In the days that followed London and Cody's date, news about the young couple spread quickly. None of their friends had expected romance to bloom between the two, and they quickly became a favorite topic of conversation for many. Maddie was one of those that took part in such talk. While she'd had a hard time believing it at first, she quickly came to support the new development for her friends, as they both seemed quite happy.
But while London and Cody may have been commanding a lot of attention, Maddie wasn't unaware of her other friends. She noticed that Zack had not been stopping by the candy counter to talk to her like he usually did. In fact, he seemed to be avoiding her. One day as her shift was ending, Maddie caught sight of Zack heading towards the elevator. She rushed to catch up with him.
"Hey Zack," she said with a smile. She was surprised when his only response was little more than a grunt.
"Zack," she said with concern. "Is something wrong?"
"Like you care," he replied sullenly.
"How can you say that?" she protested. "Of course I care. You're my friend."
"Really?" Zack's voice was dripping with sarcasm. "Do you lie to all your friends, or just to me?"
Maddie was utterly confused. "What are you talking about?"
Face to face with Maddie after days of avoiding her, Zack found himself unable to hold back. He told her exactly why he was upset, and why he felt he'd been lied to. He finished with an angry conclusion.
"Mom and Esteban, you're all for it. London and Cody, you have no problem with. But you and me? You keep saying I'm too young. That's just an excuse. The truth is you don't care about me at all. If you did you'd have had the decency to be straight with me from the start."
Taken aback by Zack's accusations, Maddie took a moment before responding.
"I can see why you feel that way," she said quietly. "But it's not true. I swear. I didn't lie to you. You are too young for me Zack."
"But Mom and Esteban--"
"Are both adults," Maddie said, cutting him off. "They don't have to worry about an age difference."
"London and Cody are our ages," Zack countered. "And London doesn't seem to have any problem dating a younger guy."
"I'm not London!" Maddie said loudly. "I can't do what she does!"
The intensity of Maddie's outburst surprised Zack...and Maddie herself.
"Whoa," she said in an embarrassed tone. "It's been so long since I've been jealous of London...I didn't know I still had those kinds feelings in me."
"I don't understand."
Maddie led Zack over to a couch in the corner of the lobby. Once they sat down, Maddie explained her view of things.
"Zack, I haven't dated anyone seriously for some time now. I'll have one or two dates here and there, but never anything that leads anywhere. And it sucks because...I'd like to be in a relationship. I want to have a boyfriend."
"Then why don't you?"
"Because right now everything in my life has to take a backseat to my college plans. The only guy I could date right now would be someone who would be going off to the same school that I am...and I don't even know which school I'm going to choose yet. So that's why you're too young for me, Zack. If we were to start dating, it would only hurt more when I have to say goodbye." She sighed. "And that's going to hurt enough as it is."
Zack studied Maddie's face carefully. He knew she was telling the truth. He also realized something else.
"You've thought about going out with me," he said.
Maddie gave him a small smile. "It's been sort of hard not to. Seeing as how you've been bringing up the idea almost every day for as long as I've known you. The truth is, when we first met you were just a kid. But as we've both gotten older...let's just say I don't think of you as a kid anymore."
Zack took a moment to digest this information. He felt heartened to know that Maddie had at least considered dating him, but disappointed that he'd been unable to win her over.
"When you go to college...I'll come visit you on weekends," he said. " And holidays. We could make it work."
Maddie shook her head. "You know we couldn't. The next few years, I'm going to be figuring out what I'm going to do with my life. You're going to be doing the same thing. We're going to be meeting a lot of new people and making lots of choices. You can't expect a long distance relationship to work through all that."
As much as he didn't want to face it, Zack knew she was probably right. Still, he tried one last argument. "London and Cody are going to have to face the same problems."
"London isn't going to college this Fall. And when she does...if she does...she can afford to go anywhere she wants at anytime. The girl has her own jet! She and Cody won't ever have to be separated for long."
Both of them sat quietly with each other for awhile.
"Will you still come back for my prom?" Zack finally asked, bringing up the long-ago promise Maddie had once made to him.
"If you want me to, I will," she replied. "I gave you my word. You might have a girlfriend by then though."
"But if I don't--"
"I'll be there." She paused and placed her hand on Zack's knee. "So...are we good?"
Zack started to nod, but then hesitated. "Can I ask for one more thing from you?"
"I guess. What?"
The next thing Maddie knew, Zack had pressed his lips to hers. Initial shock stopped her from pulling away, and after those first few moments, she found she had no desire to pull away.
For his part, Zack believed he may never have the chance to kiss Maddie again, so he was determined to put all his feelings for her in this one impulsive act. For all that though, he was not forceful. He simply tried to make the kiss just like he'd always dreamed his first kiss with Maddie would be.
When they slowly pulled away from each other, Zack saw that Maddie didn't seem angry.
"Now...are we good?" he asked.
A wide smile spread across Maddie's face as she nodded. "Yeah. And if there was any doubt before, believe me...I definitely don't think of you as a kid anymore."
With matters between settled, they both stood up, but then Zack had one more thought.
"Oh, and just to be clear," he said. "I'm still going to call you Sweet Thang."
Maddie laughed. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
A little over three weeks had passed since London and Carey's body switching misadventure, and most everything at the Tipton was going well.
The school year had just ended and Maddie was now a High School graduate. She had a number of college acceptance letters and was going to make her final decision on which school to attend soon. But no matter where she ended up going, she did plan to keep working in the Tipton throughout the summer. She was going to miss all her friends at the hotel when she went off to college, and wanted to put off saying her goodbyes for as long as possible. She enjoyed every moment she got to spend with the gang at the Tipton...especially the moments with Zack.
London was going to have to repeat her senior year, but she had voluntarily signed up for summer school classes to help catch up on all the credits she was short. Mr. Moseby was quite pleased with London's new attitude towards school, and did his best to encourage her. With support from both Moseby and Carey, along with tutoring from Cody, London was confident that she was going to be a much better student.
On the relationship front, things couldn't have been going better for Cody and London. The unlikely pair were an incredibly good influence on each other. Cody helped London develop not only her intelligence, but her empathy and sensitivity towards others as well. She'd always been a caring person deep down, but in the past she'd get so wrapped up in herself at times that she'd be unaware of other people's feelings. Cody, always the sensitive soul, was a great example for her to follow. In turn, London's forceful personality and exuberance for adventure and fun rubbed off on Cody. He became far more carefree and confident than he'd ever been before. The two of them were always happy whenever they were together, and the love between them grew stronger each day.
But if things were great for Cody and London, then they were utterly spectacular for Carey and Esteban. The initial chemistry they felt on their first date proved to be no fluke. Carey felt like a teenager again whenever she was around Esteban. And a simple smile from Carey was enough to make Esteban feel like the king of the world. Seeing the bond between the two, everyone else at the Tipton accepted the new relationship easily, except Arwin who eventually took two sick days to stay at home and cry over losing the woman of his dreams. However, when he returned he was very gracious to the new couple.
"Carey, I want to tell you something," Arwin told the singer. "I'm very happy for you and Esteban. And I hope for nothing but the best for you."
"Thank you," she replied in a gentle tone. "That's very big of you. And I appreciate it a lot. I know this must be hard for you."
"It is," he agreed. "But it's for the best. You and I just weren't meant to be. But I hope we'll remain friends."
"Of course we well," she reassured him. "And don't worry. The right lady will come along for you someday."
Arwin smiled slightly. "Actually, there is a lady I've always sort of been interested in. And now that I'm...over you, I think I'll try talking to her."
"That's great," Carey said in a cheerful tone. "That's the best thing for you to do. Talk to this woman, see if there's a connection."
"I'm going to. You know, she works here at the hotel."
"Really?" Carey asked. "Who is it?"
Arwin started to answer but became distracted at the sight of a maid heading towards the elevator. "Oh, there she is now. I'm going to go say hi to her."
With that, he hurried off. Carey looked to see if she recognized the maid Arwin was following, and her smile faded when she did.
It was Grace.
Carey shook her head and sighed. "Oh Arwin...you just can't catch a break."
Mr. Moseby was in his office when London came in carrying a shopping bag. She took the seat in front of his desk and pulled out a card from the bag.
"What do you think of this?" she asked as she handed it to him.
Looking at the card, the hotel manager found that it was a custom made greeting card with a picture of Mr. Tipton and London on the front. On the inside, it simply said - Happy Father's Day. Love, London
"Ah, you've picked out a gift for your father already?" Moseby asked.
London nodded and then pulled a package out of the bag. Opening it up, she revealed an expensive silk tie.
"Very nice," Moseby commented. "And this is a lovely card. But when was this picture taken?"
"Oh, it's two pictures," London explained. "You know I don't have many pictures with Daddy and me together, so I had Cody take a new one of me and Photoshop it with an old one of Daddy."
"Hmm," Moseby replied. "Well done. I'll see that these are delivered to your father by overnight mail."
"Thanks," London said. "You know, I had to go through a lot of pictures to find the right one for the card. And looking through them all, I found a lot of pictures of me and you together." She slowly reached into her bag and pulled out a leather covered photo album. "I had copies made of all of them and put them together in this." She placed the album on the desk. "I thought you might like them."
Moseby looked at London and gave her a small smile as he picked up the album. "That's very thoughtful of you." Flipping the pages open, he saw that the pictures had been arranged in chronological order, beginning when London was just a toddler and ending with her most recent photos. The pictures of London and himself brought back many memories.
"And here's the other part of your gift," London said as she pulled another package from her bag.
"Gift?" said Moseby. "What..." His words trailed off as he opened the package. Inside was a platinum Rolex watch. A breathtaking one with diamonds studded around the watch's face. It was engraved on the back.
Happy Father's Day
"L-London," he sputtered. "I can't accept this. It's far too expensive."
London laughed. "Hello. Did you forget who I am? Nothing is too expensive to me."
"But Father's Day is for...fathers," Moseby replied.
London stood up and opened the photo album to the inside back cover, which Moseby had not yet looked at.
"I didn't write this," she explained as she pointed to the message that was written there. "I mean, I did but Cody came up with the words. He told me what to write after I told him what kind of message I wanted to give you. So the words aren't mine, but the feelings are."
The hotel manager read the words in silence.
Many men can have children, but it takes a special kind of man to be a Father.
Thank you for being mine,
So overcome with emotion that he was unable to speak, Moseby slowly put the album down on the desk. He could only look at London as she rose from her chair and walked around the desk to him. However when she put her arms around him, he did manage to return the hug.
"I love you Moseby," she said.
"I love you too," he replied softly. Then after a long pause, he added, "Thank you."
When the hug ended, Moseby took a deep breath and then somehow forced a no-nonsense, business-like expression back onto his face. "Well, you run along now, London," he said. "I do have a hotel to manage."
And with a cheerful goodbye, the heiress made her exit.
author's note: Thank you everyone who read and reviewed. Please let me know what you think now that the story is finished. Also, I sort of have an idea for a follow up story (well, possibly two follow up stories) - but they might be more than ambitious than I can handle. Would you like to see a continuation of this storyline or some new unrelated Suite Life stories (which I have LOTS of ideas for).