I'm way more awesome than you ever imagined.
And darkness poured from the tip of His Lotus Blade thrust into the sky, stabbing the face of God from the tallest point of the decapitated peak Yamanouchi at the hands of the Monkey Master. Clouds shrank and cowered at His presence. The sky bled, turning to crimson, casting a grim light over all lands. Tears of blood rained from the dying heavens, painting the Earth in the blood of the old and cleansing the world for the coming of the new.
His laughter peeled back the skin of the Earth. Fault lines split at the sound of His malevolent chortle. Buildings crumbled into ash. Seas boiled. Thunder crashed. Lightning tore into the World of Man. And through it all, the Master's voice drowned out the tormented wailing of people everywhere. Humanity at last found unity amongst itself in the throes of Armageddon, just in time to see their reality bow to a new will.
Scarlet eyes flashed with amusement at the pitiful worms writhing beneath them. A pile of fallen warriors clad in black blanketed the earth at His feet and bled a red carpet for His new reign as Alpha and Omega. Waves of shimmering blond cascaded from His crown, thrown back by the tempest of His Blade. "Yes," He hissed with reverberation that His haunted winds carried across the globe. "Cower, insects. Run. Beg. Scream. Your Master has come at last to save you."
Howling spirits leapt from His fingertips. The red ether split into a thousand vicious monkeys that eviscerated the living without mercy. Men, women, children, all fell screaming to the jaws of the spectral, scarlet simians. Blood flooded the streets, bound by embankments of the fallen, beneath the Master's baleful gaze.
"Ron-san!" A tiny voice cried from the foot of His pedestal of fallen warriors. The golden features of a once-dear ally stood in ruins upon her beautiful face as she dared to address His awesome magnificence by a name He had long since abandoned. Despair vomited from her odious mortal coil, sullying his perfection with her base emotions. "Please, you must end this madness."
He could extinguish the frail, flickering flame of her essence with but a thought. Instead, He withdrew his Blade from the bleeding heavens and whisked it in her direction. Separated by a mountain of death, the breeze of the Lotus Blade had no difficulty in twaining young Yori where she stood. Her beauty split down the middle of her face and departed from itself, collapsing into twin heaps at the foot of his throne.
"The madness will stop," He told her now-immortal beauty. Fire leapt from the earthen faults, turning His deathly throne into a pyre that blackened all but He. "Your world, your madness, ends today." Ethereal monkeys screamed through the bloodied skies, joining in as He cackled at His handiwork.
A fluttering red banner approached His fiery seat. Beneath the banner walked a presence which gave pause to the Monkey Master. Her graceful hands cradled a pink creature He once knew, a creature with a piercing amber gaze that doubled the guilt swimming in the presence's green gaze. Even the Master felt some gruesome stirrings of humanity left within Him as a living piece of His past approached Him without fear.
Rosy lips parted in a mournful smile. "Oh, Ron," she moaned. "What have you done?"
"Mwhoa," the pink blob in her hands shuddered. "Come back."
The Master recognized this piece of history entreating on His moment of glory. It sought to take from Him all that He worked for. He watched its face flicker in the light of the burning world. This creature once meant everything to Him. Now she curried less favor than the motes of ash clinging to His perfection.
"End this," she begged Him.
The memory received no reply from the Master. Instead, the earth yawned open, swallowing her in a breath of fire. She and her rodent dissolved in one last, agonized scream. The tears evaporated from her peeling cheeks as the Master watched His past vanish behind a curtain of flames.
"I will," He assured the departed memory. "I have." And He cackled as the world bent itself to His whim. And the sky sang with the shrieks of his simian shades, and sobbed the tears of the old to cleanse the world of what the Master deemed unfit. And a new world came to be, a world of order and simplicity, a world of one will above all.
And Ron Stoppable awoke with the scream of a damned man.
She kept her breathing shallow and silent, drawing upon years of practice spent sneaking through villainous lairs. The silken sheets bunched between her fingers wrinkled in protest, but their rustling complaints fell upon deaf ears. Instead, she listened with anticipatory dread to the wall behind her headboard, waiting for the moment she knew would come, just as it had every night for the last two weeks.
There. A scream—Muffled, and cut short by a hand clapped across its source, but there nonetheless. She felt her body seize up to hear it, and squeezed her eyes shut. A sympathetic cry clutched at her throat, but she smothered it, and listened on.
Whispered gasps followed the scream. The breaths came so fast, she feared the lungs that took them would burst. She heard the creak of a bed through the wall as bed-warmed feet touched down on the other room's floor. Then, footsteps began their post-scream ritual of pacing. Back, forth, and back again, all unaware of the sculpted ears that listened to each muted sound they made. They seemed intent on carrying their owner in his futile search for peace, a search she had been forced to play spectator to with no real hope of intervention. Asking him outright only got her lame jokes and fake smiles. Asking with guile went right over that thick, blond head of his. Waiting and listening only made her feel worse.
Kim Possible bit her bottom lip as she listened to her roommate's door squeak open, allowing the footsteps that followed to wander out into the living room. A moment later, the apartment lapsed back into disquieted silence. But far from relieved, Kim only grew more upset.
Two weeks of this. The first night it happened, Kim had come in with both barrels ready to blaze, only to find a chagrined and half-naked Ron ready to jump out of his skin as she kicked down his door. They had laughed about it after, but Kim hadn't missed the hollow pain in his eyes. Every night since, she had listened for a repeat performance. Ron had yet to disappoint.
Time to go Mission Mode.
Kim rose with a sweep of the covers, exposing the unprotected flesh outside of her pajama bottoms and lime tank top to the night chill. Careful of the cast on her wrist, she cinched the folds of her lavender bathrobe across her hourglass waist and put an end to the cold's grievances. A look of pure determination set itself upon her haggard features. She swept her coppery waves back above her brow before opening her door and venturing out into the living room.
There, a pale specter hunted their futon, daring to wear the face of her best friend and expect her to not notice. It even used his voice as it looked up upon her entrance. "Hey, KP," the specter said, offering her a dime store grin. "You're up late. Or early, which is it?"
"Hey." Kim crossed the room and plopped down next to him. Moonlight filtered through their one window lit her path, and sculpted the contours of Ron's bare skin in wraithlike colors. The futon couch objected to the addition of her weight with a squeak. Then, silence reigned.
The phony curve of his lips wilted beneath her soundless gaze. Ron began to shift uncomfortably. First, he tried meeting her eyes. When that became awkward, he avoided them. But after long moments of counting every other thing in the room, Kim's eyes trapped his once again. "What?" he asked.
A sigh rattled over her tired tongue. "You're going to make me ask, aren't you?"
"What?" he said again.
Kim groaned and leaned in, tapping a finger against his shirtless chest. "This. You. Awake."
Ron shrugged, shifting away. "Just a little insomnia."
"Yeah," she scoffed. "The screaming kind." Her penetrating gaze remained. "Care to try again?"
A pattern of red crossed his cheeks, invisible in the moonlight to any but Kim's intent eyes. He looked down. Kim fancied that she could hear the spin of his reel as he fished for a new answer. "Bad dreams," he whispered. Then his waxy smile returned. "Monkey stuff. Pretty silly, huh?"
Kim cut his line. "Ron, who are you talking to?" Annoyance weighted heavily on her brow, knitting the delicate red lines above her eyes together. "Those old camp nightmares never did this to you. And you'd always wake me up in the middle of the night to talk about them, no matter how late it was." Memories of those late-night monkey calls drew from Kim's heart a smile that she denied her lips. In its place, she tempered her stern expression with gentle insistence. "You have to talk about it sometime, Ron. It's tearing you up inside."
Loathsome quiet filled his mouth, and Kim imagined it to have a bitter taste. She watched as the real Ron Stoppable emerged from the hollow specter seated next to her. It wasn't until her true friend reassumed his body that Kim noticed the heavy bags under his eyes, and the deep creases in his forehead. When he spoke, the voice of a man three times his age floated from his mouth.
"It is the monkey thing," Ron murmured. "This whole idol business in Japan thing made me realize…" With a heartbreaking look, he took Kim's expectant gaze into his own. "It's going to get a lot worse, and it might not get better. And it's all because of me."
Kim reached out and clasped his hand, feeling the jolt that shuddered through his body. "Ron, you have to let go. The mission is over." She drove her point home with a squeeze. "We won."
"Yeah." A snort shot Kim's platitude out of the dusty air. "We win. Tell that to the dozens of people I murdered. Tell that to Sensei, now that his daughter's dead. Tell that to Yori." Ghosts wailed behind the amber veil of his moonlit eyes. "Tell that to Tsuruko. She spent an entire life trying to win something she couldn't have. Something I don't even…"
She squeezed tighter, trying to keep hold of him lest his demons take him from her again. "You can't keep doing this to yourself. It's time to let go," she insisted.
"No." Ron reached for Kim's other hand. His fingers wrapped around the hard shell of her cast with the gentility she had come to know and love within him. "It hasn't even started yet." Barely a whisper, his voice thundered in Kim's ears. A deadly intensity poisoned his face as he brought her cast up between their gazes.
Kim waggled her protruding fingers, and listened. "This?" he said, rapping his fingertip against her turtled hand. "This is my fault. And it's just beginning."
"This wasn't the fight, Kim." She grew quiet and let him continue, regardless of the sting of his cutting words. "This was someone looking to pinch-hit for me when the real fight comes."
The ghosts behind his eyes escaped into their world. Kim could feel them hovering over the futon, clawing at Ron, digging into his flesh. They tore at him beyond Kim's protection, laughing at her, chortling beneath Ron's haunting tone. Kim hated them fiercely, but they weren't her ghosts to exorcise, and so she listened on.
"I can see it," he whispered hoarsely. "Every time I close my eyes, I see the world Simia wanted to create. Everything burning…monkeys everywhere…so much death, and suffering, and…and I'm at the center of it." Ron pulled away from Kim. She could see the imagery rushing through his mind, stealing years from his life before her very eyes. "And…and I enjoyed it. I killed people for the sheer fun of it, knowing that I was more important than them." His eyes widened, returning to hers. "But I'm not. I know I'm not. Kim, I…"
"None of that was real, Ron." Kim touched her cast to his cheek, tracing the edge of his furrowed brow with her fingertips. "It was a nightmare. I won't let you beat yourself up over some dream—"
Ron's eyes fluttered closed. "KP, you don't understand. It's not a dream. All this Monkey Master stuff is real. All the stuff Monkey Fist has ranted about…is me. I finally believe." His eyes snapped open, revealing the void where his liberated ghosts once lay. Deep wells of pain remained in their wake. "And it scares me."
Kim had no words. She doubted that any existed that could do the job. "Oh, Ron," she murmured, brushing the plastered hair from his brow.
The somber words of Sensei rattled from his memory; "The Chosen One has the power to change the world." He shivered, shying from her touch once more. "But nobody knows how. I don't…I don't know what's going to happen, or which way it'll go." Ron's eyes dropped once more, this time falling to his own hands. They curled up at him, flexing, as if in search for some hidden influence he couldn't find. "The whole world's counting on me. Me. The guy who's made a career of screwing up."
"Ron, you can't—"
A wry, sick smile possessed his freckles. "So this is how it feels to be Kim Possible. Weight of the world, and all that jazz." A silent shudder wracked his frame. She knew he thought it would look like laughter. They both knew they were dry tears. "What would you do, KP?"
Kim took a moment in building her answer. She could see Ron, hanging from a thin wire over a deep chasm, and prayed that her hand was strong enough, steady enough, to save him.
"Well," she admitted, "Not everyone is as lucky as I am." She smiled as Ron's angst finally cracked, giving way to the confusion that made him so cute. "See, when it feels like I'm being pulled in a million different directions and everyone is counting on me, and it feels like the whole world will stop if I even take a breath, I have this instant cure that never fails." Repossessing his hand, she squeezed it with all her might. "I have this really great friend who reminds me of just who I am."
He stifled a little laugh. "Everyone knows who you are," Ron said.
A shake of Kim's head dispelled this. "Nope. Sometimes it feels like even I forget. I lose myself in all the hype and responsibility. But not him. And he makes sure I remember that, at the end of the day, I'm not some hero, or an amateur cop, or another stupid tabloid headline. He always has some dumb joke, or a rented video with a bowl of popcorn, or even just a hug, to make sure I know that I'm just Kim." She smiled at him. "He even has a special nickname that only he's allowed to call me."
Ron's laugh finally broke free as his face transformed from confused to amused. "Sweet deal, huh?"
"The sweetest," she agreed. Her smile split into a full-blown grin.
"Know where I can find something like that?"
Kim shook her head again. "Nope. He's pretty much one of a kind." Ron stiffened as she leaned in, bringing their noses to within a hair's breadth of touching. "Like I said," she breathed, "Lucky."
Ron's head bridged the gap between them. He rested his forehead atop hers. His warm breath brushed at her lips, teasing them into a soft smirk. Kim felt a peace settle over Ron's trembling form and spill over into her. Naturally, Ron couldn't leave well enough alone; "So what should a Monkey Master do?"
With a roll of her eyes, Kim broke their nearness. "Give me your hand," she told him. Once she had his fingers back in hers, she guided them to the crook of her neck. His digits followed the graceful curve of her flesh. Kim squashed the involuntary gasp his touch demanded and said, "What do you feel? Any heroes? Prodigies? Action stars?"
The tremble in his voice belied a nervousness that the irrepressible girl in her found charming. "You," he whispered.
"Me," she said. "Just me. Skin, bone, and a lot of gorgeous, but just a person." Then, she took their joined hands and pressed it to his chest. Now Kim trembled. "So what do you feel now?"
Her question gave him pause. "I…me?"
Kim nodded. "That's right. You. Skin, bone…and an excess of Mexican fast food. But a person, right?"
Whatever his answer, he didn't sound convinced. "Kim, what if I go all psycho, like in my dream? I've seen it, Kim. I can't handle this. I can't—"
Kim pressed her fingers to Ron's lips. A few seconds later, he got the message, and stopped mumbling into her hand. Once she had his compliance, she pulled away and rose from the futon. The knot at her waist yielded to her fatigued efforts, allowing Kim to open her robe and slide it from her shoulders.
"Lie down," Kim told him, "And scooch over."
A curious look shot her way as Ron shuffled against the back of the futon mattress. His curiosity became confusion as she slid onto the couch next to him, draping her robe over the both of them like a bedspread. Kim wriggled into a comfortable spot on her side. Warmth enveloped her from behind, an affectionate lure that drew her closer to its soft, welcoming touch. Soon, the curve of her body fit his perfectly beneath their bathrobe blanket.
"It doesn't matter what you dream, Ron," Kim told him. His breath rolled across the back of her neck in reply, sending a shiver down her spine. "We aren't gods. No matter how hard we try, or…" With embarrassed pause, she recalled her own motto. "…or how much we say otherwise, we can't do everything. So we just be us, and we do our best, it's all we can do."
Kim waited for a reply, but none came. His breath still tickled her skin, but no words came. For a moment, Kim wondered if she had reached him at all. Then, his hand slid over and around her waist, pressing tenderly into her stomach as he wrapped her in his embrace.
"Monkey Master or not," she whispered to the darkened room, "You aren't alone in this. I won't let anyone hurt you. Not any villains, not your dreams, and definitely not you. Understand?"
Again, there was no reply. By the smooth, even pace of his breathing, Kim knew he was asleep. She shifted to rise, and leave him to his rest, only to be stopped by that gentle hand at her waist. Ron's chest swelled in a contented sigh as he pulled Kim tight to his chest. What could she do, but smile, and stay?
Her eyes fluttered closed. The ghosts of Ron's nightmares floated above them, but Kim knew they wouldn't take him from her twice that night. "Sweet dreams, Ron," Kim murmured, and then shared in his slumber.