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WFY Chapter 4: Journey

Waiting For You
A Ranma 1/2 Fanfic By Stiffanie Flores

Disclaimer : Ranma 1/2 and all characters belong to Rumiko Takahashi. This fanfic is written for enjoyment and self-fulfillment purposes only.

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"I'm going," Ranma announced to the Tendos. "The instructions are clear enough. It shouldn't be too hard to track this man down."

Nabiki leaned back on the couch, frowning. "You're going by yourself, Ranma? Are you sure?"

He looked over at her. "Worried about me, Nabiki?" he teased her.

Nabiki snorted indelicately. "You can take care of yourself, big boy."

Ranma nodded. "Sure I can. Besides, I don't think there's anyone else here who's up to it."

"I am."

Ranma turned at the sound of the voice. Ryouga stood on the patio, a grim smile on his face. "I will be glad to be of service," he said.

Catching the suspicious glint in Nabiki's eyes, he looked at her apologetically. "I'm sorry, the door was open, and I let myself in to look for, Ranma, and I - uh, overheard your conversation."

Nabiki shook her head. "It's fine, Ryouga. We could use your help." She raised her brows at Ranma. "If you could put aside your little rivalry for a few days."

Ranma nodded. "That's fine with me." He glanced at the bandanna-clad boy. "Thanks, Ryouga."

Ryouga snorted. "I'm doing this for Akane, not you."

"I know." Standing up, he turned to leave the room. "Wait here," he told him. "I'll go and pack a few clothes, and we'll be on our way."

Ryouga started to sit down, unstrapping his backpack. Ranma's voice came back to taunt him.

"Oh, and Pig-Boy? When we leave, be sure to hold onto my arm real tight so you don't get lost, okay?"

Ryouga flushed. "Ranmaaaaa!" He started to stand up, his hand automatically reaching for his umbrella.

Ranma laughed as he slapped Ryouga on the back. "Just kidding, man," he said, still smirking.

Glaring at Ranma's retreating back, Ryouga took a deep breath, visibly struggling to keep his temper in check. He resumed his seat. *Don't kill him yet,* he told himself. *Your revenge can wait. Think of Akane.*

"Tea, Ryouga?" Kasumi's musical voice called from beside him. Ryouga opened his eyes and smiled up at her.

"Thank you, Kasumi-san," he said as she filled his cup.

She shook her head. "We are in your debt, Ryouga-kun. Thank you for helping us."

Ryouga reddened. "It's okay, really. I'm glad I can help."

"Still," Nabiki drawled, "it would help to have someone go with Ranma. He hasn't been himself lately, worrying so much over Akane."

Ryouga looked up, his eyes shadowed under dark bangs. "I see." He stood up abruptly. "Excuse me, I'll look for Ranma."

The sisters watched him leave with varying expressions. Kasumi, with gentle understanding; Nabiki, a calculating gleam in her eyes.

"He cares for her too, you know," Kasumi said quietly.

Nabiki nodded. "Hopeless guy," she muttered.

"Why is that, Nabiki?"

She almost smiled. "I think it's obvious whom our dear sister's heart longs for, isn't it?"

Kasumi tilted her head thoughtfully. "True."

The front door of the house slid open. Both girls turned at the sound.

"Hello?" a voice called out. "Ranchan?"

Kasumi got up to greet their unexpected visitor, as Nabiki suppressed the impulse to groan. *Here we go again...*


Ranma sat on the floor in his room, pulling open the bottom drawer of his dresser. Grabbing a couple of Chinese shirts, he stuffed them into his backpack. As he pulled out a pair of black pants, a sheet of paper dropped onto his lap, and he picked it up, his mouth curving into a small smile.

It was a photograph of Akane, one he'd snatched from Kunou along with other pictures of Akane and "the pigtailed girl". He'd returned the other pictures to Akane, but he'd kept this one, not telling her about it.

In the photograph, Akane was wearing her favorite yellow dress. Totally unaware she was being spied on, she was looking over her shoulder, her face wreathed in a warm, unaffected smile, her brown eyes sparkling with life. Sunlight caught the highlights in her hair as it swayed in the gentle breeze. Whoever had taken this candid shot, Ranma thought he'd captured Akane's best on film.

Ranma's smile faded as he gazed into her face. "I want to see you like this, Akane," he whispered, gently tracing the curve of her lips with his finger. "I want to see you smile again. I'll do everything I can. I promise."

The door slid open behind him, and he hurriedly tucked the picture inside his shirt. "Just a sec, Ryouga," he called without turning around. "Jeez, don't be so impatient. I'm almost done."

"It's me, Ranchan," a soft voice replied, much to his surprise.

Ranma turned slowly. Ukyou was standing just inside the room, hands clasped in front of her, looking down at him.

*Oh, man,* he groaned inwardly. *I don't want to deal with this right now.*

He'd spoken to her only once, the day after the aborted wedding. He'd been in a terrible mood, after being scorched by Shampoo and Ukyou's bombs, and having the Nannichuan drunk by Happosai thinking it was sake. Then Ukyou had come, demanding if he really would marry Akane if they hadn't interfered. Already in a sour mood, he'd said some pretty harsh words about how disappointed he was in her that she would stoop to something normally only Shampoo would do, about how he could ever trust her again after that...

Ukyou had avoided him after that, and the next day Ranma came by her shop to see her, Konatsu had informed him that Ukyou wasn't feeling well so they'd closed the shop. And soon after, Ranma became too preoccupied with getting a nice present for Akane's birthday that he hadn't paid much attention to Ukyou. And after that...

"Hey, Ucchan," he answered in an even tone. "What are you doing here?"

"I - um - heard about Akane."

Ranma looked away. He wasn't looking forward to this. "Yeah," he mumbled, not knowing what else to say.

Ukyou grabbed his right shoulder. "Do you have to do this?" she demanded.

He winced. "You know I do, Ucchan. Akane needs me." He stood abruptly. "I have to get going."

Ukyou stepped forward, the concern evident in her eyes. "I'm worried, Ranchan," she whispered.

"I'll be fine. Ryouga's coming with me. And I'll be back as soon as I get Akane's cure."

"Always Akane," she said, so softly that Ranma almost didn't hear her. Almost. She raised her eyes to his. He hurriedly tore his gaze away, not wishing to see the pain and resentment in her eyes.

"What about me?" she cried tearfully.

"Ucchan..." Ranma struggled to find the right words. "She's my fiancee."

"What about me?" she repeated. "I'm your fiancee too! Why do I always have to be second in line?"

"Ucchan, now isn't the -"

"It's true, isn't it?" she insisted. "I'm also your fiancee, just like her. But *her* claim holds precedence over mine. I don't hit you or insult you like *she* does, but when it comes down to it, you chose *her* instead of me."

He turned away from her to grab his backpack. "I already told you, the wedding wasn't our idea. I didn't even know about it until it was too late!"

"Then why were you so angry when we tried to stop you from marrying her?"

He whipped around to face her. "Because, it's *my* choice! No one's going to tell me what to do. It's still *my* life, and I get to choose what I want to do with it!"

Her eyes started to fill with tears. "But you were really going to marry her," she said softly.

She raised her eyes to his. "Why her, Ranchan?" she whispered. "Why Akane? Why not me?"

Ranma stiffened at the resentment in Ukyou's voice as she spoke Akane's name. He looked at her a moment before answering. "What's wrong with Akane, Ucchan?" he asked quietly. "At least she doesn't resort to using potions and magic to make me marry her. At least she's never tried to kill me, or blackmail me, or sell me off to someone."

He turned his back to her, leaning down to grab his backpack. With more care than the task required, he slowly strapped it to his shoulders. Ukyou slowly got to her feet, staring at him, her mouth agape.

He turned around, boring his gaze into hers. "Did you know that she agreed to marry me so that her father would give me the Nannichuan water, so that I'd be cured?"

Ranma watched as she shook her head mutely. A part of his mind told him to shut up, that he'd said enough. But looking into Ukyou's stricken face only hardened his resolve.

He'd made up his mind. He'd chosen Akane. Heck, it had always been Akane, ever since the first day he saw her, when she extended an offer of friendship to an embarrassed, scared red-haired girl, who'd needed a friend more than anything else. It had been the first act of kindness Ranma had received in a long time, and he carried the memory of it until now. That was the real Akane, he knew. Not the clumsy tomboy, but the kind, generous, warm-hearted young woman hidden beneath all that violent energy.

The realization that he was readily willing to let the world know of his decision filled him with immense joy. There was no shame in admitting he loved Akane. He'd tried to deny it for far too long already, managing to hurt so many people in the process...

"Ranchan?" Ukyou said softly. " mean you really..." The tremor in her voice betrayed her anxiety.

...including one of the people he held most dear in his life, who was standing before him right now...

Ranma put a hand on her shoulder. "Why don't I go over to your place later, after I come back, and we'll talk about it, Ucchan?" he suggested gently. "I really don't -"

She grabbed his arm. "You don't love her, you love *me*, don't you, Ranchan?" she begged, seeming not to have heard his words. "I've been so nice to you, you've said so yourself. And you said I was cute, and ..."

He looked at her silently, trying not to betray any of the pain he felt. *I'm sorry, Ucchan,* he thought. *You're my best friend, and I hate it like hell that I'm hurting you like this...*

His hand moved to cover hers, squeezing it lightly, before he pried her fingers off his arm. His eyes met hers, and -

She stepped forward, wrapping both arms around him in a hug. Ranma stiffened.

"...I love you, Ranchan."

He winced inwardly. *Ucchan...*

"Don't you have anything to say to me, Ranchan?" she asked anxiously.

He closed his eyes. *I sure do.* "Yeah, Ucchan, I do. But I'm really in a hurry," he explained in a rush. "I - I'll see you first thing I come back, okay?"

"Really, Ranchan?"

"Yeah, for sure." He gently disentangled himself from her embrace, starting to walk past her towards the door...

"You're doing it again, you see?" she said softly. "Going to her first before..."

"What do you want me to do, just sit back and watch her die?" he snapped before he could help himself.

She looked at him, surprised. "No," she whispered. Then she shook her head. "No," she said firmly. "I'm sorry, Ranchan. I didn't mean that."

He nodded. "I'm sorry, too. I didn't mean to..."

She shook her head. "It's okay, Ranchan."

He smiled his thanks as he brushed past her towards the door. As he put his hand on the sliding doors, he turned around to look back at her.

Ukyou stood staring at him, hands clasped in front of her. She made a fetching picture in her cream sweater and dark slacks, her chestnut hair pulled up in a ponytail. She was a special friend - but even more than that, she was part of the fond memories of his childhood - a part of his life he never wanted to forget. The bright smiles and cheery laughter she reserved just for him lifted his spirits and made him feel...wanted. Special. Loved. He knew she would love him unconditionally, no matter what he did to screw it up.

His turbulent relationship with Akane never had such guarantees. He was never sure how she felt about him. One minute, she would smile at him in that special way of hers that made his heart tremble in his chest, and the next minute, she'd hit him over the head for the tiniest little thing. She could trigger in him a wide array of emotions, each stronger than the last.

But he loved her. While Ukyou made him feel loved, with Akane he was - happy. Happier than he'd ever been with anyone else. Whatever she did or said, being with her had always filled him with a profound sense of contentment - knowing that this beautiful, proud, headstrong girl was his, and that he loved her.

And Ukyou - he loved her, too, in his own way. Not the same way he loved Akane, not the way Ukyou wanted him to love her, but still...

Ranma's eyes softened. He wished there was a way to tell her without hurting her... he wanted it to be someplace where they could be alone, with no interruptions, so that he couldn't chicken out... someplace where no one would be around to hear her angry words and anguished tears after she heard what he had to say...

*I wish you'll find someone else, Ucchan,* he thought sadly. *Someone who would love and cherish you forever, like you deserve...Don't love me, Ucchan, I don't deserve it...You're special to me, too, Ucchan, I love you like a sister. But not more than that. Never more than that...*

But now was hardly the time for any of that...

He reached out to squeeze her shoulder. "Thanks for being my friend, Ucchan," he said simply.

He watched her as she struggled to maintain her smile. "I'm always here for you, Ranchan. Always."

He smiled. "I know." Turning around, he slid the door open - and found himself face-to-face with Ryouga.

His rival stared back at him, his expression unreadable. "I was just about to look for you," Ranma told him. "Ready to go?"

He nodded wordlessly. Ranma walked past him, calling over his shoulder, "Let's get going, then. I have to make a quick stop at the clinic."

Ryouga's eyes met Ukyou's for a brief moment, before he tore his gaze away, and hurried after Ranma, his mouth set in a thin line.


"You're leaving?"

Ranma stood inside Akane's room, looking down at her, as she lay back on her sheets, her eyes wide with concern.

Every time he would leave her to go on a journey, he could feel her anxious eyes focused on him, almost begging him to stay. He couldn't blame her. After all the dangerous escapades he's been through - Herb, Saffron - and narrowly escaping death each time, she had enough good reason to fear for his safety.

He managed a smile for her. "I just stopped to say goodbye. Ryouga's waiting outside."

He looked down at her, saw the uncertainty, the worry, the unreasoning terror in her eyes. Longing to reassure her, he dropped down on one knee, reaching out to clasp her hand tightly. "I'll be back, Akane," he told her. "Promise me you'll wait for me."

He squeezed her hand warmly. "You'd better hold out until I come back," he warned, struggling to maintain his grin. "Or else..."

She stared up at him, her eyes filled with worry. "Be careful," she whispered.

"I will," he promised. He gave her hand a last reassuring squeeze. "I have to go," he whispered.

Akane watched as he stood up, adjusting his backpack behind him. Against her will, she remembered the time Ranma left for China with Plum, to retrieve the map of Jyusenkyo and rescue Shampoo. She couldn't bring herself to say goodbye to him formally, because she was ... afraid. Because she had an awful feeling that something terrible was going to happen during this journey, and he might not come back alive...

And now, the same awful premonition was coming to haunt her again.

Her hands clenched at her sides. *Please don't go, Ranma. It's okay, we can find another antidote. If there's none, then ... it's okay too. I don't care. But please don't go. I'm afraid. I can't stand waiting here all alone, not knowing if you're alive or dead... Ranma, don't leave me, please -*

Akane bit her lip, forcing herself to calm down. *He'll never listen to me, anyway, the stubborn baka,* she tried to convince herself. She tried to summon the usual pangs of irritation she felt when dealing with Ranma's thick-headedness, but the stronger voice within her mind refused to let her do so.

*But I have to tell him,* the voice insisted. *If nothing else, I have to try, at least... I don't want him to get hurt, I don't want him to...*

"Ranma?" she called hesitantly. She waited for him to turn around, her eyes wide with fear. *Don't worry about me. I'll be fine. But don't go on this journey, please? Maybe we'll find another way...*

Ranma turned at the sound of her voice. He stared at her, saw the silent plea in her eyes to stay with her. *She's worried about me,* he realized. He stood motionless for a moment, holding her gaze from across the room.

*I have to do this,* he thought, his hand tightening on the doorknob. *I can't let you die. I...I love you.*

He stood still, gripping the doorknob so tightly the cold metal dug into his palm. The words echoed endlessly in his mind. *I love you...*

The words had come from his heart, without warning, without preamble. He looked at her, his heart beating wildly. "I love you," he whispered softly, unaware he'd spoken the words out loud.

Akane stared back at him, struggling with the words uselessly. She was afraid to tell him because... because she knew he wouldn't agree. Because she knew he would still set off on his journey, his honor and sense of duty overriding all her protests...

She saw him open his mouth, saw the stunned expression on his face, and his mouth moved to form words she couldn't hear. Her lips trembled, as she continued to rage her internal battle with herself. *Oh Ranma,* she thought helplessly. *I don't want you to go. I'm afraid...*

Ranma shook himself out of his stupor. *I have a mission,* he thought decisively. *I have to do this.* He looked at her, a tender light in his eyes.

"Please don't look so sad," he told her. "I'm doing this for you."

At that moment, looking at her stricken face, he made up his mind. *I'll tell her,* he decided. *As soon as I get back, I'll tell her I love her,* he promised himself.

She nodded weakly, her eyes filling with tears.

His resolve started to crumble before his very eyes. He mentally slapped himself, turning the knob in his hand, as he looked back at her one last time. "Goodbye, Akane," he said softly, turning to leave.

Akane stared after him, her hand held out in a silent plea. The door clicked closed behind Ranma, and Akane bowed her head, biting her lip to keep from crying.

"Ranma..." she whispered softly, burying her face in her hands.

Ranma hurriedly blinked his tears away, as he strode purposefully down the stairs, to Dr. Tofu's office, where Ryouga was waiting for him.

Behind the closed door, it was just about then when the tears started to fall.


"Just remember to be back by the day after tomorrow with the antidote," Dr. Tofu was saying. "Also, keep an eye on Ranma. You young boys get into so much trouble together." Tofu smiled. "That's all and well any day, but not right now. Time is of the essence."

Nabiki nodded. "Don't worry, doctor. Ryouga doesn't have any trouble following instructions. As long as it doesn't have anything to do with getting to where he's going." She grinned. "But we have Ranma going with him to keep him from getting lost, so it's okay."

Ryouga scowled, glaring at Nabiki. "Not funny," he grumbled.

Nabiki smirked. Just then, Ranma came in the room, rubbing his eyes. Nabiki frowned. "What's wrong?"

Ranma shook his head. "Nothing. Just trying to keep myself awake," he mumbled. "Man, I'm pooped."

"You can sleep on the train," Nabiki said, standing up. "Remember, go find the guy, and hurry back as soon as possible. And no fighting on the road. Doctor's orders." She smiled.

Ranma nodded. "We'd better get going." He turned to Tofu. "Doctor? You would-"

Tofu smiled. "I'd look after Akane. Don't worry."

He nodded again. "Thanks." Turning around, he looked at Ryouga. "C'mon, let's go."

Nabiki watched as Ranma headed out of the clinic. "You just be damned sure you don't come back empty-handed, Saotome," she called.

Ranma turned and grinned. "Have I ever failed you?"

Nabiki opened her mouth to answer, and Ranma scowled. "Forget I asked."

Smirking, Nabiki watched the two guys head out, Ranma starting to tease Ryouga with his sense of direction, annoying the other boy easily. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Tofu come up beside her.

"They'll be back on time," Tofu said. "Don't worry."

"Yeah," Nabiki replied, smiling slightly. "If there's one thing Ranma's good at, it's coming to Akane's rescue."


Akane wiped impatiently at her eyes, brushing away the tears. *Baka,* she thought, but without any real anger. *I didn't want you to go!*

Just then, a knock on her door resounded, and Akane hurriedly wiped her face with the back of her hand, as Nabiki opened the door to come into her room.

Nabiki's eyes narrowed as she spied Akane's eyes and nose red from crying. "What's wrong?"

Akane shook her head. "Nothing."

Tofu came up behind Nabiki. "If you're feeling any pain, Akane, you should tell me. I could give you something to-"

"No," Akane said softly. "I'm fine. Really. I'm just...worried."

Nabiki frowned. "About what?"

She picked nervously at her sheets. "About the note? What - what do you think about it?"

"To tell the truth, I don't know," Tofu admitted. "I'm still calling some colleagues. We may turn up something soon. But as of now, the note is the best lead we've got." Tofu smiled reassuringly at her. "Don't worry," he told her. "He'll be back."

"I guess..."

Tofu squeezed her shoulder. "If you don't believe me, at least have more faith in your fiance, Akane. He won't let us down."

Akane glanced up. "Don't think that, doctor," she said. "You've done so much to help us already. I'm just worried about Ranma..." She trailed off.

"He'll be back," Nabiki said. "Ranma's good at keeping his word."

Akane bit her lip. "You don't understand Ranma, oneechan," she whispered. "He's too impatient and headstrong and arrogant. He'll go jumping into any situation without any care for his own safety. He -"

" it's Ranma you're worried about," Nabiki drawled. "Interesting."

Akane flushed. "That baka," she muttered, more out of habit than any real ire.

Tofu smiled. "Ranma does have an unnatural ability to get himself into trouble. But then, I've never met anyone of Ranma's caliber, and he's always been able to get himself out of scrapes. This time won't be different, Akane, 'cause he's not just fighting for himself. He won't let anything happen to you, and he'd be doubly careful to come back to you safely."

She bit her lip. "You really think so?"

"Sure," Nabiki replied cheerfully. "Just think what Daddy would do to Ranma if he failed. Ranma won't have a chance."

"Not funny."

Nabiki sat down beside Akane. "Well, you could use a little good humor, sister. All that worrying won't do you any good."

Akane pulled the blankets tighter around her. "I'm really afraid," she whispered softly.

Nabiki's eyes softened. "He'll come through okay," she assured her. "He's a macho jerk, remember? Macho jerks always come through okay," she joked.

Akane nodded slightly. "I guess." But it did nothing to assuage the fear in her heart.

*Ranma,* she thought. *Come back soon. Please. I don't want to...lose you...*

But, as always, the words came to her too late.

*** End CHAPTER 4 ***