Author's Note: So, here it is, the real ending to this fic. Lol. Enjoy it!

And thank you everyone for taking the time to read it and to review it, for those of you who did. Thank you all so very much. Until we meet again ;)

Jess a.k.a. RedGem270

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Part 15: Over Time

It didn't matter that they had all just missed the first three periods of the day. Didi made them all go back to school and none of the other adults disagreed with her.

"You're all going back to school to finish the day," she said. "I don't care how many you've missed, you're not going to miss anymore."

"But mom!" Phil whined, lighting up the mood. They laughed, but it didn't stop Didi from driving them all to school herself and it still didn't stop a few of them from skipping class anyway.

Now Phil sat outside a fast food restaurant with Tiffany, the girl who had driven him and the others to the hospital. They sat on her car, eating their lunches and enjoying the each others company. Phil wasn't exactly sure what this was, but he enjoyed having someone to confide in, someone who understood just what he meant and who knew first hand what he was feeling. It was comforting.

"Can I call you Annie?" he asked suddenly.

She looked back at him, his bruises and cuts no longer fazing her. She was horrified the first time she saw him. He was a mess of pain, so it appeared to her, but he only laughed and told her excitedly that he had gotten into a fight. "What?" she asked, scoffing.

"You know, Annie. Like. . .Tiffany."

She shook her head, hiding a smile. "Whatever."

"Nice!" he exclaimed.

"But I probably won't answer," she said, dismissing it already as she took a bit of her burger.

"Aw, not cool," Phil replied. There was a moment of silence between them before Phil spoke again. "I just don't want to call you 'Tiff' like everyone else. I want to have a different name for you, something that only I can call you." He looked at her a smiled.

She blushed and looked away. "Fine," she said. "I don't care." And she shrugged.

Phil brightened. "All right!" he nodded. "Score!"

"Shut up and eat your fries," she said, trying to hide a deep blush.

"Yes, ma'am!" he exclaimed and shoved a handful of fries in his mouth. He looked at her and smiled, fries spilling out of his mouth.

"Gross!" she exclaimed and shoved him, but she laughed.

"You're definitely not skipping class to have lunch with me tomorrow," she said.

"Why not?!"

She laughed. "You're a slob!"

"You like that," he said.

"Please." She smiled. "But seriously you can't. You'll fail."

Phil shrugged. "I don't really care. I like spending time with you. This is fun."

She agreed. "Well, you said you have lunch during my free period, right?"

"Yeah," he replied.

She shrugged. "So, why don't we have lunch then? It would be better that way. You won't miss class and my friends won't start thinking I've ditched them."

"Okay," Phil said. "That works, but when I skip, I'm coming for you." He grinned at her and she laughed.

"Can I ask you something?" she asked.

Phil nodded as he took a bite of his burger.

"What happened to the girl and your friend?" she looked at him. "And your sister." she added. "Did he choose between them yet?"

Phil chewed slowly as he set his burger back down. Tiffany waited for him to answer. He shook his head. "He hasn't, but I'm sure he will by the end of the day. They're both anxious and I know both of them are sitting nervously in class waiting for his answer." He looked down and sighed. "I think I know who he'll choose and I feel like I'm gonna have to pick up the pieces when it's all done."

He looked up again. "What about you?"

Tiffany pulled away a little bit. She shook her head. "He's head over heals for my best friend. I can't bring myself to ruin everything by telling him I like him, so. . .I've. . ." she sighed, frustrated. "I hate to think I'm giving up, but that's what I'm doing. I know if I say it, then he won't know what to say and he won't act the same around me and my friend, well, she'd. . .she wouldn't be the same either."

She shrugged and smiled weakly. "It can't be helped, I guess."

"Well," Phil began, "you still have me. You won't be getting rid of me any time soon. I know where your locker is now."

Tiffany laughed. "I guess so." She looked at him. "I'm glad I met you, you know. It's nice to have someone tell me that they know how I feel and truly mean it when they say it."

He nodded. "I know how you feel," he said.

They laughed and continued their lunch. Phil felt like everything would be all right no matter who Tommy chose in the end because as long as he had a friend like Tiffany, he'd be able to get through any heartache. And who knows, maybe this friendship or whatever this was would even bloom into something more, something that in the depths of his heart, he truly wanted more than anything else, but only time would tell.

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Tommy was happy to have everything (almost) back to normal. Grandpa Lou would be home tomorrow morning and he wasn't adopted! For the first time in a really long time Tommy felt free. Like the world had just completely lifted off his shoulders. He had nothing left to worry about and he was determined to change. No more of this gloomy, brooding Tommy Pickles and then Lil rounded the corner and he felt like running.

He could have punched himself for forgetting something so important. Lil waved before he could slip away unseen. He waved back and smiled weakly. She approached him.

"Hi," she said nervously.

"Hi," he said.

For a moment they stood there not looking at each other. He knew what she wanted, but he still wasn't sure of his answer. He didn't want to hurt either girl. He cared for them both very much.

"I know you want everything to go back to normal," she said, "but we're all growing up and things always change. We're changing and our relationships will change over time, too."

"That's not true," he said. His words surprised her. "Yes, we're changing and yes, we'll continue to change, but our friendships will always be strong and I'm certain that will never change. We've been together too long to let it all change in the way you're implying it will."

Lil smiled at that. "I guess, you're right."

"I know I am," he said.

"I just don't want you to feel guilty for choosing. You're going to have to make a decision. You can't keep us waiting forever. Its not fair to us and I know it's unfair of me to be asking you for so much and I'm sorry. I don't want to push you, I'm just-"

"I know, Lil , and I'm not mad. I do feel a little cornered-"

"I'm sorry! I didn't mean to-"

"It's okay!" he laughed lightly. "I know it's unfair of me to keep you guys waiting, but it's just that I don't want to hurt either one of you and I know that our friendships will remain the same, but at the same time I know that it won't be completely the same. It won't be like it use to." He stopped to think. "Did that sound contradictory to what I was saying before?"

Lil laughed. "Yes, it kind of does, but I know what you're trying to say. I understand."

The bell rang, but neither one of them made a move to leave for class.

"We will always be friends no matter who you chose, you know," she said. "Always friends first." She took a deep breath. "Just choose whoever makes you feel. . .I don't know, different."

"Different?" They both made him feel different. Lil didn't make him feel the same way he felt when he was with Kimi and vice versa. They were both different.

She shook her head. "I don't know, just not the you we've come to know. Who makes you feel like a better you, I guess."

Tommy stared at her and then suddenly he knew. A wide smile spread across his face. "Lil," he said.

And she looked back at him and her eyes softened and her smile gently spread.

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Kimi carefully put her books in her locker and removed only her global studies textbook. "I'll need this tonight," she said to herself as she shoved it in her bag. She stopped and rethought her decision. "I'll just carry it," she said, not wanting her bag to be heavier than it needed to be. She took the book out and zippered up her backpack and swung it on her shoulder. She closed her locker door and turned to walk down the hall.

She made it outside in minutes and walked passed the busses aligned in front of the school. She didn't want to ride the bus today. The walk was long, but it would be fine. "Maybe I'll stop by the library before going home," she thought. "I'll do some homework and maybe I'll take out a book to read."

She wondered what would be a good book to read when she heard his voice. She stopped mid-step. Was she going crazy? She sighed and shook her head. Even when she was avoiding thinking about him, she could hear his voice calling to her.

Kimi picked up her pace and then she heard it again.

"Kimi, wait up!"

She turned around and there he was. She was trying so hard to avoid him and yet here he was. She didn't want to be a reminder to something that would just cause him trouble. His grandfather was okay now and that was great. Tommy was happy and she didn't want him to remember about the whole having-to-choose-between-his-friends thing. It would be too much pressure and she just wanted him to be happy and at the same time it was driving her crazy not knowing! So, to keep him happy and to keep her sane, she avoided him and avoided thinking about him.

She waved, hiding her panic. He rushed to her and stopped in front of her, out of breath. "I didn't see you on the bus," he explained, "and then someone told me they saw you walking this way. I thought you were long gone, but then I saw you."

Her heart raced. She smiled, hoping that he couldn't hear it. Just calm down, calm down.

They stood there for what seemed like an eternity. No one knew what to say next, but Tommy awkwardly shifted his feet and cleared his throat. He looked at her and took a deep breath. "I've finally made a decision," he said, his voice shaking only slightly. He swallowed hard as he stared back at her. "It wasn't easy and I still wonder if choosing at all is right, but it's done. I spoke to Lil and now I want to talk to you."

Kimi wanted to run away, but her legs wouldn't move. They stood frozen in place while her own voice screamed in her head to run, run as fast as she could because what was coming next was not going to be good at all. She could already feel the threat of tears hot in the corners of her eyes.

"Th-that's just silly," she said. "It's nothing, you know. You really don't have to choose-"

"But I have," he said, taking a step toward her. She wanted to move away, but she couldn't. She could feel him moving closer still and the warmth of his body stung the closer he got. Just move away, she urged herself. Just one step back, please, please, please. . .

A tear escaped from the corner of her eye and when she felt it on her skin, she could feel her shoulders shake and then she could slowly feel her arms again. They felt like lead, but she thrusted them out in front of her, letting her textbook fall as she shoved Tommy back. She shut her eyes and a tear rolled down her cheek. "I-I don't want to hear it," she said. She didn't see the shock on his face and she didn't want to. Her heart felt like it was being crushed and her lungs felt as though they were collapsing. It was getting harder to breathe and a sharp pain began to engulf her chest.

Kimi's body barely registered when Tommy's hands grabbed both her arms and she almost completely missed it when he pulled her into his arms. The whole thing happened so quickly that it surprised her when she realized what just happened. He rested his head in the crook of her neck, holding her tightly to him with no intention of letting her go.

"You've got it wrong," he said. He slowly moved his head so his lips hovered just above her ear. "I choose you."

For a moment she couldn't breathe and something burst in her chest and suddenly she was dizzy and overwhelmed with a feeling of pure peace of mind. Her eyes welled up with tears and before she knew it she was holding him tight and soaking his shirt with tears. "I thought-"

"I know," he said, smoothing her hair, "but listen." He stood quietly and she stopped, holding her breath to hear what he heard. At first she heard nothing, but then thump, thump, thump, thump. . .

She looked up, shocked. "You're heart," she said, almost breathless.

"It's racing," he said. "That's how you make me feel." He smiled shyly. "At first, I was a little afraid of you, to be honest. I started feeling nervous around you and my heart would race, my palms would sweat. I didn't know what was going on, but you always made me feel like the person I use to be or like I could be that person again and that's what scared me most of all.

"When I spoke to Lil," he continued, "she told me to choose whoever made me feel different, but that's weird, I thought because you both make me feel different. I don't feel the same with Lil as I do with you and then she clarified that it should be someone who makes me feel like a better me and then I thought of you. You make me feel like I can be better. I can be who I use to be."

He pulled away from her and held her by the shoulders as he looked at her. His face colored. "I'm not too good with this," he said, the red deepening on his cheeks. "I mean, I don't have much experiencing in the art of confessing my feelings and stuff, but, uh, well. . .I. . ."

Kimi blushed and then she laughed. He was adorable! She hugged him tight. "You don't need to say it, choosing me is enough and it's pretty much a confession in itself, right?"

"R-right," he stammered as he enclosed his arms around her again.

"But, um," she stared at the cracks in the sidewalk, "what about Lil? Is she okay?" Somehow it didn't feel right to be happy when her friend was not.

Tommy pulled away again and looked at her. "She smiled at me. Very gently, but I could see the hurt in her eyes." He sighed. "She also said she wasn't going to give up just yet."

Kimi looked back at him stunned. "No?"

Tommy shook his head, a light pinkish hue on his cheeks. "She said, you may have won this time, but over time things change and she'll wait it out. She said she won't stop loving me because this isn't the end." He looked away embarrassed. "She has a plan, she said. She'll wait a year and see where me and you are at that point in time and if it looks like it can't go any further than she'll interfere. If things are going smoothly, then she'll officially give up and leave me in your care."

Kimi didn't know what to say, but she couldn't be mad. Instead she laughed. "She's so strong," she said after the laughter passed. A bitter-sweet feeling overwhelmed her then and she looked sadly at Tommy. "I admire her courage." But she couldn't help but feel regretful and sad.

Tommy put a warm around her and pulled her close as they started walking again. "Give it time," he said. "I'm sure over time she'll slowly start to think differently. I think she'll begin to see that I have no intention of ever letting you go. Not even when you get tired of seeing my face."

She looked at him as he spoke, the color in his cheeks deep. She smiled and kissed him sweetly, her lips touching the corner of his mouth. He looked back at her surprised and then he looked away. "Let's not go home just yet," he said. "I'd like to, uh, be alone with you for a little bit."

Kimi couldn't contain her joy. She only nodded as Tommy bent down to pick up her book and then they continued down the street not realizing that there was a small crowd gathered only twenty feet behind them, Angelica and Susie at the head.

"What did I tell you, Carmicheal?" Angelica asked. "They look good together and they fit so much better."

"Don't be insensitive, Angelica," Susie said. "And I still think Lil was the best choice." She smiled softly at Lil and the girl smiled back weakly.

"Thanks," Lil said, "but Kimi deserved him. She was the one." She sighed.

"There are other fish in the sea," Phil assured as he put an arm around his sister. "You'll find someone."

"I'm giving myself a year, you know?" she said. "I'm not giving up completely."

"I don't think we should be following them," Chuckie put in nervously watching the couple ahead. "They're not gonna be too happy if they see us back here."

"We're pretty far behind them," Dil assured. "They won't see us."

"This isn't right," Chuckie said. "And it's weird, she's my sister."

"Oh, shut up, Finster," Angelica said. "Brothers and sisters are suppose to spy on each other."

"Says who?!" he exclaimed.

"It's the natural order of things," Angelica said matter-of-factly.

"How are you so sure?" Susie asked, eyeing her. Where did this girl get her information?

"That's what I'd do," she answered.

Susie laughed. "You, but not someone else," she said.

"No, Phil does that," Lil said, pulling away from her brother a little bit. "Angelica speaks the truth."

"You do that," Phil countered, removing his arm from her shoulders.

"You read my diary!" Lil yelled.

"Guys, maybe we should keep it down," Chuckie urged, trying to keep his voice low, yet loud enough for them to hear.

"When?!" Phil argued.

"See, I was right," Angelica said looking at Susie triumphantly.

"They're just one example," Susie argued. "That doesn't mean you're right."

"One is enough," Angelica said, turning away from Susie.

"I don't do that," Dil put in.

"I won't forgive you, Philip!"

"Oh, please, I'm sure you do the same," Phil said. "You probably go into my room all the time and snoop around and stuff."

"There's never anything to snoop around for," Lil countered.

"So, you have done it!" Phil accused.

"Guys, calm down," Chuckie pleaded. He looked nervously ahead, but thankfully neither Tommy nor Kimi took notice of them, but it was only a matter of time at this rate.

Angelica gave Susie a knowing glance.

"Oh, please, that doesn't make you right," Susie said.

Angelica rolled her eyes.

"It doesn't!" Susie said.

"I don't like disturbing T's stuff," Dil said. "But there was one time where I went in looking for a something that would prove he was an alien! Does that count?"

"Yes," Angelica said.

"No!" Susie said at the same time.

"Was is it, yes or no?"

"Yes!"

"No!"

"Guys, please keep quiet," Chukie pleaded. They were going to turn around any minute and they were going to see them and they were going to get mad, he just knew it.

"You can't play it off like it didn't happen," Lil said. "You confessed it yourself!"

They all spoke at once and in circles, it seemed. It wasn't long before Tommy and Kimi noticed them behind them. The waited at the end of the block until their friends made it there.

"Way to keep inconspicuous," Kimi commented. Chuckie looked embarrassed. He mumbled something to himself, ashamed.

"You would have kept under the radar if you'd been quiet," Tommy said as he laughed.

"I told you!" Chuckie exclaimed.

"Oh, just shut up, Finster," Angelica said. "I'm tired of you flapping your gums."

Their voices rose again in a frenzy of arguments and conversations all separate from one another and Tommy couldn't help but laugh. Their voices melded with one another's in a sweet melody of sound that put Tommy at ease. He looked from one face to the other and then at Kimi and took great pride and thanks in the friends he had. He hoped that he'd be strong enough to let them all into his heart when something wasn't going right, so he wouldn't be alone. He no longer wanted to isolate himself. He didn't want to be alone. He wanted to remain in the soft, comforting canopy of their warmth and friendship for as long as he possibly could.

They were his life and he hoped that the gaps in their bonds that they suffered during the years where he pulled away would refill and strengthen over time.

THE END