Ranma woke up the next morning to find that Nabiki had entangled her legs together with the sheet. He blew a lock of hair off his nose, and opened his eyes to see Nabiki sharing the same pillow his was using.

"Morning. Its about time you woke up."


"You look surprised to see me. Husband."


"You're supposed to say, 'Good morning' back."

"Good Morning, Nabiki-chan."

Nabiki pulled Ranma's arm under her head and used it as a pillow. She rolled over and faced her husband and gently touched his cheek. "Ready to continue from last night?"

Nabiki's affectionate behavior was causing Ranma's brain to spin. She wasn't acting, he knew she had a very tender side to her that she never let anyone see. The only time he had ever sees her act this way is when she was absolutely certain that they were alone and she could let her guard down.

"Yeah," he answered. He hoped he could find out more about Ukyo, but he knew that if he mentioned her while Nabiki was behaving like this, she would get mad at him.

"What are your thoughts about staying married?"

That was one of the reasons why Ranma's sleep was restless. He didn't want to be married. He still had a lot to do and learn before he became the world's best martial artist, and having a wife would certainly slow him down. He didn't want that.

What bothered him was that for him to become the best, he would have to travel alone on the road, just as he and his father did. He wasn't sure that he could leave Nabiki behind.

She complimented him, he thought, in a simplistic brains and brawn combination -- she was the brains and he was the brawn. She never felt threatened by him, and she never felt the need to press a claim on him. In fact, Nabiki was the only girl he knew that he felt comfortable being with. If it were any other girl next to him, he would be trying to get away.

But Nabiki felt comfortable on his arm.

"Ranma? You awake?"

Nabiki had a worried voice when she spoke.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"Your eyes started glassing over. It scared me."

"I'm fine, Nabiki. I was just thinking."

"About your answer?"

"Yeah. It's a tough question."

"I want to know what you think about marriage."

"I don't know if I can do it."

"Be married?"

"Maybe. All my life I was told that I was going to be the best martial artist in the world. And I've worked hard at it for ten years. Until I came here, I thought my life was simple. Work and train hard and become the best.

"Then I found I was engaged to Akane. And Ukyo. And somehow married to Shampoo. And who knows whom else. Everything became complicated. I'm supposed to be the greatest and the best, but now I have all these distractions.

"Then you and Kasumi conspired to keep me away from Akane when she's mad. The next thing I know is that we are spending all this time together and Akane isn't getting mad at me when I do.

"Meanwhile all these freaky martial artists show up. The Dojo Destroyer was probably the most normal one I've seen. There are martial arts for ice- skating, eating and carnival games. And if it wasn't a crazy martial art, it was some pervert, ghoul, demon or super strong dude throwing ki-blasts causing me trouble.

"I still have a long way to go. I'm not the best. I always win, but I'm not the best. If it was a clean fight, Happosai, Cologne or Taro could probably wipe the floor with me.

"With Akane I didn't have to worry to much about her getting hurt. She's tough and strong. She's also a martial artist.

"But I worry about you. Every time some goofball shows up, I worry about you. And Kasumi. I worry about you guys getting hurt or something.

"I'm not good enough to be married to you yet. I can't even protect you from some stupid pirates."

Nabiki crawled closer to Ranma, and gently pushed his face up so she could see his eyes. "Ranma, you did save me. And you'll get better with or without me at your side.

"You are Happosai's heir to the school. He picked you. Not my father. Not your father. You. And you will surpass him.

"Cologne has taught you so many 'secret' Amazon techniques that I seriously doubt that her interest in you is because of Shampoo's marriage claim.

"And don't forget that those two have more than a hundred years more experience than you."

Nabiki put her hand on Ranma's ear, gently rubbing the earlobe. "Ranma," she said, "I know you will be the best, but you don't have to do it alone. Look at Cologne. She was married at least once."

Ranma cradled Nabiki's hand upon his cheek and looked at her almond eyes. What she said sounded right. Happosai and Cologne aren't going to hurt her. And Taro was supposed to be in China.

And Nabiki was here, safe in bed with him.

And he liked that.

"I don't know anything about being married," he said.

Nabiki leaned in close and kissed him on his nose. "Neither do I," she said as she pulled back slightly.

Ranma found Nabiki's hand and held it. "But I can learn."

When Nabiki kissed him on the lips, he knew he said the right thing. And then she moved closer, her lips next to his ear and said, "Right answer."

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **


** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

Believe it or not, that's it. I never even planned on getting this far, but I had to find some sort of ending where they made a decision that actually kind of made sense for the situation they were in.

I really abused the marriage laws in Japan here. From what I could tell while doing some research, it *used* to be possible to be married by simply declaring so and setting up a household. I took this and ran. (Perhaps I should have kept on running...)

For the Akane fans that stuck with this -- It was intended to be an Akane/Ranma matchup, but I kept writing Ranma and Nabiki. The good news is that a whole chapter was excised that may be the genesis of a Ranma/Akane story. Unfortunately, I've started on a (very bad) Ranma/Sailor Moon crossover that seems screaming for completion.