Disney owns the characters; I'm just taking them for a test drive. This story takes place nearly sixteen years after "Graduation," and eight months after "Thicker Than Water."
Joey Lipsky couldn't help but notice that something was off that particular morning. Usually about this time, his little sister Lisa would phase her head through his wall and start her day by pestering him. She was now officially ten minutes late for her morning taunt session. Joey finished tying his long black hair into a ponytail, and went off in search of his younger sibling; it was a search that ended at her bedroom door.
"Go 'way," a groggy voice said when Joey knocked. When he opened the door, he was rewarded with the sight of his little sister, still in bed, with a pale and sweat drenched face. "What do you want, JoJo?"
"Aw, Lisa," he said softly. "You caught the creeping crud, didn't you?"
"More like the plague to end all plagues," she said before curling up under her covers. Joey sat beside his sister and touched her forehead. She was burning up.
"You want me to run by school for you today to pick up your homework?" he asked.
"Not really, but you can if you want."
"Do you want anything from the kitchen? Maybe some juice?"
"No," Lisa replied. "Thanks, Joey."
"No problem, pipsqueak," Joey said. Even though the Lipsky siblings tended to argue a lot and tease each other relentlessly, they were pretty close. If one of them was down, the other was always there to make sure everything was okay.
Morning in the Lipsky home was often chaotic. Between Lisa doing her best to taunt her big brother and their mother being in a rush to get to the office while their father dragged his feet because he forgot something, it was a wonder anyone got to where they were supposed to go. This morning, though, was different. Joey's mom Sheila was sitting at the kitchen table, still in her green pajamas, leisurely sipping a cup of coffee.
"Someone alert the media! Mom's taking the day off!" Joey said as he enetered the breakfast nook.
"Hey, I'm the sarcastic one in this family, kiddo," Sheila Gordon-Lipsky said in an amused tone, "go get your own schtick." She smiled at her firstborn as he poured himself a bowl of cereal.
"Have you seen Lisa this morning?" Joey asked.
"Yeah, and that's the reason I'm not dressed yet," Sheila replied. "I took the day off to keep an eye on her. I was able to get her a doctor's appointment for later this morning."
"She's gonna love that," he smirked. "Where's Dad?"
"Right here, son," Drew Lipsky replied as he entered the kitchen. "I'm running late," he grumbled.
"As usual," Sheila quipped. She looked up when Drew gave her a hurt look. "What? You run late every morning. It's not my fault if you can't get it together." He groaned in annoyance.
Sheila owned and operated Gordon Security Consultants, a business that built and modified security systems for companies and private homes. Drew was the lead designer. The fact that they were both reformed criminals put them in high demand. If they couldn't get through a security system, then it was a safe bet that no one else could, either.
Joey finished his breakfast and got up to put his bowl in the sink. "Well, I'm outta here. See you after school, Mom."
Joey walked the three blocks to the home of his best friend Hana Stoppable and, after a brief conversation with her parents, they started off for that center of higher learning known as Middleton High. Even though Hana was about a year and a half older than Joey, and they didn't have any classes together, they always hung out between classes, at lunch, and before and after school. The fact that they had been best friends since he was five, they both had super powers, and were both Team Possible operatives didn't hurt. As they approached the school, they couldn't help but notice the large sign outside the main building. "Get in a Pickle! Volunteer for Middleton Days," it read.
"They're not even trying anymore," Hana said as she adjusted the red headband holding her chin length hair in place. "My brother always used to talk about how funny those signs could be. Now, not so much."
"It looks like Lisa's gonna miss Middleton Days this year," Joey said. Normally Joey, Hana and Lisa would walk through the festival and retrace the steps Ron Stoppable and the former Dr. Drakken took while trying to avoid their Moodulated future spouses.
"Too bad," Hana replied. "My big bro said that he and Sis were gonna bring the munchkin patrol along this year and walk the path with them. We could've left Lisa alone with RJ and see what happens."
"Why are you constantly trying to set my sister up with your nephew?" Joey asked for the five millionth time. "They're nine!"
"Why does everyone assume we're dating?" she countered.
"Because we always hang out together and neither one of us has had a date in the last six months. What does that have to do with RJ and Lisa?"
"Nothing really." Hana admitted.
The two continued their verbal sparring as they walked through the main entrance. There were flyers and announcements for the volunteer drive plastered on almost every wall in every corridor. "They really get serious about their pickles," Joey said.
"Stoppable! Lipsky! Do my ears deceive me or are you mocking our proud pickle heritage!?"
"Great," Joey muttered. "Superintendant Barkin."
"Not at all, Mr. B," Hana said calmly. "Just noticing all the notices on the walls, that's all."
As Steve Barkin glared at the young Asian woman, veins started to bulge from his forehead. "There was a time in the not so distant past when a Stoppable wold cower in fear of my authority," he growled.
"Yeah," Hana smirked, "that came to a screeching halt when the aliens invaded." She stopped just short of mentioning the fact that Mr. Barkin had turned into a sobbing wreck while her brother Ron stepped up and saved the day during the Lorwardian invasion, or how he'd let out that blood curdling scream during the Halloween Pixie Scouts hike when Hana was six.
Barkin cleared his throat. "I'll have you know that I was going through the roster for the parade volunteers, and I noticed that your names were cospicuously absent."
"The school's accepting our Team Possible work for volunteer credit," Joey pointed out. "So, we're set. Besides," Joey sprouted his vines from his hands, "I think I'm vegetable enough without having to dress up as a fermented cucumber."
"I would tread lightly if I were you, Lipsky." Barkin warned. "Kosher Dilly is not something to be taken lightly."
"Sorry, Mr. Barkin, but after growing up with my mom ranting about Operation Gherkin, I can't take pickles all that seriously."
Fortunately for Joey and Hana, the bell rang. Unfortunatley for Joey, Barkin stopped him before he could leave. "Say hello to your mother for me, Lipsky," the older man ordered. The reminder that Barkin had dated his mom when she was under the influence of the Reverse Polarizer made Joey involuntarily cringe, as did the thought that he could very well have been a Barkin himself had it not been for Ron Stoppable accidentally hitting the former Shego with the beam again.
First cousin Ed, now Mr. Barkin, he thought. Why is it that everyone seems to have a thing for my mom?
"Hey, Hana!" a voice called out. "Wait up a second!"
Hana turned around and saw a blonde haired boy named Brett Meyers running to catch up with her. "What's up, Brett?"
"Well, I was wondering if you wanted to hit the festival with me this weekend. You know, as my date."
Hana was taken aback. She wasn't used to being asked out; normally she was the one who did the asking. "I'm really flattered, Brett, but I was gonna do my usual thing with with Joey. Besides, my brother and my sister-in-law are bringing their kids along, and I kinda wanted to hang out with them."
Joey Lipsky was around the corner from Han when Brett asked her out. He was fighting off the urge to run around the corner and hogtie the other boy with his vines, or give him a good electrical shock with them. Joey thought his heart was going to burst through his chest when Hana turned Brett down.
"Hanging with family I can see," Brett said. "But I don't get why you're always hanging out with that Lipsky guy. I mean, he's-"
"What?" Hana demanded, "a freak?"
"No, an underclassman. No reason to get all bent out of shape, Stoppable."
"Sorry," Hana said. "It's just, I get sick of people harshing on Joey because he's different. It's not cool."
"No, it isn't." Brett took a scrap of paper out of his notebook and scribbled his phone number on it. "In case you change your mind," he said. "See you in biology."
"Hey, Hana!" a voice called out. "Wait up a second!"
Here we go again, Hana thought. This time it was Debbie Ramos trying to catch up with her. "What can I do for you, Deb?"
"Hey, is Joey Lipsky going with anyone to the festival this weekend?" the Latina asked.
"Well, he was going to hang out with me and my brother's fam, but he doesn't have a date, if that's what you mean."
"Yeah," the girl said shyly. "That's what I mean."
Hana's eyes narrowed and she could hear monkeys shrieking in her mind. "You'd better not be trying to pull a Carrie Potts on him!"
Carrie Potts was the closest thing Joey had ever had to a girlfriend. She was one of the popular girls in school. Joey mustered up his courage and asked her to go to the movies with him. The next day she agreed, after being put up to it by her posse. After a few dates, she dropped Joey like a cracked engine block. There was no way that Hana was going to let that happen again.
"Chill, Han," Debbie said, "I'm not gonna do anything like that! I think he's cute. Is that a crime!?"
That admission infuriated Hana even more. That's MY Joey she's talking about, Hana kept thinking. "If you want to go out with him, go talk to him about it," Hana tried to say as calmly as possible.
"Well, I just wanted to make sure you didn't have any designs on him, you know? I mean, you two are always together. I just wanted ot make sure there was nothing going on there. I don't wanna break anyone up."
Hana finally calmed down. "Sorry, Deb. I just got a little overprotective, I guess."
"No worries," Debbie replied. "I'll take your advice and go talk to him about it. Later, Han!"
As Debbie walked off, Hana mentally kicked herself. What was all that about? I'm not crushing on Joey. I can't be. He's, well, Joey! Those thoughts would taunt Hana for the rest of the school day.
"Casa de Stoppable," a small voice said into the telephone. "How may I direct your call?"
Hana Stoppable smiled. "Hi, Dawnie."
"Hana!" Dawn Kimberly Stoppable exclaimed. Neither Dawn or her brother RJ called Hana "aunt," mainly because she was so close in age to them and was more like a big sister. "Are you and Joey and Lisa still comin' to the festival with us?" the nearly six year old asked.
"Joey and I will be there, runt," Hana said, "but Lisa's really sick. She won't make it."
"RJ's gonna be happy about that. He thinks you're trying to make him marry her."
Hana couldn't help but laugh at that. "I'm really not. I tease those two to bug Lisa more than anything. But don't tell RJ that. Hey, is your mom around?"
"Sure, Hana, I'll get her." Dawn set the phone down and bellowed "MOM!!!! Hana wants ta talk to you!" She picked the phone up again. "She'll be here in a minute."
"Yeah, I heard." Boy that kid's got healthy lungs.
"I have it, honey," Kim Stoppable said to the little girl with dirty blonde pigtails. "Why don't you go tell your brother to get washed up for dinner?"
"What's the sitch, Han?" Kim asked. "And why didn't you call me on the Kimmunicator?"
"I didn't want this on an open channel," Hana answered. "Kim, I really need to talk to you about something. Something I can't really talk to my mom about."
At that moment Kim knew it was serious. Hana almost never referred to her or Ron by their given names; usually it was variations on "brother" and "sister." Kim walked into her small home office and closed the door. "Okay, what do you want to talk about?"
"Boys," Hana answered. "Specifically Joey."
"Hey, Dad, you got a minute?" Joey asked when he entered his father's basement lab.
"What seems to be the problem, son?" the former Dr. Drakken asked, pulling off his safety glasses.
"Well, I need a little advice. About girls."
Drew Lipsky's blue face went a little pale. "Maybe I should go get your mother."
"No, Dad, I need a man to man talk. Please?"
Drew managed a weak grin. "Have a seat, Joey. What do you want to talk about."
Joey cut right to the chase. "How did you know you loved Mom?"
"You don't throw softballs, do you?" Drew let out a sigh. "Honestly, I don't know. Your mother kept denying that anything was going on. She got rather upset at the Lorwardians and your godmother for accusing her of being in denial about the whole thing. As for me? I couldn't imagine a beautiful woman like your mother having any sort of feelings other than disdain for me. I mean, she did like to mock me at any chance she got."
"Still does," Joey chuckled.
"Some things had to stay the same, I guess. There was an awkward moment at the UN when I was honored and pardoned. My neck vine tied us up. Maybe I was trying to tell myself something. After that, we went back to our island lair, and I started closing up shop. I knew that I would never be taken seriously as a villain ever again, so I decided to dismantle my operation. I tried to give your mother severance pay and a letter of recommendation. She got a little more angry than I thought she would."
"What did she do?"
"Incinerated the letter I'd written. While I was still holding it." Drew smiled at the memory. "Then she yelled and screamed at me for a few hours, accusing me of giving up and trying to get rid of her. I don't mind telling you that I was afraid for my life. I told her that I wasn't trying to get rid of her, and she demanded that I prove it."
Joey had never heard this story before. "What did you do?"
Drew stammered a little. "I, well, I kissed her."
Joey blinked. "Then what happened?"
"I told him that a peck on the lips wasn't a kiss," a voice from the doorway said.
"Care to join in the story, dear?" Drew smirked.
"Do I really want to know what came next?" Joey asked.
"I showed him what a real kiss was," Sheila smirked as she put her arms around her husband. "Turns out you dad was a natural. One thing led to another, and we wound up practicing your conception."
"Okay, Mom, what is way TMI."
Sheila smiled at her son's discomfort. "The next morning, we finally said the 'L' word. The day after that, we collected your godparents, went to Vegas, and tied the knot. Two weeks after that, we found out we were gonna have you. All in all, it was a good month. Well, until the morning sickness kicked in."
"So you just knew then? I mean, that you loved each other?"
"It's not that easy," Drew said. "You have to remember, Joey, that I was never really a ladies man. I wasn't used to women, other than your grandmother, caring at all about me. Your mother took great joy in busting my chops on an almost hourly basis. The only time she ever really showed me any sort of affection was when she had that Moodulator on her neck. That more than freaked me out, at the time. And when she went into space to save me from the Lorwardians, I thought your mom was just trying to make sure she stayed gainfully employed."
"Well, that was part of it," Sheila admitted. "I guess we'd lived and worked together for so long that I just couldn't imagine what life would be like without your dad. And when I thought he was trying to get rid of me, I felt so betrayed that I wanted to kill him. That's when I knew that I loved the big lug." Sheila reached out and took her son's hand. "Now, would this have anything to do with Little Miss Ninja, and what we talked about over the summer?"
"I overheard Hana getting asked out by a guy at school today, and it really ticked me off. Until she said no. I've really liked her for a while, but now, well, I think it might be more than that." Joey closed his eyes. "She's my best friend, Mom. I don't want to do anything to mess things up."
"Why not talk to Ronald about this?" Drew asked. "He has more experience with best friend romances than do we."
"Because he's her brother, Dad!" Joey protested. "I don't want Uncle Ron threatening to go monkey style on me if I upset her."
Drew let out a light chuckle. "I doubt Ronald would ever do that, son. I think he had to deal with enough threats from his father-in-law to pull that himself. Especially on you." Drew smiled at Joey. "I don't really have any advice to give you, Joey, except that if you really care for Hana, you should tell her. For the longest time I saw your mother as nothing more than an employee. Then I got closer to her and started seeing her as part of my evil family. Now look at us; married for almost sixteen years with two children. I'm not saying you and the Stoppable girl will go the same route we did, but you won't know until you take the chance."
"I don't often say this, kiddo, but your dad's right," Sheila said. "You don't want to wait until one of you gets beamed up by a couple of nine foot tall aliens to come clean. Talk to Hana. See how she feels. You might be surprised."
Joey stood up and hugged his father. "Thanks, Dad. Mom." Joey then hugged his mom, and left the basement. Sheila smiled and placed a gentle kiss on Drew's lips.
"Not that I'm complaining, but what was that for?" he asked.
"For being such a great dad," Sheila said. "A man to man talk with your son, making that chicken soup for your sick daughter, and both in the same day! I think this whole fatherhood thing has been good for you."
Drew smiled. "I had to be good at something, I guess."
"Trust me, honey, you're good at a lot of things."
Hana was never this nervous before Joey came over to walk with her to school. But then again, she was about to talk to him about going beyond best friends and giving the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing a shot.
"Don't wait until you're tied to fast food props to come clean," Kim had told her last night. "Don't let the fear of ruining the friendship ruin what could be the best thing to ever happen to you. There's risk in everything we do, Han, and this is more than worth it. Talk to Joey. See how he feels. You might be surprised."
Hana was set to take the plunge and have the talk. Then Joey knocked at the door and she lost her nerve. Joey lost his at the first knock. So they walked in awkward silence, both wanting to say something, but too afraid to utter a word.
Hana could tell that Joey had something on his mind, and had a feeling that he was thinking the same thing she was. Still, she couldn't bring herself to start the conversation. "This is stupid," Hana muttered under her breath.
Hana's eyes shot open. Great, I said that out loud! "Uh, this sidewalk is stupid. There are cracks all over it."
"Uh, right." Joey shook his head.
"I mean, you know the old rhyme! We could break our poor mothers' backs with one wrong step!"
"You know, Hana, there are times when you are way too much like your brother."
Hana blushed a little. "Yeah, I get that a lot. My 'rents say that all the time. So does my brother, both of my sisters, my niece, my nephew, and your folks." Hana let out a long sigh.
Joey suddenly came to a stop. "I can't do this," he said.
"What? Walk? One foot in front of the other, JoJo," Hana quipped. "If you want a challenge, try doing it on the ceiling."
"Not that. This tiptoeing around the issue."
Hana was about to say "What issue?" but thought better of it. "You're right. We do."
"No time like the present," Joey said. "We have the whole walk to school."
"Yeah." Hana started to walk off when Joey offered her his hand. She smiled and took hold. They walked like that the whole way, hand in hand. "You've never done this before."
"Held my hand like this."
Joey turned slightly crimson. "It felt like the right thing to do at the time."
"I'm not complaining," Hana said. "But you know that the rumor mill will go into overdrive if they see us like this. They'll think we really are dating."
"Would, uh, would that be a bad thing? Us dating, I mean?"
It was Hana's turn to come to a dead stop. "Are you asking me out?"
Joey took a deep breath. It was do or die time. "Look, Han, I like you. I mean, I really like you. As in, more than just friends like you. So yeah, I'm asking you out."
Hana's expression reamined neutral, even though she was doing cartwheels inside. She calmly walked up to him, wrapped her arms around his shoulders, and pulled his lips to hers. Joey hesitated for a split second before melting into the kiss; a kiss that was in danger of turning into a very public makeout session.
"Way to go, Lipsky!" they heard a voice yell as it drove by, pulling themout of their own little world.
"Jerk," Hana muttered. "Well, so much for the mood."
"Yeah," Joey responded in a dreamy, faraway voice.
Hana let out a small laugh before taking Joey's hand again. "Come on, loverboy. We'll have plenty of time for kissy face after school."
"You expect me to concentrate on school after that?" Joey asked incredulouosly.
"If you want to do that again, then yes," Hana smirked. "Besides, if I have to concentrate on school, then so do you." Hana looked over at her new beau. "Did, uh, did Debbie Ramos ever talk to you yesterday?"
"Because she was gonna ask you to the festival," Hana said. "And I don't think I like the idea of my boyfriend getting asked out by another girl."
"Boyfriend," Joey mused. "I like the sound of that. I guess I'll just have to let her down easy." Joey squeezed Hana's hand and smiled at her. "So, I guess this means the rumor mill was right about something."
"Let's hope it doesn't go to their heads," Hana said with a chuckle. "Who knows, maybe now they'll go after someone else and leave us alone."
"I still can't believe you threw Daddy like that, Mom," Dawn Stoppable, who was tightly clutching her father's hand, almost pouted. The assembled Stoppable family, with the notable exception of Ron's kid sister Hana, was strolling through the Middleton Days festival; the youngest Stoppables finally hearing about the disaster that was their parents' first date.
"Are you kidding, Dawn? I think it's cool!" a red headed nine year old boy gushed. "I guess that's why you always tell us not to get Mom mad at us, huh, Dad?"
Ron looked down at his son. Aside from the hair and eye color, Ronald Stoppable Junior, known as RJ to friends and family, was almost a clone of his father. RJ's hair color was a similar in shade to his Nana Anne's hair, and both kids had their mother's green eyes. From their father's side of the gene pool, both RJ and Dawn had inherited their dad's freckles, and Dawn had a slightly darker shade of blonde hair than her dad. She also had the same need for corrective lenses that both of her paternal grandparents had. Aside from that, she was almost the spitting image of her mother at that age.
"Trust me on this, RJ," Ron said, "never get on your mom's bad side. It's not a fun place to be."
Kim smirked at her husband and kissed his cheek. "And that's why we have a good marriage, kids. Your daddy know I can take him." Ron gave his wife a devious grin and let his eyes flash blue. "Careful, Monkey Boy, I know a way around that, too."
"You only think your kisses are all that, lady," Ron teased.
"Oh, I know they're all that, mister," Kim countered. "Why else would you keep coming back for more after all these years?"
Both RJ and Dawn made gagging sounds. "Let's go get pickles on sticks!" Dawn suggested.
"Badical idea, Dawnie," her dad agreed. Dawn definitely took after Ron when it came to food.
"You two go on ahead," Kim said. "We'll just wait here for you."
"Yeah, Dad," RJ said. "I wanna hear more about when Mom and Aunt Sheila were terrorizing you and Uncle Drew."
Before Kim could continue her story, she saw her little sister-in-law walking hand in hand with her new boyfriend. Kim could tell by the looks on their faces that no one else existed in their world right now. "It's about time," Kim said.
"About time for what, Mom?"
"For your aunt and Joey to figure things out." Kim said to her firstborn. "I didn't want her to take as long as we did. It's nice to see someone figure out who was right for her without being played by super villains and getting tied to a giant fake cactus."
RJ cocked an eyebrow at his mother. "What are you talking about?"
"Remind your daddy and me to tell you about our junior prom later. It looks like Hana won't be repeating our mistakes."
RJ folded his arms and scowled. "I still think it's gross."
"Give it a few years, honey," Kim snickered. "You won't always think girls have cooties."
"As long as you don't say I'm gonna marry Lisa Lipsky like Han always does."
Kim smiled at her son. "Hana's just trying to get to you and Lisa when she does that, RJ." Kim rubbed her chin in exaggerated thought. "Although, you would be cute together...."
Kim started laughing. "Okay, son, I'll stop."
Hana Stoppable and Joey Lipsky were oblivious to the torture of Hana's nephew. They had eyes only for each other at that moment. As they leaned in for yet another kiss, they could think only one thing; that the future looked very bright.