Crimson copper spilled from Kim Possible's lips as she pulled herself across the floor, her hands drenched in blood, some of it hers.
Behind her, a mad laugh echoed after her, filling the entire hallway that went on without end. A large shadowed figure moved towards her, slowly, inexorably. So far away and yet she could feel his breath burning down upon her.
She struggled to push it out of her mind as she continued to crawl forward. For all her determination, her arms seemed to betray her. She could feel herself actually moving backwards towards the figure the more she struggled to get away. The ground itself seemed to move beneath her, lifting her further back, back towards him.
Off in the distance lay the still bodies of her parents, their faces frozen with horror, their eyes permanently stitched wide with terror. Their clothes were stained red, a stain that slowly crept across the carpet towards Kim.
Her assailant still came towards her, his laugh filled with savage glee as he finally stood up over her, his shadowy figure finally materializing to reveal itself.
"Ron… please, no." Kim pleaded weakly.
Ron Stoppable wore the face of a savage animal, his eyes filled with mad joy. There was blood on his hands; none of it his. Those same soaked hands moved down over Kim's throat, his strong fingers covering her neck.
Kim gasped for air, clawing and struggling faintly as Ron's grip became tighter and tighter. Even as the same terror that she had seen etched in the faces of her parents began to spread across her own face, she looked up at Ron desperately.
A deep, metallic voice echoed throughout the universe, reaffirming everything that Ron Stoppable was doing. All at once, this voice brought confirmation and horror to the young man.
"This is what you are. A killer. A murder. Do it."
The voice continued its taunt. Even as it did, the same terror in Kim's face spread through Ron's. In an instant, he realized what he was doing, immediately pulling his hands away from her.
But it was too late. Kim lay perfectly still, frozen forever in the same agony as the rest of her family.
"Excellent Ron. I'm so very proud of you."
The voice of the devil continued to fill the world, even as he appeared at the end of the hallway, clad in his grey armor, with his black and orange mask, revealing only a single eye, with which he peered into Ron's very soul.
"You…. You made me do that!" Ron shouted in a mixture of terror and rage.
"Made you? My dear Ron, I merely gave you the proper instruction. Her blood is on your hands." The demon's taunts grew louder and louder, his every word increasing in volume and intensity, even as Ron pressed in his hands over his ears in a vain attempt to push the sound from his mind.
"No. I would never do this. I could never hurt her."
"Of course you could Ron. I could, and we are one and the same now. My strength is your strength; my will is your will. It gave you a thrill to kill her. It certainly gave me one."
Ron backed away, turning around and running in horror, only to turn and see the demon standing before him.
"Now Ron, are you trying to run away from me? How can you run away from your own reflection?"
And with that, Ron Stoppable woke up, his shirt and pillow sheets drenched in cold sweat.
The screaming started exactly five seconds later.
Mid June winds carried a refreshing breeze across Kim Possible's face as she hurried towards the Stoppable household. At three thirty in the morning, Kim was wide awake. Her fists slammed against the front door, an action which hurriedly brought a familiar sobbing figure to the door.
"Oh Kim… thank you so much for coming. He… I mean" Mrs. Stoppable tried to find words, but she couldn't. She didn't have to; her face reaffirmed everything Kim already knew.
Nightmares again, and this was only the third time that Kim had heard about it. She was certain that there had been more. She had seen every one of them in Ron's eyes over the past week.
Both of them carried a lot of bruises and even a spare scar or two from their most recent adventure, but this was something that went much deeper. A scar that Ron tried to hide under his usual carefree, well adjusted self. But covering a scar with a mask didn't change that it was there. Every time that they had locked eyes, Kim had seen it. She didn't know what it was, but she knew it hadn't been there before.
Kim arrived just outside of Ron's door. She already knew what was waiting for her on the other side of the door, but that wouldn't make going in there any easier.
She tapped lightly at first.
No surprise. She tapped again, this time lightly calling out his name.
Still nothing, at first. Then, the door knob turned awkwardly, finally giving way to permit Kim entrance.
Kim could see no one on the other side of the door. She quickly looked down to see a familiar friendly face.
"Hey Rufus." Kim smiled warmly, picking up the little mole rat with her gentle hands, bringing him close to her warm cheeks to permit him to hug her face with his tiny arms.
"Kim!" Rufus exclaimed with glee. For a brief moment, the two shared a tender smile, before returning to reality. Rufus let out a sorrowful frown as he turned with worry, pointing to a young man sitting on the edge of his bed.
Ron's face was white as chalk; his breathing was tense and rapid. His eyes were wide with fear as he covered himself in his blankets, shivering though the room was actually quite warm. His gaze went nowhere as he simply stared straight forward, rocking back and forth on the bed mattress, the springs beneath squeaking in protest.
Kim moved slowly at first, well aware than Ron was completely oblivious to her presence. Sneaking right in front of him, she moved over to the room's windows, making sure they were closed and locked. Reaffirming that they were, Kim then moved towards the bed, sitting down next to Ron, whose gaze never once turned to her.
This part wasn't going to be pretty.
Reaching out tenderly, Kim grabbed the sides of Ron's face, pulling his gaze towards her face.
"Ron… it's me. It's Kim."
His reaction was immediate.
Ron let out an ear piercing cry as he leapt up, off his bed, backing away from Kim for dear life, grabbing desperately at the wall of his room as if he could somehow climb up it and over to safety.
"Ron, listen to me. It's ok. You had a dream." Kim tried to reach over his cries of panic but her words fell upon deaf ears as Ron ran across the room towards the window, pulling desperately at it in hopes of escape.
Kim moved with him, darting swiftly and gracefully towards him, grabbing his shoulders and forcefully slamming him against the wall.
"Ron, it's me! It's me. I'm ok." Despite her force and determination, Kim's words were gentle and soothing, reaching out to a panicked and terrified mind and offering comfort and calm.
"K.. KP?" Ron asked weakly, his breath starting to come out in heaves.
"Ron, listen to me. You've got to slow down your breathing or you're going to hyperventilate." Kim took Ron by the arm, leading him calmly but quickly over to his bed, sitting him down as she placed one hand over his chest.
A wave of dizziness came over Ron as he tried to bring his breathing under control. The world began to spin all around him as his hand reached out for Kim's, finding it willing and even inviting. Grasping hold of her for dear life, he forced himself from the edge of unconsciousness, his senses slowly yet gradually reclaiming their hold over his mind.
"I know. You had another nightmare."
Tears began to pour down the side of Ron's face. He tried, through sheer force of will to hold them in, yet they would not heed his demands. His mind was still struggling against fatigue and terror for control of himself, and this seemed to push that control further still out of grasp.
"Oh god Kim. I… I could hear him. I saw him. And what I did…to you, to everyone." Ron's voice refused to recount the nightmare in any further detail.
Kim's hand reached out to wipe the sweat from his forehead, her palms feeling blissful against his drenched skin.
"Ron, listen to me. It was just a nightmare. I'm fine. You're fine. Everyone is safe."
Kim's words struggled across the tiny gap between them to reach Ron, but another voice in the far corners of Ron's mind cut them off, leaving them only as faint echoes.
"You don't understand Kim. I can hear him! I can still hear him every time I close my eyes. Every time I go to sleep, I see him. He's telling me to do things, to hurt people, to hurt you and I can't…" Ron broke down again, more tears spilling out down the side of his cheeks. Ron tried desperately to conceal them behind his hands as he threw them over his face, but it did little good.
Kim could only wrap her arms tightly around Ron's sobbing figure, a wall of guilt slamming into her.
She should have seen this coming. Ron had suffered a violation unlike anything anyone should ever have to go through. He had overcome it long enough to save her from her own hell, but this left him to face his.
Kim had wanted so desperately to put the events of the last few weeks behind the both of them, to believe that things would go back to normal and that they could have their first entire summer together as a couple. She knew Ron still carried some of what had happened to him around, but she had truly believed it to be something that would pass with time.
No. This wasn't something that was going to go away on its own, and as much as Kim hated to admit it to herself, she already knew that this was something beyond the limit of even her seemingly endless list of talents.
She couldn't help him.
But she knew someone who could.
It took a little over two hours to get all the details worked out. Putting in a call to Wade in the middle of the night, and leaving him to set up the rest, left Kim with the task of explaining her plan to Ron's parents.
Their reaction was, understandably, one of severe skepticism. They had quite a few questions, and Kim hated to admit that she didn't have answers for most of them. But she believed this to be Ron's best chance, and that was all that really mattered. Though it left a sour feeling in the pit of their stomachs, they relented to Kim's judgment.
Kim could certainly sympathize. She wasn't entirely comfortable with this plan herself, but Ron had saved her from a peril far greater than the hands of some random mad man, and Kim would do no less for him now.
This idea had come across Kim some time ago, but it had been one she had been careful to consider in all regards. There weren't many people on the planet that could really help Ron, but thankfully, every one of them that could owed Kim a favor.
Kim knew that if she but asked, Global Justice would put their best people on the problem, round the clock, to help Ron. But Global Justice might never have encountered a case like Ron's, and in the end, it seemed almost too… impersonal. There was only one other more qualified choice.
Kim sat with a sleeping Ron on a park bench near the Middleton Park parking lot. He seemed so peaceful. No dreams. That was a good sign.
Kim took a moment to study him. His round face, his golden hair, the exact arrangement of his freckles across the side of his face. Kim had observed these features in him a hundred thousand times before, but she now studied them with a fierce intensity, as though she might never get a chance to see them again.
The shrill whirl of a helicopter blade was suddenly heard over head of the young pair. The wash disturbed the tranquility of the otherwise empty park, bringing Ron Stoppable back to consciousness.
"Wh...who?" Was all the groggy young hero could ask even as the chopper set down not fifteen feet from him. As he attempted to wipe the sleep from his eyes, Ron recognized a familiar, slender outline, dressed firmly in black, form fitting clothes, step out of the helicopter and walk over to him.
"Greetings Stoppable-san. It is good to see you again." Yori bowed respectfully to the couple. For a minute, Kim thought she saw a change in her expression as her eyes wandered down to see Kim holding onto Ron's hand, but the moment quickly vanished, leaving Kim and Yori to look to each other.
"We received your message and came as quickly as we could, Kimberly-san. Know that the Yamanouchi School would be honored to help heal one of its greatest warrior heroes." At this, Yori motioned to the helicopter. From within its cabin, two more ninjas, dressed in full garb appeared. They walked calmly over, one taking Ron, the other his bag full of clothes that Kim had managed to pack on short notice.
The two young women watched Ron enter the helicopter, before turning to one another.
"Kimberly-san…" A look of guilt spread across Yori's features as she moved to explain.
"It's ok. I know." Kim halted her explanation. There was no need. Kim knew what this meant.
"Please understand that the Yamanouchi School does not dismiss what you have done for us in the past, but our traditions and ways have not changed since we last met." Yori spoke with all the authority and practice of a public relations manager. However, her voice quickly melted as she placed her hand on Kim's shoulder reassuringly. "I promise you, we will do everything in our power to bring Stoppable-san back to you."
"I know." Kim smiled.
With nothing left to say, Yori turned to the impatient helicopter. From within the cabin, Kim looked on to see Ron's smile. Kim's mind froze the image eternally, even as the chopper took off into the rising morning sun.