Well, friends, here it is: the concluding chapter of NBDL. I want to thank all of you for reading; the response to this story has been tremendously gratifying. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Special thanks to campy, Zaratan, warprince2000, JonathonWolf, Drakken's Woman, Scoutcraft Piratess, Jokerisdaking, Dixon-San, surfrost, daywalkr82, JeanieBeanie33, Cartoonatic, mattb3671, qtpie235, JPMod, Commander Argus, kemitztri, conan98002, happyendingsmaybe, trecebo, The Incredible Werekitty, SirDucksworthy, Matri, Theta-Alpha-One, momike, RonRules, Yuri Sisteble, The Halfa Wannabe, little-n-lost, jasminevr, recon228, Dennis, TexasDad, LyThi, SHADOW ANGUS, Charles Gray, nmorgendorffer, and SariahSariah for their reviews.
Please note that if you are registered with FF net and you leave a review, I will respond personally to your comments and observations.
A complete set of highly-collectible Bueno Nacho Bueno toys is in the mail to campy who, once again, provided invaluable proof-reading and beta services. And speaking of campy, check out his Talking Turkey, the fourth installment in his excellent Essential Ronness series.
Finally, if you saw it on KP, Disney owns it.
Kim looked at the incoming-number display on the ringing phone; she smiled when she saw the caller was Ron. After a long morning of reviewing reams of data, she was happy for the distraction. She pressed the speaker phone button. "Hi! Please tell me you know how to make sense of these neuroscans."
"Man, you are so sexy when you talk technobabble over the speaker phone!" Ron said before he began panting into his receiver.
"Down, Bad Boy!" Kim laughed. She pressed the mute button and picked up the receiver, just in case anyone wandered into her lab. "So, what's up?"
"You're in … ?" Kim asked, confused, before she realized what he was talking about. "You're in! That's spankin'! Ron, I am so proud of you!"
"You're just saying that because secretly you've always dreamed of finding a hunky fast food management executive trainee type of guy."
"Well, yes, I have, if you must know," she purred seductively. "Too bad you're going to have to wait until we get home to find out just what I planned to do with him once I found him."
"Aww man!" was all Ron could manage in response.
Ron was already cooking dinner when Kim came home. She moved up behind him, wrapped her arms around his waist, and nuzzled his neck. "Hi, Nacho Boy."
"Whassup, Dragon Lady?" Ron put down his cooking utensils and turned, so he could look at his fiancée. He gently kissed her on the forehead. "I thought we'd have some fresh tagliatelle with a veal ragù, some arugula and a bottle or two of the 2000 Verrazzano. Sound good?"
"Delicious. Though by the time we get married, people are going to be calling me Jumbo."
"Well, you could just have the arugula …" Ron said.
"So not going to happen. We'll just have to burn off some calories after dinner …" she said in a way that made Ron want to skip right past the meal. Kim, however, wasn't going to pass up on Ron's home cooking; she knew she'd get to enjoy her dessert afterwards.
"It really is a great opportunity, KP. Corporate will even pay for a college degree and give me a flexible schedule for classes."
Kim grew quiet.
"What's wrong, KP?"
"Nothing. I guess now that it's real, I'm realizing just how long a commute you'll have. Between driving and your classes, I'll see so much less of you."
"I don't have to do this, Kim …"
"You most certainly do." Kim insisted. She then sat quietly. "It's just that, well, Ron, ever since we got back from Hawaii, I've been thinking about that baby we delivered."
Ron looked at Kim and grinned. We delivered, not I. He felt so proud at that moment, pleased that he'd been able to help Kim, be part of her adventure.
"That was kind of badical, wasn't it?"
Kim smiled, "Yes, it was." She reached over and took Ron's hand and began to caress his fingers. "I'm looking forward to having children with you, Ron."
"Wow. Kim, I … Wow. Children. You. Me …" he stammered.
"You do want to have children, don't you, Ron?" Kim asked, realizing she'd made a huge assumption.
"Oh yeah. It's just, with you, wow … I mean …"
"Ron," Kim teased, "It's not like we don't know how to make babies. We sure have had enough practice!"
"No, I know. Though I could always stand more practice." He said with a leer, which earned him a playful swat. "It's just that you'd want to mix your genes with mine. Kind of sure to bring the Possible family IQ down by about 200 points."
Kim glowered at Ron. "No dissing my fiancé. Besides, it will bring the family cute factor up by 300 points. Something's got to balance out the tweebs!" She paused, then looked at Ron affectionately. "You'll make a great father, Ron."
"I hope so …" he said, his voice suddenly filled with doubt.
"Ron, are you all right?" Kim asked, concern filling her voice.
"Yeah, I, I guess it's a little scary. I, I don't want to be like my parents, you know?"
"Ron, I never met your father, but I remember you said he was hapless. That's not a word I'd use to describe you. And I know you will never be like your mother." She got up and wrapped her arms around her fiancé's shoulders, then kissed the top of his head. "Ron, you're going to be one badical, bon-diggity daddy. And I know that because I have one. You and dad are so much alike in so many ways, it's kind of freaky."
"Yeah. Although he couldn't cook to save his life. Where do you think I get my lack of kitchen talent from?"
Ron relaxed. Me. A dad. Coolio, he thought.
Kim came home three days later to find Ron sitting in the living room, staring at the wall. He looked devastated.
"Ron, what's wrong?"
He turned to look at her, appearing forlorn. "The company. It, it's been bought out."
"What? By whom?"
"Oh, Ron. You weren't …"
"Fired?" he asked.
"No. They still want me in the program."
"So what's the problem?" Kim asked, now confused.
"KP, Corporate's moving. To some hick town called Fentonville about 900 miles from here. The middle of nowhere is the big city compared to this place."
"Oh," Kim said, not knowing what else to say.
"I'm going to have to pull out of the program. I don't want a commuter relationship, Kim, and you've got too much here for me to ask you to move." He looked at the floor, then sighed. "I'm sorry I let you down, KP. I really wanted to make something of myself …"
Kim knelt by Ron and took his hands. "Ron, you've already made something of yourself. Don't you ever forget that. I'm so ferociously proud of you for even being chosen."
"Yeah," he responded. "Thanks."
Kim could tell he wasn't convinced.
Later that night, Kim watched as Ron slept fitfully. She slipped quietly out of the bed and made her way to the study. There, she sat down at the computer, booted it up, and opened the web browser. Then she began to do some research.
"Good morning, Ron," Kim said brightly, rising from the kitchen table to hug her fiancé.
"Morning, KP," he replied dully.
She led him to his seat. "Sit down. I'm taking care of breakfast today. And don't worry – I didn't have to cook, so we're safe!"
He offered a weak smile, still dejected by the previous day's developments. Ron watched as Kim poured him some orange juice, then presented him with a bowl of cereal and fresh blueberries. She did the same for herself, then looked at Ron. "Did you know that Fentonville has a community hospital?"
"It serves the entire county. They're actually looking for an internist."
"Yeah, so …"
"Ron. Me. Doctor. Remember?"
"Kim, you're a neurosurgeon. And you never actually practiced!"
"True, but I can train and be certified."
"No, Ron. Listen. Please. You remember how we were talking about the flight home the other day?"
"I felt so … alive … when we delivered the baby, like I was on top of the world, like I was making a difference."
"But you do that with your research."
"I know, but this was different. Ron, when I was holding that baby, I felt like I could do anything. It was exhilarating. I don't want you to drop out of the program. I want us to go take a look before you make a final decision. This might be an opportunity for both of us."
"You sure about this, KP?"
"Trust me, Ron. I know what's best!"
"I had the biggest crush on Nicky Nick!" Kim gushed.
"What? I thought you'd have gone for Dexter," Ron replied as they listened to the O Boyz on the oldies station as they drove from the airport to Fentonville.
"Dexter?" she asked incredulously. "Why?"
"Wasn't he the smart one?"
Kim rolled her eyes. "So wasn't going to happen. That hair …"
Ron chuckled as he piloted the car down the Interstate, enjoying the completely pointless conversation with Kim. Their ability to talk endlessly about anything or nothing was one of the things he treasured most about their relationship.
They went from politics to colors to coffee chains to the merits of TV Trash Heap versus The Knowing Channel and finally on to movies.
"C'mon, KP. Bricks of Fury Three was a classic."
"Wasn't that the dumb flick that boasted of having 30 percent more bricks?" she asked, unable to hide her disdain.
"'Sha, of course it was. Two had 20 percent more and Four had 40 percent more. Do the math!"
""Sha, I did. It was the one with 30 percent more duh."
"You're just snippy because I fell asleep during The Remains of the Day of the Piano."
"Are you surprised? That was a beautiful movie, Ron."
"No, KP. It was an I-want-to-pay-good-money-to-cry-my-eyes-out-so-I-can-be-depressed chick flick. Talk about 30 percent more duh!"
"You're lucky you're so good in bed, Nacho Boy!"
"Hey, it's a team effort, KP!"
Ron grinned as Kim blew him an air kiss in response.
After exhausting movies they moved on to other subjects, then turned the radio back on. They had pulled over at a rest stop to get something to eat and switched drivers. Kim was now behind the wheel and having trouble keeping her eyes on the road as she watched Ron dance in his seat to Smash Mouth. He was singing at the top of his voice and insisted she join in, which she eventually did.
"Hit the high note, KP! Hit it! Hit it!"
Though she never did quite reach the high notes, she succeeded at laughing herself silly.
"Ron, I am so sorry. It was my idea to come here," she said, reaching over and squeezing his arm protectively as they drove out of the new hometown of Bueno Nacho Headquarters.
"No big, KP," Ron said, still shell-shocked.
"No, Ron. It is big," she insisted, feeling rattled herself. "I still can't believe …"
Ron couldn't either.
The visit had been going well. The downtown had seen better days, but had potential. There were some lovely old homes they could buy. Kim and Ron began to get excited about becoming involved in a community that was trying to reinvent itself.
Then they visited the hospital.
Kim saw the situation there as a challenge, but one that she could manage. Given the region's economic situation, she had not been surprised by the hospital's limited resources and decided that she could quietly donate some money to help upgrade equipment. The doctors and nurses had been nice enough and Kim and Ron enjoyed their tour of the facility. The people who worked there took pride in their institution, even if it was modest in scale. Kim thought she could enjoy being part of this team.
The culmination of their visit was dinner at the home of the hospital's Chief of Medicine, who had invited Kim and Ron along with some of the town's civic leaders. The evening had gotten off to a good enough start. Over cocktails, people talked about the excitement generated by the impending move of Bueno Nacho Corporate to the town. The investors were local boys made good who wanted to do something for the place where they had grown up. Talk then turned to the Single A baseball club that played 50 miles away; Ron and the Chief happily talked baseball. Kim was pleased to see him getting along with her potential new colleague. Over dinner, the wine flowed freely and the conversation was convivial. Everyone was having a grand time, comfortable with one another. Kim and Ron felt like they were visiting with old friends.
They were halfway through the main course when their host, who obviously shared the same feeling of ease with Kim and Ron, told a blatantly anti-Semitic joke. Much to Kim and Ron's horror, his other guests just smiled or laughed.
Ron felt like he'd been sucker-punched.
He was stunned. As was Kim.
Then she spoke. "That's very interesting, Doctor. I'm Jewish."
Ron looked at Kim.
Her host also looked at her, as did the other guests.
"I, I didn't know …" he stammered, clearly uncomfortable at being caught out.
"Obviously. Red hair, green eyes. You must have assumed I was, what, Irish? Possible. So not a Jewish name. How about … Possivolsky?"
"I, I …" The man looked like a fish stranded on pavement, flopping about helplessly.
"We'll be leaving now," Kim said curtly as she rose. She and Ron walked to the car, drove to the motel where they were staying, got their bags, checked out, and drove out of town.
"Back there. Why'd you say you were Jewish? I mean, you could just have said you didn't like people being bigoted."
"I don't know. I guess I just see you as part of me, so in that way I am Jewish, even if I'm not. All I know, Ron, is that when somebody hurts you, they hurt me. When somebody hates you because of who you are, they hate me. There is nothing that will ever separate us. Nothing. Ever."
Ron looked at his fiancée. "You're pretty amazing, KP. I can't believe how lucky I am."
"You're not bad yourself, Ro–"
"Kim, stuff it and let me compliment you."
"If you insist, Nacho Boy."
As they drove on into the night, Kim thought about how much she liked the way those two words sounded.
"I so like the tin ceiling."
"Yeah, it is kind of badical."
"So the kitchen will work?"
"Yeah, after we do some work on it."
Kim and Ron were looking around the restaurant space that Ron had leased in downtown Middleton. It was small, but it was a place to start. Kim had wanted to buy a property for him, but he stubbornly refused, insisting that he had to do this on his own. He felt a deep need to do that after the Bueno Nacho fiasco. She had not been happy at first, but was mollified when he agreed to let her pay for the courses he would take at Middleton Community College. He figured that if he was lucky, he might have a degree by the time he was forty.
"So, how long until we open?"
Ron looked around. "Two months. Two months and Chez Kimberly will open its doors to a soon-to-be-adoring public."
Kim grinned. "I hope I can get a table …"
Ron wrapped his arm around her waist. "I have an in with management. I'll talk to them …"
Kim walked the floor of the hospital with trepidation. She felt like a fresh-out-of-medical-school resident. But she couldn't deny her excitement. She was on her way to being a practicing physician. It would take time, but the effort would be worthwhile.
She had told Ron she knew what was best for them when she said they should go to Fentonville. In the end, she believed that she had been right. Had they not taken the disastrous trip, she would not have decided to explore leaving medical research for the actual practice of medicine. And Ron would not have concluded that the time had come to open his own restaurant. Kim was convinced that they were both doing the things they were now meant to do. And they would get to stay in Middleton, in their own home, near Kim's family, which had become Ron's family too.
Kim was heading to the Doctor's Lounge when she heard a voice call out.
"Why, hello Dr. Possible! I hope you've been enjoying your first day with us!"
Kim turned and smiled at her new colleague.
"I sure have, Mom," Kim said to Ann Possible. "And you know what? The other kids even seem to like me!"
Ron had been struggling with this decision for days. He was furious with his mother in the wake of her visit. But as time passed, he had decided to try to patch things up. Even though he'd told Barbara Jo Stoppable that she would have to make the first move to make things right, Ron decided that the time had come for a rapprochement and he was willing to swallow his pride to effect one.
He had called his mother more than once; the conversations had been perfunctory, awkward, even chilly, but he refused to give up. Maybe it was because he was inspired by how Kim and her parents were now getting along so well. Maybe it was because he thought he owed it to his father who, even if he wasn't a particularly competent parent, had still been a good man. Or maybe because having won Kim's heart, something which he once believed was beyond the bounds of possibility, Ron Stoppable now believed he, too, could do anything – even heal a broken relationship with his mother.
"You sure you're okay with us inviting her?"
"Of course I am, Ron," she replied as she reached for his hand. "Look, in spite of everything that's happened, she is your mother. This is going to be the biggest day of our lives. How could we not want her to be a part of it?"
"Thanks, KP, you really are badical."
Ron came home to an empty condo. Kim was in New York with Monique for a girls' weekend of shopping and spa treatments. He picked up the mail and laid it on a table. Then he wandered into the kitchen, grabbed a Brooklyn Lager and returned to the living room
Sorting through the mail, Ron found the usual: bills, magazines, offers to refinance the mortgage, various solicitations. But in the midst of this he found something that rocked his world. He opened the envelope, read its contents, then got up and left the house. A short while later, as if in a dream, he found himself at the Possibles', his hand turning the knob to the kitchen door.
He walked in and saw Ann standing before the counter, preparing dinner.
She turned she heard her future son-in-law come in. "Why, hello, Ron! What a nice surprise." Her smile quickly faded as she saw the pained expression he was wearing. "Ron, what's wrong?"
He approached Kim's mother and handed her a letter, which was stapled to one of Kim and Ron's wedding invitations. Ann was stunned as she read the terse missive:
You know how I disapprove of this situation. Given that you have made your choice, I believe it would be best if we had no further contact.
Barbara Jo Stoppable
Those may have been the cruelest and saddest words Ann had ever read. When she looked up at Ron, and saw the expression on his face, the redness that rimmed his eyes, her heart broke. She wasn't looking at the loving man who had brought so much joy into her daughter's life, but at a little boy, one who had been intentionally rejected by his own mother.
Ann embraced Ron and began patting him on the back. He'd been trying to keep his emotions under control, but he finally lost the battle. Ann felt his body convulse as he began sobbing, letting out a lifetime of pain and hurt.
"I can't believe it. She's cut me off. She's my mother. She's cut me off. She's cut me off …" He said it over and over again.
There were so many things Ann wanted to say at that moment, none of which she thought would be productive. So she simply held Ron close. After what seemed an eternity, he stopped crying. Ann gave Ron a tissue, then led him to the table where they sat down. She got up, went to a cupboard, and pulled out a glass and a plate. She filled the glass with milk and put some cookies on the plate, then set them before Ron.
He looked quizzically at Ann, who offered a comforting smile.
"When Kimmie was a little girl and she was sad, I always gave her milk and cookies. Bruised knee, milk and cookies; Bonnie teased her, milk and cookies. Same with the twins. Kim bullied them, milk and cookies; a favorite toy was lost – or blown up, milk and cookies."
Ron gingerly took a cookie and dunked it in the milk.
"It doesn't make up for the pain you're feeling, Ron, but you're part of our family. You're one of our children now. James and I are here for you."
Ron nibbled at the cookie, then looked up at his fiancée's mother. "It hurts so much."
"I'm sure it does, Ron. I can't say I understand it, but I'm sure it does. Just remember, you're a wonderful man and that a lot of people – especially your future wife – love you very much. Nobody can ever take that away from you."
"But she's my mother …"
What Ann wanted to say was, "No, Ron, she's a mother …" but she refrained from doing so. Instead, she said, "I don't want to be presumptuous, but I hope that, in addition to 'Ann' or 'Mrs Dr P' someday you'll feel comfortable calling me 'Mom.'"
Ron looked down at the cookies, then at Ann. Quietly, softly, he said, "Mom," as if he was trying it on for size. She sat down beside him, offered him a warm, reassuring smile, then embraced him.
As Ann comforted her daughter's fiancé, she thought of Barbara Jo Stoppable. For only the second time in her life, Ann Possible wanted to violate her Hippocratic Oath and inflict physical harm on someone.
The sun was just rising as Ron sat down on the dew-covered ground. In just a few hours he would be getting married. He was filled with joy and excitement as he contemplated the next chapter of the story he and Kim were writing. But before he turned that page, he knew he needed this moment alone.
He looked at the small mound beneath which Rufus lay, then traced the outline of the plaque the Drs. Possible had installed. He knew Kim must have been involved; she knew the right words to describe his little companion, and those were the ones before him: Rufus. A true friend with a mighty heart.
Ron and Kim had both become very fond of Kimzilla, the naked mole ratshe had givenhim for Christmas. But they both knew that Rufus had been unique; he could be succeeded, but never replaced.
"It's gonna happen, l'il buddy. Today. Kim and I are getting married. Can you believe it?" Ron shook his head at the wonder of it all. "She's been great, Rufus. What you'd want for me. Not just a lover but a friend. A real friend. A best friend."
Ron sat quietly for quite some time, thinking about Kim, and the Possibles, and about all the other people he cared about. They were all coming to the wedding.
"I wish you could be there Rufus. I know Kim does, too. We miss you," he said softly, looking at the ground, before he rose and went back to his home to get ready for his and Kim's big day.
The new bride and groom were happily accepting congratulations. It had been a small ceremony, presided over by none other than James Possible, who held a one-day Justice of the Peace licensethat allowed him to perform the marriage.
Kim and Ron circulated among their guests: Kim's parents; Jim and Tim and their girlfriends; Nancy from the lab; Ned, who was the new BN manager; the kids who worked in the restaurant; the Rentons and the Riegers. After a while, Kim approached Ron and took his hand. She then turned to their family and friends.
"I'd like to say something," Kim announced.
"It was right here, right in this spot, that my life changed. All because one rainy summer's night I had to work late and got hungry. I've been rude and mean to a lot of people over the years, as, well, oh, all of you know from first-hand experience …"
People laughed with Kim.
"… and I was no different that night. But for some reason I got lucky. Because this man," she said pointing at Ron, "was right there," she continued, indicating the counter in the Middleton Bueno Nacho, "and even then he knew what I needed to be happy." She paused, then deadpanned, "A chimerito combo with a large soda and a bueno toy!" When the laughter died down, Kim added affectionately, "And a whole lot of loving."
Kim then turned to Ron. "There have been times when I've wondered what life would have been like if we'd met sooner. If we'd known each other as kids. I bet it would have been fun. But, today we look to the future. And, so, while I didn't get to grow up with you, I can look forward to our growing old together."
Ron smiled at his wife, who, turning back to their guests, raised a Slurpster, "To growing old together!" Everyone enthusiastically joined in the toast.
The evening wore on, and people continued to enjoy themselves. Kim and Ron slipped away to his old office. She patted the breast pocket of his suit, into which earlier that day she'd slipped the toy he had given her the day she came to apologize. She looked into his eyes, recalling all that had happened since their first meeting. Softly, she asked, "So, Nacho Boy, think I could have a kiss?"
"My pleasure, Dragon Lady," he said before brushing her lips with his. He pulled back and grinned, then said, "My bad. I should have asked. Would you like me to grande size that?"
An electric smile spread across Kim Stoppable's face. "Please and thank you," she said, before she leaned in to pick up her order …