A Ranma 1/2 fanfiction by Brian Randall
Disclaimer: Ranma 1/2 is the property of Rumiko Takahashi. Bein' Friends is produced by Shigesato Itoi, written by Keiichi Suzuki, and is best sung by Catherine Warwick. These paints are used without permission; the easel is arguably mine, but I'm not that attached to it.
When you are happy with laughter to spare,
Fun is twice as fun with someone to share.
"Best friends forever," he promised her, smirking.
"Forever 'n' ever," she countered, as they linked pinky fingers, sealing the promise.
When you are lonely and full of despair
Things aren't half as bad when somebody cares.
"I'm ... sorry."
"That's easy to say."
She flinched, turning her head slightly away, even though her eyes were closed, then quickly forced herself to regain her composure. "Is it?" she asked, looking at her fiance through narrowed eyes. "I don't think I remember you doing it that often."
"I..." He worked his jaw for a minute, then closed his own eyes, raising his hands and rubbing his face. "I should apologize?" he asked, dropping them to his sides. "After what you did?"
"I was trying to do you a favor!"
"A favor? Are you serious?"
She rose to her feet, pushing away her worry, her apprehension. This worked both ways, after all. "Yes," she said, gritting her teeth. "A favor. To the boy who told me that I was cute."
He flinched back and looked away, shifting his shoulders and studying the closed door of her restaurant.
"The boy who told me he thought that the girl I tried to save him from yesterday was uncute. Who said he didn't want to marry her. Who promised me he'd take care of me!"
For a moment, it looked like he was going to say something, but he didn't, simply holding still, hands balled into fists at his sides.
"The guy who came to spend time with me and talked about the good old days ... how we were friends once. And now you want to give me crap and tell me that I screwed up, for acting on what you told me?"
He still couldn't find words.
She sank back to her stool, crossing her arms over her chest. "I was going to apologize, if I'd made you unhappy ... but if you're going to be a jerk about it--"
"I'm sorry," he finally said, sighing. He ran his hands through his hair. "I... Yeah, okay. I didn't handle that so great. I really... I just..."
"She put you up to it, right?" she guessed, rolling her eyes.
"...her old man," he finally allowed.
She uncrossed her arms. "Look," she finally said, staring at the grill, "I want to be your friend. I thought we were friends. But after this..."
"The wedding wasn't my idea!" he protested. "Hell, I'm not ready for that -- it was the parents' idea, and they knocked me out without telling me what was going on!"
"So you're mad at me for breaking up a wedding you didn't want?"
"W...well..." He sighed, managing a wry chuckle. "I'm not... I mean... I don't know. I'm mad. Not at you, but..." He shrugged helplessly, spreading his hands in a gesture of defeat as he met her eyes. "Look ... it's not really your fault, and I shouldn't have snapped. I really am sorry."
"Look," she said, closing her eyes. "Let's try this from the beginning. Let's start over."
"Start ... what over?" he asked cautiously. "I've got so much going on right now--"
"Calm down, sugar," she advised, rising and stepping around the counter. "I'll make you a 'yaki. I meant ... look. We've never really been great about talking to each other on the level, I guess."
"We used to be great at it," he protested. "When we were kids -- you know, best friends!"
"We were so good at it, you didn't even know I was a girl," she retorted.
He winced, then chuckled again. "Yeah, okay," he allowed. "You got me there. But ... I don't want to get in trouble. I mean... I'm supposed to be making sure that, um, that you won't mess up a wedding if we..."
"I know," she said, rubbing at one temple as she flicked the grill on. "But if that's what we're gonna be -- just friends -- you better remember that means that we've got to be honest with each other."
"When have I lied to you?"
"Remember all that time that you let me think that you cared about me, when you're making it pretty obvious that it's really her you're interested in?"
He winced again. "I ... do care. I want us to be friends."
"That's why I'm not hitting you right now," she said, readying a spatula. "Because after thinking you abandoned me for all those years, and then finding out the truth... Well. We need to be clearer about how we talk about that kind of thing if we're going to be friends. So it's partly my fault, too."
He said nothing for a while, until she'd finished cooking, and served him the okonomiyaki on a plate. "You're being awfully reasonable about this. Thanks for that. I really appreciate it."
"Don't mention it, Ranchan. As crazy as things get around here, I think we're both better off with a real friend, huh?"
"...yeah. Yeah, you're right. Thanks again, Ucchan."
Maybe now you have figured it out,
That's what bein' a friend is about.
"...and then, after that, she hits me anyway!" he concluded, sighing.
"Yikes! I know she's got a temper, but that's just plain silly!"
"Yeah, I know. I should probably get back, I'm sure she's expecting me to apologize for it again." He shook his head. "Thanks for listening."
"No problem -- thanks for helping me clean up after that ghost posessed the batter."
"Hey, I can't just sit her and complain all the time -- I gotta help you out too, right? Well, anyway, take care!"
"You, too, Ranchan!"
When you're lookin' for a shoulder you can cry on,
(Won't you think about me?)
"What's wrong, Ucchan?"
"M...my father... He..."
"What?" He sat up right, forgetting his story of his fiance's latest antics. "What's wrong?"
"T...the funeral is in a few days, I."
His eyes widened, and he sucked in a slow breath. "Oh," he said quietly. "I... Um. Y...you think it'd be okay if I went with you? I mean, I remember him from when I was a kid, too, you know, and... Well, it's not like I don't owe you and your father both, really."
She shook her head, rubbing at her eyes. "You have a date," she reminded him. "You've been telling me about it all week."
"There will be other dates," he said, waving a hand dismissively. "She'll understand."
When you're lookin' for someone you can rely on,
(Don't you ever doubt me!)
"Woah ... that is one nasty looking bruise! What happened, you got hit by a truck or something?"
"...Akane got mad about me going to Osaka with you," he said, grimacing. "Then her father got into the act, and everything went crazy. Anyway, until they settle down a bit, I was wondering if I could crash here. I mean, if you and Konatsu wouldn't mind."
She closed her eyes, sighing. "I wouldn't mind," she said slowly, "but that's just going to make your problem worse. Tell you what, sugar. We're friends. You watch my shop, and I'll go talk some sense into Akane. We used to be friends too, after all, right?"
"I... Yeah, you're right. She'd take it the wrong way if she found out. You're a real pal, Ucchan."
"That's what friends are for, right?"
I'll be there someway somehow,
That's what bein' friends is about!
"Oh, geez, I didn't mean for--"
"It's okay," she said with a sigh, rifling through her purse. "I can cover this."
"Look, I didn't know she was going to lose her temper like that, and I don't think she meant to grab both of the tickets, but--"
"Calm down, Ranchan," she said with a shake of her head, counting out the bills as she paid the clerk. "It's settled. Really, though, that's pretty rude of Akane, just ditching you here with the tab."
"We... I think she just forgot," he said, rubbing at his temples. "Look, let me make it up to you. I have to pay you back for this, it's not really fair for you to go this far out of your way."
"Yeah ... but I've got Konatsu to help out at Ucchan's, so ... hm. They still giving you grief about expenses?"
"Of course. You remember what a big deal it was that we could afford to go to Hokkaido, right?"
"How much money do you think an okonomiyaki delivery service would make?"
"Well, Shampoo seems to do pretty well that way..."
When you grow restless and want room to breathe,
I will give you all the space that you need.
"You look down, Sugar, what's wrong?"
"Yeah, yeah, I know. It's always Akane."
He winced, shifting his shoulders and looking away.
"What is it this time?"
"She's getting mad about me spending so much time with you..."
"So? We're just friends."
"Well, I know that, but I can't ever get it across to her. And now she gets all jealous and angry whenever you try talking to her, so..."
"You need some space," she decided. "Well, she needs you to have some space. That's okay, Ranchan. We're friends, right? If you're going to marry her, you'd better spend time with her. Once she calms down, let me know. I'll still be here."
He sighed, bowing his head. "Thanks, Ucchan. You're the best."
And when you're ready for my company,
I will come around, just call on me.
She blinked her eyes open, slowly coming awake. "What," she croaked, blinking, "'s goin' on?"
He sighed in relief, leaning back slightly so she could look upwards at his face.
"Why didn't you tell me you were having trouble with a rival chef?" he said, his relief turning into irritation.
"You were busy," she replied, closing her eyes and wishing her bruises didn't ache quite as much. "And I know you're having trouble with Akane."
"Ucchan... You can't be a friend to me if I can't be a friend to you, too. And if I am going to marry Akane, she's got to get used to the idea that we're friends. Now tell me about this guy -- was it Hayate again?"
"No ... some Italian creep."
He blinked. "Seriously? How did it turn into this?"
"He came in and tried an okonomiyaki, then he was saying that it was derived from pizza. Well, I told him that pasta was brought over from Asia by Marco Polo, and he didn't like hearing that, so..."
Maybe now you have figured it out,
That's what bein' a friend is about.
"Oh, nice! You got a cell phone, eh?"
"Eh ... Nabiki's idea," he said distastefully, looking at the contraption. "Anyway, I haven't seen Konatsu around too much lately. What's he doing?"
"Oh, well, another ninja attacked him not too long ago, and, well, to make a long story short, he's dating."
He blinked, raising his eyebrows. "Seriously?"
"Yep! But, hey, good for him, right?"
"Yeah, I guess so ... huh. Well, good for him."
"You seem disappointed ... what, wanted him for yourself?" she teased.
"What? No, I... I just thought ... eh. Never mind. It's not important."
"Really?" she asked doubtfully.
He was saved from having to answer by the ringing of his phone. "Oh ... uh, it's her, so..."
"Alright ... see you around, then."
When you need someone who feels the way you do,
(Won't you think about me?)
"It wasn't about me again, was it?" she asked cautiously.
"No," he said with a heavy sigh, settling onto one of the stools. "Shampoo."
"What, you're just friends with her, right?"
"Yeah, like us, kinda. I mean, we spar, practice, and I teach her enough to not get in trouble with her tribe once she finally goes home. Seems like a win-win situation, since Akane doesn't get hurt, and I don't have to marry her, right?"
She considered it. "Yeah," she said, nodding, "that sounds pretty good to me. Everyone ends up happy."
"Except Akane gets mad at me spending time with other girls, even if we're just friends. And now Pops and Akane's old man are getting pissed at me for giving away 'the secrets of our school'."
"That's stupid! It's a trade; you got some of the secrets of her tribe, right?"
"That's my point exactly!"
Someone who can pick you up when you are blue,
(Don't you ever doubt me!)
"Heya -- woah! Sugar, sit down, you look awful! Have a seat!" Ukyou ushered the soaking redhead to a stool, and quickly had a kettle heating up. "Look, if Akane's getting so worked up about you coming by to visit me, maybe you shouldn't--"
"That ain't it," the redhead said, sighing. "It doesn't really matter. I figure, if it's not you, she'll find something else to argue about."
"Well... Have you tried apologizing?"
"Of course I have! It's just so frustrating! Like that stupid saying, 'one step forward, two steps back'? I never get anywhere! I feel like I'm just wasting my time!" She buried her hands in her face. "I don't know what to do," she managed, her voice muffled.
She said nothing to the girl who was dripping over her floor for a moment, until she found a towel to put around the other girl's shoulder. "You can beat any problem," she finally said. "I have confidence in you. You only lose when you lose heart, right?"
The redhead stiffened, and spread the fingers of one hand to peek out cautiously. "Really?"
It took strength not to laugh, though she did allow herself a grin. "Don't you remember the Hiryu-Shouten-Ha training? I know you can get past this. You can do anything, can't you?"
"I... Yeah." She dropped her hands into her lap, only flinching slightly as hot water was poured over her, now his, head. "Man. I don't think I would have lasted this far without you to help me out, Ucchan."
"Aw, Ranchan, you say the sweetest things!"
"I'm serious, Ucchan!"
"Me, too! Now grab a mop, you got my floor wet."
He blinked in surprise for a moment, then burst into sudden laughter. "Alright, yeah, that's fair... Thanks, Ucchan.
I'll be there someway somehow,
That's what bein' friends is about!
The lead man in the suit gave a lopsided grin. "Look, sweetheart, we kept away from your old man while he was around because we respected him and he paid his share without complaint. Now, we've given you almost a year since his most unfortunate passing ... but you've got a debt to settle."
"Oh, come on!" she said, rolling her eyes. "I don't even run this okonomiyaki-ya anymore; I let my assistant handle it. So don't give ... her ... crap for trying to start up. She's really new at this and has a hard enough time keeping the place running without having the benefit of being a real member of the family. You coming in and making things difficult just makes it so she makes less money! How do you honestly expect her to pay you off like that?"
"Well, it seems to me that you, the owner, are not having these financial difficulties," he said, adjusting his tie. "So we expect you to be handling this issue, and not her."
She drew one hand slowly down her face, sighing. "Alright," she said with a sigh. "I told Konatsu not to kick your collective asses because I didn't want to start a scene. So I don't want to do it, either, because what kind of example would I be setting?"
The other Yakuza behind the spokesman snickered at that comment. "You?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "Listen, your father was a martial artist, and he knew it was better to pay us off than try and fight. Respect your old man's stance, huh?"
"Oh, for the love of-"
The Yakuza froze, staring at their leader as a giant ball of glowing golden energy slammed into him, throwing him clear across the street to smash into a rubish bin with an echoing rumble. Their eyes slowly tracked to the source of the blast. A young man was standing on a telephone pole down the street, casually buffing his nails. "Oh," he said, looking up, as though he only just then realized there were other Yakuza there. "I'm sorry, did you all need some beat-down, courtesy of Saotome Ranma, of the Anything Goes school of martial arts?"
The heads of a small mob of Yakuza swiveled in unison, to where their leader was slowly righting himself with a pained groan. "S...Saotome?" he managed. "Y...you... You're Genma's kid?"
Ranma blinked slowly, then nodded. "Yeah, I am. What'd the idiot do this time?"
"N...nothing. Never mind. Come on, boys. We're done here."
"Well, if you change your minds," he called back, "be sure to take it up with me, and not her -- you can find me in Tokyo--"
"Whatever," the leader groaned, his minions rushing to help him hobble away. "Just stay out of her way from now on, boys."
Ranma deflated slightly. "I wanted a fight," he mumbled, kicking petulantly at the top of the telephone pole. "Stupid Pops ... finally doing something right..."
Ukyou put her hands on her hips and raised an eyebrow. "How the hell did you know to come to Osaka?" she finally asked.
Grinning, the young man pulled his cell phone from his pocket. "Konatsu's your friend too," he reminded her. "Damn thing finally turned out to be useful!" At that moment, the phone rang, and he looked at it, expression shifting to a grimace as he checked the phone number. "I'm out of range," he muttered, pressing a button on the side without flipping it open.
She snickered, shaking her head. "Come on down here, you big fool," she chastised. "I'm sure if you don't hurry back she's going to give you grief for this anyway."
He hopped down, landing near her. "Yeah, you're probably right ... but I needed a chance to get out of the dojo anyway. Can we stop by Konatsu's before we go? I'm totally starving."
Finally, she burst into laughter. "Okay, okay," she said, raising her hands in mock surrender. "Not my fault when she yells at you, though!"
I'm your friend, till the end
Count on me.
"And then the Yakuza just give up!" she concluded, glancing across the counter to where Konatsu was still cooking. "Seems like his father put them in their place a few years back, or something, and they still remember."
"I am ever so grateful that you've switched my bribes from random Yakuza to a single bottomless hole," Konatsu replied with a wink.
"Hey!" Ranma protested. "That's a super-handsome bottomless hole to you!"
"Yes, Saotome-Oyabun!" Konatsu cried, bowing low. "Please forgive me!" Then Konatsu straightened up with a wink, as the other customers in the restaraunt chuckled.
"A celebratory okonomiyaki!" one of the customers called. "For the cute okonomiyaki girls we know and love, in honor of their freedom from the Yakuza!"
"One for me, too!" someone else echoed.
Ukyou elbowed Ranma in the ribs, and whispered, "We should have splashed you before you came in for extra hilarity."
Ranma snorted, but before he could reply, his phone rang again. He grimaced, pressing the button to dismiss the call again.
"Alright. You're going to be in more than enough trouble -- come on. I'll pay for your ticket, and we'll take the bullet train back, okay?"
"Yeah ... okay. You're right," he admitted, sighing, and shooting one last, melancholy look across the clamoring crowd of customers that had been attracted to whatever sent the Yakuza running.
In the sunshine and the rain,
Paradise and back again.
He hadn't realized his reluctance to get aboard the train until he noticed that Ukyou had taken his arm and was leading him. She seemed to realize at the same time, and let go of him as though she'd been burned. "Um," she managed, her face darkening in a blush, "s...sorry."
"My fault for lagging," he assured her. What did it mean, he wondered, in the awkward silence that accompanied them for the rest of the trip from Osaka to Tokyo, that every time he and Akane so much as held hands he had to concentrate, to try and make the moment perfect ... and it simply felt perfectly normal for her to take his arm?
Count on me.
After getting off the train, he turned to face her. "Hey, listen," he began, before she shook her head, holding up one finger in a warning.
"Look," she said quietly. "I don't want to cause trouble. And she's got every reason to think that... Well. Anyway. I'm going to use the phone over there and call the dojo. I'm going to tell the truth."
He blinked in non-comprehension.
"I'll tell her that you helped me out with some Yakuza trouble. And that I don't know where you are at the moment. She's going to be upset anyway, maybe we can at least get her to understand it was just one friend helping out another, right?"
"W...well, you know exactly where I am, though," he said, frowning.
"So you'd better get moving," she said with a forlorn smile, "or else I'm going to be a liar when I pick up that phone."
Let me be a friend in need,
Let me be a friend indeed.
"All I'm saying is, if we pay for the damned phone, you can at least answer it when it rings," Akane snapped as they walked down the lane towards the dojo.
"Yeah, yeah, that's great," he retorted. "But you only use it to keep an eye on me because you don't trust me."
"That," she countered, "is because you're a pervert. What the hell do you think I'm supposed to think is going on when you go down to Osaka with her, instead of your fiancee?"
"That I'm helping a friend with some Yakuza! You called Konatsu and asked him -- hell, the Yakuza even called the dojo to apologize to Pops -- for whatever reason." He sighed, shaking his head. "You know, if that's not good enough for you, I don't know what to do."
"I don't trust her," she said. "That's all."
"Oh, it's not me, anymore, it's her?"
"Well, you're a pervert, and I can deal with that, but she tried to sabotage our wedding! How do you expect me to trust her?"
"I do! She's my friend; look, I bet you anything you want I could tell her we were getting married, and as long as it was me telling her, not Pops knocking me out and putting me in a monkey suit, she'd be okay with it!"
"Y...you mean it?"
"Of course I do! Hell, I'll talk to her about it tomorrow, alright?"
"I don't know..."
"Oh, come on! I don't give you grief when you go to visit Ryouga and Akari without me being there. I don't call you every ten minutes to check in on you, do I?"
"That's different! Ryouga and I are just friends!"
He sighed, hanging his head. "And Ucchan and I are just friends," he retorted.
Count on me.
She'd promised, so when he told her ... she couldn't really be surprised. She'd rolled her eyes and given him a good-natured, "It's about time," but now, she wondered how true she was being to her promise. But ... she had promised.
So the wedding was set. And she knew about it.
And she was going to watch her best friend marry someone else. "We're just friends," she told her reflection in the mirror. "Him being married won't change that. Right?"
And if you ask me, you know that it's true;
There is not a thing that I will not do!
"So... Because you're my best friend, Akane wants you to be the maid of honor at the wedding," he said slowly, not meeting her eyes. "I, uh... I would understand if you said no." He couldn't help but wonder if this was some loyalty test from Akane, because of her inability to trust him... But if this couldn't fix that, what could?
"Maid of honor?" she asked in surprise. "I half expected that I'd have to be the best man."
"Hey, you're my best friend," Ranma said, grinning, "but you're still a girl."
"Huh. Who is the best man, then?"
"Eh, Akane chose Ryouga."
Ukyou nodded slowly. "I guess that works." She decided to change the subject. "I haven't seen him in a while, how's he doing?"
"Oh, he and Akari tied the knot a few months back. I think he's settling down pretty well. He seems happy, anyway. Doesn't get lost as often ... but he does get lost just as bad."
"Well," she said, considering, "nothing's perfect."
"Yeah, I guess not..."
I'll follow you to the ends of the earth,
That's how much I think our friendship is worth!
She'd done her part, and the wedding went off without a hitch. She'd thought, somehow, that it wouldn't succeed ... but it did. And then she wondered if her thoughts were really her hopes. But in the end, it didn't matter. Ranma had married Akane.
And, she reflected, it didn't change much of anything. He still came to visit her. He still made deliveries to keep the dojo afloat, though now that he was 'officially' an heir to the Tendo dojo, he taught classes there, too.
But there was still that nagging sensation of loss...
"We're just friends," she whispered to the dark of her room at night. "So what does it matter?"
Maybe now you have figured it out,
That's what bein' a friend is about.
"Alright," he said, glancing across the assembled students. "Good work, everyone. Class is dismissed." They all bowed to him, and he bowed back; then they filed out of the dojo, and he sighed.
"Boo," someone whispered just behind him.
He spun, crouching, and smirked, feeling like a fool at Ukyou standing right next to him, grinning back. "You got me," he said ruefully, straightening up. "What brings you by?"
"Just thought I'd drop in," she said with a shrug, pulling a takeout container from behind her back. "I thought now that you and Akane were settling down yourselves, I'd surprise you with dinner, so we could all hang out and talk."
"O...oh," he said with a frown. "She's helping Ryouga out at Akari's farm. I can't go, because..." He shrugged, glancing around himself at the dojo. "You know."
"Oh," she said, surprised. "I didn't know..."
"Yeah, I know," he chuckled. "Didn't realize how much the dojo was going to pin me down. But I'm starving anyway! Go ahead and set up in the living room -- I think Iron Chef is going to be on. I'll just wash up before I join you, alright?"
"Sure thing!" she called to him as he wandered into the house.
When there's something that you just don't understand,
(Won't you think about me?)
The sun was setting, and the sky had dimmed, but it wasn't get dark enough for the lights to come on. So when one of the shadows parted from its brothers and loomed before her, she squinted, trying to force her eyes to adjust. Even as she did so, she fell into a defensive stance, warning, "I'm a martial artist, I'll have you-"
A hand slapped her raised fist away, and a familiar voice growled, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"U...Ukyou?" she managed, blinking as the shadow came into focus. "What do you think you're doing?"
"I'm looking out for my friend," she snapped. "He's stuck in one place, and you go out a few times a week -- what the hell Akane? How much of a hypocrite are you?"
She stiffened, glowering at the okonomiyaki chef. "That's rich," she growled. "You think I'm some kind of idiot? I'm just giving that jerk what he deserves -- it's not like the entire town doesn't already know about you and Ranma!"
"We're just friends!"
"Yeah, right! Don't bother lying to me. I expect that from him, but not--" She was cut off by a ringing slap, one that left her dizzied. She blinked a few times in shock, then slapped back with all her might, nearly spinning Ukyou around. "You arrogant-- Don't you dare judge me! I already let you and him get away with it, so don't even try and give me grief for your own affair!"
"Akane, you idiot!" Ukyou hissed. "We're not doing anything! We're just friends! Don't you get it? You are the one who's cheating -- and with Ryouga, of all people!"
"He's nice to me, and honest--"
"And married to Akari! Dear kami -- I suspected, but how could you--"
"Shut up! Shut up, and don't you dare judge me! Just be glad I let you get away with what you do!"
"No, you shut up! Ranma's a wonderful man, and deserves a hell of a lot better than you give him credit for! I'm going to give you one chance, Akane. Stop this -- right now. Stop it, or I'm going to tell Ranma what's going on." Ukyou crossed her arms over her chest and glared at Akane.
For her part, Akane took a half-step backwards. "You... You wouldn't."
"You think so?" she retorted. "Do you have any idea how badly you're going to hurt him, if he finds out? He's loyal to you, Akane. And you're going to crush him with this."
"...fine," Akane said quietly, narrowing her eyes. "But I don't want you spending time with my husband."
"Then stop cheating on him," Ukyou snarled. "Be there for him." With that, she whirled, marching into the darkness.
I'll be more than glad to lend a helping hand.
(Don't you ever doubt me!)
"Heya, Ucchan! How are-- Woah! What happened? Who did that to you?" Ranma narrowed his eyes, frowning. "Akane got hit by someone, too..."
Ukyou rubbed the handprint on her face and looked away. "I don't want to talk about it," she said glumly. Then she shook her head. "What brings you by? Shouldn't you be with your wife?"
"As soon as she got home she went to the bedroom and said she didn't want to talk about it," he said with a sigh, sinking to sit at a stool. "I thought I'd give her some space and talk with you ... see if you knew what was going on."
"I wish I could tell you," Ukyou said sadly.
I'll be there someway, somehow,
That's what bein friends is about!
That's what bein friends is about!
"Damn you," Ukyou hissed through clenched teeth. The girl she spoke to was out of earshot, leading Ryouga by the arm through the marketplace. And why not; Ryouga got easily lost.
But Akane didn't, and there was no reason to be going to a hotel at this hour, except...
And as far as Ukyou knew, Ranma still didn't realize. But some day, he would. Akane couldn't honestly expect to keep it hidden forever ... and when he did find out, what then?
There was no way things could have gone on this long without him at least suspecting. And that meant that, as much as she dreaded it ... if she wanted to be a real friend to Ranma, she would have to tell him the truth.
And how much, a small voice within her asked, of her was glad of the chance to drive them apart? Almost none, she realized. She felt nothing happy about it ... because of how much she knew it would hurt him.
(Tell me all your secrets)
I will swear to keep them
"I hardly ever get calls from you," he said, amused, as he trotted into her restaurant. "Hey, you're already closed?"
"Y...yeah," she said quietly. "Ranchan, we have to talk. Close the door."
He took a deep, shuddering breath. "I know something bad's going on," he said, doing as she asked. "I don't know what. But I can feel it. You know, don't you?"
"I do," she admitted, bowing her head, tears splashing down to her knees. "Ranchan ... about Akane."
He trembled. "She spends an awful lot of time gone," he said, his voice shaking minutely. "Helping Akari out at the farm."
"You already know," she sighed, rubbing at her eyes.
"N...no. I mean ... we're just friends, right?"
"Can't... I mean..." But now there were tears in his eyes, too. "I trusted her," he finally managed. "I trusted him."
"I'm so sorry," she whispered.
(Let me know your problems)
I will help you solve them.
"How did it go?" she asked cautiously. "Did you..."
"I really loved her," he said quietly, head bowed. "I don't know why. I guess you don't need a why. I mean, it's love, right? And then..."
"I think she loved you, too," she tried, though it sounded lame as soon as she said it.
"Once," he said quietly. "Anyway. We had an argument. It got ugly. She said that you and I... That..." he sighed, rubbing at his eyes. "I told Akari. So Ryouga's in trouble, too. I guess no one's happy." He managed a crooked smile. "Except you. You don't have to deal with this garbage."
"I'm not happy," she said solemnly. "And I do have to deal with it; you're my friend, and I want to help you."
"Help me with what?" he asked weakly. "Listen ... while we were going at it, and this one... This one was a bad one ... Pops came by with Mom. So she heard it, too. And Akane's old man. So everyone knows, now. That I'm a failure as a husband; couldn't keep my wife happy. Mom's pissed, too -- I'm 'less of a man', if I fail at that. So Akane says that you-- That we were more than just friends."
"It's my fault," she said quietly, bowing her head. "W...we... I could take the blame. We could say it was all me, right?"
"So I've got a wife that hates me, cheats on me, a mother that thinks that I'm weak enough to be seduced instead of the other way around, and I lose my best friend?" he retorted. "No. If they don't believe me, screw them. I'm... I'm tired of it. I don't... I don't like it anyway. I put up with it for her, and now..."
"W...well. Look. You need some space, some time to clear your head. I don't want to get you in more trouble. Let me send you to Osaka. Konatsu's still running my father's old place for me, and you can have the spare bedroom there. Anyone who looks for you here won't find you, and I won't tell anyone where you went, okay?"
(When your heart is aching)
I will stop it breaking.
"Wooo!" she exclaimed, wrinkling her nose. "Okay, this room need to be aired out," she declared, marching across the floor, stepping carefully over him where he lay on the futon, and sliding the window all the way open.
"Ucchan?" he said blearily. "Wha... Who's taking care of things in Nerima?"
"No one," she said, shaking her head. "I'm closed for a while. With you gone, things just got even crazier. People got even dumber about... It doesn't matter. How's Osaka been treating you?"
He rolled over on the futon and peered at the clock. "The Yakuza offered me Pop's old job," he said with a yawn, before sitting up.
"Are you serious?" she exclaimed, staring at him.
"Yeah," he said, covering his mouth with a yawn. "Apparently he used to break into official buildings and replace files on people to clean up their records and stuff. I told 'em I'd think about it."
"You'd better not be working for the Yakuza out of my father's restaraunt," she warned.
"Eh," he groaned. "I'm not going to." One arm went over his eyes. "How's Akane?"
"Probably the best of anyone," she finally said. "That doesn't matter, though. How are you?"
"Lousy," he groaned.
"Alright," she sighed. "Enough of that -- take a shower or I'm splashing you with cold water and washing you myself."
"What?" he asked, moving his arm to peek at her with one eye.
She put her hands on her hips. "You," she lectured, leaning forward and giving him a stern gaze, "are leaving this room, and you are going to have a good time. If you cooperate, you can dress yourself. If you don't, Konatsu will be choosing your outfit! Now!" She clapped her hands. "Shower!"
Ranma scrambled to his feet, unable to keep a smirk from his face. "Some friend you are," he tossed over his shoulder as he fled to the bathroom.
She smiled softly at the doorway he vanished through. "I'm trying," she whispered.
(When you are in danger)
I am your guardian angel.
"Sometimes," he said, kicking a pebble as they walked through the city, "I wonder about trying to patch things up. I mean, saying that the entire thing was a mistake on both our parts. We married really young, after all."
"It's not like you've aged ten years in the last three months," she said dryly.
He wilted. "Yeah, you're right. Still... I miss it, you know?"
She looked at the clear sky. "I guess I do," she said quietly. "But, hey. You held in for a few years. Not bad for a first try."
"Yeah," he sighed. "I'm just not used to losing, I guess."
"Well, you make your own choices," she said with a shrug. "I want to be your friend, so as long as we can keep that..." She trailed off.
"So if I did go back to her, we'd have to give that up," he said, shaking his head.
"If that's what it takes ... well, I want you to be happy."
"And what kind of friend would I be if I didn't want the same thing for you?" he countered. "Yeah, you're right. It's not really an option."
"I...I never said that!" she protested. "I said you make your own choices!"
"And my choice is to keep the friend that's helped me keep sane through this all," he countered.
She narrowed her eyes. "This is your clever ploy to get me to say you don't have to pay me back for those Forbidden Kingdom tickets, isn't it?"
"Damn!" he exclaimed in mock anger. "You've seen through me!" Then he jerked his head towards a Yakuza standing in front of the entrance to another theater. "Brother," he said, "two tickets to Kung-Fu Panda. I have a debt to pay off."
"Yes, Saotome-san!" the Yakuza said quickly, snapping to attention.
Ukyou froze, blinking. Then she punched Ranma in the shoulder. "Ranchan!" she growled. "Working for the Yakuza?"
"It's not like that," he said airily. "They work for me."
"Ow, ow! Kidding, kidding! I just work in a dojo teaching them some basic moves! It's totally legit, but they respect my father's work, so I get some freebies!"
She narrowed her eyes. "Alright," she said dubiously. "But any Yakuza that show up at either of my restaraunts better be paying customers!"
The Yakuza at the door heard the entire exchange, and swallowed nervously. "This way, Saotome-san," he said, gesturing to the theater entrance.
(I will stand beside you)
Be the one to guide you.
"So you really think the Yakuza are a respectable organization?" she asked doubtfully.
"Well, they can be," he said evasively. "Hey, remember the Kobe earthquake? The Self Defense Force and the National Emergency Service didn't have helicopters looking for survivors until days after the Yakuza donated theirs for the effort."
"They're still crime lords," she muttered, crossing her arms.
"Yeah, I know ... and that's why I'm not one of them. But I figure it won't hurt to teach them some martial arts. Aside from which, it's a good opportunity to teach them positive martial arts philosophy."
"Well, follow your dream," she said with a shrug. "I don't think you're really the Yakuza type."
"It pays well enough," he said quietly. "For the moment. I'd really rather travel ... not like I got much left in Nerima anyway."
"Mm. Osaka doesn't agree with you?"
"It's alright," he said, shrugging. "Great okonomiyaki, though."
She snorted, rolling her eyes. "Follow your heart," she advised. "I'm sure things will work out."
(When your dreams are crumblin')
Call me, I'll come runnin'.
"I thought about it for a while," he said quietly, leaning against the sloped roof of her father's restaurant and gazing at the night sky.
"Hmm?" she noised from beside him.
"For a while, everything fell apart. I mean, my wife cheating on me, all of the parents blaming me for what went wrong... But before that, beyond it all, you were there for me."
"Don't give me that," he said with a sigh. "Friends is one thing, but you've done an awful lot more for me than I ever did for you. It's not fair to you, Ucchan. What kind of friend am I, really? I stole your yattai, I ruined your reputation by abandoning you, I led you on for years, and now I'm working with the Yakuza while freeloading in your father's restaraunt. It's time to turn things around. It's time for me to do something for you."
"...you have, though," she said quietly. "You chose my friendship over your marriage. You helped me deal with the Yakuza, and made it so that my customers don't even mind the fact that you work with them. And you ... let me not be alone, all that time."
He rolled to face her, leaning on one elbow. "I think I could do better," he said with a smirk. "And I think I know what I might owe you, if you want it?"
Her heart skipped a beat. "What's that?"
"Do you want ... to start over?"
"I made a promise to you, once," he said quietly. "I think it's time to forget about my dream ... that didn't work at all. Why don't we work on your dream?"
She blinked. "Y...you mean ... us? I... I like being your friend. I don't know if I want to risk that, now. I don't think that would work."
His eyes widened in surprise.
That's what friends are all about.
Then she grinned wickedly, and pulled him into a sudden kiss. He knew how it worked better than she did, she realized ruefully, once he started kissing her back, setting her head spinning. When the kiss finally broke and she caught her breath, she said, "Let's work on our dream."
Author's notes: Maybe this is the one?
Total time to write fic: 2 hours.
Total time to format so that fanfiction dot net will accept it without mangling the appearance: 4 hours.
Whoever is on the fanfiction dot net staff and decided to make these changes... I don't know who you are. But I hate what you've done, and I don't like you for it.