"Of Life and Love": Start         Previous: Chapter 09       Next: Chapter 11

Revelations, Part One: "Of Life and Love"

Chapter Ten:

Later that night, they lay in the sleeping bags, curled around each other. Gently stroking with their hands while softly talking their thoughts. Talking about things they'd never talked about before. About life. About death. About friendship. And about love. There was a lot of talk of love. Tears were shed by both of them. And smiles came as well. They had both cared enough about each other to give their lives... but before, neither had really thought about their friendship and they certainly hadn't talked about it. It just wasn't something guys did or were expected to do. Now, for the first time in their young lives, they revealed to each other their inner-most ideas and expectations and some of the things that had hurt each other. Ranma talked about his dad's rough love and the way in which he sometimes pushed too hard. Ryoga talked about the friends he had made who had, one-by-one, scorned him and left him because of Ryoga's strangeness. Ranma shivered in Ryoga's arms as he haltingly told about the Cat-Fu Training. Ryoga wept as he told about times in those back-alleys that he would see things happen that he couldn't prevent - the only thing he could do was get beat up himself. They both recalled their Junior High days with amusement. Ranma's enthusiasm as he excitedly explained about his dreams of travel and learning nearly knocked Ryoga out of the sleeping bag from the extravagant gestures. Ryoga's quiet delight and love as he verbally illustrated the bond of his family held Ranma still as she thought about the future. And they both talked about Akane. The ways in which they both loved and admired her. And they found there were differences. Ranma loved Akane's fiery spirit and her stubbornness, the way she wasn't afraid of anything. Ryoga sighed over how gentle and caring she was, her bravery for facing her fears.

"She's not afraid of anything. Okay, sometimes she's worried about me..."

Ryoga rolled his eyes, "She's afraid of ghosts. She's afraid of losing you. She's afraid of being alone. She's a human being, Ranma - she's afraid of some things."

"Afraid of losing me???"

"To Shampoo or Ukyo."

"That's silly."

Ryoga kept quiet.

Ranma stared at the brown eyes, "Ryoga?"

"I... can't tell you everything. You'll have to ask her yourself." Ryoga sighed, "She talks a lot to P-chan. But... I can't tell you anything she's said."

"Certainly not," Ranma agreed. It had always been known by the two of them. Ryoga would never betray any confidence - knowing or unknowing. Anything Ranma told him was safe with him - and also anything Akane told him. Ryoga was so careful about it that this was actually the first time he'd ever told Ranma that Akane talked to P-chan, even though Ranma had always presumed it was so.

"Ryoga..." Ranma switched thoughts, "do you really hate your pig form that much?"

"Well..." Ryoga half-grinned, "around Akane, there are a few good things about it." His grin faded, "Anywhere else... there aren't many advantages in having an alternate form as a small edible runt pig that can't talk or use any tools, not to mention not being able to fight."

"You can too fight!"

"But you're not going to argue with the other two."

"Ahh... I've seen you boil a kettle of water when you needed it."

Ryoga looked tiredly at her, "Ranma... I'm willing to admit that your emotional trauma from the change was more than likely worse than mine. A girl's body when you're a guy..." Ryoga shook his head, "But more practically... you don't notice when you change. You never did. In the middle of a fight... somebody has to point it out to you. Your form is so nearly the same... And the others. Your dad has this big tough panda form that's not all that unlike his own. Mousse has his hidden weapons that he can use even as a duck. And even though she only uses it to scare you, I think Shampoo can do a hell of a lot more with her form than she's let on." He shook his head again, "But a runt pig?? It's useless. And utterly worthless." But Akane likes it... she likes P-chan. She does.

Ranma closed her mouth. And thought. About what Ryoga had said and what he hadn't. About the way Ranma always reacted to the pig as Ryoga. Even as Ryoga reacted to Ranma always as Ranma. But around others, Ryoga seemed to almost change personalities while in the pig form. Damn... he really does think it's worthless. "Ryoga-love, we were training before... before..." with an effort, Ranma tore her thoughts off of the time trapped under the tree, "we were training using alternate forms. I think we should keep doing that. You... don't have enough confidence in the pig."

"Like I should?" Ryoga snorted.

"Yes. You should - form doesn't matter. It's what's inside that counts." Ranma stared at him defiantly.

And Ryoga couldn't very well say anything against that. So he didn't. Instead, he took Ranma in his arms and showed her the love in his heart. And Ranma showed him hers.

 

Wake! Wake! The robins are singing in our branches! Wake and live! The morning is here! Hear the birds welcome us out of our slumber. Be joyous with us!

"Damn apple trees." Ryoga groaned and buried his head into Ranma's hair. "How can they possibly be so cheerful in the morning?" The pine trees agreed with him. But the oaks were quietly amused.

In his arms, Ranma murmured sleepily and twisted around.

And her body pressed into his... Ryoga was awake and suddenly so was another part of his body. He looked at the form of his love and his heart thumped loudly in his chest. He kissed her cute little nose gently. Then started to kiss other parts of her face. Lightly, gently, with his love. Her body... Ryoga ran his hands over her side, down her flank, resting on her hip before moving down to her thigh. In her sleep, Ranma moaned and called his name. She arched into him, her arms going around him and then her eyes opened, blinking as she looked at him.

"Ryoga," Ranma whispered his name, staring into the beautiful brown eyes. He's alive. And he loves me. She kissed him. "Good morning," she whispered as she pulled slightly back, her eyes lighting in anticipation as she felt Ryoga's readiness.

"Good morning," Ryoga grinned at her, "How would you like breakfast this morning?"

"Have any more vegetable oil in that pack of yours?"

"Ummm," Ryoga raised his head briefly to look at his pack in the corner of the tent. "We'll pretend." And he lowered his mouth to her, licking and tasting his way over her face and neck and down.

Ranma sighed and moaned for the feelings. And she did her own share of exploration on Ryoga, who cried out his own joy and contentment at her touch. They both explored and tasted and liberated each other of all the pretend vegetable oil on their bodies, tongues and hands and bodies continuously in movement until their breakfast was complete.

 

"Ohhh..." Ranma lay on her back, body flat, legs spread apart, one hand resting on her chest, the other holding Ryoga's.

Ryoga was lying next to her in near identical pose, his eyes wide as he stared at the tent roof in awe, "You can say that for me too."

"Sex is wonderful," Ranma sighed.

Ryoga rolled to his side and looked her body over carefully, "You are wonderful."

"Of course," Ranma said smugly. "Oh..." she traced her hand over her body, "This is so amazing."

Ryoga growled lightly and then joined her hand, revisiting the happy places on her. 

Ranma moaned, "Oh, Ryoga, love... Stop that, please..." It seemed there was such a thing as too much pleasure.

"You started it," Ryoga protested, drawing back.

"I know that... And now my body feels lonely without your touch..." Ranma glanced to Ryoga, now sitting next to her. And she grinned, "Okay, you're right - I'm insatiable. For you." And she reached her hands up to him. And he leaned down to her.

 

"Pancakes?" Ranma dried his hair with a towel as he curiously watched Ryoga. "It looks like okonomiyaki."

"It's a lot like it, but with fewer ingredients - mostly just the flour." Ryoga flipped the last one out of the pan onto a plate. Then he glanced up at Ranma curiously, "How do you do that?"

"Huh?" Ranma tied off the end of his braid.

"Your hair - how do you get that weave pattern in it?"

Ranma blinked. And sat down next to Ryoga, taking up a pancake and munching on it. "It's called 'braiding' and it's not that hard..." He put down the pancake and untied his hair, brushing it loose. "Here..." Slowly, he braided it again. Ryoga's hands followed his. Ranma's breathing deepened at the feel of Ryoga's hands tracing his. He shook out his hair again, "Now you try..."

Ryoga ran his hands through Ranma's hair, fascinated with the length and softness. Slowly, he tried to replicate Ranma's skillful braid. His didn't come out quite as neat. He brushed out Ranma's hair and tried again.

Oh, this feels so wonderful... Ranma sighed as his eyes closed in complete and utter bliss. Ryoga's hands in his hair... Ryoga, loving him... Ranma blinked and took up his pancake again as Ryoga practiced.

Ryoga finally got one that looked like Ranma's smooth braid and tied it off. Then he looked over... "Hey!"

Ranma blinked, "Huh?"

"You ate all the pancakes!"

"You mean they weren't all for me?"

Ryoga growled. And then started making some more.

Ranma watched him for long moments. "Ryoga..." Ranma's voice was hesitant. Ryoga blinked and looked at him in puzzlement. Ranma sighed, "Ryoga - why won't you fight with me anymore?"

"Huh?" Ryoga sat back on his heels.

"The pancakes... Why didn't you fight me over them?"

Oh... Ryoga glanced from the pan on the fire to Ranma, "You were asking to spar."

"Well, yeah... That's what we always do - you didn't recognize it?"

With a sigh, Ryoga flipped the pancake before sitting back again. "I don't... I don't know. No, I didn't realize what you were asking."

Ranma also sat back and watched Ryoga, narrowing his eyes as he studied him. "You really have lost your anger."

Ryoga blinked. "Excuse me?" Didn't we go through this yesterday?

"I hadn't realized... Or I guess I did, but... it's like yesterday. When you couldn't get angry at me." A tear slipped out of the edge of Ranma's eye, "Ryoga - you really had hated me. Before. When you fought me. I thought... I thought we were just playing. Like always. But... But now you've lost all that anger and you can't fight me. That means you meant it. You really... didn't like me." But that wasn't right either - Ranma could remember the times they'd spent together, the talks they'd have, all the spars - the spars weren't at all serious like the challenges. The challenges... Ryoga meant them. He really did... He didn't like me...

"Ah Geez..." Ryoga wrapped his arms around Ranma and let the pancake burn. "It doesn't matter anymore, Ranma. It doesn't."

"But..." Ranma leaned his body on his friend's, absorbing the trust and the care even as he tried to figure it out. "But you were my friend. The challenges... The Breaking Point. The Ice Skating. You challenged... but you were my friend, helping me. And I'm sure there were others. You were always there when I needed you. Always. I trusted you. I could always trust you. I did. I considered you to be my friend. You were my friend. But... you hated me? How could you be my friend and hate me at the same time?"

Ryoga held Ranma and tried to figure that one out himself. Or rather, how to tell Ranma about the pain... No. He wasn't going to tell him that. It didn't matter anymore, and he wasn't going to hurt Ranma. But he had to tell him part of it. Yesterday he'd told about himself, though he hadn't gotten around to... Ryoga bit his lip and wrenched his thoughts away. Today, Ranma wanted to know about himself. So... "I had always liked and admired you, Ranma - our fights in Junior High... were fun. I could train off you, like I never could anyone else. But after... Jusenkyo, all I could think of was revenge. The overwhelming anger... And I knew it was wrong to think like that. So I didn't think. I spent a lot of time not thinking. Just looking for you. Looking for my friend again. But I wasn't going to admit to myself that you were my friend still. Still and always." I didn't want the pain again. "So I fought you. Knowing I couldn't hurt you. And hid my feelings from myself. It was never you, Ranma - it was always me. I... can't explain it." 'Won't'. "But I don't have that excuse for myself anymore since I know how much you care for me. And... It's not that I won't spar with you - it's just that I didn't realize that's what you were asking. I like sparring with you. I'll gladly spar with you. I just didn't realize..."

Ranma sat back again, his tears having dried while listening to Ryoga. And he knew that Ryoga had told what he recognized as the truth, if not all of it, but Ranma had seen what his friend could not. Even before... On the Dragon Ascension training... Ryoga had to trick himself into fighting me because he couldn't while I was weak. Even in the beginning... What Ryoga had just said, buried amongst the rest, was the real truth: 'Knowing I couldn't hurt you.' He won't fight me now - because now he's hurt me where he never had before. "No. It's not that. Just now, it's not that you didn't see the spar - you started to react. But then you buried it down. You don't want to hurt me. You're afraid of hurting me."

I am? Ryoga looked Ranma over, his heart melting as he looked at the slender youth with the smooth black hair he'd been playing with, the large wide sky-blue eyes, the grace in his moves... and he realized that Ranma was right, "I... am. I don't want to see you hurt. Ever again. Especially not by me."

"Ryoga," Ranma leaned into him again, resting his body and his self on Ryoga, "You can't. I know how much you care. I have your promise. And you can't ever hurt me. Ever."

Ryoga raised one dark eyebrow in doubt, but Ranma didn't see it. "Say," Ryoga changed the subject, "What are you doing in that form?"

"Haven't I recovered yet?"

"Well..." Ryoga looked him over, "I think so - but I'd have to check in your other form."

"You spent an hour doing a massage on me this morning... Didn't you even notice?"

"Okay. Fine. You're still a bit sore, but I guess the basic problem is about healed."

"You just want to see me in my girl form."

"I just want to see you well."

Ranma stood up, "Ryoga... you were suppose to fight me on that one. Not turn it serious." Though... that was too close to me. Ryoga was responding to yesterday's fears. I've got to be more careful in my teasing. Ranma sighed. It would take some time before they could again easily slide into their prodding insults. They were both afraid of hurting their other self. "Come on. Stand up and let's spar. We'll work on the katas again."

"Ranma..." Ryoga whispered his name as he stared longingly at his friend. Then he sighed and joined him.

 

As they moved, Ranma studied Ryoga. His friend had caught on very quickly to the actual moves of the katas. The slow part he had problems with. But Ryoga was doing well enough with the katas. And himself? Ranma could feel his body telling him that he was ready. Recovered. Could do anything again. Physically. Internally, Ranma wasn't quite sure. He still needed Ryoga so badly... And Ryoga was staying with him. But now that Ranma was getting better, Ryoga's strength was starting to slip. Admittedly, that was mostly because Ranma was starting to poke and pry, trying to get to Ryoga's pain. But Ryoga wouldn't let him all the way in. No real surprise considering how closely Ryoga guarded his pain. He was always open for more pain, with his 'heart of glass,' but he rarely let any go. Ranma was fairly satisfied with the parts he had pulled out - it would take time. But he wanted his sparring partner back... The sex was wonderful. The sex was astounding. And brought them so close as friends. Lovers. But... Ranma still wanted his friend as his partner, not just a lover. Ryoga was the only person Ranma had ever been able to trust in a full-out spar - trust that he wouldn't accidentally hurt, trust to not worry about him. But now Ryoga worried... for good reason. And Ranma was a bit hesitant himself. So... slowly, they would rebuild their trust.

Ranma moved closer to Ryoga in his set of katas. And then stepped in. Ryoga didn't outwardly react, continuing the kata now as a ----, with a partner, but still in prescribed moves. Ranma grinned. And they continued. Together.

 

While Ryoga got lunch ready, Ranma went back to the pool that Ryoga had found. It was wide enough that she could swim some laps albeit short ones, and deep enough that she could dive from the branches. As long as she remembered to pull up after she hit. She cavorted in the cold water and reveled in her body's grace and smoothness. It hadn't been fun feeling that soreness. And less fun remembering how she'd gotten it. Ranma swam harder, faster, driving her body away from the pain in her mind.

"Ranma... I'm here," Ryoga's soft voice carried over the water.

Not breaking her rhythm, Ranma smoothed out her strokes, reaching out with her ki to touch Ryoga. My love. He is here. He is alive. Eventually she came out of the pool. Ryoga handed her a towel and smiled gently. Ranma looked at him... and at the worry in his eyes, "Sorry. Didn't mean to pull you away." She held the towel in one hand, not bothering to wrap it around herself.

"Whenever you need me, my love. I'll always come." Ryoga stepped forward to kiss her, Ranma's wet body pressed against his... and her wet hair dripping on him... And then Ranma wasn't holding him anymore and Ryoga was looking up at her... "Bwee," Ryoga grumbled. Then trotted off to a hot spring.

Ranma fought to hold back her giggles. And couldn't. She fell down on the rock next to the pool, howling with laughter.

"It wasn't that funny," Ryoga stood over her, mock-scowling.

"Yes it was..." Ranma giggled, "The look on your face... I wish I'd seen that from another angle!" She rolled, laughing.

"Alright, you..." Ryoga pounced, tickling her. Her laughter changed to high-pitched shrieks as she first tried to evade him, and then his giggles joined hers as she challenged him proper.

Later, Ranma sat on Ryoga's lap at their camp as she ate her rice. And was satisfied. That was close to a spar. Somewhere between a spar and sex. Ryoga's arm was around her waist as he ate his own food. Her back against his chest... It felt right, being with him. It felt comfortable. And they were getting more comfortable with each other. More tickle-fights? Ranma grinned.

"What? I can feel you thinking something devious," Ryoga put down his rice to ruffle her hair. Then he leaned over her and breathed in the scent of her hair. "Ahh..."

Ranma stopped eating to revel in the feel of his hands and his attention. Ryoga loves me.

They snuggled for awhile before going back to their food.

"Do you notice, Ryoga, we're not quite as rabid as we were."

"Rabid?" Ryoga checked her mouth for foam.

Ranma giggled, "I meant... We aren't living, breathing, and eating sex every time we turn around."

"You mean we aren't eating each other. We can remedy that..."

The food got put to one side. And the thoughts as well.

 

"Ummm... That was better than lunch."

Ryoga levered himself over Ranma and ran a hand down her chest, resting on her abdomen, "That isn't your stomach I feel growling, is it?"

"No, actually, I think it's a different organ." Ranma reached up to him again. "I think I spoke too soon earlier."

Ryoga laughed as he leaned down to kiss her. When he pulled back, he held her down with a finger on her nose as he looked into her eyes, "My sweet, wonderful Ranma. I think you are absolutely incredible. There is no finer person on the face of this earth, and there is no finer gift than the one you give me."

"My love..." Ranma's eyes leaked happy tears as she smiled up at him. "I love hearing you say that to me. I love you so much. So very, very much." She ran her hand from his finger on her nose up to his shoulder, and she gently tugged him down. And he came to her. And they loved each other with the feelings in their hearts. Neither of them lonely anymore, having each other in their hearts.

 

Ryoga stood in the clearing and deliberately opened himself up, feeling the connection with the trees. I like this. They have a calmness, an acceptance of life that I've never seen before. Ryoga had always defied life, fought with it, struggled to protect it for others - but had never just sat back and lived it. These trees...

The sun is warm. Warm and delightful. Tastes good, tastes nice. Nutritious and sustaining. And joyful. Reach up to the sun. Reach up and let it in. Drink the sun. Live. Grow. Grow strong and tall. Reach up to the sun.

Ryoga stretched, raising his hands, palms up to the sun while smiling at the trees across from the camp. They're such fun. They just like life. I think the old oak was a bit unusual in its curiosity. These trees... are just living. What an odd concept. They were right, though, the sun did feel good! Ryoga closed his eyes and watched the energy from the sun spiral in the air and down. Down to the ground, into the ground. The energy patterns changed shape and became Earth, not Air. Just as complex and interesting. But different and fascinating.

A more solid form of light and joy walked up beside him, and Ryoga grinned, "Ranma - did you know you're mostly Air? What charming patterns." He opened his eyes and held both views in his mind, that of the energy ki and that of the physical being.

Ranma cocked his head to one side, studying Ryoga. Then she shook her head, "I can't tell the difference - you're you. The energy pattern... is familiar. But I can't see a pattern for Air alone." She wrinkled her nose at herself, "It damn well ought to be familiar after all I went through to shape it!" Her heart clenched inside as she struggled...

"Oops," Ryoga put an arm around her, "Sorry."

"It was a casual comment - you don't have to watch every word you speak," Ranma laid her head on his chest and reveled in his aliveness and his care. "Ah, Ryoga... I love you so."

And I love you so very much... Ryoga put his head down on hers and breathed in her scent, delighting in the way her ki's energy was floating around him and wrapping him close. But maybe a little too close... Ryoga gently pushed a bit until he could also feel everything else around him. If Ranma keeps me that wrapped up, I'll never be able to sense danger.

Ranma blinked and moved back from Ryoga, "What on earth did you just do?"

"Huh?"

"I just felt... I haven't the foggiest what I just felt - but it was something you did." Ranma studied his friend, "And you look... More normal."

"More normal?" Ryoga blinked, in surprise and with a touch of indignation, "What the heck do you mean by that? What have I been, if I haven't been normal? And what's normal?" And... "Are you talking about me, or my ki?"

"Normal..." Ranma took another step back and centered himself before looking again. "I guess I'm talking about your ki awareness." He studied Ryoga curiously, "Are you always this alert? I guess you are if I thought it was normal." Blinking, Ranma took his vision off the ki patterns, "But how do you do it so casually? I usually have to think about centering unless I'm fighting - then it's automatic. But you... you're sort-of half-centered right now. And maintaining it."

Ryoga cocked his head to one side and studied his friend, "Didn't your dad ever teach you danger awareness? You do have it - often you've sensed things before I have. But then again, the way you sleep..." Too deep for real awareness. "Huh," Ryoga grinned, "Something I've been trained in that you haven't." Of course, it's primarily a survival tool. Ranma... has always been protected by his dad. Trained, but very protected. Otherwise he wouldn't be so automatically trusting to everybody he meets.

Ranma rolled his eyes, "Just show me, okay?"

If I train him... Will I destroy some of that natural trust? But if he's to survive... Right now, he reacts on instinct to threats. But with his level of Martial Arts... he needs to know what a threat is and isn't. He's young. And so very innocent in his own way. Can I train him and not hurt his trust? "Oh," Ryoga breathed out, "That's why your dad didn't teach you!" He couldn't. Not and be able to keep Ranma's trust and innocence and delight in the world alive. His dad knows too much of the world. Ryoga thought about that for a moment, do I?

"What? Why?" There was a long pause. Ranma tapped his foot, "Ryoga..."

Ryoga shook his head, "Never mind. Yes, I'll train you." He grinned, "You train me to make the physical instinctive, and I'll train you to be aware of the ki patterns. It works."

 


 Notes to Chapter 10:

- Akane's fears... somebody brought up 'water' as a fear since she can swim. But really, I don't think she's afraid. In everything we've seen, she's actually remarkably calm around water considering how many times we've seen her nearly get drowned. I know some people who can't swim, and most of the time, they don't have a fear of water itself. (Sometimes they do...) Anyhow, I don't think Akane does.

- Ranma moved closer to Ryoga in his set of katas. And then stepped in. Ryoga didn't outwardly react, continuing the kata now as a --------, with a partner, but still in prescribed moves.

Okay... there's a word for this. I know there is... I just can't smegging find it!!! {sigh} What's going on here... I guess I better explain katas first. Katas are Martial Arts practice forms, mostly used in Karate, where one person goes through a proscribed set of blocks and attacks in a continuous rhythm. The basic idea is as if there is someone or several someones attacking you, and you are defending and retaliating. Generally katas are done singly or in groups with all on the mat doing the same motions in sync. Very rarely is the meaning behind a kata acted out, where somebody else is actually doing the attacking. But it is done occasionally, and this is what is happening here. Ryoga is doing a kata... and Ranma stepped in to do the attacks that the kata is reacting against. It's rather difficult to do.

- There are two times in this story when Ranma embraces Ryoga after having been in water. The first time, nothing happens, the second, Ryoga gets changed into the pig. That wasn't a continuity error it just didn't fit in with explaining it in the story. The first time, Ranma had changed with only luke-warm water and had jumped rather quickly in and out. So her skin temperature warmed up the water on her and her hair (previously rinsed in the hot water) didn't keep the cold water in. (Okay, the skin didn't warm the water to tea-temperature, which is apparently the temp needed to change them... but I figure there's a few degrees of flexibility in that otherwise they'd change every time they got sweaty and then cooled off.) The second time, the pool was very cold and Ranma had been swimming in it for awhile. So when she got out, the water on her was still cold and her hair was dripping the cold water directly onto Ryoga. ... Okay, fine I wrote them that way for story convenience. ;-)

- Ranma cocked his head to one side, studying Ryoga. Then she shook her head, "I can't tell the difference -- you're you. The energy pattern... is familiar. But I can't see a pattern for Air alone."

Okay -- Ranma's being obtuse here. He can't see a pattern for Air, because *Ryoga* is *earth*. Ranma's Air. But Ranma was too focused on Ryoga's words to see the meaning. 

"Of Life and Love": Start         Previous: Chapter 09       Next: Chapter 11