Disclaimer: I don't own any Azumanga Daioh characters. Just to be safe, I rated this story R.

Note: Let me emphasize that this is definitely an edited version of this story because the first version got TOSed.If you want to read the actual story, you can find it at fosff dot net.

Note note 1/28/05: So apparently there are some people who aren't understanding what 'edited' means. This version of the story is chock full of '(edit)'s and '(scene edit)'s because I'm not about to rewrite the entire thing. If you want to read the actual story, you can find it at the site mentioned above. What does that mean? That means don't leave me a review that says something about those '(edit)'s. Read this disclaimer, comprehend it, and then choose which version you'd like to read. Thank you very much for your intelligence. m(. .)m

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A Bright and Beautiful Future

Tonight was the night. Kaorin hugged the package tightly to her chest as she made her way down the sidewalk. The dreamy smile on her face told nothing of where she was going but anyone who knew her well enough just might have been able to guess. Her entire week, or actually her entire year, had been leading up to this one evening.

Miss Sakaki. Ever since that first day of school when Kaorin had caught sight of the tall, dark-haired girl she had been completely taken. Sakaki had been the cool girl that all other girls admired for her athletic prowess and stoicism.

At first it had been simple admiration for Kaorin as well. Kaorin had wanted so much to be like Miss Sakaki because Sakaki never got worked up over anything. It was almost like she had a backup plan for anything that might have come her way.

Over time, Kaorin concluded that she didn't want to be exactly like Sakaki because Sakaki was someone who was too perfect to be imitated. Any other tall, introspective girl with dark hair who remained on the sidelines of life would never be anything but a cheap, generic-brand Sakaki. Sakaki was the one that did it first and she was the only true original who could do it right. As that was the case, Kaorin's feelings began to change.

It was the middle of their first semester together when Kaorin realized that she didn't want to be like Miss Sakaki. She just wanted her.

For Kaorin, it wasn't enough that she gazed at the silent girl all day in class. During P.E. she followed Sakaki around as much as possible without being too obtrusive. If both of them were participating in a game like volley ball or baseball, she would become anxious if they were put on different teams. She hated the thought of having to compete against her idol. Somehow it made her feel awful.

Kaorin knew that she wasn't the only one who admired Sakaki. Other girls from all classes and grade levels looked up to her for examples on how to act cool. After a while Kaorin found this difficult to ignore. She started to become jealous when another girl would compliment Sakaki because she didn't want anyone else looking at Sakaki the way that she did. None of them could ever know the extent of her idol's awesomely cool demeanor. There was more to Sakaki than just being silent and meditative. There was something more that no one but Kaorin herself could have seen. Cool didn't even come close to bringing Sakaki into total perspective.

At last Kaorin approached the door of Sakaki's house. Her hands were shaking so badly that she had to take a few deep breaths before she could calm herself down. She had never been to Sakaki's house. Before this evening she had never felt that she was worthy enough to set foot on Miss Sakaki's place of dwelling. No one should have been worthy enough. It had taken her nearly a year to get up the courage to make this journey further into the life of the girl that she had been watching and needing for so long. Sakaki had to know how much she loved her, how much she would do for her.

Tonight she would tell Miss Sakaki. She would tell her everything. The image of their future together had tacked itself up in the back of Kaorin's mind like a little reminder. It was something that she saw every day, and every day it was the first thing that made her smile. Neither she nor Sakaki would be totally complete until they were with each other, and tonight they would be at long last.

After a minute she finally lifted her hand and knocked softly on the door. Her heart was about to explode in her chest and she hoped that the pounding flow of blood wasn't making her face red.

Seconds passed and no one answered. Had she not knocked loudly enough? Perhaps there was no one home, but still there was a light on upstairs.

She shifted her weight from one foot to the other and took her bottom lip between her teeth. Maybe Sakaki had seen her coming and didn't want to talk to her.

Kaorin began to panic. She hadn't wanted to impose on Miss Sakaki and was beginning to feel that she had overstepped the line by coming to her house unannounced. Her only reason for doing so was that she had wanted to surprise her, and hopefully it would be a good surprise.

Just as she lifted her hand to knock again, she heard a lock coming undone and slowly the door was opened.

Sakaki peered outside, and then opened the door further when she saw who it was.

"Oh, hello Kaorin."

Kaorin could have died. Sakaki was looking just as dark and beautiful as she always did, but her hair was wet and it looked like she was already dressed for bed in a loose fitting tank top and pajama pants that had little silhouettes of cats all over them. Kaorin bowed her head low to hide her blush and smiled nervously. Just the sight of the taller girl was enough to make her mind go blank.

"M-Miss Sakaki! I hope I'm not interrupting anything but I was in the neighborhood and just thought I'd stop by for a little bit but I don't have to if you don't want me to because I don't want to bother you and it's not like it's anything important or anything but actually it looks like I am bothering you so I'll just be on my way!" she blurted before turning sharply on her heel and rushing back towards the street.

Sakaki had hardly understood a word of what Kaorin said but blinked when the girl suddenly turned and walked away. She lifted her hand to stop her.

"Wait! It's all right, really. I don't get visitors very often." It was unfortunate that a reputation for being cool and aloof kept others at a social distance. She didn't want Kaorin to fear her like so many other people did.

Kaorin froze dead in her tracks with one foot extended past the other. The package she had brought was still clutched tightly to her heaving chest.

"Miss Sakaki is inviting me to stay?"

She could have only dreamt about being so privileged. Slowly she turned back around and stood there quietly in the middle of the sidewalk.

"Um....Really? You're sure you're not.....busy?" her voice went up an octave that teetered on the edge of panic and relief as she tentatively walked back and paused on the doorstep.

Sakaki shook her head. It was true that she never received many guests. She would have liked to, even though she was highly self conscious about the layout of her room that was decorated with anything and everything cute. However, anyone who was fearless enough to pay her a visit would just be granted that extra knowledge of herself that she deemed appropriate only for her real friends. She smiled softly and pointed her thumb over her shoulder.

"I'm not busy. I was just-"

"YEEEEAAAAH! I DID IT!!!"

Sakaki and Kaorin both jumped suddenly to sound of someone inside yelling at the top of their lungs. Suddenly the entire house shook as the person came bounding down the stairs and through the hall towards the front door.

Kaorin's eyes grew wide. She had thought that maybe Sakaki had been alone this evening, but apparently not. There hadn't been any cars parked out front and she wondered if the rowdy person could have actually been one of Sakaki's parents. It was a difficult thing to imagine.

Yet the one who skidded up behind Sakaki was no parental figure. The person was definitely female, a little shorter than Sakaki, and instantly filled the air with a strong, wild energy.

"I beat your time by three seconds, Sakaki!" Kagura flashed a haughty smile and half tackled Sakaki who stumbled forward but caught herself against door frame with a slight blush. Kagura laughed and kept one of her arms around the other girl as she looked to see who had come to visit. "Oh, hey Kaorin! What's up?"

Kaorin stood frozen there on the doorstep with a disbelieving grin on her face. Kagura was dressed in a tank top, boxers, and a pair of socks. It didn't look as though she was just staying for the evening.

"Um...Hey, K-Kagura. I.....didn't know you were here too," Kaorin forced a nervous laugh and had to make a conscious effort to keep grinning. She had never liked Kagura ever since the star athlete had been transferred into Miss Yukari's class. Kagura was always bothering Sakaki and creating problems, and aside from that she spent more time with Sakaki than almost any other person. Kaorin had seen them walk together to and from school, and Kagura was always pulling her chair up to Sakaki's desk during lunch and then competing with her at everything during P.E. The two really spent more time together than Kaorin was comfortable with.

Sakaki offered an apologetic smile for Kagura's behavior and hooked her hand onto the hyperactive girl's shoulder.

"Kagura and I were just playing a few video games."

"Yeah, Sakaki doesn't like 'em that much but she's getting better. Not as good as me though!" Kagura laughed again and reached with her other hand to poke Sakaki in the ribs.

Sakaki hated for anyone to know that she was in the slightest bit ticklish and grabbed Kagura's hand to keep it a safe distance away from her side.

"Uh...Would you like to join us, Kaorin?" Her voice remained characteristically soft and smooth despite Kagura wiggling to try and free her hand.

Kaorin blushed deeply and rubbed the back of her neck with a smile that oozed false pleasantry.

"Actually it's getting kind of late and I just remembered that I left an oven in my food at home so I should be going!"

Before either Sakaki or Kagura could have protested, Kaorin dashed back down the sidewalk and rounded the corner out onto the street.

Sakaki stood silent and watched the girl sprint off like a jack rabbit from a trap. After a moment she frowned in mild confusion.

"Wonder what got into her?"

Kagura shrugged.

"I dunno. Social dysfunction? C'mon, let's go play another round."

The front door closed and the two headed back up to Sakaki's room.

On the verge of tears, Kaorin flattened herself back against one of the walls that lined the street. It couldn't have been true. Kagura and Miss Sakaki were only friends and nothing more. Actually they couldn't even have been friends because they were rivals. Kagura had said so herself.

Kaorin wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and straightened up with a determined frown. There was no way that she would be able to rest until she knew. Who did Kagura think she was just sleeping over at Sakaki's house like that? Miss Sakaki deserved nothing but the utmost respect, and Kagura had never showed her enough of it. Right there in the doorway she had just leapt upon her like some pack animal to its prey. That would never do.

Slowly she walked to the end of the wall and peered around into Sakaki's front yard. The front door was closed, and all of the lights in the house were off except for one upstairs. That was her target.

Furrowing her brow pensively, Kaorin looked around for a possible means of seeing up into the window. She would be way too visible if she tried to climb up on top of the wall, and trying to sneak into the house was completely out of the question.

Over in the corner of the yard was single tree. For safety reasons, several branches of the tree had been cut in order to keep it to a manageable size. The tree wasn't very big, but it looked steady enough and had enough leaves to possibly keep her concealed. It was her only chance.

Creeping across the yard, Kaorin dropped her box at the base of the tree and looked up at the branches to try and plan her ascent. It took a few hard leaps before she caught hold of the lowest branch and managed to hoist herself up. The view was no good.

She climbed up to the second branch and perched close to the tree trunk, gazing towards the window. Inside the lighted room she could make out the ceiling and the far wall, but nothing more.

She tried the third branch. More of the room came into view and suddenly Kagura passed by the window. Kaorin stilled, her hands tightening into the branches they held. Kagura passed by again and Kaorin could see that she was talking on the phone. The athlete made several animated gestures then threw her head back with a laugh before walking out of Kaorin's line of vision.

Kaorin growled. The nerve of that girl talking on Miss Sakaki's phone! She reached up for the fourth branch.

The vantage point offered by the fourth branch was almost perfect. Kaorin needed only to edge herself a few inches away from the tree trunk in order to see most of what was going on. Inside the room she could see a bed, a desk, and half of what she assumed to be an entertainment center. Just as she could have suspected, Miss Sakaki and Kagura were both there as well.

Sakaki was sitting on the foot of the bed holding what looked to be a video game controller. Kaorin watched as Kagura pressed a button on the cordless phone and tossed it onto the bed. Kagura said something to Sakaki who only nodded and kept her gaze fixed on the TV screen.

Kagura climbed onto the bed to lie on her stomach beside Sakaki.

"Sorry about that. Swim team stuff."

Sakaki nodded slightly but didn't divert her attention away from the video game she was playing. She wasn't really into video games all that much, but who was she to argue when Kagura had been so insistent on bringing her PS2 over for the night? Kagura folded her arms and looked to the game as well.

"You really should think about joining a team one of these days. I mean with your athletic ability I'm sure that-HEY!" Interrupting her own sentence, she jolted up into a half sitting position as the video game suddenly congratulated Sakaki on creating a new record.

Sakaki didn't care all that much. She did smile slightly as she set the controller down, but only because Kagura was so funny when she got riled up.

Kaorin scowled in a futile attempt to make out what was being said as she saw Kagura leap up from the bed and point at Sakaki. Judging from her gestures and the expression on her face, the athlete was clearly not happy.

Kaorin watched as Sakaki shrugged and made a brief reply which only made Kagura snatch up the video game controller and flop down on the floor at the foot of the bed. Ten minutes later, Kagura glared and shook her fist at the TV while Sakaki giggled behind her hand. Another ten minutes passed, and finally Kagura laughed and shot up to her feet. She pointed at the TV, and then said something before handing the controller back to Sakaki.

Kaorin's feet and back were beginning to hurt after spending so much time perched out on a branch. She was determined to make her conclusion tonight though, and it looked like that conclusion would be positive to her benefit.

A short time later, Kagura was up and fuming again while Sakaki just smiled and hunched her shoulders in a careless shrug.

Kaorin sighed dreamily. Sakaki was always so calm. Nothing could ever faze her, not even the temper tantrums of a mindless wanna-be superstar like Kagura.

With her curiosity close to satisfied, Kaorin shifted and prepared to go back down the tree. Yet something odd caught her gaze on the other side of the window. It wasn't a strange movement, but rather a lack thereof. Frowning, she looked back into the room.

Kagura stood still with her hands at her side. She then stepped over to take the controller out of Sakaki's hands and drop it to the floor. Sakaki looked up and started to say something, only to be cut off by an abrupt kiss that was powerful enough to push her back against the mattress. Kagura crawled up on top of her and pinned her wrists to the mattress above her head.

Kaorin turned white and nearly screamed with rage to the sight. In her mind she envisioned herself flying out of the tree, through the window, and strangling Kagura for defiling Sakaki in such a way. She knew that it would have been ridiculous if Sakaki had gotten with a girl like Kagura, but now it all made sense. Kagura had been forcing herself on Sakaki.

The way the energetic girl kissed Miss Sakaki so harshly and forced her back against the mattress, it was only too plain to see.

Kaorin glared and clenched her jaw tight, but the angry expression would gradually melt into a harrowing sadness as she continued to spy on the pair. Not only was Sakaki not resisting, but she was kissing Kagura back. It was a nightmare that Kaorin was helpless to do anything but watch as it unraveled right in front of her eyes.

Kagura broke from the Sakaki's lips and kissed a vigorous trail down the side of her neck.

(scene edit)

Not even ten yards outside of the bedroom window, Kaorin had fallen back against the tree trunk and hugged onto it for dear life. One of her hands clutched at her chest as she felt her heart crush like an old soda can in a trash compacter. She couldn't see clearly through the blur of tears that had collected at the base of her eyes and streaked down her cheeks. As much as she wanted to sob and scream, her throat felt too tight for any sound to come out. No one would have heard her anyway. This couldn't be real. Any moment she expected herself to wake up and start another day with the real Sakaki and the real Kagura. The real Sakaki and Kagura didn't like each other. They were rivals who were only meant to compete, and yet there they were right in front of her. Her beautiful Miss Sakaki with Kagura edit.

It would have been to her psychological benefit if she had turned her head away. She shouldn't have stayed. She should have gone home and spared herself this knowledge, but now it was too late and she had been unprepared for the immense amount of pain that came with seeing her Miss Sakaki get (edit) by that (edit).

(scene edit)

Even from her perch, Kaorin knew the exact moment when Sakaki (edit). The normally stoic girl (edit).

(scene edit)

"I know I don't need to say it," Kagura spoke softly and edit. Sakaki was still (edit) and turned (edit).

".....but I love you," Kagura whispered with a playful smile as she wrapped an arm around one of Sakaki's legs. Leaning down she brought their lips together in a slower, more passionate kiss. Sakaki returned the kiss eagerly, (edit).

(edit). The fact that they were seen as rivals in school had no effect on their relationship with each other. They were together, and they loved each other no matter how many times Kagura challenged Sakaki and Sakaki ended up winning. Love was a difficult and vague thing to find, and it didn't matter that neither of them thought they would find it in a would-be competitor.

Sakaki leaned up to (edit).

Kagura was the (edit).

Kaorin had seen more than enough. Crying openly, she nearly fell down from the tree and wiped her eyes with the long sleeve of her shirt. Grabbing up the package she had brought, she dashed out of the yard and down the street. She had never felt so betrayed in her life. She didn't stop running until she had made it all the way back to her own house.

When she got home she ran up the stairs and into her room and slammed the door behind her. In her rage she looked down at the package in her hands and then threw it across the room where it knocked over and broke the lamp on her dresser. Tonight was supposed to have been the happiest night of her life and instead it had turned out to be the worst. There was no use in trying to tell herself that she didn't care because she ha already cared too much. Kagura had no right to be with Miss Sakaki. Kaorin had known Miss Sakaki longer and she considered herself to be a better friend.

Kaorin slumped down against the door and brought her knees to her chest. The events that she had witnessed that night would be stuck with her for the rest of her life. How was she going to face either one of them tomorrow?

She sighed and let her head drop back against the door. Her frown was so deep and angry that the muscles in her face were beginning to hurt. Life wasn't fair. She and Miss Sakaki were meant to be together, but before she could pursue that she knew that she had to do something about Kagura. The only question was what she could have done to keep the athlete out of the way for good.

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Note: R&R if you want. :)