Ranma ½: Game of Pretend

Disclaimer: Ranma ½ and all related titles sole and exclusive © Takahashi Rumiko; Shogakukan Enterprises and Shounen Sunday; Kitty TV; and Viz Communications, LLC.

A/N: Hey all! Here's the last bit to Game of Pretend. We know that Ranma and Akane are in love with each other…too bad they don't! Will Ranma say all the right things? Will Akane let Ranma sweep her up in his arms?

Read and review, but more importantly, enjoy.

---Sanju

As promised, this is the revised Chapter X, with more revisions to come.

Ranma ½: Game of Pretend

Part X: Finale

When Ranma awoke Akane was waiting for him. She was sitting on the edge of her bed, already dressed. Ranma noticed she bit her lip and was looking out the window.

Ranma wanted to say something to make it all better. He tried for a nice "Good morning" but the words stuck in his throat. He swallowed hard and shook his head, giving up. Instead, Ranma sprang to his feet, rolled up his futon neatly—for the first time he could remember—and made his way to the washroom, where he brushed his teeth and combed his hair.

What'm I supposed to do now? Ranma asked himself, furiously brushing his teeth until it seemed he was foaming at the mouth. What can I say? She's obviously not gonna talk to me. How'm I s'pposed to tell her that I'm not pretending any more?

Ranma too dressed, and silently, the two walked together to the table for breakfast.

'So!' Genma boomed. 'Can we look forward to a wedding? Eh?'

Silence pervaded for a few fragile seconds until Ranma broke it. 'Pops,' he said flatly, 'the deal was if me an' Akane could…stay together for a week, we wouldn't have to get married. At least not while we're in school,' Ranma added. Getting the words out was a struggle. He almost stumbled over his first sentence but only his amazing mental discipline kept him from giving himself away.

'But why not?' Soun asked, breaking into Ranma's thoughts. 'Just get married now and make all of us happy.'

'Father, I need to continue my education,' Akane spoke for the first time. She smiled. 'A marriage and all it entails, will be too much for me to handle.' Soun opened his mouth to speak again but Kasumi noted how red and puffy Akane's eyes were and that they were over-bright.

'Father, I think you should listen to Akane,' she suggested, in her quiet but firm way. Her two younger sisters turned to her, eyes wide. She never cut Soun off or even disagreed with what he said. But it was this quality that settled Soun, who sat back down with a mumbled agreement.

Akane muttered thanks to Kasumi, who was sitting next to her. Nabiki caught it all and she was amazed at the change that was wrought in her home. First, Ranma and Akane had lived together peacefully for an entire week and Nabiki was so sure it would end well. Now, Kasumi had insisted that Soun wait for the wedding—disagreeing with their Father.

'Well,' Genma said, in a moment of rare tact, noticing how tense the Tendou family was. He searched for some light conversation. 'It's a nice day out and it's a weekend so why don't you and Akane go outside to the park?' he suggested.

Ranma nodded but didn't say anything. He knew there would be no park today. Akane too remained silent and, like Ranma, nodded.

Genma tried again, hoping to get something out of his unusually withdrawn son. 'Now that the seven days are over,' he said, 'and you don't have to get married while you're in school, you can…go back to hating and killing each other….' It was a mark of how desperate Genma was if he pulled that one out.

'Y'know what Pops, I don't think we will,' Ranma said. He got up, turned on his heel, and left.

All eyes turned to Akane. 'Don't look at me!' she said, before she also strode out of the room.

'Lover's spat?' suggested Soun, referring to how strangely the two had been acting. Not that it wasn't strange enough that they had lived happily for a week, but the families had gotten used to that amicable time. Even Soun and Genma, normally thicker-skinned than elephants, noticed something was wrong.

'Somehow, I don't think so,' Nabiki said softly, almost to herself. Abruptly, she stood up and went off in search of Ranma. She figured he would be more likely to talk than Akane, who would probably say something along the lines of No, I'm fine, Ranma's fine, thank you for asking, Sister, and accompany that reply with one of her fake smiles.

Nabiki found Ranma in the dojo, throwing half-hearted punches and kicks in the air. 'Hey, Ranma,' Nabiki called. Ranma spun toward her and arched a brow.

'What's up, Nabiki?' he asked, all sauve and casual.

'You know better than I do "what's up",' Nabiki replied. She strode over to him and tilted her head up to look him in the eye. 'Ranma… what happened? What did you do? Everything was going so well….' She waved a hand expansively, sighing. 'And now?' She shook her head. 'Doesn't look as though you'll be my younger brother-in-law after all.'

Ranma shrugged. 'Why don't you marry me instead?' he teased. 'I know ya can't resist me.'

Nabiki snorted. 'You wish,' she returned. But she quickly sobered and prodded Ranma again. 'C'mon Ranma, tell me. Or else…' she trailed off but Ranma had a pretty good idea of what sort of blackmail Nabiki had planned.

'IkissedAkanebutthenIgotscaredandIranawayandnowshe'smadandhasn'tsaidanythingtome,' Ranma muttered quickly, all in one breath.

'Excuse me?' Nabiki said. Her eyes were glinting. 'I didn't quite catch what you said.'

Ranma blew air out through his mouth and repeated his words slower, enunciating each word clearly, almost to the point of irritation. 'I kissed Akane but then I got scared and I ran away. She hasn't said anything to me since…yesterday….'

Nabiki shook her head. 'Ranma, Ranma, Ranma,' she said. 'You are hopeless! Why did you choose yesterday to be such a clod?'

'Hey,' Ranma said defensively. 'I'm not a clod.'

'I'd call kissing a girl and then running away something a clod would do,' Nabiki said coolly. 'But we're not here to discuss how much of a clod you are. You have to make out—I mean, make up—with Akane.'

'Tell me something I don't know,' Ranma muttered.

'I see,' said Nabiki, whose sharp ears had caught Ranma's murmured remark. 'So of course you, Mr Ranma Suave, have it all planned out. Flowers? Chocolates? I'm listening,' Nabiki mocked him.

'Fine! I don't have a plan. I barely have a clue about what's going on.'

'Story of your life, Ranma,' Nabiki shot at him. She shook her head again. Why had it taken Ranma and Akane so long to realise what the entire family had known all along? Why was Ranma being so obtuse? To be fair, it wasn't entirely Ranma's fault. Akane remained too closed up to accept anything her heart might tell her. And now that Ranma had blundered…Nabiki was sure that Akane was very, very angry. And she didn't know how her sister would react to a reconciliation attempt by Ranma.

'Why are you being so offensive?' Ranma complained. 'I didn't do nothing.'

'Exactly! That's the problem,' Nabiki said. She softened. 'Listen Ranma, not everyone's as thick as you and Akane. All we want is what's best for you and Akane. It's so close to working out, Ranma. Why don't you be a man, step forward, declare yourself to her? It'd make Akane and yourself…so happy….'

Ranma was taken aback by this sudden, unchracteristic show of sensitivity on Nabiki's part. 'Nabiki…' he said, surprised at how suddenly her icy demeanour had melted when it came to him and Akane. She really did care that much….It was this realisation that pushed Ranma to nod his head and bow slightly. 'Thanks.'

……………..

Akane lay on her back on her bed, reading a book. She was almost at the end. It had been a very good novel too, full of romance and adventure. The hero and heroine were obviously in love with each other but it took them almost 500 pages to realise it. The last scene was very touching, with the hero proposing to his love.

Akane sighed, putting the open book on her stomach and closing her eyes. Stupid Ranma, she thought. But before she knew it she was asleep…

'Akane,' Ranma said in her ear. She turned to him, and he caught her lips in a kiss. 'Lissen Akane, I've been an absolute dolt…'

'Ranma, don't say anything,' she told him, quietly, placing a finger on his lips. The gentle touch calmed him and Akane felt a sense of power, that such an inconsequential motion to quiet him.

'No, I need to say something,' he said. He took her face in his hands and spoke rapidly. 'I don't want to lose you. I've been such an idiot, Akane! I didn't mean to run when I kissed you. I love kissing you.

'Akane…I love you.'

At this confession Ranma could contain himself no longer and Akane felt the soaring sensation in her body when he kissed her the second time.

'I love you too,' she managed to say in between kisses. But suddenly Ranma broke the kiss and dropped down to one knee.

'Tendou Akane…the only token of marriage I can give you is my heart,' he said. 'But still—will you marry me?'

Akane smiled brilliantly and took his outstretched hand. 'The only ring I need…is the one that binds our hearts,' she told him. He embraced her once more, brought her close to him, and Akane felt a true happiness inside her.

Akane started awake. Some dream, she thought shakily, before she realised her face was damp. She had been crying for some reason, out of happiness or sadness or a bit of both. But that…would never happen. Ranma…is too repulsed by me to even kiss me, let alone marry me. He has so many other girls after him, prettier, stronger, more talented! He never says no to any of them. And I…I feel only for him…I don't care about Ryouga or Kuno or anybody else!

Angrily, Akane got up and washed her face in cold water. She looked up at herself in the mirror and shook her head. In my dream, I was so happy when he proposed. Do I really…feel so strongly, that my happiness comes from our union?

…………………..

Akane bumped into somebody as the person was hurrying. As they got up, she realised she had, in fact, bumped into Ranma.

Ranma lost his voice for a second and Akane took the opportunity to head inside. But Ranma shook his head and grabbed her wrist, pulling her back outside. 'Akane, wait,' he called. Akane twisted out his grip but she remained outside.

Akane gave Ranma a smile that was not the brilliant, happy one she bewstowed in happiness, but instead that sad, soft smile that wasn't really a smile at all. 'Ranma, our seven days are over,' she

said quietly.

'We don't need to talk about anything. We don't have to pretend to…be together any more.'

'Akane, listen,' Ranma said urgently. 'I—'

'Why should I listen, Ranma?' Akane asked. He sounds like he did in my dream, she thought, but she wasn't about to let a silly dream like that decide her future.

She wasn't angry—instead, Ranma recognised the deep sadness and hoplessness. In a way, it made him feel even worse: He was used to dealing with her when she was in a temper. But somehow, he had never noticed her depressions. And he didn't know what to do.

'Because…because…' Ranma floundered.

'That's what I thought,' Akane said. She felt an uncomfortable stinging behind her eyes but blinked away any beginnings of tears. 'Good-bye, Ranma.' Again she turned to walk inside but Ranma wasn't about to let her get away.

This time it was he who felt anger rise suddenly in him and he called after her. 'Akane, why can't you see that I'm not pretending?'

That stopped Akane in her tracks. She spun back and looked at Ranma with wide eyes, taking an involuntary step forward. Did Ranma say…what I thought he said? she asked herself. But he's lying again…why would he say that to me when he was so repulsed, he ran after kissing me?

'But…but what about Ukyou? She can cook, and you called her your "cute fiancée",' Akane said, her voice trembling a bit.

'Akane, cooking has nothing to do with love,' Ranma said. He took a step toward her.

'Shampoo, then?' Akane said. Her heart was starting to beat painfully fast and she couldn't take her eyes from his face.

'What about her?' asked Ranma, shrugging her off.

'She—she can fight better than…I can,' Akane managed. Ranma's soft gaze was making her feel almost…woozy…and it was getting harder and harder to breathe.

'Then why would I marry her? She'd fight with me all the time,' Ranma replied easily.

Akane was feeling more than ready to throw herself into Ranma's arms and tell him she loved him but the memory of the past day stopped her. It also helped her regain her composure. 'Then what about yesterday? Why did you run without saying anything?'

Ranma coloured slightly. 'I…I was scared,' he admitted, looking away from her. 'I thought you were gonna slap me or somethin' cause I was being a "pervert".'

Akane sighed. 'Ranma, you dolt,' she said, shaking her head. 'Why would you think that?'

'Cause a week ago, you woulda,' said Ranma. This was it. That was his declaration, and Ranma knew he had said all the right things. He mentally sighed in relief, although he was pretty sure of himself in the first place. He was one hot martial artist, of course the girl he "talked to" would be sure to accept him. Although he had to admit he hadn't felt that way with Akane…

'This isn't…a week ago,' Akane said.

'I know it.'

'Then…'

The two fell off into silence, neither knowing what to say. Akane hoped that the rest of her dream would come true and she would be happy. Akane kept looking at Ranma and blushing, while he seemed to be very interested in the dirt at his feet. All right, here goes nothin', Ranma thought to himself. He took a step forward and sank onto one knee in front of Akane.

'I…I don't got a ring or nothing,' he started awkwardly. 'But…Tendou Akane, will you marry me?'

Akane blushed a brilliant red and nodded. 'Ranma, I…can't wait to marry you.'

Ranma grinned and stood up, picking Akane up and twirling her around before planting her on the ground and kissing her deeply.

'We'll get married in time,' Ranma reassured her.

'I know,' said Akane happily. He gripped her hand and smirked.

'Luckily for you, Saotome Akane sounds much, much better than Tendou Akane…'

……………………………….

That night at dinner, everything was back to normal.

As normal as it ever was in the Tendou dojo, of course.

Ranma and Akane kept looking at each other and blushing, although they were smiling happily all the time and kept holding hands surreptitiously underneath the table. Ranma didn't really need to propose, but he had done it anyway. They had been affianced since birth—but this was much more romantic, Akane thought.

Even Kasumi had something to say.

After she was finished setting the table, she remained standing and folded her hands in front of her. 'Father, Nabiki, Akane, Ranma, and Uncle,' she said, addressing all members of the table. They looked at her expectantly, though Genma took the opportunity to filch some fish from Ranma's plate. 'I have an announcement to make.'

Soun jumped up. 'You're pregnant? Congratulations, Daughter—wait, you're not married yet! Daughter, you have fallen into shame—' Genma pulled Soun down.

'Let her have her say, Tendou-kun,' Genma said mildly, nodding to Kasumi.

'Well, Father is almost right,' Kasumi continued, blushing and smiling. 'Dr Tofu…he proposed to me…and I accepted. I am now engaged to be married!'

Akane and Nabiki jumped up and shrieked, running to their sister and hugging her and already starting to discuss the details of the wedding. Genma was clapping Soun heartily on the back and yelling, 'Congratulations, Tendou! Now you have two worthy son-in-laws: one a doctor and the other my son!'

Soun was happy about the matches his oldest and youngest daughters had made. 'Now we get to you, Nabiki,' he said.

'Nuh-uh,' Nabiki said flatly. 'I'm not getting married!'

'Ah, that's what you think!' her father replied. 'But we'll save that for another day. Now, let's toast to the happiness of Kasumi and Tofu; and Akane and Ranma!' The family toasted and drank, and Akane and Ranma smiled lovingly into each other's eyes.

………………..

That night, Ranma and Akane sat together on a bench in the park, talking about Kasumi and Tofu. 'I'm glad it finally happened,' Akane sighed.

'Like us,' Ranma suggested, kissing her lightly.

'I used to have a crush on Dr Tofu,' Akane remarked thoughtfully. 'He was always there when you hurt me.'

'Uh-oh, should I be jealous?' said Ranma. 'And Akane, I—'

Akane cut him off, smiling genuinely. 'I know, Ranma. I know.'

And hand in hand, the happy couple walked toward their home.

………………………………………………………………………

A/N: Done. Finito. Soooo what did you all think? Too mushy? I'm kind of iffy about the proposal—but I thought it'd be romantic. I'm thinking of maybe rewriting this ending and then posting it up but I want some feedback on this one for now.

Kasumi and Dr Tofu…I know I had no hints of them in the entire story but that adds to the surprise. Besides, anyone who's watched the series knows they were going to get married anyway :-) As for the fates of Ukyou and Ryouga; and Shampoo and Mousse…well, I'll leave it up to your imagination.

I'm not planning any fics or any continuations of any other of my stories for a while…so try not to miss me too much. Kidding! I just wanted to finish my favourite fic, Game of Pretend, while I still had summer hols.

I hope I see all of you later…if/when I ever get around to continuing/writing more Ranma ½.

--Sanju.