A short chapter, but as I often say: Let your chapters be the length they need to be, no longer, no shorter.

Triaxx2: In the immortal words of the best movie villain ever: "I...live...again!"

It wasn't the first time Ron had been to the mall with Kim. Together, they had visited every store in the place. Ron had endured hours in Club Banana while Kim checked out the latest fashions, and she had endured hours in Victoria's Circuits while Ron drooled over the latest personal electronics. It was, however, the very first time they had walked around the mall while holding hands. Ron felt about ten feet tall as a result. Not that a lot of people were taking notice. No doubt, to most of the people shopping this late Saturday morning, Ron and Kim were just another teenaged couple spending some time together, if even that much notice was taken of them.

"So, Kim," Ron began, a trifle awkwardly despite his giddy mood. It was strange, holding Kim's hand, in public or otherwise. Nice, but strange. It would take some getting used to, he realized, this being Kim's... He hesitated at even thinking the word 'boyfriend'. Did Kim even think of him that way? After all, she had yet to actually use that word, or its female counterpart, to describe their new relationship. No, not new, Ron corrected, changed. Expanded.

"Ron?" Kim's voice snapped Ron out of his reverie.

"Huh? Wha...?" he stammered.

Kim smiled at him. "You said 'So, Kim' but never finished your thought," she prodded gently. "'So, Kim' what?"

Ron's cheeks heated, but he chuckled. "I got distracted by something," he returned playfully, making her cheeks darken, too. "I was just wondering if you had anyplace in particular you wanted to go?"

"Well," Kim began seriously, "If you don't mind I'd like to stop by Club Banana. I'm thinking about getting a couple of new outfits for summer, and maybe a new swimsuit as well."

"Hmmm," Ron mused thoughtfully. "Girl, clothes, shopping. Many outfits tried on. Swimsuits." Ron brightened. "Will you model them for me?" he asked boldly.

"Ron!" Kim blushed, looking away from him. Then, shyly, glancing up from beneath lowered eyelashes, "Maybe."

"Boo-yah!" Ron exclaimed quietly, reaching out and drawing Kim toward him.

"And afterward?" he asked, as her face came close to his.

"Afterward," Kim answered, wrapping her arms around Ron's neck, "we can hit the arcade for a few rounds of Zombie Mayhem 3; then you can buy me lunch at that gyro place in the Food Court."

Ron mumbled something that might have been "gyros, yummy" but his exact words were lost in the touching of his lips to Kim's.

It wasn't a long kiss, partially because the two of them (though Kim more than he, Ron sensed) weren't entirely comfortable with kissing in public. Sure, they had at the prom, but that had been in the immediate aftermath of some fairly emotionally intense events, and they had been too drained, in a way, to care, really.

Now, with just eighteen hours of perspective, they were starting to revert to their normal behavior patterns.

But that was only part of the reason the kiss didn't linger. The other part was the fact that Kim and Ron became aware of someone, two someones, looking at them from not far away. Turning, the two teens came face to face with Kim's long time tech guru, Wade Load, and his mother.

Wade was staring at them with a shocked expression on his chubby moon face, while his mother was smiling one of those adult 'Ah, young love' smiles.

Ron managed a feeble, "Yo, Wade," while Kim blushed rosily.

Wade reacted by producing a scanner from his back pocket and running it over Kim.

"Wade!" she protested as a weird green light washed over her.

"Hmmm," Wade mused, "No moodulators, no mind control chips, no drugs, toxins, or other foreign substances, no unusual energy signatures..."

"What are you babbling about?" Kim demanded, giving Wade an irritated glare.

"Well, uh," Wade stammered defensively, "You two were, ah..." He fumbled his words, his own cheeks going dark.

"Kissing?" Kim supplied, her making it clear she was a little tweaked.

"C'mon, Kim, relax," Ron urged quietly. "I'm sure he doesn't mean anything by it. Besides, he's only eleven. He probably still thinks girls have cooties or something."

It was Wade's turn to protest. "Hey! I heard that!"

"Well you didn't scan me!" Ron retorted, sounding tweaked himself. "You think we'd only do that if Kim was under some external influence?"

"Fine," Wade sighed, running his scanner over Ron as well. "You're clean too," he conceded when he was done.

"Well duh!" Ron retorted.

"Ronnie," Kim soothed, "Now you need to relax. Like you said, he didn't mean anything by it. We just caught him off guard is all."

Ron relented immediately. "Sorry for coppin' a 'tude, Wade. My bad," he apologized.

"It's all right, Ron," Mrs. Load said. "It's nice that Wade has started leaving his room, but he has a lot of work to do when it comes to learning proper public behavior. So we'll call this an object lesson, won't we, Wade," she finished, giving her son a firm look.

"Yes, Mom," Wade conceded. Then to Kim and Ron: "Sorry, guys. I overstepped my bounds."

"No big, Wade," Kim assured him. "You're going to have to get used to this, though," she warned, threading an arm around Ron's waist and pressing up against him.

Wade shuddered.

Wade's mother gave him the hairy eyeball. "Wait a while, Wade. You may find you don't mind so much," she warned.

"Puberty?" Wade guessed. "I am so not looking forward to that!"