Hello once again, everyone!

A huge warm returns to previous readers of Equal Romance and a great big welcome to new readers! Now listen up: have you have never read Equal Romance before? No? If that's you then STOP. FREEZE. Don't you click the scroll bar, yea I'm looking at youD: This story is story number three in the Equal Romance Trilogy. That's right, this is the last one so you're obviously going to have spoilers unloaded. That's why, if you're keen on this story, I suggest you start with Equal Romance :01: Tension Living, the first, then move on to Equal Romance :02: Obscure Ways to Devotion. Yes, it's a lot to read, but I don't update every five seconds (cough) and this story isn't going to run away on you. So please, read Tension Living first! ... And thus I kill half of my readers with bold typeface omg.

But seriously. Onto business. I am SO sorry for the long wait! No, really, I have a legit reason this time XD My wrists. Were in SO much pain. Thankfully, it's not carpal tunnel, but it's on the path to it if I'm not careful, apparently it's really bad and I don't need the physio to tell me that, I can feel it. So please excuse the slow updates. I work on them whenever I can which is when my wrists permit as they are not healed yet D: And yet I am a crazy kamikaze determined writer and I will not let them get in the way at times. Good for you!

Here I would like to take time to thank ALL the reviewers from ER02-OWtD14. Because they made me smile.

HUGE thanks to: AndyCosta, John Steppenwolf, Ultra Sonic 007, daydream11, CajunBear73, vanilalilies, memoirs of a faded memory, Ultimate Naco Topping, JPMod, Ezbok58a, LJFan, Rufus 986, xoxoAllMe92, Rachel J. Lupin, Winter's Ebony (wahoi for Canada!), Kitsune6, thsunami, Gryfffinrose, Larie-chan, Stoppable-san, Cold-Chaos, X-Factor, conan98002 (as in Meitantei Conan?), Razzle Jazzle, mooneasterbunny, Ace Ian Combat, The Infernal, Kenny's SpaceCadet (thank-you ;; those were very kind words!), Lovova, momike, eViLrEadEr, Char and Loo (Ron wants to know if this Friday is good for you to hold our Going To Hell party? He also notes thatit'sup to you to bringKoda Kumi with herinfamous beer bottle. He adds that it will surelybe 'JUICY'!)

Interesting question from Stoppable-san: "I maybe wrong but when Ron woke up from being in a coma did he actually die and just came back to life with his MMP lives?"

It's a good question. He didn't die. What was happening in his mind was that his body was waking him up; waking his mind. All the memories whooshing around were them being sorted and he was waking and if he woke with Kim in his mind it would've killed her cos the weight of his active conscious mind would have filled his entire mind thus leaving no room for her to exist and blahblahblah. So yea, the first life he lost was the Tower Event.

Now I'm sure returning readers would like to know wth is happening in the story since I left off so I'm going to shut myself up, pleasing you & my wrists and let you guys get one with the last story of the trilogy, Equal Romance :03: Unstable Distance! Enjoy!

-A. King


¤ Instalment 01 »» An Obscure Reprise ¤

Another day is like a new beginning

And so today I know that it's a new start

I know the bad times are disappearing

Cause now I know that we'll never be apart

-SonicR, 'Diamonds in the Sky'


From the view outside the window, Kim Possible poked her nose through the murky-yellow curtains and scanned the view. Eyes darting from left to right she discovered that she was just in time for instantly Kim recognised the sleek motorbike gliding down the pavement and into her sight. Eagerly, Kim stood on the tips of her toes and pressed her cheek to the glass to continue watching the motorbike roll up into the parking lot against the building she was in. The driver of the motorbike sat up, and pulled off his helmet; a bright smile spread across Kim's face as she watched the driver's blonde bangs sweep out of the helmet and pull back his head to look around. As soon as Kim saw it, she fell into an enlightened giggle fit.

Fleeing from the window before she was spotted, Kim bounded eagerly onto the nearby bed and pulled close her already laid out textbooks and binders then picked up her pencil: all ready to apply the mirage that she had been working the entire time and had not been awaiting his return anxiously. Yes, however she didn't put up the pretence yet. The excitement still buzzed with and instead, she paused and strained her ears for the sounds of footsteps approaching her room. Instantly, she sucked in her breath when she heard the sounds coming closer and closer… Down went Kim's head, burying herself in her textbooks right as the doorknob began to turn. It was a good thing her long auburn hair drooped down, it concealed her large smile.

"Augh," she heard Ron Stoppable groan as he entered her room. "Back. That took, like, forever."

"Oh?" Kim asked, trying her best to sound uninterested and focused on her homework.

"Yea, I thought I'd never be out of there. They kept swarming me with questions." She heard the sounds of Ron moving about the small room. "Then there was a billion plus ten to choose from! Mang, you should've been there, chicken." She didn't notice the curious glance he sent her, "But I got 'em…"

"Ah?"

"They're not very comfortable, I can say that already."

"Well they're only temporary, right?" She felt the bed shift as Ron took a seat on her bed.

"Definitely! Hey, you ignoring me or something? Don't you want to see?"

"Mmm." Kim said, continuing to keep her head down.

"Kiiiiim," Ron called, beginning for her attention. "There is no way that homework can be more fascinating than me."

She didn't respond. Although another smirk crossed her face when she heard Ron's indignant huff towards being ignored like this.

"I know you're just pretending," he insisted, moving closer to her. "I bet you saw from the window didn't you? I bet you were totally waiting by the window the moment I left, right?"

The grin spread across Kim and she couldn't fight it anymore. Lifting her head, she began to laugh. "You're right, how could I miss such entertainment as the first glance? I had to know which kind you'd get! If you weren't careful, you could totally uglify yourself."

Ron scowled, shaking his head. "Well it don't matter. I said they're only temporary until I can get contacts!"

"Oh, but your glasses make you look so much more intelligent!" Kim placed her pencil on the middle of her textbook and reached forwards for his glasses.

"And what's that supposed to mean!" Ron tried to pull away from her but he didn't bother to put up much of a fight. Gently, Kim lifted the glasses off of Ron's face and held them in her hands, observing them.

"I like the brown frames— they go with your eyes. And very light weight too!"

"Yea, figured they should be when we go on missions and stuff."

Kim gave another laugh before handing them back to Ron and watched him place them back on his face. "I think glasses, in the long run what with our missions, might end up costing more than contacts!"

Ron snorted knowing she was probably right but then became distracted by the Chinese takeaway on the bed in front of Kim's textbooks. "Oh, hey, this for me?" he asked, reaching forwards for the food.

"Ah!" Kim reached out and smacked Ron's greedy fingers with her pencil. "That's for studying members only! Your bag's at the foot of the bed," and she arched her eyebrows at him. Reaching forwards, she took a box of takeaway for herself and split the pair of chopsticks to use.

Ron tossed his head back in feigned agony. "Aw, c'mon, don't want to strain the eyes so soon…"

"We have a review on Monday, Ron, and homework still left to do," Kim replied simply, eating and hanging her head over her textbook.

"Yea, and there's also a party to-night," Ron added slyly.

"Really?" Kim asked and pushed some noodles into her mouth. To be honest, it didn't interest her that much. "Where?"

"Frat's holding it," Ron replied, sneakily reaching for a box of takeaway.

"How come I haven't heard?"

Ron snorted a laugh and began to dig into his own food. "Huh, maybe because you've been stuck up here," Ron motioned around the room with his head, "The whole day? It's only been a few weeks and I, uh," he dropped the chopsticks into the box and laid it down. "Thought maybe we could spend some time there and then… I dunno… hang out afterwards?"

Kim sighed, "Ron, homework doesn't finish itself."

"I thought you caught up on Christmas Break," he mentioned, craning his neck with little interest towards her textbook and ate some chicken.

"I did, but this is new and I still have this—"

"Kim, it's Friday. Friday? Party? Do these words mean nothing to you? What else do you think Saturday is for?"

Kim rolled her eyes, "For recovering the hangover you get from the party that leaves you too stupid to do the homework," she retorted dryly.

"Who says we have to drink? Let's just go and have a good time, our first hang-out since ever. C'mon, Kim, please?"

Another sigh came from Kim as rolled back her head in thought. "Alright. But I'm going to keep working until it's time to go and not any sooner."

"Besides, if we do, there's always Sunday, right?"

"Ron! You know the same goes for you? Now crack open that binder. That's the deal."

Clicking his tongue, Ron pulled his heavy backpack on the floor where he had left it that morning and hauled out his binder and textbook. "I'm agreeing only because you got me takeaway," he added contemptuously, pointing a chopstick at her. As he leaned back to place his bag back on the floor, he noticed his pet naked mole-rat, Rufus, snoozing on Kim's dresser. Ron's eyes fell with compassion.

"Hey," he whispered to Kim. "How's Rufus doing? Everything okay when I was out?"

Kim leaned back and took a look at the ailing mole-rat. "He did fine, Ron. He just slept the entire time, I checked on him, no big."

And yet even with this information, Ron's face fell and he felt the emotion beginning to rise within. Leaning forwards, he wrapped his arms around his thin stomach. "I wish that extra nine lives thing would make him young again."

"But it only revives you at the age you died," Kim reminded him gently. She reached out a hand to rub his shoulder gently. "Don't think about that now," she said soothingly, "Let's just focus on our homework… you… you don't want to stress over what's not happening now… right?"

"But it will."

"But not now. Ron, please, cheer up? Remember the party later to-night. First night we get to hang out without homework getting in the way, right?"

"Right…" Ron replied, his voice was still trailing, his grief obviously still present.

"I'm looking forwards to it."

"Me too."

Kim gave Ron a final rub on the shoulder before returning back to her homework. She didn't delve back completely until, from the corner of her eyes, she noticed Ron eventually lowering his head to his textbook.

It was the sad and perturbing truth but Rufus was becoming old.

He had been so for some time, but now in January, it was beginning to overboard on the obvious. At first, Ron had tried to deny Rufus' declining health and forced his little pal to be more active. Kim had stood back and watched this with intense inner strife. But soon Kim began to notice the dire increase Rufus' health and knew it was time to have that deep talk with Ron. She winced at the memory, recalling how heartbroken Ron was when she had to say certain words… certain… 'D' words…

Ron had clung the little naked mole-rat close to himself and fought to hold himself from weeping. Kim had tenderly taken Rufus from Ron's hold and cringed when, in her hands, she felt how limp Rufus was. How could Ron not have noticed this? No, she was sure he had. Not that Rufus was entirely a deadbeat, he still had life in him, but it was true that he slept more often than before; especially within the last week. Tapping her pencil on her paper, she couldn't help but think it was the mole-rat's time soon…

She had no idea how to deal with that time with Ron. She knew if he was like this now- she looked up at him and watched him sombrely writing in his binder. Kim noticed how he seemed to write every letter purposefully and steadily. Ron's emotions would only worsen from what they were now and that was the main reason why Kim agreed to going to the party to-night. Hopefully, it would provide Ron enough of a distraction to enjoy himself.

It was at eight o'clock and the Chinese takeaway had been consumed hours ago. Noticing the time, Ron finally dumped his books off his lap and onto the bed and leaned back, stretching.

"Okay, Kimbo, that's enough, I demand it. It's time to get ready. I think I'm going to end up cross-eyed with all the homework they give us."

"The party's not until nine o'clock," Kim said quietly as she continued to write a paper. "We still have some time left…"

Ron eyed her prudently and pulled her binder from underneath her gently. "Nu-uh, not with the time it takes you to get ready."

Rolling her eyes, she allowed Ron to haul her off of her bed and over to her dresser to pick out something decent to wear. Again, Kim took a deep inner breath and wished, deep down inside, that Ron would finally be able to have himself a delightful party night, leaving the woes of his ailing pet behind.

-ø-

Kim sighed, surveying the room and all the various students of the fraternity and neighbouring sorority mingling, dancing, shooting billiards, joking. The clamour in the air was constant and yet somehow dimmed on Kim's ears. As she soaked the scenery in, she couldn't stop the long overdue thoughts from coming to her: so here she was, in University with Ron. She gave the room another slow scrutinise and marvelled at how far the two had come. It almost seemed slightly surreal.

Back in the summer, she had been positively fraught when they had received their return applications from the various Universities they had applied for. It wasn't so much for herself that she was anxious about, she knew she had done well, no— it more for Ron her stress meter elevated for.

He hadn't exactly had the best results in the final exams, in Kim's mind, have you; he hadn't even seem pleased about them himself. And yet even so, Kim had repeatedly reassured Ron. They had studied so veraciously together and Kim even took time out of her own cram-schedule to help Ron learn everything he would need to know to pass. It had been a rigorous time for them, there had been a lot of stress and more than a few arguments along the way. But soon enough, the Universities responded and on that day, Ron sped into Kim's house with his letters to see if Kim had received hers.

And she had. Together, at Kim's kitchen table, they sat and opened each University letter together.

" Lowerton Community College," Kim had announced and they opened their first letters together, scanning the letter for the response. Of course, neither had been surprised that they had both been accepted there.

Ron had been a little egotistical there, but Kim's worry hadn't evaporated. If that had been the only one he had been accepted into then… Kim had no choice… Kim distinctly recalled gulping hard there.

Middleton University was next and Ron exploded with good cheer when he told Kim's entire household he had been accepted; Kim too. Kim's parents, Mr and Mrs Possible, were in the kitchen as well. Both were pretending to be doing their own thing when it was fairly obvious her parents were actually just as excited and bursting with anticipation as Kim and Ron.

They moved on to Tri-city University, accepted them both again! It was looking solid so far. The last one, Upperton University was the one everyone had awaited the most. Of all the Universities they had applied for, Upperton's was the most prestigious and arduous to be accepted into (not only that but it cost an arm and a leg… and an eye, and a tooth, and an ear and a finger and a…).

"Not accepted," Ron had sunk into his seat and held his rejection letter.

Kim held her own, looking down at her received results feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed. "Me either," she replied. " Tri-city University it is then."

Kim remembered Ron perking up and sitting straight in his seat next to her. From there he went into a rant about how dare Upperton University reject the Kim Possible! He ranted about how hard she had studied, how great she was and that it had to be a mistake.

While Ron had been busy ranting, Kim had tried to fold her letter up and slip it back into the envelope. Only she didn't see her Mom lurking right behind her to read the rejection letter for herself. Kim noticed her shadow and twirled around, cramming the letter as quickly as she could into the envelope.

"Yes," her Mother had said, walking away with the coffee mug in her hands and taking a sip. "It's a pity indeed," and she raised her eyebrows knowingly at Kim who blushed and turned away.

Only her Mother shared in the secret that Kim had been accepted into Upperton University. But Kim couldn't bring herself to part with Ron. Not only did the idea of being away from Ron for that long nearly made her faint, but it did something else inside of her. She felt a real strong, knot in her stomach as if it was shouting at her own thoughts: 'No! No! You will not be an inch away from Ron, don't you even dare!'.

Licking her lips, she glanced at Ron now noticing her and taking her disturbed face for sadness about her rejection. He patted her on the back, trying to solace her. She smiled at him and told herself she wouldn't part from him— that she would go to Tri-city to be with Ron. It was too painful, as silly as it sounded. Emotionally and… strangely enough, physically too… Odd… And she knew she hadn't been disillusioned because she felt it on more than one occasion when being separated from Ron too…

But she wouldn't have to fret about something as whimsical as being parted from Ron any longer, she grinned to herself presently while watching him hold onto a billiard stick by some fellow fraternity members he was talking too. Kim searched in her mind and found no occasion in the future when she would ever have to be apart from Ron ever again and found no reason to fear such a notion.

"Hey, Ron," Kim called, grabbing his attention.

"Yea, Kimbo?"

"Gonna go get a drink, want anything?"

"No punch. Well, test it first. I don't want that whole—"

" 'Spiked Punch and Prince Wally' thing happening again, I know," Kim teased. "I'll be back," she laughed, walking into the next room. As she left, she could hear a frat boy question Ron what that was about to which Ron shook off gruffly.

By passing dancing students in the lounge-turned-dance room, Kim made her way to the refreshment table. She was just picking up a plastic cup, head bobbing absent-mindedly to the song playing on the stereo, when she managed to hear her name being called from behind above all the voices.

"Kim! Long time, no see!"

"Jessica!"

The blonde-haired girl with the deep blue eyes and freckles that stepped through the crowd was a face Kim definitely remembered. This girl was one of the few Middleton High cheerleaders to have gone to Tri-city University with Kim and make it onto the new cheer squad during the September tryouts. Sadly, most of the girls had gone to different schools. Both Hope and Tara, Bonnie's best friends, had been accepted into Upperton University, while most of the others had gone straight to Middleton University or College.

"How was your Winter Break?" Kim inquired, pouring herself some punch.

"Oh, great!" Jessica replied, "Went back to Middleton to stay with my parents. How about you?"

"The same," Kim nodded. "As great as independence is, it's still nice to go home once and awhile."

"Agreed," Jessica laughed, "Will you be attending this Monday's practice? You don't want to be replaced, right?"

Kim snorted. "No big. Don't even worry about it. I'll be attending each and every practice, there's no way I'll be removed from the squad," Kim was aware she had come off a tad haughty as she spoke this, "Especially not if Bonnie's on the squad."

Jessica nodded grimly. "I couldn't believe she replaced that West White Water High girl! That girl was beyond stellar! It'd have been better not only for us if that other girl had been picked, but for the squad as well. I bet Lonnie's regretting that decision now."

"I wouldn't doubt it," Kim replied. "If you ask me, there was something fishy about that replacement."

"Yea, but better that other girl than me. I'm still surprised you made it on the team." (Kim gave Jessica a quick look.) "Oh, not because you aren't good, come on, Kim you know that. I say that because Bonnie's older sister is the squad captain."

"Oh, for sure," Kim nodded, hiding the relief, "I'm stunned as well. I've gotta admit, it's kind of hard to think I'm not head cheerleader anymore. Now I have to stand out if Lonnie picks me at the end of the year when she graduates. But at the same time, I can't show off or she'll think I'm trying to out-do her."

"Tread carefully," Jessica advised. "It's a fine line there especially when dealing with a Rockwaller."

"Thanks, I will. Talking about Bonnie, is she here? I haven't seen her yet."

"Oh, she's here," Jessica grimaced, "I ran into her awhile back hanging with the older frat boys, naturally."

"Naturally. Whatever, as long as I don't have to deal with her 'tude to-night, I'm so not in the mood."

"Something happen?" Jessica implored, now taking some punch for herself, "Or just the usual homework stressing blues?"

"The usual. And just… going back to normal after break, that's all. Getting used to everything again, really. I just want to sit back and enjoy it, let's leave the Bonnie-stuff til after I'm settled."

"Ohhh," Jessica nodded. "Well I hope to see you around the sorority more, I'll talk to you later, okay?"

"Sure, see ya!"

When Jessica had left, Kim finished pouring Ron's drink (taking a sip first to test that it hadn't been spiked) and picked up her own going back to the games room where he was, hopefully, winding up his game of billiards with the boys. It looked like it since there weren't many balls left on the table.

"Here," Kim said as she handed Ron his drink.

"Oo, thanks, KP."

She froze, looking at a paper plate on the table next to him. "Is that yours?" she asked.

"Huh?" Ron looked at the plate she was pointing to; it had three slices of pizza and two single crusts. "Yea, that's mine, you can have one if you want," he replied, his mind elsewhere. "Hang on, Kimbo, I'm up next and if I can shoot that ball right there…"

Kim watched Ron take aim as she picked up a slice of his pizza for herself. Whenever she found him near a large plate of food, she unwillingly felt her adrenaline rise within her. They still had their squabbles of course, those could never be avoided entirely, but at least he was listening and sincerely doing his best. She didn't know what it was like exactly for Ron, but he had been bulimic for years now and she supposed just ceasing the habit at the drop of a hat wasn't possible even if Kim thought it should be.

Other than the occasional spats about his bulimia when he forgot or gave in to the urge and Kim had to talk to him, everything was smooth sailing since all the turbulence they had left behind last year.

Kim still remembered the poignant time in their lives; it had been on her own birthday when he had come to see her, noticing how upset she had been for the past weeks, he had come to confront her. It was there on her bed while they talked (and yelled) where she had admitted she was in love with him then he too told her her love went both ways. It was because she truly loved him, and he her, he would do his best to eventually overcome his health issue. She recalled him being stunned when she had expressed in such an emotional distress that she loved him. And then… he had replied with the same then after that … Even as Kim stood, finishing off the pizza slice watching Ron right in front of her laugh at some frat boy's joke… she still shivered and smiled when she recalled him forgiving her.

That had been truly necessary for them to move on since what had happened in the Autumn after their hands had been detached two years ago (had it really been that long ago now?) when their friendship had been torn apart. And not just to move on from that entire fiasco, but, it was hard to see it then but now it was perfectly clear, to understand and be able to accept and be comfortable with their new feelings for one another after being nothing but the best of friends for years previously.

Through everything that had happened to them, the ups and, oh yes, the many downs included, it expressed the strength of their bond and awakened them to realise exactly how much they loved one another for there was no mistake—no infatuation with a friend that could be a one-time thing; that it was one-hundred percent real, true, love.

Not that Kim would have ever wanted to go through those times again, but she had to admit to herself, it had been needed. Even the worst events in ones life can bring new opportunities.

"Done yet?" Kim called, picking up a second slice.

"Just this one last shot…" Ron replied as he steadied himself.

"More to the left, Ron," Kim replied with a sigh.

"Hey, Kim," Ron replied. "I think I can do this on my own. It's just a simple case, speaking a little seriously…"

Kim shook her head and turned away from the shame of what was about to happen. There went the sound of the cue stick hitting the ball, she heard it rolling, hit another ball and then…

"Aww!"

"Woo! You lost, Ron!"

"But… No fair!"

Kim turned around again to witness the train wreck atop the billiard table. Smirking, she took a bite from the pizza.

"You should have listened to your girl, there," the guy went on.

Ron scowled and handed over his cue stick. "Yea, whatever," he muttered and slunk away with Kim, hands in his pockets.

"Oh, come on, Ron," Kim patted his shoulder as she walked with him. "Don't be so sour! You were never good at billiards anyway. Remember that time when we were undercover at that club and," (Kim started bursting into giggles, Ron shot her a look) "And you totally—"

"Yea, yea, Kim. I do remember that, thanks."

"Hey, I know what'll take your mind off the game."

"And what's that?" Ron asked. "Oh! Food!" and he dashed away from Kim over to the refreshment table to help himself.

"Augh." Kim blew some strands of air from her face. "I meant dancing," she snorted when she walked up to him, eyeing everything he piled onto his plate critically.

"Sure, that too" Ron grinned, "We can do that too." He turned around, looking back into the games room as the guys began a new game. Suddenly, Ron stumbled and gave a gasp. "Felix!"

"What?" Kim asked, trying to see what Ron was. And then there, by the sofa in the corner of the games room was Felix Renton, Ron's friend since late High School; his only real guy friend. Kim wondered what Ron's wheelchair friend was doing at this frat party since he actually attended a Technology Institute. His school was located in Tri-city as well, but was a little bit of a drive.

"Mm, how about after some game play though, huh? Felix emailed me and said he'd come by! Didn't think he made it though. We haven't hit the consoles since, like, Summer!"

"I'd rather skip that," Kim replied, a little monotonous.

"Hokay then, Kimilicious, gimme an hour for gameage?"

"Fiiiine. NO. Half an hour."

"That's not long enough! Twenty minutes!"

"Done!" Kim smirked and watched Ron walk away smugly with the pile of snacks on his plate to join his pal in the gaming room. "Ron was never good at numbers," she mumbled to herself and walked through the crowd wondering what to do for the next twenty minutes.

The only female 'friend' Kim had at Tri-city was Jessica and Marcella. Although they hanged out on occasion back in High School, in was mainly because they were doing cheer squad related activities. Although the girls were always friendly with Kim, they were never tight. Kim's only female friend during Middleton High had been Monique. Kim slumped against a wall, crossing her arms. But Monique had gone to Upperton's Institute of Fashion Design and the only contact they had now was through electronic means.

There were a few other students at Tri-city from Middleton High, but none of them she had ever gotten to know. Ron was the only person she had here and even though Kim felt comfortable with letting him have his own time, she still felt a little sore inside. Without Ron, she had no-one.

Kim glanced at her wristwatch and grimaced. Not even two minutes had gone by! Disgusted, she pushed off from the wall and walked into the next room where she finally spotted Bonnie.

"Oh, ew," Kim muttered under her breath. It had been hell to know that Bonnie would be here as well. Then the rotten girl had to make the team and join the sorority! "Think I'll take another path." So Kim turned straight around but was too slow.

"Oh there you are, K."

Kim felt her shoulders become rigid as she forced a smile on her face then turned around to face Bonnie. "Hello, Bonnie."

"I didn't think I'd see you here to-night," Bonnie remarked, tossing some hair over her shoulder. "I haven't seen you around in awhile, actually. Lonnie might have removed you from the squad by now."

"Thanks for your concern, B.," Kim retorted, her nose wrinkling by just being in Bonnie's presence. "But I don't have any worries about being removed—she knows I'm too good to pass up."

Bonnie let out a haughty remark. "I don't think so. She'd be glad to kick you off at the next meet and I'll be there to laugh when you get the boot. You're just an embarrassment to the squad by having that loser follow you around like a shadow. I thought you might have gotten rid of him by now and moved on to a new hoe. Come on, Kim, you're in University now." She smirked, "Time to grow up and get a real man."

Kim was silent for a moment as she glared with hatred into Bonnie's eyes. The rage she felt inside was clouding her brain to make any immediate retort. "And I thought you would have grown out of being such a pain and have gotten a real attitude. But I see you're just as childish as ever, talking to you is like talking to a two year old."

"I liked it better when you weren't around," Bonnie spat.

"Me too!" Kim snapped, "I didn't have to look at you."

"You'll regret saying that," the tanned girl snarled, "My big sister's the team captain and if I even so much as think for you to be off the team, it'll be done."

"Last time I was at your house, Lonnie didn't seem too interested in listening to anything that came out of your yappy-trap."

Bonnie's hands clenched into fists, shaking at her side. "I'm going to be squad captain when Lonnie graduates this year!"

"Only because you'll go crying to Mommy like when Lonnie originally didn't want you on the squad! Because you weren't good enough. "

"Aergh!" Bonnie stamped her foot and bit her lower lip in frustration. "Forget it! I'll see you on Monday. And you better not bring your toy with you or I might get my boyfriend to deal with him." With a final stamp of her foot, Bonnie shoved by Kim roughly, reaching for her cell phone in her purse as she went.

Kim winced. Might have lost it there, Possible. From what I've picked up, Lonnie doesn't gave a darn who's on the team as long as they're good so I should be safe. But if Bonnie starts complaining to her Mom like she did when Lonnie originally rejected her, Lonnie might have no choice. Well… what's done is done, not like I'm going to go apologising to Bonnie, hah!

Shrugging, Kim decided she was done with just walking aimlessly from room to room. It might not have quite been twenty minutes yet, but she would rather sit and watch Ron blasting zombies in complete boredom than be Bonnie-bait.

Peering into the game room, she spotted Ron's blonde head bobbing up and down from behind a chesterfield in front of the television. Sighing, she forced her legs forwards. She leaned against the sofa as she stared at the tv for a couple of moments. It wasn't zombies this time, it was a car racing game of some kind.

"What place are you in?"

Ron leapt out of his seat and his virtual car swerved from left to right, crashing into other virtual cars. "Kim! Don't sneak up on me like that." Sticking his tongue out, Ron toggled the analogue stick violently until he regained control of his car and was surfing smoothly down the street. "Don't tell me it's be twenty minutes already."

"No, I just came to join."

"Oh… but…" Ron swerved around a sharp corner. "There isn't enough controllers left, Kim…"

"No, I mean just sit and watch."

Ron risked a quick worried look at Kim. "You don't have to, y'know. I'm not, like, I'm not… hang on… last leg here!" Kim sighed.

"Booyah! Fifth place!" Ron cheered, "Better than last time! Yeah, anyway," Ron craned his neck to look up at Kim. "I'm not, like, Josh or anything. You're not expected to sit quietly next to me all the time."

"Ha!" Kim barked a laugh, "Like you could make me by force! I came because I wanted to."

"Not there!" Ron said and blocked Kim from squeezing herself onto the end of the chesterfield. "Not between the Ron-Man and his snacks. Here," he patted the free space on his left, "You can sit by me here."

Ron was too busy selecting his new car for the next track to notice Kim's doubtful look cross her face as she took her seat next to him. It really was a little compressed on the sofa; Kim looked down the row to see who else was there. Surprised, not only did she see Felix in his chair at the other end, but on the sofa next to him was Zita. Kim didn't recall where Zita had gone next, but maybe it had been the same as Felix. The two had been a couple at the end of High School and even went to the prom together. Kim gave a small giggle, they were really a good match after all.

Next to Kim was some other guy she didn't know and didn't feel comfortable sitting so close, especially when he stared her up and down when she took her seat. She moved closer towards Ron instead and leaned against him, her legs folded up in front of her.

As the countdown began for the next race to start, Ron sent Kim a smile mistaking her moving close not to get away from the person on her other side but as to actually move closer to him. She felt him snuggle closely to her and Kim felt that maybe sitting here wouldn't be so bad after all.

In the end, Kim allowed Ron an actual forty minutes of game-time total instead of the planned twenty. To her disbelief, she actually found enjoyment in sitting close to him and watching, she even found herself wrapped up in Ron's game and cheered him on. Somewhere within those minutes, she linked her arms around Ron's and squeezed him tightly when he was nearing the end of the finish line and actually came in first place!

"Hey, maybe you are a good luck charm!" Ron grinned enthusiastically at Kim, placing the controller in his lap.

Kim laughed, "Maybe I am! Maybe my can-do-anythingness rubbed off onto you."

Ron opened his mouth as if to say something, but instead shut his mouth, turning to look at his full results with a wry smile like he was keeping a secret to himself. Kim shook her head and clapped when the game did a little replay of Ron's win.

"Alright, Kim," Ron said, leaning back in his seat. "I said we could go and dance after this, so aryuready?"

"Thought you'd never ask!" Kim said, heaving herself from her seat. Standing up, she waved to Felix and Zita who returned the wave. Kim noticed from the corner of her eye, the boy who she had been sitting next to give her another look at her bare midriff. "Let's go, Ron," she replied a little dryly and once again linked her arms around his. But when she turned her head to look back at that guy, her eyes landed onto his paper plate instead—his empty paper plate.

Ron, oblivious, bounced out of her arms and towards the room where students were dancing.

"You know what this reminds me of?" Kim said, raising her voice over the loud music as she ran up to him on the floor.

"What's that?" Ron asked, all a-grin as he began to get in the groove with the music.

"That party, years ago. I saw you on dancing on the floor with Tara. In October the year before last."

Instantly Kim noticed Ron fall out of sync with the beats and look slightly discomforted. She continued to sway to the music. "I saw you dancing with her and I was sitting on the sofa with Josh, remember?"

Like she had to ask. "Yeah, I remember that."

"When I sat there, you know what I was thinking?"

"Not really," Ron flushed, trying his best to throw himself back into the music, but he faltered here and there.

"I was jealous. I wanted to be out there dancing with you, not sitting with Josh. I wanted Tara next to him and me next to you."

Now that smile returned to Ron's face and he once again swung to the beats vigorously. "Then we can show that memory a thing or two, huh?" Reaching out, he grabbed Kim's hand buoyantly and swung with her to-and-fro wildly. Blushing Kim tried to match his steps, she was slightly embarrassed and holding back. Yet at the same time, she wanted to be as bold as he was.

Soon, Kim caught on and forgot all about being embarrassed. Kim began to laugh as she danced with Ron carelessly. "Yea, Ron! Let's dance this night away!"

Ron united in Kim's laughter, taking her hand again and delving the both of them deeper into the dance floor where they lost themselves to time in their shared rhythm in perfect sync.

The time that passed really was unknown to Kim. Could it have been hours when the two finally eased their way out of the dance floor? Kim couldn't believe she could have danced for hours but who knew and who really cared.

That's the dance Ron and I should have had all those years ago, she thought to herself as she smiled breathlessly at Ron who guided her over to a nearby sofa chair. He really is a bon diggity dancer and I'm the only one who'll ever dance with him anymore. She couldn't help but think that last bit a tad smugly to herself.

Ron flopped into the seat and Kim perched herself on the arm of the sofa. Together, they sat, catching their breaths and cooling down. Kim felt a little sweaty and pushed some hair on her forehead back.

"That was… totally fun," Ron said, fanning himself with a hand. "Not that embarrassing after all, huh?" he teased.

Kim waved him off, "Sure, sure. I'm going to go get a drink of punch to cool down. Want one?"

"Please and thank-you," Ron said, mimicking one of Kim's family catch-phrases.

"I'll be right back," she admonished then disappeared.

It didn't take Kim long to come back with two paper cups of punch and return to the sofa-chair. Kim was just taking a swig from the punch when she looked over the cup and froze when saw no Ron. Blinking in confusion, she lowered the cup and stared at the empty chair in front of her.

Oh, come on, Ron. I said I'd be right back. Kim looked around and even stood on the tips of her toes to see if he was just mingling in a crowd somewhere. Then... there! She just saw the top of a blonde head disappear around the corner and into a hallway. Groaning, Kim jogged to catch up with him.

When she rounded the corner, Ron turned around and she realised that… it wasn't Ron. She stood there stupidly staring at the guy, not even noticing her. Frowning, Kim stood with the two cups in her hand. So… where did he go?

Looking all around as she wandered, Kim continued down the hallway looking for him even though she had no real evidence that he had even come this way to begin with. She was about to turn and head back when two girls walked by and she caught a snippet of their conversation and it was all she needed:

"You know it's time to leave when you walk in the bathroom and there's a boy throwing up the night's alcohol."

In a flash, Kim ran to the nearest bathroom, the punch in Ron's cup spilling onto the carpet in her flee. She couldn't be sure it was Ron, but the night was still young and the alcohol vomiting usually went on in the early morning.

And Ron had a lot to eat to-day too! Did he know he was going to do this! She couldn't help but feel a moments rage towards Ron. Reaching the bathroom she listened in and concentrated, and yes, there were the sounds of coughing and… gagging and… Kim pulled back, repulsed, vomiting. It was strange, but Kim could even tell it was Ron by his coughing.

Kim sighed heavily, knowing that on the other side of the door, Ron was making himself vomit. She shook her head to herself, knotting her brow. What hurt her even more was that he had purposefully slipped away from her, intending to deceive her. Of course Ron had not stopped vomiting up his food entirely but it was something the two of them were working on together, without doctors. She knew he wouldn't be perfect yet, but still, the disappointment whenever she caught him came in the form of a large pit in her stomach.

Casting her head away, Kim was going to place the paper cups down, knock on the door and step inside to stop him from vomiting any further when she felt a hand clamp down on her shoulder. Immediately, she let out an estranged cry of shock and dropped the cups of punch when she turned around and found herself face to face with someone.

Kim placed a hand to her heart and gasped. Looking up at the large man, she recognised him; he was the star football quarterback at Tri-City University. In the past, he had often taken the time after games, or before, to have a quick chat with Kim.

"Didn't mean to startle you," he grinned, "Don't worry about the stains. We'll get the janitor to soak that up. There'll be plenty more stains all over the place to-night. You know, I was wondering if you'd make it to the party."

"Uh, yea," Kim said, her eyes darting back to the bathroom door where Ron was. Nervous, she took the massive arm of the football player and led him down and out of the hallway and into the next room, away from Ron. She didn't notice the pleased look on his face.

"So, um, what were you saying?" Kim asked, shaking her head. The jock opened his mouth to talk but Kim didn't soak in a word he was saying, her eyes darted anxiously behind her, thinking of Ron behind the door.

Inside, she was cursing herself for not being able to stop Ron. She'd just have to rely on Ron to make the decision.

Unfortunately, Ron had made the decision, but not the one Kim was hoping for. Inside the bathroom door, Ron had finished bringing up the pizzas, chips, punch and even the Chinese take-away from earlier that day. A mint was in his mouth to freshen his breath as he stared at his reflection sorrowfully in the mirror.

Ron didn't know how to describe it, but he felt bad for what he had just done. He knew Kim was relying on him, he knew how concerned she was and even though Ron knew of all that before coming in to vomit, he had done it regardless. And so now the guilt washed over him and the wish for taking back his actions was present in his mind.

He had tried so hard since September to stop himself; he had popped his prescribed pills never breaking the dosage-amount on the container to help him. Ron had even gone weeks without vomiting and how proud had Kim been then! But then there was the time here and there where he gave in. He couldn't help it, it wasn't always something he could control. The last time Ron had brought up his food, was before Christmas Break. He hadn't told Kim about that, the guilt too immense, and he didn't plan on telling Kim about this one either. It wasn't that he was trying to trick her into believing that he wasn't vomiting, it was because he was afraid of Kim's disappointment in him.

"I'm trying," Ron whispered to his reflection, his own melancholy eyes revealing him the secret judgement within. "I really am." He sighed and hung his head, sweeping his arms off the counter and behind his back. Still depressed with himself, Ron opened the bathroom door and merged himself with the party atmosphere again, no-one taking the slightest of notice of him.

Pushing his way through the crowd from his trip, he scanned the sea of students for Kim's distinctive red hair; her hair length and style never changed since high school. There! A weak smile spread on Ron's face when he spotted the back of her head. Eagerly, he pushed his way through the crowd when he suddenly drew back.

Hiding behind a throng of people chatting and not even recognising him, he spotted Kim, but it wasn't her he was cautious of. Standing right close to her and chatting with her was none other than the lead football star, although Ron knew him more as the head of the fraternity. Ron narrowed his eyes at him as he watched Mr Big-Shot lean on the bookcase, it kind of looked to Ron as if he was leering over Kim.

She didn't seem perturbed though, or even if she noticed like Ron had. Couldn't she see he was totally hitting on her?

Mostly Ron side-stepped the large man around the fraternity, and the star of campus mainly ignored Ron, in fact, Ron didn't even think the guy would remember his name. No wait, bad example, Ron corrected himself, no-one remembers my name. Even if the football star barely took any notice of Ron around the fraternity, he most certainly took notice of Kim during the games where Kim was a cheerleader.

After games or before hand, Ron was in the seats to watch Kim cheer, to be there to support her. He'd grin and wave back to her as she waved to him from on the field— she absolutely delighted to have him there. But Ron would never miss that jock talking to her like now. That guy obviously had a thing for Kim.

Ron had never brought it up to Kim, there had never really been much time and Ron thought it might have stopped, but here that guy was, his eyes looking quite eager as he looked down at her.

It made Ron grimace. It wasn't that he didn't have faith in Kim, he did. She had been nothing but faithful ever since they announced their love for enough last March, at least, that's what Ron thought. No, it wasn't her. It was him he didn't trust.

But what could Ron do? I can't go barrelling in there and yapping at the dude to back off. One: Kim would probably kill me out of embarrassment but Two: he'd beat me to a pulp! That and I'd be totally kicked out of the frat. Then KP would have to deal with the ridicule of loving a non-frat boy… Ron looked to his shoulder for advice only to realise that Rufus was not there. Ron hung back, still indecisive on what to do.

The jock leaned tilted forwards more and Ron noticed Kim take a slight, and barely visible step backwards as she continued to smile and talk to him. Then she laughed as if he had said something funny and Ron felt himself decrease in size. C'mon, Kim, kick his butt or something… What are you doing? Can't you tell he's totally got it in for you? Maybe she's waiting for me! Or… I dunno… Again, a look to his shoulder for an answer but none was to be offered.

Suddenly, Kim began to nod more and Ron spotted Kim backing away from him. She held up and finger and took more steps away. She was making her get away. The jock, shrugged and waved her good-bye. Kim turned and dashed into a nearby crowd. As Ron pushed his way through to meet up with her, he noticed her look around herself, maybe looking for him. She looked like she was going to go into the hallway Ron had just come from when he caught up with her.

"Hey."

Startled, Kim turned around, and took a closer look. "There you are," it was so difficult for her to keep the ice out of her voice. She wasn't sure if she should say she found him out now or later that night. "When I came back with the drinks, you were gone."

"Sorry about that," he mumbled.

Kim picked up on his apparent agitation. It was obvious he was covering up. "Well, here's your cup," and she handed it to him.

"Thanks," he took a sip. "I, uh, actually would have come up to you sooner. But…"

"But what?"

"I saw you with him."

"Huh? Oh, yea, so?"

"So you were talking to him," Ron shrugged.

Kim raised her eyebrows and looked at Ron, a slight smile spreading on her face as she began to understand. "Ron," Kim nearly laughed, "You're not… jealous, are you?"

"What!" Ron yelped. He took Kim by Kim's other shoulder and steered her out of the room hastily. "Me? Jealous? Pfft nooo, heck nooo…"

"Ron, you're so jellin'!" Kim crossed her arms, refusing to be lead away any further. "I can see it on your face."

"Huh?" Ron began nervously touching his face as if the word 'jealousy' was actually written on his face in ink. "No it's not…"

Kim sighed with a smile. "Oh, Ron," she shook her head, "I can take care of myself. I know that guy has a thing for me."

"You knew!"

"Of course! A girl always knows these things. I mean, did you see the way he was leaning in on me like that? Had to arch my back backwards like the leaning Tower of Pisa!"

"I saw! It was like he was gonna get on with you right there," he grumbled.

"So you noticed too. And you were jealous. Just admit it!"

"Why should I be jealous!" Ron countered hastily, feeling the heat. "C'mon, you know I trust you… and you trust me. We're fine, we always will be, right?"

"You remember that." Now Kim took Ron's arm and guided him through the rooms and outside onto the back porch. Into a corner they went and Kim sat on the banister, Ron dropping himself into a white, old, wooden chair next to her.

"We both know how hard we worked to be together," Kim said, lowering her voice.

Ron looked around and saw a small group of people on the other end and more people scattered all throughout the backyard. Laughter could be heard and smoke could be seen lifting into the night's air. It was a touch chilly out and Ron shivered in his short-sleeved t-shirt. Even with the distant sounds of laughter, chatter and music from inside, it still felt oddly silent. Again, Ron found himself with Kim, apart of the world and yet the both of them so distant from everything surrounding them. No matter where they were, he always felt like they were in a world of their own. That they were on a higher level than anyone else, or maybe it was a lower one. Whichever it was, it was just the two of them.

Ron looked up at Kim again, leaning his head against the chair. "Really hard," he whispered back. "Man, even if it's dawning on a year, I still remember it all so well: the cry-fests, the arguments… the emotions. It was crazy."

"But here we are."

"And here we'll stay."

There was a brief silence as the two soaked in the night atmosphere, ignoring the cold and sounds around them as they often did when sitting together.

"I think what we have is special," Kim commented, breaking the silence.

Ron snorted a laugh, "Yea? Special Ed?"

"No," Kim snapped, "Like… Look at those people over there."

Ron followed Kim's finger and saw a couple on the far edge of the backyard, standing awfully close together and talking, drinks in hand.

"I wonder what they're talking about," Kim said softly.

"I don't," Ron replied. "Why should we care? Just some gushy stuff, probably."

"Yea," Kim nodded, still observing the couple, "Gushy stuff maybe, but look at them. They look like they like each other a lot, right?"

Ron gave Kim a 'are you right in the head?' look and glanced back at the couple before resting that same crazy-gaze at Kim. "Probably."

Kim tilted her head, never removing her eyes from the couple. "I think they do. And yet… there's so much lacking."

Ron snorted, "And how can you tell? Are we psychic to-day?"

"Noooo," Kim scolded, "I just look at them, then I think of us and we're so different from them. They're like a normal, average couple you see walking hand-in-hand around campus, or whatever. They're close and their relationship is built only on the romance they have for one another. They haven't been through what we have to be together. I look at them standing their and there's nothing between them, sure, they like each other. But for how long, do you think? It just seems so… phoney."

"So?"

"So I'm glad we're not like that. Can you imagine… say we never had that big blow up after our hands detached." (Ron shifted himself cautiously.) "Remember what we were like on the bed?"

"Heh, yea."

"I worry we might have ended up like them."

"Oh… Huh?"

"It would have ruined our friendship. That's what my parents were worried about, but they didn't know everything that was happening between us. I think if all of that drama didn't happen, we wouldn't be like how we are now."

"And what's that?" Ron prodded, leaning back with his arms behind his head.

Kim again tilted her head, truly pondering an answer to Ron's question over in her mind. "Together," she concluded.

"Together," repeated Ron, "I like that. Yea, no, I get what you mean. We're not all, like… mushy all the time, that's what you mean, right?"

Kim nodded, "And I like that."

"But…" Ron eyed her from the corner of her eyes. "You do like it when we are… on occasion. Right?"

Again, Kim nodded, her eyes still on the couple as Ron leaned back again with a satisfactory grin on his face.

"If it was," Kim added, her voice barely a whisper, "I think we would have lost our friendship, buried by… that," she pointed once more to the couple.

Silence.

"That'd suck."

Kim laughed softly, "Yes, it would have."

After another passage of comfortable silence, Ron said, "I like just hanging with you. You're like… bon diggity."

Kim leaned against the house, a hand folded on one knee. "Um, thanks, I guess. I am in love you though," Ron turned to look at her again. "So don't worry about that jock, okay? I can deal with him. Besides, I don't want him hurting you or anything."

Ron gave a short, course laugh. "What's the point of having that extra 'togetherness' if I can't stand up for you like any normal guy, h'm?"

Kim laughed, amused, "Because you're a skinny little pip-squeak compared to him."

"Hey!" Ron exclaimed, "Thanks a lot!"

"But I like you that way!" Kim countered, "Very huggable."

"Well, I guess that's an equal trade. But, hey, only if you throw in, 'irresistibly handsome' and 'downright studly'."

"Ha! Don't push your luck!"

Ron scowled playfully and Kim continued to chuckle which eventually turned into a small giggle-fit as she continued to think about such a thing. It made Ron grin to know that he could make laugh genuinely and not outbursts of fake-laughter like that jock.

"I'm pretty much done with the partying, I think," Ron stated after their laughter had subsided. This talk with Kim had eased him into a mellow mood, a similar mood he was in when usually snuggling up with Kim under the covers in her dorm room. Feeling the cold out here increased that urge to warm up with her in his arms and underneath a blanket "Why don't we take a walk back to your—"

"There you are!"

Both Kim and Ron's heads swivelled abruptly when another voice other than their own broke its way into their small corner of the world. Both of their hearts leaping out of their chests, neither were put at ease when they saw Mr Big-Shot Kim had been talking to previously.

"Oh, hi," Kim spluttered, attempting to sit up right. "You scared us."

Ron at that moment wished he was invisible.

"I was looking for you inside," he said, "Didn't finish talking to you." That smirk on his face didn't relieve either of them as well.

"O-Oh?"

"A-actually," Ron said, making the (what he hoped wasn't stupid) decision to actually speak up since he was there and all. "We were just about to leave. Uh, great party though!"

The jock gave him an obscure look. "Do I know you?" he asked, "I think I've seen you around."

"Uh, you probably have." Ron's voice was growing in pitch as his nervousness increased.

"He bothering you?" he asked Kim, jabbing a finger at Ron who gave an incredulous look.

"No!" Kim slid off the banister, shaking her hands insistently. "No, no! He's not. He's with me."

The jock appeared shocked. He looked from Kim, then at Ron and back again. "Brother? Cousin? You don't have to hang with him, you know. Here," and both Kim and Ron's eyes widened as far as they could go when the jock reached out and wrapped an arm around Kim, pulling her away from Ron. "You can come and hang with me and my pals. Some of your fellow cheer girls are there. It'll save you from the boredom, I promise."

"Maybe," Kim jerked herself out of his hold and Ron knew that flash of fire burn behind Kim's emerald eyes. He'd seen it before and knew all too well the wrath it could tear up. "I'm not bored. Maybe I like being with him."

The jock laughed, "Are you kidding?"

"No. Come on, Ron," Kim growled, motioning for Ron to follow. "Let's head back to my place."

"Now wait right there!" The jock bellowed as Ron pushed himself from his seat. As soon as he shouted, everyone's attentions rested on the three of them. Even some of those from inside the house were now peering out the window. " 'Head back to my place'? Did you just, like, turn me down for that?" he thrust a finger at Ron.

Kim twirled around, her jaw dropped.

"You're a cheerleader, he's that and I'm the star of the football team. Which one of these doesn't belong, huh?"

Kim's hands were now on her hip. Ron shook his head, trying to ease himself away. That was not the right thing to say. When Kim unleashed her fury, he did not wanna be near that guy.

Taking a few steps forwards, the jock leaned forwards and whispered in Kim's ear so everyone else wouldn't be able to hear. "And what more, I'm a senior and if Lonnie tells me right, you're a freshman. You should be flattered," he hissed and placed a large hand on Kim's hip.

Kim's response was a straight-out slap across the jock's face. Everyone gasped.

"Ouch," Ron whispered to himself, touching his own cheek where Kim had struck him years ago. "I know that."

"Don't invade my personal space," Kim spat. "And don't you dare diss Ron. I'm absolutely sick of it. Sick of you, sick of Bonnie. It's like I'm still in High School for crying out loud, why can't you all go out and buy yourselves a little maturity?"

Ron sucked in his breath as he waited for the Jock to react, not just Ron, but it seemed the entire party-house (those that were watching) had stopped breathing. The only sounds were those coming from deep within the house and were unaware to the drama that was happening in the backyard. The only one who appeared to be calm was Kim.

The Jock's eyes moved and swept the entire scene, taking in everyone's reaction. Finally, he responded.

"I feel sorry for you," he said, a grin crossing his face. Kim's eyes instantly narrowed with further suspicion. "You've been stuck with this little guy for so long, you don't know what it's like to be with a real man. Hey, I can't blame you, it's like you've been brainwashed, right? But then, I can't expect you to agree to that."

No-one said anything.

"But here, I'll help reset your mind." Kim's eyes flashed open the instant, the Jock's heavily muscled arm snapped our and seized Ron's shirt, bringing him close. The action was fast, but so many events followed:

The Jock laughed, his right arm winding backwards to throw a punch right into Ron's face. The impact would be shattering, Ron knew this, but there was nothing he could do so he turned his head away as far as he could. Inside, he deeply wished something would stop that fist from smashing his skull, he wasn't afraid of being killed, he had eight extra lives left, it was more the pain that terrified the hell out of him.

And something did prevent that fist from blowing throw Ron's head. It was Kim, she was lightning quick; right when the fist was mere inches from Ron's face, she sliced out with a wind-blowing high kick right in the Jock's stomach. The blow sent him tumbling backwards, gripping his stomach as he gasped for air.

Ron fell to the ground with a thud, looking around and utterly bewildered. Then he was brought to his feet by Kim.

"We're leaving now," Kim whispered to Ron in a hurried voice as they fled down the patio steps.

From behind, they could still hear the Jock gasping for air. When he regained some breath, his voice broke through the night sky and the surrounding silence:

"I'LL GET YOU, THAT— YOU—YOU GUY WHOSE NAME I FORGET. SHE'S MINE!"

Ron should have been absolutely petrified yet, with his hand in Kim's who was leading him down the street, her laughter backing up his own, somehow, he wasn't scared in the least. Not with Kim's hand in his, forever.

Leaving behind the cries, the shouts, the gasps, the noises, the smells, Kim lead Ron through the night, the two of them running side by side. The only sounds now were their breathing. Ron knew they were heading back to her dorm where they would hopefully be safe—and as Kim said: once again, the two would be wrapped in their own little world. The two of them close for the night, that's what Ron desired.

Laughing, Kim and Ron bounded up with stairs of the sorority, still hand in hand and ran up to Kim's door. They struggled to hold their giggles for there were some girls of the sorority that hadn't gone to the party and were probably sleeping at this hour. The laughter subsiding, Kim lightly leaned her forehead against Ron's while they quieted down.

Kim sighed, and rested her head on Ron's shoulder. "That guy is such a loser! I can't believe he said those things to us! Wow, I just…" she gave a few giggles, "What a loser…" Kim laughed again and nestled her head on Ron.

Swinging her hands lightly in his as he dipped his head close to hers, he gave a laugh or two. His was a little more on the apprehensive side seeing as how it was almost he who lost a life

"Well thanks for saving my face back there. It wasn't that funny for me, you know he's going to kill me when I go back there."

"What do you have to worry about? You have all the lives under your belt. Oh, but no, really, you can just move in with me. You practically have anyway." Kim added with a yawn. "Oh, my! What time is it anyway? It's so late, I better head to bed. We still… have…" Another large yawn she covered with her hand. "Homework to-morrow. And that exam to study for. We have to be well rested or nothing will stick in our heads… Ron..?"

Covering yet another yawn, Kim closed her eyes, feeling the weariness begin to overcome her in a wave again. She smiled when she felt Ron give her a small kiss on her cheek.

"Good-night, Ron… see you to-morrow…" she murmured and returned the small kiss.

Ron laughed and nuzzled her. "Yea, yea, sure," and he leaned in to present her another kiss, then a few more. "Let's just go, I'm tired of standing out here."

"Oh."

" 'Oh' what?" Ron asked softly as he continued to deliver her kisses.

"Ron… I… I'm sorry. You thought you were bunking here to-night again?"

Again, Ron laughed, amused. "Of course," he replied and nuzzled her again with strong affection. "Why wouldn't I?" Then, for extra persuasion, just in case the 'of course' wasn't enough, he leaned forwards again and kissed her with tongue.

Kim bristled and pulled away, blushing fiercely. "No, Ron. Y-you know you can't."

"Huh? You know I mean sleeping here and maybe," he pulled her a little closer, "A few snuggles. That's all."

She held his hands tightly in hers. "That's not what I mean. Ron… Y-you know the Rules…"

Ron's eyes lit up and he pulled away in a flash. "What rules?" he asked hastily. "What do you mean 'rules'? Ok, KP, this isn't funny anymore. It's late, I'm tired, I ate way too much no-energy foods and now I'm feeling the crash—"

"I know you had a lot of food, Ron."

Ron stood there blinking stupidly. But Kim had the inclination that he knew what she was talking about.

Her eyes darted away as she said in a very low voice. "I saw you doing it again. You know, your bulimia…" Then her eyes flashed and she looked directly into Ron's. "I can't believe you thought you could get away with that behind my back! You know I don't like that, you know you're not supposed to and… and I feel so… so lied to!"

"Kim, Kim…" Ron again swayed her hands in his, "Calm down. You're over-reacting a bit, you're tried and you're freaking over the small stuff again…"

But Kim was shaking her head and she said gently, "No, Ron. I'm sorry… you know our Rules or you'll never learn."

"But I can't go back there," Ron replied, his voice rising with distraught. "Where am I to go? Kim, you gotta make a special allowance for this or something. Hey, remember when we were on the porch?" Kim cast her head away in shame but Ron daringly brought it forwards, her chin in his hands. "Remember what you were saying about 'us'?" He nuzzled her cheek and he felt her lean into him, returning the affection. "Let's just go and be us in there, kay?"

He skimmed her cheek with the back of a finger and he felt her lean into his arms. Slipping an arm around her waist to hold her, Ron reached for her doorknob with the other to go inside when Kim, still in his arms, leaned away from him. Her eyes held her answer:

"No. You'll thank me eventually."

They stared into one another eyes for the longest time and suddenly Kim threw her arms around Ron's neck and hugged him. "I'm sorry, Ron."

"I forgive you."

"But you can't come in."

"What? I thought you changed your mind!"

Ron felt Kim burying her face in his neck to hide. Her muffled response was still no. When she pulled away, she held his hands in hers and gave them a small squeeze and tried to reassure him with a smile. It didn't work.

"Good-night," she murmured.

"'Night. I guess."

"I'm still in love with you."

Ron turned his head away. "You keep saying that."

"Don't. Don't try and make me feel bad just to get me to change my mind. It won't work."

"I'm not," Ron replied heatedly. "It hurts."

"It's just for one night," Kim said, trying to add a small laugh. "You'll be fine."

"Night."

"Good-night," Kim whispered again, touching Ron's cheek.

Parting, she closed the door softly, the door finally separating the two. Kim stared at the closed door and felt a surge inside of her as she felt the emotion rise inside, yelling at her to just throw the door open and allow him inside. But no, she couldn't do that, she had to be consistent and firm.

Why is this so difficult? It's just one stupid night. He's not gone forever. Why does it hurt? To part from him for such a short time, such a normal time to be apart from someone? She placed a hand on the door, knowing Ron would still be on the other side, waiting for her to have a change of heart. She remembered what she had just said to him: 'You'll be fine'.

But will I?

-ø-

Rolling over in her bed, Kim opened her eyes in a moment of brief confusion. With her eyes widening, she questioned herself how it was that she could roll from one side of the bed to the other and not hit a Ron. Then her eyes drooped and she came to the realisation that this had been one of those few despondent nights in which he hadn't bunked with her. Yawning, Kim eventually pushed herself up and brushed her hand through her messy hair, sorting out her part as she gave a final sigh.

If only Ron weren't so thick headed! Kim leaned back on her arms as she looked to her window on her left where streams of sunshine were glowing through the cheap, thin curtains. But no, she shouldn't be too rough with him. It was awkward for Kim to put herself in Ron's point of view, but she knew he was trying; they were making progress.

Okay, Kim thought to herself as she heaved herself out of bed and over to her bathroom. Enough mulling, time to get to work; that party didn't do wonders for my study-schedule.

After Kim finished brushing her teeth and combing her hair, she picked up the Kimmunicator on her dresser where she had placed it the night before. Picking it up, she called Ron's cell number hoping to bribe him over with more Chinese takeaway if he would come and cram with her. Kim had only pressed the Kimmunicator to her ear so she could leave her hands free to fish around for clothes in her drawer when she heard a dual ringing sound coming from somewhere nearby.

"Huh?" In her shock, her shoulder relaxed and the Kimmunicator dropped to the floor and kept beep-beep beepbeeping Ron.

Slightly spooked, Kim pricked her ears for the other ringing sound as she bent down to pick up the fallen Kimmunicator. That was odd. The sound was more audible if she bent down… On her hands and knees, the Kimmunicator in hand, Kim began to crawl around on the floor, searching for the source of the ringing noise. Nope, no-one hiding under the bed, the dresser or in the closet… Clumsily, Kim shuffled around on all fours when she finally inched towards her door where the sound was loudest.

"H'm?" Grunting as she pushed herself up, Kim cautiously opened her front door. (It couldn't be a psycho murderer playing phone-mind-games on her, right? It'd be pretty lame to do that during the day, after all…).

"AAH!"

"Augh!"

"Ron!"

"Kim..?"

"Ergh!" Kim thrust her hands into fists onto her hip and glared down at Ron's head by her feet. "Ron!" she declared again. "What are you doing on the floor outside my room, huh?"

Sluggishly, Ron reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell-phone and turned it off. Snorting, Kim shut the Kimmunicator off as well.

"That was a rude awakening," Ron replied grudgingly.

Kim lightly poked Ron with her bare foot. " 'Rude'!" she scoffed, then she double-blinked, suddenly realising. "Wha… you… you don't mean you camped out my door the whole night, did you?" she asked incredulously.

"Where else was I supposed to go?" he asked her as he stood up and brushed himself off.

Kim poked her head out the doorway to see if any of the other girls were watching them. No-one in sight, so Kim grabbed Ron and hauled him inside her room, shutting the door behind her.

"Oh, so now you let me in," Ron snorted and strolled into Kim's room and fell backwards onto Kim's bed.

"You were supposed to go to, um, gee, let me think—your own dorm, Ron!"

"Well…" Ron thought, looking away. "I thought maybe you'd let me back in, just give it time to cool off…"

"I haven't done that before," Kim replied calmly, placing the Kimmunicator next to a sleeping Rufus. "You could have camped out in the sorority lounge if you didn't want to go back to mister I-own-all-women."

"Yea…but this is the first time since—"

"I guess it really doesn't matter," Kim sighed as she began her previously interrupted task of picking out the day's wear.

"How's that?" Ron asked, not caring too much. His attention was on his sleeping mole-rat.

"Homework, duh," Kim replied. She didn't see the cringe on Ron's face when she headed into the bathroom to change.

"I think he's doing worse," Ron said instead, hoping to drive the conversation in a new direction. He reached out and poked Rufus lightly, his whiskers barely gave a twitch. "Did you feed him last night?" Ron called from over his shoulder.

"Yes," came Kim's voice. "And I fed him water through the eye dropper too. He, um… hang on…"

"What's that?"

"Hang on…"

Ron sat up again and placed his hands on his legs, observing Rufus at a distance. Sniffling, he adjusted his glasses on his face and defiantly cast his head away.

Behind him, the doorknob turned and Kim emerged fully dressed in an emerald green top with flared sleeves and dark, stone-wash jeans; in her hands were her pyjamas which she stored back in the drawer.

"I was feeding him the water last night," Kim continued, coming to sit beside Ron on the bed. "He… didn't take the usual number of drops and… he only had one pellet." She reached out to rest a hand on Ron's back.

But he arched his back and snorted. "That's because he doesn't like pellets," Ron replied haughtily, barely able to keep the pain in from his voice. "He should be eating nachos and…"

Ron gave in and dropped his head onto Kim's shoulder. He gave a small sob and allowed Kim to rub his back to soothe him.

"He's gonna die soon," Ron moaned, his voice muffled.

How Kim desperately desired to say: 'No, Ron. Rufus will be okay, he's not going to die'. But that wasn't truthful and Ron knew it deep down inside. Rufus wasn't sick, he wasn't ill, he was old. And old things… well, they passed on. It really was any day of the little rodent now.

Ron lifted his head from Kim's shoulder, he hadn't been crying, but she could see that he could at any moment; they were slightly watered.

"You should think of all the good times you've had with Rufus," Kim suggested quietly. It was really the only positive thing she could think of to say to Ron. Not that it was that comforting.

"Yea…" Ron mumbled, shuffling his feet. "I'm gonna miss him… Kim, I don't wanna get a new pet. I don't want a new mole-rat… It's not going to be the same. It's not gonna be Rufus."

"I know…"

"This is stupid."

"Well…" Kim said tentatively. "You know you're allowed to camp here with me when… when, you know—"

"But I always do," Ron replied a little rudely. Kim was a little shocked by his toned, but Ron said again, "Thanks," and she was reassured. He even smiled slightly and Kim gave him another hug.

"Let's do something to take our minds off this. How about that?"

"Sounds fine to me," Ron nodded, "How about I drive us over to Bueno Nacho and we can have some fun there? Haven't gone there in awhile, hah?"

"Well… um, actually… I was thinking something more along the lines of homework."

"What!" Ron yelped and edged away from her, "That's not going to help!"

"Sure, it will. You'll be so engrossed in the work that it'll take your mind off things. Homework does that to me."

"Uh, EW."

"Hey, wasn't that our deal?" Kim narrowed her eyes at him, hands on her hips. "Didn't I say party last night and study to-day? We agreed on that didn't we?"

"Augh!" Ron flopped backwards onto the bed with a moan of defeat. "This is not fair. I'm upset! You shouldn't be attacking me with ho—augh!"

Ron pushed himself onto his arms and glared at Kim, the textbook she had just tossed onto his stomach cutting him off.

"Fine," he growled, "But I have terms too."

"And what are they?" Kim asked sarcastically, bringing her own books forwards.

"Takeaway?"

Kim threw back her head and laughed, "Agreed!"

So Kim's bed became a table to the textbooks and binders that would be out there well throughout the day. The takeaway arrived, pizza this time, and served as their dinner slash lunch. They didn't say much to one another as they studied, sitting across from one another, their heads were buried in their texts. They only spoke in quiet voices to borrow something or ask a small question. As Kim had predicted, Ron's mind was now worlds away from his dying mole-rat.

They didn't take a single break all afternoon and were now well into the evening. Inwardly, Kim was very proud of Ron for working for so long and diligently for hours. She knew that Ron's marks had dropped in first term and now she was adamant in helping to bring them back up. While studying, Kim would look up at Ron, sometimes with his tongue poking out as he scribbled in his tiny writing in his binder, scratch his head, and use the eraser as his brain worked to comprehend what it was reading.

Even if the two weren't even talking, studying was calming despite the fact that it was difficult material. It was because they were together.

"Mmm," Kim cast a hand over her head as she felt the wear finally wash over her. She looked out the window and saw only two stars glimmer in the deep blue sky outside.

"Getting tried?" Ron asked, looking up from his books. He pushed his glasses further up his nose.

"A little," Kim replied, her voice quiet. She tugged her textbook closer to her on her stomach. "We've been at this all day now. Just… need a short break. That's all."

Closing her eyes, she could hear Ron shuffling about and then felt him sliding her textbook from her hold.

"Nooo, I'm just lying down for a second… or two. Give it, I'm not done yet." But she didn't put up a struggle.

She felt Ron snuggle in next to her and one of his arms wrap around her gently. Smiling, she turned into him and allowed him to hold her, both her mind and body wanting to shut down for the night and leave the homework for Sunday.

Opening her eyes, she looked into Ron's and lightly skimmed by the freckles on his cheek with a loving finger. This was the person she adored and desired to be with for the rest of her life—nobody but her and Ron. And what a wonderful feeling that was sent through her when she knew Ron felt the same for her.

Ron leaned in and kissed her on the lips. Sighing underneath, Kim stretched out her arms and wrapped them around Ron's neck and gently pulled him closer. Still attached, they rolled onto their sides and Ron groped behind him blindly for the end of the blanket to stretch across them, wrapping them tightly together.

"I think I'm going to like you staying in my room permanently," Kim whispered. She placed her hands on Ron's chest, her head at the same level.

"Me too," Ron returned, wrapping her closely, still holding onto the blankets. "Hang on," pulling a hand up, he pulled off his glasses awkwardly and leaned over Kim, making her giggle as he placed them on the bed stand. "There, that's better," he purred and nuzzled her.

Kim yawned, "You know this is only a short break, we've got to... to study some more…"

"Too tired," Ron replied, voicing Kim's inner thoughts. "Besides, you always say studying at night is bad, nothing ever sticks in your brain then."

"You're right," Kim chuckled and snuggled closer and breathed in his scent. "Then… maybe just a small nap…" She felt Ron's arms push their way underneath and around Kim's back to hug her close then press his lips against hers. Feeling herself glow inside, she kissed him back.

Kim pulled away, her arms still around Ron's neck as she allowed him to dive in to kiss her softly on her neck. She was blushing ardently and nearly had a spasm attack, Ron too, when the Kimmunicator broke the silence.

"Geesh, thought that was something else," Ron grumbled when he pushed himself off of Kim, it was hard because they were so tightly wrapped against each other in the blankets.

Beep-beep beepbeep! Went the Kimmunicator and Kim groaned with frustration, "Why am I having déjà vu?" She fought to untangle themselves from the blanket and strained to reach for the Kimmunicator. Sitting up on the edge of her bed and rubbing her eyes, she asked, "What's the sitch, Wade?"

Next to her, Ron was sitting himself up too and placing his glasses back on his face so he could see properly.

"Augh, I thought you shut that thing off," Ron grunted. "I thought we were just about to make up for what we missed on last nig—" A rueful punch in the shoulder from Kim as she reached out for the Kimmunicator.

"Hey, Wade!" Kim smiled down at Wade Load, their super-genius pal. "What's the sitch?"

" Mission time!" Wade replied cheerfully. "Winter Break do you good?"

"Definitely," Kim nodded. "Bring it on, we're ready, right Ron?"

"I guess so."

"What's up with him?" Wade asked, trying to peer at Ron from the corner of the screen.

"Um…" Like she was going to say to Wade that it was because Ron was discontent about being interrupted being 'close' with her. "It's the Oleratay Eathday Ingtha—" Kim was never able to finish her Pig Latin because Wade burst out into a round of uncontrollable laughter.

"OH MY!" Wade exploded, pointing at Ron. Wade had to grip onto the keyboard to keep himself from rolling right out of his seat.

Ron shifted himself moodily. "What's he laughing at?"

"You finally got glasses!" Wade cackled, "Man, even I don't need glasses and I'm the one locked in my room always staring at the computer! Hahahaha! You, wow, you never told me this! When did this happen?" Wade wiped a single tear from his eye.

"Yesterday," Ron replied resentfully.

"Oh man… You and glasses… they just… they just don't mix. At all."

"HEY!" Ron shot back, now pulling out of his seat.

"Okay, boys, okay…" Kim stretched out a hand to gently lean Ron back onto the bed. "The gigglefest is officially over. Now, Wade, you said you had a mission for the both of us?"

"H'm?" Wade gave a few last chuckles. "Oh, yes, yes I did. There's this top secret lab and—"

"Wait, let me guess," Kim held up a palm, "Something got stolen and it was probably stolen by Drakken and now we have to get it back, right?

"Uh, no."

"No!" Kim and Ron gasped in unison.

"Wow, now we're really shaking it up," Ron remarked, still stunned over the news.

"They're worried about something being stolen, that's why they asked you to come."

Kim frowned, "Wade… I help people but… I… I'm not ready to be hired at some lab as a security guard."

Ron snorted in his laughter, "Hey, that's not so bad! You get free doughnuts! Just sit around on your rear and watch TV eating doughnuts. How much do they pay for a job like that?"

Kim rolled her eyes and Wade chuckled. "Actually, Ron, the lab has to shut down their entire security system until four am because the frequency is interfering with some project and while the system is down, they want you to keep watch and make sure no-one steals anything."

"Ohhh," Kim gave Ron a curious look, "I get it. Well, okay... four in the morning is a little pushing it…"

"But it's Sunday to-morrow," Ron prompted. "C'mon, Kim! Think of all the doughnuts! Glazed, jelly filled and ohmigosh! Sprinkles! Oh, Kim, please! Please! I love the little sprinkles on doughnuts," and he gave a high-pitched squeal of delight at the notion of sprinkle-covered doughnuts.

"I don't see why we shouldn't help them," Kim shrugged finally. "Set us up for a ride, Wade?"

"Mr Geminini's jet will be ready to pick you up in five."

"Thanks, Wade! Ok, Ron, time to get our clothes on and get this mission over with."

As Kim walked away to her dresser, Ron couldn't help but mumble to himself: "And I was just hoping we'd finally get our clothes off for once."

-ø-

The jet had arrived and left with Kim and Ron onboard. Ron was sitting in the back, already dozing off. In the background, he could hear Kim making polite conversation with Mr Geminini in the cockpit. Yawning, he heard Kim's footsteps coming his way. He opened one eye and saw Kim slip in front of him to the window seat next to Ron.

"Tired?" Kim asked.

Ron nodded, "Is it going to be a long ride?"

"Over an hour," Kim replied, pulling out the Kimmunicator and began clicking away on the internet.

Ron moaned and pushed up the double seat's arm between them so he could nestle his head on Kim's legs as he lay down. Kim patted his head blindly

"Maybe you should catch some sleep," Kim offered quietly, her eyes not leaving the Kimmunicator. "I can wake you when we get there."

"Thanks," came his mumbled, whispered response.

Shuffling onto his side, he gave a sigh and closed his eyes.

Looking down at him, it was easy for Kim to tell that he had fallen instantly to sleep. It'd take awhile before they reached the research laboratory so it'd give Ron a good while to catch up on his sleep. Hopefully he'd be well rested for the mission ahead. Nothing might happen after all but when it was a research laboratory, the chances were slim. With a bit of luck, they'd have nothing more to face than a simple cat burglar.

Yawning, Kim leaned back in her seat and stretched her feet out in front of her. She browsed the Club Banana website preview of their upcoming Spring fashions with one hand while gently easing Ron into sleep by rubbing his hair with her other. One of the best things about being on missions was being with Ron and the solitude she had with him.

An hour passed by and Kim was woken out of her stupor by Mr Geminini calling to her they were nearing the jump zone. Unfortunately, the pilot would not be landing and Kim and Ron would have to parachute down. Looking down to her left, she saw Ron sleeping, his mouth slightly parted as he breathed. Kim swept a hand through his hair and gently called to him.

Ron stirred and twitched, struggled to open an eye that wanted to drop right back down. Kim had obviously just woken him from a deep sleep, perhaps he had even been dreaming.

"Time to go," she whispered, giving his head a last rub before shuffling past him and over to the door.

Ron stretched and yawned like a cat (or maybe a monkey) and curled himself back up again. "Five more minutes…"

But Kim shook her head, "Sorry, Ron. We gotta go now."

Ron made a small whine from his throat as he heaved his heavy body out of the seat and over to Kim. She helped him slide his parachute on since his arms were too weary still to do so himself.

"Think you're awake enough?" Kim asked, riling his shoulder and handing him his helmet. "You gotta be awake to pull the cord, okay?"

"Yea, yea, I'm awake," Ron covered a yawn. "Let's just go."

"Sure." Kim hauled the sliding plane door open and instantly the wave of fast, billowing air hit her hard. She let out a grunt as she latched herself to the doorway, not wanting to be swept away too soon. "READY?" she called over the rushing wind to Mr Geminini.

"Right… NOW!" he shouted back.

Kim thrust herself into the wind and began her plummet to the ground. Craning her neck up, she made sure Ron had jumped right after her and there he was by her side in the air.

"I still don't like this!" Ron wailed.

"Kind of a wake-up call, huh, Ron?" she teased, "Maybe we should do this every morning before class!"

"No, I mean, I still don't like this falling stuff!" Ron's voice was in intense distress and the smile from Kim's face instantly vanished. From behind her goggles, she could see Ron's chest rapidly rising and lowering in extreme anxiety; he gulped with fear.

"You have a parachute, remember?" Kim shouted to him over the roaring wind. "We'll be fine, I'll let you know when to pull it."

Ro nodded, now closing his eyes and allowing the air to swallow him up.

"Okay… NOW!"

The two yanked the cords and, with no problems, they slowly drifted to the ground below.

"Not so bad, right?" Kim asked, shuffling the chute off of her and stuffing it madly into the pack.

"At least I didn't, like, land on a cactus this time. Or a scorpion like me that time."

"See? Always a bright side."

Standing up, Ron surveyed the desert land. "Where's the lab? Don't tell me it's a long walk…"

"I saw it when we were coming down, it's just over that cliff there."

Leading the way, hands on backpack straps, Kim lead the way up the slopping cliff. When they reached the top, Ron sucked in his breath.

"That's a huge lab," he said under his breath.

The thing was nearly a labyrinth in its vastness. The building stretched out forever in all directions. It was almost like a small city with all the towers and buildings, some no higher than her school gymnasium, it would have looked like a metropolis in the middle of the desert if the lights had all been on. Ron dearly hoped they wouldn't have to run around that place trying to catch a thief; the place was downright massive. One could very easily lose oneself in such a mock-city.

"I can't believe we've never been called to this lab before."

"Me too," Kim nodded, she sounded a little hurt when she said, "They look like the top secret labs to end all top secret labs."

"Looks like a city."

"That too," she whistled. "Alright, gotta let Wade tell the scientists we're here and then start the surveillance."

"You mean we're watching the lab from… out here!" Ron exclaimed, dropping his backpack onto the dirt ground creating a small cloud.

"Yup," Kim sighed, she wasn't exactly too thrilled about doing surveillance out on this distant cliff in the middle of the desert either. She shivered, feeling a chill from the cool, night desert air. After contacting Wade, Kim dropped her backpack onto the ground, opening it up and handed a pair of binoculars to him.

"Why can't we be inside and survey the security cameras?" Ron complained, flipping the binoculars over in his hands as he inspected them.

"Because those would be shut down too." She picked up another pair of binoculars for herself. "I'll be scanning the rooftops with these and yours," she leaned forwards and hit a switch on Ron's, "Will be scanning in infrared for people on the other side of the building. Those binoculars strip the entire building away. Wade made them, obviously."

Ron applied the binoculars to his eyes and pulled away again looking sore. "Aww, this means no doughnuts… No sprinkles!"

"I'll get you some when we go back to Tri-city."

"Yea, except by then everything will be closed. You realise we're hardly going to get any sleep to-night and it was just a few hours ago that we were cuddled together in your bed, right?"

"Yes, Ron. I know."

Again Ron applied the binoculars to his eyes and laid down on the dirt ground. "And you knowingly gave that up for this? My arms are cold."

"Sorry, I didn't bring any jackets. But, hey, if it's any consolation," she brandished a hand at her bare midriff, "I'm colder than you."

"I can see that," Ron replied sardonically, looking at something a little higher up than Kim's bare belly. "Oof!" he grunted when he received a punt in the side for that remark.

A second 'oof' issued from somewhere within Ron's pocket and Rufus poked his nose out, looking around in anger for the kick-ee, shaking his tiny little fist.

"You brought Rufus with you!" Kim exclaimed, very much shocked. "I… didn't think…"

"He wanted to come," Ron replied, turning himself to look up at Kim defiantly. "You were in the bathroom changing when we discussed it. He said that… that… Well, you know, Kim. This… this mission might be his, um, you know, his…"

"Yea, I think I know what you mean," Kim nodded. His last with us, she thought. "You can make the best decisions for him but just be careful, okay? Don't forget he's in your pocket."

"Kim, I know that." Rufus crawled from Ron's pocket and up onto his shoulder where Rufus flopped with an exhausted sigh.

While Ron laid back down, Kim continued to stand, scanning the roofs of the laboratory for any movement. "See anything?" Kim questioned quietly, breaking the boring silence.

"Nope," Ron reported. "This hurts a bit…" He shuffled around and cleaned away some of the rocks and larger pebbles underneath him. "I hope something happens soon cos I don't wanna wait out here all night, honestly."

"I hope nothing happens at all," Kim replied grimly as she surveyed the roofs of the laboratory with her own regular binoculars.

"Well, that too," Ron agreed. He gave a small groan as he pushed himself off his chest, allowing his ribcage to breathe. "How long did they say this shut down would last?"

"Until four in the morning."

"Oh, man, I am not gonna be well rested for to-morrow's cram-fest," he muttered.

"Well, you insisted on going to the party Friday night…"

"Oh, come on. Don't tell me you didn't enjoy it."

Ron was too busy surveying the other side of the building for heat spots to look up and notice Kim blush.

"Well," Kim continued in an off-hand voice, "It wasn't all that bad… ('sept for that last bit)."

Ron took a moment to look up at Kim as he said, "It would have been better if you had let me stay the night."

Kim sighed, "Maybe you can to-night," she said to try and distract him from the direction the conversation was about to turn given his comment.

"Huh," Ron snorted, giving a smirk as he returned to scanning, "There isn't going to be a to-night with this mission."

"True, true," Kim chuckled.

"No, uh… breaks?" Ron suggested.

Again, Kim laughed, "No, breaks. These criminals are fast, Ron. They're in, they're out—and all in the blink of an eye. We have to be aware… and constantly vigilant… and…"

"And?" Ron pressed when Kim didn't respond. It wasn't the most engaging conversation he'd ever had, but it certainly beat having still silence.

"Hang on… I think I see something. Here… stand up, Ron."

"H'm?" Ron grunted as he hauled himself off the rough ground, slight poufs of dust awakening which caused him to cough once or twice, Rufus too.

"I think I see a shadow," Kim dropped her voice to a whisper now. "But I'm not sure, use your heat binoculars and tell me if you see someone."

"Where?" Ron asked as he surveyed the rooftops. "I don't see—"

"Shego!" Kim blurted out. Then in a dash, she whipped around and crammed her binoculars into her backpack.

"Uh, what?" Ron stuttered as he took a few clumsy steps towards Kim. She was in a rush and he wasn't sure if he should follow suit or not.

"I just saw her green flames light up, Ron! She's infiltrating the building. Backpack—quickly! We've got to catch up with her!"

"Er, right!" Ron scooped up his pack, storing away his belongings and gently picked up Rufus from his shoulder and placed him inside his pocket. "How're we getting over there? It's a bit of a distance…"

Kim ran up to the edge of the cliff and yanked a cord trailing from her backpack and a glider burst out of the front half of the pack. She arched her eyebrows at Ron and gave him a trademark grin.

Ron rolled his eyes and pulled his own cord, the gilder popping out on his own back.

"Let's go!" Kim commanded and she took two test bounces before she leapt off the cliff altogether and rode the thermals over to the metropolis desert lab.

Ron was a little tentative at first but as Kim glided away from him, he gave in and followed her. He was a little wobbly in the beginning as he fought to gain control over the thermals and keep on track towards the roof where Kim was intent on landing on. How did she make it work so smoothly? He thought, Mine's gotta be busted or something.

"Down here!" Kim called and directed herself down, down onto one of the lower roofs on the building. Once she landed, Kim folded up the glider's wings and zipped up her pack in case she'd need them again later to-night.

With her pack again on her shoulders, she looked around and then up in the sky, but Ron was nowhere to be seen. "Ron?" Kim called. "Ron, where'd you go?"

"Up here!"

"Huh?" Kim looked up at a roof above and found Ron waving down at her. Kim laughed and ran over to the metallic ladder leading from the one she was on to Ron's rooftop. "Good job, I didn't think I'd make it to that one!"

"Heh, we'll, y'know," Ron replied smoothly with a smirk. "The Ron-Man's full of hidden skills," he winked at her when she hopped onto the roof and helped him store away the glider.

Kim rolled her eyes, "Now why do I think your dumb luck played into this one?"

"Tchach, and I keep telling you, Kimbo," Ron corrected. "It's skills not luck. Skills."

"Then put your skills into gear, Ron. We have to catch up with Shego, I think she entered two roofs higher than this one. C'mon." She waved Ron to follow as she took off across the flat, concrete roof towards another ladder.

They ran stealthily across the roofs on the laboratory, passing pipes, doors, chimneys and more passageways to other sections of the building. It was so massive up there and so easy to become lost. It wasn't even like being on the roof of a usual building, but more like a labyrinth. There were ladders leading to lower roofs, higher roofs, platforms leading over the ground far down below. Ron had no clue where he was going, he was only following Kim blindly and hoped that she had no doubt where she was leading him.

He was huffing and puffing as he heaved his body onto another roof after climbing yet another ladder when Kim brought out the Kimmunicator and hit a few buttons. She was obviously scanning for something.

"Whatcha looking for..?" Ron asked, pushing himself to his feet.

"There," Kim pointed and found a great large whole in a vent. "There's traces of Shego's green flames on there."

Ron snorted, "Kim, there's a great gapping hole sliced into it, I think that's all the evidence we need."

Kim ignored the remark and motioned for Ron to follow her inside. Ron slid in after Kim and like a slide on the playground, slipped down the pipe, down, down, into pitch darkness. Ron had no idea where he was going and it was a bit frightening when he was taken to a sudden left or right. He knew it would be, and it was, a shock when he finally, unexpectedly, hit the bottom.

"Aa!" came a sound from underneath. "Ron… get off..."

"Kim?" Ron whispered. It was instinct for Ron to stretch his eyes as wide as he could and so frustrating on his brain when it could still not see a thing. So he blindly reached out, trying to feel a wall or some free space to get off of Kim. Kim didn't give him enough time, she just pushed herself up and Ron fell back, hitting his head on the metal wall behind him.

"Oooww," he complained, "Can't you turn on a light or something?"

"Yea, hang on… I have a flashlight in my backpack. I just can't see anything… is that it? No…"

"We're still in the ventilation shaft, right?"

"I think so, it feels a little… contained…"

"Claustrophobic," Ron added.

"We've been in tighter spaces before."

Ron pushed himself back, shuffling what he thought was away from Kim, only able to go by the direction of her voice. "Right, at least this one's a bit wider than most. How will we know which way Shego went- AAH!"

He gave a yelp as Kim flicked on the flashlight and a sudden burst of light issued. Being in the dark for so long, the light had blinded him, Kim as well.

She was rubbing her eyes when she responded, "We don't."

"Don't we have her, like, microchipped?"

"No, that's you."

Ron's mouth opened.

"Alright, follow me," Kim directed her light down the ventilation shaft. "Once we find an exit here we'll discuss going about for Shego."

"The sooner we're out here, the better."

On their hands and knees, the two friends crawled through the shafts, going, left, right, left, down, down, right, left and—

("Shoot!" Ron cursed when he nearly fell down a hole leading to an unknown length below.)

—everywhere. As the time passed, Ron wondered if they'd ever find their way out. He had thought Kim knew where she was going, but then, she didn't even have the Kimmunicator out.

Right when Ron was about to complain about the lack of air, Kim pointed to a hole shredded in what was once a grate, "I think she went this way."

"Good call," Ron agreed, noticing the sliced metal all around that could have only been damaged by Shego's claws.

Kim dropped down and waited for Ron to join her in the darkened hallway.

"Kinda creepy," he commented, hugging himself tightly.

"Just stay close. She couldn't be that far ahead." Raising the flashlight, Kim cast it down the hallway, shinning the light onto the closed doors.

She didn't even have to say it to him; Ron never allowed more than a foot's distance between himself and Kim as he trailed behind her warily. They walked at a slow steady pace, opening each door and checking inside for Shego.

The hallway was long and there were no turns, it made their job easier. Ron was just relaxing himself when they checked yet another door and found no-one to be inside when…

Then there was a sound.

There was a clanging and a shuffling and instantly Ron hopped behind Kim for protection. Kim held out a hand, telling him silently to stay put and not make a sound as they both strained their ears. Nervously, Ron looked behind him just in case.

"AHH!" Ron screamed the moment the door in front of them burst open and Shego leapt out.

The familiar villainess was still dressed in her usual green and black tight jumpsuit. Her almost lime-green skin was pale in the darkness, giving her the illusion that she was an eerie banshee lingering through the halls. The extended, wavy, black hair swung from side to side and covered one side of her face, although never hindering her visibility. The woman's eyebrows were slanted in intense cruelty, a cruelty that had blackened her heart years ago for which no salvation could cure. Yes, this Shego was the same that Kim and Ron had come to know. Time had not changed that and neither of them expected it to do so.

He heard the two women gasp, Shego obviously more shocked than Kim to see each other.

"Kim!" Ron called her attention, pointing to a small vile in Shego's right hand.

Kim gasped again and Shego recoiled, looking from Ron, to the vial in her hand, to Kim.

"Hand it over!" Kim commanded, shooting out her palm.

"Huh! Yea right," the venomous woman snarled then in an unexpected flash, Shego lashed out with her leg, knocking Kim back into Ron. The two tumbled backwards and allowing Shego a head start in her race to escape.

Kim hopped onto her feet and fled on the tips of her toes after her rival.

Frightened, Ron, too, crawled to his feet and ran to catch up with Kim down the dark hallway. With his fists swinging at his sides as he strived to keep up, ahead, he could see Shego sprinting with her long, black hair waving in a blob from side to side; barely could Ron see her face in a contorted snarl as she glimpsed behind her at her pursuers. Ron's attention was snared away from Shego when Kim made an abrupt movement as her arm flung into her backpack, still managing to hold onto her speed as she multi-tasked reaching in and pulled out her hairdryer/grappling hook.

"K-Kim, wha..?" Ron spluttered. He had no idea what she was going to use it for… yet.

Still in full run, Kim aimed the hook at the ceiling in the distant and fired. Both Ron and Shego gasped when the hook whizzed into the air and over Shego's head, it didn't seem like even she knew what Kim was up to. Letting out a growl, Kim tugged on hook and whizzed forwards: that was when Shego and Ron caught on.

"Ergh!" Shego let out a burst of frustration and leapt onto the side of a wall and pushed off with her claws that tore into the metal for extra distance and narrowly missing Kim in her full swing.

Still in the air after she reached the height of her swing, Kim let the hook release and pull back and before she landed on the ground she fired the hook again and continued this; making great leaps in distance and leaving Ron far behind.

Now Ron was puffing to keep up with the girls who disappeared through an open doorway up ahead. From what Ron could see already, it looked like the hallway was leading them to a catwalk of some kind. Already on the catwalk, Kim detached the hook from the ceiling, now caught up with Shego and the two were locked in a fist and kick fight.

"Give back the vial!" Kim ordered, thrusting a fist at Shego's face that the daemon woman blocked.

"Not on my life," Shego snarled back. "This is personal."

Ron had caught up with the two women and was lingering under the doorway. He wasn't really sure what to do now or if he should even become involved. For now, he decided to hang back until Kim really needed him.

"This belongs to the laboratory!" Kim snapped back, her hair now a mess as she dodged, fought and gasped in battle in the small space they fought in.

"Not anymore!" Shego spat in return.

"Watch out!" Ron called out desperately as Shego gave a furious lash out with her leg and knocked Kim backwards, her head slammed into the metallic wall behind her. The grappling hook Kim had carelessly shoved back in her pack spilled out.

"Too bad, Princess!" Shego taunted before leaping off the catwalk.

Ron was already at Kim's side, softly trying to help her to her feet and see if she was injured. He had barely started trying to tenderly care for her when Kim bounced to her feet on her own and flew off the catwalk after Shego.

Gasping and Kim's recklessness, Ron ran to the bars of the catwalk and… gasped again, recoiling.

When he had entered the laboratory, he hadn't really realised where he was exactly. But now… now he had the full, sweeping sight of the entire room they found their selves to be in.

It was the size of a football field, perhaps even larger and the catwalk Ron was on was by far not the only one. The entire room was a maze of catwalks leading this way and that way, stretching on for as far as Ron could see. And yet from the outside, it only made sense that such a grand room had been inside all along. And tall too! There were about… four, could be five, catwalk floors below Ron and what was below that?

Well, vats. Massive vats filled to the brim with odd-looking liquids. Some liquids were clear and innocent as water while others were dark and green, bubbling and ominous. If Ron could have chosen a room for Kim and Shego to duke it out in, it wouldn't have been this one. It was just screaming with fore-shadowing, if either of them fell into one of those vats… He shuddered physically. For comfort, he picked up Rufus from his pocket and stroked his pet in his gloved palms.

Taking a look above him, there was one more catwalk row and the doorways were smaller above him. Then above that, finally, was an alleged roof above.

"Aah!"

Snapping out of his revere, Ron looked back down at Shego and Kim. He spotted Kim down on her back as Shego must have dealt her another blow. They were two catwalks down from Ron, he had no idea how they had gotten that far below but all Ron knew was that he wasn't going to be travelling down there anytime soon. He'd like to stay as far away from the vats as he could.

But then another cry came from Kim, and this time it was a scream of terror. Ron's voice broke in mid-gasp and his eyes widened fully when he spotted Kim… falling off the catwalk… and far away from any bars to hang onto… and, of course, right above a vat.

In a flash of what had to be Mystical Monkey Power-aided speed, Ron placed Rufus on his shoulder, picked up the fallen grappling hook and shot it downwards towards Kim and cried her name as loudly as he could.

Shego, who had been laughing vilely at Kim's defeat, looked up at Ron and hissed. Kim too had looked up in her fall and reached for the nearing grappling hook. Thankfully, the hook was faster than Kim's fall and caught up with her. Grinning, she wrapped her hands firmly around the hook and as soon as she did soon, Ron hit the retract button and began to reel her in.

Well Shego wasn't going to take this and spat a repugnant swear at Ron before she hurled plasma flames at him.

"H-hey!" Ron cried as he tried to dodge them and reel Kim in at the same time.

"I'll take that!" Kim smirked as she whizzed by Shego and made an attempt to grab the vial in Shego's clawed gloved hands.

"NO!"

Shego lashed back and side-swiped a kick at Kim knocking her away from Shego.

"Aah!" Kim wailed as she swung about wildly in the air, her arms were feeling the strain of holding onto the hook and she started to fear falling off.

Ron too let out a wail and struggled with all of his own strength to hang onto the hook. As he did, he accidentally swung Kim too close to Shego again who had been caught unawares this time. In a final attempt to grab the vial, Kim knew she was coming into Shego again and prepared herself with a smirk and a kick to Shego's face, packaged and delivered.

"AERGHGH!" Shego cried out in pain as she was knocked backwards on the catwalk and the vial was easily stolen by Kim.

"Thanks!" Kim winked at looked up at Ron who grinned merrily (and with much relief) down at her.

"Right, let's finish this," Kim said when she reached the first catwalk Ron was on.

"Are you alright?" Ron hastened, his voice soft. "You really worried me down there."

Kim waved him off, "I'm fine, Ron. But I wouldn't have been if I had fallen in. I don't know what I would have fallen into but I'm banking on that it wouldn't have been good."

"Hear, hear!" Ron replied with raised eyebrows.

"Hear, hear!" Rufus mimicked on Ron's shoulder and the two took the time to smile at Ron's ailing pet.

It probably was the last mission he would be on with them, Kim remembered all the times Rufus had saved the both of them and wondered what it would be like without the 'Rufus Factor'. Smiling idyllically, Kim reached out and lightly patted Rufus on the head, she watched Ron glow with pride as she did so and she felt a wave of pity towards him.

"How about we beep Wade to call in some friends to take Shego away now that she's unconscious?" she suggested.

"Too bad we still have more lab-watch duty after this little escapade," Ron moped, "After this, I'm aching for some bed time, all three of us. I'm still really tired, I feel it in my ey—Ki-…?—AH!"

"Give me back the vial or your sidekick here will have his lights out for GOOD!"

Stunned and mouth agape, Kim stared at Shego who had grabbed Ron from behind and held him tight, one arm around his squirming waist, the other glowing and clawed, all ready to tear out his throat. Kim's eyes darted to the wall behind Shego and Ron and saw claw marks torn into the wall. She realised Shego must not have been knocked out and had actually climbed the wall like a cat utilising her claw-like gloves. Kim hadn't had even seen her coming until it was too late.

"I said HAND OVER THE VIAL. Do you think I'm joking?" And to prove she wasn't, Shego gently made a small incision on Ron's throat, drawing a trickle of blood.

It made him gasp and whine and squirm some more. "Kim!"

"Okay! Okay. You can have it." Kim raised up her palms to show there would be no tricks and reached into her pocket where she had placed the vial just moments ago.

"Give it to me," Shego snapped loudly, her voice echoing all around them.

Kim reached out and held the vial in an open palm allowing Shego to take a speedy swipe to successfully snatch the vial.

"Thank-you," Shego replied in a sickly-sweet, mocking voice. "We'll see each other again… but not with HIM!"

"HEY!"

"KIM!"

"Hahaha!" Shego cackled and she threw Ron into the air with one hand then swept him over the catwalk.

Both Kim and Ron screamed. Kim flew to Ron, allowing Shego space to pass and as she did, she hip-bumped Kim in a lame attempt to push her over the edge as well. It didn't work, in fact, it moved her faster to the edge so she was just able to latch onto Ron's wrists as he dangled above the catwalks and vats below.

Unfortunately, that was all Kim was able to grab onto: Ron. Rufus on Ron's shoulder, being as old as he was now, was not fast enough nor strong enough to cling to Ron's shoulder during the throw into the air and so he slipped right off.

"RUFUS!" Ron screamed and began to wiggle violently in Kim's hold; it made her slip more off the bars.

"Stop!" she grunted, doing her best to cling to Ron and haul him back over the bars.

"RUFUS!" Ron could only cry as he tumbled on top of Kim and fought to push away from her to go after his pet. "Rufus! Oh my—RUFUS! Kim! He… he, RUFUS!"

As Ron pushed and wiggled in his frantic mindset over what had just happened to his beloved pet, he accidentally pushed off Kim in uncomfortable and embarrassing places which she took notice of—he didn't.

But she stopped blushing when she saw Ron at the bars ready to leap right off to rescue his pet. That's when they both heard a small splosh! from below.

"HE'S GONE!" he screamed, tears already streaking down his face. "Oh my Rufus, he's gone, I can't see him! Where'd he go-hey-stop! Let go of me! Let GO of me, KP- LET GO!"

Kim had flown at Ron, latching her arms like a seatbelt around Ron's waist and yanked him away with all the strength she had— it was much more than Ron's when he wasn't aided by Mystical Monkey Power, which he wasn't.

Ron continued to fight in Kim's hold as she slowly inched towards the wall behind them to put as much distance as she could between Ron at what might have been a suicidal leap into a bubbling vat of toxin. Pressed against her chest, Kim could feel Ron's chest heaving for air as he cried and attempted to reach for the bars.

"I need to—I need to see him! He… he… Oh, Kim! He…"

Ron started to sob and she felt his body eventually lax in her hold. He leaned against her and sunk into her hold as the tears washed down his face. Kim too slunk down, onto the floor but refused to let go of Ron, yet although she relaxed her hold on him into a comforting hold rather than a restraining one.

She buried her face into his shoulder and murmured to him gently. "Oh, Ron… I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…"

Ron leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes while Kim reached out with one hand to gently stroke his hair and whisper comforting words to him repetitively in an act to calm him down.

"Why… Why, Kim, why?" Ron choked, his hands hanging limply in front of him. "It's not fair, it's not fair at all; it's just not fair! H-he was so old a-and… and he was gonna go b-but n-not like this… Not like this! He's dead! Oh, Rufus…"

Kim knew what Rufus' death would be like but she didn't want to mention it to Ron at all in case he didn't know what would happen to his pet under the vat. Rufus would have no strength to paddle to the edge of the rim and he would drown, only to be brought to life by his Mystical Monkey Power. In the end, Rufus would drown and suffocate a total of ten times before he finally died. A horrific death, one that no-one should ever go through. Kim wondered if even now, Rufus was being brought to life and dying again.

As she continued to wonder, Ron calmly stood up and walked stoically over to the bar railing. Kim was apprehensive; she didn't want him going near the edge so soon. Tension building up inside her, she watched Ron from behind as he placed both his hands on the railing and looked down.

There was a moment of silence, then Ron's shoulders tensed and… "RUFUS!"

"N—" Kim started to cry out but halted. She was in mid-pose, her body stretched out to grasp Ron when he swerved to his left and ran down the catwalk, his feet thudding and echoing all around. She froze, not sure where he was going. "Oh…" she said to herself when she watched Ron hustle down a ladder that lead to a catwalk below where there would be more ladders to eventually lead to the ground floor.

"W-wait up!" Kim called as she dashed after him.

He was flying down all the ladders leading to the catwalks and eventually to the ground floor where the large vat that Rufus had fallen in was hunkered.

"Get back here, Ron!" she cried, reaching out for him as she ran down the floor aisle to catch up with Ron. She began to panic, worried Ron was actually going to jump in when…

"Rufus..?" Kim froze, her jaw dropped but then a smile swept over her face. "Rufus!"

And there Rufus sat, alive and well perched atop the vat's rim, still wet from the strangely-yellow liquid he had fallen into. Actually… Kim's smile wavered when she neared the vat, looking up at the mole-rat. Was it just her or… was he glowing?

"Rufus!" Ron cried, now at the base of the vat. He cupped his mouth with his gloved hands and called to his little pal. "You made it! I didn't think you'd make it, man, you totally psyched me there!" Ron stretched his arms up to welcome his buddy down.

Rufus sat, finishing preening his whiskers and craned his neck over the rim he sat on to look down at Ron. The mole-rat gave a squeal of delight when he saw Ron right below, ready with his pocket for Rufus to snuggle in. He shook himself dry like a dog and Kim's delusions of Rufus to be glowing disappeared. Giving a final cry of gratification, Rufus leapt down with a vigour Kim wouldn't have expected him to have at his age and landed right in Ron's arms.

Kim wavered a distance away from Ron and Rufus as the two had their little reunion, both of them laughing gleefully. A small smile crossed Kim's face and she took a few tentative steps forwards. It was odd, but for a moment there, she didn't feel like she belonged. Her eyes flickered, so did a flash of jealousy and a small voice inside her saying: 'I wish he had died' but she quickly banished it, scolding herself.

Ron turned to Kim and ran up to her with an embrace and she began to blush, embarrassed for even thinking such a thought, especially when the little mole-rat hugged her cheek. It caused her to take in a deep breath and feel another wave of love towards Ron and she showed him so by presenting him an extra squeeze in her hug.

Ron laughed as he pulled away and reached out a finger to Rufus on his shoulder to give him a pat when he froze.

"Uh, KP… Do you, uh… do you notice anything, um, like, different about Rufus?"

Kim blinked away her trance and gave Rufus a small inspection and instantly teetered. "O-okay… I think my eyes are playing tricks on me…"

"You noticed it too?"

"Huh?" Rufus croaked, shrinking away from Kim and Ron's inspective gazes. Cringing, Rufus fled behind Ron's neck and coiled himself around, trying to hide.

"I think I do," Kim whispered, barely unable to understand it herself.

"Rufus, buddy!" Ron exclaimed, unable to see Rufus where he was hiding. "Y-you're young again!"

"Young?" Rufus asked and crept out from behind Ron's neck and onto his shoulder again. He looked himself over and patted his tummy. "Young!" he crowed.

"Totally young!" Ron's grin was even larger from ear-to-ear— it was off the face and beyond. "Dude! How'd this happen! Oh my… Kim! Kim, oh, he's, dude, he's YOUNG!"

"I see!" Kim replied, her voice utterly astounded. "I don't understand…"

"Who cares about understanding!" Ron continued, his voice brimming with ecstasy, "Rufus doesn't have death in his shadow anymore!"

Curious, Kim walked past Ron and took a gander at the vat when she noticed a small plaque. Bending forwards, Kim read the label: 'Test Vat MCDII: substance keyword 'IMMORTALITY'.

"Holy smokes."

"What was that, Kimbolina?" Ron asked, his attention still obviously centered on Rufus as Ron rubbed his pet's little tummy.

"I think you better read this."

"H'm?" Ron walked over to Kim, "What?"

Kim pointed with a finger as she leaned back to take in Ron's reaction. He froze and fell speechless for a long while. Finally when he found his tongue, he said, "Can they do that?"

"Apparently so," Kim replied. Her eyes darted to Rufus again, sitting on Ron's shoulder on hind legs. "He's young again, I saw him glowing…"

"So this means…"

"I guess…" Even though she had read the plaque and was staring at a Rufus fit and in his prime right before her eyes when only minutes ago he had been old and frail, Kim could not even find the tongue to say it could be true. It couldn't be and yet…

"Well," she concluded. "It's not entirely impossible. Places like this have come up with invisibility, cures for the common cold, firing lasers from space, turn people evil, and of course there was the Pandimensional Vortex Inducer which could do, like, everything in the whole darn world and more—"

"Rufus…" Ron whispered, not even acknowledging Kim anymore. "Can you read that?"

"Nu-uh."

"You're immortal. You're never going to die now."

Rufus' squeal was insanely high-pitched.

"You know what that means?"

Rufus shrugged and that far-off grin returned to Ron's face.

"Dude, you're gonna SO be passed on through our generations! RIGHT, KIM!"

"HUH, wha—gener—WHA!" Before Kim could finish her incoherent babble, Ron ran at her, attacking her with another firm hug around the waist and actually lifted her into the air for a twirl. She was blushing and flushing madly, her entire face was red and she forced down a swallow.

"This is, like, SO the best thing in the history of EVER EVER!" Ron shouted and squeezed Kim securely.

"I…" was all Kim was able to bluster as he twirled her around again.

Rufus on Ron's shoulder was bouncing up and down with as much euphoria as Ron was in. Rufus chattered and chittered, squealed and squeaked, bouncing all around. When Kim's face came close, he nestled her cheek, his whiskers unable to stop twitching.

"He's gonna go to our children and then our children children and our children children children and then—"

"Okay!" Kim flushed, struggling to separate herself with Ron. She was a little rattled by the topic but did her best to sound as if she found it funny. "Okay, I get it! He's going to live forever."

"Hey…" Ron placed Kim down on her feet and turned slowly to the godly vat. "Maybe…"

"No. Don't even think it, Ron," Kim cut in.

The instant Ron turned to look at the vat Kim noticed that glint in his eye. It was a glint that she rarely saw in Ron, but it was still there inside of him, the darker side of his personality. For as loveable, good-natured, clueless and oblivious as Ron could be, deep-down, he was also a little frightening to Kim. It as the same glint as the time he had the naco's royalties cheque, the one that enlarged his ego and pushed all that he truly cared for into the back seat. Well, Kim would put a stop to that.

"We're leaving right now," she commanded and reached out for Ron's wrist. "We have to go back to our surveillance, remember? We have a job to finish. I'll have to check in on Wade in case anyone else has broken in since the Shego thing."

"Oh… okay…"

Ron's distant reply earned Kim's attention and she roughly pulled him forwards, disturbed with Ron's fascination with the vat that had granted Rufus his immortality and forever-youth.

"Come on," she said grudgingly, "You already have nine lives, that's enough for you."

"But, think abou—"

"No, it's not up for discussion. You and I are going to grow old together, you can't escape my presence. And I'll have you know I intend to have a walking stick when I'm old so you better watch it because you've seen my aim when we took baseball lessons when we were nine."

Finally, Ron seemed to revert to normal when he laughed at that remark and retorted, "No, I know your aim from when you're on a warpath."

Kim let out a disdainful squeal which Ron and Rufus cackled at. Ron no longer needed Kim's lead to detach him from the idea of living young forever. He was following her out of the room on her own and Kim could only hope they wouldn't have to return here.

The idea of immortality had struck Kim more than she had shown on the outside. The notion was frightening and yet… appealing, being young, with Ron… forever. But it was a large commitment, once the act was done, there was no turning back and who knew what the world had in store for itself. So Kim decided to pretend she had never discovered this room, or that vat and let time take its course. But she couldn't help but twitch her head as if to return a glance back at the vat one last time…

Young, together with Ron forever, that's what she had said. She wanted these times to last forever because, with all they've been through in the past, who knew what would happen to them next?