Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 and its characters do not belong to me. They are property of Rumiko Takahashi, queen of comedy.
Warning: This is a yaoi fic. -_- If you were looking for a Ranma/Akane, Ryouga/Akane, Ranma/Ukyo, or whatever, this fic is not for you. Oh, and just so we're clear... no, I am not an Akane hater. o_O; I like Ranma/Akane, but Ranma/Ryouga is delish, too XD
And please forgive any OOCness, as this is my first Ranma 1/2 fic.
PS- at the time of this fic, I have only read up to vol 18 of the manga, so any characters/happenings that occur after that you must ignore for the sake of the story ^^; On with the freak show!

Chapter 1
"The Witch's Potion"

    Ranma scowled at the letter in his hand, tapping his fingers irritably against his knee. Nabiki came walking up to the porch, sucking absently on a popsicle.
    "Hey, Ranma. What's that?" she asked, glancing curiously at the paper.
    "Another stupid challenge from Ryouga," Ranma said, handing it over.
    Nabiki scanned the words and frowned slightly. "This was for two days ago."
    "Better give him about a week, then," Ranma muttered, getting to his feet and stretching. "That guy could get lost in his own back yard."
    "It says he's been training in the mountains again," Nabiki noted. "Think he might have another move to try out?"
    "Probably something stupid," Ranma scoffed, wandering off with his hands behind his head. "Doesn't matter. That idiot will never beat me."
    "Famous last words," Nabiki teased.
    Ranma rolled his eyes. "Please. Whatever tricks he's got up his sleeves, it's nothing I can't handle."
    Nabiki arched a brow, giving her popsicle a thoughtful lick. "You know, Ranma, one of these days that high and mighty attitude of yours is going to come back and bite you in the ass. You never know-- one day he might get stronger than you and beat you. Then where will you be?"
    "It'll never happen," Ranma said firmly, glaring at her.
    Nabiki shrugged. "Whatever. Hey, you'd better go help Akane. She's been looking all over for P-chan."
    Ranma looked skywards wryly. "I wouldn't worry if I were you. He should be back in about a week."
    "How do you know that?"
    "Uh, never mind." Ranma hurried inside. "Just guessing."


    Ryouga stood with his arms crossed, nose wrinkling at the foul smells emanating from the giant cauldron in the middle of the small hut. He glanced around the untidy room at the shelves stocked with miscellaneous odds and ends-- some of them unidentifiable --jars, dried herbs, and vials. An old lady was moving about the room in a quick shuffle, her stooped form nearly drowning in an oversized cloak, her floppy hat falling continuously into her ugly wrinkled face. She was muttering to herself as she picked up one object after another and peered at the faded labels through thick glasses.
    "Know I put it here somewhere... This is it.. No no. 's the wart cream. This? No, shouldn't smell this strong... ah, dog-be-gone. What's this? Hmmm forgot I had this... Been lookin' for this, too..."
    Ryouga was getting more and more impatient, and the strange lady and her foul-smelling concoctions were making him a little uncomfortable. But the villagers at the foot of the mountain had assured him that the old witch would be able to help him. Watching her dodder around, mumbling to herself, however, was beginning to make him wonder if he should have looked elsewhere.
    Just when he was considering taking his leave, she gave a loud cackle and turned his way, cradling a small jar in her hands. "Hah! Knew it was here somewhere. Here's what you're looking for." She waddled over and offered her find. "Here you are, sonny. This should work. Just drink some before a fight, and you're guaranteed to feel no pain. Be careful, though-- people feel pain for a reason. Don't push yourself too hard, or you could break something and not even notice. Y'could die if you're not careful enough."
    Ryouga studied the unmarked bottle dubiously. "Are you sure this is the right one?" he demanded suspiciously. "There's no lable."
    "I know my own brews," the witch said indignantly, squinting at him with one eye.
    Ryouga frowned, but decided it was useless to argue. It was her profession, after all. She had to know what she was doing. He thanked her shortly and paid her the pre-arranged amount. She followed him outside, rubbing her bony hands together eagerly. "You let me know how it works, now," she insisted. "The last one who tried it got himself killed, so I never found out how well it worked."
    "Which way to Tokyo?" Ryouga asked, looking around.
    "That way." The witch pointed a skinny finger towards the worn path. "Just take it down the mountain to the village, and follow the roadsigns."
    "Got it." Ryouga lifted the bottle in salute and offered a cocky grin. "With this and the new techniques I've been learning, I'll definitely beat Ranma this time. Then I'll come back and tell you how this miracle potion worked." With that, he strode off boldly into the woods.
    "Not that way, you idiot! Where are you going?"


    A week after receiving the challenge letter, Ranma made his way to the empty lot by the school. He stretched out under a tree and waited lazily for the arrival of his opponent.
    Two hours later, Ryouga finally staggered into the lot, looking exhausted and dirty. "Made it," he gasped, looking vastly relieved. "Why is Tokyo so far away??"
    "Baka," Ranma snorted, getting to his feet and dusting himself off. "Only a directionally-challenged numbskull like you would get lost going from the mountains to Tokyo. They're only a few hours away, you retard."
    "Shut up!" Ryouga snapped, scowling darkly at the other boy and wiping sweat from his forehead. "Are you ready to fight or not??"
    "Maybe you should get some rest first, Ryouga," Ranma offered mildly, doing some warm-up stretches. "You look kinda tired."
    "Don't try to run away from our fight," Ryouga growled, fishing in his pocket. "Besides, after this, I won't care if I'm tired or not."
    "Eh?" Ranma cocked his head curiously as Ryouga pulled out the small bottle and began to work the cap free. "What's that? Some kinda energy drink?"
    Ryouga smirked, finally managing to prise the cap free. "Something like that," he said mysteriously, and took a quick gulp. He made a face at the taste, but swallowed stubbornly. He quickly replaced the lid and tucked it safely back in his pocket before adopting a fighting stance. "All right, Ranma-- come at me! This time, you're going to lose."
    "Whatever you say," Ranma said, amused, and leapt forward.
    They had become accustomed to each others' fighting styles by now, and for the first few minutes neither of them landed a blow as they danced across the lot, dodging fists and feet and leaping nimbly out of the way while attempting to land their own hits.
    Then Ranma found an opening and dealt a swift roundhouse kick to the side of Ryouga's head. The dark-haired boy was sent crashing into a wall, knocking several bricks free.
    He rose slowly, shaking his head a bit dazedly. It had hurt, he realized in confusion. Why had he felt it?
    Maybe, he reassured himself as he blocked the next blow and managed to strike Ranma in the jaw, it took a little time to work. All he had to do was wait for the potion to get through his body.
    And it had better kick in soon, he added mentally as he followed Ranma onto the walltop and carried their fight down its edge and down the neighboorhood. He was already tired and sore from his long trek home, and after his grueling training in the mountains, his body was already beginning to protest the abuse.
    "Stop running away!" he shouted furiously as Ranma dodged a kick aimed at his stomach and jumped nimbly onto a backyard fence. The old lady watering her garden jumped, startled, and threw up her hands in surprise. The hose went flailing madly and--
    "Yoooww!!" Ranma howled, his voice noticably up by a few octaves. "That's cold!"
    Ryouga was already pouncing, raising a fist to catch Ranma while he was off guard. "Pay attention!"
    Ranma, who'd been frantically wiping the water from his-- now her --eyes, looked up hastily, eyes widening slightly as she saw the fist coming straight for her face.
    For just a moment, everything seemed to freeze to Ryouga. His eyes widened in horror as he saw what he was about to do to the startled looking young girl, clothes hanging baggy and wet on her body.
    He opened his fist and slammed it instead into her shoulder in a frantic last-minute move. Twisting his body, he managed to flip himself over her, and landed on the fence behind her. She staggered a little under his weight, and whirled to face him, face furious.
    "Damn it, Ryouga--"
    "Wait- I--" Ryouga stammered, feeling confused and a little frightened at the strange feelings rushing through him.
    She didn't wait for an explanation, but came at him, fists flying.
    Ryouga hastily blocked the blows, stepping backwards quickly. "Wait!" he shouted. "I don't want to hurt you--"
    "You wish!" Ranma shouted, leaping into the air. A second later Ryouga caught a face full of foot.
    Ranma landed lightly, staring in surprise as Ryouga toppled off the fence and lay wincing in the old woman's flower bushes. The hose, still lashing on the ground, came dangerously close, and Ryouga hastily scuttled away from it.
    "Hey, what d'ya think you're doing?" Ranma demanded impatiently, jumping into the garden and falling into a ready stance. "Why didn't you dodge that? You must be more tired than I thought."
    "I don't want to fight you," Ryouga protested, scrambling to his feet and holding his hands out in a "wait" gesture. I can't, I--" he hesitated, looking almost scared. "Just stay away!"
    "What the hell's gotten into you?" Ranma growled, stepping forward quickly and aiming a blow for his face. Ryouga ducked it swiftly, but didn't retaliate. Instead he stepped forward into Ranma's guard, reaching out and grabbing her.
    Ranma jerked back, expecting a headbutt, but Ryouga only yanked her forward. She gave an "oof" as she was crushed against his body, his arms pinning her to him. "Ryouga," she shouted, "what the hell are you--"
    "I love you!" Ryouga shouted, right in her ear.
    Ranma froze, eyes bulging, fingers claws in the air behind his back. "...What..did you say?" she finally demanded in a voice of ice.
    "I- I don't know why," Ryouga babbled. "Maybe I just- just never looked at you like that because--"
    "You think this is funny??" Ranma snarled, driving a foot into Ryouga's shin. Ryouga released her and hopped around painfully. "PERVERT!"
    Ryouga looked up just in time to meet the fist coming right at him.


    "Ranma, did you have to be so rough on him?" Akane demanded, glaring at her as she hovered protectively by Ryouga's head where he was stretched out on the dojo floor, a cold compress on his forehead. "He just came back, and you've already knocked him unconscious! Don't you think he went through enough during his training?"
    "Hey, he asked for it," Ranma snapped irritably, tilting the kettle she'd fetched from the kitchen over her head and letting the hot water pour down his neck and shoulders. He shook his head to get the water out of his hair. He set the kettle aside and scowled down at his unconscious opponent from where he was sitting crosslegged across from Akane. "That son of a..."
    "What did he do?" Akane asked, frowning at him. "You've been really upset ever since you came home."
    "Nothing," Ranma said shortly, avoiding her questioning eyes. He wasn't about to repeat that to her. He was still too furious to even think too much about it himself. "I think he hit his head on a rock or something while he was in the mountains."
    Kasumi came in with a bowl of cold water. "Here," she said, kneeling by Akane and setting the bowl down. Akane quickly soaked the compress in the water and made as if to put it across Ryouga's brow.
    "Um, don't you think you should squeeze that out some more?" Ranma asked hastily.
    "Why?" Akane demanded stubbornly.
    "You wanna drown him or help him? Just do it already."
    "Listen, Ranma--" Akane started angrily.
    Kasumi gently took the compress from her sister and squeezed out the excess water. "He's right, Akane," she soothed. "You don't want the water to get his eyes, do you?"
    Ranma gave himself a mental kick in the head. Why had he bothered to stop her? He didn't owe Ryouga any favors. Not after that stunt he'd pulled in the yard. It would serve the idiot right if Akane found out about her precious P-chan.
    Just then Ryouga stirred, face scrunching up in pain. After a moment he opened his eyes carefully and looked around at the faces hanging over him. "Akane," he said in surprise.
    She smiled down at him gratefully. "Feeling better, Ryouga? I'm sorry stupid Ranma was so rough on you."
    "Who's stupid?" Ranma growled.
    Akane stuck her tongue out at him.
    Ryouga's gaze shifted to Ranma, and his eyes narrowed. "What am I doing here?"
    Ranma glared daggers at him. "I punched your lights out, you ninny. You damn well deserved it. Or don't you remember?"
    Ryouga only stared up at him blankly.
    "Oh, dear," Kasumi murmured. "You must have hit him a little too hard."
    "Good," Ranma snorted. "Maybe I knocked some sense into him." He got to his feet.
    "Or you're just making it up," Akane suggested. "Ryouga didn't do anything to you at all, did he?"
    "The hell he didn't," Ranma started hotly, then caught himself. He let out a huff of air. "Never mind. But if it happens again, I'll do more than knock him out. I'll break his neck." He shuddered in memory of Ryouga's fervent words and crushing embrace.
    "Ranma!" Akane exclaimed.
    Ryouga sat up carefully, scowling up at him. "What the hell are you talking about?"
    "Don't act like you don't know," Ranma growled.
    "Don't you remember fighting with him?" Akane asked gently.
    Ryouga frowned, staring at his lap. "...A little," he said at last. "I remember a fight. I was pretty tired, though. I don't remember everything."
    "His brains are scrambled," Ranma noted, heading out.
    "You be quiet," Akane snapped. "I told you you were too rough on him!" She ignored the expression Ranma made at her and turned back to Ryouga with a sympathetic face. "You can rest here until you feel better. Your training must have been very intense."
    "Thank you," Ryouga said politely.
    Ranma hesitated in the doorway, frowning slightly at the other boy. Now that wasn't like the Ryouga he knew. Ranma had been expecting some kind of sobbing, sappy speech of gratitude from the love-sick young man at the offer of being in Akane's presence for a few more hours.
    Maybe he had hit the oaf a bit too hard.


    Akane talked Ryouga into staying for dinner that night.
    Throughout the meal, Ranma continued to give him dirty looks, but Ryouga ignored him. Whatever was bothering the other boy was probably something petty, and it didn't concern him. He was slowly collecting stray memories of that morning, piecing together the fight and trying to figure out how he'd managed to lose.
    By the end of dinner, Ranma's expression had shifted from deadly to blankly confused, but Ryouga hardly noticed. After dinner, Ranma cornered him by the pool in the front yard.
    "What the hell's wrong with you?" the braided boy demanded, hands on his hips. "You weren't tripping over your words around Akane-- you didn't even find an excuse to sit next to her or 'accidentally' bump her hand when serving the food or some sappy shit like that. I've never seen you pass up the chance to make an idiot out of yourself in front of her."
    Ryouga blinked at him in mild surprise. "I..." He frowned. "Wait. I do not make an idiot out of myself when--"
    "Whatever." Ranma waved a hand impatiently, leaning forward to peer at him suspiciously. "You've been acting weird all day. What the hell were you doing up there in the mountains?"
    Ryouga pushed Ranma out of the way and headed towards the porch. "Get out of my face, Ranma. You're the one who's been acting insane-- acting like I've done something to you."
    "You did, you moron!" Ranma hollered, getting in front of him again and glaring into his face. "What the hell was all that about this morning, you damn perv? Were you making fun of me? Think I can't still kick your ass when I'm a girl?"
    Ryouga scowled at him. "What the hell are you going on about?"
    "Good grief," Ranma exlaimed, throwing his arms up in expasperation. "You can't be that damn scatterbrained! I'm right, aren't I? You think I can't beat you as a girl."
    "I can beat you no matter what repulsive form you're in," Ryouga shot back.
    "Oh, so?" Ranma asked, arching his brows. He turned away and stomped right into the pool. Ryouga watched, puzzled.
    A moment later Ranma re-emerged from the water, swiping wet bangs back from her face and grinning in challenge. "Come on, then, hot shot," she taunted, stepping out of the pool and balling up her fists. "Let's finish this morning's fight. I'll prove to you I can beat you-- girl or no girl!"
    Ryouga simply stood staring at her dumbly, eyes wide. A flicker of horror-- and surprise --passed across his face, and Ranma hesitated. Was the dolt finally remembering what he'd done earlier? Or--
    Ryouga dove for her, and Ranma squawked, flailing frantically as she found herself caught in another strong embrace, unable to step back because of the pool.
    "Ranma, I--" Ryouga started to say.
    Ranma jerked her head up, clipping Ryouga neatly under the chin. Ryouga fell back, nursing his jaw and wincing.
    "Ohhhh no," Ranma said hastily, scuttling sideways nervously. "Don't you dare start that freaky crap again. This isn't funny."
    "Ryougaaa!" Akane appeared on the porch. "Phone call for you. Oh no." She glared accusingly from the wet girl to the stupefied looking boy. "Are you two fighting again?? Ranma, I told you to leave him alone! He needs his rest!"
    Ryouga hesitated, casting one last lingering glance towards Ranma, then headed slowly inside to get the phone.
    "He's completely lost his mind," Ranma hissed the moment he was gone. "He's acting like a lunatic!"
    "Don't be silly," Akane sighed. "He's just tired."

    Inside, Ryouga found the phone on the table and lifted the receiver to his mouth, still struggling in confusion with the strange feeling in his chest. "Moshi moshi."
    "Finally," a familiar, creaky voice gasped over the line. "Is this Habiki Ryouga?"
    "I'm glad I caught you. That potion-- don't take it!"
    Ryouga blinked, finally placing the voice. "Witch, what are you doing calling me?" he growled irritably.
    "That potion I gave you," the old witch cut him off. "It's the wrong one. Don't take it."
    Ryouga straightened, eyes narrowing. "Wrong one? What did you give me, old woman?"
    "It's a love potion," the witch said with an audible wince in her voice. "A potent one. It's supposed to make the user fall in love with the first member of the opposite sex he or she sees."
    Ryouga had a sudden flashback of the bracelet Happosai had once stolen that contained the three love pills. As if she'd read his thoughts, the hag continued, "It's been tried before, with enormous success in the past. My grandmother even made pills out of them, but they were lost somewhere in China a long time ago."
    "How could you give me that??" Ryouga shouted into the phone. "If I'd taken that--" He stopped abruptly as Akane's voice rose from the back yard. She and Ranma were bickering again. He hesitated, lowering the phone a little and gazing thoughtfully towards the doorway.
    If he could get Akane to take the potion... and then if he was the first man she saw, then...
    An old hope rose in him. Somehow, it wasn't as desperate and bright as before. As if the thought and the hope that came with it were more out of reflex. He shook it off. He was tired, he reminded himself. "Old woman," he interrupted the witch's nervous babbling. "How long do the effects last?"
    "Oh, uh..." she paused, thinking about it. "It depends on how much is ingested. A sip would probably last a day, perhaps just a few hours. More could last days, weeks, maybe longer. The whole bottle would last quite a bit longer."
    "How much longer?" Ryouga pressed.
    "Years," she answered firmly. "So I warn you, be very careful. If you decide you want to use it, you must be cautious about who is around you."
    "Right, right," he said impatiently. "I know all that." He hung up and stood staring bemusedly at the wall for a few minutes. Yes... it could work. It was a little underhanded, he admitted with a wince, but wouldn't it be worth it to have Akane for himself at last? To have her adore him as he did her?
    ...He did adore her, he found himself having to remind himself, and felt even more confused.
    "I'm telling you, he deserved it," came Ranma's angry voice. A moment later she and Akane came stomping into the house, glaring at each other. The redhead pointed an accusing finger Ryouga's way. "This jerk has gone all nutjob pervy on me!"
    "What on earth are you talking about?" Akane demanded. "You're just blaming Ryouga because you like to pick on him."
    Ranma sent Ryouga a dark scowl. She stomped over and got right in the startled lost boy's face. "Hug me again," she muttered under her breath, "and Akane's going to meet P-chan's alter ego, you get me?"
    The only thing that kept Ryouga from grabbing her out of reflex was shock. As she stomped away, Ryouga found himself staring blankly into space, an expression of horror on his face.
    Suddenly, he could remember with startling clarity everything that had occured that morning. Ranma's words had made something click. He remembered now.
    He had already taken the potion.
    And the first girl he'd laid eyes on had been....
    Ryouga's scream of horror rang through the house and down the street, waking the neighbors.

Author's Notes: The idea is silly, you say? Yes, well, remember which series we're dealing with here. Does anything make sense in Ranma 1/2? XD;

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