Akane leaned back against the rail, letting the breeze and the spray tease her hair. The freighter was not large, though she knew that if she had still been a child, she would have found it so. The two Joketsuzoku were still in their cabins — seasick, Akane noted with particular glee — as was Ryouga, though she didn't know why he seemed so afraid of the open deck. Genma had, as might be expected, spent the night drinking and gambling with some of the crew, so the only people on deck this early in the morning were herself and Ranma.
Not that Ranma was paying attention to her. No, he was walking up and down the length of the rail, doing one of those balance exercises he loved so much. Akane sighed, closing her eyes. He'd been acting nervous around her ever since— No, best not to think about that.
She opened her eyes in time to see Ranma arc gracefully through the air, twisting and turning through several forms to silently land in front of her. Akane opened her mouth to say something, anything, but something about the look in his eyes made her stay silent. This was too perfect a moment to spoil it.
Ranma took her hands in his, looking earnestly at her face, into her eyes. "Akane?"
He's going to kiss me, she realized. A blush spread across her cheeks. She didn't know if it was too soon or not. Suddenly, she didn't even care about the timing. She just wanted it, wanted him. Akane closed her eyes, turning her head upwards slightly.
"You remember when I fought Cologne at the beach?" he asked. Puzzled, she opened her eyes and nodded. Still with that intent look on his face, he continued, "I think I figured out how she did that Shark-Fist thing."
Oh. That was it. Of course it would be something like that. Smiling sweetly, she said, "Well, why don't you show me?" as she shoved him over the rail.
A Ranmoon fic
by Jonathan Rosebaugh
Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC.
Chapter Two: All I Ever Wanted
"Whaddya mean, 'don't unpack'? We just got back!" Akane had been looking forward to a long, relaxing soak in the furo, followed by sleeping on her own actual bed, with her own actual sheets, for a considerably long period of time, and was understandably disturbed by Nabiki's pronouncement.
Nabiki, however, would brook no argument. "Just that we — all of us — are going to the beach! School's out by now, you know. What better way for you to unwind after a long trip?"
Later, on the train, Akane still couldn't figure out how Nabiki had talked her into it. Staring out the window, she resolutely tried to ignore her memories of past trips to the beach with Ranma. The whole idea was bizarre. The only good thing about it was that she wouldn't be surprised by anything else on the trip; after all, what could be weirder than the idea of a trip to the beach at a time like this?
Ranma sat in the aisle seat and watched Akane as she watched the scenery. He had, once again, run into a problem that he couldn't ask advice about, and, for once, his considerable skillset was of little help.
The problem was, while at Jusendou, he had confessed his love for Akane. He'd actually screamed it out; everyone who had been there had to have heard, except for Akane, since she had been mostly dead at the time. However! if his life experience was anything to rely on, someone would tell Akane what he'd said, and soon, whereupon he would be in a tangle again. He wouldn't really be surprised if Kiima dropped out of the sky to tell her, or if Setsuna showed up again.
Ranma scowled at the thought of the green-haired woman. Setsuna had to be one of the Queen's Senshi, he was sure. There weren't many other explanations for the way she'd found him from time to time, always when he was alone. Of course, he'd quickly escaped her company every time, but it was getting tiresome.
"Anyhow, I'd better just tell her." Ranma did not at first realize that he'd spoken aloud. Not until he realized that Akane was staring at him, as were Nabiki, Genma, Nodoka, and the toddler sitting in the seat across the aisle from him. Ranma swallowed hard. "Um, I was just thinking out loud it wasn't very important nothing really?" he ventured.
Nobody looked as if they believed it, but they turned around anyway. It wasn't like they could make him tell anything, here on the train. After a minute or so, Nabiki leaned forward in her seat and whispered, "You'll have to try harder, Saotome." Ranma winced.
"Hey, Akane," Ranma called, poking her head inside the other girl's door, but looking off at the wall rather than at her.
"What is it, Ranma?" Akane was sitting in front of an open suitcase, looking wistfully at her swimsuit. She glanced over her shoulder at Ranma. "You can come in."
Ranma stepped inside and leaned back against the door. She had on one of her usual one-pieces. "I found out this place has a pool, in case it rains outside. And it's empty now, since it's not raining."
"So? Why are you telling me this? You know I can't swim, Ranma!" Akane's face flushed.
"Well, ya wanna learn, or what? You couldn't ask for a better opportunity."
Akane stood, locking her eyes on her swimsuit so Ranma couldn't see her emotions. On the one hand, the resounding failure of each of her attempts to learn how to swim had made each successive attempt that much harder. By now, she almost felt doomed before she started. On the other hand, she desperately wanted to learn, and not just to wipe that insufferable grin off Ranma's face. On the third hand, it just wasn't fair that Ranma, even with her curse, had fewer difficulties with cold water than she did.
Having run out of hands, she simply nodded and picked up her swimsuit. She looked up. Ranma was still standing there, smiling. "Get out so I can change, dummy!" Akane shoved the pink-haired girl outside and pulled the door shut.
A few short minutes later, now clad in a flattering bikini, Akane joined Ranma in the hall and the two girls started off for the pool. "You really think I'll be able to learn to swim?"
Ranma didn't answer right away. In the silence that followed her question, Akane's heart began to plummet. One corner of her mind began to wonder if Ranma were trying to get her to make her usual attempt to learn here, so she wouldn't embarrass her later with her futile attempts. As they walked, she got so caught up in those thoughts that she missed Ranma's responses entirely. "Hmm?" she asked.
"I said," Ranma began again, "most of your problems come from not having any confidence. You're a bit denser than most girls your age — ow, don't hit me! I'm talkin' about your muscles, not your brains — but there's ways to deal with that. The thing is, if you believe you're gonna fail, then you probably will. You're beaten before you start, that way."
"Oh." Akane wasn't sure how to react to that. "Um, thanks, Ranma."
"Don't mention it. Come on, through here."
It hadn't really taken Akane very long to learn to swim a basic stroke, Ranma reflected. The biggest thing had been control; Akane always seemed to overcompensate for the water, not allowing it to support her the way she should, but that seemed to be out of the way now. Ranma was musing on what to teach Akane next when the sound of splashing startled her out of her reverie. She looked around for Akane, spotted her, and gasped. Akane had managed to get herself into the deep end and, it seemed, had forgotten her newly-acquired skills. "Clumsy tomboy," Ranma muttered, swimming over and grabbing her fiancée.
Holding Akane's head above water by the simple expedient of hoisting the girl over her shoulder, Ranma swam to the other end of the pool and set Akane down in the shallow water. It looked like she'd caught Akane in time; already she was lifting her head and opening her eyes. But why was she smiling? "You do care," Akane breathed. Then, while Ranma was still processing that, she reached up, grasped her fiancé’s head, and kissed her.
Ranma had been kissed before, of course, but this was different. This was Akane (who, Ranma's body pointed out, was very definitely a girl) kissing her with what was at least a very good attempt at abandon, and it was while Ranma was a girl. That wasn't anything she'd have ever expected from Akane, and she began to ponder what in the world this meant, but didn't get very far before she found herself returning the kiss.
While Ranma's body was operating as well as it could on autopilot, her mind was considering these new developments. Whuh. This is new. Whatsit mean? Well, probably that she wants to tell me what I want to tell her. Huh? Oh, that! But I wanted to tell her! I still can, dummy. Oh. Well, let's be about it, then. Having thought through that in a few seconds, at a more or less unconscious level, she set about breaking off the kiss so she could tell Akane.
Akane, meanwhile, wasn't sure why Ranma was being strangely unresponsive. The pessimistic corner of her mind popped up again and suggested a simple, obvious explanation: Ranma didn't like her, not really. When Ranma broke the kiss just as Akane was beginning to figure out how it worked, her suspicions were confirmed. Trying not to let the tears escape her eyes, she jumped out of the pool and ran down the hall back to her room, condemnation pounding close behind. Silly girl, she told herself, of course he's not interested in you. What do YOU have to offer?
Ranma just stood there, her mouth open. What did I do now?
The next morning, neither of the girls wanted to talk about the debacle, mostly on the grounds that neither thought she could blame the other for it with any degree of success. And, of course, the whole thing was still somewhat uncomfortable to think about. Instead, they engaged in the various standard beach activities: sunbathing, swimming (at which Akane enjoyed some mild success, before having to be physically restrained from testing exactly how strong the currents were), and playing beach volleyball with complete strangers.
At first, Ranma had thought that a fair division of players was, of course, Ranma vs. Everyone Else. Not noticing (as might well be expected) Akane's growing indignation, not even noticing (as perhaps she ought to have) the slight resentment on the other girls' faces at being considered so, hrm, inadequate.
In the end, however, Ranma conceded to Honor. Or so she claimed, afterwards.
"Look," the tall girl, Makoto, had said, "just give it a shot. What have you got to lose?"
"It's a matter of principle," Ranma insisted, looking all the time as if she didn't quite believe that herself, but she didn't know what else to say. "It simply wouldn't be fair to have one team so much better than the other. But if I do it by myself, it's different." Ranma then folded her arms and waited for everyone else to show signs of approval and enlightenment.
"I'll bet you over it. If your team can shut out mine, I'll buy you an all-you-can-eat dinner at that seafood restaurant in town."
Ranma considered this for all of two seconds. "Sure. Okay, I've got Akane and you and you," she said, pointing at the two black-haired girls in the group. "That okay?" she asked Makoto.
"Fine by me. Volley for serve."
In retrospect, Ranma realized a few minutes later, she should have asked what the forfeit would be should her team not prove triumphant. Certainly, she herself was quick and strong, and her midair spikes were hard to deflect, and certainly, Akane's strength and determination served her well. In fact, she was even surprised by the skill of her other teammates. Rei, the taller of the two, seemed to be reacting to the other team's movements before they made them, and Diana changed positions so fluidly that she almost seemed like, well, not a cat (Ranma would never stoop so low as to call someone that, especially a teammate), but she really did seem to embody the spirit of a great animal on the hunt.
And yet, all that might not be enough. Makoto, the other team captain, had height on her side, and appeared to be trained in some form of martial arts. The blonde girl, Minako, had considerable command of the game, and could jump almost as high as Ranma. The other two weren't as flamboyant, but they had their own strengths. Ami excelled at using the ball's speed against it, causing Ranma to wonder if there was a style of Martial Arts Volleyball or something, and Hotaru . Well, Hotaru was simply there, under the ball, hitting it with extraordinary precision. It was as if she had an intuitive grasp of exactly what combination of speed and angle would be necessary at any given moment. Ranma found it very unnerving to watch.
Nevertheless, she realized that she was having the best time she'd had all day. She wasn't just enjoying the game itself; she was enjoying playing the game with actual competition. It wasn't often that she met others who were able to keep up with her like this, and Ranma savored the experience. She so savored it, in fact, that she hardly minded when Minako's power serve netted her team the two-point lead they needed to win.
"Good game, Makoto. I mean it." Ranma took another bite of her ice cream as she summarily waved aside any objection Makoto might possibly have felt like making. The two of them had decided to go up to the restaurant after all — ice cream was very important.
"So," Makoto began, "how long have you and Akane been friends?" She leaned back in her chair and pointed her spoon at Ranma. "Hmm?"
"Uh ." Ranma wasn't sure how to handle that. For one thing, should she count from the first day they'd met, or from later on, when they'd really started to get along?
"Come on. I saw the way you two were watching each other during the game. You and she know how to work together pretty well, and you seemed to like looking at her playing, as well." Makoto smiled knowingly.
"It's not what you think!" Ranma exclaimed reflexively.
"Okay," Makoto said, shrugging. "But even if it were, what would be wrong with that?"
"But it's not," Ranma repeated insistently. "It's different." There was something odd about this conversation, she thought, though she couldn't put her finger on it.
"Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. But I know what you mean," Makoto allowed. Just then, her watch started beeping. She looked at it, frowned, and shut it off. "Well. I'm sorry to have to run off like this."
Ranma smiled. "It's okay. It was great to meet you, Makoto."
"You too, Ranma. Maybe we'll meet again. But if we don't, remember this: It's usually better to regret doing something than to regret not doing it." With that, she smiled a somewhat wistful, enigmatic smile, turned, and headed for the door.
"Wait a minute," Ranma called, jumping up and going after her. "What's that supposed ta mean?"
Makoto looked back, partway through the door. "You'll find out, I think." And then she was gone.
"Well, that was odd," Ranma thought to herself as she clambered down the rocks that divided the ocean-view road from the beach fifty feet below. "And what was with that look she gave me at the end? Pretty weird."
Sitting down on a rock near the bottom, she sighed. "Girls. Never gonna understand them, even if I am one sometimes."
A stone skittered past her. Then another. She looked up, back at the road. Who would be throwing stones at her? "Hey, dummy," Akane called, leaning over the metal railing. "You gonna sit there all afternoon?"
"Maybe ." Ranma jumped to her feet and stared up at Akane. "Why'd you miss with the rocks?"
"Get up here, or next time I won't!"
Ranma laughed, then began leaping from rock to rock to rock to road. "Come on, tomboy, let's see if you can hit a moving target!"
"Argh, you idiot!"
'You're insane, you know that?"
"Ooh, that one was close. If I were as slow as you, I might have been hit!"
"A hit! Gee, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were improving, Akane."
"Ranma, you're such an idiot." Akane dropped the last rock and turned around, carefully staring off into the sky.
Ranma dropped down beside her. "Ah, that was fun. So, whaddya want?"
"Do you really think I'm that bad, Ranma?" Akane looked over at Ranma, but she was just looking at nothing, not paying attention again. Of course.
"Well, you're not bad, really. You're not in my class, of course, or Makoto's, but you're a lot better than you were when we met."
"What does Makoto have to do with any of this?" Akane had her suspicions, of course. She hoped she'd be proved wrong, but she knew Ranma. He just couldn't resist it when a girl liked him. It was a part of his nature, really, and she didn't know if she wished she could change that, but it was definitely aggravating at times.
"Makoto? Well, we were talking, and she told me about her training and I told her about mine. She's pretty good for someone so young."
"Really? You two talked that much?" This was not good.
"Well, for a while. Then she had to run off to some meeting or something. I hope I'll get to see her again."
"Is that so? Well, why don't you go LOOK FOR HER!" Akane turned and began to stalk off.
Oh. That's what she meant. Ranma wondered what to do now. It was obvious that she'd screwed up with Akane again, and often enough, waiting for her to cool down had worked. Or maybe this is the sort of thing she was talking about. I guess it's worth a shot.
Ranma stood up and walked towards Akane. She put a hand on her shoulder. Akane didn't shrug it off. She walked around to face Akane. Her eyes were closed and she wasn't moving, just standing there. I kinda wish I could have been a guy for this, but there's no time. She said she didn't care much about the curse, though. Ranma took a deep breath. She'd probably only get one chance at this.
"Look, Akane, I know I don't say the right thing all the time, and I gotta say this right so you gotta listen. Makoto asked me about me 'n you, and I didn't really know what to tell her. She told me I oughta just say what I feel, and what I feel is this; I want to spend my life with you. Not Ukyo, not Shampoo, not Kodachi, not Makoto. You. Izzat blunt enough?"
Akane opened her eyes, tears at the edges. "You mean that?"
"Yeah! I've been trying to tell you, but it never seemed to work out right."
"Ranma, you idiot." Akane wiped the tears away from her eyes.
I hope that doesn't mean I screwed up. Ranma started to say something, but was cut off as Akane put her hands behind the pink-haired girl's head and began to kiss her, again. And this time, she showed no signs of letting go.
To be continued.
Author's Notes: There aren't any. I spent over a year writing this thing; I'm not spending any more time writing notes from nobody to nobody. I would, however, like to thank Brian Randall and Jason Liao for prereading this chapter, as well as many other people who have made it better.
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