993 decided she did not like any of this reprogramming stuff one tiny bit. Was that wrong of her? Was she supposed to have some automatic desire to demand a little fix-up every time the tiniest thing went wrong? Well, she hadn't asked for it in the first place, and now... two jolts of changing signals in under five minutes. It couldn't be healthy.
She felt the chip extension drive itself through her covering once more. She imagined it felt like a pinprick, how a pinprick would feel to any real human. Painful.
And Ron was responsible for it this time. Ron. Ron Stoppable, the boy she had spent the past day thinking she was in love with. And now that was gone. If it hadn't been before, it would definitely not be surviving this final blast of sure cruelty.
Men. How she hated them!
Or how she would hate them, if she could feel any of that former passion. She remembered it, it had been nice. Wonderful and crazy and out-of-control and the odd perfection humans were so marvelously capable of. Love. Yes, it had been a great feeling. A great glitch.
"You idiot!" Shego screamed as she launched another glowing fist at Ron.
Too late. Ron was on the floor, one arm bent awkwardly under his body, head twisted around to point a nose to the ceiling. It was like a pile of synthodrone parts just dropped on the floor.
The programmer clattered down next to him, and once again the blaze of electrons and waves and way too much data flew to 993's syntho-brain.
Ron still looked sort of cute. Maybe. It was hard to tell with so much going over her vision sensors. This wasn't safe programming...
"Ron!" someone screamed. Kim, the other Kim. A flurry of red hair took over, moving limbs... and a sickening crunch.
A jolt like lightning dove through 993.
"My reprogramming thingy!" Shego again. "Possible, you are so clumsy!"
They were probably going to fight again, 993 thought dimly as a command regarding dressing tigers in black leather reached her brain. She welt oddly weak.
Yes, a fight. That's what happened. And someone yelling about Drakken's stupid spilled eggs everywhere, just calling for someone to slip in them.
993 wondered if that person called Ned at the nasty restaurant liked eggs. She bet he did. Had Ron liked eggs? Eggs were suddenly very important right now. She barely noticed her body slump to the floor.
If Ron didn't like eggs, it was his loss.
"What a mess," Kim muttered under her breath. "What a big mess."
And she wasn't referring just to the grocery spill mess that Shego had slipped in after Kim had delievered a roundhouse kick into her sides. Or the splattered milk and Capt'n Crunch that covered the walls after Shego had slid right into Drakken and then a computer terminal. Admittedly, though, those had been pretty good. There was nothing more satisfying than watching Shego carried off to jail with breakfast gunk in her hair. Apparently egg whites made good conditioner.
No, none of that was quite the same mess that was now going through her head.
"Quite the after-prom activity, isn't it?" Monique asked with a faint giggle.
Kim looked up at her and sighed. "I spend my post-prom fighting for my identity, you spend it tied to a post."
Monique shrugged. "I figure it's something I can write in my journal tonight, watching my girl kick bad guy behind. It's like a mix between wrestling and a soap opera."
"What do you mean by that?" Kim set to working on the rope's knots; that synthodrone had tied Monique up pretty darn good.
"Kim, I believe I said something earlier. About you being a complete moronic idiot ditz child that has no clue of what's going on?"
Kim laughed in spite of herself. "I don't recall you saying those exact words."
Monique wriggled against the ropes. "Still too tight. Well, I may not have quoted a quote for you, but I said something along that line, and if nothing else, I was thinking those exact words!"
Another strand of rope slipped from Kim's fist. She knew exactly what Monique was getting at. Monique had watched the entire thing from too good a vantage point. And she prided herself on stuff like this. "So am I the biggest jerk in the world?" She hadn't meant to sound quite so whiney.
A laugh. "I think that's up to you to answer that particular question. Girl, like I was telling you earlier... no, wait, that was the freaky syntho-chick. Anyway, I was saying to someone I thought was you that I may have never thought before how perfect you and Ron are for each other--"
"Perfect?" Kim let go of the rope tangle. Of course they were perfect for each other, they were best friends. You had to fit perfectly to be best friends and... no, this was not what she wanted to deal with. This was the big mess.
"Yes, perfect," Monique continued. "Last night, when I saw Ron and the syntho-chick, I knew. That's what I told her."
"So you think Ron and the synthodrone were made for each other?" Strange thought. The synthodrone was lying, powered down, in a crumpled heap in the other room, and Ron didn't look much better. Stretched out with a pillow, still unconscious, Rufus keeping a close watch on them.
"Kim, honey, are you trying to make my day more miserable on purpose? Of course I mean you! The real, breathing you that isn't a syntho-freak that is trying to get her friend down from a post where she has been tied up like a human sacrifice!"
So humor wasn't working.
"And so," she sang. "I saw Ron and who I thought was you. And by thinking it was you, I put you in my mind with Ron. I doubt you're understanding a word of this, but who cares? You two have been friends for eons, and Oprah and ten thousand couples therapists say the exact same thing: best friends make great romances."
"When did Oprah say that specifically?" Kim asked.
"I'm sure she did at least once in her career. I haven't seen all her shows, you know. Now stop interrupting me and make with the untying! You and Ron are best friends, and I think we both know at this point that he is head over heels in love with you."
Somehow that statement hit Kim harder than she thought possible. "He's not in love with me." It didn't sound firm even to her. "It was all a big misunderstanding..."
"A big misunderstanding about you," Monique interjected. "Think, girl. Best friends."
"Best friends," Kim echoed. She sighed again and tried to wipe the drying egg gunk off of her shirt. "Is that even possible at this point?"
Monique's smile finally faded. "I think that is up to you to decide. But come on, he saved the day! Even after an apparent lot of drama I tragically missed."
It had been awhile since Ron had saved the day. Those were always odd times. Yes, she was supposed to be the teen hero, but.. she had never really minded those occasions. It was sort of fun to not be responsible for once, to have the luxury of being the damsel--in-distress. "It was pretty awesome of him. Definitely unconventional heroism, but..."
"Close enough to a knight in shining armor."
Kim gasped. For one brief moment the image took over her mind, the imaginary sight of Ron in the process of being bucked off a white steed while waving a sword madly around his head. A funny image, but...
Monique laughed again. "I see a look, Kim. I see a look."
She could hardly nod. Was Monique right? "I doubt you said any of this to the synthodrone."
"Well, so I was too busy asking questions, but I was thinking it! Now make with the look!"
"I thought my job right now was to somehow get you down." She glanced over at Ron. Oh, he had better be okay. If anything happened to him, she'd... She was supposed to be mad at him. But how was one supposed to stay mad at someone who had said what Ron had said? "I could borrow Rufus."
"I'm not having naked mole rat drool all over me."
"I'll go look for a knife or something to cut the rope." It was more than necessary--she suddenly found that she couldn't bare to look at Ron. Not with her brain being the muddle it was. Not with her pulse going this haywire.
It had been a long, long day since last night.
She stepped into the room where the synthodrone lay. Did Drakken and Shego even keep knives around here? They had better.
Maybe Ron had a pocketknife on him. No, he didn't own a pocketknife to her knowledge, and to check would require going back out there and seeing him and...
It was getting harder to breathe. Somehow she had to sort through this mess. It was a lot for a girl to deal with. Ron suddenly being in love with her.
No, it wasn't sudden. Had he seemed at all.. jealous... the other night at the tree house?
She realized she wasn't looking for anything sharp.
She had been... sort of touched at his jealousy. Even if she hadn't realized it was jealousy. But Ron was dear to her, and always would be.
So what was the problem?
Knife. Cutting Monique's ropes. That's what she had to focus on. Focus, focus, focus. Backpack. Where had she left the backpack? That would have a tool. That is, if the synthodrone hadn't gone through it yet and messed up the system.
The backpack was outside with Ron!
Kim growled and kicked in the direction of the synthodrone. Stupid thing, stealing her backpack and her life and her best friend and that really cute outfit she had just bought a few weeks ago...
An outfit without food mess all over it. Kim hadn't survived the grocery slippage, either.
Ron wasn't the problem. The lack of decent clothing was. It would take several washes and ten scoops of Oxy-Clean to get that egg out. That was it, that was how she would add some sanity back to her life. Switch clothing, and think about Ron later.
She had barely finished changing into the other outfit when the door opened.
Her heart tried to wrestle its way past her ribs. It was Ron.
Lovely. Ron was here, and Monique wasn't here to yell at her about what to do. And Kim had no idea what to do. Yell at him again? Except she wasn't really mad at him, per say. Just really, really confused. Think, Kim, think. You've dealt with boys before. Ron is just another boy.
Ron had never been a boy before.
She really needed more time to think than this. Except that there was no time and he was standing just behind her and... well, it was Ron. Her best friend, whom she had known for years, whom she had told everything to. Her best friend. Great. This was it. Somehow this conversation would end with something official. She took a deep breath and turned around. "Ron, I--"
"I'm so sorry about the confusion," he said. He looked only a little worse for the air, still a little dazed, hair a mess.
"Me, too," she whispered. "Big, big confusion. It's just that, Ron, it startled me--"
He wasn't listening. "Because I'm sure you're a perfectly nice synthodrone, or would be if you weren't under Drakken's control and trying to kill me."
For a moment all Kim could do was stare. Ron thought she was the synthodrone...
He smiled wanly and scratched the back of his neck. "So I'm hoping that reprogramming I did of you works out for the best, because I honestly hadn't the slightest idea what I was doing. So really, no harm intended, it's just what I had to do, saving the day and all. Because it was a bit twisted of you to pretend to be Kim."
"I..." She glanced at the real synthodrone. Still dead to the world. Didn't seem to be good reprogramming there.
"Wow," he continued. "I can't believe I'm sharing my feelings like this. It's not something I'm good at, and I've been doing it a lot lately, to all the wrong people. But I have a concussion like nothing, so hopefully no one is watching. You're the only person around that won't yell at me, and I just gotta talk to someone right now."
Rufus poked his head from Ron's pocket, sighing a heavy "oh, brother."
"Because I really do like Kim."
He wasn't going to stop, was he? Kim's heart once again ran for the ribs. "Ron, I..."
"No, no." He held up a hand and shook his head. "I know that whatever computer issues that made you in love me are gone, so I really hope there aren't any hard feelings between us aside from the fact we're probably enemies now. So you don't have to tell me. I've already told Kim how I felt, but I don't think I'm ever going to be able to tell her just how awfully stupid I felt not being able to tell the difference between her and you. But I'm so good at that now."
Kim begged to differ. Perhaps she should just say it outright.
"I don't think she's ever going to forgive me."
That hurt. She hadn't thought a line like that would hurt. Of course she would forgive him, she'd do anything for him.
His smile grew. "Nah. She probably will. I hope she will. Because we did kiss once, long story, and we were able to just avoid talking about that, so hopefully this can be similar and if I don't say anything about my feelings again..." He sighed. "It's just that... I don't think any other synthodrone but you is capable of love. I didn't think I was in love with her until Erik came between us. And then it was the thought of losing her to someone else, that I would have less time with her... I have never, ever worried about that before, with any friend. Not until Kim."
Monique was right; this was like a soap opera. Oh, boy. She had to tell him the truth now. Now. Before even more humiliation struck. Except... this was getting good. No boy had ever talked about her this way. It was... nice.
He took a few clumsy steps forward, seemingly almost ready to faint again. He must have been hit in the head pretty hard. At least he was alive. "We've been best friends forever, Kim and I, and I guess I didn't want that to end. We could grow up, marry different people, and that'd be weird. I mean, can you be best friends with someone you're not married with? Because everyone says those rules change."
"And I don't mean to assume that I would marry Kim. I mean, I'm 16, it would be freakishly early, but... I didn't want to lose my best friend, and then I just happened to realize that I wasn't happy with just being best friends. You don't share everything we have and just be pals." He paused and stared at nothing in particular. Then he moaned and slapped himself in the face. "Sick and wrong! I'm so sorry you had to hear that! That is so the concussion talking! Look." He took a deep breath. "Do you know where Kim is?"
Kim didn't reply. The last section of the rant had hardly processed in her brain. Those crazy things Monique had said were echoing themselves louder and louder.
So her best friend had just declared his love for her. He had shown up after everything. Was that really so hard to accept?
She didn't even have time to answer her own question. Before she knew it, she was across the room with her arms around Ron's neck in a crazy reenactment of the incident with the moodulator. Kissing him. Her second kiss of that day.
And it wasn't that bad.
"I'm sorry, Ron," she murmured. "I'm sorry I yelled at you earlier. I was just so..."
And he was pushing her away. She was fighting against him, his hands squeezed around her arms, shoving her back. "Ron!"
His face was horrified. "I thought you were deprogrammed!"
So he could still be an idiot. She met his eyes and tried her best to frown. "Ron, you moron. You still can't tell the difference between me and the synthodrone." She shoved her hand in front of his eyes--the scar from earlier was still there. It was rather nice to see another wave of horror in his expression.
"But you're... you're..." he began. "Kim?"
The smile broke through. "Sorry about that kiss. I thought that since you did it to me earlier today, that I could..."
He stared back at the real synthodrone. "Kim? You heard all of that?"
The time for truth. "Yes, I heard all of that. Your baring of the soul."
"And you kissed me."
Suddenly whatever had possessed her to do that very thing subsided. It was her turn to be humiliated. "I... I guess I had never thought of it that way. You know, this is a bit sudden for me. And..." She stepped back, almost sick. This wasn't turning out the way she had expected. This was a tad awkweird. "I'm so sorry about earlier. But a girl doesn't always like to be pounced on and kissed like this morning."
He still looked bewildered. Typical Ron. Well, she had been putting up with that for years, and she could continue to do so.
Was it really so strange to date your best friend?
She closed her eyes. This would have to be winged. "Ron, no matter, you are my best friend. And I don't want to lose you , either. And this prom thing has been way too overdramatic so far. So..." The thought itself came with the words, drumming along with her heart. "Why not? I don't want to be hating you forever, so why not? Do you forgive me?"
She opened her eyes, half-expecting him to storm off in confusion and anger. He could be so moody sometimes.
Except this time, he was smiling.
She smiled back.
"This had so not be a concussion fantasy," he said.
"We'll have to see."
He took one step toward her. "So... best friends still?"
She nodded. "Best friends."
And then, half a second later, she was back with his arms around his neck and his lips on hers and still no idea what was going on inside of her.
Hopefully it would make sense later. But right now, she had this.
And somewhere in the distance was someone's voice, screaming about someone untying her.
993 would never know why they let her live. Or stay running. She wasn't sure what to call herself anymore. Some cop that had arrested Shego and Dr. Drakken Emperor of the Universe had said something about a friend interested in robotics and Drakken's entire synthodrone line and... well, she had managed to escape whatever that had meant. Probably new programming. And she was sick of that.
Now that she was once again loose in Middleton--until Shego tracked her down again, of course--she would be perfectly happy with her glitches. Whatever those led her to do.
Including returning to Bueno Nacho. She still had a score to settle with that stupid girl there.
And it wasn't just that girl.
Ned. That boy who looked so cute in the glasses.
She wasn't sure, but somehow she couldn't stop thinking about him.
Maybe he'd accept a fake Kim Possible.