A/N: Welcome to The Darkness Within, a collaborative effort by the GWA, a/ka/ Captainkodak1, G-Go, Mattb3671, MrDrP, WesUAH, and Zaratan. And no, that's not the Global Wrestling Association, but Global Writers' Association.
Here's the drill. While we've all conferred on the outline for this little tale, the chapters will be written by individual authors, reflecting their own unique styles. So, dear readers, you get one story with six authorial different voices. Enjoy!
We'd appreciate your reviews; with FF net's spiffy new feature, if you leave a signed review, we can respond directly to your comments and observations.
Thanks from MrDrP to campy for his proofreading and beta services on this chapter.
You saw it on KP on TV, Disney owns it. Otherwise, it's all ours.
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
College was supposed to be fun. Non-stop parties. Good times. Best years of your life. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
For Ron Stoppable, college was work, and lots of it. What he'd seen in Florida during that trip he took his sophomore year was but a cruel illusion. The tow-headed freshman was spending yet another Saturday night doing homework. He sat amidst a sea of papers, surrounded by library and text books stacked in perilously unstable piles. It did not help his mood that Rufus, his naked mole rat, was sitting at the computer keyboard, having a grand old time playing Everlot.
"Stupid Beowulf," he muttered as he searched for a citation he needed to make a point about Grendel. Like he needed to read and write about some bad-tempered freak in a cave. Been there, done this, he thought when he first began reading the epic. Replace Beowulf with Ron, Grendel with Gill: it was close enough for him.
Ron had been in enough lairs over the years to know about real danger, not the fake kind, even if it was described in a cool way. In truth, Ron's animus towards Beowulf had nothing to do with the story itself; he actually thought it could be made into a pretty badical video game. No, his hostility derived from the fact that he wanted to be somewhere else other than his bedroom in Middleton, Colorado.
That place was Durham, North Carolina, specifically at the Duke-Go City University basketball game, which was playing on his TV. Ron looked up at the screen once the commercials had ended. He wasn't so much interested in the hoops action as he was the cheer routines. And to be honest, he didn't care so much about those, either. What he hoped to see was one particular auburn-haired cheerleader: his girlfriend, Kim Possible.
After all these months it still felt strange to Kim to be doing cheer routines without Ron as the mascot, even though the role of the Go City University Giant was ably filled by a senior named Curt. What Curt didn't have in bon-diggity moves like Ron, he had in sheer size; Kim thought that if he wanted one, Curt would have a promising future as a henchman for an A-level villain.
Almost as frustrating for Kim as Ron's absence from the sidelines was the presence of Bonnie Rockwaller. Bonnie and Kim were the only two freshmen to make it onto the Varsity Cheer Squad, which was a big deal at a football and basketball powerhouse like GCU. Instead of having her boyfriend by her side, Kim had High School – now promoted to College – Evil to keep her company.
She and the members of the squad were taking a breather when the captain called out to the cheerleaders, "C'mon, people, let's show 'em some spirit!" Kim responded by forming up with her squad mates, hoping the TV crew would focus on their routine, if only for a moment, so Ron could see her and she could imagine she was looking directly at him.
Kim was missing Ron terribly.
Go. Go Giants, Go-Go-Go Giants!
Go. Go Giants, Go-Go-Go Giants!
Gooooo Go Giants!
The cheerleaders, in an explosion of jumps and flips, broke their line and quickly built a pyramid, with their captain proudly standing atop the assemblage of peppy, pretty college women.
It seemed weird to Ron that Kim was at the base; she belonged at the top. But he knew that even though she had more ability than any of her squad mates and was a world-famous crime fighting hero, she was still a first-year college student. And college, as much as high school, had its food chains and social hierarchies.
Neither Kim nor Ron really cared about things like that. Ron had always been at the bottom of the chain, even completely off it, so he was often oblivious to its workings; when he began dating Kim and thus moved up, he remained clueless, not caring about his change in status. All that mattered to him was that his best-friend, his buddy, his leader in crime fighting, his KP, had chosen him to be her BF. And Kim, who had once been at the apex of the high school social order, stopped worrying about the chain and the statements one made once she began dating Ron in their junior year of high school. The night she defeated Drakken was the night she had confronted one of her greatest insecurities: her need for the approval of her peers. Her courage was rewarded with the happiness that came from being the object of her life-long best friend-now-boyfriend's undying affection, of having a BF who was crazy about her, shortcomings and all.
Their decision to date sparked a revolution that overthrew, at least for awhile, the old social order at Middleton High School; while a few students like Bonnie Rockwaller had insisted that the food chain still mattered, the vast majority of Kim and Ron's classmates had decided to follow their lead and just be themselves.
Steve Barkin thought it the most amazing thing he'd seen in all his years as a teacher.
But that was then and this was now.
College was a place where many food chains existed. Bonnie had quickly scrambled to find her place on one. Kim chose to go her own way. And as comfortable as she'd grown with herself and her choices, choices had consequences.
As freshmen, Kim and Ron were forced to deal with a new set of challenges. Making things more difficult was that they were attending different schools. They hoped to change that, but knew they couldn't – not until they were sophomores. The situation was challenging for the two teens; they had been at each other's side for the better part of twelve years. Then college came and they were separated. For the first time since they met in pre-K, with the exception of Ron's summer-long waking nightmare at Wannaweep, Kim and Ron found themselves apart. Both were deprived of the daily presence of their best friend, their lover, their confidante, their soul-mate. Neither of them liked it. Not one bit.
And the worst thing was they had to endure this for the better part of another semester.
It really wasn't supposed to be this way.
The weeks and months after Junior Prom had been nothing short of magical as the two long-time best friends finally gave expression to their feelings for one another. What Ron lacked in sophistication, he more than made up for with sweetness. Kim felt like the luckiest girl in the world as Ron showed that under that goofy exterior beat the heart of a true romantic. And Ron learned that beneath Kim's tough, often-edgy, take-charge exterior was a passionate yet shy young woman, who was ready to open her heart and bare her soul and her insecurities to another for the very first time in her life because she had found the special someone she had always wanted to meet.
In some ways, nothing changed for Kim and Ron. They continued to walk to and from school together. They would settle in on the couch at the Possibles' and watch TV and eat pizza. Kim would drag Ron to Club Banana; Ron would get his revenge by dragging Kim off to Smarty Mart. The amorous side of their relationship did not stop Kim from snapping at Ron and ordering him to "stop fooling around" or Ron from rolling his eyes at Kim and say dismissively, "Kim, Kim, Kim." Kim would berate Ron for wanting to spend hours in front of a video game console; Ron would rag on Kim for volunteering for too many activities. Wade would call and they would go on missions. And once Bueno Nacho reopened under new management, the two teens resumed their seats in the booth that was all but legally theirs.
Yet some things did change. Kim and Ron began to talk about their feelings for one another – and act on them, too. They quickly surprised themselves by how passionate they could be with each other. They were good kids, but that didn't stop them from ducking into the janitor's closet (Ron quickly forgot about the Mankey/Spirit Dance fiasco of sophomore year) or engaging in enough PDA to be invited to Steve Barkin's office for a little talk; though the gruff teacher approved of the new couple, he did have to maintain order.
Simply put, the two teens couldn't get enough of each other. They redefined 'inseparable.' Friends and family began to tease them; Felix Renton even coined nicknames for them over lunch one day.
"Did you hear?" Felix asked Monique as they sat at their table in the cafeteria, watching Kim and Ron feed one another French fries.
"Hear what, Renton? You got news to dish? You spill, boy!" Monique asked eagerly, always looking for the latest information about the Middleton High teen scene.
"There's this two-headed, four-armed, four-legged creature wandering the streets of Middleton!"
"Go on!" Monique exclaimed.
Kim and Ron were momentarily distracted from what they were doing; this was big news. Rufus, having his own priorities, took the opportunity to snag a couple of Ron's fries.
Kim quickly reached for her Kimmunicator. "I'd better have Wade sitch us!"
"Yeah," Ron added. "Can't have any monsters mashing my 'hood!"
"Nuh uh, monsters!" Rufus squeaked, before he returned to scarfing down Ron's mystery meat burger.
"Good idea, lovebirds. I even heard it has a name …"
Kim and Ron looked at Felix inquisitively.
"It's called Kimandron. Or maybe it was Ronandkim!" he said before he began laughing, quickly to be joined by Monique. Kim and Ron responded by pelting Felix with the few fries Rufus had not yet eaten.
"So not funny, Felix," Kim said. Then, inadvertently proving Felix's point, she moved her chair even closer to Ron's and wrapped her arm around her boyfriend's waist.
Another change that occurred after Kim and Ron began dating was Ron's attitude towards his schoolwork. Ron's desire to preserve his kissing privileges combined with a wish to make his GF proud of him gave Kim a great deal of leverage, which she gladly and ruthlessly used to encourage Ron to improve his grades, which he did. He squeaked out of Junior Year with a B average, which for him was an achievement of epic proportions given his first-semester grades.
Ron was excited beyond words the day he received his end-of-junior year grade report. Kim always remembered that day for two reasons. One was the pride she felt in Ron for working hard and doing better. The other was for how their celebratory trip to Lake Middleton was commemorated by a grainy picture of her passionately kissing her swim-trunk suited BF while wearing a hot little bikini she'd bought as a surprise for him. The photograph appeared on the cover of a number of entertainment weeklies and tabloids, courtesy the paparazzi who now occasionally followed the two teen heroes. Kim's father would have had a cow, were such things possible, when he was greeted with scores of images of Kim and Ron smashing lips in Aisle 6 of the local Foody Faire. James had been distinctly uncomfortable seeing his little Kimmie-cub in a swimsuit that would have earned her a spot on the cover of Athletics Illustrated; his world was rocked as he comprehended that his little girl had obviously chosen to put on that suit for Ron, knowing full well how he'd react to the sight of her in it.
But James Possible's anxieties about his Kimmie-cub's love life were tempered by the way he saw Ron treat his daughter. As concerned as Kim's father was about raging teen-aged hormones, he knew something deeper was developing; he trusted Ron to do right by his daughter and so he and his wife Ann encouraged the blossoming romance over the summer months, especially since James decided that if Ron was indeed 'The One' it would spare him years of anxiety over Kim dating college boys who might not so easily be cowed by black hole threats.
The trip to Lake Middleton, pictures aside, was part of a near perfect summer for Kim and Ron. The bad guys were quiet, allowing the two teens to relax and have fun. Ron and Kim played together, enjoyed some adventures together, did volunteer work together, even studied together, as Ron tried to get a leg up on his final year of High School.
The good times continued into Senior Year. But slowly, the storm clouds gathered over the horizon, a roiling, black mass of thunderheads that threatened to let loose a hellish fury: Kim and Ron were going to have to apply to college. And despite Ron's efforts to catch up, they both began to recognize that there was a possibility they would not be living in the same place for the first time in more than twelve years.
Ron worked harder than he ever had before to boost his grades and do well on his SATs; Kim was by him the whole time, helping, prepping, and coaching him.
In the end it was almost enough.
Kim with her perfect GPA, club leadership positions, and save-the-world credentials had been recruited by a number of top schools including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and Go City University. But of those schools, only GCU was willing to make accommodations for her hero work. The other colleges felt they didn't need to make exceptions for Kim; it wasn't like they didn't have lots of overachieving, take-on-the-world types to choose from. And more than one dean and faculty member wondered whether having on campus somebody who attracted death rays and killer robots was really that good an idea.
GCU, however, made clear that they'd work with professors to make some allowances for missed classes and exams when mission work came up. And they were willing to make Ron, who was an unsuccessful applicant for admission, an offer: if he could maintain a 3.5 GPA in a GCU-approved curriculum, they'd let him transfer in at the beginning of his sophomore year.
Kim and Ron reviewed their options; Ron didn't get into any of his reach schools, which were, naturally, all of the ones Kim had applied to. It vexed him so, given the quality of his extracurriculars (he did save the world on a regular basis and he had rapped on national TV, after all). But after they both vented, they knew they had to come up with a solution. Unfortunately, of all the schools to which Kim applied, GCU was the only that didn't have a community college nearby.
After some discussion, it seemed that the most logical choice for Ron was Middleton Community College. That way he could live at home and save money that would allow him to travel to see Kim during the school year. In what Ron considered to be the most incredibly beautiful and awesomely stupid gesture anybody ever made to him, Kim offered to spend her first year with him at MCC; then they could both transfer to GCU as sophomores.
"Kimbo, you can't do that. You've got to go to GCU. They've got the program you want. Besides," he said sounding defeated, "you shouldn't be going to school with a bunch of losers." Then, in a barely audible voice, as he looked at his shoes, he whispered. "Maybe you'll even meet someone better for you, someone smart, someone who deserves you."
"Amp down the melodrama, Ron," Kim said. When he continued to stare at the floor, Kim realized he was being serious; he really was worried that he'd lose her, that he wasn't good enough for her. She sidled up to him and put her arms around him and gently kissed him on the cheek. "Ron, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. And look at me. Please, Ron, look at me!" she said, making a request that was part plea and part order.
Reluctantly, he complied.
"Listen to me," Kim said. "I don't want to meet someone else and you are not going to 'lose me.' Don't you know how much you mean to me, Ron? You're my boyfriend and my best friend. You think I'm going to find another one? It took me twelve years to wake up and realize the guy for me was right next to me! Do you really think I'm going to let you get away? Nuh uh. That's why I'm going to go to MCC with you next year."
"No, KP. You can't do that."
"Ron, don't tell me what I can do. Despite how I feel about you, you are so not the boss of me!"
"Okay, somebody's getting tweaked," Ron said with an impish 'Gotcha!' smile. "Now it's my turn to tell you to amp down," he said, putting up his hands to ward off his GF. Ron took Kim's hands. "I don't mean to freak out on you or doubt you, KP. It's just that you're the best thing that's ever happened to me and I wake up every day amazed that you're my BFGF."
"Best friend girl friend?" Kim asked with a smile.
"Who knew Moniquespeak was contagious?" Kim cracked.
"Yeah, who knew?" The goofy grin he was wearing as he asked that melted into a warm smile. "Look, Kim, there's nothing that I want more than to be with you. But you can't go to MCC. You're too smart for that, you have too much potential. Besides, you think your 'rents would be down with your going to MCC just to be near me? I don't think so; I'm the reason you're doing that and I bet your dad's gonna have me strapped to a rocket and headed to outer space in no time!"
"You gotta go to GCU, KP. You're the best and you deserve the best."
Kim sat quietly for a moment, looking into her boyfriend's eyes, as she appreciated how he was refusing to let her do something rash. She smiled as she was reminded once again how much this goofy-looking young man really cared about her.
"Okay Ron. I'll go. But on one condition. You have to work your tail off so you can transfer into GCU. I can't go through college without a BF. And since you said I deserve the best, that means I get you!" she said before giving him a kiss that told Ron never to doubt Kim again.
Kim and Ron decided to spend the summer before college backpacking across Europe, having decided they'd like to see places like Paris and Rome without Drakken or Dementor present.
James Possible was not thrilled.
"Honey, why are you so worried?" Kim's mother asked her husband. "They've spent the last five years fighting death rays and villains; even Ron can manage a Eurotrain pass. I'm sure they can handle themselves just fine."
'Ann, you know that's not why I'm uncomfortable with this."
Ann offered her husband a comforting smile, knowing full well what was troubling him. "James, she's growing up."
"Too fast, if you ask me," he grumbled.
"You should have thought of that before you let her go on her first mission against Drew."
"I didn't know he was Drew."
"Nice try, dear, but that's not the point," Ann countered. "You know what I meant …"
James knew he'd been outmaneuvered.
"… Honey, look, we have to trust them. And they need this time together. I don't know if you realize just how upset Kim is about being separated from Ron this fall," she said, taking his hand in hers.
"They wouldn't be in this fix if he had worked harder!" James groused.
"That may be so, but it's irrelevant. You know he's worked very hard this last year."
"Yes, I know. It's just that …"
"I thought I'd have longer until I lost her to another man," he admitted in a soft voice.
"James, she'll always be your little Kimmie-cub. And if you're going to lose her to another man, can you really think of someone you'd rather have her with than Ron?"
"No, I guess not," he said smiling. "He sure is crazy about her."
"And she is about him. Let's let them go on this trip with our blessing."
"Okay. But maybe just to be safe, I'll tell Ronald about my friends at the European Space Agency."
Kim and Ron had an incredible eight weeks traveling around Europe, visiting museums, shops, parks, the Alps, all the usual tourist spots. They stayed in hostels and accepted invitations from people they had helped over the years. It was a relaxing time, with the exception of the incident with Duff Killigan at the British Open; thanks to Kim and Ron's quick action, the tournament was saved, and the two teens received an unexpected invitation to tea at Number Ten Downing Street. Kim didn't know whether to laugh or cry when Ron and the Prime Minister got into a discussion about the many varieties of Talker's crisps. There they were with one of the most powerful people in the world and Ron was talking snackage.
As Kim watched Ron gesticulate with joy in response to the PM's offer to see what he could do to convince the crisps' manufacturer to begin exporting them to the States, she found herself thinking, "He's weird, but I love him."
I love him.
Kim was stunned. It had happened. It had really happened. Sometime during that summer she had moved past the point of having deep romantic feelings for Ron, of crushing on him, of being physically attracted to him (what was it about those ears?) to really and truly loving him, and not just as a friend, but the way her mom loved her dad.
What a strange place to realize that, she thought.
Ron noticed the smile on Kim's face and assumed she'd been paying attention to the conversation.
"See, Tony?" Ron said to the Prime Minister, forgetting all protocol. "I told you Kim's all about Talker's crisps, too!"
"Smashing. Then in gratitude for all Kim has done for the United Kingdom, I will have ten cases of my favorite variety shipped directly to her home!"
Kim's reverie was suddenly ended; during their time in the UK, Kim had discovered, thanks to Ron's insatiable hunger for snackage, that Talker's offered a wide selection of flavors, some tasty, some innocuous – and some just downright nasty. Kim knew she couldn't decline such an offer and so desperately hoped the PM liked plain or maybe barbecue flavored crisps.
"So, uh, what is your favorite flavor?" she asked.
Flashing his famously toothy grin, the PM replied, "Why the pickled onion marmite crisps, of course!"
Kim so wanted to barf.
When they had begun to plan their vacation, Kim produced a detailed eight-week itinerary. Ron had looked it over and said, "Looks great, KP. But scratch the last four days. The Ron-man's got some plans."
"Uh, Ron," Kim replied nervously, "what kind of plans?" Dating Ron for nearly a year had allowed Kim to appreciate undiscovered qualities in Ron. But she still didn't see him as a master of planning and feared that the final days of their trip would end in chaos and recrimination.
"Badical plans," he said defensively, seeing the skeptical look on his GF's face. "Ya know, KP, you're not the only one who can plan stuff."
Kim saw the hurt on her boyfriend's face; she gave him a hug and said, "You're right, Ron. I'm sure whatever you have in mind will be ferociously cool."
Kim was impressed when they arrived in the delightful Tuscan hill town of Greve, where Ron had rented a small apartment overlooking the town square. Ron had obviously done a lot of research and saved some money to bring their adventure to such a lovely conclusion. The moment they entered their quarters, Kim lost no time in letting Ron know how pleased she was with Ron's efforts.
After they settled in, they went for a walk, stopping in at a bakery and a butcher shop and even a wine store. Kim happily followed as Ron chose the ingredients for their dinner; she knew she was in for a treat; she always was when Ron shifted into chef-mode.
The apartment came with a little, secluded deck. Kim set the table and waited for Ron to arrive with the meal. It was a beautiful, late August evening. The two teens enjoyed a meal of fresh papperdalle with a boar's meat ragù, bread and a bottle of Chianti. Kim and Ron weren't big drinkers; that summer had been their first exposure to alcohol and they had been careful and cautious around the stuff. But that night they decided to kick back and enjoy themselves.
They had completed the meal and had opened a second bottle of the local red, which they sipped beneath a warm, starry sky. They had somehow left their chairs and found themselves sitting against a wall, snug against each other. Soon they were kissing.
As was their wont, their hands began to roam; the two teens were exploring each other eagerly. Soon, they found themselves back inside the apartment. Ron led Kim to the bed and they lay down, still kissing, still exploring. Clothes began to come off. They knew they were approaching a line they had never before crossed.
Kim pulled back, startling Ron.
"I, I'm sorry, KP," he said tenderly and apologetically, "I didn't mean to push you … I know we had a lot to drink."
Kim snuggled back up to Ron. "You weren't pushing, Ron, it's just that …" she buried her head in the crook of his shoulder.
"What, Kim?" Ron asked, filled with curiosity.
"I want to wait until we're married," she said softly, hoping that those words wouldn't scare him.
"Married?" Ron said. "You want to marry me?"
"Ron, I love you. And I wouldn't be here like this right now, like this," she looked down at their near-naked forms, "if I didn't know you felt the same way."
"Geez, am I that obvious?"
"Hello, Ron! And it's sweet."
"So you want to wait until we're married?"
"Is that okay?"
"I'm cool with that KP. It'll be special that way. Not that it wouldn't be special now."
Kim looked at Ron, a twinkle in her eyes. "I can think of other special things we can do until then, Ron."
Ron grinned, then, pulling his girlfriend close to him, and whispered into her ear as he began to kiss it, "Boo. Yah."
Since the academic year at GCU began a week earlier than the one at Middleton Community College, Ron had been able to accompany Kim and her family to Go City. He and the Possibles moved Kim into her dorm room, a double that she would not have to share. The Administration wanted to accommodate Kim's mission gear and equipment, but didn't want another student to be disrupted by the unorthodox hours that accompanied Kim's save-the-world activities.
Finally, the time had come for the Middleton contingent to return home.
Kim's family said their goodbyes. As they began to head out to the car, James turned to the two teens. He put his hand on Ron's shoulder. "Take as long as you want, Ronald." Kim's father then left them alone.
"So," Ron said.
"So," Kim replied, running her fingers through her hair, before she took Ron's hands. "I can't believe you're going."
"Yeah, I know," he said, a lump in his throat. "Oh man, I think I'm gonna cry."
Kim looked into her boyfriend's eyes. "I know how you feel," she said softly as she embraced Ron. "So, you'll come visit?"
"As soon and as often as I can, KP, you know that," Ron assured her; Kim had been recruited to the cheer squad, so it was already clear that she'd have to be in Go City during home game weekends.
"Promise you'll study hard?"
"You can count on it. Like my life depended on it."
Kim grinned. "It does. If you're not here with me next year, you will be so busted."
Ron chuckled. "Well, then I'd better start working now. Can't have my KP tweaked."
They stood quietly for a moment. Ron suddenly wanted to apologize for having been such a poor student for so many years. If he hadn't spent all that time playing video games, if he'd actually paid attention and not just cut and pasted off the internet or let Nakasumi-san's staff write his papers, he might be moving into a dorm room on the GCU campus right now. But looking into Kim's eyes, it was clear to Ron that what she wanted, indeed needed, was some Ronshine, not a Pity Fiesta.
"So, KP," he asked, "while I'm studying so hard it would make Mr. Barkin faint, can you do something for me?"
"Sure, Ron. What?"
"Check out every Bueno Nacho, every pizza joint, every multiplex, every video arcade, every grocery store that sells Pop Pop Porter's Corn Dogs around here. Find the best burgers. That way when I transfer here next year, I'll be good to go and we can get right down to business."
Kim laughed, then wrapped her arms around her boyfriend's neck. "I'll do that, Ron. Anything else?"
"Yeah, find the best, most romantic, place for us to watch a sunset, hold hands, take walks, and be in love."
Kim pulled Ron close and gently brushed his neck with her lips. "Mmmm, I'll do that, too." She then pulled back and arched an eyebrow. "You do know, Ron, that that's a lot of work you want me to do. Sort of like our high school science projects."
"Ah yes, the high school science project. You do all the work and I get all the glory. What's not to love about that?"
"You goofball," she joshed as she mussed his hair.
"Yeah, but I'm your goofball," he countered, wearing an endearingly goofy grin.
"And don't you ever forget it," Kim said before leaning into to give Ron a final kiss before he left to join her family for the trip home.
Kim settled into her new life at GCU. She wasn't surprised that a sizeable portion of the student body knew who she was; she had, after all, been on TV many times. She did discover that there were downsides to her celebrity, however. There were the students who tried to draw her into their social circles solely because they thought she'd be a boost to their reputation; the jocks and club leaders who hit on her, not wanting to get the message that she already had Ron; and, her favorites, the students and, more annoyingly, faculty who took issue with her save-the-world work. Sometimes it was amusing: Kim couldn't stop laughing when she read in the student newspaper that she was obviously part of a nefarious CIA plot to infiltrate GCU. But other times it made her angry.
Kim was on the Kimmunicator talking a mile minute at Ron; she had launched into a rant about one of her professors. "He was so out of control! He called me a vigilante! In front of the entire class! I am so not a vigilante!"
"Amp down, KP," Ron urged, wondering how long it would be before his Kimmunicator overloaded and blew up from the heat of Kim's anger.
"Don't tell me you agree with him?" Kim snapped.
"Uh, hello, Kim? I do that stuff with you, remember. And though it sounds kind of cool, even we Middleton Community College types know being a vigilante isn't good. Just sounds like your professor's got 'tude; guaranteed life-time employment can do that to a guy. I do hope you told him that if he's ever threatened by a villain, you'll respect his opinions, stay away and let him wait for the cops or GJ to come save him? "
Kim calmed down instantly, then giggled. "Have I told you lately that I love you?"
"Yeah, but I can't hear enough of it," Ron said. "It's the only thing that keeps me going, KP."
"Melodramatic much?" she asked playfully. Then, seeing the expression on his face, Kim immediately realized he wasn't exaggerating.
"KP," he confessed, "I feel like I've been hit by an avalanche. I've never had this much work to do in my life."
"It'll be worth it, Ron, I promise," she said with a mixture of encouragement and sauciness.
"I know, KP, I know," he replied, offering a weak smile. "Well, I better go. Gotta do my Japanese. Sayanora!" he added, a bit more brightly.
"Good night, Ron. I miss you."
"I miss you too, KP. Sleep tight."
The call over, Kim looked around her dorm room. She saw pictures of herself with Ron; Pandaroo; Ron's lava lamp, which she asked for so she could have a piece of his room in hers; and her mission gear: the grappler, her other tools, the cargoes and black top hanging in the closet next to a spare set for Ron, should a mission arise while he was visiting. Then her eyes settled on the corner where the battle suit was stored and she smiled.
Ron had told her she looked hot in it. She liked being hot. But only for him.
As the fall semester progressed, Kim became involved in campus activities, joining the international relations club, the yearbook committee, the community volunteers organization. She traveled with the cheer squad. And she threw herself into her course work.
Ron just threw himself into his coursework. He had one goal and one goal only: to maintain his GPA so he could transfer to GCU.
The two college students looked forward to the times when Ron came to visit. Kim would show him around campus, introduce him to her classmates, and take him to dances and parties, which she didn't enjoy nearly as much when he wasn't there. It was early November and Ron had returned to Middleton after spending one such weekend in Go City with Kim; admittedly he didn't spend as much time doing his work as he should have, and he had an exam on Monday, but he couldn't worry. It had been great to see his GF.
Then he got his graded test back.
"Ron, can we talk?" the professor said after class; Ron was shuffling out of the classroom, utterly dejected. He'd just blown his test big-time, and was having visions of being stuck at MCC as Kim finally decided to cut him loose.
"Yeah, Professor Singh?" Ron answered.
"I know you're under a lot of pressure. And I know you want to transfer out of here …"
Ron looked surprised.
"…Ron, your girlfriend's at GCU – don't look surprised, anybody who's watched TV or read a paper or gone to the supermarket knows about you and Kim Possible, remember?"
Ron reddened and grinned sheepishly.
"… So tell me. What happened? Based on your class participation, I thought you had a better handle on the material."
Ron sighed. "I was in Go City with Kim this weekend. I meant to study, but, well I got distracted and …"
The older man smiled. "Ron, I want to help you. I'm willing to ignore this exam. But you have to ace your final."
Ron and Kim talked that night; they reluctantly agreed that Ron would have to cut back his visits. A few more weekends apart now was worth being together the next three years. Besides, they'd have Thanksgiving and Christmas together.
Unfortunately, Thanksgiving was cancelled when a freak blizzard hit Go City and prevented Kim from coming home.
By the time Kim and Ron reached Christmas, they felt like people stranded in the desert, deprived of water. When they finally saw each other in Middleton, it was as if they'd found an oasis. The last time they had been apart for such a long period of time was when Ron went to Wannaweep. And while they were now able to stay in touch via Kimmunicators and email, the deprivation of physical contact was taxing; it just wasn't the same thing as being with each other, sitting together at BN, fooling around, sharing pizza, doing all the things they loved doing together.
Ron went with the Possibles to pick Kim up at the airport. The moment she saw him on the other side of the security gate, she began running. She passed through and jumped into his arms. Not caring that they were on a crowded concourse, nor that her father was standing just inches away, Kim gave Ron a kiss he'd never forget. When they finally broke it off, needing to come up for air, Ron's first response was to say maybe Kim should stay away more often. She giggled, playfully swatted him, then gave him another kiss. Finally, much to her family's bemusement, she greeted them. They all returned to the Possibles', and Kim and Ron quickly disappeared to be alone. They did a lot of that over the following two weeks.
Ron had done what some would have thought impossible. He made it through the fall semester with a 3.55 average; Kim was incredibly proud of him. She left Middleton buoyed, feeling like they could now see the light at the end of the tunnel. If Ron could keep us his good work, then they would only be apart for just a little more than four months.
But Ron hit another bump in the road later in January. Wade had dispatched Team Possible to New Jersey to tackle Motor Ed, who'd stolen a prototype of the world's most advanced widget. Ron stumbled into class the next day half asleep. This professor wasn't as forgiving as Singh. Ron botched his first test of the semester. To maintain his GPA he was going to have to crush this class – and all of the others. Kim was not happy.
"Ron, I hate to do this, but I'm taking you off missions until the end of the semester."
"What! KP! You can't do that!"
"I just did, Ron."
"Ron, it's one thing for you to come visit on a weekend; we're mature enough that we can keep our hands off of each other and drag ourselves off to the library and study. But you can't afford – I can't afford – for you to have mission work interfering with your classes."
"But, Kim," Ron protested. "Who'll watch your back? Who'll be your distraction? I don't want you to get hurt …"
Kim smiled. "I'll be extra careful, Ron. And I promise if it looks like a really big case, I'll call in GJ."
"I don't like this KP. What about Monkey Fist? If Monty shows up, you gotta call me. I am the master of the mystical monkey power."
"Okay, Ron, Monkey Fist stirs up trouble, I'll let you know."
"I promise, Ron."
"Really promise? On a naco?"
"Yes, Ron, I really promise," she said, a touch of exasperation to her tone. "On a naco."
"You know, we'll see even less of each other …" he said quietly.
"I know, Ron," she conceded, her frustration turning to sadness. "And I hate it. But this is for the best. It'll only be until June."
Ron looked at Kim's now pained expression. As much as he hated to admit it, he knew she was right.
Over the next three weeks Kim and Ron were able to squeeze in one visit. Unfortunately, it included a fight.
Kim had gone off on three missions since she and Ron agreed that he'd be on leave until he met his goal of meeting GCU's transfer requirements. Ron readily conceded that two of the incidents were nothing to worry about. Summer Gale had come up with another stunt to boost ratings; fortunately, her plot failed before it even began, because she couldn't afford to fill the gas tank of the weather machine. And Frugal Lucre's plan to crush New York under a ton of old P&P Blue Stamps was self-foiling; a major parade was taking place on Broadway, a stiff wind kicked up and everybody was delighted by the blue confetti swirling through the air.
But the third incident involved Gemini and a far more serious plot; Kim had gone alone, deciding to handle the sitch solo rather than call Ron even after GJ informed her all of its agents were otherwise occupied. Kim succeeded in defeating Betty Director's fraternal twin before he used his Trans-Kinetic Signal Scrambler to disrupt the world's telecommunications network. But Kim was knocked around and barely made it out of the lair before it exploded. She knew that had Ron been there everything would have gone much more smoothly; for all of his shortcomings, he had an incredible knack for efficiently deactivating doomsday weapons. But she wanted to make sure he kept his average up and so told Wade not to call him in. When Ron learned of this, he was not happy, but he kept his displeasure to himself.
But then he arrived in Go City, tired, cranky, and frustrated by all of the coursework he had. And, unfortunately, Kim was exhausted, having had to pull two all-nighters to catch up from the mission.
"KP, why didn't you call me in on that Gemini thing?" he asked when the topic of the missions came up.
"Ron, it was so not the drama," she answered dismissively.
"Kim, I should've been there," he said. "You coulda been hurt."
"Ron, I didn't need you there, okay?" she snapped.
"Oh. I see," he said, stung. "I'm just the sidekick. The dumb, stupid sidekick."
"Puhl-leaze, Ron," Kim said, rolling her eyes. "You know that's not true."
"Hmmph." Ron wasn't mollified.
"Look, Ron," Kim said, suddenly not in a conciliatory mood. "How do you think I feel going without you? Do you think I like it? Did you think that maybe I'm giving up something, too, to make this work?" Kim's emotions began to well up. She was no longer interested in talking about Gemini. She wanted to talk about herself. "I'm tired of not having my BF here, of having Bonnie make snide remarks, of going to dances and being lonely! I'm tired of having nothing but Pandaroo to hold me at night, of having a relationship with the Kimmunicator. This wouldn't be a problem if you hadn't been so lazy and worked a little bit before the end of junior year!"
Ron felt like he'd been slapped. "I'm sorry, Kim. Maybe you need someone else …"
"Ron, not the I'm-not-good-enough-for-you speech again."
"Kim, just listen to me, 'kay? You want something, you deserve something, and I can't give it to you right now. Yeah, I was lazy, and unfortunately, I'm not the brightest bulb in the lamp, so I can't even promise you that despite working my tail off I'll be able to be here for you next fall. You deserve a social life, a guy who can be here for you … and maybe, maybe I'm just not him. I'd still be your friend. Then at least I could come on missions and have your back." Ron looked away from Kim. At his shoes, at the wall, at anything but her. "I just couldn't stand it if you got hurt," he said softly.
Kim just stared at him as she realized Ron was offering to end their relationship so she wouldn't be lonely. And so he could protect her. She looked at him for what seemed like an eternity. Then she began to cry, catching Ron by surprise; Kim never cried.
"You are so the idiot. Hold me," she ordered.
Ron obeyed as Kim continued to cry.
"You don't get it, do you, Ron? You are the only one I want, now or ever. I love you. But it's so hard not having you with me, to talk to, to hold, to do stuff with, to, to, to make out with. It hurts so much. I get so lonely, and I've made friends here but meeting other people here isn't the answer. It's being with you. I had you with me for twelve years and now … So you have to at least let me rant."
"Ron Stoppable, you are the most ferociously stupid and ferociously sweet person I've ever known. Do you really think you'll make me happy by not being my BF?"
"Well, uh …"
"Helloooo! Earth to Ron: The answer's no," she said, her tears subsiding. "Ron, I'm tweaked, I'll admit it, about the studying thing in high school; I wasn't kidding when I called you Potential Boy a couple of years ago. You are so much better than your grades said you were. And, yes, I can't stop thinking of how happy I'd be – we'd be – if we were sharing this year together. But while I can't do anything about that, we can try to do something about next year and the rest of our lives. And if you can sacrifice by working harder than you ever have, you have to let me take an extra risk or two on the mission front so you can do your work. Besides, you're not going to be turned off by a few extra bruises, are you?" she asked, before kissing him on the tip of his nose. "Ron, you have to trust me on this."
"Okay, Kim," he said, sighing. "But I don't have to like it."
"No, you don't," she concurred, her eyes now puffy, but a sly smile forming on her face. "But maybe we can do some things you will like …"
They sat in the cafeteria the next morning, eating breakfast.
"Man, who'd've thought that Cafeteria Lady had a twin sister in Go City?" Ron asked as he ate his food.
Kim sat and watched Ron eat; he still had terrible table manners, but there were few things in life that made her happier than watching him tuck into a plate full of food. She guessed it was because of the look of sheer joy on his face whenever he ate.
"Ron, about last night …"
Ron stopped eating, suddenly growing anxious. "Uh, yeah, KP?"
"The next couple of months, they may be tough for us, being apart and all. Let's try to remember to cut each other some slack, 'kay?" She reached out and took his hand.
"You got it, Kimbo," he said, squeezing her hand in response.
Three weeks had passed since Ron's last visit; Kim was now in Durham, Ron back home. They'd see each other the following week, when GCU traveled to the Tri-City area to take on Upperton University.
The game was over; GCU had beaten Duke 87-76 and everybody was in high spirits. The coaches, players and cheerleaders headed back to their hotel to celebrate. Kim stayed at the party for a while before heading up to her room. It was already late, but she pulled out her Kimmunicator and called Ron.
"Hey, KP!" he answered brightly.
"Hi, Ron. How's my hottie student doing?" she asked, suddenly feeling very lonely.
"Badical. Grendel and me, we're chillin' in the den," he said with a lopsided grin. "Saw you on TV, Kim. You looked hot."
Kim smiled. "Thanks, Ron. I wish I could do that in person for you."
"Yeah, I know. Waiting till next week's gonna tank," Ron said with a leer. "But maybe you'll take some comfort from knowing the Ron-man's working hard; I've almost finished this paper and then tomorrow I can move onto pre-calc." Ron's face suddenly took on a troubled cast.
"Ron, you okay?" Kim asked.
"Yeah, just thinking about sideways-eight thingies. Makes my head hurt," he replied. "Barkin was right. I definitely should not pursue a math-intensive field. I finish that class and it's sayonara math for me."
"Hmmm. Maybe you'd like those sideways-eight thingies if you knew that was the number of kisses I wanted to give you right now …" Kim purred.
Ron's eyes opened wide. "An infinite supply of genuine KP kisses? Booyah! Maybe the Rondo should do some more math!"
"Ron, I miss you," Kim said, suddenly serious.
"I know, KP, I know."
"It's been tough. I just wish you could hold me, touch me …"
"Yeah, that would be nice. Ya know, sometimes I feel you're so far away, it's like I'm in Norway."
"Norway?" Kim asked, once again taken aback by Ron's unique thought process.
"Yeah. And for some reason, it's occurring to me just how much I hate meat cakes."
Kim smiled. "Ron, you're so weird. But I love you."
"And I love you, KP. More than anything else in the world."
"I know. Sleep well, Ron."
"You, too, KP."
Kim put the Kimmunicator down and got ready for bed, putting on Ron's red hockey jersey. After she washed up, she pulled Pandaroo out from her suitcase and climbed beneath the covers. As she fell asleep, she desperately wished she had Ron to hold onto.
Kim groaned as she fumbled for the Kimmunicator, not happy about being roused from a very pleasant dream involving Ron, who was wearing his Zorpox outfit, while she was wearing her cheerleader's uniform. A glance at the hotel's bedside clock revealed that it was 3:45 am.
She pressed the answer button, bringing Wade Load's visage onto the screen.
"What's the sitch Wade?" she asked with a yawn. "It better be good."
Wade, looking at Kim with sleepy eyes, apologized for calling at such a late hour. "But it's urgent, Kim. Dementor's breaking in to a high security research facility just outside of Raleigh."
Kim was more alert.
"Do we know what he's after?"
"The authorities think it may be a Multi-Frequency Beam Modulator; they don't know why he'd want it, but it's the most sophisticated one on the planet."
"And they're calling me, why? Aren't there some marines or something who could handle this?"
"You're closer. GJ can be on site, but not until at least 30 minutes after you."
Kim thought about it. After she'd arrive, she would surely banter with Dementor, he would spend a few minutes declaiming about his plot, she'd begin to tussle with his henchmen, and then GJ would show up to help her if things were getting sticky. She could handle this.
"Okay, Wade. I'm on it. And since it's so close to here, and so far from you, don't call Ron. Let's let him sleep."
"You got it Kim; you're ride'll be there in five."
Kim silently slid down the air duct into the facility. She wondered how she'd ever save the world if HVAC hadn't been invented. Her feet pressed against the grille, which broke free, and she dropped to the floor, gracefully landing in a crouch. She stood up, and faced her opponent.
"Field trip's over, Dementor!" she growled. "And there are no souvenirs. Give me the Modulator."
"Ah, zee ever pushy Kim Possible," the diminutive scientist said.
"I am not pushy!" Kim snapped. "Now give that thing to me now!"
"Uh, temper, temper. Perhaps you would benefit from some anger management training … HENCHMEN, ATTACK!" he shrieked.
Kim quickly dropped into a defensive crouch as she evaluated her situation. Dementor had cut off the banter much fast than she expected and hadn't even bothered to reveal his plans for the Modulator. That meant she'd have to hold off the nine, ten, no, eleven figures she saw advancing on her until GJ arrived. She sighed, wishing Ron was here with her, then set aside her wishful thinking to get down to work.
The henchmen advanced; she responded. Kim exploded into a flurry of kicks, pirouettes, back-flips and cartwheels, methodically taking down her assailants. When the tenth went down, she glared at Dementor. "Ten down and number eleven seems to have run away, Dementor. Looks like you're next."
"I do not think so, Miss Possible. You should not count your henchmen until they have hatched!" the diminutive scientist said before he began cackling.
"That so makes no sense ..." Kim observed. Suddenly, she gasped, feeling an arm wrap around her neck. The Eleventh Man had snuck up on her with catlike efficiency. Kim grabbed the man's forearm and flipped him. He went over, hit the ground, rolled and sprang back up, facing her.
Kim looked at her opponent, who, like all of his colleagues, was dressed all in gray. His one-piece suit was loose fitting; Kim wouldn't be able to see his muscles tense, which deprived her of a useful cue as to her opponent's intentions. The garment even covered his head, with the exception of his eyes, which were covered by a reflective material.
Kim and the Eleventh Man began to warily circle one another. Finally, Kim jumped and launched a kick at the man's torso. As if expecting that move, he dodged out of the way and watched Kim go by. As she landed, but before she could steady herself, he performed a leg sweep and brought her down.
"You're pretty good," she said as she got up.
The man did not respond.
The fight resumed.
Kim landed some blows, as did her opponent. This one's much better than the others, she thought. He's actually a challenge.
Kim's adrenaline began coursing; she was enjoying the fight. Feeling confident, Kim launched into one of her hybrid kung-fu/cheer moves to attack her foe. But somehow, he just avoided her and, as Kim was in mid-flip, grabbed her ankle and pulled her down, hard. Then, before she could react, the mystery man pulled her up and delivered a hard uppercut, knocking her out.
The next thing Kim remembered was Will Du standing over her.
"Kimberly, are you all right?" the GJ operative asked.
"W-what happened?" she asked, feeling groggy.
Unable to contain his condescension, Du answered. "You were unsuccessful in preventing Dementor from appropriating the technology." Then, under his breath he muttered, but loudly enough so Kim could hear, "Another reason why we should not be giving assignments to amateurs.
Kim rubbed her aching jaw, and feared she had a loose tooth. She was too stunned and dazed to take offense at Du's snide remark.
Her boyfriend and partner was in Colorado.
And she'd just been whupped.
It wasn't supposed to be this way.