a million thanks to Levi2000a1 for letting me use his plot and ideas, and editing my work.
any recognizable characters belong to Disney.

-temporary insanity

Pictures Of You

"Well... there it is," the dull man announced glumly, pointing. There was an awkward pause as they all moved to stand around James's car. The ancient Jaguar had clearly seen better days. It's unique reddish-orange color had gone from glossy to rusted, the wheels were slowly but surely losing air, the rear driver's side being completely flat. The dirt and dust from rain and other weather had covered the windows in a thick layer of brown.

Kim reached out and wiped at the caked dirt with her hand. Inside the car, boxes and papers filled the rear seat as well as the front, passenger's side. All of those things were covered in dust so thick, they were barely distinguishable.

The space center's security guard excused himself and left. Ann sighed, and Ron rubbed her arm. "I'll call a truck to take it back," he said quietly. We'll take all this stuff out of it to go through then, and then I'll wash it down before we have it serviced. He'll want to drive it if...when he gets better, so we better have it drivable. Okay?"

Kim swallowed as she stared at the bedraggled car, tears filling her eyes. "Oh daddy," she whispered.

"Kim, he's not gone. He's going to be okay, and when he is, I'm sure he'll like his car to be in working order. Besides, maybe we can find out more about what he'd been doing once we go through all of this stuff."

"You're right, I just... this was all so useless."

Ann sighed, turning to her daughter. "Kim... we've been over this, and we don't need to keep dragging up that guilt. It's... forgiven, honey. All's forgiven."

"I love you, mom," the younger redhead whispered, wrapping her mother in a tight hug.

Ron touched her shoulder. "I called the truck," he whispered.

Kim straightened out of her mother's arms and nodded. "Okay. Let's just get this done."

This is the clock upon the wall.
This is the story of us all.

Ron carefully dusted and placed some more items in a box labeled "James's Office" in red sharpie. There was a glass clock, with some laser-inscripted quote underneath. He carefully wrapped it in paper, making a note that it'd been in the car so long that its battery had died. The time on the clock read 4:26.

There were two glass frames, also with glass inscriptions. One made him smile as he dusted it off. Kim was still a toddler in the picture, her bright green eyes sparkling with happiness as she giggled at something or other. Her butt was straight up in the air as she struggled to stand while giggling at the camera. Her hair was a mess of wild, fiery curls, although he could make out a pink bow clipped in there somewhere.

Likewise, the second glass frame, had a photo of the twins: Tim—he could tell by the red and blue feetie pajamas—stuffing something in his mouth, while Jim, with the blue and green onesie was smiling brightly as he bashed his toy on the table next to him.

This is the first sound of a new born child
before he starts to crawl.

"What's that?"

"Baby pictures," he said with a grin, showing Kim the frames before wrapping them in paper as well.

Ann smiled as she was filled with nostalgia. "You were eight months in that picture, Kimmie. The boys were younger though, around six or seven months."

Kim set the item in her hand in its new box, and then she reached for the next thing. She swallowed. This was a photo—one of many she knew her father had pinned to his corkboard—of her at the graduation from training at GJ. The look of pride in her father's eyes as he stood next to her, in her uniform, made her wish she were with him at that moment so she could squeeze him.

She'd had heated discussions with her parents before, about entering GJ. They has questioned if she really wanted to do missions the rest of her life. At the resounding, unyielding, stubborn yes she'd repeatedly growled—before stomping away—her parents finally stopped questioning it and supported her as she went away for training.

This is the war that's never won.
This is the soldier and his gun.

Shortly after the graduation, she'd had an assignment they almost blew, much to her mother's fear and her father's dismay. It was a rookie mistake she kicked herself for making, but it almost cost them the two months of investigation, and she'd almost put her partner's life in danger.

This is the mother waiting by the phone,
Praying for her son.

She remembered launching herself into Ron's embrace and his frantically checking her for injury. She'd sighed with relief and hugged himtightly. The photo of them in the aftermath of that assignment had gone viral, splashing across the front page of every newspaper, internet news page. It also had made it to her father's corkboard, which made her want to cry.

Ron kissed her temple, gently taking the photo from her hand and putting it on the table where other photos and papers were starting to pile up. She smiled at him, and he squeezed her hand.

Pictures of you,
pictures of me
hung up on your wall
for the world to see.

The next photo wasn't exactly a photo. It was a copy of the Christmas card they'd sent out her sophomore year of high school a colorful picture of the whole family, Nana included, in their cheesy holiday sweaters. Ron was in the picture too, wearing a blue and white sweater, grinning happily and holding up Rufus so he'd be in the picture too. Everyone was silent as they saw the card in her hand, the smiling faces mocking them.

She placed the card on the table.

Pictures of you
pictures of me
remind us all
of what we used to be.

Ann was looking through yet another box that had been in James's back seat, drawing deep, steady breaths and ignoring how her hands shook now and then when the emotion got to be too much.

Something sounded, kind of like a rattle, and she searched through the box. There were two bottles. Three. One was empty. It was orange, like a prescription bottle, and the script read 'Ritalin'. She didn't recognize the name on the script.

The others were white, and one of them was empty as well. This didn't have a prescription—but she knew it served the same purpose. The bottle had a glaring yellow label that read, "Controlled Substance" and underneath, in less glaring writing, "Dextroamphetamine, 30mg."

Kim looked over at her mom. "Are you alright?"

"You know, they said they found... drugs... in your father's system. Drugs that probably made him very sick, sick enough for him to hallucinate."

Kim looked over at the pill bottle in his hand. She knew what those were. The 'go-pills' they gave people in the military. She didn't want to think about the fact that her father had become desperate enough to sneak around with a controlled substance just to numb his pain, keep away his nightmares, kill his guilt.

There is a drug that cures it all
blocked by the governmental wall.

Kim swallowed, looking away from the pills and focused on her own box. There were more pictures in here. These were pictures of her father. Graduating from his post-doctorate degrees, receiving an award of excellence... the picture that had splashed across the news when he made some break through research having to do with the travel that the Lorwardians used.

Her father was—is, she told her self, he's not dead—a very brilliant man.

We are the scientists inside the lab
waiting for the call.

Ron seemed to have read her thought and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. "He loves you, KP. You know he loves you. He's okay. He's going to be okay."

She nodded, concentrating on his words and the way his lips felt on the shell of her ear. Thunder crashed outside, and water fell from the sky in fat drops, cleansing the world again. He kissed her temple, then the shell of her ear. She could feel the tickle of the smile spreading across his lips, knowing the effect that he was having on her. She closed her eyes.

It occurred to her that her guilt was useless because Ron would never blame her or abandon her, like she'd done to her father. The thought stung, but his love cleansed her, and her mother's forgiveness had been balm to her wounds. Instead of guilt, for the first time in a long time, she felt true relief. None of it mattered anymore.

This earthquake weather has got me shaking.
Inside, I'm high up, and dry.

Pictures of you,
pictures of me
hung up on your wall
for the world to see.

Finishing her box, she stood with a grateful smile to her husband. He winked at her, acknowledging her thanks, dipping his head in a barely visible nod. His eyes made her feel safe and sure. She turned to get the next box, but then he was behind her, gently shuffling her aside and taking the box from her hands.

When she raised her eyebrow in question, he shrugged and set the box down where she was sitting. "It's heavy," he said simply. "You're pregnant. I don't want you or our baby to be hurt."

Ann looked up then realizing that they'd been moving around and clearly had a conversation of some sort. She glanced between them. There were sparks, the kind that were supposed to be between young husbands and wives, and expectant parents...the kind where there was excitement about what the rest of their lives together would bring.

She smiled.

Pictures of you,
pictures of me
remind us all
of what we used to be.

Kim set herself down in front of her new box and sighed, breaking the seal indicating that it's contents had been inspected and cleared of any government secrets, and opened it This was a box that was delivered to them as the car was being unloaded.

CDs. Dozens of them. All of them were in white paper sleeves. Each paper sleeve was labeled with a series of numbers: K213721811, T031732911. She studied the numbers. "Ron, what do those mean to you?"

He frowned as he read the CD sleeves. R164432811. A003422811. There were dozens more, usually three or four per sleeve. "The letters in the numbers repeat themselves. The only letters are T, J, K, A, R, and S. It's weird. I've never seen a serial number like that. Should we see what's on one of them? Maybe there's a clue on them as to what they are."

Ann looked up again, abruptly. "Let me see," she demanded sharply. Ron handed her one. Inside of this one there was a folded note. She read it and immediately handed back the CD, shrugging.

She studied one of them thoughtfully noting that all of the numbers on this sleeve started with the letter A. all of them ended with 10 or 11... the year was also 2011. it could be that part of those digits represented a date. But even if that were true, she didn't understand the first half of them. She went and brought down her laptop, slipping a CD in, and it turned out to be a DVD. On it were videos labeled with the same labels as the serial numbers on the sleeve. She fingered her father's messy scrawl, choosing a number. Then she clicked on the matching number on the computer, and his face appeared. "Ron," he began in a whisper. She paused the video instantly. This was addressed to her husband, and she didn't want to invade his privacy. She stared at the computer screen, at her father's face.

He was haggard, almost haunted. There was no other way to describe him. His eyes were shadowed and weighed down by heavy, deep purple bags. His shoulders were slumped, his black tie askew on his neck. His shirt was wrinkled, and his face looked like he'd clearly preferred to sleep at his desk, poorly and very little, than try for a good night's rest.

Ann's head had jerked up at his voice, immediately turning to the computer screen. Ron had stiffened, his fists clenched, his jaw tight. His eyes were full of anxiety, but he nodded shortly to Kim, silently indicating that she should play the video.

"Are you sure?"

"No, but... just do it," he finished quickly, as if to force himself before he changed his mind.

Kim clicked the play button.

"Ron, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything. If you ever watch this, I want you to know that. I'm sorry. You have always been like my own son—one of my own sons. I would never have hurt one of them the way I hurt you. I swore to myself—I swore to myself that I would give you a chance to prove yourself... to show that you could take care of my baby girl, but I... I was always waiting. Waiting for you to screw it up.

"I was wrong to keep my expectations so low. You always came through for Kimmie and—and—when you married her... even thoughwe... weren't there... I was so happy that it was you putting that special light in her eyes. A light that I will never be able to give her again. You will always be my son, and I do... I do love you. Even if neither you or Kim ever feel the same way about Ann or myself.

"That's not to say that I didn't have a contingency plan," He added, smiling at some private joke. "Anyway... thank you for taking care of my baby girl when I failed her. Please... please don't fail her, too."

Confess to me
every secret moment,
every stolen promise you believed.

When Ron heard James say those words, it shook him to his core. He didn't know. Well, he knew—he always assumed, since he always thought of the Possibles as a second family—but hearing the words from James's mouth was... it did something to him, inside. Something that he didn't understand. His chest squeezed with the force of it, and his lungs wheezed with the effort.

Kim stared at the screen blankly. Before she could think, she clicked on video A015621411.

"Ann... Annie." Her name fell from the haggard man's lips like a prayer. "God, I love you. I miss you. I'm sorry." He choked back a sob, clearly forcing himself to be calm. He wasn't in his office, like the first video they'd seen. He was in somewhere dark. Somewhere near him, an alarm clock read 1:56am in glaring red letters that made his face look more haunted, more devastated.

"I'm... I want to tell you that I hope you're happy. I... the last few months between us were so strained and... and I know it's my fault that Kimmie hates us now, and I just... I wish I knew how to make you happy, but I don't know how to do that anymore.

"You... they told us in counseling that the only way for us to rebuild thing would be to release each other of our guilt or blame. It was stupid, I told you that wouldn't help. You had nothing to be guilty for. Releasing you from guilt wasn't what you needed. But God, I wish I knew what you did need. The only thing I could think of was releasing you from me. Maybe that way they'll just blame me."

Confess to me
all that lies between us,
all that lies between you
and me...

Ron turned away from the video, feeling ashamed that he'd watched a private message that had been meant for someone else. He proceeded, instead, to sort through more things, covering his embarrassment with the sound of sifting through old papers and various objects.

There was a square box that was labeled 'contingency plan' and he was curious. He was afraid to open it, wondering if it was something classified from his work at the space center.

Kim tore herself from the computer screen as the video ended. "No more videos," she said, her voice rough with unshed tears. "I-I can't... I can't..."

Ron squeezed her as tightly as he dared, then crossed the space in the living room and hugged Ann tightly as well.

The fact of the matter was, everyone had overreacted. Everyone was guilty. Everyone played a part in this family's almost destruction. And everyone would have to play a part in it's reconstruction.

"What's in that box?" Kim asked, breaking him from his thoughts.

"Oh, I don't know... I don't even know if I should open it."

She shrugged. "It doesn't seem to be work related... but maybe..."

He decided to just do it.

Inside was a sleek, black and white model rocket, about two feet long and the diameter of a regular sized cup. Its stabilizing wings were glossy and black, and its design was clearly meant for some deep space mission. Was he planning on building this? For real? It would have been amazing if he had. His father-in-law was truly a brilliant scientist.

His hand brushed something... an inscription, he realized, reading it. He threw his head back and laughed. Hard. Kim and Ann both looked up from their sorting, startled and confused. Unable to stop laughing, Ron simply showed them the side of the rocket where the name 'RON' was stenciled in glossy, red, block letters, surrounded by what appeared to be cross hairs.

"I... he... the contingency..." he wheezed the words between his laughs, his left arm clutching his ribs as he double over. "Ha! Haha hah—he was... going... to threaten me... with... deep... space..."

Kim snatched the rocket and the box from him, not nearly as amused. She studied the red stencil, then looked inside the box. There was a folded white piece of paper and she pulled it out. On one side were all the technical drawings and instructions or whatever else, as if he'd actually built a real one. On the other side, his messy scrawl: Ron Stoppable. I may love you like my own son, but if my baby is ever hurt because of you, be reminded that I have both the clearance and the authority to make this happen. Kim glared at the threat, but then softened when she read the next lines. You're the only one she ever let close enough to hurt her, so you were the only one worth building a rocket for. I know you always wondered if you really deserved Kim's love. But you're the only one I'll ever have to pretend to threaten with a toy rocket. No one else matters as much as you, and no one else has the integrity not to need such threats. You are and always will be my son. Take care of my family, they need you. Kim needs you.

I may not be able to pack you into a space probe and launch it, but I can sure try and pack it into you. And, like a black hole, it won't be where the sun shines either. I mean it.

She finally let herself be mildly amused by her father's grim but well-designed humor.

We are the boxers in the ring.
We are the bells that never sing.

Ron finally sighed as he calmed down. His face was red, and his eyes had watered with his laughter. "Oh... Ooh boy, Dr. P., that was great." He took the letter from Kim and laughed again. "I think I will keep these, if nobody minds."

"Why's that?" Kim asked.

"Because in some weird backward way, your dad trusts me. And that... makes me happier than I've been in a long time." He kissed her nose and turned to the rest of his box.

Kim wanted to ask what that meant, and what it had to do with the rocket and the letter, but she knew he wouldn't say anything else on the matter, so she stayed silent. She'd given up on understanding the dynamic between him and her dad a long time before.

One thing was for sure. Everywhere she turned, as she looked at the growing pile of boxes with cleaned and sorted objects from her father's many years at the space center, all she saw was the evidence of his love and his perceived sacrifice. She wondered what he would do when he realized exactly how much it didn't help. Especially with her mother.

There is a title we can't win
no matter how hard we would swing.

Ron stared into the rest of the box before simply closing it and putting it aside, in the pile of things headed for the study, or the attic. It was the last container.

Kim frowned. "Wha-wait, that's it? What was in there?"

"Pictures. Family photos. With all of us, together."

Pictures of you,
Pictures of me
hung up on your wall
for the world to see

The light mood from her father's joke was gone. Just like the good, happy days with her family were gone. Their future was supposed to be bright, her family successful and peaceful, her home bright and her dad making lame jokes that no one else but her mother laughed at.

Now all that was left was the tension that left lines in her husband's young face, lines she hadn't noticed before that made him look tired, and the trembling in her mother's hands, her father's broken, shattered heart, and the thunder that rumbled and darkened the sky.

She sighed.

Pictures of you,
pictures of me
remind us all
of what we could have been.

We could have been...