Kim Possible and related characters are the property of Walt Disney.

My thanks to the reviewers: Katsumara, LoPe21, CajunBear73, whitem, Pensive Rumination Observer, MrDrP, Isamu, reader101w, bigherb81, Srike176, KinginYellow, elyk36, RonHeartbreaker, Taechunsa, and all the other readers. Sorry I've taken so long here.

Chapter 22: Fall Formal: Could It Be?

Erich let out a great shuddering breath. The band would probably party into the wee hours, but he would retire to his room. In the aftermath of a performance, the haggard look was not for show. Saving the world could take a lot out of you.

For a moment silence reigned on the dance floor. Once the crowd caught its breath, they let out a sustained cheer. Erich and the Zann gave no encores, yet no one complained. After the Great Dance everyone needed a chance to recover.

Ron looked at his watch. "Let's hear it for Teutonic punctuality. Guys, we've got to go."

Goodbyes were exchanged. Mac seemed like an officer from an old movie sending the hero on some vital mission. A'lia and Myna hugged Kim. Myna's may have been a bit stiff, but Kim understood the effort and appreciated it all the more. When she was done Ron took her hand.

"Come on, KP. Our rides await."

Ron managed to remain calm as they went out with the crowd. Kim could not help but feel his excitement. Got to admit, I'm so eager to see what he has set up. Rides?

They only stopped once. A certain Creole woman stood in front of them. At her side was a man almost as alluring as the one beside her. Almost.

"Hi, Marie, Kim you remember Marie." Ron smiled.

"She's the kind you don't forget." Kim said.

"Neither are you." Marie put just a shade more ice into her tone than Kim. "May I introduce my escort, Mitch."

The handsome man kissed Kim's hand. "A pleasure."

"Thanks." From the corner of her eye Kim could see Ron watching Marie's date.

"How's Roberta?" Ron asked Mitch.

The man shrugged philosophically. "We've gone our separate ways. She may well have outgrown me."

Ron nodded. "You guys have fun. We've got to get running."

Once Kim and Ron had left Mitch turned back to Marie. "He barely would slow down. I believe he has outgrown you as well…if there was ever anything there."

The beauty at his side seemed unfazed. "I don't need his heart, any more than you did. The boy is a chaos magnet, come Saturday the world will see what he can attract."


The carriage waited on the curb again. It had a new driver. Kim recognized the man from weeks before; he had been at the Red Line station when she had said goodbye to Ron. Ron, of course, knew the proprietor of the Arkham Arms jewelry store. The man lifted his hat and bowed with great flourish.

"An honor to finally meet you, Ms. Possible. I am Askook Weatherford, Proprietor of the Arkham Arms Jewelry Shoppe and Sachem of the Arkham Band of the Miskatonic Nation."

"Kim Possible." She shook his hand, and then brought her hand up to her earrings. "So you sold Ron these? I have to thank you."

"We craft those ourselves. It always pleases us when someone selects them."

"Uh, dude." Ron interrupted with puzzlement in his voice. "I thought we'd be picked up by a cab. That would be faster. We need to get to the airport."

"Airport?" Kim asked excitedly.

Askook took a deep breath. "About that. There's been a last minute change in plans. Mr. Smarty apparently decided that he needed his Caribbean island tonight. I have your full refund with me, sir."

"Caribbean island?" Kim melted.

"Yeah, I thought you'd like a moonlit stroll on an empty beach." Ron sighed.

"Like it, I'd love it! Ron Stoppable, you have officially gained your commission as Captain Romance."

The boy smiled wistfully. "Thanks, KP, but I've been a captain for a minute and my ship's already run aground."

The Sachem cleared his throat. "If I may be so bold, sir, this could be for the best. You both have morning classes, I presume, and Mr. Stoppable has an afternoon flight to Tennessee. You would have precious little time to do anything beyond take a short walk."

"I take it you have another idea?" Kim asked.

"Everything is prepared," he motioned to the carriage. "If you please."

They climbed aboard again and were off. The carriage made its way downtown and up towards the elegant old houses on the Hill. Kim snuggled up to Ron, any disappointment over losing the beach forgotten. "This is wonderful, Ron."

"Better than a flight to the Caribbean?" he asked a bit doubtfully.

"Way better." She answered. "We go to the Caribbean all the time."

"Yeah, to stop Drakken, that's not romantic."

"Ron, a moonlit carriage ride is as romantic as anything I could imagine." She did not have to ask for a kiss, he could read it in her eyes.

The carriage went through the ornate gates of an imposing mansion. A small staff waited at the door.

"Welcome to Gilman House." Askook said. "This stands on ground sacred to our people. We purchased it back a few years ago with proceeds from the reservation casino. Both would have been destroyed by the Little Diablos if you had not deactivated them when you did. You've saved the world a dozen times over, with never a thought of reward. The Miskatonic nation would like to express its appreciation by giving you its use for the night. It's undergone extensive renovation, and will house the Band's most honored guests. You will be the first. The staff has everything ready and can stay…or leave…as you will."

"I'm sure everything's fine." Kim smiled and looked at the waiting staff. "Why don't you guys go home?"

"Truly gracious." The Sachem signaled and the staff left for their cars. "There is a phone in the master bedroom. Should you need anything press the blue button and someone will answer. Have a most pleasant evening."

Askook opened the door for them. Ron looked to Kim. "Shall we?"

The building was every bit as magnificent on the inside. Everything was grand without being overbearing or ostentatious. A note awaited them on the table in the foyer.

Dear Sir and Madam:

Your things have been taken upstairs and a light repast has been laid out on the dining room table should you desire anything. As Askook has instructed; should you require anything, please contact us.

We are honored to serve you.

The Gilman House Staff

"After all that dancing I could go for something. How about you, KP?"

"Lead the way, but let's not take too long." She ran delicate fingers along his arm. Only insistent hunger kept Ron from ditching the trip altogether. Once they reached the trays of fresh fruits and cheeses Kim realized that she needed a little something.

They sat at a small table, talking and laughing as they had for years at booths and tables, at home, Bueno Nacho, and at spots all over the world. But never before had the venue been this truly private, and never had they been so by themselves.

"Hold still, KP." Ron reached over with a napkin. Kim felt a jolt when he touched it to the corner of her mouth.

"Shouldn't we check out the upstairs?" she asked.

This time it was Ron who started. "Upstairs?"

"Sure. All our stuff's up there. I'd like to change and freshen up. Put on something more…"

"Comforting?" he swallowed.

"Sure," She laughed. "Come on, I really want to see the rest of this place."

The stairway reminded Kim of an old black and white movie she had seen years ago. She held onto Ron's arm and laid her head on his shoulder. "You know, I'm glad we're here right now instead of on a jet."


"Don't get me wrong, I like beaches. But Askook is right; we would've been so rushed. And I love this place. Glad to see I'm not the only one who can call in a favor."

"But this is one of yours KP. They're thanking you for saving this place."

"Thanking us," She corrected him. "And you were the one who got this rolling. Nice job, Captain."


While Kim and Ron went inside Askook stood in the drive. Finally he spoke in a quiet voice. "One, two, three…there are five of you."

"How did you know?" a voice challenged from behind him.

"Haven't you heard? You can't sneak up on an Indian," he turned and grinned. "Any more than you can surprise a ninja."

The five black garbed figures stood with hands on weapons. As per Askook's observation, four of them watched the hedges from which men emerged with weapons of their own. The ninjas' leader narrowed his eyes. "When will your mistress arrive?"

"She is not our mistress, and she won't be here. She still has the original itinerary. Right now she should be in the Caribbean; out of our way."


Yidhra, Goddess of the Outer Dark, walked thought the lush tropical foliage on bare feet. Moonlight glowed on her skin, starlight sparkled in her hair. Tonight there would be no subterfuge: her beauty was truly and utterly her own. She kept it just controlled enough so that only the human male would be moved. As for the little witch that would stand between her and Ron, Yidhra's roots reached far past any blather about sisterhood. Kim Possible would be given one chance to step aside.

Splashing sounds came from the lagoon ahead. Yidhra slipped into the water without a moment's hesitation. It was not like she had any clothing to doff. No woman could have dreamed of swimming with her confidence or grace. She could see masculine legs ahead of her. They stood in a dynamic posture. The girl was not around.

Her loss.

She burst through the water's surface, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. The water flowed away and her vision cleared. This was not her blond youth. He was middle aged with a shaved pate. The man held a phone to his ear. He had been giving orders.

"That's right, Ted, I want them in the stores by Wednesday and at that price point. How? Volume and volume! Don't make me come visit you."

Martin Smarty dropped the phone when a woman, beautiful beyond description, came up from the waters to embrace him. Somehow he managed to keep a measure of self-control. Not daring anything else, he resorted to his native language: business.

"Hello. I was told if I came here tonight, there would be an offer that I would never forget. That must be you. Are you a merger or an acquisition?"

Throughout time men have overestimated the power of the gods. To personify something entails a degree of surrender unimaginable to most mortals. Yidhra had come here in her full power, ready to claim a man and, if need be, destroy a woman. In this state she was as much in thrall of her needs as the most abject addict. A mortal woman would have given over to rage or embarrassment. But to drive a man beyond all control entailed giving up considerable control oneself.

The well-built man was fit and in the prime of life. While Yidhra had never been with a merchant prince for an extended relationship, he had the virility that made his kind so attractive when it came to the occasional dalliance. Goddess that she was, she was still (for now) a woman. She had needs.

"Merger." She replied huskily.


Askook continued. "This land is sacred. It is where our wise ones came to seek guidance in dream and vision. Now after three centuries they will be able to do so again."

"Then what did she have to do with this?" Another ninja asked.

"The property finally came into the hands of someone willing to sell it back to us, but over time other spirits had taken root here: dark spirits. It has taken us years to reclaim it for our needs and restore it to the true spirits of the land. One last claim remains."

"Yidhra," the head ninja nodded. "She who has marked the Chosen One as her own. It would have helped us if you had shared this information with us, instead of leaving us in the dark."

"You could have asked," Askook shrugged. "And if we had come to you, would you not have suspected a trap? Sometimes it is best if you let the student teach himself. Would not your Sensei agree?"

A pair of ninja started a small conversation. Their leader motioned them to silence before returning his attention to Askook. "Perhaps. Still, there are many rumors going back for centuries regarding the loyalties of your people."

"And as with many such legends, it is difficult to discern truth from falsehood. But I would ask you, had my people served the Great Old Ones, would Solomon Kane have spared them?"


"Besides, by not telling you, you engaged in research that you otherwise would not have. Your knowledge is the better for that. I would not be surprised if your people turned up things about the goddess that even we don't know. And the charm we sold Mr. Stoppable, we never sell those to outsiders. Would servants of the Great Old Ones give their enemies the power of the Elder Sign?"

The head ninja conceded. "So you played each side off against the other, in order to gain something from one side and strengthen a possible ally who may aid you if the first party seeks vengeance. You are indeed as subtle as your namesake. Take care; your cleverness may one day lead someone to bruise your head."

"According to tribal legend, Kane said something along those lines," Askook smiled.


The couple in question made their way up the elegant staircase. Twin doors opened to the master bedroom. They gawked at the richly, yet tastefully, decorated room.

"Wow, KP, this place is badical! I bet it has everything!"

"We've been put up in some nice places before. What I like about this one is what it doesn't have."

Ron suppressed a panic. No, wait, she said she liked it. "What's missing?"

"Separate beds," Kim gave Ron a look that he had never seen before. It gave him the best kind of shivers. He pulled her close for a sharp, passionate kiss. When he pulled back, she had the shivers, very, very good shivers.

"Maybe we should freshen up," she suggested.

Hormones raged. Stop now? For a shower? Why? Waitaminute, Ron, You just finished a night of bondiggoty dancing. You've done some major sweatage. Don't want to take off your shoes and have her pass out like you're White Stripe.

"I'm with you, KP."

"Oh, you will be," she cooed. "Besides, I've been in this dress long enough. It's time I slipped into something, you know…"

Ron nodded rapidly. "Yeah, the Ronman's all about the comfortable."

Even so, it took all kinds of willpower for the two of them to let go and head for their separate bathrooms. The doors closed and each was alone.

At least for the moment.


The head ninja shook his head. "You play a dangerous game, Sachem."

Askook shrugged. "A dangerous game, but an old one. We have never been a numerous people. Survival has always hinged upon playing one power off against another. Who cares if it is Narragansett against Pequot, French against English, or Great Old Ones against the Outer Dark?"

"Will she not seek vengeance?" another ninja asked.

"If things go as they appear to be headed, Yidhra will have more pressing matters than seeking revenge on the sad remnant of an old race. We all will."

One of the ninja, whose slight build betrayed no weakness whatsoever, directed a question at Askook. "It is hard to believe that one as subtle as you would have brought the Chosen One here without a hidden agenda."

He nodded. "True, kunoichi. We have provided the House to out of gratitude, but we also need a certain…well, favor, one rather awkward to put into words."

"Favor?" the head ninja asked sharply

"We have worked hard to reclaim this place from the darkness that had dwelt here for so long. Much pain has been suffered, but we are but one act shy of making this the Gilman House and forever removing the old name."

"Witch House," the ninja said as one.

Askook nodded. "So you know more than a little of Arkham's charming past. Then again, if tribal memory serves, this may not be your clan's first visit."

No one would answer the Sachem's observation. Instead the head ninja repeated Yamanouchi's question. "What would you have of the Chosen One and his companion?"

"As I have said earlier, we have driven the greater darkness from the ground, but shadows cling to corners of the house…"

"And you would put the Chosen One and his love at risk? Without so much as consulting them?" Tensions flared again. Weapons appeared in every hand except the Sachem, who raised his in a placating manner.

"Please, I would no more endanger those two than I would my own children. The shadows do not pose that kind of threat. If you doubt me, surely you did not come here without someone able to see into the other world?"

The ninja turned to the last member of their band. He closed his eyes for a moment. "There are some alien kami here. None could offer a threat to the Chosen One or Possible-san, but they could work great mischief to those seeking dreams and visions."

"Thus rendering the place useless to your wise ones," the head ninja tilted his head. "But why involve the young ones? Could not an exorcist accomplish what you need, and without subterfuge on your part?"

"If they could, we would not be here tonight. The spirits remaining cannot be driven out by prayers or chants or by sweet smoke."

"Then what is needed?" A ninja asked.

There may have been a note of amusement in Askooks' voice, "Ask your fair kunoichi, I'm sure she knows."

The female ninja blushed a bit, perhaps. She cast her eyes down in a demure manner that fools mistook for weakness. "It is written that perfect love casts out fear."

"Love?" her leader puzzled. Momentarily his eyes widened, and his voice mixed indignation with amusement. "You need them for THAT?!"

"But why the Chosen One and his love?" asked the last ninja. "Surely your people have willing maids enough?" There was something about Arkham that made people seek to prove their erudition.

"Remember the term your comrade used, it must be perfect love. We are a small people holding onto our traditions. That means were have a great fondness for gossip. There is no one among us who knows what is needed and what we stand to gain. It has to be someone with no agenda aside for expressing their love."

"But does not your knowledge in making the offer taint things?" the last ninja asked. "Magic can be most exacting."

"Not in this case. The nation voted after the Night of the Diablos that if we ever had the chance, we would express our gratitude to Kim Possible. The offer of the Gilman House is made with full and open hearts."

"But these kami, they will try to stop the Chosen One and his love from…" the last ninja pulled up short of any direct words for the required ritual.

"In dream and vision, that is all," the Sachem answered. "And for those who have proved their courage again and again, and who are no doubt ready to prove their love to each other, they should prove no more of a challenge than any villain they take down on a regular basis."

The ninja looked to their leader, who was lost in thought. "Your children clearly are not of age, you would not be so sanguine. Still, my ekusoshisuto says there is no direct danger, and we have been discussing this for some time. To go in now might prove…indelicate. I assume you have no objective to our continuing our duty toward the Chosen One?"

"Indeed not, I welcome the addition of such skilled guardians," Askook agreed. "Shall we deploy now?"


Kim sat at the makeup mirror. She took the towel off of her head and admired her hair. Still good. The other towel she left on, until she was finished with her makeup. After all, it would not take much time to get dressed.

Whiled she hummed at the table, something moved in the dissipating steam of the shower. Part of it slipped thought the narrow space of the door jam, the rest flowed over the top. Now two forms padded across the floor and stopped behind Kim.

One does not survive dozens of missions without developing a certain set of senses. Kim stopped and look behind her. Nothing, just a little steam. She turned back to the mirror, and dropped her eyeliner with a start.

Two very familiar faces leered at her. Shego and Bonnie Rockwaller stood behind her, damp from the shower. Each wore a towel like she did; only theirs were done a little lower, challenging gravity.

"Look, Kimmie finally noticed us. You'd think she'd have known she wasn't alone in the shower," Shego mocked.

"Why would she?" the brunette shrugged. "It's a big shower and it's not like she takes up a lot of room. She could have had company, but like I've always said, all talk and no action. And what did I tell you? And you thought she wore some kind of constraining protective sports bra."

Shego returned Bonnie's dismissive gesture. "Hey, I was just trying to make sense of what I saw. Good thing I didn't know, it would have made things harder when facing her. I mean, I will steal candy from a baby, but I'd never hit a child."

"Child?" Kim sputtered, not one to be startled for long. "This 'child' kicked you into a transmission tower, threw you into a giant dog kennel, ferociously appropriate place for you, by the way, and has turned you over to the authorities on more than a few occasions."

"Associating maturity with violence," Bonnie clucked. "I thought only guys did that."

"In the right light, it's hard to tell she's not one," the two laughed at Shego's gibe. She went on in a more in mock pity. "That poor buffoon in the other room, thinking he'll become a man tonight."

Bonnie shared the false sympathy. "So not gonna happen. And do you know why, K?"

"I'm sure you're going to tell me, B." Kim said evenly.

"Because, you know what it takes to make a boy a man, don't you?" Bonnie and Shego pulled their shoulders back, thrust their chests forward and said in mocking unison.


The two were no longer by themselves. Kim's mirror was filled with mocking, laughing images. Where did all those towels come from? The Honeys joined in the laughter.

"Don't worry, Sugah," Savannah teased. "We still intend to honor our no stealing policy. But remember, rebounds are fair game."

"And he'll bounce right off that rim!" Max joked. The others laughed cruelly.

"Put me down as interested," Mala slurred.

"And me," Lor said, trying to adjust her towel. "Do zey not have towels 'ere? Dees ees a face cloth!"

"Not me," Halle sniffed. "I don't do pro bono work, and that boy will be a charity case after tonight."

"Now, now," Marie LaTreau sidled up to the Honeys. "There may still be something there worth having."

A final figure came up behind the lot. Kim saw her own eyes looking at her, only these eyes looked out of a face that had never doubted its feminine power. Something told her the woman wore no towel, and she was very glad she could not see below those perfect shoulders.

"She thinks to win him with that display?" The voice was flawless as well.

Shego shook her head. "It's not what you've got; it's what you do with it. Ronnie will be up for a major disappointment. I've known plenty of her type."

The villainess brought her hands together as if in prayer and gazed Heavenward. "Passion is never their fashion."

Pitiless laughter filled the room. "I never knew you could get cold fish from the Great Plains!" someone joked.

The eyeliner trembled in Kim's hand. I've heard all of this before…why am I letting it get to me now? She looked at the figures in the mirror. There's nobody behind me, just some steam rolling in the air. You're letting things get to you. Kim thought of the boy, the man, waiting for her in the next room. He's never said anything like that. He's never demanded anything I wouldn't give. They're just images…images of insecurity that Ron's always helped me overcome. It's no wonder I love him!

The cackling stopped. Kim looked up at the mirror, and Shego pulled back. She knew that look; it generally preceded a great deal of pain. The thief's fear was infectious.

The redhead spoke. "I love him. He loves me. That's what's real, NOT you!"

There was no one behind her, just a whiff of steam that vanished with what Kim would have sworn was a whimper. Kim took a deep breath and smiled. Let's get ready.


Ron pulled the belt to his bathrobe tight and looked in the had showered, shaved, and brushed his teeth. I am ready.

Really? Really? A voice not his own whispered in his mind, causing Ron to look around.

"Yes, really," he answered to no one in particular.

Oh, I bet, the voice returned. You're ready all right. How many times were you ready when you saw the girls dressed for summer?

"No fair, that's an autonomic response. Besides, they were just reminding me of KP."

Sure, right, came the caustic reply. Get real. In that little brain that's running the show righ not, there's no difference between her or any other girl. ANY other girl. If that Marie LaTreau was in the other room, you'd be just as ready.

"Not true! KP is special!"

Special enough to ask?

"Huh?" the question caught Ron completely off guard.

Did you ask if she wanted this? You just presumed she's willing to give herself up for a coupon-free dinner and a dance.

"I never assumed that," Ron answered hotly, then he sighed. "But I didn't ask either."

The voice changed, becoming less accusing. And why would you? You're not some wuss from Antioch College, having to ask permission to hold hands, or kiss. You're a Miski Man! And you know what a man does, don't you?

"I'm sure you'll tell me."

A man doesn't ask…he takes! That's what she really wants. It's what all women want. It's what Tara wanted all those times she stood next to you. That's what Zita wanted when she looked impatient with you. Yori was as open about it as her kind can be. And Bonnie…

"Bonnie? Bonnie Rockwaller?"

Her type especially want that…why do you think she was always so abusive? It was a challenge! Kim's the same. Every time she rolls her eyes at you, it's because she's wondering when you'll man up! Here's your chance. When she comes through that door, take her! No questions, no lame words, just be a man!

The blood pounded in Ron's head. It was similar to the times he had touched the Mystical Monkey Power. His hands balled up into fists. Suddenly he heard another voice in his head, dredged up by memory. Son, the question is not if you're a man, it's what kind of man are you?

His pause made the other voice roar with contempt. Oh, Please! You aren't going to listen to that load of… The voice cut off with the urgency of someone who realizes that he has made a fatal blunder.

Ron closed his eyes. His hair stirred as if in a slight breeze. When he opened his eyes again, they were all blue. The calm in his voice was terrifying. "Whoever you are, whatever you are, get lost and stay lost."

For an instant the room was bathed in a blue light. Something seemed to reel in that glow, then Ron was alone again.

The Miski Man took a deep breath. His father's question demanded an answer, and he could only give it by asking a question of his own. He stepped over to Kim's door.

"Uh, KP?"

"Yes, Ron?" something in her voice made his heart sing. Still…

"I'm sorry about tonight."

"About the island? Like I said, it's no big."

"No, it's not about the island, though I'm sorry my plans didn't work out. It's about, well, this part…which was planned for the island too. I should have asked you."

"But you did. You were very formal about it. Quite proper." She teased.

"About the dance, yes. But I didn't ask you about, you know. I mean…" he rubbed the back of his neck, "…you deserve a chance to tell me…"

The door opened, and though it did not change the lighting in the room in any way, Ron had to blink. Kim's smile was dazzling. Her eyes sparkled. Her face glowed. Ron recognized the color of her nightie. It was the exact shade of blue as the dress she wore to the Junior Prom. Only now the material was sheer, and underneath she was…was…oh, was she ever.

"Ron," she said as she walked up to him, "this is my way of telling you."

He caught her up in his arms. The kiss had the urgency he had intended to show her that day she had been released from a literal stone cold death, but Hana had nixed that. This time, there was no one to interfere. When her let her lips go, Kim was wobbly.

"Ron," she gasped, "Captain, oh, my Captain!"

Before he could kiss her again, she raised something in her right hand. A press on the small remote and the lights dimmed. A song played, the first song they had ever danced to.

I know we've been friends forever
But now I think I'm feeling something totally new
And after all this time I opened up my eyes
Now I see you were always with me

Could it be you & I Never imagined
Could it be suddenly I'm fallin' for you
Could it be you were right here beside me and I never knew
Could it be that it's true
It's you and it's you

It's kinda funny you were always near
But who would ever thought we'd end up here
And everytime I need you, you've been there for me
Now it's clear I've been waiting for you

Could it be you & I never imagined

Could it be suddenly I'm fallin' for you

Could it be you were right here beside me and I never knew

Could it be that it's true

It's you and it's you

'Cause today is the start of the rest of our lives
I can see it in your eyes
And it's real, and it's true
It's just me and you
Could it be that it's you

They danced to their song, letting feelings and memories wash over them. Already they had a lifetime of memories. While there was no way to know the future, they had the night, and new memories to make and to cherish.

When the music stopped, Ron picked Kim up.


Askook Weatherford took up his post in the garden. His men would patrol the grounds, while the ninja disappeared into the trees and onto the roof of the Gilman House. There would be no sneaking past them.

He took a small glass vial out of his coast and removed the cork. Once production issues were resolved, this would set the energy drink world on its ear. He downed the contents, and was ready for the night.

Traditional weapons rested on the blanket before him. Bow and arrow, throwing knives and a war club, all bore the Elder Sign. Protection against more mundane foes rested in a shoulder holster.

Something else lay beside the weapons. The reed flute called to him. It was late, but this was sacred ground, and the neighbors did not object to the soft music that often came from the garden at night. The Gilman House itself was well insulated; he would not disturb the two inside. He brought the instrument up to his lips and played a few notes.

From somewhere on the roof, notes floated down in reply. He smiled. So, kunoichi, that was not a mere blow gun thrust into your obi. He picked up the tune again. As they had never played together before, he was tentative, hoping the tune was simple enough for them to manage. There were rough spots, inexperience will tell. Still, it was a most pleasant duet, one he hoped would be repeated.

Before too long, the girl initiated another song.