Contralto and Arsenic Sauce

By Ninnik Nishukan

He'd been doing the lights for the Christmas show, but the next thing he knew he'd lost his balance and had fallen down and then he'd found himself behind the stage curtain and now he was in the hallway of the Tendo house. How he'd ended up there, he didn't know. He never knew.

About to turn back the way he came, whichever way that was, Ryoga suddenly heard loud cursing from the kitchen, and popped his head in to see who it was that wasn't out there watching the show.

He was surprised to see Ukyo, standing alone in a mess of pots and pans, cursing as one of them was about to boil over. Thinking of the state of poor Kasumi's kitchen, he leapt forward and grabbed a dish towel from the counter, lifting the bubbling pan right off the stove and setting it aside.

"What are you doing here, Ryoga?" Ukyo asked irritably, glad of the help but also annoyed that she'd let it boil over in the first place.

"I was just about to ask you the same thing," Ryoga said. "Why aren't you out there?" He asked, pointing his thumb in the direction he thought the Christmas party at the dojo was. He was in fact pointing in the direction of the Nekohanten.

"Somebody had to look after the food," Ukyo huffed. "Kodachi was supposed to help me, but I have no idea where she went."

"I think I saw her at the party," Ryoga told her.

Ukyo rolled her eyes and turned back to the pots and pans. "Typical…"

"But why didn't you just volunteer to sing with the others instead?" Ryoga asked. "Why was it you who ended up in here?"

"Are you kidding?" Ukyo laughed self-deprecatingly. "Have you ever heard me sing?"

Ryoga shook his head. "No, but it's gotta be better than putting Ranma in a dress on stage."

Ukyo giggled. "That would've been funnier if he couldn't turn into a girl, but then I guess it would've been a whole different kind of show!"

Ryoga wrinkled his nose as he considered this. "Just don't ever tell him he'd make a good professional female impersonator in the kabuki theatre."

"Trust me, I won't." Ukyo shook her head, amused.

"What's wrong with your singing voice, then?" Ryoga asked curiously.

Ukyo sighed heavily, shrugging. "Just can't hit high notes at all, Sugar."

"Must be all those years pretending to be a boy." He commented unthinkingly, and got hit over the head with the soup ladle for his troubles.

"Keep making funny jokes like those and Santa won't bring you any presents!" She snapped.

"You're violent even on Christmas Eve?" Ryoga complained, rubbing his head. He'd been at a pretty chaotic, but all in all decent Christmas party— how did he get stuck in the kitchen with a vengeful Ukyo?

"You're a rude idiot even on Christmas Eve?" Ukyo retorted immediately, clutching the soup ladle threateningly.

"Fine, I'll just go back to the party, then!" He barked.

"If you can actually manage to find the way, go ahead!" She scoffed, turning her back to him.

Ryoga scowled at her, but he couldn't come up with a clever comeback, so he just left. He felt quite proud of himself when he actually did manage to find his way back to the party, though. That just showed her!

"You're back?" Ukyo sent Ryoga an overbearing look as he walked into the kitchen; by the expression on his face, it was plain to see that he'd actually been trying to get to somewhere else. "Why am I not surprised?"

He glared at her. "You're still stuck in the kitchen? Why am I not surprised?" He shot back acidly.

They glowered at each other for a while before she turned back to the stove and he sighed in exasperation as he settled down in a kitchen chair, figuring that he could just hang around until Ukyo was heading back to the party so she could show him the way, not wanting to get lost again.

After the lights came back on, Ranma and Akane had been gone, but the party still went on, and apparently Ukyo had been saddled with kitchen duty again to feed the late-comers, like that weird couple on the runaway horse who'd had an old lady wrapped up as a Christmas gift.

"Did you get any presents yet?" Ukyo asked after a while, and Ryoga noticed that she now sounded much less angry and more pleasant.

No, he hadn't gotten any gifts, and he'd been trying not to think about that. "I bought a present for Akane," he answered, avoiding the question entirely.

"Did you give it to her?" Ukyo asked conversationally.

"No…" He answered quietly. "No, I didn't…" She'd walked straight past him without even as much as a glance at him…straight past…

He had expected Ukyo to ask why he hadn't or possibly yell at him for being a coward, but she simply nodded. "After Ranma and Akane fell through the roof, I kinda figured that the present I'd seen him with wasn't for me, after all." She tossed her long ponytail, trying to seem indifferent.

"So what did you do with the gift?" Ryoga asked politely, not really caring if Ranma got his gift or not.

"I just…I threw his gift from me in the trash there." She admitted, pointing.

Ryoga looked at the trash bin in the corner of the kitchen. He could see a small, rectangular package lying there, badly mangled. It looked as though she'd taken her disappointment out on the inanimate object, which seemed to be the remains of some kind of CD.

"Oh." It was all he could think of to say.

"Yeah." She muttered. "So what did you get her?"

"Why do you wanna know?" He asked gloomily.

"Because if it's not too girly, I think you should open the present and just take it for yourself." Ukyo said matter-of-factly.

Ryoga looked shocked. "I can't do that!"

"Why not?" Ukyo regarded him critically, wiping her hands on her apron. "If you're not gonna give it to her, you might as well just keep it for yourself. That way it won't go to waste."

He felt agitated, suddenly. "Just like Ranma's present, you mean?" He shot back, just a little more harshly than he'd intended.

Ukyo winced, but managed to contain her anger. "I was mad, so I needed to vent. You're sad, so you need cheering up. Doesn't that sound all nice and logical?"

"I've bought her a gold necklace with little pink flowers." He informed her dryly. "Exactly how is that supposed to cheer me up?"

Smirking oddly, Ukyo was obviously trying to fight a fight against laughter, a fight she soon gave up. "F-for some…some r-reason," She gasped mirthfully, "I don't think….I don't think it would go very well with your outfit!"

"Look," Ryoga gritted his teeth against the obnoxious laughter. "It was pretty expensive, so maybe I shouldn't throw it away, but I can't give it to Akane. Do you want it?"

Ukyo stopped laughing, finally sobering. "Gold with pink flowers really doesn't sound like my style," She said dismissively.

Ryoga growled. How could she be so rude when he was offering her an expensive gift? Sure, it was meant for Akane originally, but she could at least refuse it in a more ladylike manner. "What is your style, then? A bicycle chain around your neck?"

To his sudden dismay, Ukyo was looking sort of hurt now. "You know," she said reproachfully, her voice wavering just a little, "you're supposed to be nice on Christmas Eve."

"I was trying to, before you had to go and be so rude," Ryoga pointed out.

"I don't need presents that were intended for someone else, especially when they're tasteless, and I don't need any more jokes about my femininity!" Ukyo scolded him.

"You were just telling me not to let it go to waste!" He objected.

"Oh, seriously!" Ukyo sighed irritably. "Just take the card off of the damn gift and leave it here for Kasumi or something, okay? What's the big deal?"

"Whatever." Ryoga mumbled. "The point is kinda gone, anyway."

"Yeah," Ukyo sighed again, softer this time. "Yeah, it really kinda is."

Looking at her sagging shoulders and faraway gaze, Ryoga cleared his throat. "Are you going to have to wear an apron all evening?"

Ukyo shrugged one shoulder. "Nah, Kasumi said she would be back, and hopefully they will have rustled up Kodachi as well. Kasumi said I didn't have to do anything for the rest of the evening if I did this." She smiled weakly. "I don't have to do any dishes or anything."

"That's good, at least."

"Ryoga?" Ukyo began, fiddling with her apron strings. "You're a guy, right?"

"Um…yeah?" Ryoga said uncertainly. This didn't sound good.

"What do you think you would have bought me for a present if you had to buy me one?" She asked, not really looking at him, just somewhere above his head.

Ryoga frowned. "I have no idea. Why?"

"No reason." Ukyo shook her head absently. "I'm just wondering. But I'm pretty sure he didn't buy anything for me, anyway."

Silence fell for a while as she stood and stirred the pots. And then she was humming under her breath and then it turned into words, and then she was singing, barely audibly. Ryoga listened thoughtfully; it wasn't bad, exactly, it was just completely different from the other girls because it was darker and deeper, not pure and bright. He could see how she would think she wouldn't have fit in with the group on the stage. Singing that cute pop song would've sounded utterly wrong for her, and her voice would've probably cracked several times throughout the song.

Now, though, as she was softly singing some sort of old, Western Christmas song in the abandoned kitchen, her deeper voice sounded relaxing, almost soothing. No matter how different, though, it was definitely a girl's voice.

"…until then we'll have to muddle through somehow…" She sang softly before leaning forward to taste the soup.

Biting his lip in thought, Ryoga eventually opened the little present box he'd bought for Akane and took out the necklace. These little pink flowers really are kinda tasteless, he thought as he started plucking them off carefully with his strong fingers, one by one, until all that remained was the thin gold chain itself. He stuffed the card that said To Akane, From Ryoga in his pocket so no one would find it later and wonder about it.

Taking the gift with him, he went over to Ukyo and held it up in front of her. "Here," He told her. "This is what I think I'd buy for you."

Blinking in surprise, Ukyo put down the ladle and took the offered golden chain. "Is this the necklace for Akane?"

"Now it's for you," Ryoga said simply.

"Why?" She asked, turning perplexed when she saw the pink flowers, completely bent out of shape, lying forlornly on the kitchen table.

He shrugged. "I guess spending Christmas in a warm house with people I know for once has made me feel generous. That's what the companies who make money off of this season all say it's supposed to be about, anyway, right?"

"Okay." She nodded slowly. "Thanks." It made sense, didn't it? The odds would be in favour of the Lost Boy usually spending his Christmases alone; it didn't really come as a surprise, if you thought about it, but actually hearing him say it was just…different, in a way. If was like when you saw a news report about starving children in some poor country somewhere— you knew it was there, you knew it happened, but because you never really considered it, it still came as a great shock.

At least she could get to a Christmas party like this without any problems, and she was going to spend New Year's Day with her dad and her grandparents. Where in the world would Ryoga be on New Year's Day? Wherever it was, it would most likely be alone.

"Here," She said, ladling up some soup into a small saucer as she suddenly got the urge to do something for him. He'd just broken an expensive gift for her sake so she would like it better, and she had nothing to give him in return. "You wanna try the soup for me?"

Nodding, Ryoga accepted the sample. "It's good, but it needs more salt."

"Thanks." Ukyo nodded absently, picking up the salt shaker. "Hey, why are you out here, anyway?" She piped up when she was done salting the soup. "Aren't you missing out on the party?"

Ryoga frowned, shifting a little in his seat. "It doesn't matter, really. It was nice, but I'm not very good at social gatherings in any case."

"How so?" Ukyo asked politely as she stirred the soup, even if to herself, she was completely agreeing with him. He really wasn't, and nobody else who knew him would think to deny it, either.

Waving a hand vaguely, he tried to find a way to describe it. "I always feel like…well, I guess I could say that even if there's no alcohol whatsoever involved, I feel like I'm the only one at the party who's not drunk, you know? Like I'm the only sober person in the room?"

"You mean you think everyone's acting stupid except you?" Ukyo raised a sceptical eyebrow.

"No, no, I feel like everyone's having a good time except me! Have you ever been around people who are drunk when you're sober? It feels awful, like they're all friendly with each other and are having a blast while you're feeling left out and nervous because you're not loosened up by alcohol like they are, all carefree and easygoing, and— and have you ever had someone who's drunk try to talk to you when you're sober? Not only is it hard for you to understand what they're talking about, but they're so forward and unreserved that you just don't know where to put yourself, you don't know how to respond because they're overwhelming you and you feel too embarrassed to say anything worthwhile!"


"And this is how I feel all the time! Not just at parties. All the time."

"You got lost, didn't you?" Ukyo interjected, growing tired of his ranting.


"You got lost, and then you ended up here and now you're waiting for me to lead you back." She put a hand on her hip. "Am I right?"

He blushed. "Well, there's that, too."

Ukyo laughed. "You're so predictable, Ryoga…!"

Sighing, he leaned back in his chair. "It's okay out here, though, isn't it? I mean, it's quiet…and that's nice, at least."

She quirked a grin. "Yeah, and there's no Tsubasa."

An odd expression came over Ryoga's face. "Was that the weird girl who was hiding inside the Christmas tree?"

"Yeah, except that it's a guy." Ukyo informed him dryly.

Ryoga blinked. "You're kidding?"

"Trust me when I say I'm not." Ukyo shook her head, sighing.

"Jeez, why does this house attract so many gender-confused people?"

"Careful, jackass," She growled warningly, swatting him across his head with a hand.

Shrinking back, he gulped; next time she'd probably get her spatula. "Uh, sorry…."

"You ever hear that expression, what was it again…'if Life was a party, I'd be permanently stuck in the kitchen' or something?" Ukyo asked after she'd been giving him the silent treatment for a couple of minutes and had settled down a little.

"Well, maybe the kitchen isn't so bad." Ryoga shrugged.

Ukyo gaped. "You're being optimistic? You?"

"And what's wrong with that?" Ryoga replied irritably.

She grinned. "You just made that whole melodramatic my-entire-life-is-like-being-the-only-sober-person-at-a-party speech, and still you have to ask?"

"I don't know!" Ryoga snapped. "Maybe it was a stupid analogy, but that's just how I feel, okay?"

"Well…it must be better than being the only drunk person at a party full of sober people, like Kuno is," Ukyo chuckled.

To her surprise, Ryoga laughed at her joke, lame though it was and despite the fact that he was always too serious. "Maybe," He agreed, smirking.

"I couldn't believe the size of that gift he brought." She went on, feeling as if the conversation was flowing more easily now.

"I could, since he dumped it on my back. It felt very real, must've been full of bricks or something."

Ukyo's eyes widened, then she shook her head in disbelief. "There must be some doctor that can do something for whatever his problem is."

"Well, it can't be a lobotomy, because it looks like he's already had one."

"Ryoga!" Ukyo gasped, scandalized. "That was just…that was mean!"

"W-well, that gift was heavy!" He objected, cheeks suddenly burning with shame.

"It's Christmas! You shouldn't say those things at Christmas!"

"Give me one good reason why not."

"I don't know," Ukyo waved a hand vaguely. Christmas is supposed to be all nice and warm and fuzzy and…and nice," She finished lamely.

"How about cold and horrible and lonely?" Ryoga mumbled. "And besides, this is Japan! What kind of traditions does Christmas really have here? I'm a Shinto, so Christmas is kind of meaningless to me! It's nothing but a recently imported, commercial holiday, just like Halloween and Valentine's Day!"

"You're just really bitter, aren't you?" Ukyo said quietly after the silence that followed. She never liked thinking about Valentine's Day, and even less about White Day. Ranma had never given her a return gift this White Day.

"Oh, no. Not at all." He said sarcastically.

"What's gotten into you now?" Ukyo huffed in irritation.

"Not the spirit of Christmas, anyway," Ryoga scowled at the floor, avoiding her gaze.

"Look, it doesn't have to be about religion, it's just— all the lights and food and bright colours and gathering of loved ones are supposed to make this cold and dark season more bearable for people so they won't go all depressed, and it looks like you could use a little Christmas cheer! I know Akane didn't give you the time of day at the party, but Ranma has barely even talked to me, either, but you don't see me sulking around making evil comments about people!" She scolded, shaking the soup ladle at him, reprimanding. "Look at you! You were just being all I'm-oh-so-grateful-for-being-in-a-warm-house-with-people-I-know and I-heart-the-kitchen and now you're suddenly moaning like the Ghost of Christmas Past!"

"Sorry, Ukyo, it just seems like I don't have the same associations about Christmas that you do, okay? I don't think about…about bright colours and all that stuff! I only think about the fact that it's colder in my tent than usual!" He snapped. "And you're one to talk!" He added, pointing at the mangled gift in the trash bin. "Does that look like something that someone who loves this season would do?"

"I do love this season!" Ukyo's eyes narrowed. "I would've done the same thing no matter what season it was! He didn't deserve that gift!" The gift had been some stupid album with a band she herself couldn't stand, so she couldn't even keep it for herself. Thinking about how Ranma didn't like any of the same music that she did had only made her even angrier and more depressed, which was why she'd just smashed it up. She really didn't like thinking about just how little she and Ranchan had in common these days.

"Don't worry," Ryoga told her darkly. "He's probably getting more gifts than he can handle over there."

"I really don't want to think about it." She said, shuddering. Then she got this look on her face like she'd suddenly remembered something and turned away from him, bending down to open the oven door.

When she resurfaced, she was holding a cake pan which smelled heavenly, a cloud of spices and sugar wafting up from it. Ryoga stared at it, his mouth beginning to water; what with all the commotion at the party, he hadn't been able to snatch himself much food, and this cake looked particularly good, topped with whipped cream, fresh strawberries and little tiny chocolates. Ukyo had really gone all out with it.

"If you think I'm not being jolly enough…" Ukyo began, cutting a very generous piece of cake for him and handing it to him wrapped in a festive napkin. "Then here's some Christmas cake for you in case you get lost tonight, okay? I made it myself."

Ryoga accepted the piece, blinking. That was kind of nice of her, wasn't it? "I haven't had a piece yet," He told her as he stared at the cake, still a little warm because she'd let it sit in the oven as it cooled. He'd wanted cake, but it had all seemed to disappear before he could help himself and nobody had thought to serve him any, either.

"Yeah, it was a little chaotic out there, so I thought I'd put some cake aside, just in case," She said, cutting two smaller slices of cake and pouring out two glasses of milk. "Here," she said as she handed him another slice with the glass of milk. "Just save the big one for later. It might get a little squishy, but it'll taste just fine."

"Thanks." Nodding, he put the cake in his pocket and started on the smaller slice. "Thif if really good," he complimented her around a mouthful of cake.

"I know," She gave him a cocky grin.

"Well, at least you're modest," Ryoga joked after he'd had a swig of milk.

Ukyo just shrugged. Why should she be modest in the one area where she knew she was talented? She put herself down enough otherwise, anyway.

Just as they'd finished their cake, Kasumi came jogging into the kitchen, looking quite flustered. "Oh, Ukyo, I'm so sorry I've kept you waiting!"

"That's okay," Ukyo smiled reassuringly at her, flapping a hand. "Ryoga helped me." She lied; the only thing he'd done was lounge about, making depressing comments about Christmas, but she didn't want to worry Kasumi. And besides, at least he'd kept her company, and he had stopped that pot from boiling over.

Ryoga looked at her in surprise, but refrained from making any comments.

"Oh, how nice of him," Kasumi said absently. "Have you seen Kodachi?" Kasumi asked in concern as she put on an apron.

"Sorry, no," Ukyo shook her head. "But I'm sure she'll turn up." Yeah, right.

"No matter," Kasumi smiled warmly. "Nabiki promised to come help me."

"Okay, then," Ukyo said as she picked up the thin gold chain where she'd left it on the kitchen counter. When she'd fastened the clasp around her neck, she sent Ryoga a grin. "Once more into the breach?"

Ryoga bit his lip, wondering if he really wanted to go back to the party or not. It was a tangled mess of cross-dressers, runaway horses, tiny wrinkled perverts and other types of perverts— there were just too many guests, and too many of them were crazy martial artists. "Guess so."

Kasumi gave them a few dishes to carry out to the guests, and then they were ready to go.

As they halted in front of the dojo doors for a moment, Ukyo smiled disarmingly at Ryoga. "Merry Christmas anyway, huh?"

"If you think so," He replied cynically, but did crack a brief grin at her.

He thought he heard Ukyo sigh a little when they opened the doors and what felt like a solid wall of noise greeted them as they stepped inside.

In the kitchen, Kasumi blinked in confusion at the small heap of broken gold and pink flowers lying on the kitchen table. Where did those come from?

Ukyo walked home alone, swinging a bag full of little packages of food that Kasumi had wrapped up for her, insisting that she deserved it for all her help. The remaining portion of the party, an hour or two, hadn't been as bad as she'd thought, considering the whole lack of any presents from Ranma.

She'd played cards with Ryoga, Mousse and some horrible guy named Mikado-something-or-other, whom Ryoga seemed to know, but not like. Right in the middle of the game, the pervert had actually tried to kiss her while spouting some nonsense about her innocent, girlish heart or something, at which point Ranma— who'd been walking past their table at the time— Ryoga and even Mousse had all decked Mikado simultaneously. No wonder, either— that guy was worse than Kuno! At least Kuno didn't try to force girls to kiss him!

…which was why they'd invited Kuno to play with them instead. Anyone was better than Mikado.

During one fearful moment, she'd had to duck under the table to avoid Tsubasa, but otherwise the evening had been pretty trouble free. Or, well, it had been trouble free for her. Ranma, of course, always had more than his share of problems to deal with. Somehow his curse had been triggered, and trouble naturally ensued.

Their card game got broken up by Kuno trying to give his 'pig-tailed goddess' a reunion hug. Shampoo would have nothing of it, and then Mousse joined the fight on general principles and because Kuno had misinterpreted the sudden attention he was getting from Shampoo as jealousy of the pig-tailed girl, proclaimed that he had enough love for the both of them and promptly tried to hug Shampoo as well.

Ryoga and Ukyo watched with bored expressions as Shampoo punched Kuno's lights out after he wouldn't let go of her even as Mousse started fighting him. Then she punched out Mousse, too, as he tried to do exactly what Kuno had attempted only five seconds before. It certainly hadn't looked like the Christmas spirit had made Shampoo any more susceptible to Mousse's embrace.

In all the commotion, Ranma had finally managed to flee to the kitchen for some hot water.

They'd spent the rest of the evening eating and talking a little more as they'd watched the last part of the Christmas show and then entertained themselves with the other fights that had broken out here and there, which they blissfully enough weren't involved in.

They'd moved their table as far out of harm's way as it could go.

"Who do you think would win in a fight between Tsubasa and that Azusa chick?" Ukyo had asked Ryoga idly as she'd munched on some onigiri.

"I figure that if everybody keeps this up, chances are pretty high that we might actually get to see that fight soon," Ryoga had replied flatly.

"Yeah, I mean, who hasn't fought each other today?" Ukyo had sighed.

"Hmm," Ryoga had seemed to consider this. "Well, I don't think Shampoo and Kodachi have— oh, wait, forget it. There they go."

They had both sighed this time as they'd watched the mayhem, trying to keep out of the way of any stray smoke bombs.

"We haven't fought tonight, actually," Ukyo had said then, brightening.

"I don't know about that," Ryoga had frowned sceptically at her. "You did hit me with that ladle."

Ukyo had rolled her eyes and grinned amicably. He would hold a grudge even against something like that! "It's not really considered a fight around here unless there's some property damage or at least a few broken ribs, Ryoga."

He'd had to grin at that. "Point."

Nearing the end of the evening, though, he must've wandered off somewhere again, because he'd been gone after she'd just left for a couple of minutes to go to the bathroom. This was a natural occurrence in the life of Hibiki Ryoga, though, so she didn't think too much about it. The party had been coming to an end, anyway, and she'd wanted to leave before somebody roped her into cleaning up the mess despite Kasumi's solemn promise that she didn't have to.

Ukyo stopped merrily swinging her bag of food and stared as she saw some strange, beautiful lights zoom across the sky, like shooting stars. There was probably some sort of natural explanation for this phenomenon, and she would look it up first thing tomorrow, but for now, she'd just enjoy it.

She hoped for his sake that Ryoga hadn't gotten himself lost in some broom closet somewhere and would be able to see this, too.

The next morning, Ryoga thought about the odd lights he'd seen in the sky the night before when he'd been looking for a place to camp. It had seemed to be an unusually large amount of shooting stars or something, but he hadn't been particularly alarmed by it; he himself could produce massive bursts of energy from seemingly nowhere, fuelled by depressed ki, so a few lights in the sky weren't really all that mysterious. It had probably just been Happosai messing around with fireworks again or something.

They had been very pretty to look at, though, a little bright spot in an otherwise cold and dark night as he'd walked alone.

When Ryoga was getting ready to boil some water for tea outside his tent, he stuck his hand in his pocket for his matches, but came up with a handful of napkin enfolding a sticky mess of cake instead. He'd forgotten all about the cake, and it looked like he'd been sleeping on it all night.

Ukyo had been right, though. It still tasted good even if it was a little squishy.


Author's note: This story will also have a New Year's Day special. Then it's done.

Contralto: The lowest female voice or voice part, intermediate in range between soprano and tenor. In the un-dubbed, original version of the anime, Ukyo's voice is pretty dark, in my opinion, at least when she's speaking normally and isn't trying to be the "cute fiancée". Her voice is still feminine, though.

Arsenic Sauce: Taken from the song You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch from How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Since I'm not from the US, even if I've known about it since childhood, I didn't actually see this famous Christmas cartoon until just now (November 2006).

(Mr. Grinch) You're a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce…

White Day: In Japan, girls give guys gifts/chocolate on Valentine's Day, and on White Day, one month later, guys are supposed to give girls a return gift.

Christmas cake: In Japan, Christmas cake, traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve, is simply a sponge cake, frosted with whipped cream, decorated with strawberries, and usually topped with Christmas chocolates or other seasonal fruit.

Ryoga and Ukyo are meant to be a little younger in this one, as opposed to my other stories. They're sixteen, going on seventeen.

I'm taking a few liberties with the continuation of the Ranma ½ OVA Christmas Special to make this story work. I'm assuming that the party still went on for a couple of hours after the lights came on again and before everybody changed into their pyjamas and watched the lights in the sky.

'If Life was a party, I'd be permanently stuck in the kitchen' probably isn't a very accurate quote at all. I think it's courtesy of Douglas Adams, but I can't be sure. Do tell if you know.

I began writing this because the shops in my town began spewing Christmas crap already two or three weeks before Halloween, and also because I didn't have time to write a Ryoga/Ukyo Halloween Special. I'll have to make due with a Christmas special. Oh, and also because it annoys me to no end that Ukyo (well, and Kodachi, but aheheh, I don't really write her that much) was the only girl not on stage during the Christmas show. Even Ranma in his girl form was up there! Tsk, tsk…! This is of course because Ukyo never was a member of the band DoCo, but I still think they could've added her. Oh, well.

Jaelle and Orla's A Christmas Gift had a similar theme, what with it being set during the Christmas special and that it concerned Ryoga and Ukyo, but I've tried not to be too unconsciously influenced by it, so I hope I've succeeded. I know that Ryoga also gave Ukyo Akane's old present in that story, but I still wanted to do it, just a little differently.

By the way, I hope no one will criticize me for saying that Christmas doesn't have to be about religion since that's what it's all about for Christians— I'm just saying that for a lot of people (like me) it's not about religion, it's about what Ukyo said, that 'all the lights and food and bright colours and gathering of loved ones are supposed to make this cold and dark season more bearable for people so they won't go all depressed'. We all know that the suicide rates escalate during the holidays.

In my country, Norway, 'Christmas' (except that it wasn't and isn't called Christmas, which means the birth of Christ; it's called 'jul', as in 'Yule'; winter solstice) was celebrated a long, long time before Christianity was ever introduced to the country; this also goes for the other Scandinavian countries. A lot of the important symbols of Christmas, like holly, Christmas ham, mistletoe, boughs, Yule logs etc. was adopted into the holiday from Yule traditions.

Gathering people, lighting fires and candles and eating better food than usual during the dark, cold season while waiting for the sun to come back is an ancient tradition in a lot of countries. Yule used to be based on Pagan religion, that's true, but now it doesn't really have that meaning anymore, and for some people it doesn't have the meaning of Christianity, either.

Also, for this story you have to take into consideration that Japan isn't a Christian country. The Christian population of Japan is less than one per cent, I think.

In Japan, Christmas is not as important as New Year's Day, which is the most sacred holiday, whereas Christmas is not a holiday at all. In contrast to Western customs, Christmas Eve is a day for couples to date and groups to hold parties, while the official New Year's Day holiday is a day of family celebration. (Source: Wikipedia)


PS: I just realized that this must be the only story I've ever written were Kasumi actually has any dialogue. Don't worry, though, because the epilogue to The Exit will also have a little Kasumi cameo, with dialogue.