Revelations, Part One: "Of Life and Love" Chapter 12 / Epilog:
Chapter 12 / Epilog:
The days went by. Some fast, some slow. But they still passed on.
Ryoga stood at the edge of the cliff and looked out over the canyon and the valley. Looked out over the land he'd come to know so well. And love. This little area, in a spot he couldn't put on a map; this place was where he'd found out Ranma loved him. It was still a wondrous thought. He believed it - he just didn't know how it had happened. To him, Ryoga Hibiki. Always lost, always alone. And then loved by Ranma, the person he admired most in the world.
And the person who was sneaking up on him this moment. Ryoga allowed himself a grin, but there wasn't to be any sparring today. When Ranma had gotten close, Ryoga said, "It's time for you to be going back home."
"Damn it, Ryoga - can't I ever sneak up on you?" Ranma moved up beside his friend.
Ryoga continued to stare at the canyon, yet he saw his friend in his mind's eyes. Ranma, trim and strong. His slight, slender form hid the powerful muscles that wove their way throughout his body. Grace in every move he made, on the ground he looked like he was walking on air. Head up as he looked around, shoulders back, relaxed and easy - the very picture of confidence and charm. His beautiful face with the coal black hair falling over his forehead. Ranma, I love you so much. You've always been my hero, and now you're even more.
Ranma slipped his arm around Ryoga's waist as his friend continued to stand there quietly. And then Ryoga's words finally penetrated. "What do you mean, it's time for me to go home?"
"Akane is worried."
Akane... Her name filled Ranma with a variety of emotions. Mostly, an overwhelming love. Now that he knew what love was... he knew that he loved Akane, and wanted her, and that the engagement arranged by their parents was what he wanted in reality as well. And that he wanted to tell her that. He needed to tell her that he loved her. "She's worried? About what?"
Ryoga finally turned slightly to look at his friend, "About you, you silly. We're overdue to be back from the training session, and we're not back, so she's worried about you."
Ranma blinked as he started counting the days that had passed, and he had to give it up - the time had been both forever and a moment. "We're late?"
"By only a few days," Ryoga grinned, "It's just that Akane worries about you so."
"Ryoga," Ranma looked up at his friend, "how can you possibly know that?"
Ryoga looked out across the valley again, his face stilling as he reached his center and felt the call. It wasn't a call for him. But because it was for Ranma, it meant that he also would have to leave the valley. Leave this wonderful place. Leave the memories. Being here, without Ranma, would be meaningless. "Same way I always do. It's time to go, and I can feel it. You need to go back to Akane now."
"That's the second time you've said 'you' - what about you, Ryoga-love, aren't you coming too?"
Putting his arm around Ranma's shoulders, Ryoga wished that he could. How he wished it. But... "I'll take you home, but then I have to go again."
"Ranma, we've been over this before. We can't tell Akane - I don't want to see pain on her face if she thinks you don't love her."
"But that doesn't mean you can't come home." Even as he argued it, Ranma knew he was on the losing side. They had talked about it before. Ryoga laying out the reasons, Ranma protesting but seeing the logic all the same. The problem was how much they cared for Akane. Neither one of them wanted to hurt her. And Ryoga insisted that Akane loved Ranma. Ranma wasn't so sure but it was something he wanted to believe. And so Ryoga was giving up his pursuit of Akane. If Ranma would finally tell her he loved her, Ryoga would stay back - so that Akane could be happy. But what about you, Ryoga?
"I can't do that, Ranma. I can't be with you and see you with Akane... I might be able to stay around as P-chan, but how long is that going to last? I'll come back - I promise I will. But while you and Akane are settling things between you... I can't. I'll come back in a month or so."
The thought of being without Ryoga... Ranma wasn't so skittish anymore. Not like at the beginning of the week when he couldn't stand for Ryoga to be even just outside the tent. Ranma was healed, and he felt secure in his soul that Ryoga was his and would always come back to him. It didn't matter anymore how far away Ryoga would be; Ranma knew that in their hearts they were together. But Ryoga himself was another problem. Even as they stood there together, Ranma could feel Ryoga's withdrawal, his retreat into his loneliness and solitude. Ryoga, without Ranma, would be very alone. No matter how much he said he wouldn't be. Ranma knew that Ryoga knew that Ranma loved him... but it wasn't enough. Not for this moment when they were going to separate for the first time since they realized their love. And Ranma loved Ryoga so... "Come with me. Come with me, Ryoga. The hell with what the family would think. I'm not ashamed of you or what we have. We don't need to hide it." And you don't need to be alone.
Ryoga's mouth twitched up, hearing the care within Ranma's voice. Looking out for me, now, Ranma? I appreciate the thought. "It's not about shame. It's about hurting Akane."
And Ranma was silent.
That reminded Ryoga, "Ranma. When the others ask about what happened to you-"
"They're going to notice a difference, Ranma. You're more self-assured than you were. And you're going to tell Akane that you love her. They're going to wonder why. They're going to wonder what changed. And you can't just tell them nothing."
"They wouldn't believe that." Ranma could see the point, "But I can't tell them about us. Not if Akane..." would turn from me in hurt and shame. I can't do that to Akane.
"No," Ryoga had thought about it already, "You'll just tell them what happened to me."
Ranma blinked, "That you died?" Slowly, he nodded. That would do. That was the real reason for the change after all. He had come to know how much he cared for others by losing Ryoga. And then he'd gotten him back again. And the world was better than it had been.
"Well..." Ryoga wasn't so sure about it, "How about just that I nearly died?"
"Ryoga - are you wussing about that again?"
"No!" Ryoga still didn't like the fact that he'd died, but he'd come to accept it. More or less. "If Akane finds out I actually died... I don't know what she'd do. And the others would try and press you for more and more details. But if you just say that I almost died - that's enough."
Again, Ranma nodded. He wasn't totally sure that he would have had the same changes... but the family didn't need to know that. They would accept it. Accept that Ranma had had a glimpse of how quickly things could change. And once he and Akane were together, then they wouldn't care. They won't care that Ryoga died... almost died. They'll only care about the changes in me. For a moment, Ranma hated his family and what he knew would be their indifference to Ryoga. They'll say, 'oh, but he's all right now, isn't he?' and I'll have to say 'yes'. But I care. I care very much. Ranma pulled Ryoga away from the cliff edge so that he could put his arms around his friend and hold him tight.
Ryoga closed his eyes for the strength of love in Ranma's embrace. The world is a wonderful place. This elemental of joy and delight - loves me. He slipped his arms down Ranma's back.
Ranma lifted his head and smiled, "We don't have to go right this moment, do we?"
"No," Ryoga's heart thumped within his chest as he stared into Ranma's beautiful blue eyes, "No, not right this moment."
Notes to Epilog: