Chapter 1 – Doldrums.
Ron Stoppable fought through the fog of sleep in a desperate attempt to not be late for his final exam of the semester. The alarm, with its blaring incessant electronic beeping, was helping somewhat but he was still struggling. His eyelids fluttered momentarily and he tried to move, but he was just so damn tired, so much so that his body felt like it was made of lead. Last night had been a real doozey, trotting around the world with Kim on yet another one of her missions and barely making it back home in time before the sun had begun to rise. It was a pattern that the two of them had first established in high school, but one that Ron was increasingly finding hard to cope with.
He wondered how Kim managed to do it, but then he shook that thought off as he started to climb out of bed. Kim was, well, Kim. She could do anything – including acing an advanced Computational Physics exam on two hours of sleep and nursing a splitting headache from where Shego had kicked her in the skull. Ron on the other hand, could barely get out of bed to make it to the most important test of his college career.
Despite the fact that the two of them had been friends nearly their entire lives, there was a simple equation to the relationship between Ron and Kim that had never been altered and had always been proven true.
She was Kim Possible, she could do anything.
He was Ron Stoppable, he couldn't.
When they were kids in high school, it didn't bother Ron too much. He had been so enthralled with Kim and her natural "Kim-ness" that just being around her made him feel like he was the Earth revolving around the Sun and he had eagerly basked in the radiant glow that Kim Possible so frequently gave off. In fact, if things were still like they had been, there would be no doubt in Ron's mind that he would have continued to be the satellite revolving around Kim's center of the known universe until he was old and grey.
Unfortunately, that had ended up not to be his fate.
Ron struggled to pull a wool sweater over his head – it was down right freezing outside. The winter had come slowly at first, delaying setting in on the peaceful mountain town of Middleton Colorado, and luring it's residents into complacency. Of course, nature being the way it was, could only put off the chill for so long and Ron had woken up two days ago to find himself experiencing the worst blizzard he had seen in his entire life.
"I wish it was still snowing, then I could at least have more time to study for this final."
Ron was doing bad in college. It wasn't that he was particularly dumb, or even a bad student, it was just that between his part time job and running around the world helping Kim, he didn't have a lot of time left over for doing things that he ought to be doing - Like writing papers and studying textbooks. The experience was startlingly familiar to how Ron's high school career had unfolded, but with one major difference.
He didn't have Kim around to help him.
Oh, they still met and hung out when they could, and they still did go on missions together (although Ron had been missing more and more of those recently as it had become harder for Wade to hook up rides just so Kim could pick him up), but Kimberly Ann Possible and Ron Stoppable were now set on separate paths in life and sadly for Ron, this meant a great deal of things he had come to count on had disappeared.
Like help with his homework.
Ron was currently a junior at Middleton Community College majoring in Restaurant Management. His grades in high school hadn't been very good and his parent's hadn't been particularly wealthy, so for Ron it was the best he could do for the time being. As it was, he still worked part time at Bueno Nacho just to help his parents foot some of the bills and also so he wouldn't have to borrow so much money to complete an education that was likely to land him a not-so-well paying job in the future.
Kim on the other hand had gone off to Upperton University where she was double majoring in, of all things, Astrophysics and Biology. Ron had been shocked actually when Kim had told him this – not about her going away to such a prestigious college (Ron had always assumed as much), but he hadn't known that Kim had been that interested in science. Kim had confessed to him that her motives were actually fairly simple – She had traveled all over the globe several times over, but where she really wanted to go was to the stars and she was hoping after college to get into the Air force, and eventually onto the Space Shuttle.
Ron had just looked at her in awe - KP as an astronaut? Ron could totally see it. Hell, as far as Ron was concerned she already was an astronaut, or whatever else it was she wanted to be. She was Kim Possible and Ron knew that all she had to do was reach out her hand for that brass ring and just as sure as the sun rises every day, it would be hers. He never had a moment's of doubt about that, ever.
Still, it was yet another shining illustration of he difference between Ron Stoppable and his best friend and erstwhile girlfriend, Kim Possible. Given the disparity in their apparent stations in life it might have surprised some people that they were still dating, but they had worked hard to try to keep their relationship alive. Recently, however, it had become more and more difficult due to a myriad number of reasons, the biggest of which was the fact that they currently lived in separate cities.
Ron bent down to retrieve his book bag and felt a sharp pain run through his back. He had gotten pretty banged up last night during a botched skydiving attempt. He wasn't ashamed to admit that he was deathly afraid of freefall, to the point where it took considerable effort for him to work up the courage to do a jump. In this particular case he had prematurely released his chute, much to the chagrin of Kim who was always scolding him about that, and had landed rather roughly in a copse of pine trees. Ron might not have been sure of many things in life, but he was now firmly of the opinion that smashing into a tree from a 10,000 foot elevation was pretty bad for your back.
"Ow! Ow! OW!" he said as he tried to straighten up, "Why do I keep doing this?"
"Because it's the only time you get to spend with her anymore…"
As Ron gingerly crept down the stairs, he knew deep down in his heart that while this pain was incredible, it paled in comparison to the pain he felt whenever he was away from Kim. It wasn't just that he missed her, although he did, it was that he could literally feel the distance growing between them with every tick of the clock.
Ron walked to the kitchen, he had a few minutes before he had to leave, so he decided to scrounge around for some food. His parent's evidently had already left since he could see some dishes in the sink and a small plate covered with what looked like pancakes next to the stovetop.
"Thank you Mom!" he said out loud as he ripped the plastic wrap off of the flapjacks and popped them into the microwave. Re-heated microwave pancakes weren't all that delicious, but food had been pretty sparse around the Stoppable household recently. Ron's father had lost his job at the insurance agency he had worked at for nearly 30 years, and while he still had the unemployment checks coming in, the reduced income wasn't quite enough to feed four mouths. These financial problems were difficult for the entire family, but to Ron it only made him more determined to pass his econ final today.
It was an unusual circumstance for Ron, but he had recently been feeling rather inspired to do his best. His family needed him, after all.
He knew that eventually his Dad would get back on his feet and find another job and then things would be ok again, but for the time being he had picked up an extra couple of shifts at Bueno Nacho to try and help his parents out. Also, there was the side benefit that Ron could basically eat there for damn near free, further reducing the food bill.
"At least that way Hannah won't have to go on the school lunch program…"
Ron shuddered at the thought. The cafeteria food during high school was bad enough, but Ron still occasionally had vivid nightmares about the terrors he had experienced during his early elementary school career. He'd do practically anything he could to make sure that his sister never experienced them.
Ron caught note of something sitting on the kitchen table and then sighed.
"Aw! She left her lunch here again…"
Ron stopped shoveling his own breakfast into his mouth and left it on the table. Even with the rate that he ate at, he wouldn't have enough time to finish off his own food, drop off Hannah's lunch and then make it to his final. Ron Stoppable might have been considered a bit of a loser in a lot of areas, but there was one thing he took pride in; He was a damn good big brother.
Ron grabbed his books with one hand and then scooped up Hannah's lunchbox with the other and ran out the door so fast that Rufus almost didn't catch up to him. The pink mole-rat did a rather amazing acrobatic leap right into Ron's pocket just as he slammed the front door shut and ran for his car.
Yes, Ron Stoppable had wisely replaced his painfully slow scooter with a car.
Even though the car was ancient by most people's standards, and hopelessly uncool, Ron was grateful to have it. Indeed, he often wished that he had the thing when he was back in high school, no matter how badly Bonnie Rockwaller would have made fun of him. It was an older Detroit model, mostly steel and carburetor driven, but it was lovingly maintained and reliable. Most importantly, at least to Ron, it had a functional heater, which was absolutely perfect for the cold Colorado winter.
Ron hopped into his car, more running from the cold than trying to get anywhere in a hurry. Once inside he twisted his key and then smiled as the car turned over and the engine came to life. He had just started to trust the car after weeks of worrying about if and when it was going to break down on him and he was glad to see that he hadn't, at least yet, misjudged the state of the vehicle.
"Maybe I could drive it over to Felix's when it gets a little warmer and we can take a look at it… Who am I kidding? Maybe I can get Felix to take a look at it…"
Ron wasn't much of a mechanic, but thankfully he had a good friend in Felix Renton. The two boys had pretty much whipped the vehicle into shape over the course of the last summer, with Felix providing most of the mechanical know-how and Ron providing most of the grunt work (and parts). And while Ron was sure he wasn't in any imminent danger of being called a real "gear head", he had managed to learn a great deal more than most people would have suspected, given his previously poor scholastic showing. Still, when it came to matters involving his sole mode of transportation, he always felt better consulting with the "expert" first.
Ron checked his watch continually as he drove across town towards Hannah's elementary school; he figured he could probably make it to his final if he could just cut a minute or two off his time through the downtown loop going towards the college. To further save time he didn't even bother to park his car when he arrived at the school and instead stopped his car right at the curb and ran into the office, ignoring the looks of several school children that were wondering why a fully grown man was running around waving a bright pink lunchbox.
With a quick word to direct the receptionist as to who the lunch belonged to, Ron bolted out the door back to his car and set out across town. He looked at his watch again. He'd be cutting it close, really close, but he'd probably make it. It was, he decided, one of life's little victories and he mused that as lame as it sounded, he'd take the win and be happy with it. Things were currently tough enough all around at the Stoppable household without him tempting fate.
Ron's car glided into the last available parking spot at the city college's student lot. He glanced at his watch one final time and then began to towards the large brick building. He hadn't been able to study very much, at least not last night – the time's he went on missions with Kim had become so infrequent that he often ignored his school work in favor of being able to spend time with her, but Ron felt pretty confident that he would pass the exam today. Of course, his grade wouldn't be as good as it could have been… but that was a compromise that he was willing to make – a compromise that he had to make if he wanted to try and keep his relationship with Kim alive.
"Ok Rondo, time to get your game face on, maintain that perfect 2.5 GPA and defend the honor of the Stoppable family name!"
Ron smiled at his own self-depreciating humor as he slipped into the classroom right before the bell and took his seat. Sure, his life might not be perfect, but at least he could laugh about it.
Kim Possible stared at the paper on her desk, pondering what to do.
"Do I turn this in now, and risk annoying the professor, or do I wait here bored out of my mind until near the end of class."
She wrinkled her nose at both choices.
Kim had a perfectly cultivated 4.2 GPA going into the second part of her junior year at Uppterton University, and while a great deal of that success could be directly attributed to her superior academic abilities, there was also the fact that Kim went out of her way to make sure that her professors saw in her a certain way - Hardworking, studious, modest and attentive. For the most part she had been successful and because of this had been given quite a bit of leeway in her studies that other students would never have received. Kim being Kim, didn't abuse the privileges she had been awarded, she would never dream of it, but the truth was that the only thing that allowed her to continue to go on missions and maintain her uber-perfect GPA was the fact that Kim Possible was a complete and utter suck-up.
Which brought her to her current predicament.
Professor Von Hattenschmidt was an older man; Kim guessed he was birthed sometime around the discovery of fire. He had a thick German accent that had not been diluted through what obviously was centuries of teaching young American students and he had certain ideas in his head about how the world worked and who was allowed to work it.
Bluntly put, he didn't think mathematics was for women and he made his displeasure at Kim's apparent mastery of his subject known in a myriad of condescending ways.
"I guess I'll just wait – Hmm, he's looking at me, let's pretend to be struggling with a problem."
Kim furiously erased a correct answer on her paper and then slowly began filling it back in, her new pencil lines tracing her previous scribbles.
"Yes that's right, look away… phew."
Kim hated having to hide her natural abilities from people, she had never had cause to act this way before and it rankled her that her Professor could literally fail her at his whim, hence forcing her to continuously pretend to have to ask him for help. No doubt once he graded Kim's paper he would believe himself to rival Socrates in his ability to teach a poor ignorant girl the wonders of mathematics – it was all part of Kim's deception, she continuously stroked his teaching-ego just so that he would claim "credit" for her success and not give her a less than perfect grade.
She really wanted that perfect grade.
Kim had set a lofty goal for herself, one that would require both the best academics as well as relentless physical training and she knew that if she couldn't find within her the discipline to deal with one sexist professor, then she might as well give up on her dreams of reaching the stars. Sure it sucked and sure it was unfair, but life was unfair sometimes.
"Like having your boyfriend live in a completely different city… totally unfair."
Kim softly sighed and blew an errant strand of hair out of her eyes. She had enjoyed seeing Ron last night, even if they didn't have too much down time during the travel to and from the mission site. Lately, she mused, they seemed to have been growing apart and while she hated it, she didn't know what, if anything, she could do to solve the problem.
Computational Physics, Molecular Biology and saving the world – they were easy. Trying to build a healthy relationship with her best friend turned boy friend – terribly hard.
"The worst part is, I don't even really have anyone to talk about it with either. Mom tries, I know she does, but she just doesn't get it – as far as she's concerned Ron and I are perfect for each other and that means everything will work out. If only it was that easy."
Kim's mother had been the earliest and loudest supporter of her relationship with Ron. It was evident that very first night when after they had defeated Drakken and his Diablo-bots, they had returned to the Possible household and Kim had announced to her family that she was still going to the prom – with Ron. Her mother's eyes had lit up brighter than a Christmas tree and she had instantly set about doing her best to fix what remained of Kim's dress and hairstyle. If that alone hadn't given away her mothers feelings about the situation to Kim, the fact that her mom had bent over while fixing her hair and whispered, "I'm so happy for you two" in her ear left no doubt as to what Anne Possible was thinking that night.
Kim secretly had been very grateful for those simple words from her mother. Although she was the one that had forced the issue after Ron's oblique confession, she still had reservations. It wasn't that she didn't like Ron – far from it actually, Ron was her most trusted confidant and friend. He was the guy that always had her back, who always came through for her when she needed it. For a girl who seemed like she could do anything in the world on her own, the simple fact remained that Ron Stoppable had on more than one occasion been the knight in shining armor running to her rescue and no other man had ever done that for her. So when Kim had heard those words from her mother, it was as if she had recited the magic incantation that just gelled everything together into one cohesive whole.
Things had been both equal measures awesome and awk-weird at first. The awesome part came from the way that they so naturally co-existed in each others worlds, the way that they got along, laughed at each others jokes and generally the ease at which they could relate to each other. The weirdness, at least for Kim, came from the moments where they would do more singularly intimate "couples" things. It wasn't bad, not at all, but in Kim's mind that was part of what made it so disturbing. She still recalled the first time that it had happened – She had been in the middle of an intense make-out session with Ron and lips and hands were roaming. She felt her face flush and her body heat rise as she snuggled closer to him, grinding herself into his body and she moaned into his mouth when his large hands found a purchase on her soft chest. That's when she realized it; Ron was touching her and not only was it pleasant, but she getting very aroused.
It had bothered her more than she was willing to admit at the time. She had kissed boys before, that was nothing new to her, she had even had one particularly intense make out session with Josh Mankey on his families couch, but nothing she had experienced before had made her feel so… horny.
Kim was wet for Ron and it was embarrassing as hell.
To her credit, Kim hadn't entirely freaked out at the time. She did however cut their make out session short, feigning chores, and returned to her own home. She left Ron with a soft, lingering kiss on his lips and a bemused smile – she was experiencing feelings she had never felt before and she wanted someone to talk about it with and for once her best friend couldn't be privy to this conversation.
He did find out of course, eventually. Kim had confessed the experience to him during some pillow talk much, much later on in their relationship. They had both giggled about it after the fact, and Ron even went so far as to suggest that he had missed his chance to lose his virginity a full six months earlier if he had only "turned up the heat" a little bit. Kim had slugged him in the arm for that one, begrudgingly admitting it was probably true.
"And now where are we? Cities apart, seeing each other once a week if we're lucky, and even then only on missions… I won't even get to see him on break because of GJ training."
Kim sighed as she looked up at the wall clock in the classroom. In a lot of different ways, time was running out for her. She tried not to think about it, but it was difficult, especially considering her tenuous emotional state.
"God I screwed up! I need to tell Ron about the entire GJ sitch before it blows up in my face. I know he's going to be hurt… but he'll understand, I didn't have any choice, not really anyway. Not with what they offered me…"
Kim had been moonlighting on Ron for several months now and the knowledge that she had kept him in the dark about it was slowly eating away at her. They were supposed to be a "team", Team Possible even, but when push came to shove Kim knew she had to make smart choices about her future – choices based on goals and reason and not on what her heart was telling her.
She wanted to reach the stars and Betty Director had shown her the way.
It had started out innocuous enough, just a mission here and there for GJ in return for some good references and contacts for when Kim applied to the Air Force. Then slowly it had turned into some more – a fast track to the space program if only Kim would consider working a little more often. Kim knew that even with her world saving credentials, getting into NASA as a shuttle pilot was going to be one of the hardest things she'd ever do in her life, so it was very difficult for her to rebuff Betty's advances. Still, she agonized on it, mostly because of one thing –
They didn't want Ron too.
She had almost turned them down immediately when Betty had told her that the offer extended only to her and not her boyfriend as well. Kim at the time had been very serious about keeping Team Possible a team, in all sense of the word. However Betty didn't relent, she merely told Kim to think about it and think about what would be best for her future. She even told Kim that if "Ron loved her, he'd understand."
Kim knew she was right, but it didn't make the choice any easier. Even now, months later, she still felt a twinge of guilt at the fact that when she had signed the final paperwork for the GJ trainee program, her heart had been more than a little giddy with excitement – instead of torn up over how she had ditched her best friend/boy friend.
"The boyfriend who still doesn't know his girlfriend lies to him half the time about what she's doing or where she's going."
Kim's face sunk and she waited one agonizing second for the minute hand on the wall clock to click over. Then she picked up her paper, strode the length of the classroom and dropped her test off on the Professor's desk.
"Done already Miss. Possible?" the aged academic asked her with a hint of disbelief in his voice.
"Yes sir, I think it's because of all the help you gave me – you really make physics understandable…" Kim fought down the bile in her stomach as she finished the sentence, "… even for someone like me."
This seemed to placate the old German man and he nodded at her and waved her out the door. Kim closed the classroom door behind her and stretched her arms out to both sides of her body, trying to feel the freedom flowing into her limbs. Even though she might be in a similar situation again some day, she knew that for the time being at least, she wouldn't have to humiliate herself any more for that disgusting little man. It was quite the relief.
Just as Kim was about to pivot on her heel and walk down the hall, she heard her Kimmunicator going off. She reached into her pants pocket and retrieved it, flipping it open with one quick gesture.
"What's the sitch…" Kim looked at the face on the video screen, "Betty."
Betty gave Kim a wry grin. The young woman hadn't quite yet gotten used to the fact that people other than Wade Load had recently taken to calling her on her hand-held video phone.
"Terrorist break-in at a military science facility." Betty responded.
"Doesn't sound too bad," Kim shrugged, "Any hostages?"
"No, no hostages but Kim… This facility is really a front for a biological weapons research laboratory. The terrorists have made their demands and if we don't comply, they're going to release whatever nasty stuff Uncle Sam's been cooking into the general populous."
Kim gritted her teeth. This wasn't the first time she'd stumbled across some unsavory mess that the military or the CIA had gotten themselves into, but it grinded her gears all the same. It seemed like asides from being international police, GJ was more about cleaning up government messes than Kim had first known. She wondered seriously if she would do it all over again if she had the chance to turn down Betty. Maybe she would, in fact – it probably wasn't too late to turn her down now, she'd just have to work harder but she could still make her dreams happen… if only…
"Betty, how many people are actually in danger? If this lab is somewhere out in the desert then why don't they just bomb it… I don't feel like it's worth the risk just to prevent some biological weapons from being destroyed."
The words that had come out of Kim's mouth were a lot angrier than she had expected. Helping people was one thing, Kim readily did that with no complaints or even second thoughts to her own safety, but just bailing the government out so that they didn't have to destroy some research into things that they shouldn't be researching in the first place… Kim didn't like it one bit and she made it known.
"Kim, look I know how you feel about these things but there's no choice. They really screwed up this time, the lab isn't located out in the desert Kim – it's in the middle of a populated urban area. If we don't stop these guys within the next hour then we're looking at a potential causalities running into the hundreds of thousands."
Kim sighed in defeat. Betty had her hook line and sinker – as filthy as Kim would feel later for cleaning up after these amoral weapons makers, she couldn't let innocent people suffer because the ethical questions involved made her skin crawl.
"Alright Betty. Two things – Where's my ride and where are we going?"
"Top floor. We got a transport copter on its way there, ETA 2 minutes."
Kim instantly broke into a run towards the nearest stairwell.
"And Kim…" Betty seemed to ponder something for a moment, then gave up and continued to speak.
"The target is Middleton Colorado."
Thanks for reading this story!
This fiction came about during a period of writers block and introspection on my other fiction, Cupid Has Crappy Aim. In doing so I managed to plot out this entire tale and I have to say I'm quite excited about where this one is going to go. I don't want to spoil it too much but there is going to be action, drama, tragedy and a difficult love triangle between one disillusioned sidekick and two beautiful and dangerous ladies.
Please review and let me know how you think I'm doing!