Eternal gratitude goes out to MrDrP for his inspiration, advice, and beta-reading with this final chapter.
Special thanks to AtomicFire, MrDrP, campy, JPMod, conan98002, qtpie235, mattb3671, SassMasterGeneral, and surforst for their reviews.
Thanks to everyone for reading!
XVI. Saturday, April 16th 12:30 p.m.
Kim could not believe what Ron had just done to her in front of everyone.
Both their parents, at least one of the tweebs (who knew where Tim had snuck off to), not to mention the two CT techs assisting—they all saw him do it! Her cheeks were so flushed that she felt like she was running a fever. She had not felt this embarrassed for a very long time!
As she stared at the floor in a futile attempt to lessen her embarrassment by avoiding everyone's eyes, Kim found herself caught in the gaze of the two sets of eyes on her feet.
And she started to giggle. Possible, you are such an idiot!
Here she was embarrassed because Ron had given her a kiss in front of a roomful of people and yet she had been walking around a crowded, busy hospital for over two hours and never thought twice about how ridiculous she must look, dressed as she was.
First of all, there was this hideous dress. She had been so flustered that morning getting ready for Ron, so panicked when he got hurt and they had to rush him to the hospital, and so relieved once he woke up that she failed to realize until this moment how badly she had been played by her mother. The baby blue fairy princess dress that made her look like she was an eight-year-old posing as a twelve-year-old at a neighborhood Halloween party was the same dress her Nana had sewn for her this past Christmas. A dress she had cordially received on Christmas Eve but had sworn, aside to her mother, that she would never, ever, ever wear in public. All she was missing was the wand and the silver wig and she could sing "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" at any children's birthday party or Diz-nee-themed karaoke night.
One anxious tug at her hair told her it was a tangled mess. Since she had rushed to the hospital without fully drying (let alone combing through) her hair, it must look like an auburn rat's nest. Split-end city. She might even be sporting a handful of cowlicks that would put Ron's solitary one to shame. She so didn't want to look in a mirror. Unfortunately, there were so many shiny surfaces in this hospital; she knew there was very little chance of her making it out unscathed by her reflection.
Finally, there were her not-so-trend-forward slippers. OMG! I really am dressed like an eight-year-old! All I need is Pandaroo under my arm to make the picture complete!
All in all, Ron's kiss was the last thing she should have been embarrassed about. True, it had been a silly kiss, even a cornball kiss. But that was who Ron was, and she had better get used to it. As she felt the flutter in her chest overshadow and obscure the fading heat of her cheeks, Kim realized that she was getting used to it.
"Kimmie-cub," her father called. "Ron's about to go in."
Kim dropped her reverie and scooted across the room on the rubber soles of her Otter-fly slippers to the observation window to watch as Ron was slid into the CT machine. Just before his eyes were draped in shadow and disappeared into the machine, they reached out and made contact with hers. Her flutter intensified for the fractions of a moment that she held his gaze.
She beamed as she watched the rest of her cornball boyfriend disappear into the machine. She just knew that everything was going to be all right … with his test … with them … with everything.
Ron, on the other hand, was not so certain. In fact, as the darkness overwhelmed him, he was terrified. Terrified for Kim.
XVII. Saturday, April 16th 10:04 p.m.
As the last guitar notes faded, Ron immediately pressed the rewind button on his mother's tape deck. He had listened to the song and replayed it so often during the past week that he knew the exact amount of "Mississippis" it took before he could hit the play button and start the song over from the beginning (it was eight and one "Mississ").
Importantly, the ride between his house and Kim's didn't allow him to hear it two complete times, so, like the night before when he drove back from their first official date, Ron spent a few moments parked in his parent's driveway playing air guitar to the badical solo that closed out the song. As he learned the night before, playing air guitar in a car is so much more effective when the vehicle isn't in motion.
A hodgepodge of memories of his BFGF tumbled and flowed through his mind as the song played. What did he ever do to deserve being this lucky? Lucky enough to have Kim Possible, the Kim Possible, as his girlfriend. It was almost too good to be true. But there it was. Not only that, but Ron was pretty sure that Mr. Dr. P had been right that morning and that Kim did love him.
No, he was sure.
As the song faded out and he turned off the car, he suddenly realized that he did believe her father; he did believe Kim loved him. And, in a fraction of a second that was so slim that you couldn't slice it with a razor, he realized that the reason behind this realization of his was because it was true. Ron had never been a quick thinker, but this thought hit him like a crackle of lightning.
Not Booyah. Not Badical. Just … Wow.
That morning he had been so worried that he had done something goofy the night before to ruin everything. And, if last night hadn't been the relationship-killer, then there was always tonight, or tomorrow night, or next week, or next year. With each approaching second there was the chance he would screw everything up.
But that wasn't true. He knew that now.
That afternoon in the hospital right before they slid him into that space capsule so Mrs. Dr. P. could X-ray his brain, Ron had done something incredibly goofy to Kim. Her initial reaction had not been good.
Ron wasn't sure what he had been thinking, but it seemed like a sweet idea at the moment. As his stretcher was wheeled into the examination room, Kim, who had been holding his hand and walking by his side all the way from the ER (in fact, the only time they had been separated was for a brief five minute period when changed into a hospital gown), hopped up on a chair next to the stretcher once the nurse brought Ron to a rest. They exchanged smiles and Kim's mother started explaining the testing process to Ron or, to be more accurate, to Ron's parents. Elliot Stoppable had complete confidence in Anne Possible's abilities, but his wife was still overly anxious. As everyone patiently endured Barbara Stoppable's questions concerning radiation leakage and brain damage and the like, Ron found himself focusing more and more upon Kim's right knee.
Kim was sitting on one of those high swivel chairs that Ron noticed seemed to congregate in the labs, research institutes, and even mad scientist's lairs that he had visited in the course of Team Possible's many adventures. The height of his stretcher and the corresponding height of her chair aligned in just such a way that, lying down, Ron was eye level with Kim's knee.
He still had no idea what the reason was for the band-aid. When his mother had leaned over to see Kim's answer to his question back in the ER, Kim had turned the color of her hair and reflexively covered the pad with her hand. He wasn't sure if his mother had read anything, but she had said "Oh," and stepped away from Kim with a knowing smile.
Well, whatever had happened, Ron knew that it must be fairly serious. Kim wasn't really the band-aid-wearing type. That hadn't always been the case. When they were kids, she never gave such things a second thought. Up until sixth grade, some part of their bodies were constantly either bandaged or bundled in gauze. That ended once Kim got caught in Bonnie's beauty food chain or whatever. No more bandages and no more rough playing.
At the time Kim pronounced her moratorium on "rough housing," Ron's mother had tried to comfort him that Kim was becoming a "little lady" and had grown above such things. Ron knew then that wasn't true. Kim may have been a "little lady," but she was a rough-n-tumble little lady. The missions, of course, proved Ron correct. How Kim managed to fight freak biscuit every week and remain fairly un-bruised was a mystery Ron could not explain. However, that mystery begged the question of the band-aid all the more. What had happened?
She must have gotten really hurt.
Half-listening to her mother pacify Ron's mother, Kim was starting to feel just a little uncomfortable. For the past few minutes, Ron had been completely ignoring the winks, looks, and finally stares she had been shooting him. He seemed completely transfixed on her legs. Not that she minded the idea of her BFBF looking at her bare legs (she quite liked it, in fact), but they were in front of both of their parents, and, really, Ron had been staring at them for quite some time. It seemed so long in fact that part of her started to worry that he might have slipped back into unconsciousness.
Suddenly, at the very instant that Barbara Stoppable had been placated, that the machine had finished prepping and was ready for the patient, and that all eyes had focused back on him, Ron leaned over and gave Kim's knee a gentle, if exceedingly loud, kiss.
As soon as he looked up at her face, Ron knew he had screwed up. Her eyes were wide with shock and her face was redder than her hair. It was "brick red crayon" red.
"Eeep," he managed as Anne's assistant wheeled him into the room with the CT scanner. Anyone who heard his meek utterance would have assumed he was expressing fear of the machine he was about to inserted into; in reality, he was worried he had embarrassed Kim (dur hur) and that he had ruined his chances with her (so not).
Fortunately, there wasn't even time for this fear to build. A mere ten seconds later, he was in the scanner room and could see Kim observing him from the large window that separated the two rooms. Just one look in her eyes told him that even though he had screwed up, things were still fine.
They had been friends for over twelve years. He was a goofy guy, "never be normal" and all the rest of it. And that was cool with Kim.
She knew who he was.
She loved who he was.
She loves who I am.
For someone who used to cry over every little thing, Ron Stoppable was surprising clear-eyed at that moment sitting in his mother's car alone when he discovered that Kim Possible loved him in all his goofy, screwed-up essential Ronness.
After a few moments without saying a word when all he could hear was his breathing and the rapid beating of his heart, Ron cried out happily, "I gotta hear that song again!"
As he sang along with the song for the third time in ten minutes, Ron's sense of elation blossomed into inspiration.
"That would be so badical!"
Ron was in the habit of talking out loud to himself because he usually had Rufus with him, so, technically, he wasn't really talking to himself. However, with the still-under-the-weather naked mole rat curled up on Ron's pillow, Ron's exclamation struck Elliot Stoppable as rather odd as the latter looked out the living room's picture window to see why, after practically five minutes after killing the car's engine, his son had yet to come in the house.
Maybe Ron could serenade Kim with this song. Nah, he had already sung along with it while she was in the car. Hmm. Maybe he could learn to play the guitar so he could really perform it for her. That sounded pretty cool and although Ron had helped establish the Procrastinators' Club at school (they still had yet to hold their first meeting), he knew he could see something even that time consuming through to the end if he was doing it for Kim. The more he thought about it though (he was listening to the song yet another time now), that didn't seem right either. He wanted Kim to be a part of the experience. Was there someway they could perform it together?
"Next year's talent contest! Coolio!"
Elliot shook his head, smiled, and walked back to his computer desk. If it had been anyone other than his Ronald, he would have seriously been reconsidering Anne Possible's diagnosis from that afternoon.
The first talent show idea that popped into his head was having Kim sing the song. But, no, it really was a song meant for a guy to sing. Of course, she could change the lyrics, but "Cinnamon Boy" sounded so lame. Besides, Kim really was a much better singer than the guy on the original song—it was the music, not the lyrics, that made the song great. Hmm. Maybe she could dance—ya know, act out the song. No, that was a terrible idea. She wasn't some showpiece; Kim was more than just a super pretty girl, she was a take-charge, natural born leader.
Then it hit him—she could play lead guitar! The coolest part of the song was the badical solo at the end; why shouldn't she play it? The more he thought about it, the more Ron liked the idea. The song was about how fantastic a girl she was; why not end it with her wowing the crowd with biscuit-kicking-guitar-fu?
If anyone could master those solos in less than a year, Ron knew Kim Possible could.
"Yes! Double Naco Booyah!"
Ron was just about to rewind the song again when a tap on the window startled him. After the echoes of his scream had faded into the night, his father, standing outside the car door suggested that he could always play the song when got up to his room.
As he made his way up the stairs, the idea kept expanding. He could play the bass guitar since he was practically a bass guru thanks to the 'Naked Mole Rap' (How hard could it be?), and Rufus could play the drums. Wade could design some miniature drum kit for the little guy with the phat beats of a regular-sized one. And they could call themselves KP and The Ronshine Band! And, then, when the song sounds like it is going to end and then the guitar player plays this funky little rift that seems to go nowhere and everywhere at once, Kim could play that with the guitar behind her head!
The only detail that Ron's power of imagination was sketchy on concerned the clothes this band would be wearing. In his mind he strummed the bass in his normal school-day get-up, Rufus was naked of course, and Kim … well … she was in her cheer squad uniform.
Well, he liked when she wore it.
He threw open his bedroom door and flipped on the lights in one fluid motion. He was so amped! He couldn't wait to tell Rufus all about his idea and about his night with Kim.
His face fell and his spirits vanished when he caught sight of the little pale bundle lying on his pillow.
When he heard the pitiful squeak of greeting from the undeniably ill-if pleased-naked mole rat, Ron was as relieved as he was heartbroken.
Oh man, he looks so old.
XVIII. April 16th 1:45 p.m.
Dr. Anne Possible looked over the CT results one more time just to be certain the data confirmed her own diagnosis and that of her team. She exhaled slowly and shook her head. With resolve she opened the door and entered the waiting room where Ron, Kim, The Stoppables, and her husband were patiently (Elliot and James) or otherwise (Barbara, Kim, and Ron) awaiting her. She noted that Ron was sitting normally in a chair in his usual clothes with Kim and Barbara standing on either side of him.
She meet everyone's gaze, but the look on her face was inscrutable.
"Well," she began hesitantly, "I am not really sure the best way to say this."
Ron gulped. Not so much because Kim's mom seemed to radiate dread (she didn't); rather, the dread was radiating from either side of him as both Kim and his mother gripped an arm each as Mrs. Dr. P began to speak.
"However, after going over these results with my staff we are all in agreement."
Yeah … AND? Please don't do this, mom!
Anne sighed, "Elliot, Barbara …"
Oh come on, mom!
OWW! My arms!
"Your son is a cartoon character."
After two seconds when only the ticking of the room's clock could be heard, Elliot Stoppable gave a mild chuckle. His wife and son however only blinked in perplexity.
Anne smiled, "That is the only explanation. Everything about Ronald's brain is normal, and by all rights that shouldn't be. He should at least have a concussion, even a mild one—he took and massive shot to the head and was unconscious for almost an hour. But, no, this is probably the cleanest CT scan I have ever seen. It looks like the example scan for a normal brain in an anatomy textbook. I would attribute this to Ronald's good fortune, but this seems beyond mere good luck."
Kim and Ron breathed a shared sigh of relief and Kim laid her head upon Ron's shoulder. She still aimed a semi-cross look at her mother however. This was the second time today she had been played by her.
"So," Barbara began, still perplexed, "Ronald's going to be okay? He can go home?"
"Immediately," Anne asserted. "However, if he experiences ANY more 'ridiculous' headache pain, he should come directly back to the ER."
Five minutes later, Kim and Ron were slowly walking hand-in-hand down a hallway toward the hospital's main entrance.
"So what do you want to do with the rest of the day?" Kim asked.
"Well, KP, I hoping to take my bon-diggity girlfriend out on another date."
"I think she would like that very much. What do you have in mind?"
"Oh, I dunno, maybe something simple tonight."
"Fine by me. Believe me, I think I have had enough dressing up for a while, " she said gesturing with some disdain at her dress.
"Yeah, what's up with that, KP?"
"Oh—well, uh," Kim was so not ready to discuss this with Ron. Considering the great news they had just received about Ron's health, she really wanted to put all problems and ishes on the backburner for the rest of the day.
"Don't get me wrong, KP," Ron said quickly, "I really think you look beautiful right now."
"You do?" she asked in surprise.
"Of course!" Ron exclaimed. "You look like a fairy princess angel."
A bemused smile crept across Kim's lips as her cheeks reddened ever so slightly. "With Otter-fly slippers?"
"An angel fairy princess with Otter-fly slippers." He asserted.
Neither seemed to notice or mind that he had flip-flopped his words.
"You're too much, Ron." Kim gave him a one-armed hug.
"I still have a question, KP."
"Why the band-aid?" Ron immediately regretted his question as he felt his best friend girlfriend tense up.
"I," she began hesitantly, "I cut myself shaving."
"Why were you shaving, KP? I thought Saturday was your bumming around day. You usually don't even shower."
"I most certainly do!" Kim said somewhat offended. "I just usually wait until the afternoon."
"Don't get upset, Kim." Ron said calmly. "I didn't mean to dis you. It is more than cool with me. In fact, I like it when we can just chill out on the weekends."
"Really?" Kim asked a little sheepishly. She so did not mean to harsh on Ron. "I'm sorry, Ron. I guess I have been kinda amped about my appearance recently."
"Why, KP? Because we're a couple now?"
"Yeah, I guess so." Kim was looking away from Ron. She wasn't really sure how to broach the next topic. It was difficult enough discussing it with her mom earlier, but she also knew she couldn't keep it from Ron. "But there is more, Ron. Umm. Well, Ron, its just that I—OW!"
She had been so preoccupied with how to address her main concern with Ron that she had failed to see the empty stretcher that suddenly rolled into her path. Fortunately, the stretcher was only slightly in her path. Unfortunately, it was at the same height as her right knee.
"Oh man!" she said rubbing it.
"Are you okay, KP?"
"Yeah, it only stings a little, but it'll probably leave a bruise. Great! A scar AND a bruise. Terrific! I have been SUCH a klutz today."
"Are you sure, you're all right?" Ron asked with a funny look in his eye.
"Y-yeah," Kim asked, testing her weight on her knee. As she suspected, it was fine to walk on. "Why do you ask?" Her eyes had a look that wasn't much different from Ron's.
"N-no reason, KP," he smiled.
"You want to kiss it better, don't you?" she asked.
"Only if you want me to," he said with a nervous laugh.
"I do," she said without hesitation.
Ron stood there in slightly-shocked silence for about a second and a half. "Okay."
He happily dropped to one knee and began to bend over.
"No, wait, Ron." She rested her right Otter-flied foot on his bent left knee, so her knee was positioned right in front of his face.
He looked up at her and smiled.
"Go ahead. I'm waiting." She smiled back.
He bent down and gave Kim's knee a slight, gentle, graceful kiss.
"Feel better?" He asked with just the beginning of a blush in his cheeks.
"Yes, actually it does." She said with smile. She shook her head. "Cornball."
"But you like me anyway, don't you?"
"Yes. Yes, I do."
They had both noticed the nanosecond of deliberation on Ron's part when he mentally selected which "l" word to speak. And they both noticed that the other had noticed although they pretended they really hadn't. But they had.
XIX. April 17th 2:00 p.m.
As they walked through Middleton Park, Kim was sure that the events at the vet were still bothering Ron. Even though Rufus would be fine, their experience had been pretty traumatic.
The earliest the vet could see Rufus on a Sunday had been at one in the afternoon. They were the first to arrive, but just after they had signed in, a man burst into the office carrying a large German shepherd, saying that his dog had just been bitten by a rattlesnake. Instinctually, Ron and Kim took Rufus back out to the waiting room.
It seemed to take forever and normally Ron would have been whining about having to wait. Not this time. The howls they could hear coming from the back rooms kept everything in perspective. As bad as Rufus seemed, it most definitely could be worse.
"Would you like me to hold him, Ron?" Kim asked quietly.
"In a minute, KP."
As the minutes inched by, the howls were getting more shrill and pained. Kim so wanted to do something to help, but she knew that the dog was in the best possible hands and there was really nothing she could do. Every so often, Ron would lean down and whisper something soothing in Rufus' ear. Despite the little guy's weakened condition, Rufus looked up and made a sympathetic squeak after a particularly heartbreaking whine echoed from the back.
Then the cries suddenly stopped. Almost on reflex, Kim took Ron's free hand in both of hers and squeezed tightly.
With much effort, Rufus raised his head to look at his owner and then in the direction of the back of the office and then back to Ron.
Without knowing what else to say, Ron whispered, "Its okay, buddy, it'll be okay."
A minute later they saw the man who had brought the dog leave from the back quickly. His hands were empty. He looked like a fairly burly and tough guy, but Kim could tell he had been crying. He left without noticing them.
A nurse walked out from back and gestured to them. "You guys can come back now," she said quietly.
Ron took a deep breath, and Kim gave Ron a reassuring pat on the back and Rufus a reassuring smile.
"We've got your back, buddy," Ron said quietly. "We've got your back."
One hour later Rufus was cradled in Kim's arms sleeping peacefully as she and Ron walked home through Middleton Park. The smallest member of Team Possible had been suffering from a rare infection that only affected underground dwelling rodents from sub-Sahara Africa. Fortunately, the vet, Dr. Mondaugen, had connections with that part of the world and just happened to have the serum that could combat the sickness on hand. A shot of the serum and a second shot of nutrients meant to help get Rufus back on his feet as soon as possible, and the threesome were on their way home.
Mondaugen did warn Ron to bring back Rufus if he didn't seem better by that evening, and to not forget his pet's annual check-up which was a little less than two weeks away. Even if it hadn't been for Rufus' exploits with Team Possible, naked mole rats were very high-maintenance pets health-wise, especially when not living in their natural colony environment. In addition, the doctor told Ron not to be alarmed if the vitamin shot made Rufus sleep through the rest of the day.
"Oh, man! He slept all day yesterday too!" The immense relief Ron felt was enough to allow him to give voice to this characteristic whine. Kim certainly took it as a good sign that her boyfriend was finally felling better.
As they made their way silently through the park, Kim could see he was still bothered by what had happened with the dog. Spying a bench that looked out over the lake, Kim said, "Hey, let's sit a minute."
The bench not only overlooked the lake, it also gave a view of the Middleton Elementary playground on the opposite shore. After a few more minutes of silence, Kim said conversationally, "I remember when they put that playground equipment in."
"Yeah," Ron said half-heartedly.
"I remember you were so gung-ho to try it out." Here Kim couldn't help but let out a small laugh.
"What's so funny?"
"Well, Ron, we were in sixth grade at the time," Kim smiled.
"So? You were the only sixth grader on the teeter-totters, Ron. Two-second graders had to get on the other end for it to work. But the thing I remember most is you standing in line for the slide with the first and second graders. You were twice as tall as every other kid!"
"Okay, okay," Ron smiled, "you're right. Maybe I was a little more gung-ho than the rest of the guys in our class, but not really-maybe I was just the only one not afraid to show it …"
"I love you, Ron."
She hadn't intended on saying it then. Initially, she had just wanted to boost his spirits, but as the images of Ron-the-sixth-grader clambered over her memory, and she heard his voice boasting of his goofy deeds from so long ago, she found that she couldn't help herself.
"Wh-what did you just say?"
"I said that I love you, Ron," she smiled and then nibbled a corner of her bottom lip in a semi-nervous gesture that helped keep her from crying.
Ron, however, did not have an effective facial tick at hand to prevent him from crying. His eyes pulsed with feeling and quickly overflowed. "Kim … I love you so much. So much." He embraced her in his large arms, tightly but gently, and let his running tears flow into her shoulder.
She placed her free arm around his shoulder, kissed his ear and then softly whispered, "Remember this moment, Ron. Remember it forever."
XX. April 16th 12:32 p.m.
The darkness that enveloped Ron as he slid into the scanner made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. The sensation of urgency that radiated through his body was so overwhelming that he almost sat up and cried out. Fortunately, he was able to control this compulsion; otherwise, he would have banged his head against the top of the chamber when he sat up subsequently preventing him from crying out because he would have been knocked out cold for the second time in as many hours.
It wasn't that Ron was scared of entering the scanner. In fact, he thought it was kinda cool, like that scene in that old sci-fi movie when that guy in the funky green helmet goes into that floaty room to turn off that singing computer.
The problem was that the initial ridiculous darkness of the chamber reminded Ron of a dream he didn't realize he had forgotten.
The first thing that came back to him from the dream was the smell. He couldn't quite put his finger on what it was, but it was very, very familiar and pretty gorch-tacular to boot. He couldn't see anything and for the longest time in the dream he wasn't sure he was dreaming. But then there was the smell … and the sounds.
Someone sounded like they were pushing things—boxes, crates. Like someone was cleaning out his mom's garage with the lights burnt out. Then he heard her voice.
It was most definitely Kim. Although she wasn't saying anything, he could recognize her sighs anywhere.
He tried to call out to her, but he found he had no mouth. No body either. It was like he was floating somewhere off to the side—like watching it on TV from inside of the screen.
Suddenly, there was an eruption of green flame on the far right of the "room" or whatever it was. Even if the flash hadn't illuminated the figure's outline, he would have immediately known it was Shego. Everything went dark again and then there were two bursts of flame that streaked off to the left. He knew what was coming next.
Kim's collapsing figure was briefly illuminated in that same horrid green color before the darkness swallowed it. Only the darkness and that smell he couldn't place remained.
If it had just been a simple nightmare that would have been bad enough, but Ron knew that it was more. Much more. There was a message in this dream. And the message was that his sincere belief that when the chips were down that he could always do what it took to save Kim was wrong. Dead wrong.
The fact that Shego was the dream's monster was very important. He could handle all of Kim other foes. The Seniors? Monty, Killigan – no sweat. And her arch foe? Come on—after that scene on the roof of BN HQ, Drakken was probably petrified of him.
But Shego was another story. Kim had always handled Shego herself because she was so dangerous. So far Kim had never lost, but that streak couldn't last forever. Even if it didn't go down exactly like it did in the nightmare, it would happen eventually. And there would be nothing he could do. Nothing.
Ron was so depressed by this realization that he was practically inert. Which was a good thing because he was supposed to remain completely still during the scan.
How could he protect Kim? Anything was possible for a Possible, even being rescued by a Stoppable. But he couldn't kick Shego biscuit like Kim did. True, he did have mystical monkey power, but he couldn't always control it. It would take years of training with Sensie to get to any kind of competent level of control, and what if he didn't have that kind of time before he would need to save Kim? Besides, how badical could the power really be—it's number one fan was Monkey Boy. No, even if he could harvest that power it wouldn't be the solution. But what other power did he have?
Ruefully, he recalled his claim on the "power of imagination" back when they had helped Shego's brothers. Didn't do much good then.
Then it hit him. No, he couldn't defeat Shego, but maybe he could frighten her off. And the only person Shego had ever been afraid of had been him. Well, not 'him' him, but him nevertheless. Maybe the power of imagination would work after all.
No maybes about it. He was going to protect Kim no matter what. If Ron couldn't do it, Zorpox would.
"Booyah!" he exclaimed raising his arms as far as he could.
The pain he felt in his hands as they contacted with the walls of the chamber were somewhat overshadowed by the pain cause by his "booyah." The resulting echo his exclamation caused within the scanner seemed to reverberate through his bones. And it was ridiculously painful.
"Ron," Anne Possible's disembodied voice announced evenly, "I need you to remain completely still while I'm running the scan."
XXI. Thursday, April 28th 3:30 p.m.
Kim had been thrilled when Ron first brought up the idea of performing "Cinnamon Girl" together at next year's talent show. Although she didn't know all the lyrics, she had been humming the melody off and on ever since their second date. She was disappointed when Ron told her that he didn't think she should do the singing, but this was quickly overcome when he told her he thought she should play lead guitar on the song instead. Kim had never given much thought to playing a musical instrument, but now that she was thinking about it, it really intrigued her.
She could see Ron was right. Not only was the song not really a song for a female voice, but it would be "no big" for her to sing it. Actually, kinda boring—no challenge to it. Playing the guitar, on the other hand, would be a challenge, and she was so about challenges.
Mild doubts about Ron learning to play bass were pushed aside quickly. She knew he was sincere about giving it his all, and, besides, they would be learning to play together.
She also agreed with his assumption that Wade could probably fix something up so that a mole-rat-sized drum set could produce loud "phat beats."
She loved the band name he had come up with—so Ron.
Her only question had to do with what costumes they would be wearing.
"Well," Ron said offhandedly, "I haven't given that too much thought, KP. I was thinking about wearing my normal clothes and you wearing your squad uniform."
"My squad uniform?" Kim asked in genuine confusion—what about playing lead guitar in a rock band said "cheer uniform." "Why do you want me to wear my cheer uniform?"
XXII. April 17th 2:22 p.m.
Kim was sitting on Ron's lap, encircled by his arms while Rufus slept in her lap encircled by hers. They weren't saying anything. They didn't need to. They were enjoying just being together, enjoying their life.
A breeze picked up from somewhere behind the elementary school. It moved through the playground, pushing a few of the empty swings, rushed across the surface of the pond and weaved its way through the braches of the trees that edged the water. A wisp of the breeze descended gently upon the park bench and Kim felt its ineffable coolness touch her cheek and tangle itself in her hair. And she remembered.
"Do you remember what it felt like when we were in sixth grade? I mean what it was actually like to be that old—can you still feel it, sometimes at least?"
"I-I think so, yeah."
"I remember the first day of school and just thinking, or feeling, I guess, that we were so old."
"Well, maybe not old, but that we were, I don't know-adults."
"I don't think anyone thought that about me, Kim. Still don't."
She smiled. "Its just that we were only twelve and it seemed like we had already experienced so much."
"Oh, okay, I see what you mean."
"Yeah, and that was before the missions …:
"Before Rufus," Ron said giving his little friend, whose pink skin already looked much better, a pat.
"… before Rufus," Kim smiled, "before so many things."
She was silent for a minute.
"What are you thinking, KP?"
"That time just seemed to go by so quickly. I mean, five years, and its gone."
Ron stroked her cheek.
"I-I just," Kim continued, "I just don't know what the next five years will bring."
"I don't know either, KP, but I do know one thing," here he leaned in and kissed her neck, "we'll be together."
She fought against the pleasant thrumming in her chest; she had to talk about this now. She measured her words before she spoke. The first phrases that leapt to her mind ("We need to talk," "That's what I am worried about," etc) were all ferociously bad ways to bring up the topic she needed to discuss with him. In the end, the direct approach proved to be least potentially alarming method. "Ron, I had a dream Friday night that really scared me."
"O-okay. What was it about?"
Kim wasn't five seconds into her description before Ron exclaimed, "Rotting bananas, of course! That's what that smell was!"
After the shock that they had once again shared the same dream settled down, they shared their own description of the events they had seen played out in their minds. With only the shift in point of view as an exception, their dreams were identical.
"Oh Ron, I was so worried about you," Kim confessed with the concern evident in her eyes.
"Me? Why me? Shego was after you."
"Ron," Kim explained, "you've always been there for me when it really counted. The only reason you couldn't save me would be because …" She was silent and closed her eyes.
"What is it, Kim?"
She kept her eyes clinched shut. There was no way she could not cry if she said it to his face. "The only reason would be if Shego had … had already killed you."
Ron was floored. The mild terror the picture of Shego actually killing him generated passed very quickly. The feeling that he couldn't shake was one of amazement. Kim dreamed of getting seriously hurt by Shego (he was not ready to say or think the "k" word in terms of his best friend girlfriend), and all she was worried about was him.
"Oh, Kim," he hugged her so tightly that he almost woke up Rufus. "I am so lucky … so lucky to have you in my life."
She was grateful for the sentiment and the hug. She had definitely needed them right then. However, the concern was still beading in her eyes.
"KP, I think I know what we need to do."
"We need to perform an exorcism."
Kim blinked blankly at him. Twice. No, thrice. And then she said completely dumbfounded, "I was so not expecting you to say that."
"No, no, hear me out. We need to exorcise our dream."
"Aren't your parents taking the tweebs to Colorado Springs in a couple of Fridays for that conference or something?"
"Y-yeah. They won't be back until the next evening."
"Well, do you think we could convince your mother to let me sleep over then?"
"Whoa! I don't know. Dad may have fallen asleep before I got home last night, but I don't think he's comfortable enough with "us" to okay that!"
"It's still worth a try. I'll talk to her if you want—heck, I'll even talk to him if you want, well, okay, maybe not him." He gave her a very warm, confidant smile, "I've got an idea KP that just might scare off both our fears."
XXIII. Thursday, April 28th 3:45 p.m.
Even if the bleachers weren't creaking, she would have known he was there. When you spend the majority of twelve years together with someone, you can sense when they are near.
She knew she had been too hard on him. But still she felt justified for being upset and shocked by his revelation. It had been almost ten minutes, but she still didn't feel ready to face him.
"Kim?" Ron asked with trepidation. His voice sounded so far away, muffled.
"Go away." That sounded way harsher then she meant. "I mean, I need a little more time, Ron. Could you leave me alone for a little while longer?"
"Kim, have I ever lied to you?" Ron's faraway voice asked.
The question pierced her heart. They hadn't even been a couple for a month and it had already come down to that question! She had thought their relationship would have been so perfect and now it looked like it was headed down some angst-riddled cliché-strewn road she did not want to be on.
Reflecting on the question itself just made her feel worse. Ron hadn't always been truthful. He had tried to keep his Fearless Ferret identity from her. He had fibbed when trying to retrieve her library book. He had tried to keep her out of the loop when he went to stop Drakken two Christmases ago. But those weren't really lies. In fact, in two of those instances he was trying to do something nice for her, to surprise her. And THAT only made her feel ten times worse.
She, on the other hand, had actively lied to him. And those Halloween lies were only told to benefit her. With just one simple question, Ron, without meaning to, had made Kim feel two inches tall.
Sadly, she raised her head to face him and nearly choked on her tongue with laughter.
He was wearing the Middleton Mad Dog mask.
"I didn't want you to have to look at me," Ron explained from inside the mask.
"Ron, take off that mask!" Kim said after finally regaining control of herself.
"No," Ron said flatly, "not until I explain. I'm still in the dog house, so I won't take off the mask until I'm out."
"Okay," Kim said getting serious again.
"My main reason for joining the squad was because I am upbeat, but, I have to admit, I am a guy, and I like looking at pretty girls."
Kim nodded, but sadness was starting to creep back into her eyes.
"And everyone on the squad is pretty," he continued.
"But can't you see, Ron, that when you ogle them you are using them as objects, not as people?" She was starting to get upset again.
"Two things, Kim," Ron said calmly, "you are absolutely right about that, and I realized that almost immediately after joining the squad. Tara, Hope, even Bonnie in a strange way is my friend, and it just didn't feel right ogling them. I soon found that I couldn't do it. Now, that doesn't mean that an occasional 'guy thought' won't cross my mind, but I can't see them as objects-they're my friends."
At first Kim thought he was going to tell her exactly what he thought she wanted to hear, but as he went on, Kim understood that he was being upfront. Good or bad, she felt like he was going to tell her the truth.
"And that's also why I didn't join so I could ogle you." Even through the mask, Kim could see little points of anxiety start to blossom in Ron's eyes as she met this last statement with silence. "You were upset about that too, weren't you?" he asked with obvious concern.
"Honestly," she began, "I hadn't even gotten around to getting upset about that yet."
"O-okay," Ron continued, "that actually leads back to my second point."
"There's something else tweaking you about all this, right?"
He knew her; there was no doubt about that. She nodded.
"Do you want to talk about it? And, uh, could take off this mask, it's getting kinda hot in here."
"Sure," she smiled, "and no, you can't. Not yet."
"Oh man!" he whined, but with the beginnings of a smile in his voice.
That smile vanished as Kim told him about the swim meet.
"If I had been there, those guys would have been so …" from his eyes alone, let alone his agitated gestures, Kim knew the Middleton Mad Dog was mad for real.
"Amp down, Ron," Kim said, "and take off that mask, I don't want you having a heat stroke."
"Whew!" Ron's tongue was hanging out of his mouth. "Thanks, KP. I-I'm sorry I didn't have your back at that meet."
"Ron, you were having your tonsils out that day, don't give it a thought. You made every other meet that year."
"Still, KP, the one meet I miss and that's when some jerks start …"
"Ron," Kim held up her hand, "what is the major dif between what they did and what you were planning on doing to the rest of the squad?"
"There couldn't be a bigger dif, KP! Every guy looks at pretty girls. Even if they try not to, they still do. And sometimes even the best of us let that look … well … linger into ogling. I would be willing to bet that every guy in those bleachers with the exception of your dad liked looking at your pretty legs that day."
Even during a heated discussion, Ron's judgment that her legs were "pretty" made Kim feel slightly embarrassed—but in the good way.
"But my point is it is not what you feel—no one can help what they feel—it is what you do with those feelings. When those jerks whistled at you they were trying to embarrass you, to show what big guys they were. They WERE trying to demean you. They were trying to HURT you, and if I could find them I'd …"
Ron's tongue continued to lash out against the jerks in the bleachers, but, suddenly, it discovered that it couldn't. Kim's mouth was in its way.
A few minutes later, and they were both a little short of breath.
Once they had recovered, they both said, "I'm sorry." And Kim won another soda.
"Ron, I shouldn't have assumed the worst of you," Kim said her eyes downcast.
"No big, KP, I told you I wanted to ogle the rest squad."
"But that's just it, Ron. You were honest with me, and I harshed on you for it. That would have been the perfect opportunity for to lie, but you didn't."
That earned him a kiss on the forehead. However, to make sure he hadn't thought he would get off the hook too easily, she asked, "So do you still have occasional 'guy thoughts'?"
"Yeah, but I much prefer the 'love thoughts,'" he quickly responded.
"Nice save," Kim said appreciatively.
Then, so as to make sure he really didn't think he could get off the hook that easily, she asked, "So what part of me to do have these 'love thoughts' about?"
"Are you asking me what part of you I love the most?" Ron answered suavely.
Touché, Stoppable. "Yes, that's what I am asking," Kim asserted.
"What part do you think I love most?" he asked coyly.
"I don't think, Ron. I've known ever since our second date," she answered dryly. And to demonstrate, she stood up and swatted her rear.
Knew I could break you. Kim's smile was both saucy and smug.
"Actually, that's not true."
"Don't get me wrong, KP, I really like your .. uh …"
"Y-yeah, but that isn't my favorite part."
"It isn't? What is?"
"Close your eyes."
Arching her eyebrow, Kim asked the completely understandable question, "Why?"
"Because I'm going to kiss you on it."
"I don't know, Ron," Kim said starting to feel somewhat uneasy.
"Trust me," he said, his eyes locked into hers. She couldn't say "no" to those eyes.
"Okay." She closed her eyes, and as she heard the bleachers creak she shot off one more quip, "It really better not be my butt, or you'll be in real trouble."
Kim felt the moist tenderness of Ron's kiss just below her left knee.
Her eyes opened in surprise. "What did you kiss?"
"Your freckle," Ron beamed back at her.
"What freckle? I don't have a freckle on my leg."
"Sure you do."
"I don't think so," she said, extending her leg to see the exact spot where her best friend boyfriend had kissed her. If there was one thing Kim definitely knew about herself it was where her few remaining freckles were. She despised them and was so glad when they started fading away when she turned ten. There were those few that popped out on her nose when she got a sun burn, one on the instep of her right foot, and that constellation on the back of her neck that her mother had drawn to her attention a few years ago. Otherwise, she was freckle-free.
Except for just below her left kneecap. "I can't believe it! I have never noticed this one before. How is that possible?"
"Anything is possible for …" Ron chimed.
"Don't even," Kim laughed. "Wow," she said looking at it, "I never knew."
"I always knew," Ron smiled.
And then Kim Possible started to cry in front her boyfriend, Ron Stoppable. There weren't too many, but that's how pleasant tears usually are.
Just at that moment, Kim heard the bleachers creak; someone was coming up to visit them. She didn't look up, but then she heard the bleachers creaking in the opposite direction—apparently, their visitor had changed their mind.
"Uh, are you okay, KP?" Ron asked concern creeping into his voice.
"I'm fine, Ron. Wonderful in fact."
Ron gently brushed away the one or two tears that had leaked down her cheeks.
Before Ron kissed her freckle, Kim knew how much Ron truly loved her—now she knew and she felt. The leg he was kissing, the legs he saw, were not the same ones those creeps at the meet had whistled at. Those guys had been looking for some sort of perverse perfection—someone with the same perfect skin and muscle tone as those airbrushed models in magazines. But Ron wasn't in love with a fantasy or an image of perfect beauty. He was in love with her. He loved looking at her legs because they were hers.
Kim knew that if he could cherish her for her blemishes, her imperfections, then Ron must truly adore her.
And that is just what she saw now in the eyes and goofy grin of the boy seated next to her—the boy who had been her best friend for twelve years and, she hoped, would be her life for as many years as they had left-pure, absolute adoration.
A:N: Credit for Ron's fantasy for the talent contest is utterly and completely owed to CarbonF and his fantastic fan art piece "Rock and Roll."
Check out the rest of his preternaturally good art in his gallery, you will not be disappointed.
Links for the pic and CarbonF's profile can be found on my profile page.