"You DO! You snore like a chainsaw!"

"You take that back, you lout! Shampoo darling, tell him how wrong he is."

"He tell truth, Mousse, I can hear you across city!"

"Will you jerks be quiet? I'M trying to get some sleep!"

"What you mean 'be quiet'? You snore louder than Mousse, Ukyou!"

"What did you say, you Chinese bimbo?"

Ranma tried to shut out the noise with as many pillows as he could find but it was no use. Really, why did the hospital staff have to stick ALL of them in the same room? Sure, Mr. Tendo and his dad were lucky enough to get placed in another ward, but that was because they were adults. So now it was almost midnight and these morons were yelling at each other in the dark. Ranma caught himself wondering if Akane was having as much trouble sleeping.

"Yo, Akane, you awake?" he whispered.

No answer. Ranma looked out from under his stack of pillows at the bed next to him and discovered it was empty. That's funny, where did she go? Sliding out of bed as silently as he could Ranma grabbed his crutches and hobbled across the room. Great, why couldn't the hospital keep the heaters on during the night, it was FREEZING! And the stupid hospital gown he had to wear wasn't keeping him warm, that much was for sure; in fact, the only part that WAS warm was that part of his leg engulfed in the cast.

Shampoo, Ukyou, Ryouga, and Mousse continued their arguments, fortunately staying loud enough to keep from hearing Ranma creep out of the room into the lit hall beyond. He wasn't in the mood to have a platoon of lame, bandaged-up invalids chasing him around the hospital grounds, especially since it would at least be a couple more weeks before any of them could leave. Ah, there she was, standing at the end of the pristine-white hall and staring out the open window into the twinkling night sky beyond. "Hey," he said as he limped over to her, "Isn't this place cold enough already? Close that thing, Akane!"

"In a little while," she calmly replied, keeping her gaze to the sky.

Darn her, she had been doing an excellent job of controlling her temper since this whole disaster started; Ranma felt as though he had lost some common ground they could speak on.

"So... uh... You get to leave this place tomorrow..." he coughed out, trying to get a conversation going.

"Yeah, I didn't take quite the beating the rest of you got. Daddy and Uncle Saotome get out tomorrow, as well."

"Jeeze, you barely stayed here a week! And I've got to spend who-knows-HOW-long here with the goof troop back there." To make his point Ranma thumbed back in the direction of his room, where the noisy conversation could still be heard.

"Mm-hmm," Akane smirked a little at this, and Ranma couldn't help but laugh a little himself.

"So what are you doing out here?"

"Just looking," she said, staring out at the starry nightscape. The moon had since set and the city lights were obscuring all but the brighter stars in the sky, not the best view of the night, but at least they were high enough up to get a good view of the pretty lights on the city floor. "I was wondering, Ranma, about when that thing gave you that claw as a trophy..."

"Why didn't I take it?"

"Yeah."

Ranma looked out the window to the stars above. "I'm not one of those things, Akane. They're just empty murderers, and I guess taking 'trophies' makes them think that somehow they're higher lifeforms or some other such crap. I don't need a trophy to tell me that I'm something - I know it, and my friends know it. That's all that counts."

"Wow, that's pretty deep coming from YOU, Ranma."

"Really? Yeah, I guess it IS," he said, beaming.

The two just stood there for a moment, unsure of where to go from there, when some more squabbling from down the hall jostled them enough for Ranma to talk. "Well, I guess I'd better get going before they notice I'm gone and try to hunt me down. G'night, Akane." Ranma began to hobble back down to his room.

It was so easy, Akane couldn't resist the temptation. "I'd better not catch you looking where you shouldn't! You know these hospital gowns have no backside, you pervert!"

For a second Ranma stopped and stared back at her, and Akane considered that perhaps she shouldn't have said that lest they begin arguing again. And then, to her surprise, Ranma smiled amusedly and continued his trek down the hall without response.

Akane couldn't help but release a sigh of relief. She had been trying so hard to control her temper over these past days, and now it looked like Ranma was willing to try the same.

Out of the corner of her eye Akane caught a glimpse of something arcing through the night sky and turned to look out the window. A falling star! Not as bright as the one she witnessed the night this whole thing started, but a falling star nonetheless. Akane began to think up a wish. And then stopped herself. No, she didn't have to make that wish, there was no need.

It had already come true.

THE END