Many thanks to campy for his invaluable beta and proofing skills.
If you saw it on KP, Disney owns it.
"How many times do I have to explain this to you?" Kim snapped at the research associate, shaking her head in exasperation.
"I'm sorry, Dr. Mankey …"
"Do NOT call me that. It's Possible. Got it?"
Kim sighed. Once again she had been reminded that if you wanted a job done right, you had to do it yourself. "Just give me the data analysis. I'll handle this. And be ready to review the project protocols tomorrow."
"Yes, Dr. Man …" The research associate felt her feet turn to jello as Kim's stare bore into her. "… uh, Dr. Possible." The woman, who was actually three years older than Kim, began to cry.
Kim rolled her eyes as she watched the hapless scientist scurry out of her lab. She looked at her watch and frowned. She would have to cancel her dinner plans, if she was going to have everything ready for tomorrow's meeting. Suspecting it would be a long night, Kim decided she'd better take a quick break to get something to eat.
Kim pulled her coat tight around her as she walked through the rain to her car. What a crummy day, she mused. That morning the lawyer had sent over the latest draft of the paperwork for Kim's divorce for her to review. Josh was being increasingly difficult about things. While she was glad to be putting her failed marriage behind her, she still couldn't help but regret that that part of her life had proven to be so painful. Still, as far as she was concerned, the divorce was now in the bookkeeping phase; the heartache had taken place a long time ago.
Then, at lunchtime, she'd learned that there was going to be a delay in the fulfillment of her funding request. She'd lit into the finance people at the Institute. She had assumed that everyone was as committed as she was to excellence and results; obviously, she was wrong. Later, there had been the botched work by her research associate. Kim couldn't stand incompetence. If she could do something, surely others could too, if only they applied themselves. Hard work, determination, and commitment: that was how she managed to complete a joint MD (neurology)/PhD (cybertronics) by the age of 27 and started making a name for herself as one of the world's most innovative and promising medical researchers within a year of completing her residency.
Finally, there had been the call to her parents. She knew they were worried about her. They had planned on taking her to Chez Henri for a special dinner, wanting to take her mind off the never-ending divorce negotiations. Kim, sensing her parents' disappointment when she called to cancel, reluctantly agreed to lunch with them the next day, even though she knew she'd still be crazy busy. She always was.
Kim climbed into her car, turned the ignition and pulled out of the parking lot. She headed into town and, on a whim, decided to get some take out from Bueno Nacho. She'd liked the place as a teenager; maybe a stroll down memory lane would cheer her up.
Ned decided that the new manager was okay. He was a bit single minded about things, but that was a sign of his devotion to the Bueno Nacho Way. He was friendly and upbeat, if a bit goofy. And he had just encouraged Ned to take a long break after a particularly busy stint; the old head manager would never have done that. Ron Stoppable, who had just arrived in Middleton the week before, was good people.
Ron, wearing his orange manager's shirt and fiesta tie, stood behind the counter, taking orders. He wanted to be a model manager, an example to his employees, and that meant leading by doing. Managing a fast food restaurant might not have been the acme of success for many people, but it was as far as he expected to go in his life, which he knew was a story of underachievement and unfulfilled potential. All those years of slacking off had caught up with him in a big way and he was paying the price by living in a world of limited possibilities. He was 30, had little money, and few prospects. However, he understood fast food and had a sense of humor. And, in bizarre twist of fate, Ron, who was an outcast in high school, now got along famously with teenagers. So, when he was offered this promotion, he took it and moved to Colorado, deciding to make the best of whatever opportunities he had. A fresh start might be just what Ron needed to finally get his life on track.
He saw the door swing open. A woman with fiery red hair pulled back into a pony tail stormed in. Man, she's beautiful, he thought. And tweaked! No, she's upset, angry, and tweaked!
"Welcome to Bueno Nacho, may I take your order?" Ron asked cheerfully.
Kim looked at the menu board, then glared at the blonde haired man behind the counter. "Chimarito combo to go."
"You got it," he replied. Kim stood at the counter, looking impatient and agitated. As Ron gathered her meal, he thought that this customer could use a little pick me up, something to make her smile. He took a Bueno Toy from the bin and dropped it into the sack. Then he brought the order to the counter.
"Here's your meal. And tonight we have a special promotion, which you'll find in your bag. Just a little something to bring a little fun into your day."
Kim glowered at Ron as she grabbed the sack off the counter. "Stuff it, Nacho Boy," she snapped. She then turned on her heel and stormed out of the restaurant.
"And a muy bueno day, to you too …" Ron stammered.
Ned looked at his new boss. Poor Ron, he thought. He looks like he's just been slapped across the face.
Kim stomped back into her lab and slapped the fast food down on her desk. She dropped into her chair and tore open the sack. There was her chimarito, there was her drink. Some napkins. Diablo sauce. And a toy. She picked up the freebie, which was wrapped in plastic, and looked at it. It was a little donkey wearing a sombrero. After she finished her meal, she tossed it, along with the other trash, into her wastebasket, then went back to work.
"What?" Ron snapped at Ned.
"N-nothing, boss. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."
"What are you talking about?" Ron asked.
"Kim Possible," Ned replied, to Ron's evident confusion. "The mean redhead."
Ron shook his head. "Just another self-important woman with a grande sized sense of entitlement, Ned. Nothing to worry about. Just remember, the customer's always right. Even when they're wrong and as mean as can be. I'll be in the office." Ron walked a few steps before he turned back to Ned. "By the way, how do you know her?"
Ned's brow furrowed. "Fifteen years ago she worked here for two weeks, then quit. You would have thought she'd been sentenced to twenty years hard labor by the way she acted. Apparently, she was too good for Bueno Nacho. Cheer squad, student leader, blah, blah, blah." Ned fumed.
Ron walked back to his assistant manager and slapped him on the back, "Ah, Ned, Ned, Ned. Lighten up. Not everybody appreciates the privilege of working at Bueno Nacho!"
"You're right, boss," Ned acknowledged. "Thanks."
Ron then went back to the closet that served as his new executive suite. He had a very small desk, on which he'd put a picture of Rufus, his naked mole rat and best friend. He sat down and began looking at some reports from regional headquarters. Then he lay down the papers. For some reason, he couldn't stop thinking about Kim Possible. Boy, was she a hard case! So superior, so smug. So "I'm better than you, peon!" And so darned beautiful, Ron thought with a sigh. Better not even go there, Stoppable. She's probably married and even if she isn't, she is definitely way out of your league…
Kim stumbled into the condo at 2:00 am. She was exhausted. She flopped down onto the couch without even removing her coat. For a time she stared blankly at the wall, then took the remote and turned on the TV to the Historical Channel.
"… and so Team Impossible once again saved the day by foiling the latest scheme of Dr. Drakken …"
Kim sighed. Team Impossible. They had been so exciting. Adventures. Saving the world. Travelling to exotic locales. Helping people. She recalled the time they'd saved her father and two of his friends, Professors Ramesh and Chen, from Drakken, who turned out to be a college classmate of theirs whose real name was Drew Lipsky. She wondered if her life might have been like Team Impossible's if she had responded rather than called the police when she received that hit on her web site eighteen years earlier.
That had been some day, she recalled. She had won a place on the cheer squad, despite the best efforts of Bonnie Rockwaller to deny her one. Kim remembered coming home and logging on to her computer to check her web site. She'd received a hit. Trouble. Real trouble. She had suddenly felt braggy about her slogan – Kim Possible: She Can Do Anything. She'd meant getting cats out of trees or babysitting. But somebody named Paisley in Upperton was having trouble with lasers! The idea of dealing with death rays excited her. But then her sensible side took over. She was pleased with how coolly she acted – she took no time in calling the police, who were able to help the strange billionaire who apparently had a fetish for plush. Kim immediately changed her slogan to something less boastful: Kim Possible: I'd like to help. Nobody ever again contacted her about lasers.
She turned off the television. She wasn't a crime fighting super hero. She was a soon-to-be-divorced, overworked neurosurgeon whose work could help a lot of people. There were a lot of ways to help people. Big and … small. Like trying to give somebody a toy to brighten their day.
Kim cringed. She remembered the sunny smile of the poor guy at Bueno Nacho. And the look of hurt when she called him "Nacho Boy," after telling him to "stuff it." All he was trying to do was make her day a little nicer. And how do I respond? Kim asked herself. With a verbal sucker punch. Nice work, Possible. You're living up to your reputation. Sitting on the couch, and still wearing her coat, she drifted off into a fitful sleep.
Ron was worried by what he saw when he woke up. Rufus, who would usually be bounding about in the morning, was listless. His little naked mole rat buddy was eighteen years old after all. But this seemed different. Ron thought about the matter. He had no choice. He picked up the phone and called the vet. Then he called Bueno Nacho to say he had to take off for a family emergency. He didn't care if it was only his second week as manager; Rufus was his best friend.
Ron, despite being very sociable, was actually an introvert. When he was little, bigger kids picked on him (talking about "the jungle law of day care" and the importance of "rules" and "structure" when you are four and a half is a sure way to be tagged a weirdo) and so he played with a giant imaginary friend named Rufus. That eventually gave him the confidence to not care what other people thought of him; from an early age Ron's motto was "Never be normal." The down side of this was that he was the quintessential outsider. Happy, good spirited, but an outsider. He did make friends, though. He'd even had a real, live best friend when he was little, a boy named Felix Renton. But the Rentons began moving around the country because of Mrs. Renton's work as a scientist and Ron and Felix eventually lost touch. It was about that time that Ron thought he'd like a pet. He bought a naked mole rat to accommodate his father's allergies and Rufus had been with Ron ever since.
Ron had dated over the years, but in the end things never seemed to work out. He'd meet a girl with whom he'd click and then discover that she thought Rufus was "gross," "weird," or "sick." That was a show stopper for Ron; he was, if anything, loyal. He also gave up trying to change for women. That just messed with his essential Ron-ness. There had been one relationship that he thought could have gone places: it was with a girl named Violet Parr. But she and her family just disappeared without a trace one day; there were rumors about a secret government relocation program. Ron never heard from her again.
That happened a lot. People moved away, lost touch. But not Rufus. Rufus was always by his side. And Ron would be by Rufus'.
Kim was feeling out of sorts. She had not slept well, there was a lot of work to do, and now she had to go meet her parents for lunch. And something she couldn't quite describe was troubling her. She walked into the foyer of the restaurant, looking at her watch. Hopefully this could be quick and she could get back to work.
Her parents rose when she arrived and gave her hugs and kisses, pointedly ignoring Kim's body language which screamed, "I don't have time for this!" The trio was shown into the dining room and seated at a nice table in a corner.
"So, how are you doing today, dear?" Ann Possible asked.
"Fine, Mom," Kim replied, sounding peeved. She could see the looks on their faces and did not want anybody feeling sympathy for her. When she saw her mother's arched eyebrow, Kim added, "Mom, really, I'm fine. There's just a lot going on at the lab right now."
The waiter came and took their orders; the conversation was stilted. Why is it always like this? Kim wondered. She remembered when she enjoyed seeing her parents. Then again, she remembered when she enjoyed doing a lot of things, but that had been a long time ago. Yesterday was bothering her more than she had thought. She recalled the previous day and realized what it was that was troubling her so.
"Mom, Dad, I'm going to ask you a question and I'd like an honest answer."
Her parents exchanged glances, then nodded at her. "Okay, Kim, fire away," James said.
"How would you describe me as a person?"
Both of her parents sat up straight in their chairs. That caught them by surprise.
"And be honest with me."
James spoke first. "Well, uh, hmmm. You're accomplished, talented …"
"Dad, you're not asking me on a date. I want the truth. The bad stuff first."
James took a deep breath. "Well, you're aggressive and overly assertive. You can be domineering and self-absorbed. Oh, and you can be aloof and a snob."
Kim nodded stoically.
"On the other hand, you're smart, pretty, athletic, and you like to help people. And you are accomplished and talented," James added with a paternal smile.
"Mom? Any additions or changes to the rap sheet?"
"No, Kimmie, I think your father's right."
"Would you say I'm mean?"
"Kimmie, what's this all about? Is it the divorce?"
"No, Mom, it's not the divorce. I'm glad my time as Kim Mankey is over with, thank you very much. I just wish Josh would stop haggling and sign the darned papers already. Now answer the question. Am I mean?"
"I wouldn't say mean …"
"But you do have a hard edge. Now why are you asking this?"
Kim slumped in her chair. "I actually made my research associate cry yesterday. I felt kind of bad about that, though she really did drop the ball on her assignment. I had to stay until almost two in the morning as a result." Kim paused, then continued. "After I called you last night I ran out to Bueno Nacho to get some take out. I don't know, I must have looked like I needed cheering up. The guy behind the counter tried to make me smile and I treated him like dirt. I was so the jerk." She sat silently for a moment. "Mom, Dad," she said softly, "I don't like who I've become."
James reached across the table and took his daughter's hand. "Kimmie-cub, I'm not going to say something facile like 'then become something else.' You're an achiever, you have drive, I don't know that you can be any other way. But maybe if something small is bothering you, you can do something about it. Talk to your colleague. And go apologize to the man at Bueno Nacho."
Kim shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Saying sorry wasn't something she was accustomed to doing.
Her father could see her discomfort. He smiled, then leaned over and said, "Remember, Kim – Anything is possible for a Possible. Even saying "I'm sorry.""
Kim walked up to the counter.
"Welcome to Bueno Nacho, may I help you?" the young woman asked.
"There was a man working here last night, about my height, blonde hair, brown eyes, wore an orange shirt and tie."
"Ron Stoppable, the manager?"
"Yeah, I guess so. May I talk to him?"
"I'm sorry, but he's out today. May I take a message?"
"Yes, would you please tell him that I'm … No, never mind. Will he be in tomorrow?"
"Yes, he should be."
"Fine, then I'll come back then. Thank you," Kim said as she turned to leave.
The vet examined Rufus. There was little he could do. Old age was finally catching up with Rufus.
Ron brought his little friend home and made him comfortable. "Don't worry, little buddy. I've got your back." The naked mole rat smiled, then closed his eyes as Ron scratched the back of his head.
Ron was in the office reviewing some supply requisition forms when Ned popped his head in.
"Huh?" Ron said looking up.
"The woman who reamed you the other day. She wants to talk to you."
Ron got up. Dealing with testy customers was part of his job. She probably thought he was making a pass at her when he gave her the toy and now wanted to yell at him for that. He found her at the end of the order counter.
"Uh, I was told you wanted to see me. May I help you?" Ron asked, sounding as professional as possible.
Kim took a deep breath. "I just wanted to say sorry. For the other night. I shouldn't have called you Nacho Boy. That was rude."
"Don't worry," he replied.
"No, I'm sorry. You could tell I was having a bad day and you tried to be nice. Thanks."
"Think nothing of it," Ron said.
Kim made ready to go, then looked at Ron sheepishly. On the way over, she'd thought of the toy she threw out. She found herself regretting that. It was like a replay of when she'd put away her Pandaroo because she was marrying Josh and he thought stuffed animals were childish. She hadn't realized how much she'd internalized that way of thinking, his way of thinking – and she didn't like it. "Uh, this is embarrassing, but, uh, I, kind of lost the donkey you gave me. You don't think …"
Ron grinned. "And it's a good thing, too," he said, much to Kim's surprise. "That lot had flatulence problems. We received a new and improved batch yesterday. Here ya go," he said, reaching behind the counter. "One sombrero-wearing pack animal."
"Thanks," she said, before she turned and left the restaurant, unable to stifle her giggling.
Now what the heck was that all about? Ron wondered.
Kim returned to the lab and removed the plastic packaging form the toy, which she put on her desk. Thanks, Ron Stoppable. Looking at the little donkey, she resolved to find Pandaroo when she got home.
She then began to review the report that was left on her desk by her associate. Still a mess. She growled. She was going to strangle …. Kim decided to take a deep breath before she did anything. She then pushed the intercom. "Nancy, could you come in here?"
Nancy came in, clearly nervous.
"Pull up a seat," Kim said, more sharply then she realized. "Don't worry, I'm not going to bite off your head."
"Yes, Dr. Mankey … ooh, I'm sorry, I am so sorry …"
Kim began to seethe. She was ready to snap. The she saw the donkey, thought of Ron Stoppable being nice to her, then what her father said. Anything is possible for a Possible. She took another deep breath.
"It's okay, Nancy. Just don't call me Dr. Monkey. Now that will get me tweaked."
It was the first joke Nancy had ever heard her boss make.
Ron went home confused. It had been a good day. But he knew that he was in danger of doing something stupid. Of crushing on a totally unobtainable woman. Once he knew Kim's name, he went online and Googled her. She was some sort of combination doctor/rocket scientist with an MD and a PhD. And patents. Five patents! She must be brilliant. He, on the other hand, had barely completed high school in five years and had been an über-slacker for most of his life. But she was so pretty. And he liked looking into her eyes. And he liked making her smile. And this was total, sheer idiocy.
He watched some TV, took a cold shower and went to bed.
He was surprised when the next day Kim came to Bueno Nacho. He saw her order, then sit down in a booth to eat her lunch.
She did the same thing the next day. Ron was intrigued. He decided if she came in again, he would take her order.
The next day, she showed up promptly at 12:30.
She walked up to the counter and he was sure she looked happy when she saw he was the one behind the counter.
"May I take your order?
She smiled at him. "Yes, I'd like a chimarito and a diet coke, please and thank you."
"One chimarito and a diet coke, please and thank you, coming up!"
Kim giggled. Ron retrieved her order and put it on a tray. "Have a muy bueno day."
"Thanks, you too." Kim then made a decision; it wasn't like she was awash in friends. "I'm Kim, Kim Possible."
"Uh, Stop. Stop Ronnable," he said, suddenly flustered. "Uh, I mean Ron, Ron Stoppable. Nice to meet you."
"Thanks, nice to meet you, too … Stop" she replied with a winning smile before she took her food to her booth.
Kim continued to come into Bueno Nacho for lunch the next two weeks. Ned had watched the exchange where Kim and Ron had introduced themselves and made a decision, laying aside his earlier annoyance with his long-ago colleague. He told all of the employees that the redheaded lady was the boss's customer.
One day she arrived at her usual time for lunch; Ron was ready to take her order.
"Excuse me, Ron. Do you get a lunch break?"
"Uh, yeah, I do."
"Would you like to eat lunch with me?" Kim asked.
Ron was stunned, but pleased. "Yeah, sure, that'd be badical …" Ron surprised himself. He hadn't said that in years.
"Badical?" Kim asked.
"Uh, yeah. Radical and … and … darned if I know. But it's good! Almost as good as … bon-diggity."
"Then I'll have one of your badical, bon-diggity chimaritos with a diet coke."
"You got it, Ms. Possible. I'll be with you in a moment. Take a seat."
Kim walked to the booth and sat down. Ron joined her shortly thereafter.
"So, you come here often?" Kim asked before slapping her forehead. "Duh! I am such the loser!"
Ron laughed. "S'kay. The answer is yes, I do … so, what do you do when you're not eating lunch here?" Ron actually knew the answer to that question but was smart enough to know that was an easy topic for her to discuss.
"Well, I do medical research …"
Ned appeared by the table, looking chagrined. "Sorry to bother you, boss, but Regional's on the line and they want to talk to you."
Ron sighed. "Please excuse me."
"Of course, I'll wait."
Kim watched Ron walk back to an office. She didn't know why she felt so at ease with him.
"So, K" a voice interrupted her reverie. "Middleton's own star brain surgeon goes on a lunch date with a loser who works at a fast food restaurant! Hahahaha! You are so pathetic."
Kim glared at Bonnie Rockwaller Flagg. "It is not a lunch date. And he is NOT a loser."
"Whatever you say, Kim. So, were you seeing Taco Boy on the side before you and Josh separated?"
Kim stared open mouthed at Bonnie. "I cannot believe you!"
Bonnie laughed again, then said with a smirk, "Well, K, I just thought if Joshie was sampling the buffet, you might have, too!" She then turned, and before she walked out the door, called back to Kim, "Have fun with your new boyfriend!"
"He is not my boyfriend, Bonnie!" she said to a door that had already closed. She then turned and saw Ron. Everybody in the restaurant was looking at him. The look on his face spoke volumes. Without even trying, she had found a way to not only hurt him again, but to publicly humiliate him. Yet he still came over and sat down.
"Ron, I …"
"No need to worry, Kim. We just met. Nobody said anything about boyfriends. But I do hope you, uh, might be willing to, uh, think of me as a friend …"
Kim smiled. "I'd like that, Ron, I'd like that very much. I sure could use one right now."
"Well, maybe you'd let a friend take you out for some pizza one night. Even I need a change of pace once in a while."
"That would be nice," Kim said as she pulled out her business card and wrote her home number on it.
Ron shut the door behind him. Yes, she'd given him her number. And yes, she said she'd go for pizza. But all Ron could remember was: "He is not my boyfriend!" Of course I'm not, I know we hardly know each other, he thought.But what, really, had he been thinking? She knew. He knew she could see it on his face. He was so embarrassed. And the worst part was, while he was attracted to Kim, from their brief daily lunchtime banter he had come to sense that he'd just plain like her as a person. So he had probably thrown away the chance of being friends with her, because he'd been foolish enough to entertain some stupid crush.
Kim drove back to the lab, her words echoing in her head: "He is not my boyfriend!" Well, of course he isn't, we barely know each other, she thought. But she had seen the look on his face. And she could only imagine how he'd heard it. "He is not my boyfriend. And he never will be. Me? Go out with him? Puh-leaze! He is SO beneath me!" He probably wouldn't want to be friends now, especially if he was interested in her that way. Ironically, she hadn't considered the matter until after she spoke in the restaurant. She'd been so emotionally dead for so long, other than the anger she'd felt towards Josh. And right now what she most needed was a friend she could really talk to.
Kim thought Ron might have been that friend. Much to her surprise, she felt even more comfortable with Ron than she had with her old high school friend Monique, whom she'd known for years. She wondered where Monique was. Kim had heard that she'd married Felix Renton and that they lived somewhere in the South. Another friend she'd lost after she'd become caught up with Josh and her position on the food chain. Cheer squad captains who dated golden boys just weren't tight with average girls who dated guys in wheelchairs. Or so Kim foolishly believed, much to her present regret. She missed Monique. Kim sighed. She suspected that she'd probably blown it, fearing that she'd pushed away Ron, just as she had her high school friend.
She hoped he'd call her and that they'd go for pizza. Still, rather than wait for him to make the first move, she decided she would reach out first.
Ron was surprised when Kim showed up for lunch the next day. She placed her order, he filled it, they didn't say much. As she took her tray she looked at him and said, "Please don't forget. Pizza. I'd like that."
"Okay," he replied, sounding tentative.
She took her food and ate quietly. As she left, she saw him working behind the counter, explaining something to a teenager. She saw them laugh. I really hope he calls me about pizza, Kim thought. I'd like to laugh, too.
"So how about Thursday?"
"Thursday's good. Let's meet at 7:00"
"Badical. See ya then."
Ron replayed the conversation in his head over and over as he waited for Kim to arrive. He looked at his watch. 8:35 pm. He sighed. He finally admitted the truth: she wasn't coming.