Sitches Aplenty

A Repository of KP Shorts


Kim Possible and the characters and situations of the Kim Possible universe were created by Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley for the Disney Channel and are the copyright of the Walt Disney Corporation. This is a non-profit fan work for free distribution through the world-wide web. No breach of trademark or copyright is intended.

Author's Notes

This is going to be a series of short stories where I take Kim Possible, her friends and her enemies places dictated by my own imagination. These short stories are not part of any larger continuity and will only be linked if I specifically say so in my introductory notes.

Censor: T – Just for safety's sake

Back to my Next Generation 'verse now. I'm blocked at the moment with continuing Sherylin and Amy's story, so instead I've got a character study of my version of adult Bonnie. She's only really been mostly background anyway, so far, so an insight into her current life and relationships was overdue (and I'm sure she'd agree with that). My OC in this, despite the name, is no relation to the hero of the 19th-Century Peninsular War. Oddly enough, he is loosely based on a character I created for a never-finished Sailor Moon story.

P.S.: Some people were shocked by how I used Mr. Dr. P. in my previous story. Just remember: The whole world had changed radically and there has been nasty edges on the character of Kim's father before (such as his not restoring her memory of Ron) that implies that he likes control a bit too much. I thought that people would be shocked but I don't consider it impossible in truly abnormal circumstances.

9. Families

Mary Chievous, the current teacher at North Middleton Kindergarten, had always thought that teaching a group of four- to six-year-olds, whilst potentially stressful, was essentially quite an easy vocation. She hadn't factored in the possibility that she would be teaching the children of Kim Possible and her various friends and kin. Those kids alone redefined the term 'challenging'. Oh, it wasn't as if they were disruptive in any way. There was just something weird about how they behaved sometimes.

"This is very nice, Ronni," she managed as she looked at the picture that the five-year-old brunette had handed to her. "Um... You know, you were meant to draw a picture of your family!"

Ronni shot Miss Chievous an innocent look, one that didn't fool the teacher for a moment. Having one of the most naturally gifted legal advocates in Colorado as a mother meant that Veronica 'Ronni' Rockwaller was an accomplished actress who could feign almost any kind of expression and make words jump through hoops. "Well... it is the people who I think of as family," the girl chirped.

Miss Chievous raised her eyebrow. "So... Who are in the picture?"

Ronni rolled her eyes; Clearly she thought that the answer was obvious. "There's me and mommy," she said, pointing to two stick figures with brown hair, the taller of the two very obviously in a child's approximation of a businesswoman's power suit.

"And the others?" Miss Chievous asked, gesturing to the three blond figures and one with long red hair.

"There's Uncle Ron, Auntie Kim, Justin and Chess... Oops, I mean Jessica!" Out of the corner of her eye, the teacher noticed Jessica Stoppable's scowl and figured that there was a story behind that pet name.

"The Stoppables, you mean?" Ronni nodded thoughtfully. Miss Chievous knew that the girl was close to the Stoppable family but she didn't realise that she was that close to them! "So, Justin and Jessica's mommy and daddy feel like your aunt and uncle?"

"It isn't as if Auntie Connie and Auntie Lonnie are worth much!" the little girl's tone was scornful.

Based on what she saw of the two elder Rockwaller sisters in the tabloids, Miss Chievous had to agree with Ronni's assessment. In fact, she doubted that those two society wastrels would ever be interested enough in their far more settled youngest sister to have any relationship with their niece. Even though Bonnie had followed the family's regrettable habit of getting pregnant out of wedlock, she had walked a far more respectable path in life than her infamous hell-raising older siblings.

"We, me and mommy I mean, spend so much time over Justin and Chess'ka's house that it's like home! Most of my toys are there and I've slept in Chess'ka's room so often it's like it was mine too!"

This was a detail Miss Chievous hadn't known or guessed. It was a matter of public record that Kim Stoppable and Bonnie Rockwaller, the co-owners and partners of Stoppable-Rockwaller Associates, Attorneys-at-Law, had known each other since high school. It made sort of sense that they would be friends too. Okay, maybe occasional baby-sitting would make sense but the Stoppable residence becoming a second home? Some worry or unease was tickling the back of the teacher's mind although she couldn't really nail it down as anything in particular. "Do you enjoy it over there?"

"Oh yeah! It's boring at home most days! At least when I'm around Justin and Chess'ka's place, we can play! When Amy and Max are around, it's really cool all the fun we have! 'Specially sleepover! We're all there in the morning! Me, Chess'ka, Justin, Auntie Kim, Uncle Ron, Mommy! Sometimes Auntie Sherylin and Amy too!"

Miss Cheivous nodded. "Well, next time, could you label your pictures? So I don't have to guess who is in it?" Ronnie shot the teacher an odd look but nodded in agreement.

"Thank you for coming in on such short notice, Ms. Rockwaller," Miss Cheivous said.

The brunette attorney with blue-grey eyes sat down opposite Ronni's teacher and smiled in a way that was, at the same time, both bland and threatening. Bonnie had a reputation for tap-dancing on the graves of the reputations of people who pissed her off. It was exaggerated but she found it useful. "I'm always interested in hearing about Ronni's progress," she responded diplomatically. "So, what seems to be up?"

"Ms. Rockwaller," Miss Cheivous began and then stopped, unsure of how to continue. She decided to start on a topic that was less likely to cause offence. "I have noticed that Ronni has the strangest way of pronouncing Jessica Stoppable's name."

Bonnie laughed; She'd lost count of the number of times she, K or even Sherry had to explain that one. "Amy Goh has a very slight speech impediment," she said. "When she first met Jessica, she couldn't quite pronounce her name and it came out "Chess'ka" instead. The other kids in our circle latched onto it and it became a 'play' name. I'm not sure if Jessica really likes it, but she's willing to tolerate it so long as it's only her friends saying it."

"And if anyone else says it?"

Bonnie grinned wolfishly. "Only Justin is allowed to tease his sister and he is quite capable of defending his claim!"

"Yes... I have noticed that Justin, Jessica, Amy and, on occasion, Ronnie, are very protective of the other kids and will not tolerate intimidation or exclusion."

Bonnie rolled her eyes. "There are too many do-gooders and heroes in their lives! I'm pretty sure they want to fight 'the good fight' too!" Bonnie raised a hand to forestall any comment. "Don't fret - The Stoppables aren't in any way encouraging dangerous behaviour. You've got to admit though, both when they were heroes and now as community leaders, they set a very strong example of public service and aiding the imperilled. Like all kids everywhere, the twins naturally want to emulate their parents. As for Ronnie? Well, she just doesn't like seeing little kids get pushed around."

Miss Chievous nodded. Certainly, the youngsters in questions were hardly dressing up in super-suits and fighting supervillains. That said, protective behaviour could easily become dominance and she would be watching very carefully that they were not trying to take charge of other kids' lives. Additionally... well, she'd seen the footage on the media; Ron and Kim Stoppable were both lethally-skilled martial artists. She would need to make it very clear at the next Parent/Teacher conference that she didn't want to see either of their children using these skills.

Well, now onto the harder bit. "Ms. Rockwaller, your domestic arrangements are none of my business. However, I had a very puzzling conversation with Ronni recently and I wanted to discuss it with you." The teacher paused to gather her thoughts before continuing. "I know that you do not have the most harmonious relationship with your parents and sisters, Ms. Rockwaller. However, I'm really unsure how healthy it is for Ronnie to have such a strong relationship with the Stoppable children that she regards them and their parents as being more family than her blood relations."

Bonnie raised an elegantly-sculpted eyebrow. She wondered where that had come from...? Oh! Of course! The 'family' painting. "Well, Kim and her kids have been part of Ronni's life since all three were born. Kim is Ronni's godmother and I'm Jessica's godmother, so they consider themselves to be 'god-sisters' – their phrase." Bonnie sighed. "Look... You know that I was raped at one of my sisters' parties? Ronni's father is unknown and I doubt he'll ever be identified. My parents weren't..." she scowled. "They weren't best pleased with my stated determination not to have an abortion the way my sisters seem to do so casually. We've mended a lot of bridges since her birth but both sides said things that aren't easy to forget. And, let's face it, no sane parent would let Connie and Lonnie within a mile of their child. So K and Ron were my support structure before and after Ronni's birth." Bonnie shrugged. "You form bonds when you go to ante-natal classes together and have a joint baby shower! I guess we got close and we've only got closer!" Sisters, in all but blood, Bonnie added silently.

Miss Chievous nodded reluctantly. "Nonetheless, one has to wonder why she spends so much time at the Stoppables' house rather than her own."

Bonnie nodded, her smile suddenly jacking up a few notches to 'hungry shark' as she realised where this was going. "You were right," she said at last. "My domestic arrangements are none of your business."

The young teacher spluttered for a few moments. "Ms. Rockwaller, I am legally obliged to follow up and report any indication that any of the children are in any way being brought up in unsuitable, unstable or even abusive home environments! Now, as you say, as an adult you have every right to live your life as you please but if it affects your daughter's emotional health...!"

Bonnie didn't react although she desperately wanted to put the other woman in her place. "You are correct about your legal obligations. If you do have any evidence that Ronni is at risk, you must report it." Bonnie leant forwards, her face expressionless. "However, Miss Chievous, should the County School Board be so foolish as to begin proceedings, you can be very sure that it will be facing a counter-suit for libel and malicious prosecution that will make your head spin!"

Miss Chievous swallowed nervously. "Are you threatening me?"

Bonnie smirked as she leaned back again. "I'm simply offering you some free legal advice. If you're going to pull the trigger, make sure that you are aiming at the right target and be damn sure that they aren't in a position to shoot back."

Before the thoroughly-intimidated teacher could gather her wits enough to bluster, Bonnie continued. "Now, as I have explained, Kim, Ron and I have developed a very close relationship over the years, certainly closer than the one I have with my family. That means that we visit them many times. As I also pointed out, Ronni has as close a relationship with Jessica and Justin as she would have with any blood siblings. Naturally, I have encouraged her to maintain that relationship because very close friendships are a key to emotional health. Wouldn't you agree with that?" Miss Chievous nodded and was about to speak when Bonnie continued. "I have many friends, but only a few of them still live in Middleton. Frankly, I don't like being on my own any more than anyone else. So, when Ronni has a sleep-over with Jessica and Amy, the parents have a 'sleep over' of their own... or at least that is how the kids seem to perceive it. It saves time if they are at the same venue. Surely you would agree that it is entirely normal and legal for me to wish to pursue my own friendships?" Once again the teacher nodded. "And I'm sure you would agree that pursuing friendships with a stable family is infinitely preferable to inflicting a string of casual lovers on Ronni?" Miss Chievous nodded again and tried to get a word in edgeways. Bonnie didn't give her a chance. "Good. I assume therefore that you will not be making an ill-founded report to your superiors?"

The teacher sighed and shook her head. "Ms. Rockwaller, I never meant any offence...!"

Bonnie narrowed her eyes coldly. "Then you should be a lot more careful and tactful, Miss Chievous, especially when inflating a child's innocent tales and exaggeration into some kind of accusation of impropriety towards their parents! Fortunately for you, Ronni loves it here, so I will not be withdrawing her. However, if I see any indication that you are harassing her for further 'proof' of your unfounded suspicions, I will be making a complaint to the District Superintendent. Is that clear?"

The thoroughly-intimidated teacher nodded frantically. Bonnie stood up and glared at the other woman with her best expression of superior disdain. "Excellent. I trust that you will not be so foolish as to harass myself, Mr. and Mrs. Stoppable or Ms. Goh any further with regard to these imaginary 'issues'." Bonnie turned to leave but suddenly one last point occurred to her. "Miss Chievous, every child needs a family. Unfortunately, my blood kin are not the sort of family that I would ever wish upon my daughter. So, I have simply found her a suitable family with whom she can grow up. That is my obligation and it is something that I personally desired before she was even born. I have no doubt that you were fortunate enough to be raised in a broadly 'conventional' family. Not all of us are that fortunate. However, I believe that I have done for Ronni as best as I am able. Good day, madam." With that she turned away and strode out, her head held high.

Miss Chievous found that her throat was dry and her heart was pounding.

Bonnie was an expert in controlling and hiding her feelings. It was, after all, a basic necessary skill for any court-room advocate. Nonetheless, it was taking a lot of effort not to storm through the halls of the kindergarten and down the path to the street. The unmitigated gall of the woman! What did she think was going on? That Bonnie, Kim and Ron were in some kind of kinky threesome relationship or something?

Bonnie stopped and took a few breaths to settle herself. Truth be told that there was a time, just after Ronni was born, when she was essentially living with Kim and Ron rather than at her apartment, when that could have happened. Bonnie had been horribly lonely at that point, practically disowned by her parents and a social pariah thanks to her back-stabbing sisters. If Kim and Ron had invited her to join their family, she would have jumped at the chance. Bonnie couldn't help but blush as she recalled those old fantasies, some of which dated back to the Junior Year Prom when Kim and Ron finally realised that they were a couple (probably being the last ones at Middleton High to do so).

The brunette woman shook her head with a grin. No, that could never have worked out. Not only was Bonnie not the right person psychologically to be the 'third person' in any relationship, she was pretty sure that Ron and Kim's stronger personalities would have ended up dominating her. She'd always been very malleable and suggestible as a teen and young woman. It wasn't until she needed the emotional strength to raise Ronni that she had overcome that aspect of herself. Besides, Ronni had a hard enough time being a child of an unwed mother and sharing a surname with two women who were never out of the scandal sheets. It wouldn't have been right to inflict an 'unusual' family on her.

Feeling a bit less stressed, Bonnie continued her walk to the street. She couldn't help but be proud of what a wonderful child Ronni was, despite her many disadvantages. She could be possessive and had learnt her mother's ability to exude disdain a bit too well. However, she was also a loyal friend and had an amazingly strong sense of right and wrong. Bonnie had made sure of that. She didn't want Ronni to grow up as she did, assuming that she had the right to take whatever she wanted so long as she was cunning enough. Following that path had led Connie and Lonnie to become little more than high-class whores on the celebrity circuit. Bonnie would never want that for someone she loved.

It had been hard and lonely, bringing up Ronni on her own. It was true that she visited Kim and Ron regularly and Sherylin had, much to her surprise, had invited her to join her on the occasional night out. However, ultimately, Bonnie hadn't been much into the dating scene. Most guys were not interested in a woman who already had a child and a lot of the guys (and girls, Bonnie had never been picky on the basis of gender) on the singles circuit were not someone that Bonnie was willing to let get near to Ronni through her. So, in the end, it was just her and her little Princess, on their own most days.

Bonnie walked over to the heavily-rebuilt scarlet-and-blue Ford Mustang 1967 parked by the kindergarten's gates. It was hardly the sort of vehicle a lawyer with her formidable reputation would drive. However, with her BMW 5-series in the shop, she needed a ride. Fortunately, the guy sitting on the vehicle's bonnet was available. "Is everything okay, Bonnie?"

"Fine, Rich!" Bonnie smiled and surprised herself with how warm and genuine it was as Officer Richard Sharpe of the Triton Sheriff's Department stood up from where he had been sitting and waiting for her meeting to end. "Ronni's teacher's a bit imaginative and was reading stuff into Ronni's homework that wasn't there!"

The brown-haired, dark-eyed young man frowned slightly. "There's a story behind this, isn't there?"

Bonnie rolled her eyes. "When you're a Rockwaller, everyone expects you to be some kind of sex-crazed, drug- and alcohol-dependent, party-animal slut. When your best friends are Ron and Kim Stoppable, everyone wants there to be a scandal to dent their squeaky-clean image!" She shrugged. "You get used to it."

What Bonnie didn't say (and surprised herself by thinking) was that she really hoped that this guy wanted to get used to it.

Bonnie hadn't really been interested in dating, finding a string of excuses from 'Ronni is too young' to 'No one is interested in a nearly-thirty single mother'. She had even avoided finding a man or woman with whom to spend just a night when Sherylin took her out on the town because she felt it would simply lead to complications. She had told herself that she didn't want a relationship. She had told herself that she didn't need a relationship. Ironically, even though she wasn't looking, a guy had come into her life more-or-less by chance.

You meet all sorts at the County Courthouse, most of them the dregs of society. However, sometimes you also meet unexpected nice people whose lives had taken them to the courts of law.

Bonnie had been presenting a plea at a civil litigation case she was handling and had stopped off in the courthouse's small canteen to pick up a coffee before driving back to Stoppable-Rockwaller Associates' office in central Upperton. She sat down at the table with a nice, brown-haired patrolman who she later found out had been testifying in a rather unpleasant DUI case. On a whim, the two of them fell into conversation and were soon laughing like old friends. Rich had a deeply ironic sense of humour, little time for the supposed 'leaders' of society and a big heart.


Bonnie looked at her watch. "Damn. Look, Rich, I've really got to go now. I've got to pick my little girl up from kindergarten!"

The young policeman nodded. "Okay, I understand. Look... um... Bonnie?" Bonnie had insisted early on that he use her given name, not call her 'Ms. Rockwaller' as that was her mother's name.

Bonnie looked at him as she stood up. "Yeah?"

"Look... uh... Would you like to do this again sometime?"

Bonnie raised an eyebrow. "What, gossip and tell jokes over coffee and donuts in the courthouse canteen?" she snarked in a deadpan voice.

Rich snorted in laughter. "Not unless you want to, no. I thought... maybe... I dunno, maybe I could take you to a bar sometime or something?" The young policeman's warm brown eyes searched Bonnie's. "It's been fun getting to know you. I'd... Well, I'd like to do it again!"

Bonnie felt her mouth drop open in a most undignified way. "Um... Rich? That... That would be great but I'm not looking to start a relationship right now! What with Ronni and the practice...!"

"Look, no obligation. Just two friends meeting for a drink and to spend time together!"

Bonnie's mouth worked soundlessly for a moment. "I'd like that," her mouth said at last whilst her mind screamed abuse at it. Before her insecurities could come up with an excuse, she reached into the front flap of her briefcase and pulled out a business card (one of the small number that had her personal cell and home numbers on it). "Look, call me tonight and we'll work something out."

"I'll do that." The man took Bonnie's hand and squeezed it, making a shock of something shoot up the woman's spine. "I'll talk to you tonight."

"I'm looking forward to it," Bonnie said with a smile, surprising herself by meaning it.


Three of what she was finally able to tell herself were dates later, Bonnie offered her knight-in-shining-armour (or at least a battered red-and-blue Mustang) a little kiss on the cheek before sliding into the passenger-side bucket seat. "Thanks for giving me a lift today, Rich. The transmission on my car's out and I couldn't put this meeting off. The stupid, delusional cow would probably have gone to the County School Board or worse the press if I hadn't quickly nipped this in the bud."

"Price of fame?" Rich asked as he turned the key and hit the ignition button. The turbocharged V8 engine snarled and caught at once.

Bonnie scowled angrily as the Mustang pulled out into the road. "Price of people who assume rather than wait for facts, more like," she growled.

The short drive passed mostly in a thoughtful silence before the Mustang drew smoothly to a halt outside the Stoppables' modernist house. "I'll only be a sec..." Bonnie started, unbuckling the racing-style cross-belt. Then, suddenly she had one of those crazy spontaneous thoughts that had been coming into her life more and more often after she started dating Rich. "On second thoughts, you might as well come in. K will probably want to interrogate me and stew over this 'sitch'. No need for you to sit out here, waiting like a taxi driver!"

"Um... Well, if you think that the Stoppables won't mind?"

Bonnie rolled her eyes and grinned. "Knowing K? She's probably already figured out that I'm dating and will want to meet you anyway!"

Bonnie boldly strode up to the doorstep and heard the motion detector-controlled door-chimes sounding in the house. One of these days, I'm gonna have to convince Load to let me take on his patent work, she promised herself. A motion detector that can tell the difference between a person and a passing cat? A major breakthrough! Him and the Cowpoke could be swimming in money if he wanted to license some of his stuff!

The door opened to reveal Ron Stoppable. His warm brown eyes lit up and his usual crooked smile appeared as soon as he recognised his visitor. "Hey, Bon-bon!" he greeted. Ron's eyes tracked over to Rich and narrowed slightly, years of instinct identifying someone capable in a fight and also the tell-tale bulge of his concealed-carry Browning Hi-Power semi-auto at his hip. "Who's your bodyguard?"

Bonnie laughed. "His name's Rich, Ron," she said. "He's cool, okay? He's a cop in his day job and we're..." Bonnie thought for a moment and suddenly realised something and announced that fact. "He's my boyfriend!"

Ron caught how the young man's face lit up with surprise and pleasure at that last declaration and his smile returned full force. "Oh! Coolio. Well, why don't you two come in and take a load off?

"Mommy!" Ronni exploded off the bottom riser of the stairs and flung herself into her mother's arms.

"Hey! Li'l Princess!" Bonnie said, hugging her daughter to her and smelling her hair, suddenly feeling so much happier at having her in her arms. "You been good?"

"Mommy! I'm always good!" Ronni's scandalised tone didn't fool her mother in the slightest and it showed. The little girl laughed. "Yes, I've been good, Mommy. I've been helping Chess'ka braid Amy's hair!" Bonnie hoped that Amy had given her informed consent to this change in grooming or there was a pretty tough meeting with Sherylin in her near future. Ronni leaned closer. "We were just plannin' how to grab Justin and Max so we can do their hair too!" she whispered. Somehow, Bonnie managed not to laugh.

Bonnie straightened up, noting that Ronni, a growing five-year-old, would probably soon be too big for her to do this and turned slightly to see K shaking Rich's hand. She was pleased so see that her... her boyfriend... hmmm... she could get used to that... was not doing the whole 'starry eyed fanboy' thing and gushing over K like she was some kind of superstar. She was of course, but she didn't like people treating her that way and frankly neither did Bonnie.

"Mommy, who's that?"

Bonnie looked at Ronni for a moment and considered how best to answer that question. "You know that Mommy has being going out to see someone the last few times you've stayed over here?" The little girl nodded in remembrance. "Well, that's the guy I was seeing. His name's Rich... and... and he's Mommy's boyfriend."

Ronni pondered that thoughtfully as she considered what she knew of boyfriends. "Does that mean that you kiss an' do mushy stuff?" Bonnie somehow nodded without laughing. "Oh. Is it nice?"

Bonnie smiled in a rather dreamy way at the kiss at the end of that most recent date, a kiss quite unlike any she'd had before. "Oh... oh, yes," she confirmed quietly.

Ronni nodded, still looking thoughtful. "Do you like him?"

"I do, Ronni. I do."

Ronni shrugged. "Okay then!"

That was easy, Bonnie thought. Of course, if she and Rich were to go much further, it would get harder. She and Ronni hadn't exactly been isolated together the way Sherylin and Amy were but Ronni wasn't exactly used to sharing her mother with someone else either. She put her daughter down and walked over to talk to K.

Ronni marched over to Rich. "So! You're Mommy's boyfriend?" she said, far too loudly, making her mother wince and making Kim's green eyes light up with amusement.

"Yeah, I guess I am," Rich confirmed. "That means that you have to be Ronni, right?"

Ronni's little round face lit up in pleasure at hearing that this strange man knew her name already. Then she remembered her mission. "If you're gonna be Mommy's boyfriend, you're gonna have to promise to be good for me and Mommy. We don't want no trouble! Got that?"

Rich somehow managed not to laugh. "Got that," he confirmed. "I'll try to be good, Ronni."

Ronni nodded firmly. "Good. I'm glad you understand." The little girl seemed excessively smug at this victory. "You can kiss me now. After all, you kiss Mommy, so you should kiss me too!"

Kim hunched into herself, shuddering helplessly with silent laughter as Bonnie suddenly wished for the ground to open up and swallow her whole.

Rich raised an eyebrow at the implicit challenge. "Oh, you want a kiss do you? Well then...!" He knelt on one knee before Ronni and, before the little girl could react, grabbed her behind the knees and shoulders and tilted her backwards, making her squeal in excitement. "One kiss coming right up!" He leaned forwards and placed the smallest, gentlest kiss onto Ronni's forehead before giving her a quick hug. Then he put her back onto her feet and stood up again.

"Hey, Rich, a word?" Ron asked from the sliding glass doors out onto the rear patio.

"Sure, Ron." The two men walked out onto the patio whilst Bonnie strode over to Ronni, who seemed deep in thought.

"I'm sure you thought that was quite funny!" Bonnie growled at her daughter, scowling down at her.

"You're right, Mommy," Ronni said with a funny little smile, not really in reply to her mother's scolding. "He is nice!"

Bonnie sighed and shook her head. "Go and get your bag, Princess. We're going home."

Ronni nodded and raced off back up the stairs. No doubt to tell Amy and Jessica that she'd just had her first kiss and from Mommy's boyfriend no less! Doubtless, Sherylin would be ribbing her about this for the rest of the month. "Bonnie?" Bonnie turned to Kim. "He's a keeper," the redhead said. "Don't screw this up."

"I don't aim to," was Bonnie's reply.

Ron considered the other man for a moment before speaking. When did I suddenly start having to be the responsible one? he asked himself. "Rich, look, Bonnie makes out like she's a tough cookie. The thing is, she's been hurt. She's been hurt a lot, especially by folks she should have been able to trust."

"I've heard some of the story but I guess there's more to it?" Rich looked at Ron Stoppable and reminded himself that this deceptively mild-looking man was one of Earth's greatest warriors.

"There is. It's her story to tell, so I won't say anything. The thing is, though... The thing is that, after all that, Bonnie finds it hard to trust anyone. It took me and Kim a long time to get her to open up to us. It took ages for Sherylin to get even the limited level of trust she has now. The point is that she's into you man; I saw that right away! She's opening up for you like she hasn't for anyone else for a long time, certainly to no guy. When she does that, she becomes vulnerable."

"Ron, Bonnie's the most incredible woman that I've ever met! She's beautiful, caring, scary smart and being with her is great! I'm not going to hurt her!"

"What I'm telling you is to be careful, man. She's been hurt and that means she'll have a hard time accepting certain things. You've got to let her do things at her pace and, even harder, you've got to be willing hold back, no matter how much you want it, if you think she's pushin' too fast because she's scared of losin' you."

"She's something special, Ron. I'm not going to screw this up. She's worth a lot more than a roll in the hay!"

Ron nodded in approval. "It's going to be hard doin' this. Do you have what it takes to go into their lives? Ronni's as well as Bonnie's? That little girl is gonna have a hard time accepting someone new in their family."

Rich smiled slightly. "She reminds me of my niece actually. Cute little tyke. I know what you mean, though. I guess one day, she'll shout: 'You can't tell me what to do! You're not my daddy!'"

Ron nodded. "Ready for that?" He slapped the other man on the shoulder. "Look, just one look at Bonnie's face when she said 'boyfriend' told me that you're good for her. All I'm sayin' is... Be careful of her. Treat her right, and that means not to treat her like she's made of glass when hard times come too."

"I'll try."

"She's got good friends, Rich. Good friends that won't want to see her hurt."

Rich managed not to roll his eyes at that implied threat. "Message received, man." Rich cocked his head. "So... Since when were you her big brother?"

Ron snorted. "Bonnie doesn't have any kin, Rich, least none that's worth the name. So it's left to her friends to look out for her instead."

The Mustang pulled up outside Bonnie's modest-looking two-storey in outer Middleton. "Okay, we're here folks!" Rich announced.

"Yay!" Ronni cheered, not having liked the relatively small rear bench seat of the sports coupe even in the slightest.

Bonnie got out and tilted the front passenger-side seat forward so that her daughter could escape and race up the path to the front door. "Thanks for this, Rich! Today could have been a lot more difficult if you weren't there!"

Rich grinned. "The pleasure's all mine, Bonnie! I'm here for you, any day and at any time, got that?" Bonnie nodded with a smile, feeling her heart swell in pleasure.

"Come on Mommy!" Ronni called from the front porch.

"Coming, Princess!" Bonnie leaned forward and Rich's lips touched hers. His left hand touched her shoulder and then slid up to the nape of her neck to hold the kiss for a moment. "I'll see you around... boyfriend." Bonnie said, her voice slightly husky. She turned to go.

"Um... Bonnie?" She turned back to him. "Bonnie, when will that be?"

Bonnie grinned. It made her feel like a high school girl again, to have a guy who wanted to be around her so much! "Maybe this weekend," she said, taking his hand. "I haven't got anything planned! Besides! There's always lots of stuff to do on Saturdays!"

Rich nodded. He moved to get back into his car but Bonnie hadn't let go of his hand yet. "What is it, Bonnie?"

The brunette woman was thinking hard; Her face a mask of concentration. "R... Rich?"

"Yeah, beautiful?" Damn, there was that tingle again! Bonnie couldn't believe how one damn word could do that!

"Rich... Are you doing anything... tonight?"

Rich thought about his Spartan apartment in Lowerton. Well, as things stood he had a date with his easy chair and would spend the evening staring at the TV in boredom without actually seeing any of the programs being displayed before setting out his stuff for tomorrow's patrol shift and going to bed early... again. Or he might go to a bar and spend an evening nursing a beer and generally not liking the rest of the clientele. "No, not really."

"I... I make a mean chicken curry," Bonnie said, and suddenly fretted at uttering such a non-sequitur. "I mean... What I mean is that I'm making chicken curry for dinner tonight. I... I can make enough for three as easily as I can for two."

"Mommy are you coming or not?"

"I... If you're sure? I mean... I wouldn't want to get under your feet or anything!"

"I'm sure... I... You... Ronni's got to get used to you eventually...! Now's as good a time as any!"

Rich grinned. "So... I'm thinking you're hoping for me to spend more time with you... girlfriend?" Bonnie sucked in a breath and nodded, biting her bottom lip, her eyes filled with a paradoxical mix of fear and hope. "That sounds great! I mean... Getting to know Ronni better sounds great!" Bonnie giggled at that hasty clarification. "Look, I... I don't want you to feel obliged..."

"No, it's nothing like that. I... I just want you to stay with us... For tonight, I mean." Rich drew in a breath to say something but Bonnie overrode him, squeezing his hand tighter. "Please. Stay."

Rich was silent for a long moment. Then he locked his Mustang's doors and followed his girlfriend up the path to her front door, where her impatient-looking daughter was waiting.