Hello everybody!

Sorry about the long wait! Life came and interrupted…

First, a general response to the reviewers:

- Thank you for all kind words! I'll do my best to deserve them!

- Those of you who reacted on Akane's sudden super-cooking skills... It's just a fic... And relax, the story isn't over yet... And, I never intended to insult anyone, I just thought it made sense that some people take easier to some things than others do.. So, I'm not going to change anything there...

- About me making Akane too perfect... Yes, I just realised that I probably have made her too perfect, which was not my intention... But, just keep reading, and things will make more sense...

- I have planned what the revenge on Ryoga will be, and it'll be in the next chapter... Thank you to those who had some suggestions... But, I ended up coming up with something entirely different...! (surprise!) Although I'm thinking about borrowing something from Lacey52's idea...

- The cooking contest, which will be in the 12th chapter, will also be the last chapter...

- There won't be a lemon in this fic... If I write a lemon, I'll put it up as a one-shot... But, I'm not promising anything...! If you want to read about Akane and Ranma 'doing it', then go to the full version of my fic Wounded on mediaminer(dot)org.

Vaniah - Wow... That's a seriously loooong review... #Phew# But, I'm flattered that you took the time to write it... I do realise that I have made Akane appear a bit too perfect so far, which wasn't my intention, but it'll change a bit as the story goes on... But, if you don't like the story, then don't read it... I'm not going to force you to do anything... I appreciate your effort, but both Wounded and Midnight Cook is OOC intentionally... The 'what-if's' that started the stories in my head changed vital things in the story that was ment to change the characters too... I'm mainly borrowing the plot in Ranma 1/2, and the storyline... So therefore I don't feel obliged to keep true to the characters... I might try to write a fanfic later on where I keep everyone in originalcharacter, but for now I'm just playing around with my 'what-if's'... The reason as to why I'm listing up all the music, is simply to indicate that there is music in the background... It'll all become clear later on in the story, as it is a point as to why I constantly reminding you that there's music playing... The music I'm listing is completely random, and the only important part is whether it's happy or sad or whatever... Parts of your review seriously irritated me, as it just sounded idiotic that you 'really tried to like it', and if my story irritates you as much as some of your review did me, then then please... Just - don't - read - it...! You got my brain turning a gear, but I'm not changing much in my story anyways... And that's just the way it's gonna be...

Now, for those who's interested, here's the next chapter in Midnight Cook;

The Day Leading To, And The Following (Tenth) Night

Confusion and nerves had filled the day so far. Ranma had realised that there was something about the night and the dark that relaxed him, that made it so much easier to deal with emotions and sensitive subjects. And that something seemed to turn to dust during the daytimes, complicating things that had felt so easy and logical only hours earlier.

Akane was walking beside him, using all her acting abilities to hide her blushes, and Ranma hoped that he was the only one who noticed the shy look in her eyes whenever she was around him. His own Soul Of Ice was becoming one of his favourite techniques to avoid pain and embarrassment, and other scary things that his family could do if they saw his own blushes and silly grins. He just hoped that he wouldn't overdo it, and that way make them catch onto that something was happening.

They had been walking around for some time now, and since they were looking for fiancée-trouble, they met no one. Except the old lady with the water ladle.

"Damn!" Ranma groaned, feeling especially pissed off as he realised that the water had actually been warm this time, and that it was his own use of cold chi that had turned the water cold enough to trigger his curse. He heard a slight giggle beside him, and felt a bit better as he felt some of the earlier tension between them disappear.

"Pig-tailed girl!" came a shout from behind them. "Akane Tendo!"

"Oh no! This is not the trouble we're supposed to get in!" Akane groaned from beside him. Ranma didn't even have the time to reply before both he and Akane were crushed in a hug by Tatewaki Kuno – long-time admirer of both Akane and of Ranma's girl form.

"My loves! The gods have once again reunited us! Come, we must date!" Kuno ranted on, oblivious to the two girls glares filled with promises of death and serious mutilation.

"Fuck no!" Ranma growled, not bothering to be gentle as he almost ripped off Kuno's arms as he first freed Akane and then himself. "Listen up, you Looser! If you really love… -yuck- …us… as you claim that you do, you'll leave us the fuck alone! Get it, you fucking psycho!" Ranma almost screamed into Kuno's face, standing on his toes to gain a few inches in his attempt to be as intimidating as possible in his ever-cute girl form.

"Such passionate words… Yes, I understand, my love… No fucking unless we're alone…!" Kuno grinned broadly down at Ranma, who stood frozen in shock before him.

"What! HENTAI!" Akane screamed, another one of her trademark war-cries, and had Kuno firmly implanted in the asphalt in front of Ranma before he could blink. "How the hell did he end up with that conclusion?" Akane cried out shrilly to Ranma, waving her club threateningly at the unconscious pancake-form of Kuno.

Ranma cringed at Akane's slightly panicked voice, and without thinking he pulled her close, holding her in a comforting embrace. Akane automatically clung to him, easily circling his small form with her arms. And this was the sight that greeted Kodachi Kuno, Tatewaki's just as mental sister, as she came bouncing over the rooftops. The sight of her rival Akane Tendo encircled in the hated pig-tailed girl's arms, had her screeching to a halt, ready to defend her 'dear' brother.

"Ohohohoho! What is this? Being unfaithful to my darling Ranma, now are we?" Kodachi laughed gleefully.

Ranma could feel the tightening in Akane's body at the sound of the cackling laughter, and he groaned into her neck as he mentally listed up all the swearwords he could think of. He loosened his hold on Akane, and she stepped away from him and faced Kodachi.

"Kodachi… How are you? Feeling well..?" Akane politely asked, looking coolly at her.

"Yes, I'm feeling marvellous! I'm going to visit my Ranma now, and let him take me on a spectacular date! And then he'll probably propose to me!" Kodachi twirled her ever-present ribbon, and laughed again as black rose-petals drifted down around them.

"No, you're not..!" Ranma objected. Looking to Akane, and remembering their plan, he squared his slim shoulders. "'Cause I happen to know that Ranma already has other plans..!"

"And what would be so important as to cause him to cancel our date?" Kodachi's eyes glinted dangerously.

"Not that it's any of your business, but he's promised me to let me cook him dinner tonight." Akane boldly stated. "And if he likes what I'm making, he's promised to take me on a date. On a real date."

"WHAT?" Kodachi shrieked. Ranma stood ready to step in as Kodachi tried to slice Akane with her ribbon, but knew he had to let Akane try to defend herself first. He winched as Akane caught the ribbon, easily holding it, and started a staring contest with Kodachi. There was silence for almost a minute, until Kodachi relaxed again, making Ranma tense even more.

"Fine. I challenge you, Akane Tendo, for the right to the 'real' date with my darling Ranma!"

"Oh, but it isn't that simple, Kodachi. Ranma's expecting me to cook for him, not to fight for him this time…" Akane glared at Kodachi, still holding onto the ribbon despite the small droplets of blood escaping her fisted hand.

"On the contrary, Akane Tendo, it will be very simple indeed. I'll just cook better than you. A cooking contest… Fighting against you like this will be the easiest match yet…"

"Okay… I accept your challenge! I'll arrange for the contest to take place at the Dojo the day after tomorrow, at dinner time. The Dojo will supply with all we need, and to avoid cheating of any kind I'll ask Ranma's mother to supervise the contest, with Ranma as the final judge… And he'll be stating the rules before we begin. Does it sound agreeable for you?" Akane stared fiercely at Kodachi, releasing her hold on the ribbon and daring her to chicken out.

"It will be my pleasure to humiliate you yet again in front of my darling Ranma…" Kodachi smiled royally, and with a flick of her wrist she disappeared in a purple cloud of gas.

Ranma was already moving away from the gas bomb with Akane in his arms, only putting her down when he felt they were at a safe distance from the stinging cloud of toxins. Grabbing Akane's wounded hand, he worriedly inspected the sharp cuts in the palm of her hand and on her fingers, and he temporarily bandaged her hand with a strip of cloth he tore from his under-shirt.

"Hey, you shouldn't ruin your clothes like that..!" Akane protested.

"Shush. You don't know what that psycho might have soaked her ribbon in… There could be some of her poisons on it, so we should get you home and properly treat and bandage your cuts before they get infected or anything..." Ranma looked at the hand he held, and realised that even though his own hands now were slightly smaller than hers, her hands were still less scarred and much smoother than his own battle-worn ones.

"Still, we got what we wanted, didn't we? One down, two to go… With some help from Nabiki, we'll have two more contestants by the evening." Akane smiled brightly.

Ranma just grunted, and pulled Akane along back to the Dojo.

They were both in the kitchen, with Ranma finishing up putting on clean bandages on Akane's hand, when Shampoo burst through the wall next to them with a steaming cup of food in one hand.

"Nihao, Airen! Shampoo bring husband too-too nice dinner!" Shampoo chirped, easily pushing back Akane, and sliding as close to Ranma as she could get. Ranma frantically tried to keep at least a layer of air between them, something that proved to be less than easy, even with his added speed as he was still in his girl form.

"Ugh, Shampoo..! I need to breathe!" he wheezed out, tugging at the arm that had him in a tight head-lock.

"Yeah, Shampoo, let Ranma go… He needs to be well and healthy to judge in the contest between me and Kodachi the day after tomorrow…" Akane was scowling up at Shampoo from the floor, where Shampoo had pushed her to.

Ranma was so suddenly released that he almost fell over, and coughed a few times before he got his control back. He nervously eyed the voluptuous Amazon, and felt his nerves twinge almost painfully as he recognised several cat-like features in both her stance and in her purring voice.

"Oooh… Kitchen-destroyer need Airen to save her in fight with Crazy-girl..?"

"No, I'm not fighting her like that… We're having a cooking contest. With Ranma as the prize…" Akane was back on her feet, and focused on brushing off any invisible dust that might be on her white and blue dress.

"Hah! Shampoo not let anyone else have Airen! Shampoo easily win!" Shampoo clapped her hands excitedly, squealing as she jumped slightly up and down.

"If you intend to enter the contest, then you'll have to play by the rules too…"

"No problem! Shampoo still win, and bring fine husband back to China!"

"Okay… Dinner time, the day after tomorrow, here at the Dojo… All the supplies we need will be here, and I'll ask Nodoka to supervise to make sure nobody cheats… And Ranma will be the judge… Other rules will be stated before the contest begins… Do you still wish to participate?"

Ranma stood as still as he could to the side of the two girls, feeling cold dread prick him in the back of his neck. #I know I'm the one who has the say in who's going to be the winner… But I can't help but worry that either Shampoo or Kodachi – or the both of them – will have a couple of tricks up their sleeves… Better make sure they come sleeveless…# He almost grinned at his own private joke, but was jolted back to attention by the disturbing image of Shampoo and Akane shaking hands. He braced himself just in time for the infamous Amazon hug/crush, and thanked all the gods he knew of when the purple-haired girl bounced happily back out of the house.


Ranma was watching Akane cook again that night, feeling worried as the thick, black smoke coming from her cooking made his eyes sting.

Akane had asked Nabiki to somehow get Ukyo to participate in the contest too, but when Nabiki returned after successfully carrying out her mission earlier that evening, they hadn't expected her to be pulling along a little black piglet in a leash.

Akane's reaction had been instant.

"RYOGA! You son of a-!"

Nabiki had barely raised an eyebrow, and the grin that spread over her face had given Ranma the creeps. The squeal that came from Ryoga's pig-form left no doubt that he too found it seriously terrifying.

"Now, now, sis… Take it easy… Revenge will come tomorrow… I know just the cure for our disillusioned little piglet here…" Nabiki's voice sounded pleasant enough, but Ranma hadn't lived with the Tendo's all these years without learning a thing or two about the slight colour-shifts in the Tendo sisters' eyes. It was the only thing that ever gave away what they really thought, although it was rare that he could decipher the meanings when it came to Nabiki. Kasumi was more open, often letting him see her true emotions – probably in an attempt to teach Ranma how to read the youngest sister. He was learning more about how to read Akane every day, but he had realised lately that he'd always known how to see it… He just seldom used his knowledge, in fear of what he would discover. And the colour-shift in Nabiki's eyes spoke volumes of how much she would enjoy being the one to help her little sister get revenge. Ranma was thankful that that particular look wasn't meant for him, and he hoped that it never would be.

"Uhm… 'Kane? Do you want any help with that?" Ranma asked in a nervous voice, as he wondered if it was Ryoga's earlier reappearance that caused Akane to act so stressed out. He fidgeted in his seat, the smoke making his head pound slightly.

"No! I can do this! I really can!"

Akane was standing with her back towards him, her simple, blue pyjamas spotted with food-stains. Her back was stiff, and even though the radio played softly in the background, she hadn't once tapped her foot to the rhythm.

#What's gotten into her? She's totally blocked herself off from the rest of the world, ever since the first challenge was accepted, and it's just gotten worse by the hour. If she cooks like this in the contest, I won't be conscious enough to make the right decision… Kodachi and Shampoo won't need to come up with any tricks at all…#

The smoke had somehow turned green, and it was snaking low on the floor, and out of the kitchen. Ranma worried that Akane might eventually hurt herself, just as she yelped. Within a second he was by her side and checking her for any damages. She was clutching her bandaged hand close to her chest, and he could spot a small bloodstain on it.

"You really should take it a bit easier… You just reopened one of your wounds didn't you..? You should just let it rest and heal until the match." Ranma scolded her lightly, but instantly shut up as he lifted his eyes to meet her gaze, and saw the tears pooling in her glistening eyes. Before he could do or say anything, a soft voice made the both of them freeze.

"Oh my…"

Turning slowly, Akane and Ranma faced the kitchen door. A wide-eyed Kasumi was holding a hand in front of her slightly gaping mouth, staring at her now greased down kitchen – caused by the thick, green smoke. Behind her Nabiki popped out a ruffled head, wrinkling her nose, and Soun, Genma and even Nodoka was standing behind the two girls with not as much shock on their faces as poorly hidden disgust at the sight and smell of the room.

"Really, Akane… A young lady as yourself should not disturb the sleep of others in the middle of the night… I'm sure Ranma would more than happily help you practise your cooking at a more reasonable hour of the day…" came Nodoka's calm voice.

Ranma could hear the gulp from Akane as she shifted slightly away from him, and he couldn't help but feel relieved that her secret was still safe, since everyone would think it perfectly normal that another one of Akane's cooking attempts ended up as a disaster. #I like our quiet nights together… And if they find out the truth, the midnight meetings might end…#

"I'm sorry, auntie Nodoka, I did not mean to disturb your sleep. I will just clean up this mess, and try not to keep you up any more…" Akane's voice was calm and sincere.

"I'll help her, mom… After all, I probably should have stopped her sooner…"

Nodoka beamed Ranma an approving smile, and Ranma ignored the glare Akane sent him.

"Jeez, Akane… I thought that you of all people wanted to be awake to fully enjoy the session I've planned for Ryoga tomorrow… I've even sold tickets!" Nabiki yawned.

"Sorry sis… I just had a bit on my mind… Kasumi, I promise, I'll get your kitchen back in shape…" Akane shuffled her feet, the exhaustion and sadness clearly showing in her defeated posture.

"It's okay, Akane… You need sleep too… Just clean up the worst, and I'll do the rest tomorrow. I was planning on cleaning it properly the other day anyway. Now I have a proper excuse…" Kasumi smiled gently, although her eyes discretely scanned the room to assess what damage had been done.

Ranma watched the group as they left, noticing the firm grip his mother had on his father's arm, and didn't turn back to Akane until he judged Soun's wailing cries to be far enough away.

"Phew… That was close!" He whispered to Akane.

"Yeah… I guess it was lucky after all that I wasn't in the mood for cooking…" Her voice had a sad undertone, and Ranma instantly got worried.

"What about the match then… Do you think it'll be all right?"

"Yeah… I think I know what to do…" Akane smiled a bit broader, and threw out the burned lump that still gave off a nauseating smell.

Ranma also smiled, and decided to be extra nice to her. Using his famous speed, he had soap and water ready, and washed off the roof and walls within 10 minutes – even though he needed to change water several times over. Akane turned off the radio before she did the dishes, and as Ranma finished the floors, he realised that it had grown very silent in the kitchen. Looking over at Akane, he saw that she'd fallen asleep, resting her forehead against the upper cupboards over the sink. She had managed to finish the dishes, so Ranma just drained the soap water, and picked her up bridal style. Hefting a finger through the handle of Akane's bag of groceries – which thankfully no one seemed to have noticed earlier – he trotted silently up to her bedroom. Being quick, in case someone was still up to see them, he laid Akane on her bed, and shoved the bag into her closet.

As he sneaked back to his own room, he was glad that he'd resisted the urge to tuck Akane inn and kiss her, as he heard a faint rustle coming from Nabiki's room. #She was probably standing ready with her camera… And that's not the way I want people to find out about -… Wait a moment… Find out about what? There's nothing going on between me and the Tomboy, is there? Argh! I wish both halves of my brain could agree on something for once!#

Looking over at his sleeping parents as he tip-toed over to his futon, he caught his mother's soft gaze as she was watching his movements, and the ghost of a knowing smile passed over her lips. He returned the smile hesitantly, and quickly slid under his blanket, hoping that some sleep would help him relax again.

#Poor Ryoga…# He thought as he felt sleep claim him.

So, in the next chapter there will be REVENGE!

After that, there'll be the contest, and that'll be the end of my story too...

Reviews are welcome...! I love compliments, but if you feel like bashing me you're welcome to do that too... Just don't expect me to fall down and cry, or agree with you... #grin#