NONE OF THESE CHARACTERS BELONG TO ME! I'D LOVE TO CLAIM THEM, BUT THEN I'D BE A NICE EASY TARGET FOR A LOT OF REALLY NASTY LEGAL ACTION. THAT'S NOT SOMETHING I WANT TO ENDURE, SO KINDLY DO ME A FAVOR AND KEEP IN MIND THAT THE ORIGINAL CREATOR OF ALL OF THESE CHARACTERS IS RUMIKO TAKAHASHI, A VERY TALENTED JAPANESE LADY. THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST BORING DISCLAIMER I'VE WRITTEN SO FAR. SORRY ABOUT THAT, BUT IT'S TOUGH TO THINK OF FUNNY STUFF WHEN YOU HAVE A HORDE OF RABID, SEMI-TRAINED WEASELS STARING HUNGRILY AT YOU IN CASE YOU FORGET TO PUT THIS DISCLAIMER IN.

Ukyo and Akane

Chapter two

A Fanfiction work by

FrictionX42

Akane left school late that day. Listlessly wandering the streets, She found herself in the park. Noticing a park bench nearby, she sat to rest for a few minutes. As she sat, she watched the people that walked past her. Most were students, returning home after whatever extracurricular activities that they practiced. For some, Akane noted, the 'extracurricular activities' were just beginning. As minutes ticked by and became hours, dark storm clouds began gathering over Nerima. Akane noticed far more couples walking through the park. Most of them were walking closely, some even holding hands.

"Hey, let's go in here…" Came a girl's voice, "Hardly anyone comes in here after dark." Her tone was so suggestive that Akane didn't need any further hints as to what the girl's intentions were. Akane spun around to watch as a girl clad in her school uniform led a young man, also in school uniform, into the park's maze area. Akane dully noted that they were Furinken High School uniforms and that the two were from her class. I bet Nabiki would love to know that this was going on… Akane thought to herself as she gazed at the two teenagers enter the green labyrinth. As she watched, a memory gelled in her mind, prompted by the maze and her thoughts of her sister's similar webs of intrigue and deceit.

"He said to be ready at two, Akane." Be ready, hah! How was I supposed to be ready for that day! That was the day he first said- said…

"I LOVE YOU!" was all the warning Akane received as two hands shot out of the foliage from behind her and grabbed her around the waist.

[Drip, drip] Akane just stared as Ranma crawled the rest of the way out of the bushes and stood in front of her, his face as red as his hair when he was a girl. [Drop] she gaped in disbelief as he offered her a bouquet of flowers.

"Want?" he smiled at her. [Drip] she accepted, losing herself in those bright blue eyes…

[Drop, drop] "Huh?" Akane blinked as two huge teardrops fell from her eyes. "Why on earth did I think of that just now? And why on earth am I crying? That day was so- so- so…" Akane trailed off, unable to describe it, even to herself.

[Dripdropdripdripdrop…] Akane found herself soaked through very quickly by the sudden downpour. Well, at least now it doesn't look like I've been crying. She stood and slowly began walking towards the exit to the park. The two teens from before quickly scampered out of the garden maze, in various states of d(ist)ress. (Choose whichever you want. Pervert.) Akane's path home took her through the restaurant section of town. As she slowly meandered towards home, she passed by Ucchan's Okonomiyaki, where she had eaten many a well-prepared meal in relative calm. Ucchan's sounded far from calm this evening, however.

"… BASTARD!…IT!...THROUGH...TOO FAR… HOW DARE THAT INDIGNANT JACKASS THINK HE CAN GO AND LEAVE ME BEHIND AGAIN? NEXT TIME HE GIVES ME THAT ARROGANT SMILE I'M GOING TO SHOVE IT RIGHT UP HIS-"

Akane left at that point, but pondered what she had heard as she completed the walk home. Maybe…

"I FORGOT TO SET MY ALARM!" Ukyo shot out of bed at speeds approached only by bullets, some modern aircraft, and Ranma after telling Akane about her cooking. Dressing furiously, Ukyo kept a close eye on her clock. If she really hustled this morning, she might make it. "OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD I don't want to be late for my first day back to school!" Ukyo finished packing and ran out of the door to her restaurant towards school. The bell sounded just as she cleared the gate. I might still be able to make it…

Akane felt a little better the next day, and arrived at school with an edge of excitement. She had determined the night before to talk to Ukyo, deciding that maybe she could probably use a little company. Not to mention that I could use some company, too. Akane looked up from her desk and glanced over at the desk that Ukyo used to sit at. It had been empty since the day that Ranma disap-. Akane clamped her eyes shut at the tears that were beginning to form.

The bell rang, and the remaining students reluctantly filed into the room and to their seats. Ukyo, Akane was not surprised to note, was not one of them. Well, I'm going to her restaurant for lunch today anyways, Akane reasoned, so I'll still get to talk to her.

As her instructor entered the room, Akane heard a faint 'whoosh' noise. She was used to hearing those sounds, and after bowing good morning to her instructor, turned and was not overly surprised to see Ukyo settle down to her seat along with the rest of the students. I hope she doesn't blame me for Ranma leaving…She and Ukyo made brief eye contact as Akane sat, and she felt the old tension begin to rise. Akane unconsciously broke eye contact and looked at the floor, the caught herself. "Oh no you don't, don't you dare chicken out." Akane whispered to herself, and steeled herself to make eye contact again. She looked up, but Ukyo had her attention on the instructor. Akane continued to stare. There looks like there's something different about her, Akane thought. She looks thinner than I remember… Akane was brought out of her thoughts by a piece of chalk expertly aimed so that it struck her right in the forehead.

"Tendo Akane, if you cannot even pay attention during roll, then you can go stand in the hall!"

Blushing bright red, Akane stood and left the room amidst the giggles of her classmates.

Why was she staring at me like that? Ukyo contemplated as she watched Akane leave the room. Maybe she blames me for… I'll ask her later, now's not the time. Ukyo turned her attention back to the front of the room, just as the teacher called her name.

"Not that I expect an answer this time, but… Kuonji Ukyo." He droned.

"Present!" Ukyo called brightly.

"Absent agai- 'Present?'" The instructor peeked over his roll sheet. "Oh yes. You popped in just after I did. Don't think that just because you've returned you can overlook proper punctuality, young lady. Go join Tendo Akane in the hall!"

"Yes, sir…" Ukyo mumbled automatically. She stood and trudged to the door. Well, I guess I can ask her sooner than I thought.

The two of them stood in the hall; pointedly staring at the buckets of water they held. They hadn't yet washed the floor, as they were uncertain how to work with each other. Finally, after several minutes had passed, they turned to each other and spoke.

"Akane, I-"

"Ukyo, you-" Then the two of them together:

"You go first. No you go first…" and the two of them fell silent again. Tension mounted until the air was so saturated you could feel it. Taking a deep breath, Akane mustered up the courage to speak:

"Hey, Ukyo, I know that in the past we've sort of been at odds with each other. I think that maybe we should try to start over, since we've been given this new chance." Akane looked over at the other girl hopefully, trying to guess what she was feeling. Ukyo was standing with her eyes squeezed shut tightly, her muscles tensed as though…

"What are-? Oh no, Ukyo, I'm not going to hit you!" Akane smiled warmly as she realized what Ukyo had been expecting.

"Huh? You're not? Well, I um…" Ukyo looked embarrassed, and Akane continued:

"Look, let's just try it this way: Hi, my name's Akane. You want to be friends?"

Ukyo looked up at her incredulously as the question sank in. She just smiled in response, but that said all that needed to be said. The two grinned, and began discussing plans for the rest of the day.

"Okay you two, you've been out there long enough! You can come back in now… hey, where did they-?" But the two were nowhere to be seen. "… And the floor's still dirty!"

"Hey, that was a good idea just to go ahead and ditch school today. It started out pretty awful, didn't it, Akane?" Ukyo spun around the main room of her restaurant, making things ready for the lunch rush. Akane was busy in the kitchen, taking care of the dishes that Ukyo hadn't done the night before. (NOT cooking. What, do you think I'm insane?)

"Yeah, plus you look like you could really use the help here!" Akane called back, "But I would have liked to have seen Sensei's face when he came out into the hall and we were gone!"

"Oh I know! That would have been hilarious! By the way, thanks for coming by to help, anyhow. I really appreciate it." The two were carrying on more like friends now, both so thankful for something else to focus on besides the pain of being left behind. Ukyo was especially enjoying it.

"You know Akane, there hasn't been two women working at one of my family's restaurants since my mom died a really long time ago. It's kinda nice to see that again."

"I'm sorry, I never knew that you lost your mom, Ukyo. I always thought you just lived alone. I guess I just never really thought about it before."

"It's okay, Sugar, I got over it a long time ago." Ukyo's smile had lost a little bit of its sparkle, in spite of her words. "What about you? I've seen your dad around, but never your mom. I guess we have a bit more in common than we thought, huh?" Ukyo said, as delicately as she could manage. Akane's smile wavered a little as well, but she kept the conversation flowing.

"Well, my mother died when I was little. I don't have many memories of her, but I really miss her sometimes." Akane's voice became a little deeper, choked by emotion. "I guess you're right, we do have a lot in common. A lot more than just martial arts." Ukyo kept it up, emotion overpowering her as well:

"-Martial arts and moms and even- even Ranma." The last was barely a whisper. The two girls sat in silent contemplation for a moment, then looked up and noticed the tears that had begun to form in each other's eyes.

"Akane…"

"Ukyo…"

And the two rushed forward to embrace the other, tears flowing freely as they realized the full force of the suffering each had endured. The two hugged each other tightly, feeling the sadness abate slightly because of the shared experiences.

"Akane, I'm sorry I always treated you so badly. I never knew!" Ukyo cried.

"I'm sorry it took me so long to come and talk to you, Ukyo. I should have known that I wasn't the only one left behind!"

The two girls continued to sob into each other's shoulder, thankful that each had found a compassionate soul, another person who understood the trials of the other. They stayed there, talking until late afternoon, the lunch rush skipped and forgotten.

"What a day!" Sayuki sighed as she walked back to school. "First, Akane ditches me for our lunch at Ucchan's, and now when I get there, it's not even open! What am I supposed to do now? I'm hungry!"

Back at Ucchan's, Akane sneezed suddenly and loudly. "I hope I'm not coming down with something…" Akane said under her breath.

Two months later…

"Wait, Akane! The grill isn't hot enough yet! You have to wait until it heats to the right temperature or the batter won't cook to the right consistency! AH! What are you going to do with that?" Ukyo's nerves were almost to their breaking point.

"I'm going to oil the grill, why?" Akane asked innocently.

"Look at what you have in your hand!" Ukyo sat down to take a breather. This was even more work than she had expected.

"Well how was I supposed to know it was vinegar?" Akane asked, joining her friend for a moment on the bench. "I'm sorry. Maybe I shouldn't have asked you to teach me. I'm not good at this kind of thing anyways…" Akane looked like she was going to cry. "I have trouble boiling water for crying out loud!"

Ukyo chuckled quietly, "Well, Akane, it would certainly make my life a lot more boring! What would I do with my summer vacation if I didn't have you around? So what if we've had to close up shop once or twice to make repairs, or that your recipes scare people away? The important part is that you keep trying and don't give up! Think about it, I trained hard for ten years straight so I would master okonomiyaki. You can't expect to be good after only a few weeks!" Ukyo reached out and tousled Akane's hair. Suddenly, she jerked up, "Oh my gosh, Akane, look at the time! We're going to be late!"

The restaurant became a whirlwind of action as two teenaged martial artists tried to get ready.

"Ukyo! Have you seen my headband? I can't believe you talked me into this!" Akane quickly jumped into a nice looking halter-top and shorts combo that she had picked out the week before.

"It's on the dresser! And this was your idea!" Ukyo replied from the bathroom where she was furiously applying a light coat of makeup.

"I know, but I was only joking when I suggested it!" Akane grabbed the headband off of the dresser and fitted it snugly into her hair. It matched the shirt she was wearing, and served to bring out her eyes. "I never intended to go through with it!" She shouted as she dug through the closet to find the right shoes. They were here yesterday…

"But Hiroshi overheard, so now we're stuck with it! Come on, try to enjoy it! At the very least, it'll be good practice, right?" Ukyo emerged from the bathroom, clad in a snug tube-top with capri pants that showed off her curves very nicely. "Besides, I want to see the expression on their faces when they see what they're up against. So how do I look?" She posed for a moment, and Akane's eyes widened.

"Hey! I was going to wear those shoes!"

Author's Notes: I had originally intended to do this all as one large post, with no chapter breaks at all. It probably would have worked better that way, but I don't want to make everyone wait so long. So I'm posting it in chapters instead, with chapter breaks wherever I can find them. Since I didn't originally write it with chapter breaks in mind, this may or may not work out well.