This is in fact the end of the fic. This chapter was by Teh-Drabbler
The Teens Next Door split up. Wally and Kuki left in Rachel's jeep, their leader at the wheel. Abby helped Fanny into the backseat of Nigel's car. In moments, they were speeding down the street towards the enemy's house. Fanny used the spare moments to wrap her ankle with some bandages from the First Aide kit. Due to the bumpy ride, it took most of her concentration to doctor herself. Still, she couldn't help worrying. Who knew what Tessla was doing to him right now…
The pair of villains unceremoniously dumped Hoagie in a corner like a wet raincoat. Tessla insisted that his hands and feet be bound so he couldn't escape. That also meant he couldn't walk, forcing them to carry him. Hoagie felt some small satisfaction that they'd had so much trouble, but wasn't sure all that huffing and groaning was necessary. He couldn't be that heavy.
Tessla was leaning against the wall, her back turned to him until a sharp breeze caught her attention. "Close the door, you idiot," she snapped. The Toilenator jumped, then scurried over to do her bidding. When the door was secure, Tessla had recovered enough to pay attention to her captive.
She walked over to him, her heels clicking ominously on the hardwood floor. "Well, well. Hoagie P. Gilligan."
"Junior," he added.
Tessla continued as though he hadn't spoken. "What ever am I to do with you?"
The Toilenator approached, and asked in his Threatening Villain voice, "You want I should take care of him, boss?"
"No, you idiot," she hissed, reminding Hoagie of a cobra. "He's a two-by-four technology wizard. He'll be useful to us. Provided he's not… uncooperative."
Hoagie said nothing. He was starting to worry. Fanny had been gone for… okay, he couldn't exactly check his watch, but way too long. Fanny would have enough trouble getting help from here, but she was also injured. And they didn't know if Tessla had any other accomplices lurking around. She might have been captured. The Kids Next Door wouldn't think of looking for them until it far too late. Tessla would have all the blackmail information secure, and the Teens Next Door would be putty in her hands.
Not to mention Fanny really needed a doctor to look at that foot…
"You have a little brother," Tessla said conversationally.
Hoagie's eyes narrowed. "Yeah, so?" he asked, knowing what was coming.
"It'd be a shame for these photos to get out, wouldn't it?" She held up a series of snapshots, each one featuring Tommy.
His hands twitched, struggling against the 6-ply binding them together. "You wouldn't…"
"Of course I would." She smiled like an eel. "But I won't. Provided you—"
"Forget it, lady," he interrupted. "I'm not helping you, and neither will anyone else in the Teens Next Door."
"Hm, suit yourself," she said, casually waving the photos like a fan. "But remember—"
"I bet I could make him join us!" The Toilenator raised his hand like a kid, so desperate and eager to prove himself.
Tessla's fingers curled, wrinkling the photographs. "For the last time, Lou, just sit on the couch and keep your big mouth—"
The wall exploded. At least, that's what it looked like. Actually, Nigel's car had tried to enter through the front door. Numbuh 5 clambered through the passenger-side window, coughing from the thick dust still floating in the air. "Was that really necessary, Numbuh 1?"
Nigel had kicked open the driver-side door and picked his way through the debris. "It wasn't my fault! I knew I should have had those brakes checked."
"Hey, guys. Little help." The teammates finally noticed Hoagie, sitting just beyond the rubble.
"Ah, good. You're here." Nigel polished off his sunglasses and replaced them.
"Someone's been worried about you," Abby said slyly.
Hoagie felt a small flutter of hope in his chest. "Oh, real—"
The gunshot stopped him mid-sentence. He hadn't forgotten about Tessla. He just hadn't expected her to be packing heat.
She lowered the handgun, pieces of the ceiling still fluttering around her, and aimed it at the operatives. Nigel and Abby, who hadn't thought to draw their weapons yet, raised their hands slowly in the air. They could dodge, but it would be far too easy for her to kill Numbuh 2. She gestured towards their friend, and they moved to stand by him. "My, my. Three operatives in one night. How ambitious." There was that eel impression again. "Now what should I do with you two? Abigail Lincoln doesn't have a younger sibling, and Nigel Uno is an only child."
Abby watched the pistol closely. "That's right," she agreed with outward calm. "You can't blackmail us."
"Oh, I think I can," Tessla lyrically, shifting the gun to point at Hoagie's knee, oblivious to the fourth operative slipping out of the ruined car. "I really think I can."
A blob of mustard shot from nowhere, sending the firearm sailing across the room. Tessla was surprised for only a moment, but a moment was all that was needed. Before she could look in the direction of the attack, Fanny's leg swung in a high arc, kicking Tessla across the face and throwing her to the ground. Nigel and Abby dived into the fray. Abby drew her weapon and kept a sharp eye on Tessla while Nigel tied the whimpering Toilenator up with his own tissue. Seeing the situation under control, Fanny could finally concentrate on something really important.
"OOOOOOUUCH!" Fanny half-hopped, half-limped in a small circle. She'd been forced to leap in order to get Tessla in time, so landed on her good foot, but having to kick with her injured one. And it hurt. "Ow, ow, ow, ow…" She continued her awkward dance as Nigel released Hoagie and backup arrived.
The other half of the team burst in with only a few comments – "Didja have to wreck the place?" asked Numbuh 4—but Hoagie paid them little attention. When his legs were free, he jumped up, a little unsteady due to cut-off circulation in his feet, and went to Fanny. She was sitting on the floor, probing her ankle tenderly. "Are you okay?" He leaned down to get a look at her face, still contorted with pain.
"Uh, yeah. No further injury, I think."
Hoagie sighed in relief. "Good." He took Fanny's shoulders and raised her to her feet. And shook her.
"Have you lost your mind?"
Everyone in the room stopped and stared. Hoagie didn't yell at her—not like that. And secondly, Hoagie didn't yell.
"Don't you have any sense at all?" he continued, ignoring their audience. "You could have been killed!"
Fanny shook herself from her own shock. "You're blaming me?" she shouted back. "You're the one running around trying to play hero."
Their friends exchanged glances, then looked at Rachel. She looked at the battling couple and just shook her head. "At least they've made up." She winced at a particularly loud insult. "Sort of."
Hoagie and Fanny looked about to launch into a serious argument, despite the fact that Hoagie was still supporting her. Rachel chose that moment to interrupt. "Numbuh 86, I want you to get that leg looked at." She narrowed one eye, excepting her to argue. "Now."
Hoagie looked down, as though he'd forgotten about the injury, nevermind that's what they had been fighting about. "Right," he answered, then surprised everyone by swinging her into his arms. Fanny clutched at his shoulders, disoriented at being struck dumb more than once in an evening. In moments, though, she composed herself enough to object. "Put me down, you stupid boy!" she demanded. "I can walk on my—eep!"
He pushed his face close, until their noses were almost touching. "Shut. Up."
Fanny stared a moment, then turned her head away and crossed her arms. "Hmph." She pouted, but allowed herself to be carried through the back door and to the KND Medical truck, just arriving outside.
The next day, Fanny closed her locker and leaned tiredly against it.
She turned to look at the irritated teacher. "If you are late for class again, that's a full week of detention."
Fanny smiled. "Yes, Ms. Tessla," she replied too sweetly.
Tessla narrowed her eyes before stalking down the hall, her heels clicking rapidly against the tiles. Fanny smirked at the teacher's back. Tessla wouldn't be a problem anymore. She'd proven to be so much of a threat that the KND decommissioning squad had taken care of her, ensuring she would remember nothing of the TND, Father, or his plans. The cleanup crew had located the boxes of incriminated materials and had them destroyed so the teen operatives could never again be threatened with them. The Toilenator was back in the Arctic Prison—much to the chagrin of his cellmates. All in all, the mission was a complete success.
The only downside was that Fanny would be limping around on crutches for the next two weeks.
"May I lend an arm, my dear?"
Fanny glanced up at the other downside. As Albert smiled at her, she gathered the strength to do something she should have done a week and a half ago.
"Albert, I…" She glanced away, trying to find the right way to say this. "This… this isn't working out." She looked up again, hoping he wouldn't be too hurt. A glance at his downcast expression proved he was.
"I… see," he said slowly. Neither spoke for a minute. Finally, he leaned over and kissed her cheek. When he pulled away, he was smiling, albeit sadly. "I… I hope you'll be happy." This time, Fanny didn't watch him walk away.
Albert turned the corner, finally out of Fanny's line of vision, and let his shoulders droop. He did see. He saw more than she knew. It hadn't mattered before, because he loved her. That's where he and his rival differed. Albert loved her enough to let her go.
Hoagie loved her enough to stay.
Later that day, Hoagie closed his locker with a sigh. Overall, it had been a good two weeks. They had intercepted another Adult plot, they'd gotten the drop on Tessla—always a plus—and Hoagie had finally come to terms with something that had been haunting him for weeks.
He loved her. There was no changing that. But for whatever reason, she wasn't going to leave Al—her boyfriend to be with him. He couldn't change that either. He could only accept it.
That didn't mean he was giving up. Oh, he wouldn't try to seduce her anymore, but they still had to work together. And in some weird way, they had always been friends. So he'd stick around, watching her back, protecting her when she let him. And maybe someday, maybe on a mission or at some meeting, she'd finally look at him and see what they could have together, what he wanted to give her. In the meantime, he still had something of hers Albert never could. The Kids Next Door would always own a piece of her heart, and since Hoagie was part of the Kids Next Door, in a way, he did, too.
"Where is she?" Rachel glared at her watch. "We've got to go over the details on that last mission and figure out some new protocol in case of a similar emergency situation."
"She's probably hanging out with her boyfriend." Since coming to terms with it, Hoagie could finally say that word without choking on it.
"Fanny doesn't have a boyfriend," Kuki chirped.
He blinked at her. "What?"
Kuki sighed in exasperation. "Don't you read the school newspaper?" She pulled that morning's issue from her Rainbow Monkey Carry-Me-Away Backpack and read the headline. "Cutest Couple Calls it Quits: The entire school was surprised when Francine Fulbright dumped her boyfriend, amnesiac Albert Watson, before first period."
He was gone before she finished the sentence.
Fanny hopped down the hall, wishing her pride had let her accept the wheelchair her daddy had offered. Her arms had never been her strong point. Well, now I'm making up for it, she thought, wincing from her sore underarms.
Suddenly her feet flew out from under her. The crutches clanged noisily to the floor and she reached out to grab onto something, anything! But all she found was…
Hoagie P. Gilligan.
She had been so focused on not falling over she hadn't heard him coming up behind her, and hadn't realized he was going to pick her up until she was already up.
"Need a lift?" He grinned at the pun and started walking towards Tessla's class.
Fanny sputtered indignantly. "Put me down, you dork! I can walk on my own."
He shook his head cheerfully. "So," he said, changing the subject entirely, "I hear you're short one boyfriend."
She stopped struggling, then looked away and crossed her arms. "So what?" she said with feigned lightness. "You here to replace him or something?"
"You know I do."
His suddenly serious tone made her look up. She blushed under his intense gaze. She looked away again. "So… what are we talking here?" she asked conversationally. "Sitting together at lunch?"
"Well, that's a start."
"Dates on the weekends and such?"
"Can I get weekdays, too?"
"Are you going to do every little thing I ask?"
He grinned again. "Not on your life."
She pretended to consider it. "I guess we could give it shot. Temporarily. Just to see where it goes."
He let her legs slide to the floor. She could only stand on one foot, but since she was leaning against him, it didn't matter. He gave her a mock-scowl as she tried to control her twitching lips. "Brat," he said, lowering his mouth for the slow, sweet kiss they'd both been dreaming about, completely ignoring the whistles and cat-calls from the surrounding students.