Kim Possible took a deep breath before entering the room. It wasn't that her father minded being interrupted in his sports-watching, or that he didn't want to be bothered after a long day's work, or anything like that. James Possible was a man who genuinely enjoyed his children's company…even when he was dodging his sons' science projects and his daughter's enemies.
No, she had no fear that he wouldn't want to talk to her. But she was equally certain that he wouldn't want to talk about this.
Not 'just a second, Kimmiecub'. Good. That meant that he wasn't too involved in the game he was watching. Just bright colors on the big screen with no plot or dialogue, so his mind could decompress.
"Can I…talk to you about something?"
He hit MUTE and half-turned away from the TV. "Sure, honey. Pull up a chair."
She did, then sat there for a long moment, trying to think of a way to broach the subject that wouldn't immediately send him into retreat.
"So what's this about?" He asked when her silence went on a moment too long. "It must be something big, or you wouldn't have felt the need to ask permission."
"Well, it is kinda big," she admitted. "It's about Ron."
Mr. Dr. Possible's bluff grin became fixed. He'd known Ronald Stoppable since he and Kimmie were in pre-k, and he'd come to think of the boy as a member of the family. That had changed a bit last month, at the prom. Ronald had slipped partway into the same category as all other Boys on that night, and that meant the conversation had a distinct chance of becoming uncomfortable.
"Or actually, it's about Ron…and me."
Yep. Uncomfortable. His already fixed grin became strained, and he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. "Maybe you should talk to – "
She caught his hand, covering the phone. "Every time I call her, I wind up on the speaker phone, talking to the surgical team," she said. "You're the one who's here. Please, daddy?"
The look she gave him was just short of her "puppy dog pout". He could resist even the full version if the circumstances were right – imagine all the designer clothes and stuffed animals he would have bought over the years if he couldn't! – but they weren't. She was absolutely right. With a sigh, he closed the phone.
"All right, Kimmiecub," he said, returning the phone to his pocket. "What is it you want to talk about?"
Kim paused a moment. Her father's face had taken on a look that she'd never seen there before. It was a focused look – watchful, attentive, with none of his usual vagueness or distraction.
"Did you and Ronald have a fight?" He asked.
But no closer to right than usual.
"No," she answered. "In fact, kinda the opposite." A fond smile lit her face. "He actually did something really nice."
"Really?" A faint smile touched his lips. "Is it something I want to know about?"
"Probably not," she answered. "Nothing bad, but it'd embarrass us both."
"One of those, eh?" He held up his hands. "Say no more; a man with a wife and a daughter picks up a few things." Then he dropped his hands back to the arms of his chair and the watchful look returned. "So if what he did was so nice, then why do you need to talk so urgently?"
"It…got me to thinking," Kim said.
He nodded: Go on.
She couldn't seem to quite look him in the face anymore. "Thinking about how I…maybe…haven't always been 'really nice' to Ron."
She wanted to blurt everything, like she had about her lies on Halloween. Just dive right into the cold water and be done with it. On the other hand, she also wanted to tell him to forget about it, it wasn't important. But it was important. So she decided to go slowly, inch in – the worst possible way to deal with cold water, but sometimes the only way to handle hard conversations.
"Well…I…I was always dragging him all over the world, on missions, just taking for granted that he wanted to go. I always called us a team, but it was 'Team Possible'. And the bad guys always called him my sidekick – maybe they saw something I didn't?"
She took a deep breath and looked up at him, bracing herself for his answer. That focused look was still on his face, and it made her more nervous than anger might have. Angry dad she'd dealt with before; she had no idea what this dad would say.
"I don't think it's quite as black-and-white as all that, Kimmiecub," He said at last. "Villains are bullies; it's part of what makes them villains. All that matters to them is who's in charge – who's the boss, who's the lackey. They don't really understand how partnerships or friendships work, so when they see one, they try to make it fit with what they do understand."
"Like some macho jerk who thinks that some other guy is a wimp because he isn't the boss of his girlfriend, so she must be the boss of him?" Kim asked.
"Exactly. Perfect example." He paused. "What makes you think of that now?"
"Something I saw today."
"Something I'm going to end up getting a call from school about?"
"Nothing that serious. Go on."
"Anyway, they – your villains and your macho jerk - are so fixated on dominance that they don't understand all the other relationships people can have, all of the other ways power can be shared. You take the lead a lot - that's just who you are. Ron isn't someone who likes taking initiative, so he generally follows your lead. But I seem to recall him dragging you a couple places when he really wanted to go."
"Like Go City?"
"And like trick-or-treating."
"Mom told you the full story on that, huh?"
"She didn't see any reason not to, and I felt a little better to know the reasons. You know, it wouldn't have killed Ronald to compromise his 'tradition' just a little and limit his trick-or-treating to Middleton so you could go to that party."
"I still shouldn't have lied."
"No, you shouldn't have. But we talked about that then. Don't go looking for reasons to be hard on yourself."
The stern tone and the content of the command were so completely at odds with each other that Kim had no idea how to respond. Finally, she settled for:
"Those little outings don't really compare to your usual missions, of course," he went on. "So you might have to actually ask Ron whether he minds. It's never seemed to me that he does, though - hasn't he gone on a few by himself? Like at Christmas, and the time you nearly disappeared?"
He scowled at the memory. The tweebs had come as close to a spanking as any of the Possible children ever had over that episode. Instead, James possible had sat his sons down and explained to them with great care and detail the fact that they had nearly killed their sister with their thoughtless, relentless pranking. Nearly two weeks of greater peace than the Possible house had known since the Tweebs were born had followed, but Kim had been almost (almost!) relieved when the next prank came. As much as the little monsters annoyed her, she didn't especially enjoy watching them mope...at least not for that long.
"Well, yeah, but those were for my sake." But not all of Ron's missions were, were they? There were the ones she couldn't tell him about - the ones for the Yamanouchi School. Didn't that say something about how he felt about the missions?
"Which was...well, 'really nice' of him," he said, grinning. "But doing something for you is hardly the same as you 'dragging' him. After all, he actually made you stay home when you were disappearing, and you didn't even know about Christmas."
"That's just it," she said. "He did things like that all the time, but did it even occur to me that he might be boyfriend material? No, I was too busy crushing on Josh Mankey, and Eric, and - "
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," he waved his hands, cutting her off. "I don't want names. In fact, the fewer names I hear the better." He glowered at her with a ferocity that was so exaggerated that she nearly giggled.
Instead, she just grinned through an extremely meek "Yes, Daddy."
"Besides," he continued, his expression returning to normal. "Are you saying that he waited for you all this time?"
"That he never had any other girlfriends?"
"That you didn't download yourself into a video game in a particularly cute form to rescue him and a girl he was on a date with?"
"I am going to kill the tweebs for hacking those game records."
"So he thought of you as 'just a friend', too," He concluded. "He just realized that things had changed a little sooner than you did. No shame in that."
"But that's not what I'm ashamed of," she protested. "What I'm ashamed of is that while I was crushing on guys who were cooler and…" Her voice shrunk. "Further up the food chain…" she swallowed hard. "There were times I was actually…I was embarrassed by him! Was I really that shallow?"
"That's certainly part of it."
Her mouth dropped open and she looked up at him, stricken.
"The other part is that Ronald can be a loud, eccentric, and generally embarrassing fellow."
Oh, that was too much. How dare he?
Kim was building up to an explosion that she never would have even considered on her own behalf, and her father must have seen it on her face, because he moved to cut off the backlash before it could happen:
"Need I remind you of the Adrena Lynn incident?"
Kim deflated with a sigh. She was the one who had cornered him into this conversation, and he was being honest. Honesty was owed in return. "No. I…I guess you're right."
That was when he leaned forward and took her hands. Kim looked up into his eyes, a little stunned. Her father was all about hugs and hair-mussing and other parental gestures of affection, but this was different. This was somehow adult, somehow more intimate and powerful than she was used to dealing with.
"I don't want you to misunderstand me, honey. Ronald is a fine young man. I'm going to be making 'black hole' jokes to him for years to come, but that's just what they are. Jokes. Every father has a different idea of what kind of man he wants for his little girl, and Ron may not exactly fit mine. But he has the quality that all fathers agree on."
"What's that?" She asked quietly.
"He'll stand by you no matter what and do everything in his power to make you happy. So believe it or not, I'm the last one who'll try to break you up. I'm not going to predict the future for your relationship, but I think we all know that this isn't some typical on-again off-again high school clinch. This one matters."
Kim had no response. No words at all, really. She was as stunned and awed as a researcher at SETI who suddenly received a crystal-clear transmission from Planet Fatherhood in the Male Galaxy. These were things that he'd never talked to her about before, and she was starting to understand why. She'd never imagined the depth of feeling behind her father's half-joking attempts to keep her away from boys and clinging to the traditions of her childhood. He wanted her to be happy, and he yearned for the days when he was the one who could make her happy. Since that was no longer possible, he wanted to make sure that his replacement would do the job right.
Another realization came following on the heels of that one. An even bigger one. Something fundamental…
He let her hands go and sat back in his chair. "So I'm going to give you that advice you came to me for," he said, his usual good cheer returning to his voice, breaking the spell.
"Wasn't that what you wanted?"
Kim pulled herself together. "Right. Yes. Advice. What advice?"
"First of all, I'm going to do something I don't usually do: hand you and Ronald both a 'Get Out of Jail Free' card." He waved at the air, clearly dismissing something that was of no consequence at all. "If either of you need someone to write you an excuse for being seventeen, I'll do it."
"Dad…what are you talking about?"
"Shallowness and immaturity happen when you're not done growing up, Kimmiecub. You worry a little too much about what everyone else thinks – but that's something that seventeen-year-old girls do. Ronald doesn't worry enough – and he hasn't learned yet where your threshold between amusement and embarrassment is, and he hasn't learned how and when to tone it down."
"Maybe he shouldn't have to," she protested, then bit her lip. She didn't need him to tell her that it wasn't him that she was arguing with on that point.
But then he surprised her by nodding in agreement. "Maybe he shouldn't," he said. "In an ideal world, we would love everything about the people we love. In the world that we actually inhabit, I've learned – after many, many nudges – to stop talking about rocket science when the other party guests' eyes start to glaze over, and she's learned not to "tidy up" things that I set down not two minutes before. On the other hand, she laughs at my jokes and I at least try to judge which of two nearly identical pairs of shoes go best with her outfit. We all make allowances and adjustments, Kimmie."
That was when the larger realization from before finally came clear: for the first time, she really saw her father as something other than…well, her father. As a reality larger than the impact he had on her life, as a person who had existed before she had and still existed separately from her.
As a man who had a relationship with her mother that wasn't entirely unlike her own relationship with Ron.
She'd known it for a long time, of course – but for the first time, she really understood it, really believed it.
"And the thing is," her father continued. "You're both so far ahead of the game, but you have no way of knowing it. Most people don't realize until sometime in their twenties what friends they missed and relationships they could have had in high school. Some people never outgrow their obsession with 'the food chain'. For you to figure out what's really important at seventeen…?" He reached out and patted her hand. "I'm proud of you, honey."
"Proud?" Kim said. As quick-witted as she was, this was coming too fast for her. She was always glad to hear that her parents were proud of her, not that they were stingy with such praise. But praise was the last thing she'd expected when she'd come into the room. After all, just because she wasn't as bad as she could have been…
Once again, her father cut off her protests before they could begin: "After all, would someone truly shallow have stayed friends with Ronald at all? Like that Bonnie – I can't help but suspect that there are a few kids out there who used to be her friends before sitting at the 'cool table' became more important to her than they were."
"I…" Wasn't there that one mousy, bespectacled girl who looked at Bonnie with sadness instead of the resentment, jealousy, or need for approval that most other girls looked at her with? The one that Bonnie never spoke to, not even to be mean? "I never thought of it that way."
"You should, honey. It's better for you than what you've been doing."
He seemed to be finished, and she certainly had no more to say. She had far too much to think about.
"Glad I could help."
He turned back toward the game.
She started to get up, but stopped before she could walk away, she turned back. She had one last question after all. "When did you get so wise?" She asked.
"Oh, I could always do it," he replied. "But it's hard work. Give me rocket science any day."
"So you left it up to Mom."
He swiveled his chair back to look at her steadily. "Kimberly, let me give you one more piece of advice that will serve you well in any relationships with men you go on to have: for us, talking about feelings – or worse, crying – are like vomiting. It may be necessary, it may feel better after it's over, but the experience itself is so miserable that we resist it as much as we can. We can't imagine why anyone would do any one of the three on purpose."
"Okay, Dad, ew, thanks for the imagery," She started to walk away, grossed-out grin on her face, waving the ickiness away with both hands.
"Take it for what it's worth, honey."
Moment broken. He could go back to being goofy, absent-minded old dad again. Some little-boy tricks never stopped working, no matter how old you got – not that his advice wasn't true. But he still had one last thing to say.
She stopped and turned in the doorway, surprised to hear such a grownup-sounding address from her father.
I remember what it was like to be your age. I could tell stories about me and your mother that you don't want to hear. I know how smart you and Ron are, and I trust you, but I just worry so much. I hope…I hope that you make the right choices.
"Don't think that I won't come along on Missions as a chaperone."
Author's note: I've only been in this fandom for a couple of months, but I've already read what seem to be dozens of stories where Kim is made to suffer in some way for failing to notice that Ron is Right for her before she did. Self-recriminations, tellings-off from Ron or someone acting on his behalf, tearful apologies…it all seems dreadfully harsh.
This story is a response to all that, and my response is: "Hey, cut her some slack, she's a kid." As smart as Kim is, she does have her blind spots – what kind of stories could you tell about her if she didn't? I don't know about anybody else out there, but she certainly got wiser faster than I did.
Second Author's Note: I know that the title is a little misleading. If I saw it, I would probably expect something much more violent. However, it fits so well thematically with the original "Blood Bond" that I just had to admit that I had a series going – even if there's no actual blood present like there was in the first one (well, there is, but it's not relevant – wait for Blood Bond III). After all, the bond between Kim and her father may be different than the one between her and her mother, but it's no less real.