Disclaimer- Kim Possible characters and locations are property of Disney and are used here without permission or profit.
Summary: This story is a look at the possibility that instead of Kim lifting Ron to her level, he might drag her down. It's depressing. Don't read it.
Author's note: republished with some minor editing in Mar. 2011
The explosion rocked the house.
Kim stifled a scream and checked her surroundings. Gunfire erupted in the next room and she heard Ron cry out in anguish. Momentarily confused, she started to go to his aid but reality intruded. She stepped on something wet and squishy. Looking down she saw the remains of a Naco that Ron had left on the floor of their room. She grabbed for something to use as a towel to clean up her foot and picked up his "Wrestle-maniac" T-shirt. She hesitated, he really liked that shirt and he'd be mad if she used it to clean up squished beans from the bottom of her foot, then she heard another muffled explosion from the living room and grimly wiped her foot clean. She balled up the shirt and threw it over into the laundry corner where it rolled down the side of a large pile of dirty clothes. The clock showed 1:37 am. Muttering to herself, she picked up the dirty dish and headed for the kitchen. When she opened the door, the sound from the TV almost overpowered her.
"RON!" she yelled as she padded down the hallway, but he couldn't hear her over the sounds of explosions and gunfire blasting out of the oversized speakers in the living room. "RON!" She yelled again from the doorway to the living room, but he still couldn't hear her. She flicked the light switch, trying to get his attention but it happened to coincide with one of the myriad of explosions and he failed to notice it. Finally, she walked into the room and stood between him and the flat screen LCD television.
"Kim! Get out of the way!" He screamed at her, craning his neck to see past her. She moved to block his sight line and finally he threw the controller down and jumped up. "Great!" he shouted sarcastically. "Now I'm dead! What'd you do that for?"
"Ron, I've got to get up and go to work in three hours, the TV woke me up."
"Aw, man!" he rolled his eyes, "I can't believe this. You're, like, three rooms away!"
"The walls are paper thin, Ron. Can't you at least use headphones?"
"No can do, Kimila! Those things hurt my ears."
Kim sighed looked around the room. Ron had cleaned out their savings to buy himself a new flat screen TV for Christmas. It looked out of place on the scarred bookcase where it was sitting. The speakers for his surround sound system dominated the shabby furnishings of the living room, a couch that had been used when her Nana first bought it thirty years ago, tables that had been scrounged from local thrift stores and an old rug her mom had donated to cover the carpet stain she had never been able to get rid of in the middle of the room. Her eye fell on the ball of discarded plastic wrapping on the floor, next to the book that propped up the broken leg on the lamp table they had found sitting on a street corner a few months ago. She glanced over to the game console and saw an unfamiliar game case sitting on it.
"What are you playing?" She asked softly.
"Nothing." He said sharply. "Nothing, I've had this for a while."
"I don't remember it, Ron."
"Hey, it's not my fault you can't remember every game I own." He shuffled around and flopped back onto the faded couch, avoiding her eyes.
"Did you go shopping today?" She asked quietly.
"Nah… I just hung out."
"Ron!" she said disappointedly, "I asked you to go shopping... I need stuff for lunch…"
"Just get something from the truck or Bueno Nacho." He said dismissively.
"We can't afford it!" She snapped. "Where's the money I left out for groceries?"
His eyes darted toward the unfamiliar video game. "I don't know." He said sullenly. "Where'd you leave it?"
Kim closed her eyes and clenched her fists. She could feel her nails digging into the palms of her hands and realized she had bitten into her lower lip when she tasted blood in her mouth. She opened her eyes but avoided his face. "Just keep the noise down until I leave for work, OK?" she whispered.
"Yeah." He shuffled around and kind of held out a hand to her. "Uh, sorry, KP, I… Uh, I'm sorry."
"Yeah." She replied and headed to the back of the trailer for their bedroom. It was almost two a.m.
"Out there… In here…" Ron's eyes were full of love and understanding. In that moment she knew that he was "The One," he was her destiny. That realization gave her strength she didn't know she had and together they foiled Drakken's plan. When they walked arm in arm into the dance; she only had eyes for him. Suddenly Bonnie's sarcastic voice cut through her dream.
"It finally happened, she's finally dating that loser, Ron Stoppable!"
For a brief moment, time stood still and she doubted, but the swell of approval from her peers lifted her soul back up into the clouds and they danced. When he finally kissed her, she floated into the heavens positive that this was the right thing, he was the right guy and she would never doubt again.
Four in the morning came early. Ron was snoring next to her and had managed to take most of the covers, but it didn't matter now, she had to get up anyway. Opening shift at Bueno Nacho started at five and she couldn't afford to be late. She was trying to get into Ned's good graces, hoping he would keep her on after the holiday rush was over. Ned had hinted that she might be able to hire on as a part time permanent employee with medical benefits and a guarantee of twenty hours a week. In the meantime, she was thankful for the fifteen hours a week he had scheduled for her, after taxes, it meant almost another eighty dollars or so a week for her and Ron. This month it had meant that she could take hot showers for the first time in a while and that made a big difference in January. Hopefully, she checked the refrigerator but there was nothing she could take for lunch, maybe Ned would let her have the regular employee discount, or at least look the other way so she could take some of the older food that they were required to throw away by corporate.
Ron's face turned red and his hand scratched the back of his neck. "Well ya see, KP… I… Uh, I didn't exactly get all my stuff done… so I can't go to UoP in Menlo Park… Like we were talking about…" He flashed her a rueful grin.
"Don't worry about it, Ron." She hid her disappointment with a bright smile. "I can go to Middleton U. They've got a great biology program and my parents will be happy that I'm staying close to home." She pulled him into a big hug. There's a reason for everything, she thought, Ron is my destiny; I'll do just fine at Middleton. Who needs Stanford?
It was just above freezing outside, she wrapped the shawl she had made from an old blanket around herself and began the three-mile walk to Bueno Nacho. The city did have a bus route that went by the trailer park, but there never seemed to be enough money left at the end of the month to buy a bus pass. Maybe if Ron didn't waste money on video games and… An ember of resentment flared in her heart and she doused it. Maybe if Ron… She trudged through the pre-dawn chill, lost in her own mind. Maybe…
"You can't be serious?" Kim exclaimed.
"I can't believe it either." Ron groused. "Dad said I hadn't been keeping up my end of the bargain and mom backed him up! They put all my stuff out on the front lawn."
"Ron, all you had to do was pull a three-oh GPA at Lowerton Community College," Kim rubbed her eyes and shook her head, "What was your average?"
Ron mumbled something incoherent.
"I didn't catch that."
"One point eight." He said sullenly.
Kim stared at him in disbelief. "Brick Flag is carrying a three point five and playing football! What's going on?"
"I should have known you'd take their side." He snarled at her. "You're always better than everyone else, some of us have a hard time with school, you know."
He was right. This was a time when he needed her support, and she was giving him a superiority attitude. "I'm sorry, Ron. Its just…" she broke off when she saw his glare. "I'll… See if my parents can put you up."
His attitude changed immediately. His face lit up and he stood up straight, all evidence of the hang dog gone. "That's great, KP." He said, giving her a hug. "Hey, put my stuff in your car and swing by to pick me up in a couple of hours."
"Ron… Where are you going?"
"I goin' to Felix's for some Evil Zombie Mayhem. Come pick me up around ten."
Kim looked at Ron's things stacked on the front porch of his house. "What about…?"
"Gotta go, Babe, Felix is here to pick me up." He gave her a quick peck and ran over to Felix's van.
"Miss Possible, I expect my employees to be on time." Ned's nasal tenor grated on her ears as soon as she walked in. She glanced at the clock, 5:03. She started to explain about the broken traffic light at Main, (the street had been icy, she didn't want to risk running across, and Main was a 50mph zone there. She had waited nearly ten minutes for a break in traffic so she could make her way safely across.) but she bit her tongue and just said, "Yes, sir. It won't happen again." He glared at her for a minute and then waved her away.
"Start with the Public restrooms outside and when you're done out there, come in and see me." His tone was condescending, as though she wouldn't be able to remember more than one assignment at a time and she bristled inside but clamped down on her frustration. She collected her cleaning supplies and headed for the outside restroom.
Ron stood at the window with his arms crossed and his back to her. "I can't believe you're betraying me like this."
"Ron, you've been here for three weeks and mom says you haven't even gone to class most of the time…"
"She doesn't know what my schedule is, how does she know weather I'm going to class?"
"That's not the point. This was supposed to be temporary until you could find something of your own."
"Yeah, I know. It's just that…" He shrugged.
"Have you even looked?"
He spun toward her, "Of course I've looked!" He practically shouted, "That's what I do when I'm not in class, or doesn't your mom know that?"
"I talked to Felix and Josh, they said you could move in with them…"
"But you're going to have to pay a third of the rent."
"I don't have a job."
"I'll help out until you find one; dad said I could work part time over at the space center."
"KP," He said, pulling her into his arms, "You're the best girl friend a guy could have." He kissed her on the forehead and squeezed her shoulders. "I'm gonna start looking for a job first thing Monday morning. I really appreciate everything you're doing for me, and I promise, one day, I'll make you proud."
"Of course you will, Potential boy!"
"I'm sorry, Miss Possible, but the BN manual clearly states that only permanent employees are entitled to purchase BN products at a reduced rate. Furthermore," He held up a hand to stave off her next question. "It explicitly states that no employee may use his or her discount to purchase food for consumption by anyone other than themselves." He pushed his glasses up onto his nose and looked at her askance. "I must say that this wanton disregard for the rules is unbecoming and does not reflect well on your chances for future employment with this organization." He glanced over at the clock, "Your break is over, Go take care of the condiment bar."
She went to take care of her duties at the condiment bar and tried to calculate the cheapest thing she could buy for lunch and still be able to work her full shift at Smarty Mart without falling over. She'd already been up for several hours and hadn't eaten breakfast yet; her hunger was making it hard to concentrate. Finally she settled on four tacos. She could eat two on the way over to the Smarty Mart and if she got soft tacos, she could save the other two for later in the day. It would only cost her about one hour's pay, after taxes. She just hoped she could convince Ned to take it out of her check, again.
"I found a place."
"That's great KP!"
"It's in Lowerton…"
"Whatever, we'll be together and I can get away from those two whiners." He snorted disgustedly, "Always on my back about the rent... I always come through for them, eventually, you'd think they would cut me a break."
Kim didn't point out that she was the one who usually came up with Ron's rent. He never seemed to be able to hold onto a job. He got fired over trivial things, at least that's the way he explained it to her, no one appreciated his essential Ronness, and it turned the management types against him. She was sure he find something that fit, something he was great at. It would just take time. In the meantime, she would continue to be supportive and to help him out when he needed it. That's why she was so excited about this next step.
"Ron, I can't afford the rent on my own, so you gotta promise me you'll keep a job, OK?"
"For you, Kimila, I'll do anything." And she knew he would.
It was raining as she made her way across town to the Smarty Mart. Her shift at Bueno Nacho ended at ten a.m. and her shift at Smarty Mart didn't start until noon, but it was almost ten miles, and she had to walk. Ron had ruined her umbrella in a mock sword fight with Josh about two months ago. He had promised to buy her a new one for Christmas… but he had forgot. She wrapped her homemade shawl around her tightly and began the ten-mile hike to Smarty Mart. She really tried to save two of the tacos for later but she was really hungry. Before she was halfway there, she had finished all four of them. The cold rain soaked through her wrap and by the time she arrived at the Smarty Mart, she was numb through and through.
Kim glanced around to see if anyone was watching before she pulled out the Kimmunicator. "What's the sitch. Wade?" She whispered.
"Duff Killigan has taken over Wimbledon Stadium, says he's going to turn it into a driving range if the British government doesn't reinstate his credentials at St. Andrew's.
The nasal voice of Kim's supervisor interrupted Wade. "Watching television on company time, Miss Possible?"
"Uh, no. There's a sitch in England with Duff Killigan…"
"There's also a "sitch" with the missing TPS reports." He glowered at her, "You've missed three days and left early twice in two months, Miss Possible. If you do not want this job, there are several qualified people who would be happy to fill your spot."
"But… Duff Killigan is-"
"That's the problem with you young people, no sense of respect or priorities. Let me make this perfectly clear, Miss Possible. If you leave now, you will no longer be employed at this office. Do you understand?"
Kim sighed. "Yes, sir. Wade, you better hand this off to GJ."
"I need this job, Wade. Ron and I need the money." She turned off the device and put it back in her pocket. "I'm sorry for the interruption, sir, I'll get those TPS reports to you as soon as possible."
"Princess…? Is that you?"
Kim stopped stocking the shelf and spun to face Shego. She assumed a defensive stance, "What are you doing here?" She demanded.
"Not that it's any of your business but tomorrow is Dr. D's birthday and I'm…" When Shego noticed Kim's stance, her expression went from puzzled to surprised to amused in the space of a moment. She took a step back and laughed, "You can't be serious, Princess. You'd break in half if I touched you."
"Try me." Kim growled and received an answering growl from her stomach. Embarrassed, she pushed her stock cart out of the way and lunged for the pale thief. Shego easily sidestepped the rush and Kim tripped on a product display. She regained her feet and was about to go after Shego again, but the look of pity on the woman's face stopped her. She turned her back and began restoring the display she had knocked over.
"What the hell happened to you, Pumpkin?"
"Leave me alone." She could feel the woman's eyes boring into her back, but she ignored her and went back to her job. She didn't need anyone's pity, especially not the pity of a common thief. She was fine. Ron was the man for her and he would be on his feet soon. He had so much potential; he just needed some time to realize it. He'd be fine. He was probably going to find his dream job tomorrow. They'd be fine.
"Thanks, Mom. I really appreciate this. You know how messed up those machines at the laundry mat are." Kim laughed.
"Yes, Honey, I know what its like. How's Ronald?"
"He's… OK. He's fine."
"Is he happy with his job at Radio House?"
"Well, he's not working there anymore."
"Oh? Where is he working now?"
"He's… kind of between jobs, but he's looking every day. I'm sure he'll find one soon."
Kim could feel the penetrating look her mom gave her. She ducked her head and hoped her mom wouldn't be able to tell how gaunt her cheeks looked or the way her clothes hung loosely on her body. She busied her hands, folding her clothes so her mom wouldn't notice the broken nails and calluses.
"How about you, honey? How are you doing?"
"I'm fine mom." She forced a smile into her voice. "Never better."
"Are you happy, Kimmie…?" Concern colored her voice.
Kim wanted to throw herself into her mother's arms and just cry. But she held herself and remembered her love for Ron. He had the potential to be great; she just needed to support him until he found the one thing he excelled at. He would take off then and she'd be happy. "Of course, mom." She turned to her mom with a smile, "Ron is the perfect guy for me, I'm totally happy."
"Professor Tam told me she hasn't seen you in class for a while…"
"Heh, you know how it is, mom. Ron needs some time to find another job, so I picked up a few more shifts at the Smarty Mart until he gets back on his feet, I'm keeping up with my school work, and as soon as he gets another job, I'll be back in class, promise."
"You could…" Anne stopped and looked carefully at her daughter.
Kim smiled again, "I'm fine, mom. You worry too much."
Kim counted up the change she had found while sweeping, sixty-three cents. Energy bars were half off this week, so she could get one. She finished it while waiting for Ron to show up. He had said he would swing by with Felix after her shift and get her a ride home but after half an hour, she admitted to herself that he wasn't coming. She licked the last bits of chocolate from the inside of the wrapper and dropped it in the trash receptacle on her way out. It was a long, cold, dark walk home.
"Where did that come from?" She was too stunned to scream. She could barely speak at all.
"Thirty inch, LCD screen, surround sound, digital ready… pretty cool, huh?"
"Cool?" Her knees were weak, she felt like she couldn't breathe. "How much…?"
"That's the best part, Kimbo! It was on sale!"
She found her voice and her anger gave strength to her legs. "How much?"
"Uh… seven fifty, with taxes and delivery and stuff." He looked proud of himself, like a kitten that had climbed all the way to the top of a set of silk drapes and then proclaimed 'look at me!'
"That's our savings, Ron." Her legs buckled again but he didn't notice; he was too busy stroking his new TV set. "That's all of our savings…" Two years… Two years of walking to work, eating beans and rice… two years… and he buys a TV. "You have to take it back…"
"No can do, Babe. The Ronster needs his gameage."
"It's our savings, Ron."
"Hey, what good is having money if we can't buy stuff?"
We don't have any money! She wanted to scream, but she knew he didn't understand. He just didn't understand about money and things like that. When he made good, she'd make sure to have an account for the essentials that he couldn't touch. It was the only way. He was a good man; he just didn't understand that stuff. Next month, she'd open another savings account and start over. He was a good man, he just didn't understand.
Kim pounded on the door for several minutes. She could hear them inside but the TV was so loud that she didn't think they could hear her. Her legs and arms were numb from the cold and her hand hurt where she had been hitting the doorframe. She walked around to the other side of the trailer, trying to get someone's attention from outside. Finally one of the guys saw her and poked Ron. They all waved at her and it took her another few minutes to get one of them to open the dead bolt and let her in.
There were pizza boxes and empty beer cans strewn all over the floor of the living room. Ron and his friends were occupied playing games; it looked like the same one he had been playing last night. She tried to ignore the mess and just head back to her room, it was almost eleven and she had to get up at four again tomorrow.
"Hey, KP! Joe brought the pizza and beer, I told him you'd settle up when you got home." One of the gamers threw her a leering smile and a wave.
"Ron." She waited but he didn't seem to have heard her. "RON!"
"We need to talk."
"I don't have any money, Ron."
"So… go to the bank and get some."
She looked around the room, at the shabby furniture, the empty beer cans, the brand new TV and the ball of potential in the middle of it. He had so much potential, she could practically see the aura of it around him. All he needed was some time and encouragement.
"I'll go get some." She said. Her only acknowledgement was a vague wave.
When she got to the bank, she went not to the ATM, but to the payphone and asked the operator to connect a collect call. As she waited for the call to go through, she felt the fear rise inside her. What if they don't accept the charges? What if they've already given up on me? What if they think I'm not worth it anymore? She was crying by the time the operator said, "You're connected, miss. Go ahead."
The concern in her mother's voice was like a warm blanket, "Mom…?" she sobbed.
"Kimmie, what's wrong?"
"I wanna come home."
A/N2: I warned you. I want to thank Surforst for inspiring what I hope is a meaningful, if sad, story and RavenStarfire for reminding me that writing is about the story and not about the politics.
As always, there is a story behind the story. If you can believe it, this was the most positive ending I could envision for this particular story. If you are interested in the events that inspired this, feel free to drop me a line.