Much like the company store of "Sixteen Tons" fame, Disney continues to own the main characters of this non-profit work even though they are enjoying early retirement. This is only the author's view of events that might occur between the graduation ceremony and the beach party when idealism and reality collide. Are some or all of the players grossly out of character? Perhaps, you tell me. Reviews and comments appreciated.

SOMETIMES IT'S HARD TO BE A HERO

Chapter 1 – Collateral Damage

He had won, but at what cost? Ron Stoppable was quite certain what had happened as soon as he saw the explosion. He would worry about consequences later. Right now there was something much more important to take care of. He rushed to Kim's side, helping her up. He saw only surprise and love in her eyes. It would take some time for the reality of what just happened to sink in. There would be things to talk about, but they would wait until after the commencement ceremony.

Now homeless because of the alien attack the Possible family took adjoining suites at the Middleton Inn until they could find another house. Following the commencement ceremony the extended Possible family and the Stoppables were together in the living room of the larger suite. Kim and Ron were both excited about the graduation beach party to be held in two weeks at Lake Middleton. After that the two teens would go to Yamanouchi for several weeks before beginning college classes in the fall.

There was a knock at the door. Ann Possible opened it to admit Dr. Director. She asked for a moment alone with Kim and Ron, but Ann shook her head. "Whatever you have to say is for all of us to hear."

It wasn't often she had to deal with such a situation. Global Justice was first and foremost a police agency. With rare exceptions her agents accomplished their missions without the use of deadly force. When they could not the agency did all it could to help them cope. That she came herself was an indication of her admiration for the two teen heroes.

She looked directly at Ron. She had no idea how the young man would respond to her news. He always seemed the weaker member of Team Possible yet once again he had stepped up to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. "Both of you, as well as Drakken and Shego deserve commendations for your bravery and quick actions. The world's military forces were fully engaged with the alien battle machines, unable to respond to the situation in Middleton," she told them. "We are now fairly certain what happened here. Salvage teams covered the area where the alien craft crashed thoroughly. It appears something triggered the ship's self-destruct mechanism, causing the engines to explode. Very little that could burn survived. There is no indication that the two aliens…"

"They're dead, aren't they," Kim interrupted, her voice quivering. Dr. Director nodded. Kim turned to her boyfriend with a look of horror on her face. "You killed them. Oh, Ron, how could you? How could you take two lives?"

The scene played itself again in Ron's mind. The alien ship plunged toward Middleton, apparently out of control. He had noticed that both Warhok and Warmonga wore transmitters on their arms that seemed to control all their machines. Perhaps they also controlled the ship. Maybe if he tossed them toward the ship they would destroy it before it collided with them. Then the explosion came. Ron' shoulders slumped and he looked at his feet. "I was afraid of that. Not something I intended or that I'm proud of, KP. But someone had to stop them, and I was the only one there."

"Bull chips! There's always another way. You just weren't smart enough to find it."

He looked up, hurt by her words. His eyes locked with hers. Usually when she was angry he avoided her gaze. This time he did not. There was something in his eyes she had never seen before; determination, and a hint of pain. "Those two Lowardians weren't schoolyard bullies or mad scientists whose whack schemes never work. They were warriors, with weapons fully capable of destroying humanity or making us slaves.

When I went to Yamanouchi on that exchange program Sensei told me the legend of the Monkey Masters and the Lotus Blade. The first Monkey Masters were warriors who stood for those who couldn't defend themselves. I asked him what it meant to be a Monkey Master. He started on the whole bushido code thing. The bottom line is a warrior does what must be done to defend those he has sworn to protect. Even if it means taking lives, or losing his own."

Kim's voice was choked with emotion. "That's why we never carry weapons. Oh Ron, we said we would never take a life."

He winced at her comment and the look on her face. "I'm sure Sensei will explain it better the next time we see him," Ron continued, "but I think I could never use the power because I was afraid something like this might happen. Sensei warned me the time would come when I would face a choice. Use the power or lose the most important things in my life. When I saw what Warhok intended to do to you I knew what he was talking about. I felt Sensei was there with me. He told me to use the power, that I was the true Monkey Master. I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. I did what had to be done," Ron stated, a hard edge to his voice.

"You should have knocked them out, taken them prisoner, anything but what you did. No one has the right to take a life. It's even in the Bible, 'You shall not kill'"

"Sorry, KP but I'm Jewish. We wrote the book. The Decalogue translates as "you shall not murder," not "you shall not kill." The Torah is full of stories of warriors defending their families and their nation. Remember David and Goliath? Well now there's Ron and Warhok."

"You sound like you're proud of what you did."

"Not a Booyah to be heard KP. I meant that like when David went to meet Goliath, there was nobody else to take the challenge. Maybe everything that's happened before was to get me ready for this," Ron replied with a touch of sadness in his voice. Kim looked at him in disbelief, causing him to respond, "News flash Kim: people die in wars. Look at your own family. Do you believe Colonel Zin Possible or the men he commanded never took a life during the Revolution? Or the statue guy, Colonel Daniel Possible who died in the Civil War? Or even your grandmother? Sometimes there is no other way." His next words caught in his throat. "What happened out there? You only watched it. I have to live with it."

"I've made the same kind of decisions many times, Kimberly Ann," her grandmother interjected. "I might not have pulled the trigger, but I was part of operations where people died. It's one of the sad truths of war, and the shadows that lurk between wars. Everything you and Ronald have done before was police work. This was war, and in war people die.

When I was just starting out I remember hearing that General Patton said something along the line of 'No poor bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You win wars by making the other poor bastard die for his.' If Ronald hadn't acted you both would be dead and the aliens would be in charge."

"Nobody even tried to find another way." Kim replied, head in hands. "You all just let my boyfriend turn into a killer! We have diplomats. We could have reasoned with them. Made peace with them."

"I doubt those two had any interest in talking. We tried everything we could to stop them short of killing them," Ron responded, his emotions almost taking over. "We disabled their ship, we used Drakken's plants. You gave them your best shot. But they wanted us dead and wouldn't have quit 'til we were."

The quiet voice of Ron's father joined the conversation, choked with emotion, "You can't stop monsters with reason, Kim. They tried to reason with Hitler and six million of our people died. Ron's Grandfather survived. His parents, brother and sisters didn't. Sometimes you have no choice. Even today Jews fight for their very existence in the Middle East." His wife put her arm around him. Even Hana seemed to feel her father's pain and began to whimper.

"Sometimes people lose part of their humanity. Sometimes it's when they blindly seek revenge for some real or imagined affront, other times it happens because they allow their sense of right and wrong to be warped by a Hitler or Bin Laden. They don't kill as their last resort. They kill by choice, often slaughtering innocents as a means to advance an agenda they don't even understand. That's not what my boy did. He stood up for all of us, and I'm proud of him."

"Don't repeat the mistake so many have made before you," Nana Possible told her grand daughter. "Just because you hold life sacred and wish for a peaceful solution to the world's problems doesn't mean your enemy feels the same way. To many the mere fact you seek a peaceful solution is a sign of weakness, an opportunity to be exploited. History is filled with nations and leaders pretending to negotiate while they prepare for war or continue to seek victory on the battlefield."

Kim's eyes flashed between her parents, her grandmother, Ron and his parents, a look of disbelief on her face. "I can't believe what I'm hearing. You people condone this? I I I can't"

Dr. Director moved next to Kim looking her in the eye. "This is the real world, Kim, not some Disney fantasy. Sure we can stop most of the criminals, even the super villains by locking them up. But there are people out there; terrorists, gangsters, drug lords just to mention a few, who are so truly evil the only way to stop them is with a one way ticket to Hell. If you expect to have a future with Global Justice you must accept the fact that sometimes deadly force is necessary."

"Then I should probably look for something else," Kim whispered, holding her head in her hands. Ron moved to put an arm around her shoulder to comfort her. "Don't touch me. I don't even know who you are any more," she snapped as she pushed his hand away.

"KP, I'm the same guy I was before this happened. A little more baggage maybe, but I haven't changed."

Kim responded as if she were wearing a moodulator set to rage. Anger colored her face as she spit the words, "if you believe that you are dumber than anyone thought. You're a killer. Just go away and leave me alone."

"Now Kimmie," her mother began.

"Stay out of this, Mom. If I don't want a killer around its' my decision." Turning to Ron she said coldly, "Please leave." Ron looked at her in disbelief. "Go, get out of here! Leave me alone! I can't stand the sight of you."

The Stoppables got up from the couch and headed for the door. Ron made one last attempt, "Please, KP…"

"I don't want to be around you. JUST …. GET …. OUT!" she shouted as the rest of the room looked on in shocked silence.

"If that's what you want, fine." Ron turned to follow his family, saying as he left, "if you want to talk Kim, you know where to find me." Kim felt herself shiver from the icy tone of his words. Then the door closed and he was gone.

Kim sat there for several moments staring blankly at the closed door. Conflicting emotions fought for control. She was only half listening when Dr. Director told her "we have people who are trained to help in situations like this. If you want to talk to one of them just let me know."

"Thanks, but I think I'm done with the save the world stuff." Kim replied, not really realizing the nature of the offer, as she continued staring at the door.

"I think you should talk to someone," her mother told her. "I can ask Dr. Crane at the hospital to make time for you."

"That pompous ass? I don't think so. I'll find somebody. For now just leave me alone." Kim replied, heading through the connecting door to the suite she shared with her brothers. She walked past their fold out bed into the bedroom locking the door behind her, then collapsed on the bed and began to cry.

James Possible started to follow his daughter, but a hand on his arm restrained him. "Let her go," his mother said. "She needs some time to herself. I'll talk to her in the morning."

Kim held her pillow, sobbing. Her world seemed so perfect just a few days before. Now she had nothing. Even Pandaroo was gone. The mementos of her life were just so much trash in the ruins of the only home she knew. She had seen the dark side of saving the world first hand and struggled to deal with it. Worst of all her life long friend, her only real boyfriend, turned out not to be the man she thought he was. Her gentle, loving, slightly weird boyfriend was a heartless killer. She cried until no more tears came, finally falling asleep.

Her dreams offered no respite. They were all the similar. She was lost, trapped one time in an ancient temple, another in a villain's lair, then wandering through a jungle filled with monkey idols. Each time she saw Ron she called to him, sometimes screaming, but he never seemed to hear. Sometimes he was alone, sometimes with Yori. Through it all she went alone to meet her fate, waking as she faced the ultimate test. Each time she fought to calm herself enough to go back to sleep.

KPKPKPKPKPKPKP

Ron's parents tried to talk to him on the way home, but he sat stoically in the back seat, his mind elsewhere. As soon as they reached the house he took Rufus to his room then headed out to his sanctuary. Seated on the old couch in the tree house he began experimenting with the mental aspect of his powers, trying to reach Sensei. Once he made contact, he quickly outlined his current situation. He found Sensei's response disappointing.

"No man knows the mind of a woman, Stoppable-san. Here you are a hero, especially to some of Yamanouchi's female students. That Possible-san sees you otherwise astounds me. I fear neither the ancient texts nor my poor attempts at wisdom can be of much help. You must give her time to reconsider her actions."

"Not helping," Ron replied.

"What ever happens, you must still come to Yamanouchi this summer. You have much yet to learn about the nature of your power."

"Yeah, about that. If things don't get better, I may want to stay for the long course."

"You are always welcome here, Stoppable-san."

Ron broke the link and turned his thoughts inward, meditating on the events of the past several days and his future. The moon was well up in the sky before he realized he hadn't eaten since breakfast. After grabbing Rufus he borrowed his dad's car and headed out to find food. Rufus made pleading noises as they passed Bueno Nacho, but he shook his head sadly. He wasn't ready for Bueno Nacho alone. They wound up at a 1950s theme diner on the outskirts of Middleton. He was staring at the menu while his mind wandered when a familiar voice asked "What do world saving heroes eat on a Sunday night?"

He turned and looked. "Oh hi, Tara. I guess we eat hero sandwiches," he said with a grin. "One of those for me and cheese fries for my friend," he replied.

Rufus stuck his head up and squeaked, "hi Tara."

Tara giggled. "That's not kosher, you know."

"Yeah, well, neither is a bacon and cheese omelet which happens to be Dad's favorite. We only worry about that when my aunts or grandmother come to visit. How come you know about kosher?"

"I thought about dating a Jewish guy once."

"Umm, yeah. I heard that rumor. Right after you started dating Josh."

"Can I ask a favor?" Tara inquired. Ron nodded. "I get off in 20 minutes. My dad is supposed to pick me up, but if I could bum a ride from you he won't have to come out."

"That's cool," Ron replied.

A few minutes later Tara brought the food, then headed off to finish her chores. After clocking out she slipped into the seat opposite Ron as he finished his meal. "So where's Kim tonight," she asked.

Ron looked down at his food and replied, "she wasn't feeling well."

"And that's why you came all the way out here for a sandwich?"

"Morelikeididn'twannagotoourregularplaces," Ron mumbled. Tara gave him a funny look. Ron sighed and his everything is normal mask fell away as his shoulders slumped. He needed to talk to someone and Tara was there, ready to listen. "I killed those two aliens and Kim told me to get lost."

Tara reached across the table and took Ron's hand. "Oh, Ron. I'm so sorry. Most of the world thinks you're a hero. I can't believe she did that!"

Ron's voice cracked as he continued. "Believe it. All this time and nobody died. But this was different. I've run it through a hundred times in my mind. I did what was necessary. But she doesn't understand and doesn't want to be with me any more." After a slight pause he sighed, "I guess saving the world isn't always enough. Why don't we get out of here?"

Just as Tara touched Ron's hand Penny and her boyfriend came into the diner. Ron paid his check, and then left with Tara. She knew Tara and Josh had broken up the week before and quickly drew the wrong conclusion. The door had barely closed behind them when Penny made a call. The Middleton High rumor mill began grinding out Ron and Tara gossip.

TBC

A/N: The statue of Daniel Possible comes from Mr. Wizard's "Stolen From the Dead."