Establishing the Bond

By Dyne

Being Friends (Mother)

     Kuonji Ukyo hummed a happy tune as she finished cleaning her grill after a busy day of serving okonomiyaki to the hungry residents of Nerima. The highlight of the evening came when her fiancÚ, Saotome Ranma, and his other fiancÚ, Tendo Akane, had come in for an early dinner. That afternoon had been especially crazy since she, Akane, and the other two girls who were competing for Ranma's affection, Kuno Kodachi and Shampoo, had all participated in a cooking contest in which Ranma was the prize. Ukyo felt responsible for what happened because of her decision to act more feminine and dress accordingly. Her choice nearly backfired, however, because she attracted the attention of all of the guys at school when she was only trying to get Ranma to notice her. This led up to the said cooking contest and before Ranma was able to announce the winner, the guys from school bursted into the building and beat Ranma up out of jealousy. Ukyo's guilt was soon alleviated when Ranma, despite all he's just eaten, ordered a squid okonomiyaki right after it was over and told her that he liked her best the way she was. She giggled a little at what had happened because he had told her that in front of Akane, even though it was just a whisper. Even though her embarrassed reaction was to smack Ranma with her giant spatula, to her it was a sign of affection.
     Ranchan does like to call me cute in public, she thought, blushing, but if he did while we were alone I'd probably give him a big hug instead. she felt her blush intensify.
     As Ukyo finished cleaning the restaurant, her eyes fell onto a brochure that she'd noticed the previous day. It contained a list of touring areas for the Autumn Touring season. Her mood dropped a hair as she remembered how Ranma had invited her to go on a short touring trip with him after she told him about it. But before they were able to make any plans, Akane had run in and verbally dragged Ranma back home to finish some chores that he had neglected. Ukyo's train of thought was broken as she heard the footsteps of a customer come into the doorway.
     "Welcome," she chimed and bowed, "I was just closing up but since I'm in such a good mood I'll-" her eyes fell on who the customer was and widened a little, "Ranchan! Are you still hungry?"
     Sure enough, the figure of Saotome Ranma filled the doorframe. He simply smiled and took a seat across from Ukyo.
     "Not this time, Ucchan," he answered, flipping through the brochure that laid between them, "I'm so stuffed that I'll probably explode if I eat anything else."
     "Um... Ranchan," Ukyo felt another red tinge in her cheeks as she played with her fingers, "why did you come to eat here after you'd already eaten so much?"
     "I'll be honest," he looked at her and smiled, "I couldn't resist the smell of your okonomiyaki. I can always set some room aside for it because yours is the best in the world."
     "Ranchan... thank you," she turned around to hide her red face and thought, This is it, nobody's here. Hug him while you have the chance, Ukyo!
     "Ucchan?" Ranma started to ask.
     "Yes?" she turned back around, smiling her cutest smile.
     "Did you still want to go fishing and mountain climbing?"
     Ukyo's eyebrows nearly hit the ceiling when she heard that and saw Ranma looking at the same page that she had shown him the day before, then beamed, "Of course!"      "I feel bad for not taking you up because Akane interrupted our plans."
     "You don't have to feel bad," she thought of something else, "In fact, why don't you invite Akane to come with us?"
     Ranma shook his head, "Ucchan, we haven't done anything as best friends in 10 years. I want to remember the fun we had as kids before all this mess started."
     "Ranchan..." Ukyo felt her heart flutter because he wanted to be only with her but her heart also sank a little at the same time because of the reason. She then thought, I'll continue to be his best friend and, sooner or later, he might begin to see how I feel about him. I wouldn't want to put him through what I had to go through.
     "So what do you say, best buddy?"
     Ukyo took his hand, "I'm all for it, pal."
     Ranma blinked in surprise, but smiled, "I'll just tell Akane that I'm going on another training trip. It won't really be a lie either because we can train in the morning and play in the afternoon."
     Ukyo just nodded, "Just remember, Ranchan, I've spent the last 10 years training too so I won't be so easy to beat as I was when we were 6."
     Ranma flashed her a grin of challenge, "I'm looking forward to it," then pointed to a train schedule, "If we take the early train over to this campground, we can-" In the next half-hour, the two friends made plans for a full weekend of training and fun.

     The next morning, being a full Saturday off of school, Ukyo sat impatiently on a bench inside the train station. Her pack was full of supplies ranging from her tent, to her portable okonomiyaki grill and necessary ingredients, to her fishing gear, minus a rod. Of course, she hadn't forgotten her weapons, either.
     Where are you, Ranchan? she thought as she shifted her feet back and forth, The train leaves in 15 minutes.
     Luckily for Ukyo, her question was immediately answered with an excited, "Hey Ucchan!" coming from behind. Then she saw only blackness as her eyes were covered, "Guess who?"
     "Ranchan, you tease," she giggled, "you always did that when we were little."
     Ranma took a seat next to her and just smiled before asking, "Ready to go?"
     "Yep," she replied, giving a cute expression and pointing to her pack, "I was beginning to think you weren't going to come and that last night was just a dream."
     "No dream," he assured her, "this is real. Although I almost didn't make it."
     "Really? Did you oversleep?"
     "No, the old freak poured water on me an hour before I was going to get up hoping to sneak a bra onto me so I sent him flying towards Mt. Fuji. I left early to try and avoid any more trouble, but as luck would have it, I ran into Kuno, Mousse, and Ryoga all at different points on the way here."
     Ukyo couldn't hold back a fit of giggling, "Ranchan, you're pretty popular."
     Ranma ignored the fact that she was laughing and sighed, "Yeah, but the wrong kind of popular. Who knows how many people want my head."
     Ukyo calmed a bit and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, "I hope it'll make you glad that I'm not one of them."
     "At least not anymore," he countered and grinned.
     Ukyo just laughed again as the announcement stating that their train was ready to board came over the PA.
     "Let's go, Ranchan," she stood up, "you need to relax and this is the perfect time for a vacation. Nothing's going to happen."
     "I sure hope you're right, Ucchan," he said as they proceeded to board.

     As the train carried the two teenagers away from the city and farther out into the country, Ukyo watched the early morning sun climb higher into the sky. They would arrive at their destination, a remote campsite with a hiking trail, lake, and climbing mountain, in two hours.
     "Ranchan," she said turning towards him, "I've seen a lot of crazy things since moving to Nerima, like the trouble we had with Tsubasa and Kuno being possessed by the spirit of Miyamoto Musashi-"
     "Tell me about it," Ranma interrupted.
     "And I want to know if it was like that from day one with you," she finished.
     Ranma did begin with day one when he and his father returned from China and how Genma waited until that day to inform him of the arranged marriage between him and one of the Tendo daughters. He explained how he had been in female form when first meeting the Tendos and the trouble with Akane on how she was glad that he was a girl and wanted to be friends, until she learned he was really a boy. He continued on with the stories of Kuno falling in love with his girl-half and the problems that came because of that, how Ryoga had tracked him down since his original challenge, he Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics Tournament against Kodachi, the trouble with Shampoo and her memory erasing shiatsu technique, the Golden Pair: Shiratori Azusa and Sanzenin Mikado, Shampoo's return with her great-grandmother, the Full Body Cat Tongue experience, Mousse's initial arrival and return to try and turn him into a duck, Happosai's revival and all the ensuing misery, and so on. Ranma spared no detail as he told the tale of every insane event and he didn't fail to verbally vent his frustration on the people who were responsible for them. The attacks usually fell on Genma, Kuno, or Happosai, but he orally tore Sanzenin apart as well for whatever reason he didn't say. Ukyo listened to every word attentively and her eyes just got wider and wider as the events got weirder and weirder.
     When he finally finished nearly an hour later, all she could say was, "Ranchan, you've gone through a lot since you left China. But I bet it wasn't boring."
     Ranma blinked and tilted his head to look into her eyes, "You believe it all, Ucchan?"
     "Why shouldn't I? I know your father is a big liar but I you wouldn't lie to me about all that." She could see the relief in his eyes as he spoke.
     "Thank you."
     Ukyo smiled, "That's what a best friend is for, to listen."
     He seemed taken aback a little, "Yeah..."
     She was then about to say, "I'll never leave you," but she didn't want to put any put any pressure on him into thinking about his fiancÚ problem and forget to relax, so she changed the subject.
     "There's still a while before we get there. Do you want to play cards?"
     "All right, but what game do you want to play?"
     Ukyo thought for a moment, "Does Babanuki sound good?"
     "Fine with me, I don't have anything to lose," little did Ranma realize that in the near future, he would grow to hate Babanuki.

     Within an hour after Ukyo and Ranma got off the train they found an isolated clearing not too far away from the hiking trail that led to both the lake and climbing path to set up camp in. It didn't take much longer to get their tents and everything set up, so once they were done-
     "Here I come, Ranchan!" Ukyo shouted as she charged, spatula in hand, hopefully catching him off guard as he was still crouching next to the fire pit he had set up. As she expected, he simply leapt aside to avoid the overhead blow.
     "Nice try," he turned and grinned, "want to try again?" A flurry of darts answered his question. Ranma continued to dodge the attacks launched by his cute fiancÚ as she refused to slow her attacks. After several minutes, Ranma smirked.
     "That was a nice warm up, Ucchan," he said as he landed on top of the flat end of her spatula exactly as he had done on her first day at school when she challenged him, "but I won't get any better just by defending, so it's my turn," then launched his own volley of punches and kicks. Ukyo did her best to dodge, but took a hit every now and then. She noticed that Ranma never hit her hard enough to cause any pain, in fact, he would often just playfully tap her from behind lightly. She realized that he was half-playing around and smiled.
     "Nice job, Ranchan," she complemented and took a low sweep at his feet. Ukyo expected another dodge and counter, just not the kind he was going to do. He flipped over and landed behind her.
     "Let's see if I remember where they are," he said smugly. She knew exactly what he was talking about.
     "Ranchan don't you dare!" she cried and tried to turn around, but was too slow as she felt Ranma start to tickle the sides of her stomach.
     "Yep, still there," he observed, "been a long time since I've gotten to use this; The Saotome School of Anything-Goes Martial Arts super technique: Tickle Ucchan!"
     "Ranchan!" Ukyo exclaimed between laughs, "you always finished a sparring match with that move!" Her laughter disabled her from aiming any attack properly and before long she dropped her spatula and tried to keep his hands away, but in vain. After several minutes she thought her lungs were going to explode, but he finally stopped. Ukyo fell onto her rear end trying to catch her breath. She was laughing so hard that tears had long since formed in her eyes. Ranma grinned again as he crouched in front of her.
     "You win..." she wheezed.
     "Yep," was all he said.
     "Guess I owe you lunch."
     "Yep," he said happily and both their stomachs growled.

     Ukyo made sure that Ranma was well fed during their lunch. After they had feasted on several shared okonomiyaki, Ranma looked over at her.
     "What next, best buddy?" he asked.
     "Hmm..." she looked around thoughtfully. After only a few seconds her eyes fell on the bag that held her fishing gear, which only consisted of a few hooks, string, and store-bought bait, "Fishing sound good with you, Ranchan?"
     "It's all right with me, I'll go cut some branches for rods."
     "I'll be here waiting and cleaning up," she watched him jump into the trees. As soon as she wiped her portable grill she ducked into her tent to change clothes.

     When Ranma did return a few minutes later with a couple of thick branches, Ukyo had changed out of her okonomiyaki seller's outfit and into a yellow one-piece swimsuit and shorts.
     "Ready to go, Ucchan?" he asked as he took a slightly questioning look at her.
     "What are you staring for?" she teased and picked up the rest of their gear, "If I fell into the lake I wouldn't want to ruin my only seller's outfit."
     "Okay, okay," he raised his hands in defense, "I get your point," then shouldered the rods and fell in step alongside her as they headed back to the marked trail.

     The lake area itself was crowded mostly with other fishermen either on the shore or out on boats as the water was too cold for swimming this time of year. A boat shop stood on the shore and offered rentals for a reasonable price, so Ukyo decided it would be best for them to get out on the water away from all the other people. Her secret motive, of course, was to be alone with Ranma.
     "Ucchan," he argued as she paid for the rental and took the oars from the owner, "why can't I pay for half?"
     "Because, Sugar," she rebutted, "you paid for our train tickets. And we're out here on a trip, not a date."
     "All right, I'll let you take care of this one, but only if I do the rowing."
     "You row us out and I'll row us back," she compromised.
     "Deal," they shook on it.

     The shop owner pointed out to them the best spot for fishing and Ranma wasted no time in rowing them out. They must have been the only ones he mentioned that spot to because Ukyo noticed that nobody else was close by.
     He looks like he's having fun, she thought as she dropped her line into the water, I've never seen him so relaxed.
     "It's so quiet and peaceful out here," Ranma observed as he looked out over the lake, "something that I don't see a lot of lately. This was a great idea, Ucchan, thanks for telling me about it."
     "Y-you're welcome, Ranchan," she responded, blushing a tiny bit, "I thought you'd like it."
     "With a friend like you around, why would I not like it?"
     "Ranchan, stop it, you're embarrassing me," she was about to give him the hug she'd wanted to when she felt a tug on her line.
     "Hey," she shouted, "I've got something!" and fought to pull it in. When the fish jumped out of the water, trying to shake the hook, she saw that it was enormous.
     "Holy cow!" Ranma gaped, "how can a fish that big live in a fresh water lake? Don't let it go, Ucchan!"
     "It'll be our dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow, don't you worry!" Ukyo grunted. She was strong, but she'd never hooked a fish even close to one this big. She stood up to gain some leverage.
     "I'll get you!" she shouted, but her arms were starting to give out. How heavy is this thing? she thought. Ranma must have noticed because she felt his arms come around her and help her hold onto the branch.
     "We'll get it together," he said, "on three!"
     "Okay!" Ukyo felt like she was in heaven and her red face would have told that to anyone, but she didn't lose her focus on the catch.
     "Ready?" Ranma began to count, "1... 2... 3!" With that, the two put all their of strength in giving their makeshift rod a sharp tug. The only flaw with that was they pulled so hard the line broke. The recoil hit both of them hard enough to make them fall down onto the bow of the boat.      "Wow," Ranma shook his head to clear it, "that was sudden. You okay, Ucchan?" To say that Ukyo was in Heaven is too light of a description for how she felt as she realized that she'd fallen into Ranma's lap.
     "I'm fine, Ranchan," she replied, "perfectly fine."
     "Sorry, it was my fault you lost the fish."
     "It wasn't your fault, Ranchan," as tortuous as i was, she resisted the urge to lean in closer. Ukyo sat up just as, by pure luck, the fish they'd been fighting to haul in jumped out of the water one last time and landed inside their boat. It flopped around for a while but never managed to get back out into the water. Both sets of eyes couldn't have been any wider.
     "Look at this thing," Ukyo scampered over to it and crudely measured it with her arm, it's nearly a meter long!" She looked back over to see that Ranma had burst out laughing.
     "Nobody at home is gonna believe this one!" he guffawed. Ukyo saw his point on that and within seconds she began laughing as well. The sounds of happy laughter echoed across the lake for the next several minutes.

     The rest of the afternoon yielded a few more caught fish, but none of them even came close to Ukyo's trophy. When they returned the boat, the owner was kind enough to take their picture with the fish to prove that they had indeed caught it. At first, Ranma insisted that Ukyo be alone in the picture because she was the one who hooked it, but she soon convinced him otherwise because he helped pull it in. Now, both of them proudly carried a Polaroid of the two friends smiling and raising a "V for Victory" sign with their prize hanging next to them.
     It was dusk when they returned to camp. Ukyo changed back into her regular outfit while Ranma started the fire. Within another few minutes they were once again feasting.
     "Ah, this is delicious," Ukyo noted after she swallowed her first bite, "and I'll be the first one to tell you this, Ranchan, having the same thing to eat over and over again can get boring after a while."
     "I know how you feel, Ucchan," he responded, "lately there's been nothing but rice and tea at home."
     She stopped eating, quickly pieced together the puzzle, looked up, and asked worriedly, "Are the Tendos having money problems?"
     "To make a long story short: yes. With no students at the dojo and three guests living in the house, food runs out fast."
     Ukyo scooted closer next to him, "Well if it ever gets bad enough that you get kicked out, you're always welcome to stay with me."
     Ranma's face showed nothing but shock, "Ucchan! That wouldn't be right!"
     "I meant you could stay in the guest room, silly," she giggled again.
     "Oh... thank you." Ukyo could see the embarrassment in his face in the light of the fire.

     After cleaning up the site following their dinner, they decided to get to bed early and get plenty of sleep so that they would be at peak performance for their training and sparring match the next morning before they climbed the small mountain next to the area. As Ukyo sat in her tent she looked over at the other side where she had set the cooler with their food and her combat equipment. She felt a small sense of pride at the size of the fish she had caught. Of course I can't take all the credit, she thought as she looked over to the wall where, if she could see through it, she would have seen Ranma's tent. The thin walls allowed her to hear the shuffling sounds he made as he got ready for bed.
     "Good night, Ranchan!" she called as she laid down.
     "Good night, Ucchan," he replied, "see you in the morning!"
     Ukyo smiled as she rested her head down. It had been a long and wonderful day and as sleep overcame her she hoped that tomorrow would be even better.

     Much later that night, Ukyo bolted awake as she heard something or someone step on a twig and snap it right outside of her tent.
     "Who's there?" she whispered loudly, "Ranchan?" Her answer came in the form of the sound of heavy breathing, almost sniffing. It was too dark to see how big the whatever-it-was was outside. She silently cursed herself for leaving her combat spatula out of reach as she picked up her flashlight and turned it on. Once she shined the light towards the sound, she saw the silhouette of a large bear through the wall. Ukyo had to clamp her hands over her mouth to keep from screaming. It must have smelled the leftover fish somehow, she thought, got to think of a way to get rid of it. She didn't get to plan for very long because the bear suddenly roared loudly and clawed at the tent, ripping out two of the walls. In the light of her flashlight she could see it foaming heavily at the mouth. Oh gods! It's rabid!
     Ukyo used her martial arts training to keep from panicking as her slowly inched back towards one of th new exits as the bear clawed at her cooler. She had just barely gotten outside when her body fell onto another twig, snapping it and turning the bear's attention towards her. It roared again as it swiped at her. Because it was between her and her weapons, Ukyo could only dodge as she had no means of fighting back. As she jumped aside to dodge another swipe, her ankle slipped on an unseen rock and she ended up falling onto her stomach. She tried to crawl away but was too slow as the bear approached her from the rear.

     RANCHAN!!! she closed her eyes and screamed in her mind.

     Ranma must have heard her somehow because just as the bear was about to claw her back, she heard a loud whistle come from its side, distracting it. She took the time to scoot away and turned to see Ranma's figure in the dim light of the moon and stars. Her eyes had adjusted enough to see what was going on when Ranma chucked a rock at the bear's head, diverting its attention towards him.
     "You leave Ucchan alone!" he shouted as the bear swiped at him, bearing its teeth. Ranma didn't hesitate as he flipped over the beast, took the complete advantage of its open back, and shouted, "KACHUU TENSHIN AMUGURIKEN!!!" unleashing a barrage of blindingly fast punches into the bear's back and head. After a solid minute of being pummeled, the bear had withstood all of the damage it could sustain, keeled over, and stopped breathing.
     "I didn't want to have to kill it," Ranma said quietly, "but because it was rabid..." then turned over towards Ukyo.
     "Ucchan" he ran over to her, "are you okay?"
     It's now or never, she thought and threw her arms around him in a huge hug and said, "Thank you, Ranchan, I thought I was a goner."
     Ranma was a little shocked at her forwardness and stammered a shaky "You're welcome."
     Ukyo didn't loosen her grip, "Nobody's definitely not going to believe this one. You killed a rabid bear with your bare hands!"
     "Just the result of training," he said modestly, "it wasn't half as bad as the bees," then looked back over near the bear's body, "but look at your tent. It's ruined."
     "I'll be fine sleeping outside," she said as she finally loosened her grip a little.
     Ranma put his hands on her shoulders and looked her dead in the eyes, "No you won't, you can have my tent."
     "But Ranchan-"
     "No 'buts,' and if you're concerned about me sleeping outside I can just turn into a girl and we'll share."
     Her worry of other wild animals alleviated a bit and she nodded, "That'll work."
     As Ukyo gathered her belongings, which had all remained intact except for some of the food that had spilled, from the tattered remains of her tent, Ranma moved his upwind from the bear's carcass as it was too heavy for both of them to move alone. Once the new camp had been set up, he opened his canteen and doused enough water onto himself to trigger his curse and turn into a girl. Once that was done, Ukyo immediately handed him a towel.
     "Thanks, Ucchan," Ranma-chan said.
     "Anytime, Sugar," she replied, smiling cutely.

     The next morning was spent with the two of them working out and training with their own methods and styles before they finished with another spar. As Ukyo expected, the result was the same as the previous day's and she found herself at the mercy of Ranma's special tickling attack.
     "Enough! Enough!" she laughed, "I surrender!"
     "A good martial artist knows when to quit," he smirked and released her, "this is fun, we should train together more often."
     "Yeah, fun for you," she teased as she caught her breath, "and you won lunch yet again."
     Ranma gave her a "Who? Me?" expression. She just laughed and readied her grill.

     After lunch the two friends packed up the camp and headed back down the hiking trail, this time to the mountain path. They didn't want to have to return there to clean up since the bear's dead body was beginning to smell. It was about 2:00 when they reached the summit and they didn't have to be back to the train station until 6 that night.
     "How beautiful," Ukyo admired as she looked out over the view, "you can see everything."
     "Yeah," Ranma pointed, "there's the lake. It looks so small from up here." During the entire trip, one thought had been nagging Ukyo's mind, so she decided that this was the place to finally voice it.
     "Ranchan?" she asked suddenly, "Are you glad you came here?"
     "Of course," he answered without hesitating and smiled at her, "who wouldn't want to go on a peaceful overnight trip with such a cute girl and friend?"
     "Ranchan, stop that," she said half-sternly/half-playfully as he embarrassed her yet again.
     "Hey, the truth is the truth, I can't help that."
     "Flatterer," she raised up her hand, but didn't give him a playful smack, instead she weaved it between his body and hugged his arm, "but I wouldn't have traded this for the world. And Ranchan?"
     "Yes?" he asked, allowing her to stay close to him.
     "I just want to let you know that if you ever need to talk to me, I'll always be there for you. After all, what kind of best buddy would I be if I wasn't?"
     Ranma took a good look at her face, "Ucchan... I-" she put a finger to his lips.
     "You don't need to say anything," she said quietly, "let's enjoy this precious little time we have left." She could tell that he did want to say something, but he just nodded and they gazed out over the lake until it was time to start back down the path and head for home. Ukyo made a mental note to never forget this precious memory.

     The return trip to Nerima wasn't nearly as eventful as what had happened already, in Ukyo's opinion, but it wasn't unimportant, either. On the train ride home, she and Ranma again discussed what had gone on in their lives and this time he told her about the 10 years he'd spent training before going to China. Ukyo again listened to every word and was amazed at how hard he had worked, even harder than her.
     When the two friends arrived back in Nerima, Ukyo walked Ranma back to the Tendo dojo, because it was closer, and couldn't help but to thank him for the wonderful trip with a gigantic hug. She watched him walk inside then happily started off to ready her restaurant for the next day. Her mind was so feathery that she was practically skipping down the street.
     Ukyo hadn't gotten very far when she heard angry shouts coming from behind and turned back towards the Tendo home in time to see Ranma's body fly through the roof that he'd just repaired and high into the dusk-lit sky. Akane must have seen my hugging him, or something, she thought as she sprinted down the street towards where her fiancÚ was landing, it looks like I'll be listening to your problems a lot in the future, Ranchan.


Author's Notes:
     -I couldn't help but write this interlude fic after I saw episode 23 (Ukyo's Skirt. The Great Girly-Girl Gambit) of Ranma 1/2: Hard Battle when they did indeed agree to the idea to go touring but it never happened.
     -While I am strongly for the idea of Ranma and Ukyo getting together, I couldn't have had it happen because this takes place in the middle of the anime and the intent of writing this was just to show the strong bond they have as friends and also to set a kind of origin for Ranma trusting Ukyo enough to always talk to her about his problems.
     -I know the ending seems a little rushed, but the story covers everything I wanted it to cover.

I hope you guys thought that the fic was as kawaii as Ukyo