* June 2009 *
"So, we good, Wade?"
"Yeah, we're good, Kim. Just promise me you'll never ask me a favor of questionable origin for personal gain again."
"Great. Now, um ... as much as I would enjoy continuing the process of us 'normalizing relations', Trep is on the other line and he's apparently gotten into a situation."
"Nah, we put him away for good months ago. This is some new guy that's popped up recently. We got a lead that he might be in South Korea so Ken's over there checking it out."
"Hopefully he didn't cross into the DMZ or anything."
"We'll find out. Like I said, gotta go!" The Kimmunicator's screen went solid black as Wade signed off.
"And you didn't think that would work. Well, by my count that's two down," Ron said peering over his friend's shoulder.
"And one to go," she replied with a nervous shrug. "One big, not-on-speaking-terms, one to go."
"Now, now, KP, Monique is your BFF. You've got to do this for the sake of your friendship."
"Our friendship? You mean the one where she hasn't spoken to me since we were both in Europe?"
"Yeah, well, you were kinda …" Ron paused and moved his hands in a circular motion. "Difficult. Yeah, difficult, when you were there."
Kim gave Ron a little smile for his diplomatic effort. "Depending on who you ask that could be seen as an understatement. Can't I just write her a letter?"
"Kim, that's not gonna happen," Ron said tersely.
"What?" Kim asked as she made doe eyes just one level below the "Puppy Dog Pout". "Honors Composition student here, remember?"
Ron raised one eyebrow and folded his arms over his chest. "We're sticking to the plan."
"And what does this 'super-secret plan' to get the two of us to sit down and work out our differences entail again?" Kim asked as she sighed and dropped the act. "Your vagueness on the phone was … unsettling."
Ron turned his back against the railing and puffed his chest out with confidence. "Oh, it's just a simple bait-and-switch. Monique is still mad at you to the point she refuses to breathe the same air as you, but not with moi."
Kim's furled brow exhibit just how much confidence she had in Ron's plan. "Moi? What did you do? Ask her out on a lunch date to which you plan to excuse yourself and to go to the bathroom while I slide into your empty seat and trap her into talking to me?"
"Bathroom? Hmmm ... I was thinking that I would go get a refill on soda. But a bathroom break works a lot better!"
Kim deflated. "Great. So, basically you and Monique are having a lunch date at the food court and while you get up to 'go to the bathroom', Kim said with air quotes, "I come out of a hiding place and confront her? Yeah, no way this could possibly backfire."
"You said that about Wade and Tara, and they both came around and let bygones be bygones," Roan answered relaxing more into his confident stance.
"Yeah, but …" Kim spluttered in a last attempt at avoiding the inevitable. "I mean … Tara ... It took me a few hours of yardwork and an apology before she let me off the hook. Honestly, I figured it would take more than that. And we weren't really that close outside of cheer."
Ron didn't relent. "The plan worked. I knew that her 'driving' you home after the party went a long way toward getting you square."
Kim gingerly touched the side of her hip and grumped, "Yeah, it went so far that I still have a bruise from that one."
"Bygones be bygones, KP. It's just a pound of flesh."
"It wasn't your pound of flesh," Kim mumbled sternly, before continuing. "But this isn't like the others. I mean Monique was my BFF and I really hurt her."
"I forgave you," Ron said softly.
Kim cringed a little at that. "Yeah, but this is Monique. You know how she can hold a grudge. Remember the fiasco with the Cupid Ray?"
"Nobody said this was going to be easy Kim. The plan will work because Monique is your BFF. Yes, she was furious at you and your antics …"
"Rightfully so," Kim interrupted.
Ron just continued on as if Kim hadn't said a thing. "Sure, she's been elusive, and probably going out of her way to avoid you now that you're back in Middleton. But, come on, isn't she worth the effort?"
"Yeah," Kim replied reluctantly.
"So?" Ron asked confidently.
"We stick to the plan?"
Ron scouted out the food court from the second level concourse. "It's 11:50, so we have ten minutes before I meet up with Monique outside of Jimmychangas. We'll sit at that table there," Ron said pointing at a table off to the side.
Kim nodded in reply.
Ron moved his finger to another table separated from the first by a large planter filled with yucca plants. "And you can hide at that table over there. Then I'll get up after a few minutes and head towards the bathrooms which will be your cue to make your move."
Kim just took a deep breath. "Alright, if you say so. I still think this is going to end badly."
"Better to try and fail than to never try to begin with. Besides, you need to be more positive," Ron said with a smile and pat on the shoulder.
Ten minutes later Kim and Ron were in their designated places.
"Be positive. Be positive," Kim repeated in a mantra as she peered through the spiny leaves of the yucca plants and watched Ron and Monique exchange hugs before proceeding to place their orders at Jimmychangas.
Kim stopped her mantra and just focused on breathing as she watched the pair pick up their food and make their way to the agreed table and start eating.
She was only catching snippets of the conversation as her mind wandered.
"... and so Hanna got bored sitting on the potty and started running all over the ceiling when nature finally called …"
Just listening to the inane conversation and the ease with which the two conversed brought a sad frown to Kim's face. "I lost so much by acting the way that I did," she mumbled to herself.
"... the job offer in Paris was the bomb, but I missed being close to my friends and family when I was overseas. So, I turned them down, and …"
Kim's frown eventually turned into a smile as her friend's conversation made her feel like the past couple of years had never happened.
"Excuse me Monique, but I really need to use the restroom," Ron said as he stood up. When he made his way past where Kim was sitting he flashed her a thumbs up.
Kim took a deep breath, stood, and forced her feet to move towards where her estranged friend sat eating. When she reached the table she quietly slid into Ron's empty seat.
"Well that was quick," Monique said as she was polishing off another tamale, not even aware of who was now sitting across from her. "I know you boys have it easier than us girls in that department bu-" she stopped in mid sentence looking up and seeing Kim sitting across from her.
"Dammit, Ron!" Monique said rolling her eyes and scooting her chair out from the table in an attempt to get up.
"Monique, wait! Please. We need to talk."
"What I need to do is get back to work. I swear, if I see Ron I'm going to slap those freckles right off his manipulative little face!"
"Please, Monique. I know you have an hour for lunch and you've only been here for a few minutes, you have plenty of time to talk."
"Girl, I talked plenty last time our paths crossed, or were you too lit to remember that whole exchange?"
"No, I remember all of that. I was just too full of my stupid self to admit it then."
Monique stopped in her tracks and slowly turned back towards the table and sat back down, still visibly upset from the scheme Ron and Kim had pulled on her.
"Well, I …"
"And just so you know, I saw that nice, canned apology interview you did with Summer Gale on the news. I'm sure that won a lot of hearts and minds here in the Tri-Cities, but don't think that it blew any sunshine up my b-"
"I know, Mo! That's why I'm trying to explain myself to you now."
"Fine, whatev's. So, you were saying?"
"Okay. Here it goes," she humbly started. "Over the last couple of years, I've done a lot of stupid things … to myself and to others."
"That's an understatement."
"Yeah, probably. The fact is I got in over my head and well, me being me, thought I could handle things by myself. But everything started to snowball and the next thing I know I'm embarrassing myself, ruining my reputation …"
"... and using my friends for personal gain."
Kim just sat there quietly hanging her head.
"Accusing my best friend of being sent to Europe to check in on me. Then later being ungrateful to her after she took care of my unconscious, naked, vomit-covered self in spite of everything I did earlier to her."
Monique was still frowning at the redhead, but her scowl had melted away.
"Look, Mo, I know I went off the deep end, and I blamed everyone else for my problems. I know I pushed away others when they tried to help me and I know I can't take back my actions and I know that after the way I treated you have no reason to forgive me. But, I am trying to make amends to you, and everyone else I hurt. So, now that I'm thinking straight, I wanted to let you know that I am truly sorry and hope that if anything you can find it in your heart to forgive me."
Monique took a deep breath and ingested her friend's apology. "Is that it?"
"I think so?" Kim asked, uncertain of the reaction she was getting. "Can you forgive me?"
There was a long silent pause from the other side of the table as Monique continued to sit, arms crossed with a deep frown on her face. Kim, feeling desperate for a response, fattened her bottom lip and assumed her "Puppy Dog Pout" in an attempt to break the stalemate.
"Oh stop it with that look!" Monique said with a laugh. "You're foiling my attempt to be mad at you!"
"Does that mean you forgive me?"
"Yes, Kimberly, I forgive you."
Kim's tense body sagged and she flashed a modest smile. "For reals?"
"Yes, for reals you big dummy," Monique said with an eyeroll. "That's what friend's do, they forgive each other. Lord knows I was waiting around for you to come to your senses and woman-up about it to me."
"So, friends again?" Kim asked with her hand extended.
"Girl, put that hand down, stand up and give me a hug," Monique said as she stood.
The two friends reunited and sealed their forgiveness with a big hug and a few tears.
Kim peered across the food court and saw Ron hiding, rather poorly, behind a claw machine. She flashed him a thumbs up behind Monique's back to which Ron replied with his own little fist pump.
"So, are you going to forgive Ron for this little set up?"
"Oh, 'hayll no! I'm gonna beat his scrawny ass over this little stunt!" Monique said half jokingly. "How about you go order yourself some food and you can join me and him for the rest of my lunch hour. Well, once he gets back from his 'bathroom break' or whatever it is he's doing."
Ron stood a few feet past the Club Banana entrance and waited while Kim hugged Monique bye.
Kim walked up to Ron and headed to the parking lot.
"So, I guess I'm dropping you back at your place?" Ron asked. "I'd love to chill with you and all but me and Barkin have a catering date with a Bar Mitzvah in Lowerton. And this one is actually a paying gig for once."
"Yeah, and I have a date with the lawn, then the power washer, followed by some pruning shears and then concluding the evening with a rendezvous with sorting the trash," Kim sighed.
"I can't believe that after everything you've done to fix the things that your mom still hasn't given you back the keys to the Sloth."
"The keys?" Kim scoffed. "Not only did she take the keys away, she put the car on blocks in the garage and sold the tires, and then she let the Tweebs take the engine out so they could use it to power their new project ."
Ron winched in sympathy. "Ouch."
"She said that she'd give me 'the keys' back and insist that Jim and Tim would have the motor back in it before school starts back up."
"And the tires?"
"Yeah, um ... I've been meaning to ask you if you might be able to swing me by Casa Della Tires sometime in the next week or so?"
"Wow, she's making you buy new tires?" Ron asked as he held to door to the parking lot open for Kim.
"Yeah, I afraid to know how much those rear tires alone are going to cost."
"So I guess your mom believes in the whole 'Start the practice of self-control with some penance' approach?"
Kim took the helmet that Ron offered her and put it on. "Sure thing there, Mahavira. That's one way of looking at it." Kim said, clicking the chinstrap on the helmet and hopping on the back of the moped. "Remind me to never start partying ever again."
"Will do, KP," Ron said with a wink before putting on the helmet, put the moped into gear and pulling away.
The August sun beat through the windows of Bueno Nacho making the restaurant warm despite the best efforts of the air conditioning. However, Kim wasn't sure if the bead of sweat that rolled down her neck was from the heat or the pressure of this final act of redemption that she needed to pull off before she returned to Eugene.
"I'll have the Viva Light Salad and a water," Kim told the cashier.
"And for you, sir?"
"I'll have the Nacho Supreme meal deal with a grape soda," Ron answered.
"Still boycotting the Naco because of the royalty payment thing?"
"I see," Kim replied as they picked up their food. "Maybe they thought a lump sum of $99 million dollars would have lasted you longer than a week?"
"It would have if it hadn't been stolen by Drakken and Shego."
The easy back and forth was making Kim relax a little, it had taken most of the summer for them to get back to this point. "Riiight, and the fact that you had purchased all of that bling, a limo with a hot tub for a trunk, a private jet, and your own personal private military unit totally did not zap your funds at all," she said with a smile and a wink.
"It's the principle."
"Now, Ron, would you really have been that happy with that lifestyle?"
"Maybe," Ron said uncertainly.
"All of those hassles, all of those moochers, Bonnie Rockwaller hanging off your shoulder every minute of the day."
"It had it's perks."
"Yeah and those 'perks' dropped you like a bad habit as soon as you were broke."
"Well I ... well there was … um, then ..."
"What's the old saying? Mo' money, mo' problems?"
Ron sighed. "Yeah you're right," he said as he slouched back and ate a chip.
"Well, I think that if you had managed to keep all of that money, I don't think you would have been completely happy, and I think you're better for not having it."
"Really? And what reasoning do you have for that?"
"Well, it's nice being able to talk to you without a bouncer standing over me, that got old after five minutes."
"Yeah, I remember him. I recall that guy smelled like ranch dressing."
"That he did," Kim laughed in response. "So, um, speaking of old times."
"Mmmm hmm?" Ron asked with a full mouth.
Kim took a deep breath and steeled herself. "When I apologized to Tara you came up in conversation."
"Yeah. She told me about how she helped you work on your manners, set you up on that date with um … what was her name?"
"Eleanor," he grumbled.
"Yeah! Eleanor. And how nice you were and how much of a gentleman you were, even with her being a terrible date."
Ron shrugged. "Yeah, that was an interesting night."
"She also told me about Stacey … and how well you treated her."
Ron froze with his food part way to his mouth.
"And how well she treated you."
"Well, that's kind of the idea you know. So, are you done packing yet?" Ron asked before moving the food forward again and taking a bite.
Kim ignored his attempt to change the topic and bluntly asked, "Ron why didn't you throw that box away?"
Ron stopped chewing at the direct question and set his food down. "Because those were my memories as much as they were yours."
Kim took a deep breath and asked in a serious tone, "Is that the real reason?"
Ron sighed and put his hands together on the table. He bit his lip in silence for a few seconds and furled his brow before responding honestly and calmly, "You want the real reason?"
Kim replied with a simple nod yes.
Ron closed his eyes and leaned back. "I kept it because I missed what we had together. The adventures we had, the missions we completed, the victories, the defeats, saving you, saving me, saving Wade, defeating Drakken countless times, beating Shego some of the times, staving off the Lorwardian invasion, being your friend. Being your best friend. Being your …"
"Yes?" Kim leaned in totally focused on the young man across from her. Her body quivered with hope as he paused in uttering what could be the most important statement he had ever said to her.
Ron leaned forward and looked Kim right in the eyes. "Being your boyfriend."
Kim's smile seemed to split her face for a second.
"Until recently I could not remember a world where you didn't exist in it Kim. I remember the first time we met in preschool where I saved you from some playground bullies. And how we went to elementary school and were in every class together from the first to fifth grade. Or when we reached middle school and you decided that you wanted to go out and help people. I was there when we brought your website online for the first time, and all of those missions we went on as a result of it."
Kim reached out and took one of his large hands in both of hers.
"I remember the first time we met Wade when he contacted us to help him get his stolen mainframe back, and all of the times that the Stoppables and Possibles would go to Astoria together for the annual joint-family vacation, or when your dad let me tag along to go to Florida to see your Nana. I remember when you first started to date Josh Mankey and I started to date Zita Flores, and how we were both there for each other when they didn't pan out. I remember how jealous I felt when Eric showed up, and how relieved I felt that he wasn't a real person and that my best friend wouldn't have to be shared with someone else."
Kim started to speak, but Ron held his hand up for her to wait.
"I … remember what it was like to kiss you on the lips for the first time, how the entire dance roared in applause seeing us hold hands and saying, 'finally.' And I remember how I felt seeing your lifeless body hanging from Warhok's hand and how the thought of you threatened sent a strange sensation through my body as those Monkey Powers came out for the first time allowing me to defeat him and save the world … save you."
Ron didn't wait for her to finish. "Because you see Kim, you and I are kindred spirits. Our lives are intertwined whether we like it or not, and when I lost you, I lost half of my life in the process. It's impossible to just take everything we've ever done together and just write it off like it was some blip on the radar. At least that's what I thought when I held onto all of those things. It took another girlfriend breaking up with me and Tara sorting through the box with me before I was able to move past it."
Kim sat astonished at the admission. She was still smiling, but it wasn't as big as it had been and her eyes were getting watery. "Ron, that was so deep. I … Ron, I never apologized for-"
Ron put his finger on Kim's lips stopping her cold. "Enough apologizing, Kim. That is all you have been doing this summer. It is time to move on."
Kim just gave a bigger smile beneath the finger, moved it out of the way and took a bite of her food.
"When we finish eating we need to head to the tree house. I have something for you up there."
Kim couldn't keep the smile off of her face. "Okay."
A little after dark, Kim parked the Sloth at her parent's house and the pair walked down the street to Ron's place. Once there, they took turns climbing up the old crooked wooden 2x4 rungs and up into the dark tree house.
"Hang on a sec, KP, don't *PLONK!* move or else you might *TING!* run into something*OUCH!* or step on a nail with those sandals. *CRACK!* You know, safety first!" Ron advised as he felt his way through the darkness before finding and igniting his old trusty lantern.
"There we go," he said as he adjusted it to a nice warm glow and revealed the walls of Ron's inner-sanctum. "It's probably just as you remember it."
"Hmmm, Steel Toe poster. Check. O Boyz poster. Check. Crudely painted 'No Girls Allowed' sign. Check. Yeah, Ron, I'd have to say that it's literally exactly how I remember it," Kim said as she glanced to her right and noticed that the big picture of her and Ron as kids was no longer nailed to the trunk of the tree.
"Well, almost exactly," she whispered and her smile waned a little.
"I know, I had to fight with my father to keep it," Ron said as he searched through an old crate looking for something. "He thinks that I have 'outgrown its use' and wants to either girly it up for Hana or just take it down all together. But, so far I've been using it as a place to study, as well as the occasional sleepover and he hasn't forced the issue."
Kim's smile slipped some more when Ron said sleepover. "I see."
"Ah! Here we go," exclaimed Ron as he pulled something out of the box. "I came across this in one of the debris piles they made in the neighborhood after the invasion."
Kim glanced at Ron's hands and gasped when she saw the plush item he held in his hands.
"Pandaroo! You found him!" she shrieked as she took it from Ron and gave it a big hug. "I thought I'd lost him forever!"
"Yeah, he was a little rough when I found him," Ron said as he rubbed the back of his neck. "His back was ripped open and a lot of his stuffing was missing, and what was left was caked in mud. So I took all of the stuffing out, gave him a good cleaning, restuffed him, and patched him back up and I figured I'd hold onto him until I saw you again … if I saw you again."
Kim stopped hugging the cherished childhood plush at Ron's last words.
Ron continued, "I kinda feel bad because I know he's a rarity and all and I'm sure by replacing all of his stuffing and the cuts and scratches probably severely devalues him in terms of the Cuddle Buddy condition scale and all but." Ron shrugged. "I figured sentimental value trumps collectors value right?"
"You did this for me? Even after ..." she asked with a happy pout.
"Well, you know … it was nothing really. Just a visit to the craft store and a few stitches here and there," he said. "And besides. You're my friend, I mean, it's what we do you know?"
"Ron ..." Kim gazed at him with humble eyes and swallow before taking the leap that would see her rebuild the most important bridge she had burned or plummeting from the precipes.
"I … I don't want to be just friends."
"Y-you don't?" Ron asked as he seemed to war with hope and fear.
"No," she answered as she slowly approached him, "I don't. Even after everything I did to you, you've still stayed beside me, you saved my reputation and you saved my friendships. You could never just be a friend to me Ron."
Ron hesitantly reached for his ex. "Are ... are you saying what I think you're saying?"
"I am," she said, gently brushing her hands up his arms. "That is if you'll have me."
Ron still looked afraid as he grabbed her hands as she moved her hands into his. "What about school? What about … smothering?"
Kim gave Ron a sad smile. "Ron, I know you said no more apologizing, but I need one more. I am so sorry for what I did to you Ron. I thought that you were smothering me, holding me back, and being immature. I was so wrong. I learned that this summer. I was the immature one, I was-"
Ron cut her off with a kiss. Breaking the kiss he pulled her close and whispered in her ear, "I'm in if you're in."
That was all Kim needed to hear as she swiftly turned and placed on Ron's lips the deepest, most passionate kiss that she had ever laid on another person. Tears of joy seeped from her eyes as he returned the favor with a deep kiss of his own in confirming the relationship. The more they kissed, the more intimate they became as their tongues began to dance back and forth between mouths and their hands began to feel up and down each others bodies.
-- Sorry, this portion of the story involves two adults engaging in activity that adults do. Due to dA's idiotic "aging up" rule, I figured it was best to omit it from the dA version to keep down the drama, if you're cool with that, please read the unadulterated version at: www.fanfiction.net/s/9968632/1… If not just skip and continue reading below. --
The next morning, Ron's mother was hard at work in the kitchen putting up clean dishes while Hana ate her breakfast.
"Good morning," Mr. Stoppable said as he gave Hana a pat on the head and his wife a good morning kiss. "How are ladies of my life doing this fine morning?"
"Oh, we're doing just fine, dear. Just another day in paradise," she replied handing him a cup of coffee.
"Where's Ronald at, I didn't see him upstairs?"
"Daddy, Ron sleeped in the treehouse!" Hana exclaimed proudly.
"Did he now?" he replied with equal false exclamation to his young daughter.
"Hana's probably right, dear. I haven't seen him all morning."
"Oh, well is that him coming out of it now?" he asked as he glanced at some movement near the treehouse's base. "Yep, that's our boy. Twenty years old and still adamant on preserving that rickety old thing."
"I think he likes to spend the night in there just to spite us for wanting to take it down," Mrs. Stoppable said.
"Well, I've tried to explain to him the risks of still having it up there but he refuses to hear any of it. Hmmm, looks like he's got a friend up there too."
Dropping the dish she had been scrubbing back in the sink, Dawn Stoppable looked back through the window in time to see Ron climbing down the ladder followed by another person. "Is that … is that Kim?!"
Ron's father adjusted his spectacles and glanced out the window. "Wow, that would be her."
"Well, I knew that she was supposed to leave for school today and so the two of them were hanging out most of yester-" Mrs. Stoppable said before abruptly cutting off. "OMIGOD! She spent the night up there with him!"
"Well, obviously. Look at how her hair's all nappy in that ponytail."
"No, Jon, I mean she spent the night … with Ron!" she said with a hiss. "I mean look at that!" she exclaimed as she watched the two embrace in a very loving manner. "See? Come on, even you know a 'morning after' kiss when you see one. They've never held each other like that before in their lives. Ron and Kim were," Dawn turned to her daughter, "Hana, dear, put your hands over your ears for mommy please." Turning back she practically growled, "They were having sex in the treehouse!"
"Oh, well then," Mr. Stoppable said in a somewhat proud tone. "I didn't think he had it in him."
"Dammit, Jon, take this seriously."
Jon Stoppable just sighed. "Honey, what is the big deal? You're acting surprised about this. He's 20, she's 20, they've known each other longer than they have had full sets of teeth and then after everything they started mending their relationship a few months ago. I mean this is practically written on the wall, honey. And it obviously is making Ron and Kim happy," he said with a motion out the window.
Dawn just turned back to her dishes. "You need to get Hana ready for her swim class in an hour."
Jon's shoulders sagged as he walked over to his daughter. "I don't know why we bother with those lessons … $300 a month for a girl who was walking across her bath water last night, I think she's good on the whole 'not drowning' thing," he mumbled.
"Can I take my hands off of my ears now?" the little girl asked.
"Is Kim gonna sleep with us at our house now?" she asked innocently as she walked from the kitchen with her father.
Kim and Ron finally broke the intimate embrace. They had become one with each other the previous night and now were completely comfortable in every and all manners of touching each other.
"So, um, I had a great time last night, KP."
"I had a wonderful time last night too, Ron. You were so good to me. I am still buzzing from it," she whispered gleefully.
"Yeah, it was definitely something different …" Ron said before he paused. "Started off a little rocky though, but ..."
"But practice makes perfect," she finished with a wink.
"Mmmmm, yeah. So, when will that be you think? I mean, us 'practicing' with each other generally speaking," Ron said before sobering a bit. "But more than that. Just seeing each other; having a physical presence for the sake of the relationship."
Kim gave a tight nod. "Well, Labor Day weekend is just a couple of weeks away. You could come down and visit for couple of days and hang out. I can show you around Eugene and you can show me some of those culinary skills everyone has been raving about."
"That would be great! I've got this new chicken marsala recipe I've been wanting to try out."
"Yeah, and then later we can, you know … 'practice' in an actual bed," she said with a smile.
"Oh, yeah! I like the sound of that."
"Great, sounds like a plan then. But, sadly, I do need to go. I've go a long drive ahead of me. And thanks to you I'm in dire need of a shower."
"Alright KP, I'll miss you. And I love you."
Kim smiled back with a radiant glow and gave her man another passionate kiss before heading back to her home. "I love you too, Ron. And thank you, for everything." Turning, Kim saw Ron's mom staring at them from the kitchen window. "Uh oh, it appears that we have an audience."
"Do you think we're busted?"
"I wouldn't bet against it. But really, what is she going to do? It's not like your mom has a particle accelerator at her disposal like my dad does. Besides, we're both adults. We're not living in some sort of time warp where we never left high school and continue to be sixteen for all eternity. We've grown up. It's a natural progression of things."
"Well whatever happens, it was worth it having you back," he said with a hug and a parting kiss. "I still can't believe we did that."
Kim winked and said, "Well, whenever you have doubts feel free to check your pants pocket. Goodbye, Ron Stoppable."
And with another parting kiss and a wave, Kim was back on her way to Eugene to start her junior year, a new woman with a new direction in her life.
Kim rounded the corner of Ron's house and was greeted with the cold scowl of Dawn Stoppable.
"Did you and Ronald enjoy your night in the tree house together, Kimberly?"
Kim was a bit taken aback by the older woman's demeanor. "Um, yeah … it was just like old times. It's good to be back with him. We are both very happy about it."
"For how long?" Dawn asked with a frown.
"How long will it make you both happy? You're leaving for college again today. You were both happy with your relationship the last time you left for college. Do you want to guess how happy he was a few months later?"
Kim dropped her head a little in shame. "Well …"
"You dumped him once, Kim. You dumped him when you got lonely, or bored, or whatever. And do you know how long it took him to get over you then? How long will it take this time?"
Kim's head came up, and there was fire in her eyes. "There won't be a 'this time', Mrs. Stoppable."
Dawn just stared back, but her countenance had softened a little. "How do you know?"
"Because, I have lived the last couple of years without Ron, and do you know what I realized this summer?" Kim asked, but didn't wait for an answer. "I found out that I need him. Dumping Ron was the single dumbest thing that I have ever done in my life, and anyone who has watched any TV knows I have done some incredibly dumb things."
Dawn just nodded her head in acquiescence.
"When I dumped Ron before I had this idiotic idea that he was holding me back, that he was keeping me from experiencing new things. Ha!" Kim finished with a derisive laugh. "That was all bull. It was the immature thoughts of an immature, little girl who was too afraid and too arrogant to know what real love is."
"And you aren't immature anymore? You know what real love is now?" Dawn asked in a gentle challenge.
Kim shrugged. "Am I immature? Yeah, some, I am still only twenty, but I am a lot more mature than I was then. As for real love." Kim paused an looked Ron's mother straight in the eyes, almost as if she needed to will her to believe her next statement with her entire soul. "Yes, I think that I finally know what real love is. They say that you never know what you have until you lose it."
Kim sighed and seemed to deflate a little. "Well, Ron really loves me. He has for a long time, and I guess that is why I was so blind to it. Even after everything that I did to him. All of the mean and hateful things that I said to him. The first sign of trouble for me and he forgot it all. He tried to help me. To save me, even from myself." Kim looked Dawn square in the eyes again. "He did save me. Do you know how?"
Dawn just silently shook her head in the negative.
"Sixteen years ago he stood up to those that wanted to knock me down. Even if it meant he was knocked down instead. I know about the box and I know about what happened with Stacey. But why was the picture by the front door never put in the box?" Kim asked.
"The picture of the two of us standing outside of the preschool the day of our graduation. Why was it still hanging by the door?"
Dawn's eyes opened wide in realization. "He wouldn't let us. Every other picture he finally let me take down, but he refused to let me take that picture down. After a while I just forgot about it."
"Mrs. Stoppable, Ron saved me in more ways then I think anyone will ever know. There will never be a next time, because he has shown me what real love is, and I will do no less then return that love. Even if it kills me."
Mrs. Stoppable moved forward and gave the younger woman a big hug. "That's all that I needed to know. Thank you, Kim."
"Thank you. Thank you for forgiving me and giving me another chance," Kim said around a sniffle while she returned the hug.
Ron walked into the back door expecting to find his mother, but the kitchen was empty. With a shrug of his shoulders he headed upstairs; where he was met by his father who blocked him in the hallway.
"Hey, um … what's up dad?" he asked innocently.
His father just stood there looking at his son before putting both hands on his shoulders and giving him a good fatherly shake of approval.
"So proud of you, son," he sniffed before passing Ron and heading back downstairs.
When he returned to his room, Ron remembered what Kim had said about his pocket. He put his hand in and felt something soft within it. Pulling the object out, he discovered that Kim had slipped her light pink, satin panties in there when he wasn't looking. A small token to remind him of how close the two of them got last night.
"Booyah," he said to himself in a self-congratulatory manner as he stuffed them into his dresser and proceeded to get changed.