Special thanks to campy, JPMod, surforst, and MrDrP for their reviews of the final chapter of "Shiloh."
Additional special thanks to vanillalilies and Brother to Vorlons for their reviews of "Second Date."
Thanks to all everyone for reading!
"the forms of earth correspond to the forms of heaven; the blotches of the skin are a map of the incorruptible constellations" – Jorge Luis Borges
I. Thursday, April 28th 3:35 p.m.
"So … what you're telling me is that you joined the Middleton Cheer Squad two years ago so you could ogle me in this uniform?"
Kim Possible, her arms folded, her right eyebrow fully arched, glared intensely at her boyfriend Ron Stoppable. She had managed to get him to sheepishly admit that he liked, had always liked, make that always intensely liked looking at her in her cheer uniform.
However, one couldn't tell that now since his gaze was aimed everywhere but at his girlfriend in the aforementioned outfit.
"Umm, well … KP … it … uh, geeze," Ron stammered.
"I'm waiting," Kim huffed, not taking her eyes from her ferociously busted boyfriend. She didn't even blink.
"Rufus!" Ron finally screamed, searching his pockets frantically for his erstwhile bald pet.
"He isn't here, Ron," Kim said coolly.
"I know! Oh no! Where can he be?" Ron wailed.
"At home, Ron. Your mom had to take him to the vet this morning for a checkup, remember?"
"Ohhhhhhhh, yeah. Heh-heh." Ron smiled. His poor stratagem to change the subject had been an utter failure.
"Spill." Kim said evenly yet sternly.
Kim actually wasn't THAT upset. She thought it was kinda cute if Ron had, in fact, decided to join the squad during their sophomore year because he was crushing on her rather than for his stated reason at the time: "Hey! I'm upbeat!" The idea that he had been holding a torch for her even back then gave her a pleasant sensation of embarrassment intertwined with warmth. But why wouldn't he admit it now? Surely, this confession could not be as difficult as admitting he liked looking at her in the uniform to begin with. Unless … there's something else …
"KP," Ron sighed, "that's actually not the reason … exactly."
"Oh," Kim blinked and dropped her arms to her sides. Uh-oh, something's wrong here …
"I joined the cheer squad partially because I'm upbeat," Ron began.
"And?" Kim asked uneasily.
"And," Ron's voice sounded hollow and defeated, "because I wanted to ogle Bonnie, Tara, Hope, and the other girls."
II. Friday, April 29th 8:25 p.m.
Kim switched off all the lights in her bedroom. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she noted the outline of her computer desk and bookcases. Within a few moments she was able to clearly distinguish the outlines of the various cheer trophies that lined the top shelves of the bookcases. She slapped her forehead as she realized she still hadn't taken the bra off her sophomore year trophy. How long had in been up there, weeks? Well, to her knowledge only her mother and Ron had been in her room during that time. But she had to remember to take it down tonight after they were finished. If Dad saw that ...
A thump from downstairs startled her back into the sitch at hand. She thought how odd it was that a sudden noise could make silence seem all the more intense after the noise faded. She focused her attention on the eerie glow emanating from the space in her floor where her loft hatch lay open.
She had to admit she was a spooked. A little. The bluish-green cast to the light coming from downstairs was most definitely spooky. Not goose-pimply spooky, but spooky nonetheless. She sat on the edge of her bed waiting for the digital alarm clock to flash eight-thirty. Three more minutes.
She had no idea how long she had been nervously drumming her fingers on her bare right knee, but she was more than a little annoyed when she discovered she was doing it. Then a chill ran through her. Is it getting colder in here?
This situation was so strange. Sitting in the dark, dressed in her cheer outfit waiting for the time to begin. She'd have to somehow make it outside (without using her bedroom window) before he could catch her. It was so not going to be easy. She knew he could simply wait at the foot of her ladder for her to come out - but, no, that would be too easy.
As the clock changed (struck?) eight-thirty, she took a big breath and walked gingerly to the hatch opening. Her eyes were well adjusted to the darkness by this time. It was almost as good as with the lights on … almost. As she inched down the ladder as silently as possible, Kim thought she heard … music.
"Ronald Dean Stoppable," she muttered as quietly as she could, "you are so going to get it!"
Kim was a ball of conflicting emotions. All at once she was pleased because this particular piece of music would certainly amp the "spooky factor," miffed because Ron hadn't told her he was going to do this, and finally somewhat disturbed because the music added a sinister quality to the darkness that was reminiscent of the worst nightmare she had ever had.
III. Saturday, April 16th 10:01 a.m.
Ron and the tweebs had worn themselves out horsing around ten minutes ago, and all three had collapsed in front of the big-screen TV in the Possibles' den to watch cartoons. So far, it was the same routine as every Saturday morning at Kim's place. Except no Kim. She was still upstairs.
When Ron arrived at his usual Saturday morning Possible home check-in time of nine-thirty, he had been met at the door by a somewhat distracted Anne Possible who informed him, with a bemused smile, that Kim was still getting ready and would be down to see him in a few minutes.
Now a half hour later, Ron found himself asking the same questions that had struck him when Mrs. Dr. P had first uttered her strange announcement. Still getting ready? For what?
It was their first Saturday morning after the prom.
Actually, it wasn't.
It was the next Saturday, the week after the prom. However, it might as well have been Kim and Ron's first Saturday after the prom since they had missed the previous one.
Technically, Kim and Ron had arrived at the dance Saturday morning, around one to be exact, after having defeated Drakken, Shego, and the Diablos, but they still considered it Friday night, even when it blended into the next morning and that blended into the next afternoon and evening. They were together from the moment they rocketed away from Bueno Nacho HQ until they finally passed out, still dressed for the prom, in each others arms on the Possibles' couch the following evening. They were both somewhat shocked when Anne gently woke them the next day and informed them that it was three o'clock on Sunday afternoon. Where had Saturday gone?
To say they both felt cheated by "losing" a day would not be completely accurate. The blissful hours of their new love had been more than worth the price of cutting their weekend short. The time had been wonderful, perfect, everything each had ever wanted … and they had only held hands and kissed. Still, the time had flown by quicker than they would have liked. Now it was the next Saturday, the first normal Saturday, and the big unspoken question for each of them was what "normal" might mean now that they were a couple.
IV. Saturday, April 16th 9:11 a.m.
Kim woke up at her usual Saturday time. Since she killed the alarm clock on the weekends, she had to rely on her internal clock to wake up. Over the past ten years, it had adjusted to allow her just enough time to do the bare essentials before Ron arrived. These "bare essentials" were far fewer in number than what she did to prepare for school on a weekday morning. One of the things normally cut out was a shower. She would usually find herself stepping into the tub around noon after Ron and she had been hanging out for a good two hours or so. Some Saturday mornings she didn't even bother combing her hair. Unless the person that greeted her in the mirror was sporting a hairstyle similar to one worn by a citizen of Whoville in that Grinch movie, Kim would wander down to the living room in her night sweats to hang with Ron. Brushing her teeth was the only "beauty enhancement" she'd complete beforehand.
However, this morning as she rolled out from beneath her comforter, Kim was in the grip of a wild sense of anxiety. The source of this anxiety was the fact that Ron, her boyfriend Ron, was going to be knocking on the door within the next ten minutes or so.
Anne Possible was not used to her daughter frantically yelling at any time, let alone on a lazy Saturday morning, so she hurried up her daughter's ladder to see what could be the matter.
She discovered her eldest child streaking, in practically every sense of the word, from her closet to the bathroom and back again. Dressed in only her underwear and a bra Kim was alternately pulling at her hair with her right hand and tossing random articles of clothing across the room with her left. Anne noticed that one of Kimberly's bras was hanging from the trophy for the regional cheer championship she helped Middleton win in her sophomore year; the first year Ron had been the Mad Dog.
"Kim, what exactly is going on?" Anne asked in the most hushed voice she could manage under the circumstances. "What if your brothers or your father were to have walked in? And Ron is going to be here any minute!"
Kim shot her mother a look that was part frenzied terror and part utter exasperation. "Don't you think I know that, Mom! Ron could already be in the drive, and I have nothing to wear!"
The instant she spoke the words, Kim became momentarily compelled to check the driveway from her window. Fortunately, her mother just as instantly read her daughter's thoughts and, thankfully, beat her to the window, deftly shutting the blinds. "What do you think you're doing, young lady? You can't go near an open window half dressed! Public nudity was cute when you were three, but someone is liable to call the police if you appear half naked when you're seventeen!"
Only half listening to her mother, Kim muttered frantically, "You're right. You're right. What am I thinking? What am I going to do?"
"You're going to calm down and tell me what this is all about for starters." Anne said sternly.
The look of exasperation of her daughter's face was now complete. "Mom, Ron is going to be here any minute."
"Yes," Anne said calmly. "Just like he's been coming over every Saturday morning for the past decade. Why is it such an emergency today?"
"It's different now, Mom," Kim managed, her eyes still darting about her room for something to wear.
"Why," Anne asked with an arched eyebrow. "Because before he was 'just a friend' and now he is your 'boyfriend.'"
"Well, doi!" Kim snapped, a little harsher than she had intended. "Sorry, Mom, but, yes, of course!"
Anne frowned and spoke slowly. "So before he was Ron, and today he is Ron." She emphasized the second "Ron" ever so slightly.
"Exactly!" Kim stated. "Could you help pull some things together for me and stall him while I'm in the shower? Something really nice?"
Anne Possible had not seen her daughter this frenzied in a long time. Scratch that, she had never seen Kim this frenzied before; the only time that came close was several summers ago when Ron came back from Camp Wannaweep. Kim had been a bundle of nerves waiting for Ron to come visit her that first day back. Of course, once he walked through the door, Kim was completely calm and gave no hint as to how agitated she had been mere moments before. But even that tornado of frenzy had been mild by comparison. Ranked among the top five brain surgeons in the world, Anne Possible's professional opinion was that her daughter was acting ... well ... nutty.
She looked into her daughter's eyes and realized Kim was far too gone at that moment to hear out any argument to convince her of the needlessness of her concerns. Anne thought it best to lay back and wait for another "intervention" opportunity.
"I suppose." Anne sighed.
"Please and thank you." Kim managed a smile as she rushed into the bathroom and hurriedly turned on the shower.
V. Saturday, April 16th 10:16 a.m.
Watching cartoons with the tweebs, Ron was confused. Actually, more than confused, he was starting to get concerned about Kim's delay. What was keeping her? Things had been going wonderfully during their first week as a couple, and their first official date the night before had been great.
At least he had thought so at the time.
But maybe he was wrong.
Maybe, his love for Kim had blinded him to the fact that it had actually been a disaster; after all, he had knocked over an entire dinner cart during their first dance. At the time of the accident, Kim had given every indication that she was only concerned if he had been hurt, but maybe, just maybe, she had only been being nice.
Maybe that misstep and other things he hadn't notice because he was such a loser had convinced Kim that he wasn't quite what she was looking for in a boyfriend. That was why she wasn't coming down. She was trying to find the right words to tell him so. She was preparing a "break-up" speech right this minute.
"Oh man," Ron breathed and sunk into the couch, wanting to disappear from the world.
"What's up, Ron?" Tim asked, looking up from what used to be a toy rocket he was tinkering with absently.
"Nothing." Ron answered in a defeated voice.
"Doesn't sound like nothing," Jim said without looking away from the TV screen.
When Ron didn't answer, both twins turned to each other and then stared at their de facto big brother. He looked like he was going to cry. That wasn't too unusual a sight for Jim and Tim. Whenever they beat Ron at Zombie Mayhem, he always, however briefly, got that look in his eye. Now, however, it looked like it was there to stay and that he might actually start to cry. He hadn't done that in front of them for weeks, maybe months. And, to the best of their knowledge, they hadn't even done anything!
VI. Saturday, April 16th 9:35 a.m.
Although a soothing hot shower had always calmed Kim down whenever she was amped about anything, her shower this morning wasn't soothing, and it certainly was not hot.
As soon as she stepped in, she realized she was out of both soap and shampoo. She leapt from the tub and started to frantically search the cabinets for what she needed. Once she found it, she had an obnoxiously hard time opening the new bar of soap-for some reason he fingers didn't seem to be behaving properly. When she got back in to the shower, she realized she had forgotten the shampoo. She got back out again, dug through the cabinet under the sink and yelled for her mother to see if she could borrow some of her shampoo. Fortunately, her mother was still in her bedroom to take her request, and, fortunately, the shampoo her mother used didn't have a strong scent that would overwhelm and intermix with the strawberry fragrance of Kim's conditioner. Unfortunately, Kim had been so random and rushed (or feeling rushed at least) that she had failed to turn off the water on her two extended excursions. By the time she was back in the shower with everything she needed, the water was lukewarm.
It got flat-out cold by the time she started to lather her right leg. She had shaved her legs on Thursday morning, so she wouldn't have considered shaving them again so soon, especially not on a normal Saturday. But today most definitely was not a "normal Saturday," and she wanted to be perfect for Ron. Besides, the dress her mother had offered through the bathroom door when she handed Kim the shampoo displayed enough leg to make Kim feel shaving was going to be a necessity. However, cold water and jangled nerves did not bode well for the shaving process.
After shaving her right leg, Kim began to lather her left.
Absently, Kim had dragged the razor across the top of her right knee. The cut wasn't deep, but it was bleeding … a lot. Kim was mortified. She had never cut herself shaving before. The pain-there was a mild sting that radiated from her knee for the first few minutes-was nothing compared to the embarrassment she felt.
She had wanted to look perfect for Ron, and now she would be sporting an ugly scar for at least the next few weeks. With more care, she shaved her left leg and stood stewing in the chilling stream of water waiting for her knee to stop bleeding.
VII. Thursday, April 28th 3:58 p.m.
As he walked from the gym to the locker rooms, Ron got the impression that someone had called him. He paused, but then continued on. He didn't see anyone and the voice he "heard" had been so low that he could have easily imagined it.
"Ron." The voice repeated, this time a little louder.
"Yeah?" Ron spun around. He didn't recognize the voice and, again, he didn't see anyone. Suddenly, he heard footsteps behind him. When he spun around again, he nearly knocked Bonnie over.
"Hey, watch it you los-jerk," she snapped in her normal voice.
"Whoa, sorry!" Ron said raising his hands, "I didn't see you. You startled me."
"Sorry," Bonnie said, quietly. She looked sad.
"What's wrong, Bonnie," Ron immediately sensed that Bonnie was not feeling good. For one thing, she was being nice to him.
"I-I want to apologize to you."
"You just did," Ron said, "you just startled me, Bon-Bon, no problemo."
"Not that," Bonnie said, the normal edge returning to her voice for a moment. "I want to say I'm sorry about something important."
"What?" Ron really didn't know what else to say. The whole situation was strange, but his weirdar was not going off. That's what made it so strange; he instinctively knew Bonnie was being honest. She wasn't trying to play him.
"Everyone knows I don't like Kim," Bonnie began, "but that's not the same as not respecting her. I do respect her. I don't fully understand why she does this whole save-the-world-thing, and I certainly don't agree with where she wants to take the cheer squad, but I don't take her lightly either. She definitely has … ugh … skills and abilities."
"Bonnie, I'm glad to hear you feel that way," Ron was totally confused, "but shouldn't you tell Kim that? I mean I guess I could tell her but-"
"Please, don't interrupt," Bonnie snapped, "this is really difficult for me to say and I want to get it over with."
"Sorry," she breathed again in her small voice, a voice that reminded Ron of a little girl. A little girl he had once known back in elementary school; one that had once split a tuna salad sandwich on toasted rye with him in third grade.
"Anyway," Bonnie continued, "I've never EVER seen Kim cry. Not once. And I have seen her take some pretty bad spills during practice and competitions, and she has never shed a single tear. Until today ... just now."
Ron was going to say something, but Bonnie raised her hand to indicate she wasn't finished.
"When I came over to snark on you two just now and saw her tears," she smiled a little and looked away, "I knew they were from ... happiness."
"I …" Ron began.
"No, don't tell me, Ron." Bonnie continued looking at her feet, "I don't want to know what you said or what you did."
They were both silent for a minute. Ron kept staring at Bonnie, but she refused to look up at him. Finally she broke the silence.
"All I know is," she began hesitantly, "if you can do something like that for someone who is normally so …" she looked for the right word and reluctantly said the only one she could come up with, "strong, then you must be somebody pretty special."
"Bonnie?" Ron began.
"What I am trying to say is that although I don't agree with Kim on anything, she is right about one thing: you are not a loser, Ron Stoppable."
Ron was thunderstruck.
She raised her head and looked him dead in the eyes, "I'm sorry, Ron." Then she quickly waked past him towards the lockers rooms.
He was so taken aback by the entire conversation (if it could be called one) that he didn't have the wherewithal to say or do anything to stop her from leaving.
He could never be sure, but at the time, Ron thought he heard Bonnie start to sniffle as she quickly made her way to the girls' locker room.
VII. Saturday, April 16th 10:20 a.m.
"Mr. Dr. P," Ron asked, sticking his head into the breakfast nook of the Possible kitchen, "do you know where Mrs. Dr. P is?"
Not looking up from his paper, James Possible replied, "I'm not sure, Ronald. She might be upstairs with Kimmie."
"Is there something I could help you with?" James asked still reading his paper.
"Well, uh," Ron had never considered asking Kim's father for advice when it came to Kim.
Although he really liked Kim's father, Ron had never been especially close to him, at least not to the extent he felt close to Kim's mom. True, they had spent "time inside" together when they had been briefly captured by Drakken's men the previous summer in Montana. Still, Ron couldn't shake the memory of Mr. Dr. P not-so-subtly threatening him with a one-way trip into a black hole the evening of Middleton Days if he didn't keep Kim happy. Strange, he had not sensed any menacing vibes from the older man in the past week when Kim and he became a couple for real. Maybe asking him for advice wasn't such a bad idea.
"Yeah, Mr. Dr. P, I was wondering if I could ask you something." Ron stammered.
James Possible put down his paper and looked in the younger man's eyes. "Sure, what's up?" Ron felt a warmth from Kim's father's eyes that he had not noticed before.
Ron took a deep breath, steadied his tapping foot, and … chickened out, "Could I have some cheese for Rufus?"
"Oh course, Ronald," James smiled, "there's Cana de cabra in the crisper like always."
"Th-thanks," Ron trudged to the fridge, his head slightly bent. He opened the door and waited for Rufus to leap out of his pocket for his more-or-less traditional mid-morning snack. But he didn't leap out. Ron searched his pocket and gently lifted out the sleeping pink bundle of hairless rodent flesh that was Rufus.
Ronald remembered Rufus being fairly active when he arrived and goofing around with the tweebs, but he did half-recall Rufus snuggling into his pocket while he was moping about Kim on the couch.
I hope the little guy's just tired.
"Ronald?" James Possible asked from the table.
"Yeah, Mr. Dr. P," Ron answered still distracted by Rufus' inexplicable nap.
"Are you sure you didn't want to ask me something about Kimmie?"
"Is everything all right between you two?"
Ron didn't know whether he should duck or run, so he just stood there caught in the headlights. However, before he could even begin to play out the black hole scenarios in his head, he noticed that James Possible's headlights were really not that harsh. In fact, they still had the warmth Ron had noticed a moment before.
Ron placed Rufus back in his pocket, gave his pet a light pat for luck, and took the plunge. "Mr. Dr. P, remember when you said you wanted KP to be happy?"
Ron wasn't sure if Mr. Dr. P's tone changed or if he had answered Ron's question with an ominous inflection or not, but Ron felt he had to continue with his question, no matter what. "Well, what if I am not making her happy?"
Although he probably wasn't aware he was doing it, James Possible shifted in his chair slightly at this question. Ron, on the other hand, most definitely was aware of this nuance.
"No, NO! I don't mean that I'm making her unhappy," he threw up his hands defensively and backed away from James Possible's still seated form, "well, maybe I am, I sure hope not but I am NOT trying to hurt her, I would never hurt KP-"
"Ronald, calm down." James Possible gestured for Ron to take a seat across from him.
"O-okay." Ron patted Rufus again as he inched warily toward the table and his girlfriend's father.
"I know you wouldn't hurt Kimmie, Ron."
"Certainly. You've been looking out for her since you were both four. Of course," James chuckled, "you could say she's the one who's been doing most of the leg work protection-wise for most of that time."
"Yeah." Ron smiled feeling a little bit more at ease. "But, what about … uh?"
"The deep space probe?" James smiled.
"Y-y-yes, that." Ron said, suddenly very uneasy.
James sighed. "I really regret saying that to you, Ronald. Of the two young men who have taken Kimmie out on dates, I can't believe that I decided to give you the mad-rocket-scientist lecture."
Ron was quietly pleased that Kim's father had either forgotten or consciously decided against counting that thing Erik among the boys who had asked Kim out on a date. Or maybe he isn't counting Monkey Boy?
"I've always been protective of my Kimmie-cub, but you definitely did not deserve that. And I realized my mistake later that night when Kim told me what happened. That darn emotion chip, Drew's appearance at the festival, and, most importantly, that you had broken up with her."
As good as he was starting to feel about how this conversation was going with Kim's father, Ron visibly winced at the words "broken up with her." His reaction did not go unnoticed by James, but the older man let it pass for the moment.
"As if twelve years of friendship was not enough proof for me, the fact you would end a romantic relationship with her because you knew it didn't feel right speaks volumes for your character and how you feel about her as a person."
Ron smiled at the older man. He didn't know what to say, but knowing that Kim's dad realized how much he truly cared about her felt very, very good.
"It's funny when you think about it," James continued with a smile, "it took breaking up with Kim to show me that you'd never hurt her."
When Ron winced this time, James placed his hand gently on Ron's arm. "Why would you think she wants to break up with you, Ron? That's the problem, right? I can't think of any reason why she would, son. She loves you."
Ron was immediately struck by three things after Dr. James Timothy Possible uttered the final two sentences. One, the warmth he had noted in the older man's eyes had grown to a sympathetic glow. Two, Kim's dad had never called him "son" before. And three, although he hoped Kim loved him, she had yet to give words to this feeling and Ron realized how oddly wonderful it was for the first person to confirm that Kimberly Anne Possible loved him would be the same person who threatened to send him into a black hole.
Make that four things struck Ron.
A second after James' words had begun to sink into Ron's worried heart, he was smacked in the side of his head by one of the tweebs' experimental rockets.
VIII. Saturday, April 16th 10:15 a.m.
Kim came out of the bathroom, frantically toweling her hair. She had no idea how long she had kept Ron waiting, but it seemed like she had been up for at least an hour. She hoped the tweebs had been able to keep him occupied.
Kim's eyes shot up to find her mother sitting on the corner of her bed with a very resolute look on her face. The dress her mother had shown her earlier was laid out on her right, and Kim knew that she wouldn't be allowed to put it on until her mother got some straight answers.
"Spill?" Kim asked.
"Spill," Anne affirmed with a nod.
Kim sat down next to her mother with a heavy sigh. "I just want to be perfect for Ron."
"I understand that, Kim, but there's more isn't there."
Kim just nodded at her lap, but didn't volunteer anything.
"Did something go wrong last night?" Anne asked.
"Not at all," Kim said brightly. "It was perfect. Well, not so perfect. I mean Ron did knock over a dinner tray during our first dance and some of the food kinda spilled across the dance floor and I think some woman may have been clocked with a French roll. But other than that, everything was great."
Anne bemusedly noted how her daughter's slight grin had broadened into a full smile as she gave the details of Ron's misstep. Not too long ago, Kim would have told a similar story with a roll of her eyes.
"So the accident didn't spoil anything?"
"No. Oh, you should have seen how Ron handled himself. This little baby at one of the tables near the dance floor started crying. I guess she got scared by the noise. And Ron just went up to her, made a couple of goofy faces and then the baby started to laugh. Like that," Kim snapped her fingers, "and the sitch was resolved."
"Good with kids," Anne nodded in approval, "I can definitely see that in Ron. Probably would make a good father too."
"Yeah," Kim nodded happily and then blushed profusely.
Ignoring her daughter's embarrassment, Anne made her point, "So if nothing was wrong with the date what is wrong?"
Kim went back to looking at her lap. When she turned her head, her towel got unbalanced and it uncoiled onto the bed and floor. She bent down and wrapped it around her head once more and sat back on the bed. In the few seconds it took her to perform this simple act, Kim had reached and crossed over her breaking point.
She started to cry.
To Be Continued …