Author's note: Ah, it's time for a new story. I'm not sure how many chapters this is going to run; it's a work in progress.

To give you a timeline: when you read the manga, it looks as though the story is supposed to span about one academic year. You can tell the time of year from the background: people start dressing warmer, then there's snow, then a chapter that takes place on New Years', and then it starts getting warmer again. This story takes place about two years after the manga started, or about a year to year-and-a-half after it ended. Everyone has aged two years; Nabiki is a college freshman, and Ranma and Akane are seniors at Furinkan. It's mid-fall.

I do not own Ranma ½. The series was created by Rumiko Takahashi, and the intellectual propert is owned by her and a litany of publishing companies.

Nabiki sat at the table in the washitsu, idly watching television. She flipped the channel, preferring to skip the blaring commercial that was about to start. She opened her mouth in a yawn, feeling a bit bored. It was downright peaceful, which was unusual most days. No yelling, no thumps, no bangs. Kasumi entered, taking a seat next to her. "It's quiet today," she commented. Nabiki nodded. "I'm guessing Ranma and Akane are nowhere around, then?" she said.

"They went to the market together."

"I pity the shop owners. Anywhere the two of them goes winds up looking like boxing ring."

Kasumi nodded knowingly. "Well, they've acted like they care about one another more than once, but... it's a lot less time than they spend fighting. Ranma has a knack for trying to say something and making it come out totally wrong, and Akane..."

"You've said it yourself, oneesan. She's a violent maniac."

"She sets off so easily! She has to be the only person who hasn't figured out how Ranma sticks his foot in his mouth. He tries to say something nice, then he accidentally insults her..."

"...and she immediately jumps on him without letting him explain. And then she goes nuts with her stupid hammer, pounding him through the floor. You know, most of the damage around here is caused by that hammer. It isn't Ranma and Genma sparring, or Ukyo and Shampoo running wild, it's Akane with that damn hammer."

Kasumi nodded.

"Y'know, I hate to say it, because she's my baby sister, but their problems are mostly Akane's fault. I bet if she'd listen to him once in a while, she'd figure out what he's trying to say. And it's the same with when he tries to explain something. Ranma gets a lot of stuff dumped on him through no fault of his own, and she blames him. I thought girls were supposed to stand up for their boyfriends!"

"I know. Poor Ranma didn't ask for all those girls to follow him around. Maybe Akane doesn't see it, but I always got the impression that they annoy him more than anything else."

Nabiki chuckled. "Yeah, except when they have food. Ranma's got a bottomless pit for a stomach, and two of those girls are professional chefs. That's the one way that he's lucky in all this."

Kasumi giggled. "If they weren't cooking for him, he'd probably run away when they came around. It's what he does with the Kuno girl."

"You're lucky Akane doesn't accuse him of messing around with you, oneesan."

Kasumi laughed loudly.

Nabiki shook her head. "Akane has no idea what she's wasting. He's got his faults, but Ranma's also everything that girls are supposed to want in a man. He's strong and protective, and he doesn't sleep around, even with those girls practically tearing his clothes off." She looked out across the garden. "I'd give up all of my money to find a guy like that."

"Don't worry. I'm sure you will."

"I shouldn't have pushed him on Akane so fast when he first got here. That curse freaked me out and I just panicked. If I'd have been smart, he'd be my fiancée right now."

Kasumi gave her a comforting pat on the hand. "Oh, I reacted the same way to his curse. Don't feel bad about it. It's only natural to be a little put off by something so unusual."

A wry smile crossed Nabiki's face. "Yeah, well... if Akane doesn't ease up on him. I just might fix my own mistake."

Kasumi, startled at this statement, turned slowly to stare. "What did you say?"

Just then, they heard the front door fly open and slam shut. Footsteps thumped down the hallway, coming their direction. Nabiki rolled her eyes. "Looks like the peace is about to end," she muttered. Ranma raced into the room, kicking his slippers off as he darted in. "Is Akane here?" he asked quickly. Nabiki covered her eyes, certain that his worries were exactly what the sisters had just been discussing. It was Kasumi that answered. "No, Ranma, we haven't seen her," she said sweetly.

Ranma sat at the table with a thud. "I dunno why my mom's contract sounded so scary," he muttered. "Seppuku is sounding pretty good right about now. I've been dodging Akane's giant hammer over half of Nerima."

"I'm almost afraid to ask," Nabiki said, "but... what happened?"

Ranma sighed. "So we're at the market. Minding our own business. I wasn't talking because I could already tell she woke up on the wrong side of the bed and I didn't want to light her fuse. Right when it seemed like she was calming down, I hear the ring of a bell and bam! Bike tire right to the face."

Kasumi cringed while Nabiki shook her head. "Shampoo certainly is persistent," Kasumi said flatly. Nabiki shot her a glance. "The word you're looking for is 'psychotic'," she retorted.

"So you two know how Akane is," Ranma continued. "I barely even had time to stand up before Shampoo wrapped me in a bear hug, and of course Akane blames me, as if there was anything I could do. Shampoo chased me from China trying to kill me... I wouldn't even think about doin' anything with her! She's nuts!"

He jumped up, walked in a circle, and plopped back down. "When pop gets back, I'm telling him that we have to leave. I know that me and Akane never agreed to anything, but whatever did exist between us, I'm ending. A couple times I thought me an' her might actually get married someday, but I'm tired of trying. It ain't worth it anymore. Any feelings I had for her at first are long gone. I want to be done with all of it." He sighed, resting his head in his hands.

Nabiki and Kasumi were speechless, turning to look at one another. They were both thinking the same thing: Ranma, leaving for good? Nabiki found her voice first. "What are you going to do?" she asked. "Pick one of your other fiancées?"

Ranma's head shot up. "No! No way! I was tryin' to be friends with them, but they're way too crazy. I want to get away from all of them. I'm going to ask mom if she'll send me off to a school somewhere far away. I'll worry about dating girls there."

"You're really... leaving?" Kasumi asked, her voice a bit shaky.

"I have to. They're driving me crazy. I really like it here, but..."

Nabiki already had an idea forming in her head, and she was quick to formulate a way to work it into her next question. "So, why not just get a girlfriend at Furinkan? Tell the other fiancées you don't want any of them. They might not quit, but maybe you can make it work if you find a girlfriend that'll back you up. I mean... it's not like running away will do any good; they'll just follow you."

Ranma covered his head. "I thought about that. I would love to stay around here. Really. Live with my parents and keep going to Furinkan... try to be friends with Ukyo and Shampoo... but what girl would be willing to get involved in all this? I'm afraid of those girls messing up any chance with any girl I'll ever meet for as long as I live! It's a worse curse than turning into a girl!"

Nabiki smirked. She knew the answer to that question. A noise caught their attention from the hallway, and a slightly tipsy Genma and Soun stumbled in, bottles of sake in hand. Ranma looked at the girls. "At least I'll get to talk to them without Akane around," he muttered.

The fathers sat at opposite ends of the table. "So, Ranma," Genma boomed. "Where's your fiancée?" Ranma looked at him, looking more tired than anything else. "We gotta talk," he said.

"What's the problem?"

"Whatever might have existed between me and Akane is over. She's driving me crazy, and I can't take it anymore. I tried real hard to get along with her, and it ain't gonna happen. I quit. Let's just go back to mom's for now, and maybe you guys can send me to a high school far enough away that Shampoo and Ukyo and Kodachi won't find me."

The reaction was immediate and mutual. Both adult broke into hysterical tears. "Now the schools will never be joined!" Soun wailed. The older men ran to embrace eachother, putting most soap operas to shame. Ranma put a hand over his eyes. Sometimes, it was all too much.

That was the exact moment that Akane chose to arrive, entering quietly with a dark expression on her face. "Oh, so you didn't bring Shampoo here this time," she muttered indignantly. Then, she noticed the fathers and their tears. Her expression softened. "What's going on?" she asked.

"I told them that we're never getting married," Ranma muttered, not really enjoying the idea of having to inform Akane of his decision.

Akane rolled her eyes. "We've both told them that a million times! Like I'd ever marry a hentai like you! I just got done watching you and Shampoo rubbing all over one another."

Ranma fought the urge to blow up on her for calling him a pervert. "No," he said slowly, "I mean it." He looked at her sharply. "Whatever might have been between us is over for good. I'm sick of you blaming me for these crazy fiancées I don't want. I told pop we're leaving right away, and I'm leaving Furinkan as soon as they can sign me up at a different school. I'll do everything I can to make sure that we never have to see eachother ever again."

A second passed, as what he was saying sunk in. Akane blinked, a hurt look crossing her face. After a moment, she scowled, reddening. "Fine!" she shouted, loudly enough to shock the fathers from their tearful embrace. She rose and stomped out of the room, tears coming to her eyes. Ranma sighed, putting his hands on his head and resting his elbows on the table. He felt like the entire world was sitting on his shoulders, and the older Tendo sisters could see it. Nabiki spoke up. "Daddy," she said, "can I ask you a question?"

Soun wiped a tear. "What is it, Nabiki?"

"Joining the schools... that just means that one of your children has to marry one of Genma-sama's, right?"

"That was our original plan, yes. We thought of it before any of you were even born."

"So if Kasumi or I should marry Ranma, the plan's still good, right?"

Genma and Soun stared. Ranma's head shot up. "What?" he asked, not completely sure he'd heard correctly.

Nabiki took a breath. "Well, I was saying to Kasumi earlier that I thought Akane wasn't fair to Ranma, and I thought he was good husband material. So, I was thinking... I might like to date Ranma and see where it leads."

Soun and Genma stared for a moment, before breaking into celebration, clasping hands and dancing around the room. Ranma turned an alarming shade of white. "What just happened?" he muttered, staring straight ahead. Kasumi leaned over to her sister. "Nabiki," she whispered sternly. "This had better not be a money-making trick. Poor Ranma's too stressed to get through something like that."

"It's not," Nabiki replied. "I meant what I said earlier. If Akane really blew it, I'm not passing up the opportunity to get him for myself."

Ranma was still paler than shaving cream on a snowman. He blinked, his eyes slightly unfocused. "What just happened?" he repeated.

Nabiki stood and walked over to him. She tugged on his shirt sleeve. "Can we go talk?" she asked. He stood, numbly, and she led him away. She pulled him by his shirt, leading upstairs. The whole time, Ranma trudged along like a zombie. His brain was fried from the stress of dealing with Akane, and he was only somewhat processing what was happening in the present. Nabiki led him into her room, where she closed the door behind them. She motioned for him to sit on the bed, which he did, while she sat at her desk.

"Sorry to spring that on you so sudden," she said. "You didn't exactly leave me a lot of time to ease into it, you know?"

"How much?"

Nabiki blinked. "Excuse me?"

"This is one of your schemes. How much money are we talking about? I'll just give it to you myself. I don't want you trying to sell me to Akane or one of the other girls."

"It's not like that."

"Yeah, I'm sure it isn't. So how much? I just want to get this over with fast. This ain't exactly easy for me, I like living here and everything. If this is going to drag on for weeks I'd rather skip it."

"Ranma, I'm not taking advantage of you for money! Listen to me! I was serious down there!"

"Yeah, you'd never lie to make a buck..."


Ranma jumped at the ferocity of her yell. She stood, walking over quickly and sitting next to him on the bed. She fixed him in an angry gaze; he was surprised by her watery eyes and severe expression. No matter what happened, she never seemed to actually get angry... until now. "Damn it, Ranma, I'm a person!" she said forcefully. "There's more to me than money! You really think that's all I'm about?"

Ranma stammered, pointing at her. "You took pictures of me in my sleep!"

She hung her head. "I'm sorry about that, okay? I admit that was about the money. I didn't know you back then."

Ranma wasn't convinced. "Yeah, but... that ain't the worst of it! You invited all the fiancées to the wedding we tried to have! And... geez, you tried to extort money from Akane by pretending to be my fiancée before! This isn't even a new trick!"

Nabiki was still staring at the floor. "It wasn't like that."

"Then what were you trying to do? Bring me and Akane closer together?"

"That's exactly what I was trying to do."

Ranma looked at her incredulously. "How the hell was that supposed to work?"

"I was trying to get Akane to admit that she missed you."

"And I'm supposed to believe you now?"

Nabiki sighed. "I can prove it. Go ask Akane what my prices were. If I were extorting her, I would have kept raising the price as time went on, because she would have been more willing to pay a higher price the more she missed you. That's how extortion works. But ask her. I lowered my price. The last price I quoted her was a hundred yen."

Ranma was now thoroughly confused. "Then why'd you do it at all? What were you pretending for?"

"Because she doesn't listen to people. Making her think she'd really lost you was the only way to get through to her. And, frankly, because I have a reputation for making money and it would have been weird for me to come at it any other way. And, in all honesty, I did think I could make a few yen at some point along the way."

Ranma blinked, realizing that her explanation made sense. It had never even occurred to him that she might have ulterior motives for her schemes. He stared straight ahead. "So... what about the wedding?"

She shrugged. "Weddings are expensive. I needed a way to pay for it. Even though they chased you around all the time, I didn't really think those girls would destroy everything."

"For real?"

Nabiki looked up at him. "Yeah, Ranma, for real. Look... I heard the story of Jusendo. You cried for Akane. After she spent the whole time you've known eachother assuming the worst of you, and hitting you with that hammer, you still cried for her. Do you have any idea how rare that kind of devotion is from a guy? It was totally wasted on Akane. Any girl with a brain would kill for a guy like that."

Ranma reddened, not used to being talked about in that way. "You... really mean that?"

She stood, turning to face him. "Even though I want to go to school to become a successful businesswoman, I do want to get married someday. I figured... why take a chance on finding a good guy in college or later, when there was one right in front of me?"

Ranma looked at her warily. "If you're tricking me..."

Nabiki sighed. "I totally get why you don't believe me, and I don't blame you. But it's not a trick. Give it time; you'll see." She looked at the clock. "It's late. Why don't we both get some sleep now, and tomorrow, we'll start getting to know eachother. Okay?"

Ranma nodded hesitantly. "Sure."

Nabiki smiled. Not her usual shark-about-to-devour-a-fat-kid smile, but a genuine one. She held her arms out.


"I don't know what it was with you and Akane's no-touching rule, but I would prefer it if my boyfriend would show me a little affection. Come here and give me a hug."

Ranma stood, quickly becoming nervous. Physical affection was certainly not something he was accustomed to, unless one counts fiancées he didn't want glomping onto him. Nabiki put her arms around his neck, and he froze. After a moment, she rolled her eyes and released her grip, reaching behind to put his arms on her back. She resumed her previous position, leaning into him. It was a new experience for him: a girl getting close without being a crazy stalker. Just a simple, affectionate hug. The smell of her shampoo drifted up to his nose, and he inhaled, starting to relish the feel of her against his chest. His heart started to race. He was actually holding someone... and enjoying it.

He wasn't the only one in the room who was happy. It had been some time since Nabiki'd had a boyfriend, or even gone on a date. As time had gone on, she'd started to feel more and more lonely without someone to share romantic feelings. Now, finally, she got to be in someone's arms again. And he was so manly. In his arms, she felt... safe. It was the best she'd felt in a long time. Money and friends made her happy to a point, but at that moment, she realized then how much she'd been missing real love. By now, her heart was racing as much as his was. The murmurings that her heart had been giving her about him were coming to the surface. The little tugs that she felt when she saw him, and especially when she saw Akane mistreat him, had turned from a trickle to a rush. She pulled her head back, looking into his eyes. Those deep, deep eyes. Without even thinking about it, she leaned forward and put her lips to his.

Ranma's eyes widened. This was his first real kiss, and for once, it wasn't something he wanted to run away from. He was shocked at first, beads of sweat appearing on his forehead from the nervousness. After a second, though, he got enough control to close his eyes and return the kiss. She ran her fingers along his shoulders; his skin tingled from her touch. Their lips brushed together once, and again, as she tightened her grip around his neck. He felt the warmth of her body pressed against his, and the softness of her lips. Nothing felt weird or perverted about it; it felt... right.

It was incredible.

Nabiki sighed as ran her fingers along his braid, pressing harder against him. She had really missed this kind of affection, and, as she felt his lips, she realized just how badly she'd been lusting after him all this time. She put her hands flat against his shoulders, getting a feel for just how built he was. She was certain that he could throw her halfway across Nerima with all of those muscles, and at the same time, she knew he was far to kind to ever do such a thing. It was the perfect combination.

The feel under her hands also started to arouse her more than she'd been in more than a year. 'Speaking of lust,' she thought, mental images of what they could do together starting to fly through her mind. Downstairs, her mind was intellectual, carefully listing the many advantages of dating him. Now that she was in his arms, intelligence yielded to hormones, and her entire body was coming alive. She slipped her tongue into the kiss, sliding her hands down his back and letting out a soft moan.

Ranma managed to return her gesture, but just barely, as his nervousness was starting to get the best of him. Her expression of sexuality was something that Ranma was only a little bit used to; 'a little bit' referring to Shampoo's constant glomping. And, while those not involved couldn't tell, Shampoo had a habit of grinding her hips on him in a way that was far more creepy than arousing. Nabiki's affection definitely wasn't creepy, but her obvious arousal was a bit scary, inexperienced as he was. It started to arouse him for sure, but he was also becoming more and more uncertain as his mind tried to figure out what to do.

Nabiki sensed his hesitation, quickly releasing him and stepping back, reddening with embarrassment. "Sorry, Ranma," she said with a sheepish grin. "I didn't mean to go so far so fast. I know you're not used to girls getting so close. You just have a... really nice body."

It was Ranma's turn to blush. "Ah, it's no big deal," he muttered, looking anywhere but at her. Nabiki rushed to the door, hastily opening it. "Let's call it a night before I lose control of myself," she said with a smirk. Ranma merely nodded, hurrying toward the door. As he passed her, Nabiki grabbed his arm and gave him a quick kiss. "Good night, Ranma," she whispered. He nodded shyly, exiting while she closed the door behind him.

Nabiki walked over to her bed and sat on the edge of it, grinning ear to ear. "Ohhhhh, that was nice," she murmured.

Ranma stood silently in the hallway. 'This might turn out alright,' he thought, turning and walking toward his bedroom.

A/N: I hope you enjoy the premise. I've paired Ranma with Kasumi, so I wanted to see how he'd do with Nabiki. And they have some trials ahead of them: Nabiki has some crazy fiancées to fight off, without being a fighter!

If you'd seen my preview of this story, you might have seen my discussing of other stories I'm working on. I'd considered writing a Ranma x Kasumi one-shot, and maybe putting a longer Akane piece on AFFNet. Well, to put it simply: the RxK story just isn't coming together at all... if I ever write that one, it's a long way off. The RxA alternate-universe story, though, is coming along, but my attempts at writing lemons are not. Ergo, that story's going to wind up here on FFNet along with this one and Chill Pill. I thank you all very much for the reviews, and I hope you enjoy what's coming up.