Ch.7 - The Eternally Lost Boy

"So what's this about leaving school early, Tiger?"

Nabiki put her bag down and gave a bemused frown to her girlfriend, sitting on a children's swing in the park, lost in thought. "I had plans to have lunch with you on the roof, y'know?"

"I'll have to make that up to you I guess," Ranma offered, lightly kicking off into a slow swing. "I just didn't want to be in the same building as that damn samurai-wannabe."

"What'd he do to piss you off like that? I know what he said the first time but..."

Ranma put her knees up and mumbled an answer.

"I'm sorry, what was that?"

"...'e pulled a' mah tail. Fug'n hurt," the as-yet-unchanged redhead muttered.

"Ouch, girl. Do you want me to do that thing from before and make it better?" Nabiki offered.

"Thanks, but maybe not right here," Ranma declined with the barest hint of a blush.

"Really? You're clearly not as much of a loose cannon as we feared," Nabiki joked as she took a wad of cash from her school bag and casually counted the bills, leaning against the swing's frame.

"Those the Ice Queen's earnings, Biki-chan?"

"You got that right, Tiger. Could've been even more if we had more time together. Come up with some interesting plans over lunch, execute them after, split the profits, you know how it goes."

"Sorry 'bout that," Ranma said with her ears folded back.

"Don't worry, Tiger. Tomorrow's another day. And I don't have any important early business tomorrow so we can walk together!"

Ranma perked up immediately at the thought. "Really?"

"Yeah. And maybe then I can make up for what my little joke towards Kuno caused for you."

"Oh?"

"I may have teased him with the idea that you were in a lesbian relationship with 'one of us Tendou sisters' without being more specific," Nabiki admitted. "I do like watching the big lug squirm..."

"If I couldn't imagine how that must've looked, I would be angry at you right now."

"I'm so glad," Nabiki stated simply, without even a hint of sarcasm, and put away the money. "Shall we be off?"

Ranma waited for the apex of her swing and jumped off with a graceful somersault. "Let's."

"Just so you know, I brought notes from your classmates on what you missed. Free of charge. You might want to thank Hiroshi and Daisuke tomorrow."

"Ah, thanks. I think I will!"

A fair distance away, a young boy sat and watched it all. He clenched his fist, breaking a walnut he'd held, and slowly ate the inside bits. "Ranma," he said to himself, "you've only grown ever more beautiful since then..."

He stood, brushed off the walnut shell pieces, adjusted his backpack, and followed the girls.

The boy found himself sitting on the wall surrounding the Tendou house, close enough to have a reasonable view of Nabiki's room.

I really shouldn't do this, he thought. Peeping is for perverts... but I couldn't dare knock and just be all "hi Ranma, remember me? It's your old pal Ryouga Hibiki, and I need to admit something to you!" Yeah, that'll fly.

Ryouga shuddered, then steeled himself and paid further attention to what went on in Nabiki's room. He didn't know it was hers, or even who Nabiki was, but the sign out front said "Tendou", and she and Ranma seemed on good terms. Remarkably good terms, considering they went to this place together, and were chatting in the other girl's room just like that.

Nabiki asked something, and Ranma answered -- a dismissive, judging from her body language. Much to Ryouga's surprise, Nabiki started taking off her school uniform, while Ranma watched.

The trickle of blood running down his upper lip only made the boy feel a little worse about being a peeping tom.

"Sis, can I come in?" Akane called, knocking on Nabiki's door.

"I dunno," came the reply. "Are you okay with me being half dressed?"

"I guess, it's your room," Akane shrugged, hand on the door knob. "But this mightn't be the best time... something came up?"

"Darling, toss me that shirt?" Nabiki requested. Ranma quickly flicked the shirt laying next to her on the bed at Nabiki, who smoothly caught it and put it on. "Okay, you can come in now."

Akane opened the door and entered, dragging the dead weight of Ryouga Hibiki behind her, held by the bandana around his head. "Caught a pervert on the wall, Sis, staring at your room."

"Highly appreci--"

"Holy crap is that Ryouga?" Ranma interrupted. She jumped off the bed and took the dazed boy from Akane, whipping around to the middle of the room, then roughly slapped him on the cheeks. "Wake up, dummy!"

"Darling is that such a good idea, slapping a guy like that?"

"Don't worry, Biki-chan. Ryouga's a real tough guy, he can handle this," Ranma defended, and slapped the boy some more.

"Will you kindly stop slapping my face!?"

"See that? Still works."

Ryouga recovered from the mild but undeniable pain in his cheeks, then realized who was holding him. "Ranma!" he cried out, and promptly embraced the girl in a big hug that might've been painful for a lesser mortal.

"Ryouga!" Ranma returned the hug.

"Who?" asked the sisters together.

"The guy I told you about before," Ranma explained. "You know, the one I had to walk to school all the time and who thought we were in a relationship?"

Ryouga finally released his hug. "What do you mean, 'thought'? Ranma, we totally had a thing!"

"Uh no? I guided you to school each day and people started rumors." Ranma turned to the confused sisters. "That's not 'having a thing', is it?"

Nabiki shook her head. "I don't think so."

"But, but we held hands!"

"So you... wouldn't get separated from me and... get lost after all," Ranma clarified uneasily. "Cos we both know that's what would happen. Honestly Ryouga, you're making this all a bit awkward."

"Awkward? How could this reunion get any more awkward? I mean, I know one way it could but..."

"Ryouga, as much as I enjoy seeing you again... I dunno how else to break it to ya but..." Ranma paused to take a deep breath.

"... I'm a lesbian. And I'm in a relationship with Nabiki Tendou."

"Wha-?"

"The tall one." Ranma clarified. The tall one grinned uneasily and waved at the new guy.

Ryouga stared at Nabiki in silence for a few seconds, then turned to Ranma. Then back to Nabiki. Back to Ranma. He looked at Akane for good measure, who could merely shrug in return. Back to Ranma.

"After all I've been through to feel wor... thy..."

And then he cried out.

"Noooo!"

Ryouga finally took his hands off of Ranma's shoulders and ran out the door, down the stairs, into the bathroom, back out, to the living room, and out to the garden.

And then he tripped on a rock bordering the pond.

Kasumi had been ignoring the commotion upstairs as she worked on dinner. Having a soft spot for certain types of small animals, she pointedly did not ignore the sad sound she heard coming from the garden. Briskly ensuring the food would be okay without her, she went out to find an animal shaking off the water next to the koi pond.

Without any hesitation, she picked up the large black cat and took it back inside.

Later, Ranma, Nabiki, and Akane were practicing in the dojo. Ranma went through several forms with all the grace of an expert, Akane with a marked violence, and Nabiki... Nabiki stood there with a book in her hand that Ranma had suggested she read. After Ryouga ran away, Nabiki had admitted her growing interest in picking up the Art again.

"Meow!"

Akane stopped and turned. "Ranma, did you just...?"

"Wasn't me. I try not to do that, especially when I'm human."

"It was this big boy," Kasumi revealed as she walked in, holding her new pet in her arms.

"Ah. Where'd you find him, big sis?" Akane asked, running over to pet the cat, who in turn moved his head away from the approaching hand.

"In the garden. Seems the poor guy fell into the pond."

Akane withdrew her hand in thought, then carefully took the cat's head and turned it the other way, revealing a yellow bandana wrapped around his neck, disguised by his fur.

"I'll be right back," she announced, and ran out to the kitchen.

"Can I hold him?" Ranma asked.

"Well, sure. Do you--oh my!"

The cat escaped from Kasumi's grasp and jumped right into Ranma's arms, happily settling in and purring in joy. Just then, Akane returned with a mug of hot water, which she promptly threw at Ranma and the cat she was cradling.

In the blink of an eye, Ranma was holding a very large and very naked Ryouga in her arms.

Nabiki frowned at the sight. "Explain, please?"

"I'll find a shirt," Kasumi said as she (gracefully) ran out.


Author's Notes

I did not just write that, did I? Ryouga Hibiki as... not a pig!? How dare I, right? But how'd he get to be like that? Tune in next update.


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