Author's notes: I do not own any of the characters shown in this fiction, nor do I own the song, 'Two Out of Three Ain't Bad.' I did not write this story for profit; merely the joy of writing and I hope your entertainment. Legal issues aside, please enjoy:

Two Out of Three

The January wind that struck the modest, Middleton home wasn't very cold or strong, but it made up for it with the sheer amount of snow it carried. Such conditions should have made the two blondes inside the home's master bedroom cuddle closer, instead, the tension seemed to build faster than the snowstorm outside.

"Tara," Ron tried to console the troubled woman sharing his bed. "I'm sorry, but I was honest with you when we moved in together."

"I know, but I still wonder," she replied, her voice showing a little of the emotions churning behind her blue eyes. She sat up and swung her legs off of the bed before continuing. "I...I just don't understand. We're perfect for each other and I don't just mean where we are right now and what we've just done. You…you're always there for me, we get along and I love you Ron, I really do! Why can't we take the next step? I want the whole thing, the ring, the photo album, the children, the dog, the PTA meetings, everything. Why don't you?"

"Tara," Ron repeated. "Look, we can talk all night, but that won't accomplish anything. I've already told you everything I can, there's nothing left for me to say. You can cry all night, but it'll never change the way I feel. The storm is building up outside and I wish you wouldn't make me leave."

Ron sat up and slid next to Tara, draping a, he hoped, comforting arm around her shoulders. He breathed a slight sigh of relief as she leaned her head against his chest, accepting the comfort he could offer.

"Tara, I've poured my heart out to you, even before we became intimate with each other. I've tried to tell you how much I care, but you're still troubled. All I can say is that I want you, I need you in my life, but there's no way I'm ever going to love you. That's why I won't marry you, Tara. It's me, not you. Marrying, children, all of that should be because of love and I just don't have it."

Ron was slightly relieved that she didn't strike him or pull away. Instead, she simply cried, holding him tighter. After a few minutes, her sobs quieted and she gained some control of herself. She pulled herself slightly away from him and looked him in the eye, tear-filled blue meeting tear-filled brown.

"Why Ron?" She asked. "Why can't you love me?"

"I don't have it to give," he choked back. "Look, Tara, you're not going to find gold in the street in front of the house and you're not going to strike oil by digging at the beach. I know you want it all, but I'm not it. I'm not the rough gem in a gravel pile that you think I am."

This time, Tara didn't clutch him when her tears reappeared. She sat, hugging herself and quivering with her emotions. "I still don't understand," she said at last. "I thought this was how things were supposed to work out. Boy meets girl, boy and girl like each other; boy and girl like-like each other; boy and girl get romantic; boy and girl fall in love; boy and girl spend the rest of their lives together. Why can't we work out this way?"

"I just don't have the love to give," Ron answered, feeling as low as he ever had in his life. "I won't lie to you and tell you that I'm something that I'm not. No matter how hard I try, I'll never be able to give you something that I just don't have."

"Kim?" She asked him, after a moment of thought.

"Kim," he confirmed.

"Th-that summer, a-after we all came home after our freshmen years of college?" She asked.

"Yeah," now he wasn't so much sad for Tara as he was for himself. "She came back thinking that I just wasn't the one for her, anymore. I had missed her terribly, with her out of state and me at the community college. When she came home, she was happy to see me, as well. We spent the day re-acquainting ourselves with old friends."

Tara nodded; she had been one of the friends they had looked up.

"That night, we went on our 'reunited' date; dinner, dancing, movie, then…" Ron nodded back towards their tousled bed. Tara nodded again; both of them had had relationships before hooking up. They didn't begrudge each other their experiences, even though they made sure they didn't flaunt them at each other.

"I…kind of thought we'd wind up there," Ron continued. "I…I had stashed the ring under the mattress. When we finished…" another glance at the bed. "I pulled out the ring and made some incredibly lame joke about her being underdressed and that I'd be honored if she would be my wife."

Tara caught her breath; she could only dream about Ron making that lame joke to her.

"She broke down," Ron continued, his voice devoid of emotion. "She told me that her time away from me had made her realize that I wasn't the person she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. She told me that she wanted me, even needed me in her life, that she loved me but she wasn't in love with me, not like she had thought she was. She told me that I deserved the entire thing, that she'd understand if I couldn't accept her, knowing that there was no future for us."

"Had she found somebody new?" Tara asked.

"I didn't ask and she didn't say," Ron admitted, with the pain from that time evident in his voice. He barked out a humorless chuckle, "conventional guy wisdom says that when the girl says you should start seeing other people, it means that she's already seeing other people. I've never been all that smart but I did know one thing; never ask the question unless you're ready for the answer."

"Then why did she…" Tara couldn't finish the question.

"Why did she make love to me one last time?" Ron finished for her. "She said something about making a memory, making sure that she would remember our…relationship…for the passion and joy. I don't really recall what she said very well, since my emotions were churning so badly. The only thing I remember clearly is her kissing me, a goodbye kiss, and leaving. As she walked out the door, she turned and told me that I would find love. She flattened me with those five, cruel words; 'you're a really nice guy,' then she told me that if I looked, I'd find someone who wanted, needed, and loved me." Ron's face dropped, contemplating the floor between his feet. "I don't think we've shared more than ten words in the six years since."

"But Ron," Tara protested. "I'm that person! I'm the one who wants you, needs you and loves you! Why can't you see that?"

"I can see that," he insisted. "And that's why I can't lie to you, Tara. You deserve someone who loves you back. You deserve someone who will do the whole marriage and children thing out of joy and love, not out of obligation. I offered the ring and the question that went with it once, and I don't see myself ever doing it again." Ron took a deep breath, "Tara, like Kim was with me, I want you to be happy, completely happy. I'll never get over her and that's unfair to anyone I…commit to. I tried to be honest when we got together."

"But I didn't listen," Tara finished.

"No, you listened but you thought you could turn me into something I'm not," Ron corrected her. "That doesn't make you a bad person, it says a lot about you. The only problem is that when you look for love from me, you're looking for a Porsche in a box of Cracker-Jacks."

"Ron…" she began to protest, once again.

"There's really only one question that's left," Ron interrupted. "Where do we go from here? You deserve someone who'll give you their love, not someone with no love to give."

So, a half-hour later, Ron pulled into an economy-class motel and rented a room for the night. Tomorrow, he would find something a little more permanent and move all of his things out of their home. Of course, there was no 'their' between Tara and him anymore, was there? He picked up a glass and walked to the sink. While filling the glass, he looked at his own reflection in the mirror.

"You're an idiot, Stoppable," he told himself. "You had a lovely, lively, wonderful young woman. Why couldn't you have simply fallen in love with her? No, you're too weak to get over Kim and too demanding to settle for something wonderful, instead of something perfect."

He heaved a deep sigh before confronting himself again, "I wanted her, I needed her, but I just didn't love her. Why did I leave? After all, two out of three ain't bad."

The song 'Two Out of Three Ain't Bad,' performed by Meatloaf is one of my all-time favorite songs. I only hope that I did the song justice in this story. By the way, this story is not intended to be part of my 'To the Mat' story line.

Until my next posting, best wishes;