And here it is my oh-so-wonderful readers: the epilogue. Five years after the events in the last chapter.
Hope you like it...
It was exactly 12:45 when the elevator opened and Kuki returned from her lunch break to start rounds for the afternoon. She had been working at the Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland for three years now and she loved her work very much. The atmosphere was very cozy, the doctors were mostly kind and respectful of her and the other nurses, the patients were often very congenial, and she had never failed to get her patients to adore her.
Kuki had even heard from some of the doctors that parents of some patients had specifically requested that Kuki be the nurse to attend to their kids.
For Kuki, it had always been easy to win children's hearts.
Kuki stepped out of the elevator and started walking down the corridors to the individual rooms. The first patient she had to check up on was Joseph Williams, but she called him Joey since he said he preferred that name. She preferred it too; it was an easy name for her to remember. Joey was in for a tonsillectomy and he was afraid. After Kuki looked at his charts she sat down on his bed and tried to comfort him.
"Don't worry Joey. It's a very simple operation and you won't even feel a thing." She soothed him.
He was comforted by her presence and evenness of tone, but he wasn't convinced: "But the doctors are going to take something out of me. It's mine, not theirs."
"I know Joey. I know."
"So why are they taking out my tonsils?"
"Well Joey, tonsils can get sick very easily, and the doctors don't want you to get sick, so their just going to get rid of what makes you sick."
"But it's not a germ or anything, it's a part of me." For a seven-year-old boy he had a remarkable aptitude for arguing a point, and his argument was fairly logical.
"Well Joey, sometimes a part of us gets sick and doesn't get better. And we get along fine without tonsils, so having them taken out doesn't do us any real hurt. You know I had my tonsils out when I was your age."
"Did it hurt?"
"Well my throat was a little sore for a few days after, but I got lots and lots of ice cream to make me feel better. And my parents and my little sister sat with me all day, so all in all it wasn't so bad."
"So I'll be ok?"
She smiled very warmly. "You'll be just fine." And with that she excused herself to go check on the others.
As she walked out of Joey's room and headed for the next room down the corridor she heard the door to the stairway close and sensed some quiet footsteps coming up behind her. Any normal person would've felt prickling hairs sticking up on the back of their neck and start freaking out or running away. Kuki only smiled eagerly.
Suddenly two large arms wrapped around her waist and lifted her off her feet. She giggled playfully as she soared into the air and came back down, her long black hair flying out like a parachute to catch her. She spun around and someone's lips met her own. She smiled and closed her eyes as she indulged in the sweet sensation of her husband's kiss.
Though she wanted to deepen the kiss, she reminded herself that she was at work and had to remain professional, especially around so many young and impressionable minds. So after a few blissful moments she broke the intimate fusion and the first thing she saw after opening her eyes were the wo beautiful, green emeralds she knew and loved so dearly.
"You're slipping," she teased, "I heard you from a mile away."
"Well then why didn't you turn around and catch me before I got to you?" he playfully countered.
"You know I hate to spoil surprises." And she quickly and playfully gave him a quick peck on the lips. "Walk with me, I need to check on my patients."
He put his arm around her waist and she followed suit. "I looked at that new space down by the plaza. I think it shows a lot of potential."
"Oh Wally sweetie, don't tell me you're considering starting your own dojo now. You're right in the middle of your residency."
"Just keeping my eyes open for possibilities Kuki sweetie." He threw the last word in with the mildest amount of sarcasm.
"I still can't believe you took that part-time position as an assistant instructor with Master Lee. You barely spend any time at home as it is."
"Well you're not exactly the omnipresent mistress of the house either."
"At least I only have one job occupying my time and leave the rest open to spend with you." She batted her eyes at him flirtatiously and he sighed in defeat.
All of their friends commented on their marriage, how the two of them had a relationship behavior that ranged across the whole spectrum of ages and maturity for male and female interaction. The two could behave like the married couple of three years that they were, or like a pair of immature children in grade school, or like an old married couple of seasoned wit, or even like a couple of adolescents in high school. Between each other, they could get away with playing any role, and everyone agreed the two made a great match, despite their radically different personalities.
The young couple walked down the hall with their arms around each other's waists, then parted when Kuki went into the next room to check on Isobel Graf. Fractured femur, Kuki gave herself a mental reminder. While she went in to tend to the young girl, Wally stayed out in the hall, smiling as he watched his twenty seven year old wife tending to her duty and reflecting on all that had happened in the five years they had known each other.
Wally and Kuki had met during senior year in college and found out that they both went to different schools but at the same university. Though they had immediately hit it off as friends, the pretext for their first encounter with each other had been rather awkward.
Neither they, nor their friends Abby, Hoagie, or Nigel, could remember what happened to them during much of their childhood, or the first semester of their senior years in college. Wally's younger brother Joey had given Wally a set of documents that had stated wild stories about how all of them had been friends when they were younger, fought adults for some worldwide club of kids, and then had their memories erased when they turned thirteen. The documents also mentioned that during their senior years they had fought for an organization of tyrannical adults and afterwards had their memories erased again.
Even Wally, the unquestioning and totally believing older brother had doubted the validity of Joey's stories, and over the years since then he still hadn't been able to recall those old memories - either of his childhood, or of the stories in which Joey said he'd played a part.
Even so, Wally had made fast and dear friends with Abby, Hoagie and Nigel. And it hadn't taken long for him to feel something extra special for Kuki.
She really is wonderful… he thought, as he watched his wife sit with little Isobel, holding her hand and speak comforting words to her.
His thoughts drifted back to the summer after senior year when he had gone on a long trip with Kuki, Hoagie, Abby and Nigel. They'd traveled around England, France and several other places in Europe. While on the trip he'd spent most of his time with Kuki, always going places she wanted to go, seeing things she wanted to see. And strangest of all… he never had a problem with it as long as she was around. Then he and Kuki had gone on to visit Australia and Japan. He'd gotten to introduce her to his old master Meng Jing kuang, and she'd introduced him to her grandparents in Tokyo.
After coming back to the States and beginning graduate school they started dating. Two years later, while on a return trip to Australia, Wally had proposed to Kuki after an evening spent with Meng Jing, and his old master had given them his blessing. The wedding took place a few months later, and it had been a small one, involving only their closest family members and their three best friends. Abby had been Kuki's maid-of-honor, much to her younger sister Mushi's disappointment, while Hoagie had been Wally's best-man, much to Joey's disappointment.
As Wally's memories shifted to the honeymoon, Kuki came out of the room wrapped her arm around his waist again.
"What are you thinking about?" she asked.
"Oh just reminiscing." He replied. "I was thinking back to the honeymoon actually. Remember Kauai? The warm thunderstorms and lush forests? The salty sea air by the coast?"
She giggled, "And how you almost drowned when we tried SCUBA-diving?"
"Oh Ha-ha-ha. How many times do I have to say the dive-master gave me the wrong weight belt."
"I remember." She sighed. "Mmm… wonderful times. I told you we should've never left."
"And I said then as I'll say now, 'it wouldn't be the same paradise if we were always there'."
"Oh you and your stoicism. Oh, Wally remember you have to clean out the living room before five o'clock tonight."
She stopped and stared at him with raised eyebrows and a look of mild disappointment. "You forgot already?"
"I can't remember having to remember anything, so I guess the answer would be…yes."
She gave an exasperated sigh. "We have guests… close friends coming to visit… ringing any bells yet?"
He stopped to scratch his head for a moment.
"I thought Mushi and her fiancé weren't coming for another three weeks."
Another exasperated sigh. "Wallabee Beetles sometimes I don't know what you would do without me. Does the name Abby make you think of something? Maybe Hoagie? Or Nigel?"
"Oh right! The whole gang is coming over."
"And do you remember why?"
"Umm… well it's not our anniversary… and I'm pretty sure it's no one's birthday…"
"Abby and Hoagie just moved in together, honey. And Nigel's celebrating his engagement." She started walking again, rolling her eyes as she continued on to the next room.
"Oh yeah, I remember." Wally decided to crack a joke to get a rise out of his frustrated wife. "Nigel certainly knows how to have a bachelor party, heh?"
"Oh you are so immature."
"I thought you loved that about me."
"And that is so like you to try to make excuses for your behavior by saying that I love it."
"Well you do." He teased as he grabbed her waist and spun her around. She got scared that she would fall and by natural reflex wrapped her arms around his shoulders to stop herself from hitting the floor. But he held her firmly just a foot off the ground with his face only inches from hers. When she regained her composure she smiled and pulled herself up to his lips.
"Now I'll admit that is something I love about you." She conceded once he set her back on her feet. "The ability to be romantic and very apt at kissing. Now if you'll excuse me darling, Austin Blanke needs to have his IV replaced." And she walked into the next room.
Wally stood outside the room, leaning against the doorframe. He only had a short time to visit before he had to go home and start taking care of business like cleaning up and getting some of their finances in order. This was the sort of thing he did whenever taking a day off from his residency in Physical Therapy. His chief had told him that a day off didn't mean just a day off of work as a resident, but a day off of all kinds of work. He needed to take it a little easy to be ready to get back to his job, and he hadn't been very good about it.
As he leaned on the doorway, listening to his wife's melodious voice his thoughts drifted away to that day back in the coffee shop where they all met, and his thoughts turned to the binders that Joey had given him. He thought back on all those stories about him as the great, legendary warrior Numbuh 4, and all the heroic deeds he had accomplished while in service to the Kids Next Door. He thought about Kuki being the valiant nurse and diversionary tactician, Numbuh 3, and all those times when she had risen to the challenge to earn the praise of kids worldwide. The Sector V that the two of them had belonged to, in which all of their friends had been members. The group of them never came to an effective conclusion about whether the whole deal with Kids Next Door and DAFDTL and all that other junk in those binders was for real or if it was simply junk, and Wally had been thinking about it a lot as of late.
What was strangest of all, Wally thought, was when his brother had turned thirteen only a few months later and afterwards couldn't remember giving Wally the binders or anything about the Kids Next Door. His parents also mentioned that Joey had stopped hanging out with his old friends.
Fortunately for Joey, he was a very charming, well mannered and all around nice guy who could make friends with just about anyone, so he hadn't been so bad off. He was a senior in high school now and had a very serious girlfriend named Sarah. Wally could see in them something of what he saw in him and Kuki, a natural connection that seemed to suggest something more of a relationship rediscovered, rather than recently come into being.
Kuki came out of the room and Wally proceeded to walk with her, but his mind was off somewhere else.
"Where are you now?" she asked.
"I was just thinking…"
"You do an awful lot of that these days. Even more than usual."
"I was just thinking about those binders Joey gave us all those years ago. Do you remember? The ones about us as kids and then college seniors?"
"The Kids Next Door stuff?"
"Yeah, I was just thinking about that. You know we never really came to a conclusion about whether or not it was true."
"Why are you thinking about that now?" They were standing outside the next room: Josh Sweeny – concussion from playing baseball. But Kuki wanted to know what was so occupying her husband's mind, so she waited for him to speak.
"I don't know, it's just we have those two gaps in our memories, I wonder if those crazy stories are true."
"What's past is
past and can't be changed… my sweet little Wallabee."
He blushed at the comment, though they were married he still found that baby-talk embarrassing, but she did it all the time, sometimes just to irk him.
"I know it's in the past honey, but why can't we remember? What if there were some other important things that happened? Things that that there aren't any pictures of? Things that really defined our youth, or that would've made our lives different if we knew about them now?"
"Would it change the way you feel about me?"
"Of course not… well… actually no, I take that back…"
Kuki made a mock expression of offense and hurt. "Oh?"
And Wally smiled as he leaned against the doorway.
"Who knows Kuki? There could've been something that would make me love you even more."
Kuki closed her eyes as though drifting off in a dream and smiled her broad, super-sweet smile. She spun around on her toes like a ballerina and let herself fall backwards. Stunned at her recklessness, Wally hopped to her side, shot his arms out and caught her as she fell. Once he had stopped her falling, she arced her head forward, opened her eyes, and put her hands on the sides of his face.
"So you don't love me enough already?" she asked sweetly as she kissed him. He stood her up as they broke the embrace.
"I just wonder if I could love you even more."
"Aww…" she of
course knew that he loved her to pieces, but it was still nice to
hear. She started to walk into Josh's room, but stopped herself a
moment to tell him:
"You know why I don't worry about the past anymore?"
She put her arm around his head and gave him one last peck on the lips. The kind she'd give when she was saying 'bye for now', 'love you, see you later'.
"Because I love the present too much to bother with anything else... And now you have to go clean the house and let me get back to work." And she walked into Austin's room after giving him one last quick peck.
Wally smiled, took one last look at his wife as she set to work and then jogged back to the stairwell.
Man I love that woman! He said to himself, and he raced down the stairs.
She's right, he thought as he ran. The past was done and gone, and it was more worthwhile to just be happy with what they did remember about their lives, and be grateful that they had each other.
Yeah, he thought. Having each other was worth more than any memory.
Author's Note: ...Oh and a quick heads up - I've got a one-shot about Wally and Kuki on their trip to Australia and Japan coming up soon. To play it safe it will be rated M for sexuality, but I encourage you to read it, I think you'll enjoy it.