Master was in China. No new or old fiancées were barging into his home without warning. No battle cries for the head of Saotome and/or his son. The birds were even chirping outside.
These days were the closest he has had to peace, and they came all too rare. Even rarer; they seldom lasted this long. Every so often, his eyes would dart out from side to side, looking for the Eternally Lost Boy Ryouga to wander into the yard and try to mangle Ranma beyond recognition. His ears sharpened as if every small sound was a chilling laugh. But still, nothing happened.
He let the familiar tension drain out. 'The gods must be smiling upon me now,' he thought, rather relieved for the almost alien peace. He brought his cup up to his lips.
Soun finished his sip from his teacup and looked to his eldest daughter with some concern. "Yes?"
She knelt down beside her father. "Well, I would like to…” Unnoticed by Soun, she wrung her hands. "…Take a vacation."
His eyes bugged out. "A… a vacation?"
"Yes, Father, by myself."
Soun paled visibly. His first-born daughter. Virtual matriarch of the Tendo clan. Preciously innocent. Vacationing. Alone.
'I refuse it! I refuse to let my baby go out… there! By herself!'
"Father?" she asked, a little worried at the blank expression on his face.
Soun snapped out of his surreal righteousness, his eyes focusing on Kasumi. His resolve melted into a gooey puddle the instant he saw her. "Uh, yes, a vacation it is."
She smiled warmly to her father.
"But—" he interjected, causing the smile to fade a little, "—I'm sending someone else with you, to make sure nothing happens to you."
"Oh." 'Father worries too much, though he had a right to be two weeks ago. Well, I suppose Akane's company won't be so bad.'
"I'll send Ranma along with you."
She blinked. "Ranma? I thought you would send Akane—"
"Nonono, I can't send Akane because… because… Ranma is the best and, um, because we need her here to cook and clean so she'll be a better wife for Ranma!" He suddenly paled at his statement. 'My God, what have I just said?!' Mentally, he sighed. 'The things a father must suffer to protect his girls….'
"Oh. All right, Father."
Soun took a deep breath, then exhaled through his nose. "So, where are you going to go?"
"Tokyo. I just talked with Mariko, a friend from high school, and she'd like for me to house-sit for about two weeks while she visits her cousin in America."
He managed to grow paler than pale. 'Two weeks with Akane cooking? I hope I can live on instant ramen and her curry that long. Please say she'll be making the curry; we certainly don't have enough money for two weeks worth of take-out.' "That's great," he squeaked.
"Yes. I guess 'we' will be leaving in a couple of days, then." Her voice has a hint of strain to it.
"Yeah." He was trying very hard not to relapse into crying fits, whether it was because Kasumi was leaving for two weeks, or because he planted his foot into his mouth and volunteered Akane to do the cooking in her stead, he knew not which. Therefore, he missed the difference in her voice.
She got up. "Well, I better get the house cleaned up before I prepare lunch, Father." She smiled to him, though it was lacking its unique quality.
"I'll make the announcement after dinner." 'Better enjoy every meal until she leaves,' he thought sadly, as he gave her the best smile he could muster before she returned to the kitchen.
Once she was out of Soun's vision, Kasumi collapsed against the closest wall. Her breathing became labored; her heart was pounding inside of her chest. Her lips moved for long moments, before a hushed sound passed them.
"Father, why did you have be a…” Her mind was in a whirl, and she grabbed the first thought. "…Such an idiot, sending Ranma with me? That's one of the reasons why I wanted to go alone."
Something inside her had awaken to the though of Ranma, and now, it was causing her to feel hot and cold at the same time. A hunger of sorts gnawed at her, and she began to sweat lightly. A plethora of feelings, sensations, both familiar and alien to her, overwhelmed her in a crushing wave, then slowly receded, leaving her with a dry mouth, tingly and more sensitive bosoms, an uncomfortably damp feeling beneath her dress accompanied by an itch screaming to be scratched, and sudden emptiness yawning inside of her chest.
Long moments passed, and she slowly gained full control over herself once more. She stood up, using the counter for additional support. Absently, she wiped away the sheen of perspiration on her forehead, and then leaned forward on the counter. Her eyes closed and let her forehead touch the upper cabinet door.
"Oh my… I don't want to betray Akane, but… I want Ranma for myself."
To Be Continued…
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