Boilerplate Disclaimer: The various characters from the Kim Possible series are owned by Disney. All registered trade names property of their respective owners. Cheap shots at celebrities constitute fair usage.
A special thanks to all reviewers: Alexander-Godslayer, Charles Gray, Madhatterak, Mr. Wizard, Noncynic, ShadowCub, sweetPixiesmile, Thomas Linquist, and Well of Silence.
Teach Your Children Well, Their Father's Hell Did Slowly Go By
Faintly curious why they even kept a land-line James Possible answered the phone, "Hello?"
"This is Rachel. Is Anne there? I can't find Ron."
"She didn't want to call you last night, hoped you were asleep. Ron was wiped out at the hospital yesterday. She found an empty bed and ordered him to lay down."
"Good. When he wasn't at Kim's I was worried."
"I should have called when I got up, but everyone's missed so much sleep lately I didn't want to wake you."
"Thanks. Jake and I will try and wait until this afternoon to visit the hospital. Anne told us to let everyone get as much rest as possible. But I don't think Jake and I will sleep well until we see them."
Ronin might have appreciated a little more sleep. He awoke to Hirotaka's touch. "+I leave in a few hours. I plan to tell your mother how brave you were. I will leave out how foolish you were,+" he said softly enough to allow Hana to continue sleeping.
The young man yawned, "+Visiting hours already?+"
"+No. Not until much later. I wanted to see you privately. Ask if there was any message you wish to send to your mother… I need to ask your forgiveness…+"
"+Ask my forgiveness?+"
"+I said things yesterday… Things that I did not mean… I said them only to provoke him but... I… I'm sorry if I hurt you.+"
"+You said them for Hana. I was afraid you would be hurt. It was dangerous.+"
"+You did the work.+"
"+I told you, I wasn't certain I could siphon the energy Hana needed. He could have killed you if I failed.+"
"+I had faith in you. You risked your life, could I do less? But I need to know if you will forgive me?+"
"+I think perhaps I understand you better now,+" Ronin answered. "+I am sorry for all the pain I brought you.+"
"+You brought me no pain. You were a baby. Any pain I suffered I brought on myself, by not accepting and loving you the way that I should. I was weak and foolish.+" He took the young man's hand. "+Never forget you have a family and home in Japan. We love you. You are always welcome home.+"
"+I will come next summer, if not earlier. I can bring Hana?+"
"+Of course. Sheki too, if you wish.+"
"+Thank you, Father. Tell Mom I promise to write to you both.+"
Ronin could remember very few hugs from the man who raised him. "+Thank you, Son,+" Hirotaka murmured as he hugged the young man tightly.
There was a noise from the hallway and Sensei disappeared from the room. If Ronin had not grown up at Yamanouchi he might have imagined the entire conversation a dream. Instead he thought, "Showoff" at the ease with which Hirotaka vanished as he smiled, lay back on the pillow, and closed his eyes.
Ron woke up an hour later. It took him a minute to realize he was in a hospital room. "Hey," he called to an orderly going by the door, "what's going on?"
The man came in and checked the chart hanging at the foot of the bed, "Looks like you're scheduled for a hernia repair at eleven."
"What! That's got to be a mistake!"
The orderly squinted at the chart. "Need my glasses," he mumbled. "You're right. You're scheduled for a vasectomy." The look of shock and panic made it all worthwhile. Then the man laughed, "Nah, it's just a note from Dr. Possible saying to let you sleep."
"My name's Ron Stoppable. My sister's in seven H, can I see her?"
"Visiting hours don't start for a couple hours." He handed the chart to Ron to read. "She says you weren't admitted, so technically you aren't even here and we aren't required to feed you. But I got a couple extra breakfasts on my cart - want one?"
"No thanks. Hospital food might put me in the hospital. Besides, I smell like I need a shower before I see anyone."
"I can get you a towel and soap."
"Better not. I'm not technically here anyway. I'll head home and shower and change."
It was a couple miles to Kim's house. Ron used the time to think. He needed to talk to Hirotaka.
He found Kasy in the kitchen when he reached the big house. "Sensei around?"
"I think so. I'm taking him to the airport in three hours."
"Any idea where he is?"
"Nope. He's quiet as a cat."
Ron had gone through most of the house when he noticed the window in his old, back bedroom was open. It went onto the porch roof. During his college years Ron would sometimes sit on the roof and think. He looked out and saw Hirotaka, then went out onto the roof himself.
Ron knew Hirotaka heard him as he crossed the roof, but the Japanese man remained unmoving. "Sensei?"
"It sounds odd to hear that word from your lips," the other man sighed, "Why don't you just call me Hiro?"
"Because I don't feel worthy. I am ashamed that I couldn't bring the power to help Hana, but I could call it to hurt you."
"It was a pure hatred you felt for me, it burned through all else. Your love for your sister had too many other thoughts associated with it. Family. All the good times and triumphs you shared with her. All of those made it difficult for you to focus your attention. Your mind was led astray by your love for her."
"I wish that were the only reason. I think fear of failure was an even greater problem."
"If you held that fear, it would certainly interrupt your focus. I imagine there were no such fears when you wanted to rip off my head."
"No… I wanted to kill you. I don't think of myself as a killer, but God, right then I wanted you dead. I'm ashamed of myself, but I think I'd have torn your heart out and stomped on it if I could."
"I regret having to say those things about your family. You did not respond when I simply insulted you and-"
"I was so disgusted with myself for my failure I felt like a worm. I thought I deserved it."
"I suspected that. But I trusted if I insulted your family you would defend their honor."
"Thank you, Sensei. I am glad Yamanouchi is in your hands."
The Japanese man nodded his head slightly in acknowledgment of Ron's words. Ron looked like he wanted to say more, and Hirotaka remained silent until Ron found the courage to ask, "Who is Ronin?"
"That is a question that could be asked of any of us. Who is Hana Stoppable? Who am I?"
"My mother thinks… She thinks that he…"
"Your mother is a very wise woman."
"Who is Ronin?"
Hirotaka stared into the distance. "He is a young man who has lived a harder life than he deserves. His mother loves him and spoiled him. His step-father resented him and let that resentment show - when he didn't simply neglect the boy to a point bordering on abuse. Many at Yamanouchi made fun of him for his mixed parentage. He retreated into books and study where his differences did not matter and became wise beyond his years. Hana… Hana was the center of the universe for him, his true friend, the light which made life bearable. Her visits to Yamanouchi the high point of his year. He has a tremendous crush on Sheki… The two of them exchange many letters. I suspect he believes himself in love."
"Does he know who his… who his real father is?"
"What does 'real' father mean? You know the meaning of ronin, don't you?"
"A ronin was a warrior without a master."
"Young Ronin is a man without a father. He knows the man who raised him - but he was no father to the boy. He knows the name of the man who contributed to his DNA, but that man is no father to the boy either."
Ron said nothing.
"He would like to meet you."
"I need to meet him."
"He is not returning to Japan with me. He plans to remain in Middleton for the present."
"Good, I… What am I going to tell Bonnie?"
"The truth is sometimes nice. And it requires no imagination. I hope you would not try and hide Ronin from her."
"Of course I'll tell her. I guess I just don't know how to say it, what words to use. What will she say to me? Will she hate me?"
"I spoke with her briefly on the flight here. She loves you very much. Do not let Ronin stand between you and your wife. For years I thought he stood between me and Yori. That was my error - do not repeat it. Love him as he deserves to be loved. He is a very fine young man."
They sat on the porch roof and talked for two hours. Ron talked of life with Bonnie and his work. Hiro spoke of Yori and Yamanouchi. Ron talked about his children and Hirotaka talked about Ronin and his own son.
"You will forgive me," Hirotaka said as the conversation drew to a close, "but I would prefer you not return to Yamanouchi. I have not yet gained sufficient mastery to remain calm in the presence of you and my wife. I often feel I am not yet worthy to head the school when I still have such weakness."
"I understand, Sensei. But I think you are worthy. You continue to learn and grow. The day when you think you know it all is the day you stop growing."
"Thank you, Ronald."
"I'm pretty sure Bonnie wouldn't let me go to Yamanouchi anyway… Heck, I don't know if I'm ready. Don't know what I'd say to Yori… Except I could say I hope the two of you are very happy together."
"Thank you. I will leave soon for Japan. A word of advice before I go. You might never need the Monkey Power again, but you should return to the discipline of calling upon it if needed. Either Hana or Ronin could help mentor you."
"Thank you, Sensei," Ron nodded. "I will try and follow your advice."
Hirotaka went back into the house through the open window while Ron remained seated on the porch roof, staring off into space and wondering how to tell the news to Bonnie.
Hana and Ronin talked quietly as interns looked them over. "I am sufficiently rested now that you can remove the IV," Ronin insisted. "But you need to bring me a couple liters of something to drink."
He was half way down the first liter when Dr. Possible entered the room with a short, fat man who sported a pair of wire-rimmed glasses on his nose, a huge moustache under his nose, and remarkably little hair on top of his pink and shining head. They didn't pause at Hana's bed but came straight to him.
"Glad you're feeling better," Anne commented. "Of course, if you say 'I told you so' there is a chance you might suffer a relapse."
"I would not dream of stating something so obvious."
"This is the miracle worker?" the plump man asked, taken aback by Ronin's youth.
"I wouldn't call him that," Dr. Possible corrected him.
"I am certain she has any number of names for me. But she can not use them in polite society."
Anne laughed, "You really are feeling better."
"It is a wonderful day to be alive."
"Ronin, this is Doctor Max Jones. He's in charge of placebos and fake medicine here. Max, this is Ronin. Ronin, what can you tell me about Max?"
Ronin suspected it was a test, "He suffers from arthritis in his left shoulder and hand. I suspect he takes medication for his high blood pressure, although such medication would be more effective with regular exercise. And what does it mean to be in charge of placebos and fake medicine?"
"I run the program at the hospital for holistic medicine, alternative therapies, and evaluation of new medical procedures and technologies."
"If it's not proven or doesn't work, Max is in charge of it," Anne explained to Ronin. "The nutritionists still working with you?" she asked Dr. Jones. "I know you're still liaison to the hospital chaplains."
"Some people think cutting you open or shooting you up with drugs are the only forms of medicine," Dr. Jones told the young man on the bed.
"Hey, I don't have to stay here to be insulted," Anne warned. "I can go back and let my secretary abuse me. I've let a lot of work slide recently and she's busting my chops over that. I'll leave you two to get better acquainted."
As Dr. Possible left Dr. Jones commented, "Someone is in a good mood today."
"I feel much better than I did yesterday."
"I was talking about her, but from what I hear you've got reason to feel good too. Hey, are you feeling strong enough that I can ask you a few questions?"
There were a lot more than a few questions. Ronin felt certain he was being tested again, but he didn't know why or if the questions would ever come to an end.
As the interview drew to a close however, Dr. Jones seemed happy. "I want you working here."
"You're offering me a job?"
"That's what I said. Full-time, part time, whatever. You name your own hours."
"I'm not certain if Dr. Possible would approve of your offer."
"Son, there are three things you need to know. First, I do the hires and fires for my staff. Human resources does what I tell 'em to do for my people. Second, I'm not afraid of the Dragon Lady and-"
"Doctor Possible. Okay, I'm intimidated enough of her I wouldn't call her that to her face and you're smart enough to know you shouldn't either. But I'm only intimidated, she doesn't scare me."
"You said there were three things I needed to know."
"Oh, right. Third thing is, this was her idea. She called me this morning and said, 'Max, you're going to love this kid. We need him on staff here.'"
"She said that?"
"May not have been her exact words, but close enough. She's got a bias towards conventional therapies because she's seen too many people hurt by quacks. But she's too smart to reject anything which can help patients. She wants you here… You told her you hope to study medicine?"
The young man nodded.
"Working here would look good on the ol' résumé when you apply to med school. You'll get recommendations out of it too."
"Thank you, Sir."
"Max to you, kid," Dr. Jones said as he rose to his feet. He impulsively leaned over and tousled the young man's hair. "Give me a call in the next couple days. Tell my secretary I said you were important. I need someone who can do miracles."
Hana had fallen asleep during conversation between Dr. Jones and Ronin. She awoke for the visit from her parents. Her father stood by the side of her bed, holding her hand. "I feel weak," she told him. "Ronin says I will never run on ceilings again since Toshi left me."
"Good. Having to explain the footprints to the cleaners was always a pain."
"There are other things I won't be able to do. But I'm just me. No more Toshi. I can like boys now without getting sick to my stomach. I can have a boyfriend. I can kiss a guy. I can-"
"Let's just get you healthy first," her dad warned. "I didn't realize Toshi had made life easier for me."
"I think I even sound different!"
"Maybe. I'm just so glad you're still with us."
As Hana spoke with her father, at the other bed Rachel was still hugging Ronin. "You'll stay with us, of course."
"I have not yet made-"
"You're staying with us. Hana needs you."
"Yes, Mrs. Stoppable."
"Hmm, we can work on what you should call me later. You'll be staying in your father's old room."
"You have a problem with that?"
"No, Mrs. Stoppable."
"Maybe we'll work on what you should call me sooner than I planned." She went back to hugging him.
After a few minutes the Stoppables changed patients. Rachel Stoppable hugged her daughter. "Why didn't you tell us about him?"
"You are in so much trouble, young lady. You're going to be grounded until you feel strong enough to leave the house."
There were no immediate hugs or conversation at the other bedside. After a couple uncertain minutes Jacob Stoppable managed, "Thanks."
After another minute Ron's father asked, "Is this as weird and uncomfortable for you as it is for me?"
"Did your grandmother ask you to stay with us?"
"I believe it was more in the form of an order."
"That's your grandmother. You didn't argue, did you?"
Jacob Stoppable nodded, "You're a smart kid. That's my side of the family."
After another minute of silence Mr. Stoppable commented, "If my mother was still alive, you'd kill her."
The young man looked alarmed, "I wouldn't wish to-"
"It was a joke. And a bad one, sorry. I'm just saying you're kind of a shock to us."
"Don't be. Not all shocks are bad. We'll get used to each other. My wife doesn't like my jokes either."
Ron walked over to his parents' house. They were at the hospital but Bonnie sat watching a family movie with the children. He still didn't know what to say, even how to start. He didn't need to open the dialog.
"Your Mom thinks we need to talk," she said when he walked in. He nodded. "Kids, your Dad and I are going upstairs for a minute. No fights."
"No, Mom," Aaron promised.
Bonnie sat down on the guest room bed and patted the spot beside her. Ron sat down. "Ronin…" he began.
"Your Mom thinks he's your son."
"I think so too."
"He told you?"
"I haven't talked with him. I wanted to talk to you first. I asked Sensei. He told me without telling me."
"It's this wise, mystical Japanese thing, like one hand clapping."
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know. I never imagined anything like this. I…"
"Does this change anything between us?"
"Ron. I love you. I knew you asked Yori to marry you. She was your first choice. You know I had other guys before you married me. We're married to each other now. I love you. I don't want our pasts to change anything between us."
"He's not exactly past. He's in a bed at the Middleton Hospital."
"Does he change anything between us?"
"I… This is just so weird. How would you feel to learn you had a kid you never knew about?"
"It's a little harder for women."
"You haven't answered my question."
"Does this change anything between us?
"Bonnie, I love you. Nothing can change that. I'm just scared this means you won't respect me any-"
His words were cut off as she threw her arms around him and began kissing him. The embrace and kisses lasted until Bonnie finally calmed down. "Oh yeah," Ron smiled as the kissing stopped, but he still held her in his arms, "you never did respect me, did you?"
"No, you goof," she giggled, "but I love you. I needed to hear you still love me."
Ron seemed nervous, "Can we, uh, ask him to come with us to California?"
"Duh! Of course. He's your son. But I don't think you're going to get him away from your mother for awhile."
"Uh… Maybe I'll come back to Middleton some weekends to-"
"Maybe we'll come back to Middleton. He has other family besides you he needs to meet."
Ron closed his eyes and groaned, "Oh, God. What am I going to tell Aaron and Becky?"
Bonnie hugged him, "I don't know. Want to Google 'introducing your kids to half-siblings you never knew they had'?"
She suddenly realized it wasn't. The kids would want to know more about Ronin's mother, and why Ron hadn't married her. "Sorry. I don't know what to say. The good news is; the kids love him."
The two walked downstairs, hand-in-hand to talk with their children. Ron hoped Becky was still too young think about the biology involved and that Aaron wouldn't ask the hard questions in front of his sister.
Sheki arrived at the hospital before the Stoppables left, but looked for her grandmother instead of interrupting them. She regretted hanging up on Rachel the day before - but the memory reminded her of the location of her missing phone. Anne sat at her desk, staring at a pile of papers. "Isn't Ronin great?" Sheki greeted her.
"He is certainly interesting," Ann Possible admitted.
"How is he? Can he leave the hospital? Can I take him home? Will-"
"Stop. One question at a time. He needs a couple more days of rest and lots of fluids, but it doesn't have to be at the hospital. Considering the lack of paperwork on him the administrators would appreciate getting him out of here as soon as possible. And what do you mean by take him home?"
"Well, his stuff is at our house. He talked about staying in Middleton for awhile."
"Anyway, I was hoping Mom and Eemah will let him stay in the apartment over the garage. But then he yelled at me the other day."
"He said you were a distraction."
"Sensei stayed in there the whole time! Ron was there. You even did your examining thing. What do you mean, I'm a distraction?"
"I'm just repeating what he said. If you want to know what he meant you have to ask him."
Sheki thought for a moment, "I think I will."
Her grandmother smiled and nodded, "You go, Girl."
"Sheki!" Hana said with all the enthusiasm she could manage when the dark-haired girl entered the room.
Sheki gave her a quick hug, "How do you feel?"
"Alive. Weak. I feel like a girl!"
"What does that mean?"
"Well, it scares my dad. I'm going to get my first boyfriend! I'm going to-"
"Got any guy in particular in mind?"
"No… There were guys who asked me out but they liked the tough girl Toshi made me. I'm going shopping with my mom-"
"Shopping for a guy?"
"No, for clothes. I'm going to get something pink and frilly because I can."
Sheki glanced at Ronin, "You've created a monster."
"She will settle down," he promised. "This is new to her."
Hana grinned, "And first kiss. I want my first real kiss, not family peck on the cheek stuff. Maybe I'll ask Jason, Kasy says he's a great kisser."
"Will you tell her or should I?" Ronin asked.
"Tell me what?"
Sheki blushed, "That doesn't count."
"What doesn't count?"
"Before he left, Toshi kissed me."
Hana's eyes went wide, "Toshi kissed you?"
"He… You… He was really good at it."
Hana fell back in her bed and stared at the ceiling, "Did he do anything else to embarrass me before he left?"
"No, that was pretty much it. Hey, when you get out of the hospital I'll get Briana and Jessica over for a girl's night with you. We can paint our toenails and do all the silly stuff you missed back in middle school. But right now I'm gonna take Ronin off your hands."
"What?" he asked.
"You're checked out. Actually, not sure you were ever officially checked in. They've just been letting you rest. C'mon, I'm taking you home."
"Hana's fine… Okay, she's weak as a kitten. But she can rest without you here."
"I think I should-"
"On your feet, now! We need to talk."
Silently he swung his legs over the side of the bed and looked for his sandals. Once he had them on he followed her out of the hospital and into the parking lot.
"Bring him straight back here," Rachel Stoppable warned Ron.
"Mom!" her son protested, "can I have a little privacy for my first talk with my… with him?" The word 'son' for someone other than Aaron still didn't come easily to his lips. "Maybe I can take him out to dinner or something before I bring him back."
"He likes Korean. There's a Korean place on George Street near the university. You can take him there."
"How do you know he likes Korean food?"
"I asked Hana this afternoon."
"How about I talk with him? Can I ask him what he wants, please?"
Ron sighed and headed for the hospital. He had always assumed his years as Kim's partner would be the weirdest of his life. "Life just got stranger," he told himself as he turned the key in the ignition. "A lot stranger," he groaned inwardly as he put the car in gear and headed for the hospital, "I promised God I'd go to Shabbot services for a year without complaining."
Seeing Hana grinning at him made it easier to live with the memory of his promise. He called his mother.
"Where are you taking Ronin?" were her first words.
"He's not here. Hana says Sheki got to him first."
"He's probably at Kim's. I'm heading over in a minute. But there's news from the sick chick. She says she can come home tomorrow afternoon if she promises to take it easy and rest."
"Tell her I won't be strong enough to clean my room for six months," Hana whispered.
"And she promises to clean the whole house, top to bottom, starting next week to say thanks for the way you've been slaving over her."
Hana stuck her tongue out at her brother, who laughed and kissed her on the forehead before heading to Casa Possible.
"Where are Aaron and Becky?" Jane demanded when Ron arrived.
"They're still with my Mom and Dad. Are Sheki and Ronin here?"
"MOM!" Jane screamed, "Are Sheki and Ronin here?"
"No," Kim called from the kitchen.
"Sheki's cell phone's been going direct to voice mail," Shego called. "I've been trying to reach her."
"Well she's kidnapped my son," Ron called to them.
"You said Aaron was with your parents," Jane reminded him.
Kim stuck her head out the kitchen door, "What are you talking about? Get in here with Shego and me."
"Sure. Hey, can I tell Jane to go over and play with Aaron? I need to talk."
"Did you hear Ron?" Kim asked the young redhead.
Jane nodded, "But I haven't had supper!"
Ron took out his phone as he walked into the kitchen, "I'll call my Mom, right now, and tell her to feed you. I saw some ice cream sandwiches in the freezer - you'd better run."
"Where are you taking Ronin?" his mother asked again.
"He's AWOL with Sheki. I'm going to wait here. I sent Jane over to play with Aaron - feed her when she gets there. And call me if Sheki brings him there, okay?"
"I think possession is nine points of the law."
"Fine. I'll call you. You call me when he gets there, I'm starting to worry."
"You always worry, remember? You're a Jewish mother."
"Oh… I hadn't thought of that. Do you know about Ronin? What's his religion?"
"I don't know. I'll let you grill him on that. I just want to talk with him tonight."
Ron hung up and sighed.
"Well, based on just your half of the conversation," Kim told him, "I have no idea in the world what's going on. What's this about a son and Ronin?"
"Ronin is my son."
Kim and Shego stared at him in disbelief. "You're kidding, right?" Kim finally asked.
"I wish I… No, I… I'm like totally lost here."
"Want me to arrange paternity testing?" Shego asked. "You should be certain."
"I'm certain enough. When Yori and I… She never told me."'
"And now you've got a bouncing hundred and seventy pound bundle of joy," Shego finished. "Hey, look at it this way. You got out of diapers, teething, the terrible twos, and puberty. Consider yourself damn lucky."
"That's not funny," Kim chided her.
"Laugh or cry, Princess, those are the choices. And looks like Ron wants to cry."
"I don't know what I want," Ron admitted.
"How about a drink?" Shego suggested. "That's the kind of news that calls for a double."
"Shego," Kim hissed, "getting drunk is not the answer."
"Didn't say getting drunk, but a tall stiff one might take the edge off the conversation."
"I don't want liquor on my breath when I talk with him. I want to seem like a parent."
"Turning over a new leaf?" Shego teased.
"Don't stop her, KP. At least someone's getting a chuckle out of this. I don't know what to do."
"I thought you said you were taking me home," Ronin asked as they parked at a secluded spot overlooking Lake Middleton.
"I will. I wanted to… talk to you for a few minutes. Do you mind? Do you want me to take you home?"
"As if I know where home is," he said softly.
"Don't say that… Look, a couple days ago... What happened at the hospital? You yelled at me. I really got… I mean, I… What was going on? I didn't deserve that! I just wanted to ask about Hana."
He hesitated, wondering how much truth he should tell her, afraid of what she might think. Finally, he took a deep breath and began. "You are too much of a distraction to me."
"Grandma told me you said that. I annoy you?"
"Not at all. Exactly the opposite. To maintain my link with Hana required concentration. I can't focus when you're present. I begin thinking of you, your perfume, your voice... You are too much in my mind for-"
"You weren't mad at me?"
"I could never be angry with you."
She smiled, "Really?"
"It hurt me when you yelled at me like that."
"Forgive me. I needed to think about Hana right then and not…"
"Needed to not think about what?"
He blushed, "You."
She leaned back in the car seat and smiled. "It's so nice to hear someone say that. Kasy's always the one guys want. She's always the pretty one. I'm the smart one. And-"
"But you are very pretty."
"And Kasy's smart. I'm just saying that's how people see us. She always had guys, and girls, asking her out. I… What are your plans?"
"I plan to stay in the US for a year to meet my family. Then I hope to go to medical school."
"Don't you, like, need regular college before medical school?"
"Here in the US, but not everywhere. There are other schools."
"You could get a Bachelors in the US and apply to medical schools here."
"Costs are cheaper in other countries too."
"The Stoppables would-"
"You shouldn't speak for others. They don't know me."
"They're going to love you."
"I hope so. Is your Eemah still putting pressure on you to go to law school?"
"Oh yeah, big time. I don't know what I want to do. Seems like everyone but me knows what he or she wants to do."
They talked about their plans and hopes and paid not attention to the time as the sun set. They moved closer together when a cool breeze came off the lake. She congratulated him when he told her how much better things were going with his family in Japan. A few minutes later Sheki laughed as he finished a story about a practical joke played on a new student at Yamanouchi and she impulsively turned and gave him a kiss.
The kiss was spontaneous and ended quickly. They were both slightly embarrassed by it, and slightly excited.
She blushed and moved her face back a few inches, "Sorry," she stammered. "I didn't…"
He was blushing also. "That's okay, I-"
She kissed him again before he could finish whatever he meant to say. It was longer this time, with a little promise and tentative passion. The kiss ended too soon for both of them. "I had to say thank you, for saving Hana," she explained breathlessly.
He managed to say, "You're welcome."
"Okay, where in the hell are they?" Ron demanded as he finished the fourth call from his mother since arriving at Kim's. "What is Sheki doing with my son?"
"Hey, don't put it like that," Shego retorted. "What is your son doing with her?"
"Sheki probably forgot her phone," Kim offered diplomatically. "They've known each other for years. She probably took him out to eat or something and they lost track of time. Maybe they don't realize how much everyone wants to know Ronin better."
"At least it's not Kasy," Shego grunted. "She'd probably be getting to know him better all by herself, wink, wink."
"Shego! Kim protested, "how can you say that about your own daughter?"
"You wanta argue with that?"
Kim changed the subject. "Sheki is the responsible one," she reminded Ron. "Everyone is fine. They're just talking somewhere."
"And keeping their clothes on," Shego added.
"I say we ground them both," Ron suggested. "Can I ground him? I expected a few more years before I had to face having a teenager."
Shego thought for a minute, "Interesting question… Legally I'm not sure what kind of responsibility you have. And he's old enough he doesn't have to listen to you if he doesn't want to."
"I don't care what's legal," Ron groaned, "I just want to do what's right."
Kim put a hand on his back and rubbed gently. "Of course you do. Shego is just teasing you."
"She's right. Sorry, Sport," Shego admitted. "I'm stressed and worried too. This isn't like Sheki. She always calls. I'm sure they're just talking somewhere and everything is fine."
Sheki and Ronin were both feeling fine. But for the last half hour the intervals between talking had grown longer, and the intervals of talking shorter.
As she listened to him talk about Hana's recovery Sheki took a deep breath and wondered if she had the nerve for the idea that went through her mind. "I don't know if thanks are enough for saving Hana," she smiled, "I think you need a reward," and kissed him again.
He was clearly startled when her fingers fumbled with his belt. He tried to pull away and she ended the kiss. "What are you doing?" he gasped.
"Something my mom once did for your dad… It's called a hand job."
"My father? Your mom? How do you know that?"
Sheki sighed and leaned back in the driver's seat. "Mom and Eemah demanded a really serious talk with Kasy a couple years ago. She said no. They said she didn't have a choice. She said she'd tell the truth if they told the truth about themselves. They called her bluff. Eemah said something about flashlight of truth, whatever that means, and they made me listen. I think I was supposed to get some lesson out of it too, but all I got was embarrassed."
"Sorry, I startled you… I just… Well, I mean, saving Hana, I… Never mind."
"Can I touch you?"
"No! I, look, I've never done this before. You can tell me no, or you can just lean back and relax. Trust me, I'm nervous enough for both of us."
Ron called his mother, "Did Sheki bring him over there and you're keeping him for yourself?"
"No, Dear, we haven't heard from them. Do you think they were in an accident? Sheki's always been so responsible. Maybe the car broke down?"
"I just want to know they're safe."
"So do I. Oh, your father will drive Jane home in fifteen minutes. Bedtime for Aaron and Becky."
"Am I doing this right?" Sheki asked. "I told you I've never done this before. I'm not hurting you, am I?"
"I think you're wonderful," he murmured.
"Thanks," she giggled and kissed him on the cheek. "It's not like I could ask Kasy for instructions… Well, maybe I could have, but Kasy-"
"No Kasy," he moaned softly. "You're wonderful."
"Well, I'm having a vodka-and-tonic," Shego announced, "the stress is starting to get to me. Changed your mind, Ron?"
"Yeah, I think I need one. Don't make mine as strong as you make yours."
"Drinking won't get them home sooner or stop them from having an accident."
"No, but it might relax me enough that I don't do serious physical damage. I'm more upset now than when she backed into my Porsche."
"I think I'll get myself a cranberry juice and seltzer."
"I'm sorry," Sheki apologized as she frantically ransacked the back seat of the car, "there's usually a box of tissues in the glove compartment. I don't know what happened."
"I'm not complaining… Napkin from a drive-thru? Anything?"
"I cleaned it out this afternoon before I went to the hospital. Kasy always has so much junk in the car… Nothing."
"Uh, maybe we ought to head back. Your mothers are probably worried."
"The time! We need to get home." Sheki quickly got behind the wheel, then hesitated. "Um, can I wipe my hands on your shirt? I don't want to touch the wheel like, uh, this."
"That's okay. It's definitely going in the laundry."
"I'll wash it tomorrow," she promised. "No way I'm going to let Mom or Eemah catch that in the laundry hamper."
The lights were on in the kitchen when they pulled in at Possible Manor.
Shego went to the window and looked out when she heard the noise in the driveway. "It's them," she told Ron and Kim.
"You said there's an apartment over the garage?" Ronin asked. "We could wash there."
"If I had a key on me. I wasn't thinking."
"Since they are in the kitchen, do you want me to go in the back door? I'll distract them while you can go in the front."
"Thanks for the offer. It's a little too dark to tell, but it might be safer if I faced them and you ran upstairs and changed.
"Are there other doors?"
"Sunroom, but I don't carry a key for that. Kasy used to have a couple windows she left unlocked to sneak in and out. I think Eemah nailed them shut."
Before they could come up with any alternative plans a shout came from the house, "All right, you two, get up here. And you'd better have a good story for not calling."
"Forgot my phone," Sheki yelled as they slowly walked to the house. "Lost track of time until nature called. How about you grill us after we answer the calls."
"Both of you at the same time? That's quite a coincidence."
They were getting close to the house, "Yeah, isn't it. Ronin needs it worse, you can hold me hostage 'til he gets back." Before opening the door she whispered to Ronin, "Stay behind me."
Kim, Shego, and Ron stood in a semi-circle around the door, waiting for the pair.
"Probably a real bad time to ask if Ronin can stay in the apartment over the garage," Sheki thought. Ronin let her serve as a shield from parental eyes.
"Why didn't you call?" Shego demanded.
"Misplaced my cell phone. I think I remember where I left it in my room."
"And you couldn't find a phone to borrow?" Kim scolded.
"We lost track of the time," Ronin said. "It was my fault. I asked so many questions."
"I was going to take you out for dinner," Ron interrupted, "have you eaten?"
"Which is it?" Shego asked.
"I, uh, asked to take him out for dinner," Sheki explained as she carefully maneuvered herself between the three adults and the back stairs. "But then we got talking, right Ronin?"
He was gone. While he was not among the better students at Yamanouchi he recognized he had been granted an opening for a strategic retreat and taken it. Sheki breathed a sigh of relief.
"Hope Kim didn't see that," Shego thought, "Sheki will be grounded forever."
"Hope Shego didn't see that," Kim thought, "Ronin needs to meet Ron, not get the third degree."
Ron took out his cell phone to let his parents know the lost were found.
"There are leftovers in the fridge," Kim told Sheki. "Why don't you wash your hands and eat something?"
"Use soap." Shego suggested.
"I am so busted."