Special thanks to neithan, Katsumara, bigherb81, CajunBear73, MrDrP, JCS1966, Mister Trickster, Shrike176, screaming phoenix, whitem, BlueEdyedBrigadier, Bladed Darkness, Ardwolf, and Ultimate Naco Topping for their badical reviews!

Thanks to everyone for patiently waiting through the months of delays and broken promises until I finally finished this thing!

My warmest thanks, however, go to my editor flakeflippingsnowgypsy. She patiently, conscientiously, and mercilessly helped me pare away everything that shouldn't have been in the story. No way I could do this without you.

The characters, concepts and lyrics of Mark McCorkle, Bob Schooley, Yuna Kagesaki, David Foster Wallace, and Dolly Parton are their property. I only mixed them up together to produce this story.


I.

Sandwiched between the two unconscious vampires, Kim knew there was very little she could do to help Ron and Usui-san. "Ron, look out!" she cried, but her voice was swallowed by the intensifying groans coming from the doomsday machine.

Warmonga instantly recognized one of the Earthers on the mound of debris as the one who had defeated them months earlier. She cut a vicious glare at her companion. "The shield … most unnecessary?"

"Shoot him!" Warhok demanded, ignoring her rebuke.

"What's going on?" Ron asked urgently.

Kenta saw that the female alien had raised her weapon and was aiming it directly at Stoppable-san and himself. "We need a diversion," he shouted in Stoppable-san's ear. "Quick!"

"Oh, man! That's my job," Ron replied.

With grim calculation, Warmonga trained her weapon at the chest of her target. A sudden flurry of blackness on her right caused her a second's hesitation. In the course of the next second, the dark mass exponentially grew so that it blocked out her entire plane of view.

Elda's familiars, under the control of her son, swarmed over the alien's body. She shrieked and dropped her weapon to the ground. As she futilely flailed her arms, a handful of the beasts managed to undo her hair clasp, and their brethren began to infest her long, myrtle locks.

"What just happened?" Ron asked, confused by the discernable cries from the alien.

"We got our distraction," Kenta replied. However, as the words left his lips, he saw Warhok snatch up the fallen weapon. "But we're going to need another one," he sighed.

The alien warrior went down on one knee and leveled the staff with swift care. The deadly plasma glow at its end surged.

A small dark figure scurried across the pavement, leapt straight before the crouching alien, and launched a projectile at him.

Whatever this object had been, it was obscured from Kenta's view.

The staff went dark as Warhok tossed it aside violently. "You vile, vile creature!" he screamed, frantically wiping the filth from his eyes.

Yono bore his teeth and shook his right fist at the apoplectic alien before quickly loping into the safety of the shadows.

"We just got another one," Kenta exclaimed. "You're clear!"

"That's what I'm talkin' about," Stoppable-san nodded and outstretched his arms. "Now guide my hands to their feet."

"Excuse me?"

"Point my hands at the green dudes' feet," he cried. "I'll do the rest."

This wasn't so simple a task. Warhok kept his feet planted as he continued to furiously scrub at his eyes. But Warmonga was most assuredly on the move, in a desperate attempt to reach her comrade so she could retrieve the remote device from his utility pouch. As Kenta was still trying to aim Stoppable-san's right hand at her boots, she slammed into her companion and ripped the pouch from his belt.

A few seconds later, a faintly perceptible green halo encircled the two aliens and then bled into invisibility.

"Uh oh." Kenta said.

"Dude, what do you mean 'Uh oh'?!" Stoppable-san asked. "Don't 'uh oh' me!"

"I think they just activated a force field around themselves," Kenta explained. He noted mentally, however, that this "shield" wasn't bringing the Lorwardians any immediate satisfaction since the bats had also been encased within it and were now making sport of both aliens.

Stoppable-san shook his head. "So doesn't matter-just point my hands at their feet!"

Now that the aliens were more or less stationary, Kenta's task was much simpler. As he guided Stoppable-san's hands, he felt compelled to ask. "What exactly are we doing, again?"

"The Lotus Stance of the Untied Laces," Stoppable-san explained solemnly.

"What? But their boots don't even have laces!"

"That's not the point, dude," Stoppable-san replied, "just let me work here, okay?"

"Okay," Kenta said as he placed Stoppable-san's hands in position. "You're on!"

A cerulean glow began at the tips of Stoppable-san's fingers. Kenta would have sworn he was seeing things except that after blinking twice, the glow had spread all the way to Stoppable-san's elbows.

Stoppable-san waggled his fingers in seemingly random patterns and began mumbling phrases that couldn't be heard over the increased howling from the alien device. Just as the glow surrounded his entire body, he let out a high monkey-like whoop and jerked his hands backwards as if he was pulling a tablecloth from a fully set dining room table.

Within their protective bubble, Warhok and Warmonga went down as if a rug had suddenly been taken out from beneath them. Hard.

A quick glance at their motionless forms told Kenta that the aliens were out cold. His focus, however, was riveted elsewhere.

Stoppable-san was levitating some ten feet into the air and glowing from head to, well, tail. A distinctive outline of a monkey's tail was protruding from his back end.

"Ron!" Kim cried weakly, fearing that her boyfriend wouldn't hear.

She needn't have worried. Empowered with the MMP, all of his five sense were operating at "extra-ordinary" levels. His eyes sprang open. "KP!" he began looking frantically about for her. "What is it? Are you okay?"

"Ron, that thing," she gestured weakly over to the doomsday machine as she tried to catch her breath. "It's sucking all the air …" Her voice faltered.

Ron leveled his gaze at the machine, clasped his hands together and then drew them back over his head as if he were winding up to deliver a baseball pitch. As he did so, Elda sat up and rubbed her eyes. Ren, who was more concerned with the condition of his tongue that he had bitten when Kim had landed on him, turned away from the intense glare coming from the Ron. His grandmother, however, kept her eyes fixed upon the floating human.

At the climatic instant just before Ron released the awesome, seismic powers of the Ultimate Monkey Master, he stopped short.

"Okay, all you little bat dudes are going to have to clear out," he cried through his cupped hands to the familiars within the aliens' force field and along the upper extensions of the disabled drone. Directly, Elda's bats dove to the ground while her granddaughter's scattered east and west.

Ron released the "pitch."

II.

The iridescent blue flame broke through the top of the Lorwardians' energy shield, shattering it into pieces that flashed with a purplish outline before blinking into nothingness. The strike blazed across the parking lot, leaving azure vapors and the faint chittering of monkeys in its wake. It came to an immediate stop just above the head of the churning ADD, paused and waited almost as if it were pondering what to do next and then detonated in a sapphire eruption that consumed both the doomsday device and the hobbled drone in a fireworks-display-type explosion of cerulean, ultramarine, and monkey-shine laughter.

The chittering ceased and the explosion's blue clouds faded.

All that remained of the Lorwardians' arsenal were small mounds of greenish dust.

III.

Kim took two long breaths to fill her lungs and then staggered to her feet. On aching and extremely tired legs, she hobbled as quickly as she could toward her BFBF.

Ron wore the composed countenance of the warrior hero as he gradually descended back to terra firma. Yet when he spotted his BFGF, his mystical solemnity evaporated into Ronshine.

She leapt into his waiting arms even before his feet had touched the ground or his skin had ceased to glow. Like the embrace, their subsequent kiss was warm, hearty, grande-sized.

In fact, Kim and Ron's PDA-peppered reunion would have gone on for several additional moments if not for unexpected rumblings that-in the sudden silence following the destruction of the Lorwardians' devices-seemed quite loud.

And, for Kim, whose empty stomach had been their source, somewhat embarrassing.

IV.

"Usui-kun, Usui-kun!"

Frantically and awkwardly, Karin hurried to her boyfriend's side. Every few feet, she almost lost her footing because she was pulling along or being pulled along by-it was hard to tell exactly from moment to moment-Yono-san. His loping, though quick, tended to shift the girl's center of gravity a good deal. Twice, she almost ate it on the pavement only to be caught and set back on her feet by the brusquely helpful simian.

Kenta ran half-way to meet her and then braced himself for the impact. Experience had taught him the value of keeping his feet firmly planted whenever his girlfriend ran to embrace him. The monkey, however, was an unexpected variant to the equation, so, despite Kenta's preparations, he and his girlfriend landed painfully on their rear ends. Since he was so accustomed to the posture, Yono-san took the abrupt landing with little notice.

"Usui-kun, Usui-kun, Usui-kin!" Karen fiercely hugged Kenta as they sat on the debris-strewn pavement.

He regarded her tear-streamed face tenderly before leaning forward to kiss her gently on the forehead.

"I was so, so very worried," she explained, wiping both her eyes with the end of her apron.

"It's okay, Maaka," he said as he helped her to stand. "Everything's fine."

His words seemed to reassure her somewhat but a latent anxious frenzy remained; once on her feet, she fretfully began bouncing on her heels.

A few yards away, Kim, still in the arms of her boyfriend, causally observed the members of the Marker family. Elda, she noted, had been regarding Ron with something close to guarded respect while Ren had, conversely, been watching him with a certain degree of anxiety. Karin's parents and little sister, who had recently materialized from the shadows, seemed relatively unhurt and calm.

Karin, however, seemed seriously freaked.

"Maa-," Kim began and then stopped when she realized this address wasn't quite specific enough. "Karin!" she called.

The small vampire turned toward her voice.

"It's okay," Kim called reassuringly. "It's over."

Although the girl's anxiety didn't magically vanish, Kim was pleased to that she had at least stopped her frantic bouncing.

"The HELL it is!" Elda cried. "This isn't over as long as this trash," she gestured to the two prone aliens, "is still breathing!" She turned sharply and walked steadily toward them. The nails on her swinging right hand doubled in length and took on a vermilion cast.

"Wait!" Kim called after her.

Henry Marker stepped into his mother's path, holding out both hands.

"Out of my way, Henry," Elda demanded.

"Mother," he explained firmly, "I've told you before-the Council prohibits killing."

"Two things," she replied to the towering figure of her son. "One, when have I ever given a damn what that Council rules? Two, that ruling is only against killing humans." She effortlessly shoved him aside.

Kim jumped between her and the unconscious Lorwardians. "No."

"I've cut you slack all night," the vampire spoke slowly, "but don't confuse that with anything other than necessity." She folded her arms across her chest, her blood-red nails prominent against her pale skin. "You'd be wise to stand aside." Her eyes were like stones.

"Just listen to me," Kim began calmly. She paused a second as Ron stepped next to her and took her hand in his. "This is wrong. It's murder."

"Miss Possible," Calera interjected. She was suddenly standing just behind her mother-in-law. "How many times in the past have you faced these aliens?"

"Twice before," Kim said.

"Each time you defeated them, they came back," Calera stated.

"Yes," Kim answered, "but-"

"Don't misunderstand me," Karin's mother said, holding up her hand. "You're convictions are admirable. However, they are not sufficient. Not for us."

"Are you actually agreeing with me, Armash?" Elda turned her head and gave her daughter-in-law a rare approving look. A look that was aggressively ignored.

"We can't have these two coming back to exact revenge against our family." Calera said, still holding Kim's gaze. "This ends now."

"But, Honey-" Henry Marker spoke up, only to be silenced by the mutually foreboding stares from his wife and mother.

"Mom's thright," Ren slurred, holding his still-healing mouth with exaggerated care. "They could hath killed Karin. They hath to pay."

"Please," Kim urged, looking from one vampire to another. "I know what you're saying and I understand, believe me, but there has to be-"

"There is no other way," Elda interrupted. "Step aside." The look she directed at Kim and then at Ron was hard, implacable. "Now."

Kim stood her ground. Ron placed a hand on her shoulder.

The tension-filled silence, broken only by the occasional grunt from Yono, seemed endless.

"Grandma?"

Everyone turned toward Karin's voice. She and Anju were standing a few yards behind the rest of their family.

"We have an idea," she explained timidly. "Something else that might work."

V.

After detailing the plan she and her big sister had devised, Anju asked, "Is this sufficient, Mother?"

Calera was silent a moment, but then nodded her assent.

Elda didn't seem so convinced. She stared at her granddaughters for a long time and then shook her head. "This is a mistake," she said finally.

Then she suddenly pounced upon Karin, squeezing the girl exceptionally tight around her shoulders and neck.

The act was so unexpected and, well, forceful that Kim's first reaction was to run to Karin's aid. However, the girl's subsequent giggles put her at ease.

Somewhat.

"I just can't say no to my grandchildren," Elda laughed as she released Karin and began to hug the mostly unresponsive Anju. Once finished, she turned to face her son. "So, Henry," she asked, wicked light streaming from her eyes, "hungry?"

VI.

Du's Log

The apprehension and detainment of the Lorwardian subjects was handily accomplished by Agent William Knott and myself. As anticipated.

Superior Command's initial recommendation for deployment of a regimental fleet of hoverjets for the extraction proved unwarranted. As anticipated.

Following a brief delay caused by an unavoidable system malfunction of indeterminate origin, Agent Knott and I promptly arrived at the location of the Lorwardians' sudden manifestation. This destination had been provided to Global Justice by an unregistered source. Complementing previously gathered GJ intelligence, said source indicated that the extra-terrestrials were in possession of an arsenal originating from their home world that had been misappropriated from a Supervillains' Convention being held near the scene. As dictated by these circumstances as well as GJ guidelines, Agent Knott and I utilized GJ regulation armor and the utmost caution upon our initial approach.

Once we arrived, however, I intuited that these extra precautions were superfluous.

The arsenal in question had self-destructed, leaving only piles of ash at various points at the scene. Fortunately, structural damage in the surrounding area was minimal. In fact, the only incidents of terrestrial injury were the splintered trunks of trees that Agent Knott noted along the perimeter of a parking area for a nearby restaurant.

The subjects were excessively disoriented when encountered. Agent Knott suggested the Lorwardians may be suffering from a form of amnesia. Apart from numerous superficial wounds received during the destruction of their weaponry, they were not seriously injured or disfigured. Furthermore, in direct contrast to the world-domineering behavior they exhibited this past spring, the subjects were most compliant and offered minimal to no resistance while being taken into custody.

Whether their cooperation was due in part to memory loss is debatable. I would argue that a larger reason for the aliens' submission was the authority commanded by the GJ officers. However, I concede that their supposed amnesia did seem most complete. Although GJ-gathered evidence suggests an emotional attachment existing between the two subjects, they seemed utterly indifferent to each other.

Corroborating statements were taken from four witnesses-employees from Julian, the aforementioned restaurant. Two of said employees were Miss Kimberly Possible and Mr. Ronald Stoppable. In the light of their prior altercations with the Lorwardians, the presence of these two individuals explained, for this agent, why the aliens selected this particular location for their attack. Both Miss Possible and Mr. Stoppable exhibited superficial injuries that attested to a third altercation with the invaders. I briefly interviewed the pair and then ordered them to seek medical attention.

Attached notes from my brief, yet thorough interviews with Miss Possible and Mr. Stoppable substantiate my theory of the attack's cause. Some of their answers seem to contradict my initial assessment of the situation-especially those statements exhibiting a concentration of needless detail, yet the balance of the facts make evident that my objective view of the events is the most sound and accurate one.

This record faithfully submitted by Special Agent William B. Du ~ 17 October, Y.P.W.#

# Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken (2007) ~ Global Justice, headquartered in Colorado, adheres, like the rest of North America, to the Subsidized calendar rather than Gregorian.

VII.

Ron sighed and wearily shook his head.

"We could really use Rufus right about now," he thought glumly.

The towers of dishes practically reached the kitchen's ceiling. And although Usui-san had already exhibited some pretty mad towel-wielding skills, getting the kitchen straight was still going to take them all night.

Ron took the final tray of the evening from the desert freezer. He entertained the possibility of having Kim contact Michelle to see if Rufus was willing to come over as drying reinforcements. However, as he pushed through the kitchen doors, he realized that if word got out that Julian had employed a 'rat' as a member of its dishwashing staff, even for a single night, well ... no, maybe it wasn't such a good idea. The restaurant had been through quite enough already.

Only the light above Kim's table at the far end of the dining area was lit. As he made his way through the darkened sections, Ron remembered that Karin had told him that a vampire's eyes, at least a normal vampire's eyes, were sensitive to electric lights.

As he finally approached Kim's table and skirted around the towering figure of Karin's dad who was standing just at the light's edge, Ron realized that his friend's big bro was missing.

Their meeting had gone fairly smoothly, Ron thought. True, Ren had been somewhat tight lipped when Ron introduced himself. But the vampire had explained that he had bitten his tongue during the fight and couldn't really talk. Ron had suggested that probably happened a lot to vampires. Ren had nodded absently, backed away, and then split without another word. Ron hoped he hadn't offended the dude in some way.

"Thanks, Karin, but I can handle it," Kim was protesting. She pushed her plate away from her. "You don't need to do this."

"But you're so hungry," Karin countered, "if I do it for you, you can keep eating."

"But what about you?"

"Usui-kun and I already finished our dinners while you were talking with Agent Dude," Karin explained.

Kim smiled and then looked back at her dinner. "All right," she said finally, "only if you're sure." She slid down the booth to make room so Karin could sit next to her.

"So what's going on, guys?" Ron asked. He absently noticed a first aid kit on the edge of the table.

"Nothing," Kim said as she slid all the way down the booth and turned so she could raise her legs on the seat before Karin.

Ron winced as his eyes fell upon the numerous cuts and scrapes along his girlfriend's legs. Her knees looked especially nasty.

She evidently caught his worried look. "This isn't the first time I've skinned these knees," she told him. "And it won't be the last. I'm okay, Ron."

Traumatic childhood memories involving a cursed set of rollerblades faded, and Ron gave his best friend girlfriend a relaxed smile.

"You were saying, Miss Possible?" Karin's father asked. His voice was somewhat distorted because he was pinching his nostrils shut.

"Sorry," Kim began after swallowing a forkful of her meal, "what exactly is the sitch with Warhok and Warmonga?"

"The effects of our bites are by no means permanent," Henry explained. "The aliens' arrogance as well as their affection for one another will return after a short period."

"Their memories, however," Anju spoke softly at the table's edge, "are irretrievable."

Her sudden appearance shook up Ron quite badly. He nearly dropped the covered tray and only recovered his balance by means of a typically covoluted display of Ronnish "dumb skill." Ron wondered if the fact that she was holding her nose gave the girl's voice a slighlty more spooky sound.

"So, even if more Lowardian weapons are discovered, they won't remember how to operate them?" Kim asked.

"Their personal histories of planetary domination and all the skills they have accumulated and employed in such endeavors are lost to them forever," the girl continued without a hint of inflection. "They will not even realize that Earth is not their home world."

A few low grunts drew Ron's attention to Yono The Notsomuch Destroyer who had taken the first aid kit from the table and was now trying to open it with the toes of his right foot.

"Dude," Ron said looking away in disgust. Despite his status as the planet's Premier Being With All Things Simian, he still got squeamish whenever he saw his 'subjects' pick up things with their feet. The fact that Yono had somehow stretched sanitary gloves over his feet didn't make him feel any less so.

"Oh thanks, Yono-san!" Karin exclaimed as she took a small bottle from the monkey's outstretched foot. "I was looking for this." She set the bottle of betadine solution next to the small pile of bandages on the table and gave Yono's head an appreciated scratch.

"Any further questions?" Henry Marker asked, still holding his nose.

"There was something," Kim continued, "but I don't remember what."

"Hey!" Ron said suddenly, spinning around. "There's something I'd like to ask, Mr. M."

After a moment of awkward silence, Karin informed her father, "Papa, I think Ron-san means you."

"Oh? I'm sorry. What is it, Mr. Stoppable?"

"Well, all your bat dudes rebuilt the restaurant so fast, so I was kinda wondering why they couldn't have put it back together with the tables bused and all the dishes washed."

"Hmm," Henry began after a moment. "It is hard to explain. Well, uh, there are things the familiars can do and, well, ... let's see ... the range of their powers is specific to ... well ..."

"For goodness' sake, Henry," Calera cried as she stepped from the shadows, her own nostrils tightly pinched together. "Just admit you don't know how it works!"

Karin's father gave Ron a sympathetic shrug.

"Man, that tanks," Ron sighed. "Well, do you think they could help find my pants?" he asked, gesturing to his pair of Fearless Ferret boxers. "The AC's making me kinda chilly."

"Mama?" Karin asked sheepishly.

"What is it?" her mother asked warily.

"I was wondering. Um, about Yono-san ..."

"The answer is no, Karin. You are not brining that thing into our house."

"But that's not fair!" she cried.

"You know the rules," her father enjoined. "No pets."

"But everyone else in the family has pets," she protested. "Why can't I have just one?"

"The bats are not pets," Calera explained impatiently, "they're our familiars. It's not the same."

"Well," Karin persisted, "why can't Yono-san be my familiar?"

"Henry? Have you found my slipper yet?" Karin's mom asked, her eyes still focused on her eldest daughter.

"Oh!" Kim said suddenly. "I think I have it." She quickly produced the pink slipper from her apron's pocket. "Is this it?"

"Why, yes, it is." Calera smiled broadly. Kim gently tossed the piece of footwear to the vampire's waiting hands.

"Thank you, Miss Possible," she said kindly and then reared back sharply and threw the slipper straight at her daughter's head.

Kim was speechless with shock.

"Mama!" Karin cried, clutching her forehead.

"Uh, what just happened?" Ron asked, snapping out of a momentary trance and gazing from his girlfriend's horrified look to his friend's wincing.

Karin sniffled and tossed the slipper back to her mother and then went directly back to washing Kim's wounds. Two beats later, she paused. "But why can't I keep him?"

"Karin, please stop this," her father stated firmly.

"But he's just like a familiar-he looks out for me. He even saved my life!"

"He did?" Henry asked, casting a favorable glance to the simian who was digging his nits in the center of the aisle. A second later, he cried out in pain as his wife's heel drove into his foot.

"We'll discuss this later, Karin," Calera said with finality.

"What's under the cover, Ron?" Kim asked, trying to defuse the atmosphere that had suddenly erupted among the Markers.

"Just the most bon-diggity desert on the entire menu," he smiled, leaning over to remove the serving tray's lid.

Kim dropped her fork against her plate.

Ron knew the triple-decker, fudge-frosted cake accented with ripe strawberries, blueberries, and every-other-kind-of-berry would get his girlfriend's attention.

"Cover it back up, Ron," she pleaded. "Or I won't be able to finish this wonderful dinner."

"Hey!" Ron suddenly turned to Karin's parents. "Why are all of you guys except Karin holding your noses?"

"Huh?" Kim asked, looking up from her plate perplexed.

Calera stepped forward, pointing a dangerous-looking finger directly at Kim's dinner. When she spoke, her voice was thunder mixed with ashes. "Because our daughter's wonderful dish is saturated in garlic!"

VIII.

"Human!" Elda cried as she suddenly leapt onto the top of her darkened table.

Ron, who was walking past on his way back to the kitchen, jumped at her cry, but recovered himself quickly. "Yo! Can I get you something?" he asked in a fairly confident voice.

"I didn't mean you, Blue Boy," she said derisively.

"I think she means me, Ron," Kim called from the other end of the dining area.

"Mother?" Henry Marker asked. "Is everything all right?"

"Oh, everything's perfect, Henry," she replied coldly. "Instead of just one human knowing our family's secret, now there are three." After a second's reflection, she corrected herself. "Well, two humans," she said before shaking her umbrella in Ron's direction, "and whatever-the-hell this one is."

"Hey, was that some kind of shot?" Ron protested.

Elda ignored him, keeping her eyes on Kim. "I need to speak to her before I leave."

Henry Marker flashed Kim an anxious look as she slid out of the booth.

"Miss Possible," he spoke to her softly. "I don't know what my mother's got planned, but, as you are no doubt already aware; she is not the most reasonable person. I advise caution"

IX.

The second Kim stepped out into the night air, the vampire jutted the vermilion nail of her index finger an inch from Kim's nose.

"Under no circumstances mistake the tolerance of my family for mine," she hissed. "If it wasn't for the fact that Karin would never forgive me for it, I would have already wiped your mind as blank as an infant's."

Taking a few seconds to recover herself, Kim replied thinly, "Understood."

"If you breathe a word about our existence to anyone," Elda's pupils slit length-wise like a cat's and an amber glow throbbed about the edges of her fingernails, "I will find you." Finally, after what seemed an excruciatingly long moment, the vampire's eyes and fingers went back to "normal," and she lowered her hand from Kim's face. Smiling, she concluded in a much calmer tone, "Just so we're clear."

"Crystal," Kim replied icily.

Elda gave her a curt nod and turned to go.

"Still," Kim said quickly before the vampire could run off, "I think it might be a good idea if some humans did know."

"Excuse me?" Elda spun back around, her expression beginning to darken.

"Just listen to me for a second," Kim explained. "Most of what humans know about vampires is wrong, right? You don't kill us; you don't turn us into zombies. Well, if certain humans, and I'm talking about a select few-like scientists or maybe Doctor Director-were told the truth, then maybe, over time, all the myths could be-"

"My granddaughter's blood has addled your mind," Elda interrupted, her voice colored with pity more than contempt.

"Look," Kim said with energy, "I'm not saying it would happen overnight, but, gradually, our two species might be able to … well, accept each other."

"I don't believe for a second it would ever happen," Elda said in a reasonable, if edgy, voice, "but even if your species could forget all the lies it enjoys telling itself about us, the fact remains that we feed upon you. Don't you get it? You are our food."

Kim could think of nothing to say.

"That," Elda pronounced with finality, "is something humans will never accept."

"But," Kim protested, "Working together we saved the world tonight! That has to count for something."

Elda didn't reply immediately, only absently looked at the pavement. Finally, she shook her head and mumbled, "James."

"Pardon?"

"My late husband," Elda said, without looking up. "Just now you sounded like him." After a prolonged silence, she explained, "He used to talk about vampires and humans understanding each other, even working together. 'Symbiosis,' he called it. It was his one dream."

A light wind blew through the vampire's pink tresses and she shifted her grip on the umbrella's handle. Finally, she raised her head and met Kim's expectant gaze. "It drove me insane," she admitted breezily. "I'm so glad he didn't live to meet you."

"I'm sorry?"

"If he had ever met a human who shared his views," she explained casually, "he would have been absolutely insufferable to live with." She shrugged, "Even with the fantastic sex."

Eww. So didn't need to hear that.

"Kim," Elda said, her features turning serious.

"Yes?" Although the TMI still hung heavily in the air, the fact that the vampire had addressed her by name did not escape Kim's attention.

"This is very difficult for me to say," the vampire began. "I never thought I'd ever speak of a human in these terms."

Kim waited.

"Tonight," Elda said, avoiding Kim's glance, "you did surpass my expectations. You were," she paused as she searched for the right word. Her look softened as she hit upon it. "Bearable."

Then she spun around, and walked toward the darkness. She waved without looking back and called over her shoulder cheerily, "Remember, tell anyone and I kill you." And was gone.

Excuse me? That's it? "Bearable"?

The sound of crying just behind Kim interrupted her mental diatribe. She turned to find Karin's father in mid-sob, hiding in the shadows by the restaurant's entrance. He quickly turned from her, explaining as he tried to control himself, "I'm sorry, Miss Possible. It's just." He wiped his eyes clear. "It's just that I wish my mother would think of me half as highly as she regards you."

Kim wasn't sure what to do for a moment, but finally she walked over and gave the vampire a consoling pat on his shoulder.

X.

Kenta had been reluctant to leave the kitchen at first. It wasn't that he actually enjoyed washing dishes, but there were so many! And he knew that if someone didn't plow through them, he and his friends might be there when the breakfast crew arrived. But both Stoppable-san and Maaka had relayed that Possible-san was insisting that he "take five" to enjoy a slice of his girlfriend's dessert.

The cake was, of course, quite, quite good. As he ate, he bemusedly noted how unself-conscious Possible-san and Stoppable-san were when expressing affection for each other. Within five minutes' time, they had kissed twice. He and Maaka were much more reserved when it came to things like that. They had never kissed in public, and, in fact, at that moment were holding hands underneath the table.

"How's the eye, Ron?" Possible-san asked

Kenta looked up from his plate to see Stoppable-san fumbling with his right eye.

"Fine, KP," he replied blandly. After catching the skeptical glare she was giving him, he elaborated. "Well, I can see okay, but since the MMP wore off, things have kind of a fuzzy edge around them."

"You're so going to need glasses," she said shaking her head. "Why don't you just set up the appointment?"

"Because glasses are majorly uncool, KP," he groused. "They're going to mess up the Ron-man's style. Besides I don't see why I need a whole pair of glasses anyway-only one eye's messed up."

"Unfortunately, that's how glasses come, Ron. By the pair."

"Wait a minute!" he cried suddenly. "A monocle!"

"Monocle?" Maaka asked. "You mean one of those old-fashioned glasses ... I mean, uh, half-glasses on a string?"

"Sure-that wouldn't dampen my essential Ronness at all." His grin was from ear to ear. "Now I just need to locate the nearest monocle dealer. They probably sell them online, don't you think?"

It wasn't easy for Kenta to keep a straight face. Stoppable-san was a good guy, a hard worker, and his powers were as formidable as they were surprising, but he was easily the silliest person Kenta had ever met.

"So, you're telling me that I'm going to be dating the world's only monocle-wearing ninja?" Possible-san quipped drily between mouthfuls of cake.

"You're a ninja, Ron-san?" Karin asked with obvious surprise.

Kenta paid his classmate's comment little mind until he realized the silence that met Maaka's question had become fraught and overly-long. When he looked across the table, Stoppable-san was looking rather pale, and Possible-san's head was on the table-top, buried in her arms.

Oh, so he really is a ninja?

"Uh, yeah, about that," Stoppable-san began finally. "Well, that's," he glared at his girlfriend as he drummed his fingers on his plate, "kind of a secret. Or at least it was."

"I'm sorry," Possible-san mumbled. Even with her face covered, Kenta could tell his classmate was blushing. The tips of her ears matched the color of her hair.

Possible-san's mood had greatly improved by the time she helped herself to a third slice of cake.

Stoppable-san had made headway into his second helping, but seemed, at least to Kenta, to be losing steam.

Of course, Kenta knew all about losing steam. He had been having trouble keeping his eyes open for the past ten minutes.

Suddenly and inexplicably, he felt like he was losing his balance. When he attempted to grab something to steady himself, Kenta was surprised to discover that he was already lying on his side in the booth's seat. He saw Stoppable-san, fast asleep, in the same position in the opposite seat. Possible-san was kneeling next to her boyfriend's head. Kenta watched as she took off her apron and began rolling it into a ball. She carefully tucked it under his head as a makeshift pillow.

Before he could ask what was going on, he felt his own head being gently lifted. He turned and saw the large eyes of his girlfriend staring down at him in the dim light. In her right hand was her own wadded-up apron.

"No," he began, "the dishes." When he tried to raise himself up, she gently held him down.

"Don't worry, Usui-san," Possible-san whispered. "We'll take care of the cleaning up."

He shook his head as he reluctantly let his girlfriend guide his head down on his "pillow." "No," he whispered back, "you have no idea how much work still needs to be done-it's impossible!"

It took a few seconds before he realized the cause for the perturbed look his classmate was giving him. "Sorry," he said before breaking into a yawn.

"No big."

"Yeah," Maaka whispered into his ear. "You two have worked hard enough tonight." She then added cheerfully, "It's so not the big."

Kenta watched as Possible-san and Maaka made their way through the dark to the kitchen. Then, suddenly, Maaka ran back, knelt down, and quickly bent her face toward his. A second later, he watched her receding pale legs fade into the darkness at the opposite side of the dining room.

Although there had been no witnesses and, like their hand-clasping, it had occurred "under the table," the kiss his girlfriend had given him seemed to flow across Kenta Usui as his mind sank into the deep, pleasant warmth of unconsciousness.

XI.

"Are you sure you're not too tired?" Possible-san asked. "I can handle it, no problem."

Karin could only stare. She had never seen the dishes so backed up before at Julian. Then again, she couldn't recall such a busy Saturday when the restaurant had been so short-staffed. For a second, she wished that her parents' familiars hadn't rebuilt the place.

"N-no," she stammered, "I'm fine-not tired at all." She immediately suppressed a yawn.

Possible-san raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

"Uh-huh," Karin nodded quickly.

"Okay, then. Let's get this party started," she said firmly, approaching the first stack.

Karin took the drying duty after Possible-san volunteered for the more vigorous washing duty. For about five minutes or so they worked with only the sounds of the running faucet and the clatter of plates breaking the silence.

"Oh," Possible-san said suddenly, "thanks again for treating my injuries."

"Oh!" Karin jumped and almost dropped the dish she had been drying.

"Are you okay?"

"Sure!" Karin laughed nervously as she leaned the plate in the drying rack. "I'm always acting weird, ask Usui-kun."

"Well," Possible-san said after a pause, "I really appreciate what you did. Will talked for sooo freaking long, and I was starving."

"My pleasure. Do you think I did an okay job?"

Possible-san stopped washing to glance at the numerous bandages of various sizes that dotted her legs. "I think so. They stung a little when I first got up and moved around, but I hardly notice it now."

"Good." Karin smiled.

"Karin?" Possible-san asked in a slightly unsure voice.

"Possible-san?"

"Please, call me 'Kim.'"

"Okay, Kim. What is it?"

"It is all right if I ask you something, well, something vampire-related?"

Karin took a breath and then nodded. "Okay." She had known this would be coming sooner or later. Still, that didn't change the fact that she wanted to run away.

Please, please, please don't ask why I bit you. I'm so sorry!

"What exactly does this 'blood-increasing' of yours mean? Your sister told me a little, but I'm not sure I understand."

"Oh that," Karin sighed, relieved. "Well, once a month my body produces too much blood, and I have to release it by … well … by biting someone."

"Okay. What happens if you don't bite someone?"

"It comes out on its own."

"Really? How?"

Karin sighed. "Nosebleeds."

"Nosebleeds?"

The girl nodded. "Terrible, awful, horrible nosebleeds. Like a hose, like a fire hydrant."

"Like what I discovered in the bathroom?" Kim asked.

"Yes, it's so embarrassing!" Karin paused in thought for a moment and then decided to plunge ahead. "Even though I get kinda shy about putting my arms around someone and putting my mouth ... well, on their neck and stuff," she could feel her cheeks reddening, "it is much, much better when I bite someone. The nosebleeds hurt. A lot. And I feel so woozy afterwards that I usually pass out. Of course, I can pass out when I bite someone too, but only after releasing my blood many times in a single day." After a beat, she admitted, "Like today."

"But why would you need to? Doesn't it all come out at once?"

"Normally, yes, but it'll start to increase again if I get too close to someone with my blood preference." Karin's mouth instantly went dry as she realized she had said too much. Stupid, stupid!

"Oh, yeah," Kim said, shifting a stack of dishes into the sink with a splash, "your grandmother mentioned that. Can vampires only bite people who match their … taste?"

"No, no," Karin said quickly. "They can bite anyone they want; it just means that's the taste of blood they like best. Mom likes the blood of liars, Dad arrogance, Grandma's love, Anju likes jealousy and, finally, Big Brother-"

"Jealousy?"

"Uh-huh," Karin nodded.

Kim frowned. "So the people she bites …"

"They stop envying other people's happiness," Karin explained, "and, usually, become happy themselves."

"Hmm."

After a brief pause during which Karin could hear her heart drumming in her ears, Kim continued, "Okay. That explains something I saw earlier tonight. So what is-"

"I like when people are sad!" Karin blurted suddenly. "No, wait, wait, I mean I like people who are sad. No, wait, that's not what I meant, either!" She gripped the edge of the sink, closed her eyes, and said as calmly as she could, "My blood preference is misery."

In the darkness behind her eyelids, she heard Kim's concerned voice ask, "Are you feeling okay, Karin?"

She steadied herself against the sink and tried not to cry. "I'm so so sorry, Possible-san! I'm so sorry I attacked you."

A moment later, she felt Kim's hand on her shoulder.

"Karin, can I tell you something?"

With great difficulty the vampire opened her eyes and turned to face her victim.

After an instant, Kim dropped her gaze. "I was so close to giving up tonight, Karin. I've never been that miserable before. I mean, I've been through some seriously bad sitches in the past, but Ron has always been there to lift my spirits, to have my back." She shook her head. "And I was so sure he was gone. Even though I knew that I still couldn't give up, that I still had to be strong, still had to be the hero, I just couldn't do it. When I found the Roncom … I was done."

"I could tell you were really, really sad ... and I was trying to help when I did it," Karin explained. "When I bit you, I mean."

"I know that, Karin," Kim said looking up. "And you did." She placed both of her hands on Karin's shoulders and looked directly into her eyes. "I wouldn't have made it through tonight without you." Then Possible-san drew her into a tight hug. "Thanks."

After Kim released her, Karin held her crimson cheeks in her hands and her eyes struggled to look everywhere in the room but at Kim. "One second!" she cried and ran down the hall toward the employee locker rooms. She threw open the girls' door and struggled to open her locker. It refused to open, and then she realized the lock was still on. Once she had opened the door, she dug through her bag and pulled out the disc she wanted. She raced back to the kitchen leaving the locker and the room's doors ajar.

"Would you like to listen to some music?" she asked excitedly.

"Sure. That'd be great."

Karin rushed over to a small pink disc player next to the prep table. Seconds later, the opening notes of "(You Drive Me) Batty" from Britina's first album filled the kitchen.

"Wow! I haven't heard this song in like forever," Kim announced as Karin rejoined her at the sink.

"Do you like Britina?"

"Of course!" Kim smiled. "Actually, we're pretty good friends."

"You're friends with Britina?!" Karin breathed.

"Yeah," Kim nodded, "I've helped her out a couple times. It's no big."

"Wow."

"I think her tour's coming to town this Spring. Would you like to meet her?"

"You'd do that?" the vampire gasped.

"Sure. No problem."

Karin was speechless. The prospect of actually meeting the Britina was so unbelievable that she failed to succumb to the infectious rhythm of the song for a full two minutes. But then she did start to dance in place along with the rhythm, and, after another minute, she began to sing along.

And then Kim started to sing along with her.

At that moment, Karin was so incredibly happy that all her concerns and worries were crowded from her head almost as if they had never been there at all.

Kim passed Karin a large platter she had just finished washing and absently asked as the music faded, "So what's your brother's taste in blood?"

The sound of the platter shattering against the tile floor caused them both to jump.

Mumbling profuse apologies, Karin hurried off to find the broom and dustpan. After she had finished silently sweeping up the shards and had dumped them in the trash, she said, "Ren is attracted to stress."

After a moment Kim said, "That makes sense." She turned to face Karin and explained, "Right before he showed up, I was wicked upset. What with Shego and Bonnie and everything. I was so stressed out that I was actually seeing red." She exhaled and smiled, "It certainly makes me feel better to know that's what is was. I really thought he was hitting on me."

"He was doing that, too." Karin said despondently.

"What?!"

"Big Brother reacts to any human who is stressed out, but he only goes after women." She hesitated. "And that's because he tends to have ... 'relations,'" she made a painful face, "with the women he bites."

"Really." Kim stopped washing.

"And that's why I chased him off," Karin explained.

"You did?" Kim asked looking up.

"Yeah, but I don't mean that I thought he'd win you over or anything, Possible-san!" Karin explained frantically. "It's just that with all the trouble you were having, the last thing you needed was to deal with my slimy brother!" After she finished speaking, Karin felt overcome with the desire to look for any chips from the platter she had possibly missed with the broom. She didn't get that chance.

"It's okay, Karin," Kim said breezily. "Thanks. Again."

The HALICALI song that had been playing ended and the next song's melody brought Karin out of the trance Kim's kind words had place her in.

"Hey!" she announced happily. "This is Usui-kun's and my song!"

As Karin sang along with the first line, Kim's face brightened.

"Wait a minute, I know this song!" She explained to Karin that it had been in Ron's record collection that he had inherited from his father back when they were both still in kindergarten. She didn't believe she had heard it for over a dozen years.

I feel it when you're with me

It happens when you kiss me

That rare and gentle feeling that I feel inside

Your touch is soft and gentle

Your kiss is warm and tender

Whenever I am with you I think of butterflies

Karin happily sang along while Kim hummed the melody. When it ended, Kim asked her if they could play the song one more time.

XII.

From the instant she had met her, Kim has gotten an unmistakable wave of uneasiness radiating from Karin. Over the course of the evening, it had varied in degrees, from quiet anxiety to outright panic, but it had always been there. For whatever reasons, Kim made the girl nervous. However, now that they were alone in the kitchen, making real headway with the dishes and chatting idly about their boyfriends, Kim no longer sensed it. And as she finished telling Karin about Ron's antics at the grand opening of Bueno Nacho, Kim realized the reason was because the girl's anxiety was no longer there.

Their laughter was followed by a few quiet moments during which Kim suddenly recalled what she had meant to ask Henry Marker earlier.

"Karin," she said as she dunked a sauce pot beneath the soapy water's surface, "after you bit me, I had this really strange dream. Ron was in it, but it really wasn't Ron if that makes sense. I think it has something to do your blood, but I'm not sure what. Does that make any sense?"

When Karin didn't answer immediately, Kim followed up with another question. "In the dream, this 'Ron' mentioned that Usui-san had similar dreams after you had bitten him. Does any of this sound familiar to you?"

The prolonged silence started to worry Kim.

Have I upset her? Did I dredge up something I shouldn't have?

When she glanced over at her friend, her concerns dissolved.

"You are so much like Ron," she whispered.

Leaning precariously forward over the water with her waist balanced against the side of the sink, Karin was fast asleep.

Kim placed a hand on the girl's shoulder and then gently guided her, still-sleeping, out of the kitchen and into the dining area.

As they approached the table, Kim learned that a fourth slice of cake would not be a temptation. The chocolate-smeared lips of Yono, who lay sleeping soundlessly on the cake's serving tray, conveyed the brutal fact that no one would be getting additional helpings of Karin's dessert.

Ron was where they had left him, stretched out and snoring along the booth's left seat. Usui-san, on the other hand, had apparently tried to get up-more than likely to help with the dishes. However, he hadn't gotten far and was dozing upright in the center of the right seat. Carefully, Kim maneuvered the still-snockered Karin next to him. Once the vampire's bottom touched down, she leaned against her boyfriend's shoulder and started to snore.

Kim shook her head and turned back to the kitchen to finish the dishes.

When she had finished and returned to the dining area, she was somewhat surprised by how dark the night sky still was. Kim would have sworn she had been washing and drying for a very long time, but the wrist Kimmunicator showed it was only three in the morning.

Usui-san now mirrored Ron's posture, lying along the seat with his head propped up on his elbow. Karin was cradled beneath his free arm, her snores working in two-part harmony with Ron's.

Quietly, Kim edged herself between the table and her boyfriend. Then she carefully lowered herself down alongside him. The instant her shoulder brushed his chest, his somnolent arms enfolded about her. For the first few moments, she counted the beats of his heart that were radiating through her back. She listened to his snores and to those of Karin and to the periodic snorts coming from Yono as he shifted his position on the cake tray. Kim closed her eyes and tried to sleep.

She opened them. It was no good; she wasn't tired. Not even a little bit. The faint, pleasant sensation that had been thrumming through her since Karin had bit her was still going strong.

Kim absently went over everything that had happened that night. Even if she didn't count the brutal drawn-out battle with the Lorwardians, it had been quite an evening. She had publicly embarrassed everyone at the table (with the exception of Yono). She had worn the shortest, most ridiculous waitressing uniform in the civilized world while working a Friday night shift at a hectic restaurant-a restaurant whose clientele had been made up entirely of supervillains. Shego had taken embarrassing, net-ready pictures of her. She had suffered merciless abuse and ridicule from Bonnie Rockwaller that professional obligations prohibited her from countering. She had been threatened by a drunken mystic simian, hit on by Karin's extremely sleazy brother, tipped heavily by Prof. Dementor's sister, and met her doppelganger as well as Ron's and their son! Drakken had shot her in the face with a cherry fired from a bendy-straw.

And all of this had happened before she was bitten by the vampire.

Vampires really do exist. Talk about so the drama.

Then something occurred to her that caused her to smile. The previous Halloween Monique had actually gone as a vampire. Wearing a long black dress, her hair streaked with gray stripes, her lips glossed with fake blood, Mon didn't think she made a believable denizen of the night. So she had borrowed some of Ron's eye black to give her facile features the required "goth touch." Yet Kim couldn't imagine anyone less goth than the real vampire who a short while ago had sang "Love is Like a Butterfly."

Then she hit upon the thought that allowed her to come down, that provided the sense of deep peace needed so she could sleep.

The secret Ron had been keeping from her had become one that she was now beholden to keep with him.

Listening to the snores coming from her best friend and from her new friend, Kim finally closed her eyes. Gently, slowly, this two-part harmony nudged her into a profound, dreamless sleep. A sleep anchored by the knowledge that all her best friend/boyfriend's secrets were now hers, too.


Dedicated to the shade of David Foster Wallace.