Special thanks to spectre666 whose review of my story "The Second Date" inspired me to write another one-shot tale.

Thanks to everyone for reading and for patiently waiting for the updates for "Until the End of the World" and "The End." (They will be coming soon!)


I.

The Turner twins, Noah and Joan, knew something was bothering their friend, Ron Stoppable. It was Friday, Dressdown Day, in fact, and that silly clown show that he had been going on and on about for weeks was less than two hours away. All reasons for him to be exceedingly happy and excited, and yet their bottoms weren't stinging.

Whenever the first grade fraternal twins rode the teeter-totters with sixth-grader Ron (they bunched together on one end and he on the other), he would try to raise their end as high as possible. More importantly, he would try to send their end up as rapidly as possible, so that at the moment his end smacked against the ground, they would, if only momentarily, levitate off their end of the board and then, almost immediately, smack back down on it again. This never failed to give them a pleasant sting on their bottoms that always made them laugh.

Today, however, his "tottering style" was so languid that it boarded on "safe." He seemed distracted. They had been riding for five minutes, and their rears had not left the board once.

"Ron," Joan asked as she and her brother descended, "what's wrong?"

"Huh? Oh, nothing," Ron replied with a half-smile.

Joan looked over her shoulder at her brother. He returned her knowing look. There was no way that was true. Ron Stoppable usually enjoyed Middleton Elementary's relatively new playground equipment much more than the younger kids it was meant for. In fact, there were times in the past that he had voiced his unbridled enjoyment so loudly that the twins had asked him to lower his voice because he was embarrassing them.

"Ron," Noah said matter-of-factly, "Tell us what's wrong."

"Nothing's wrong," Ron said with an awkward-sounding laugh.

"Ron," Noah explained patiently, "Kids in kindergarten lie better than you."

"Just spill," Joan advised.

As Ron's end of the teeter-totter touched down, he uttered the word they knew he was going to say: "Kim."

Noah asked, "You're not still upset that she's Walter Nelson's girlfriend are you?"

"Oh, pshaw!" Ron said as his end started to rise. Because he sounded somewhat confidant in his reply, Joan decided that Ron wasn't lying, or, at the very least, didn't know he was.

"Besides," Ron said as the twins' end hit the ground, "they're only 'sorta' boyfriend and girlfriend."

"Really?" Noah asked. "I've seen 'em holding hands."

"Me too," Joan weighed in.

"Exactly," Ron explained as he shifted his weight so as to make the twins' end rise in the air. "Once you're holding hands you become 'sorta' boyfriend and girlfriend. When you're not holding hands, you're just friends."

Ron seemed very confidant as he gave this explanation-acting every part the knowing and wise sixth grader to his inexperienced first grader friends.

"Okay," Joan said as she and her brother started to sink to the ground. "When do they become real boyfriend and girlfriend? When they kiss?"

"Uhhh," Ron said, his feet kicking somewhat absently in the breeze.

The twins kept their full weight on their end of the board. They weren't about to let him down without getting an answer to this question.

"I-I suppose so." Ron managed finally.

Joan and Noah looked at each other. Satisfied, they pushed off against the ground to let Ron's end dip. "So," Noah asked, "what is the problem?"

"Well, just look at her," Ron said, motioning with his head in the direction of the lake at the playground's far end. The twins saw the auburn-haired sixth grader walking by the lake's edge. Even though it was a very warm Spring day, she was hugging her elbows to her chest as if she was chilly. "She didn't eat lunch today," Ron continued, "she just came directly out here. I don't think she's left that lake for the past hour."

The twins had to agree that Kim Possible looked pretty miserable.

"Why don't you go talk to her?" Noah asked.

"Yeah, you're her best friend. Go cheer her up." Joan added.

Ron shook his head. "She didn't want to talk this morning on the bus. Something's really got her tweaked."

"Try again," Joan said.

"Naah," Ron said with a shake of his head, "I'm hanging with you guys."

"Its fine, Ron," Noah said as the twins'' end reached the ground. "We were going to head over to the swings anyway."

"Well," Ron said hastily, "then you guys will need a spotter."

"No, Ron," Joan said as she and her brother stood up, carefully got off the teeter-totter, and then with their four hands began to lower Ron's end enough so he could stand up, "Mrs. Barkin said no more swing diving."

"No worries," Ron insisted as his feet touched the earth, "Mrs. B and I have an understanding. She's like one of my peeps."

"Talk to your friend, Ron," Noah said.

"Do it, Ron," Joan agreed. "She looks like she needs a friend."

II.

Kim was wandering in a listless circle at the edge of the lake that separated the playground from Middleton Park. She hugged her shoulders. She blinked up at the bright May sun.

Why do I feel so cold? Maybe I'm coming down with something.

Kim had been feeling out of sorts all day. No wait, that's not right. She had been fine when she got up and later at breakfast. She hadn't felt uncomfortable until the bus ride to school. It wasn't quite a stomach ache, and she didn't feel nauseous, not exactly. "Gorchy" came to mind, but that wasn't it either, not quite. All she knew for certain was that she wanted, more than anything, to be back at home and in bed. When she thought about that fact that there were still three more hours of school left, one of which was to be spent in the smelly gymnasium for some "Clown Recital," and then the bus ride home …

No, "Gorchy" works just fine.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Ron walking in her direction. Good. Kim had wanted to apologize to her best friend all morning.

Why was I so the jerk to him on the bus?

Wait! That's when this all started.

The bus had just stopped in front of Ron's house. She remembered waving to him, but, he had been in the middle of a run/dodge/weave across the yard in an effort to avoid his parents' sprinklers that had just switched on, so he had not seen her gesture. He was wearing one of his dad's old Gonzaga basketball jerseys that hung down to his knees and jean shorts. It was the first Friday in May, known unofficially as "Dressdown Day" because it was traditionally the first day the Middleton School system let students dress in warm weather clothes—t-shirts, shorts, etc. It was the day when kids tried to look as cool as possible. It had always been a fun day for Kim in years past. But since Bonnie Rockweller had turned the school into a confederation of cliques this past year, Kim suspected this year's Dressdown Day would not be so much about fun as about trying not to get snarked upon for what one wore. As for herself, Kim was trying not to think too much about the white shorts she had on; there was a very specific reason why she wasn't particularly amped about wearing them. She had opted for wearing one of the oversized pairs of capris Nana had given her for Christmas. However, Anne Possible insisted she wear shorts; the temperature was supposed to hit eighty-five that afternoon.

As she caught a side glance out her window of Ron clambering into the bus, Kim reflected idly that he was probably pretty amped about the "Clown Recital" that was being given that afternoon in the gym. As Ron walked up the aisle toward the seat she always saved for him, he greeted her with his usual goofy grin.

She had smiled back at him, but then, just as he sat down next to her and the bus rumbled into motion, the gorchiness or semi-gorchiness began.

Not only wasn't she feeling too well all of a sudden in the tummy or in the head, but, for some reason, Ron's voice seemed a lot louder than usual. She had tried to be polite, but after a few moments the volume of his voice and her general feeling of discomfort got to be too much.

"Ron, could … could you not talk so loudly?" she asked.

"Huh, am I talking too loudly? I didn't think I was. Hey, are you feeling okay, KP?"

"Please, Ron," she snapped suddenly, "be quiet!"

The silence that opened up between them extended out a handful of rows around them. Everyone within ten feet had heard Kim yell at Ron. No one had ever heard her sound so angry at him. Sure, she was frequently exasperated with him, but she had never sounded so … well, so mean before.

A moment later, Ron whispered, "Okay, KP."

"Thank you," she said in a voice that tried not to sound too mean, but came out as a semi-mean mutter.

The wave of discomfort passed in a few moments. When Kim turned to apologize to Ron, she found that he was staring down the aisle, not moving at all.

She was a little taken aback by how dejected he looked. She didn't think she had been that mean to him. What had she done? More importantly, what could she do? She wasn't quite sure how she should say she was sorry, but she knew she had to. Yet before she could begin, the bus came rumbling to a stop in front of the school, and everyone was starting to file out. How long had she been sitting there in silence trying to come up with the right words to say?

She thought it would be best to grab Ron in the halls before they got to class, maybe get some semi-privacy with him, so she could apologize. However, she lost him in the crowd at the drop off, and he had apparently made a bee-line for Mrs. Harlowe's room because he wasn't waiting for her outside the door where they typically chatted the last few minutes before class. As she entered the classroom, Kim noticed that Ron was already sitting at his desk. As she took her seat, she ruefully realized that she couldn't even remember what her best friend had been saying when she had told him to shut up.

"Hey Ron," she smiled weakly as he walked up to her.

"Hey, KP," he smiled. He reflexively rubbed the back of his neck. "Didn't see you at lunch."

"Yeah, wasn't hungry."

"So what have you been doing?"

"I don't know. Just walking around. Nothing."

A few moments of uneasy silence followed where they both absently looked out across the lake. Ron was watching a family of ducks make their way across the middle of the lake, but he was worried about what might be wrong with Kim. Kim was staring at an empty park bench on the opposite side of the lake, but she was worried about what Ron must think of her.

"I'm sorry Ron," she said a little too quickly. Shoot! That wasn't how I wanted it to come out! "I mean, for the bus this morning." Strangely, she found she couldn't look him in the eyes. "I can't believe I was so mean to you!"

"Oh, that? Pshaw, Kim!" Ron said with forced easiness. "No big!"

They both smiled at their feet for a few moments.

"Thanks, Ron," Kim said sheepishly. She then shuddered as if she were cold.

"KP, are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she tried to smile, rubbing her bare arms in an effort to fight back the chill she felt.

"You're not cold, are you?"

"A little," she said. Then she added with sudden irritation, "These stupid shorts."

"What are you talking about, KP?" Ron asked puzzled. "It's like eighty degrees out here." In way of demonstration, he tugged at the neck of his dad's jersey as if he were releasing steam.

"Oh, that's not the reason I'm angry, Ron," Kim said. "It's … well, look at me! Look at my stupid hairy legs!"

"What?" Ron said with the beginnings of a smile.

"My mom won't let me shave my legs yet," she groused. "I know that you don't understand being a guy, but it's embarrassing. Bonnie, Tara and practically every other girl in the class has already started doing it. And here I am on Dressdown Day the only girl with hairy legs … a-a-and, I mean, I feel like a little kid! A-and Mongoose cheerleader tryouts are practically here, and if I somehow do make the squad ... well, Mom can just forget about it because there is no way that I am going to be the only Middleton Middle Lady Mongoose with fuzzy knees!" She had spoken herself back up to bus-level meanness.

Ron was relieved that the meanness wasn't direct at him. However, the relief vanished when he saw her wince.

"Kim, what's wrong?"

With her eyes tightly closed, Kim just shook her head.

"Kim," Ron said with sudden sternness, "look at me, what's wrong?"

"I don't know, Ron," she admitted. "I feel … I don't know … icky."

"Like you might be getting sick?"

"Yeah. I don't know. Maybe." She shivered again.

"Maybe, you have a fever," he said with concern, reaching out to touch his friend's forehead.

"I'm cold, Ron," she said testily, as she backed out of his reach, "I so don't have a fever."

"Come on, KP," Ron said advancing, "Let me feel your forehead. I get chills whenever I've got a fever."

From the point where Ron's palm touched her forehead, a wave of unpleasant sensations spread out over Kim's body. In the space of an instant, all the discomfort seemed to overwhelm her. She swatted his hand away, and in a highly irritated voice, snapped, "I said don't touch me, Ron!" She turned from him and stomped a few feet away.

After a moment, she felt both "normal" again and deeply ashamed. What is wrong with me?

She turned around to apologize, but Ron was gone.

As she frantically looked over the playground to locate her best friend, Mrs. Harlowe blew the whistle to signal that recess was over.

III.

Kim felt about two inches tall for most of the next hour.

Her desk was two rows back and one row to the left of Ron's. On a typical day, it was rare if fifteen minutes would pass without Ron looking back at her to mouth out a question, exchange a laugh, pass or relay a note , or just make a goofy face. During the hour immediately following recess, he didn't turn around once. As the minutes ticked by, the discomfort in her stomach steadily developed into an ache and then progressed into a genuine pain. Kim really didn't care about that though. She was too concerned about what she had done to Ron. He had obviously forgiven her for biting his head off on the bus and what had she done in return? She had hit him! Sure, it wasn't a hard hit, but still-what was her problem? He was her best friend and had been trying to help her, and she slapped him!

He so hates me. And I deserve it too. No one would blame him for never speaking to me again.

This last thought so depressed her that she put her head to her desk and tried not to cry.

Waitaminute! Overreact much, Possible? What is going on here? You didn't hit Ron; you just batted his hand away. There is no way Ron won't forgive that. You're best friends!

As much as Kim knew that this rational voice in her head was right, she still couldn't completely fight back the guilt over what she had done. With her forehead still pressed against her desk, she moped absently for about five minutes as she tried to figure out what she could do to make it up to Ron. A month of treating him to Bueno Nacho with her baby sitting money hardly seemed like enough. Besides, she would probably be doing that anyway. She shook her head, still flat against the desk, back and forth lamely trying to think of something else. She gazed blankly into her lap for a few minutes. She half-noticed an oddly colored shadow on her shorts. A moment later, she realized the "shadow" was growing in size.

IV.

Ron always had trouble focusing in class. His mind naturally wandered whenever he was sitting still. This was why he was having so much trouble concentrating on anything Miss Harlowe had been saying since recess ended. Usually, he would be going back and forth with Kim, relaying her notes, silently asking her to send him a note about something important Miss H had just said that he had missed, or just trying to make her smile. For some reason, distracting himself with his best friend just made him retain things better. Since he had been trying to avoid Kim altogether for the better part of the last hour, he might as well had been asleep. He couldn't recall anything he had heard. He wasn't even sure if Miss H had been discussing geography or math.

Kim. Why can't I listen? She told me she didn't have a fever, and I still tried to take her temperature. Man, she's obviously really sick, or, at least, she's about to get really sick. Just like this morning. She told me I was yelling at her so instead of just shutting my stupid mouth I keep yelling at her ... man.

He wasn't even sure if he would enjoy the clown show now. He had been looking forward to it for weeks especially when he had learned that the two clowns performing (Two clowns! Tell me that doesn't rock hard!) might take volunteers from the audience to perform as clowns themselves for the last half of the show! But now, even that didn't seem to matter to him. It still hurricane rocked, but even hurricane rocking didn't mean much if his best friend was too sick to enjoy it.

He wanted so badly to turn around and see how she was doing, but every time he had tried to do something nice for her today he had just made things worse. No, he should leave her alone. When she was ready to talk, or just get some Ronshine, she'd come to him. Ron Stoppable may not have been the sharpest tool in the shed, but he didn't have to spend too much time on the learning curve to catch a clue. Two strikes and he learned his lesson. He didn't need a third pitch today to know that he wasn't making things any better for his best friend.

V.

When Ron noticed that the desks in front of him were empty, he realized that everyone was filing out of the classroom to go to the show. He had been so intent on listening to Miss H that he had completely zoned out and missed what she was saying. Even though it meant he was risking getting a lousy seat for the show, he couldn't muster much enthusiasm and therefore got up languidly from his seat and followed behind the last of his classmates out the door. As he half-heartedly jogged to catch up, he heard a couple of them complaining about how "stupid" clowns were.

Man, how much is it going to tank if I have to sit next to these clowns!

Ron was maybe two seconds away from realizing the pun in his last thought when he heard a small plaintive voice whisper to him.

"KP?" he asked, spinning around in the direction of the voice.

Kim was still seated at her desk. Any thoughts of asking her if she had forgiven him or even if she was going to the show vanished when he saw her large green eyes. She was in trouble. What kind, he had no idea, but she needed his help.

"What's wrong, Kim?" he asked as he ran to her desk.

"Shhhhhhh," she admonished him as a worried expression flashed over her face. He had never seen her so upset ... or, at least, upset in the same way she looked at that moment.

"What's wrong, Kim?" he asked in a much quieter voice.

Before she answered, he could see she was struggling with what to say. It was like she knew what to say but that she was totally unsure if she should say it or say something different or not say anything at all.

Kim looked deep into Ron's earnest eyes, took a deep breath, and in a vulnerable yet trusting voice said what needed to be said.

"Ron, I'm bleeding."

"What?" he gasped. Fortunately, he somehow managed to keep his voice at the same quiet level.

"It's okay, Ron," Kim said, holding up her hands to calm him. "I'm not hurt."

As she watched the look of complete bewilderment overcome his features, Kim got the sneaking feeling she was going to have a lot of explaining to do in a very short time. She had no idea where to begin.

Fortunately, she didn't need to explain anything to Ron. The previous summer his father had given him the lowdown on the facts of life. Thoughtfully intuiting her son's unique "need to know" since his best friend happened to be a girl, Ron's mom had given him a followup talk outlining the basics of puberty from the feminine perspective. Ron knew everything about what was happening to Kim, he just needed a moment for his memory to catch up with the present moment.

Kim saw the look of confusion slowly change into one of recognition and then into one of ... wonder.

"Y-you mean," he asked in awe.

She nodded, relieved and surprised that he seemed to already know what was going on.

"First time?" he asked with what couldn't be mistaken as excitement in his voice.

She nodded again.

"Wow," he breathed, an amazed smile spreading slowly across his face.

Part of Kim wanted to scream at Ron. She was in major pain, not to mention major embarrassment over the entire sitch. She was completely unprepared and had no idea how she was going to manage to make it home without everyone in the entire class, if not the school, from knowing what had just happened.

Yet.

Yet, a much stronger part of Kim couldn't help but feel ... well ... charmed by Ron's reaction. He seemed genuinely amazed by what had just happened, even honored that he was able to, in a way, witness this stage of her growing up, of her no longer being a little girl anymore. This part of Kim felt very fortunate to have Ron as her best friend at this pivotal moment in her life. In a way it made the entire sitch somewhat less mortifying and a little bit ... special. As this embarrassed yet charmed part of Kim overwhelmed her harshing part, she blushed slightly and gave Ron a small shy smile.

It was so right that he was the one there with her. He was, after all, what she needed most right then: her best friend. For one brief moment everything, even in this complicated state of affairs, seemed okay and perfect in Kim Possible's world.

Then Walter Nelson stuck his pretty head through the crack in the ajar classroom door and asked, "Hey, Kim, are you coming or not?"

VI.

"She'll be right there, Walter. She and I were just talking about … stuff." Ron said with something approaching confidence.

"O-okay. Do you want me to wait outside for you, Kim?"

Before Kim could answer her "sorta boyfriend," Ron quickly stated, "Yeah, she'll be right there."

Walter gave them both a puzzled look, and went back to the hall to wait.

"Ron," Kim hissed, "what are you doing? I can't go out there! My shorts are stained! I can't let Walter see me like this."

Ron nodded and asked quietly but urgently, "Are you in pain?"

"Huh?" she asked, more than a little miffed that he had apparently ignored what she had said.

"Are you in pain, KP?" he asked again.

"A little," she admitted. Then she winced. "Okay, maybe more than a little."

"We need to get you to the Nurse's Office, stat." Ron said matter-of-factly, as he glanced fervently around the room as if he was looking for something. "Miss Q'll have pain pills you can take."

"Maybe," Kim said, the sudden pain ebbing away.

"And they might even have," here he hesitated, "feminine products."

"I suppose," Kim said. She would have rolled her eyes at Ron's terminology, but he seemed … well … he seemed to know what he was talking about. For once, Ron was actually taking charge of the situation. When she realized this, a small part of Kim started to relax.

"And maybe you can call your mom from there," he said as he marched over to the classroom's sink area, "and she," he remembered to whisper, "could bring you a change of clothes."

Kim nodded and then winced again.

"Or just take you home," Ron said with concern. He took a paper cup from the cabinet beneath the sink and filled it with water from the faucet. He then brought the cup back over to Kim.

She wasn't really thirsty, so she just shook her head at the cup in his hand. Then he started to drink from it. "How am I going to get there, Ron," Kim whispered, "everyone will see my shorts and they'll know and Walter will know and …"

"My, Kim, I sure did need this cup of water," Ron said loudly. He was practically yelling.

"Ron, whatareyou-"

"I sure needed to wet the old whistle," he continued in the same voice, only louder. He then dunked his fingertips in the cup, removed them and finished off the water.

"Eww," Kim remarked. She had no idea when he had last washed his hands, but she sincerely doubted it had been since they had come in from recess. Then ... "Hey!" she cried as Ron lightly sprinkled Kim's shoulders, face and hair with the water from his fingertips.

"Oh my goodness, Kim," Ron practically screamed, "I can't believe I spilt the entire cup all over your shirt!"

"Ron Stoppable," Kim hissed, "what are you talking-"

He gently gestured for her to be quiet and then continued, "Your shirt is soaking wet! We better get you to the Nurse before you catch cold!"

Then he pulled off his father's basketball jersey.

And he didn't have on anything underneath.

Before she could ask why he was taking off his jersey, why he wasn't wearing a t-shirt underneath it, or what he thought he was doing, Ron was gently putting the jersey over her head.

"Ron," she was glaring at him full force through the neck hole of the jersey.

"Trust me, Kim," Ron whispered with a light smile. "Here, Kim," he cried at top volume, "take my shirt so you don't catch your death of cold."

Then Kim realized what Ron was doing. She lifted her arms and let him finish sliding the jersey onto her.

She followed his gesture for her to stand up, and as she had suspected, the jersey came down to the tops of her knees, completely blocking any view of her stained shorts.

Kim was just about to whisper her approval/gratitude of Ron's idea when his pants fell down.

"What are you guys doing in here?" Walter asked, his head once again poking through the door.

He didn't appear upset by what he saw; rather, he was just really, really confused.

"Oh man," Ron explained excitedly, "you won't believe it but I just spilt like a gallon of water all over Kim's head a-and shirt a-and-"

"Y-yeah," Walter said nodding, his eyes never straying from the shorts around Ron's ankles. "I heard all that but ... dude, did you realize you're pants are down."

"As a matter of fact, I was just thinking about that ..." Ron said, trying desperately to maintain what level of coolness he still had at his disposal.

"Well, uh," Walter said slowly, "don't you think you should ..."

"Pull them up." Kim said, completing Walter's thought while giving it extra emphasis by patting Ron on the shoulder.

"Why, yes, that's splendid idea," Ron managed as he bent down and quickly pulled his shorts up and over his underwear.

"Anyway, Walter," Ron said hurriedly as he gently led Kim by the hand to the classroom door, "I've got to get Kimbo here to Miss Q before she gets pneumona or black lung or something. I hear it's going around."

"O-okay," Walter said, as always more than a little bemused/amused by his "sorta girlfriend's" best friend. "Kim, do want me to come too?"

"No, no, Walter," Kim said, "I think Ron can take care of me."

Then realizing that Walter might read more into her statement than she intended (What exactly did you mean by that, Possible?) , Kim said, "W-well, I mean that, uh, Walter, that ..."

Walter waved away Kim's explanation; he was looking directly at Ron. "Ron," he said evenly, "can I tell you something privately?"

"Well," Ron said in a rushed tone, "I gotta get Kim here to the ER a-and you gotta catch those clowns-"

"It'll just take a second."

Kim nodded to Ron, a little nervously, that it was okay for her to wait a few seconds.

Walter took a few steps back and motioned for Ron to lean in so he could whisper him something. Ron and Walter had never been friendly, but they weren't on bad terms either. Ron got the sneaky feeling their "relationship," if it could be called that, was about to change. Walter's voice was no-nonsense, direct. "A little friendly advice," he began, "if this ever happens again" he shot a quick look in Kim's direction, "you should probably be wearing boxers. Those tighty-whitey's have GOT to go, dude."

VII.

After walking only twenty feet down the hall hand-in-hand, Kim removed her fingers from Ron's grasp. Ron gave her a concerned look, but she just smiled and shook her head, indicating that there was nothing wrong.

And nothing was. She just felt more comfortable if she wasn't being touched.

A few moments later, however, she stopped walking and sighed heavily. Ron waited patiently until the pain subsided and Kim was able to continue.

"Do you want me to go ahead, Kim? Grab the meds and come back?"

"No," Kim shook her head forcefully, "I'd rather you stay with me." She added with a smile, "I'll be okay."

It was so going to be a long walk. The Nurse's Office was on the other side of the school.

The halls were mostly deserted. Everyone had apparently already gathered in the gymnasium. After Walter had headed off for the show, Kim and Ron had seen no one. But that was about to change.

They heard Bonnie before they saw her. She sounded like she was talking to someone, very animatedly, but neither Kim nor Ron could hear the other person in the conversation.

"Yeah, I know that's what she said, but if you'll listen to what I'm saying right now, you'll see ... fine! Whatever! Just-wait, I'm getting another call-Rockwaller, spill ... Mom! What have I told you about calling me at school? ... Fine, I'll put you straight to voicemail then!"

As Kim and Ron rounded the corner, they came upon Bonnie talking on her cell phone in the recessed entrance to the girl's bathroom. She was apparently talking to the first person again, but her conversation came to astandstill when she spied them. Her eyes flashed, and her lips curled into a smile that was not meant for anyone except herself. "Gotta drop off," she said absently to whomever was on the phone, "something just came up." She dropped her cell phone smartly into her purse and gleefully looked the pair over.

I'm so not in the mood for this, not now.

"Trying out for the squad, Kimmie?" Bonnie asked with mock concern. "I think you may be confused as to which one." She walked breezily behind Kim to further inspect her rival's new "outfit." "What the heck is a 'Zag' anyway?" Bonnie sniped as she read Ron's jersey. Then Bonnie's eyes really sparkled as a new plan of attack came to her; or, rather, an older plan of attack that she hadn't had a chance to implement came back to her. "Although I must say the basketball squad might be a better fit for you. Form what I hear, they're not so strict about hairy legs ... at least, the boys' squad isn't."

Kim was feeling too uncomfortable to care about Bonnie's snarkiness. She just wanted to keep going.

"What do you think you're doing, Bonnie?" Ron snapped in a voice that caught both girls' attentions. As mean as Bonnie had been that year, Ron had never yelled at her.

"You know you must really be losing your touch," he barked at her.

Bonnie just started back in disbelief. Who was this angry young man in Stoppable's loser body?

"Helllooo!" Ron said indignantly, gesturing to himself with both hands, "Loser without a shirt on here! Why are bothering with Kim?"

Bonnie blinked a few times as Ron's words sunk in. "Hey, that's right! Whatareyoudoing, Stoppable? You freak! Are you crazy? This is Dressdown Day, not Streaking Day!" Then a truly mean-spirited tone entered her voice. "I have a good mind to tell Miss Harlowe about this and maybe even Mrs. Barkin. Public nudity should be good for at least one's day suspension." There was no way Ron wasn't going to pay for even momentarily making Bonnie look like a fool.

"So would using a cell phone on school property and ditching a school function," Kim said calmly. Before Bonnie could find words to match the snarky expression on her face, Kim continued, "Ron spilt water on my shirt, so he gave me his to wear, and he is escorting me to the office so I can call my mother for a change of clothes. What are your excuses?"

"Fine!" Bonnie spat. "But that doesn't change how-"

Kim held up the palm of her hand, and she smiled when Ron followed suite.

"Tell it to the hands, Bonnie," Kim said dismissively. Then the least-cool-looking pair at Middleton Elementary that day walked past Bonnie Rockwaller as if she wasn't there.

VIII.

Mere feet from the Nurses' Office, a sudden flush of horror came over Kim's face. "Oh no!"

"What? What is it, KP?" Ron asked. He was genuinely alarmed by Kim's tone and expression. For the first time in almost twenty minutes, Ron felt out of his depth.

"Oh, Ron, the clowns!" The fact that a school function that Ron had been eagerly awaiting for months had been going on as they walked to the Nurse's Office had been hanging at the fringes of Kim's consciousness. Yet the obvious, full implication of this fact-that Ron was missing the recital-had not struck Kim until just then.

"Huh?"

"The recital! You're missing it!" Kim said with distress in her voice. Some friend I am!

"Kim, I think you need to focus on what's important here." Ron said knowingly. "You."

Kim didn't know what to say. The fact was the question of what words to speak didn't even enter her mind; she was too consumed with what needed to be done. She reached out to give her very best friend a tight hug … but stopped short as she was hit with yet another powerful cramp. Ron reacted to her evident pain with concern, but, thoughtfully, did not try to make physical contact.

Just as the pain subsided and Kim was about to give Ron the well-deserved hug, a shrill whistle startled them both.

"Looking good, Stoppable! Looking real good!" Peter Marvey, the sixth grade's (or any grade's) biggest bully, chided as he ran double-quick past them in the hall. Kim shot arrows into his back with her eyes as he darted down the hallway and disappeared around a corner. As was his habit when Marvey wasn't physically threatening him, Ron ignored him.

Actually, Kim was surprised that Marvey had been so … well … tame in his attack. She had expected something far more viscous from the loutish little punk. As she watched him scuttle away, she absently reflected that he seemed to be in an awful hurry … almost like he was being chased or trying to outdistance something.

"Focus." Ron said sternly as he walked into Kim's line of vision.

"Huh?" It was Kim's turn to be nonplussed.

"You," Ron said sharply pointing at her. His finger was so close to her nose that she had to cross her eyes to see it properly. She stepped back. "Focus." Ron repeated. He then concluded, "On."

As Kim was trying to reorder his words from Ronnish/Yoda speak into English, he helpfully provided his own translation. "Get going, KP," he pleaded, pointing to the nurse's door.

She nodded, walked to the office door, opened it, and proceeded to step inside. When she noticed he was hanging back, she motioned for him to join her.

"Ah, Kimberly Anne," Mrs. Quoad, the school nurse, said as she peeped over the counter. Mrs. Quoad was a fairly short woman and had to stand on her knees in the office chair to be able to lean over the counter whenever she needed to see who had entered the small office.

Kim smiled pleasantly up at Mrs. Quoad's face, hiding both the discomfort of an encroaching cramp and her general displeasure with anyone other than her family members (and Ron, if he had decided to) addressing her by her first two names.

"Oh, and Mr. Stoppable too," she smiled. Suddenly her smile (along with the rest of her) vanished, and she appeared next to them. She had moved very quickly for an older woman. "What can I help you with?"

"Well," Kim began hesitantly; she still felt so embarrassed by the entire sitch, but a reassuring backward glance at Ron gave her the confidence she needed. "I'm having cramps, Mrs. Quoad."

"Oh!" Mrs. Quoad exclaimed a lot louder than either Ron or Kim had expected. "Well, let's see what we can do about that." She turned and vanished behind the counter. A few moments later, they heard her voice mumble about "taking some candy" while she "was looking for the medicine."

Kim wasn't in the mood for candy anyway, but the violent hand signals and gestures Ron was making clearly indicated that she should stay as clear as possible from Mrs. Quoad's candy dish. Since Ron was both an expert on candy as well as a constant visitor to the Nurse's Office, Kim was more than ready to take her best friend's advice on the subject.

When Mrs. Quoad returned with some pills and a glass of water, she seemed surprised to see Ron. It was either she had forgotten he was even there or had naturally assumed he was would have left in the interim. After handing Kim the pills and the glass, she brusquely shooed him out of the office.

"No, no," Kim began, "Ron can stay."

"Go on, Stoppable," Mrs. Quoad continued oblivious to Kim's protests, "this is ladies' talk, young man. Off you go."

He was maneuvered out, and was just able to give Kim a "thumb's up" before Mrs. Quoad shut the door on him.

For their own very different reasons (Kim-upset that Ron was being forced to leave, Mrs. Quoad-general lack of observation skills), both Kim and the nurse failed to take into account the fact that Ron was still shirtless.

IX.

Ron, on the other hand, had not failed to realize this fact. Despite the humid weather outside (or maybe because of the humid weather outside), the Middleton Elementary central air system had kicked into overdrive. Ron was downright chilly, and he could feel the goose bumps rushing up his back. And although it was true that he had totally forgotten about the recital and was definitely still concerned for his friend, he was also real keen on getting his dad's jersey back-if only to keep his knees from knocking and his teeth from chattering.

Although Kim had downed the medicine almost as soon as it had been given to her, she was still majorly uncomfortable. One, the cramps weren't going to magically disappear instantaneously no matter how "extra strength" they were. Two, Mrs. Quoad had gotten it into her head to give Kim a brush-up course on what was happing to her "young, blossoming" body. OMG! Could she talk ANY louder? Three, and most importantly, she could still see Ron's outline through the fogged window in the office door and all she could think about was how miserable he must feel for missing out on the clowns.

Or ...

He just needs his jersey back! Doi!

"Pardon me, Mrs. Quoad," Kim said interrupting Mrs. Quoad's flowery description of Kim's "budding" fallopian tubes (Ick! Ick! Ick!). To Mrs. Quoad's general displeasure, Kim quickly struggled off the basketball jersey (and almost lost her shirt in the process), opened the door, and tossed the jersey out. "Here you go, Ron!" Kim smiled. She was just about to tell Ron how much she appreciated everything he had done for her when Mrs. Quoad sternly rebuked her to come back inside.

Ron smiled and gestured that Kim had better listen to the nurse if she knew what was good for her. He watched her eyes flash out a message he couldn't quite catch as the door shut them off from his view.

He smiled weakly down at the jersey and then tossed it over his head. After pulling it down, he realized he had put it on backwards. The name "E. Stoppable" was in front where it should have said "Zags." Ron quickly pulled his arms inside the sleeves and, instead of turning the jersey around, spun himself around, so it (or rather he) was facing the right direction. Just as he extended his arms back through the sleeves, Mrs. Barkin, the school principal, and a rather imposing man with a flat-top haircut that Ron had never seen before rounded the corner.

"Ronald!" Mrs. Barkin exclaimed. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you at the recital?" The kindly elementary principal had long known Ron's fondness for clowns, so her question was colored with concern rather than admonishment.

"Oh, hey, Mrs. B," Ron smiled happily with a little wave. Ron noticed that the younger man with the principal bristled slightly after Ron gave his greeting. "Kim was feeling a little sick so I helped her get to see Mrs. Q," Ron explained. He noticed the younger man bristle again.

"Oh, no," Mrs. Barkin frowned. "What's wrong with Kimberly?"

At that very moment all three of them heard Mrs. Quoad in a stern and very loud voice advising Kim on the importance of wearing a training bra since she her body was now "blooming." All three tried very hard not to seem as embarrassed as they really were. Finally, Ron broke the silence by explaining that Kim had been feeling "crummy in the tummy."

"And so you missed out on the recital, so you could make sure Kimberly was taken care of?" Mrs. Barkin smiled.

Ron nodded as if that were obviously what anyone would have done.

"Loyalty for your friends," the younger man pronounced in a voice that was gruff but not unkind, "That is something I definitely approve of."

"Oh, indeed, Stephen," Mrs. Barkin said, "Ronald and Kimberly are the best of friends. Oh, Ronald, I completely forgot! This is my son, Stephen; he's going to be teaching at the high school in the Fall."

The man extended his hand to Ron, and Ron gratefully took it in his with a broad smile.

What followed was a pain the likes of which the young man had never experienced. Although Ron managed to not cry or scream and kept a smile-like expression on his face, the grinding of his teeth did not go unnoticed by Mrs. Barkin.

"Stephen!" She cried. "Let him go! You have got to remember these are just little kids, not your Marine or Navy buddies!"

"Yes, mother," Steve Barkin said sheepishly as he released Ron's throbbing hand. "Sorry about that, son."

"No, no," Ron said gasping for air, "problem." As they walked on, Ron was able to ignore the throbbing pain enough to send them a little farewell Ronshine. Of course, he was waving with his left hand, since he still couldn't feel his right. "Nice to meet you, Mr. B! See you around Mrs. B!"

The presence of his mother and the tinge of genuine remorse he felt for possibly leaning in a little too hard with his firm handshake with the eleven-year-old kept Mr. Barkin from voicing his displeasure of nicknames in general and their application to himself and his mother in particular.

Well, he seemed pretty nice. If he's going to be teaching at the high school, I have ... one, two ... two and a half years to build up my strength ... oww ... or for my hand to heal.

Suddenly, Ron felt someone behind him. When he turned, he discovered it was Kim ... a-and for one of the few times that day, she was smiling.

"Hey, KP-"

He was suddenly swallowed up in the tightest hug his best friend had ever given him. Fortunately, she held him in such a way that his hand was not further injured. She was whispering urgently and hastily in his ear. So urgently and hastily that he only caught half of what she said. But what he did catch suggested that Mrs. Quoad was calling Kim's mom to come pick her up so she didn't have much time to thank him for everything he had done for her. And that he was the very best friend she could ever hope to have. That and a bunch of stuff Ron didn't understand about horticulture.

When she released him, he noticed two things. One, Kim had a towel tucked into her shorts that came down to about the same spot where his dad's jersey had-the tops of her "fuzzy" knees. He reflected semi-absently that is, absently enough so he could effectively push the idea out of his mind when he wanted to (well, sorta) that he had always thought Kim's fuzzy knees were pretty, especially the left one with the tiny freckle. Two, he noticed that Kim looked like she was … blushing.

"What's-"

She interrupted him a second time with a second hug.

Kim wasn't sure why she gave Ron the second hug. Maybe because he deserved it (he did) and maybe because she simply wanted to (she did). Most likely, it was a mixture of the two.

"I'm so wrong, Ron," she explained, "You were more than just my best friend today. You were my hero." And then, without thinking (but definitely not without feeling), she kissed him on the cheek and sprinted back into Mrs. Quoad's office.

It wasn't her first "real" kiss-that would come in her first year of junior high, and it would be with Walter, not Ron. Heck, it wasn't even the first time she had kissed Ron. She used to give him playful little pecks quite often when they were in Kindergarten back when Ron was constantly getting little nicks and bruises on the playground. However, this kiss felt different.

At the time, Kim dismissed the unexpected warm sensations she felt at the base of her neck and in the hollows of her knees to being a side effect of the "flowering" of her womanhood. Even so, it did make her feel good. Along with the ample proof of Ron's unconditional friendship, that kiss made a very uncomfortable and possibly mortifying day seem … well … special whenever she remembered it.

As for Ron, he didn't do much thinking over what happened that day in the hallway outside the Nurse's Office. There was nothing to think over.

It was simply a fact that although being a clown was pretty cool, being a hero was badical.


A/N: Gonzaga University is a Jesuit institute in Spokane, Washington. However, per their website, their student body is 2 Jewish. I like the idea of Eliot Stoppable, who is fairly serious about his religion in my universe, to have the bonhomie to become a reasonable popular and successful student athlete at a mostly Catholic university. Definitely, this is where Ron gets his "ferocious friendliness."