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Chapter 4: And I Close My Eyes To Dream

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.

Introduction: There are a few scenes that allude to sexual exploration here, though not very graphic in nature. As per results, this story is given a LIME warning. Read the story as you see fit. Thank you.


"Ah, this is life, ne, Tendo-kun?"

"Yes, Saotome-kun. Nothing like a trip away from home to cleanse the body, the soul, the spirit—"

"—And to further insure that our families will be united at long last!" Genma said, raising a cup of sake.

Soun raised his porcelain cup as well."Agreed." They tapped cups."Kanpai!"

"Kanpai!" The two drained their cups, then began to refill.

"You know, Tendo-kun, this trip was a brilliant idea. How did you come up with it?"

"Well, remember when Kasumi took that vacation two months ago?"

Genma grimaced."How can I forget? We ran out of instant ramen, and Akane wouldn't make curry everyday."

Soun wrinkled his face at that reminder."Anyway, I noticed a change in Ranma when he came back, and I figured that the old adage 'Distance makes the heart grow fonder' is true after all. He was finally acting as a true fiancé should act with his betrothed."

"Yes, he seems to have grown into the responsibilities giri demands of him while he was away."

Soun nodded in agreement."However, when we began to make plans to have them wedded off immediately, they started to fall apart again, worse than before! I thought about what we were doing wrong; after all, they want to get married, ne? So what was the problem?"

"Indeed. What answer did you find?"

Soun beamed, then his expression grew neutral."I don't know." He whipped out a cigarette, lit it, and took a long drag, exhaling cobalt and gray wisps of smoke from his mouth."But since they seem to be coming together just fine without pressure, why not leave them alone and see what happens?"

"You know, Tendo-kun, that does look to be often true," Genma stated, scratching his chin thoughtfully."Sometimes, I wonder if our constant pressuring was what had kept the wedding plans at bay. Perhaps we were a bit too eager in trying to get them married as soon as possible. Maybe we should have let them grow into love, and not pushed everything onto them all at once, then let them make plans for the wedding in their own time."

Both men looked off at nothing in particular, thinking on those words. Soon, their eyes met, and they laughed heartily. Taking the sake into hand, they simultaneously said, "Nah. What were we thinking?" then knocked the drinks back.

"Saotome-kun, let's get back home a couple of days earlier. I'm curious as to how Akane and Ranma are doing."

"I had the same thoughts, myself, Tendo-kun. We should get back by noon tomorrow. Sounds good?"

"It does."

"Then it's all settled."


Meanwhile, back at the Tendo house, Ranma and Akane were in the middle of a heated argument. By now, Ranma would have said something that would provoke the youngest Tendo into smashing him flat with the nearest blunt object (or, if such an item was unavailable, she would procure a mallet from seemingly nowhere and whack him promptly). However, he was making a visible effort to not put his foot into his mouth; so far he was doing very well.

Suddenly, she blurted out, "Why the hell would I trust a pervert like you for?!"

Ranma blinked back into reality from the savage, verbal blow."Y-you don't trust me?"

"Did I stutter? I just said I don't!"

He couldn't believe what he was hearing."You… never… trusted me…?"

"Damn right, I don't trust a pervert like you!"

Her words cut deep into him, worse than any weapon could, and they taunted him, reverberating throughout his mind.

'Don't… trust… don't trust… ' A flood of other voices washed through his mind then.

"… Because they don't trust each other. Not one whit—"

"Why the hell would I—!"

"… idiot…"

"Which bimbo fiancée are you hiding in our house!"

"… Kasumi-chan…"

"Ranma, I'm pregnant."

"They don't love each other in that way…"

"Well, I… I… Y-yes. I suppose you could say I… I am… I do love him…"

"RANMA, YOU IDIOT!!"

"… but I lo-lo… care about her, even if she is a violent, uncute tomboy. Don't I?"

"… they are in love…"

"Oh, my… this wasn't supposed to be happening…"

The flood of broken memories subsided just as quickly as it came. 'No matter what I say, the truth is a lie… but all the real lies were all true to her.'

Ranma blinked hard. Twice."Man, I've been around Kuno too long; I think I actually understood all of that."

"What did you say?"

Akane.’ His eyes focused on the youngest Tendo. Confusion was layered over her mask of simmering anger."Why are you bringing up Kuno now, or—" The confusion left as she was drawing a conclusion; as she did so, her teeth ground together, as her anger began to boil over once more."—are you really worried about sneaking Kodachi into your room?! You're not just a pervert, but a sick pervert!"

Ranma swore he heard a whistling sound coming from Akane's ears as she looked ready to explode. Then his mind clicked back to the tea. 'Kasumi.' Without hesitation, he pushed past Akane, saying to her as he did, "Drop it, Akane."

She couldn't believe his audacity! How dare he just blow her off like it didn't matter! She'll make him sorry for dismissing her like—

"Go ahead, do whatever you want. Search the house, my room, Kasumi's room, even though she doesn't want to see anyone else tonight. I'm tired of fighting with you about it, so just do whatever you damn well want." He continued down the stairs without breaking his stride. He strolled purposely into the kitchen, murmuring sadly under his breath, "It's not like you'd believe me anyway."

Her anger deflated like a balloon, and she sighed."Ranma… I… I did it again, ne? … And just when I thought you really wanted me…" She started to go into the kitchen and apologize to him, but her eyes roamed towards the stairwell. Automatically, her legs carried her three-quarters of the way to the first step before stopping."It bothers me, though, that you're hiding something from me. And it involves Kasumi, too." Her face screwed up at a few thoughts, then she shook her head."Get a grip, Akane; Kasumi would never have done that to you." She took two steps towards the kitchen. Then she went back two steps.

She looked to the kitchen opening, then back up the case."I wonder what's wrong with Kasumi, though. It's not like her to shut out her family like so… and why only Ranma? What makes him so special now? It's not as if he had to deal with Ukyou and Shampoo today." She grumbled under her breath at the nagging memories very fresh from an hour and a half ago before dismissing it to deal with the internal struggle.

One side of her wanted to believe in Ranma's words and go into the kitchen to apologize to him; the other side of her was far more concerned about Kasumi and wanted to see her, despite what Ranma had said. She looked to the kitchen, then back up the stairs. Again.

Bwee

Snapped out of her concentration, Akane blinked and looked towards the source of the sound. “P-Chan?” It sounded as though it had came from up the flight of stairs, so she proceeded up. After rounding the bend, a little black piglet with a yellow and brown bandanna tied around its neck stood at the very top of the steps."P-CHAN!" She ran up the stairs and swept the startled swine into her arms."Oh, P-Chan, you had me worried, disappearing like that! Where have you been?"

Bwee-bwee, buWEE

She smiled to the little black pig in her arms."As if you can tell me…" She squeezed P-Chan against her chest, not noticing that it had passed out when she did, a small trickle of blood coming from its snout.

That was when she noticed that she was in front of Kasumi's room door. She stared at the wooden nameplate with the small cluster of miniature artificial flowers decorating one corner for a long moment, wondering if she should knock or leave. Finally, the decision apparently taken out of her hand, she made a fist and rapped her knuckles just below the plate softly, then grimaced as the tiny floral arrangement dropped to the floor. Akane bent down and picked it up."Twelfth time this week… Kasumi needs a stronger brand of glue…" she spoke under her breath, thankful for the small distraction provided for the moment.


Startled out of her reflections of the past, Kasumi turned her eyes to her room door. 'Haven't felt the house shudder, no explosions or loud shouting… Ranma must have finished making the tea without getting into a bigger fight with Akane.'"Come in, Ranma. The door's unlocked."

"Um, it's Akane, Kasumi."

Kasumi's heart leapt out of her chest for a second. 'Don't come in, Akane! Don't come in!'

"Ranma said that you weren't feeling well, and you wanted to be left alone tonight, and, well, I… I just wanted to see that you're okay."

'Good, she's not coming in.'"It's true, Akane. I'm feeling a little better, though, so don't worry about me, okay?"

"… All… all right. I guess it's good night then."

"All right. Good night, little sister."

"Oh, Kasumi? Your flowers fell again."

She perked a brow. 'Again? How many times has it fallen in the last two months? I even used a super strength glue the last time.'"Would you hold onto it until the morning?"

"Okay. Good night again."

"Good night."

Footsteps treaded down towards Akane's room, then she heard the door close. Kasumi realized that she had been holding her breath, and she released it. Her mind wandered back to the unborn child growing in her womb. Painstakingly, she traced her index finger over her belly, imagining what it looked like now. 'Is it a boy or a girl?' she thought silently, then sighed. 'Does it matter? I don't even know if Ranma wants the child. He hadn't said anything about it before he left.'

Another sigh escaped her lips. 'Nor did he say anything about wanting me… ' She briefly thought about the kiss he (who was a she at the time) gave her a short while ago. It was a sign, but a sign of what? Not really knowing an answer, she stretched out on the bed, her mind already slipping back into time.


=RING=

Kasumi blinked from the daydream she was heavily enthralled with scant seconds ago. A slight blush riding across the bridge of her nose, she tore her eyes from the window, where she had been watching Ranma practice punches and kicks on a practice dummy. She had seen him in full action a few times before, but there was something about the intensity of his blows this time… and she had never seen that kind of kick come from Ranma before… the power behind it… it felt strangely exciting and… somehow primal…

=RING=

She tried shaking off the burning warmth that spread in her cheeks, turning her attentions back to the breakfast she was preparing. Deftly, she pulled the miso soup from the stove eye, and, with a dishcloth, wiped away the white streams of soup flowing down the black enamel of the pot, then settled it on a cooler surface. She plucked the pot lid and covered the breakfast up, then quickly checked the rice and fish. Both items were nearly finished cooking.

=RING=

Wiping her hands on her apron, Kasumi walked over to the telephone and lifted the receiver off of the base. She took a few deep breaths to make sure her voice wouldn't quaver, then said, "Hello?"

"Hey, Kasumi!"

She blinked at the other end of the receiver."Shiru?"

"Who else?"

"My… isn't it expensive using your cousin's phone to call here?"

"A little, but he can definitely swing it, no problem."

Kasumi heard a male voice in the background shout out,"You're calling who for how long?!" but her friend continued on as if not hearing anything.

"Enough about my cousin. How are things shaping up between you and cutie-pie?"

She sighed and related an abbreviated version of last night's events to her friend.

"Damn… you're just not lucky, are you?" Shiru could only say after her friend finished.

"I suppose not, Shiru. Perhaps… perhaps I'm better off not knowing—“

"Who are you trying to kid? You're dying to know."

"… Well…” She sighed, relenting."I know, Shiru, but I really don't want to hurt anyone because of my own curiosity."

"Hey, if he responds, he'd be making the choice, not you, ne?"

"… Well, yes, I suppose that would be true… but isn't that like entrapment?"

"Not at all. You're just looking for an answer, not trying to get him in on some crime."

"I… I don't know… it does sound a lot like—"

"Oh, come on, now. You're always making excuses about this sort of thing, even when we were just starting out at Furinkan and that boy was really interested in you… At least try to succeed just this once; if you come up with nothing, then you could let it all drop. Okay?"

She pursed her lips for a moment, thinking about what Shiru had said.

"All… all right, Shiru, but… how…?"

"Don't worry; I got a plan. All you have to do is this…"


'Where did that come from?'

Ranma hunched over panting, sweat dripping off of his forehead and soaking immediately into the cool earth beneath his bare feet. The practice dummy had been severed from its stand and now lay on the ground from a powerful thrust kick. Tiredly, he examined his handiwork, wondering what had come over him moments ago.

"There, there, Ranma," a voice softly spoke behind him.

Immediately, he spun around on his heels to face the eldest Tendo daughter. She was holding a white towel, which she used to begin drying the perspiring skin his partially open gi top didn't cover

"Ka-Kasumi!" he squawked as he tripped over the practice dummy and fell gracelessly onto his back.

She smiled down to him, then slowly knelt at his side. Carefully, she blotted his forehead with the corner of the towel, then dried off his chest in a manner near sensuous, her fingers splaying the material about the toned muscles and when it ran over his—

'Gah! What are you thinking about?!' He forced down the next few thoughts quickly.

"You really shouldn't sweat so much, Ranma. It'll ruin your clothes after a while."

Ranma looked at Kasumi as she wiped the perspiration from his body. 'Oh, just being her helpful self, as usual.' He wasn't sure if it was meant as a good thing or a bad thing.

"It helps if you take them off first." She gave Ranma another smile, though it was subtly different from her earlier one. Almost like the smile some people get when a plan is going perfectly.

As usual, Ranma didn't notice. So entrenched in his thinking he was, he never saw it coming until it was too late.

Her lips came in fast, too fast for his mind to comprehend, and locked with his tightly, holding the kiss for long moments. His eyes bulged out of his head. 'KASUMI?! What the-?!' They did it again when she began deepening the kiss, her tongue slipping within the recess of his mouth, tasting him. One of her hands went to hold the back of his head, the other, still holding the towel, stroked his strong chest. Her legs straddled either side of his waist, and she lowered her hips down upon his in a sitting position.

Ranma's mind boggled. Kasumi was kissing him. Not a friendly kiss on the cheek, or on the forehead, but a long, drawn-out, passionate kiss. Her fingers massaged his muscles, her point of desire just touching him, seven articles of clothing away from making passionate love. He was really thrown for a loop when his desires took over where the mind was still trying to comprehend what was going on, his arms drawing up and around her body, crushing her against his chest. She didn't seem to mind at all; in fact, she was coaxing him more and more, her lips teasing him, her fingers relaxing him, her hips smoothing against his, bringing him to greater arousal.

His mind was shouting at him,"What are you doing?! This is Kasumi you’re making out with! Stop it! You just said you didn't want another fiancée! Akane'll kill you if she even thinks you're trying to seduce her sister during this trip Tendo-san practically threw you on! You can't do this; aren't you supposed to be engaged to Akane?! What the hell are you doing?! Pervert!! Push her away from you!! I don't care if it is Kasumi!! You can't be doing this!!" Unfortunately, the voice was sinking into silence as Ranma began to get bolder with help from Kasumi's silent cues. Eyes closed, his hands slipped along her back, over her hips, and down her thighs until his fingers caught hold of the hem of her dress. Slowly, he pushed his hands up her thighs, taking the fabric up in the process, as he grew anxious for the new experiences he was about to partake in.

Just as he pulled the clump of fabric past her hips, pain stabbed into his mind. He cried out in surprise and shock, and blinked several times.

He was alone in the yard. Daydreaming, no less.

His face burned a bright pink and beaded sweat as he frantically checked the source of pain. A long splinter of wood from the practice dummy had managed to lodge itself deep into his hand. Growling, he painstakingly pulled out the shard, trying to keep it from breaking off beneath his skin.

"Ow." He squeezed his thumb against his palm, watching the resulting blood seep out of the puncture wound.

"Oh, my."

He howled as he sprang over the practice dummy, splashing down into a pond partially hidden by the shrubbery in the yard.

"Ranma, are you okay?"

Her head bobbed out of the water, a hand wiping away the soaked red bangs out of her eyes."I'm-I'm fine, Kasumi. W-what makes you think I'm not?" She chuckled nervously, her hand rubbing the back of her head.

"You hurt your hand… come in, Ranma, before that wound becomes infected." She reached out a hand to him.

"NO!" She recoiled violently, causing Kasumi to step back from her forcefulness."Ah… I-I mean, don't risk getting wet for me. I wouldn't want you to ruin such a pretty dress on you and— GAH! I-I-I mean I can get myself out, and… Uh… just… just stand back…" Had she been looking up instead of babbling madly, she would have caught a blush running across Kasumi's cheeks. The eldest Tendo daughter did as she said, taking a few steps backwards. Onna-Ranma lunged forward and onto the cool grass and stood up, then shook off the excess water.

Kasumi reached out and took her arm."Come, Ranma, let's get that wound cleaned before it becomes infected."

"itsallrightkasumiicandoitmyself!" The words came out so fast, Kasumi had to blink. Onna-Ranma was on the fringe of complete panic, her daydream about Kasumi coming back full force. Desperately, she tried to bring her body under control— then realized he was a she."Um… sorry, about that… I… I just… didn't expect you, is all."

"It's all right, Ranma. Finish what you were doing; I'll draw a hot bath for you. Afterwards, we'll eat breakfast." She smiled at him.

"O-Okay, Kasumi. Be there in a few minutes."

"Oh, and Ranma, please clean that injury before you do anything else."

She nodded, wet red locks blocking her vision temporarily."Y-Yeah."


Closing the door behind her, Kasumi paused for a moment. She looked out of the window to see Onna-Ranma shaking off excess water and considered something. After a second, she brushed the thought back, and shook her head, a wan smile on her lips.

"Just my imagination…" With that, she headed upstairs to prepare the bath for Ranma.


Ranma soaked in the tub, trying to put his raging thoughts into some semblance of order. He was failing miserably as his mind replayed the daydream over and over again of its own volition. 'Dammit, why can't I get that out of my head? What kind of pervert am I? Fantasizing about Kasumi… it's just too much!' He lay back even more as the steam arose from the bath water. 'I mean, she's nice… well, she's nice to everyone… well, so's Akane, unless it's towards me… not that I don't like Kasumi or anything, she is pretty, while Akane's just cute, and— ARGH! Dammit, not again! You already have way too many fiancées and enemies as it is; what are you trying to do, complicate your life even more?' He puffed a deep sigh, his eyes closing."Damn, this sucks…"


"Ranma?"

There was no answer from the bathroom. Softly, she knocked. Still no answer.

"Well, if Ranma's not inside…" She pushed the door open, letting herself in.

"Oh!" she exclaimed in a hushed voice. There he was, lying back in the warm waters of the bathtub, sound asleep. The idea of waking him up came to her, but she really didn't want to disturb him; however, he looked so sweet, relaxed… alluring… sexy…

Her body took over when her mind would not function clearly, her hands moving up to shed her clothes, letting the fabric pool at and around her feet before stepping out of the circle of cloth and towards the edge of the tub. She stood beside him in all her naked glory, her breasts quivering with each carefully measured breath. One glance into the water told her just how manly he was, drawing both a smile and a blush. Carefully, she slipped one foot into the waters, breaking the surface as quietly as possible as to not wake him… at least, not yet. It swallowed her up to her thigh, then she lazily pulled in the other leg, letting the clear water lap over her soft skin. Soon, she was submerged up to her waist in liquid warmth, so close to him…

Her slender fingers reached out to him, trailing along his arms resting on the sides of the bath, as she neared him. Her lips parted in anticipation, her hands leaving from his shoulders. Her arms were on either side of his head, palms flat against the wall just behind. Bracing herself, she leaned into his direction till their lips met softly.

He responded automatically, still adrift in slumber apparently. Her heart leapt for joy, quickly forgetting her own inhibitions and shyness, and she drew herself to him, her bare breasts pressing against his chest. That simple motion stirred him awake, or at least partly awake.

"Angel…"

She gave him a soft smile."Yes… Ranma-chan…"

His eyes flew open with the voice, the so familiar voice. His crystal blues found a pair of dark greens boring into them mirthfully.

"Kasumi…?"

"Yes."

His scream was loud enough to wake the dead.


Kasumi was making her way to the bath to check on Ranma; he had been inside for at least half an hour, and she was getting worried. 'So many changes in so few days. Who would have thought that I—'

"KASUMI?!"

She almost jumped. Her name had just come from the bath, where Ranma was.

"Oh, my…" she said, picking up her pace.

Just as she was within a few feet of the bath's door, it was flung open. Ranma emerged from within, a panicked, disoriented look etched on his face as he tried to take in his surroundings. Panting, he said, "Man, it was just…” He turned his head towards the eldest Tendo daughter."…a…" Their eyes met, or rather, not met, as the woman took one look at him, then hastily cast her eyes to the floor."…dream?"

Something wasn't right.

Kasumi was virtually glowing red, and her eyes continually shifted from the floor up to about his waist before hastily slamming down to the floor. She was ramrod straight, almost like she was paralyzed, and… was that sweat on her forehead? 'What's going on?' he thought. 'Why is she just standing—’ He took a glance down to see what elicited such a response as the one Kasumi was having…

…And blushed very darkly in abject horror. He snapped to and squawked out, "ACK! I'm sorry!" as he desperately threw himself into the nearest room. Unfortunately, it was his fiancée’s oldest sister's room. Another squawk, then silence.

"…Um, ah heheh, er… Kasumi…?"

It took every ounce of strength she had to pull herself together before replying."…Y…yes…?"

"…I… I… um… ah… eh…” Then he blurted out, "Towel! … Please…"

She nodded dumbly, then mechanically walked to the linen closet, extracted a towel, and then walked back to where she was standing."…T-towel."

Ranma's head poked out of the room very, very cautiously. They refused to meet each other's eyes again, so he scanned for the towel. Seeing the proffered object, he breathed a little easier, then he held out his hand for it. Wordlessly, she tossed it to him, and he managed to snare it out of the air and zip back inside Kasumi's room."Thanks!" mingled with the fast slamming of the door. Scant seconds later, the door cracked open, and Ranma darted out to his room, towel wrapped around his waist.

"…Well… he certainly… lives up… to… his name…" Suddenly, Kasumi needed another bath and change of clothes.


After the incident of that morning, Kasumi and Ranma had practically avoided each other by busying him or herself with other matters. The Tendo daughter had went out for a long walk around Shiru’s small neighborhood sitting outside of the busy metropolis that was Tokyo, coming back to her house long enough to prepare a small lunch and leave a portion out for Ranma whenever he came back from wherever he had ran off to.

For his part, Ranma had occupied the roof all day. He felt so embarrassed to have let Kasumi see him in that state! His face was still flushed crimson, even though it had been hours after the incident. And the way his body had been reacting to that illicit dream! He sincerely wished to find a rock big enough to crawl under and hide…

No luck. Kasumi had prepared dinner, and his stomach reminded him that he hadn’t eaten anything aside from the lunch she had thoughtfully prepared for him. Well, better go face the music…


Dinner went by very quietly and even more awkwardly.

Ranma's mind kept replaying the daydream he had in the bath and the effects it had on his body, then how Kasumi must have seen him in all nakedness. ‘Ranma, you pervert!!’ he thought Akane would say, but it would turn out to be Kasumi wielding a huge mallet over her head, bringing it down on his head, smashing him through the floor and into nothingness. He shuddered at the thought of Kasumi wielding anything other than kitchen utensils which would be put to use preparing meals. 'Way to go, idiot…’ He tugged at the collar of his red Chinese shirt, as it felt uncomfortably tight and warm then.

Kasumi's mind replayed the events from earlier. She remembered hearing him cry out her name, then sprint out of the bathroom… Her cheeks burned with the thought of what she saw pointing at her. Quietly, she drained her glass of water, hoping it would cool her down. It didn't, of course. She sighed to herself, taking up a mound of rice in her chopsticks and putting it into her mouth. She slid the glossed pieces of wood out between her lips very slowly. She almost choked when she realized what she was doing and almost threw her utensils down. 'Maybe this was a bad idea, after all…' She smoothed out her floral pattern dress absently.

"Ranma…"

"Kasumi…"

They looked up at once, eyes meeting, if hesitantly, for the first time today."… Kasumi, I… I'm sorry. ‘Bout earlier…"

"It's… it's all right, Ranma."

He looked away, not hearing."I should've been more careful…"

"Ranma…” A small smile showed up on her lips.

"I wasn't thinking, and…"

"Ranma."

He stopped babbling and looked up."Huh?"

She smiled softly to him."I said it was all right, Ranma."

He blinked."I-it is?"

"Yes."

He rubbed the back of his head."Oh, sorry…"

Kasumi had to chuckle for a moment. 'He's looks so cute apologizing…'

"What's so funny?"

"Oh, nothing, really. I was just thinking how cute you look when you apologize."

Ranma blinked in surprise. "Really?"

"Mm hmm."

He let it sink in for a moment. Then he started chuckling, too.

"What are you laughing at, Ranma?"

He smiled."I was thinking the same thing about you."

It was her turn for a surprise."Really…?"

"Yep." She smiled at that, and their chuckles died down.

'Idiot.' It was unclear whose thought it belonged to, nor who it was referred to.


Back in the present time, Ranma was in the kitchen. Having just removed the whistling kettle from the stovetop, he began shuffling for the tea implements. The sounds upstairs he noted, but he did not allow his mind to think about it until the silver tray and the glossy white teapot that was needed for the actual serving of tea. Shortly, he found both items and set them on the counter.

'What's Ryouga doing here?' Ranma later thought as he was rooting through the cupboard for the teacups. It was hard for anyone to miss Akane's squeal of delight whenever she found her wayward pet. 'I thought he'd be lost for a few days at least… Oh well, I'll worry about him later; right now…'

His thoughts drifted back to Kasumi again in as many minutes. 'What am I going to do? I have no money, no job, and three other fiancées to deal with…

'Man, a kid. They're a lot of work, and they'll need a whole lot, too. Tons more than what I can give 'em…

'Dammit! Why me? I never asked for any of this! Why do I have to be the one stuck making the big choices here! I mean, I got all these people's lives in my hand… I don't want to hurt anyone…'

His mind briefly replayed Akane's words from earlier. 'Guess you were right after all, though… I got your sister pregnant, must be all the proof you need now…’ He sighed, pressing his forehead against the shelf divider. 'What would Oyaji do?

'Run away,' he thought ruefully. 'I ain't gonna be like him, no way.' Finding the teacups, he placed them on a serving tray, then fetched the tea box from the pantry. '… It’s tempting, though,' came the morose afterthought.

He spooned out some tea into the teapot before pouring the steaming water within. 'I'm gonna hurt someone, no matter what I decide… Damn, Ranma, if only you had a backbone… maybe I wouldn't be stuck in this mess...'

Sighing, he lifted the tray from the counter. '… And I'd still be ignorant, too…’ Ranma paused in his delivery as a slow, ebbing flow of memories spilled into his head. With nothing pressing at the moment, he sat down the tray, then leaned on the counter, looking out the window in the kitchen, seeing nothing but the almost tangible memories of two month's past…


The rain fell on the rooftop like a legion of tap dancers. Ranma groaned at the sound."So much for a peaceful night of trying to clear my head… Fate must be another fiancée Pop promised me to," he decided."There's no way I can be this unlucky…"

"Ranma?"

He looked over his shoulder, spying Kasumi standing at the entrance of the kitchen."Yeah, Kasumi?"

"Well, I was wondering if you would like to watch a movie with me."

Shrugging, he responded, "Sure, why not? What's it about?"

Her head tilted a little."Is there something the matter, Ranma? You seem upset."

'Just feeling so confused… '"It's nothing…"

"Are you sure?" she asked. Her lips quirked down slightly."If you don't wish to watch—"

"No, Kasumi!" he said a bit quickly. He really hated to hurt anyone that did not deserve it; to even think of hurting the oldest Tendo daughter, it was tantamount to blasphemy."It's just the rain. I was thinking of going back up on the roof before it started."

"Oh." She padded into the living room then."What do you do up there, Ranma?"

"Thinking, mostly. With my life, I hardly ever have time to do that sort of thing, you know?"

She nodded, smiling softly. Ranma had a wan smile resting on the corner of his mouth. With Kasumi, he never knew exactly what went on inside of her head, but somehow, she always knew. Weird, definitely, but she seemed to always know when something was up.

"So… what is on your mind, Ranma?"

He blinked. That was one question he wasn't expecting from her."Ah… just, just some things about my life, is all… Nothing exciting." He happened to look into her eyes at that, then suddenly wished he hadn't. Ranma turned away from her quickly, feeling a blush ride over the bridge of his nose. Silently, he chided himself."So, what's the movie?"

Walking behind him, she answered."I don't know exactly. I think it was called 'Three of a Kind.' Shiru recommended it."

He shrugged after a moment of thought."Doesn't ring any bells."

"Well, here it is," Kasumi said, pulling out a tape from a small cabinet.

"Let's watch it, then." Ranma hopped over the couch, landing neatly on the cushion. Tossing his pigtail back, he added,"I'm willing to try something new."

"Really?" She had a small look of surprise on her face.

"Mm hmm. It's not as if something bad's going to happen if we try to watch a movie."

As if to answer the challenge, a tongue of lightning lashed out from the dark, rainy sky, then the borrowed house went black. Thunder rolled across the weighty sky laughing its bass tone.

He grumbled."Great…" Ranma found himself temporarily blinded before his eyes readjusted themselves quickly in the almost complete darkness. Slowly, he scanned the room, catching a silhouette of one Kasumi Tendo."Hey, Kasumi. Aren't you going to sit down?"

"I… I can't… I'm afraid…"

Ranma blinked. 'When has Kasumi ever been afraid?'"Um, Kasumi, what are you afraid of?" He heard her take a deep breath.

"… the storm… and… and the dark…"

He was a bit surprised."Um, would it help if I, you know, if I got some candles or something?"

"Yes, please, Ranma…?"

'Man, she's really scared.' Wordlessly, he slid over the couch and slowly treaded over to Kasumi."Hey, Kasumi," he spoke in a soft, low voice."Can you show me where they are?"

"Yes… but—"

"Hold out your hand, okay?"

She hesitated for a moment, then extended her arm in the dark. After groping for it for a moment, Ranma grasped her hand gently. The warmth shot up his arm and spread throughout his body. Suddenly, he felt nervous. 'This is bad. I better— no; I can't just leave her here in the dark… ' He quickly added, 'Mr. Tendo would kill me if something happened to his daughter, that's why.'

"Thank you, Ranma." Lightning streaked across the sky, and her hand squeezed his tightly."Please, let's hurry and get those candles." Thunder rumbled over the roof.

"Yeah, let's." He looked into the grinning darkness. 'Because this isn't making things any easier…'


Two candles burned in a forked candleholder sitting on the coffee table, illuminating the house's two occupants. Kasumi sat beside Ranma as close as she could but keeping some distance between them at the same time. Her hands rested in her lap, palms up to the ceiling, her loose ponytail resting at her back. Silently, she suppressed a small shiver; Japanese homes grew cold quickly unless it was summer, and this was the beginning of spring.

"Would you ever believed that I was more like Akane when Mother was still alive?" she said suddenly.

He had to blink."You? No way…"

She allowed a small smile cross her lips at that."Well, it's true. I was very tomboyish then. Akane and I were very competitive in the martial arts; she was the youngest of us, and she felt that she had to prove herself to get Father's attentions, whereas I wanted to be the best of us all. Nabiki didn't practice very much, though; she was the most sensitive of us all."

Snorting derisively, Ranma said, "Yeah, right…"

"Remember, this was all before mother died."

"Oh, yeah… I forgot about that…"

"… And, it was my fault that she died." Her tone became flat, detached.

He jerked his head fully to the eldest Tendo daughter. "Huh? No way! You couldn't possibly do something like that!"

She took a deep breath, exhaling it slowly through her nose."It was because of me that Mother passed away. Remember when I said I was like Akane then?"

"Yeah…"

"Well, it wasn't quite accurate; I was more so Akane then than she is now."

His brows furrowed in disbelief."… I can't believe that… Kasumi, you are the gentlest person I've ever met in my life. To think that you were ever violent—"

"I know, but, all the same, it is true. Mother taught me how to cook and clean and a many number of things because she hoped it would break me out of being so tomboyish. I'll admit I really did not like doing 'girl stuff' then. It was so boring and bland… I wanted to be the best martial artist there was, not a homemaker. So, I resisted changing.

"One day, I resisted a bit too…" She paused, looking for something it seemed."…A bit too enthusiastically, and Mother had sent me to my room for the night. I was so angry with her." She took a breath."I wanted to get back at her, but I didn't know how."

Taking in this new information, he nodded slightly."What did you do?"

"Well, after some long thinking, I decided to run away from home. It wasn't the smartest idea I had, but then again, I was an angry ten year old, and I didn't want to obey Mother. I didn't really want to be like her; I just wanted to live my own life."

He recovered from his initial shock of what she had just said, he added, "Yeah, I know what that's like."

"I was caught in a storm before I knew it, and I could neither find shelter, nor turn to any of my friends, because Mother would know where I was. I was chilled to the bone, as well as frightened by the unrelenting storm, but I was too prideful to admit it. So, I pushed on, hoping to find some place to get out of the rain.

"The next thing I knew, Mother had found me. Truthfully, I was frightened at what she may have decided to do to me for running away, but she was just happy that I was safe and alive. Then she took me home. That was when… it happened."

"It?"

"Yes. A car had lost control on the road, and came at us as we were nearing home. Mother… she threw me out of the way, but just as she straightened up, she had gotten clipped in the stomach by the passenger side mirror as it zipped by; eventually, the vehicle imbedded itself in someone's house. The ambulance arrived shortly…

"Mother was hemorrhaging badly. She was given a few days at most; the best the medical doctors could do was to make her stay as comfortable as they could. We visited her everyday until then. Father was quickly breaking down, Nabiki was withdrawing into herself, Akane, she didn't understand what was happening and she became so easily frustrated…"

"And you?"

"…Numb. I was just numb. It hurt so badly, but I ran out of tears to cry the day after the accident. All I could really do was wait for the end. And it came quickly.

"The day she died, Mother had all of the family to leave but kept me behind. She took my hand and told me that she wasn't angry with me for running away, but she needed me to take care of the family. She gave her love to me… and then, the hospital just blacked out. It only lasted a few seconds, but when the power came back on…"

He didn't need to hear the rest to make the connection."Oh, man… I'm sorry. I didn't know…"

"No one does, besides Nabiki." She turned her head to face him, the eerie detachedness placed over her features."You are the second person I've ever talked to about Mother."

He considered her words carefully."So, that's why you take care of the place?"

"Yes. It was like my atonement for not being nicer when she was alive. I gave up martial arts and effectively became Mother for my family, losing myself in my duties." She paused then, biting her lower lip and lowering her head.

Without thinking, he slipped a comforting arm around her shoulders and drew her to his body. The warmth, familiar and alien, began to seep into him again, filling him up and warming him to his very core. It was reveling, but it was terrifying at the same time. He wanted to pull away, but he couldn't do it… it felt so right…

No, it was because… because… because she was scared, that's why. She was scared and she needed him… no, that didn't come out right… Ranma gritted his teeth as his thoughts waged their silent war. Eventually, he forced them to the back of his mind and focused his concern completely to Kasumi.

"Ranma?"

He blinked."Yes, Kasumi?"

She trembled a bit under his arm, but she replied."Forgive me… for what I'm going to do…"

He looked at her, puzzled."What are you talking about?"

She looked into the soft, blue eyes. Ranma had to fight down a gasp as he realized he was staring directly into the depths of her soul. What he saw behind those soft, green-hued irises had both excited and terrified him equally and in tremendous amounts.

"Ranma…"

He should run, run far away, blind himself, something, anything, so long as he wasn't able to see that again.

"K-Kasumi…"

His mind screamed at him to get away, but his body refused to obey. It moved of its own accord, reacting to the gentle, lithe hand that touched his arm, the warm breath that caressed his skin, the look in her eyes…

… it was a reflection of his own soul.

The silent, internal struggling came to an abrupt end.

Her lips met his in a soft embrace, and he held on longingly. All the feelings he had and felt flowed in and out within the more intimate contact, his soul sharing with hers. It was like a dream, the sense of peace that blanketed him, the warmth and tenderness it provided, and the way she felt curled in his arms. So blissful it was, like a dream, a dream that he didn't want to ever end…

Suddenly, light flooded the entire house, shattering the surreal fantasy that had so ensnared them.


Slowly, Ranma pulled away from the kitchen window. 'Damn, did I ever screw up then. It felt so much like a dream when the power finally came back on, but realizing that Kasumi and me were still kissing… what an idiot I am. I should've held my ground instead of running away that night…

'I couldn't help it though; I freaked out. Not just because I was kissing Kasumi, but also because I lost control. It wasn't supposed to happen, not like that, not then, not ever.'

He picked up the tea tray by its thin handles, then carried it and all of its supplies through the kitchen door, making his way towards the stairs.

'If only I held my ground…’ He blanched no sooner than he thought it, then sighed. 'No, that won't do… not now, especially since—’ He shut his thoughts off abruptly.


'Ranma…'

Despite her plea, he did not walk through the door, as Kasumi so hoped. 'He's been gone for a long time. I wonder where he is?' She drew her knees up to her chin, slowly rocking back and forth. 'Please, Ranma, hurry soon.'

Her eyes closed, recalling another moment from the last two months.


'It's funny how history seemingly likes to repeat itself,' Kasumi sadly thought as she poured herself a cup of steaming hot tea. Sitting down in the living room, she idly ran a finger over the unwatched tape of the night before last. She sighed dejectedly, taking a sip of tea before setting it on its saucer.

'How could I be so foolish? I knew I should have just stayed in the background. I shouldn't have tried to win Ranma.' She half-smiled. 'Me, trying to steal away my youngest sister's fiancé… it's laughable.' Her lips twisted and drooped into a foreign frown."But it's true…"

Sighing again, she had gotten up, a mostly full cup of tea in hand, and chose to walk around the house. No one else was there, as Ranma was pointedly avoiding her ever since they had kissed the night before. That hurt, but at the same time, she could understand to a degree; she was so afraid of how he would have reacted, she wanted to run away and hide, but he responded.

She let that thought sink in. 'He had responded.' Kasumi's eyes half-closed, the memories of the feelings and emotions she felt during that instant surging forth and warming her to her very core. Then it vanished, replaced by the moments afterwards when power was restored to Shiru's house. The confusion and disappointment on his face, followed by shock and surprise, then fear and indecision, and finally running away, he went though the gamut of facial expressions in under five seconds. She was too stunned to respond then, only able to watch him dash out of the room and into the rains.

Yes, it definitely hurt, but was it because of his apparent rejection of her, or because he had felt the same way she did? Maybe it was both? She sighed once again, the third time in as many minutes. 'Oh, my. How can Ranma make me feel like this? No one else ever could… '


Minutes before and a block away from Shiru's house, Onna-Ranma sat beside a random house. Her back was against the wall, with her legs bent a bit, and her forearms resting on her knees. No one was at home at the time, and it was far enough from Kasumi where he could get in some more thinking without… temptation.

She almost laughed out loud. Kasumi, a seductress. It was an absurd thought under normal circumstances.

The redhead took a long sigh. 'Unfortunately, it ain't a normal circumstance.'

Her young mind still boggled, even though the incident happened a day and a half ago. Kasumi, making a move on her. It was unthinkable at best, yet that was what happened.

'Kasumi kissing me, and I didn't do a damn thing to stop her. I just said to myself how I didn't want any more girls after me, and here I go kissing Kasumi. No, wait! She kissed me! Yeah, that right, we kissed, but I didn't want to. Yeah, that's… that's right. That's… that's…'

Onna-Ranma sighed heavily."… that's wrong," she said aloud.

'But, it can't go on like that. I'm engaged to her little sister for crying out loud! That's wrong. Even if Akane's a violent, uncute tomboy, I must remain engaged to her, right? I mean, that's how it works, right? Get engaged to the first girl, and stay that way. No going around lusting after her sisters.'

She paused. 'No, I ain't lusting after Kasumi! That's… that's… Perverted! What the hell am I thinking?! I ain't after Kasumi. I ain't after Kasumi! I ain't after Kasumi!! That whole kissing thing a couple of days ago, that was just, just a… she was vulnerable. Yeah, that's right, yeah! She was vulnerable, and seeing her vulnerable, I was vulnerable, too, that's the ticket! We were both vulnerable, and we didn't know what we were doing! It… it…' The self-conviction of her words was losing its strength rapidly, each syllable sounding more and more hollow. 'It was just…' Sighing, she let the last thought trail off into oblivion.

MEOW

Onna-Ranma merely blinked, staring sightlessly out into the street. So immersed in her own thinking, she paid the cream-colored kitten that softly padded up to her leg no mind at all. It affectionately rubbed against her ankle, mewing softly, but no response came forth. Looking up to the depressed girl, the little cat climbed up her black pants leg, then nudged its way past her arms, mewing again. Still, the redhead had not even acknowledged the kitty's presence.

Once more, the creamy cat climbed upon girl's body, this time snaring its little claws into the silky, crimson fabric of the girl's shirt. When it was sitting on her bosom, it licked her face with a tiny, pink tongue, then mewed.

Onna-Ranma blinked out of her thoughts with the damp contact, then looked down."Oh, a cat," she simply said. As soon as the words had departed, the petite girl slammed herself hard against the wall in terror. Frightened, the breathing nightmare of her dreams held on fast to her shirt, refusing to let go even as the girl gibbered incoherently.

"C-c-c-c-ca-at—!" The redhead shook all over in fear, too afraid to move with the minuscule beast staring right into her eyes. It mewed and licked her chin.

The morbid fear hitting its zenith, the world went black for Onna-Ranma.


Kasumi found herself standing just inside the doorway of the room he was occupying for another five days. It was pretty empty, save for a tatami mat, his pack, and a dresser for his clothes. 'I wonder how he looks when he sleeps…' Kasumi blushed at the unexpected thought and lightly blew the wisps of steam from her tea, then took a small sip.

MEOW

She blinked."A cat?" Sticking her head out of his room, she looked down the hallway. A pair of sapphire irises shaded by a mop of red bored down on her.

"Oh, my… Ranma?" Her eyes widened a little bit, and she stepped back involuntarily.

Neko-onna-Ranma let loose another meow. Then, without warning, she sprang towards the doorway. Kasumi squeaked, as there was a new three-inch slit in the front of her dress that extended down to the hem when the human cat had landed. She didn't think much more about her dress however; she was more intent on trying to figure out how to snap Ranma out of the nekoken.

'I'm not Akane, so that's out. Triggering his curse?' She looked at the tea in her hand. 'That should do. But how? He's very fast on his own, even more so as a cat.'

MEOW

Breaking away from her thoughts, she glanced at the cat-minded girl just as she felt her dress give way to another rending, this time seven inches worth. She drew a sharp breath, her mind whirling. 'Surely Ranma wouldn't attack anyone that didn't provoke him… would he?'

After another look, she realized the redhead was just batting at the loose threads from the first slit in her dress. She grimaced as she made another slit appear, this one riding halfway up her thigh. Her eyes darted back up to the hot tea in hand. 'Okay, while he's distracted…' Her free hand began moving up to reach for it cautiously, hoping to not arouse any feline suspicions.

MEOW

"Ah!" Again, Kasumi was taken by surprise as neko-onna-Ranma did something very unexpected; she slipped between her legs, rubbing against the inside of both her knee and the lower part of her thigh. The redhead purred, and the eldest Tendo daughter's mind and body froze.

"R-Ranma…?"

She looked up at the call of her name, giving Kasumi a very catlike smile, then mewed.

'Oh, dear…’ She didn't like how things were going, but her mind was balking on what to do now.

The decision was made for her as a pair of “paws” suddenly pushed her down. Kasumi stumbled backwards before falling onto the floor. She made an amazing effort not to drop her tea as she landed on her bottom, the porcelain cup now hovering just over her lap. Sighing in relief with it held above her head, she thought to herself, 'Now's my chance.'

Unfortunately for her, the cat-boy-turned-girl had other ideas.

For the second time in as many minutes, Kasumi's mind and body had frozen. After she was downed, the redhead had crawled into her lap, then began to nuzzle her head against her breasts. She let loose a contented purr, then curled her arms and legs beneath her body. With catlike grace, Ranma pushed herself into a semi-erect position, her soft, kittenish face parallel with Kasumi's.

She observed neko-onna-Ranma briefly, gaping into the redhead's azure eyes, trying to keep the fear out of her thoughts. 'This isn't what I want to happen… not a definite answer… please, not a definite—'

The last of Kasumi's thoughts were shattered when neko-onna-Ranma mewed softly, then leaned forward and pressed her lips against the oldest Tendo daughter's.

Her eyes flew wide at the contact, the realization of what this seemingly innocent action meant for both Ranma and her."… Oh… oh…oh, my…" Her fingers became limp, dropping her cup of still-hot tea.


The tips of his fingers traced the romanji letters of Kasumi's nameplate briefly as he gathered up all the strength he was going to need in a few moments. Letting his breaths come out slow and even, a part of his mind idly wondered whatever happened to the miniature flower bouquet that marked the upper left hand corner of the nameplate. Eventually, not even that remained in his conscious thought.

His breathing slowed down as he steeled himself for the battle ahead. 'Now, or never, Ranma. Now, or never.' His resolve hardened, he formed a fist and lightly rapped just below Kasumi's name.


Kasumi looked up at the direction. "Ranma?"

"Yes… it's me."

Immediately, she straightened out from her fetal position, tossed back the bedcovers, and quickly walked over to the door. Her fingers took hold of the doorknob, twisting it in one direction. It clicked, and she pulled the door back slowly. On the other side stood Ranma, tea tray in hand.

"Come in, Ranma, please."


"Sorry I took so long," he began."It's just that—"

"I know, Ranma. I heard it from here."

"Oh… everything?"

"No, not everything. Just that you and Akane were involved in another argument."

"Yeah… more tea?"

"Please."

He took hold of the teapot and tipped it forward. Hot tea poured from the spout into Kasumi's cup. Ending the flow, Ranma set the teapot back on the tray, which resided upon a small desk near the bed.

After they finished their tea, Kasumi and Ranma sat upon the bed for a long period of time, neither one speaking. Eyes flicked over one another, into hands resting in laps, at various objects in the room during that time. Several attempts at opening conversations were halted before lips could utter the first syllables. Finally, Kasumi cleared her throat, then turned her head to Ranma."Ranma…"

His brooding posture straightened up a bit as he looked at her."Kasumi…"

She sighed softly, looking away."I don't want anyone to get hurt because of what we did."

Matching her sigh, he replied, "I know…" He shifted in his sitting position."But, it's gonna have to happen…"

"I know," she said quietly."I know… I don't know if Akane can forgive what happened."

He turned a wan grin to her."You, she'll forgive instantly. Me, she'll kill just as fast; after all, it's all my fault."

Kasumi could feel the quiet venom of his words."Oh, Ranma, don't say that."

"It's true, Kasumi." He exhaled."It's my fault all of this is happening to you. You shouldn't have been dragged into my crazy life. Now, we have a kid involved." He spoke nothing else after that.

After a moment of silence, she asked, "Do… do you want the child?"

"Huh?"

"The baby."

Ranma closed his eyes."You know, until tonight, I never thought about having a family so early. I figured that I would have one sooner or later, and I don't really have anything against kids, 'specially mine, so yeah, I want the kid. What about you?"

A smile conservatively spread across her features."Yes, I want the child."

"Well, that's good, too." Ranma gave her a half-smile before continuing."Cause, I got something to tell you, and I don't want you to freak out or nothing like when we first woke up together, okay?"

She studied him warily for a few moments before answering him."All right, but I don't want you to do anything rash because I'm—"

"Don't worry. I've given this a lot of thought, for once in my life." He looked up, meeting her eyes with his, the soft blues pleading before her."I tried doing what you said before we left Shiru's place, about Akane and giving her a fair chance and all." His eyes closed, briefly recalling the night.


It was late at night when Ranma woke up finally. He looked up from the bed he and Kasumi had just shared a few hours ago to the chair she sat on by the window, clothed in a pale blue kimono, halfway tied up. His brain was still trying to right itself from the new experiences he was undergoing for the last two days. It was a contradicting array of feelings he had: intense guiltiness; overwhelming liberation; deep-seated sadness and regret; pure joy and eagerness; grief; happiness; betrayal; protection. Everything was just so new and confusing for him; he never had any experience in these matters, so he decided to go with the flow of things for now.

Staring out into the cloudless, starless, night sky, Kasumi was faring about the same as he was in trying to sorting out her new feelings. She never intended on matters to go this far; in fact, she never even remotely thought that she and Ranma would end up sleeping together at all, let alone three times in two days. She sighed softly; that's what she gets when she suppresses her libido for years and awakens another's by accident. She felt extremely guilty by their acts, but at the same time she felt… alive. For the first time, she was truly alive. Not a homemaker, not a mother-figure for her family, not an easily forgettable background character. She was her own person, free to make her own choices for her own life.

Then again, she was still Kasumi. And she didn't want to hurt anyone, most of all her little sister Akane, if she can avoid it.

Carefully, she phrased her question in her mind, then asked."Ranma… how do you feel about… Akane?" She had to force the last part out.

"Akane?" He was caught off guard by her question.

She nodded slowly, not looking away from the window."Honestly."

His mouth started to let loose his usual barrage of insults, but paused to think for a moment."Why are you asking, Kasumi… chan?" Inwardly, he winced as using that honorific with her was yet another new experience for him.

She really wished he hadn't called her "Kasumi-chan." What she was going to do was hard enough as it was.

"Well… are you going to remain engaged to her, or are you going to get engaged to me as well?"

"Huh?!" He shot up in bed, ramrod straight."Whaddaya talking about 'as well'?"

Slowly, her head pivoted around to face his startled expression, her own, bleak."Are you going to marry Akane?"

Ranma stared at her as if she was mad."If I'm gonna marry anyone, it's won't be that macho, uncute tomboy!"

She bit her lip."Why not?"

"Because—!" He faltered in his rant, losing his train of thought.

"Do you… care about her?"

"Ah…” Absently, he scratched the back of his head."I… I guess so… but Ka—"

She cut him off, mainly because she had made a decision, even if she thought it was the dumbest thing she thought of, and she wanted to avoid being swayed from that choice."Have you given her… a chance?"

He didn't answer her. Instead he focused his attention to the floor.

"Can you say you love me? Or that you love Akane, or anyone else?"

He heaved a great sigh."I don't know."

Every fiber of her being protested at the sight of him. He looked so defeated, she wanted to throw her arms around him and comfort him. She couldn't, of course; that would be her undoing. One touch, and she would have surely lost the struggle between her and Akane's happiness."Can you try… try to give her a fair chance, Ranma?"

He glanced back up."But—"

"I know that she is violent at times, but try to understand her, and let her show you what she really feels inside her." She was facing the window again, not wanting to meet his eyes.

The ensuing silence was deafening.

Just when the eldest Tendo thought that Ranma might have left the room, his voice shattered the quietude."What about you? And what we did here?"

She suppressed the anguish she was feeling."We can't tell anyone else about what happened here. It would break Akane's heart. And, as for me… Promise me, you'll try to do this, for me."

Ranma watched her with wide eyes, unable to believe what she was saying. He rolled back the bed coverings and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. "Kasumi…"

"Promise me," she said in the sternest voice she could muster."Promise me you will try… please…” The last part came out more like a whisper.

His teeth ground against one another as the internal war inside of him flared to burning life. Duty versus desire, his wants and needs going against what others ask and demand of him. His confused state of feelings muddled the battlefield war was being waged upon, clouding lines which had been clearly marked before, and her words were turning the flow of battle. Overall, it was a short-lived war, ending just as abruptly as it started."All… all right." came his reluctant decision.

Her eyes pinched tightly."Yes… thank you…” Twin sets of tears streamed down her cheeks, unseen by either party.


Slowly he opened his eyes, banishing that night from his mind. "I'm not going to marry Akane."

Kasumi's eyes widened."Ranma, no—"

"She doesn't trust me. Said so herself just a while ago."

"She was just angry. I'm sure she didn't mean it."

"She did, and for once, I can't fault her for it. It's not going to work out."

"Ranma, don't say that."

"It's true. I didn't even stop to think about it until tonight. At one time, maybe things would have worked out, but things have changed." He took her in with his eyes."I… have changed…" He glanced out the window in Kasumi's room."I'm breaking off the engagement with her."

She sighed, looking down in her lap."Father will be upset as well as Akane. With you breaking off the engagement with her, you won't be able to uphold giri."

"Not if I marry you," he said offhandedly.

"That's true, but—" She jerked her head up, staring at him."W-what…?"

Shifting his view back to Kasumi, he replied, "Hmm?"

"… Do you really want to marry me?"

Rapidly, he blinked."W-w-what?"

"Oh…" Her head tipped forward."I-I guess I misunderstood you…"

Ranma bit his lip."N-n-no… You didn't… I… I did say that…"

Slowly, she lifted her head."Really?" He nodded."But why?"

Taking deep breaths, he began to speak."It's, well… it's like… um… because I… I…" He growled in frustration."I… I… I want to be with you… because, I care about you, a lot… and, I think I might even l… lo… lo…" His eyes crossed to examine his mouth, which was not cooperating with him."Er, what I'm… trying to say is… I… I…" He sighed."God…"

A finger pressed against his fumbling lips gently. His eyes roamed up, meeting hers. A small smile graced the young expecting mother's face."I know what you're trying to say, Ranma, but why me? It isn't just for the—" Her fingers idly traced circles on her belly."—Baby, is it?"

Scratching the back of his head, he started."Well, yeah, I guess you could say there's more… um, for starters, you're not gonna hit me for doing or saying something stupid…"

"No, I won't," she said, amusement in her voice.

"And you're very kind and gentle… and, well, you were willing to forego your feelings for me twice already so Akane would have a chance to be happy…"

"Twice?"

"Mm hmm… I, well, I kinda overheard you and Shiru talking the day before she went to America…"

Kasumi's eyes widened."Y-you did? Then… you knew—"

"Yeah."

"Oh, my…"

"Yeah. Ever since then, I've felt… something towards you. I've fought against it for a bit, and I thought I was winning. Then you kissed me. Truth be known, I thought it was another dream I was having."

"You… dreamed about me?"

He half-smiled."Well, I don't usually run around naked in male form, do I?"

"I hope not." She smiled a little more.

"Yeah, well, I had a few daydreams about you earlier that day. It was… well, it was unnerving the first few times." He fidgeted with his hands, his index fingers chasing after each other in circles."I mean, me and you getting all… romantic, I guess, it was so crazy then, plus it kept messing me up, making me think about you like that… and then you kissed me. Gods, that… that just broke my resistance then, so I figured it was just one of those weird dreams. Then, the power came back on, and it wasn't a dream." He shifted about in place, scratching the back of his head."Kasumi, I… I… I'm… s-s-sorry… for overreacting like that." A faint blush arose upon his cheeks.

"Nothing to forgive, Ranma."

"Huh? Wha—"

"I understood why you reacted the way you did. Honestly, I felt guilty for even trying to find out if you even liked me."

"Oh…"

Silence took over for a few minutes.

"So, do you really want to marry me?"

"Yeah."

"And the baby?"

"… I still don't know really. I figure I could find a job or something, help take care of you and the kid… something."

"I guess that is something we'll have to deal with when the time comes. What's more important is, what are we going to do tomorrow?"

"Well, I'm gonna have to break off the engagements with Akane, Ukyou, and Shampoo. Kodachi, she just gives me the creeps, and she's crazy, so I don't know what to do about her."

"Akane is going to take it really hard."

"Yeah… I wish there was some other way, but there isn't. At least the old coots'll be happy. They'll probably be celebrating as soon as they find out."

Slowly, Kasumi leaned against Ranma, placing her head upon his shoulder."Life is going to become harder soon."

He nodded, drawing his arm about her waist. Idly, he noted just how tense she was."I know…"

Her eyes closed tightly."I'm scared of what's going to happen."

"Me, too…" He gently rubbed small circles on her back, hoping it would relax her.

She relaxed a little with his touch. Slinking her arms about his body, she pulled herself firmly against him."Ranma?"

"Yes?"

One of her hands unconsciously sought for his free one. Upon finding it, her fingers laced with his, squeezing his hand warmly."Will you stay with me tonight? I don't want to be alone now."

He looked down to where their hands joined, then back to her. Smiling, his fingers closed upon her hand, grasping it gently. "Sure."

Opening her stony green eyes, she lifted her head, catching sight of his warm, blue eyes. She kissed him softly upon his lips, then relaxed visibly, letting her body rest against him."Thank you… dear."

His own head tipped to the side, holding his cheek against the top of her head. "My pleasure… Kasumi-chan…"


At the Nekohanten, Shampoo yawned as she prepared for bed. A tiring day it was, and with no sight of her beloved Airen at all. She felted a little depressed about that, but bedtime would make up for it. Taking out the two pictures of Ranma she owned, one with him standing confidently, and the second with Shampoo hugging Ranma after returning to the Nerima ward with Cologne, she started her bedtime ritual.

Just as she started to kiss the glass covering of the frame the picture resided in, a tiny sound caught her attention. Puzzled, she looked around her bedroom, when it happened again. Her ears homed in on the sound, with reddish irises following, both leading up to the picture frame she held in her hand. Her eyes flashed at the sight of a very thin break in the glass. Just as she contemplated getting a new frame, the minuscule crack suddenly spider webbing over half of the image, sending up tiny shards of glass at her face.

Her hand shot out and shielded her face from the small, glass cloud. The pieces bounced off her palm harmlessly and landed back on the frame. After a moment, she put down her hand and took stock of the frame's state.

The spider web cracking rested over one half of the image of her and Ranma. More specifically, it stretched over her half of the picture. Briefly pondering this startling development, she reached only one conclusion—

—a bad omen.

Still holding the picture frame, she darted out of her room, heading directly towards her Great-Grandmother's bedroom.

To be continued.


Author's notes: Man, did this ever take a long time to work out. Halfway through, writer's block struck, and I wrote A Perfect Life to help siphon off the block. Eventually, with help from Beth Nielsen Chapman, I finally finished this chapter. Now, the fun begins.

If you didn't quite understand the ending, take a quick look at Kasumi ½: Memories in a Bubble for the full details.

Big thanks going out to Thomas Hackwood for his idea on the nekoken, as well as more thanks to the West of Tokyo Club (http://www.wot-club.org.uk) for info on the probable location of just where Ranma and the gang reside in Nerima. Also, I acquired two new pre-readers: Thomas Hackwood (thackwood@mindspring.com) and Harold Ancell (hga@acg.org).

Next chapter: Now that Ranma and Kasumi are going to marry, how will Akane and the others handle his decision? More importantly, why is Ryouga glowing? You'll find out soon in chapter 5 of Kasumi ½. Be prepared.

All C+C and questions to raemowse@aol.com.

Chapter 5
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