1. Back To Tara (firma)
Kim and William enjoyed a whirlwind honeymoon, taking in as much of the sights and sounds of the French Riviera as could be done in two weeks - operas, plays, markets, recitals on the street - the markets reminded William much of the Brookings Market Square at home - they had such a small, close, and familiar feeling, even if nearly everyone spoke in a language he didn't understand.
One of the most interesting and ongoing occurances was peoples' reaction to seeing Kim. Most people were polite if not surprised. No one really reacted with the "shock" they had been bracing in the back of their minds for. Many of the local children recognized her from the TV episodes, sometimes running toward her, yelling "Kim Possible!" in French, while pulling their parents in tow. Kim was even asked for her autograph on a couple of occasions. Kim and William had learned a routine for the "rubberneckers" - pausing for just a second, waiting for the noise of someone running into someone else, or something they didn't see in their path - and trying to hold their laughter.
Kim and William ate most of their meals in a small cafe they both fell in love with right inside the hotel. Many of their days were filled with perusing markets and stores along de la Croisette. On a few occasions, they would rent a car for the day, and venture to other locations, recommended by their mornng desk clerk, who spoke fair enough English to guide them. Their most memorable evening meal was at "Restaurant Les Arbousiers" on Lac de Saint Cassien, a very down-home open restaurant on the shore of a lake. They ate on a terrace with a wonderful view of the lake, and enjoyed the open atmosphere as the French evening caressed them while they ate.
Kim and William reserved their evenings for taking in an experience more wondrous and incredible than any on the Riviera - each other. William still fell back into a state of awe at his new bride at these times - Angelica's gift - the one from inside the box that touched his heart in one way up until the night she emerged through his mirror - then enfolded around that heart, and sent it soaring to heaven's heights. Each time their touch met, their bodies entwined in the molten flow of love and passion for each other...their souls danced and played in an intimate waltz. The two worlds each came from melded into one. One world - one passion - one heart.
Sunday, June 22
Kim was the first one in the door to the apartment with overnight bags slung over her shoulders, and William followed with two large suitcases and a garment bag. They let them drop to the floor nearly at the same time, William laying the garment bag over the chair, and both met the couch like the long-anticipated reacquaintance with an old friend.
"Home!" sighed Kim as she fell onto the couch and slipped off her shoes with her toes. "It's nice to curl the toes against a familiar carpet."
William had to laugh softly at this. "You're learning fast," he said. "That's one thing about traveling. No matter where you go, it's always good to get home."
"Mmmm, but I want to visit France again someday," said Kim. "All that luscious food...the incredible markets...and that hotel was almost exactly as it was in the dream. I just don't remember the Alps. Funny how you can have snow on mountain peaks at the beginning of summer."
"Alps at your back...and heading down a palm-tree lined street to sunbathe at the Mediterranean. They thought of everything."
"Including fresh waiters," Kim giggled. "Even I had no idea he was flirting with me until that guy at the next table started translating for us."
"Yeah...that guy was something else. He looked rather embarrassed when we got the translation, too. Guess he didn't see the wedding bands."
Kim snickered. "Somehow, I don't think he was concerned about that. I think he just saw us as just another couple of 'dumb foreigners'."
"Well...we were," he said. "About the only phrase of French I bothered to memorize is 'Je suis des Etats-Unis. Je ne parle pas Français.' With most people, that's all I had to say."
Kim started giggling again. William looked over at her. "Hm?"
"Oh, I was just remembering what the guy said the waiter wanted to do to me...and how he was translating it so matter-of-factly." She laughed out loud. "It wasn't until dinner was over before I could put together from the book what I wanted to say to that waiter...'Désolé, mais ce corps est réservé pour mon mari'."
"Heh. Now I think I need a translator."
Kim turned and settled into William's arms, her face inches from his. "Sorry, but this body is reserved for my husband," she said, touching his nose with the tip of her finger. William smiled. She then said, "And if I wanted to be mean, I could have added, 'Et à cause de lui, aucun de ce que vous avez dit seriez nouveau me'."
"Which translates to...?"
Kim slipped her arms around William's neck. "'And because of him, none of what you said would be new to me'." She punctuated this with a lingering kiss - then, "William Hodge...I do believe you're blushing!"
William traced his fingers along the cascade of auburn over Kim's forehead. "I was just thinking of the couple who pounded on the wall that one night," he said.
Kim laughed. "Funny how you didn't have to say 'newlyweds' in French," she said. "If I remember right, she started to blush then."
William stretched his legs under the coffee table. "I'm glad the walls are thick in this apartment," he chuckled.
"Mmmm, me too," said Kim, sliding up for another kiss - and drawing it out, becoming more passionate.
It was William who broke first. "Whew...I might have to paint Alps in the bedroom...it seems France has had quite an effect on you."
"It wasn't the location, but the company," she replied, snuggling her face against his. "It could have been France, or any other place - doesn't matter. You're the one who's had the effect on me, William. You're my Alps."
They drew far enough apart to stare into each other's eyes. "Kim," William started in a soft voice, "you couldn't be more perfect if I had dreamt you."
Kim repositioned herself, straddling William's lap. "And you're a big part of the reason...you know that, don't you?" She leaned in to continue the kiss she had started a moment ago.
Their kiss was interrupted by the doorbell. Kim pulled back and looked in its direction. "Thick walls - thin door," she said with an exasperated smirk, rising and turning for the kitchen. "I need some juice."
William looked through the peephole. "It's Ms. Paige," he said, unlocking the door. "And she has our mail."
Ms. Paige was a short woman in her mid-50s who had lived next to William for about four months, and had volunteered to collect mail while he and Kim were away. "Emma, Hi, come in," he said, opening the door wide. "You must have been watching for us - we just got back."
"Hey William," replied Emma. "I wasn't watching, but I heard the cab drive up. How was your honemoon?"
"Just great," he said. "Couldn't have been better. When we get unpacked later, I have some chocolates for you."
"Awww, you didn't have to do that, but thank you." She presented William with a shoebox nearly full of envelopes of varying sizes. "Here's your mail," she said. "If you had been gone any longer, I would have started charging for bulk storage," she chuckled while handing the box to William. "I made some cookies last night. There are a few in here for you and your wife," she added.
"Thanks," said William. "I don't usually get this much mail...should be interesting to go through."
Kim came out from the kitchen with a glass of juice. William turned. "Emma, you haven't met yet...this is my wife, Kim...Kim, this is our neighbor, Ms. Emma Paige." Kim extended her hand with a warm smile.
Emma hesitated for a moment, studying Kim's appearance - then snapped back to social coherency. She took Kim's hand, smiling, "I'm sorry, how do you do, Kim. Forgive me for...staring...it's just that you're...unique. Beautiful...but unique."
"Thanks...I get that a lot," said Kim, broadening her smile. "Thank you so much for holding onto our mail."
"William was just telling me how wonderful France was," Emma said.
"Oh, it's just too beautiful to imagine until you get there," replied Kim. "Olive groves everywhere at the foot of the Alps, and pines that go almost to the shore...foothills full of flowers--"
"Yes," Emma broke in. "That atmosphere inspired painters like Renoir and Picasso. I work at the museum downtown."
"Yeah...and you see that inspiration from the moment you arrive until you leave. It'll stay with me forever...I already want to go back," Kim said. "Museum? I'd love to see that sometime." she nudged William softly.
"It's neat. I thought I would get used to it, after seeing it every day...but there are still times I spend an hour or so after work just walking through the halls."
William reached into the shoebox. "Emma made some cookies," he said, motioning one to Kim.
"Oatmeal with raisins, dates and walnuts," Emma offered.
"Mmmm, homemade," said Kim. As she took a bite, her knees bent slightly, her expression melting into a dreamy look. "Ohhhh GOD, Emma," she exclaimed. "These are out - of - this - world!" She took another bite and gave the slightest high-pitched whimper as Emma looked on.
"Heh...she has quite the affinity for sweets," William said, reaching for a cookie of his own and taking a bite. "Mmm, wow...this is good."
"You guys are too kind," Emma said. "I make these about once a month, for Bingo meetings. I have about four dozen at home, you're welcome to more."
"Count me in," Kim moaned through another bite.
Emma laughed softly. "The Bingo is Wednesday night. You're welcome anytime until I take them over." She then made a motion to the door. "Right now I need to think about breakfast for Binky and myself." She raised her hand as she went out the door. "Bye for now William...and good meeting you, Kim."
Kim looked at William quizzically for a moment as the door closed. "Binky?"
"She got a new pup just before we left," he said. "A little Yorkshire terrier. Looks like a dust mop with legs."
Kim giggled. "You never said we could have pets here."
"Yeah...if theyre small...you thinking about a pet?"
Kim walked over to the couch, patting beside her for William. "I already have a pet," she smirked, reaching for his hand. "But I might want a kitty cat, too."
William sat on the couch, setting the box of mail on the coffee table. "Hmmm - that would make two."
"William!" Kim burst out, smacking his upper arm then blushing in a fit of giggles. "You are turning evil on me, aren't you?"
"Fear not," he replied, smiling rather evilly. "I promise only to use my evil for good."
"Well, we'll see," she mocked, giving him a sideways glance. She then reached forward, pulling a handful of mail from the shoebox. "Let's sort this out real quick."
William grabbed the other half of the mail and they filtered through it, putting each piece in its respective lap in a duet of "me...you...you...me." When they were done, Kim's pile was substantially larger than William's. Each also had a 9x13 envelope with the Meridian "M" on it.
William looked at a couple of Kim's envelopes. "Told you you had a new fan club," he said. "Looks like these are all from people at work."
"I hope most of them included an email address," said Kim, counting the envelopes. "I might get writer's cramp if I try to answer these all in one day. Of course, some of them might just be thanking us for inviting them to the wedding."
"Well, either way, we have a bunch of thank-you notes to write."
"I'm glad I heard 'we' instead of 'you'," Kim smirked. She then brought up the large envelope. "We both got one of these," she said.
"Yep...and I'll bet I know what's in them."
"Mm-hm," nodded William. "Mine's the paperwork for a company car...and yours is probably an application. They usually have you fill one out before they call you in for a skills test and interview. She's just streamlining the process a bit."
Kim held her envelope sideways for William to see. "This...is awful thick for just an application, I think." She opened the clasp and pulled out the papers. "Here's the application...but there's a lot of other information..."
"You must have really made an impression on Marcy," he said. "You usually don't get that stuff until after you're hired, and it's part of the orientation package on the first day."
"...really?" squealed Kim under her breath, then wrapping her arms around William. "Wow!"
"Yep. Sounds like all you have to do is show up for your skills test, and you're in."
Kim then thought for a moment. "This is great, but...I'm not sure I want any special treatment when it comes to getting a job. I want to be treated like anyone else."
"Well, if it's any consolation, your skills test will determine where you're placed in the department." Kim nodded at this.
William glanced at the phone. "We have a message," he said, pressing the 'play' button.
::: Hi guys, it's Marcy. You won't get this until you get home, so I hope you had a good time. Listen, I just sent off that app package for Kim, and I forgot to include a note, so I'll tell you here...be sure to call before Kim comes in for the skills test, so I can run down and snag her app. Kim, I'm looking forward to seeing you again. The wedding was just great, guys. Talk to you later. :::
Kim looked at William, a slight worry on her face. "See? That's what I'm talking about."
"I know what you're saying," William replied. "But you have to consider...there are things on the application that you won't be able to fill in...like your age...and your Social Security number. There's no way you can help that. Marcy just wants to see that those, umm, 'unavoidable' things don't stand in your way...that's all."
Kim leaned to William, hugging him. "If it wasn't for you, none of this would have been possible...and I have no way of thanking you."
"Kim..." William started, "There's no need to thank me...everything I've done for and with you, I just felt was natural." He then grinned. "Buuut...if you really feel the need to show your thanks...you...could make me a sandwich..."
Kim gave William a slight push, standing with her hands on her hips, in a look of mock frustration. "Ohhhh, I see," she said. "The honeymoon's already over." She started for the kitchen in a modest stomp.
"Oh, sheesh," William chimed in with his own false aggravation. "Nag nag nag. Fine. I'll make dinner tonight, if that will make you feel better. Pizza."
A loud "Hmph" came from the kitchen. "Fresh from the freezer, I suppose," Kim said, trying to hide a snicker at the end.
"Hey - you didn't complain the last time we had frozen pizza."
Kim then leaned over the nook, with a rather sultry voice. "And I won't complain this time...if you help me fill out that application later."
"You drive a hard bargain," said William. "But, if it gets me my sandwich quicker...it's a deal."
Kim smiled and kissed the air in his direction. "Done and done, Mr. Hodge." She then disappeared back into the kitchen, making sounds in the refrigerator.
"Then perhaps a short nap after that," William added. "I'm starting to feel jet lag kicking in."
"I still can't get used to arriving here about the same time we left Paris...it was early morning in both places."
William thought about that for a moment. "Let's see...Paris is about seven hours ahead of us...and the flight back took about eight hours..."
"Yeah," echoed Kim. "Crossing so many time zones in a short time sure plays with sleep habits." She walked in and joined William on the couch, a smoked turkey and cheese on wheat in each hand.
She presented each one to William, offering alternatively for him to choose from. He put a hand over his face, peeking between his fingers, wavering his hand back and forth - and finally thrusting forward, poking Kim lightly in the stomach. This caused her to laugh, doubling over while offering him one of the sandwiches.
"You should take a look in the fridge later," said Kim. "Marcy really stocked us up."
"She did? I asked her to pick up a few things a day or two before we got back, but I didn't want her to go overboard."
Kim smiled. "Well, we have quite a bit of food to swim through now, thanks to her."
William shifted on the couch after finishing his sandwich, resting his head on Kim's thigh as she continued to eat. "Mmm, nice angel-soft pillow," he chuckled.
Kim slowly teased her fingers through the hair on his forehead, smiling - then erupting into a soft giggle. "Gooood little naked mole raaaat."
William imitated a cat's purr in response...then the combination of food and the long plane trip slowly won over as he drifted off to sleep. Kim placed a pillow behind her head, and followed suit.
Kim knelt in front of the couch, and her sleeping husband. She slowly teased the pepperoni slice back and forth under his nose, waiting for his reaction to the aroma. William didn't stir for a moment - then took in a long breath - and obediently opened his mouth. Kim smiled, lightly placing the pepperoni on his tongue, and moving her hand to trace his cheek. William suddenly turned his head and slowly slid the very tip of his tongue along the center of her palm.
Kim took in a slow gasp, reacting by pressing her hand ever so slightly against his tongue's caress. "Wiiiilliaammm....you know what that does to meeeeee....."
William kissed the inside of her hand and smiled as her fingers melted against his face. "I sure hope so...but it's nice to be reminded." He sat up partway. "I take it you beat me to cooking the pizza."
"Yeah," replied Kim. "I woke up about 4. We slept the whole day away. I let you sleep while I put the pizza in and answered a couple of my letters. I made us a nice salad, too." She stood and offered her hand to William. "Let's eat. I'm ready for some so not airline food."
"You mean you found some Flesher food you're not crazy about?" William smiled, following her lead into the kitchen.
William sat at the small table while Kim served up the salads - crisp Romane lettuce with croutons, diced hard-boiled egg, slices of cucumber and cherry tomato tossed throughout - Thousand Island dressing for Kim, Italian for William. She then retrieved the pizza from the oven and sliced it, putting a couple slices on plates.
Kim sat and dug her fork into her bowl. "Mmmmm-hmmmmm...now that's what I'm talking about. You'll never get that on an airline menu."
"I couldn't get a salad like this anywhere until I met you," William said. "This is always great."
Kim stood and stretched after she finished her meal. "I want to get into something a little more comfortable before I dig into that application."
William took the dishes from the table and put them in the water, then folded a napkin and started on a third slice of pizza. "I'll be here, uhh...cleaning the dishes," he said, biting in.
Kim giggled and started for the bedroom. William went to take another bite. He was stopped by Kim shouting from the bedroom. "William! WILLIAM!! Come here, QUICK!"
William ran to the bedroom where he found Kim standing next to the nightstand, pointing across the room. "Look!"
The mirror had become whole again.
William moved slowly toward the mirror, staring at it. Kim came forward, slipping her arm under his and her other hand on his forearm, looking just past his shoulder.
The part that had "melted" and was missing after Kim stepped through it had filled in, with a slight distortion where Kim's outline was. William traced his fingers over the surface of the mirror.
"The Resonance Conduit," said Kim slowly. "It closed when you smashed the crystal. This must be part of the closing."
"Except for the distortion from your outline, it's almost as if nothing happened to the mirror," William said. "It doesn't even feel any different."
"Wade should see this," said Kim, now moving her hand over the mirror. "He'll show the Cross Agents too."
William reached into the desk for his digital camera. "He'll see it tonight." He framed the mirror in the viewfinder and snapped off a couple of shots. He then sat at his desk and reached for the USB cord, plugging into the back of the camera, and brought up his photo software. Several varied images from the camera loaded onto the screen.
"Here's the mirror shots," Kim said, pointing near the bottom of the screen. Her finger then shifted to another picture. "When did you take this??" It was the picture of Kim sleeping on the bed with a towel as a pillow.
William chuckled softly. "This was from back in December, a couple days after you crossed. It was the first day I did the reports from home."
Kim looked at William, rather puzzled. "A picture of me sleeping?"
"Like I said, it was a couple of days after you arrived. I had just finished the reports, and...I couldn't resist. I... I know you told me about putting the cap back on the crystal...but even at that...I wasn't sure how long my luck and the dream would hold out. I wanted a memory."
"Awwww," Kim cooed, slipping into William's lap and kissing his cheek. "You could have just asked to take a picture of me any time you wanted."
"I'll remember that," William laughed, making the motion of writing on his hand. "Note to self - wake Kim to ask to take picture of her sleeping." Kim giggled at this. "Besides," he added. "Now you see the heavenly image I get to see when you're napping or if I get to bed after you do."
Kim slid into a warm embrace against her husband, whispering softly into his ear. "You're wonderful, Mr. Hodge."
"You're a big part of the reason," replied William, his hands slowly caressing Kim's back. They remained like that for a moment, then William said, "And now we have a little work to do."
Kim slid back a bit, looking at him with a "Hm?"
"I need to format this pic into something you can send in an email to Wade. Then you need to send it to him. And I believe you said you wanted to get comfortable. Then we both need to meet at the kitchen table for paperwork."
Kim stood and smirked. "Will you boss me around at work like this, too?"
"Nooo, of course not," replied William.
Kim smiled and turned for the closet for different clothes. As she did, William took aim and gave her a playful smack on the butt. Kim jerked with a yelp and turned around quickly.
"Work doesn't have those kinds of perks," William chuckled.
"We have to get that paperwork done early," said Kim. "I have to stick my feet in the freezer for a bit before bed." William looked up at Kim through one eye. Kim giggled and added rather musically, "You have to go to bed sometime, Mr. Hoooodge."
William sighed with a mock look of defeat on his face. "Evil wins again. Come here and I'll kiss it all better." He then smirked.
Kim broke into laughter. "Work now - perks later," she said, reaching down and tracing the tip of her finger down William's nose, then starting for the closet again - backward - her hands over her rear, giggling the entire way..."Hm-hm-hm-hm-hm."
The stereo played the pop station as background while Kim and William sat at the kitchen table, pen in hand. William was going over the agreement contract for a company car while Kim was filling out her application.
"Okay," asked Kim. I'm stuck already. 'Last Name'...how should I fill that?"
William leaned over to look. "Depends on how you want it. You can either put 'Hodge,' or you can add your maiden name, and put 'Possible-Hodge.' Either way you wish."
"Possible-Hodge," Kim repeated. "I like the sound of that." She then continued. "Should I leave the Social Security field blank, or put slashes through it, or what?"
William put his pen to his mouth for a moment. "Marcy said we should call before you come in for the skills test. This might be a good time to do that." He stood and went to the refrigerator, pulling a piece of paper from under one of the magnets, then picked up the phone on the wall and dialed. "Marcy, hi...William Hodge here, how are you?"
"William! How are you?" Marcy said. "Good to hear from you. How's Kim? How was France?"
William had to laugh at the sudden barrage of questions. "Fine, fine, and great. Good to be home, though...it's 'nice to curl the toes against a familiar carpet,' as Kim put it."
Marcy giggled. "I take it you got the phone message and the mail."
"You bet. Thanks for looking after things while we were gone." William tipped the refrigerator open. "Might take us a while to get through all this food, though. You really didn't have to buy that much."
"No problem at all," replied Marcy. "While I have you on the phone, did Kim take a look at the app I sent?"
"Funny you mention that. She's just started it, and had a few questions for you." With this, William crossed the kitchen and handed the phone to Kim.
"Marcy, hiiiii," Kim beamed into the phone. "Oh, yeah...just too beautiful...I felt like I could have stayed for another two weeks...until we got home...hehe, yes, I said that...thanks again for the groceries and everything." Her attention then turned to the paper before her on the table. "Yeah...just wondering what I should do with the things I can't fill in...okay." A short pause. "Really? That would be great...okay. Thanks again Marcy - for everything. Here's William. Okay. Bye." She returned the phone to William. "Your turn," and started filling out the app again.
"Listen, William," Marcy started. "I got to thinking about this after I left the phone message...and I thought about setting it up so I can pick you two up in the morning. That way you don't have to hassle with HR on the app - Kim can just do the skills test. Then we can have lunch, and then we can go straight to Harlan to pick out your car. Sound like a plan?"
"Sure," said William. "See you a little before 8? Works for us. See you then. Okay, bye." He hung up the phone and sat at the table again, where Kim was already on the second page of the app. He opened his envelope, which contained paperwork and colorful brochures from several car manufacturers. "Quite a choice," he said, leafing through each. "Honda Accord...Toyota Camry...Ford Taurus..." He then began on the contract for use of a vehicle.
Kim snickered a little as she signed her name on the back of the application. "I didn't have anything to put for education...but I sure knew what to fill in for past employment."
"Hehe, yeah...I used to be an actress, working for Disney."
"Perfect," William laughed.
Kim reached for some of the brochures as William read over the contract and started looking through them. "So what will you be using this car for?"
"Mostly taking clients to lunch," William said. "There might be other things."
"And you don't have to pay for the car, since it's a company vehicle?"
"Just gas, oil and maintenance." He looked at a paragraph on the contract. "It says here that if I want to also drive the car for personal use, I'd have to insure it as a personal vehicle. Other than that, everything is taken care of by the company. Insurance, repairs..."
"What does Marcy drive?"
William picked up the appropriate brochure and laid it on the top of the stack. "She's got a gold Honda Accord."
Kim opened the brochure and exhaled with a whistle. "Neat."
"I was kind of leaning toward the Camry, though," he said. "It's got a little more room inside."
Kim lowered her head slightly, raising her eyes to her husband, a slight smile on her face. "Would...giving me a ride to work constitute 'company use'?"
William mocked a thoughtful look for a second. "Hmmmm," he said rather loudly, stroking his chin. "I guess that would depend on how you were planning to compensate the driver."
Kim sat up, narrowing her eyes at William, still smiling. "Ohhhh, I see. Evil is involved." She thought for a second or two, tapping her lip with her finger. "Well...I could put extra dressing on your salads...I could let you win more at backgammon...hmmm..."
William's eyes widened. "Let me win...?"
Kim started with a giggle which graduated to open-mouthed laughter. "You'll always be my So Not Backgammon Boy."
William thought again. "Hmmm. Maybe you won't have the will to win if you have to walk to work every day," he smirked.
Kim sat for a second open-mouthed at William's statement...then she sank into her "puppy-dog pout."
William reached for her hand. "Awww, you've got to know I'm just kidding. Even if it isn't company use, which it is, you'll always have a ride to work."
Kim's expression brightened. "I know you were kidding...but the conversation was starting to stink."
William stacked the papers on the table. "Really? Gosh. Maybe we should take a bath, then. I can finish these tomorrow at work." He stood and offered a hand to his wife.
Kim took his hand and rose into his arms, her face melting into that dreamy smile. "You always know just the right thing to say, Mr. Hodge."
William responded by bending and wrapping an arm around the backs of Kim's knees and sweeping her from the floor, looking into her limpid eyes. "Actions speak louder than words," he smiled. "And water speaks louder than either of them - with the right company."
Kim moaned a slow "mmmmm-hmmmm" as she laid her head against William's shoulder. He started down the short hallway to the bathroom with one of Kim's arms draped over his neck - the other trailing her fingers along the wall.
"Nice thick walls," she purred as the door slowly closed. "The honeymoon is baaaack..."
to be continued...